A HUGE thanks to Becky Fisher (@beckyfisher73 on Twitter) who helped me think through this blog and who gave me words when mine got stuck in a quagmire of thoughts.
This is a blog collaboratively written. (The “I statements” about being a K teacher are mine. The brilliance elsewhere is hers! :-))
I don’t think anyone would argue John Grisham or J.K. Rowlings being an accomplished writer. (If you would, just pretend you think they are great as you read this blog!)
So, let’s think about the rubric for “pencil” or whatever tool they use to do their writing and apply it to their work.
There is absolutely no doubt that we teach “pencil” in school. As a Kindergarten teacher, I have to show students how to hold it correctly so that their little hands don’t get worn out. I look out for ergonomically sound practices, so no one is crooking their wrist to cause carpel tunnel syndrome or an achy wrist. I pay attention to how tightly they are holding it and try to loosen up those kids who are squeezing it for all it’s worth. I watch to see if their grasp is hiding their writing as they write, so they can see how the letters are written I adjust their grip to make sure they are not holding it too high or too close to the tip. ALL of these things are criteria I use to judge whether a child is using the pencil correctly and most efficiently.
However, by about 7 years old, most kids are using a pencil efficaciously and teachers no longer teach “pencil.” Instead, our focus now centers on the mechanics of writing, with content being the most important piece. We teach spelling, grammar, usage and mechanics, but what the student has to say is where the majority of our efforts fall. In writing workshops we do mini lessons on word choice, voice and storylines. We talk about beginnings and endings, suspense building, conclusions, and how to build a good story. We talk sequence and logical progression as we also encourage creativity and individual voice within student writing. No longer do we center on the tool they use, as our emphasis is the learning they do about how to craft a great product.
When we think about John Grisham or J.K.Rowlings, do we care WHAT they write WITH? Do we care if they use a pencil or an old typewriter, or a word processor? Don’t we care most about the product, the book, the STORY?
We have talked about a “developmental continuum” for developing a writer’s craft for years. We assume the skill of “pencil use” or whatever the tool is as we look at bigger skills and concepts like voice and word choice. How can we look at “Digital Bloom’s” more like the way we look at “writer’s craft” and less like the way we look at “pencil”?
What skills we choose to put on a continua of skills speak to our vision for technology – either changing what kids do or changing how they do it. What is bigger than how. Why not develop our continua around what? What does it mean to “collaborate across cultures”? Do we really care if this is done with a wiki or Google Docs?
The fact that we are looking at continua of development is important, and the fact that this conversation is happening in a number of places–on Twitter, in the wikis, at Paul R Wood’s deck in Texas, in other places we don’t even know yet–with educators from ALL OVER THE WORLD- is even MORE POWERFUL. As we craft the rubrics for a Digital Bloom’s Taxonomy together, the impact in our classrooms will happen collaboratively and perhaps similarly across cultures, across gender, across SES, across race, across all kinds of boundaries we normally don’t cross with assessment tools. The way things are assessed affect what gets taught, so let’s make these the best we can!
Until next time,