Digitize This Activities

One of the aspects of the Digitize This workshop Diana Benner and I facilitated this past weekend was providing hands-on examples. While I can't speak for Diana, I know that crafting writing workshop facilitation experiences that took advantage of technology to better manage with digital tools was challenging.

I found it challenging because, as I pointed out in a previous blog entry, I haven't taught writing in a classroom since my time as a middle school teacher (and campus instructional specialist) over 15 years ago. It's a bit frightening to be basing professional development on experiences--no matter how vivid personally--from so long ago. Fortunately, everything I read in the last few weeks (cramming, desperate readings to ensure what I remembered was still accurate and true) re-affirmed me. But the greatest revelation was that writing workshops had not changed because so many teachers weren't even "doing writing workshop" as a result of curricular alignment. From our introductory text on the matrix of digital tools for writing workshop:
Exciting new tools are available that can enhance the flow of the Writing Workshop, as conceptualized and described by Nanci Atwell, Donald Graves, and Luci Calkins.  This matrix provides a list of possible connections between the purpose of the Writing Workshop components and how various tools can eliminate the paper chase of "old" approaches.
Though Diana and I hoped to craft hands-on activities for a wide variety of technology tools featured in the matrix of tools, we decided because of prep time to only do four. Another reason--aside from time to prep--was that we just didn't know if we would have enough technology access (internet, laptops, etc). Fortunately, the Heart of Texas Writing Project folks outdid themselves.

In considering the matrix, we divided it up in our own conversations as digital tools for facilitating writing workhop and digital tools for the writing process. In the former, the focus is on the teacher. In the latter, it is on the students.

This required a shift in perspective, and we tried to express it in a variety of guided activities for session participants, including the following:

  1. MiniLesson - Screencasting
  2. Class Status - Spreadsheet
  3. Write/Confer - Collaborative Word Processor
  4. Group Share (or Author's Chair) - Audio Recording
Here is what some of the activities looked like (I'm including the ones I had fun crafting):

Part 1: Group Share - Feedback on Student Writing
Want students to quickly apply the TAG approach during Group Share? Ask small groups of students to read their written pieces and then send the link or leave it as a comment on a wiki or blog. Students can then leave feedback--audio, of course--for other students. When asking students to leave feedback for each other, remind them to be appropriate and respectful, as if in a "learning" or work setting. This is an excellent opportunity to encourage appropriate behavior.

Note: TAG stands for - Tell one thing you liked about the story, Ask one question, and Give one suggestion.
Part 2: Step by Step Instructions

1) Listen to this piece of writing by a ten year old writer, Edward. You'll be able to read it when you get to
step 3.

2) Apply the TAG approach and give Edward some feedback via Vocaroo (record your own) and 
3) Paste the link you're provided after recording on this iEtherpad page.

Part 3: Make your own

Try Vocaroo.com and record your feedback.

Of all the activities shared above, I found the Class Status one to be the least effective...it was too much to expect that teachers allow students to "self-report" what they were doing in writing workshop. In retrospect, I find it a bit of a stretch until after students have become well familiar with the writing workshop and accustomed to the daily procedures and expectations. For some teachers and groups of students, this may never be a reality.

That said, the other activities worked well. I especially loved the JingCrit from TeachPaperless blog as well as other examples of using screencasting to offer students feedback on their writing.

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