Simply stated, writers get to be better writers through conferences. Direct knowledgable response to writing is an absolute game changer.
The Pedagogy Problem: With a 150 minutes of class time a week, I cannot conference with kids in class and still keep the class moving forward.
So I either need to move the conference process out of class time, or I need to create a way to keep the class moving forward while I conference with students.
I have been trying to address the second problem for years, group activities, work stations, independent reading. These have met with some success, but I still struggled to deliver a quality writing conference. One of the issues is privacy. Writing is a major point of vulnerability, and conferencing with a audience of your peers is a nightmare for most kids.
(if you aren't sure about my ideas with writing and the ego, I refer you back to Catcher in The Rye, chapter one.)
The Tech Tool: Quicktime.
There are many screencasting options out there, some of my favorite are created by TechSmith, but for this session I used Quicktime on my Mac book Pro, as it is part of the software suite on the computer when it ships.
I was surprised that Quicktime now allows you to make movies, so surprised that I didn't know anything about it until I was searching online for screen cast tools and someone had posted about Quicktime's new feature.
A screen cast combines a live image of your computer desktop and your microphone's audio. In the example below I have a digital copy of the paper open and I also have a doc cam window open. The doc cam is capture notes I was making with a livescribe pen. (This was a redundancy measure, I hate doing real work with brand new tools without a backup.)
Each video took 6-8 minutes to film, maybe one minute to export, and another minute to upload. 8-10 minutes per paper is pretty good, but I was reading the papers live on film.
The students said that watching the video was less stressful than sitting next to me in conference and more useful than written response. My students also admitted they skipped to the end to see the score and then watched the whole video.
The Problem with the video:
This is only 1/2 of the process. I did follow up with many of the students after they viewed the video, but I worry that some needed conversations might not have happened. If I compare this process to not conferencing it is a clear win. . . but person to person is still the best. At this point I think screencasting is a good idea, but my version is still too long, both on the creation end and the consumer end.
1. Pre-read essays and screen cast summative comments.
2. Have Students create video responses.