Sunday, March 22, 2015

Whose standards?

In the chapter “Standards and Assessment for Digital Writing,” DeVoss et. al. try to answer, or at least pose, some difficult questions.  Initially I assumed that this chapter would be more about the technology available and the suggested methods assessing digital work.  I was wrong.  Rather, this chapter made me reconsider what a writing class is, and what it will become. And more general, but still interesting question, what will it mean to be literate person and a functioning member of society in the near future?

To begin, Hodgson uses the example of a student who creates an essay in the form of a podcast, and says that “as the writer, you are controlling what you want the reader to see.  So that kind of platform can really change how you persuade somebody” (DeVoss et. al. 91).  This, however, will most strongly benefit student if there is “ongoing discussion of the rhetorical choices that digital writers make, and the observation of their effects,” it is only through this that “students begin to understand better how to assess their work as digital writers” (91).  Certainly a self-awareness of why students make the decisions they do, and what effects these decisions have on the audience, will go a long towards strengthening their ability as digital writers, but it will also improve their non-digital writing.  This then begs two questions: first, is digital writing different from traditional writing? And second, is the benefit of teaching digital writing that the improved writing is then transferable to non-digital writing, or is the benefit of teaching digital writing that the genres/mediums that students will be expected to write in academically, professionally, and personally, increasingly be digital?  Eve Bearne thinks the latter is likely, as she outlines what multimodal abilities students should have by way of offering a ‘metalanguage’ to out of touch instructors (104-5).  DeVoss et. al. seem to take a more measured approach, as they argue that although digital technology has changed the way people collaborate or design, ultimately “writing is the same as it ever was—a task that requires writers to examine the rhetorical context and craft messages suitable for the intended audience” (105).


With that question out there, the next thing I would like to explore is the, potentially, changing role of the English instructor and the English classroom.  Hodgson has developed his own methodology for teaching his students how to use new technologies for digital writing, but is this the future—or at least a future component of English instruction?  Put more directly, “will digital writing be seen as part of a larger set of technology standards?  Will technology use be seen as an essential part of writing standards? Or both?” (90).  I was unaware of the different sets of criteria that determine technological standards, but apparently they do exist.  For example, McREL requires a person to “[understand] the nature and operation of systems” or “of technological design” (95), while Ribble and Bailey put forth the requirements for ‘digital citizenship,’ calling for people to have “full electronic participation in society” or an understanding of “the conduct expected by other digital technology users” (97-8).  Certainly the idea of literacy is changing, and—though it may seem odd now—the idea of citizenship is now undergoing a change, as social, political, professional, romantic, and academic lives of people increasingly have there strongest presence online.  As these shifts occur, whose responsibility is it to ensure that students are becoming technologically literate?  Will much of this fall under the realm of instructors like Hodgson, by nature of its tie to digital writing?  What of digital citizenship, should this be up to the English instructor (at some grade level) to teach, or will such questions necessitate the development of some digital civics/home-ec hybrid?  If I’m not mistaken I think Allen (maybe Brian) said that he is already seeing much of this fall to the English teacher, as these are important things to teach but have no clear home in the current academic structure.

14 comments:

  1. I'm glad you took on the Devoss et al chapter for this post, mostly because it addresses what I think is our most challenge: how the h-e-double-hockey-sticks do we evaluate digital texts? It is a question that most of us have avoided for too long and it is a question that has not been fully addressed, even by recent educational policy. Despite the fact that the NCTE has published multiple position statements dating back to 1970 that address media literacy, our English curriculum is still largely print-based. Why is this? There are many factors, but one major influence has been high-stakes testing. Testing companies have continued to produce tests that are based on the reading of print, which naturally encourages teachers to focus on print-based literacy. Even the recent Common Core initiative pays only minor attention to 21st-century literacies, something I hope we have a chance to address in class this week. At the same time, we are witnessing a move towards information-based literacy and a move away from interpretation-based literacy. This is a shift that is described by tech elites as a necessary result of our "information culture," but their emphasis is on consumption, not production. The kinds of multimodal texts described by DeVoss et al do not really fit within this model, since they cannot be merely consumed - they must be engaged. It is the hyper textual and transmedial nature of these texts that pose a great challenge to test producers, and of course to us as teachers. It's much easier to evaluate something that is easily defined and contained - multimodal texts challenge these boundaries, which makes this extremely difficult to evaluate.

