Supporting Creative Writing With Technology (page 3)
Even creative writing can be supported through specific uses of technology. The National Commission on Writing recommends that using technology tools can help motivate writers because often an aspect of technology-based writing is publishing the writing in some form (Anonymous, 2005). One project, titled The Pigman—Chapter Sixteen, developed by Eileen Skarecki of Columbia Middle School in New Jersey, seems to have this potential. In this project, students read the popular adolescent novel The Pigman, which, in Skarecki’s words, “leaves the reader hanging.” Her response? Have students write a final chapter and post the submissions on the Internet for others to read and respond to.
This simple activity of placing their work on the Internet for public access inspires many students to take their work more seriously and to engage in a level of reflection about their work that is otherwise rare. It will also cause them to write with a purpose, to think critically about what they write, to read what others have produced, and to compare their own work to the work of others. In addition to this new level of reflection inspired by Internet publishing, it is possible to design activities that cause students to be more reflective—to think about their work and the work of others in ways that lead to academic growth.
Kidscribe (http://www.kidscribe.org) is a simple Web site that was created to provide young writers with a forum for publishing personal writing in either English or Spanish. The creator of Kidscribe wanted to provide an outlet that would build the young author’s sense of confidence and pride in his or her own work while also providing an opportunity for site users to see creative writing samples in two languages and without the presence of commercial advertisements. Although the site offers no writing supports per se, it is easy to use and could be effectively used with teacher instruction on writing, especially for teachers who have limited resources (e.g., server space) for doing their own Web publishing of student work.
Although certainly not an ad-free Web site, http://www.scholastic.com also offers a potential publication venue for poetry and other forms of writing.1 But beyond simply providing a potential publication venue, the Scholastic site also offers guided grade level–specific lessons on various aspects of writing poetry, memoirs, or short fiction. For instance, the site offers “writing workshops” on topics such as writing transitions, forms of poetry, and writing oral histories. Lessons often include simple practice exercises for the topic along with feedback based on the learners’ response. Lessons also contain examples and lists of appropriate words to help construct the rhetorical construct being taught (e.g., a list of words and phrases for writing transitions). Such lessons could easily be used for whole-class discussion and activities or for students working in small groups around a single computer. A variation on these workshops is the lessons offered in Scholastic’s “Writing with Writers” section (Rowen, 2005). This offering features a set of online workshops that are designed by professional writers (e.g., news wirters and poets). Each workshop provides a suggested process for that particular type of writing, and each workshop ends with a mechanism for students to submit their own work for publication. Scholastic does not publish all submissions.
Poetry Forge (http://www.poetryforge.org) was developed by the University of Virginia’s Center for Technology and Teacher Education (http://www.curry.edschool.virginia.edu/teacherlink) and is another online site that offers tools to support creative writing, in this case focused on poetry. Poetry Forge offers a set of open-source writing tools for the English classroom. Downloadable tools work on either a Windows or a Mac platform and include a metaphor generator, a tool for building new poems founded on existing poetry, and a tool that explores the characteristics of “poetic text.” The tools are designed to challenge student understanding of simple parts of speech, complex phrases, and what happens both semantically and syntactically for language to effectively convey meaning in a poem. Users enter their own adjectives, nouns, and prepositional phrases, and the tool combines them into “poetic” phrases. According to the Web site, Poetry Forge tools are designed to be used with teachers working alongside students, coaching them and challenging their thinking. The site offers a good explanation of the technical requirements for the downloadable tools as well as lesson plans and suggestions for teachers on how to use them in their classrooms.
Tools like Poetry Forge are not likely to create the next national poet laureate, but they do help learners engage in poetry writing and practicing the application of literary structures that are essential and commonly used in poetry writing. The Web site authors directly acknowledge that the poetry that results from using Poetry Forge tools will be “unpredictable” (http://www.poetryforge.org/about.htm). They do, however, posit that even such results will provide the basis for editing, adjustment, and evaluation—all of which are critical and commonly acknowledge parts of the writing process—and often parts that are overlooked by novices.
1At this writing, we found these resources by following the “Teachers” and then “Online Resources” links.
© ______ 2008, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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