Notes from the NCTE Ignite Session

Ignite Collage
I had the great honor and pleasure to take part in a fast-paced Ignite Session at NCTE in Boston. Ignites are quick presentations, where the 20 slides move on a synced delay and you need be concise and in focus. Five minutes and you are done. My own Ignite presentation was about using video game design in the writing classroom. But to share the stage with Penny Kittle, Sara Kajder, Donalyn Miller, David Finkle, Sandy Hayes and others was a blast.

Here are a few notes that I scratched out on paper as I listened to the others on the stage (videos will be forthcoming from NCTE in the near future):

Sandy Hayes (who facilitated the Ignite session with the theme of Core Standards: Minding the Gaps)

  • We need more vigor instead of just rigor
  • There is room for many kinds of explorations of texts
  • “We want kids to make a difference … we want them to be doing significant things (in their lives) …”

David Finkle (Igniting Insight and Interest)

  • Using comics to define rigor, and asking students to define what that means
  • Great metaphor strategy: The Human  Mind is …
  • David loved that one of his students termed school “as the gymnasium of the mind.”
  • Many defined school as prison, box, etc.

Penny Kittle (Book Love: Building Reading Lives that Last)

  • “The difference between readers and non-readers is that readers have plans.”
  • Put more books into the hands of students
  • Build stamina as readers, and then depth and complexity will follow
  • Literature “is a powerful force about life.”
  • Talked about her Book Love Foundation — which raises money and creates libraries for classrooms

Kevin Hodgson (that’s me!) — (More Than a Game)

  • Gaming has taken over all our devices
  • Moving young people away from just consumers (players) and into the role of creators of video games
  • Connections to writing process and design process (iteration)
  • Engagement and audience — publish for other gamers to play
  • Gamestar Mechanic — teaches game design and provides space to play, build, publish

Troy Hicks (To Produce and To Publish Writing: Infusing Digital Writing through the Common Core)

  • Student writing has not circulated very far in the past (teacher’s desk, trash can, refrigerator)
  • Digital writing opens up audience and modality
  • References to technology in Common Core, but very limiting in nature
  • Create, Share, Repeat
  • “It’s not about the technology. It’s about the audience and purpose.”

Andrea Finkle (It Could Be Verse: The Lack of Poetry in the CCSS)

  • Common Core provides “teacher discretion” around poetry
  • Poetry is getting lost in new standards
  • “Words and play” — the heart of poetry
  • “Rhyme can enhance understanding”
  • Uses pop culture — commercial jingles, etc. — for seeing poetry in the world

Scott Filkins (Performance Assessment: Making the Reading Process Visible)

  • Notes the “four corners” idea of the Common Core — limiting
  • Annotating text, and using personal experiences, allows students to be “co-stars” of the text
  • Visible thinking strategies
  • Annotations “give us something to dig into.”

Zenatta Robinson (Make it Pop!)

  • Use pop culture (television, movies, music) to spur student interest
  • “Where’s the opportunity for creativity?” in the Common Core
  • Non-fiction, high-interest news websites about pop culture “hook students”
  • “Give students an opportunity to use pop culture” in schools

Sara Kjader (Pedagogies of the Possible)

  • Longtime tech adapter/ still learning
  • It’s not the tools that are important
  • Emergent technology use provides “ways for us to do our work better. That’s the pedagogy of the possible.”
  • Curate/Reflect/Annotate/Share
  • “My students read and write the world.”

Sarah Brown Wessling (Reading in Liminal Spaces)

  • Liminal spaces are the “thresholds” in between (ambiguity)
  • “We live in these places because we believe in books … we believe in the stories of our learners, the stories of our schools.”
  • These gaps provide opportunity for scaffolding
  • Where students struggle is where the learning takes place
  • “Where we see a gap, I often see a space” for growth

Donalyn Miller (Dead Presidents and Whales: Engaging Students with Nonfiction Texts)

  • Non-fiction is often “not the books that students often read.”
  • Genre avoidance
  • But non-fiction is “rich text that engages kids.”
  • Use good non-fiction for book talks, read-alouds, mentor texts and paired up with fiction
  • “Kids need lots of opportunities … so we need to weave non-fiction into their reading lives.”

I’ve linked as many Twitter accounts as I could find to presenters, and suggest you might want to follow them.

Peace (in the ignition),
Kevin

NCTE HackJam: Grab the Swag and Remix

If you missed the NCTE Hackjam, you missed out on some great fun, and some great conversations among teachers (armed with tiny scissors and glue sticks and comics) about how to critically use media for analysis and meaning. It began with some stealthy signs and stealthy tweets, and Hackjam instigator Chad encouraging anyone walking by to take on a secret mission. Our mission was to grab some swag from NCTE vendors and use the materials to create new media. All of this as we huddled on the floor of the hallway off NCTE central.

In a nod to my friend, Anna, who created an Animoto while the HackJam was in progress, here is my own Animoto of the event, with a focus on the collage comic that I created to poke fun at a publishing company.

Chad then showed folks how to use some of the Mozilla Webmaker tools to create online hackjams, including a new Thinmble function for collaborating on a webpage project.

Peace (in the hack),
Kevin

PS — Thanks so much to Andrea Zellner and Chad Sansing for bringing HackJam to NCTE again.

Teachers’ Voices: So, You Want to Write for the Newspaper

I led a roundtable discussion yesterday at NCTE around nurturing teacher voices, and my roundtable topic was about how to encourage teachers to use their local newspapers as a platform for writing and publishing, and changing the dialogue around education. The work is informed by a strong partnership that our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has with a regional newspaper to feature teacher-writers once a month. I used this handout as a way to encourage individual teachers but also groups of teachers to consider the local newspaper as a conduit for positive news.

NCTE Session Getting It in the Paper by KevinHodgson

Peace (in the news),
Kevin

 

At NWP/NCTE Annual Meeting

I am going to be in Boston next week for the annual meetings of the National Writing Project and National Council of Teachers of English, and I am presenting a few times over a four day period. I created this little teaser video:

But more specifically:

  • Thursday, Joe Dillon and I are going to be in a session to talk about the Making Learning Connected MOOC experience from the Summer of Making and Learning. You can bet we’re going to making some stuff.  That session starts at 3:30 p.m. in the Hynes Convention Center as part of the NWP “c” sessions.
  • Saturday, I am joining a bunch of other teachers to talk about nurturing teacher voice, particularly through writing and publication. I am going to share out about our Western Massachusetts Writing Project partnership with our local newspaper to feature WMWP teachers as columnists. That session — called Writing to the Community — is an early one, starting at 8 a.m. at the Sheraton.
  • Sunday, I am giving an Ignite Talk as part of a collection of Ignites around the theme of Minding the Gaps. My talk is about video game design in the classroom. That is an early one, too, starting at 8:30 a.m. in the Sheraton.
  • Finally, I have been asked by NCTE President (and friend) Sandy Hayes to share a vignette from my classroom as part of her President’s Address to NCTE on Sunday (following the Ignite sessions). I am honored to be asked by Sandy, and look forward to being part of a group of teachers telling stories of learning. That takes place at 10 a.m.

So Long, National Gallery of Writing

National Gallery of Writing
I suppose this was inevitable and not at all unexpected. But the National Council of Teachers of English is closing the virtual doors on the National Gallery of Writing. This online repository of writing (to date, there are more than 33,000 pieces of writing) was established for the first National Day on Writing back in 2009 (seems like a long time ago now). Each year, participants in the National Day of Writing have been encouraged to write and publish in the Gallery as a way to honor the richness of writing. I have writing in there, and networks that I have been part of (including the National Writing Project) have hosted “galleries” in the site over the years. (see my Log of Daily Writing from a few years ago)

But to be frank (and I was part of a small committee at one time thinking of how to re-energize the Gallery), the site was not really built for the times. What I mean by that is that the architecture of the site — from submission to search — was always clunky and difficult/complex to use, and one of the biggest drawbacks was that readers could not leave comments or contribute to writing that was in the Gallery.

Writing became static there. And that is in conflict with all the ways that technology enhances writing. We, the reader, expect to be able to add our thoughts. We anticipate the possibility of the remix. We hope that embedded media works in tandem with the written words. We expect writing to be alive. The Gallery tried to do that but then got stuck in time, I suspect, and NCTE did not have the funds (or did not want to allocate the funds) to upgrade the entire system.

Which is not to say the Gallery of Writing did not have value. It did. It was part of a push by NCTE and companion organizations to honor writing and to show how complex and amazing the writing is that we do. The Gallery may be going silent (I believe it closes down at the end of this month, so if you have writing in there you want to keep, I’d go get it) but the National Day on Writing continues.

On October 21, you can celebrate the National Day on Writing. This year’s theme is “connected writing,” as far as I can determine, which makes a lot of sense, right? I’ll be thinking about how to connect my students as writers this year. What about you?

Peace (in the times gone past),
Kevin

Ignite: David Lee Finkle – Question Things

Yesterday, I reviewed a comic strip collection from David Lee Finkle called Mr. Fitz, which makes fun of teaching and standardized testing and being with middle school kids all day. So, yeah, it was right up my alley. David Finkle presented in one of the NCTE Ignite sessions in Las Vegas, using comics as his presentation. I love his David explores with his students what we mean about “writing” and “reading.”
David’s key inquiry to explore with students: When Do Stories Matter?

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

My NCTE Ignite Session: Short Form Writing

My friend, Sandy Hayes, has edited and published all of the Ignite sessions from NCTE (Ignite sessions had a format of 20 slides, transitioning every 20 seconds), and here, I talk about short-form writing and what it mean to our definitions of what writing is, and becoming, and whether we validate the many shortened ways that people write in different spaces.

(I’ll share out other Ignite sessions over the coming days, too. There are some wonderful presentations in the mix!)
Peace (in the ignite),
Kevin

NCTE Podcast: Celebrating Teacher Voices

ncte podcast
I had the pleasure of talking with Steve Zemelman and Harry Ross, of the Teachers Speak Up initiative, about the Western Massachusetts Writing Project’s partnership with our local regional newspaper. WMWP celebrates teachers as writers, and the partnership with the newspaper has opened up a regular educational column in which teachers write about their views on education and classroom experiences and strategies in a positive light.

The podcasts, which are hosted by NCTE, explore the rationale behind the partnership, as we as gives some practical advice for teachers who are seeking ways to get their views of the educational landscape (and debates) into the public sphere. I hope you have time to give it a listen, and add your own voice into the mix.

NCTE: Making Our Voices Heard

Peace (in the voice of teachers),
Kevin

 

The NCTE/NWP Hackjam Rocked!

(note: yeah, I am still processing and writing about my visit to Vegas for NCTE and NWP.)
Hackjam2 Chad and Andrea

At the NCTE Meeting, there is always a Tech To Go booth set up, where teachers share technology tools and learning strategies. It’s cool, but most of us are usually passing by it on the way to other things. On Saturday, I skipped a session so that I could hang out with some NWP friends — Chad Sansing and Andrea Zellner — who were collaborating on a Tech to Go session version of a Hackjam. First, you need to understand that the negative connotation around hacking is all wrong, and upside down. Instead of imagining some creepy programmer causing mayhem and mischief, think of an average person repurposing media and technology for their own needs, and remixing the world to their vision. Yeah, that’s hacking, and it doesn’t have to be a technology-based idea.

Hackjam3

Chad and Andrea got us started with a fascinating adventure that had nothing to do with computers. We were given one of two “secret missions” — either go into the NCTE exhibition booths and take as much free stuff as you could find, and then come back to the Tech to Go area and remix it; or grab some sticky notes and hack the long line of celebrity photos in the main hallway leading into NCTE. I joined the image hack crew, and we had a blast adding dialogue boxes to the pictures. Lots of folks were stopping, wondering what we were doing and reading what we were writing. It was very mysterious, and fun, and the activity really had us thinking of how to use humor and hacking to remix a public space.

Hackjam5

Unfortunately, the hack didn’t last. Someone soon came down the hallway shortly after we left, and removed all of our sticky notes. Luckily, we had already tweeted and photographed our work, saving the hacking for posterity (for good or bad). But the activities (including the remixing of the free stuff) reminded us of agency of the user, of remixing our experiences, and of how to shift our thinking from passive consumer into active participant.

Which led us to technology, where we used some of the new Mozilla Foundation tools in its Webmaker system to hack some web content. The Hackjam was a blast of fresh air from the room sessions, and Chad and Andrea made it fun and engaging, and steeped into the larger ideas of helping our students have agency in the media-saturated world.

You can view Andrea’s Storify collection of the tweeting that took place during the session. It’s a handy overview of what happened.

Peace (in the hack),
Kevin