Thursday, September 20, 2012

Entry #2 - Hicks' Elements

When reading about the three elements of the framework Hicks (2009) describes in Chapter 7, I reflected upon a lot of things I would like to change about my current classroom and school. The students I am currently working with are Kindergartners, ranging from 4 to 5 years old. I am working in a private daycare setting, teaching Kindergarten to students in the morning, and in the afternoon, based on their school district schedule. I would view my students as capable of digital writing in some aspects, but not yet having the chance to pursue the task digitally. In some aspects of the digital world, I find they are more advanced then me! Many of my students have iPods, iPads, tablets, cell phones, etc at home that they are able to manipulate effortlessly and do so on a daily basis.

Since my students are so young, they are not yet involved with social media websites, blogs, or wikis, but they are familiar with writing digitally, and games or applications played digitally. Because of this, they are very capable of collaborating, drafting, and publishing digital writing pieces with teacher scaffolding. There are many things limiting my students from being able to experiment with these writing tasks, which consists of the space I am given both in my classroom and in the school building itself.

The building I work in is a day care center, with 15+ classrooms starting at the infant age group going up to my Kindergarten classroom. We also provide care for school age students in the morning and afternoon, however, this is not in a classroom setting but rather a day care or camp environment. My classroom has one ‘teacher’ computer with limited resources, and no computers set up for children. Furthermore, there is no setting for student sized desks and computers to allow my students to manipulate digital spaces freely. I have used my computer before in conjunction with specific topics or subjects to aid in student understanding in the room, but it is not easily manipulated by students because of the size and position of the desk and computer itself. Ideally, without budget, resources, and building space in mind, I would incorporate a ‘classroom’ of computers for students of all ages. The desks would be lower to the ground, with 4-6 year old sized chairs, for students to sit comfortably and use for longer periods of time. I would incorporate collaborative desks on the side of the classroom for students to reflect and discuss what they are working on, as well as for teacher communication and small group work.  When rereading this paragraph, I am thinking how silly it seems for my request for a computer lab for 5 year olds, but I have experienced their capability for learning electronically and when lessons are tailored of scaffolded for them, they would benefit tremendously from these changes. So no, I am not saying my classroom of 5 year olds is going to hop on a computer and type me an essay, but yes they can draft rhyming words or blends containing –op on a word processor or use programs such as a-z learning to read leveled text books.

“As noted throughout this book and simply summarized here, digital writing changes the contexts and purposes for writing” in the classroom (Hicks, 2009, p. 130). Reflecting on Chapter 7, specifically the ‘subject’ section of the chapter, I was able to construct many elaborate (maybe not realistic) ways in which my students can engage in digital writing in the classroom.  Realistically, I would love for videos, audio, and images to reinforce topics or subjects we are discussing in class. For example, last week I introduced rhyming words to my students. We used that as a jump off point to discuss word families and blends. While trying to solidify the concept of rhyming, my students and I brainstormed as large list of words on chart paper that rhymed with the given word I drafted. Wanting to push this concept to a new level, I set up rhyming stations throughout the classroom for students to experience rhyming in different contexts. I printed off rhyming texts from a-z learning, I created rhyming puzzles, and I used Reggie the Rhyming Rhino from the scholastic learning website. This rhino changed my classroom as a whole. A week later I still have students wanting him back J As a summary of the website, students are able to choose what environment they want to rhyme in (at home, at the grocery store, at the zoo, etc) and when they are given a word within that context, they must look at the 3 options given (in picture and word form) to produce a rhyme to the word given. This element of student choice was a huge motivator! So although my students were not opening Google Docs to draft a research paper with colleagues, they truly were collaborating with the program to read and write rhyming words digitally. Although this was only one subject and only a small part of my curriculum, I hope to find new digital programs that allow my students to collaborate, draft, and create digital work throughout the school day.

Because my students are so young, and still learning how to print letters, and letter sound correspondence, I think a digital writing workshop in my classroom will reflect the scenario I used above. I need to create and develop other means of digital writing in a more comfortable, collaborative setting. My students need a place of their own to draft and work, and more diverse programs to work with. My goal for this school year is to incorporate one digital aspect a week in my lesson plans. Throwing that number out seems like an easy goal, but a lot of planning and preparation needs to go into it since my room and environment is not set up for enabling this type of learning. Next week, I am introducing 2 more blends during reading, as well as introducing a plant study in science. My goal is to find or create a program that allows my students to work digitally in one of those units, and enable all students to use it!
Just incase any blog readers want to Visit Reggie! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Entry #1 - Introduction

Thinking about prior experiences with teaching writing and reflecting on graduate school principals, what "feels comfortable" for me to teach is not always best practice. 

My writing practices as a student and the writing practices I have seen used through subbing, student teaching, etc, model a writing process with only one direction: forward. The time spent on writing is usually limited, and students find themselves needing more time to finish work. This is normally the most comfortable practice because I often find I need to fit so much into the school day, writing cannot take as much time as the students need. Viewing the writing process as a one-way-road is a more familiar practice for me simply because it is how I was taught, although I know this process is not beneficial for students and not one I want in my own classroom. Allowing students free range throughout the writing process and encouraging them to plan, draft, and revise continually adds complications to the classroom and is not always comfortable for the teacher. Rereading this paragraph, I understand it sounds extremely negative, and that was not the intended view. I have learning through prior experiences that when teaching, easy concepts and comfortable teachings do not always bring about best practices. It often takes me stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things with my students I may not be 100% confident with that leads to them expanding their learning and using higher level thinking skills...

As a graduate level college student, I have had the opportunity to become familiar with a variety of technologies that aid in the writing process. Word processing programs are used on a daily basis in my classroom, whether it is to write a letter to parents or create a graph/chart to track student work. Programs such as Microsoft Publisher and Excel have allowed teachers to easily create documents to be used in the classroom that look innovative and professional. Online writing spaces allow students of all ages to learn, explore, and publish text that otherwise would not be a part of the learning process. I have had many courses at Nazareth that use Wiki's or other means of communication between other course members as well as the professor. These online 'forum' type websites allowed us to communicate fast, easy, and share new findings and knowledge with eachother. They also allowed a 100% online course to take place where I was able to perform assignments, communicate with my professor, and share ideas and notes with peers. These new literacies have given me the opportunity to learn at my own speed, using my own techniques to obtain information.