That’s the estimate, (give or take a few hundred)Â of how many Expository Composition essays I read during my tenure as an English teacher not so too long ago. I was a process writing teacher, bought into Nancie Atwell‘s workshop approach and Donald Murray‘s revision voice from the very start. I actually loved teaching the revision process, the reflective part of reading what you wrote, testing it out in voice, scribbling in the margins and really trying to hear what the reader heard. The “final” copies always kinda bummed me out, because they were only finalÂ for the grade.
I’ve written here before that writing feels way different now; publishing isn’t the end part of the process any longer, it’s somewhere in the messy middle, except on those few occasions when something I write actually ends up in print (or, god forbid, on a pdf.) somewhere. Bud and I have fairly regular albeit sporadic conversations about “connective writing,” the idea that we don’t just write to communicate as much as we write for connection, for response, whether that’s here in the blog or on Twitter or wherever else. That the audience is far greater than the teacher or the other students in the class. That connections happen when we write about the things we care about, when our passion shines through. In that light, somehow those 3,462 essays and the classroom they were written in seem like a lifetime ago.
But nowadays I find myself writing “live” more and more, in the chat box in Skype or during the Elluminate sessions we do in PLP or on a live stream at UStream. There’s no “process” in the writing other than quick response and reaction, making plain what’s in our brains at the moment. We write with little reflection, little thought, in many cases. And usually, we’re trying to multitask our way through many responses from different people responding to different questions as the stream goes by. We have to write in the flow, (flowwriting?) and it’s not an easy task.
As I write this, I hear the little typewriter sound of chats being posted to a Cover-it-Live session open in another tab, kids at Carolyn Foote‘s school in Austin, Tx who are backchannelling a panel presentation on technology and censorship and the book 1984. It’s hard to follow the conversation by just reading their chats without hearing the panel, but it struck me…did those kids get any prep on how to live write? (I just Tweeted Carolyn with that question. and I also chatted it to the panel. Let’s see what happens.) Are their certain skills or nuances around “flowwriting” for live audiences that we need to teach and nurture? Certain “rules” or norms for use? (Carolyn Tweeted a whole bunch stuff back, and now we’re chatting about it in the CiL room and she’s bringing the teacher in. Different way of communicating, huh?)
I’m not suggesting we stop teaching process writing and essays and such. But I continue to wonder how deal with the affordances of these new writing spaces for our kids and for ourselves. Is anyone teaching it? Should we be?
Carolyn Foote says
I think you are asking a great question. Students do tend to do a lot of this sort of writing informally since they use “chat” more than probably most adults typically do. But I think this is an important question to consider.
I think for this particular chat, the students were more prepared in terms of content because they had thought a lot about these issues since it was connected to their research projects over the last couple of months. Students had selected topics of their own choice relating to technology and privacy issues. They were grouped into panels around similar topics(that’s the livestream we’ve been showing) and then prepared a panel discussion.
We’re using the CoverITLive room as somewhat of an inner/outer circle format for students.
That’s the context for our particular assignment, but back to your question….
I think that it’s very important for students to be able to converse in these sorts of environments, and I applaud Kristy Robins, our teacher, for fearlessly and mindfully approaching this method of paneling.
I think as she commented to me, the impromptu environment can be a little scary for teachers because of the impromptu nature. But I also agree that it’s increasingly important for students to know how to communicate effectively online, whether in prepared ways like blogging or impromptu, because that’s more and more where their education will “live”.
I’d like to invite anyone reading in to watch our livestreams. IF you go to the http://tinyurl.com/28ojjxw you’ll find all her CoverItLive rooms for the chats. For each period, we will paste the link to the videostream in the chat several times, so outside viewers can view the panel in action as well as listen in on the chat.
I’ll put a little more information about it on my blog as well. We’ll be continuing on Monday all day.
By the way, part of the excitement of “live” discussions like this is that I was able to tell students you were in “the house” and they were VERY excited about that and that this project would be blogged.
I also think that the public nature of the project has made students feel accountable and professional in their work. (another plus:))
My last question for everyone–what is different about teaching students to “write live” versus writing in more composed environments? Is there a difference? How do we define what that is?
Kristy Robins says
This is the first project I’ve ever assigned that involves an online chat. Overall, I think it has been successful. So many times students in the audience disengage during student presentations. As a result, the students presenting feel like they have an audience of one – the teacher. Knowing their classmates are paying attention adds a sense of importance to the task of presenting; knowing they may have an audience outside the classroom through live streaming holds them to a higher standard of excellence. Indeed, the students were better prepared for this project than they have been for any other project all year! For the audience, being able to communicate with others about their reactions and their own knowledge of the material in real time keeps them involved. I think this type of writing works really well when the purpose is group discussion.
