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Talking about iPads and digital writing on Twitter. Twitter can't handle it. Moving here. 
Alec Couros's profile photoKip Holland-Anderson's profile photoBud Hunt's profile photoStephen Ransom's profile photo
Digital writing on iPads just isn't baked. If you want to view source materials, you're app switching, and hoping that the flow will work out in your favor.
It might be good to start with a definition or framework for digital writing (focus on process).
Yep. I'm thinking you and I were trying to do so - and I tried to state on Twitter that, for this conversation, I'm considering two very simple things - embedded hyperlinks and media as well as the inclusion of other source material - quotes, block citations, etc. I'd be the first person to say that other forms of composition - drawing, etc, might be better on the iPad.
Yes, in agreement with that short definition (as it's in the spirit of the discussion in Twitter), and do agree other forms that take advantage of gestures and touch could work better on the iPad. However, it seems that the MacBook Air (and certainly other devices) will move that way, including gesture on screen or touchpad. What then?
It's likely. And when OSX merges with iOS, which is a pretty clear path, and you can, hopefully, choose the one you want to use, then I think it's less of a problem. I'd say that the handiness of the iPad as digital paper is better for drawing than a MacBook Air or any other hinged laptop.
I worry sometimes that schools do oversimplify writing and when devices like the iPad make it harder to do the work of writing, that the easier to write stuff becomes more "normal" or "okay." The bar goes down.
What role(s) do consumption, exploration, and discovery play in digital writing? I'm happy to look through Reeder on my Air, but I use my iPad (Flipboard and Pulse, mainly) for looking through "stuff" (feeds, etc.) that I'm not subscribed to. I'm thinking about the connective nature of digital writing and how I end up writing about much of the "stuff" I connect with on my iPad. Yes, I go on to do the writing on my Air, but the spark often comes from the apps I use on the iPad. That's not to say that the iPad is necessary for that discovery, but I do find myself going there for it.
I think if we're talking digital writing, we do need to define it. I would agree that like video, the iPad has limitations. My arguement is that for a personal, everyday type device it works for the vast majority of users. It also offers a different experience. I'm an even older dude than you guys, I think the input and keyboard is what is currently the default and "old school" method. I think it's changing.

When it comes to a classroom, the iPad is a compelling device that I think facilitates mobility and also instant on helps with flow. The arguments about video, spreadsheets and even involved digital writing, represent a small part of a classroom. Before you say,that's a problem, I think we need ways to occasionally do that work but I think that can be done with shared devices. Video, in particular should be done collaboratively as it involves many pieces. Part of my belief is that classroom time should be spent doing stuff together which means sharing equipment most often.

When I think about the course I'm currently teaching, the iPad would be great outside of the fact it doesnt support Elluminate. ;) which I suppose feeds into Alec's argument about the OS. I'm still thinking about that but as a classroom device, I think it can work as well as a Netbook. I see them as different devices and tough to compare.

