Select an item by clicking its checkbox
Assessing Students' Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely
Date Reviewed: September 19, 2016
Assessing Students’ Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely collaboratively addresses teachers who want to know about how to give feedback on digital writing. The book provides six digital writing protocols used to give feedback to teachers about student learning. The authors of the protocols are teachers themselves; Erin Klein, Julie Johnson, Jeremy Hyler, Bonnie Kaplan, Jack Zangerie, Christina Puntel and Stephanie West-Puckett wrote this book as a part of the National Writing Project in Berkley, California.
Each teacher in this project uses a digital format to teach a specific lesson. At the end of each chapter the teacher discusses the implications of the digital process for instruction and assessment. At the end of the book the editor discusses broad themes and issues about curriculum, instruction, and assessment. This discussion is based on the study of student work in the writing as shared through conversations among the various authors and teachers of the project. As stated earlier, this book is a collaborative work and evidence of this is seen throughout each chapter.
A weakness of the book is that it may be difficult for those who are just entering into digital writing because of the use of many technical terms associated with web-based learning. Although in general I find this book very valuable for gaining a better understanding about digital learning, I would like to see more information about the students who were part of the writing.
The book is intriguing because of its focus on youth and their learning through digital writing methods. It is also timely in that it gives rise to more conversation about the remnants of the No Child Left Behind era and the very present views on Common Core State Standards that are sweeping across K-12 public education in the United States.
Additionally, the rise of many digital formats for classroom teaching gives one reason to take the book seriously. As the author points out, this conversation is even more in vogue because of the accessibility of teachers and students to web-based services such as Google Docs, Wikispaces, and Voicethread. All of these services can be accessed on digital devices that are mobile. I can personally relate to what the authors are saying because I am presently teaching in an online platform that pushes me to look at digital writing very seriously.
Furthermore, the book is interesting because the voices of the teachers in conversation about student learning are present throughout the book. I find this to be important in a time when much effort is made to assess student achievement where it seems student learning is not at the core of the assessment concern, although on the surface it may seem to be. Overall, this book is a valuable asset especially for those interested in assessment and digital writing.
Expressing Theology: A Guide to Writing Theology that Readers Want to Read
Date Reviewed: June 16, 2016
Jonathan Roach and Gricel Dominguez helpfully remind us that theological writing should be beautiful, compelling, and engaging, but I am not quite sure that I am ready to join their writing revolution. Expressing Theology addresses a broad audience. Epistles to undergraduate students in theology, graduate students, dissertation writers, and “authors in training” dot the text. And the book certainly offers sound advice to writers of theology at any stage in their careers.
Chapters five through seven fill the writers toolbox. Here the reader finds the usual contents of a writing primer. Roach and Dominguez introduce the writing process and discuss each step along the way: from drafting to writing techniques, to grammar, and the all-important revision and editing stages. I like that advice from Strunk and White is mixed with wisdom from Gustavo Gutiérrez and examples come from Martin Luther King Jr. and Qoheleth. Perhaps the best things about these chapters are the pacing and style. The authors move through these technical pieces without becoming nearly as dry as many writing guides.
The more expressly theological material comes in chapters one through four. I think the authors are really smart to begin talking about engaged theology with a chapter on the writer’s identity and location. Writers are encouraged to own their unique perspectives and to write out of their own experiences. The section on sources somewhat predictably uses an only slightly modified version of Wesley’s quadrilateral, but it is not unhelpful. The chapter on audience prescribes writing theology as a conversation rather than a preachment and I could not agree with this sentiment more.
I am convinced! Theological writing should be beautiful and compelling. But I remain a little wary of the revolution that Roach and Dominguez have asked me to join. Throughout the text, the authors attack abstract and “boring” theology as they often repeat the mantra, “keep your feet on the ground.” The theologians among those most often cited are Anne Lamott, Kathleen Norris, and Thomas Merton, all of whom are beautiful writers to be sure and certainly theologians of a sort, but not really shapers of the history of thinking about God. Of course, I do not want to advocate that theology be ungrounded, but I repeatedly wondered if the sort of exacting, often dense, and sometimes technical theology that I read and write would be excised in this revolution. As I read Expressing Theology, I remembered myself reading Tillich and Whitehead for the first time and pondering the world anew as I read sentence by sentence at a painfully slow pace. I thought of Rosemary Radford Ruether so meticulously uprooting essentialisms and utopias, page after page. I relived the moment that tears came to my eyes, when after two hundred pages of groundwork, Jürgen Moltmann declared “Ecce Deus! Behold God on the cross!” (Moltmann, The Crucified God [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993] 205) as God became the godforsaken. I hope that Roach and Dominguez would agree that these too are beautiful and compelling theologies. Perhaps their advice will lead some authors to engaging, elegant, yet complex and careful writing like these.