Publishing as a 21st Century Literacy

I have to admit that I had never heard of the five-paragraph essay until I read a piece by John Jones in DMLCentral: Teaching Publishing as a 21st Century Literacy. It seems to be a common way to teach writing in primary and secondary school in the USA – it might well have a wider reach for all I know – i found a description of it here.

Jones writes:

…you don’t often see these essays outside of the classroom in magazines or newspapers or other public writing venues…

Often? Try never :)

I think the central point of his post though is spot on:

One of the goals of education—digital or otherwise—is to prepare students for thinking and doing outside the classroom. And while it is true that the goal of teaching writing has always been to prepare students for writing beyond the walls of the schoolhouse, this is even more the case now that digital publishing has become so widely available in our society. In other words, as much as possible, the task of teaching writing is also teaching writing for public consumption, and teaching writing for public consumption in the network society means teaching writing and publishing as being inseparable.

Although some traditional educators might choose to forget on occasions that, since writing is always for a purpose, even if sometimes only a very personal one, then learning to write should always happen with that core principle in mind. Jones offers three short ideas for how teachers can think about the overlapping literacies of writing and publishing:

  • Published writing is written for an audience.
  • Published writing depends on writing technologies.
  • Published writing helps students learn identity creation.

Some may question his use of the term publishing since, often, ‘publishing’ today can simply mean sharing or giving access to what we produce – but whether we think of it as publishing or simply as sharing with others doesn’t really matter. The knowledge of how to share with others, and the implications that such sharing has on the writing itself, are all important enough to be considered as important skills today.

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