I wrote this on my iPad. So there. 
+Bud Hunt The other night we were talking about not determining the tool for the student. Is that a fair summation of the conversation you, +Karl Fisch and I were having about students "not needing computers to collaborate in the same room"? Does that play into this at all, or are you saying that digital writing is so hindered by the iPad, we need to make the decision for the student?
Russ - Certainly, the reading that you do - the discovery - influences the writing. And Dean - here's the thrust of what I have been trying to say - you're exactly right. For most people, students included, the iPad IS enough to get them through their day. Because teachers and students alike don't do enough writing. Not nearly enough. Nowhere close. And that's the real problem. And the iPad won't help that.
If I'm a kid and I like to do things like write code and program robots and I'm forced into an iPad, I wouldn't be happy. Likewise, if I'm a kid and I already own a PC laptop & I'm an expert with it, I wouldn't like being forced into an iPad.
Bud, I'll give a little that note. But if we start to include a broader definition of writing to include audio, video and imagery and even transmedia, I think the iPad can work. Your process of writing, while awesome, may be achieved in different ways. I agree that for me, the laptop is my primary tool but I'm not about to suggest it be that way for everyone. I'm seeing people tell great stories with cellphones and whatever tool they have. The iPad, I believe is different because it's fast, simple and versatile. Laptops are as well but they arent generally as mobile or as fast. 
+Russ Goerend Actually, I'd say it's better to say that you don't always need all the tools to make the magic happen. I'd also say that an iPad is the wrong tool for plenty of things, digital writing in the narrow, but important, way we've defined it here. And it'd be against my better judgment as a language arts teacher to employ it as a primary or only tool for teaching that skillset.
I agree with most of what you say, Dean, but I'm philosophically and practically opposed to the "for a personal, everyday type device it works for the vast majority of users" argument. I feel that the current, 'normal' state of our learning environments, the lopsided approach toward consumption over creation, is detrimental to any progress towards school reform/transformation. If we wholly adopt devices that do not challenge our existing information architecture, we are allowing the trend to continue toward a future where consumption is even more dominant. What i really like about Ben Grey's approach (Linux netbooks vs. iPads) is that their adoption of FOSS tools allows (if not at the practical, at least at the philosophical level) a greater control of their hardware, which ultimately allows for tinkering, customization, and adaptation. While this is less important at the primary levels, from middle years up, we should not present tech. to students simply as black boxes. Technology served to us in the way large corporations insist will lead to a future where information, and our ability to play with information, is even more restrictive. In this current direction, as we see more iPad (and other consumption devices) adoption, there will soon be the emergence of large publisher (e.g., Pearson) content deals that serve up curriculum in ways that are not determined by what we (educators, theorists, etc.) know to be true about learning, but in ways determined by political and corporate influences. And I know this argument is way off on a tangent, but ...
Dean - I think the iPad works for that other stuff, and was just about to write that the definition of "digital writing" here is a littler narrower than i comfortable with, but text is still one of the many important modalities. And students don't write enough. Nor do their teachers. Students, and teachers, also don't make other stuff enough, either. But one isn't necessarily the other.
I guess you are taking for granted that writing digitally is a different experience than writing on a typewriter/by hand. Is ease of research/linking what makes digital writing different? Does that make it better?

Since writing is just a form of communication and writing digitally allows for a bigger audience (typically), does bigger audience equate to more valuable writing?
+William Chamberlain I'd agree that writing by hand or other medium is useful, too, but I'm thinking that the second half of your statement about audience isn't really relevant. I want students to write using the modalities of the world in which they live. Digital stuff is of that world.
+Bud Hunt I understand where you are coming from, but if what you are saying is true shouldwe be having this conversation about phones? Most of what students write is text based.
William, in terms of digital writing, I don't necessarily see the audience as relevant in this case. The computer makes searching, referencing, and citation (whether traditional, or hypertextual) so much easier than it was with the typewriter. The iPad takes us back to a place where these activities are difficult again.
+William Chamberlain I'd say that there are the same limitations on phones as there are on iPads. But perhaps I'm missing your point.
I'm reading this as I'm working on a PPT slideshow where I'm going to Flickr, finding images, downloading them, editing them and then inserting them into PPT. I'm using a browser, (in some cases, my Tablet PC snipping tool), a photo editor and PPT. How well does that all work on the iPad?
Alec, I agree with your statement about ease of use. I am not sure most students write that way though. Even in school students tend to see writing in terms of fun (narratives) and work. For the former any medium works fine.

Perhaps I just see that digital writing in the context of linking and research as still a niche.
I have created a PPT on an iPad. The photo edits and downloads were pretty easy, bur many text editing and formatting options were unavailable. The same is true for editing a wiki. You can add text and links, but not resize it and change fonts. 
+Jonathan Becker +Bud Hunt I missed the beginning of the conversation. I think that for most writing any medium works perfectly fine (including a slate and chalk). Some specific types of writing works much better with a full keyboard and browser though. I won't write a blog post for my class on my iPad because of the limitations, but I would right a short story or a poem.
William, I think it is still niche - but I do believe it is the future. If kids don't write that way, it doesn't mean they shouldn't learn to write that way.
I'm working in a full 1:1 environment (macbooks). This year we moved 100 grade 7s from macbooks to iPads as a pilot. So far much of the experience of both students and teachers has been frustration about what is not possible - in all modalities. The lack of functionality of iMovie is currently as frustrating as the lack of functionality with text.
+Neil Stephenson The iPad is very poor for creating, but it is great for consuming. I would argue it is better for consuming than a laptop.

