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Common Core Standards: ELA

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing

Writing CCRA.W.6

6. Use technology, including the internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

If your name is Emily Dickinson and you live alone in your family home, only wear white, and scribble rhyming poems about death that can be sung to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme, then you can get away with just throwing all of your writing in a desk drawer. For the rest of us, however, it’s important to share our writing (and not count on a sister named Lavinia to publish our stuff once we’ve gone to the big writing desk in the sky.)

Using technology to produce and publish writing is something you probably already do. (Raise your hand if you still write with a pen on paper in cursive. All right, you jokers, put your hands down. We know you’re lying.) Though some might mourn the loss of writing by hand, we all take advantage of the fact that we live in a typing society. Every time you type up an essay and hit the magical print key, or post a status update, or comment on your favorite blog, you are producing and publishing writing with technology.

The benefit of living in an interconnected world is that writers are no longer solitary weirdoes (sorry, Emily D), but are instead part of an ongoing conversation. That means that you can use technology—like the internet—to publish an article about the immortal Miss Dickinson, invite comments from some of her most fervent fans, and adjust and change your article as you get feedback. Granted, the internet does allow for comments of all degrees of usefulness, right from the individual who correctly points out that you have the date of Emily’s birth off by a day to the comment troll who wants to make sure you know “UR a mOron!” However, being able to use technology to collaborate on projects makes the occasional idiotic comment worth it.

Chances are, you probably already perform this standard admirably in your personal life. The trick is to recognize that the ability to use technology like the internet can help you to become a better, collaborative and published writer.

Example

One day, you’re eating a snack and realize that you love that snack so much that you simply must write a poem about it. You have poetry in your heart and you feel the need to let it shine. What will you do to make sure that it is the best goshdarn poem about Cheez Curlz that anyone has ever written? Here are some ideas:

  • Open up a word processing document on your computer. Typing up your poem about snack foods in a Word document (or the like) will make sure that any misspellings or grammatical mistakes you make are caught and fixed. Those little red squiggles are lifesavers!
  • You may have gotten your spelling and grammar under control, but you’re not sure that your poem is quite as awesome as the snack that inspired it. You’d like to get some feedback. So log onto that World Wide Interweb and get some opinions on your work. Where can you connect with others? What about a Cheez Curlz forum? (This actually exists, by the way.) You can get opinions from people who are fellow Cheez Curlz enthusiasts. Or, you can take your poem to social networks, and ask for feedback from friends, Facebookers and tweeters. Who knows, you might find yourself a collaborator who is so enamored of your poetry that he can’t help but put it to music he’s written himself. And then you could post a video of you singing the song together on YouTube and next thing you know, you’re a viral phenomenon!
  • Even if you don’t find yourself immortalized in song on YouTube, you may still want to publish your Cheez Curlz masterpiece for all to see. After you have gone back and forth with your collaborators and enthusiasts and know that your poem is ready for publication, you can again use technology to get your work into the hands of readers. You could publish your poem on a blog, or use your computer to create a literary magazine with your desktop publishing software if you decide to take the more traditional publication route.

All in all, from inception to collaboration to publication, modern technology provides writers with lots of avenues for improving writing. Can you imagine trying to go through all this if the only technology available to you were pen and paper? (Or even, shudder, just a dial-up modem?) If the lovely Miss Emily Dickinson were to go through the same process when writing about her favorite snack food, here is what she would have to do:

Writing
1. Get out a pen and paper and begin composing.
2. Consult a thesaurus to find a synonym to the word “crunchy.” (Nowadays, we can just look it up on the internet! Or, use our word processing software to get lists of synonyms!)
3. Consult a rhyming dictionary to find a word that rhymes with “crisp.”
4. Once the poem is completed, reread each word with a dictionary in hand to make sure that the spelling is correct.
5. Do the same with a manual of grammar to double check that there are no grammatical errors.

Interacting/Collaborating
1. Now that the poem is finished, to reach the same kind of audience available over the internet, it would be necessary to copy the poem hundreds of times.
2. Next, stuff each copy of the poem in a separate envelope and address it to a snack enthusiast whose mailing address is already in her address book.
3. Stamp each envelope.
4. March down to the post office and mail off the poem to each and every potential collaborator.
5. Wait.
6. Wait some more.
7. It’s been a month! Why hasn’t anyone written back?
8. At long last, receive a reply from a fellow snack enthusiast. It simply says: “Ur a morOn!”

