7 Important Ways That the Web Has Changed Writing Skill Requirements
Do a bit of research on the impact that the Web has had on writing, and you will find plenty of articles moaning about millennials and their use of ‘text speak'. It’s a shame that the conversation on this topic has been so rather narrow, because the truth is that the web has changed our expectations in some very profound ways. These changing expectations mean that the definition of literacy itself is changing. Educators who focus on simple literacy instead of digital literacy may be leaving their students at a disadvantage.
Following are seven ways in which the web has altered expectations when it comes to writing skills.
1. There Are Higher Expectations Regarding Fact Checking And Research
Students have always been expected to use reliable sources and double check their facts. That’s nothing new. However, before the internet, students were only held responsible for the information to which they had access. For example, an educator wouldn’t expect a student to have up to date knowledge on a particular topic if they were limited to an out of date textbook and last year’s encyclopedia when they did their research.
Today, students have access to an astonishing number of scholarly databases. In fact, many universities, colleges, research institutes, and think tanks have opened up their information repositories and made them available to anybody doing academic research. Because of this, the pressure is on educators to help emerging writers learn the kind of research and fact checking skills they will need to be effective written communicators in the future.
2. Dual Literacy is a Reality
Students today must essentially learn two different forms of writing. There is certainly still use for the type of writing that is designed for immersive reading. This means that teachers must be sure that students know how to write engaging and effective essays, research papers, even short stories. On the other hand, students also need the writing skills required to communicate on digital platforms. This can be challenging because skills required to be successful in one area can conflict with the skills required to be successful in the other.
One thing that teachers can do is to avoid stigmatizing the type of writing that is effective online as being wrong or academically inferior. Instead, students who are taught both styles of writing, and when each is appropriate, are sure to be at an advantage in the future.
3. Visual Elements Are Expected to Further Points And Demonstrate Concepts
There is an emerging trend in many classrooms where instead of writing traditional essays or research papers, students are putting together multimedia presentations. These might include videos, charts, photographs, infographics, and presentation slides, in addition to a required written element. Doing this addresses a very real need. Students need to be prepared to present information and explain concepts in a way that people in the digital age will understand. Understanding when to use visual elements, along with understanding how and why they are effective is an extremely relevant skill for students to learn
4. People Want Solutions And They Want Them Quickly
Speaking of immersive reading, one very important digital communication skill that all students should develop is the ability to write in a way that presents solutions quickly. Writing that is based on problem solving is a skill that many students aren’t developing. Instead, they are simply taught to write for the audience who is interested in researching a particular subject or reading for simple enjoyment. There is certainly nothing wrong with writing a paper on the inner workings of the gasoline engine. It’s just that students should also be prepared to write for the person who simply wants to know how to check their oil or acquire some other new skill.
5. Writing Has Become an Interactive Experience
It is imperative that students are taught that their writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Instead, thanks to the web, writing creates engagement and the exchange of ideas. This means that students need to be prepared for the world where their ideas are challenged, and where their ideas spark conversation and other ideas.
Because of this, students need to be prepared more than ever to be able to defend their ideas. They also need to be able to deal with criticism of their writing, constructive or otherwise, and to integrate new points of view into their own world view.
6. There is Less Patience For Spelling And Grammar Mistakes Than Ever
Virtually every text editor comes with a utility that checks for spelling and grammar mistakes. In addition to this, there are a variety of tools and websites that will scan for these errors. Many of these tools are completely free. As a result, readers on the internet tend to react quite harshly to sloppy writing mistakes. All students should be taught to proofread and edit their own work and to make use of any tools they need to eliminate mistakes.
7. New Terms Become Mainstreamed Quickly
There are a variety of ways that new words become a part of mainstream vernacular. In some cases, a technical word or phrase is used enough in everyday speech that it becomes recognized as a word. In other cases, a slang term is deemed acceptable enough to enter the mainstream. Then, there are cases where an entirely new word is coined that gains enough traction to earn acceptability. Once upon a time, this was a slow process. Today, influenced by digital communications, new words become mainstreamed much faster than in the past. Because of this, educators and writers must stay on top of new terms rather than labeling them slang or inappropriate for an academic setting too quickly.
Developing Writing Skills in a New Digital Age
Now that we know how expectations are changing, the next step is figuring out how students can be brought up to speed. After all, digital literacy will be a major determining factor in students’ success in the future. To begin, people designing curricula need to focus on digital literacy and writing skills that will be useful both online and off.
In addition to this, students should be provided with access to tools that will help them to develop the literacy skills that they need to become effective writers in a world where most information is exchanged online. Here are just a few tools that students may find helpful.
- Hemingway – To help students ensure that their writing is concise and readable
- Evernote – For organizing writing projects and collaborating with others
- Prezi – A tool for creating high-quality online presentations
- Canva – A free tool for creating infographics and other visual content