The Tumblr Experiment, Part 3: Blogging as Formative Assessment

Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

This is part 3 in a series. Parts 1 and 2 explored the in-class use of Tumblr, a blogging platform, as an exercise in writing for an authentic audience. You can read part 1 and part 2 online.

tumblr-logoAs the Tumblr experiment progresses, I’m faced with a difficult question about evaluation and feedbackWhat is a good measure of a writer’s success?

The answer, I believe, lies in whether a writer has achieved his or her purpose. This approach forces my students to really think about what they’re trying to accomplish. Yes, I get the obvious student response: “Trying to get an A.” But as we move deeper into the experiment, I’m finding that students are beginning to see other possible purposes. Tumblr is a space in which they can deliberately pursue an idea in writing. It’s also a place to take risks, both in what we think and how we want to write. Still, how do I encourage risks in writing without promoting ones that appeal to me?

This isn’t easy territory for evaluation.

I want this to be formative, but I don’t want my students to write for me or for points. At the same time, I do want them to know that I’m watching, steering us toward writing a solid essay. That said, the essay is really just one aspect of this larger project, whose goal is to produce authentic writing and voices, while developing rhetorical dexterity. 

Screen shot 2015-02-03 at 8.01.59 PM

A Good Exchange

Using their blogs as a lens on the class, we discuss what kind of writing students are noticing–reblogs and responses–and bring that back to the classroom, where we can talk about why certain posts are creating more action than others. We’ve begun to notice that success often comes down to the writer’s awareness of audience. One student, for example, blogged about a piece of music and was rewarded with a lot of attention and discussion. When we talked about it in class, the writer said that he knew that his friends liked music, and he was betting that if he could draw them in, he’d draw others with the same interest as well.

You can picture me clapping my hands, because isn’t this exactly how real writers–really anyone who produces any kind of product–think? 

The students were all good writers. But as we talked through their writing choices, it became clear that some of these writers valued their own choices over those that appealed to their Tumblr audiences. Some prefered not to “cater” to the audience. This led to a discussion of different rhetorical moves that might attract a different audience–or alienate an audience.

For me, the real value lies in the conversation about purposes–whether, as writers, they’re achieving their purposes. That’s the rhetorical triangle in action, with real consequences.

Screen shot 2015-02-03 at 7.35.51 PM

As a formative task, this works to let me see how we’re doing without being intrusive. Is what I think I’m teaching actually sticking to my students? Did it show up in the writing? If it is, great, but if not, I can see it before the essays come in, make adjustments, and revisit topics. We’ve talked technique and SOAPs and audience, of course, but always as an abstraction, very rarely as a practical “thing” we do as writers, choices we make on purpose. It’s this pivot from abstraction to “real” that’s important with the Tumblr experiment.

By moving students students out of the static model of traditional instruction, and into an environment that has entirely new and changing demands, I’m looking for a way to change them from people who write for me into people who write more authentically. The feedback that they’re getting from their audience–each other and me–is more valuable because it’s authentic, connected to their own goals as writers, and is rewarded by people whose opinions they value–each other, not just me.

 

RICKRick Kreinbring teaches English at Avondale High School in Auburn Hills, Michigan. His current assignments include teaching AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition. He is a member of a statewide research project through the Michigan Teachers as Researchers Collaborative partnered with the MSU Writing in Digital Environments Program, which concentrates on improving student writing and peer feedback. Rick has presented at the National Advanced Placement Convention and the National Council of Teachers of English Conference. He is in his twenty-third year of teaching and makes his home in Huntington Woods.

Dr. Troy Hicks – Literacy Webinar

Revising Digital Writing

Thursday, January 14, 2016  7-9pm EST (optional discussion 8-9pm)
recording    slides    hyperlink paragraph example     web text paragraph

craftingdigitalwritingAs the inputs continue to multiply, how can we help students find, evaluate, and synthesize information from a variety of sources? More importantly, how can we help them craft — and revise — digital writing in effective ways? When revision happens with multimedia, we must think broadly about how text, images, audio, and video can be used to best reach an audience. Based on Hicks’ book Crafting Digital Writing, we will explore a variety of web-based tools and mobile applications to help students combine amplify their voices when revising digital texts.


Recommended Reading: Crafting Digital Writing: Composing Texts Across Media and Genres

Hicks_PortraitDr. Troy Hicks (@hickstro) is an associate professor of English at Central Michigan University and focuses his work on the teaching of writing, literacy and technology, and teacher education and professional development. A former middle school teacher, he collaborates with K–12 colleagues and explores how they implement newer literacies in their classrooms. Hicks directs CMU’s Chippewa River Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project, and he frequently conducts professional development workshops related to writing and technology. Hicks is author of the Heinemann titles Crafting Digital Writing (2013) and The Digital Writing Workshop(2009), as well as a co-author of Because Digital Writing Matters (Jossey-Bass, 2010) and Create, Compose, Connect! (Routledge/Eye on Education, 2014). He blogs at Digital Writing, Digital Teaching. In March 2011, Hicks was honored with CMU’s Provost’s Award for junior faculty who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in research and creative activity. Most importantly, he is the father of six digital natives and is always learning something new about writing and technology from them.

The Tumblr Experiment, part 1: Introduction

Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

485559165In an earlier post “I Am Not Your Audience,” I talked about moving students away from the idea that I’m the person for whom they write, as well as moving them away from thinking that the purpose of their writing is to “score points.” Neither is easy. Precious few people ever really talked to my students about an audience beyond the teacher, or a purpose for writing beyond getting a good grade.

They seem to function in this mode: “I’m the speaker. You, my teacher, are the audience and, of course, my purpose, the only purpose, is to please you and get a high grade.”

That’s what kids are used to because that’s what they’ve been taught. But this isn’t how writing works in the real world. Being able to write well often means being able to read an audience and tailor a message in ways that make it effective. I don’t think voice develops without an audience. And I don’t think it develops with a static audience.

In order to become successful writers, my students need to get more out of that rhetorical triangle–Audience, Speaker, Purpose.

rheotricaltriangle

So I need to find a place where they can experiment with a real audience. Enter Tumblr.com, a microblogging platform where my students and I have been experimenting with ways to bend that rhetorical triangle.

What happened when I found a place where my students could explore their interests and develop their authentic voices?  What happened when I set them free to write “like themselves,” to take risks and find a real audience…

They asked me how many points it’s worth.

In that first post, I promised to share what I learned–good and bad. In this series of posts, I’ll lay out my classes’ process and what I was hoping would happen–not always the same as what did happen–but if I’m going to move with my students into a place where expectations, audience and purpose are fluid, I have to be ready to adjust, and adjust we do. In fact, that ability to adjust, what people sometimes call rhetorical dexterity, is exactly what we’re after. In this series of posts, I’ll put our work out there for you to judge–not the students’ work, but whether or not this experiment is, if not working exactly, at least worth pursuing.

In addition to following these posts, I’m inviting anyone who wants to see the experiment in action to follow me on tumblr.com. Throughout the series, I’ll include the hashtags that we use to identify our posts. Hashtags are a way of identifying and grouping posts by subject. I try to make mine unique to my class so I use a prefix that identifies the class and year — aplang15 for my AP Language and Composition classes in 2015–and a suffix that connects to the assignment–art, workandplay, twain. The hashtag for the assignment on art is #aplang15art. It makes finding what I and my students are looking for on Tumblr easy.

So, have a look at what we’re up to. I’m not promising everything there is rhetorical gold or best practice or even “cutting edge,” just an experiment, a way to find out what me and my students think.

Find me on Tumblr here. To read the entries below, click to enlarge.