Publishing
1. Finally, some collaborators have indicated ways to improve the poem, so it’s time to try to get this wonderful poem into print. Start by writing a letter of introduction to the editor of a respected literary journal.
2. Mail the letter and poem to the editor.
3. Realize after it is too late that that particular editor was the one who sent the reply calling you a moron.
4. After receiving a rejection letter from the literary journal (or a year has passed with no response, whichever comes last), write another letter to a different editor of a different literary journal.
5. Mail that letter and the poem to the editor.
6. Wait.
7. Receive another rejection or no response.
8. Repeat steps 4-7 ad infinitum.
9. Pass away at a ripe old age.
10. Have sister Lavinia discover the poem and manage to get it published.

As you can see, having computers and the internet at our disposal provides us with many more opportunities for writing, interaction with other writers and readers, collaboration and publication. Seeing what Emily D. would have had to go through in order to do what we can accomplish in the space of an afternoon makes it clear why she was reclusive and a little strange. We’d be upset, too.

Quiz Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

  1. In 1862, Emily Dickinson contacted the literary critic Thomas Wentworth Higginson to ask his opinion of four of her poems. This is the letter she included with the poetry:

    Mr Higginson,
    Are you too deeply occupied to say if my Verse is alive?
    The Mind is so near itself – it cannot see, distinctly – and I have none to ask –
    Should you think it breathed – and had you the leisure to tell me, I should feel quick gratitude –
    If I make the mistake – that you dared to tell me – would give me sincerer honor – toward you –
    I enclose my name – asking you, if you please – Sir – to tell me what is true?
    That you will not betray me – it is needless to ask – since Honor is it's [sic] own pawn –

    Of the benefits available to us through technology, which one is Emily most in need of, according to this letter?

    Correct Answer:

    Interacting with others

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is C. Emily wants to hear from another poetry-minded individual his opinion of her poems. She hasn’t had any problems producing her writing, as she was able to include four poems with this letter. She doesn’t seem interested in publication, according to the letter. She does not want Mr. Higginson to collaborate with her, but she does want to interact with him to get his opinion on her poetry.


  2. In her letter, Emily says to Mr. Higginson “and I have none to ask.” What aspect of modern technology would have solved that problem for the reclusive poet?

    Correct Answer:

    Social networking

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is B. Even for a recluse, it is now possible to find and befriend hundreds (if not thousands) of people over social networks, and surely some of them would be willing to give their opinion of Emily’s poetry. Being able to type up her poems, send them out via email, publish them herself or post them as a depressing music video would not help Emily to find someone to read and give her constructive opinions on her work.


  3. The following excerpt is from the Introduction to Dan Gillmor’s book We the Media:

    We freeze some moments in time. Every culture has its frozen moments, events so important and personal that they transcend the normal flow of news.

    Americans of a certain age, for example, know precisely where they were and what they were doing when they learned that President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. Another generation has absolute clarity of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. And no one who was older than a baby on September 11, 2001, will ever forget hearing about, or seeing, airplanes exploding into skyscrapers.

    In 1945, people gathered around radios for the immediate news, and stayed with the radio to hear more about their fallen leader and about the man who took his place. Newspapers printed extra editions and filled their columns with detail for days and weeks afterward. Magazines stepped back from the breaking news and offered perspective.

    Something similar happened in 1963, but with a newer medium. The immediate news of Kennedy’s death came for most via television; I’m old enough to remember that heart­breaking moment when Walter Cronkite put on his horn­rimmed glasses to glance at a message from Dallas and then, blinking back tears, told his viewers that their leader was gone. As in the earlier time, newspapers and magazines pulled out all the stops to add detail and context.

    September 11, 2001, followed a similarly grim pattern. We watched—again and again—the awful events. Consumers of news learned the what about the attacks, thanks to the television networks that showed the horror so graphically. Then we learned some of the how and why as print publications and thoughtful broadcasters worked to bring depth to events that defied mere words. Journalists did some of their finest work and made me proud to be one of them.

    But something else, something profound, was happening this time around: news was being produced by regular people who had something to say and show, and not solely by the “official” news organizations that had traditionally decided how the first draft of history would look. This time, the first draft of history was being written, in part, by the former audience. It was possible—it was inevitable—because of new publishing tools available on the Internet.

    Another kind of reporting emerged during those appalling hours and days. Via emails, mailing lists, chat groups, personal web journals—all nonstandard news sources—we received valuable context that the major American media couldn’t, or wouldn’t, provide.

    We were witnessing—and in many cases were part of—the future of news.

    Six months later came another demonstration of tomorrow’s journalism. The stakes were far lower this time, merely a moment of discomfort for a powerful executive. On March 26, 2002, poor Joe Nacchio got a first-hand taste of the future; and this time, in a small way, I helped set the table.

