Closing Thoughts on Day 1

Closing Thoughts on Day 1

Six friends of the NWP will offer closing comments on day one!

  • Jackie Royster – Truisms
    1. Literacy is not benign – it has social and policitcal power wiht predictable and unpredictable conseuences.
    2. Digital technologies make it easier to see Truism 1.
    3. We have teachers who want to do right by their students.
    4. Cases that were presented today show us the possibilities for dynamic action.
    5. Thoughtful and meaningful uses of technology are meaningful for teachers and students.
    6. As a field, we need to engage those outside of our field in meaningful, multimedia dialogue with the intention of affecting beliefs and share this knowledge about learning. So, truism #6 is that there are some things that we already know and we are coming to know and act on them better with each new wave of technology.
    • We need to be realistic about infrastructure and we need to work on critiquing the systems of power and control. We are inviting students to question things that those who control our society may not want us to question, thus there are risks involved.
      • There are multiple opportunities for research.
        • How do you bring the canons of our work into this medium?
        • What happens when we push this into schools with infrastructure problems?
        • What about the conditions that enable change?
        • What is whetting the appetite for students and teachers to do digital work?
        • How do we disrupt these habits while accomplishing our goals?
        • What does writing and digital literacy mean?
        • What about assessment of writing?
        • What do policy makers and other stake holders need to know in order to have progress?
        • How do we speak in specfics and not generalities?
        • How do we keep things simple and connect to our values of teaching?
        • What are the appropriate roles for students?
        • What are the relationships between technologies and teaching?
        • How do we interogate cultural practices as they migrate across media?
        • How can we keep pedagogies dynamic?
        • How do we garner resources withour institutionalization?
  • Danielle DeVoss – Composing with/in/through infrastructures
    • When the task of composing — or even the tasks of thinking, of inmagining, of creating — are not supported in the spaces in which we work, typically invisible support mechanisms break down, revealing themselves as needing to be address to meet the different demands of new writing practices.
      • So often we are not even aware of the infrastructure until we hit something that breaks. Hitting firewalls. Can’t install open source tools. Can’t get into computer labs.
    • The Goals:
      • To encourage students to be thoughtful, critical, and reflective useres of digital technologies.
      • To encourage students to explore, analyze, and critique different digital technologies so that they may choose the best tehcnology to facilitate their writing and the rhetorical situation to which they are responding.
      • To promote the undesrstanding of both writing and technology as complex, socially situated, and political tools through which humans act, make, and share information.
    • So, although our demands and needs may be different, and the technologies we engage in the classroom may be different, good teaching and good practice transcend tools.
  • Mark Schlager
    • The core business of the NWP – teaching writing and the professional development of teachers or writing
    • When I hear “improvement” and “innovation” I begin to think about organizational aspects. As organizations react to globalization,  they need to get streamlined and collaborative.
    • Should the NWP organize itself differently to look at how to support writing and technology as well as the professional development thereof?
    • As a minimum, you have to have the people responsible for identifying and implementing changes to the core business. But, this is not adequate anymore.
    • We need to assimilate dramatic improvements and shifting them into shifting targets.
    • We need to invest in a specific activity that supports those who are doing the PD.
    • How do you share good practices? How do you demonstrate that technology will do something better than something else?
  • Gail Hawisher
    • What does it mean to be literate today?
      • I think that our discussions confirm that literate activity can not be described without talking about new technologies. It can’t mean that we can’t be litreate without the technologies, but they have to be folded in to the definition.
      • In our example this morning, the technology was integral to the learning and writing that took place for both students and teachers.
    • As teachers use technology for teaching and students use it for learning, new challegnes are presented.
      • It is both teachers and students who are using technology for teaching and learning. Teachers are learners in progress.
      • How do we make learning and teaching count for all of us?
      • How do we align what we do in class with what we expect from students and how we assess them?
    • Value added to technology
      • New technology provides students with an audience. Moves away from “teacher as examiner”
      • What is the distinctive power that the use of technology brings to our teaching?
  • Courtney Cazden
    • The (re)definition of literacy
      • I have stressed the importance of speaking specifically about the uses of software rather than just “technology” in general. I don’t think that we should just pluaralize “literacy” – it is a cop out.
      • There are some general aspects of the whole digital world that are pervasive. What was true before about teaching writing is true in form in the digital world, but still different.
        • NWP and Bread Loaf teachers all have the same desire of wanting their students to be more fluent and effective writers for larger audiences. What has changed is that the audience is so much more unknown and unknowable when you put something out on the internet.
        • Another goal is critical literacy. Teachers, particularly ones who have had social justice philosophy, who have been analytical as well as evaluative, have been doing this for a long time. The internet now has nothing that is pre-selected by teachers, textbook editors, librarians, or anyone. Need to be able to analyze sources more and more.
        • When you are not just retrieving but contributing things to the internet, there are exaggerated forms of the things that we have been talking about for a long time. What we have talked about for the long time, the presentation of self and how you choose to talk about and respond to others, now involves a heightened awareness of the ethics for civil resposne.
  • Glynda Hull – something old, something new
    • Something old — we are meaning making beings, and that is a truism and something to keep in mind at a conference on technology. How can technology extend or expand the meaning making that we do?
    • Something new — Modernity at Large by Arjun Appadurai. The characteristic of a global world is that you have moving people and moving text that float around everywhere.
      • How do we understand the inequity in the digital divide?
      • How do we understand being critical when living in a global world?
      • How do we understand what counts as a good text/picture/video in different contexts and with different ideologies?
    • We have been asked to think about whether technology is making literacy different, and I am on the end of the continuum that suggest that it really is. We may want to think about different metaphors for understanding literacy, such as aesthtics and art.
      • The primary object of literacy education is not to give learners a finite set of capacititis, but to give them the ability to construct meaning from the artifacts of their lives.

