I used to write on yellow legal pads, drafting, crossing out, connecting new thoughts to old ones before typing and yet now, the thought of such as laborious process makes me cringe. I still drool over the brightly colored notepads that fill shelves at the end of summer. I still use them, at times, for recording anecdotal observations and taking notes; however, most of the time I'm planning, recording and note-taking on a laptop or tablet. It's likely our students will never know the angst of drafting on yellow legal pads or the challenge of getting 42 minutes of plans into a tiny box; however, they will likely write more than any previous generation!
Which brings me to my argument for increased use of laptops, tablets, blogs, twitters, wikis, electronic writing (not just typing) in multiple formats,at every grade level - even kindergarten! It's not that I do not value paper, pencils, and pens; I very much respect the need to learn to write notes, draft quick written responses and out our ideas down on paper; however, that is not the future of "writing" or sharing ideas as noted in so many readings, including the book edited by Herrington, Hodgson and Moran, Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st-Century Classroom. http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/books/teachingnewwriting
Not only do our students need to write electronically, from the earliest of ages, they need to know how to read critically and share safely on socially open media. Even kindergarten students should learn not to write "hate-mail" or post one's anger over something they might just change their mind about at some time in the future! While Facebook has opened the doors for so many of us adults to connect with our old college roommates, our children need to know about how to write carefully, how much to share, and when to argue in private formats!
As noted in Teaching the New Writing, it's not enough to foster classrooms where students write and respond to blogs. We also need to teach how to read and respond argumentatively in persuasive yet responsible modes. It's faster, more efficient and editing is far easier than with the old legal pad; however, the role of teacher is not lessened by the electronic format. There are both greater rewards and greater risks in a world where the audience for our children's wriitng is far larger than "Grandma, Grandpa, and teacher." In fact, there may be a far greater role of the teacher as an overseer and facilitator as we move into a world where the teacher might just be saying to the student designated to be the paper passer, "Pass the paper, laptops and tablets, please!"