Me and Shakespeare, Writing It Up!

Sarah DeBacher | April 18, 2013

There’s been lots said lately about the negative influence of the Internet on students’ ability to write (to read, to think, etc.) And yet, what I appreciate most about the potential of the Internet as a tool for strengthening writing is its capacity for connecting students to outside-of-the-classroom audiences (often referred to in education-speak as “authentic audiences,” although I would argue that a teacher can, indeed, be an authentic audience). It’s also got great potential for collaboration with other writers—writers at desks across the country, on the other side of the world. Dead writers.

Wait, what?

A new Google gadget allows the writer to “collaborate” with famous authors like Shakespeare, Dickins, and Poe. Through one of Google’s algorithms, edits culled from the work of famous writers get inserted into your draft as you write. Here’s a link to a demonstration of me drafting while Shakespeare, Dickins, and Poe chime in from beyond the grave: http://goo.gl/kTC3y.

It was a strange experience, and I think you can probably see it from watching the preview. When edits from Poe’s writing appeared, I had to contend with a description that didn’t fit my subject. I felt hijacked, at times, and yet the truth is, it was fun.

And isn’t that the point? Writing is fun! Or at least it most certainly can be. The Google toy presents writing as fun, as Nick Carbone put it on the WPA Listserv (an awesome resource for writing ideas and current scholarship on writing instruction.)

Try it! Share your collaborations with your students and with us on Facebook.