I suspect that in the not too distant future that the tablets will have the same functionality as our laptops now. We just aren't there yet. (Unless you find a convertible Windows tablet.)
Alec, we live in some amazing times. Who knows how we will be writing/sharing in five years? 10 years ago there was not Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger had barely started. Perhaps Hangouts will be the new blog post...
But, +William Chamberlain, the point here is what kids should have in their hands NOW. Not 5-10 years from now. IF there is to be a choice of one device, right now, which would you choose for kids?
William, I'm not sure I'd ever argue that an iPad works better for consuming than a laptop or that a laptop is better than producing than X. I see so many users consume & produce content in so many different ways these days. The only sure thing I can argue is the technology mix that works best for me. I can't argue that it would work best for another kid, teacher, etc...I can only say it works well for me.
There is an intimacy about reading and watching on an iPad or other tablet. I reach for them when I want to take stuff in, for certain. But not for writing with links and sources. Which isn't niche. It's important. And should be happening in schools more. Lots more.
I think there are lots of examples of things you can't do on the ipad. Some of them I think are valid. I also think this conversation is based on what each of us think a classroom should look like. I'm the first to argue that we need to tilt the emphasis of consumption over production. I don't know it has to always take place when we gather face to face. Creating PPTs, videos and long, and multi-faceted writing doesn't have to take place in schools. In fact I think we need to be using our time together better than we are currently.

I think what I'm mostly arguing for is supporting schools who are willing to pilot or look at them. Neil seems to be finding some flaws in the way they work. Good.
But I think lots of teachers are making great use of ipads. Differentiation is important. BYOD is a useful.

If the argument is "Which is better?" I'll concede a laptop may be a better tool. But I think the iPad works too, particularly for younger students.
+William Chamberlain agreed. I use the ipad for 90% of my own reading and love the experience for a number of reasons. I'm also convinced it's a software issue right now. For example - one of the small issues our grade 7s faced today was not being able to edit audio they had collected from interviews with family members (collecting immigration stories) which could be shared with iMovie. From an media creation perspective garageband and iMovie currently don't talk to each other on the device - without the middle step of syncing with a laptop/desktop. I'm hopeful these things will change.

On the other hand +Alec Couros brings up a very important point about the danger of glossy pre-made content becoming the go-to material for teachers. I have led one workshop on iPads for a local school - and they were mostly excited about the math and spelling games the school had preinstalled. This is something I hadn't considered before - is the iPad a device thats makes it too easy to install apps that reinforce traditional models of teaching and learning? It was easy for teachers to design learning around a textbook before - while it be just as tempting to design learning around flashy premade apps?
It depends on the purpose(s), +Dean Shareski. The reason this started is that I said that the iPad wasn't good for this sort of digital writing. That's all I've attempted to claim. I support folks who try things, too, but I get worried about the sex appeal of the stuff sometimes. "Buy a bunch then figure out what to do with them" is a crummy way to spend the public's money all the time.
+Neil Stephenson The draw of all technology in schools since the Apple II days has been the ability for teachers to reinforce drill and kill lessons with drill and kill education games. I suspect that is going to be a long, difficult fight to win for education reformers.
side note: how do I turn off email notifications for this discussion. While I love hearing from all of you I don't need the flood of emails
+William Chamberlain and my experience over the last 5-7 years has been watching the incredible student work that is possible with apple tools - as a support in thoughtfully designed inquiry based work.
BTW, I should remind everyone here that this all started with +George Couros posting a link to an article about a MI district that's buying an iPad for every kid. So, the bigger policy question for me is whether that's a good idea or not. I say no way. And IF schools/districts choose to buy one device for all kids, there's no way it should be the iPad.
+Bud Hunt
I'll give you that. And I think the level of experiment can be an issue too. My experience is seeing schools buy 10 or 20 ipads and asking teachers to play. That I think is a good use of the public's money. Buying one for every high school student without thought of implementation is troubling, whether it's an ipad or a netbook.
Jon, granted that article was from USA Today, but if I hear another sloppy argument that goes something like, "Kids live and breathe technology. So the iPad is just a natural fit for the classroom," my head is going to pop off.
I think that all of this discussion depends on purpose of writing, age of student. For elementary-middle school iPad is ideal. Great point of entry. What I love about the iPad is the ability to quickly change tasks, download a new path instantly, and go with them anywhere ability. Students can be writing blog posts one minute, checking out digital books (or audio books) from the library instantly, creating stop motion videos, collecting leaves on a nature walk and snapping pictures for research in leafsnap and then practicing math facts in a way that keeps them engaged instantly. That is a win. Couple that with workstations where students can complete more robust tasks on a computer (learning how to program) and you have a winning combination! Maybe different tool more appropriate as students get older? High school and college age? The iPad is such a nice entry point into so many technical disciplines. It causes students to want to dig in further and learn things like programming (so they can program apps). I haven't seen such flexibility and enthusiasm from ALL audiences in any other tool. The iPad is like a gateway drug. It is wetting the palette at an early age and causing kids to ask, what is next? How can I do it. I have taught tech for 8 years and never had so many interested in going to the next level. I have never had so many interested in programming.
Hmm, how about if a school put one device on their school supply list and provided EVERYTHING else...including field trips every Friday afternoon? This is what we did at Have to say, 4 weeks in and we are pretty happy with the setup
+Kelly Tenkely
I think that idea that someone the iPad sparks an interest is important. We've had new and shiny before with lots of devices but the rapid adoption of this tool is quite different from what I've seen. I have no empirical data but if this enables deeper conversations about learning, that's something worth investigating. I'm not able to quantify that in any way and perhaps others aren't seeing that but that's been my experience which is why I defend the tool more than I might, deficiencies and all. But yes, for elementary students, it's highly appropriate.
+Dean Shareski Have to agree, no hard evidence (yet) but based on what I am seeing, I have never seen such quick adoption, instant understanding of the tool and usability as I see with the iPad. It is truly amazing. Has first grade students teaching themselves how to make stop motion videos, teaching jr. high students (with courage) and has dyslexic kids believing they can develop an app of their own. That is powerful and in all the years I taught with a computer, I have never seen anything like it (and so unanimously!).
+Jonathan Becker That makes sense. Part of the full adoption of any tool or method suggests that they've "figured it out" or at least have the resources in place to support the implementation. I don't think that's usually the case. I'm not even sure it was in Maine a decade ago. Whatever success they had wasn't dependent on shifting the learning but digitizing it, which is less ambitious but doable with less support.

