Yesterday was International Dot Day, and this is the first year I had my students join the millions (6.6 million from 139 countries, in fact) people making circles and dots as a way to nurture a sense of creativity and imagination. The Dot Day idea stems from a picture book by Peter Reynolds, called The Dot. We connected with Peter and his brother, Paul, last school year, and we hope to do so again this year.
From the Community
It's quite possible this is impossible. I am trying to narrow in on the affordances of what we mean by the phrase "Digital Writing." I may even veer way off track here, and perhaps it is best for all of us just to drop the "digital" once and for all, and just call it .. writing. Although, I, for one, still prefer the word "composing."
These students from Danae Boyd and Janelle Bence’s Coppell High class, created a spoken word poem about climate change. Can humans rise above our own selfish needs to make decisions for the planet? As you watch this, what are some ways you might encourage students to address the next president in a spoken word poem about this or other STEM issues?
KQED provides this Spoken Word Media Make resource to get you started!
KQED News created an issues box for the 2016 election. Click on each box to learn more and get a sense of where others stand. Students can use this to get started thinking about their issue, how it relates to STEM, and what they hope the next president will do to make changes.
Then, check out the What’s My Issue KQED Media Make. Get creative and get the word out about what STEM issues deserve attention and action.
As an English teacher, when I say the word literacy to my non-English teaching colleagues, their eyes glaze over. They’re no doubt thinking about reading a textbook and answering questions, and they’re bored by the thought of it. But in today’s world, the definition of literacy has changed. It is no longer acceptable to only teach students what I’ll call classic literacy skills. Of course, these are important, but if we as teachers focus solely on these, we are leaving out a large chunk of literacy skills that are necessary in today’s society, the so-called new literacies. But, what are new literacies? The National Council of Teachers of English (2013) defines 21st Century literacies as the ability to:
● Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
So, consider me intrigued ... I just re-discovered the MediaBreaker tool by The Lamp as part of the Letters to the Next President campaign. MediaBreaker is like the old Popcorn Maker (I still miss you, Popcorn!) by Mozilla, in that you can layer media and text on top of video content. In this case, the idea is to make commentary on top of political videos.
My teaching load increased this academic year, for the second year in a row. I am not alone with this struggle, but it doesn’t make it easier to cope. There might be content areas where this is easier to handle, but writing is not one of them. There might be groups of student that make an increased load workable, but first-generation, first-year students is not one of them. However, after weeping, wailing, and gnashing my teeth for a while, I remembered a key tool that could help me serve my students’ unique and varied needs while providing the support they need to grow as writers (and readers and thinkers). This magical tool is the workshop. Two weeks into the semester and I have fallen back in love with the workshop. I’ll share my love letter to the workshop in a future blog post, but this Notable Notes will share some thoughts about workshop to inspire your thinking and teaching.
One of my goals this year is to provide writing experiences that encourage young people to identify as writers and thinkers. My own school writing experiences (many of which were unmemorable), my opportunities to write in non-traditional ways (thank you Mr. Gross and Susan Lytle,) and knowledge I gained from my spouse via her time working with Pat Hoy in the Expository Writing Program at NYU, all helped me develop a structure for what I call Advanced Essays. I wrote about the details of the writing process for our 11th grade Advanced Essays elsewhere but right now I want to gloat.
I like to think I am always open to new technology for my young writers, and I am not afraid to beta test or try out new platforms that show possibilities for my students. I do make sure I try things out first on my own. As a sort of mental checklist, I consider a few things before bringing a new tech idea into the classroom:
When I first heard the term “cosmopolitanism” my mind immediately flashed to a scene from my favorite TV show, Sex and the City. I envisioned Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte sitting in some swanky Manhattan restaurant wearing the latest daring fashions. Little did I know that the term cosmopolitanism was actually a philosophy, one that, as a teacher, proves very valuable.
"Children should be seen not heard."
How many of us feel like this was the mantra when growing up?
