I’m a writer. I love to write! When I was little, I always said that I was going to grow up to be a teacher and a writer. Thanks to many wonderful teaching positions and this blog (and a few other ones 🙂 ), I’ve managed to meet both of these goals. As I’ve seen, heard, and discussed over the years, some people feel more comfortable writing on paper. Others prefer a device. I’ve always chosen the latter. As my fingers touch the keyboard, the words play aloud in my head, and these are what appear on the screen for all of you to read (with always some editing done in the end). I tell you this because as fast as I am at typing, and as much as I like to feel my fingers on the keys, I have a confession to make: I compose almost all of my emails on my iPad using Siri. I don’t need to: I could type them out. But often, especially when I get home from school, I’m trying to do a couple of things at the same time. With Siri, I can have my hands in use and still manage to “write” at the same time. I never send off any of these emails without re-reading them first, adding in punctuation, and correcting spelling and grammatical errors, but even this editing time, saves me time. And I have to say that I really like this Siri option. I organize my thoughts better aloud, but I love to write: now I can do both at the same time. The ideas are all mine. The editing is all mine. The final, composed email is all mine. But this writing is done primarily with my voice, so is this “writing?”
I was thinking more about this yesterday as I was conferencing with some of my students during Writer’s Workshop. A small group of students were working on the iPads using the My Story App. They were happily creating their own comic strips involving worms and snakes. When I went over to sit with the three students, I saw one of them click on Siri, and record a line for his story. When he pressed, “Done,” he looked down, read what Siri typed, and said, “Oh no! It made a mistake. I said, ‘Ha ha, you fell.’ It wrote, ‘Are you fell.'” Then he went and made the correction. In the meantime, another student noticed what this first student was doing with Siri, and asked him how it worked. He showed the student how Siri worked, and that’s when this other student found a quiet area in the classroom, and made his own recording. As he was walking back to the table, I noticed him reading aloud what he wrote and correcting his sentence. That’s when I recorded this video.
While both students had the iPad do part of the “physical writing” for them, they also read and edited their work on their own, as well as developed all of their own ideas. So again, is this “writing?”
I’ve never shown my students how to use Siri before. A couple of students saw the microphone, tried it out, and now use it periodically. Not all of their writing is done in this way. When I think though of Grade 1’s that may have many more ideas in their head than what they can get down on paper, I can’t help but wonder the benefits of an application like Siri. This application is also forcing the students to read their writing and make corrections: seeing that even technology isn’t perfect, and there’s always value in editing our work. One could question the future impact: don’t students need to learn how to write without using technology? What if they rely too heavily on these kinds of applications? Over the years, I probably would have responded differently to these questions. Now I’d say that I use this same tool to compose emails. I know others that use it to write blog posts. There are even teachers out there that use assistive technology to write report card comments. Maybe technology and the applications that come with it are changing what writing looks like and how writing happens. As educators, administrators, and parents, how are we responding to these changes? What impact, if any, do these applications have on our teaching and/or assessment of curriculum expectations? I think writing is now about a lot more than just a pencil and a piece of paper. What do you think?