Given the three elements of the framework Hicks (2009) notes in chapter 7 - your students, the subject of writing, and the spaces in which we write - how would you describe these elements as they are currently present in your classroom and school? What do (did) you need to develop in order to make your digital writing workshop successful?
The three elements of Hick's (2009) framework that influence the way we teach writing are "the students we teach, the subject matter of writing, and the spaces in which writing occurs," (125). I have seen how all three elements have affected the way in which I previously thought about teaching writing in my own classroom. Most of my teaching experience has been as a middle school English and special education teacher. Both positions afforded me the opportunity to use technology as a means to support my students and their learning. Because of my own limited knowledge of some of the digital tools available, I had to spend a great deal of time learning about the different digital mediums and how to best implement them into lessons and the classroom. The librarian was a wonderful woman who mentored me throughout the process and gave me many ideas for future lessons. She also took the time to show me her recommendations and how to best implement them dependent on the unit of study and student access.
Almost every unit that was taught, implemented some technology within it. For an author study, the students were introduced to research sites and how to find reliable web sources. They then had to prepare a power point presentation in which they would present their author and information to the class. For another unit that involved literature circles, as a culminating project the students created a skit in which they recorded their performances and then placed within an interactive website where they would then be presented to the class. Prior to their being able to record their performances, they needed to write the scripts. They knew their audience would be their peers and quite possibly the entire school if we could get a performance broadcast on the Friday morning news. This provided them with an authentic purpose and audience in which to write for.
What I did not plan for was an actual digital writing workshop. I didn't have a specific plan as to how to teach my student's to implement this technology. In many cases, I had the expectation the students would already know how to use power point presentations and video cameras. I hadn't planned well enough for teaching those students who did not have the experience. I also think I relied to heavily on those students who had the experience to help those who didn't. I actually wrote this in a self-reflection I had written after the completion of one of the units. At that point, I realized I needed the help of a mentor to guide me.
I also thought the students would understand the needs of their audience. Hicks explains " digital writing changes the contexts and purposes for writing," (2009). I suppose these are learning experiences that hopefully many new teachers face. I look back now and realize I had only planned a partial experience and my idea of what writing was did not necessarily include the digital writing tools the students were using. An example would be I wanted the students to provide me with a rough draft of their script writing. I now question why I needed this. Corrections can be made digitally as well and the students would not have had to take the additional time to create an additional word document as their final copy. This would have given me more time for the mini lessons which would accompany many of the tasks I had assigned, which would have helped the students that did not have as much experience using these digital mediums.
In regard to space, I had the computers placed on the outside perimeter of the classroom with the center of the room having a table to meet with students individually. Again, in retrospect, I should have placed the students in "pods" based upon their groupings. This would have allowed them the space to become interactive with their peers and collaborate.