Personally, this kind of writing makes me a little nervous. I was taught to revise, revise, revise. So even as I write this, I’m revising as I go, hoping I won’t find any mistakes that will later mortify me. But maybe writing isn’t about getting it as close to perfect as possible. Sometimes it’s just about communication of ideas, even if those ideas are a little rough around the edges.
Jennifer Clark Evans says
The kind of writing that you are talking about here is speaking in print. Do we (the teachers of the world) have to teach speaking? Yes and no. As humans we learn speech much earlier than our organized, prescribed education system kicks in. In school, however, we do teach speech – what is appropriate and effective to different audiences. So, do we need to teach flow writing? No, but giving the opportunity for students to interact in various forms of writing, real world and formal, only broadens their experiences and opportunities to develop and test out their own voice and ideas.
Tony Baldasaro says
A couple of things:
1. What I like most about live chats, like back channeling, is the multiple dimensions that it can add to any presentation. To read, simultaneously, the “take aways” from multiple participants provide more depth and perspective to the presentation.
2. But, my frustration in live writing (which is primarily Twitter for me) lies in the fact that at times it appears as though people are looking to write the most profound statement… the one that will be RT’d or commented on the most. Because of that, the writing often becomes shallow and terse. I regularly participate in #edchat on Tuesday nights and while I find it fast paced, useful, and worth my time, I do sometimes wonder if people participate simply to sound profound and pick up new followers instead of trying stimulate discussion and provide a variety of viewpoints.
George Mayo says
A few weeks ago, a few of my 7th grade students and I participated in a live NCTE webinar using Elluminate. We were sharing the different types of assessments we use in our film literacy class. We spent about 45 minutes the week before “practicing” for the webinar, and making sure we were all comfortable with the technology.
I never mentioned to them that there would be a chat window during the webinar. The four students who were participating were spread out on different computers with headsets on across my classroom. When the webinar started, I was surprised how each student interacted in a meaningful way in the chat room. They added thoughtful comments, and communicated with the hosts and the other teachers who were listening in.
I didn’t spend any time talking about how to appropriately interact in a chat room. They saw immediately that the chat room was for real discussion tied to what the webinar was about. I was impressed with how well they participated without any prompting from me.
I think the most important thing is to try to teach students to interact in a thoughtful and positive way in all environments they may find themselves in.
Marilyn Wallace says
Although I am a math and science teacher, I immediately noticed a few grammar errors in this writing. Perhaps a little more time spent on reflection, proofreading and editing would have been advantageous.
It is the kind of approach that those of us, oldtimers though we may be, would have considered before publishing our work.
Are we absolutely sure that we no longer care if our students are able to confidently produce a body of writing that meets basic standards?
Michael Kuhne says
I don’t see in this posting any suggestion that “we no longer care if our students are able to confidently produce a body of writing that meets basic standards.”
I also call into question the notion of “basic standards” – which ones are you suggesting?
The flow writing that Will is suggesting, at least the way that I am understanding it, actually requires a different set of standards. A 140-character limit places a different set of demands on a writer. Blogging to be read AND to elicit response requires a different set of demands on the writer. Texting as a genre of writing embraces new spellings and syntax. It’s not better, it’s not worse – it’s just writing, but it IS writing.
I teach students how to write academic discourse at a community college. I can understand the attention to formal standard written English, since it remains the coin of the realm in many circles. That said, I teach my students not just academic discourse but also how flexible writing is and can be. When they understand and act on this flexibility, they become better writers and thinkers in all modes.
Frank LaBanca says
I think there needs to be a careful balance between short, succinct writing and more developed writing. More developed writing gives the individual a chance to elaborate, provide greater evidence, and probably utilize more higher order thinking skills. An evidence-based writing strategy, where students go beyond stating but, define, explain, and provide examples, probably can’t be done effectively in short order or via train of thought. Rather, development of sophisticated conceptually-based ideas take time and revision. I think, ultimately that’s where we find high quality and cohesive global thought.
I teach 5th graders. I teach a lot of different types and lengths of writing. Sometimes it is the longer essay format that involves more process. Other times it is a paragraph response to a reading which we might read in class and then quick edit. Or, students might comment on our class blog or chat during class discussion or reading (I use twiducate). Anytime we are writing, one of the things we begin with is the purpose of the final product and the level of seriousness. When we first used twiducate, we did discuss what sort of comments lend themselves to this format. I find that different students are better in different formats. My thoughtful students who like to think carefully before writing are more effective in the longer, less immediate format. My more impulsive, quick thinkers like the chat format. Some of my quiet students who don’t like to say much at a time also like the chat; it doesn’t feel as intimidating to add a quick note. I think this is another thing to teach and practice at school for some of my students it has been the best way to “see” them involved in discussion.