Monday, March 11, 2013

The Best for Last

We've talked about why we need to implement digital technology into our English classrooms, and we've covered multiple forms of digital writing, but there is one important piece missing in the push for digital literacy. Students need to see their work published. 

Moving to a more digital writing format allows great advances in creativity and course work, but the most important aspect that digital writing allows is the chance to be published. To get the essays out of the teachers' hands and into the world's! Knowing that the essay you are writing, or the poem you are crafting is simply to check off a standard in the Common Core is simply boring. 

What should be included in the assignments is a publishing step, and I don't mean just printing the paper, but actually reaching out to others. Making it a requirement to share their work either through social media, blogs and email. Teachers should not be the last eyes to see the hard work of a student's two week effort to write their essay. Publishing should be more than just clicking print, it should mean it is actually going to be read!

Joel Klein, former New York City schools' chief who now leads News Corp.'s education tablet program, said it best as he cautioned the public that "we must use technology to empower teachers and improve the way students learn. At its best, education technology will change the face of education by helping teachers manage the classroom and personalize instruction."

Did you read that? Education technology will empower!

Photo Scavenger Hunts

Peer editing....dun...dun...dun!

Oh, the torturous pains of reading another student's (or even your own) rough draft they threw together the last minute, and now you have to suffer through their misplaced modifiers and dangling adjectives. There is much debate about peer editing and whether or not it is useful; in fact, several of my fellow class mates are researching this exact topic. So, here's my question: How can teachers revive editing? 

Well, Richard Byrne has found a way to make peer editing not so miserable. Using their phones, or the schools if they are available, or the inexpensive, disposable cameras, Have students edit their writing for improvement using pictures they find. Is there description of a charchter boring? Assign them to find a person who better exemplifies this characters description, or, better yet, find a person with the right hair color, another with the right clothes and yet another with the right face and use them to better describe the deep, honey colored hair of  

The Illuminating Text

"I'm running out of time. Oh no!
Mrs Keetch is getting mad,
I can tell as she scowls at me from there.
I need a poem, what do I do?!
Oh, wait, here's a poem. I'm done!"

I kid you not, that was a poem I wrote in 6th grade. I can remember sitting in the computer lab trying to type this out during lunch, and know that I was going to be in big trouble when the bell rang and I didn't have a poem ready to share. This is what I came up with. It was a simple free verse poem and I basically wrote a couple sentences and broke them up onto different lines. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the lab attendant helped me type it because I was a slow typist, and she knew I'd be in trouble if I didn't get it done. Is that education? Did I learn anything about poems? This is not poetry, and if we let our students turn in "poems" like this, then we are doing them a diservice. Poetry gives them a chance to reflect on themselves and write a piece of poetry that is more than a skipped lunch and a false typist.

Teenagers identify with music. It isn't just noise in their ears, but this rapping racket helps them find their identity and connect with others according to Psychology Today. If music is a fundamental link in their lives, then teachers need to tap into this wave. Song lyrics are no more than lines of poetry put to music, which is exactly what an Illuminated Text assignment is.

Illuminated Text is a video made via power point that takes a person's lyrics or poem, and using effects, makes the words dance with the music as their poem bounces around and swivels with the song of their choice; both using each other to strengthen and emphasis different parts of the other.

Check out this example of an illuminated text assignment using Ernest Hemingway's writing made by Whitney Young Magnet High School student Jenny Lee!

Want more? Here is another high school student's Illuminated Text of a perfect example of how technology can improve writing! You read my free verse "poem" (if you could call it that), and it is boring! Here is another student's free verse poem that shows the difference between structured poems and free poems by using his own interests and talents to do so.

Dr Gideon Burton, professor at Brigham Young University, is going to great lengths to implemnt digital writing in his classes. He takes Shakespear's Sonnet 130 to far more captivating level with his Illuminated Text version.

I tried my own hand at Illuminated Text, and was so proud of my work! It was hard, but definitely not impossible. I was able to share this creation via email, blog and facebook. And isn't that what's it all about? Acutally sharing what you produce? No more student composed poems dropping off a classroom bulletin board or going stale in a filing cabinet, but now students can share it on Facebook, email it to the relatives and post it on their blog, and because they actually made this piece from their own life as they connected through it with music, they might actually care more about the work than the grade at the end.

Picture Perfect

Continuing forward about Photo Essays, I found a touching essay that was featured in TIME magazine, and is incredibly moving. As I mentioned earlier, I did a photo essay about Boston, but, in comparison to Teens in America: Class Pictures, mine is sorely lacking the pathos of an essay. Traditional structure is not lost in this format as the author interviews, creates and produces a spectacular essay about teenagers living in the 21st century. Take a moment and watch Dawoud Bey's 2007 essay: Teens in America: Class Pictures