Teaching Screenagers

Teaching Screenagers
My life in the fastlane

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Building Bridges with Technology and Poetry

The debate continues this year as to what is crucial in teaching with technology. I find myself agreeing with this video clip: It's a book.

For the past several years my students and I spent the last six weeks of school publishing our sixth grade memoirs. Together students write new stories and poetry, and review work from the year. They compile this work into a hardback book that is read during the last week of school at our Annual Author's Tea. There is value in creating a hardback book. There is something to be said about seeing the student handwriting years later, the creative pictures they draw, and the messages that students write to each other at our group readings. After all, as Lane Smith says, "It's a book."
But this year, we also have our digital world we have created together. We have stories on our iPods, voice recordings in our files, and an online portfolio of work. What do we do to share that work in a meaningful way?

It cannot be ignored that students live in a technology filled world, filled everywhere but our classrooms. Well this year we have pushed the limit to include handheld technology and laptops into our classroom. I continue to push forward and look at lessons differently. Technology is only effective if it significantly changes the learning for our students. Publishing on line is a way to motivate our students to produce work in a timely manner. They look "polished" from the first draft, and it has come to my attention that my students will more willingly and effectively revise if they are working on iPod or computer. For example, this week we are writing poetry. We will be using Judith Viorst If I Were In Charge of the World as mentor text. After we experience the poem together, here is the link to show how my students will create those first drafts, and then a sample on how they too will create a movie or voice recording of their work.

After they publish their work on line, they will have the option to video, create a Storykit book or record their poetry.

If I was in charge of the world

Gone are the days that you go to the computer lab to type your final copy on "the publishing day" of our writer's workshop. Students create on line, from start to finish, and yes, I believe that students still need a place to put that work when all is said and done.
So we will house our work in two ways this year. First, on our Writing for Change website,at students will post their favorite pieces from the year and I will create a page of podcasts and voice recordings. We will create a "This I Believe" iMovie highlighting our best thoughts based on NPR's This I Believe segment.

We will still create hardback books for students to have and to hold. Perhaps it is my ties to the paper past that drives me to continue that method of publishing, or perhaps it is that my students years later bring me their books they created to share with this next class of students. What we put in our paper book is still important, after all, there is value in being able to hold that text in your hand, create it and share with others. I believe there is room for both.
What does technology do for writing? It allows students to publish creatively, using images, sound and words to express themselves. It is a different form of writing and writing instruction, and it has value.
But equally important is the fact our kids publish and produce work on line daily,both in and out of the classroom. There is something instantly gratifying in creating on line, and this need for more instant gratification must also be met.
I look forward to seeing what we create over the next few weeks.