For a brief background about my teaching position, I currently I teach 7th grade, 10th/11th grade, 9th grade, and am in charge of 12th grade independent studies at a local alternative school.
According to Hick’s chapter (2009), “Creating your digital writing workshop,” the students, the subject of writing, and the spaces in which we write, are all essential to the dynamics of digital writing. When it comes to working with students, we need to understand and learn what they are capable of when it comes to digital literacy. Every day I interact with a student who claims they cannot read or write. Every day my response is the same, “yes you can.” Sometimes they are another student will respond back that they do not need to read or write to be at this particular school (I work at an alternative school). I am quick to respond with questions asking them if they text, use Facebook, go shopping, or even navigate the halls in the school looking at words because if so, they can read and write. From this I can easily interpret that students do not connect digital materials to reading and writing. Through my interactions with the students, they use computers as a crutch. The other day one of my independent seniors was asking me if I had internet set up to my one student computer in the back of the room. I told her she did not need internet for the work she was doing since she was reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and answering questions on them. After asking her why she needed it, she said she was looking up the answers for the questions. I told her no that was not the right way to answer comprehension questions; she said why not, I already read the chapters. A similar incident occurred earlier today when my two 9th graders wanted to use the computer to look up the definitions instead of using the dictionaries from my room. In my opinion many students today do not understand the importance of using a computer. They see it as an easy way to get answers. They do not see it as a way of expressing emotions and opinions through digital text. There is not a connection between the digital texts on the computer screen to the classroom except as a source of easy answers. This brings me to wonder if the newer generations of students will continue failing to see the connection?
When teaching digital writing, it’s important to under how and when we teach students to use this. I remember in elementary and middle school learning how to use computers and type of my writings in Microsoft Word; to transfer my written work into digital expression. Today I wonder if there is the same focus on teaching digital literacy as there was when I was growing up. I mean after all, I remember when we first got a computer and how exciting it was. Are we assuming because today’s student typically grew up with a computer that all students have the same equal knowledge on digital literacy? I have used online blogs before but using it in class the other night was painful and confusing. It is hard knowing what and how to teach digital writing when you are starting in a new school and do not know what the students have previously learned. Until I know for 100% what the students already learned, it is best to teach the basics. As I am designing a research paper for my seniors, it is easier to assume they know little about proper sourcing and researching. If I assume they know about resourcing and researching and they do not, the students will struggle with the paper and thus struggle with the writing.
For me it is hard to teach students how to use wikis, blogs, etc. online because I have one nonworking computer, one laptop, and one desktop in my room. The laptop is typically set up with the projector and students are not allowed to use the teacher’s computer, thus leaving no computers for students to use. I only have a projector on wheels so I cannot even work with students on digital literacy through a Smart board. Since students are not assigned homework, the only time left for digital writing is during class time. Even if my other desktop was working, how would the kids share it? Ideally I would have four or so computers in a classroom so students could rotate on the computer. The school would have a large library, computer lab, and a laptop cart for students to use for digital writing. The computers in the room would be set up on a long table so students would be able to have room for their materials. This would be in an ‘L’ shape in the back of the room, with a table in the middle. The middle table would have writing supplies for drafting and/or editing. On the walls would be descriptions of different kinds of digital writing as well as shortcuts for Microsoft Word. Students would be allowed to share and collaborate with other students on what they are writing. Through creating an open work environment, students will be able to help each other on any questions they have with digital writing.