When schools or districts understand that investing in technology should be under the guise of action research, I'm usually in favor. Not that you have to have your ducks all in a row but I do think there has to be some purpose in the play.
I have to say that I remain hugely skeptical and see much of the interest driven by pure consumerism and marketing. When people say they want one and I ask why, I hear about interesting uses that could all be done with existing technologies and tools.

At an iPad symposium last year I listened to a teacher talk about a cell division app that she was all excited about - 30,000 videos of this process already live on YouTube.

I also observed an iPad school last spring here in the Bay Area and was completely underwhelmed by the amount of note taking that I saw across classes. One kid even begged her teacher to use a pencil and paper during the lesson. I compared that observation to my school at the time, a laptop school, and was happy to compare it to the ways that our kids were programming with Scratch in middle school/Visual Python in the high school, and using a wide range of free and open source software applications across a range of OSes in our BYOL model.
iPad seems to lend itself nicely to play and tinkering (even if at base levels) it leads to a desire to tinkering at higher levels for many of our students. I love that girls are really wanting to take things a step further. I have seen this in the single % in the past. This year it is closer to 95%...same students, only change is device they are using on a regular basis (iPad vs. iMac)
Any/all of you are welcome to drop into Anastasis Academy if you ever find yourselves in Colorado. Open door!
Being a music teacher and I expect "artistic" projects with pictures/video, I demand excellence. We are a 1:1 laptop school with a pilot of iPads. The admin is seriously looking at replacing all the laptops with iPads. I see it as a step back. Yes, students can create on an iPad, but the multi-media projects on a laptop or desktop have the "excellence" factor. Why would we allow students to create inferior projects when on a laptop/desktop they could create artistically superior projects? iMovie and GarageBand are NOT the same program on the iPad. I see the iPad as a sandal, the laptop as gym shoes. Yes, you can run in a sandal, but in gym shoes you can go faster and win:)
+Carol Broos Yes, but for many schools price is a consideration. iPad+ apps is infinately more doable for many districts than macbook pro + software in a 1:1 setting. If you have to choose 1:1 iPad or 1:3 something else...which is the better option? I want ALL of my students to have the ability to create and share with the world. If your music class is anything like most, you see students 30-45 min/ week. If kids could spend that time creating instead of waiting their turn you may have helped some, who wouldn't have, see how music enriches their lives.
I am blessed. My room has 13-station iMacs (with 2-headsets) plus all the students have a personal laptop. Lots of computers and lots of creating going on. Students are engaged the entire time.
not sure I'm buying the cost angle either. iPads have an extraordinarily high TCO given the number of third party hardware accessories and apps that I see people purchasing. The form also has a faster obsolescence cycle as well-I'm floored by the number of people that owned an iPad 1 for a year and then bought ipad 2.
+Kelly Tenkely I think we have very different definitions of tinkering. I don't believe that you can do much tinkering with an iPad due to its very closed architecture. You can modify, and play, within limits, but unless one is into jailbreaking (which I assume you are not talking about), I wouldn't call that tinkering. You may be interested in this TED Talk by Gever Tulley if you want to get a better sense of what I mean. For me, I don't think you can really tinker until you have full access to all of the pieces - unless you can control your environment to a much greater extent.
+Alec Couros We have kids who jail break but majority of our students are 6-10. For them the ability to instantly download an app they are interested in (usually free) and create is unmatched. Just can't do it with a laptop. The other thing we have found is that supporting the iPad is significantly less involved and less expensive than supporting a laptop.

