Tuesday, October 22, 2013

IW: November Why Digital Writing Matters in Education

The article Why Digital Writing Matters in Education talks about teachers being pulled in different directions.  ( The meaning of writing and the meaning of writing on assessments ).  

1) Do you feel this pull in different directions?

Part 1. Introduction
Part 2. The Lives of Teens and Their Technology
Part 3. Teens and Their Writing Habits
Part 4. Electronic Communication
Part 5. The Relationship between Writing, Communication
and Technology Ownership
Part 6. Parental Attitudes Toward Writing and Technology
Part 7. The Way Teens See Their Writing and What Would
Improve It

Part 8. What Teens Tell Us Encourages Them to Write

2) Choose one of the Parts in the National Commission of Writing document to read and reflect on.  (This article was written in 2008). What are your take aways? Does the fact that this article is 5 years old change how you feel about the data?


  1. 1) Do you feel this pull in different directions?

    I do feel this pull in different directions from time to time. My students will ask to type a writing assessment, something I know that many of them gravitate towards, but I ask them to handwrite because I know that is what TCAP will ask. We work on digital publishing and sharing our work with a broader audience, but then the assessment does not match this work. I am trying so hard to connect writing to the real world this year, but I feel like I have to backtrack when it comes to assessment. The article said that good writing instruction comes from “Engaged teachers and engaging environments, Direct writing instruction and practice, and Revision focused on higher order concerns, guided by review feedback and informed by shared criteria.” I feel like I am doing this work and can do it in a digitally enhanced way, I just wish our assessments paralleled that work.

    2) Choose one of the Parts in the National Commission of Writing document to read and reflect on. (This article was written in 2008). What are your take aways? Does the fact that this article is 5 years old change how you feel about the data?

    I read the section called “The Lives of Teens and Their Technology.” Knowing this article was written 5 years ago I know the data has changed, meaning the percentages have grown. If 94% of all teens surveyed were using the internet in 2008, that number has to be higher 5 years later. Reading these statistics meant a few things to me:
    1) We cannot ignore the digital world our students are living in and growing into. My 4th graders MIGHT not have cell phones or their own laptops yet, but many are well on their way with IPads they can text with, iTouches they can text with, cell phones that are nicer than mine, and eReaders that allow them to do more than just read a text. They are digital natives and we have to learn to embrace this and instruct them on this.
    2) If they are online as much as these statistics show them then it is our job as educators to make them responsible digital citizens. We have to discuss their digital footprint and that writing online is a reflection of who they are no matter what site they are on. Just because a Facebook post to friends seems inconsequential, a future employer could access that and judge accordingly. We are always looking to make real world connections in our classroom - this one is a natural fit. Writing in whatever form or medium is a reflection of who we are. Using social media, blogging, and other popular forms of internet communication to help enhance this understanding is beneficial to all.

  2. 1. I actually don't feel 'the pull.' Today's students, unfortunately, are products of standardized testing. They're used to high stakes testing, and truly seem to embrace doing well on the test. Students today speak the language of 'Advanced,' 'Proficient,' 'Partially Proficient,' and 'Unsatisfactory.' Thus, when planning a lesson, the frame I use seems to justify how the students will be writing…and that alone seems to make it okay!

    2. I chose the final portion to read and reflect on, "What Teens Tells Us Encourages Them To Write." And, that portion seems to point to what most of the books about writing constantly say: make it relevant and interesting. If kids are 'tricked' into writing, meaning, writing about things that fall under the categories of relevant and interesting so much so that they don't realize they're writing for school, they embrace the assignment. It's the trick, however, to find that balance in a way that does, if ever so slightly, teach to the test and ensure that students will do well on high stakes testing.

  3. 1.) I don’t necessarily feel a pull. Sometimes I feel like my incorporation of technology is for nothing when the standardized assessments are still written by hand. I am just hoping that some of the other lessons taught through technology stick with the students, especially revision. I like the idea of digital writing being more collaborative. However, I still struggle with making this meaningful for my students. I find that I have to be very specific with the feedback I want students to give during peer conferences. If I leave feedback open-ended, students comment on editing issues, rather than content. If I am specific (effective intro or conclusion, detail sentences all related to topic, etc.), students are better about giving helpful feedback in the area of revision. I also like digital writing for another useful revision technique - question flooding. Students can do this on paper, but I like how quickly it can be done by several students at one time. For me, the biggest thing with digital writing is finding a balance.

