Dr. Kristen Turner, associate professor of English education and contemporary literacies, recently published a guest post on Lesley University’s Center for Reading, Recovery, and Literacy Collaborative blog, which is excerpted below.
An expert on the nature of digital language and the choices students make in their digital writing, she frequently publishes and presents on literacy and technology. Dr. Turner also led GSE’s March 2014 mini-conference on Engaging Learners in a Digital Age.
To hear more from Dr. Turner, follow her on Twitter @MrsT73199.
Rethinking Expertise in a Digital Writing Workshop
“Was anyone able to get a video into Corkulous?”
Maryrose scanned her third grade classroom, her eyes coming to rest on Ricky, who had his hand in the air.
“Ricky, you know how to insert a video?” she clarified. The boy nodded. “Okay, everyone. Ricky is the video man.” With this comment, Maryrose identified Ricky as an expert in that day’s writing workshop, and during the next half hour, I saw several of his classmates approach him for a tutorial.
In their unit on research, the students were creating biographical timelines of famous individuals; they used iPads for both web-based research and creating their projects, yet they also moved easily between the device and their traditional writing notebooks, where they took notes by hand that they then typed into the Corkulous app. It was the first time Maryrose had incorporated iPads into her classroom, and she was excited to see how her students might use them.
This shift in writing workshop pedagogy — adding technology to traditional methods — helps children to develop knowledge and skills that are critical to writing in a digital age. George Hillocks has suggested that writers need knowledge of “discourse” and “substance” in order to create effective written products. Hillocks has argued that each genre of writing consists of underlying structures (e.g., argument, narration, lists) and adheres to particular conventions that help to define the genre. Writers need to know these structures and conventional elements — called discourse, or more simply, form.
Furthermore, writers need to know what they are writing about, and they need to know how to find the substance of their writing. Adding appropriate details in an essay, for instance, may mean incorporating statistics or a quote from an expert. In a story, however, details may come in the form of an elaborate description of the setting or characters. This substance — the “stuff” that makes good writing good — is the content.