Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Webinar Recap: Evaluating Resources and Publishing Student Work

June 19th, 2010 Comments off

Students are often cast on to a desert island of research and asked to find the resources they need to help them find their way back to civilization. They may have received little or no instruction in how to tell if a resource is reliable, which can often make the process of research a bewildering and sometimes frustrating endeavor. As teachers, we need to help our students in evaluating resources, make them aware of what constitutes a reliable source of information, and alert them to the pitfalls.

In Thursday’s webinar, I put forward four questions we can have students ask themselves when they begin to evaluate a web resource:
“Why was this site created?”
“Who’s paying for this?”
“Why does the site look like this?”
and “Can the same information be found elsewhere?”

These questions begin to establish the motivation of the site’s creators, what message they are trying to convey, and the all important piece that student’s often struggle with: can the information be verified?

We discussed some pointers that students can use to gauge the reliability of a resource, which included authority, bias, design, transparency and currency. The feelings of the participants in the webinar was that there is no one pointer toward reliability, especially not domain names, which are often regarded as a guarantee of trust.

Students can use citation generators to help them establish the credibility of a resource. By filling in reference, students have to be able to identify certain information from a site that helps them critique it more thoroughly. Two citation generators available online: Easybib and Son of Citation Machine.

Using a social bookmarking site can give  a student a quick glimpse at how many people have at least looked at a site, and why that may be useful site to peruse. Delicious and Diigo are two such social bookmarking sites.

Some further website evaluation tools to take a peek at:

USM Library Website Evaluation Checklist

C-TEC Website Evaluation Form
Kathy Schrock’s ABCs of Website Evaluation (dated, but still a great guide)

In the webinar we also discussed the publishing of student work, really the end result of conducting and organizing research for a student. There are many benefits for publishing to the student, such as raising confidence in writing for an audience and the ability to receive feedback from someone other than a teacher. Many of these points have been covered in previous webinars by my colleague’s Barbara Greenstone and Phil Brookhouse: please check out their work if you haven’t yet done so.

There are many paces in which students can get their work into a wider audience:
Using blogs is an interesting method of creating an ongoing discussion and feedback. One place that caters to student blogs is Edublogs.
A wiki can be created so that only members can critique a piece of work, which can be of benefit when considering the age and maturity of a student. Wikispaces works well in this aspect.
There are dedicated sites to publishing student work, many can be found with a websearch Teen Ink is one such space.
Student wok can also be published in non-traditional, text-based format. Google Earth Community is a space for publishing files created in Google Earth, and can be a fun format for students to focus their research findings. Podcasts can be created and published on Podbean, for the delight of the world. And our old friend YouTube is a reliable space to host video.

I’m also making an impassioned plea not to do away with the school magazine! Many schools have a goal to be paperless, however I believe this is one bit of paper we should keep out of the trash. The school magazine can hold many pieces of student work, is easily distributed amongst peers and has a sentimental value that can last many years. I myself still have copies of my old school magazine, and do not plan on getting rid of them. With the publishing and productivity tools available on the MLTI devices, professional and attractive looking magazines are straightforward and achievable.

Be sure to watch a recording of the webinar – click on the tab marked ‘Webcasts’ above, then ‘Archives’, and locate the June 17th 2010 recording.

May 13 Webinar Notes – Publishing and Assessing

May 15th, 2010 Comments off

Thanks to everyone who attended this webinar, the last in the Writing Process Lens for this school year. In this session we talked about the last stage of the writing process, publishing. We discussed why we must give students a purpose for writing other than to complete an assignment and an audience for their writing other than the teacher.Friedman quote In our MLTI classrooms, with 1-to-1 computing, students have a vast array of choices of ways to display their work and share it with the public. I demonstrated some examples of ways students can use the software on their MLTI MacBooks for publishing and suggested some online opportunities as well. Click on the Webcasts – Archives tab at the top of this page to find the links for the recordings to review the discussion of Pages, Keynote, iPhoto, and ComicLife. Here are links to  web resources mentioned in the webinar:

Web Publishing

Print Publications

Fan Fiction

Jim Moulton’s blog post on Publishing Student Writing

Some resources contributed by participants:

Thoughts about assessment:

  • Establish criteria before starting the writing project
  • Checklists and rubrics
  • Writing portfolios – look for evidence of improvement and growth
  • Self-assessments and peer assessments – to self-assess effectively students must care about their work

Thanks once again to all the participants in this series of webinars. I know I have learned a lot from the participants and I hope we will continue to learn from each other.

