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Urging students to write in the age of Twitter, texting, and Facebook

In what could be considered the social media decade, there’s often a conundrum in today’s classrooms: Students need writing and critical thinking skills more than ever, but with the proliferation of social media, formal writing is quickly going the way of cursive–an antiquated practice from generations past.

A few months ago, in “What does science tell us about teaching kids to think,” Daniel Willingham, a University of Virginia psychology professor who studies the application of cognitive psychology to K-12 education, discussed how there is a certain logic to the idea that students can become better critical thinkers by completing writing assignments.

“Writing forces you to organize your thoughts. Writing encourages you to try different ideas and combinations of ideas. Writing encourages you to select your words carefully. Writing holds the promise (and the threat) of a permanent record of your thoughts, and thus offers the motivation to order them carefully. And indeed some forms of writing—persuasive or expository essays for example—explicitly call for carefully ordering thinking.”

(Next page: Are students actually writing more?)

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