That’s the estimate, (give or take a few hundred)Â of how many Expository Composition essays I read during my tenure as an English teacher not so too long ago. I was a process writing teacher, bought into Nancie Atwell‘s workshop approach and Donald Murray‘s revision voice from the very start. I actually loved teaching the revision process, the reflective part of reading what you wrote, testing it out in voice, scribbling in the margins and really trying to hear what the reader heard. The “final” copies always kinda bummed me out, because they were only finalÂ for the grade.
I’ve written here before that writing feels way different now; publishing isn’t the end part of the process any longer, it’s somewhere in the messy middle, except on those few occasions when something I write actually ends up in print (or, god forbid, on a pdf.) somewhere. Bud and I have fairly regular albeit sporadic conversations about “connective writing,” the idea that we don’t just write to communicate as much as we write for connection, for response, whether that’s here in the blog or on Twitter or wherever else. That the audience is far greater than the teacher or the other students in the class. That connections happen when we write about the things we care about, when our passion shines through. In that light, somehow those 3,462 essays and the classroom they were written in seem like a lifetime ago.
But nowadays I find myself writing “live” more and more, in the chat box in Skype or during the Elluminate sessions we do in PLP or on a live stream at UStream. There’s no “process” in the writing other than quick response and reaction, making plain what’s in our brains at the moment. We write with little reflection, little thought, in many cases. And usually, we’re trying to multitask our way through many responses from different people responding to different questions as the stream goes by. We have to write in the flow, (flowwriting?) and it’s not an easy task.
As I write this, I hear the little typewriter sound of chats being posted to a Cover-it-Live session open in another tab, kids at Carolyn Foote‘s school in Austin, Tx who are backchannelling a panel presentation on technology and censorship and the book 1984. It’s hard to follow the conversation by just reading their chats without hearing the panel, but it struck me…did those kids get any prep on how to live write? (I just Tweeted Carolyn with that question. and I also chatted it to the panel. Let’s see what happens.) Are their certain skills or nuances around “flowwriting” for live audiences that we need to teach and nurture? Certain “rules” or norms for use? (Carolyn Tweeted a whole bunch stuff back, and now we’re chatting about it in the CiL room and she’s bringing the teacher in. Different way of communicating, huh?)
I’m not suggesting we stop teaching process writing and essays and such. But I continue to wonder how deal with the affordances of these new writing spaces for our kids and for ourselves. Is anyone teaching it? Should we be?