Mid-Day Reflection: Refined Thinking on Conference Questions

As we move into the afternoon’s work, we have been asked to refine our thinking about the conference questions. So, here are some brainstormed ideas…

What stood out for me most in Joe and Ailish’s case study this morning was the fact that Joe, having a firm understanding of writing pedagogy, took a tool that he learned at Tech Matters last summer (Google Docs), figured out how to best use it in his classroom, invited another teacher to collaborate with him, and was up and running with a new practice in only a few weeks. Sure, there were bumps along the way and, yes, both of the teachers have a disposition towards using technology in their practice.

That said, I think that the mantra “simple is true” rings through loud and clear here. What is the distinctive power that this technology brought? Joe and Ailish were able to adapt their current thinking about a common technology — the word processor — and map it on to a new version of the tool, all the while inserting what they knew about good writing pedagogy into their practice. They overcame the challenges because, in the grand scheme of things, the tool was simple and easy to use, plus the benefits of adoption outweighed the cost. Finally, in terms of how literacy is changing, they recognized the power of collaboration as a way to engage their students in what had been a useful, although somewhat perfunctory practice (peer response).

In this case, the whole became more than the sum of its parts. The slight change in teaching practice (writing, responding, and revising through Google Docs) allowed for them to, as Pat said earlier, “lift the veil” on the writing process and make the moves of revision more transparent for all the students. Given that the technology worked more often than it didn’t, and that they were able to rely on it from any computer, at school or away, it allowed students to work 24/7 on tasks that normally had to be confined to being turned in at the end of the hour and forgotten.

“Language Learning and Peer Response Online in a High School ELL Classroom” by Joe Bellino and Ailish Zompa

Here are notes from Joe and Ailish’s presentation on “Language Learning and Peer Response Online in a High School ELL Classroom.” They both teach at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“Language Learning and Peer Response Online in a High School ELL Classroom”
by Joe Bellino and Ailish Zompa

  • Overview of Project
    • What we wanted students to get from our Google Docs project
      • We wanted students to have the opportunity to easily read the writing of their classmates
      • We wanted students to practice using language that would help their classmates improve ideas and development
      • We wanted to encourage students to improve their own ideas and development
    • In 1988, Joe did a teacher research project looking at peer conferencing in his ESOL students. He found that students felt:
      • The papers were hard to read
      • Students didn’t trust feedback (“How can someone else learning English help me?”)
      • Students were sometimes reluctant to participate
      • But, it still helped their writing.
    • Then, computers came along and it simplified mechanical aspects of writing and allowed them to read more. We used Nicenet to get and give feedback, but the threaded discussion would put comments way down the page.
    • Look of peer conferencing with Google Docs:
      • More time on task
      • More reading
      • More feedback
  • Looking at the writing of one student
    • Jealousy writing prompt based on a Brief Constructed Response model
    • Students would read the prompt, write a response, and post it on their Google Doc account. After they finished their post, they had to visit five other students and comment on their writing.
    • Looking at one particular student’s work.
      • Tech Note: Joe and Ailish have students only create ONE Google Doc for the entire year and the student erases the first assignment when they prepare to write the second one.
    • Looking closely at the ten steps in the revision process where other students commented on his work and then he made revision:
      • What do you see in the student’s work?
      • Questions and comments
      • What questions do you have for this student?

My reflections on the presentation

As I listened to Joe and Ailish describe their work, I am amazed and the beautiful simplicity that Google Docs has allowed them in framing a writing workshop in their classroom. Gone are the days of multiple overheads, copying students’ work, finding many colored pens, disks that were lost or broken, compatibility issues with word processors/hardware, and waiting (and waiting and waiting) for feedback. Instead, as they noted above, the students are spending more time on task, really reading (and learning from) one another’s writing, and offering more feedback over time, even if it isn’t as substantive feedback as we would like to see to begin with. I feel that you are only as good a writer as the feedback that you give others, so looking at how Joe and Ailish have used Google Docs to streamline the feedback process makes me think that it is a useful pedagogical tool.

Using the conference questions to analyze the case study

  • What is the distinctive power that technology brings to learning to write and literacy? How does it enhance and change the way students learn to write? how does it enhance and chance the teachers teach writing and literacy?
    • Efficiency and organization of paperwork
    • Student motivation, for whatever reason, there is some excitement on the part of kids as they are using tech
    • It is the use of the technology, not the technology itself
    • Peer response works in this kind of situation
  • As teachers use technology in teaching, and students use it for learning in the classroom, new challenges and vulnerabilities have become evident. What are the concerns, pitfalls, risks, and vulnerabilities that accompany literacy, and teaching literacy in the digital age? What lessons have we learned about these challenges and problems?
    • What happens when things change (from Writely to Google Docs, when the server is down, etc)?
    • The sparse community of like-minded people — how are we going to spread this out and share it.
  • The definition of what it means to be literate keeps evolving. Through the ages it has referred to written communication and expression using pen and paper. The audience has been those who have had access to the hard copy product. In the digital age, these as well as other aspects of literacy have changed. Now, when you think about being a writer or being literate in the digital age, what is the same and what is different?
    • Multiliteracies – linguistic/rhetorical diversity from student
    • Is being able to collaborate a “literacy” that we must be fluent in as well?
    • Why would we try something else when we are comfortable? Some people try technology just to try it, where as we need to think about how he technology is more effective for getting students to learn what we want them to learn? There is an education part related to these new literacies that has to happen?