Notes from “Partnering Students, Parents, and Teachers Through Technology”

The second in a series of workshops from NWPM colleagues at MRA 2008, these are notes from Portland Middle School teachers Amanda and Garth Cornwell’s session on “Partnering Students, Parents, and Teachers Through Technology.”

  • Begin with questions from the audience:
    • How to get younger students to access technology on their own?
    • How do parents react, what do they want?
  • Our Hopes
    • To demonstrate daily uses of technology that serve a variety of purposes
    • To aid students, parents, and colleagues in realizing the technology of potential
    • To equip students with the skills that they will need
    • Michael Wesch vide: “A Vision of Students Today
  • Our Plan
    • To share the tech tools that we use with students and parents
    • To discuss why it is important to integrate technology when we feel like we are “giving up” time for content
    • To discuss how flexibility is the key, because teaching with technology always yields surprises
  • Students
    • Shared Drive
      • Create hotlists in word that students can click to for computer lab assignments
    • District Digital Dropbox
      • Track changes in word sometimes works with middle school students
    • Wikis
    • Nicenet
      • Classroom discussion forums
      • Good for access at home and school, because it is all online and doesn’t require a specific word processor (files lost, incompatible formats, etc)
      • Watching for IM language and asking students to express themselves more clearly
    • Google Docs
    • Podcasting
      • Buy inexpensive MP3 recorders
  • Parents
    • Blogs and Edline
    • Lack of participation and interest in training sessions
    • Considering teaming up with local libraries
    • Be persistent and specific
  • Teachers
    • Open yourself up to learning with your students
  • Our learning
    • Small, simple steps can be beneficial
    • Honor the time of the student, parent, or teacher coming to learn
    • Listen to input from students
  • Lessons and Student Work
    • Book discussions

Note from “Blogging — Maximizing Writer’s Notebooks with a 21st Century Dimension”

Here are notes from my Crossroads Writing Project colleagues, Lavon Jonson and Sonja Mack: “Blogging — Maximizing Writer’s Notebooks with a 21st Century Dimension.”

  • Background
    • Bringing blogging into the traditional process of using a writers notebook
    • Writing with your students encourages them to write (Graves, etc.)
  • Blog Growth
    • In April 2007, 70 million blogs, 90% by teenagers
    • In four years the growth has been phenomenal
  • Rationale for use in the classroom
  • Why use blogging in the classroom?
    • To share items from writer’s notebook (used to share it in a circle on the floor, now we do it on blogs)
    • Edublogs forums (support video)
  • Blogs to check out

    What we’ve noticed from our students

  • All students are able to contribute
  • Comments are more heartfelt

Randy Bomer’s Keynote about New Literacies

Notes from Randy Bomer‘s keynote at MRA 2008:

“Writing Transformations: How New Literacies and New Times Invite Us to Rethink Composition”

  • Literacy is changing, literacy as design
  • Obstacles: accountability measures and deficit thinking
    • If we are constantly trying to fill in gaps, we are not moving into the future. Looking at education from a deficit model results in damaging education.
    • You cannot move toward the future from a deficit model
  • Spotting deficit thinking
    • “these kids”
    • “s/h/they have no language/culture/experience
    • “culture of poverty”
    • finger-wagging to parents
      • Varieties in deficit thinking
        • Individual ability/genetics
        • Culture
        • Poverty
        • Language
        • Mass and popular culture
    • Examples
      • Paying kids in NYC for grades to “compete” with what they could earn on the street
      • Motives for teaching that see children as coming from deficient lives
      • See the book: The Evolution of Deficit Thinking edited by Richard Valencia
    • New literacies are not just about machines.
      • Texts call attention to how they are made, how they work materially, and why
      • Thinking about the design of text and interaction with it
      • Spencer Schaffner‘s “five paragraph essay” picture (can’t find image online yet, here is his blog)
      • Habits of minds and material
    • Design as a literacy practice
      • Two phases of the writing process:
        • Generating writing in the notebook — used design as a way of thinking about content
        • Publishing — used design as a way to think about how to publish their work
      • Examples of student work
        • Map of the zoo with narrative annotations
        • Story that was drawn out into a graphic novel/comic page, and by drawing was able to add more detail
          • Bomer claimed that the students wrote more on the days that they drew, and students generated more by working in two modalities
        • Brought in pictures and used cropping Ls
        • Transferred pictures that were cropped and focused in on small components
          • Mother’s image from one image
          • Necklace from another
        • Texts in new literacies may be single pieces that are loosely joined
        • Making Journals by Hand by Jason Thompson or Memory Keepsakes or Artists Journal Sketches by Lynne Perella
        • Design Decisions
          • What pathways are the readers going to take?
            • Box, journal, notecards

Rather than see these children and what they could do from a deficit model, we enabled them to produce texts that mattered to them and developed new literacy practices.


As Bomer talked, I appreciated his perspective on new literacies as “avoiding the deficit” model of thinking. This adds a new twist to the discussions of new literacies that I have been reading about recently, both because it honors the socio-cultural perspective that NLS has developed over time and also addresses issues about about accountability and assessment by hitting it head on by using the research on deficit thinking to support the idea that approaching literacy in reductive ways really contributes to poor literacy practices.