For my students’ last major project in my Writing in a Digital Age class, they could choose to create a This I Believe podcast or Voicethread–or to contribute to Wikipedia. Again, I felt the students were really successful in their work. Check out what they did:
Archive for Writing
This is the second post in a series of three written by students in my ENGL 175T: Writing in a Digital Age class.
by Lisette Sandoval
The way that society reads and interprets things has changed drastically since online writing became popular. Online literature changes the way that we as readers interpret things. There are many surroundings on a website that contribute to different ways of reading something. With blogs and online journals or articles, we can read from top to bottom or in different orders and still make sense of the works.
New technologies have created a paradigm shift that have had unprecedented effects on the economy and traditional classrooms. Many corporations exist solely online, for instance: Google, Yahoo, YouTube, and Wikipedia. Three components facilitate this shift: participation, collaboration, and distribution. Classrooms are adapting to the new literacy found in this new web, challenging the way classroom curriculum is formatted, with web based elements being integrated into classroom activities. Because of these new technologies and the openness of the web writing is now no longer restricted to schools and the few published authors.Now, it is seeping out into the everyday world. Anyone can call himself or herself a writer because everyone has access to produce some form of digital writing. Most people, however, don’t connect their writing outside the academic world with literacy. It is this outside use of technology that allows students to apply literacy to real world applications, which when integrated into the academic world, can better support the development of literacy.
In order to join the future of writing society must support all forms of 21st century literacies. Computers changed the way people write; they extended expression beyond just pen and paper. The Internet has also further expanded the breadth of writers and writing, from email to text messages to blogs. Being literate in the 21st century is about composing words as well as knowing how distribute them to reach audiences. And there is no limit to how ones writings can be distributed, the writer need only be creative in their approach.
I’ve just finished the prompt influenced by gaming. Here’s what I came up with:
Game on! For this prompt, you will participate in a game that will culminate in the production of a trailer for Ready Player One. The game will parallel what you’ve seen in the novel, in that there will be three levels of play with the opportunity to earn badges and XP (experience points) for different quests (i.e., using different applications). Ultimately, you’ll use what you learn to create the trailer for the novel in some format.
First Gate: to open the first gate, you must create an Edmodo account.
You are level one, and each badge you earn grants XP. In this stage, you should form a group (of 2-4) based on alliances and commonalities. Once you know who will be in your group, let me know so that I can set up the group in Edmodo. Familiarize yourself with this environment by clicking around. Then, start your quest. Once you gain enough XP you level up, meaning that you can get through the gate and work in level two.
Webmaster badges: Your first step is to decide who in your group will explore which applications: Wordle, Glogster, and Animoto. All of these are possible sources/ applications you could use in your video production. Once you’ve made something related to Ready Player One, post a link in Edmodo. Doing so will result in a badge: apprentice, maven, or master, depending on the quality of your work (see the guide below). Your group will also earn XP with these badges (see next item). Note: each application can only result in badges twice, but your group can choose any combination you’d like.
Reality Bites XP (experience points): In addition, you can earn XP for the following: knowledge of 80’s pop culture, dystopian literature, and digital writing. For example, the work you produce for the Webmaster badges might focus on some aspect of 80s pop culture that we see in the novel to gain extra points. 3-5 XP will be awarded for each iteration of knowledge related to pop culture, dystopian lit and digital writing. See scoring guide at the end of the prompt.
Once your group has reached 24-30 points, you have leveled up and will move on to the next stage (meaning no other points can be accrued and only 30 points are possible in this category). To open the second gate, you must achieve at least 24 XP.
In this level, you need to explore new applications: Voicethread, Xtra Normal, and Google Search videos. All of these are possible applications you could use in your trailer production (you could also use iMovie or a podcast). Once you’ve created something, post a link in Edmodo. Doing so will merit a badge–apprentice, maven, or master–depending on the quality of your work. Your group can also earn Reality Bites XP by focusing on 80’s trivia, dystopian literature, or digital writing. Note: each application can only result in badges twice, but your group can choose any combination you’d like. To level up and open the third gate, your group must accrue 60 XP (total).
Lastly, your group will make the trailer for Ready Player One using what you’ve learned. You can use any format you’d like (Voicethread, Xtra Normal, podcast, Google Search) but you must work together to create a 3-5 minute trailer that illustrates creativity, a sense of humor, and a deep knowledge of the ways that 80s pop culture influences the text. Once you submit the trailer, you are in limbo until I’ve viewed it. Once I’ve given you feedback, you can revise for more points (until you’ve earned 90-100 points overall). You can also accept your point total and retire from the game. However many points you have when you retire (or when the game ends on March 20) equals the amount of points you’ll get on this project. To gain the easter egg (i.e. finish the game) your group must accrue at least 80 points. Only 100 points are possible in this game.
