Troy Hicks claims that "Digital writing changes a number of dynamics in the writing process, and there are implications for three of those dynamics that seem to be more pronounced: the students we teach, the subject matter of writing, and the spaces in which writing occurs" (2009, p. 125). These three elements vary based on which district, school, classroom, and student you are working with. I am currently completing my practicum in Discovery Charter School in Irondequoit, NY. This charter school serves K-3 students, with a preference for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. The population is mainly African American. I have only been in my placement for a few short days, but the first step to designing a successful digital writing workshop would be to get to know my students.
The students at this school are young, and their exposure to and experiences with technology is varied. While some have computer, smart phones, iPads, and such at home, others do not. It is important to do a screening of the class to see what forms of technology they are familiar with and others that need to be explicitly taught to them. Hicks (2009) provides questions such as how your students view digital writing, the ways they think digital writing enhanced school writing, and how often they access the internet or computers. These questions will help you learn the unique needs of your class and will give you a starting point. Hicks also provides steps to take with your students in regards to digital literacy. Some suggestions include, creating a blog or a wiki for the class and working with a small group of students to create a project with digital writing tools (p. 129-130).
I could use these suggestions as I work in my practicum placement as I pull out students for intervention services. The charter school has two computers in most classrooms and a few laptops that can be used. There are also a a smart board in most rooms. I would use the suggestions above to work with these students on different skills and strategies. There are numerous resources on the web that would be beneficial in addition to the ones mentioned in the book. It is important to remember that the students are young and may not be fluent in navigating the web. One way I could use digital literacy would be to create a personal blog for each student and use it as a place to post their work, list their activities and chart their progress. I could do the first post my self, and then assist the student in the future until they were their own blog master. This blog would be a good way for parents to stay informed of their child's work as well as a great resource to pull up when discusing a studnet with another teacher or the building principal.
In regards to subject and what we teach about digital writing it is important to remember that digital writing changes based on its purpose and context. The definition of writing as putting words on paper or screen is not longer sufficient. We need to consider what it really means to be a writer. Hicks (2009) suggests that you ask your self and your students what counts as writing, what you enjoy about digital texts, and what is common about good writing in both print and digital forms. It is also important to consider what the writing process looks like in regards to digital writing. Hicks also suggests that we create and show our students a variety of different digital writing tools using a variety of different genres and reflect on why they are useful (p. 131-132).
My students are relatively young and still learning and developing their writing process. I suggest that they should be taught both writing in print and digital modes. This way they will be familiar and comfortable with both modes as they continue their schooling. It will also help them distinguish which forms would be most appropriate for different tasks and assignments and be more willing to take risks.
Digital writing should be taught explicitly by a teacher and also thought virtual spaces. The structure of both spaces needs to match up and be appropriate in regards to the goals we are working towards and students we are working with. Some important aspects of the classroom set up include the height of the computer screens, when to use laptops versus desktop computers, and ease of motion in the room. In regards to the virtual spaces you need to decide what tool is best for the task, what the usernames and passwords will be, and how do you encourage students to share and respond to each other’s work.
I believe that Discovery is in a pretty good spot with resources to start a digital writing workshop. There are two desktop computers in the classroom and a cart of laptops that can be used as well. The smart board is also a great tool, especially when it comes to teaching lessons, modeling, and large group activities. I believe that a computer lab would be the next step to take to really make the digital workshop a success. This will allow for the students to gather in a central location and each student will be able to have their own computer. There will need to be a lot of explicit instruction and modeling to teach the concept of the digital writing workshop form the start. The students will have to learn what to do and what not to do during this time. I am sure that with time and commitment the digital writers workshop will be a success!