    Actually, Nacchio was rolling in wealth that day, when he appeared at PC Forum, an exclusive executive conference in suburban Phoenix. He was also, it seemed, swimming in self-pity.

    In those days Nacchio was the chief executive of regional telephone giant Qwest, a near-monopoly in its multi-state marketplace. At the PC Forum gathering that particular day, he was complaining about difficulties in raising capital. Imagine: whining about the rigors of running a monopoly, especially when Nacchio’s own management moves had contributed to some of the difficulties he was facing.

    I was in the audience, reporting in something close to real time by publishing frequent conference updates to my weblog, an online journal of short web postings, via a wireless link the conference had set up for attendees. So was another journalist weblogger, Doc Searls, senior editor of Linux Journal, a software magazine.

    Little did we know that the morning’s events would turn into a mini-legend in the business community. Little did I know that the experience would expand my understanding of how thoroughly the craft of journalism was changing.

    One of my posts noted Nacchio’s whining, observing that he’d gotten seriously richer while his company was losing much of its market value—another example of CEOs raking in the riches while shareholders, employees, and communities got the shaft. Seconds later I received an email from Buzz Bruggeman, a lawyer in Florida, who was following my weblog and Searls’s from his office in Orlando. “Ain’t America great?” Bruggeman wrote sarcastically, attaching a hyperlink to a Yahoo! Finance web page showing that Nacchio had cashed in more than $200 million in stock while his company’s stock price was heading downhill. This information struck me as relevant to what I was writing, and I immediately dropped this juicy tidbit into my weblog, with a cyber-tip of the hat to Bruggeman. (“Thanks, Buzz, for the link,” I wrote parenthetically.) Doc Searls did likewise.

    “Around that point, the audience turned hostile,” wrote Esther Dyson, whose company, Edventure Holdings, held the conference. Did Doc and I play a role? Apparently. Many people in the luxury hotel ballroom—perhaps half of the executives, financiers, entrepreneurs, and journalists—were also online that morning. And at least some of them were amusing themselves by following what Doc and I were writing. During the remainder of Nacchio’s session, there was a perceptible chill toward the man. Dyson, an investor and author, said later she was certain that our weblogs helped create that chill. She called the blogging “a second conference occurring around, through, and across the first.”

    Why am I telling this story? This was not an earth-shaking event, after all. For me, however, it was a tipping point.

    Consider the sequence of news flow: a feedback loop that started in an Arizona conference session, zipped to Orlando, came back to Arizona and ultimately went global. In a world of satellite communications and fiber optics, real-time journalism is routine; but now we journalists had added the expertise of the audience.

    Those forces had lessons for everyone involved, including the “newsmaker”—Nacchio—who had to deal with new pressures on the always edgy, sometimes adversarial relationship between journalists and the people we cover. Nacchio didn’t lose his job because we poked at his arrogance; he lost it, in the end, because he did an inadequate job as CEO. But he got a tiny, if unwelcome, taste of journalism’s future that morning.

    The person in our little story who tasted journalism’s future most profoundly, I believe, was neither the professional reporter nor the newsmaker, but Bruggeman. In an earlier time, before technology had collided so violently with journalism, he’d been a member of an audience. Now, he’d received news about an event without waiting for the traditional coverage to arrive via newspapers or magazines, or even web sites. And now he’d become part of the journalistic process himself—a citizen reporter whose knowledge and quick thinking helped inform my own journalism in a timely way.

    Bruggeman was no longer just a consumer. He was a producer. He was making the news.

    The wireless link and laptop computer available to Gillmor at this conference allowed him to do what with his reporting?

    Correct Answer:

    All of the above

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is E. Gillmor’s ability to work while Nacchio was still in the midst of giving his talk allowed him to type up the story as it happened (or produce the story), publish the story on his blog, receive emails (thereby interacting) about the story, and publish further information provided by his audience (thereby collaborating with them).


  4. Who used the internet to collaborate with the author of this piece?

    Correct Answer:

    Buzz Bruggeman

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is D. Buzz Bruggeman used the technology available through the internet to comment on Dan Gillmor’s emerging story about Joe Nacchio and was able to become Gillmor’s collaborator when the author used Bruggeman’s information in his blog.


  5. Buzz Bruggeman was not actually present at the conference, but he still had an effect on the story because of the use of the internet. Which of the following roles did Bruggeman NOT play in this story?