In my classroom, math is organized into three stations. Generally, one is captained by me (A) and is the focus lesson for the day, another (B) is based on pencil and paper review/games/problem solving, and the third (C) is computer based using various websites designed for practice or review, such as www.xtramath.org, www.tenmarks.com, and www.everydaymathonline.com. This week, station “B” centered on the next phase of our inquiry project. Over the past couple of weeks, students have played the game we “invented,” given me feedback through their performance and conversation, and the game has been modified. Our conversations centered on making the game more fun, even though they seemed to be having a pretty good time already! Based on their input, we discussed the attributes of a “good” game. According to them, games need to seem like a challenge, yet...
A pop-up, unofficial, experimental #clmooc make cycle
To Teach Digital Writing, You Just Have to Color Outside the Lines
It used to be easy, neat, and contained. Like an old fashioned coloring book where you knew to stay inside the lines. But staying inside the lines is hard. And every time you strayed outside those lines, you swore not to the next time. But deep down you knew that to express yourself effectively, to make the most of what you needed to say, to make your message and meaning clear, you had to go outside the lines. And it would be messy.
I recently wrote a blog post sharing my reasons for assigning infographics, but the more I think about teaching with infographics, the more I realize there are a wealth of advantages for every level and every content area. So this week’s Notable Notes will be devoted to what others have to say about using infographics to support learning in classes from social studies to science and so much more.
In “Navigating in the Age of Infographics,” Troy Hicks points out that in today’s world visual literacy is important to teach, learn and understand as well as describing ways that infographics can be used for personal, professional, and creative expression.
I learned something new this week. Yet another reason why teaching is such an awesome job. Actually, I learned lots of things as my students are wrapping up their class projects, but one thing I learned is specific to teaching and that thing made me think again about how and why I grade with badges.
I currently have two classes of first-year college students working on a service learning project with a local middle school. This is my second year (third semester) using service learning in my classes. You can read more about why I like service learning in The Benefits of Service Learning.
I want to devote this Notable Notes to what others have to say about the benefits of service learning beginning with Erin Bittman’s great post “Service Learning Is Essential for All Kids—Here’s Why.” In her post she offers some great ideas for service projects for students at a variety of levels. I love the ways that young students can create service learning projects.
Reflection is a major component of my classes and I often use some fun, creative writing exercises as well as more traditional reflection. Last year I used a combination of slam poetry and praise poetry, but I’m not certain this approach will work as well with my classes this semester. So I have been thinking about the various tools on my belt and then a member of my PLN shared this awesome video from PBS Digital Studios. They have a whole range of “Art Assignments” you should check out (warning: wormhole), but the video that inspired me was called “Fake Flyer” featuring Nathaniel Russell.
This reflection was inspired by a recent departmental debate about a mandatory final in our first-year writing class.
There has been a debate raging in my department about the form and function of our Writing I and Writing II classes – those core “composition” courses that all students are required to take. This requirement is a good thing. It is essential that our students learn to be good writers, and readers and thinkers, which is why I have always maintained that these are among the most important classes students take in college. The debate centers on the focus of these classes. Will the classes be research-based or argument-based? What kinds of texts will be read and/or studied to support the writing? Will there be a final exam and what form should it take?
I recently read an article by Ken Goldstein about why we should move away from performance reviews toward coaching and mentoring (see 3 arguments against performance reviews). This idea resonated with me for two reasons. First, the only feedback I receive is a brief performance review letter (not even a personal session such as the one described by Goldstein) and the only coaching and mentoring I receive is something I must seek on my own. Second, as a National Writing Project site director I hear a lot about professional development fails (usually in contrast to whatever Morehead Writing Project event the teacher recently attended).
Paul Oh, of the National Writing Project, presented about Connected Learning. It streamed live Friday October 10th 2014, and you can watch it here!
Once the process brought us to a point where we had a location and an event, we started taking ideas and writing them on the board. We first discussed what characters would be necessary, and people volunteered for different central characters. This was a surprising discussion for me in several ways.
Soft Circuits: Crafting e-Fashion with DIY Electronics explores the field of electronics and "e-textiles," which involves making physical computing projects based in fabrics and other everyday materials. This volume incorporates microprocessors into these materials and programs them with an accessible tool called Modkit to further enhance e-fashions like light-up wristbands and t-shirts, as well as solar-powered backpacks.
