When my students and I look at the literature we read in class we always look at whom the authors, illustrators, and publishers are. During writing, we have “Publishing Days” where students edit and rewrite their “works in progress” as neatly as possible as a “published work”. Most of their work is handwritten except for a few times in the year when my students try to type their “published work” in the computer lab. A cover page, dedication, and “about the author” section is often included as part of a “published piece”. These are components of books that makes this activity more authentic for my students. Some students do notice that there is a big difference between our “books” and the books that we read. This brings up discussions about editors and publishers. My students are likely to notice that there is a big difference between works that have been published through a publishing house and works that are just posted online.
Digital media has changed how authorship and publishing work. Anyone can post anything online which can have both positive and negative effects. The digital age can open the door for students to take advantage of acting as an author and publisher. “There are many new technologies people use to create something that makes them authors.”1 Digital technology gives people the opportunity to create works that they would not have the ability to create without it. There are many forms of digital art that can change the way the viewers interact with the art. Since this art is so interactive it feels completely different from what it was before it was digitized. Students can learn to create these experiences through resources online. Some young people are already taking videos or creating art and raps to share online. Students are tech-savvy and know of these things; as a teacher I want to help my students to learn to use them in a safe way and to create something truly thought provoking.
“Many students have never experienced what it feels like to be an author.”2 My students have a Writer’s Workshop block during the day which is highly structured. They get used to the routine and completing a written work becomes less exciting as the year goes on. Many students would be thrilled at the idea of writing something as an author and then acting as a publisher to post it online. This type of activity would engage them in a way that they may not be during a regular writing block.
An activity that would give students instant gratification would be posting something online as opposed to writing through the workshop process. This can help students learn the difference between what a publishing house does and what it means to personally post something online. Even though there is no publishing house involved in Writer’s Workshop, students must go through several phases before they can edit their work. The first phase is called “pre-writing” where students jot ideas on a graphic organizer. This is followed by a first draft which is revised and edited. Then the writing is evaluated and can be published. Students are expected to write for prolonged periods of time and think critically about their work, so they can “publish” the best version possible. This process is similar to the role that a publisher traditionally played in the era of print. It greatly differs from how things can be instantly posted by anyone online in our new digital age. For example, traditionally “A publisher was a company with employees who oversaw the transformation of a book from a manuscript to a printed volume that could be mass-produced. The publisher had editors, artists, typesetters, printers, and binders to accomplish this task.”3 If you are personally posting something by yourself online you have much more creative freedom than publishing through a publishing house. Instead of having all the different employees from a publishing house working on your piece, it is just you with total creative freedom over it. When you post something independently you are the person who decides what gets posted and how it gets posted. This type of freedom is very important for my students. They often worry about what others think and how they will get judged. Beyond learning about the role of authors and publishers, this project would focus on my students and what they want to express. This would help them find their creativity, authentic voice, and self-expression.