Create, Compose, Connect Blog

Create Compose Connect Book CoverMy friend and colleague, Jeremy Hyler, and I have created a new blog for our upcoming book. So, please take a minute to subscribe to Create, Compose, Connect! Reading, Writing, and Learning with Digital Tools and look for the book to come out in March 2014.

We also plan to have a wiki associated with the book, and it will house links to resources from the book as well as student examples for review.

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Two New Articles for Teacher Educators and Parents

In the past two weeks, I’ve had to wonderful opportunities for writing, one through my colleague Todd Finley via Edutopia, and the other from a group of English educators via their Writers Who Care blog. Here is a brief preview from each, as well as links to the originals.

Engaging Pre-Service Teachers in Authentic Writing Instruction

One of my ENG 315 students presenting part of her multigenre research project.

As a writer, I know firsthand how important it is for me to share what I’ve written and receive feedback on my work. And as a teacher of writing — from my initial experience in the middle school classroom up to my current work as a teacher educator at Central Michigan University and director of our Chippewa River Writing Project — I want my students to experience this, too. It is with this understanding in mind that I teach my methods course, ENG 315: Writing in the Elementary and Middle School.

Unfortunately, I know that many of my pre-service teachers come to my course with a jaded view of writing. If high school hadn’t already taken a passion for writing out of them, four years of college certainly have. Thus, I must teach my preservice teachers how to re-envision themselves as writers and, consequently, as teachers of writing…

Teaching Writing, Tablet Style

CC Licensed Photo (Some rights reserved by flickingerbrad.)

While I am very much an advocate for digital writing that incorporates multimedia content such as audio, video, and images, I also understand and appreciate the idea that writing involves — and should always involve at some level — the use of words. Very rarely, if ever, does a young writer need all the bells and whistles that come with standard word processing software.

This is especially true when it comes to using a tablet, given the limited amount of space we have for viewing and typing on smaller screens, especially when not using an external keyboard.

So, when it comes to helping our students to write, to put words into sentences and then into stories, essays, scripts, and more, I look for applications that make the writing process simple and elegant. As a teacher, this means that an app does not, should not, have to do everything from brainstorming to drafting to publishing…

Hope that you find the articles useful!

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Trial Run on Voice Dictation Software

This is the first blog post but I am composing not through the tips of my fingers (mostly), but through my own voice.

I’ve long been interested in dictation software, and I have had some experience using Dragon NaturallySpeaking in the past, I was never really a fan. By the time it would take to go back and edit my own thoughts, insert things like, this, and get the text to be somewhat manageable in terms of being a written texts was always is too much. And the fact that the spoken voice is not nearly the same as the written, and I was not a big fan of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. That said, about a month or so ago, Sarah and I downloaded the Dragon app for iPhone’s once I began using the Dragon now know probably efficient was, and the fact that I barely had to correct it anymore, I was hooked. And long heard about MacSpeech Dictate, and I wanted to give it a try. So, I convinced my department chair to let me use professional development funds for this year to consider going to a conference urges the MacSpeech Dictate software and here I am. Blogging with my voice.

I find this an interesting development of the digital writer into the digital teacher. As you can imagine or even might think to yourself, why would I want to write by simply talking. While the fact that I can get many, many, many pages out in the time it would take me to get just a few words with my fingers, even though I am a fast typist, is simply incredible. I am able to produce volumes and volumes of text, even though it’s all not as good as what I would like it to be in some ways is catching my first draft thinking even as I’m thinking. Which of course can be kind of scary.

That said I’m absolutely fascinated by the possibilities that this dictation software offers. For instance, I could be out taking fieldnotes in the classroom using the software literally writing up my notes in the room for, or at least some of my work, at that exact moment. Having a conversation with a colleague where I judiciously use the microphone turned on and off and report different parts of my own voice we have those words and phrases that lead away from time and time again. Or, as in right now, to be used as a way to blog. It’s no secret that I have a blog nearly as much as I’d hoped to (as if any of us ever do anything we want you to want to like exercising or blogging for that matter). But now, with the idea that I could be using the dictation software to capture many of my thoughts, and use my blog as a way to share them, I am, indeed fascinated. I am also, sheepishly, aware of how many times I use commas in my writing and say words like fascinated.

So, I’m not quite sure what to think at this moment. I really do like the dictation software. I really do like the feeling of my fingers on the keyboard. I’m not able to compose things in my head nearly as well as when I see them on screen. For instance I was just trying to write an outline for a book chapter, and no sooner would I move from one idea that I would want to hop back to the previous one. But given that I’m using the software and I haven’t mastered all the commands, it’s very difficult to move around within the word processing program. There’ll come a point where I’m able to use the dictation software and my fingers to move synchronously and with the ease back and forth to different sections of the document. But for right now it’s still a bit awkward.

All that said, this really does he think about what the future writing look like. Of course, I’ve been thinking about this for many years, many of my ideas have to do with the idea of things being visual multimodal. Yet, I wonder with dictation software if I’m really in for a treat and will be interested in going back and looking at my own written words. Well, at least my spoken words, that are captured in written form. I do wonder when I look back at this as they are posted, and I do intend to post it nearly as it’s written right now, only with a few minor mistakes cleared up (NOTE: about two dozen minor errors have been corrected overall), I wonder what it will look like. Soundbite. We’d like. Will it actually someone am speaking? Or will it sound garbled, because my speech patterns and my writing patterns are not nearly the same?

All that said, the possibilities are very unique and I do wonder what I might be able to do with the software not only with my own children as they learn how to type and they could get huge chunks of text out and go back to practice editing area. What might it afford to my classes as well as my colleagues as we engage in research? I’m curious how are you using voice dictation software in your own writing and teaching any thoughts, suggestions, or websites that I might look to for examples of lesson plans and ideas.

And boy, if there was ever a year when I was going to participate in national novel writing month, this might be the one, now that I can just talk my way through it. Then again, probably not, because that takes some of the joy out of writing it.

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