Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 13(3), 262-284. (2013)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The goal of the "Write for Your Life Project" was to strengthen teacher candidates’ skills in both traditional and digital writing literacies through the use of social networks, blogging, texting, online modules and other social media. The project was designed to encourage teacher candidates to write daily, devise writing minilessons, use peer conferencing, and publish final pieces.
This paper describes how the "Write for Your Life Project" (W4YL) helped teacher candidates (TCs) integrate traditional approaches to teaching writing with new literacies.
The participants were 45 teacher candidates, who enrolled in an elementary methods course (n = 17) and a secondary education course (n = 29).
Data were collected through open-ended survey responses, informal interviews, student writing samples and course reflections.
The findings reveal that before becoming involved in the W4YL project, the participants had a preliminary understanding of essential pedagogical skills needed to teach writing effectively. The percentage of all TCs who indicated that tools such as power writing and journal writing were effective pedagogical tools for enhancing writing development was doubled at the end of the project.
The participants also identified the opportunity this approach provides for the teacher to observe and assess students informally as they engage in writing.
However, the findings reveal that both the teacher candidates and the social studies instructor struggled with the integration of old and new literacies into instruction. For instance, identifying valid sources of information for social studies teachers and determining how technology can be used so that it does not limit but, instead, supplements the learning process, was a key area of inquiry.
The authors also found that as the project progressed, team members began to set personal goals for new technologies they wanted to learn and share with their students prior to the end of the project.
The findings reveal that the participants agreed that the W4YL project was an innovative attempt to use more social media to encourage the development of writing pedagogy.
Both the TCs and faculty members agreed that the project increased awareness of the possibility of using current digital media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Groups, and wikis in teaching writing.
The authors conclude that the W4YL Project gave teacher candidates an opportunity to implement, discuss, critique, and reflect thoughtfully upon ways to use old and new literacies to teach writing and content area literacy.