This past week, I was able to cap off a summer whirlwind of PD at CMU’s Biological Station, facilitating what we are calling our first Beaver Island Institute. The six-day event brought together middle school science and ELA teachers for an opportunity to engage in scientific inquiry, explore argument writing in science, and understand aspects of disciplinary literacy. I was fortunate enough to work with two other facilitators, one graduate student, and 16 teachers as they began to develop units of study that connect the Next Generation Science Standards, the Common Core Literacy Standards, and the ISTE Technology Standards. Our main focus was on thinking about how students can pose questions, gather data, analyze that data and refine it into useful evidence, and then make scientific arguments.
Among the many great opportunities that happened, we explored three technologies to support digital writing: infographics (using Piktochart), graphic designs (using Canva), and something new (for me), a tool called StoryMap JS (not to be confused with Story Maps or MapStory, though those both look interesting, too) as a tool for creating presentations that blend map coordinates, images, videos, and text into a coherent “story map” that, indeed, has the map at the center of the story. StoryMapJS is open source, and many news organizations have used it to tell visual stories.
As you will see in the sample Story Map that I created below, the cover/title slide is a map that contains all the subsequent points on the map. If you made a story map that was as small as one block in a town, it would zoom in that close; similarly, you could have multiple points represented all over the world with a much wider map in the opening.
The additional slides in the presentation included a space for entering an additional location, uploading (or linking to) an image, and also entering some text. In this space, students could write just about anything — a narrative that moves characters from one location to the next, a poem that describes the location, an informational piece that describes the cultural or scientific value of a particular location, or even evidence for a longer argument (as we discussed this week). The story map, then, can be shared and embedded.
One additional tool that we used to help identify and, quite literally, pinpoint locations was GaiaGPS. Using their map tool, you can search for points of interest, zoom in and out to find other locations, and even drop pins to get exact GPS locations. I also learned from one of the participants that you can take GPS coordinates out of a Google Map, as seen in the close up of the URL bar below.
One idea that I was imagining was that students could, while out taking pictures and videos of a space, be sure to record their location with GPS coordinates (or enable location services in the mobile app) and then have those exact spots. They could create walking tours of their communities, of natural areas, of historical sites, or — as one participant shared with me this week — they could capitalize on the Pokemon Go craze and make a series of geocaches for others to discover… or historical markers tagged with a QR code or Aurasma augmented reality.
This entire week has been valuable for me in many ways, especially as I was invited to think about connections between science and literacy. My hope is that the teachers who were involved in the institute will carry many new ideas back to their classroom this fall and, in turn, engage their own students in scientific inquiry and building arguments with evidence, evidence that they themselves have collected and analyzed.
StoryMap JS, with the opportunities it affords, could be one innovative platform for students to then share their work. Here is just a brief sample of one story map that I created as a model for the teachers.
In this post, I want to look at “what is gained” and “what is lost,” as well as to bring in the voices of teachers. As with many of the great debates in education, there are many opinions on the matter… and most of them are based in nostalgia and some basic surveys, (though not necessarily in deep, substantive qualitative or quantitative data).
Voices in the Media
Of the responses that I got to my last blog post, a few of them pointed to articles in the popular media that discuss studies done with neuroscience and fMRI images that show positive correlations between handwriting and other functions, studies that suggest good handwriting is tied with academic achievement, and the neural pathways that are activated by cursive as compared to touch-typing. Look at a few of the headlines and, using some very basic critical discourse analysis, see if you can spot a trend.
If you need a hint, scroll down to the word cloud below, which is comprised of all the text that I copied/pasted from these articles:
Room for Debate | The New York Times. (2013, April 20). Should schools require children to learn cursive? (Note: This debate includes four essays; two are for teaching cursive, two are against. The word cloud includes the two that are for cursive).
… they began to type and I was curious to see their skills at the keyboard. It wasn’t so great. Some students took almost 45 minutes to write a single paragraph. Most were hovering over their keyboards (ergonomic alert!) with a single finger jabbing at keys, their eyes darting from paper to computer. When I asked how many had ever used any kind of keyboarding system, only a few raised their hands. Most of the programs were online games.
