Several years ago, Thomas Friedman wrote The Flattening of the World. Indeed, the world is getting smaller as our community becomes a global one. Today, there is an emphasis on visual intelligence. Digitization and the reading and writing on i-pads and laptops are the way many of us transact with text. Many students prefer writing drafts and doing all revision and editing work on a computer. Everywhere, students are using Blackboard, Instagram, Blogs, Prezi, PowerPoint, and Twitter to instantly communicate with a large audience – sometimes, an audience that is very diverse.
As we produce writing with the help of technology, we will need to continue to teach our writers how to “read” the Internet and be critical readers, capable of skimming and scanning to find information they need, and to check across links/texts for authenticity and validity. We will still need to talk about the writing process, but also talk to them about the composing process of remix.
So, what does it mean to remix? It usually involves a piece of media which one or several writers have altered from its original state by adding, removing, and/or changing pieces of the item. Sounds a lot like the revision process, yes? A song, piece of artwork, book, video, or photograph can all be remixes. The only characteristic of a remix is that it appropriates and changes other materials to create something new. Folktales, graffiti, and often, song recordings can be a remix. Remixing allows society to change and improve existing formats of different text. These changes are created using tools such as Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube, making it is easier than ever to create your own interpretation of an already existing text. The technology tools help students tell a visual story in myriad formats.
How can we help our students generate ideas for writing? Nothing effects active engagement more than discussion in class – comprehension, community, and reflection occur when students turn and talk. Even better, when students think-ink-pair-share and ink again, they get a chance to think aloud on paper before listening to the thinking of the group. In this way, everyone is accountable, and everyone can really listen because ideas are safe and secure in a notebook and will not be forgotten. After the talk, students can return to their notebooks to revise their thinking by layering in or considering the classroom talk.
The use of small groups for shy students, Els, and those students who aren’t sure they are “smart” enough to participate can have great benefits, even if the talk is only one or two minutes. Classroom conversations should be purposeful, practical, and focused, allowing students to stretch their thinking. These conversations can help students become generative thinkers – students who can generate a topic, a focus, the content, and the organizational format. These students can write with voice – in other words, it sounds like there is a human behind the words on the page. Real writers need time to work as a writer – real writing time – to be able to find their voice.
Students become a culture of question makers, evaluating their own questions and doing the research to discover the answers. They need to be prepared to be students, employees, and world citizens. They need to think about the work they are doing in school.
How does the work you do as a reader and a writer help you better understand your world?