Just a couple of quotes that I’ve run across of late to add to the reading and writing conversation. I love this one by Donal Leu:
Another difference from earlier models of print comprehension is the inclusion of communication within online reading comprehension. Online reading and writing are so closely connected that it is not possible to separate them; we read online as authors and we write online as readers [Emphasis mine.]
And this from Deborah Brandt at the University of Wisconsin Madison in a great article from the Chronicle titled “Studies Explore Whether the Internet Makes Students Better Writers“:
Some of the resistance to a more writing-centered curriculum, she says, is based on the view that writing without reading can be dangerous because students will be untethered to previous thought, and reading levels will decline. But that view, she says, is “being challenged by the literacy of young people, which is being developed primarily by their writing. They’re going to be reading, but they’re going to be reading to write, and not to be shaped by what they read.” [Emphasis mine]
(See also Kathleen Blake Yancey’s wonderful essay “Writing in the 21st Century” if you haven’t already.)
I know as a long-time high school expository writing teacher (who really misses that classroom), my curriculum would be decidedly different today than five years ago. There would have been a lot more situated practice in reading as a writer and developing the skills necessary to track and participate in the distributed conversation that hopefully occurs. I find it fascinating to consider the ways in which social technologies afford all sorts of potentially global, immediate connections around what we write. And I still think that a basic shift here is that we can no longer look at publishing as the final step in the process but see it instead as somewhere in the middle. Maybe even see it as the start of something.
Interested to hear from teachers who have begun to rethink or rewrite curriculum in light of the potentials of the technologies.
Will, I would like to share this with you because it relates to changing practices that might occur in any expository writing class.
Imagine that the teacher had asked a student to research an “important person” and they were to use new social tools, not just Google!
That is what I did for Lisa H, a graduate student in one of my classes. In this case the “important person” was and is an active participant in educational discussions- Dean Shareski. I loved her response in a blog ABOUT the assignment. Here it is:
Monday, April 27, 2009
For the past week now I have been actively researching Dean Shareski. My research has taken a very different path than any other research I have ever done before. I decided to use social networking tools to help me find out about Dean. Using Twitter I began to follow Dean’s tweets. My friends don’t think much of Twitter calling it silly and stupid, “Who cares about what someone is doing every moment of the day they ask.” Actually, my friends donâ€™t realize what a great tool Twitter can be for researching.
I read Deanâ€™s tweets often finding links to his blog, the blog entry of someone who had a post about a topic Dean found interesting, and URLâ€™s that sent me to look at websites about his work or othersâ€™ work related to his work.
After a few days of reading Deanâ€™s tweets, I began following a few people who follow Dean. Things got pretty interesting because the thoughts and ideas in their tweets sent me off again to places like UStream or Slideshare where ideas Dean wrote about in his blog post or in his tweet were once again illuminated.
Just for the heck of it I searched for Dean Shireski on Tweet Deck. I was not disappointed when up popped tweets written by a wide range of people from around the world, who read his blog, have seen him present, or have downloaded his slideshare presentations. Many of these people have posted new URLâ€™s to other work connected in some way to Deanâ€™s work.
Where has this gotten my research? I have had to research other people before. It has always felt like â€œflat, factualâ€ research. In this case, I feel like I have met a new person. I have a sense of Deanâ€™s sense of humor, his passion for the use of technology FOR learning, his commitment to have authentic work and assessment, and his desire to communicate and share his knowledge and skills with other educators. I have learned he and I share many of the same frustrations about things like digital citizenship or grading.
I wonder how different research would feel to students if they were using blogs, Flickr, Twitter, UStream, Slideshare, and YouTube videos produced by their subject of research to gather information. I wonder if the plagiarism issue teachers sometimes encounter when students are asked to research a person would diminish leading students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate as they used these tools for research.
This assignment has made me think as much about changing the way I have students conduct research as about Dean Shareski. I am happy about this.”
Laura Deisley says
@Dan Though not really focused on Will’s question, I love the example you share especially this:
“I have had to research other people before. It has always felt like â€œflat, factualâ€ research. In this case, I feel like I have met a new person.”
That is powerful.
@Will I too love that quotation from Leu. Our students want to PARTICIPATE. And the reading to write and writing to read cycle shows active engagement. I’ve been working with 20 summer school students for just two days…and I am realizing more and more that they’ve been put to sleep for years in school. Your comment “we can no longer look at publishing as the final step in the process but see it instead as somewhere in the middle” is spot-on. Why does everything have to be a final product–mediocre at best?