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  2. Like Alex and yourself, I find that digital standards are very challenging, especially trying to categorize the necessary elements for 21st century learning (or perhaps, “late age of print learning” is a better term). As DeVoss and Co say, “the immeasurable possibilities for who, how, and why we compose texts” is what we are faced with when trying to come up with some standards and it leads to much confusion and debate because no one can predict the future (105).

    I would have to agree with Alex that the majority of our standardized tests have created standards that are difficult to constantly change. Therefore, we see little change in the standards. When standards change, so do the tests, and changing the tests takes a lot of time. However, I would like to say that even the standardized tests are catching up to technological advances and are showing they are more aware of how students make knowledge nowadays. For example, I know that in Massachusetts PARCC is slowly moving into most K-12 districts, negating the MCAS. If you are familiar with the PARCC, you know that it incorporates multiple modes and asks students to synthesize these elements, incorporating some of the skills that DeVoss et al recognize in their complied standards. If you are unfamiliar you should check it out here: http://parcc.pearson.com/practice-tests/english/
    You can take any grade level – just enter a student name (yes, any name will do) and fire away.

    I am not sure if it will primarily become the English teacher’s job to make sure that students become technologically literate. I know that for practicing English teachers it sometimes feels like it, but I would like to think that it would not since tech is permeating all fields. Perhaps it is more beneficial to ask students to gain these skills in the classroom if the same or similar technologies were available to all. I know that Allen would agree.

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  3. Andrew, your post is excellent (as are the responses by Brian and Alex)!

    As mentioned by Andrew and Brian, it certainly does seem as though the onus of developing technology skills is falling on the shoulders of English teachers. I wouldn't say that this is inherently problematic -- afterall, much of what we think of as the new digital landscape pertains to new forms of reading and writing. If we, as English teachers, are dedicated to promoting literacy in the youth, then we need to consider that "Decades of composition research have shown us that literacy is a situated act, and technologies add another layer to the idea of what it means to 'be literate'" (DeVoss et. al. 94).

    However, Alex raised the mega-pertinent point that true digital writing is more than just transferring old conventions into a word processor. In other words, for students to be truly digitally literate, they need to be able to manipulate/critique/create multimodal texts. Now here's the rub: how much of this should fall on the shoulders of English teachers? This really taps into the question of what it means to be a writer in the 21st century. If *writing* is now to be known as multimodal, then perhaps English classrooms need to expand their horizons well beyond our current confines.

    With that being said, even if we limit ourselves to "writing" (whatever that happens to mean) instead of multimodal text, there many changes to be considered. For example, writing "meant to be read on the Web...may be shorter than other texts; it might be explicitly created in 'chunks' that can be read in different orders based on how readers choose to follow the hyperlinks" (DeVoss et. al. 107). I've come across this in my own practice, when I spearheaded a move to turn my school's literary magazine into a blog. Students quickly learned that shorter pieces -- poems, microfiction, and short prose -- garnered more online attention than their longer submissions. Coming to the conscious realization of what they had already known, my students began crafting their blog posts accordingly.

    The other element from the DeVoss & crew chapter I'd like to touch upon speaks to my anxieties that there are forces pushing writing away from the human and towards the mechanical. After being strong-armed by my department coordinator, I've used TurnItIn to collect student writing. Although there are some benefits, I can't help but feel as though something is lost in the process.

    I've long thought that my anxiety was that administration/school committee members would say, "No, we don't need to hire more staff for you -- your crazy-big classes are acceptable now that you use a program that makes grading easier." But after reading this chapter, I keep going back to the NCTE Conference on College Composition and Communication passage cited by DeVoss & crew:

    "The speed of machine scoring is offset by a number of disadvantages. Writing-to-a-machine violates the essentially social nature of writing: we write to others for social purposes. If a student's first writing experience at an institution is writing to a machine, for instance, this sends a message: writing at this institution is not valued as human communication..." (113).