+Matt Montagne We are a little different in that we are BYOD that specifies iPad as the BYOD so TOC isn't something that we (the school) have to shoulder. I'm not sure TOC is a good argument, when I had iMac lab and MacBook Pro lab we could purchase a new device every year...we had an every-other year purchase plan. It was still WAY higher TOC with licensing of software and new devices. iPad gives students a level of "I decide" Our kids can add any app they want to their device. They add apps that interest them and continue learning in ways that they want to. I realize that we run differently from many schools but that is the point of reference I have to work from. We work with elementary and middle school students. For them, the iPad has been robust, flexible, individualized and engaging enough to make them desire more. Again, I haven't seen this in other devices.
+Kelly Tenkely Probably correct on the support side of things re: $ (although can't say for sure), but +Matt Montagne above sees the iPad as a much higher TCO, especially when peripherals are involved. As for instantly downloading an app - well yes I guess, expect for the App store in iOS available in Lion, or if the thousands of Flash games available that are equally as good (or bad) as much of what you find in the App store (that you can't access on the iPad). Above, I have said that I do see value in iPads for younger kids, but as most seem to have agreed in this thread, for older kids (I'd suggest middle years and up), laptops/netbooks are a better purchase for schools.
+Kelly Tenkely you mean iSwifter? If so, poor reviews so far, slow, + $4.99 in-app purchase / machine for full capability.
I expect a full summary from each of you on this by tomorrow. 140 characters or less. Posted here and on Twitter. #ILoveHomeWork
I find it interesting that many of the provided definitions of digital writing (embedded hyperlinks, audio, video) none of you are doing. You moved this discussion to google+ where none of that is possible.

So is the device/software that important, or do conversations/writing just happen where they need to happen?
+Brandt Schneider I think your statement about writing happening where it needs to happen is an important point - but I'd still argue that my original point - about that particular kind of digital writing that I don't think can happen on the iPad - is relevant. People will certainly, when they have sufficient reason to write (writing geeks call that exigence), write. But much as Twitter has given folks an easy way to do short and quick, iPads and other devices grant easy access to short and quick - but probably block/limit/make more difficult the longer form with links and source material.
Well, I agree on the point (somewhat) but disagree that it is an issue. I think those using digital writing are far and few between. Entire newspapers don't even do it. While I teach it in my classes, it is not mainstream at all.

I find with my students that the amount of sharing has gone way up with the iPad. Both the in class sharing ("hey, look at this") and the global/community sharing ("I'm ready to publish this song/podcast/drawing"). The class focussed sharing seems to move much faster on the iPad.

The classes I teach are interesting. On A days I am 1-1 iPad in music classes, on B days I am 1-1 desktop in web design. My perspective is only mine, but I find students are creating on the iPad more than the PC.
WOW! I had to speed-read to get to this spot! Here's my take on this debate:

No one mentioned why the mechanics of writing is so important for students. Students using speech to text applications like Dragon Naturally Speaking on an iPad to "CREATE" original work - whether it's fiction, a poem, auto-biography, etc. - is precisely what writing is all about.
We are talking about the "digital age" where students live and breathe technology, right? Traditional writing was used to create original works. If a student is using a program on an iPad to translate speech into text to accomplish the same goal, then I don't really see the issue; iPads are being used as intended and everyone benefits.
I could state that I used speech to text to compose this post - a blatant lie - but you get my point...
+Brandt Schneider Just a quick point - I don't know if newspapers are a great comparison - 1) as they target those at an expected, low reading level, 2) because they haven't had significant changes in their format for over 100 years. As for the other, it's great to see that your students are creating, and sharing - I do attribute some of this to the intuitiveness of use of the iPad (vs. the netbook), gestures, a few greatly written apps - but there are other motivators that have little to do with the iPad at all.
Does ANY place use digital content we all are happy with? If newspapers don't, then who? If nobody, then... what are we arguing about?
+Deion Christopher Yes, Deion, this type of writing is still important and can be done on either the iPad or Netbook. In many ways, the iPad makes this type of writing easier, in some cases, not so easy. While the iPad does have great apps for multimedia writing, there are huge limitations for advanced 'digital essays' that are sophisticated mashups, examples of highly original work (see examples above from me and Jon Becker).
+Brandt Schneider Any PLACE? Or do you mean any ONE? Almost everything I read in my RSS Reader on a daily basis is much more sophisticated technically that what you will find in mainstream media content. Are you saying we should strive for a culture of writing that represents what we see in newspapers? Is that the bar we set for students? I'm confused.
My two cents, I can post on from my admin side of my blog from Safari without any problems, with links and media. But I do see limitations for both devices.
I agree that comparing the iPad and, say a MacBook Air spec for spec and capability for capability tilts the advantage towards the latter device, and that iPad does not allow for advanced use. In elementary, however, time and space for advanced use is neither available nor necessarily desirable. The basic movie editing, song creating, animations, writing actually are very conducive to the elementary (and I'm only focussing on elementary because that's my context).

It took me an entire year to realize how I can best leverage the iPad, and right now, I see it as a collaboration, assessment, and quick creation tool. The iPad 1 is really a consumption tool masked as creation. The camera in the iPad 2, however, makes a huge difference because it means visual and oral can be captured instantly. This has a huge impact on writing, reflection, and sharing.

This conversation is so amazing, I want to make sure to archive it.
+Alec Couros I can't think of any discipline (doctors, lawyers, newspapers, teachers) where digital writing isn't the exception rather than the rule. How do we create demand for it? If we can't create demand for it we are spending a lot of time and money debating something that might only be relavent to us. I try to teach my kids about it but sometimes I feel I am pushing the ocean back with a broom. Perhaps I am a bit frustrated....
+Alec Couros Believe me, I'm with you. But largely social reproduction. Tech teachers use AutoCad--why? Because thats what architects use. I wish we all taught digital writing, but it is so very rare.
+Brandt Schneider But they don't use AutoCAD to design buildings that were built at the beginning of the 20th century ...
Im still confused about this term digital writing. Beyond the obvious, I'm not totally sure what it encompasses.
I do know I've watched kids try to do story writing (without links/images) on iPads over the last week and it's painful. While it might get better, right now i think the workflow is a hinderance.
Hijacking thread.....why is google+ blocked for 18 and under? I rolled out to class today only to discover this.
Nice thought stream here. I tend to think that we should embrace a variety of devices. Historically, we've been guilty of forcing a platform, hardware, software,... with little consideration for the users, and importantly, how the teachers perceive their value and place in the learning context. If a teacher sees value in an iPad, then great! I can do my little "tisk tisk tisk" and talk about too much consumption over higher levels of thinking and creation, but that does little good most of the time. We've spent oodles of money on well-equipped hardware, expensive software,... to see most workstations used for web browsing and word processing. I know there are great exceptions to all of this... thank goodness. Offer a variety of hardware and try to match it to the needs and desires the learners (teachers included), and vision for learning. If there's a sincere and committed vision for moving beyond the typical uses of computers for learning - beyond a consumption model of learning, then as +Alec Couros expressed, we had better think through all of this very carefully so that everything facilitates that vision and that kind of learning and creating.
After a day of reflecting on this stream, I am thinking how great it is that we actually need to have this conversation. For a hundred years there was no option for how students could write in a classroom. Regardless of your differences of opinions, I am sure you can all appreciate the embarrassment of riches (maybe I am over-selling it?) we have when it comes to student writing today. Insert usual disclaimer for students that have no access to digital tools here....

I would have been thrilled to have any of these options 20 years ago and I am sure in 20 years I will think that today's tools are extremely rudimentary with what I will be using then.....and so it goes....
Digital writing is far more complex than we've touched on here - and I limited the scope of what I was hoping to cover in this specific conversation on purpose - and yet there's been some drift. Lots more to discuss. If you're interested in more, I'd suggest a few resources:

The National Writing Project's Digital Is collection - - a collection of stories and projects exploring what "digital," well, is. Good stuff. Full disclosure - I work with them. Dig the NWP a lot.

