It is commonplace to bemoan the poor writing skills of students today. Yes, there is no question that writing effectively is difficult. Yes, it is true that we don’t provide enough high quality writing instruction (writing is known as the “forgotten R”). And yes, the demands of a knowledge economy require excellent writing abilities. But the students we teach today write more than any generation in human history, and one reason for that is the pervasiveness of writing technologies in their lives.
My colleagues and I recently conducted a large survey study as part of our ongoing efforts to understand the writing lives of college students in order to better support student learning. We have identified writing practices (e.g., texting) and values associated with writing practices that have raised new questions about what students write, why they write, for whom, and using which technologies. The findings that have captured most people’s attention concern writing practices like texting and the importance of handheld devices like mobile phones as a writing platform.
Some Results from the Study
The findings from the survey suggest that writing is an important part of U.S. college students’ lives and include the following:
- SMS texts (i.e., texts using short message services on mobile devices), emails, and lecture notes are three of the most frequently written genres (or types) of writing.
- SMS texts and academic writing are the most frequently valued genres.
- Some electronic genres written frequently by participants, such as writing in social networking environments, are not valued highly.
- Students write for personal fulfillment nearly as often as for school assignments.
- Digital writing platforms — cell phones, Facebook, email — are frequently associated with writing done most often. <Read more.>