"The question is no longer whether we should use technology to teach writing; instead we must focus on the many ways we must use technology to teach writing." - Troy Hicks, Crafting Digital Writing
Lifting Our Voices: Writing Beyond Our Notebooks
The room was quiet as participants wandered from space to space surveying writing collections. Each person had brought their “archaeological dig” to our writing project retreat. We were each charged to find writing to share with the group from across our lives. Everything was quiet as we moved around the room and read each other’s pieces. Each "dig" was filled with childhood reports, paper books made by tiny fingers, journals filled with wondrous words, and collections of handwritten poems. I was struck by the beauty of the words that surrounded me and the gifts these writers had tucked safely away in closets and drawers.
As I was laughing over the childhood piece of a friend, one of the participants approached me about the writing in my collection. “You still are writing a lot. I wish I was still writing,” she confided. “It’s been a long time since I just wrote for the joy of it. I really only write when life requires it.” I could hear the lament in her voice and could understand her words. I’ve been where she is. There have been periods where I didn’t pick up a pencil, periods where I let the busyness of life overtake my schedule, periods where I chose to remain silent.
Her comment caught me a bit off-guard, however. Writing has become such a part of my life that I guess I really hadn’t given it much thought lately. I’ve become accustomed to the time for reflection, the ah-has I discover, the joys, and the struggle. I write to dabble, to play, to discover.
For days, her comment stayed with me. I had stopped by her collection. I was struck by the natural talent toward writing she had displayed since she was a small child. Her words flowed effortlessly across the page. They were full of truths and rhythms. Yet I had noticed, like other writers in our group, the writing she shared in more recent years had likely been required. For many the beautiful words, the lessons, the stories to change the world, were tucked away.
The Power of Connection
I looked closely at my own collection of artifacts. Like others, I had my childhood pieces. There was the terrible fourth-grade poem that my teacher had planted the suggestion that I might some day be a poet with his encouraging words. (I’m pretty sure that poem indicated the complete opposite.) There was the poem asking, Who Shot JR? (that takes you back --- some of you will have to Google the reference), from my middle school years. Yep, that was worth a laugh. There were pieces sprinkled across my high school career, and then there was a huge stage of quiet. Lots of quiet. I happen to know there was some required writing in those days, but that was about all I carved out of my day.
As I looked at my collection I noticed the frequency of writing had certainly increased in the last seven years. Why?
In the last few weeks, I've really had a lot of time to think about the power of connection. It is the connection to communities like the Slice of Life, Poetry Friday, and Choice Literacy. It is the connection to blogs of friends, the #amwriting and #micropoetry Twitter groups, and others who read, interact and support each other in writing. I probably wouldn't still be writing without these communities to make me think, give me pause, and support my writing. It's the writing for something, that has changed my writing life and caused me to slow down to get things down on paper or held in digital spaces. (A few other communities you might like: #Celebratelu with Ruth Ayres, Teachers Write 2016, #CLMOOC Connected Learning Mooc...please share others in comments.)
Being digital has shifted my writing.
Why Digital Writing
I often find myself thinking intentionally about questions such as these:
- What does it mean to write digitally?
- How is it different from other mediums for composing?
- What are its benefits?
- How is digital writing like writing in other mediums?
- Why is it important to provide digital writing opportunities for young literacy learners?
I suppose my participation in digital writing communities has helped me to see the many benefits of writing digitally. In these years, I have been writing more in digital pieces. The more I've written, the more I've realized my students need these same opportunities. There are benefits of writing digitally:
Most of all, digital writing gives our words a space reach out into the world. It gives us the opportunity to see life from other perspectives, to think about things in new ways, to be affected by the stories and wondrous words of others.
I'm hoping that before our time in Central Ohio Writing Project is over that some of the other writers in the group find their places to share their stories to let their words spill out of their notebooks. Digital writing gives voice to each person now.