Short Circuits: Crafting e-Puppets with DIY Electronics explores the field of electronics and "e-textiles," which involves making physical computing projects based in fabrics and other everyday materials. This volume focuses that exploration on the use of electronic hand puppets, sound-enabled storyboards, and DIY flashlight-enabled shadow puppetry in order to delve into literacy and storytelling.
Script Changers: Digital Storytelling with Scratch focuses on how stories offer an important lens for seeing the world as a series of systems and provides opportunities for young people to create interactive and animated stories about the systems around them. The projects in this book utilize the Scratch visual programming environment as a means to tell stories about how to effect change in youths' local communities.
Gaming the System: Designing with Gamestar Mechanic orients readers to the nature of games as systems, how game designers need to think in terms of complex interactions between game elements and rules, and how to pull out systems concepts in the design process. The core curriculum uses Gamestar Mechanic, an online game design environment with a strong systems thinking focus.
As the Visiting Fiction Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University I taught fiction writing to undergraduates and undergrads in courses titled Fiction Bootcamp and Writer's Workshop. These courses were craft-based workshops where my students and I pondered the big questions of how fiction is constructed and what makes it work. We looked under the hood, took the back off the clock, peered into the innards in order to study the formal decisions necessary for effective story-telling. Our inquiry included point of entry; character and plot; creating meaningful scenes; interiority v/s external action; exposition; the management of time; the position of the narrator; linear v/s modular design; dialogue and its uses; conflict and resolution; image systems and so on. In order to learn to "read like a writer," students tackled a collection worth of stories and paid attention to details like how sentences are constructed, dialogue is set up and narrative is designed.
The engagement on this project was spectacular. Right from the start the students liked the idea that it was their project entered into a real world competition--not just something for the teacher, and the excitement grew throughout as the project itself connected more and more students.
As we started to work, some students finished their parts very quickly, and others took lots of time, one of the difficult parts about creative writing classes, but we forged ahead with other projects and also started to look at peer reviews.
The amount of learning that came about through giving the students control completely surprised me. I expected the engagement to be fairly high, but the format of the project truly allowed students at all levels to perform, to develop their voice, and to exceed my expectations. The project was student driven, and many of the techniques we used were uncovered just through collaboration, discussion, experimentation, and play in the classroom. The use of social media for peer reviews, a real world competition for motivation, and Google Drive for collaboration all helped to allow students to bring forth their own unique ways of seeing the world in an artistic and creative way.
During the summer of Making Learning Connected (or clmooc) a twitter discussion arose on what constitutes a story. Sometimes questions need to be moved past 140 characters. This prompted the collective decision to move the discussion to a google hangout.
See the chat archive here.
I consider myself pretty invested in the Connected Learning community. I had the privilege of co-chairing the "Civic Education and Youth Serving Organizations" strand of the Digital Media and Learning conference in 2013, I contributed to an eBook edited by Antero Garcia focused on the application of Connected Learning principles to the classroom, and I am a Connected Learning Ambassador for the National Writing Project. Nonetheless, whenever I prepare to talk about Connected Learning with classroom teachers, as I did last week during a workshop with the UCLA Writing Project, I find myself a bit uneasy about using the actual term.
"There's a magic that manifests when you take an idea that you thought up and produce a physical object that represents the thing you had in your head," says Ian Gonsher, part of the faculty in the School of Engineering at Brown University. "My teaching style isn't so much about imparting knowledge (although that's part of it), but about creating conditions where the creative process can occur."
"We educators have this need or impulse to take an expert stance in the classroom," says Mia Zamora, Associate Professor of English at Kean University. "I found that relinquishing some of that stance and giving students ways to be the experts can lead them to lean over each other's shoulders, teaching each other as they teach themselves, and ultimately teaching me something I didn’t know."
This was originally posted as a blog for Making Learning Connected 2014, otherwise known as CLMOOC. These reflections and connections come from the sixth week's Make Cycle focused on creation of 5-Image Stories by Jack Zangerle, Bonnie Kaplan, Marc Schroeder & Andrea Tejedor of the Hudson Valley Writing Project.