Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Digital Learning Every Day

In response to the celebration of the first Digital Learning Day on February 1, we've been doing a series of posts on how the digital age is affecting us as writers, readers, and teachers. Mary Ann wrote about "learning to love the e-book," not only as an author, but as the mother of a child with dyslexia. Jeanne Marie shared how she's trying to incorporate technology into her lesson plans to appeal to today's "digital natives" (aka our students). Esther blogged about her courage and determination (my words, not hers) in learning new classroom technologies despite her own learning disabilities. And JoAnn shared her approach to facing the deluge of digital-age opportunities: focusing on trying "one new thing" at a time.

I'm intrigued by the unique relationship each of the TeachingAuthors has with computer technology, especially because my own undergraduate degree is in Mathematics and Computer Science. Unfortunately, that education predates personal computers and the widespread use of the Internet. (I know, I'm dating myself here.) However, although the programming languages I studied in school are virtually obsolete (Ever hear of COBOL?), the basic principles I learned back then still come in handy. Plus, I'm not intimidated by having to tweak HTML code once in a while to get around some of Blogger's quirks. :-)

In an interesting bit of Synchronicity, I'm preparing to teach a brand new class this Saturday that is very technology oriented: "Get Started Blogging." Not only is this a new subject for me, but it's also the first time I'll be teaching a class in a computer lab. (And I keep imagining all the things that could go wrong with the computers!) Of course, as always happens when I teach, I'm learning, too. For example, I learned that the word "blog" has it's origin in the word "weblog," which itself was coined back in 1997 by combining the terms web + log. I'm also learning new software. I decided to use as the blogging platform for the sample blogs my students will be creating, instead of Google Blogger, which is the platform for our TeachingAuthors blog. That way, I can better share what I see as the pros and cons of the two platforms. If any of you have used both, I'd love to know which you prefer and why.

But back to the topic of how the digital age is affecting me, personally:

As a teacher:
As a reader:
  • I recently bought my first e-reader, a NookColor. It allows me to borrow e-books from both my public library and other Nook owners, as well as own books I have no room to store in my home.
  • One of the features I especially love about my NookColor is the ability to highlight sections of text and email them to myself, making it easy to accurately quote material in my class lectures.
  • I've also downloaded apps that allow me to access and update my Word documents anywhere I have wi-fi connection.
As a writer:
  • The Internet is an incredible research tool, and it's getting better all the time. While researching my young adult historical novel set in 18th-century Milan, I was able to find and read original source documents online with only a few clicks--in some cases these documents physically exist in fewer than five libraries in the whole world!
  • A dynamic online presence via blogging and/or social media (as opposed to a static website), is now considered essential to a writer's career, for better or worse. The Internet is a great marketing tool, but a time-consuming one. I sometimes struggle with finding a balance between writing and keeping up with social media. There's currently a great discussion of this topic going on over at Greg Pincus's The Happy Accident blog.  
When we first launched this blog nearly three years ago, I wrote:
While part of our goal is to discuss what we've learned about writing and the teaching of writing, we also hope to accomplish something here that we can't do on our websites: facilitate conversations between writers, teachers, and librarians about the subjects we love best--writing, teaching writing, and reading.
I had no idea when I wrote those words what a welcoming and far-reaching community we were joining. The digital age has allowed me to form personal relationships with people I may never meet in person, including young readers, writers, teachers, librarians, editors, agents, and booksellers. And I'm happy to consider many of those people my friends. :-)

I'd love to know how the digital age is affecting you, our readers. I hope you'll share some of those ways in the comments.
And happy writing!


Barbara Younger said...

Carmela, My daughter Kath of is a popular food blogger (if you can spare me a motherly boast). I asked her, and she said that Wordpress is much more versatile. She swears by Windows Live Writer as a blogging program. I don't quite get how it interfaces with wordpress, but she says she couldn't live with out it.

Tarie Sabido said...

I am teaching a blogging class soon myself. So I was happy to read this post and look forward to posts about your class!

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for the info, Barbara. I'll have to visit your daughter's blog. Have fun with your class, Tarie. Will you be teaching a specific blogging platform?

Tarie Sabido said...

I'm planning on introducing them to several of the platforms. Good luck to me!

Jeanette W. Stickel said...

You mentioned meeting “writers, teachers, librarians, editors, agents, and booksellers” in this digital community. I hope you’ll add one more to your collection – a speech therapist! I’m amazed at how the digital age is increasing the learning opportunities for my students and for myself. Thank you for the ideas and information you’re passing along in this blog.

Carmela Martino said...

Yes, Tarie, good luck to you! My class is only one-day, from 9-3, so I'm showing them only one blogging platform. I'm worried we won't have time to cover everything I want to share. So good luck to me, too.
And Jeanette, how cool to have a speech therapist in our community. Welcome!

Linda B said...

I'm approaching one year blogging and have loved every bit, of stretching my writing challenges, of meeting people all over the world, in teaching, writing and reading, and expanding my tech abilities. I am a lit coach now but taught middle school gifted students at my school. I recently started a small group blogging & we used Edublogger. I learned about it & thought it was great with students. One thing I still read is the blog from that platform. The woman who writes it covers many things applicable to all blogging. I am more and more interested in tech tools & am amazed at how much things have changed. I have a new IPad and have only read a few books on it. I like the other tools and apps better. I liked all the areas you covered in your post. I hope you have fun teaching your blog class.

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, Linda. I found a great article on the Edublogger site that I plan to share with my blogging class students: it discusses copyright and fair use issues and links to places where you can find free clipart, images, and photographs:
And I know what you mean about reading books on electronic devices. Although my NookColor comes in handy, I still prefer reading paper books. :-)
Thanks so much for stopping by!

Linda B said...

I'm glad you liked the blog; I've read & shared that article too & find other words she writes very useful.
Thanks for stopping by my 'snowy' blog! I'm sorry to say that I've not noticed your lists at the top of the blog. Yikes & I want students to notice things! But, thank you for pointing it out; I love it, know some but not all. When teachers at our school urge students to send some work, it nearly always is successful in some way. I've had students (middle school 6,7,8) publish several places & one teacher is devoted to the Letters to Lit contest & some students place in some way there each time. I hope you can get your students to risk trying. Nice talking!

Carmela Martino said...

I'm glad you came back to check out the page of markets for young writers, Linda. I'll keep you posted if any of my students submit their work.