    Well, contrary to the digital-writing rule of thumb I mentioned earlier, I've written too much!

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  4. The DeVoss et al chapter on standards for digital writing brought me back to my undergraduate experiences as a student encountering the need to fulfil a digital requirement. All of my English courses had a technical element, whether it was to analyse the features on a website (layout, text, colours, ease of use) and report our findings, an online portfolio we expanded weekly, or a blog where we commented on works we’d encountered for the week. One class even had us trawling the net for a fan-fiction, for us to write summaries of and showcase to the class. The common feature of these assessments was the showcasing of work throughout the semester, with the teacher evaluating our overall improvement and use of the technology available. Now, reading the standards of the McREL, I recognise that many of the skills developed in these classed reflect them, as well as some of the nine points of digital citizenship. Just by engaging the digital world in the way students often do develops these skills—and the when of this being taught will change as new students who grew up with the technology enter schools. I am sure that some students now are covering things in high school that I was only first encountering in undergraduate work.

    With the rise of technology in the classroom, I do think it will not only fall to the English teacher to cover it, but that currently the trend strongly leans that way. My psychology courses may have taught me how to construct surveys and phrase questions, as well as how to use digital programmes to get information out of statistics, but English taught me how to use technology to create something new and supplement pre-existing texts, it also forced me to know how websites were constructed and how I could construct as simple one myself to showcase my own work.

    As an aside, the McREL standards also list “know the characteristics and uses of computer hardware …” (95) as something a student should achieve. That particular standard confuses me somewhat—do they mean the actual hardware? Motherboard, RAM sticks, graphics card, CPU cooler, SSD, and HDD? The knowledge of those only became clear to me after actually building a computer—should we have classes that cover that?

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  5. One of the things I found most fascinating of this last chapter was seeing the different school systems’ and institutions’ independently developed standards or definitions of literacy (and technological literacy) condensed into the list of traits they provide across p. 100-102. I find it fascinating for two reasons:
    1. That such a list can be compiled in the first place suggests that there is a common ground or set of best practices that can be identified and worked towards. I know that, essentially, Because Digital Writing Matters is an exploration of these best practices and so such a list would not be surprising, but for me this vocabulary list feels like some of the most convincing external ratification – by convergent evolution if nothing else.
    2. Many of these traits and actions representative of a digitally literate student (100-102) point to two larger competencies that seem to be recurrent throughout this book: competency with the technology and a clear display of engagement with it. These two competencies might help direct rubrics for digital student products. Although this might seem like rubrics developed to assess these competencies would promote “A for effort,” I feel like rubrics requiring the display of these competencies would hit all the benchmarks DeVoss et al are asking for: a clear knowledge of the software within which the student is working as well as a clear effort to create a well-developed product within the defined parameters. Thus, it wouldn’t matter exactly how the student created their product (unless they are somehow in violation of the rubric), but rather that their effort is apparent. This comes with the added benefit of further wedding enchantment with critique, which (as last week demonstrated) is often an easy and successful way to get students engaged in their classwork.

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  6. Thank you Andrew for throwing a light upon the DeVoss et al’s chapter, and also all the comments are really helpful and thought-provoking. I must say that I always benefit a lot from the thoughts of the practicing teachers.

    When the question of whether the responsibility of teaching new technology to students should fall upon the shoulders of the English instructors, my gut reaction is “No!” I’m always believing that the ability to interact with technology should be learnt in a computer class rather that in an English one. I guess what prompts me to react like that is because, in my country, English classes, or say, all the classes except for computer ones, has still been print-based. Students have no access to computers, tablets, smart phones in class, and teachers haven’t been prepared to use interactive technologies to teach. Yes, teachers use computers and projectors, but that is all. But this kind of traditional teaching seems to be disjointed with the McREL standards as well as the elements of digital citizenship, especially “Digital Communication: electronic exchange of information” and “Digital Literacy: the capability to use digital technology and knowing when and how to use it”(97). Taking these into consideration, I have to admit that English instructors should bear some of the responsibility to show students how technology can work in an in-class and out-class environment to facilitate English learning. Like DeVoss et al says, “we will also want [students] to understand how these techniques have evolved and what has caused such dramatic changes” (96). However, to what extent we should focus our teaching on technology remains to be explored.

