- From Reinventing Writing by Vicki Davis
Vicki Davis understands teachers. She's a long-time teacher herself, runs an award-winning internet radio show called "Every Classroom Matters," and mentors hundreds of teachers through her blog at coolcatteacher.com. So it's no surprise that her book Reinventing Writing is tailored for the busy, dedicated teacher who wants to learn more about 21st-century digital tools but isn't quite sure where to start. Vicki begins the book with these words of encouragement: "The things you have been doing are important and have value. We just do it differently now. The basic concepts you've always taught are still there; they're just being taught differently."
Vicki helps readers find their bearings by showing how each digital tool in the book is analogous to a common writing tool that teachers already understand. Paper has been reinvented as ePaper and eBooks. Notetaking has transformed from a three-ring binder to a digital notebook. Index cards are similar to social bookmarking, and your trusty filing cabinet has been recreated as a cloud synching service. Remember when you first used a word processor? Now word processors have been reinvented as cloud writing apps that automatically save your work for you.
The world of publishing student work has changed too. Students are no longer confined to writing journals or reports that will only be read by the teacher. Now they can blog about their findings, so their research can be published for a much wider audience. Group reports have always been a challenge, because it is difficult to tell how much each student contributes to the report. Now with the advent of the Wiki, students can write a collaborative report, comment on various sections and lines, and each student's contribution can be easily seen by the teacher through revision tracking history.
Vicki introduces teachers to powerful pre-writing tools such as graphic organizers and mind mapping software. She also explains how illustrations in the digital age now include powerful communication vehicles such as infographics. She dedicates a large portion of her book to discussing digital citizenship - issues such as copyright and online student safety. The final few sections of the book have great titles and equally great content: "Making Your Job Easier: Building Writing Communities Where Students Love to Learn" and "Stay Sane, Stay Innovative: An Action Plan for a Lifetime of Innovation in the Classroom."
Reinventing Writing does not disappoint. It is deep enough to serve as a resource for the more tech-savvy teacher, yet is easy to understand and accessible enough for the teacher who is just starting out. Each time Vicki presents a tool, she gives practical examples of how it can be used in the classroom. She continually encourages her readers not to feel overwhelmed, to focus on learning only a few tools at a time. These words from the final section of the book capture the essence of this encouragement:
"Realize technology's place and that it is there. Technology is more than a person. Technology is more than a company. It isn't a being to be worshipped like the ancient Egyptians worshipped the Nile. It can, however, be channeled to water growth in our lives.... To ignore the river of technology is foolish. To attempt to drink it all in is impossible. So, the best attitude about technology is to coexist with it and use it to make lives better."
I highly recommend Reinventing Writing for anyone who wants to learn more about digital tools. If you've started reading this book or if you've already finished it, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts!