Tech Matters Minigrant Proposal

Weblogs, Wikis and Audiocasts: Integrating Emerging Technology into the Classroom

1.      Project Title and Summary

If site leaders and teacher consultants are to utilize the possibilities of web-based applications for publishing, collaborating, and communicating, then they will need to have time and space to learn and understand the technology. This project – called Weblogs, Wikis and Audiocasts – offers three separate workshops for teachers in our network, with an emphasis on project leaders, to create and use Weblogs, experiment with wikis and begin creating and posting audio files.  One goal of the initiative is to establish a local network of education-related Weblogs and resources for our region’s teaching corps.  Another facet of the project is designed to strengthen our NWP state network through the creation of a series of newsletter Weblogs as a way to disseminate information across the various sites but all linked together with a main site.  Finally, our WMWP site will use some of the grant money to establish our own content management system so that we can independently oversee an emerging Weblog network for teachers and project leaders.  This system will also be used for the state network.

2.      Description of Project Plan

Technology integration at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has been an ongoing initiative for the past decade as more and more of the site’s projects are using interactive media for communication, collaboration, and publication. This grant program aims at supporting those endeavors and encouraging our teachers and leaders in this direction as a way to maintain continuity of teachers interested in technology and support the capacity of the site by providing project leaders with practical knowledge of the possibilities of Web-based applications.  The grant project will be divided into two phases:

The first phase involves the site’s purchasing server space with the capacity to host a network of Weblogs and other future content management systems for both our local site and our Massachusetts state network of Writing Project sites.  Our intention is to establish a multi-year agreement with a hosting company that will allow the Weblog project to become stable, and then to integrate the costs of such hosting services right into the annual budget of the site/state network.  We include the state network in this phase because one vision of the newly-energized state network is to find ways to create an overall identity for the Writing Projects in Massachusetts.  We believe that Weblogs can provide interactive space for sharing news and information.  Each site will have its own Weblog-based newsletter that will then be funneled through a main state network site.  We intend as one of the goals of this grant to establish server space and create newsletter space for each site in our network.

The second phase will be a series of three separate workshops designed to provide WMWP project leaders and other teacher-consultants with a one-day hands-on experiences using Weblogs, wikis, and some Internet-based publishing of audio files so that they will be better informed on how to use these tools in the classrooms and within their WMWP projects.  All teachers will leave the sessions with WMWP-networked Weblogs to be used as appropriate for their situations, wiki accounts, and MP3 voice recorders for capturing and posting audio files.  The three workshops will be scattered across the 2006-2007calendar to provide as much flexibility for participation as possible.  We expect to limit each workshop to 10 participants to provide for authentic hands-on experiences.  There will be a nominal fee of $25 for participants as a way to buffer the costs of purchasing voice recorders and to exact a commitment to the workshop from the participants.  As our program leaders and teacher-consultants begin to create and use Weblogs, we will then establish a main trunk site connecting all of our Weblogs together.  This network will not only create an excellent forum for others in considering ways to use Weblogs in education, but also establish a community of educators using technology.

In term of site leadership, Technology Liaison Kevin Hodgson will also work during the first workshop session to identify a co-leader for the second and third sessions as a way to broaden technology leadership for the site.

3.      Criteria

One of the goals of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has been to use technology as a tool for keeping our teacher-consultants and program leaders connected with the work of the site. The integration of the technology liaison as a thinking partner into the site’s leadership team is one example of this direction. The active use of a Western Massachusetts Writing Project on-line newsletter is another.

The main question we are trying to address with this project is: How can we put more tools of the Read/Write Web into the hands of our project directors so that they can understand the possibilities and then use that technology to strengthen their own programs?  Our grant proposal addresses both continuity – teachers will continue to see our site as a leader in technology beyond the Summer Institute, and the network of Weblogs will create an interactive identity for our site as well – and capacity as our network of Weblogs becomes a model for other teachers.  There will be three workshops in the series and Technology Liaison Kevin Hodgson will also identify emerging leaders by asking a cohort from the first group to help co-lead the second and third workshops in the series.

