“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself,
‘I am going to produce a work of art.’
I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose,
some fact to which I want to draw attention,
and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
It is a well-known thing that most people have difficulties to write proper syntax, people tend to use the easiest way in writing, that is not always the best manner to express clear ideas and intelligible communication.
Some complain that young people do not write properly anymore, others will put the blame on new technologies that brought a new sort of language only young people know how to use that defies all rules of writing.
I could not agree more about the quality of writing nowadays, in most languages (at least those I know and use), but on the other hand it would be quite odd if we still used the Shakespearian English or the 16th century French syntax. I guess that would be enough unusual.
Language and writing walked us through our timeline history, from the drawings of Lascaux caves (maybe before that too) to the various expressions humans created to adapt to these times of their history.
I am not a big fan of new technologies especially when promoters make these sound as the must have solution to all kinds of issues in today’s needs, I adopt a technology when and if it provides a real value to empower people to take control over their needs in education, in learning, or in a better wellbeing. In other words, technologies must absolutely serve people and not the other way. The reason I am repeatedly pinning this idea resides to the fact that we are, today, drowned by messages from all over the places telling us what to do and what to use; messages becoming intoxicating to people’s minds and their faculty of deciding what is best for them.
The story I wish to share is simple. Simple because I learned so much about trusting young people about solutions in learning using these new technologies, and also – I confess – about writing rules!.
The project consisted to engage young people into a storytelling journey about their summer vacation. The final project being presented to their parents of course. They had ideas, they had creativity and they had the unique desire to make something that would wow their parents. They did not have sophisticated equipment, so after a quick overview of the inventory of tools, it looked limited to an Internet access and a couple of smartphones in addition to their laptops. My role for this social activity was to assist and eventually provide ideas, the entire work was their own responsibility.
This fun excursion turned to be an amazing lesson for me about rules of writing and a new dynamic approach in Project Management (PM) (the young people’s PM way!)
They decided to create a common online document where each would contribute with his or her own vacation story, adding pictures or location maps about the various places they visited with their parents.
I was curious to see what they meant with common document, as adults we would have preferred working each one on his own and spend time to polish our work and make it look the best possible, less caring about the collective team work.
One of the kids set an online web page, during their discussions on sharing tasks, I heard the word Wiki various times. I confess I had a very vague idea of what a Wiki[i] could be. I was very amused to look at them planning their activities, working on drafts, some started writing, and others were doing some searches on the Web. None of them was working alone, except each person’s own story, looking for every one’s locations, places, copying pictures, writing the legal disclaimer (I smiled with great pleasure to note how serious they were taking this aspect). Time was flying so rapidly but none would feel bored or eager to break to get home, I had to push them out of the room reminding them they also could enjoy spending time in the outdoors. The Wiki (I was still feeling this was a kind of toy or game) was getting shape, content and enriched with many photos, great titles, etc. My rational adult mind, was continuously wondering about how they would all contribute to that project as they planned. When time came for each to write down his own part, I was really surprised noting the manner they organized work. Authoring first, review second and proofreading last! Yes! Proofreading!
Could we tell how much time we need to get our projects managed with such level of efficiency?
There was a team: The content review team! Who looked at every person’s contribution, sitting with the author reviewing the grammar, the spelling most common mistakes, and the syntax! I could not believe my eyes! Young people showing me a real case study of project management and good clean writing!
The most amazing part happened when they were reviewing together the writing quality, speaking of redundant words that weren’t necessary, about consistency, used the right verb’s conjugation, grammar and punctuation rules… From a helper I turned into a learner, a true learner from these persons who took so seriously their tasks. When I asked questions about punctuation and the use of verbs, every time I was answered with clear and simple to understand explanations. So yes I was taught a lot about concision about making my writing better, remembering my dear English teacher, Mrs. Daphne who was so helpless to make me use the rules of grammar and punctuation properly, these children succeeded where she gave up on me I guess.
I also learned about the many possibilities of using a Wiki, such simple tool that enables a contributive working environment, but most of all I found that learning even the rules of writing could be fun using one of these social new technologies.
When the project was completed, we had a premier among ourselves, making sure all was as expected, and then came the day we had to gather parents and friends for The Presentation. They did plan a dynamic link to those who could not make it to the meeting on that special event (do we plan such things in business events? Just asking!) In fact all was set so no parent would miss such important moment.
At the end of that special day, I was, not only impressed, but sincerely and honestly humbled. Of all what I learned in prestigious schools, of all the amazing courses I took and intended to use in changing today’s Education, nothing taught me better than these young people thorough their own attitude and determination!
I confess it is the first time I saw with my own eyes how simple ideas, can, with the support of technologies and lots of fun, bring tangible solutions to today’s education needs, with a bonus as I learned a lot more on the art of better writing!
More than ever, I am certain that the true solution for a renewed education will come from the people who want to learn! The base showing to the top what the real needs are and how people want to learn.
Michel – January 26, 2015
[i] Wiki: A wiki is a web application which allows collaborative modification, extension, or deletion of its content and structure. In a typical wiki, text is written using a simplified markup language (known as “wiki markup”) or a rich-text editor. While a wiki is a type of content management system, it differs from a blog or most other such systems in that the content is created without any defined owner or leader, and wikis have little implicit structure, allowing structure to emerge according to the needs of the users. It was named by Ward Cunningham, who remembered a Honolulu International Airport counter employee telling him to take the “Wiki Wiki Shuttle” bus that runs between the airport’s terminals. According to Cunningham, “I chose wiki-wiki as an alliterative substitute for ‘quick’ and thereby avoided naming this stuff quick-web.”