Hodgson concludes, “We don’t do our students any service by leaving out keyboarding from the school curriculum, and the ideal age is around second grade.”
Also, another NWP colleague (and Spartan!), Rachel Huntley, responded to my last post via FB with these thoughts:
As a Kindergarten teacher, I teach both handwriting (letter formation, placement, shape, etc) in conjunction with typing. I support the fact that to create digital composition beginning in 3rd grade, it benefits my students to be more familiar to keyboarding from the start. I have (and continue) to try new programs, apps, websites to facilitate this.
Those are two voices that jumped right into the conversation last week. A little more searching yielded a few other teachers with positive things to say about the need for keyboarding (with a healthy overall balance focused on handwriting as well). For instance, Jacqui Murray, a K-8 technology teacher, describes a lesson in which she asks her students to use the scientific method to measure their handwriting WPM as compared to typing WPM, all within a discussion of the school’s keyboarding curriculum. There is also this article from Education World about the importance of teaching proper keyboarding technique. Finally, Gary Stager posted a literature review from a deceased colleague, Steve Shuller, which was written in 1989. The concluding section of Shuller’s report: “There is widespread agreement that elementary school students need keyboarding skills.”
Conclusion (for now)
As I continue to prepare for the Digital Deliberation session, I am still trying to figure out exactly how I will frame the debate. One thing is for sure, we can always look to Finland for some answers. There are many ideas for me to consider as I prepare a 30 minute, interactive talk on the topic… but I look forward to the challenge, as well as your continued comments, questions, and links to other resources.
In short, I want to look at the evidence and rhetorical appeals each type of curriculum/website makes, and to match those claims up with some of the evidence that McHugh’s had shared. He concluded that “So to summarise: that’s handwriting at 22 WPM, hunt & peck at 27 WPM (about the same) and between 50-120 WPM for touch-typists,” making the point that the mechanical act of writing (whether by hand or by typing) is a proxy for the types of fluency that a writer can and should have. So, to start this curricular conversation, let’s begin with the one that dominates the conversation in the US right now: The Common Core ELA Standards.
According to the Common Core
First, I couldn’t find any reference to “cursive,” “typing,” type,” “keyboard,” or “keyboarding” in Appendix A, the document that is subtitled “Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards.” “Handwriting” gets one mention, though oddly enough it is in the “Speaking and Listening” section (26). So, any curriculum for handwriting or typing that claims to be Common Core aligned is, from what I can tell, simply making up that endorsement. (If anyone can correct me on this — and can point out where this info is found in the CCSS — I would appreciate it.)
So, Dave Stuart Jr. notes that the 3-6 standards in the Common Core emphasize “keyboarding skills,” and have an increasing set of requirements for “one sitting”; in fourth grade, it is one page, and then two pages by fifth and three pages by sixth grade. Interestingly enough, by seventh grade, the keyboarding skills are left to the imagination, but the phrase “linking to and citing sources” enters standard six (which is, I think, a pretty important move for us to consider when we think about digital writing; that is, writing that truly utilizes the affordances of digital tools such as links and media).
At any rate, as Stuart reminds us, there is some “intentional ambiguity” in this standard, and it is tough to know what comprises a “page” and a “sitting.”The standards all read that students should have “sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of X page(s) in a single sitting.” Thus, it is hard to know what constitutes a “sitting” — both in terms of time, fluency, and quantity. The CCSS certainly doesn’t reference any point about how much of this typing should be devoted to invention and brainstorming, actual drafting, substantive revision, and/or editing.
Given all of this, I will assume that it means drafting, and for simplicity’s sake, I used the Words Per Page Calculator, and I assumed an Arial, 12 pt, double-spaced page. The number of words it takes for just one page of typing: 275. Going back to the low end of McHugh’s estimates on what a proficient writer can do at the keyboard (and this is just drafting, or transcribing, not serious revision), a “sitting” could be anywhere along this range:
One Page (275 Words)
Two Pages (550 Words)
Three Pages (825)
This is an amazing amount of “intentional ambiguity” in terms of the sheer amount of text that students would produce in a “sitting” (one student could type only one page in 11 minutes, another could type three pages). Let’s assume that the average 4th, 5th, or 6th grader falls somewhere just lower than the average of 58 WPM, say 50. How much time would they be allotted to write in any one sitting (during a normal school day, or under test conditions)? Can they reasonably get the writing done that they are expected to do? I am not sure that I know too many students who can fluently type in excess of 70 WPM (I tested myself a few times and I ranged between about 70 and 73 WPM).
