I love that Margaret Simon has started a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.
Margaret's topic this week is PROCESS vs. PRODUCT. In our current test-driven culture, process is taking a beating. Product is everything. We recently talked about this at a literacy meeting. We were discussing writing and what we think are essential practices in teaching writing. One of the things mentioned was that kids should be writing more than we can grade. Hallelujah! That is process-based. However, we need to be striving for excellence, too. Future colleges and employers aren't going to care quite as much about process (although, they will still value collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving) as product, so kids will need to be prepared to deliver top-notch results. We educators need to care about both. I loved Margaret's post on this. She wasn't satisfied with student products, so instead of criticizing the kids' efforts (we tend to do this, don't we?), she realized she needed to go back and model the process in a more effective way. The products turned out much better! The process was hard work. When the process is honed, so is the product. We have to explicitly teach process - it doesn't come naturally. Sometimes I think we assume it does.
This leads to another important aspect of process...its difficulty. Margaret's students exclaimed how hard the process was. Yes! When we're product-centered, we forget how cumbersome the process is in order to get there. It's hard. It's frustrating. It's time-consuming. It's tempting to give up on or circumnavigate. Kids (and who are we kidding...adults) don't like the work it takes. I loved Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's blog response to one of my students who asked if she revised The War That Saved My Life in a Skype visit. You can read it here. (By the way, if you have time, her blog is wonderful to read!) She revised the whole novel seven times! That's hard work. That's what our students need to learn. And we need to figure out how to teach it to them.
We also need to differentiate between when it's worth doing the work of process for a product, and when it's okay to just produce any kind of product. The product doesn't always have to be perfect. It can be, in the words of Kimberly, crap. Sometimes the product can stay crap, and sometimes you might come back to it and realize it has potential to be more. THEN you can go through the process of making it better. But sometimes it's just crap. And you might have learned something anyway. That's what writers' notebooks are for, right? I think of all the artists and creators out there - I'm sure their studios, workshops, and offices contain some crap. Those pieces are part of it all.
In my classroom, I'm still learning about process and how to teach it. I remember in the 90s when I first started teaching, I taught the writing process one way. Prewrite, draft, confer, revise, draft, confer, revise, self-edit, teacher-edit, publish. I taught each process in order and had posters around the room defining each. I even graded the process. In order. Wow. I look back at that and realize how artificial that was. It didn't leave room for individual process work. There were good things that came out of it, though. We did value the process, and back when I had more time and a purer workshop-style classroom, the students' products were excellent. But I could've done better.
This post turned out much more rambling than I expected. I started the post thinking I would highlight a certain process or product we've done lately. It turned out, though, more process than product, didn't it?!
Students in process: