Still thinking: Response on Digital Writing

Thanks, Kevin for the quote tweet and comment here as we continue the conversation on “What is digital writing?” It’s a start.

I’m considering your words in your comment in this post.

My own grapple keeps me wondering and thinking and trying to fall into the trap of getting too comfortable.

It’s true that those of us who write digitally find the tools ubiquitous; we are comfortable with the process and tools and must remember those who are just learning, especially adults. Our students seem to see, observe, choose, and do from our assignments and modeling. They often suggest tools for us, and we guide them in more demanding and intellectual use of them. We are comfortable in these shoes, and continue our forward walk. It is Kevin’s thoughtful questioning that leads reflection so that others may begin the journey. At least, that is my goal, to nudge the novices into the adventure students already explore.

For example, now you have me reconsidering my words about a blog post. You may be right. Your insight to not just bring design into the equation, but to make it a central idea, seems right, to me, too. But if we are not the designer, if we use a template made by others and just add words into the template, does design matter?

This is a great question — templates. I’m reminded of years ago when our school subscribed to a website platform for schools. It included pages for  teachers to communicate to families in a newsletter/blog format, places for lesson plans [and diligent monitoring by administration], and much more. It was designed so teachers could just add text and perhaps a photo. In order for it to work for me, I had to search for html coding because the ‘template’ was so rigid (and boring). I wanted to share and show what we were doing in class in images, video, and text way back then. That’s a template without flexibility, and dictated to me; not my digital writing. Fortunately, we dropped that expensive cost and became a Google Apps for Education school.

Yes, I can choose a blog — and I can choose the design that fits my purpose for my audience. I can tweak the colors and display, choose the content of the widgets, and determine the content of my posts. So I’m thinking that this allows the author the design choices of a digital writer.  I’m not sure about other LMS [Learning Management Systems] because we don’t use them, except for Google Classroom, which is the classroom; the parent and community information are posted in blogs and websites. Are LMS rigid in teacher design of his/her classroom website or blog, and thus limit the design choices of the authors? Does design matter? I think so.

What about blog design when it comes to an RSS reader, which strips all design from the source in order to stream the words and image only?

I’m thinking this is the researchers choice — to gather information, which is part of the design and digital writing process. It’s part of the system the author chooses for connections and research. It serves its purpose for those gathering information, inspiration, and collaboration.

Certainly, Margaret’s point about expanded audience plays a role … yet, I can create a piece of digital writing (say, a poem with hyperlinks and embedded audio and video) and share it with no one, and so, it is digital writing with no audience.

Because digital writing is at first personal, until work requirements and academic protocol causes our revision to those mandates, that makes no audience but oneself as important as any audience. Writing helps us grow our ideas, values, and beliefs. I once participated in a group with Ben Wilkoff and others calling ourselves “Open Spokes.” We wrote personal statements as videologues which we shared with each other to build on the ideas. So the audience at first was ourselves and then shared for our fellowship. Writers keep their ideas for fuel when needed. Today’s non-audience may be tomorrow’s team audience.

Like Kevin, Margaret, and Karen LaBonté, I continue my digital writing and its many nodes.

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A response to Digital Writing

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Digital Writing

My friend Kevin Hodgson [@dogtrax] considers the definition of digital writing on his blog, Kevin’s Meandering Mind. He thoughtfully considers “writing,” “composing,” and “digital writing.” I agree with all his assertions, except one.

I consider blogging to be digital writing. The blog post could be the central focus of a presentation, linking to images, resources, and videos that extend and enhance the author’s message. It requires much more thought and creation than simply writing an essay; the images and links chosen must be thoughtfully considered as part of the design to explain, argue, and present ideas. And as Kevin’s post does, it asks readers to interact with those thoughts by adding their own considerations. The record is displayed in post and comment, available always for further analysis. A blog also shows our thinking — and how our ideas change as we consider the ideas presented by the information we gather in our quest for understanding the world’s ideas.

