Re-defining Writing

It's time to re-define what we mean by "writing" and the emphasis we place on it in school.

Writing can take many forms. It can be text on a page and in paragraphs, but it can also be text on a screen and in bubbles.

Does writing need to be text? What about all those student communications that involve images, audios, video, and animation? Aren't those equally important skills?

  • Skrappy ($2.99) allows users to add text, music, movies, web pages, audio, and more into virtual pages.

Writing is a representation of language through the use of symbols.

  • Story Patch ($2.99) is a tool for creating books for the iPad. Text is combined with images. Writing is words only a small part of what a student can do with this program. He or she can compose and create as well as illustrate and imagine.

Now it's your job to decide what's a "representation of language" and how symbols are used to convey language. What does this really mean? Do we need to expand our thinking to meet the needs of today's communicators?

What's involved with the writing process? A writer brainstorms ideas, organizes thoughts, creates and edits a draft, and revises the communication to serve some purpose. Does each step need to take the form of text to be "writing"? What about lists of ideas, concept maps, and storyboards? How do they fit into our understanding of the writing process?

  • Storyboards is a great tool for creating storyboards. It helps a writer visualize the characters, plot, sequencing, setting, and action of the story.

Do you need to enter words on a keyboard to write? Can writing be an auditory expression of language that is transcribed into text? Or, text brought alive through computer speech?

  • i-Prompt Pro is a teleprompter that can be used for all kinds of writing projects. Writing on a teleprompter is a form of writing intended to be read aloud like poetry or a speech.
  • Speak It! is a text to speech app that allows students to write, then listen to their writing read aloud. What about typing the words and letting the computer do the reading? It's still writing.
  • Dragon Dictation is an app that records and transcribes audio. Do you need words on a keyboard to "write"?

Does writing need to take a text form or can it be infused with other forms? Infographics combine text with other symbols to convey meaning. Tools such as comic creators interweave words with images to create meaning. Video productions may include audio narration to go with still and motion images. Are these still considered to be writing?

  • WordFoto ($1.99) is an app that turns photos into typographic works of art.

What about adapting and rethinking works? From retelling stories to reimagining worlds, writers often revise and revisit the work of others.

  • StoryKit. Writers add to an expand traditional stories.

Educators often focus on the traditional definition of writing stressing the use of text symbols to convey meaning. However much of today's writing is associated with other types of composers such as videographer, graphic designers, and web authoring? Aren't these equally important if the mission is communication?

Should we adjust the definition to meet these changing demands or begin emphasizing words like "composing" and "creating" to describe information creation and sharing?

Go to Five New Environments for Writing.