The 2017-2018 school year is off to a great start for the Digital Literacies Collaborative. In addition to welcoming thirteen new members we began our work on October 17th, by discussing Anne Elrod Whitney’s article, “Keeping It Real: Authenticity in the Writing Classroom”. While our members teach all different subjects and grade levels, we were able to have a deep and meaningful conversation about how to make assessments, units, and lessons real, without feeling contrived and how to prepare for and use failure-both our students’ and our own.
DLC members came to the virtual conversation with a lot of deep questions about their own practice and how to bring Whitney’s work to life in their own classrooms. We discussed how to cultivate imperfection in our students, especially when we, as educators, aren’t always okay with imperfection ourselves. We discussed how internet-free writing, across subject areas is a great place to begin this work. Teachers noted that often times students don’t always trust themselves without using the internet to double-check their thoughts. We agreed that ensuring facts are true is an important, and necessary skills, it can sometimes stunt good writing and that it’s okay once in awhile to practice this tech free writing when beginning the process. We also discussed how teachers can model this process of imperfection.
Our secondary teachers pushed back on the idea of authentic assignments by questioning what authenticity really is. Sometimes, it seems, that teachers create assignments that appear in the real-world, but the product doesn’t leave the classroom. For instance, asking students to write a “blog post”, but never actually posting to a real blog, just means students are writing a traditional report. This questions got us thinking about how audience creates the authenticity Whitney described in her article. When students know that their work is going to be read by someone, or a whole lot of someones, beyond their classroom, the stakes are raised and the work becomes real. The idea of audience also lead us into a conversation about privacy and how to ensure student safety.
The conversation ended with Rebekah bringing up quote a Marian Wright Edelman quote she heard at the 2014 NCTE National Convention. Edelman said, “We must love our children more than we love our comfort zones.” The quote was the perfect endnote to our conversation and the perfect opening to a year full of inquiry, innovation, and imperfection. We’re already looking forward to our December meet up and January discussion.