    Honestly, when I first read the HSCEs, the standards about digital writing, I feel dizzy. I hardly thought about digital writing should meet such a great amount of criteria, not mention that I can do all of them. Maybe it is the ultimate goal we hope our students to achieve, but Rome is not built in one day. We don’t want to push our students so hard in accustoming to the new method of learning literacy, so it’s better not to set too rigid requirements for them at the beginning. See what they can come up with. The E-portfolio is a great idea since it’s multi-layered, and is more inclusive that can free students to explore their own new-literacy world.

    The last thing I would like to mention is the machine scoring. Actually I cannot figure out how a machine can do this. I mean it’s terrible. Writing should serve a communicative function prior to be graded, even if it is test-oriented. The machine scoring makes me think of the old Chinese Imperial Examination when students were asked to write Baguwen (stereotyped writing), which sets specific standards on how many paragraphs there should be, where evidence should be selected, what style should the writer adopt… In a society where creativity is highly advocated, the machine scoring heavily restricts students of producing interesting and creative texts.

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  7. Thanks, Andrew! Your questions are similar to ones that I had after reading this chapter, and although DeVoss understandably doesn’t offer as many solutions as I’d like, she seems to be hinting at answers to a few of them. You ask if one of the benefits of teaching digital writing is that it is transferable to non-digital writing and I think that one could make a case that this is true. As DeVoss explains on page 112, web environments allow us to gauge audience responses and trace habits of mind easier than we have been able to in the past. She assures that “blogs or social networks provide analytical tools that can help students learn more about their audiences and these audiences’ reactions. This process, in turn, helps students establish inquiry questions that they can follow with regard to their own work. Studying digital writing in this way invites students to use the same analytical tools that professionals use to better understand their own work and plan for improvement.” While this depends upon our use of the technology, the questions that she gives as examples for students to consider, such as why certain links are popular, or get clicked on over others, are all great examples of inquisitive questions that develop certain critical skills that students may not otherwise have exposure to. Again, this depends on instruction, but I think what DeVoss is arguing is that when writing is made public and collaborative, it gives us a forum to introduce students to necessary thinking strategies for how and why people react to things the way that they do.

    The second part of your question, whether or not the main benefit lies with the fact that students will be expected to write more digitally, and therefore it’s our responsibility to teach it, is a bit easier to answer. While I do agree with DeVoss’s point that “in some ways, writing is the same as ever,” we must also acknowledge the ways that it has drastically changed. As you point out, the mediums that students will be expected to write in academically, professionally, and personally will increasingly become more digital, and therefore I do think we’re partially response for tailoring instruction accordingly. This is something that I’m sure is much easier said than done, but no matter what our feelings are towards digital writing, we cannot ignore the strong presence it has in today’s society.

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  8. (1/2) It seems like one of the big questions that needs to be addressed before we can begin to create evaluative guidelines for digital practices is what makes technology different from any other thing that we ask students to do? What is unique or irreplicatable (in other educational activities) about it? Of course, many of the guidelines that DeVoss et. al. survey do just that. However, their amalgamation of key words surrounding twenty-first century education on pages 100 – 102 doesn’t seem very useful in making this distinction. DeVoss et. al. have made an effort to weed out “traditional and still very much valued language arts activities (reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and visually repressing), and focused instead on the habits of mind and actives in which students are expected to engage as digital writers” (100). However, the delineation seems a bit lost once you encounter the very inclusive list. Many of these things don’t strike me as particularly digital – they just seems to be a list of good practices that perhaps do break with more traditional and constrained notions of the classroom, but not in a particularly “digital” way. I found the final three sections the most applicable – “Remix Culture,” “Technology Knowledge & Issues,” and “Digital Citizenship.” Because digital assessment is such slippery material, I find I have a desire to draw a hard line but reflecting on the chapter has made me realize that is nearly impossible to do.

