This weekend was an important part of the Morehead Writing Project’s professional development cycle. We held our showcase for the 2014 Invitational Summer Institute cohort and our amazing fellows shared both personal writing pieces and the results of their in-depth classroom inquiry projects. This might be why the co-blog post written by Christopher Bronke and Robyn Corelitz caught my eye – or perhaps it is simply my seven years of cumulative National Writing Project experience that has already taught me the importance of writing as professional development. Whatever the reason, I strongly recommend that you read “Professional Development the WRITE Way: a letter to school leaders” either as a way to support your own professional development or to support your argument for including more writing in professional development.
Due to my own experience using class blogs and student reflection (I call them self-assessment) journals, I was very interested in Casey Fabris article “Blogs Aren’t Better Than Journal Assignments. They’re Just Different.” on The Wired Campus blog. In fact, the post generated a lively discussion on Twitter with Christopher Bronke and Lisa Hollenbach about the merits of both.
Which brings me to another great blog post to ponder this week “What is blended learning and why it matters?” Although the piece is a bit of a marketing tool, it does raise some important questions that all educators should consider as we bring in more and more technology tools into our classrooms and schools. How and why are we using the tools? Are we just doing more of the same with different tools or are we allowing the tools to take us (and our students) in new directions and offer new classroom experiences? I can’t help but think about my blog post: “Technology: Silver Bullet or Amazing Race?” and my closing thought: You can use technology as the vehicle to transport your students on their own educational amazing race and watch them create their own awesome learning experiences or you can treat technology as the silver bullet it will never be.
I think that my final note, a blog post written by Rob Jenkins, can help us navigate these important ideas for both our own learning (or professional development) as well as that of our students. “The 7 Fundamental Conditions of Learning: Our quest is not so much to figure out how to teach best as to figure out how students learn best,” sums up seven important ideas we should consider as we determine our personal and professional learning journeys as well as those of our students. I can only hope that some of the powers-that-be shaping the future of education are considering these questions.
I will conclude this week’s notable notes with an update for one of my more popular blog posts: “Students Respect the Badge” and hopefully answer Dina Moati’s questions on Twitter. I’ve included the badges awarded in my class for both community (essentially what happens in the classroom) and reflection (contributions to the class blog). This semester each student submitted two reports (one during the first half of the semester and one during the second) on the contributions of their classmates and awarded badges. Each badge award required an explanation and evidence. Just before midterm grades were due, we discussed (as a class) how badges would factor into our community (class) and reflection (blog) grades. My students (both general education writing students and professional writing students) decided that badges would not be required to earn a grade, but would instead serve as extra credit (ie. two badges could make up for one missed class or one missed blog post). We decided that students with excessive absences or missed blog posts were not likely to earn lots of badges (due to less opportunity), but this would mitigate the consequences for students who were good contributors.
How do you learn best? How do your students learn best? How do you use writing and technology to support the development of your students and yourself?