May 13 Webinar – Publishing and Assessing

May 11th, 2010 Comments off
Thinking about publishing

Made on an iPad by Ann Marie Quirion Hutton

One of the most exciting changes brought about by the advent of technology in our classrooms is the abundance of tools for publishing student writing. As a veteran teacher, I remember the days (and it doesn’t seem so long ago) when I struggled to find ways students could share their writing with someone other than me. Publishing gives students a purpose and a real audience for their writing and when students write for a reason other than to get a grade, they write better.

This week’s webinar, Publishing and Assessing, will take a look through the writing process lens at how to help students finalize their work and share it. Our MLTI MacBooks have many applications that can help students illustrate and display their writing in professional-looking products that can be printed or shared digitally. We’ll begin by exploring the many templates available in Pages and then move on to look at other iWork and iLife applications students can use to turn their writing into multimedia products.

Of course, the internet offers many opportunities for student publishing and we’ll discuss how teachers can help students publish for a real-world audience using the many web tools that are available. We’ll also take a look at sites that accept student writing for publication.

We began a discussion a few months ago about how to assess student writing. We’ve talked about formative assessment and how feedback can help students with revision and we will expand that topic this week to include some assessments that look at a writing piece as a whole. As always, your ideas, experiences, and resources will be an important part of this webinar so please come prepared to share.

Please join us this Thursday at 3:15 or 7:15 pm. Click on the WebCasts tab at the top of this page for information about accessing this webinar and for a link to the registration page.

April 1 Webinar Notes – Blogs, Wikis, and Other Social Media

April 3rd, 2010 Comments off

No fooling! Our April 1st webinars included lively discussions about the value of students’ online communication with written language. I especially want to thank Sherry Connally for allowing me to drag her away from her brand new grandson to join us. Sherry described her doctoral dissertation about how middle school teachers and students use social technologies for communication, collaboration, and building relationships. This dissertation will be published in a few months and made available through ProQuest.

Social Networks

Image by Plus Delta, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license.

We talked about ways teachers can give students opportunities to use written language for real communications (not just writing an assignment for the teacher) and looked at a wide range of possibilities, from simple email to using social networking sites like FaceBook and Ning. When we asked if the participants felt that texting, chatting, and other kinds of online communication were having a positive or negative effect on student writing, the results of our poll were mixed. Here are some of the comments:

  • I have heard of studies that say that texting etc. are good, and I have heard of studies that say it is bad.
  • Students develop effective communication techniques through trial and error.
  • When students write/key reports, they are using “web” language.
  • The grammar and spelling are negatives, but I have used blogs and it really encouraged my students to use their writing as an interactive communication tool with their classmates.
  • The students use “u” instead of “you” etc.
  • “Web” language has a long tradition – read the letters of Jane Austen and Lord Byron – written in ‘code’
  • If social networking is used in the classroom and focus is put on language skills, then texting, chatting and tweeting can be very useful.
  • If we think of it like braille or morse code.  Both have shorthand. We used to teach shorthand in school.
  • My student’ academic writing contains “LOL” type stuff.
  • -Love using “forums” with my Spanish classes.  They are communicating in Spanish which is what I want them to do.
  • They need to know when it is appropriate to use that kind of language.
  • Kids today speak two languages.  The traditional English and chat.  They just go between the two.

Ruben Puentedura shared links to two articles about the effects of texting on student writing (Thanks, Ruben!):

Other resources we shared:

The webinar participants also had a lot of ideas about filtering and teaching digital citizenship. Here are some of the ideas and resources that were shared in the chat box:

  • Chats and BackChannels
  • Digital Citizenship
    • Common Sense Media (another partnership with MLTI)
    • For all things Chat/Skype/Video Chat – obviously educating parents and students about how to use them and how to stay safe is important.
    • I include Common Sense tips every week in my newsletter to parents.
  • Social Networking
    • I have a classroom Ning site set up for my computer apps classes.  Students blog, answer forums and add comments to their peers’ discussions.
    • Edublogs and WordPress for blogging with students.
    • My daughter’s class uses Blogspot to respond to weekly assignments.
    • Twitter is a great way to provide professional development. Following educational leaders who provide lots of resources and links is most beneficial.
    • I’ve used Facebook profiles as a way of creating character profiles during writing and reading activities.
    • One school uses FB to facilitate the iTeam meetings, another choir rehearsals.
    • Facebook is blocked in our school.
    • We (teachers) have overrides to get througth the blocked sites.
    • Google Docs is better for this and easier to manage
    • Check the Terms of Use to determine if children under 13 can use ePals or Google Docs
    • Pew Internet – great resource for research on what social media looks like, and what teens are doing with it.

Thanks to all the participants who contributed their ideas, opinions, and resources on this topic. It was a valuable opportunity for us to learn from each other.

