Hello Windy City

On Friday, I am off to Chicago for a Monograph Book Project with the National Writing Project. My colleagues, Bruce P. and Susan B., and I have been writing the story of what happened to our Western Massachusetts Writing Project when three seismic events took place:

  • We lost all of our state funding for supporting writing teachers in our region
  • One of our founders and guiding forces died suddenly and unexpectedly
  • Another founding member and longtime director announced that he would be retiring

This was all before my time at WMWP, so it has been quite a narrative journey for me to discover the history of our site. In Chicago, we will be meeting with editors and other writers from other writing projects to discuss our progress and how things are going.

Essentially, our book is built around these ideas:

Þ The creation of an inservice coordinator position to spearhead our efforts to reach into more schools by tapping into the expanding knowledge base of our teacher consultants.

Þ The addition of a technology liaison who not only helped move us forward into technology in new ways but also became part of the leadership team that allowed our site to view what we were doing, and how we could improve, through a different spectrum.

Þ A model of mentoring in which veteran leaders of site-based programs would ask for newer, less-experienced teacher consultants to become co-leaders and this not only gave us flexibility in times of unexpected crisis, but also expanded the number of leadership positions at our site.

Þ Writing out explicit job descriptions for leadership posts, from co-director to technology liaison, as a way of not only explaining the roles and responsibilities of the position, but also leaving a paper trail for the future.

Þ The recasting of our entire leadership structure to feature rotating co-director slots with three-year term limits and the launch of a task force structure that allowed more teacher consultants to get involved in the decision-making process of our site than had happened previously.

Þ Increased efforts to create partnerships with organizations outside of our traditional circle of friends that allowed us to expand our visibility and reach in a wider geographic and demographic area. These partnerships included Westfield State College, the Wisteriahurst Museum in Holyoke and the Springfield Republican newspaper.

Peace (with reflection),
Kevin

 

Teachers Teaching Teachers: TechStories

On Wednesday night, I guest-hosted Teachers Teaching Teachers on the topic of technology and storytelling. It was a bit nerve-wracking (not knowing how things were going to go and how to get everyone on) but exciting and informative and all of that good stuff.

You can listen to the show as a podcast now and check out the chat room discussion.

Among the topics:

  • What IS digital storytelling and is that even the correct term?
  • Are our notions of DS constricted by the genre of personal narrative?
  • How does the interactive Web 2.0 play into what we envision for future storytelling?
  • What is the ABC project all about?
  • What role does privacy of the storyteller (young person) play in the publishing aspect of the work?
  • And more.

Listen to the podcast

Read the Chat Room transcripts

Thanks again to Paul and Susan for inviting me to sit in. They are wonderful hosts of that weekly show.

Peace (with a story),
Kevin

Guest Host for TTT

So this is what I get for suggesting a topic to Paul Allison for the wonderful Teachers Teaching Teachers show — he asks me to guest host this Wednesday night (9 p.m. Eastern time) on the topic of how we can integrate the Web 2.0 technology with storytelling. I am, of course, honored and excited to be asked to sit in the Big Chair and I want to invite you all to join me.

Here is my blurb:

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Using Technology to Tell Stories

The concept of digital storytelling has been around for some time as people began to envision the impact that the visual and aural elements could have on the traditional writing process. Video documentaries, radio reflections and other experiments have blossomed with the Web 2.0 world. There are many publishing sources and many means of expression. But what does it all mean? How can the interactive web be tapped into to bring storytelling and composition to an even deeper level of meaning for the writer and for the audience?

Join guest host Kevin Hodgson, who is the technology liaison of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, this week on Teachers Teaching Teachers as he seeks to explore some of these questions. Kevin is a sixth grade teacher who has students create digital picture books (last year’s theme — math, and this year’s theme — science) and stop-motion claymation projects (in which his sixth graders collaborate with second graders). He has been exploring the intersection of the world of digital storytelling and the Web 2.0 frontier in recent months with NWP Colleague Bonnie Kaplan through a community Weblog and a new collaborative ABC movie project that features more than a dozen teachers throughout the country who are contributing video segments to a larger collaborative project that uses online tools to plan, produce and distribute a digital story.

The program will try to showcase some different aspects of storytelling and technology, brainstorm some ways that people can get started, and consider what the future holds for telling stories in a digital environment.

Our guests will include Tonya Witherspoon, who has run a claymation movie camp for kids; Gail Desler, who is part of the ABC Movie Project and a deep thinker on the pedagogy underlying the use of technology in the classroom; and others.

Please join us for the conversation this Wednesday evening on EdTechTalk.com (6pm PDT / 9pm EDT / 1am GMT (global times).

Some Resource Links

Kevin and Bonnie’s Using Technology to Tell Stories Weblog (http://techstories.edublogs.org/)
More information about the ABC Movie Project (http://techstories.edublogs.org/category/abc-movie-project/)
Tonya’s Claymation Camp Site
Kevin’s Weblog (http://dogtrax.edublogs.org/)
Bonnie’s Weblog (http://blk1.edublogs.org/)
Gail’s Weblog (http://blogwalker.edublogs.org/)
Tonya’s Weblog (http://essdack.org/spoonfed/index.html)
Kevin’s Storytelling Site (http://www.umass.edu/wmwp/DigitalStorytelling/Digital%20Storytelling%20Main%20Page.htm)
Tonya’s Delicious links for Digital Storytelling (http://del.icio.us/tonya.witherspoon/digitalstorytelling)

I hope to hear you then.

