Foster Parenting

Sunday, September 21, 2014

DigiLit Sunday...Write About This

Thank you to Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for hosting DigiLit Sunday.  Teachers who are trying new things with technology are linking to her blog on Sundays to share their experiences.  Please visit her blog to find out what's new.

I am so glad to be back to Sunday's DigiLit posts.  In my new role as a literacy coach, I'm finding it difficult to not be able to jump into my classroom to try new things with my students.  I now look at digital writing with a lens of a K - 5 teacher instead of a fourth grade teacher.  I also am thinking about how to support the teachers I work with.  Just as in any classroom, the teachers in my school are a diverse group when it comes to their familiarity with using technology in the classroom.  I am trying to find the balance of offering support without overwhelming anyone.

Now that beginning of the year assessments are almost done, some teachers are beginning to approach me about using technology in their reading and writing workshops.  I am thrilled to begin working with kids and teachers to show them the power of digital literacies.

About 3 weeks ago, I chatted with Brad Wilson about an app he and Bob Armbrister designed called Write About This.  Brad, a former fourth grade teacher,  is an educational technology consultant with Jackson ISD in Michigan.  I had a chance to explore the app today and know that I will share it with teachers in my building.

Write About This, "a visual writing prompt and creation platform" was easily navigated and one that students as young as first grade could use.  The app, which costs $3.99, houses photographs, each with 3 different prompts that students can respond to.  (There is also a free version).  If they so wish, students can use the device's camera to take their own photos and use their own in their writing.   In addition, students can add their recorded voices to their written draft.  Once finished, students can save their work to My Write Abouts.  My Write Abouts can be saved to the camera roll as a jpeg or video file.  From that point, students can share their work with their parents and teachers via email or upload their work to Google Drive or DropBox.

Here's a quick example of the Write About I created this afternoon.  I used the image provided in the app, but chose not to use the prompt.  I think it's important to always give kids the choice to use the prompt or not.

I saved my final piece to my iPad's camera roll and then uploaded it to Google Drive to share here on my blog.

There are 19 categories with many photos in each one.

After downloading the app from the Apple Store, I spent a few minutes reading the teacher information section.  From the settings page, a teacher or parent can select (or deselect)  text prompts, voice prompts, spell checker, create custom prompts (I especially like this feature), share by email, delete, and choose the prompt level (there are 3 different levels).  A teacher can also add student profiles.

There are 19 categories from which to choose.  Each category has several different photographs that are credited to the source.  In addition, each photo has 3 different writing suggestions (prompts) or students can do a free write.

Students can choose from 3 different prompts for each photograph or do a free write about the photo.

The prompts are aligned to the CCSS.

Students are also able to go back and edit their work if they so wish.

In addition, the authors have created Tell About This for younger children who are too young to type.  They can add their voice recordings to their images.

From what I can tell, this app is for short pieces of text.  I can see students and teachers using this app in different ways:
  • The images can help students come up with ideas when they are stuck.
  • The app could be used to help build writing fluency if used as a tool for free writes.
  • The app can serve as a digital writer's notebook where young authors can save seed ideas.
  • Students can share their learning in the content areas by taking a photo and recording their voices.
  • Students can take a photo of pictures they've made and add text and voice.  (I may try this with my kindergarten friends this week).  This piece could be a response to a book they've read, a short story they've written, etc.
  • Work is easily embedded into blogs, which would be great for students keeping digital portfolios.
  • Students could upload their own images of a favorite place, family member etc. to  write about.
  • A teacher could project an image and model her thinking as she writes about the image.
  • The piece of writing could also be embedded into Glogster as part of a digital multi-genre piece.
  • Narrative, opinion and informational texts all lend themselves to this app.
I'll be interested to see how teachers begin to use this app in their classrooms.  If you've used Write About This, please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nourishing the Teacher Writer

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Tuesdays. Please visit their site to read other Slices of Life.

I've been absent from my blog.  I've resisted any kind of writing.  Moving from our home of 17 years and changing jobs has taken me on an emotional roller coaster ride for the last 3 weeks.   Boxes needing to be unpacked permeate my life both in and out of school.  In addition, moving into a new role of literacy coach and Title Reading teacher has me wondering where I fit into my school community now.  I don't have 25 young learners in front of me every day.  I can no longer change my lesson plans at the last minute to try out a new idea I heard about on Twitter or read on a blog.  And I wonder, "What will my teacher writing voice be now that I am no longer in my own classroom?"  

According to the dictionary, nourishment is needed for growth and good health.  It's common knowledge that we need to eat healthy foods to keep us going.  (Although chocolate has played a major role in my diet lately).  In the same way, I know it's important to nourish the learner and teacher writer inside of me.  Today was a day that filled me with inspiration, energy, and a desire to get back to my writing.  I was surrounded by other teacher writers, both in person and virtually.  There's something about hanging out with others who share your passion and "get you."  We need those people in our lives to help us move forward when we get stuck.

Tonight I was fortunate to participate in a webinar with Troy Hicks and Penny Kittle.  Troy said something that will stick with me (and it made me smile).  He said, "Don't should on yourself," in reference to holding yourself to what you think you should be writing.  And that's exactly what the last 3 weeks has been for me:  "I should get up early and write."  "I should go back to that email and review the feedback and start over again with my draft."  "I should post on my blog."  I should, I should, I should.  

Earlier this afternoon, I spent an hour with a friend who has also changed roles at her school.  We bounced ideas off each other, shared our thinking and ate really good ice cream.  Good conversation and good ice cream:  what more could you want, right?  We're committed to meeting every few weeks to keep the conversation going.

So, for tonight, it feels good to return to my blog.  Slice of Life is the perfect space for this reflection because this community nourishes me too.  I've missed reading and commenting on what's going on in others' lives.  

I'm ready.

I'm ready to jump back in and work on some challenging writing, do some deep thinking, and play around with some other ideas.  

How do you nourish the writer inside of you?