Again, I can’t find any reference in the CCSS as to how much a student should really be able to produce in a sitting. So, I turned to the standardized assessments to see if, perhaps, they could shed any insight because, of course, what gets measured, gets treasured. After a half an hour of fruitless searching on both the PARCC and SBAC website, I can’t find any mention of exact times and expectations of what students should be able to compose, via keyboard, in any particular time frame. The SBAC has no time limit on test, though they note some estimated times and the PARCC has some limits. Still, I can’t tell how much time is allotted to any given writing task, let alone all of the tasks combined.
Thus, I don’t think that anyone — software developers or curriculum designers — can make any reasonable, empirical claim about what the Common Core “expects” in terms of writing proficiency, for either handwriting or keyboarding.
Still, the claims come from both the handwriting and typing curricular sites… let’s look at a few.
What the Handwriting Curricula/Advocates Emphasize
With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, the emphasis and expectations placed on classroom note-taking and expository writing in grades K–5 is greater than ever.
The reality is that elementary students spend the majority of their day doing pencil and paper work.
Similarly, Zaner-Bloser has a 12-page white paper, which discusses how handwriting primes the brain for literacy and serves as a foundation for school readiness.There are many, many references (and, I will be honest, I didn’t check them all). HMH does not have a clear link to any details about their curriculum or any white papers to describe the program, though they do note the one goal to “Improve writing communication with rapid and fluent letter formation.” Still, the general tone of all this curriculum seems to include a clear connection to how fine motor skills and knowledge of print concepts are critical to students understanding how to write and, more importantly, how to write fluently.
What the Typing Curricula/Advocates Emphasize
The first site that came up in my Google search for “typing test” was, aptly, TypingTest.com (of about 8,400,000 results). On their “Touch Typing Benefits” page. In addition to the many images on the website that demonstrate a person casually, and happily, typing, this particular photo/graphic links to the five benefits gained from touch typing including speed, times, focus, comfort, and productivity.
Their claim, from gained when they had “over 15,000 people take a combined typing test and survey” showed that the average typing speed with a hunt and peck method was 28 WPM, while touch typing yielded 58 WPM. Other items of note include this claim, though it is not substantiated with any sources:
Touch typing will keep you focused. As your fingers know their way on the keyboard, they don’t need your attention any more. Instead, you can fully concentrate on what’s important – the text you are writing.
Similarly, “typing tutor” brought up about 4,580,000 results, though a quick look at the top ten of them yielded no typing tutor-type sites that discussed any research about the effectiveness of touch typing, nor why one should learn to touch type, as TypingTest.com did. It is, apparently, assumed that if you are using a computer, then you will want to learn how to type faster.
There was one unique site that made a claim about how typing is taught, The Typing Coach. It’s claim:
I didn’t see any other websites that made that specific claim and, from my own experience, I know that I do periodically take a glance at the keyboard to get “recalibrated.” If I had more time, I would like into the research on this, but I am out of steam for this week.
So, my first caveat is that I didn’t even try to get a representative sample of various forms of handwriting and typing curricula. And, after that half an hour of scouring SBAC and PARCC, I gave up. Still, this blog post has been insightful for me (even if it took me three nights to write!). Most of the arguments that have been built here rely on the general idea that fluency is important, yet the way to achieve fluency can happen in two very different ways.
As a parent, I have always said that, of course, I want my children to know how to write (in this case, I mean “handwriting”) and how to type. Even that conversation brings up some tension in our home as we think about our two girls who are “all thumbs” with their phone-typing, and two of our boys who, at best, write in school only because they “have to.” Legible handwriting (let alone cursive) is a battle for nearly all our kids, one that my wife and I have, in all honesty, fight hard each September but then give up on as the school year progresses.
