Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Writing Thief: Stolen Quotes + Depth of Knowledge

I recently wrote a post about joining a MOOC sponsored by the San Diego Area Writing Project. We're reading Ruth Culham's The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing, and our second "making project" is to find a quote from her book that resonates with us. Using a digital tool of our choice, we areto bring that quote to life, expressing how Culham's words affect us. The clip above is my contribution. 

I used PowerPoint to recite Culham's words. I didn't list them in order or use the whole passages where the quotes appeared. I sampled them, selecting, repeating, splicing and sequencing her sentences into something a little bit more poetry. 

I wanted to create a meditative, playful effect, taking advantage the images Culham's words conjured for me. I chose the images Flickr's "free-to-use" website. This was my first time using Flicker, and I enjoyed hunting for evocative images. 

I used Powtoons to collate and present the slides. I got Powtoons in beta awhile back, so it was inexpensive. I've used PowerPoint and Powtoons, but I haven't leveraged all the programs have to offer, features like background photos, word art, and "fill's" and "outlines." I've got a ways to go, but I'm gaining proficiency (while I avoid the pile of finals that need grading). 

I hope to learn these and other tools well enough to use them in class and to assign students make cycles. My struggle with digital making- as with all tech - is avoiding getting caught up in the bells-and-whistles seductiveness of web enhanced stuffs. I'm realizing, in a more experiential way, that tech is a tool. I conceptually get that principle, i.e., that technology should be a means to deeper learning not an end in itself. But in terms of practice? Learning curve! 

I can mitigate falling into the "tech-for-tech's-sake" trap if I use Norman Webb's theories about "Depth of Knowledge" as a guide. Webb conceptualized four levels of cognitive depth: Recall, Concept, Strategic Thinking, and Extended Thinking. The creative quote project engages the first two levels of  rigor: Recall and Concept. 

To complete the make, I identified, listed, and quoted. That's the first and and most basic level of rigor. This project also pushed me into the second, more cognitively challenging level. Selecting quotes and images, matching images to quotes, and figuring out sequence has to do with three key conceptual activities: representing, interpreting, and organizing. 

The second level of rigor forced me to consider how and why I selected what I selected. On reflection, see that my choices were reasoned, not random - which made me appreciate the difference between these two levels of rigor. As well, I experienced how the basic level is a necessary prerequisite for the second, how the way the assignment was written made me do more than memorize; I made something, and not just a cute image or animation.  

This project compelled me to create knowledge from what I consumed, which is precisely what I hope my assignments do: treat students like active producers rather than passive sponges. Here's hoping my written reflection burns a pathway in my brain to help me remember and apply these ideas next semester! 

I look forward to experiencing different levels of rigor in these make cycles, noting what I can steal so I can share with students. I also look forward to reflectively thinking about and applying deeper levels of rigor in my own learning.  My goal? To promote the same in my classrooms.

I'd love to read how "making" makes a difference in your teaching and the students' learning. I'd also like to read critiques anyone has about Webb's Depth of Knowledge guide. I'm down with stealing your ideas intellectual generosity.