This is the single greatest document in the history of time, space, and Quyzzle. If you don’t know what that third one is, don’t worry. We’ll get to that. Either way, feel free to write here. Stories, song lyrics, limericks, secret codes, manifestos, poems… write anything. This exists as a collaborative work of performance literature. Edit away, change whatever you’d like. Create something beautiful… or destroy it. This is yours, mine, ours. It can be anything and everything. So pack your bags and get writing.
I didn’t write that.
The author of that fantastic bit is an anonymous student in my creative writing class.
I’m still working on my big post in defense of technology. So later when you read that, I want you to remember what I’m writing in this post. I’m going to tell you about the kind of thing that is possible in my classroom now with technology that I am not able to accomplish without it.
Today in creative writing, we did a mini lesson about writing about what you KNOW based on what you DO in your life. We used a Taylor Mali poem, “Miracle Workers,” as our mentor text (read the text; watch the video of Mali performing this poem). This poem is about teaching–and Mali presents details that he can only possibly know because he is a teacher. He repeats several times in the poem, “I’m a teacher; that’s what we do.”
I asked my students to write their own poems about something that they do in their lives and to work to include very specific details that only they know about that they that they do.
And I asked my students to pick one line from their poems and add that line to the “collective poem”–merely a blank Google Doc, to which all students in the class had editing privileges, that is now beautifully bespeckled by their lines of poetry, all woven together into one fantastic collective poem authored by the whole class at the same time.
(I have fifteen computers in my classroom in case you’re wondering about the logistics of getting 33 kids each onto one Google Doc within the space of about 20 minutes…)
As my students worked (and by “worked” I mean that some were working madly writing with pen or pencil on paper in their writer’s notebooks and some were on the computers adding to the collective poem), I had the collective poem Google Doc projected on the big screen from my computer. Some of my students and I watched the poem erupt on the screen, totally transfixed by what was going on. A Google Doc with several people editing it at once looks kind of like Harry Potter’s Marauder’s Map–you can watch the cursors moving on the page as the people moving them type, and each cursor is labeled to let you know who is controlling it.
As I watched, I commented to my students about how awesome this was to watch their writing explode before our eyes.
And then someone said, “we should have a Google Doc where we can just goof around!”
And a chorus responded with, “YES!!!!!”
So I sat down at my computer and started making just that, a Google Doc, blank, but entitled, “Goof Around.”
“Where do you want the link to it?” I asked as I worked.
“Right on the main page of the website. HUGE!” they said.
So I went to the main page of the website–as my students watched this unfold on the big screen–went into editing mode, and typed the words that would be the hyperlink to the document. Then they told me to make the words as large as possible. And bold. And underlined. AND italicized. And hot pink. And I wasn’t working fast enough–a student who was on a computer said, “where is it? Where is it? Where’s the link?” I put in the link to the Google Doc, shared it with all of them, and hit save.
And within less than a minute, they had their goof around doc. (Yes, all of that took me literally less than a minute).
We had five minutes left in class. On the big screen, I toggled back and forth between the Goof Around doc and collective poem, both documents in a state of constant evolution.
The bell rang, the students left, I taught three more classes in a row, and then while I ate my burrito at my desk during my off period, I visited the Goof Around doc and found what I copied above up there. I made MisterS stop what he was doing and I read it to him because I thought it was totally, completely, awesome.
What did technology enable me to do today that I would not be able to do without it?
- My students asked for a space that was theirs and theirs alone to write together, and in about 60 seconds, I was able to give them that and they populated it immediately with their words and ideas.
- This space has an instant audience, so their writing is real and relevant and will be read by other people they know and care about.
- This writing space connects my students. They are working collaboratively on a work of “performance literature” (their term totally, not mine at all).
- This space extends beyond my classroom. The Goof Around document has had several visitors today, during school and this evening after school.
- This is yet one more place where my students can engage with words, with writing, with thinking, with art. The more engaged my students are, the more they will get out of my class, and the more they will grow as readers, writers, and thinkers.