Monday, January 27, 2014
Catching the cutting edge 60’s and O.K. Moore
The evidence seems to be saying that there is something broken about the point of writing. In short, at a time of rapid digital change and critical need for creative and inventive composition of all kinds, our children are taught composing with just essay-type text. Within that particular medium, less than 1/4 of them are succeeding. At the same time, Cyberspace and Makerspace settings bring other communication options in which students might be motivated to find success, and curiously, eventually leverage their text writing skills as well.
The research on writing instruction and the abilities of school age children is not particularly thick, but certainly sufficient to establish a kind of rough outline of a measuring stick on public school children’s numbers of words, sentences, paragraphs and pages across grade levels and to report a measurement of effective student progress.
The data indicates that at best students write some ten sentences a week in kindergarten (Kent, Wanzek,Petscher, Al Otaiba, & Kim, 2013; Puranik, Al Otaiba, Sidler & Greulich, 2014) progressing towards 5 paragraphs a week in middle school (Gilbert & Graham, 2010; Graham, Capizzi, Harris, Hebert& Morphy, 2013) and 3 pages a week in high school (Applebee & Langer, 2006; Applebee & Langer, 2011). But too many do almost none of even this; just 33% of 8th graders and 24% of high school seniors earn proficient writing scores (Kent, Wanzek,Petscher, Al Otaiba, & Kim, 2013; NASP, 2008; Salahu-Din, Persky, & Miller, 2008). That 24% are proficient helps explain why about 19% of high school freshman finish college. It is a curiously close percentage to "only 25 percent of U.S. public high school graduates have the skills needed to succeed academically in college, an important gateway to economic opportunity" (Gates Foundation, 2014). If not for the almost forgotten 1960’s work of O. K. Moore, there might be little reason for optimism about potential radical improvement.
Such school challenges play out against actual radical improvement in our adolescent and adult league, the Web. Trillions of new types of digital compositions from billions of creators now flood cyberspace. They accelerate the long running and transformational work of the information explosion (Houghton, 2013). In an era of richly varied and often free multimedia software, these compositions combine and re-combine in ever more intricate ways to play an ever more critical and creatively disruptive role in the new digital economy and culture. The basic building blocks of this renaissance are not hard to see on any Web, Facebook, Twitter and nearly any digital site. The fundamental units make up a digital palette defined by at least 10 major elements (Houghton, 2012). How do these elements move from building the digital adult economy that was center stage at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (Sallis, 2014) to any kind of local place in the school curriculum? If integrated, will they further distract or permanently prevent us from reaching major educational goals of the last 100 years, such as proficiency in basic writing ability? Or can each leverage the other?
As Moore would often indicate, it was not the technology that was critical, it was the vision of what drove his team's effort. But where's the software that is duplicating and expanding on his ideas with the far superior devices of 2014? We can watch and wait or start somewhere.
Some of the elements of autotelic software show below as selected examples in the spreadsheet table, designs that make new digital media composition accessible for even preschool and kindergarten. However, baseline data on measuring our progress with 21st century composition is nonexistent (graphic below). There is as of yet no way to make comparisons and measuring points for media across grade levels that is comparable with the data now available on written text. For example, for video composition, what is the kindergarten level equivalent of 10 sentences a week? The lack of this knowledge is hardly surprising; schools are just beginning to get the funding to fully join the other professions in going digital so that such instruction, achievement and measurement would be possible. The time to take such a baseline is now; much research needs to be done.
[The video below is the same uploaded file as above, but uploaded through blogger.com's Video Upload button. Notice its markedly lower quality in comparison with the version above that was uploaded directly to YouTube. Where appropriate, go with YouTube.]
The Charge for Change
The learner-centered, learner-initiative nature of makerspace and cyberspace communities represents the seed, a break with current school practices, and the hopeful prototype for the inventive activity that communities will also expect someday of public schools.