Last night on Twitter, Bud Hunt commented that Writing in the 21st Century by Kathleen Blake Yancey was a must read for educators. Since I’ve had that pdf on my desktop for a week or two now, I lamented back that my reason for not reading yet. My pathetic excuse back is outlined in our tweetversation below.

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Wanting to stay true to my word, I opened the pdf this morning and took a closer look. @budtheteacher was right, it was time to read that article. I came a way with a head full of thoughts, many of which I shared on Twitter.

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Perhaps the biggest take away for me was that I finally began to realize why writing has always been so difficult for me. The historical perceptions of writing that Yancey presents really resonated with me.  It finally sunk it on me that pre #writing21, writing was difficult to do. Not only in terms of the mental context, but in the physical context too. The tools required to actually write were not widely available to the masses in an affordable and attainable manner until the early part of the 20th century.

Now fast forward to 2009 and the tools to write AND publish are everywhere and come in many shapes. The ability for people to consume written word is also more widely available. No longer is writing confined to clunky books on library shelves for the public to access. Now it is everywhere around us, being consumed in multiple formats. As we move towards Web 3.0 and life in the clouds, it is only going to become more accessible.

What I really want to spend more time wrapping my head around, and will most certainly become future blog post, are what Yancey calls “three challenges that are also opportunities” when we think about 21st century writing.

    • developing new models of writing;
    • designing a new curriculum supporting those models;
    • creating models for teaching that curriculum.

I think that each of these items warrants a deeper look by not only myself, but other educators as well. What do we know about new models of writing? How should we approach a new curriculum that supports new writing models and what does that mean to our pedagogy and practice? I think that the person I’ve heard speak the loudest about these ideas and question has been Will Richardson. He presents a multitude of options and approaches for teachers to take in his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.

There is one thing I seem to be noticing as I work with teachers to develop #writing21 practice. It is becoming evident to me that teacher practitioners can’t truly understand and comprehend how to adapt their writing instruction until they themselves begin to practice #writing21 skills in the context of their own professional learning.

So I’m left wondering, is there really [one more crucial component] to Yancey’s call to action…

“a call to research and articulate new composition, a call to help our students [and teachers] compose often, compose well, and through these composings, become the citizen writers of our country, the citizen writers of our world, and the writers of our future.”