Well Amazon has gotten a little bit of my money this winter. It feels that all of a sudden the idea of mixing technology with literacy is a big topic of discussion but this time the authors are aiming to explain how to do this by sharing experiences with application.
Theory is good but I need to understand how to apply it. Technology is good but I need to know how to use it so that real learning is taking place. These authors seem to be attempting to provide answers.
“The Digital Writing Workshop” (Heinemann) by Troy Hicks is just that, a book that considers the components of a writing workshop and how to apply digital resources to make the experience more relevant for our 21st century learners. Kist explains, “RSS and social bookmarking are complementary digital writing tools. They both help students filter through a mass of content.” I had never thought about encouraging my 7th grade students to set up an aggregator to receive RSS feeds but now I realize that with the new emphasis on informational text that this is a wonderful way to add texts to the classroom and at the same time allow for student choice. I use Google Reader because my students already have a Google account so I wanted to streamline things. Social bookmarking was really helpful. At the time I started reading this book, my students were required to write a research paper. Google Bookmarks allowed them to organize the websites they found and refer back to the information for citation purposes. What a great way to keep up with things when you have multiple students using one computer. Hicks addresses the use of blog and wikis. “What we’re really after is helping them compose more substantive texts, both individually and collaboratively.” I have a wiki at Wiki Spaces but still haven’t found an effective way to involve students in it. I am stuck on the “only one person at a time can add information to the same page” idea. So this is a concept that needs much more exploration. I use ePals for blogging. An advantage to this site is that it is private but that can also be a disadvantage when you want students to write for a wider audience.
I am taking my time with this book because it is easy for me to go into overload when I start thinking about all of the possibilities.
“The Socially Networked Classroom” (Corwin Press) by William Kist has a unique organizational structure comparing the application of social networking resources to Starbucks coffee sizes. Recognizing that schools still exhibit a wide spectrum of technology resources as well as the district’s policies as to what is permissible, Kist offers “Short” to “Venti” ways of integrating social networking. Interspersed throughout the dialogue are activities that can be implemented quickly. My students loved the “Snowball” activity on p. 37. The students wrote stories, one sentence at time, demonstrating the ability to write a sentence with a verbal in it. I am looking forward to “Venti” time when I will be asking students to participate in an online book club using Ning. I have used this tool before but believe I am in a better position to provide authenticity in the learning.
Kist believes, “Schools are going to have to move past whatever barriers exist and closer to the literacy practices increasingly used in the ‘outside world.’ No matter where you may be on the continuum of believing in or disbelieving the construct of ‘childhood,’ there can be no doubt that communicating in this new century is going to be different than communicating in the old century – not necessarily better or worse but different..” Facebook and Twitter are filtered out in my school system but it seems that with a little time spent reading there are tools that can be substituted. I use Thinkquest and Ning instead of Facebook and Edmodo instead of Twitter. This allows me to read the aforementioned books and apply some of the ideas in the way that best meets the needs of my students. I think this is what the authors really want anyway.