Comments on Teachers Teaching Teachers Disucssion of “Appropriation”

Although I wasn’t really able to join the conversation tonight through Skype, the Teachers Teaching Teachers crew asked a great question tonight:

Do our blogs have a student-sponsored life of their own? Have our blog sites moved beyond Fisher’s “new literacy practices as sugar” to allowing students to “combine their concerns and self interest with the common good?” Sometimes, and it remains a goal to make our elgg spaces — our students blogs in social networking sites — into places online where they can truly express, question, explore and research subjects that matter to them.

Teachers Teaching Teachers

One of the ideas that I wanted to take up in this conversation was that of genre. It seems to me that Paul, Susan, Teb, and the rest of the TTT crew are getting at the idea that blogging and social networking could be seen as appropriating online teen culture, as Clarence Fisher seems to be arguing here. I feel that blogging, social networking, and podcasting don’t so much appropriate teen culture as they represent new genres and, because of that, the ways that we think about teaching them in school matter a great deal as to how much, if at all, students learn how to utilize these genres.

In thinking about teaching new media genres, then, I want to share a quick example of how this is, perhaps, a very difficult concept to even wrap one’s head around, let alone teach, if you are not a part of the edublogger community. I had the good fortune of working with a class of pre-service teachers the other day, and we were talking about new literacies and technologies. One section of the article that we read discussed the five-paragraph essay as the typical model of school literacy and how technology threatens to change that genre. This caused a great deal of discontent. Suffice it to say that the pre-service teachers with whom I work came up with a question that essentially boiled down to this: if not a five-paragraph essay, then what else instead? I was taught the five-paragraph essay, I succeeded, I know that kids need to know it (or, at least that is what I believe because I haven’t seen convincing evidence to the contradict my own personal experience), and that is what I will teach them. It is a hard cycle to break.

So, how are blogging, wikiing, podcasting, and other new media writing — and the genres that they enable — different? Paul wrote extensively about what blogging can be in the TTT post, so I won’t reiterate it here. What I do want to say, however, is that I think we need to help our colleagues and those that we mentor to understand how writing on a blog or wiki, or creating a podcast, is still writing at its core (creating a text for a specific purpose and audience), but the affordances of the media and the genres that you can create with that media are very different from what we have traditionally conceived as writing. We can move beyond the five-paragraph essay because we can now talk about — and in compelling new media deliver — texts like we never have before. I don’t think we can give up the old genres, but we also have to think about how to compose with the new ones, too.

Do I want to see students’ five-paragraph essays on a blog? No. But, I think that we need to help our colleague envision what is possible in these new media. Is that appropriation? I don’t think it is. If we ask students to collaboratively write with a wiki and only one student does all the work, then we are reinscribing all the bad practices of that genre for teaching writing. Appropriation gone bad. If we ask students to post a book report to a blog and then offer feedback to others, not allowing for uses of hypertext and the natural conversations that will bubble up, then we are reinscribing all the bad practices of that genre, too. Appropriation gone bad, again.

Instead, we need to help teachers see the potentials of these new media and the genres they allow. Then we won’t need to worry about appropriating. We will need to think more about invention, discovery, and creativity, traits that we would wish on all our writers.

Justifying Digital Reading and Writing

Before the NWP Annual meeting, I had three separate conversations (one by email, one by phone, and one in person) with colleagues from the local, state, and national level about why and how to use digital reading and writing in their classrooms and for professional development. I had many more of these conversations at the NWP Annual Meeting and the ACE Workshop. What I will try to capture here is a basic outline of my response to them, and why I feel that these are critical literacy skills.

I hope to return to this post and update it, both because it is very rough right now and it will always be able to grow. Please feel free to help me out if you have ideas I should add, OK?

Frameworks

First, to conceptually frame digital reading and writing, there are a few places to begin:

Teaching tips and things to do

I know that this is not the most organized or coherent list of stuff. Also, I am thinking of turning it into a page on this site so it remains static. But, for now, I think that it is the beginning of something worth capturing and beginning to build as a more comprehensive resource about how and why we want to teach with these technologies.

Google as Literacy

Whether or not you agree with the politics of ETS, this is an interesting commentary on our times and the ways in which we access information.

Inside Higher Ed :: Are College Students Techno Idiots?

More interesting are the many comments below the main article, in which one responder takes up the issue that using Google is gauche, and others take him up on that. It raises questions about what literacy means and whether, for better or worse, search engines are a part of literacy today.

powered by performancing firefox

If Fifth Graders Can Go Paperless…

It’s been a busy two weeks without much time to blog here, but a link to this article from NCTE’s Inbox caught my eye. This fall, I have been pushing friends and colleagues to go paperless with free and open source applications, like Google Docs, and even though this isn’t quite the same, seeing that fifth graders can do it makes me wonder if everyone will be going this route soon.

When she assigns students a report on Civil War heroes, the students take off on their own using Web sites like Google and Dogpile to do research, cutting and pasting photographs into documents and saving their work on floppy disks.”Instead of writing with a paper and pencil and your hand getting tired, we can do it on a computer,” said Robert Toledo, 10, as he reads a site about Abraham Lincoln. “It’s faster and better.”

In Miami-Dade County’s only paperless classroom, Web sites are used in lieu of textbooks, Power Point Presentations substitute for written essays and students get homework help from their teacher over e-mail.

Fifth-graders using computers, not paper, for classroom work | theledger.com

What would it take to get every classroom in the country to this level, both in terms of hardware and professional development for teachers? More thoughts on how and why to do that coming soon…

Quick thoughts on the Flickering Mind

I had barely checked this book out from the library, based on a recommendation from Leigh, and it got recalled. Similar in argument to Cuban’s Oversold and Underused, Oppenheimer paints a pretty grim picture of technology use in schools. I agree with many of his points, however, and this one in particular:

And obviously, the World Wide Web–the uber-program of the modern age–is a useful in not invaluable research source for all of us. But we all must realize that opening the Internet’s door to youngsters requires teachers to accept additional responsibilities. This does not just involve watching out for pornographic of violent material; that’s the easy part. It also concerns watching what values and beliefs students develop about what knowledge is; how it’s built; how it’s used; and what it demands of them as students and as citizens. Downloading a captivating live software applet from a NASA website, which some Web designers has loaded with a few earnest questions to satisfy somebody’s grant requirements, does no a satisfactory lesson make. Nor does simply writing a paper about this material, based on some extra Internet “research.” p. 395

Todd Oppenheimer The Flickering Mind: Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology

This perspective is one that I find valuable as we prepare to head to the NWP Annual Meeting and will be blogging, wikiing, and podcasting along the way. Questions I am asking myself…

  • What literacy goals do I have in mind by asking teachers to engage in these activities?
  • In what ways might the technology help them become better students (of English teaching) and citizens?
  • How will they create their own content that is meanginful to them as well as insightful for those not able to attend the meeting?

powered by performancing firefox

Typo Generator

Now, here is a great way to kill time and generate cool graphics for your blog:

typoGenerator

Interestingly enough, the warning at the bottom of this image says “the images used for generating may be subject to copyright.”

Also interesting, as soon as I clicked away from the page, the temp image that was stored — and that I tried to blog above — disappeared. Save early, save often, I suppose…

Blogged with Flock