With tweets and webcasts, blog posts and podcasts, the third annual National Day on Writing kicked off Thursday as students, teachers, writers and literacy groups celebrated why they write in today’s tech-driven age.
“It has been famously said that writing is thinking on paper,” says Paul Oh, senior program associate with the National Writing Project (NWP), which collaborated on producing the day’s events. “But writing is thinking in all sorts of modes, not just on paper, but through multimedia as well. And today we see that writing is even more important as a thinking tool because if we think of writing in its broadest sense, it’s a text message, as well as essays and persuasive arguments.”
NWP collaborated with Figment.com, the New York Times (NYT) Learning Network and Edutopia among other entities, including the National Council of Teachers of English, which originated the event. The collective goal? To encourage students to think about why writing is so important to their lives. And schools responded.
At Overbrook Elementary School in Philadelphia, PA, students worked with technology teacher Rita Sorrentino to craft a Google Spreadsheet on the myriad ways we use writing in society. Students noted that people use writing in activities from writing recipes to scoring papers, posting on Twitter to paying bills. Sophomores at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia added their thoughts to the Twitter feed (#whyiwrite), while over at William E. Norris Elementary School in Southampton, MA, teacher Kevin Hodgson worked with sixth graders to record 69 brief podcasts. Students shared why they write and even, in some cases, why it’s not their preferred activity.
“I write to make myself laugh,” said young boy in his podcast. “I do not write often. Writing isn’t one of my favorite things to do, but sometimes I’ll be in the mood and write some comics.”
In addition to encouraging schools to participate, NWP and its partners sponsored various online events—many of which extend into this week and beyond. Figment.com launched a “Why I Write” contest, open through October 29, in which students can post essays, plays or any form their writing takes. A select few will be curated into an ebook to be published this fall by NWP, says Oh.
Authors on Figment and NWP’s site, as well as reporters on the NYT Learning Network also headed online to share why they write in blog posts. While others took to the airwaves to chat about the topic.
On Twitter, the tweets under #whyiwrite flew across the Web. They included one from author Anna David (@annadavid), who says she puts words down, “Because it’s cheaper than therapy.”
Ultimately, the celebration appeared to be a success, perhaps spawning a new generation of writers—students who feel empowered to express themselves through stories, tweets, or longer form text.
“Why I write? ‘Cause I like to,” said one sixth grader on his podcast at William E. Norris Elementary School “Letters, stories, texts, type, just like any other writer out there. But to me it has more, well, me in it. People like my stories, but not as much as I do.”