On Crafting Digital Writing

Tomorrow will be three weeks exactly since the DLC’s last hangout discussion, which focused on Troy Hicks’s book, Crafting Digital Writing.  (While this written reflection comes far too long after the Google Hangout, the discussion has been very much in my teacher brain.) Hicks writes extensively about the importance of teaching author’s craft and using digital mentor texts. Some of us agreed that teaching author’s craft in digital texts is new, and assessing it will be difficult. (For me, this idea is not only new, but it’s also a bit scary.)  The book also challenged us to be more deliberate about choosing technology and to teach kids how to be more deliberate in their choices.

Some very important questions and concerns emerged during our discussion. Among them were: Why is there less experimentation with technology and student choice in middle school than in high school? How can we teach digital literacy AND help our kids pass state exams? How can we teach our students to best use the technology to which they have access (i.e., their cellphones)? How do we get around restrictions and access deficits (e.g., the DOE’s cellphone policy, lack of equipment, inability to access certain websites, insufficient bandwidth, etc.)?   What if I don’t have the support of my school’s administration? We all want to teach our students to use technology deliberately and purposefully in multiple genres, but we feel encumbered by all of these roadblocks, the dreaded “Yes, Buts.”

All of the concerns raised during this discussion inspired our next project as a group. Hopefully, we can learn (and teach each other) how to overcome some of the encumbrances we face as we teach students to be learners and creators in the 21st Century. Thanks to Emilie for the great idea of tackling the “Yes, buts” (and turning them into “Yes, Ands”) while getting our feet wet with technology.


Yes, But My Students Don’t Have Computers at Home

I was so inspired by this article in a recent ASCD publication about how schools and districts are helping their students overcome the digital divide. I especially love that in some places a lack of computer or internet access in students’ homes is seen as a community issue, not just a problem for the student, family, or school to solve, and that individuals and businesses in the community are playing  a part in the solution. It’s so easy to say, “I can’t incorporate digital literacy in my classroom because my students don’t have access to technology.” But the stories in this article provide examples of how to see those challenges as opportunities to involve the community, not just deficits.


To my fellow DLCers: No, this entry does not count as my piece for our next task. I just couldn’t resist the title.

Blog Thinking

I spent the morning pretending to be a professional blogger.  I prepared last night by organizing my work space, making sure my “assignment” was in my inbox, and running my coffee pot through the dishwasher.  One of my closest friends from college started a digital marketing company and I sometimes help out when her workload becomes too much.  Today I wrote about how malls can monetize holiday displays a shopping center (TWITTER! INSTAGRAM! HOLLER!) by connecting to customers who are already sharing the displays on social media.  It wasn’t the most exciting topic for me, but I felt really accomplished at the end of it.  Plus, it felt good to experiment with something outside of my realm of comfort. 

Before break ended my students turned in their PSA assignments.  We watched them in class and students voted on the best one.  Throughout the day kids asked me if we would be doing another project like this, because they really liked it.  “Sure!” I told them, not really knowing exactly how that would happen for our argument writing/Lord of the Flies unit.  

I realized today that my marketing work  could also be used to capture my students interest.  What are they already doing and how can we use it in the classroom?  I knew (past tense, because I learned!) NOTHING about video editing before last Monday.  By the end of the day I had discovered fifteen apps and sites that edit videos.  I also watched on Wednesday as a student used Splice to instantly edit his group’s video.  I learned a ton from my students last week, and in turn they learned from each other. 

Their big project for LOTF will be an argument/counter-argument writing piece that will grow into a classroom courtroom.  As I sit here making the final changes to my unit I’m wondering what would happen if I asked students to choose a digital writing strategy that they found to be interesting.  I know it’s not the most innovative classroom strategy, but I think it continues my year of experimentation and my big question of “What happens if…”


Smart Phones as Digital Writing Tools

Last night during our DLC hangout Kristen prompted us to think about smart phones as digital writing tools, and I’ve been mulling this over today. It seems to me that we often think about students using their phones to craft digital texts because we’re concerned about their limited access to other digital technology both in school and at home. How do we reframe this question from an asset-based perspective? It seems to me that smart phones have all sorts of advantages over desktops, laptops, and even tablets: they’re portable, discreet, ubiquitous, convenient, app-able, personal, and not stained with the stench of school. What else?