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New Relationships with Content

By LeaderTalk Contributor — September 14, 2009 3 min read

As we begin focusing on 21st Century Content Reading and Writing strategies and examine content area reading and writing strategies to prepare for the conversations this school year, I asked students to describe what reading and writing is like in various content areas.

The most immediate answers center around “facts to be memorized,”
vocabulary to be defined,” and strategies to “remember EVERYTHING to pass the test!

In school, content reading and writing instruction revolve around consuming and remembering - what I call Hear It and Hold It - what someone else has produced.

In stark contrast, outside of the classroom, “content” is positioned in a drastically different way. We are simultaneously filters, producers, and co-creators of content. Successful producers of content must do more than simply churn out meaningless facts and ideas.

Successful online writers use their creative and curious spirit to generate content not only to inform, but will inspire, even transform the lives of their audience. Success on this age of read/write web is not determined by how much you know, how many pages of content your produce, or how long you have been “expert” in your content area. Success is determined by how your audience responds. If your readers are not impacted by your message, then how much you know matters little.

We must prepare our students for a very different relationship with content. Perfect penmanship, knowledge of participles, and the perfect 5-paragraph essay will not be enough to adequately prepare students for the content that will be mediated and vetted by a global audience that demands consideration.

Our students must leave our classrooms understanding how to communicate what they know and beleive in a way that considers, honors, and believes in their audience. Author and Entrepreneur Rajesh Setty writes a brilliant piece on how audiences respond to content.


  1. Spam: If your content does not provide a
    reasonable ROII (return-on-investment for an interaction) for the
    reader or is self-serving or simply useless, the reader will mark it as
    spam. Posting something that may be assessed, as “spam” is the fastest
    way to losing credibility.
  2. Skip: The reader makes an assessment that he or
    she won’t lose much by reading it. In this case, the reader has not
    written you off yet but if you consistently create content that is
    worth “skipping,” the reader might write you off.
  3. Scan: The reader thinks there are only a few parts
    that are of relevance
    and wants to get right to the core of the content
    and skip the rest.
  4. Stop: The reader is touched by the article and
    stops to think about the article, it’s relevance and what it means to
    him or her personally and professionally.
  5. Save: The content is so good that the reader might want to re-visit this multiple times.
  6. Shift: The article is transformational. The reader
    is so deeply affected (in a positive way) by the article that it shifts
    some of their values and beliefs. In other words, this piece of writing
    will transform the reader and make him or her grow.
  7. Send: The content is not only useful to the reader
    but also to one or more people in the reader’s network. The reader
    simply emails the article or a link to it to people that he or she
    cares.
  8. Spread: The reader finds the article fascinating
    enough to spread it to anyone and everyone
    via a blog, twitter or the
    social networks that he or she belongs.
  9. Subscribe: This is the ultimate expression of
    engagement and a vote of confidence that you will continue to provide
    great content. When the reader wants to continue listening to your
    thoughts, he or she will subscribe.

I might suggest SCAMPER as a 10th


The article also uncovers four things every content producer (writer) should think about before writers hit “send.”

What would instruction be like if THIS was our new 21st Century writing rubric?

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