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  9. (2/2) I found one of the most fascinating (and certainly frustrating for current teachers) dilemmas described by this chapter to be the one that Alex gestures at in his comment. DeVoss et. al. write “the skills and capacities essential to new digital literacies can be directly at odds with norms and expectations that undergird most assessment programs” (92). It seems to me that digital composing has the potential to give students creative and intellectual freedom – to do away with the automation of the five paragraph essay. But, of course, there is a lot of pushback against that very movement. This seems like it would really create a double bind for teachers who want to open students to this possibility but are also responsible for drilling the, perhaps outdated, tools of the discourse. De Voss et. al do a good job of making this predicament clear and imagining some compelling answers in the way of their “double helix” (93).
    I’d like to briefly address the compelling questions that Andrew leaves us with by way of Alex’s comment that “we are witnessing a move towards information-based literacy and a move away from interpretation-based literacy” with “emphasis is on consumption, not production. The kinds of multimodal texts described by DeVoss et al do not really fit within this model, since they cannot be merely consumed” (Alex). I agree that the texts imagined by DeVoss and many of the other authors we’ve been reading (particularly Jay David Bolter) suggest just the opposite – that digital writing is moving us into increasingly interpretive territory. In light of Alex’s observation that multimodal texts are tougher to evaluate because they challenge boundaries, I was compelled to think that maybe English is the right domain for teaching and evaluating digital literacy. English has long been more interpretive than other disciplines so perhaps the English teacher inherently has more experience with the interpretative assessment that I believe twenty-first century education calls for. I just wonder if we want that responsibility?

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  10. Thank you Andrew for your thought provoking post. I think I was left with many of the same questions you had when you say what will it mean to be literate person and a functioning member of society in the near future? Like Jiuqing, I have to admit to being slightly overwhelmed by the information being covered in this chapter. I also had not thought to consider the tenants of the 21st century skills until they were laid out in the chapter, and while I agree with Michigan's goal to define and make students familiar with technology literacy, it's no less overwhelming to read this chapter and find that a lot of the definitions of this digital literacy does seem to more naturally fall on the English student. Add this to the multi-modal ways in which we can, as teachers, provide students opportunities to present their writing in new and dynamic ways, but in order to do this we will have to create these rubrics for which there seems to be little common thought on at this point, and it's intimidating to say the least.

    This being said, I think guidelines are presented in this chapter so that as teachers we can allow our students leeway in how to use new technology to present their ideas. I think the idea of the e-portfolio seems to me like not only a great opportunity for students to keep specific track of their improved writing skills, but as teachers it gives us a sort of unprecedented view to specifically and directly talk to students about how to improve, revise and re-write their own writing.

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  11. Digital writing has the potential to be as similar to traditional writing as an instructor wishes, or as different as is described in DeVoss on page 91, where an instructor prefers the student to "write less" but focus more on how the audience will receive the product. Some of the student exercises described in DeVoss were quite interesting to me (and ones I would try myself). I’ve never thought of having a student take a 500 word paper and boil it down to 100 words, but when you think about the importance of generalizing skills that it would take to do the inverse (take 100 words and turn it into 500-which I have had to do in a traditional writing course) being able to do the opposite IS just as important. Digital writing provides teachers and students a new medium to perform and ‘play’ around with tasks like this. But students can also work on the traditional ELA skills of fluency through podcasts, or a book report through a digital story. This is especially advantageous for students who are not the best language based learners, because they have a chance to represent their knowledge and learning of the same English subject material through different mediums (other than traditional writing).

