Tom went to the beach and transformed into a robot

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Today I spoke to a group of boys, to gain an understanding of their attitudes to writing. I carried out paired interviews in the hope that they would be confident enough to talk in front of their friends about their feelings! Despite my concerns that the ‘macho’ side of the male gender may have prevented them from sharing their feelings they actually were very keen to share their views and gave me an interesting insight into their attitudes to writing, both in school and at home.

All the boys felt similarly towards writing in general, seeing it as something they have to do, rather than an enjoyable process. However within this, when exploring the aspects they do like about writing, interestingly for 2 of the boys, story writing gives them a particular sense of enjoyment. One boy justifies: “you can make it anything you want…you could say…Tom went to the beach and transformed into a robot…or you could do anything” and the other one agrees, stating, “you can make it as crazy as possible”. Similarly, the other 2 boys discussed poetry as an enjoyable aspect of writing as they could make them funny. Comedy was a recurring theme in their discussions.

I have not had the chance to consider their responses in great detail as yet, however there are some aspects that already seem very interesting. All children had profiles on at least 2 social networking sites, and from my conversations with many young people, this reflects the masses. One boy, discussed how using a computer without the internet is boring because you can only go on the boring games that come with the laptop and other conversations with children show the value they place on online gaming through services such as xbox live. Clearly internet access is an important aspect of children’s lives. From general passing discussions with children it is also clear that social networking sites are becoming a natural part of their online worlds.

One statement that struck me as summing up the opportunities children’s access to the internet brings in terms of learning and information came during a discussion about the internet and its uses at home. “If youre doing your homework you can search something up.” The google generation no longer ‘look‘ for information, they ‘search‘ for it. Whilst this is seemingly simple and meaningless it could perhaps be viewed as the complete opposite. To me, the word ‘search’ implies a more active approach to the sourcing of information, a more empowering exploration through avenues of information led by the development of technology. New technologies allows for the active sourcing of information, information 2.0 rather than the traditional, ‘old school’ information 1.0 whereby we ‘look‘ at books, or teachers for the true information.

I have lost my train of thought here as it is too late to be awake!

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General Thoughts…

One benefit of using Twitter over other blogging technologies is that it removes the barrier that a lot of writers face, that of the ‘fear’ of the blank page. Boy’s are often negative about the amount of work and labour associated with writing tasks (Daly, 2003), Twitter’s limit of 140 characters per post could help overcome this.

Forms of writing have changed. Kress (2003) details how it is possible that writing will become ‘subordinate to the logic of visual in many or all of its uses’. ‘Subordinate’ to me carries negative connotations, however I do not believe that it is necessarily a bad thing that writing is moving away from the page and on to the screen. What is the point of teaching children to hand write if in their, future pens will cease to be of any use? Who knows what will happen in years to come.

Having said this, I do still value the traditional methods of writing and believe there will always be a place for them in our world. The important thing for me is, if technologies can take away transcriptional barriers to writing then we should manipulate and make use of them.

Kress (2003) also discusses that increasingly, images will replace writing. I would argue that on screen writing, is still valuable, even if it is projected as images on a screen. Surely the compositional aspects of writing should be valued highly?

Maybe I’m not fully understanding these ideas…re-reading needed.

Boys and Writing

As my research question will (eventually) be clarified to an aspect of boy’s writing in the primary schools, I have been reading around the issues involved with writing, and more specifically the theory around the gender gap between girls and boys in English attainment at KS1 and 2.

National Curriculum Test Levels from 2008, show 68% of children achieved a Level 4 or above in their writing at the end of KS2. In terms of gender, there is a big gap between girls and boys attainment as 75% of girls and only 61% of boys achieved this level in writing. The statistics state this is an increase of 1 percentage point from 2007. The provisional results for 2009 currently show a 0% increase from 2008, with the percentages staying exactly the same.

Having seen the figures, it is clear that work still needs to be done to narrow the gap in attainment and bring boy’s writing levels up to the standard of girls. It is important to note with all of this that there are, of course, a large amount of boy’s who do achieve good levels in their writing in the primary schools, it is just that when generalizing, the boy’s attainment falls below that of the girls.

An interesting questions that was raised for me during this reading was: Why is there still a gap? Professionals have been considering this gender gap for over a decade, publishing research into what needs to be done to raise attainment, and the evidence is that teachers and schools are listening and following advice. Despite this, there is still a generalized ‘low’ in boy’s writing. In pointing this out, I wish to say I am not criticizing any teachers work, and am not saying that not enough is being done, I am just making an interesting point.

Having noted the clear gap in boy’s writing I was interested to find out what theories or ideas were being implemented to attempt to try and raise boy’s attainment. One recurring theme of this reading was that in order to raise attainment, we need first to transform boy’s attitudes to writing and motivate them to want to write, to see the benefits of writing, and to enjoy it. It is this that I hope to make the link to in my research. With the ceaseless ‘revolution in the landscape of communication’ (Kress, 2003) children are engaging in many different modes of literacy outside of the classroom.

There is a certain dissonance between home and school environments and within this, the value of different contexts of writing. Currently there are children ‘sitting in our classrooms who view themselves and the world in quite new ways and who have needs around text and literacy that cannot be met within these models of the curriculum’ (Carrington, 2005). This needs to be addressed.

One thing that scares me…it was 5 years since that was written. Time and technology development is exponential, is the curriculum following suit?