Reflections on Co-Facilitating a Digital Writing Workshop

As a part of my day at the “Write to Learn: New World, New Literacies” conference yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to lead a keynote, do a breakout session on using mobile devices for digital composition (see this Google Doc for many links), and then do a three-hour writing workshop with fellow teacher/author Penny Kittle. While the morning sessions went well, and were quite enjoyable, I wanted to reflect specifically on the afternoon session that Penny and I led together.

Originally, we had each been slotted to lead our own three-hour workshop, but with only six participants, we decided to combine efforts and lead teachers through the process of creating digital writing, in a workshop format. You can see our agenda (in the form of a Google Doc), and it was an engaging, organic afternoon of learning. We taught in a workshop approach, “to, with, and by.” We began by talking about the idea of creating digital writing, sharing a great example of a PSA from one of Penny’s students. We then read and annotated an example of a This I Believe essay. Penny read aloud, and I captured many thoughts about what could be used in the essay to turn into a digital video.

Annotated TIB Essay with Diigo
Annotated TIB Essay with Diigo
  • Images of the oboe, orchestra
  • “I was mediocore…”
  • Sound effects, classical music
  • Mediocore people never change the world: contrasting images with MLK, Ghandi, etc
  • Baby pictures of the author?
  • Find/download Mendelssohn’s Concerto
  • Find picture of young musician
  • “What kind of thoughts…” — text on screen?
  • Split screen of author/musicianLife with passion… what image do I want? Dawn?
  • Tinkerbell image as contrast — Disney pics?
  • Split screen? Fade through at end? Image of a baby?

That led to me then doing a “think aloud,” modeling how I would find images, music, and the like to include in a very much-shortened, rough draft of this essay as a digital video. Nothing fancy here, except that you can see how we talked, as a group, about the possibilities for the movie: using the scrapbook theme, having the text of her mother’s quote appear on screen, using the music in the background, ending with the image of a baby. It isn’t much, but it was interesting to see what we could all come up with in just about ten minutes of websearching and using iMovie. It is only a draft, not “done,” just “due,” so here is my attempt: Sample This I Believe Digital Video

The six participants in the workshop then worked on writing and finding media for their stories. I was able to watch Penny compose on-screen (she was using my laptop connected to the LCD), and it was really incredible to watch her voice pour out in the Google Doc. Really, go read her story about Donald Graves and Donald Murray.

The process reminded me of a few things: how the teachers appreciated the time to write, permission to play, and the guided practice, especially with technology. A few said that they felt confident enough to go into their classrooms and try digital writing. Soon. Others were less confident, yet happy that they had the opportunity to try digital writing in a safe space.

My thanks to Penny and all these teachers for the opportunity to work with you yesterday. I will remember this process that we went through together as I introduce digital storytelling to my pre-service teachers this spring.

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