Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Teaching Digital Writing: Beyond Blogs and Wikis

On April 4, Education Week hosted an online chat with Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, NWP Director of Programs and Site Development, and Bud Hunt, a Colorado teacher and instructional technologist. In response to participants' questions, these experts shared their beliefs about how digital resources can help to build the skills our students need in order to be successful communicators in today's world. Here are a few highlights from the chat.

On how digital writing differs from paper-and-pencil composition
Eidman-Aadahl: "I think that the new tools and platforms make it possible for students to publish and participate in the world through their writing and media production at even younger ages. So they can create an identity earlier. Actually, they can play with multiple identities."
Hunt: "I do think in digital writing we expect a more participatory culture. We don't just send it off into the ether. We expect comments, or rewrites, or remixes."

On the appropriate age for introducing digital writing
Hunt: "We make time for both crayons and screens at my house."
Eidman-Aadahl: "New tools are more interactive, less passive" than many television programs geared toward teaching children.

On combining digital and analog methods
Eidman-Aadahl: "...there are ways to work 'offline' that are similar to how we work 'online." When we do that, we help students acquire the mindset that is part of digital writing."

On types of tools to choose
Hunt: "...a few simple and basic tools is a better choice than lots and lots of gadgets and gizmos and websites... There are literally tools for pretty much anything you'd like to try - but I think that Alton Brown's rule on not having unitaskers is a good one to apply to writing tools in the classroom, too."

Specific tools recommended for digital instruction
Diigo - social bookmarking useful in research
Twitter - microblogging platform
Voicethread - used for online conversations
Google Docs - for composition and collaboration
Evernote - a tool for online notetaking

You'll see these tools and other digital resources as the subjects of upcoming blog posts. If you'd like to read the full transcript of the online chat, you can access it here.

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