Will Richardson’s 10th Big Shift is really quite profound. As he states, the internet provides unprecedented opportunity for work done in the classroom to have relevance in the world at large. Students at all levels can enter communities and conversations from their desks, an accessibility that exponentially increases both the amount of information available to students and their ability to participate in the production of that information. This is a boon for education the potential benefits of which educators have barely begun even to consider.
We all know the feeling of laboring over a particularly painful paper, frustrated by the effort it can take to produce work that will be handed in, graded, returned, and thrown away. Though I know one person who has every paper and assignment she has ever written (EVER), most students dispose of schoolwork once a course is completed, relegating the fruits of their intellectual labor to the blue bin on the curb. They can find no place for their work on their bookshelves, let alone imagining a place for it out there, in the world. But modern network connectivity may offer student work a place in the world, a chance to contribute to scholarly pursuits and general knowledge, a chance to avoid the void of the blue bin. The internet has changed dramatically the way we find, store, and share information. Anyone can now publish work with a few clicks, and chances are there will be an audience for it.
The potential for student work to find an audience other than the teacher calls for a rethinking of the work we ask students to do. Perhaps students need a stronger voice in the creation of writing topics. The works we ask students to read were born not of essay prompts but of personal interest, commitment, inspiration, and choice. Why should we ask students to write something we would not ask them to read? Modern connectivity offers unprecedented opportunity for educators to get students to buy-in to the work we ask them to by offering unprecedented availability of audience for and recognition of that work. The internet has forever changed the way students approach writing assignments; it must, therefore, change the writing we assign.