Journaling! Start your draft with pen and paper and then go digital!
Image credits: Unsplash / Brad Neathery + Hannah Olinger
Article and Graphics by Mike Simpson
Start a blog or write using social media – it will change your life! And you might have fun doing it 👍
I’m passionate about writing and love to engage in it with my students. In the summer of 2019, I had a couple of students who wanted to improve their writing skills via creative writing. I suggested my students create a blog to get into a journaling habit or invest time in crafting interesting social media captions. My students took on the task and improved their English while learning a few things about using websites and social media. It was a win-win.
You might ask: “How can one improve their writing online using the Internet? Isn’t that mostly time-wasting and a passive approach?
While it’s true we all have our moments where we surf the web to kill time or lose track of time browsing celebrity or news site, it’s also true that literacy has multiple components, and that digital literacy is a key to thriving in the 21st century.
If you launch a blog (which is a website focused on blog posts) or take care to craft thoughtful written captions on social, you will improve your English and overall communication!
How can you get started with a website or blog?
I recommend using WordPress. Please ask me for more information and I’ll gladly share. WordPress changed my life and opened so many doors. I can offer you tips to get started. Reach out to me via email.
In brief, taking on writing of a blog will prompt you to regularly write – whether that’s a few times a week or even just a few times a month. Writing about your personal life, your hobbies, or life in your city are just a few of the approaches you can take.
In the process of blogging, you will grow important office and digital media skills. 40% of the web uses WordPress. It’s the most widely spread website tool. So, while you catch up on industry best practices for managing websites you will expand your writing experience.
Of course, you need feedback and this will come with either commenting from visitors or asking friends to visit and read and leave feedback. Be aware you will have to manage spam, just as you would in social. Many comments may be illegitimate.
My feeling is that you can form a writing circle or enlist your friends or family to proof read your posts. You can also utilize spell check and grammar check inside Google Documents or Microsoft Word – those would be ideal tools to generate first drafts before going to the WordPress post.
Have fun with your blogging. It’s a great experience that can be rewarding and educational.
How can you practice writing while posting to social media?
Now this might seem more of a stretch than creating a blog, but since so many people are on social, it makes perfect sense to try to get more creative and productive with this poplar medium.
Let’s take Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for examples. I’ll ignore TikTok, Whatsapp and other mediums which seem more appropriate for purely visual exploration whether that’s dance, comedy, memes or video in general.
You can start writing carefully crafted captions in social platforms like Instagram. Did you know that IG has a 2200-character limit per caption? that’s a lot! Even if you use the permitted number of hashtags (up to 30) the 2200-character limit works out to about 300-400 words. Wow!
That’s a lot of writing! But how about the stingy Twitter with a 280-character limit? Well, that is entirely true. You’d have to post a series of multiple posts to get close to Insta, but some people do it. You can also blog, where you can write as much as you want, then direct people from Twitter to your blog by writing a short introduction or synopsis of your post and providing a link to the main content.
Many people under appreciate how much social platforms can be used to create, engage and practice your English, refine and enhance your communication and put yourself out into the world.
Combine Analogue and Digital – Grab a Pen and Paper
Many studies show that using pen and paper to take notes or write, benefits students’ retention of the information. I also believe it enhances the pleasure of the process.
Get yourself a nice little notebook that can slip into a bag or even tuck into a jacket pocket and you have a portable handy writing machine to go!
Start a little journal of lists of subjects, random thoughts, sketches and general notes. then you can review and reflect on your notes and get some blog or social media posts started later on.
Mixing some analogue with your digital will help keep the process fresh and spontaneous
Advice for Teachers
Teachers have developed digital literacy along with students but there is no doubt that the work load for an educator can be relieved by getting students writing digitally.
implementing digital writing and self-publishing routines fall under the scope of e-portfolios, which are tools for collecting writing samples that can be valuable to students and teachers. Reflection on the process is a huge benefit and aspect of taking on this kind of writing. Progress can be evaluated and teachers can task their students with taking some responsibility for the management of their own writing.
For one example, English classes that require documentation under PBLA could take advantage of even a simple tool like Google docs to keep track of journal writing which, if done daily, could satisfy the requirements for near daily production. A digital journal is portable, easy to keep tabs on, and also easily backed up – don’t forget to keep copies of your work!
Blogs and Social Media are Fun and Develop New Skills
And besides writing can be fun, especially if that writing caters to the students’ passions and interests. A student writing a WordPress blog about their travels or documenting their love of cooking in an Instagram page is going to be highly motivated.
One interesting notion is the idea of refining essential skills and skills for career. I recall a conference where a presenter shared information for ESL teachers about bringing digital literacy and numeracy into the classroom, which is to say students also need practice with skills beyond language development. Students like anyone else, need varied abilities which help them succeed with life and work. There is little doubt that putting WordPress management abilities or fluency with social media tools on a resume is an asset for anyone.
In Summary: Wrapping up Reasons to Write for the Web
There are so many amazing communication tools waiting to be explored. Looks for new ways to express yourself, and try to think outside the box.
Whether it’s self-study, hiring a tutor like myself, or taking an online class, you should pursue all avenues to enrich your experience and improve your skills.
Starting a blog or getting deeper into social media writing could be an additional technique you should not overlook.
Interested in trying some new tools for writing and digital media?
Try WordPress. It is a powerful platform and the world leader in website and blog software. Whether you are a student, teacher or administrator, you should be using the same tools as the pros!
WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.org
The free version at wordpress.com allows anyone to self-publish. The service may have ads appear. For more control you can get your own web hosting and use the self-installed WordPress version aka wordpress.org.
What digital writing and publishing tools do you use?
We’d love to hear your comments! Feel free to ask questions.