    2.) I chose the section on Teens and Their Writing Habits. I was not surprised to learn that teens take part in greater writing inside school, rather than outside of it. I look at the types of writing projects (essays, editorials, short constructed responses, letters, summaries, etc.) we complete in class and this is quite obvious. Writing outside of school consists of: text/instant messages, emails, and homework assignments. It is sad to me that students don’t even really know how to write a letter to someone, other than an email. I personally love receiving a handwritten letter in the mail; however, many of my students have never received one. I would love to see more of a correlation between at-home and school writing, but I’m not quite sure how that would work. I don’t think many of my kids would write an editorial if it was not assigned. One sentence I really was happy to see in the document was the following: “Many teens feel that while technology can help them compose, edit and present their ideas, it cannot improve the quality of the ideas themselves.” That’s what I’m here for...to help with the quality of the ideas.

  4. 1) Do you feel this pull in different directions?

    I don’t know if I do. I am a writing teacher, so I spend my entire year working with my students on the subject. Jeff Grabill makes the argument that “digital writing is… often deeply collaborative or coordinated,” but I would argue that digital writing in academics doesn’t necessarily apply considering the smaller collaborative pool. Wikipedia has millions of potential editors to create a writing piece, but a class usually has a far smaller number. As with Wikipedia, it is only the select editors, motivated by their own intellectual interests, that make significant changes and contributions.
    I do feel that digital writing is, by nature, far more familiar, and, thus, prone to the trappings of informal writing. In this sense, I feel pulled. Students must be able to connect with their readers, whether they are digital or otherwise, in a personal fashion, but they must do this in an organized and professional manner as well. I have always seen formal writing in the classroom as templates or tools that allow students to construct meaningful writing pieces, regardless of the medium.

    2. Choose one of the Parts in the National Commission of Writing document to read and reflect on. (This article was written in 2008). What are your take aways? Does the fact that this article is 5 years old change how you feel about the data?

    I chose to write in Section 8: What Teens Tell Us Encourages Them to Write, and I felt most of the findings followed logic. Students don’t have issues writing as long as there is relevance in it. While that relevance is subjective, as long as all students recognize the value in the writing piece or process, they are encouraged to write. The data on students feeling motivated by positive feedback at first appeared obvious, but I later realized that students crave this validation because no other class has such a personal expression of thoughts. Without feedback, students are left to think their ideas and contributions are no valued. There is also a big need for frontloading with writing, so students know why they are writing and are eager to express themselves on the topic. Considering that writing is a naturally expressive process, students need a personal connection to the topics in order to have something to express. The challenge with this is making that connection for every student.
    Technology is also not a guaranteed motivator for writing since so many students see and use technology to communicate socially. Formal academic writing, therefore, almost dilutes students’ pleasure in using technology. I would venture to say that this is still true for today, but as students grow older, their communication needs and styles evolve, and the utility of technology in writing does as well. Students still primarily see technology as tools for socializing, but the ever increasing avenues of communication have allowed students to acknowledge the role of technology in writing more openly. As long as teachers give students writing pieces worthy of students’ communication, the students will write and learn.

  5. 1) Do you feel this pull in different directions?

    I agree that teachers are often pulled in various directions. It seems that students are finding more joy in having their voices heard and technology is an avenue that allows this more. Since most students are experiencing with their writing through

    2) Part 7. The Way Teens See Their Writing and What Would Improve It

    I found this section interesting because I feel like the question of using computers or journals more during a Writer’s Workshop is still a conversation many teachers have today. Although this was written in 2008, I think many teachers and students still have the same opinions around technology and the writing process. Personally, I am more apt to start the writing process (even planning) on a computer. I fall in alignment with the teenagers that felt the computer helped them to get their ideas out more clearly and effectively. I also feel that the editing process is far more manageable with technology versus writing. I am more likely to actually revise my writing when it is a matter of just cutting and moving sections.

    Since my writing preference is with technology, I tend to teach that way as well. However, I think it is important to honor all learning styles. I always give students the choice to do their writing in a paper journal or on a laptop. At first, all students are on the computers, but after the novelty wears off, a small percentage of them prefer to use paper instead. Choice is important when you are trying to communicate through writing.