Peace (with podcasts and people),
Kevin

One word for TM

I found myself wandering through Paul Allison’s site (one of his many interesting ventures into the world) and came upon this list of words that we used this past summer to describe Tech Matters ’06 in Chico, California. Tech Matters is a one-week intensive technology retreat for fellows in the National Writing Project Technology Liaison network. I have written about it before (and created a little claymation video for a friend who is working on a project about TM). But this list reminded me of our last day in Chico as we reflected on our experiences:

One Word about TM06

  • Reenvisionment
  • Recommitted
  • Tranformational
  • Inspiring
  • Relationships
  • Networking
  • Upgraded
  • Invigorating
  • Empowering
  • Liberating
  • Challenging
  • Fulfilling
  • Illuminating
  • Validating
  • Usable
  • Solidarity
  • Inspiration
  • Collaboration
  • Friendship
  • Creating, creating, creating…
  • Self-expression
  • Tired, hot, and laughing…
  • Fun
  • Community
  • Entertaining
  • Revolutionary
  • Exasperating
  • Visioning
  • A-ha moment
  • Tension
  • Eating
  • Read/write web (not Web 2.0)
  • Clarity
  • Gator skin drive
  • The world is flat
  • Whirlpoo…
  • Excellent
  • Tremendo
  • Beautiful
  • Magnificent/Magnifico
  • Nurturing
  • Bonding

Peace (in Chico),
Kevin

Good Tech Advice from NWP


Jeff Grinvalds, of the Nebraska Writing Project, just published an informative article for the NWP on reducing technology glitches in the classroom (what? I never have glitches, do you? Hmmm) that gives some practical advice for teachers considering technology.

He begins with a personal story of working to create a movie project with his students, only to realize that, “After the show was over and we went to watch the tape of the acts, and I realized to my chagrin that I had not run an audio cable from the video camera to the VCR, so we had this wonderful footage with no audio.

Doh!

Check out Jeff’s article: Technology in the Classroom — How to Reduce the Glitches.

Peace (with the writing project),
Kevin

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Where we’re at

Once again, I had the good fortune to be invited to join the Teachers Teaching Teachers skypecast this week and was able to talk up my Making Connections and Youth Radio collaboration projects. I like hearing the voices of my colleagues and friends, and being part of the discussion on a variety of topics and I feel as I learn some new things along the way, too.

You can listen to the podcast of the conversation now, too. Take a listen

I want to thank Paul A. and Susan E. for the wonderful job they do in playing host to such a wide range of teachers and topics.

Peace (in pods),
Kevin

PS —  Here is an archive of shows that I participated in at TTT.

Making Connections: Midway Point, part two

In our big Making Connections project this year (we are in the second year, thanks to funding from the National Writing Project), we asked students to take an online survey before they started to do any blogging. We were looking to gather some data about perceptions of students as writers and users of technology. We have had about 250 students take the survey, which we believe gives us some reliability. Some teachers will be sharing the data with their students and with their administration.

Here are four questions that jumped out at me:

How do you use technology to communicate to others?

Do you think you write better on paper or on the computer?

Do you think schools should teach technology as a ways to communicate with others?

Which of these tools have you used in the past year?

Feel free to poke around:

Peace (with data points),
Kevin

 

Making Connections: Midway Point, part one

I am project leader for an initiative (funded by the National Writing Project) that seeks to use weblogs to connect students. We have 15 teachers from five school districts, and about 300 students using blogs to write and interact.


We just finished the first phase of our project, in which students introduce themselves and comment with each other. We have had almost 1,200 posts on the Manila-based Weblog that we are using (the poor server). This weekend, the teachers all met to talk about how things are going. For the most part, they are not technology-proficient, so this project is pushing them in new, and sometimes frustrating, directions.

Here are some of the teacher posts from this weekend:

Most students from Southampton have made their introductions and have had had a chance to go back on and make comments to introductions of students from other schools. This went very smoothly in Southampton. Many responses were made to students from other towns. We did tell all students to make at least 3 responses to students from OTHER schools first before responding to someone from our own school. We also reminded them to look for studentsto respond to who might not have any responses yet. One frustration some students had was that they did not know who had responded to their introduction. If there was more than one student with the name “Bob”, for instance, they did not know which one in order to respond back to him. Or, students were not signing their response.” — Lisa

The successes include seeing all of the connections that students are making as well as seeing the empathy being gained as they learn that other student are having shared experiences. Hinting about the upcoming experiement has also been a real postitive as students witness the nature of science as others repeat the Skittles experiment to gather more data. — Jack

Everything is going okay so far. The only problem we have had has been gremlins in the machine that won’t accept the kids’ passwords or even their existence as members when they try to log on. The weird thing is that on any given day some kids get on successfully while others do not. There seems to be no consistency in who the particular victims will be – someone may have no problem one day, but may have to try 2 or 3 times to get logged in the next day.” — Mary M.