I’ve been thinking, too, about “What is digital writing?” I’m still deciding, but a few thoughts I shared with Kevin [I added a little here] so far are:

  • When I record assignment directions, I have often stopped myself when the directions are to “write” when I really mean “type” or better yet “compose.” Even here, instead of “write,” in this bullet, I chose “record.” Because the digital assignment directions are recorded in a document for reference. I think of digital writing as something that is both composed and curated or recorded.
  • I’ve also used the word “compose” with students. Looking at the dictionary definitions of compose and write, a crossover exists in their use, but compose includes the words create, invent, produce, orchestrate. I find that more inclusive to my definition of digital writing. I want my students not to regurgitate information, but to produce artifacts that explain or argue their analysis of their learning, using words, images, videos, surveys, interactive media, etc.
  • Margaret Simon [@MargaretGSimon ]mentioned “audience” in her comment on Kevin’s blog. She said, “I must be aware of audience in the digital world. Perhaps it’s that immediate audience that makes it digital.”  The focus on the audience is critical. The writing will be shared for an audience one has considered carefully so that the writing clearly promotes the message; digital writing provides authenticity and meaning to topic, audience, and purpose, the meaning behind the writing.
  • Design is a word I use most often with my students: I want students to consider the reader, the information, the student’s purpose and message, and the presentation — how will they best explain and argue their ideas using text, image, video, interactive media, etc.? It is the digital that allows all of us to design the presentation of our discoveries so others understand how we make sense of the world of information around us, and how we invite others into our journey of understanding.

Digital writing allows students — all of us — the opportunity to present our understanding of the world. Writing is all about clarifying our thoughts, making the learning visible. Digital writing includes tools to make this easier: immediate definitions and searches, curation of resources, surveys to gather information, documents on which we can collaborate with others, grammar corrections, hyperlinks to our resources, sharing options [slides, blogs, videos, annotations], communication with experts through texts and webcams, archiving all our digital gathering of resources.

So, considering those tools as part of our quest for knowledge, is digital writing then a system, a  process, and a product available in many personalized forms as needed by and designed by the author?

The focus for my Language Arts classes are these essential questions:

  • How do researchers investigate successfully?
  • What strategies and processes do collaborators need for success?
  • How do readers and writers determine and develop relevant, accurate, and complete topics?
  • How do publishers design and organize content for their audience and purpose?
  • Why and how do editors and speakers use and edit with the rules for standard English grammar and language ?

It is the availability of digital tools that allow us to consider our ever-growing understanding of these questions.

Digital writing is a personal, systematic organization of tools and strategies that allow for an enhanced  and enriched process of study, curation,  and analysis, often in collaboration with others, to design a multi-faceted publication of the author’s ( or authors’) ideas for a chosen topic and audience, be that audience oneself, a group, or the public.

I’m still thinking about this… and thank you, Kevin,  for always presenting the questions that focus and clarify our work as learners.

Digital Portfolio Chapter 1

Matt Renwick Portfolio

Matt Renwick of Reading by Example has invited educators to a month-long book club study of his Digital Student Portfolios ebook. Read his overview intro post here and join the Google+ Community. It promises to be a great learning experience.


Chapter One: Purposes for Digital Portfolios

First, digital portfolios reinforce meaningful and purposeful learning: they represent the student’s choice in reflection and sharing to their audience as well as the school; they differentiate for the learners and their goals, and are part of the daily work of students as creators and designers of their own learning in collaboration with the teacher and peers. This picture tells more than any standardized test score, report card grade, or mark on a piece of work.

Technology provides a variety of tools through which students can explain their growth and their mastery. Technology allows students more options in the content, and can choose relevant topics; access to current events and historical documents online allow the curriculum to be relevant. By sharing on line, others can participate with feedback of celebration and of suggestions. Technology allows teacher and learner work to be comprehensive and personalized.

Thinking about the Digital — It’s about engagement, so what is the:

Access

Available — for students to connect

Connective — bandwidth

Compatible — with needs of learner

Allocation — time, funding, training

Purpose

Resources — why that tool?

Content — how connects to expected essential understandings

Integration — with curriculum, instruction, assessment to support learning

Agency — that students may self-assess and revise to improve

Audience

Visible — learning is sharable

Independence — able to self-assess and work towards potential

Inquiry — results in further thoughts and research

Empathy — engaging in conversations, feedback, and learning with others

How do we lead others? 

I appreciated the review by Matt Renwick of Michael Fullen’s book The Principal. I believe the in the concept of “learning leaders,” which the principal must be, because in my classroom, I must learn along side my students as the lead learner there. I cannot forget what it means to be a learner, and I will learn about and from my students. A principal should do the same with his/her staff. Read the article for other key points.

And what are we learning?

In my classroom, we learn for two purposes: the state requirements and the student’s interests and development as a whole person.

In our school, we learn for two purposes: the state/federal requirements and the practices, pedagogy, and essential principles that engage students and empower them to self-directed learning.


