I learned of the article “Students failing because of Twitter, texting and no grammar teaching via Twitter as I did another article yesterday. It discusses the insidious nature of sentence fragments and inappropriate emoticon abbreviations into University papers…and even into letters of academic appeal. Maybe I have become an eternal optimist (rather than a realist like I used to be) but I don’t see this as the case.
I use a Writers’ Workshop model. I first learned of it when I began teaching more than a dozen years ago. It is based on the work of Nancie Atwell. Students are provided with the opportunity to select what they wish to write about and what format they wish to write it in. Sometimes, I will provide some sort of basic guideline i.e. we are going to submit this to a writing contest so it must fulfill these criteria or we are going to compile all of your pieces into a magazine that we are going to base upon a central theme. So, kids care about what they are writing about becasue they get to select it! And, I meet with them, conference and model sentence structure (eg. this is a fragment or this could be combined into a more sophisticated sentence) and grammar (eg. you switch from past to present to past verb tense again). Grammar outside of a meaningful context, such is the case with worksheets, is not going to serve to correct the errors of sentence structre and conventions. I also remind students of formal (eg. writing in school) vs. informal (eg. facebook updates) writing. We brainstorm a list of distiguishing characteristics so that they own it…and there is much more to this list than simple emoticons!
Further, I can’t even keep track of how many authors I have heard speak that tell me they can’t spell to save their life and thank goodness for grammar and spell checkers and their amazing editors! So, is the sentence structure, grammar and emoticons the issue…or is it that students need to be reminded / taught to proofread? Or that they need to be presented with a meaningful real-world writing challenge?
Just learned about “Schools lost and puzzled with multitasking and ubiquitous media” via heyjudeonline‘s Twitter. The opening quote goes like this:
“The average young American spends practically every waking minute – except for the time in school – using electronic media.”
This quote reminds me of something that I’ve heard one of my Teacher-Librarian colleagues say the last couple times I saw her: when our students come to school, we expect them to disconnect. It’s like cutting off their arms! Yet, as I sit in PD sans laptop or Blackberry or iPhone (not because I don’t want to use the technology but because I don’t have it – it’s difficult to take my desktop PC to PD), taking notes with traditional pen-and-paper technology, the majority of adults there with me do not disconnect. They are constantly checking their phones or typing away on their laptops.
This made me think about something I blogged way back in March 2008. It was after I had read a study from The National School Board Association’s entitled “Creating and Connecting” (pdf). The report talked about non-conformists which I equated to Malcolm Gladwell’s early adopters rather than (traditional) rule-breakers.
Which brings be back to our highly connected students and how they must disconnect at school. Up to this point I have been quite grim in this post. But I see glimmers. My own experience: If you provide students with engaging real-world tasks or challenges, ones that they know will be published to the world wide web to add to the body of worldly knowledge, they will rise to the occasion. My most recent experiences were related to publishing Writers’ Workshop pieces (a la Nancie Atwell) and submitting them to a writing contest, a pdf online magazine and a wiki for the world wide web to read. Knowing that these pieces are for the world, student ensure that their pieces are polished and on time – they don’t want to be the one that hasn’t met deadline (kind of like a traditional newspaper deadline)!
Outside of my own school, I have another middle school example as well as a high school example. In the first, students are using a version of a Moodle to collaborate on a planetary project – which they learned about in a very official letter to which they were to solve a problem and rise to the challenge. Many chose to report back via a webpage. And at this school it is the norm for students to have a variety of differentiated technological and learning style options to demonstrate their learning.
In the high school setting, both an English teacher and Biology teacher are using Google Apps via a student portal in their paperless classes. Both teachers commented on how students don’t lose things and always have access via an internet connection regardless of where they are. Students commented on how they have never felt more organized. No more missed assignments/handouts if a student has been absent as everything is available via the student portal. Also, when reading students writing, teachers are able to make revising or editing suggestions in a different color so that it is very evident what the teacher’s feedback is – and it can be compared to the student’s original version as it tracks all changes like a wiki.
I really can’t believe that it has been almost two years since I initially explored Web 2.0 tools. Back then I wondered how I could possible be so oblivious to all the tools. I had heard of blogging and wikipedia and had my own students blog – albeit in a very elementary way. Until you really immerse yourself in which ever of the tools that you wish for your students to use – be it blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc – you really don’t know their power. And, this is particularly the case if you don’t interact with people via the social web that is afforded to you as part of these tools – comments from unknown strangers who share similar interests and are compelled by what you say to comment on what you have published to the WWW – kind of like I did today as I haven’t blogged since May of last year!
Yes, students are connected today like they never have been before. If we do not harness the power of their skills in this area, they will disengage. They are able to use some of the tools, although, not all consider the benefits and consequences. At school, we can purposefully engage them in meaningful learning and unassemble the walls that confine us in our classrooms. The walls come down and the world comes in!
The last time I posted, I was sitting in a David Warlick keynote presentation with a laptop. I didn’t know it was Bring Your Own Laptop (BYOL) until the day before so borrowed one from a friend as I don’t have my own. This was a brand new experience for me.
Today, my blog reader of choice, Bloglines, seems to be down and I’m itching to read some blogs, even the ones that I never seem to be able to catch up on. Earlier this week I was giving a fellow Teacher-Librarian a tutorial on the social bookmarking site Diigo. I asked if she knew what a blog reader was and she didn’t. She has blogged for a university class she was taking but hadn’t been introduced to a blog reader. Since she already had a Google account, because she worked with a class that had collaborated using Google Maps, I suggested she try the blog reader that is included with a Google Account. To this point, I had never used Google Reader as I chose to use Bloglines over a year ago. However, knowing how to use one blog reader is easily transferrable to another blog reader and before she was done she was reading some of the blogs that I follow. Incidentally, I asked where/how she learned about using Google Maps with students. She said she didn’t. She just learned along side them! What a model for 21st Century learning!
So, today, I have been catching up on David Warlick via Google Reader. Since Bloglines isn’t working, I grabbed one of the feeds that I love but, by following one of my mottos of saving the best for last, I never seem to catch up on. What a feast I have been having.
Something that has been naggling at the back of my mind was an article that I came across (don’t remember how). I quickly dismissed “Hyperlocal Websites Deliver News Without Newspaper” as all the cities that were mentioned were much larger than where I live so I didn’t believe it was something like this was possible in a city that, in comparison, was relatively small.
How wrong I was.
At the end of April I tweeted to one of tweeters that I follow after seeing #yeg after one of her tweets. I knew that it was the Edmonton airport code but I didn’t know why the pound sign followed by an abreviation or other combinations of letters or numbers or words were starting to pop up on the tweets of the tweeters that I was following. I learned that it was used to search. That’s when I discovered Twitter Search where I plopped the #yeg hashtag, as I was learned it was called, and found the latest tweets from Edmontontonians. Then last weekend, via a Joyce Valenza tweet, I learned of Visible Tweets. I was quickly mesmorized by one letter flying at a time or blocks of text of the tweets of others flying across my desktop.
Which got me thinking about the hyperlocal article again. I don’t remember where I came across it. Email? Twitter? Who knows. But I wanted to find it. So, to Google I went and typed in what I remembered: blog AND news AND neighborhood AND “new york” as I knew that the article was about news from blogs that were collected by neighborhoods in New York. And, lo and behold, 0.21 seconds later, I had my answer. Which reminded me of something that Warlick quoted here: kids need to know how to be able to pluck the answers out of the air. And, I might had, so to their teachers!