• Apprentice: Satisfactory work (3 points)
• Master: Very good work (4 points)
• Maven: Superior work (5 points)
I’ll update points and award badges before each class meeting.
You can earn extra achievement points for your group during levels one and two by doing the following:
Discussion leaders: your group can volunteer to lead a discussion on some aspect of Ready Player One. The discussion must last at least 35 minutes and result in complex thinking. You must schedule with me to arrange the date. Value: 4 points. (March 11 or March 13, two incarnations)
Creator: Figuring out how to create a leader board all class members have access to that we can use to keep track of how many points each group has. To earn 3 points, this must be easy for me and for class members to use, private to our class, and linkable to or embedded in Edmodo. Value: 3 points (one time only)
Technology Whiz: volunteer to walk the class through one of the applications, demonstrating how to create more complex presentations than what we might figure out on our own. Value: 2 points. (one time each for Voicethread, Xtra Normal, Google Search)
Problem Solver: when we’re faced with a problem in class, figure out a solution which you share with the class on Edmodo. Value: 1 point (repeatable)
I’ve heard about gaming and education for awhile now, but it wasn’t until Peter Kittle‘s presentation at the CWP CATE Pre-Conference yesterday that I clearly understood how I could use gaming to promote learning. Peter said four words that made everything suddenly clear: quests, experience points, badges. Those four words made me want to completely overhaul my syllabus for digital writing mid-semester. As I drove home from Santa Clara last night, I kept thinking about how I could use this concept thoughtfully in my class.
In this class, we’ll be reading a text, Ernest Cline‘s Ready Player One, in which gaming drives the plot. The text presents a dystopian future in which most human beings participate in a virtual world that is more satisfying than their “real” existence. This world involves a quest that will result in one person inheriting incredible wealth from the game’s designer. As the main character participates in this quest, his experience and knowledge of 80′s-era video games comes into play–and he must master a number of tasks, the successful completion of which allow him to advance another level. The ideas of quests, badges, and experience points are embedded in the novel.
What I’m thinking is that I’ll design the writing assignment that goes along with this novel to parallel the gaming experience. Students will go on a quest to create a digital work (trailer, podcast, or digital story) that will reflect their understanding of Ready Player One. They will gain badges by illustrating their knowledge of 80′s pop culture, gaming, the writing process, and the like. And they can gain experience points by producing their own texts with wordle, animoto, glogster, etc. The most points will come from achieving the ultimate quest (the trailer, podcast, or digital story) using what they’ve learned from both the pursuit of badges and experience points.
What I like about using gaming in connection with writing instruction is the possibility of encouraging experimentation. Over the years, I’ve come to want my students to learn behaviors and strategies in relation to writing. Yet many students default to what they know will get a good grade instead of trying something new, a decision I totally understand since my grading practices privilege the final product. By using gaming principles, I can demonstrate that I value both experimentation and mastery since the badges I’ll use will differentiate between basic and more advanced competence. Unless I figure out another way to do this, I’ll use Edmodo for the assignment which will support a quests, experience points, badges system.
Last night was the first meeting of my digital writing class. Generally, one of my goals for the first day of a class is to help the students get to know each other. Usually, I just have students introduce themselves–and sometimes I make a game of memorizing each other’s names . . . especially if the class is large and I know it will be challenging for students to get to know each other.
As I planned last night’s class, I remembered something I’d done in a session of NWP one year. The leaders of the session asked us to tag ourselves as if we were a blog post. On post-it notes, we identified important characteristics/passions that we had. And then we all walked around the room talking to each other. I knew this would be a great way for my class to explore the importance of good tags while participating in an icebreaker.
So last night we looked at a couple of blogs and how the writer created tags. We discussed how tags were useful in helping readers find entries relevant to their own interests and needs. When I felt we had explored the concept of tagging enough, I asked students to come up with their own tags, modeling by talking through tags that I might use “foodie,” “traveler,” “teacher.”
For the next 25 minutes, my students engaged in discussions that went deeper than they would have otherwise since they had something specific to talk about related to each other’s interests. I saw some animated conversations and I noticed that students really tried to expand their circles to introduce themselves to class members they didn’t know. This was especially important since there is a core group of students who already knew each other–and I wanted to ensure that a spirit of collaboration and openness characterizes the class. When I asked the class afterward what they had learned about each other, students remembered a great deal, even recalling the three breeds of one self-proclaimed “mother of 3 dogs.”
This type of activity reflects the research of James J. Asher using Total Physical Response (TPR) as a way of helping students learn languages. Although his theory focused on second language learning, researchers studying how to develop vocabulary in one’s native language have also identified TPR as one important method. My students are likely familiar with the idea of “tagging,” but this activity was one way to ensure that they will think more deeply when they start to tag their own blog posts.
