Updates from Recent Collegial Conversations

Over the past few months, I’ve continue to have wonderful opportunities to speak at conferences and workshops, publish my work, and then share in conversations with fellow teachers. Two conversations in particular stand out as we had for the end of the calendar year.

First, Kristen Turner and I were contacted earlier this fall by Brian Newman, a high school teacher from Joliet, Illinois. He had read our English Journal piece, “No longer a luxury: Digital literacy can’t wait,” and wanted to ask us our opinions about blogging and how to engage students as writers. After recommending Youth Voices as a tremendous resource, I offered some specific advice about having students respond to one another:

Over time, as they post — and respond — I would encourage you to pursue some self-evaluation strategies. Ask them to go back and review their best blog post, and why they think it is so. Ask them, too, to review the best blog post from someone else that they have read. Then compare those posts. In that process of writing and responding, talk with them about the power of peer response and specific praise and constructive criticism.

Recently, Brian wrote us back and told us about the work that he and Sean Hackney has shared on their blog, Ancient Geeks. In this post, he discusses the end of semester writing conferences that he had with his student bloggers.  He outlines 13 steps to take in order to become a better blogger and teacher of blogging:

  1. Make the posts occur regularly.
  2. Give them choices.
  3. Use the blogs as formative writing practice for summative writing assignments.
  4. Check in with them regularly.
  5. Get testimonials from previous students about the positives and drawbacks of the various blog platforms.
  6. Make them read each others’ blogs.
  7. Use technorati.com, the blog search engine, to get them reading blogs.
  8. Conference with them.
  9. Grade them with care, because they care about being assessed on how they feel.
  10. Identify your tech wizards in class and empower them to help others.
  11. Create opportunities for kids to teach each other how to do make posts more interesting.
  12. Help them expand the audience: email the links to parents, other teachers, or other classes.
  13. Oh yeah, and write along with them. That’s what got Hackney and I writing this blog in the first place.

I appreciate the work that Brian and Sean are doing with their high school writers, and hope that they continue to find success in the new year.

Image courtesy of Katharine Hale (http://teachitivity.wordpress.com/)
Image courtesy of Katharine Hale (http://teachitivity.wordpress.com/)

The second teacher with whom I’ve been communicating this semester is Katharine Hale, a fifth-grade teacher from Arlington, Virginia, who is working diligently to integrate digital writing into her traditional writing workshop. She blogs at Teachitivity and in her recent post, “A Fresh Approach to Fostering Digital Writers,” Katharine describes the multiple goals that she had for integrating technology and making her classroom workshop time more efficient.

The entire post is worth reading, as she has numerous lesson ideas and examples. She concludes that:

As I said in the beginning, this was my first attempt at truly integrating technology, specifically the iPad, into the writing experience. It was incredible to finish the unit ON TIME with not one, but two published texts. I especially loved the interactive flipped lesson. I felt I had gained a whole class period of instruction because I did not need to use class time to assess students and determine small groups. If you read their digital literary essays, you may even notice that many of my students’ conclusion paragraphs are the strongest part of their essay!

Katharine worked critically and creatively to both integrate the use of WordFoto and Thinglink, allowing her students the opportunity to go from brainstorming to publication on both a traditional essay and multiple pieces of digital writing. As with Brian and Sean, I wish Katharine luck in the new year as well.

Thanks to all of my colleagues who have shared their work — and their students’ work — with me over this past year. There are more books, blog posts, chapters, presentations, workshops, and other pieces of writing on their way in the new year. I will try to blog some more over the holidays, but if I don’t get to it then I thank you now for another year of reading my work and invite you to stay in touch.


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