I did promise hearts and rainbows.
Collaborative digital writing does offer opportunities for growth and higher-order thinking. And the students I work with will need to develop these skills. Which makes me wonder…
A lot of my work in writing with students is side-by-side, with me jotting down ideas on paper, showing kids how to visually organize their work, modeling the importance of brainstorming by writing key phrases, numbering our ideas in a logical sequence…all attempts by me to make my process transparent to kids. But as much of our work moves to digital formats, perhaps my side-by-side work should shift toward using a laptop instead of pencil and paper. More and more I’m feeling like the way I write is less relevant to how my students will be writing as they move through the grades.
In our building, teachers use interactive whiteboards or Smartboards to model skills to the whole group in new and dynamic ways. But in some respects our special education departments are stuck in the pre-digital ages…we don’t have Smartboards or laptops. We have real whiteboards, and notebooks, and pencils. Our students definitely have access to computers and portable word processors and assistive technology, but the way we teach is very different from what’s going on in the classroom. In many respects that’s how it should be. Our students require specialized instruction, and our instructional techniques really need to be research-based and data-driven. But if I want to model the composition process, wouldn’t it be great to have my work projected in a way that’s visually engaging?
One of the biggest things we emphasize in special education is application of skills, meaning once students can complete a task or a series of skills in the resource room setting we work toward transferring that level of mastery to the classroom setting. What if students don’t see the connection between the work they’re doing with me and the work that’s going on in their classrooms because I am using very different tools? It’s my job to point out those connections to kids, because most of the time they are not going to make the connections themselves. And of course I can do my job with the tools I have, because really, we have access to a lot of technology in our district. But I do wonder how my work could be different if I too were using more of the tools our classroom teachers use on a daily basis.