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Technology and Writing Through the Year

Written by Kevin Hodgson
June 19, 2012

(This is from my blog)

End of Year Comic
Today is our last day of school of the year. Phew. As I often do, I was thinking a bit about the various kinds of technology that my sixth graders used this year to complement, enhance and inform their writing. Here’s a list of some of the things they did, although I may forget a few here and there.

  • The first days of school, they were on Photostory 3, working on creating digital story dream scenes . I returned to the collection the other day, just to remember how I remember them from the start of the year now that they are moving on and out of our elementary school. The combination of visual representation, setting forth aspirations, and using digital tools to tell a story is a fantastic way to begin the year in our class.
  • We participated in the National Day on Writing by writing and podcasting a short reflection on the topic of “why I write.” Listening to their voices, I am still amazed at the depth of the thinking of many of the students. The podcasting element (in which we used the Cinch app on our iPods) brings voice into the picture in a neat way. We even created a classroom Twitter account for the day, so that we could share our podcasts. (But then, we didn’t use it much for the rest of the year.)
  • Early on, my students went into Bitstrips for Schools and created an avatar representation of themselves. Watching and helping them try to navigate who they are in online spaces is a big part of what I do around technology. The webcomic space then became a place we returned to from time to time, but not often enough. Mostly, it became an extension activity zone for some of my students who needed something a little different.
  • I introduced the concept of video game design for the first time ever in my classroom, and I have to say, it was a huge success, and kids are still talking about it. We used Gamestar Mechanic, and we worked to connect the design process with a writing process, and how story narrative can be the backbone of a good video game. Plus, we made a lot of connections to our science curriculum with the game design project. I sort of took a chance on the idea this year, and it paid off.
  • Our Digital Life unit was another new addition this year, as we explored the many facets of digital citizenship. We used CommonSense Media curriculum as a starting point, but then veered off in a lot of different directions, all leading towards a digital poster project with Glogster in which students presented their understanding of issues around digital media. This was another new unit this year, and again, I think it was very successful.
  • Our Wiki Dictionary grew by another 80 words or so this year, as students invented words and then used our wiki to add their own words to an ever-growing collaborative (across time) dictionary.
  • The use of InstaGrok this year for a research assignment (with a media component) was a great find, and I thank whomever it was that tweeted that site out one day. InstaGrok really channeled my students’ interest and kept them focused on their essay topics, while providing a valuable space to collect and share notes while doing online research.
  • And of course, our main online home — The Electronic Pencil — continued to be the focal point of resources, links and some writing this year.

It’s been quite an adventure, and now I need to do some revamping of my Sixth Grade Curriculum Site to reflect the changes that we did and then think through what I need to do for next year, too, particularly as our district moves deeper into curriculum changes via our state’s adoption of the Common Core.

Peace (in the shift),
Kevin

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