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Book Review: Teaching the New Writing

Book Review: Teaching the New Writing

Written by Linda Biondi
October 20, 2010

Teaching the New Writing by Herrington, Hodgson, and Moran is a book that MUST be included in every school’s professional library. Each chapter of the book features first-hand stories from teachers about their experiences integrating new technologies into their classrooms. In reading their stories, it’s easy to feel a deep connection to the teachers as they reflect on their inquiries, frustrations, and triumphs in working with students and technology. It’s clear that they are real teachers–from public and private schools, rural, urban and suburban schools. They are teachers just like us, with standards and curriculum to follow and deadlines to meet.

Stories of the “New Writing” The book begins with a chapter by Anne Herrington and Charles Moran, two of the book’s editors. They give an overview of the evolution of writing with new technology beginning in 1980, when the first computers were essentially elaborate typewriters used for word processing. Herrington and Moran discuss how changes in technology from 1980 to the present day affected the experience of writing in the classroom. As the technology evolved, writing with these tools became networked and hyperlinked, allowing for writing as a social process and creating new implications for integrating it into the curriculum.

Teaching the New Writing is divided into three sections: elementary and middle school years, high school students, and college students. Although the reader can choose the section that applies to his or her teaching assignment, each section whets the reader’s appetite, inspiring a need to learn more. The stories read like a conversations. Teachers share their lessons and examples of student writing such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, research, poetry videos, community based projects, and storyboards. Be sure to have a computer nearby to check out the many resources and examples.

The book is a reflective instrument for the reader and the writer. Teachers share the goals they have for their students, provide their lesson plan notes, and reflect on whether they successfully met the goals.

Teaching for the 21st Century Reading this book will help teachers integrate technology with writing. It reminds us to empower our students to be active problem solvers and to use higher order thinking skills. It reminds us that writing is not just for a forty minute block of language arts time; writing is a skill that we cultivate for every subject. Reading Teaching the New Writing will inspire and motivate teachers to take out that lesson plan book, reflect on current teaching methodology, and lead students into 21st century writing. 

After reading this book, I realized that I needed to revise my philosophy of education to help my students become 21st century scholars. As I searched for the correct words, I found Anita Benton’s video helpful. Her words set to the music of the song, Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield, defines the important role that we have as educators.

Webcasts Extend the Conversation Chapter authors of Teaching the New Writing also participated in a series of Teachers Teaching Teachers webcasts which further explain the background of the book and provide a connection between the reader and the authors of the chapters. In the first webcast of June 10, 2009, titled “Technology and Changes in the Classroom,” Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim interviewed the editors Charles Moran, Anne Herrington, and Kevin Hodgson about the book which focuses on changes we see in the writing classroom through the use of technology.

The second webcast of June 17, 2009, titled “The Collaborative Nature of Writing,” highlighted three chapter authors: Paul Allison, a high school teacher, technology liaison at the New York City Writing Project, and facilitator of TTT; Glen Bledsoe, an elementary teacher and teacher consultant at the Oregon Writing Project at the University of Oregon; and Jeff Schwartz, high school teacher and member of the Bread Loaf Teachers Network. They shared examples of the classroom practices written about in the book. The discussion in this podcast centered on the collaborative nature of writing when using technology and what it looks like in the classroom.

In the final webcast of June 24, 2009, titled “Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st-Century Classroom,” the discussion looked at how technology opens up new avenues for publication and what the changing role of the audience does for writing in the classroom. The webcast again featured three chapter authors: Dawn Reed, high school teacher and teacher-consultant with the Red Cedar Writing Project; Troy Hicks, associate Professor and director of the Chippewa Writing Project; and Bryan Crandall, high school teacher and a teacher-consultant with the Louisville Writing Project. The three shared examples of their classroom practices. The topics they discussed included high school students using multimodal ways of writing in a speech class and an example of what happens when you take the senior project “digital.” 

Chapters
The National Writing Project has made several chapters and excerpts available for download.

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