Thoughts on Shelly Wright’s Blog ntitled “Blogging is the New Persuasive Essay” By Rick Davidson

I have just finished reading Shelly Wright’s blog entitled “Blogging is the New Persuasive Essay”. http://shelleywright.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/blogging-is-the-new-persuasive-essay/ The article suggests that many students lack effective writing skills because our educational system is not producing independent thinkers. Without the ability to articulate an informed opinion, it is difficulty to develop and defend a thesis statement. Ms. Wright’s thesis statement is the title of her blog entry. If blogging is indeed the new persuasive essay, it is yet another example of how technology is in the process of changing how we define literacy.

As a technology integrator in a middle school, I have spent a great deal of time pondering how to encourage our students to begin to function on the upper level of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. http://www.uwsp.edu/education/lwilson/curric/newtaxonomy.htm This has been especially challenging given that the standardized testing movement stresses the lower two levels in the cognitive domain. The lowest being remembering retrieving and recalling. The next lowest being understanding. While we should not ignore these skills, the challenge of “21st Century Education” is to help our students develop the ability to apply knowledge, analyze concepts, evaluate information, and create a product. In other words our students need to become independent thinkers.

The traditional dictionary definition of literacy tends to look like the following:

literate – able to read and write

literate – versed in literature; dealing with literature

literate – knowledgeable and educated in one or several fields; “computer literate”
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

The National Council of Teachers of English has developed the following guidelines for what is needed to be literate in the 21st Century:

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology

  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross culturally

  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes

  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information

  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multiple-media texts

  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by those complex environments”

http://www.ncte.org/governance/literacies I would suggest that visual media has become at least as important as written media.

The International Society for Technology in Education ISTE points out that “societies are changing, expectations are changing, teaching is changing and educators must lead”.

The ISTE student guidelines mirror the NCTE literacy guidelines:

“Demonstrate creativity and innovation

Communicate and collaborate

Conduct research and use information

Think critically, solve problems, and make decisions

Use technology effectively and productively”

http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students.aspx

The teacher guidelines are”

“Facilitate and Inspire student learning and creativity

Design and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments

Model digital-age work and learning

Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility

Engage in professional growth and leadership”

http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-teachers/nets-for-teachers-2008.aspx

The ability to read and understand is simply not enough to claim literacy in the modern world. Being versed in literature certainly adds to the quality of one’s life. It also helps us understand the human condition. My favorite English teacher was wont to point out the literature is the highest form of communication. It is still right up there, but technology has kicked opened so many new doors that all of us can access information that was only available to “experts” in the past. Many forms of publication that were only available to the highly trained are now accessible to everyone. Newspapers and magazines are no longer the sole purveyors of editorial content. Witness the proliferation of blogging. Would be movie makers can purchase high definition digital cameras for less than $1000. Inexpensive editing suites can do more than what Hollywood was able to do only a few years ago. Photography enthusiast can now create high quality images without needing a degree in photo technology. If the tools available to our students are to be used in a competent manner, the NCTE and ISTE guidelines need to be incorporated into all curriculum areas and into every level of education. Shelly Wright is absolutely right. Blogs are the new persuasive essay. They are the new editorial column. They provide the opportunity to reach a large audience. They provide me, as an educator, with a platform to attempt to convince others to accept the value of the new paradigm of cognitive learning. This will enable our students to became ethical independent thinkers capable of collaboration, expressing themselves, and creativity. If we can accomplish that, our place as a nation in the world, will take care of itself.

In spite of the fact that I am a published novelist, I wonder if I would use the written word to contemplate and persuade if I had to adhere to the formatting of traditional essays. The above ruminations are very effective way for me to keep my goals in mind. If I can convince others of the importance of these goals, so much the better.

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