Using an Anywhere/Anytime Technology to Facilitate Student Writing

Using an Anywhere/Anytime Technology to Facilitate Student Writing

Hilary Wilder (William Paterson University, USA), Carrie Eunyoung Hong (William Paterson University, USA) and Geraldine Mongillo (William Paterson University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-347-8.ch012
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Background

Many believe that students today learn differently from previous generations (Barnes, Marateo, & Ferris, 2007). They are wired, constantly connected, and expect immediacy in communication, but the Net Generation is not known for their reading or writing skills (Sweeney, 2007). Although many teachers blame the decline in writing skills on the technologies that today’s students are immersed in, a recent Stanford Study of Writing (Haven, 2009), reports that the opposite, in fact, is true. Students are writing more than ever, but in a different context and form expected by their college professors. The study finds that students are using technologies such as e-mail, cellphone text messages, slideshow presentations, weblog posts, and discussion threads to write for a compelling purpose and to write for a real audience. Literacy research has demonstrated that students produce better writing products when they have an interest in the subject and feel they are writing for a specific purpose (Alvermann, 2001; Englert, 1992). The Stanford study found that the type of writing students enjoyed most was writing that was performative or “does something” (Lundsford, 2009), like creating a poster or a website related to a social issue in which they had an interest. Similarly, initial findings from the Writing in Digital Environments (WIDE) Research Center show that students find value in writing for personal fulfillment and entertainment, using technologies such as cellphones, Facebook and email (Grabill & Pigg, 2010).

There is little doubt that the composition of traditional academic writing has significantly changed with the advent of new digital literacies, but it is not necessarily bad news. Students’ writing scores have steadily improved over the last few years according to the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). Today’s students are proficient users of multiple technologies and the use of these technologies requires them to be problem solvers and strategic thinkers (Anstey & Bull, 2006). Turner and Katic (2009) suggest that the non-linear literacy practices that are often engendered by new technologies will help students connect more authentically to the meaning-making processes. Sweeny (2010) suggests that technological literacies are related to writing literacies and should be integrated in teaching the latter. Literacy research (Gee, 2007; Lankshear & Knobel, 2006;New London Group, 2000) obliges us to find a way to bridge the gap between out-of-school (texting, twittering, etc.) and in-school literacy instruction because students see these modalities not only as a social communication tool, but a method to accomplish ‘real life’ tasks.

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