My favorite part of NCTE this weekend was attending the session that Kristen and Emilie led on teachers creating digital stories through their graduate work and then bringing the implications of that work into their own classrooms. I seriously could have listened all day long to Emilie contrasting her own writing practices with the teaching practices of “Ms. Jones.” I felt so proud that I wanted to stand up and shout, “Hey everyone, I know her! We’re both in the DLC!” I also thought, “I want to present with Emilie and Kristen! I can’t wait until the DLC is all together presenting our work at a conference in the future!” (I know, I know. Too many explanation marks for any self-respecting English teacher.)
I also felt grateful for the ways in which Kristen started helping me open my eyes and my mind to the digital world of possibilities. I don’t think I would have encouraged the participants at my own session to tweet (#realmenreadchicklit) without her influence at some point. But now I find the back-channel discussions fascinating as both a participant and a facilitator. I want to think about how to use them even more effectively, not just with adults at conferences and professional development but with students during class, too.
Check out #literallyliteracy to see my graduate students’ live-tweets from our most recent class. While very few of them actually chose to post their thoughts during class on Twitter, those who did try it said that they liked being able to see what other people were thinking because you can tweet much more than you can actually say in a class discussion with twenty people. Next time around I will give my students advance notice about this opportunity so that they can sign up on Twitter and familiarize themselves with it if necessary. I was surprised to hear from several of them that they never use Twitter. I think that developing some background knowledge about the platform and some questions about how it can be used as a Writing to Learn activity would have resulted in more participation.
This semester I’m teaching a graduate course on adolescent literacy. For our next class we’ll be focusing on Writing to Learn. I’ve decided to ask my students to live-tweet our two-hour session together. They’ll start by brainstorming hashtags, presenting their ideas to each other, and selecting one as a group. Throughout the class they’ll (hopefully) use their laptops, iPads, and phones to respond in real time. At the end of class we’ll talk about what the experience was like, whether or not tweeting functioned as a Writing to Learn activity for them, and how they might use this activity in their own classrooms. I would love to hear suggestions or probing questions as I continue to plan, so please feel free to respond here. I will let you know how it goes!