Thursday, October 25, 2007

Writing Styles

I just finished reading Weblogg-ed > Pushing Writing Literacy and have several thoughts rolling around in my head.

I feel like I could use some training in how to use all these tools myself. I am very tech savvy, but am just learning the etiquette of blogs, social networks, twitter, WOW2 shows, and the list goes on. I think there is a literacy to it. It makes sense to teach it. Kids to fall into MySpace, Xanga, and other web sites. Perhaps when they grow up communication will not look like we even expect it to. We are obviously tied to the way we learned. As a forty something myself, I still have a hard time letting go of punctuation and capitals. Will they really be required in the future? I expect it to be that way. How much of what we "play" with will be part of jobs in the future. The best we can do is at least open the children to the need to present to a public audience. This while trying to pass standardized tests and report on a traditional report card.

I cross several boundaries as a teacher. This is due, in part, to the fact that I am a full time (K-8) computer teacher in a PK3-8 school. I teach two sections of sixth grade math at the same school. It's a long, busy, but rewarding week. I have a friend who is an eighth grade English teacher. I will be teaching a one evening workshop to teachers in an alternate route program.

As the computer teacher, I have the luxury of letting a project draw out to its logical conclusion. Last year, the first time I had the students create digital videos, we took a whole semester. I know the students took their time and created a project that they were proud of. My computer lab is not set up in a manner that gives a very finished project. I'd really need to set up screens to block the background so you don't see other projects being recorded. I'll also need better microphones that do not pick up the sounds of other recordings going on.

This project required the students to think about writing in a different manner. They had to get their point across in an infomercial style. They promoted Photobucket, podcasts, and other Internet themed ideas. I really enjoyed the final product and so did the students. This was completed with last year's eighth grade.

This year, I had the seventh and eighth graders create a wiki on copyright, fair use, and plagiarism. The three classes didn't do a great job of communicating through the wiki. They relied on me to tell them what was first, second, third on the project list. Next year, the current seventh graders and the sixth grade class will do another project. I haven't decided what it will be yet, but I will be able to build on the two seventh grade classes' shared experience. Hopefully I will be able to get them to lead the incoming sixth grade more.

This year's group also made some very small VoiceThreads and podcasts which will appear on the wiki in the next couple of weeks. The process is going very slowly since I am trying to send groups off to different sections of the school for a quiet place to record on laptops. The VoiceThreads are almost babyish since they are a drawing with a recorded sentence or two. The podcasts are a little meatier - running about 60 seconds with a bit of intro sound from GarageBand.

Next I want to show the kids a global audience for their work. They don't appreciate that their work can and will be seen and evaluated by people around the world. I'm going to ask the Twitter network for help in this regard.

As the math teacher, I am trying to introduce blogging following the example of Chris Harbeck and Darren Kruopatwa. I am amazed at their student's work. On my side, it is a slow start. It always goes much faster in my imagination. To this end, I am going to start teaching wikis and blogs to the current fifth graders in computer class so that the tools are ready for me as a math teacher at the beginning of the year.

As the friend of the English teacher, she is always consumed with passing the state test. I often send her little links to The Reflective Teacher's blog. My friend sees it as: wow, that person lives in a fantasy world. She has to bump the math teacher to get her students on a computer at the same time. All her students to have computers at home, though. She's still thinking inside the box.

On final reflection, I don't even know how to appropriately give this a link back to all the fine blogs I mentioned in this post. Does Technorati just pick it up based on the links in my blog? Do I post a comment to the other writers on their blogs. See, I need this type of literacy so that I can pass it on to my students. They will then be a more knowledgeable and able digital citizen.

Image Citation:
Untitled.” tanjila’s Photostream. 3 Oct 2007. 25 Oct 2007 .


  1. Yup, Technorati picks up these links as trackbacks, and if you've got the right plugin installed, you'll notice the trackback right on your own blog. For example: when I used blogger, the sitemeter stats counter showed me what links were used to visit my blog; now that I'm using wordpress, I get those same links, as well as a list of who's linking to my site.

    Thanks for the link to mine, and for sending those little emails to your English teacher friend. Hope my fantasy world is one of the good ones.


  2. Yep -- Trackbacks and linking do what you are asking for. You have great technique. I find that linking to folks who I know are interested in the work that I am doing or writing about helps get the conversation going as well. Asking questions in your post also helps. All good characteristics of a Socratic classroom!