    Correct Answer:

    Newsmaker

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is E. The newsmaker in this story is Nacchio, since he is the person the journalists are reporting on. Bruggeman made a small kind of history because he showed that in the modern era of journalism, it is possible to read a story and become a collaborator with the journalist writing it because it is all happening in real time. He started off as an audience member, reading the story as it happened. He then commented on the story by emailing the information about Nacchio’s finances to Gillmor. Gillmor took that information and added it to his blog, making Bruggeman a collaborator and fellow reporter.


  6. What was different about the other attendees’ experience at the conference because of the author’s use of technology?

    Correct Answer:

    They were provided with more information than they would have had.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is A. Since the author was updating his blog in real time, the other attendees were able to learn more information than they would have had if the author had written a more traditional story on the conference. They did not have to wait for further information. While they may have been able to email their thoughts, this did not affect their experience, and since they were not the newsmakers, the author was not writing about them in real time or otherwise.


  7. The following excerpt is from Chapter 7 of Dan Gillmor’s book We the Media:. The chapter is entitled “The Former Audience Joins the Party.”

    On December 10, 2003, thousands of Iraqis marched on the streets of Baghdad to protest bombings by insurgents, violence that had caused far more civilian than military casualties. For all practical purposes, The New York Times and other major media outlets missed the march and its significance.

    But some local bloggers did not. They’d been trumpeting the pro-democracy demonstrations for days prior to the event. Blogs, it turned out, became the best way to get the news about an important event.

    Some of the most prominent coverage came from a blogger named Zeyad, whose Healing Iraq site had become a key channel for anyone who wanted to understand how occupied Iraq (or at least that part of Baghdad) was faring. His reports were thorough and revealing, and his readership grew quickly once word got around.

    “I was surprised that people would rely on my blog as a source of information together with news,” he told me in an email. “Many of my readers have confessed to me that they check out my blog even before checking out news sites such as CNN, BBC, etc. What I find people more interested in is first­hand accounts of daily life in Iraq, and coming from an Iraqi they give it more credence than if it were coming from western journalists.”

    Zeyad’s reporting was just one more example of how the grassroots have emerged, in ways the professional media largely still fail to comprehend, as a genuine force in journalism.

    Indeed, the grassroots are transcending the pallid consumerism that has characterized news coverage and consumption in the past half-century or more. For the first time in modern history, the user is truly in charge, as a consumer and as a producer.

    This chapter focuses on two broad groups. First are the people who have been active, in their own way, even before grassroots journalism was so available to all. They are the traditional writers of letters to the editor: engaged and active, usually on a local level. Now they can write weblogs, organize Meetups, and generally agitate for the issues, political or otherwise, that matter to them. Once they know the degree to which they can transcend the standard sources of news and actually influence the journalism process, they’ll have an increasing impact by being, more than ever before, part of a larger conversation.

    I’m most excited about the second, and I hope larger, group from the former audience, the ones who take it to the next level. We’re seeing the rise of the heavy-duty blogger, web site creator, mailing list owner, or SMS gadfly—the medium is less important than the intent and talent—who is becoming a key source of news for others, including professional journalists. In some cases, these people are becoming professional journalists themselves and are finding ways to make a business of their avocation.

    According to Gillmor, grassroots journalism has been around long before the internet. In what ways could readers interact with writers prior to the creation of the internet?

    Correct Answer:

    They could write letters to the editor

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is C. Before the internet made us all potential journalists, readers who wanted to get involved with the news media could only do so by writing letters to the editor. The other options were ways for them to stay informed and involved in the events of the day, but they did not help those readers to become part of the process of journalism.


  8. Why did readers trust Zeyad’s reporting more than that of western newspapers?

    Correct Answer:

    All of the above.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is D. Since western news media was not paying sufficient attention to the events in Iraq, it fell to the local bloggers to share the information about the march. The ability to write, publish, interact and collaborate with others allowed Iraqis who were experiencing the events first-hand to become the ones reporting on it.


  9. What benefit of internet technology is most important to grassroots journalists like Zeyad who are trying to share a little-known story?

    Correct Answer:

    The ability to publish the story.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is B. For grassroots journalists, the most important part of telling their story is getting the information out to a large audience. Being able to publish a report on a blog that is available to the entire internet makes sure that a story does not remain a local phenomenon. The entire world can become interested and involved in something because of this technology.


  10. What does Gillmor think the outcome for journalism will be because of the use of the internet?

    Correct Answer:

    The user will become both the consumer and producer of news.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is C. Since the internet allows people to report on what is happening close to them, readers have become journalists. Gillmor’s point is that news stories are being produced and published by everyone, not just traditional journalists, and since the internet allows for commentary, writers are interacting with and collaborating with their readers in ways that have never been possible before.


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