Tag Archives: writing space

yancey and writing in the 21st century

studio photoKathleen Black Yancey in her recent NCTE report Writing in the 21st Century (pdf) touched a chord for mobile teaching of writing.

Yancey sketches a 19th and 20th century history of writing in America, and mentions the changing spaces of composing, from pen and ink, to pencil, to ballpoint, to typewriter, to stand-alone PC, to networked PC/camera.

Here, she centers on a few observations that take me into mobile learning and mobile learning software.

  • Our current model(s) of composing are located largely in print, and it’s a model that culminates in publication. When composers blog as a form of invention or prewriting, rather than as a form of publication (which I did in composing this text: see kbyancey@wordpress.org ), what does that do to our print-based model(s) of composing that universally culminate in publication?
  • […]
  • How do we define a composing practice that is interlaced and interwoven with email, text-messaging, and web-browsing? As Mark Poster observes, composing at the screen today isn’t composing alone: it’s composing in the company of others. How does that change our model(s) of composing?
  • How does access to the vast amount and kinds of resources on the web alter our model(s)?

Composing is ubiquitous, Yancey claims in a statement designed to redefine the teaching of composing from K – 12 on. And so sites of composing are open for teaching and learning on the fly. But on the fly doesn’t mean without pedagogy. It means that because we can’t control the environment for composing or teaching composing, we need a strong, well-grounded pedagogy

I’m all for saying goodbye to the print-based aims and means of composing, but people are still heavily invested in it. It’s safe, known, bounded, academic. I watch students draft and edit in Word then paste a finished version into the wiki for presentation. They love that grammar checker, spelling checker, and word count; they love that double spacing; they love that paper. They love it because they have developed writing practices suited to paper from working with paper – like interlinear editing – and have yet to become deft at online and networked versions of those practices.

Anyway, a few points for mobile teaching and learning, starting from Yancey:

  • Where in a composing process based on paper (the model students bring with them) would a second or third person enter – and how? By IM, txt, email, comment? a look over the shoulder? Where in the process is the trial balloon of posting ideas and chunks to a blog or wiki for feedback from others? What does the text look like at that point? It might be ThreadMode on a wiki, or something less structured, or (yikes) something more structured. (Going to articulated sentences too early in the process make it difficult to rip them down to restructure.)
  • What has to be unlearned or challenged as the site of composing changes?
  • Look to how txt poetry has been composed for a start, and look to how people compose txts. The other morning, I watched a woman compose and send a 3 line txt msg on her qwerty phone between ordering, paying for, waiting for a coffee. On other mornings, when the coffee line was long, I composed and snapped a pic, annotated it with a note – about waiting in line – and posted it to Brightkite for whoever was looking in. What’s the process engaged there? What’s the exigence?
  • Composing goes on between other activites in the same composing space. Even as I compose this blog post, I’m doing some directory maintenance on a server, flipping between composing in ecto and deleting files in Transmit – and still having time on my hands while wait. Not two writing tasks, but two tasks. Walking and chewing gum.
  • To teach composing open to mobile learning, we may have to start with writing that stays online, that is not meant for print. Change the ends – the delivery – and the means might have to change.
  • Look at the physical, social, and cognitive activities that people engage and draw on when composing in the interlaced social space – composing in the company of others – to develop a model of composing. Start with the environs.

And then consider what a mobile course in 21st century composing might look like.

three weeks on the phone: are we literate yet?

We’ve been living with iPhones for three weeks now and it’s still a toss up between Christmas and hell. Essentially, the phone is another computer – one that does voice but really just another computer. So we have to learn to deal with another set of computer idiosyncrasies: typing issues, restarts, crashes, syncing, settings…. The reading and writing spaces are different again from laptops and even the Palm TX that I’ve been using for the last year and a half. Learning a new interface brings forward the affordances we learn to work with in writing and reading. Writing on the iPhone is a little like 10th grade typing class and a little like using PC Write. I wrote a 130 page thesis in PC Write, and I got a B in typing.

I’ve been using the iPhone as a notepad while I was fixing a server snafu this last week. Useful that way. I emailed myself annotated extracts from man pages that I had reviewed on a laptop that I could refer to as I worked, and it was useful to have a second screen to work from.

(On the other hand, composing sentences on the touchpad makes for some really annoying and sophomoric constructions. Composing on point is influenced by the means of input. I handle a keyboard better than a touchpad and a pencil. The more rapid the input the more compositionally sophisticated I can get. I’m making sytax moves on this keypad I would never make on a keyboard. Crap moves that demand an editing to clean up. And they are not oralisms.)

As a notepad ok. As a writing space for more extended prose, not so good.

Access to stuff is brilliant: newsfeeds, proper news, Flickr, podcasts, mail, maps. For access, the iPhone almost replaces a laptop – but it’s best when the data has been scraped and formatted for the screen; there’s lot to be said for web apps and standalone reader apps. A laptop is more versatile; it can make more stuff accessible more readily. But the iPhone is far more portable for the typical stuff I need to do. Sort of a Mini Cooper compared to a Toyota.

Games and drawing apps: pretty good. Easily equal to a laptop – as long as the game is designed for the small screen. Card games can’t simply be ported. The card faces need to be redesigned for the small screeen. Compare solitaire games and you’ll see. Pips aren’t necessary on the small screen.

Always on – always connected. This is interesting because I find myself doing things I hadn’t done before. I can check prices online while in the store. I can take pics and upload on the spot. Viv and I can share lists.

Ok: These are mundane uses, either unnecessary or easily handled in other ways. Yep. Superfluous. Bourgeois. Silly. Mundane.  But it passes the time.  And what’s mundane can be valued by others. Historians pour over 13th century shopping lists to get a sense of day to day life.

Most recently, I added a nifty WordPress plugin to this blog that handles displaying it on the iPhone. A lot of sites are going to need this sort of re-fit to be really useful on the phone – especially for education. It’s a matter of usability design.