Screen shot 2015-01-19 at 12.28.24 PM

Screen shot 2015-01-19 at 12.29.42 PM Click to read

 

RICKRick Kreinbring teaches English at Avondale High School in Auburn Hills, Michigan. His current assignments include teaching AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition. He is a member of a statewide research project through the Michigan Teachers as Researchers Collaborative partnered with the MSU Writing in Digital Environments Program, which concentrates on improving student writing and peer feedback. Rick has presented at the National Advanced Placement Convention and the National Council of Teachers of English Conference. He is in his twenty-third year of teaching and makes his home in Huntington Woods.

Digital Writer’s Notebooks?

Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

From my earlier blog posts, you know that I have a workshop classroom where the notebook rules all. Like many of you, every piece of paper I give students is taped into notebooks and meticulously labeled. The notebooks hold the intricacies of the strenuous work of writing and the empathy of reading. Each student’s notebook is their own. In their notebooks, students can be their very best and sometimes even their worst. They can be an artist. They can be an author. They can be an editor. They can be themselves.

And they are.

Notebook 3 Notebook 2 Notebook 1

But now our whole world, our 8th grade Language Arts world, our writing community, has a new resident that we are not sure about. This new resident has brought a change to our community that affects our very being. In a time of change, my personal belief is that writing is an excellent release and the consistency of a notebook is a place of comfort. Yet, this visitor doesn’t consistently allow us this comfort. My school implemented a 1:1 iPad program in grades 6-8 around Thanksgiving.

There is a definite air of excitement regarding this new device. Students are cautious, yet fearless. Teachers are careful, yet innovative. On the one hand, I am a tech-person who hopes to teach kids new thought processes not just new apps; on the other hand, I love the act of handwriting and the thinking that comes with that physical work. But these new devices cause me to question: Is the world of handwritten notebooks relevant anymore? What is the best use of iPads for notebook work? And finally, what does a transformative digital language arts workshop classroom look like?

What is the answer?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a definitive answer for the use of iPads on a daily basis for Language Arts instruction, but I will share with you some ways I have used them and what has come of their use in my classroom.

The school release of iPads goes hand-in-hand with our opportunity to be a Google School that uses Google Apps for Education. I’ve been an advocate for the use of Google apps in the classroom for many years now, so it was an easy decision to jumpstart of iPad use in the classroom by diving into Google Apps and programs before moving to other tools.  Each time I use technology with kids, I hope to increase their digital citizenship knowledge by introducing them to tools and ways of thinking that they can use outside of my classroom as well. Google Apps were a perfect place to start.

Tool: Google Classroom

Google-Classroom-Logo1This tool is exclusively available for Google Education users and manages class lists and links to student’s Google Drive accounts.

The advertised benefits:

  • Sharing digital documents with a whole class that puts copies into students’ Drive folders.
  • Class lists help the teacher manage students’ work submissions.
  • Discussion threads allow interaction between classmates and teacher.

How I planned to use it: To distribute daily tape-ins (handouts that students tape into their writer’s notebooks).

What I think: I think this is a good tool to use for students to turn in summative projects. It’s not effective for sharing out materials with kids because it creates a very messy Drive for teacher and students. Classroom also fails to provide the opportunity to teach digital citizenship skills or online organization.

What students think: Currently, there is confusion between using Classroom to search for assignments and our district mandated Moodle pages. Students feel that it is a bit time consuming.

Tool: Google Drive

DriveThis platform houses online documents that can be created, shared, and collaborated on.

The advertised benefits:

  • Never lose a document again and have access to all documents that you may need at your fingertips.
  • It also allows collaboration and unlimited sharing of documents.

How I planned to use it: After my experiences with Google Classroom, I transferred to sharing documents with kids via Drive. I taught them how to organize their Drive into folders and name documents.

What I think: This is a good platform to use to share documents with contacts. It is also relevant for teaching students how to organize digital work. However, if students want to write on a tape-in, like we have in our notebooks, they have to copy the text I share and create a new document. This allows them to edit the document.

What students think: Overall, they like the opportunity to have all their documents online. They are at a variety of places concerning this work. Some students are all online – using Drive for everyday work in Language Arts. Some students use tape-ins in notebooks and work online. Some are all hard copy notebooks. I allow students this variety and choice.

