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New ways of writing January 30, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Information, Online Tools.

books   The blog is turning writing on its head. Today, I am working on a book review, written in solitude and with a three month deadline. I have spent three months pondering the book and, in the tradition of the old style of writing, I will put my words on paper for a reviewer in Germany to decide if they should be published or not.

Colleagues over at Weblogg-ed News commented on the new directions journalism is taking and how writing process itself is changing. Swiss journalists investigating recent riots in France would take initial drafts of their writing, post it on a blog, and invite comments. The comments led to deeper investigation and subsequent drafts inspired more comments.

In my own class, now that we are using blogs, I have heard from four students already who have commented on things a guest speaker said. Usually I have received no feedback whatever on my regular speaker. As a result, the next time he comes in we will make a special focus on the parts of his talk that really resonated with my students this semester.

Feedback in a university classroom makes perfect sense. Just like feedback from a newspaper’s audience can change the way articles are written and researched, schools should be changing just as much and inviting feedback along the way, not just at the end of the course.

Of course, there are limits to this method of writing. It is a highly energetic form of writing in comparison with the way I am writing my book review. If I wanted to write in this way, by engaging a community of potential readers about the topic, vocational education in Europe, I would have to seek out an audience of blog-reading educators who would find bits and pieces of my review interesting enough to comment on. Even then, I would miss the French and German readers unless I could post simultaneous translations.

What this means to schools is that basic assumptions of education and what it means to write and research are being challenged to the very core. Some bright and influential people are beginning to take notice. Frank Levy, an economist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is reaching out to educators and those responsible for educational policies by pointing out that finding and synthesizing information is more important than memorizing dates, something educators have been saying for ages. And failing to teach kids how to navigate in the knowledge economy is “like putting them on the track without the locomotive.?



1. Tiffany - February 2, 2006

What is so important about this blog thing. I really don’t understand it.

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