April 1 Webinar – Blogs, Wikis, and other Social Media

March 30th, 2010 Comments off

Social NetworkingThis week’s webinar in the Writing Process series will be a departure from our journey through the stages of the process. Instead, we will take a look at how students are using social technologies to communicate through written language, both in and out of school. Whether it’s through email, chat, blogs, texting or social networks like Facebook and Twitter, our students are engaged in this kind of writing every day. How can we help students use these powerful new tools effectively and ethically?

Sherry Connally, Principal of Rangeley Lakes Regional School, will be the guest host. Sherry recently completed her doctoral dissertation, An Exploration Of Maine Middle School Teachers’ Use Of Social Technologies. She will discuss her findings and talk about ways that teachers are helping students learn to communicate, collaborate, and build relationships through social media.

We will look at some examples of ways teachers can leverage interest in this type of communication to help students improve their writing, and we will share resources for doing this. As always, we will encourage participants in the webinar to share their experiences and resources so we can learn from each other.

Please join us Thursday, April 1 at 3:15 or 7:15 pm. You can find links for registration and information about how to access these sessions by clicking on the Webcasts tab at the top of this page.

Illustration by Ann Marie Quirion Hutton based on an original by Maarten Korz, licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic license.

Feb. 25 Webinar Notes – Drafting, Revising, and Editing

February 26th, 2010 2 comments

Thanks to everyone who attended yesterday’s webinars. I’m grateful that the power stayed on throughout both sessions and we were able to get through them. The discussion in the chat box was lively in both sessions and we learned a lot from each other. Here are the highlights:

What is the difference between revision and editing?

A few thoughts from the participants:

  • I think anyone (teacher, peer, e.g.) can edit. Revising is done by the original author.
  • When I think of editing, I think of making corrections to obvious errors (ie. punctuation, spelling).  When I think of revising, I think of making improvements to getting the thought process on the paper in an organized fashion.
  • Revising is structural where editing is correcting errors.
  • Editing is the mechanics and revising is adding details, voice, etc.
  • Revising is ideas; editing is mechanics.  Together they make a piece of writing.
  • I think of revision as improvement and editing as correcting.
  • I think revisions go beyond surface.
  • Revising working with content; Editing working with mechanics etc.
  • Revising is improving content, editing is improving the punctuation and stuff.
  • Revision=changing what you’re saying, editing=polish.
  • Editing is for correcting mechanical parts and revising is re-working the language
  • Revising is thought based and editing is more mechanical.
  • Editing to me is more like correcting a grammatical error, spelling, etc. Revising involves more: changing
  • Revisions are content, editing-making ideas fit frameworks

Flexible TextOrganizing Drafts and Showing Progress

Teach students to organize drafts (as well as prewriting and organizing materials) in folders and use naming conventions for files. Have students use “Save As” to keep copies of all drafts to show their progress.

Taking Advantage of Flexible Text

Be sure students know how to manipulate text with copy or cut and paste, select and replace, find and replace, and drag and drop. Students are more likely to make real revisions in their writing when they no longer have to completely rewrite each new draft.

Writing Applications

Give students choices. Some have features that particular students need.

Applications on the MLTI MacBook:

Coming on next image:

Others to try (free downloads that can be dropped in the MyApps folder):

Editing Tools

Dictionaries and Thesauri

On Your MacBook

Online Tools

Why we love Alex…

Alex is a relatively new voice for Leopard that can be a great editing tool. Follow the directions for setting up a key stroke for reading selected text.

Grammar, Usage, and Writing Conventions Resources

Resources from participants in the chat box:

Image by Natalie Roberts licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Feb. 25 Webinar – Drafting, Revising and Editing

February 22nd, 2010 Comments off

digital text worksThis week’s webinar in the Writing Process Lens is Drafting, Revising and Editing. It’s all about the words – drafting, revising, redrafting, revising, drafting some more, and when all the words seem to be the right ones in the right order… editing. The beauty of digital text is that it is flexible and easily changed, allowing students to make real revisions more easily than they can on paper. We have found that when revising doesn’t require rewriting the whole piece, students are more willing to do it. We’ll take a look at the features of various applications for word processing and discuss how we can help students choose which to use. We’ll also talk about how to organize a formal writing project, saving and archiving notes and drafts to show progress in the writing process.

When the revisions are done, it’s time to edit and we’ll talk about using spelling and grammar checkers as well as other tips for helping students find and fix errors. I’ll also share some of my favorite web resources for learning more about grammar and writing conventions and, as always, I’ll invite participants to share theirs.

Please join us Thursday, January 14 at 3:15 or 7:15 pm. You can find links for registration and information about how to access these sessions by clicking on the Webinar tab at the top of this page.