Note: as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m teaching in a new classroom that turns the traditional arrangement on its head. You can see above, one of four large screens (one for each wall), a moveable small whiteboard (one of many so that small groups can use them), chairs and tables that move which allows for different arrangements depending on what the class will do on a particular day, and large panels with a photograph of campus (since the room doesn’t have windows). I’m really excited to teach in this room which will also allow me to project my iPad (with all its different apps) on the screens. Moreover, each screen can project something different: my computer, my iPad, the document camera. Very cool.
Now, what tags should I use for this post?
I’ve been feeling like I need to know more about writing instruction in elementary schools for my Writing Project work. I had heard of Katy Ray Wood, so I decided to read her most recent book, In Pictures and In Words: Teaching the Qualities of Good Writing Through Illustration Study. What a fascinating read. Wood describes how teachers can use illustration work to help children develop skills that will make them successful writers. One of the things she talks about is the need to develop stamina–which is what kids are doing when they focus on their drawing for long periods of time. When we teachers use the language of writing and process in relation to children’s illustration work, we are helping them internalize, label, and draw on important composition skills.
Moreover, we are preparing students to become “intentional” writers when we have them analyze the illustrations in picture books and help them realize how many choices they can make when they draw. One of my favorite examples was from a picture book called Mud by Mary Lyn Ray. Wood and her students talk about one picture: a close up of feet with mud oozing through the toes. Wood helps her students analyze why an illustrator would choose to draw only the feet–not the entire body. They look at other examples that zoom in on a piece of something rather than the whole . . . and students begin to see this as a strategy they could use in their own illustration work. I love the adjective “intentional,” which, to me, signals not just the ability to be strategic but also keeping a specific purpose in mind to guide one’s choices.
Wood’s book is an enlightening read for teachers at any grade level. It helped me see illustration work in an entirely new way and suggested ways of talking about illustration that make the application to writing much more clear.
In my Methods class, we’ve started to explore how to teach writing. For Monday’s class, my students read an article by Arthur Applebee and Judith Langer, “What’s New in the Teaching of Writing.” The authors summarize research over the last 30 or so years connected to writing instruction. One of the most interesting points they make is that writing scores on the NAEP have basically stayed the same during the time studied.
When I read this, I thought about the hysteria that seems to break out every once in awhile–that students can no longer write and that something must be done to bring writing levels back to some (imagined) better place. However, one of my students had a different reaction. He felt that these results indicated that process pedagogy doesn’t work. His comment made me think.
I do believe in teaching the writing process; I’m convinced that it can make visible for novice writers what kinds of thinking they need to do in order to create a polished, well developed, organized piece of writing (if that’s the goal).
However, I also believe that too many teachers either don’t teach the writing process or they are reductive in their approach. For example, too often, teachers move rigidly from one “step” to the next, not understanding that cognitive research tells us that writers intermingle the strategies of “planning, translating, and reviewing,” to use the labels developed by Linda Flowers and John Hayes. Too often, teachers require students merely to produce drafts instead of asking students to do new thinking to expand, develop, and revise their work. Too often, process pedagogy has become just a routine, a series of hoops that we have students jump through before they turn in a final draft.
Although I see problems in the ways that teachers employ process pedagogy in their classes, on some level I also agree with my student. Process isn’t enough–and that’s why so many theorists build on, but add to, the idea of process. The two ways of looking at writing that make the most sense to me right now are writing as strategy and genre theory. Both approaches ask students to develop knowledge about the ways that texts are produced and the ways they function–and then to use that knowledge to produce their own writing.
Today in class, we read about formulaic writing. When we simplify process into steps, we just create another formulaic approach to writing. We should be pushing students to think and explore ideas, to create structures that support their thinking, and to revise in order to use language that best encapsulates the concepts they are trying to communicate.
Every time I try to write about my experience with the National Writing Project, I never feel like I quite express its importance to me professionally and personally. But because this organization that means so much to me has had its funding excised from the federal budget, I’m going to try to communicate more fully why NWP funding should be deemed a necessary, even essential federal program.
I’m overwhelmed sometimes by the negative rhetoric I hear about teachers. This rhetoric does not in any way resemble the teachers that I work with. Just today, I visited a school in Dinuba, CA, a small, rural community about 50 minutes away from Fresno, CA. My site, the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project, has had a partnership with Dinuba High School during this school year. One of our long-time, amazing Teacher Consultants, Cathy Blanchfield, drives to the school to spend several hours talking about how to integrate writing instruction into a program the school uses, the Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum.
Cathy is a pro. She has worked at local and national levels of the Writing Project, she has trained many SJVWP teachers to do inquiry projects, and she is in her last year of teaching. She is incredibly smart and well informed about current writing pedagogy–and she is a gifted teacher, both of her students at Duncan Poly and of other teachers. Cathy exemplifies the Writing Project model, that teachers learn best from those who are in the classroom themselves.
