Editors Anne Herrington, Kevin Hodgson, and Charles Moran from the Western Massachusetts Writing Project will address these and other questions in this interactive webcast on June 10th, drawing from insights and discoveries they made while writing their new book, Teaching the New Writing. The book pulls together teachers’ stories, practices, and examples of students’ creative and expository writing from online and multimedia projects such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, and electronic poetry.
This is the first of three Teachers Teaching Teachers shows this month that will focus on this book. Next week and the week after, we will have various authors from the different chapters Teaching the New Writing on the show.
A few years ago, during a session with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project‘s Summer Institute, I was discussing how we were going to use blogs and a networking space of the National Writing Project for sharing and reflecting and connecting. I went slow and step-by-step. I could see, however, that many in the room — these mostly veteran teachers — just could not wrap their mind around what we were asking them to be doing with technology. I tried to create mental pictures, drew a diagram on the whiteboard and racked my brain for other ways to explain it.
But many remained confused and one person got so frustrated with me, she stormed right out of the computer lab. I was taken aback, to be honest, because the term “blog” had long been in popular culture and MySpace was all the rage in the news. I thought they would have some cultural references to at least get a hook on. (Some teachers that summer did “get it” but not many.)
I was reminded of this because yesterday, I worked with this coming summer’s group of Summer Institute teachers and it was a world of difference. We use a closed Ning social networking site (see above) for our institute and within minutes, with no fuss, we had all fourteen teachers signed up, writing, commenting and changing their homepage themes. Another few minutes and they were registered with the National Writing Project so they could take part in the eAnthology, a wonderful closed writing network tool that connects participants in summer institutes across the country. Before my hour was up, everyone was online and connected and no one seemed overly confused or pissed off at me (I like that).
Is this emblematic of the shift that we keep talking about? Has Facebook made it easier for us to talk about social networking? I think so, although only a few hands went up when I asked who uses technology with their students. But they seemed ready to learn and to be more open to new ideas. I left satisfied that this group might use our Ning site in the month between yesterday’s orientation session and the day when the month-long institute kicks off in July.
Peace (in the shift),
PS — Don’t know what a National Writing Project Summer Institute is all about?
At our site, the goals of our institute are:
to help participating teachers reflect upon their own expertise as teachers of writing and share this knowledge with their peers;
to help participating teachers organize and prepare ways of presenting this expertise to teachers outside WMWP;
to make available to participating teachers the latest theory and research in the field;
to help participating teachers see themselves as writers.
The Invitational Summer Institute program embodies these four goals, which reflect the philosophy of the National Writing Project. Participants will prepare and present professional workshops, read currrent theory and research in their chosen area, conduct informal action research projects in their classrooms, do their own self-directed writing, and help their colleagues with this writing through writing response groups.
Here in Denver, as I work on the visioning process for redesigning the website of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project (now projected to be a year-long inquiry collaborative endeavor and not a solo journey), we were asked to create a visual metaphor of the work of our writing project site.
I turned to music and thought of our site as its own musical composition, with different elements of our site (outreach, continuity programs, inservice opportunities) working together to create a piece of Theme and Variation (ie, writing is at the heart of how we learn), but the door remains open for innovation and new elements of the composition.
The DJ here is a new teacher, with new ideas, and how they can help keep us fresh and informed and invigorated with new sounds.
Peace (in the hippity hoppity world of writing),
PS — I had a fun time out and about in Denver last night with Bud the Teacher and a few other new friends. We went bowling (!) in a place with huge video screens showing modern art, played pool and talked on a range of topics from digital identity (hmmm .. Boolean Squared material) to leadership and advocacy in schools to the possible changing face of education towards virtual schools.
I flew to Denver, Colorado, yesterday (impression: it seems flatter than I imagined) for a weekend visioning retreat in which a number of us from various sites of the National Writing Project are working to consider how an organization presents itself on the Web in a coherent, inclusive and relevant way for its audience (for us, teachers) and the general public.