Tool: Evernote/Penultimate

penultimate_featureThis program’s purpose is online organization and notebook creation. Penultimate is an Evernote sister app which syncs data but also allows handwritten notes.

Advertised benefits:

  • Consistently syncs and backs up data, has several Google tie-in programs and a stylus appears like actual handwriting.

How I planned to use it: We could create digital notebooks much the same as our paper copies.

What I think: While not transformative, this app has potential as a digital writer’s notebook, but the program is rudimentary. It needs additional features like cropping pictures and more precise writing (even with the joint Stylus).

What students think: They would rather use their notebooks.

To learn more about handwritten digital writers notebooks with Penultimate, read this blog post by Two Writing Teachers.

Digital Notebook Page

a writer’s notebook page in Penultimate

Digital Notebook Page 2

 

In the end, I am playing with the programs and listening to my students, but I don’t have a definitive answer. Rather, I have a question for you: What do you think of writer’s notebooks in a digital world? And how are you handling them in your classroom?

pic 2Amy Gurney is an 8th grade Language Arts teacher for Bloomfield Hills School District. She was a facilitator for the release of the MAISA units of study. She has studied, researched, and practiced reading and writing workshop through Oakland Schools, The Teacher’s College, and action research projects. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Education at Central Michigan University and a Master’s in Educational Administration at Michigan State University.

Webinar – Mixing Sources, Amplifying Voices: Crafting Writing in an Information Age

Facilitator: Professor Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University
Tuesday, January 20, 2015 7-8pm EST (optional follow up discussion from 8-9pm)
recording     slides    wiki with resources

As the inputs continue to multiply, how can we help students find, evaluate, and synthesize information from a variety of sources? More importantly, how can we help them craft digital writing in effective ways, utilizing the information that they have found to develop multimedia texts? In this webinar, we will explore how purposeful digital writing — with a focus on mode, media, audience, purpose, and situation — can help your students frame their thinking and produce multimedia texts. Examples and resources will be shared, as well as an open Q&A about digital writing tools.

Troy Hicks, an associate professor at Central Michigan University, teaches pre-service writing methods classes and facilitates professional development on the teaching of writing, writing across the curriculum, and writing with technology. In his research, he collaborates with K-16 teachers and explores how they implement newer literacies in their classrooms.  He also serves as the Director of the Chippewa River Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project at CMU. His publications include The Digital Writing Workshop (Heinemann, 2009) and Because Digital Writing Matters (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

Twitter ID: @hickstro

 

Webinar – Digital Technologies & Expectations for Writing in College

Facilitator: Professor Jeff Grabill, Michigan State University
Wednesday, December 3  7-8pm EST (optional follow up discussion from 8-9pm)
recording     slides

In this webinar, we will take a look at recent work on how college students use digital technologies for writing and provide an overview of common curricula and expectations for writing at most US colleges and universities. The result is a picture of interesting mismatches between use of technologies and expectations in writing classes and another set of interesting relationships between how many high schools are preparing students to write and what will be expected of them in college writing classrooms.

Jeff Grabill is a Professor of Rhetoric and Professional Writing and Chair of the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University. He is  a senior researcher with WIDE Research (Writing in Digital Environments) and also a co-founder of Drawbridge Incorporated, an educational technology company. He studies how digital writing is associated with citizenship and learning. He has published two books on community literacy and articles in journals like College Composition and Communication, Technical Communication Quarterly, Computers and Composition, and English Education.

