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Monday, April 30, 2012

Teaching the future | Sara Rubinistein,

This article is aimed at teachers, but I think the advice applies well to writers. Students aren't the only people easily distracted from the information presented to them in school. All of us are easily distracted from because of all the information that bombards us.

So, consider the advice here in terms of writing, of connecting with your readers. If teachers can connect with distracted students using good instructional techniques (and new technologies), perhaps writers can filter through the distractions facing readers by considering the methods of teachers.

Rubinstein writes about a textbook in which the readers are mostly teachers:
[C]urriculum expert Heidi Hayes Jacobs reminds readers to take that step back and consider the big picture, the questions that we, as parents, educators, and students, should think about every day but that probably only occur to the latter group with any regularity.
What’s the point of all this school stuff anyway? Is any of it important?
Writers must apply those two questions to everything they write.

Rubinstein writes that for students, the answers are too often not clear:
What am I learning? Why? What does anything that takes place in a classroom have to do with what I will need to succeed in the real world?
Similarly, if writers can't find compelling answers to questions like those, readers will pay only cursory attention, focusing only on what they perceive is important.

What if American students are bored because their classes are boring?
When asked to nail down the source of their boredom, students cite unexciting material and a lack of relevancy. 
That statement would be equally true if "readers" replaced "students." As Rubinstein writes: "Maybe our kids know what they’re talking about." Definitely!

So, with some word replacements, here's additional relevant advice from Rubinstein:
  • Are we doing enough to ensure that our documents prepare our readers for the world as it is and will be, rather than the world as it was? That it strikes them as interesting, meaningful, and relevant? 
  • We have to help our readers to take advantage of this moment – to be flexible thinkers, ready to work together to tackle the novel challenges of the modern world. 
Rubinstein also touches on the importance of using technology to reach students---since students are already actively using technology for other purposes. Fortunately, professional communicators are already doing that.

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