Composition w/ New Media for the 21st Century Workforce

“When today’s students enter their post-education professional lives, odds are pretty good that they will be asked to work with others from around the globe collaboratively to create content for diverse and wide-ranging audiences. Compare that to an educational system that, by and large, asks those same students to work independently for a very narrow audience (usually the teacher who gives the grade), and the disconnect becomes painfully clear.” -Will Richardson, Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts, Chap. 9, pg. 130

There are many reasons students come to the university to get a college degree. One reason is for personal enrichment, the quest to sharpen the mind and become a well-rounded person. Another important factor (some say the most important) is the greater job prospects open to students once they get a college degree. For my first blog post, I would like to focus on the latter and not the former. Teaching students how to write via new media is relatively new in the discipline of composition. I would like to focus on the benefits of teaching digital writing as opposed to traditional writing and how that relates to the workforce shaped by the twin forces of technology and globalization. Teaching writing through blogs and wikis prepares today’s student for the sort of jobs available in the 21st century.
When we ask students to write using blogs, we are asking them to engage in writing called connective writing, “a form that forces those who do it to read carefully and critically, that demands clarity and cogency in its construction, that is done for a wide audience, and that links to the sources of the ideas expressed.” (Richardson, 28) This is a new genre of writing in which there are many advantages to using in the composition classroom. As we discussed in class this semester, students take writing for blogs more seriously than writing for just a professor in the traditional sense. When students take writing more seriously and they devote more time to writing, obviously, their communication skills increase in a world where the skill of communication is valued more than ever in the workforce. The ability to write clearly and powerfully increases job prospects for students in a world where routine activities have now been taken over by machines. According to the Rand Corporation, a think-tank focused on global issues, technology will be responsible for low-skilled jobs traditionally worked by low-skill workers (Rand, 128).
But that is not the only benefit of writing with blogs. Blog writing require student to learn how to manage the information age and learn how to be critical of online sources. When students learn how to navigate the read/write web, they are learning how to become a lifelong learner since once students graduate, they will not usually have access to university-related sources of information once they graduate. Students in the workforce will be learning from sources online. And as the position paper issued by the Rand Corporation shows, employers are now looking for workers who are lifelong learners as opposed to the workers who do most of there learning in the university before their entry into the workforce (Rand, 128). Because the pace of technological change in the economy is so fast, employers need lifelong learners in the workforce. Workers in the future economy will rely more and more on new media trainings for professional development. A knowledge of how to use a computer and blogs surely will only help employees in the future. Also, more and more employers report that they require their employees to use a personal computer at work, expecting new graduates to know how to use a computer and use the internet (Rand, 136). Using blogs in composition allows students to become familiar with a computer and the read/write web if they are not already familiar with it. And last but not least, wikis require students to learn how to collaborate with information and other people. This is an extremely important skill in the 21st century workforce (Rand, 249).
Blogs and wikis are new instrumental teaching tools for the 21st century. Though I did not focus on the writing aspect of blogs and wikis in this post, I wanted to point out the aspects of blogs and wikis that were not so obvious for the new globalized economy.

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One comment on “Composition w/ New Media for the 21st Century Workforce

  1. You emphasize some good points about lifelong learning. I think this is something that has been valued for some time, but it has been greatly enhanced by resources available through the Internet. A closely related concept to lifelong learning is the the idea that the most important thing one can learn in school is how to learn. It’s good to think about how we, as teachers, are teaching students how to learn–or rather, facilitating students in developing a learning process that they will take with them and continue to use, experiment with, and perfect throughout their life. And as you point out, and as is mentioned in the Rand document, the ability to learn is highly valuable in a world that is constantly and rapidly changing.

    One aspect that I see as especially important to networked learning is its collaborative nature. Actually, maybe “collaborative” isn’t exactly the right word. But it has to do with the nature of blogging especially, where so many people, vast numbers perhaps, make their knowledge available to others. When I was programming and I ran across a problem that I needed to research in order to solve, I very often would Google my question and instantaneously be presented with any number of blogs that would directly address the issue–technical, in this case, but I’m sure it would apply to other domains. To me, this is an incredibly generous social phenomenon. Of course it is also reciprocal and symbiotic, because people who publish their knowledge and expertise also build their own cred and reputation, establishing themselves as experts.

    So teaching students to research and publish on the web does prepare students for the world of work in terms of researching information, but also in terms of establishing their own expertise in an increasingly sophisticated and competitive job market.

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