The Solitary Writer

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Over at Chalkdust 101, I stumbled on this amazing justification--I Think, Therefore I Write-- for taking advantage of collaborative tools. It was such a good insight, that I have to share it and hope that those reading who still want to give people MS Word and limit collaboration for fear of what might happen, as opposed to what could happen, take the time to reflect:

 Dr. Richard Miller and Dr. Paul Hammond from Rutgers University...used the revision slider in Google Docs to illustrate how students built drafts, and how their editing partners added comments.  Essentially, they were showing the progression of thinking in the students writing.   
One student plainly just wrote straight through to the end of the draft (until, as Hammond stated, he hit the number of words he needed) without any recursion to earlier points of writing.  Others, he noted, without prompting from peer editors, continually made edits as they wrote, jumping from later parts of the writing back to earlier parts.   
Each case study brought forth a clearer picture of what goes on in the minds of young writers today.  We are no longer holding on to the idealized image of the solitary writer plucking ideas from his own imagination solely towards a much more social and conversational form of writing as thinking.
We can use the technology we have to get behind the writing to see the thinking that constructs it
Wow, this is just plain awesome. Use the technology we have to get behind the writing to see the thinking that constructs it. While some are worried that technology allows us to know everything young writers are thinking, one of the obvious benefits is that it also allows us to see the thinking, essentially, how the human brain works.

How often have we said as teachers and/or parents, "Who knows what goes on in that kid's head?" Now, we get to know when we use collaborative word processors like wikis and GoogleDocs.

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Patrick Higgins said…

Thanks for the mention. I am glad you found that point as amazing as I did, and I wish I had the visual to tie it to also. Hammond actually used one of the keynote affects and slowed it down entirely to spin the image of the google doc to one in which it was the negative image of it. He did this just as he was using the phrase "getting behind the writing." Pretty impressive.

In future versions of Google Docs, I hope they integrate that part of Etherpad, where you could play back the writing as it happened at whatever speed you like. It really shows you how and where the students were thinking.

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