Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Progress and struggles

There has been so much progress lately, but it's tough to remember sometimes.

First the progress. My class is doing an incredible job in their new blogging environment at roomtwelve.com. I've never seen so much enthusiasm for writing. We're talking kids wanting to come in at recess, read their writing and the writing of other kids - from Seattle to New York to New Zealand, write comments on the writing of others - or add new content to their own blogs. It is absolutely incredible. Many grownups are writing eloquently about this, and I try my best to stay current with a few, but it does take time. Still, every time I look at the blogs of David Warlick, Andy Carvin, Will Richardson, and Tim Lauer, I find something fantastic, some new tool, some great way of thinking about what's going on in tech right now in school, etc. Rss feeds to those guys' blogs are on the right of this page.

The struggle has been to fit all this in to the school day. Kids shouldn't have to come in at recess to write, for goodness sake. They ought to be able to do it right in class. So what are we doing in class that's so much more important than blogging? Gosh, I'm digging myself into a hole it will take way too long to get out of.

I will say the biggest impediment is to have to spend so much class time implementing a mandated (schoolwide) writing curriculum that has no tech component. Not a mention of a computer - ever. Kids are expected to write with pencil and paper for an hour a day, five days a week, much of it in those little Mead notebooks we all remember from our childhood. I feel like I'm back in 1956.

So I've tried to re-create, re-constitute, or whatever this curriculum into a classroom environment that has 17 multimedia computers with high speed Internet access, an LCD projector - and where the third graders, after two months, are extremely facile and fluid with a computer. They learn new things quickly. They share, they teach each other, and they enjoy it, take pride in their ownership and prowess.

Adapting this tech-less writing curriculum while starting the kids out blogging has been a challenge, to say the least. Sometimes it's too much. The kids want to spend more time writing on their blogs. They struggle gamely with the one story they have been working on for over a month in our writing curriculum. We'll finish the story up, but their hearts are not in it. It's a struggle.

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