"...As I was watching it, I was reminded of an article I had just read in The New Yorker by John McPhee, who writes about how he writes in a piece called “Structure.” (I think it is part of the paid archive now, so may want to go to your local library — you still have one, right? — to check it out). McPhee brings us right into his whole planning and writing of longer non-fiction pieces, showing off visual structures of his content. You can see charts, and maps, and visual puzzles that form the backbone of his pieces. His larger message is try to move away from chronological sequencing, and instead, find new ways to structure content in a piece of writing. But that requires considerable thinking, planning … and an understanding of structure...."
In the coming months, the conversation about the importance of formal writing instruction and its place in a public-school curriculum—the conversation that was central to changing the culture at New Dorp—will spread throughout the nation. Over the next two school years, 46 states will align themselves with the Common Core State Standards. For the first time, elementary-school students—who today mostly learn writing by constructing personal narratives, memoirs, and small works of fiction—will be required to write informative and persuasive essays. By high school, students will be expected to produce mature and thoughtful essays, not just in English class but in history and science classes as well.
Common Core’s architect, David Coleman, says the new writing standards are meant to reverse a pedagogical pendulum that has swung too far, favoring self-expression and emotion over lucid communication. “As you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think,” he famously told a group of educators last year in New York. Early accounts suggest that the new writing standards will deliver a high-voltage shock to the American public. Last spring, Florida school officials administered a writing test that, for the first time, required 10th-graders to produce an expository essay aligned with Common Core goals. The pass rate on the exam plummeted from 80 percent in 2011 to 38 percent this year.
According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2007, the latest year for which this data is available, only 1 percent of all 12th-graders nationwide could write a sophisticated, well-organized essay. Other research has shown that 70 to 75 percent of students in grades four through 12 write poorly. Over the past 30 years, as knowledge-based work has come to dominate the economy, American high schools have raised achievement rates in mathematics by providing more-extensive and higher-level instruction. But high schools are still graduating large numbers of students whose writing skills better equip them to work on farms or in factories than in offices; for decades, achievement rates in writing have remained low.
Consider the tangible violence technology has wrought upon grammar. We rely on automated grammar and spell-check tools in word-processing software (so much that they’ve become a crutch). E-mail shorthand fails to live up to the grammatical standards of typed or handwritten letters. And many believe our language is being perverted by the shortcuts (and concision nearly to the point of indifference) we’ve become accustomed to writing and reading in text messages and IMs.
"What does it mean to learn and develop as a writer? What is a multimodal text? How is writing different in the age of the internet and mobile phone, particularly in relation to teaching, assessing and researching writing? Drawing on UK and US research and case studies, Richard Andrews and Anna Smith set out to explore these questions and to develop a new model of writing development that is relevant for the digital age. This is a bold enterprise indeed and, although some chapters present complex arguments in their overview of existing research and theories (for example, those exploring distinctions between product-related and process-related models), the authors are largely successful in this aim.... And as befits a book about writing in the digital age we are invited to continue the conversation at www.developingwriters.org. I have a feeling this book will become a key text for those wishing to reflect on their practice as teachers of writing or as teachers as writers."
"Comics, comic books, and graphic novels are increasingly the target of seriously scholarly attention in the humanities. Moreover, comic books are exceptionally complex documents, with intricate relationships between pictorial and textual elements and a wide variety of content types within a single comic book publication. The complexity of these documents, their combination of textual and pictorial elements, and the collaborative nature of their production shares much in common with other complex documents studied by humanists—illuminated manuscripts, artists’ books, illustrated poems like those of William Blake, letterpress productions like those of the Kelmscott Press, illustrated children’s books, and even Web pages and other born-digital media. Comic Book Markup Language, or CBML, is a TEI-based XML vocabulary for encoding and analyzing comic books, comics, graphic novels, and related documents. This article discusses the goals and motivations for developing CBML, reviews the various content types found in comic book publications, provides an overview and examples of the key features of the CBML XML vocabulary, explores some of the problems and challenges in the encoding and digital representation of comic books, and outlines plans for future work. The structural, textual, visual, and bibliographic complexity of comic books make them an excellent subject for the general study of complex documents, especially documents combining pictorial and textual elements."
This white paper reports initial findings from a Writing in Digital Environments (WIDE) Research Center study entitled Revisualizing Composition: Mapping the Writing Lives of First-Year College Students. These initial findings are drawn from a survey of students enrolled in writing classes at a sample of US postsecondary institutions.
Part of Manny Vega’s mosaic mural Espiritu will be a piece that features The Trickster, a mythical creature that shows up across time and cultures. As a mosaic, Vega is afforded the ability to insert actual dominos and dice in his rendition of a modern-day Trickster, who gets around via skateboard. The dominos and dice are physical manifestations of the hustle, of the gamble, of the games today’s Trickster uses to entrap us. This physically-realized aesthetic and referent would not be possible in any other medium.
I think this is the approach we need to take when thinking about digital literacies. What are the affordances of the medium that—if we took advantage of—would result in compositions that could do and be things otherwise not possible? A few of my grad students took to defining contemporary literacies last semester. Some of the results are here. Doug Belshaw, of the Mozilla Foundation, is writing a white paper on web literacies right now, and he is looking for input. What do you think these affordances are that we should be attending to in schools today?
I have been curious about ways I can bring in the concept of “video as text” to my students other than “here’s the video” of the story we just read. That seems too passive, and with our new curriculum standards requiring our students to be critical consumers of media (across many platforms), I want to find more and varied ways of getting my students to experience video as an extension of their understanding of writing and composition....
"So there is something coy about the way that Twitter names itself after animal sounds, as if to suggest that there is something fundamentally antilinguistic about social media text. "Don't mind us," it seems to say; "we're just twittering, like animals. No language to see here."
I think that in some cases this makes people feel as though they have to live up to a kind of antilinguistic standard on Twitter, to introduce noise gratuitously as if in homage to the medium—as if to make it really tweeting."
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