Twitter ID: @Grabill

Literacy Webinar Archive

Questions? Contact [email protected]

Word Study, Vocabulary & Grammar: the Toughest Nuts to Crack Webinar Series 2016-17  

Thursday, October 27, 2016  7-8pm EST
Dr. Tim Shanahan, University of Illinois at Chicago
Complex Texts, Complex Sentences: Grammar and Comprehension in the Time of Common Core
recording and slides


Thursday, November 17, 2016  7-8pm EST
Dr. Laura Tortorelli, Michigan State University
Words in the World: Transferring Word Study to Everyday Reading and Writing
recording, slides, and resources


Thursday, December 8, 2016  7-8pm EST
Dr. Jonathan Bush, Western Michigan University
Grammar in Theory; Grammar in Practice: Language Use in Culture, Society, and Our Classrooms
recording, slides, and resources


Tuesday, January 17, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Laura Tortorelli, Michigan State University
Cracking the Code of Early Literacy: What Is Phonemic Awareness and Why Does it Matter?
recording, slides, and resources


Tuesday, February 7, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University & Jeremy Hyler, Fulton Schools, MI
From Texting to Teaching: Teaching Grammar Beyond the Screen
recording, slides and resources


Tuesday, March 28, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Margaret McKeown, University of Pittsburgh
Cracking the Vocabulary Nut Requires Rich, Interactive Instruction
recording, slides and resources


Thursday, April 20, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Dianna Townsend, University of Nevada – Reno
Who Is Using the Vocabulary?: Engaging Students in Active Practice with New and Important Words
recording, slides and resources


Tuesday, May 9, 2017  7-8pm EST
Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 Teacher of the Year
Organically Integrating Vocabulary into the Secondary Classroom
recording, slides and resources

 


Revision: the Heart of Writing Webinar Series 2015-16

Dr. Jennifer Fletchershutterstock_86277058
Revising Rhetorically: Re-seeing Writing through the Lens of Audience, Purpose, and Context
recommended reading: Teaching Arguments: Rhetorical Comprehension, Critique, & Response
recording, resources, and slides


Georgia Heard
The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques that Work
recommended reading: The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques that Work
recording and resources


Marc Aronson
Revising Nonfiction: Dowsing for Depth
recommended reading: Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science
recording, slides and resources


Dr. Troy Hicks
Revising Digital Writing
recommended reading: Crafting Digital Writing: Composing Texts Across Media & Genres
recording, slides, and resources


Dr. Nell Duke
Not Like Pulling Teeth: Revision in a Project-Based Context
recommended reading: Inside Information: Developing Powerful Readers and Writers of Informational Text Through Project-Based Instruction
more information (recording and slides available in mi PLACE)


Penny Kittle
Revision: the Heart of Writing
recommended reading: Write Beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing
recording and resources


Dr. Constance Weaver
Revising Sentences by Adding “Juicy Details”
recommended reading: Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing
recording & resources


M-Step-Logo_473059_7M-STEP Prep Webinars 2016

M-STEP Prep Webinar: Test Literacy and ELA Curricular Connections (elementary)
Beth Rogers, Clarkston Community Schools
recording    slides    resources

M-STEP Prep Webinar: Test Literacy and ELA Curricular Connections (middle school) 
Jianna Taylor, West Bloomfield Schools
recording    slides    resources


Reading & Writing in Digital Spaces Series 2014-15476127923 (1)

Small Bites: Research in the K-5 Classroom
Professor Kristin Fontichiaro, University of Michigan School of Information
recording, resources & slides


Small Bites: Research in the 6-12 Classroom
Delia DeCourcy, Secondary Literacy Consultant, Oakland Schools ISD, Michigan
recording, resources & slides


Digital Technologies and Expectations for Writing in College
Professor Jeff Grabill, Michigan State University
recording & slides


Mixing Sources, Amplifying Voices: Crafting Writing in an Information Age
Professor Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University
recording, slides & resources 


How Student Blogs Support Literacy Learning & the Common Core
Stephanie Dulmage, Technology/Curriculum Integration Specialist, West Bloomfield, Michigan
recording, slides & resources 


Reinventing Classroom Reading: What Digital Media Offer Us
Professor Sara Kajder, University of Georgia
recording, slides and resources


How Social Media Supports Literacy Learning & the Common Core
Stephanie Dulmage, Technology/Curriculum Integration Specialist, West Bloomfield, Michigan
recording, slides & resources


Integrating Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Secondary Literacy Learning
Professor Liz Kolb, University of Michigan School of Education
recording & slides