Today is the sixth annual National Day on Writing, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English and various partners (like the National Writing Project) and this year’s theme is Writing Your Community. I’ve been mulling over how best to do this, and decided that mapping out communities — either literally or metaphorically — made a lot of sense.
Check out this workshop that I led at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project this weekend, in which we played around with paper circuitry to illuminate nodes on maps of our communities. This workshop was part of our annual Best Practices conference, and the group of teachers were highly engaged in this hands-on activity around transforming notebooks with circuits and lights.
I attended an interesting session with co-facilitated with friends Ian and Greg (whom I met when they were facilitating the Massachusetts New Literacies Initiative). The session dealt with documentary poems (see Ian’s post about the session), and how to guide students to research a historical figure or time period, write a poem, and then use podcasting for publication. While in the session, I began a poem about Sojourner Truth, who lived for a time in my small city and whose statue is located just off the main road in one of the village areas not far from where she resided.
The other day, I returned to the poem, finished it up and then recorded it.
But I decided to take Ian and Greg’s idea even further, using Popcorn Maker to create a multimedia poem, with images, video and music. I like how it all came together here, even if the tool is still a little wonky at times, as I explore my own thoughts of seeing the Sojourner Truth statue, about the work she did around abolition and awareness of women’s issues, and about the world right now, still in need of the Truth.
There are many things to like about an educational conference like NCTE. Sure, the collaboration and sense of community, and shared knowledge and expertise is all wonderful. But there is also … the free books that publishers hand out in the Exhibition Hall, and this year, my wife and I took home many, many bags of free books (we drove this year so we just kept dragging bags to the car). Plus, we got a few bookmark packs, tattoes, and even a “graphic story” builder pack.
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) …”
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),
PS — Thanks so much to Andrea Zellner and Chad Sansing for bringing HackJam to NCTE again.
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.
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.
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?
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?