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Sure, I wrote when I was in middle school, but my writing mainly consisted of the papers assigned by my Language Arts teacher, of whom I associate with two of my most horrifying memories: her jiggling underarms and, even more traumatic, the bleeding red papers she handed back to me regularly. Back then, I scribbled an occational note to my girlfriend, but for communication purposes, I relied mostly on verbal interaction. In some ways, the students I teach aren¶t much different than those of my generation. The students of today still talk to each other, most likely even more than I ever did because of the popularity of cell phones, they still pass notes, and they still cringe in the face of traditional writing instruction. Unlike in my case, though though, my students communicate with text every day, thanks to technology. They text, Twitter, compose with multimedia, and use their social networks to post messages and chat with friends. The text they create can be sent at the speed of light and be read by an audience of the world. I would have loved that in middle school. Technology has made writing both cool and commonplace, and I have every intention of integrating it into my writing instruction, which I should note looks very differet from that of my own middle school experience. In short, I teach writing through workshop, and like most teachers, I have taken ideas from those in the field such as Nancie Atwell, Donald Graves, and Jim Burke, and modified them to meet my own style and needs of my students. My apporoach to conducting writing workshop changes continuously as I learn and reflect, but it is based on a solid pedagogical foundation. Writing is a process, involving both individual exploration and collaborative interaction. My students each keep a daybook, in which they expore their curiousities and passions. They choose topics of interest to them and explore different approaches and styles. They develop writing pieces and take them through various steps of the writing process in an order dependent upon their indivudla needs. This process they don¶t carry out alone, either. Along the way, the share with others, listen to feedback from their peers and teacher, then go back to thier writing and revise it with thier new understanding. And sometimes, when they get it just right, they publish their work and can share it to an eager audience of their peers. The process is messy, but writing by nature is recursive, and giving students the freedom and support to work through it is one of the most powerful parts of my class instruction. Through our workshop, students learn about themselves and one another; they grow as writers and thinkers, and as no piece is developed in isolation, build relationships with classmates that forge a writing community. It¶s awesome. Writing, though, is changing. As I have already mentioned, students are writing for new purposes and in new environments. If I am going to continue to have my class be meaningful for my students and ensure that they get the most out of thier writing experience, I need to revist my apporoch to teaching it. Internet applications provide a number of ways for writers to engage in writing in new and exciting ways, and much information exsists that addresses moving physical writing into the digital world. Troy Hicks, author of The Ditigal Writing Workshop, for example, explains how the entire workshop approach could be moved online. Hicks does an excellent job of guiding teachers through making such a transformation, and I will be discussing his work here, but his approach is not a comprehensive explanation of the newly defined role of the writing teacher. I do not question the merit of moving coposition to a digital environment. Many internet tools fit in quite nicely. They allow for composition and collaboration in ways that are not possible in person, and others serve to redefine a writers¶ understanding of audience. Disconnecting the digital world from the writing process would be a detriment for students. But so would the
removal of human contact, for it too has its unique advantages. In person, feedback is immediate, body language can be used, and comments are personal, giving all writing interactions a closer personal connection. A connection that off of which not only writing can be built, but also relationships and social skills; areas that are still important. 21st century skills go well beyond digital compentency. To posess true 21st century skills, one must be able to navigate seemlessly between the digital and the physical. As a teacher, I would be doing my students a diservice if I did not provide my students meaningful experiences in both. My revised vision of writing instruction, therefore, is one of ballance. One determined by my own knowlege of best practices in teaching writing, understanding of the needs of my students, and knowlege of tools existing both in the physical and digital world to support it.
Working Outline I. Introduction A. Digital Writing today B. The teaching of writing/the workshop approach C. My quest to find ballance II.The workshop model/ best pracices of teaching writing III. 21st century learning a. The needs of the 21st century learner b. strengths an limitations to digital writing IV. The blending of both worlds--my approach A. Daybooks B. Digital Composing -blogging -google docs -wikis C. Digitial Collaboration -google docs -wikis -RSS feeds of blogs D. Teacher and Student conversation/conferences -writing groups -read alouds -revision conferences -teacher conferences E. publication -to the web Youth Voices Blogging apps.