I have more questions than answers, and plenty of pilots. The questions revolve around: What is the role of the individual research paper? How can we lever that up to a collaborative, connective reading/writing experience? How do we balance the writing prep for college (argh) with the prep for for how we live? (All factors when you work for a college prep indep school.And hated to hear that my alma mater really hasn’t shifted….)
Thanks for continuing to push us to think about writing and reading…and I am kinda yearning for my own classroom too.
Mark Ahlness says
Will, I’m a third grade teacher maintaining the writing process, as taught for the past 100 years, is dead – if we are truly interested in preparing our students for their future, and not our past.
It’s tough to get past scripted curricula, and yes, even Writer’s Workshop. It’s so 20th century 🙂 There are not many voices willing to question these standard approaches – so I really appreciated your post.
I’ve presented with the amazing Don Leu, and I’m puzzled that his voice and his ideas are not more widely heard.
And thanks for the Yancey essay – it is very much where I’m looking right now.
The reason I decided to comment was because I just read the latest from danah boyd, who writes about retweeting – front and center now because of the unrest in Iran. The draft paper is fascinating, looking at writing as conversation, studying the syntax of that conversation, examining the social implications, looking at authorship and attribution issues… so many things we should be helping our kids with….
Rufus Black says
The the use of 21 century tools, blogs, twitter, slideshare, ePals, Youtube could be interesting with the research on writing and reading form my students. With demand to improve the level of student proficiency I would like to found out more about the possibility of my staff’s interest in connecting technology to writing and reding.
Sean Nash says
I have thus far attempted a bit of action research to characterize the effects of online spaces on student writing. I am more than interested in what actually changes. As you’ll see in the link below, I approached my first shot at answering a bit of this beast with a rather general question. Essentially… what, if anything, changes when students compose and publish in online spaces as opposed to a more traditional approach? I certainly don’t want to drag on with the methodology here in the comments section of this fine blog, so I will leave a footprint to a post detailing the study that includes raw data as well as a slide presentation summary of the findings. Link: http://tinyurl.com/8r3hkl
To make a long story short, I wanted to start by measuring three very easily obtained quantitative variables. I looked for differences in word count, readability, and performance on a subsequent objective exam. Half of the students wrote a traditional unit summary prior to the exam and turned the attached MS Word document directly to me only via email (largely analogous to printing and putting on the teacher’s desk.”)
The other half of the students wrote their summary to be uploaded to a class blog on the Ning platform and were allowed to use any of the features accessible by this method.
In short? => student scores on the exam were statistically the same across the board. At first, this wasn’t a big thrill to me, but when I then realized that the students writing in online spaces wrote far fewer words, I was intrigued. We’re talking an average of 1/3 fewer words. It seemed that we showed a quick glimpse of one of the features of online writing… students tend to be more efficient summarizers given the connective nature of this writing.
Less volume… same scores (a terrible measure of writing in my opinion, but what makes so many folks pay attention). To me it looks like writing in online venues to a wider audience might tend to lean students toward solid summary and succinct communication. I plan to do much more work next year along these lines. What do you see in this data?
I teach art/photography to grade 8-12 students. This year I’ve explored the use of Flickr and blogging to enhance and transform the critiquing process for my students. It’s a big shift for me, and my students, and I feel like I’ve been teaching writing just as much as I’ve been teaching how to critique other’s artwork!
Even with the growing pains associated with such a change to the program, it’s been exciting, and I plan to continue next school year. I strongly believe that students first and foremost dictate the curriculum, and I feel I’d be doing a disservice to my students if I didn’t introduce these technologies into the classroom. We still do traditional in class critiques, but by using Flickr and blogging, I can tackle literacy from another angle while also differentiating instruction at the same time.
Russ Goerend says
I was in the first curriculum-mapping meeting of my career the other day. We were discussing 6th and 7th grade Second Chance Reading (SCR) curriculum. I was energized by the other teachers’ enthusiasm for getting writing into the SCR curriculum. I especially appreciated their willingness to explore “alternative” pieces of writing, such as the prep work that goes into a (well-done) YouTube video.
I guess I just wanted to share a story of veteran teachers looking to new media if it’s in the best interest of students.
Tony G. Rocco says
The Internet is providing young people with a whole new set of incentives to write. A study published recently by Stanford University confirms that young adults are doing a lot of writing on social networking web sites, blogs and cellphone text messages. And this writing is actually helping them develop their writing and literacy skills. Apparently the desire to socialize and connect with others is a powerful motivator to write.
Take a look at the following article: