Cheryl Ball and Drew Lowe's new FREE ebook Bad Ideas About Writing is your new #1 weapon to bury zombie ideas about writing and writing instruction for good!
Introducing a new collection of resources that exemplify some of the best connected learning practices from Pittsburgh.
Years in the Making with Connected Learning seeks to offer lessons on the evolution of Connected Learning through the vantage points of mentors, community collaboration, and interest-driven learning.
This collection shares resources created by educators across the Educator Innovator network who are working to transform their teaching in order to promote connected learning.
Resources in this collection have emerged from a growing partnership between the National Park Service (NPS) and the National Writing Project (NWP) designed to bolster connected learning opportunities within the national parks and reach more young visitors and educators.
- Writing Feedback
- university writing
- Writing Instruction
- first year writing
- teaching writing
- Growth mindset
- connected learning
- learning innovation
- Remake Learning
- museum education
- art museum teaching
- arts education
- art museum
- project based learning
- malcolm x
- random house
- authentic audience
- LRNG Grant
- LRNG Innovators
- meaningful audience
- Social & Emotional Learning
- Gateway Writing Project
- OneCity Stories
- race conversations
Their World – A Digital One
By Amy Quinn
This is the only world young students know of… a digital one.
As an adult, we can see this “change” as clear as night and day because we remember the “before.” There was a time we didn’t all carry our smartphones everywhere. The “before” was a time when every place didn’t have wifi. We remember how Sunday mornings were spent holding onto a crinkly newspaper. Our main inbox was an actual mailbox. Book stores were common. The only choice for programs to watch on TV were the shows scheduled. When having a phone conversation, the only image we had was… the one in our mind.
Research papers often get a bad reputation. But we conduct research all the time in our everyday lives. Whether we want to understand civic issues or make a major life purchase, we need research skills to sift through all the information. Research writing skills students practice in the classroom need to transfer to their lives too. The most powerful opportunities for this kind of academic learning to transfer to lifelong skills happens when students have some degree of choice about the topics and texts they will study, are able to socially construct new meaning from shared experience, and to demonstrate their skills in both writing and through other media.
As I enter my 21st year of teaching at Thurston High School in the South Redford School District, I have seen the change in how my students learn. Students in 2016 are no longer the same passive consumers of information that they were in the mid 1990s. Instead, they have transformed into creators of information they disseminate through blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos and more. In fact, hundreds of hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute. The transformation from consuming to producing created a need for me to change my teaching style in order to encourage student engagement.
Yesterday was International Dot Day, and this is the first year I had my students join the millions (6.6 million from 139 countries, in fact) people making circles and dots as a way to nurture a sense of creativity and imagination. The Dot Day idea stems from a picture book by Peter Reynolds, called The Dot. We connected with Peter and his brother, Paul, last school year, and we hope to do so again this year.
It's quite possible this is impossible. I am trying to narrow in on the affordances of what we mean by the phrase "Digital Writing." I may even veer way off track here, and perhaps it is best for all of us just to drop the "digital" once and for all, and just call it .. writing. Although, I, for one, still prefer the word "composing."
As an English teacher, when I say the word literacy to my non-English teaching colleagues, their eyes glaze over. They’re no doubt thinking about reading a textbook and answering questions, and they’re bored by the thought of it. But in today’s world, the definition of literacy has changed. It is no longer acceptable to only teach students what I’ll call classic literacy skills. Of course, these are important, but if we as teachers focus solely on these, we are leaving out a large chunk of literacy skills that are necessary in today’s society, the so-called new literacies. But, what are new literacies? The National Council of Teachers of English (2013) defines 21st Century literacies as the ability to:
● Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
So, consider me intrigued ... I just re-discovered the MediaBreaker tool by The Lamp as part of the Letters to the Next President campaign. MediaBreaker is like the old Popcorn Maker (I still miss you, Popcorn!) by Mozilla, in that you can layer media and text on top of video content. In this case, the idea is to make commentary on top of political videos.
[Cross-posted on Edutopia]
There is a sad truth about the way that most students learn to write: They become boring writers. To write with clarity and insight involves struggle (regardless of age). When faced with this challenge, many students are taught to detach from content, to analyze with sterile language, and to develop ideas within a narrow formula.
Structure is helpful, but if not implemented strategically, it can stifle creativity and require students to go through motions rather than investing themselves in creating something. Many of our attempts to help young people develop writing skills actually deter them from the joy and power of developing a unique, insightful writing voice.
New Ways of Understanding the Writing Process
For three months in the fall my 12th grade students designed their own learning. Each plan culminated with a project. In the fall I wrote about the fear I felt when I began to step back. There is a lot I learned from this process (and I plan to write more about it in the future.)
Designing learning in this way meant students were able to pursue topics they felt passionate about and many did so by embarking on complex projects. The result is a collection of products that go beyond traditional ideas of school work and instead speak to the abilities of young people to create work that has meaning in the world.
But, you shouldn’t trust me. Go and judge for yourself!
Radio pieces made in collaboration with Jeanette Woods at WHYY:
So, I have been having more fun that I have a right to have by making political-themed distorted graphs that have no data correlation whatsoever. I don't even think or consider any numbers when making these. Who cares about data when you have cool graphs in a misinformation campaign!
My teaching load increased this academic year, for the second year in a row. I am not alone with this struggle, but it doesn’t make it easier to cope. There might be content areas where this is easier to handle, but writing is not one of them. There might be groups of student that make an increased load workable, but first-generation, first-year students is not one of them. However, after weeping, wailing, and gnashing my teeth for a while, I remembered a key tool that could help me serve my students’ unique and varied needs while providing the support they need to grow as writers (and readers and thinkers). This magical tool is the workshop. Two weeks into the semester and I have fallen back in love with the workshop. I’ll share my love letter to the workshop in a future blog post, but this Notable Notes will share some thoughts about workshop to inspire your thinking and teaching.
I have only been assigning infographics for about a year, but I am in love and here is why you should teach with infographics too. First, a quick explanation for how I got here. I first assigned infographics for my professional writing students, because I thought it would be a useful form for them to learn and I wanted a digital presentation format for our group learning document assignment. The infographic assignment fit the bill perfectly and did so much more. I now use infographics in my other classes as an alternative to traditional presentation tools (down with Powerpoint!) and I strongly encourage you to think about infographics in your classroom for these three reasons.
One of the student learner outcomes for Morehead State University’s First Year Seminar is to articulate the ethical consequences of decisions or actions. I have always loved our discussions about ethics, because the theme for my particular FYS is “From the Walking Dead to Superheroes.” I find that comic book characters offer a lot of opportunity to discuss ethics and over the years my students have explored a variety of ethical questions from the death penalty to vigilantism to corporate greed. Of course, that last may be inspired by the fact that one of the ways I introduce ethics uses this video about Monsters Inc, but then it might simply be that a lot of comics feature that theme (Batman, Green Arrow, Flash, etc.).
This Notable Notes was inspired by Irvin Peckham’s blog post “Writing What I Think.” It is a short post that I will simply include it in its entirety here:
I had a student say after posting her firsthand portrait: This is so different from high school writing: I can write what I think instead of writing what I think the teacher wants to hear.
Some folks in the Digital Writing Month circles have been doing a "slow read" of the new book by Henry Jenkins, danah boyd and Mimi Ito called Participatory Culture in a Networked Era. The book is a conversation between these three eminent thinkers of learning and connecting. Chapter Four is centered on learning and literacy, and I decided that I would take a powerful quote from each of three writers and respond with audio letters.
Here are the three audio letters:
This post will include some ideas and resources that I hope will inspire writing among students and people of all ages. My notes were inspired by Jay Silver’s recent post, “The Future of Education Demands More Questions, Not Answers.” I agree wholeheartedy with Silver’s call for a pedagogy of questions. I want my students to question, we need our students to question everything from our pedagogy to the status quo to our humanity. This focus on answers, specifically the “right” answers as determined by some corporate weenie with no pedagogical training, makes me crazy. However, I would like to expand on Silver’s idea and suggest that what we need is a pedagogy of reflecting on those questions, specifically reflecting through writing. I offer four ways that teachers can engage their students in writing about the important questions facing humanity.
As I’ve written before. I love six word stories and regularly use them in my classes for a variety of purposes (ice breakers, for example). Many teachers are familiar with the concept of six word memoirs, but have only used them for personal writing. I do enjoy using six word stories for personal expression; however, I love using them to support content knowledge as well.
When I help my students build larger projects or papers, I frequently use a series of six word stories to help them review what we have discussed in class, summarize readings, clarify ideas, and identify questions. These six word stories can help them organize their ideas and/or their sources as well as the paper they are writing.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my students finished the year with a unit on blogging. It was a great opportunity to teach argumentation and the rhetorical situation. During this political season, I had no dearth of subject matter.
Maybe because I’ve been hip deep in contentious subjects for six weeks, I have been drawn to stories of harmony and humanity. During my morning commute, two stories from NPR caught my ear.
When my students started blogging, they started thinking critically about the world, themselves, and their voice. My new year's wish is that they find balance in their thinking and harmony with others.
This is the question I challenged my students to think, write, and talk about this week. Their next assignment will be to write literacy narratives, but as we embark on that journey I want them to think about much more than the traditional alphabetic literacy so many consider to be the alpha and omega. I challenge my students to think about information literacy including network literacy, visual literacy, media literacy, cultural literacy, and so much more. However, before we can really dig into those ideas we need to unpack a lot of baggage about schooling and education.
This week that meant asking questions such as:
This week (or so) my first year students will be working on literacy narratives. I think literacy narratives are awesome tools for thinking about learning and writing – and a great place to begin a writing class. I wrote this blog post about why I teach literacy narratives, 10 Ways Literacy Narratives Will Rock Your World (or at least your writing classroom), almost two years ago and I am still a fervent believer.
Jack Rothman of the Huffington Post argues:
American education has been under constant criticism since the middle of the last century. A galaxy of reforms has been mounted to address the issues, but these have not produced noticeable results. We live in a permanent environment of educational reform and educational failure. The reforms focus on fixing things within the schoolhouse, but the fundamental problem that needs fixing lies outside in the broader society.
In my blog post, Starting The Year Off Write, I noted some of my favorite ways to kick off the school year or semester using writing to break the ice and set the stage for the work we will do together. This post will share some great tips from my professional learning network about starting the year off write.
This semester I started everyone off with six-word stories as I usually do. I just can’t help it…I love them so much and they are so very useful. I did put off my idea for a critical thinking ice breaker until next week. In part because I haven’t gotten the official go-ahead from the powers-that-be and also because I think it will take some time and I didn’t want to dominate the first class with too much “work.”
Today is the day after Thanksgiving and you know what that means: just 10 more coding days until Computer Science Education Week. For the third year in a row, the organization Code.org encourages educators at all grade levels to to spend one hour of the week introducing students to coding, or computer programming, in an effort they call the Hour of Code. In the last couple of years they've had celebrities ranging from the Miami Heat's Chris Bosh to none other than President Barack Obama make promotional videos explaining the importance of learning to program a computer. In recent years, they've boasted that this initiative has exposed more girls to programming in one year than in the past 70 years combined, (a stat I'm citing from memory but which has been removed from their site.)
How do you start things off with your students? I used to dive into the horribly, tedious syllabus review session on the first day. Big mistake! Not only is it boring for everyone, but it also makes a terrible first impression. I don’t want my students to think my class is all about rules (especially since my institution makes us put lots of CYA statements, policies, and rules in our syllabi). I want my students to create and invent, learn and grow, and for that type of class to succeed we need to be a community – so that is where I now begin. I give them a quick overview – usually creating some sort of highlights list or more recently an infographic just to satisfy their most burning questions and then tell them where they can find the more detailed syllabus. Then we dive into community building.
My first introduction to the book, Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom, was at the 2014 Urban Sites Conference in Chicago. As I made my way through the introduction in a break-out session, I recognized themes that resonated with discussions I have had with teachers about their experiences within the contexts of their classrooms, their ongoing adaptations to digital technologies, and their need to connect with other teachers around these topics.
I consider myself pretty invested in the Connected Learning community – I had the privilege of co-chairing the Civic Education & Youth Serving Organizations strand of the Digital Media and Learning conference in 2013, I contributed to an eBook edited by Antero Garcia focused on the application of Connected Learning principles to the classroom, and I am a Connected Learning Ambassador for the National Writing Project
The truth will set you free.
