Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"True Adventures of Students Writing Online"

Reading this article, I found myself imagining myself in the teacher's role, holding this type of digital writing workshop with my 27 eager kids and I could almost hear the voices of the kids who would play the roles of Kevin, Krystal and Mario. It is funny to read these types of teacher experiences and know that you could pinpoint exactly what kiddos are in your own class that would have these same attitudes, comments and mentalities in this situation.

When thinking about what direction I wanted to take this post in, I was/am confused. Although it is a very interesting article, filled with what sounds like a great project/supplement to the Writer's Workshop, I am just not sure how to reflect on it. I hold a Writer's Workshop in my first and second grade classroom three days a week, and each day I am inspired by the amazing ideas that stem from these little people. They work hard to use their best handwriting, place the capital letters at the beginning of each sentence (and for some write a complete sentence), assign the correct punctuation, all the while expressing their most important 'small moments' that they have experienced in their 6-7 years of life. For many of them it is a celebration to see that they have written any words down, and for others, there are pages and pages filled with colorful words and detailed illustrations.

When I think about taking my kids into a digital Writing Workshop, my initial instinct tells me "We are not ready for that!" But what makes me even more uneasy is that little voice in the back of my mind that is telling me that my kids can do this and that it is MY fear that is standing in the way! Being a relatively new teacher (7 years), I have prided myself as being someone who will try anything new and take on any challenge. So why am I so apprehensive to try this? I know that my kids are whizzes on the computer. They pick up skills and master different software light years faster than I do. The technology piece is not my fear. I know that it would be a way to engage them in writing better than I can do with my colored folders and different kinds of writing paper!

My worry is that I will not know how to manage it all. How do I keep track of what 27 kids are working on? How do I make sure they are writing and not just playing on the computer? How do I track all of their work, find a way to share it with parents and all the while assure the parents that this is safe? Is there a right time to start this? What if my developing first grade writers move to a digital workshop and do not learn to write the old fashioned way, on a good old piece of paper with a pencil?! But in reality, this is where the future is taking us. Am I doing them a disservice by not making sure that I expose them to this digital world? After all, although it is ever changing, it is not going away.

These are the questions that I have left lingering after I read this article. I do not have the answers to any of them, but am determined to find them. My quest for answers will either come from my own personal experience or through continued research on what other teachers have done. We will see what happens... I am seriously thinking about heading down the 'digital workshop' road in the spring. I have always felt that they best way to conquer fear is to jump in.

These are just a few quotes that I took from the article. They are just a few of the ideas that made me stop, think and apply to my own kiddos.

"...struggling readers who are focused on correct spelling and grammar often spend less time focused on gaining meaning from the texts they read and write."

"Many teachers I have talked with hold to the notion that young children and their writing are egocentric and that they don't consider their audience until after they get the chance to share their work with others."

"Children's writing is not made socially sensitive by the response of others; it is itself, a social act, a way of interacting with each other."

I found this great site from a school in Georgetown, Kentucky. It is examples of first and second grade digital story telling projects.

This is an inspirational page. A first grade teacher who created a blog and uses it to post her kiddos writing. I would be interested in contacting her and talking about the work she has done. I wonder if the kids are writing on paper and she is posting their writing, if they are writing on-ling and then posting...or just how she has it set up. It is really interesting to read about what the kids wrote about blogging. She has them explain what blogging means, what they liked about it and a short reflection on their blogging for the year.


  1. Kristin,

    You ask a good question here about how to manage all the aspects of managing the digital writing workshop -- I am still trying to figure it all out myself, and I work with pre-service teachers who are able to keep track of their own learning a little bit better that what I assume elementary students can.

    That said, could you have a central place where kids record what they are working on and create links to those items? For instance, what if each student had a google doc with links to all of her digital writing pieces, and also was able to put in comments about where she is at in the composing process? Then, you as the teacher could have access to all of these on-going self-evaluation/progress reports. Would that work in your classroom, given your teaching context?

    Good luck with your continued explorations of digital writing and please feel free to connect with some other teachers talking about this on our Ning:


  2. The concern about managing all of the digital writing is one that keeps surfacing. I think the suggestions that Troy makes above (google docs, etc.) could be helpful. Also, using a course wiki with each student having their own portfolio page could also be a possibility.

    That said, your desire to jump in and learn to swim as you go is inspiring.

    Please keep me posted on how the digital writing workshop goes for you in the spring.