Our aim is to do inquiry this weekend into our organizations (mine is the Western Massachusetts Writing Project), work through some essential questions and then map out a plan for collaborative planning around the content and design/redesign of websites that will better reflect our sites.
We began last night with prewriting and discussions. Among the things we were asked to do was to brainstorm what “web presence” means to us and then work on coming up with a visual metaphor for this understanding. I pitched the idea of a Talent Show, in which the public sees a variety of different concepts and ideas but behind the scenes, there are a lot of people collaborating on the show. In the end, our group chose the metaphor of a huge eye, with the eye representing “vision” and also a list of “i” words such as a inquiry, inviting, insightful, inclusive, etc. That worked for me, too.
At the other tables, the metaphors included: an interconnected table of people, holding hands and connected through many nodes (think a modern version of King Arthur’s Roundtable, with no king); a portable children’s museum that has exhibits that invite participation (not a static museum where you can’t touch anything); and a metaphorical walk through the woods, with trees and the road representing elements of inclusiveness.
It’s all very fascinating, particularly if you push these ideas into digital identity of people (as one person said last night, we’re all cool on the Internet) and consider audience, design, and more.
More to come later …
Peace (on the Net, where no one knows you’re the dog),
The National Writing Project provides a wealth of information and experience and connections and this policy briefing/report just got published on the NWP site. It is a research briefing from a company hired by NWP to look at data from technology work at sites within the NWP. (A disclosure: our Western Massachusetts Writing Project site was one of the sites included in this study of a project known as the Technology Initiative).
You can read the full report — entitled “Keeping the Promise of the 21st Century: Bringing Classroom Teaching into the Digital Age” — here but I thought I would share out some of the findings, in my own words:
Teachers learn best from other teachers who are using technology, not from some canned professional development;
It takes time for teachers to think about and integrate technology, so one-shot professional development is less effective than long-term supportive work;
Technology is best used and most effective when students are engaged in real classroom projects with authentic learning standards;
Teachers who effectively use technology are engaging and motivating their students;
Access to technology is a real issue – either to the equipment or through “firewalls” set up by school districts;
Students in poorer school districts often have the least access to technology and technology-inspired curriculum, although they may need it the most;
State and federal standardized mandates offer little incentive for teachers to engage in use of technology.
The report also adds some “policy implications” for its findings:
Teachers have to be the leaders and demand more professional development and access to technology for their students. It can’t rest with administrators;
K-12 teachers should connect more with Universities and other institutions for access to technology and expertise;
Teachers need hands-on experiences using technology themselves and then time to consider the implications of the classroom;
Provide students in underserved communities with access to technology and related curriculum opportunities;
And more …
This report is worth the read and it once again makes me proud to be part of the NWP, as it moves to think about writing in new ways that engage our young learners and makes writing relevant in their lives.
Or, as the report notes:
NWP is distinctive among professional development providers. It is a network of teachers who build leadership and knowledge of teaching and learning from systematic study of their own classroom practices and the practices of colleagues, as well as from research. These leading teachers—called teacher-consultants—share their professional knowledge and practices with other teachers through local NWP professional development programs. . . .
I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging because I have been working on a few different projects that have me otherwise engaged. All of them are pretty exciting, I think, although for different reasons. And I continue to blog small poems/podcasts every day over at Bud’s blog site, where he is posting daily pictures as inspiration for poetry. It’s been a lot of fun and challenging, too. The poems are pretty rough but I am enjoying the ideas running through them and it is fascinating to think about photos as inspiration for writing.
This past weekend, I joined a group of other teachers in the National Writing Project to begin planning a future online space to showcase ways in which technology and writing are coming together in meaningful ways for students. This is not going to be a “how to” site, but a “why do it” and “what does it all mean” site for sharing and reflecting. The philosophy behind the concept is to design a portal and insight into projects, with reflections. The conceit is that we are “beyond the moment” of technology making an impact on learning and now we need to understand what is going on with it. The NWP is a partner with the MacArthur Foundation on this venture, so there are many exciting connections to be made with other MacArthur partners in the future.
I am working on a prototype of a resource around last year’s Many Voices for Darfur project, in which my students joined others to use technology (podcasting, images, videos, etc.) for social action. As I go back to that time, I realize now just how powerful it was for my students as they joined hundreds of others from around the world to advocate for peace in the Sudan.
Meanwhile, on a personal musical note, a friend and I are in the midst of developing an entire “song cycle” story that is a bit hard to explain, but it is a big project that tells the life of a man through the use of poetry, with songs as part of it all, as he struggles to connect with the world, falls in and out of love, and then comes to terms with life. It stretches from childhood to the end of his life. We are thinking of this as a multimedia production, although what that will look like we can’t quite say yet. It’s been a great source of inspiration to be writing the poems of this story and also, the songs. In the past two weeks, I have composed about eight new songs for this project and I can “see” the whole thing before us, even if I can’t quite articulate it yet.
Tomorrow morning, I am off to California for a weekend technology retreat with the National Writing Project. It’s a long way to go but I bet the discussions and work will be most interesting, as I am part of a group of teachers who are working on developing technology resources through a program partnership with NWP and the MacArthur Foundation, and others. This is pretty exciting work. Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has proposed developing resources around some main themes:
using technology for social justice
using voice (podcasting, etc)
assessing digital media in the classroom
I don’t know what the actual resources will look like at this point (thus, the retreat) but I expect it will be a way for teachers to engage their students with writing and technology on many levels and provide a foothold for them to do so in the classroom. I am being joined by a member of my WMWP Technology Team and in California, there will be teams from other sites. It will be great to connect with them and socialize (of course) and wander around Berkeley again. The weather looks nice, too (bonus!).
Here is one dilemma: I hate bringing my PC with me. It’s too heavy and I am too cheap to buy a new one. I do have my little green XO and I think, for the first time, I am going to use is as my primary computer for a business-related trip. I wonder how it will be? I know the small keyboard will slow me down and there are other limitations, but it will also allow me to see if it can be depended upon as a real tool and not just a fun technology toy (I know it is more than that, of course).
I was one of a handful of guests recently on the wonderful Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast, where the discussion centered on a white paper put out by The New Media Literacies Center at MIT. The paper, by Henry Jenkins, focuses in on the concept of how students can move forward, navigate and thrive in the new world of media and technology. (Oh, TTT is also up for an Edublog Award this year)
You can see a video put forth by the Project for New Media Literacies:
This is one list of skills that the white paper talks about for our students:
Play – the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving
Performance – the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery
Simulation – the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes
Appropriation – the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content
Multitasking – the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details
Distributed Cognition – the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities
Collective Intelligence – the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal
Judgment – the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources
Transmedia Navigation – the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities
Networking – the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information
Negotiation – the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms
Visualization – the ability to interpret and create data representations for the purposes of expressing ideas, finding patterns, and identifying trends
Here is the workshop that I co-presented at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting a few weeks ago in San Antonio. I had a wonderful co-facilitator in Pen Campbell and the discussions were just wonderful, even in a large cavernous room with about 50 people.
Our focus was on the writing element of digital stories, but we also had long discussion on the elements of digital stories. I’ve included the podcasts of the session, if you are interested, and the website that was the heart of this session is a collaboration between NWP and Pearson Foundation that Pen and I were part of. You can view the website (still in beta) here. This presentation is also now part of my own collection of workshops around writing and technology.
Also, the short video examples that we shared are not in this presentation. Sorry.
One of the workshops I attended at the National Writing Project’s annual meeting in San Antonio was about a new venture called the National Conversation on Writing. A group of mostly college professors is trying to change perceptions of writing in the public mind and one of their ideas to collect vignettes from people about what writing means to them. In particular, they would like to have a collection of short videos, in which teachers and students and others talk about writing.
I decided to give it a go, sort of as a rough draft approach, and recorded some of my own thoughts.
What about you? What does writing mean to you?
Peace (in reflection),