    I also think it is important to know the student and understand if technology is going to support or hurt them. Some kids will produce far more writing with typing while others may get to distracted by too many options. The writing process can be improved or hurt by technology depending on how the student chooses to use it.

    Last, I think it is interesting that most of the stats in this section show that teens feel indifferent about computers helping or hurting their writing. Considering how much more technology is used today, I am wondering if the percentages would be much higher. For example, most of our kids use some form of technology everyday. Have they created a stronger dependence on it with the recent advancements? I am predicting that far more than 40 - 50% of students would prefer to use technology to aid their written communication. It is interesting to see how much our Writer’s Workshops have changed over the last 5 years.

  6. 1. I don’t actually feel pulled in two directions. After a semester of going nearly all digital with my writing assignments, I find that my students’ writing has improved, even when they write with “paper and pencil.” I am very encouraged by the growth I’ve seen. I am more concerned with the “high stakes assessments” moving toward a digital platform as I fear that will mean grading by machine. My experience with that has not been positive. I used TurnItIn.com last year but found that I spent more time correcting or catching their grading mistakes than if I did it on my own. I don’t think any grading algorithm will accurately score a student’s writing.

    2. In the National Commission article, I focused on “The Lives of Teens and Their Technology” (Part 2) and “Electronic Technologies” (Part 4). The data is a bit out of date. Nearly ALL of my students have cell phones, and I teach in a school that is 32% free and reduced lunches. The gap between those who have phones and those who don’t has narrowed. One thing I hadn’t thought about, though, is actual access to the Internet from the phones. Since WiFi is free at school this may explain why students, especially my minority students, are so glued to their phones at school. Perhaps they don’t have data plans or high-speed modems and routers at home that allow them to communicate there, so they have to catch up at school. This is something I may investigate a little.

  7. 1) Do you feel this pull in different directions?
    I actually don’t experience the pull the author references as much as someone who participates in the high stakes testing. However, I do agree with the author that digital writing “ reveals the gap between how writing works in the world and how we teach it in schools.” I think students view digital writing as conversational writing and carry this casual type of writing into formal essay writing. My concern is that students view the level of acceptable formal composition the same as their digital writing. Our responsibility becomes melding the two so that good writing is good writing no matter the platform. One needs to communicate clearly in a 140 character tweet as well as a published document.

    2) Choose one of the Parts in the National Commission of Writing document to read and reflect on. (This article was written in 2008). What are your take aways? Does the fact that this article is 5 years old change how you feel about the data?

    #7 The Way Teens See Their Writing and What Would Improve It?
    Interestingly, income and education levels play a role in the importance teens place on writing. Although almost all teens acknowledge writing is somewhat important to future success , those from higher income and more educated homes, believe writing to be essential versus somewhat important. 73% of the teens said their digital writing has no effect on the writing for school. What 86% teens say would help their writing is “additional in-class writing time ... similar to the 78% who feel the same way about computer-based writing tools.

    I believe the data would be entirely different today regarding the teens view of the impact of a computer on their writing. In 2007, roughly 30% said they write better because they can revise and edit easily. I think we would see today’s numbers very different. Almost all of my students grab a computer to begin writing rough drafts and organizing their thoughts and would feel frustrated if a computer were not available.

    Critical points that were made in the article are pertinent regardless of the date written. For example,the statement “Teens are motivated to write by relevant topics, high expectations, an interested audience and opportunities to write creatively” and “Teens believe that the writing instruction they receive in school could be improved.” Relevant takeaways for me are to continue pursuing good instruction, providing more in-class writing with feedback and ‘rigor and relevance’ matters!

  8. 1) Do you feel this pull in different directions?

    I do sometimes feel this pull in different directions. Right now, students are doing so much of their research, writing, and editing (independent and peer) in a virtual world, and this is very different from what they have seen on standardized assessments in the past. It will be interesting to see what the new assessments will bring. As for how much writing should be done electronically, I’m looking at ways to thoughtfully incorporate different aspects of digital writing into my classroom, so that the outcome is still focused on meeting the standards. I feel like making this my focus (and thinking about the TPACK model) is the best way for me to deal with that “pull.”

