Now I’m not saying there is anything necessarily bad about the old (or should I say current) forms of writing conferences that teachers have with students. Having taught writing for 20 years, I know the positive effects of sitting down and speaking with a reader’s voice can have when reacting to student writing. (By the way, one really excellent book on this subject is Lad Tobin’s Writing Relationships : What Really Happens in the Composition Class.)
What I AM saying, however, is that now we have so many other ways to share feedback and create opportunities for readers to respond to writing. Ways that in some respects I think can be even more effective than the traditional method where we will always find it hard to escape our role as teachers and become real readers in our students’ eyes. Ways that with a little planning we could do safely. For instance:
The Distributed Conference—Have students post writing to a blog. Point other students, mentors, public types to it and ask them to post reflections/feedback either in comments or on their own blogs (assuming they have them.) (This is how I look at the writing “conferences” that occur about the ideas on my blog.)
The Audio Conference—Capture the voices of the teacher and student by recording it on the computer (or MP3 player). Advantage: It’s easier for the writer to return to the ideas expressed in the conference and reflect more effectively. Becomes part of the portfolio or archive.
The Screencast Conference—This time, capture the conference with Windows Media Encoder (free). Advantage: Writer can refer back to the discussion AND the markup and can subsequently reflect on the conference more effectively which can then become a part of the student’s writing portfolio. And, of course, the screencast is archivable, too.
The Skype Conference—Ask the writer to convene a Skype conference call with mentors, friends, other teachers, family members, or a mixture thereof…anyone outside of class. Have the writer read the piece (publishing) and then listen to the reactions of the listeners. (This could be more structured for the listeners in terms of the types of feedback they should be giving.) Record the conference, and have the writer reflect on the conversation. And, of course, it becomes a part of the portfolio.
The Skype Conference Take 2—Post the piece to the blog. Invite readers to volunteer for a Skype discussion. (It occurs to me that this would be a very cool thing to try with a blog post…hey wait a minute…)
HERE’S WHERE YOU GET TO PLAY ALONG… Ok, so I’m opening up a Skype conference call at 3 pm EST tomorrow (12/15) about this post to discuss these ideas which I will record and subsequently post as an addendum to this post. (Huh?) If you want to take part, my Skype name is willrich45. I’ll take the first three people to respond. Any takers???