Troy Hicks has written a fine book, the Digital Writing Workshop that touches on many of the issues raised in this thread. It's useful.

Heck - I could make a list of a couple dozen more resources, but that should get you started.

And, yes, as one person mentioned above, this thread isn't a good example of the type of digital writing that I was referring to when I questioned the use for the iPad for that sort of work. But sometimes, writing happens when it needs to. My worry, bigger than any worry about a particular piece or hardware or software, is that we're not asking our students, or each other, to be writing enough.
+Bud Hunt (or anyone), I know this is a difficult question, but in one sentence, what makes 'digital writing' specifically/uniquely 'digital?'
That is a hard question - and I spend lots of time trying to decouple the notions of digital and writing - and just focus on good writing. But, in the context of this conversation, I was looking at only two particular elements. And what a mess we've made sense. You can see those elements - the presence of hyperlinks and source material - in the second or third comment in this thread. I don't think at all those are the only notions of what might make "digital writing" "digital writing," and usually I'm the guy asking the question you're asking.

Good writing IS good writing. Digital. Analog. Otherwise. But in this case, I was responding to some questions about iPads as school tools - and I don't think they're ready to be the writing tools that I need them to be in classrooms.
In fact, I think I'd say that, for the academic writing tasks that I'd want students to do at school, iPads aren't yet quite baked. For writing. I can drop the digital.
One issue I am finding with digital READING is that special ed tests are all analog writing. Some kdis really can't picture/read links.
Thanks for the links, +Bud Hunt -- the Espen Aarseth point is pretty interesting.

The truth here is that a whole lot of people view 'digital writing' as regular writing with a few neat elements/extensions thrown in. (I'm one of them.) That isn't to say 'digital writing' is just writing with a couple links -- there's some real, important nuance in how we go about writing online. But whether this constitutes as massive, fundamental shift in how we go about writing is what I'm really looking to be convinced about, and I'm not sure I have been yet.
+Matthew Tabor That's a fair and important question. Here's my view of digital writing.

To me digital writing is the expression of ideas, thoughts and stories that include all of various digital tools and mediums at our disposal. It's the use of video, audio and imagery and traditional text that can be combined to communicate a message. Traditional text now includes hyperlinks which might be considered a nuance but the whole gambit of possibilities makes digital writing by my definition something very different than we've ever had.

Certainly the tenets and building blocks of traditional writing and storytelling matter and are essential for using these tools but I think it's more than nuance. Some may not embrace my definition but when I sit down to "write" a blog post, I realize I can insert video, images, audio or even create my own video audio or images to help communicate ideas.

Back to the original question of the ipad supporting digital writing, if you can buy my definition, I think the ipad addresses many of these tools to some degree. I know Bud and most people in this conversation are bias towards the written word and text so the ipad may not be the best tool for that, particularly more advanced users of text. However, if we believe some people prefer other forms of "digital writing", then the ipad is a fine tool for many.

Digital writing compared to traditional writing is a little like comparing someone with a 1,000 word vocabulary and someone with a 20,000 word vocabulary. The one with the larger vocabulary is capable of telling much richer stories.
The only thing I'd add to +Dean Shareski 's definition is the greater possibility of digital writing being social (although not always, necessarily). The pingback and hyperlink (and even things like the + thing in Google plus) implicitly or explicitly invite others into the conversation. We used to write about a person or his/her work, never really expecting a reply. Digital/social writing screams out 'hey, we're talking about you or your work over here", and invites that person's input.
+Alec Couros which I think speaks to where and how we write. Understanding distribution and where to write is an added nuance. The question of whether these are new literacy, skills or nuances I suppose is still debatable. I've not totally rectified that argument but if you take in the whole of what's now different, it's significant which is why I wrote this.
I guess I'm hung up on the term digital "writing". My concept of writing is perhaps a product of traditional print media and classifications like exposition, description, journalling, and narrative. In this sense, writing has not changed appreciably. I'm not convinced style has changed substantially either.

Perhaps the near death of editing has had An impact on digital expressions. I mean professional editing that likely imposes some uniform standards. Most of us now write on line without editors. Citations are hardly new. Only our methods of citing have changed.