    2) Choose one of the Parts in the National Commission of Writing document to read and reflect on. (This article was written in 2008). What are your take aways? Does the fact that this article is 5 years old change how you feel about the data?

    I focused on “Part 7. The Way Teens See Their Writing and What Would Improve It.”

    One of my take-aways from this document was that, “Many of the teens… pointed specifically to the influence of demanding teachers as a major factor in helping them to improve their writing skills.” This reinforces the idea that even though it is a time of transition, where teachers are trying to incorporate digital writing, rigorous instruction and high expectations are still vital to the process.

    I was surprised at how intuitive teens seemed to be about what was needed to improve their writing skills. Overall, they felt that additional in-class writing time would improve their skills, but they seemed to recognize that the use of computers for writing had both negative and positive impacts. They seemed to recognize that text messaging has a negative impact on the complexity of their writing. It is my opinion that much of the informal writing that teens (and increasingly younger students too) are doing is impacting the complexity of the formal or academic writing that they are being asked to do in school. This document also states that teens also felt that “computers make no difference to three of the impacts evaluated in this study: ‘communicate well,’ ‘presenting ideas clearly’ and ‘write better because you can revise and edit easily.’” In my opinion, this is the danger of implementing computer-based writing instruction that doesn’t focus on the writing outcomes.

    My hope is that because this article if 5 years old, the data today would be more positive. I would hope that the implementation of computer-based writing instruction is now more sound and that students would at least feel that it has helped to improve their ability revise and edit more easily.

  9. 1. I do feel this pull sometimes. I mostly feel the pull when modifying assignments for students with special needs. In life we are able to make accommodations, we do have talk typer to help those that need focused attention on sentences.It is hard when you teach writing digitally and then go to paper and pencil or a TCAP situation where not only is it paper and pencil but you have limited spaced and can't go beyond the designated area. There are many more rules and restrictions when it comes to high stakes testing. I feel that my students writing has improved a lot this year and I believe it is because of the digital motivation and tools that will help improve writing. These tools can be used in daily life, why not on standardized tests.

    2. I read the parent part about technology. I feel that in my classroom parents have mixed feelings about technology and computers in the classroom, just as the article does. This article addressed mostly the parents viewpoint of social media as it relates to writing. I feel that more and more parents are pushing back against technology in the classroom or for homework. I have heard comments such as "Isn't there any writing in schools anymore?" Parents are continually worried that as we become more technology rich, their child will write with a pencil and paper less and less. I think that because this article is 5 years old it does make a difference in how parents think. Before they were eager to incorporate a small bit of technology into schools. Now they are overwhelmed and perhaps even feel a little left out or unsure how they can help their child at home with writing assignments.I think some parents definitely see technology in writing as a crutch. No one needs to know how to spell like they had to because we have auto correct or spell check. The worries that they are not going to learn the "proper" way to write creeps up. I think overall my students are better for it. Also, I am a better teacher because of technology. I would hope that the parents have seen it's positive effects as well.

  10. 1. Why Digital Writing Matters in Education - (Writing vs. Writing on Assessments) - Do you feel this pull in different directions?

    Although I don't feel this pull on a daily basis, I do consider it as TCAP time approaches. I try to keep our classroom writing as authentic as possible. I want my kids writing for genuine purposes and for real audiences as often as possible. Having taught in classrooms with and without access to computers on a daily basis, I can say that for the majority of my students, the computers greatly enhance their ability to communicate. The computers allow them to quickly record their thoughts and opinions, and thanks to Google Docs, they can access those ideas from anywhere. They are not reliant on a specific paper or notebook for that information. However, for other students, the computers can be a real distraction, and they need constant reminders not to play with the fonts, settings, etc., but rather to focus on the task at hand. I think maturity plays a big role in that. I do worry about kids who struggle with their fine motor skills as they labor through any hand-written assignment. Some of them have never learned cursive writing, and their printing is barely legible. I am actually relieved that we are moving toward computerized testing, because I believe that is the way of the future for our current students.

