Digital Writing Day

Last Friday students participated in BHS’s first Digital Writing Day. As communication norms continue to shift, today’s students need the tools and skills required to participate in the contemporary cultural landscape. Consequently, the English Department has recently updated its curriculum to include a focus on writing for digital environments. We have begun to integrate different types of this multimodal writing into all four grades. From analyzing and producing photo essays in grade nine to crafting and presenting arguments through podcasts and documentaries in grade eleven, students will be working to write for digital audiences. Most notably, the BHS senior research project requires students to present their work through a digital writing mode of their choice. The English Department designed Friday’s event to provide students with an overview of some of the work they will be focusing on this year.

BHS freshmen working on their digital portfolios. Photo credit: Callie Graham.

BHS freshmen working on their digital portfolios. Photo credit: Callie Graham.

Freshmen met with Callie Graham, BHS Teacher Librarian, and Dennis Villano, BPS Director of Technology Integration, to learn how to set up their digital portfolios. This year, each grade nine student will have a Weebly for Education website where they will post a variety of assignments that demonstrate growth on essential skills, reflections on their learning process, and blog posts on their progress in meeting the goals they have set for themselves. During Digital Writing Day, students met in the library for an overview of how to set up their initial sites. They will continue to work with English teachers throughout the year on this project.

Sophomores and juniors viewed the 2011 documentary Happy, directed by Academy Award nominee Roko Belic. The film explores happiness in different communities across the world, giving students a glimpse of their global human connections. Happy calls on individuals to respect human differences while also recognizing our similarities. Additionally, the documentary emphasizes the importance of social and emotional well-being, a priority topic for Burlington Public Schools, as well as compassion and kindness, the focus for this year’s BSmart assemblies. After viewing the documentary, students in English classes discussed the claims the film presents; the types and validity of evidence and reasoning the filmmaker uses to support those claims; and the impact of the appeals to logic, emotion, and ethic in the film.

Seniors spent Digital Writing Day exploring different modes of communication they could use in their senior project. Each student had the opportunity to register for and attend two sessions of their choice. The sessions were facilitated by BHS staff and Burlington community members. Representatives from Burlington’s Real School of Music ran sessions on audio recording. Members of BCAT provided students with a tour of their studios and introduced basics of preproduction and filming. BHS Art teachers Christina Chang, Lexi Djorjevic, and Keith March Mistler ran workshops ranging from web design and impactful photo essays to advocating for social change through artivism. History teacher Michael Milton presented podcasts. Computer Science teacher Shereen Tyrell taught students about coding basics to create animated video games. Instructional Technology Specialist Jen Scheffer introduced various film editing tools for mobile devices. BHS Help Desk instructor LeRoy Wong worked with students on TED Talks.

The English Department looks forward to continuing this work with students to ensure that BHS graduates are prepared for 21st century communication. We are grateful for all the community support and for the collegial collaboration that made this event possible.

BHS seniors in the BCAT Studio. Photo originally posted on Twitter @bcattv.

BHS seniors in the BCAT Studio. Photo originally posted on Twitter @bcattv.

Shannon Janovitz