I was a little disappointed in my students’ introductions, but I think that as soon as they see the traffic that has hit the blog, they will become more enthusiastic. Right now, like me, I think they are a little overwhelmed. — Denise

Our students created self-portraits by hand. We took digital pictures of them and then uploaded them to a photo storage website. The only pitfall was figuring out how to do all of this–trial by fire and LOTS of time. If anyone needs help with this, thanks to just-in-time learning, I am now a Master Jedi. LOL” — Michele

One problem I ran into was that some students would hop on the blog whenever they got a few extra minutes in the day. They were able to get their work finished quickly; posting their own and responding back and forth to several people. This was great, but the problem was that with the extra time, they just started to casually blog to one another. I had to have the “this is not myspace” talk with them and remind them that all of the other people and teachers on the blog can and would be reading what they write.” — Deb

I’m benefitting because I’m gaining some technological skills. My students are improving both their writing and technological skills, and they’re making meaningful connections with students from other communities. I think my students especially enjoyed posting their self-portraits – Michele, who is a technology wizard, helped a great deal with this. The drawings don’t really look like them, but they capture their personalities quite well! One thing I really like about this project is the security of the site and the control we have as teachers. ” — Paula

Many of the students are excited about the project and are looking forward to continuing. It is sometimes difficult to manage all the students as they are not very independent when starting a new endeavor. We are ironing out the wrinkles as far as logistics, scheduling, and other problems go. ” Ann

Things are going well, slow but sure. My fifth grade students are enjoying this ‘new’ way of talking, especially the relaxed writing style. It was refreshing to see some of my more reluctant participants jump on the tech train. I am wondering how I can keep this same enthusiaism as we try to find time and space in the computer lab. The chatter is great. Kidos want to get on and talk with each other. I have one student who got onto the site from home. I’m not sure about this…I wonder how I can control what happens outside my perview? I have a new layer of responsibility that I’m not yet sure about.” — Mary F.

I have a group of enthusiastic bloggers this year. Although they are not as advanced with technology as my group last year, they are tenacious.” — Eva

It has been difficult for us to “squeeze” the blogging into our curriculum, but the kids are enthusiastic and most want to do more. It’s interesting how these kids perceive the responses they have been getting – some were disappointed to find out that they were corresponding with “white kids”, and others were disappointed to have responses from younger students “Miss, why are you trying to “hook me up” with a 10 year old!” But, it’s good for them to see outside of their culture and very limited horizon. And once they began to understand everything, they were accepting and look forward to the experience.” — Wendy

Again, I’m having trouble when I really wasn’t expecting to. I planned to blog with a class that I had a support teacher with and that is usually a pretty enthusiastic bunch, the principal had been notified and seemed to be on board, etc., and Wendy said she would help if I needed her. Then- My support teacher and Wendy were assigned to new Lindamood Bell classes during that block, the principal got MCAS panic, and my class, for the most part,decided they are not that interested!” — Mary D.

So, as you can see, there is a lot of reflection going on with the project, and many hurdles to overcome. In the next day or two, I will share the data from a survey we had our students take around technology.

Peace (with connections),
Kevin

Student Survey

The image “http://www.unl.edu/casnrde/images/survey_icon2.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The introduction to our Making Connections Weblog project (through the National Writing Project) involves an entrance survey, just to gather some data about student perceptions and use of technology. My students took the survey the other day (online, through Survey Monkey) and it is quite interesting to see the results.

Some observations:

  • Almost 80 percent of my students say they are on the computer more than two hours every day (that’s a lot of time — too much time, if you ask me — they should be outside, playing football or tag or something)
  • Almost 60 percent say they regularly use Instant Messaging to communicate with friends (and we often see the results of this IM in the morning, with hurt feelings and rumors run amok)
  • 50 percent said they enjoy writing (whoo-hooo) and almost 20 percent said they love to write (double whoo-hooo). Four percent said they don’t like to write at all (boo-hoo)
  • 78 percent said they think they write better on computer than on paper (interesting and not sure how to interpret that, although we talked about it in class)
  • 86 percent that schools SHOULD teach how to appropriately use technology to communicate with others.

All in all, interesting, and it will be even more interesting to compile the data from all six school districts involved in our project. I’ll share that out when it comes together (now I need to learn Excel)

Peace (choose A, B, or C),
Kevin

NWP in T.H.E. Journal

The National Writing Project is featured in the recent edition of T.H.E. Journal magazine as one organization that sees the potential and benefits of technology in the classroom. The article notes that blogging has a strong foothold in the NWP network (we know this ourselves). The article also mentions the Technology Initiative, which my Western Massachusetts Writing Project is part of through our Making Connections project (more on that to come soon as we are almost set to launch our second year).

From the article in THE Journal:

“Whether the digital vehicle is e-mail, blogs, or podcasts isn’t significant; what matters is that these are all tools that involve students in writing and bring them into the company of distant audiences, which supports the learning that comes when writers see what readers make of their work.” — from http://www.thejournal.com/articles/19919_3

Peace (with the Writing Project),
Kevin