    As for who should teach these technology skills I’m sure it varies by district. In my public middle school we had a mandatory computers class that we took one quarter in the sixth and eighth grades. In the sixth grade you were taught to type with paper covering your hands and you had to do typing exercises and then type passages and you were graded on your speed, accuracy, and ability. Although I hated the class at the time, it was one of the most useful classes I ever took in my life. In the eighth grade I was forced to take a computer class teaching office, excel, powerpoint, and some fourth program. This was also extremely useful because I have needed to use these programs throughout my secondary and collegiate education. I think the most sensible thing is to force (mandate) kids to take classes like this in middle school (or even earlier) just for a portion of the year (because the quarter we were forced to take these computer classes we had to forfeit music or art) and gradually build upon these skills. Then teachers could work the learned skills into their curriculum. Obviously this is idealized as not all districts mandate computer classes, and in that situation I would advocate for an approach similar to what is described in DeVoss on page 90 where the teacher dedicates class time to learning the tech skills for certain projects and gradually builds on these skills throughout the year, and continually asks rhetorical questions of his students as to why they made the technological choices that they did. You could really use technology in all subjects- think a class wiki to share lab reports in which students could respond to each other’s findings and comment on possible mistakes made in the scientific process or problems with variables for a science class. I have used excel in math numerous times to create visual representations of data or just to crunch numbers, and in the same way technology is used in an ELA classroom it could be used in a history classroom. It’s really not appropriate for the sole responsibility of technology teaching to fall on an English teacher- nor does it really make sense- since “digital writing” is technically not “traditional print writing”- so using digital writing for math should be equally as important as it is for an ELA class.

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  12. I, too, had the same thought that you did, Andrew. What will this mean for literate and functioning members of society in the future?

    One day, I believe this won't really be too much of an issue for middle and high school teachers. As DeVoss said "In 2011, students at the eighth and twelfth grade levels will compose on computers using commonly available tools, and students at the fourth grade level will do so by 2019" (107). If that's true, students will be learning how to use computers at younger and younger ages. By the time I start teaching, my students are most likely going to know a lot more about technology than I do, which is a scary thought.

    But anyway, I think that this will fall to the English teachers. In math and science, students may have to use excel or maybe do a project or two using different types of digital writing. But for the most part, the class in which writing is the one of the biggest components is English so I think that people will make that connection and think that English teachers should take on the bulk of the responsibility in teaching digital writing.

    If teaching this falls to the English teacher, as I believe it will, the thought that kept running through my mind was "how are teachers going to teach students how to evaluate digital texts when they still have to teach them how to evaluate a novel? How do you spend an equal amount of time teaching them new digital literacies (such as podcasts, blogs, and wikis) and still focus on non-digital writing?" This chapter for me really raised more questions than it answered. As someone who has never been in the classroom before, it just seems all very overwhelming to think about teaching them the standards reading and writing, and then to add digital writing to that as well?

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  13. Thank you, Andrew, for your thought-provoking post--I would say you are right on par with the readings for this week! :)

    One of the things I am constantly reminding myself and learning about is that incorporating non-print based texts in the classroom take patience, practice (yes, even a few fumbles), and an understanding that what makes using these types of texts (blog posts, podcasts, image collages, etc.) so "difficult" is because we instantly feel overwhelmed by how unfamiliar these tools are for us in a classroom. At least this has been my experience, and I do not mean to imply that this is true of others. Although we and the students tend to use social media applications and are constantly using technology in some way, we do not necessarily have a set of "rules" that allows us to visualize how to use these tools in the classroom successfully (or even unsuccessfully with the intention of learning from the process). I hear other English teachers discuss how the expectations for their students have changed (such as, "High Honors/AP today does not mean what it meant several years ago because they kids are not meeting those standards...," etc.) and have had to come up with creative tools to engage the students, but not even they have incorporated podcasts or anything of that kind in their classes. Reading this weeks reading made me wonder why we do not incorporate these tools more readily, and I wondered if exposure/experience was the key to this equation. I know I sometimes experience a sense of anxiety when I go to use a tool I am not familiar with, but I do feel that I can at least easily find my way around how to use the tool because of my experiences with other tools if I just give it a chance. I would say that applying the skills of reading and writing is easily adaptable to any tool, but what is the most challenging is distinguishing the rewards of using the tool in the first place in relation to the objectives of the course as a whole. Just my opinion though.