Where am I at in my “digital deliberation” after this week’s research? Well, tough to know… I know that I need to get my kids learning how to type, regardless of what the Common Core, the SBAC or PARCC, or any software package tells (or fails to tell) me. Next week, I will dive in to see what teachers themselves are saying about the debate by scouring some blogs… if you have an opinion on this (and a link), please share!
Last night, my friend, colleague, and co-author — Dawn Reed — and I were featured on the National Writing Project’s weekly podcast, NWP Radio. Enjoy this episode in which we discuss the interwoven themes of reading, writing, and technology through a conversation about our book, Research Writing Rewired.
For a number of years now, I have been wanting to provide elementary colleagues with a book that offers a glimpse inside a classroom that runs as a digital writing workshop, one that truly embraces the principles of writing workshop pedagogy while integrating digital writing tools into day-to-day literacy practices. I have been fortunate to connect with many elementary educators who embrace the writing workshop approach with digital writing tools, but hadn’t yet seen a book that captured, in words and images, what a digital writing workshop might look like.
Now, having met Kristin quite some time ago at a Michigan Reading Association conference, I knew that she was an educator who was a bit skeptical about the use of technology, but wanted to integrate tech in productive, responsible ways. Or, as Stephanie Harvey describes it in the foreword of the book, though Katie had been enthusiastically integrating technology in her classroom for number of years and, subsequently, Kristin would “peek in, curious about how tech platforms might enhance learning in her first-grade classroom, but not entirely convinced” (vii).
Just as its title suggests, Katie and Kristin’s book does not supersede or replace existing literacy practices with technology-enhanced lessons. Instead, their goal is, indeed, to amplify best practices in reading and writing workshop, modeling literacy practices for their students, and moving them toward a hybridity of reading and writing in both print and digital spaces. As they explain:
Digital learning is at a crossroads, and it’s time for teachers and students to share our voices in how, why, and when our kids should use technology as a learning tool. We invite you to join us on a journey of discovery, exploration, and empowerment. (xii)
Their core principles are ones with which I, and countless other teachers, would certainly agree:
Use a workshop model for instruction
Hold small-group and individual conferences
Engage kids in cross-curricular content
Encourage collaboration and conversation
Drive instruction with assessment
These principles align with their overarching goal — “Technology in the classroom fits easily into this hands-on approach to learning (the writing workshop): our students should be the ones using it” (5).
They back these principles up with numerous examples, and I especially appreciate the way that they create “technology anchor charts” in much the same way they would when exploring a new genre, discussing reading strategies, or documenting a process. Also, they describe how they adapt the workshop model by adding in the element of “play” before a mini lesson. “Play,” they contend, “is collaborative, experiential, tactile, and active,” all ideas that lend themselves well to using technology (33).
The book itself takes the voice that we have come to expect in all Heinemann titles — respectful of teachers’ time, knowledge, and needs for high-quality professional learning and growth. Rather than providing a buffet of tech tools, Katie and Kristin actually focus their efforts on just a few key tools and processes: capturing ideas with Padlet, engaging students in a backchannel with Today’s Meet, teaching them how to record voice and video with a webcam and microphone. Throughout the book, there are suggestions that a teacher can “try tomorrow” with minimal technology knowledge.
As the book comes to a close, they share insights on reflection and assessment. Regardless of any number of digital tools at their disposal, Katie and Kristin remind us that
The simple act of giving ourselves permission to stop and watch opens our eyes to the rich fabric of learning in our classroom. We can examine the quality of the tasks we ask our students to undertake. What impact do they have? Why is this important? How can this be better? (90)
Amplify has provided elementary teachers a glimpse into the workings of what I would call a digital writing workshop and what Franki Sibberson has recently begun to call a “digital reading workshop” in Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8. Though I am curious as to why Katie and Kristin do not use that language, I imagine that they avoid adding the “digital” label to the work that they do for good reason — to keep the focus on reading and writing, thinking and learning. As we all continue to think about ways in which we can purposefully bring technology into the K-6 classroom, Amplify provides us with both the principles and practices for doing so.
