Common Core Standards: ELA
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.