    Something Allen wrote captured my attention:
    "With that being said, even if we limit ourselves to "writing" (whatever that happens to mean) instead of multimodal text, there many changes to be considered. For example, writing "meant to be read on the Web...may be shorter than other texts; it might be explicitly created in 'chunks' that can be read in different orders based on how readers choose to follow the hyperlinks" (DeVoss et. al. 107). I've come across this in my own practice, when I spearheaded a move to turn my school's literary magazine into a blog. Students quickly learned that shorter pieces -- poems, microfiction, and short prose -- garnered more online attention than their longer submissions. Coming to the conscious realization of what they had already known, my students began crafting their blog posts accordingly."

    I think Allen's point is important to take note of because this is both the pitfall and the ultimate reward, in my opinion, to using these types of tools: we have come to expect short and straight to the point pieces and as a result of writing (and reading) begins to search for the quickest way to gather information. This is a pitfall because this detracts from the ability to extend on ideas, but this is also a reward because the practice teaches students to be concise and to avoid irrelevant information. I think this is the true conundrum--we cannot decide if the rewards outweigh the risks. Also, I expect that, although we like to think our world is based on and in technology, there is still a very high demand for the written text (much like a contract and other such documents that people tend to want copies of and that SOMEONE has to write and read, right?).

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  14. Thank you for your post Andrew. Your comments and this chapter definitely hit on what seems to be a central question for this course, and for ELA instructors in general today, namely how the new possibilities introduced by digital writing fit into an educational culture that is increasingly focused on standardized assessment. I am sure none of us will be surprised if as teachers we encounter tension between the exciting and creative new ideas and techniques that we are eager to explore, and the more established guidelines and benchmarks that we are expected to meet (and demonstrate in some concrete way that we are meeting). The world of digital writing offers amazing potential for helping our students to encounter, produce, and interact with a wealth of information in a huge range of formats, but of course in order to incorporate these new ideas and techniques into a standardized curriculum we will need to have some way to assess these skills and measure our students’ progress in these new formats.

    It is obvious from the range of frameworks referenced in this chapter that there are lots of different ideas out there about how digital writing should be assessed. One of the amazing strengths of digital writing is how it helps our students write outside of the box, explore different formats and styles, and write for different audiences and purposes. As teachers of digital writing it would be our responsibility to help our students identify the skills needed for these different tasks and differentiate for example what makes for a successful blog post versus a digital story or an analytical essay. In some ways this is nothing new, as teachers we have always been expected to introduce our students to different types of writing (analytical vs. creative, etc.) and to help them understand why certain styles or conventions are more desirable in one format versus another. And yet as we incorporate more and more diverse forms of digital writing into our classrooms we will obviously have to establish some consistent and dependable goals that our students are expected to meet, and measurements that we can use to assess their success and progress.

    I think one of the most exciting ideas introduced in this chapter was the ides of e-portfolios. I love the idea of a teacher being able to review and assess the complete picture of a student’s work. E-portfolios “allow students to document process, to show changes, and to explain decisions, and allow us to see a bigger range of their work than just a collection of finished pieces” (DeVoss, 109). If we are asking our students to explore and try to gain proficiency in a number of formats and platforms, it would be incredibly helpful to be able to assess the full process of their work, and not just the finished product. Of course, the downside of this kind of portfolio assessment is that it could be incredibly time consuming for an instructor, and might simply be impossible for some cases where a teacher needs to assess a very large number of students quickly. Clearly, the best case scenario for assessment is not always an option, so the question of how we develop assessment standards for digital writing that are both thoughtful and efficient is still an open question for me. Maybe we will come up with some good ideas tonight!

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Leadership and Technology

I’m writing this as I read Chapter 5 of BDWM, Professional Development for Digital Writing . Teaching is the next step past learning ...