At this particular workshop, Cathy addressed how to get writing groups to work within the high school classroom. She had us examine student work, looking at the drafts that students had produced after a series of peer response meetings. In the margins of the essays, we saw the feedback students had given–and, always, students had pinpointed exactly what the writer needed to do to write a better essay. The difference between the first and last drafts of the essay was striking. Clearly, students can be taught to give good feedback–and in the process, they learn how to self-assess their own writing. The teachers in this group were incredibly engaged. They read, they commented, they brainstormed, and they valued what they were learning. I had to leave early, but the group was working towards an understanding of how to structure and facilitate effective peer response groups. I would guess that each of those teachers is going to return to the classroom using what s/he learned, that they will be more willing and better prepared to create strong peer response groups as a means to improving student writing.
I’m certain that Cathy would tell us that the Writing Project helped her stay in the profession of teaching, that she is a better teacher because of her participation in the Writing Project. We need teachers like Cathy to remain in education and to help train other teachers. They have expertise and credibility that corporate trainers and even administrators don’t have.
A recent study by PISA argued that “the United States should raise the status of the teaching profession by recruiting more qualified candidates, training them better and paying them more.” The Writing Project provides continued training for teachers that is invaluable–it also helps already successful teachers continue to learn and grow as teachers, researchers, thinkers and teacher trainers.
I hope that Congress will recognize that the U.S. can’t afford to lose the good work of the National Writing Project and that they will restore its federal funding.
Last week in my Methods class, we talked about teaching vocabulary. I think vocabulary instruction should involve more than encouraging students to memorize the meanings of new words and use them in one sentence on a quiz. Rather, our classrooms, whether they be in English or other disciplines, should help students develop consciousness of language use.
For example, in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” this key paragraph alters the movement of the narrative:
“She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.”
It would be easy to focus on the words that we felt students wouldn’t understand: “aquiver,” “peddler,” “wares,” “eaves.” However, I would argue that only one of these words really matters in terms of the meaning of the story, “aquiver.” This word combines with the more commonly used “spring life,” “delicious,” and “twittering” to communicate the shift from grief to new found freedom that the main character experiences after learning of the death of her much older husband. The teacher that focuses on this second set of words helps students see that a writer’s word choices add up to a specific meaning.
This class has caused me to reflect on the ways word choice matters. It matters to our reading comprehension (and interpretation), it matters in our every day conversations, and it matters in our writing. This time around in my lessons on vocabulary instruction, I tried to encourage my students to create classrooms attune to language. Yes, vocabulary squares are a great tool, but as teachers, we need to help our students be aware of the word choices they encounter each day–and we need to reinforce what one of my teacher friends calls “sparkly” words by using and encouraging our students to use new words, explore nuance, and play with the wonderful possibilities of language.
This semester I decided to try using a wiki in my upper-division, English-Education-major class: Literacy Studies. To put it mildly, the assignment floundered, used up a lot of face-to-face class time, and eventually worked mildly well. However, I asked my students A LOT of questions during the assignment, reflected a great deal, and then reflected some more.
I learned a lot from this experience that will help me the next time I introduce a class to writing in a wiki environment. One of the most important things I learned is that the hardest thing about the wiki isn’t the online context, it’s helping students learn to collaborate. When I asked my students why they weren’t adding to the one brave person who posted material on the wiki first, they told me that they felt like it was “rude” to correct someone else’s work (even though I have them do peer response groups). There was something about having equal ownership in the task that translated to not wanting to change their peers’ words. I think they were also really conscious of how public it would be to add/delete/revise someone else’s writing. Moreover, I learned that students still needed me to set deadlines–because my procrastinators wouldn’t write anything until the last minute . . . which drove the more organized students crazy.
Next time I introduce wiki assignments to a new class, this is how I’ll do it.
1. I’ll start like I did this time with individual biographies. My students did great with this element of the wiki.
2. I’ll have my students engage in online discussions about articles using Diigo.
3. I’ll have my students trade ideas about some aspect of their literacy experience on the wiki–this won’t be a formal writing assignment, just something where they have to have an online conversation.
And this is where it gets murky for me. At this point, I’ll probably have partners create a more formal essay together. After that, I’ll assign a larger group project . . . using literature circle-like roles that will give students a defined task within the wiki environment.
Then, and only then, will I assign a more free-ranging group assignment.
I’m pretty sure that I’ll be refining how to help students learn to collaborate for awhile still. I know what I’ve described above will work better, but I’m pretty sure I still need to experiment some more. Lucky for me this semester, my students have been really patient as I’ve been learning something new.