Sunday, October 5, 2014
Recently, I have started experimenting with having students publish to the world. Several books I have read recently discuss the benefits of having students publish to a larger audience. Rather than assigning written work that will only be seen by the teacher (and maybe a few classmates), we should require students to publish to the world. The writing becomes relevant and meaningful. The goal is clear communication to an audience. It has also been implied that another benefit of publishing to a larger audience is that students will take more pride in their work. This idea sits upon some faulty assumptions regarding the quality of student work.
The idea that students will take more pride in work published for a large audience rests upon the assumption that students don't care about their work that is exclusively for the teacher. The student that cannot identify a run-on sentence might not be able to recognize this even if the audience is larger. This idea also seems to operate under another assumption-- that somehow publishing to "the public" is special and novel. To adults my age, it certainly is something that is special. We would not want the world to see our mistakes and misspellings. We also did not grow up posting everything and anything to the world. I doubt if this idea resonates with our students who have grown up reading (and clearly understanding) texts, blogs, and sites without the use of proper grammar or conventions. Since conventions, grammar, and capitalization did not interfere with the meaning of the writing, there were no meaningful "consequences" for the lack of attention to detail. For the most part, readers are still able to understand ideas even when they are not capitalized or punctuated correctly. This brings me to a question about assessment. How should we assess student writing today? Is it necessary to look at the bigger picture of whether the writing communicates the intended message? For example, the sign of an effective book review is one that actually makes you want to read the book. How heavily should we consider conventions in this particular context? Should we consider conventions? What if the use of conventions (or lack thereof) interferes with the message? On the other hand, what if there are multiple errors that do not get in the way of the message?