So, Kathleen Blake Yancey has been an influence on my teaching for a good long time, all the way back to the mid 1990s when I was doing research on professional teaching portfolios during a sabbatical from classroom. Her work and ideas have been an important part of the conversation around teaching and writing, and her stature as former president of the National Council of Teachers of English makes her a well respected voice among those trying to understand the changes we’re all experiencing now. So it was a great treat to be able to do a virtual sit-down with her earlier today and talk about how the importance of reading and writing has grown, how these technologies are impacting our thinking of how to best teach literacy, and the very fun and at the same time complex moment in history we’re living through right now.
The one teaser point I’ll throw out here deals with why we need to think of the function of writing very differently. It’s not a new concept if you’ve frequented these parts, but it’s just so validating to hear someone like Kathi articulate it as well. It’s this: an important value of writing today is not simply to communicate but to get others engaged, to build a larger conversation around what we write. As she states in “Writing in the 21st Century” (a must read, btw) writing is now “newly technologized, socialized and networked.” And I wonder to what extent those currently teaching writing (which I think should be everyone in a classroom, btw) really get that on a practical and pedagogical level. As she says in the interview, none of us really know what the answers are right now, but we are at a tipping point of sorts at least in our recognition that something “large” is happening, and that it’s going to have some “large” effects on our teaching and learning lives.
Unfortunately, we had a couple of short drops from uStream in the middle, so the embedded videos below are in three parts. Also, here is the extremely engaging chat transcript that Sheryl was nice enough to capture. It’s all good stuff, and if you do invest the time to listen, would love, as always, to hear your reactions.