    2. The National Commission of Writing - Pew Internet and American Life Project
    Part 7: The Way Teens See Their Writing and What Would Improve It

    I am always so impressed about how open and honest teens are when asked about topics like this. I love their candid opinions! I think they have a good understanding of what they are doing, and what they need to improve their skills. I, too, see the informal forms of communication creeping into their classwork, and especially at the beginning of the year, some of my students need more than one reminder about the purpose and audience for their assignments. By this point in the school year, however, they seem to be monitoring their writing much more closely and avoiding some of the text-speak pitfalls. I especially loved the comment by the student who decided that formal writing was "like eating vegetables." I am reassured that the majority of students make the connection between strong writing skills and success in future careers. I also think that more in-class writing time would help improve their skills. In addition to that, I would also like more time for conferencing with each student individually, but I realize that there is only so much we can accomplish in a given class period. I would hope that if this survey were given today, we would see even more of a connection between the computer-based writing they are doing in school and the importance of those strong skills in their future job searches and workplace success.

  11. 1. I feel more of a seesaw sensation than a pull. When I do incorporate digital writing into a lesson, I try to make it as purposeful as possible in hopes that students will find the task relevant and meaningful. A good lesson taught by me and thoughtful pieces written by students result in us sitting high up on the seesaw. However, when feedback should be provided by me in a timely fashion and revisions expected and resisted by students, the seesaw comes crashing down in a hard thud. Ouch! We all feel bruised. Another thing that struck me in the article was “those who cannot write and communicate clearly will have difficulty landing a job and little chance of promotion. Leadership positions are out of the question.” I sat back and thought about all the leaders in my classroom. Every one of them can write effectively and has a voice in the classroom and on paper. The struggling writers are at such a disadvantage!! That felt like a slap that left a bruise when I realized the responsibility I have to produce better writers so my students can be employable in the future.

    2. I selected “The Lives of Teens and Their Technology” because I have a teenage daughter who is consumed by technology. Her smart phone broke in November and our upgrade is not available until Feb. 20th, which she has marked clearly on our fridge calendar. For now she “suffers” with our back-up phone with minimal capabilities and “borrows” my ipad mini whenever she can because her laptop is “old and worthless.” Her high school graduation present will be a Mac book before college. I read this section knowing her time spent using technology or engaged in social media. The data in this section did not surprise me. It is all based on socioeconomics and the availability of technology to kids. The poorer kids have less access at home and have to access computers and the internet at school or the local library. Even though the data is five years old, it might have changed slightly, for the better. I think less privileged kids have more access to technology now than they did five years ago. I see Hispanic kids with i phones and very few of my lower income students do not have Internet access at home.

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  13. 1) I initially wrote a well-developed (and quite long) reply that has since been deleted because I forgot to answer #2 and then I switched webpages before posting and of course, then it was really deleted. Anyway, the short and sweet version: I don't feel a pull. By 8th grade, I tell my students this assignment is on a computer, or this is written, and they do it. Both avenues need to be utilized, at the very least. I can't say how I actually "teach" them to use either writing or technology, they just do , and they do it well. I might tell them what the red squiggly line means under typed words, or ways to improve their handwriting, but they do what is asked of them and in the end it comes down to content, not presentation, for my assessments.

    2) Part 7: I would like to give credit to the teen who bravely stated "I would say [social media, IMing, texting] definitely cripples your vocabulary if all you are using is the same couple of hundred words that are abbreviated." What a rockstar. In other news, I completely believe that the time difference affects this article and its data. I think that some, not all, but some of the statistics would change drastically today. For example, "While six in ten teens (59%) feel that computers help students write better because they can revise and edit easily, half (49%) believe that computers cause students to take short cuts and not put sufficient effort into their writing." Maybe this is a correlation with what the #1 article was trying to get at, but it seems to be that even just five years ago I know I had no access to the resources I now share with my students. The progression of Google Docs and Edmodo has created a world where students can be successful and academic while using technology unlike any they ever had before. What I don't think would change statistically is the low-economic status of students making them more inclined to learn from technology that they most likely do not have a home. Higher-income students can get online whenever they choose, so it seems logical that they don't often associate technology with being beneficial academically. I also think that they are more comfortable with their writing in technology, unlike before, yet they still today associate "formal" with typed and "informal" with written (at least my kiddos seem to) despite me offering several "informal" technological resources in addition to a few "formally" written pieces.

  14. 1) Do you feel this pull in different directions?