NOTE: While I am a Heinemann author and did request a complimentary copy of this book, please know I am writing this review independently, not at the request of Heinemann or the authors.
Update: 12/10/15, 11:33 PM – Katie was kind enough to point out that I transposed two letters in “Padlet,” so that has been corrected.
Recently, a friend of Kristen’s on Facebook posted a GIF that showed the evolution of a desk. In 1980 the desk was covered with items: books, newspapers, magazines; a fax, phone, stapler and tape dispenser; a rolodex, clock, globe, calendar, and bulletin board; and a computer and phone. One by one the items on the desk evolved – and disappeared, becoming an app on the computer – as a scrolling mast of years advanced. By current day, only a computer full of apps and a Smartphone remained on the desk.
The GIF represents the possibilities of a digital world. We can, if we choose to do so, conduct our professional and personal lives entirely on, with, and through devices, and a recent Pew study suggests that more and more teenagers and adults are making the choice to go digital. What does this transformation mean?
As teachers of reading and writing, we recognize that our own desks – and those of our students – are markedly different than they were even just a decade ago. We accept that, as the National Writing Project asserts, “digital is,” and we wonder how we can help adolescents to become critical readers in a world where they encounter short-, mid-, and long-form texts through their devices on a daily – and even hourly – basis.
For us, reading is not an isolating activity. Digital tools allow individual readers to connect to a network of readers; texts of all kinds can be shared quickly and widely. Digital tools also allow readers to share their reading experiences – before, during, and after – with others. In a digital world, reading is visibly social.
This model suggests that readers encounter texts in a variety of ways. They may receive them from others, somewhat passively, or they may actively seek out new reading material by surfing without much intention, stumbling through sites with some intention, or searching with focused intention.
How do we help students develop their comprehension skills as they encounter and engage with Kindles and Nooks, RSS feeds and Twitter, hypertext fiction and digital textbooks? How do we help them to read critically in a world where information flows constantly? And perhaps most importantly, how do we help them to leverage the possibilities within a network of readers?
As we consider these questions, we look forward to the #engchat session on October 5, where we will discuss what it means to be Connected Readers.
Here are some notes from the first keynote was from Wibke Weber, in her talk about “Fusing words and images — new forms of public storytelling.”
In recent years, the rise of multimedia creates a complex milieu of words and images; they must be seen as equal partners in meaning making
In the past few years, these have found a home in “data journalism” — a hybrid form using images, words, and numbers to create a new cohesive form
For a long time, images were viewed as the “little sister” of language and the fact that images could represent ideas was largely ignored
However, we know that visuals have more than an illustrative function — they can help narrate and make arguments
The semiotic system of language appears in the form of headlines, articles, captions, but numbers and maps show visual orientation and analysis
With the continuing forms of data visualizations, there are many new ways to represent ideas
The strength of data visualizations is that they provide evidence; they explain something visible that is difficult to understand in text alone (if designed well)
On the other hand, visual evidence can appear misleading and can look “objective,” but this is illusive. Even though they are based on numbers and texts, they are always the artifacts of an artist and/or design team. They are open to critique of color, font, shape, and more.
This means that we need to look at the data source, how it was collected, how it was visualized, and more. Words tell, but pictures show. So the main function of data visualization is to show, to tell a story.
How do images tell stories?
A data visualization must have a beginning, middle, and end
Famous graphic from Charles Joseph Minard that depicts the devastating losses in Napoleon’s army on their march to Moscow
The use of the comic medium to cover events, even in journalism, is at an all time high. For instance, they are being used in the Guardian and NYTimes.
Comic journalism is not about funny pictures, it means that you are pulling on the news and using journalistic techniques and ethics
Like narrative journalism, comic journalism covers the public story behind the private one
The challenge for comic journalism is that, because comics are generally seen as fiction, people may struggle to see comic journalism as “true” and authentic
Journalists must use verbal and visual clues to share the fact that they are a part of the work (e.g., having a picture of the journalist in the comic, or by having a historical photograph of a person with their comic representation)
Colors, tone, light, shape, handwriting or print — all of these devices are ways that comics can be read for authenticity. Speech bubbles versus text boxes, too. The stylistic elements corroborate the authenticity of the comic.
