I have always had an elusive ambition when teaching students writing – the desire to help students ‘find a voice’. That is, a way of writing that seems expert and clear and communicative, yet is so difficult to discern entirely.
Formulas and acronyms are essential, but are only part of the rich foundation of teaching writing. Demonstrating the (often awkward and deeply reflective) process of writing to a whole class is a fundamental necessity.
There is nothing new about showing writing to a audience: OHTs were the rage in my school experience. Visualisers, however, take this traditional and proven pedagogy and enhance it.
A visualiser, for those who have yet to see one, is a glorified webcam. Plugged into your computer, it transfers whatever is shown on the camera onto your projector. It can operate alongside all your usual IWB software, and current visualisers offer excellent picture quality and are priced from about 250 pounds plus (although a colleague managed to nab one from amazon for fifty quid!).
The most potent uses of a visualiser, linked to traditional pedagogy are:
1) Showing students how to write an answer in real time. See http://johntomsett.com/2015/11/21/this-much-i-know-about-the-merits-of-students-copying-from-the-board/ orhttp://tinyurl.com/gu7sgpb
2) Reflecting on students’ work in real time, at the right time. See https://weaeducation.typepad.co.uk/files/blackbox-1.pdf or http://tinyurl.com/h9zjfe9
3) Creating poetry by the breaking down of prose…
The principle of ICT use is that if I can achieve the same results without ICT, then don’t use it. Too much ICT use is the excitement of an app that is shoehorned into a lesson. There is something to be said for the novelty of an app. But the longer I’m in education, the more I find myself returning to, and refining, the essentials of modelling the process of writing and analysing.
By Gregory Anderson
English Teacher, DESC