One thing that I find intruiging in the phrase “Read/Write Web” is that neither “read” nor “write” really means what it used to when we talk of literacy or being literate. I mean, reading is no longer just being able to make sense of the letters. Literate readers need to be able to evaluate the source and meaning of what they are reading to glean its true relevance and importance, and they need to be able to “read” the varied mediums that writing now embraces. “Writing” is no longer just putting words to a page. We can write in many different forms depending on the situation or the need, with audio or video or other digital images. These are big changes in short periods of time, and many will be thinking and hopefully writing about these changes more and more as they become more mainstream.
Which leads me to this essay by John Udell. He talks about screencasting in the context of writing, about how writing is changing, and how we need to think about the implications for our classrooms.
We’re just scratching the surface of this medium. Its educational power is immediately obvious, and over time its persuasive power will come into focus too. The New York Times recently asked: “Is cinema studies the new MBA?” I’ll go further and suggest that these methods ought to be part of the new freshman comp. Writing and editing will remain the foundation skills they always were, but we’ll increasingly combine them with speech and video. The tools and techniques are new to many of us. But the underlying principles–consistency of tone, clarity of structure, economy of expression, iterative refinement–will be familiar to programmers and writers alike.
In the middle of his piece, he compares essayists and programmers and the ways in which they deal with their texts. It’s an interesting analysis that I think has a lot of merit. Writers and programmers must both struggle with making the code work effectively. And I love the fact that many more programmers are writing the code I can understand because I’ve learned much from their words even though I’ll never really understand their other language.
Different students are going to embrace different ways of expressing their ideas. As Udell says, traditional writing is still the foundation, but it can’t “just” be words on a page any longer. It’s daunting to think about how education will respond, but it’s also fun to think about the new, creative texts that are on the horizon.