It must be clear that the journalists are telling the truth, not a fictional story. This becomes even more important when illustrating breaking news and when using virtual reality.
What are the authentication strategies that we can use?
We are often unable to see past the boundaries of our current frame of mind — we need to bring the visual into academic discourse. It allows us to step outside of our own system and to see work in relation.
She has shared a great list of resources for infographics, and I thank her for allowing me to post them here:
How do we begin to investigate solutions in this field
Combining many frameworks
Ethnography, grounded theory, Realist-social theory, Transdiciplinary action research, Dynamic systems theory
Connecting to real life problems
Change and stability
Agency and structure
Practitioners and researchers bring in their knowledge as experts
Collaborate and learn from one another
Learn and adjust goals, methods, and findings
To produce new, emergent, situated knowledge
Focusing on what works, for whom, under which circumstances
Not about the grand theory, but what works in certain contexts
The Idee Suisse Research Project
Focusing on SRG public broadcasting which is caught between a public mandate and private forces while being asked to stimulate public discourse
Macro level findings
In the program mandate, SRG is supposed to promote understanding, cohesion, and exchange across the various publics
Intercultural communication is a part of the media company’s mandate, but they don’t have the right tools and knowledge to bring together contradictory expectations of public discourse and compete against private, entertainment programs
Managers talk the talk, but do not walk the walk in propositional reconstruction — “public service media are not the institutions to solve social problems.”
Knowledge transformation from the ground floor — it doesn’t come from management, it comes from those who are doing the work
Understand the macro results
Take a closer look at experienced practice
Discover emergent practices and “third ways” out of critical situations
Deriving and telling the good practice story
Formulating guidelines for knowledge transformation measures
Data collection and analysis
What are the distinctions between what happens in the newsroom, in the conferences, and what appears on screen — recording the data during the course of a year
This is the “mother of spyware” that we installed — so we had to plan for ethical and practical aspects, also just having people know what we were doing and why
How do we do all of this in a theoretically and methodologically sound manner?
Conclusion: from tacit to explicit
We had to look at the hypocrisy framework — the organization is exposed to contradictory expectations. They must response to the conflicts in order to survive.
We also looked at the tacit knowledge frame — looking at how individual, experienced journalists filled in the slots left open by management. They develop strategies to meet organizational and public needs.
Looking at a specific case
Thinking about the writing situation, activity, and the strategies/practices
A particular journalist was highly experienced and was allowed to do “forbidden things” such as closing a story with a quote. He was a counter-conventional person and had the skills to be able to pull this off.
He would write the text after composing the video with the editor.
He would also write the introduction for the anchor woman himself; this is uncommon, because the journalist normally writes the story and the anchor writes her own introduction
Normally, the anchor’s introduction is about selling the news piece. But, for this journalist, it is really important that the anchor provides context for the piece. He knows how to tell about complex things in a simple manner.
The journalist goes through a very linear writing process for the anchor’s part of the story. His own writing process is a bit more recursive, but he is able to get the info for the anchor created in a very linear manner.
In a more abstract format… writing strategies in a propositional format
To distinguish between the two stories (background and current)
To tell the recent story in the news text because it fits the recent pictures
To tell the background story because not all the audience is up-to-date
To tell the background story in the anchor text because there are no pictures
In short, there was a high degree of intercultural communication between the journalist and the anchor (different professional cultures within the organizations)
What are the strategies that the journalist uses across the writing process?
Defining the task
Implementing the product
Reading the text so-far
Handling writing tools
Handling task environment
Handling social environment
Establishing relevance for the audience
Finding the sources
Holding space and time restrictions
Limiting the topic
Staging the story
Taking own position
This differs from the traditional Flower and Hayes model, where a student is given a task that they are supposed to do for school
But, in real life, writing requires goal setting well before planning
The “good practice” story
Whereas critical situations denote exemplary constellations of circumstances which could lead to failure, good practice stands for potential success for everyone involved in creating the story.
Production conflicts force an emerging solution
Orientation to uptake to complicating action to resolution to coda