The issue of writing… or issues with writing?

Let’s face it… writing has always trailed behind reading in the educational debate unless needed as a case of despair as ‘standards’ drop. Last year we had the National Year of Reading and this year many schools seem to be identifying writing as an urgent issue to address.

But what really is this ‘issue’ that so many teachers are being pressured to address? The issue ‘of’ writing from many teacher’s point of view is that writing assessment marks are lower in most cases than Maths and Science. Could this be to do with the fact that maths and science follow rules or rarely deviate from a universally agreed answer? Writing differs because it is extremely difficult to ‘teach to the test’ because writers create and shape text from experience of reading and meaning making that they engage with not only in the classroom, but in the real world. I hear horror stories of ‘quick-fix’ strategies to improving ‘attainment’ that fundamentally ignores writers own experiences, creativity and the need to develop writing as a craft not as a generic practice. All the strategies seem to go against the landmark work of Donald Graves, for example, and the ongoing research from colleagues at UKLA. I find this a huge concern.

I don’t feel that writing is an issue. But I do feel there are immense issues with the teaching of writing that need addressing as a matter of urgency. As educators we must move away from prescriptive, one size fits all approaches to writing pedagogy and allow children to develop a love of writing through the manipulation of language to present their own texts… with their own voice – not a standardised one.

Joomla Cool!

Over the past few months I have been playing with the Joomla Content Management System (CMS) when developing websites. This site, for example, is built using Joomla as is the UKLA Learning Today website I am currently developing.

I have just finished the designs for our school website using Joomla and I am constantly thinking of new ways that we can use this system to integrate Web 2.0 practices into the curriculum. Virtual Learning Environments are good… but ultimately most are only visible to verified members and not the world. What we have here is a system where children can log-on within a special user group, create a page (which is not published until an administrator/teacher verifies it) and then it will automatically appear within the website and be automatically formatted using the site’s style sheet. The extensions and modules are endless… for example I have installed facitilities for video uploads and comments. And the best thing of all – Joomla is open source… user-led websites to the massess for free!

Influences of expression…

Two blog posts in one day. The reason… on Friday night I had the pleasure of watching Cirque Du Soleil: Quidam at the Newcastle Arena and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

This is not a traditional ‘circus’ with random disjointed acts and a faint smell of sawdust. Quidam contains a strong narrative which is enhanced by stunning visuals, changing settings, vocals and a powerful musical score… a live multimodal big top! It is a ‘circus’ that reflects our changing times.

It seems all areas of our lives are being transformed by multiple modes of expression… even the humble circus.