Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Digital Writing Process – Using Computer Time Effectively

The following is from a weekly column I write, called Curriculum Connections, in the OCDSB Business & Learning Technologies e-Newsletter.

We have been using a comic generation application (www.Bitstrips.com) in a Grade 5/6 class since September as a tool for expressions of understanding of character education traits, bullying and its impact, and plot analysis of a story.

A discussion of whether we should move on to a new application with the students ended with our questioning what instructional purposes would that serve. The students are adept with the tool, and are ready to get on task as soon as they login. There certainly is a new tool out there that might work in a slightly different way, or bring in more media, but why fix it if it isn’t broken? If the activity is rich and engaging, and creates opportunity for critical thinking and ease of communication, then a single, flexible tool can be adapted for many desired outcomes.

But successful, mindful use of the tool when students are on a computer is part of a planned, instructional process. What is the desired result of the activity? This was determined, and supports and instruction were done in class, long before the digital writing commenced. Knowing what was acceptable digital evidence was key to the planning of the units. Did the students demonstrate an awareness of bullying, and articulate how they might feel, which was the task, or was it just a series of panels showing what bullying might look like, in the case of most girls, social, and for the boys, physical?

To help with planning for computer use, please refer to the following chart:
While some of the elements of Digital Writing can be replicated using paper and pencil, (e.g. a comic strip can be hand-drawn), the power of the digital writing process is universal accessibility for multiple learning styles, and the ability to communicate complex understandings in differentiated ways.

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