1M : The Prompt

An important rationale for a learning portfolio is “to provide a vehicle for reflection and exhibition.” Reflection means to look at the process and product of the work so far, to see what was done well and what needs improving. That would include the benefits of “make learners aware of their own growth” and “to accommodate for students’ individual needs.”
In the classroom I see this as formative assessment with criteria [perhaps a rubric or checklist], which grows and changes as the project continues and the student’s work is revised. I see perhaps an annotated list of links whereby students share where they are and where they need to go, and when they get there, they explain and share that link, if different. Peers and teachers can provide feedback.
At the end of the project, a final review of the process and product would be easier, and students then publish their final project with a link to their process of learning. I’m still considering the tools. Blogs would be the final published product, I think — but a website would also work. As a Google Apps school, a Google document or slides would work for the reflective pieces, and I’m pretty sure there’s a Chrome add-on or extension to add audio.
One writing strategy students learn is elaboration. We learned several elaboration strategies, and then students read a one-page story to identify the strategies used by quoting from the story and pasting the quote into a google form to explain what and why that quote exemplified the strategy. Then students visited the resulting spreadsheet and agreed/disagreed with their peers responses through comments. I was pleased they responded to each other, and in positive ways.
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In this way, students helped each other learn, and I could see at a glance two different ways which students understood. This helped them apply the strategies in their own writing because they truly understood it. The students who did not understand all the strategies talked about it to each other while they were commenting. We then came together as a class to discuss the nuances of two strategies [details / description ] that overlapped. We would not have had that deep of a conversation with this process.

#140WC #hourofcode everyone a winner

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We did it. Students in grades five, six, seven, and eight completed our Hour Of Code. Every student was a winner, a successful coder to make that Angry Bird get that pig. Every student was a reader too — reading the puzzle and debugging directions. Every student was collaborator — offering assistance to each other so we could all succeed.

And every student said, “This is fun,” not “This is hard.” They are ready for more, and many responded with, “I’m doing this at home.”

So think about it. There’s so much noise in the eduverse about transforming education so students are “college and career ready.” The students need to be prepared for their future — and that means an understanding of the workings of the devices and apps they use daily: computer science — code. Just one thing could do it: allow our students to be makers in the world; coders of the future — as part of their literacy class.

Why? I watched today as everyone read. Everyone.  On their own. Wanting to read. And afterwards, they wrote about their experience. No complaints. MIT’s Mitchel Resnik says

In the process of learning to code, people learn many other things. They are not just learning to code, they are coding to learn. In addition to learning mathematical and computational ideas (such as variables and conditionals), they are also learning strategies for solving problems, designing projects, and communicating ideas. These skills useful not just for computer scientists but for everyone, regardless of age, background, interests, or occupation.

And that’s what we did. We learned to code, and coded to learn. Here are some reflections [see more here]:

Coding is like solving a puzzle because it always has a new layout and as you advance it becomes more challenging, like if you move from a 500 piece puzzle to a 1000 piece.

Behind every click or swipe or touch on my phone is code.

I learned that code is very easy once you understand it, it exercises parts of your mind in a fun way, it opens up a new and faster way for finding answers.

Vocabulary words to know for coding: Repeat; The computer will repeat the command until you reach your destination.

 I liked how it challenged my way of thinking

And students want to learn more, code more, and many plan to code at home.  That’s true learning — wanting to learn.

So what are you waiting for?  Try it: Hour of Code Part One You’ll be a winner too! And you’ll see how coding is part of our literacy learning.

WC: 411

Join the #140WC Challenge

#140WC #hourofcode

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Tomorrow we try our Hour Of Code. There could be tech trouble. There will be confusion. We may need a back-up plan. There will be, however, collaboration to solve the problems. Because we are persistent; we don’t give up. We have a mindset of “I can.”

Hadi Partovi is the founder of Hour of Code. One of the obstacles to improving education is mindset. Learning computer science needs a new mindset: we can.

Watch this CBS interview in an Hour of Code Classroom to see what Hadi Partovi says:
http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_player.swf

There’s so much noise in the eduverse about transforming education so students are “college and career ready.” The students need to be prepared for their future — and that means an understanding of the workings of the devices and apps they use daily: computer science — code. Just one thing could do it: allow our students to be makers in the world; coders of the future.

So tomorrow, we take our first step in our middle school. We have a mindset of curiosity. We’re anxious, and expectant. We’re unsure, and hopeful. We’re confused, but open. We. Are. Ready. We — a class together, and a learning community.

How about you?

 

WC: 181

Join the #140WC Challenge