Sunday, November 17, 2013

Revolutionizing Writing

I often talk to teachers about writing - indeed many elementary teachers refer to it as a basic skill - and yet I've noticed that many of the media products that students create don't contain a lot of writing - scripts have been written, of course, but often when I am seeing on media products is voice as opposed to text.

Gary Stager writes that "we may take word processing, desktop publishing, and Web publishing for granted, but they each had a greater impact on communication in  a few years than the sharing of information had experienced in the last several hundred years.  Blogging, podcasting and digital media editing allows anyone to share knowledge."  When I was at school, the only way I had to show what I knew about something was to handwrite a report and give it to one person - my teacher.  Now there are many more ways, some of which don't involve writing at all, and all of which can reach a huge audience.

But let's start with writing, which has also been "revolutionized" by word processing.  Last week I was showing a couple of our teachers 2Create in Purple Mash.  These simple publishing templates allow our students as young as Kindergarten to make attractive presentations and publications.  When students want to edit their work, it's also a breeze - in fact editing goes on fairly continuously with no need for arduous rewrites of different drafts.  Last week I was also using 2Animate with 2nd Graders.  When they had made their animation, showing their understanding of a natural disaster, it was a simple step to add it onto their ePortfolios, thereby sharing it with a large and authentic audience.  Our children are very motivated to publish - a fact noted by Gary in his book Invent to Learn:  "Audience is a key element in motivating a person to write, and informs what they write as well.  Motivation also increases when the product of student writing is attractive and valued by others."

Most of what we do in our media classes, however, is not writing.  As mentioned already, we are making animations, we are also green screening movies using iPads, making Auras, and telling stories using a variety of different apps, taking photos to add to our work and using various painting programmes to create art.  Our Modern Languages teachers are using voice recording software so that children can hear themselves speaking a foreign language and developing their oral language skills.  Even the most inexpensive of phones, usually has a way of taking photos and recording video and audio.  Anyone can be a photographer or film maker, even our 4 year olds.

We revolutionized writing for our teachers this week too.  For the first time we ran a session where we expected teachers and assistants to participate using only 140 characters - we did some basic (5 minutes) training in Twitter and launched straight into a Twitter chat.   I was moderating the chat from the secondary campus, while 20 of our teachers and assistants were participating from the elementary campus on their mobile devices.  I was interested to see if they were able to communicate as effectively using these devices as "regular" writing - in fact it was very easy for them to do this.  I wondered if those on mobile phones would find the chat more challenging than those on larger devices such as iPads - but in fact this was not the case.  Our mobile devices prototype is starting to show a preference for smaller devices - for example here is what one of our teachers wrote:

As for me, I haven't bought a new mobile device since moving to India, but I have signed up for the next wave of Google Glass invitations.  I'm really looking forward to the day when these are able to be used outside of the USA.  I want Google Glass to be my next BYOM.

Photo Credit: Stephan Geyer via Compfight cc

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