    Yes, I feel the pull in different directions. Using technology to write is definitely something students need to be comfortable and proficient at. They are motivated to write when they are typing and able to revise, edit, and add text features easily. Using technology also helps students that might have a hard time with the physical task of writing. But, yes, the students need to hand write as well. With standardized tests being paper/pencil right now it is important for students to build stamina with handwriting as well. I wonder as standardized testing starts to become more and more computerized if this pull will be less.

    2) Choose one of the Parts in the National Commission of Writing document to read and reflect on. (This article was written in 2008). What are your take aways? Does the fact that this article is 5 years old change how you feel about the data?

    I chose to read Part 6. Parental Attitudes Toward Writing and Technology. I found it interesting that there was a strong feeling that computers impacted teens in some positive ways, such as teens can write better because they can revise and edit, they can present ideas clearly, and they can be creative. When teens were asked these same things it was a more even split as to how many teens thought computers impacted these categories.

    With this data being five years old I wonder how the teens’ answers would change now that technology is found more and more in the classroom. My third graders will tell me they are better writers when they can use a computer. I typically have only 1 or 2 students each year that think they can write better with paper/pencil. With students using netbooks more often as they get older I would think they would be more comfortable with using a computer. As students use computers more and handwriting less, I wonder what teens’ answers would be if the question was asked “Do you think using paper/pencil makes students more likely to…”

  15. I do feel a “pull” when it comes to writing instruction. I agree with the article in that we, as educators, know that our students need and deserve to be writing in the ways in which they are reading - blogs, interactive links, embedded videos and maps - yet we can feel that our hands are tied because the assessments have not changed. This spring, our students will take a pencil and paper test where they may not use technology, reference materials, or be privy to any of the environmental writing conditions that they are used to. Their writing will not be able to parallel what engages them - adding links, embedding text features, working collaboratively - nor will it embody what the adults around them do as writers - discuss and grow ideas, research their topic, view examples from others, or spend great lengths revising their ideas.

    While reading The National Commision on Writing article, I was struck by the analysis of what prompts teens to write. “The short answer is that their writing is instrumental. They write to make something happen. Whether for school, themselves or for a social audience of friends and family, they write to achieve a desired goal. They are very calculating in how they determine what needs to be done to get the goal they want.” (p. 52) I agree that students, or anyone, need to know that their writing matters, that it is making a difference in their life and/or the lives of others. This directly supports what I discussed initially and illustrates the gap between authentic writing and assessment writing.

  16. 1. I do feel a pull b/c I think it's ridiculous that the standardized tests are still pencil and paper when most of our extended writing in schools and in real life is done on a computer or similar device. Hopefully the next generation of testing will address this issue.

    2. I read the introduction to the article. It was an interesting overview that seems to still apply today for the most part. What stuck w/ me was how students said they didn't really write many essays and longer pieces. I thought about that and I can see the truth of it. I thought about why that is. Then I thought about how I have 110 students. When I give an essay it takes me about 5 min or so to grade each paper or approximately 9 hours worth of grading (not including breaks). This in addition to everything else I am doing for my job (not to mention my life) makes assigning an essay a daunting task. I've tried to find ways around this to assign more writing to students this year using different evaluation methods, but it's still a challenge for sure.

  17. I am not feeling pulled in the way the author is being pulled. I feel pulled between writing with technology or with pencil and paper. I'm wondering if there is the same kenisthetic learning that happens when we type as opposed to writing with a pencil and paper.

  18. I read section 7 from the National Commission on Writing Project. This section addressed the perceptions of teens regarding their growth in writing and the impacts of both formal and informal writing on their perceptions about their writing. It was interesting that teens (in 2008) didn't correlate the writing--at this time texting and facebook, as well as emails to friends--done informally did not improve their writing.

    I suppose the most interesting thing from this section was the difference in the perceptions of teens about the impact of more time to write in school as well as teacher instruction. Teens and parents from lower socioeconomic levels saw this as an important part of improving, while students from higher socioeconomic levels did not agree. Why in the world would that NOT increase writing proficiency?

    The 6 years since this was written have also brought widespread use of Twitter and increased use of social media and texting as communication methods. The culture of these networks has, interestingly enough, grown to have the expectation that writing be clear and literate. The global audience expects correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, and lets the writer know.