A secondary question is: How can technology assist in the further strengthening of our state network?  The purchase of server space and Weblogs within that server space should allow the various sites in the network to interact and learn from each other, and perhaps, foster some collaborative projects in the future.  Susan Biggs, the WMWP Professional Development Coordinator and the director of the Massachusetts state network, will help facilitate the integration of Weblogs into the network.

The last question for our site is a practical one: How long will the National Writing Project provide free Weblog space, and how can we, as a site, become independent of the NWP Weblog initiative?  It has become clear that sometime in the future, the availability of free Weblogs from NWP may end, so we realize that we need to establish our own network for future planning.  This grant will help us establish server space for current and future needs of the site.

WMWP Technology Liaison Kevin Hodgson will be overseeing the grant program in partnership with Site Director Bruce Penniman.  This grant proposal has been created as a collaborative venture using the Web-based Writely application.  Kevin will also be consulting with the WMWP Technology Team, which was created as part of the NWP Technology Seed Sites Initiative, on ideas for the workshop series, state network of Weblogs and server space purchase.  The Technology Team is comprised of former site leaders, University of Massachusetts professors, and teacher-consultants.

We hope that the creation of a network of Weblogs at an individual NWP site can become a model for others to follow, and one aspect of the workshop series will be a reflective piece of writing for teachers and project leaders to consider the best applications for this technology.

4.      Timeline





Fall/Winter 2006

(completion date: December 31)

1.    Advertise the workshop series, with initial personal invitations to project leaders. Teacher-consultants will be alerted through e-mail, newsletters, and flyers/workshops at the WMWP fall conference.

2.    Purchase server space.

3.    Purchase voice recorders.

4.    Discuss the sequence of activities for the workshop series – what is most important for teachers/leaders to gain?

1.    Kevin Hodgson

2.    Kevin Hodgson, Bruce Penniman

3.    Bruce Penniman

4.    Kevin Hodgson, Technology Team

Spring 2007

(completion date: April 30)

1.    Offer first full-day workshop at UMass.

2.    Identify possible program co-leaders from this cohort for future workshop sessions.

3.    Begin working with Massachusetts State Network on use of Weblogs for newsletters.

1.    Kevin Hodgson

2.    Kevin Hodgson

3.    Kevin Hodgson, Susan Biggs

Summer 2007

(completion date: July 31)

1.    Offer second full-day workshop at UMass, with new co-leader.  Use examples from the first workshop to help advertise the project.

2.    Begin to establish a main site for newly-created teacher/project Weblogs.

3.    Explain and demonstrate the possibilities of Weblogs at the Summer Institute.

1.    Kevin Hodgson, co-leader TBA

2.    Kevin Hodgson

3.    Kevin Hodgson, SI co-leaders

Fall 2006

(completion date: October 31)

1.    Offer third full-day workshop at UMass.

2.    Create a main network of Weblogs for the Massachusetts state network system.

3.    Share results of workshop series with NWP network at Annual Meeting in New York City.

1.    Kevin Hodgson, co-leader TBA

2.    Kevin Hodgson, Susan Biggs

3.    Kevin Hodgson, co-leader TBA

Beyond Fall 2007

1.    Continue to purchase server space/content management system

2.    Plan for another series of workshops for the 2008-2009 school year

1.    Kevin Hodgson, Bruce Penniman

2.    Kevin Hodgson, Technology Team


5.  Dissemination Plan


·          Presentation of the use of Weblogs in the classroom at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project Best Practices Fall 2007 Conference.  Participants in the workshop series will be asked to present case studies to fellow teachers.  Technology Liaison Kevin Hodgson will facilitate the session.

·          Presentation of the workshop series and state network project at National Writing Project annual meeting in NYC in 2007.  Kevin Hodgson will be the main presenter, but the co-leader will also come along as a co-presenter.  Invitations will be made to participants as well.

·          Presentation of the state network design at the New England Writing Projects Annual Retreat in spring 2008, using the same plan as above.

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