Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's the Future of Writing? Who Cares?

Newsweek has published a very interesting article entitled, "The YouTube Application." The lead sentence reads, "Students try to make their mark by filming a personal video for the college of their choice." According to the article a sizable number of students are submitting video presentations instead of the traditional essay.

This past week I forwarded links to this article to a number of connections that I have on LinkedIn. I attached a note indicating that the article has prompted me to wonder about the future of writing in U.S. schools. Interestingly, I received back a variety of different kinds of comments.

One person told me that he was going to use the article in an upcoming talk as evidence that the future happened yesterday. Several people expressed concern or fear with these admission videos. Will curricula begin to undervalue writing?

I, for one, am a strong advocate that high quality writing promotes high quality thinking. However, I am not certain if writing is the only way or even the best way to promote critical thinking.

I could imagine, for example, that an auditory learner could record thoughts on a device equipped with a simple editing function. (It would have to be a very simple editing function, so that it's as simple to delete and replace the recorded word as it is to cross out (and write) words in a rough draft.) Such a recording device might make it easier for auditory learners to learn to think in critical ways than writing.

Critical thinking is extremely important. Our students must learn how to think critically. It is their ticket to the future. However, like recording devices, pens/pencils/type writers are simply technology. To me one need not worry about the future of writing - people should worry about the future of critical thinking. People should be encouraged to use whatever technology makes it easiest for them to master this essential skill.

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