It’s a maxim that shows up in all kinds of places, from university mottos to Oprah’s Life Class. Its meanings are often hazy and applications varied, but my religious Southern parents will be pleased to know that I remember its origins are biblical in nature, a derivation of John 8:32, a verse that links discipleship to spiritual freedom.
These days, though, like my own evolution toward humanism, the phrase has become well situated in more secular usage, having become common parlance, not only among theologians, but artists, therapists, and politicians as well.
Taking risks has never felt like a natural part of my personality. I don't typically blaze my own trail. I look for the safe, the comfortable, the experiences I can control.
This is as true in my professional life as my personal. However, this risk-averse tendency is often in conflict with another aspect of my character: the desire to improve myself—to improve my craft. This desire manifests in my classroom with my career-long need to create new units and lessons (or, at the very least, to repeatedly revise old ones). One of the greatest challenges and joys of teaching is that no lesson or unit ever feels like it's done. There is always room for improvement. I have come to believe this is how it should be—that this constant cycle of creation and revision is actually the hallmark of any teacher who is experiencing moments of greatness.
"You don't take classes at studios most of the time," says dancer Yuri Doolan. "YouTube has become a venue for marginalized communities who aren't represented in pop culture to express themselves and create their own subculture and their own venue for exposure." Doolan uses Bollywood dance to shift debates around social justice issues.
Last year, 15 million students tried the Hour of Code in one week! It was everywhere—from the Google homepage to the White House to classrooms all across the world. It’s happening again this year during Computer Science Education Week, December 8–14. This webinar includes an update of what to expect this year and how to bring the movement to your students this December.
This keynote video of Scratch @ MIT 2014, features Mitch Resnick (MIT/Scratch) interviewing Elyse Eidman-Aadahl (National Writing Project) and Dale Dougherty (Maker Media; Maker Education Initiative). Titled: Making, Coding, Writing, all three speakers came together to discuss engagement and making in the learning process.
Paul Oh, of the National Writing Project, presented about Connected Learning. It streamed live Friday October 10th 2014, and you can watch it here!
Soft Circuits: Crafting e-Fashion with DIY Electronics explores the field of electronics and "e-textiles," which involves making physical computing projects based in fabrics and other everyday materials. This volume incorporates microprocessors into these materials and programs them with an accessible tool called Modkit to further enhance e-fashions like light-up wristbands and t-shirts, as well as solar-powered backpacks.
Short Circuits: Crafting e-Puppets with DIY Electronics explores the field of electronics and "e-textiles," which involves making physical computing projects based in fabrics and other everyday materials. This volume focuses that exploration on the use of electronic hand puppets, sound-enabled storyboards, and DIY flashlight-enabled shadow puppetry in order to delve into literacy and storytelling.
Script Changers: Digital Storytelling with Scratch focuses on how stories offer an important lens for seeing the world as a series of systems and provides opportunities for young people to create interactive and animated stories about the systems around them. The projects in this book utilize the Scratch visual programming environment as a means to tell stories about how to effect change in youths' local communities.
Gaming the System: Designing with Gamestar Mechanic orients readers to the nature of games as systems, how game designers need to think in terms of complex interactions between game elements and rules, and how to pull out systems concepts in the design process. The core curriculum uses Gamestar Mechanic, an online game design environment with a strong systems thinking focus.
As the Visiting Fiction Writer-in-Residence at Fordham University I taught fiction writing to undergraduates and undergrads in courses titled Fiction Bootcamp and Writer's Workshop. These courses were craft-based workshops where my students and I pondered the big questions of how fiction is constructed and what makes it work. We looked under the hood, took the back off the clock, peered into the innards in order to study the formal decisions necessary for effective story-telling. Our inquiry included point of entry; character and plot; creating meaningful scenes; interiority v/s external action; exposition; the management of time; the position of the narrator; linear v/s modular design; dialogue and its uses; conflict and resolution; image systems and so on. In order to learn to "read like a writer," students tackled a collection worth of stories and paid attention to details like how sentences are constructed, dialogue is set up and narrative is designed.
During the summer of Making Learning Connected (or clmooc) a twitter discussion arose on what constitutes a story. Sometimes questions need to be moved past 140 characters. This prompted the collective decision to move the discussion to a google hangout.
See the chat archive here.