The strap. The Gestetner mimeograph. 16 mm film. The VHS tape. The chalkboard. The floppy disk. The written word?
Thanks to Snapchat, Youtube, smartphones, and Skype, is the written word on the way out? Will it be cast aside in that storage room at the back of the school until someone stumbles over it in a few years, dusts it off, and donates it to the local museum?
Yes, of course, there is plenty of texting going on. And Tweeting. So, maybe the word isn’t entirely on the way out. But what of the paragraph? Or even the complete sentence? Is the cryptic use of words to be the norm? Will the term paper become the term Haiku?
Well, before we gently usher the longer forms of word use out to the proverbial retirement home of obsolescence, let’s take a look at another doomed medium– the radio.
Radio was given a death sentence when television became a mass media sensation. Why has it survived? Here’s a great article which explains how radio’s success has flown in the face of doom and gloom predictions: http://sparksheet.com/radio-everywhere-how-audio-survived-the-digital-revolution/
So, is there hope for the written word? The sentence? Or even the paragraph and beyond?
Of course there is.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the written word enables precision of thought. The written word can take a reader into the depths, through the undercurrents, and plunge them into the dark subterranean world of the human perception.
The written word can also dissect an issue with precision. It can present an argument or analysis built upon complex thoughts.
But here’s where my own bias shows through … Most of all, the act of writing can lead the writer to personal discoveries. Journaling has long been heralded as a healthy, therapeutic method of self-analysis and problem solving. Writing imaginative fiction can serve this purpose, as well. As an author, when the dust settles on a new piece of work, I look back upon it and realize how the creative act has taken me to explore realms of human perception I’d never before considered.
Where, then, does the written word fit into the brave new digital world of education and the new literacy that technology demands?
It means that we should not be throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. It means that thinking to write and writing to think should still hold a significant place within school curricula. We should be using the tools of technology to enable and liberate students to use the written word effectively.
We owe it as educators to provide our students with inspiring opportunities to use the written word to venture more deeply into their thinking, explore creative avenues, and embrace the written word as a valuable medium.