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Inspired by my friend @triciabarvia, and her blog post Steal Like an Artist: A Swipe File of Mentor Texts, I could't help but think that digital devices such as tablets and phones have been subtly encouraging us "to swipe" the ideas all along.

If we attend conferences we have all seen people take photos of slides. I know people have saved "images" of cute cupcakes, classroom design, and home design. Pinterest became a bit of a crowdsourced Swipe File for teachers, home cooks, et al.

Yet, the phones in our pockets can also hold a lot of power in personalized swipe files for writers. For the purpose of this post, I created a photo album called "Swipe File" and started moving photos over of ideas I have "swiped" from other teachers, writers, and artists on Twitter or from a conference. I can feel the influences on my thinking becoming organize themselves in my brain as I do it.

Showing our kids how to organize a digital swipe file for themselves--right in their photo album--is a positive forward in promoting the "phone" as the modern equivalent of the paper and pencil notebook--a place to capture ideas. I had kids ask me to go to the library to print something that wanted to place in their analog swipe file--which is fine--but we don't always have that file on us.

Curating specific spaces for ideas so that we might go back to think and write about those ideas is a critical step in teaching young writers to invest in a process.

This one small move strikes me as an easy yet powerful moment of transfer waiting for all of us and all of our students.

If growth happens under the best conditions, are the conditions in our middle schools the best they can be for growth? Or do we mortgage adolescent growth in America for false equivalencies based on academic traditions, not research?

Rereading my notes from a presentation at the Pennsylvania Middle Level Educators (PAMLE) conference from June of 2017, the statements by Dave Brown caught my attention.

  • Adolescents are more stressed between twelve and fourteen, naturally, than they ever will be again.

  • The traditional 45-50 class period that meets every day is too narrow--too pressurized--for an adolescent to grow. School may seem fast and efficient, but at what expense?

  • We traditionally make decisions in middle school based on the needs of "the next grade level, content-area level, or getting ready for high school."

The more we can redirect our decisions and structures around where middle school kids are at twelve and thirteen, the better chance they have to growth and maintain growth beyond the next level.

"In 1894, only a decade after Harvard adopted letter grades, a group of professors began complaining that 'grades A and B are sometimes given too readily' (Goodwin, 2011, p. 80). The concept of grade inflation has been with us ever since. Grade inflation is derived from the belief that rigor equals a scarcity of high grades and that the purpose of grading is to sort and rank (13)."

Rethinking Grading: Meaningful Assessment for Standards-Based Learning, by Cathy Vatterott

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