National Writing Project feeds

Here are some of the updates out of the National Writing Project following the Annual Meeting last month in Philly:

2009 NWP Annual Meeting Photo Album

Monday, December 14, 2009
Type: Resource
Over 1,000 writing project colleagues gathered for the 32nd NWP Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. View this Flickr stream of photos from the meeting to see many sessions, workshops, socials, and other activities through the attendees’ eyes.

2009 Annual Meeting Highlights: General Session Writings

Monday, December 14, 2009
Type: Resource
Inspired by a Billy Collins poem “To My Patron,” teachers at the NWP Annual Meeting were asked to write about what it takes to teach students to write. A long metrical poem or a short well-crafted argument? A set of colleagues to talk to? A blank mind? Model readings? Just a pen? Here is a sample of their responses.

Video Highlights from NWP’s 2009 Annual Meeting

Monday, December 14, 2009
Type: Resource
Check out these video highlights, including teacher-consultant interviews and a delicious writing marathon, from NWP’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

Peace (in the gathering),

Tapping into a network for ideas: digital story tutorials

I am part of a listserve of some very smart people — the technology liaisons of the National Writing Project. Time and time again, when someone has a question or a problem, these teachers and technology coordinators eagerly come up with solutions and resources. I say this because this week, someone asked about resources for teaching digital storytelling. Within a few hours, there were multiple responses with links for resources. I love that.

Here are some of the resources shared:

It’s always amazing to realize the networks we are building and how much people are willing to go out of their way to help others in the process of learning and integrating technology. It’s just knowing how to enter a network, I guess.

Peace (in the sharing),

Wordling our NWP Connections

This is a follow-up to my last post. This week’s writing prompt for our iAnthology network was to write about how people came to be connected to the National Writing Project. There were some great stories. I took all of the text and popped them into Wordle:

Peace (in the words),

Building a teacher/writer network

Bonnie and I (and a few others) are about three months into a project funded by the National Writing Project to create an online writing community for NWP teachers called the iAnthology. It’s been pretty exciting. We are using a Ning and we have created it to resemble another online network that all NWP folks use during their Summer Institute (a four week professional development that will change the way you teach and connect with others … guaranteed).

Although we began with folks in New England and New York (our home turf, so to speak), we have slowly opened up the doors to teachers from other parts of the country. It’s a closed site with a public face, but we want to reserve the space for teachers who are connected with NWP.

We were looking at some raw numbers the other and I was amazed at the amount of activity it shows.

We now have 165 members

15 Writing groups

Total amount of posts: 173
Total amount of comments: 1,510

Combined total (amount of writing on site): 1,683

(Note: in late September, we had 443 pieces of writing on the site)

Some things I’ve noticed:

  • Our site follows the mathematical power law data tail that Clay Shirkey talks about in his book — Here Comes Everybody — in that we do have a large pool of teachers, but most are either lurkers or joiners, with a select group doing most of the writing and connecting. This a common trend for social networks. What we want to do is entice those in the middle of the data tail to remain engaged and join us from time to time.
  • We’ve set up the iAnthology site to resemble the site most of our folks used during their own Summer Institute (called the eAnthology — get the connection?), so that the interface will seem familiar to folks. Of course, there is not a direct correlation, as they are different platforms. But we used a lot of the same language for peer feedback and created groups with similar names to the other network. We want the hurdles low. We don’t expect the teachers in our network to be tech specialists.
  • We have places (groups) for people to develop longer pieces of writing (creative writing and professional writing) but Bonnie made the smart move early on to set up a weekly writing prompt. We have found that this simple activity brings a lot of folks to the site for some writing, and then connecting. Again, a low hurdle is key.
  • Our site has been used by folks writing for publication, for sharing ideas for the National Novel Writing Month and more. It’s a sounding board for review and revision of pieces of writing, and a supportive place to hang out, too.
  • We are all part of a common experience — the National Writing Project — and that common identity binds us together in really cool ways, so that geography is not so important, even though we bring our localized experiences to the online environment. I see this sense of identity as crucial for the life of any online social network.
  • It’s vital that a small group of people be the face of the site, welcoming new folks in and providing frequent feedback to any writing. The last thing we want is for someone to be excited about our site, post some writing and then receive nothing but a gaping maw of silence. So, we have a team of moderators who go in periodically to comment and respond, and to model commenting and responding for others. It did not take long, though, for members to take over themselves, which is what we want.
  • When Bonnie and I started, we did not know if anyone would come or want such a space. They do. And we know teachers are busy people — there is no right time to launch such a site — September is busy, then you are into the holidays, etc. — so we did it and then have been nurturing periods of growth.

We’re excited about what we set in motion and wonder where it will be heading. If you are part of the National Writing Project and want to join us,  leave a note in the comment box here, and we’ll send you an invite.

Peace (in the connections),

Me and the National Writing Project

I shared this over at our iAnthology site (an experimental online writing space for teachers in the National Writing Project) but I thought I would share it out here, too. I’ve been trying to create some sort of timeline (this is an idea that my friend, Susan, has talked about — documenting points of entry into the NWP) with digital tools of my life with the National Writing Project.
I worked for some time with Photostory, but the project just stalled out on me. And none of the online timeline makers seemed to do the trick. Yesterday, it dawned on me that my recent infatuation with Prezi might be worth pursuing for this project.
I’m still tinkering with it (there is too much text, I notice, and so viewing it full screen is best).

Peace (in the presentation),

Me and Andrea and Billy Collins

Thanks to Aram for this quick video of me and my friend, Andrea, meeting Billy Collins in Philly. You can just make out me talking about the 30Poems in 30Days project.

Peace (in the connection),

National Writing Project, day 2

This morning, we had our huge gathering of teachers at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting come together into one crammed room (more than 1,000 strong). It’s always amazing to look out at that sea of fellow teachers and know we are all connected with our teaching and writing.

NWP Executive Director Sharon Washington told us about her own writing and sharing experience with one of the NWP Summer Institutes (OK, so it was our Western Massachusetts Writing Project) where she sat in with a writing response group in action during a visit to the the site. She shared a children’s story she is writing and admitted to being nervous.

“I took a deep breath and started to read … and I felt accepted,” Washington noted, touching on the community of writers and teachers that comes together during the Summer Institute. “My experience is not unusual. It is reflected … across the network.”

Washington explained the importance of the NWP ideals by sharing out the mission statement and vision statement, which reflects writing in the digital world as well as being grounded in the traditions.

Our Mission

The National Writing Project focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation’s educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners.

Our Vision

Writing in its many forms is the signature means of communication in the 21st century. The NWP envisions a future where every person is an accomplished writer, engaged learner, and active participant in a digital, interconnected world.

Former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins was the guest speaker. As expected, he was funny and deep and insightful with his poetry, reading a variety of poems that touched on teaching, writing and kids.

I loved this quote by Billy Collins this morning:  “Usually, I don’t know where I’m going (with a poem) when I begin.” The poem creates itself and he follows along with the inspiration, he said.

In response to a quest, Collins explained how different poetry, with its freedom, is from prose, which requires exact meaning.

“Poetry’s a bird. Prose is a potato.” — Billy Collins

Now, I am off to dinner with a large group of Tech Friends.

Peace (in reflection),

Meeting Billy Collins — really!

I just had the pleasure of shaking hands and chatting with the wonderful Billy Collins — who will be speaking to the entire National Writing Project assembly in the next hour. Andrea, Aram and I (thanks to Aram for pointing him out) let Billy Collins know how much we love his poetry and we talked briefly about teaching poetry in schools and whether teachers in the NWP wrote poetry themselves (or, he asked, were we a small minority? We — he called the three of us poets, which we are but still … Billy Collins ackowledged it for us.)

For the record, he was very gracious and did not seem to mind being interrupted by us three writing teachers. I think. Who can tell, really? But it was worth it.

I called my wife to let her know. “I Met Billy Collins,” to which she quickly replied:  “Did you tell him that your loving wife bought you a Billy Collins book for Christmas last year?”

Gulp. Nope. Sorry, honey.

But I did once write a poem about Billy Collins, or about being inspired by Billy Collins’ poetry. This was back when I was starting a OnepoemPerMonthforaYear project.

Talking Billy Collins Blues

November 2006

I called on Billy Collins last night
And he asked me outright if I was disturbed
To which I replied,
Yes, slightly, sorry for the intrusion
but how do you write a poem

every month for a year
And where do I look for lost words

— the ones I have misplaced with time?
Billy slipped me a piece of paper when we were done

And disappeared
leaving me alone with nothing much but that paper.
I could just make out some red ink scribbles

and a few doodles
when I held that thin skin of a tree up to the light
and let the paper become a translucent buffer

between me
and the muse.
I held Billy Collins in my hand for hours,
nursing him

like the last drink of the night when daylight is looming,
afraid to even look
because if it did hold the key

then my search would be over
and why write poems after that?
So I crumpled Billy up

and tossed him into the street bin
(apologizing profusely for being so impolite)
and I chased my own shadow all the way back home
in the darkness of memories.

And that’s when I really began to write.

Peace (in the poems),