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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Writing in a Digital Age

Writing in a Digital Age

Related Tags: Literacy
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13 Replies 155 Views

The National Day on Writing is on October 21. With classrooms incorporating more and more technology, it's crucial that writing is a top priority in the curriculum. Students are writing all of the time, whether it's in 140 characters, 140 words, or 140 paragraphs. It is often the way that we connect with others in an increasingly connected world, and it's important that we're teaching the best ways to communicate.

Find out more about the National Day on Writing here: http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/events/670?x-t=sites_eos.view&or=site...

I would love to hear your thoughts. How is writing still relevant in this digital age, and how do you keep writing relevant in your connected classroom? Share your thoughts!

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Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center
Facilitator 2014

As a teacher of World Languages (French in my case), I am very excited about the ways we can incorporate writing into our curriculum in this digital age. When I was an English learner, way back in the day, as they say, I had only pen and quill :-) ! Today's students have access to digital tools which enable us to set up meaningful exchanges with students around the globe to practice cross-cultural/linguistic communication skills based on real life relationships - sure, they may not our closest friends - at least not yet - but the exchanges CAN lead to lasting friendships, and meaningful learning. I am often surprised that my students discover things that they find engaging and exciting, as well as new words and phrases which stick with them longer simply because they came from a person on the other side of the globe.

The big question I am often asked is 'where do you find these connections?' That is the challenge. There are some services on-line, like http://epals.org, and they offer some great opportunities, but I have found more connections through personal connections, on Edmodo, and on Twitter.

My French 1 classes are currently connected to classes in both Marseille, and in Martinique. The teachers of the French students and I have set up groups in Edmodo. We have set up the accounts so that the teachers are identified as co-teachers, and we then can both comment on all the postings of every student, our own or the other ones, give them badges for achieving various milestones, and we encourage the students to share stories with each other, pictures, sound files, videos, projects, etc.

My French 3 students have also been paired with a class of students outside of Paris. This class is special to me because one of the students is my cousin's son. My students are working on a big PBL-aligned project this year. They are writing a movie script and will in time make a movie. They have beed asking their peers in France about how to say various things the way young people would say them - slang terms, expressions, and so on. They also can ask about culturally appropriate ways to do things, and finding out about aspects of the culture that are not often found in textbooks.

We often discuss the importance of using authentic resources in WL classes. How authentic is it to actually engage with a member of the target culture?! The best of all, to be sure! We are connecting students with the world. Digital writing is above all a matter of connections, and the world can only become a better place if our young people learn how to communication across the distances and cultural-linguistic barriers which have separated us in the past.

How about you? Can't wait to hear more about what others are doing to engage students creatively with digital writing tools.

Best wishes to all,
Don

Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)'s picture
Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)
Senior Manager of Video Programming, Production, & Curation at Edutopia
Staff

Great ideas so far!

The National Writing Project offers a great portal with a community and resources for this very topic called Digital Is: http://digitalis.nwp.org/

On Edutopia, we've recently published a wonderful Big Thinkers video interview with Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, the co-director of the National Writing Project and one of the creators of Digital Is, with her thoughts on what writing means in the digital age. Watch her here:

http://www.edutopia.org/elyse-eidman-aadahl-digital-writing-video

Write on!

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

Write on indeed!

These are all great suggestions. I am a huge fan of digital storytelling, building relationships with classrooms all over the world, and teaching kids that their voices can and will be heard! The opportunities for writing in the digital age are endless :)

Stacie's picture

Great ideas! I have been wanting to try this out with my Kindergarten students because most of them can't write a long story. They would love to narrate their own story though.

Ashley Cronin's picture
Ashley Cronin
Digital Resource Curator at Edutopia
Staff

I know Laura already mentioned it, but I just have to plug Nanowrimo's Young Writers program again. When I was teaching, I participated in Nanowrimo alongside my students. As Laura said, the point of Nanowrimo is to complete a novel (or some other more manageable writing goal) in 30 days. Some of my students had dysgraphia and other difficulties with writing, so writing was often a struggle. But, working with each other and supporting each other to increase our word counts and craft stories got some of my most reluctant writers excited about writing. Even though it was a completely elective activity, a few of my students got really involved with their stories and produced an extraordinary amount of writing in a very short time period. I don't think this would work for every student, but for some students, this kind of big challenge can be really energizing.

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

I love to write, but is it really a key skill for everyone? What about the artist or architect who is able to communicate their thoughts clearly through a visual, be it a painting or a blueprint? We need to be careful with mandates that supposedly all kids need to know, particularly when voice recognition software is now a mainstay in every Fortune 500 country in the world.

Youki Terada's picture
Youki Terada
Education researcher at Edutopia
Staff

@zep I agree, but it's easy to look at an artist or architect retrospectively and think, "oh, that person doesn't really need so-and-so skill." But when we're teaching kids, we have no idea which ones will grow up to be architects or artists, so it would be good to give them the skills which will provide them with the most opportunities to be successful.

I do think that you bring up a great point, though, that communication encompasses much more than just writing, and we should be encouraging multiple ways of expression, whether visual, physical, or musical. Innovation and creativity would never be possible if we're teaching kids to think and communicate in the same ways. Cheers!

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

Youki, I appreciate your broader definition of communication & I agree wholeheartedly that we can only identify these talents &/or interests in retrospect, unless we prioritize talking to kids and honoring their interests and dreams, thereby doing our small part as teachers to help our kids move towards an adult life that will fulfill them, as they define success, achievement, etc. This is the only way I have seen which fuels kids growth towards their unique futures, particularly now in an ever increasing rate of change society.

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