Module 1 Reflection – for EDTC6433

My triggering event question for this standard: How can I use technology to promote authenticity among my grade 6-8 Creative Writing students?

The question I claimed to be researching was specific enough, but as I read articles looking for an answer, I spiraled out of control.  There’s a lot of jargon out there.  How can I be sure that implementing these technologies in the classroom will benefit students?  Education tech definitely sounds cool; kids will probably like this stuff, but will they learn more?  Or, to more specifically return to my question, will technology help my creative writing students begin to write more significant, more important pieces?  Will technology motivate better writing?

Three sources have shaped my thoughts on this question:

SAMR Duckworth Illustration

Image credit: Sylvia Duckworth, via @DavidGuerin

First: Angela Duckworth’s illustration of what’s called the “SAMR Model” clarifies that there are different levels of technology integration.  My quest for the right educational technology needs to be informed by this spectrum of integration.  Is the app or program in question a mere substitute for pen and paper?  Substitutes about, and these may not deliver the increased engagement and achievement they promise.  Duckworth’s model helped me pinpoint the level of integration I’m aiming for.  If I’m going to ask my students to work with something other than Microsoft Word, I want reasonable assurance that the technology will not merely enhance, but transform their writing experience.

So began a second movement in Module 1: the quest for statistical evidence of transformation!  As I mentioned, there’s a lot of jargon out there.  But I can’t assume that every article using the word “catalyze” promotes a learning technology that will transform a learning experience. Fortunately, a groupmate posted Marzano’s article on the use and effectiveness of interactive whiteboards.  While interactive whiteboards most likely won’t be the key to more authentic writing for my middle schoolers, the article highlights some valuable principles of technology integration that helped me sort out my thoughts on our Module 1 articles.  Marzano reports that “…using interactive whiteboards was associated with a 16 percentile point gain in student achievement.” He unpacks the specific attributes of interactive whiteboards which boost learning, one of which is learner response devices (such as clickers).  These devices might be used as a substitute for the raising of hands or other formative assessment measures (thumbs up or down, fist-to-five), but thoughtful teacher application can make clickers a more transformative tool.

The resource most relevant to my question was shared by another classmate.  Writing Re-launched focused on using technology to transform writing instruction.  This article affirmed and powerfully justified some of the claims made in my earlier reading about the ways in which tech can increase motivation and engagement. The article (as well as several of my classmates) recommends requiring students to create and publish writing to a blog in order to raise the stakes on content and conventions.  This is a hard pill for me to swallow. My own bPortfolio makes me shut down; it brings out the very ugliest aspect of the writing process.  The pain.  (See timestamp on this post.)  So I hesitate to ask this of my students.

But as Greenhow et al have pointed out, I need to think about how kids express themselves these days. They aren’t finding their voice between the covers of their journal; they’re engaging in high-stakes identity formation on the world wide web.  Equally importantly, their jobs (or their graduate school programs, I’ll bet) will likely ask them to engage in dialogue over internet platforms as well.  Web writing is the most authentic (significant, relevant, real world) writing available.

So I’ll consider the blog thing.  Thanks for reading.

Reference: Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., Hughes, J. (2009). Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age. Web 2.0 and Classroom Research: What Path Should We Take Now? Educational Researcher. 38(4). 246-259.

Heitin, Liana. Writing re-launched: Teaching with digital tools. (2011, April 4). In Education week: Teacher PD sourcebook. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2011/04/04/02digital.h04.html