Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Not one glue stick...

... was used in the production of this book".

That should have been the little tag line at the end of each of the books my third graders produced this year for our school's annual Young Author's Conference. Not exactly leading edge web 2.0 stuff, but in the world of an elementary school, where glue sticks, markers, scissors, pencils, and crayons are the tools every child uses to produce a "book" in our celebration of literacy and authorship, this was pretty cool. It was a big deal.

A few weeks ago we got a slick color laser printer (HP 2605DN), thanks to the generous parents of my kids. It can duplex print, so I went out and bought heavy glossy paper for the pages and printable card stock for covers. The kids wrote from the get go in Word, writing, revising and editing on our classroom computers. Several of them posted rough drafts of some of their chapters on their blogs. The illustrations ended up slicker than whatever, as the kids photographed their artwork with our ancient Mavica and inserted those images into their digital stories. Many brought in photographs from home, took pictures of those pictures, and inserted them. They thought this was pretty cool, and they learned an amazing amount of technical stuff oh so quickly.

Not one glue stick. Not one curling up corner of a paper stuck onto another paper to try and look professional. No smeared crayon or runny paint job. These look pro. Looks do matter, you know. And of course they can be reproduced again and again, being totally digital. My kids will have them as one of the many pieces on a CD they will each get in four weeks to document much of their work this year.

Their third grade work might have been stuck in a box, stored and forgotten in an attic or under the stairs like mine was/is. Maybe it would have ended up in the back of a teacher's file cabinet in a file folder. Some of their work may go that route. But it also can and will exist on a CD, in storage online, on a flash drive, on a hard drive, a DVD, on a blog, and who knows what other media.... to be retrieved - and edited, improved, and built upon - in an instant. Forever.


Monica Edinger said...

I'm of two minds about this. At first I read your title and thought it was great --- that I too wanted to get rid of the glue sticks completely for all my 4th graders' publications.

But I'm not so sure. I like that they are still doing art, cutting and pasting, and various hands-on book creation.

We are finishing up Pilgrim historical fiction books. These are totally written on laptops, I'll print-out the final versions, copy them in pamphlet form, the kids will create cool covers, and we will bind them ourselves. If there is time I'll suggest they post an except on their blog.

Ever since we started the blogs (in January) 99% of their writing is going there. And so when I first saw your post I thought about how I could get rid of the glue sticks too for our large fall project --- an immigrant oral history picture book. But I think I'm keeping the glue sticks. I like the hands-on aspects of that projects, the hard cover blank books we use (how did you bind yours, by the way?), and feel it is a good transition from the work they did in third (mostly by hand, I think) and our movement to all digital work in 4th. (The picture book text is finalized on the computers).

In a few weeks school ends for us and I get a week of professional development and a new laptop too. I plan to really think through the blogs for next year. I'll keep your lost glue stick in mind!

Mark Ahlness said...

Monica, don't get me wrong - I believe like you do in the importance of the hands on experience. Our Mother's Day cards, for instance, probably averaged one glue stick per card. Lots of scissors and crayons, too...

I also teach art - two 40 minute lessons to my class and two to another third grade class - every week. My classroom is full of paint, clay, and all the rest of the wonderfully messy world of art....

The problem sometimes with a blog like this, and I'm still learning how to do it better, is that to make a point, you have to write a relatively short piece, leaving out the big picture. I hope I've filled in a little more of that picture for my classroom now.

That said, I believe we must continue to examine our reasons for using one medium over another, just because that's the way WE learned it, or that's the way it has always been done.

In third grade, kids can learn to be really good at using glue sticks and blending oil pastels. They can also learn just as easily how to deal with digital media (crop, resize, change exposure and contrast, wrap text, etc) .

Which skill group is more critical in preparing them to succeed and excel in the 21st century?

Rachel Boyd said...

Great that you have a mixture of "paper based" work and web/tech based work for your students to draw from and reflect upon.

Parents may appreciate the paper based work; but relatives further away will hugely appreciate the web/tech based work as they can share in it also.

A combination of the two works well for me!