Somehow I can't wrap my head around the idea that video and image constitute writing. Videos have scripts (at times). The scripts are writing, but the completed production is something more than the term "writing" can encompass. I think it remains to be said that I believe digital publication is indeed a form of its own and we need to teach the elements to students. It seems to be the prevelant form.
+Matthew Tabor I think most of what we value in digital spaces, when it comes to composition, is discussable in analog terms. I do workshops around helping folks think through what it means to "write" at all, versus whether or not we're in the middle of something new that is beyond past definitions of reading, writing, and thinking.

And +Dean Shareski - You're sort of making my case on the iPad when you say that you can write a blog post that contains video snippets and photos and text. People can and should write like that when it makes sense to. Digital spaces give you the ability to do that. But it's darn hard to write a blog post like the one you describe on an iPad. Which was my point at the beginning of this thread. If we want folks to write like that, and I certainly do, let's make sure they have the right tools for the job.
+Bud Hunt But the combination of media, transmedia
is one way of writing. Those other pieces can be done in isolation. I still think it's difficult for us, writers of words that resemble more traditional modes, to see how we may be doing a lot more writing without text. I'm not convinced we have to used words and text to be writers. So in that respect, for some, the ipad works. The definition of writing you use, may not but I'm not 100% onside with your definition.

+Alan Stange I understand the trouble thinking of writing the way I'm talking about it here but we have to expand our notion. Word and text can do way more than we typically think.
Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography - Language
We can isolate each element of communication and at times we should. At times, we'll find us more suited to use one over the other, at other times we'll mix them. More important than ipad over netbook is that we see writing differently than we currently do and be sure our kids start seeing that and being supported in learning how to use them well.
Writing digitally gives us more options than the typewriter/hand written writing does. I think +Alec Couros hits on how digital is different, it comes from the opportunity to easily share with others. What makes it so wondrous is not that the intended audience can easily find and respond, but that there can be accidental discoveries of the writing where contributions can be made that can challenge and change thinking.
Are we limiting ourselves by using the word "writing"? Like +Alan Stange , it certainly confines my thinking to what would be the traditional form of handwritten or typed text. Is digital writing a misnomer for a completely new medium of communication? From what I've read so far this may be the case. +Alec Couros pointed out that with digital writing the possibility of collaboration, and conversation makes this medium so unique.

As for the earlier discussions about laptops and tablets (I am using this because not everyone will be using an IPad.), I think that a combination of these devices will be used in classroom environments. Tablets are great for consumption of content. There is some capability for content creation on these devices but at this stage they will likely not fill the needs of everyone. However a tablet/laptop workflow is what I see happening.

This was a fantastic thread to read. Thanks to +Bud Hunt for starting it.
+Lee Winik I think the term 'writing' can be limiting, and it is certainly a misnomer if not an anachronism. Yet, it is common for media theorists to use inadequate terms to bring about shared understandings of the subject matter. To paraphrase McLuhan, each technology creates a new environment and the old environment becomes content for the new environment. While there are positives of these shared meanings (e.g., common language, basic reference points), there are also negatives (e.g., personal and social bias, uncommon historical treatment, nuance, misinterpretation, contextual understandings).
If I may jump in with a question that I tweeted just before +Bud Hunt moved the conversation into this space:

If you had to use an iPad for sourced, digital writing, how would you make it work? (For this question, I am talking text-based, hyperlinked writing.)

It seems that there is pretty much consensus that the iPad isn't the perfect device for digital writing, but what if it is your only option? My wife has a class set of iPads for her 5th graders and I'll be getting a set in a year for my 4th graders. We would each like to create a digital writing workshop environment similar to what Troy Hicks wrote about (Bud referenced it earlier) and what Chris Moore and Nicole Vander Velde have been doing in Littleton, CO with their 5th graders.

I'm looking for your collective insight to know what web-based tools/apps/combination you would use if an iPad were your only option. +Dean Shareski and Bud, it sounds like you each write a fair bit on your iPad, what do you use?Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
+Lee Winik "Composition" is starting to be the word I use. But, "writing" still is the right skillset. Making a movie and writing a story are related skills. Each requires an understanding of narrative, and of the techniques of each genre or mode. In the case of the movie, you'll use pictures and sounds (and, if you've titles, possibly words) to convey your intended meaning. In the case of the typed or handwritten or online story, then you'll use words. Or, depending on the kind of story, and how it'll be published, pictures might make it in there.

Notions of genre and mode are funky and fascinating around the edges. Fun places to wonder around.
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