shiny happy

vector-rainbow

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.

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3 responses to “shiny happy

  1. Hi, Debi-

    I see an innovation grant that needs to be written here! I agree with you, as a classroom teacher, we do very little writing on white boards. Our shared writing happens on the SMART board, which is a digital analog, but remains a very different experience.

    The SMART board does seem to help keep the students engaged…buuut, in your suite they are kept engaged by actual physical proximity and smaller group sizes…6 of one half a dozen of another?

    Maria

  2. Dear Debi,

    My student teacher made the comment that the writing he has witnessed at CV is much more structured and prescriptive than the work his fiancee’s first graders produce at their school. And I expect that he is right; we have sacrificed creativity for form and content. You and I work with students for whom expressive language is often an issue and writing, being the most integrative of tasks, is difficult. To move into the 21st century, should we be visual and digital and collaborative storytelling rather than focusing on five sentence paragraphs? If students can graphically organize a main idea and details, do they need to also write a traditional paragraph? Is the idea of what writing is changing so that traditional concepts–topic sentence, supporting details and examples, concluding sentence–can be adequately expressed in digital media?

  3. Maria:
    You are completely right that physical proximity keeps my students engaged with instruction. (I loved that you called my space a suite!) That’s why my thoughts on smartboards and such in my setting are a little ambivalent. For the most part, I feel like I meet my students’ needs with the resources I have. And that’s why I wonder if just working huddled around a laptop might be enough. I don’t know. I’ll try it :)

    And JoAnn…you hit the nail on the head exactly! What exactly are the writing skills our students will need? It does feel like the five sentence paragraph is moving toward relic status. But maybe it’s a relic only in our insistence on using a pencil and paper instead of starting the process in a digital format right from the start. I don’t know. I’m still figuring this out like you are!

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