17,800,000 UK adults probably can't start to read this blog
The Guardian covers 2006 in numbers (page 7, can't find it online) and reveals figures from the Department for Education and Skills which tells us that 17,800,000 adults in the UK (so the majority, no?) would struggle to read the lyrics to Robbie Williams' Angels (on YouTube here).
When we look at the numbers taking up blogging and social media we should really be quite proud of what has happened so far and not get too bogged down in lamenting the 'echo chamber' we feel we inhabit. Perhaps the echo chamber feeling just represents the real crevasse of the digital divide: basic literacy skills. If you can't read Robbie Williams with ease then you certainly are not going to find great pleasure out of blogs, edu or not. It also explains the monumental success of other means of self-expression which don't require the written word: Flickr, YouTube, Twitter... (you've got to limit yourself to some really short sentences to make that work).
For me, what this means is only that we should keep the pressure up to reward good writing of our students and colleagues by getting them to write for us, their potential audience. 2007 will see more hype than ever over online video, online television and internet supported TV (IPTV) - we will reach this time next year probably with more bashing of blogs and the written word than we've had before. If you thought the 'professionally written journalism' versus 'citizen journalism' debate was losing importance it might only be because it's likely to be replaced by the 'writing' versus 'not writing' debate.
Blogging is not a worthless venture, and for education represents a real opportunity to start reversing the illiterate trends of today. Let's not let it go the same way as TV in education did in the 70s and 80s. Blogging
is can be a celebration of the written word as much as it is useful, utilitarian, excellent for reflection and sharing.
Photo of John Steinbeck quote: "Writing = Breathing" (CC)