Not everything in the life of a student should be done faster, especially when taking the time to write a meaningful or thoughtful letter. But technology has let students down here. The communication of many kids has become wildy fragmented, thoughtlessly fast, with social communication and mobile platforms seeking quantity instead of quality.
Students are being encouraged – conditioned in fact – by many social platforms to like, comment, tweet, text, or send at communication speeds that are more akin to a reflex rather than a well-composed expression of thought and ideas. This communication acceleration has created new challenges in both literacy and attention.
A new platform for “slower communications” hopes to change that trend.
lettrs (all lower-case) was launched as a beta platform last Spring to bring old letters back from the past as important social and learning objects, and inspire new student letters to be written in the process.
During a “letters jam” in one of the CT classrooms, observers quickly saw an unusual reaction among students in a pilot session. Students froze when they were asked to compose a letter on the computer. Most had never done it before, and they were entering the 7th grade.
Students were asked to sit with a blank screen - a blank “writing desk” on lettrs – and compose a letter to a teacher that mattered to them. They were previously shown examples of what letters looked like, ranging from the actual images of letters from Marilyn Monroe, Lincoln, Steve Martin, even Fiona Apple.
The correspondences would be evaluated by the quality of the letter, the impact to the teacher, and the response by peers as the letters would be displayed on the classroom “Fridge” as examples of thoughtful correspondence. These letters could then be liked and tweeted, but the emphasis was on the slow communication of the letter, its intended personal impact and longevity, and not the social calls to attention surrounding them.
The pilot was very well received by the school but unusually popular with the students who were exposed to the timeless need and craft of letter writing, even in their digitally enabled world. A larger program is being launched at the school with a “letters to veterans” campaign this Fall.
lettrs also plans a larger campaign to “save letters” at schools across the country as part of its slower communications movement, encouraging kids to think about what they write, and take the time to impact the life of another person through the power, craft, and timeless tradition of a letter.
People from 60 different countries have signed up on lettrs to bring letters back, just a little differently. Interested schools can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss a correspondence campaign for students grades 6-12.