International Opinion

Global Writing Communities

By Clare McFadden & Francesca Kaplan Grossman — May 08, 2014 3 min read
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The ability to communicate ideas to various audiences and across culturals is a key tenet of global competence. Today Clare McFadden and Francesca Grossman of Write the World share how global writing communities can help foster these skills.

”... The more interdependent the world becomes, the more we need great collaborators and orchestrators. Innovation today is rarely the product of individuals working in isolation but an outcome of how we mobilize, share, and link knowledge.”
- Andreas Schleicher, Acting Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General for the OECD.

It’s an exciting time to be involved in education. In one sense, this idea of learners collaborating in a social environment seems like common sense. Haven’t schools always given education a social context? But today, the transformation of learning is happening at a global scale because of our increased communication and access to one another. No longer is knowledge the realm of a privileged few who teach for those with access. In today’s 21st century, technology and cross-cultural communication enables the growth of collective knowledge, learning, and the birth of new ideas.

The tools of collaborative learning fit into the broader set of twenty-first century skills that make up the mandate for learning the necessary skills to succeed in the new, global economy. As the seminal report states, a crucial directive is to support “expanded community and international involvement in learning, both face-to-face and online.” For us at Write the World, we see a crucial way to support learners collaboratively in this global context is through writing. Indeed, how we express ourselves, as we work together with people from different communities, countries, and backgrounds, takes on greater significance than ever before.

“Writing is such a social act,” says Dr Nancy Sommers, who leads the Writing Workshop at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Though we’ve always been writers, we didn’t, until recently, completely embrace this social dimension to writing. We always thought of writing as the most solitary of activities, and that “real” writers living a lonely existence in a garret.

But no one writes alone and this is even more true in our digitally connected world. For this reason, we believe that behind every good writer is a good writing community. Good writing is a collaborative process and one that can open our students up to the world.

How do we create a writing community that is real, robust, and tangible in an online environment? This question is at the heart of Write the World a new online, writing community for high school students that focuses on the social aspect of writing as imperative to improving one’s craft. Through the Write the World website, students have the opportunity to publish their work and receive valuable feedback from their peers and professional writing experts. Students are supported in their practice and their revisions, learning to trust, and recognize the qualitative feedback they receive from the online community.

Liza Cochran, Community Manager at Write the World says “We recently conducted interviews with high school English teachers. Based on the results of these interviews, the greatest challenge that these teachers face is the lack of time to give quality feedback to each of their students.” But feedback shouldn’t (and can’t) be the sole responsibility of one’s teacher. This is why Write the World supports substantive peer review; when students offer feedback on one another’s work, they gain insight into the writing process. They get another perspective on their own writing; read and respond to the work of others; and most importantly, become part of a vibrant, interactive writing community with their peers.

Participating in an online, global writing community not only helps all students improve their written work but also enables them to collaborate on a global scale. Students exchange ideas, cultural perspectives, and learn to communicate with peers from around the world. These are the 21st century skills in action. By getting involved in an online writing platform, or even just by participating in a peer review process, students can gain the great personal satisfaction of writing for its own sake, and develop and practice the skills so critical for living and flourishing in this time.

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