Illustration by Ann Marie Quirion Hutton

Jan. 14 Writing Process Webinar Notes

January 18th, 2010 Comments off

Thanks to everyone who attended Thursday’s webinars and special thanks to Julie Canniff, Sara Needleman, and Lisa Hogan for their contributions to the conversation about giving and getting feedback. Below are some links and notes related to topics we discussed.

The Effect of Feedback on LearningOptimism exam

Evaluative vs. Descriptive Feedback

  • Product descriptors and rubrics (highlight for descriptive feedback)
  • For copies of documents that Julie and Sara shared, contact me and I will forward your request to them.
  • Anne Davies – Assessment for Learning

Establish Criteria

  • 6+1 Traits of Writing
  • Look at examplars
  • Have students contribute to building a rubric (Jill Spencer says, “Also, I’ve found that taking time to reflect with questions like…Why is it important to use criteria? Why is quality work important? These questions begin to help students see the purpose for their efforts.”
  • Rubistar

Teaching students to give feedback

  • Laurie Walsh’s document, How do you comment on a classmate’s writing? (Thanks, Laurie!)
  • Give kids sentence starters based on your criteria or model like 6+1 Traits
  • Create a culture where kids care about their work and agree on criteria that is not personal but that really describes high-quality work.

Ways to give feedback digitally

  • NoteShare – Voice Memo
  • Pages (and other word processing programs) – use callouts in different colors
  • Use markup and annotation tools in Preview for PDFs.
  • Some Studywiz activities are good for feedback.
  • Lisa Hogan suggests using callouts to have students self-assess. They use callouts to point to evidence that they have met the criteria for high-quality work.

Online programs that give students feedback

Recordings of the webinar will be available in a few days on the Webcasts Archive page of this blog. Please join me again on February 25 when we will talk about drafting, revising and editing.

Image by Terry Hart licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Navigating the Real World

January 12th, 2010 Comments off

Navigating the real world graphicWebinar: Tuesday, January 19th at 3:15pm and 7:15pm.

Click HERE to register for the events.

Bridge the gap between school and the real world.

Use and help create these new publications: Navigating the Real World and its associated web site,  They are being developed by the Maine-based nonprofit, What’s Really Important to Me, Inc. with help from Maine high school and college students.

It’s a challenging world out there.  Help your students learn from the experiences of people who are a few years ahead of them. Navigating the Real World is a printed annual publication that will be distributed in late April to all Maine high school students and many 8th graders as well.  At its companion web site,, you can view a substantial number of interviews.

Both the site and the printed annual feature the voices of Maine people – in many cases collected by Maine students – who have recent experiences that are valuable to current Maine high school students.  These include mistakes made and seen, surprises, what worked and what didn’t, what they wish they had been told, and what they would do differently.  Topics include getting a job, work and careers, college and training, serving in the military, money, credit cards and debt, challenges faced, and living on their own.  Also included are the perspectives of people who hire and work with new employees.  Wherever possible these voices are being gathered and edited by Maine students.

In this webinar you will learn how you and your students can use the site as a resource.  You will also learn how your students can do interviews and post them at for the benefit of others and as a resource for the printed annual.  We want their help to gather the stories from a broad range of Maine people.

You will also learn how your students can contribute writing and other content directly for inclusion in the printed edition of “Navigating the Real World” and otherwise help us launch this publication successfully. This offers the opportunity for students to learn from people about their real experiences post-schooling, and to help create the first edition of a real publication that can genuinely help their fellow students across the state.

January 14 Webinar – Giving and Getting Feedback

January 11th, 2010 Comments off

FeedbackIn our next Writing Process webinar, Giving and Getting Feedback, we will explore how teachers can give students feedback on their writing and how students can give each other feedback. Feedback is an essential part of the writing process and we’ll talk about how descriptive feedback helps students make revisions and redraft to improve their writing pieces. Our guests for this webinar will be Julie Canniff and Sara Needleman, two faculty members of the Teacher Education Department at USM. They will be a part of our conversation about establishing criteria and giving descriptive feedback based on that criteria.

Lisa Hogan, Tech Integrator at MSAD 75, will also be in the room to talk about her experiences with middle school students and the writing they did in science classes. We will look at some resources for getting feedback online and discuss the difference between evaluative feedback and descriptive feedback and how we can teach students to give each other feedback that really helps them in revising their writing. Finally, we will demonstrate how teachers and students can give each other feedback on their digital drafts, without having to print each one and mark it up. And of course, we hope you will let us know what techniques and strategies you are having success with in your classrooms.

Please join us Thursday, January 14 at 3:15 or 7:15 pm. You can find links for registration and information about how to access these sessions by clicking on the Webinar tab at the top of this page.

Illustration by Ann Marie Quirion Hutton

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