From Old to New: The WMWP Website

The Western Massachusetts Writing Project launched a new website this month, in our hopes to make our site cleaner and easier to navigate. The change came on the heels of a long inquiry process of how our writing project site can best project our mission statement and our goals to our online audience. It’s still a work in progress, with some areas still under construction and some links still to be added. But I like the new site, and I appreciate all of the world folks put into making it go live. We had lots of voices in the mix because we realize the importance of a strong web presence.

Our New Site
WMWP new

Our Old Site
WMWP Web Old

Peace (in the change),


Moving WMWP onto NWP Connect

Connect WMWP Space
The National Writing Project’s new networking space — NWP Connect — is a move towards making connections among various NWP site members and within sites. At the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, we have been using a Ning site for our leadership team (sporadically) but yesterday, I presented to our board the possibilities of using NWP Connect. Among other reasons, we don’t want to keep paying for Ning.

After a tour of the NWP Connect site, we had an engaging conversation about we might best use the main site and our space within the Connect community. There were discussions around:

  • Do we make our space public or keep it private? We mostly seemed to lean towards a public space, particularly as one of our missions to visibility to our teachers and our community.
  • How do we use our social networking site in a way that does not conflict with our website?
  • How do we label and name things in our Connect site in a way that is clear and understandable for users? You’d be surprised at how difficult that can be at times.
  • How do we best integrate the Connect site with our website, so that a user can move fairly seamlessly from one to another?
  • What activity can we launch (book talk?) to get people on the site and writing?
  • Who will be in charge of making sure that every post gets a response?
  • And more …

It was interesting and a good discussion. The key is for us to keep designing our WMWP Space with simplicity of use in mind, and to avoid making another site that people don’t need to go to. We don’t want to stake out some ground that is never used, or replicates what people already have in their professional teaching lives. But we also see Connect as another way to bridge connections with teachers who are part of WMWP and maybe need another line to our organization.

Here is a document I created and shared with our WMWP folks, but it may be helpful for others, too. (Note: The NWP Connect space is not just for NWP teachers. It’s an open place for resources on writing and literacy. Take a look. Stay awhile.) All of the members of the Leadership Team pledged to tour NWP Connect on their own, maybe add a few comments to some posts, and then take a critical look at the WMWP Connect space.
Using NWP Connect

Peace (in the sharing),


Moving into the WMWP Connect Space

WMWP Connect Homepage
This afternoon, I am heading off to our Summer Institute at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project in order to give our teachers a tour of our new online space, which is called Connect, and which is part of the National Writing Project’s new push to provide a networking space that encompasses both the entire NWP network and individual sites. I’m a little worried because, to be truthful, I don’t have a full handle on the Connect platform (built off Drupal, I believe) and find it a bit difficult to navigate and manage right now. I am hoping that with experience will come ease.

But I will pitch it to our SI folks as a way to dip their toes into something new, just my own Summer Institute did when we were introduced to Weblogs in a time when blogs were certainly not in fashion and had certainly not even begun to take hold much in classrooms. I remember thinking “OK,” and diving into something new. There were times when it was frustrating but I kept at it, and learned quite a bit. I am hoping our 2011 folks can do the same. I hope.

Peace (in the Connect-ions),

Western Massachusetts Writing Project Is …

I was inspired by an NWP friend’s Animoto of her writing project, so I copied it a bit for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. This will become part of our new website and social networking space. I used elements from our Mission Statement as the text.

Peace (in the WMWP),

WMWP: Tapping into our Mission Statement

WMWP Mission Brainstorm
Yesterday, members of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project leadership team met to begin a discussion about the future of our organization now that federal support for the National Writing Project has disappeared. It’s an uncertain time for us, and for all NWP sites. And the discussion is sure to stretch into next year.

The activity that started us off was to look deeper at our WMWP Mission Statement, which we developed last year after a year of inquiry work, and which now is something that we see as our guide forward. We spent a lot of time, and a lot of reflective thinking, on the writing of the mission statement. As we struggle with where funds should go, and how to gain more support, our site director, Anne Herrington, reminded us that we need to maintain the values that we hold dear in the WMWP. The mission statement can help us in this regard.

We spent some time reading the mission statement and pulling out words and phrases that seemed most important, or most central, to us. Then, we shared out those phrases and discussed what they meant. The Wordle above are some of the central ideas that came out of that discussion.

This is our full mission statement:

The mission of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project, is to create a professional community where teachers and other educators feel welcomed to come together to deepen individual and collective experiences as writers and our understanding of teaching and learning in order to challenge and transform our practice. Our aim is to improve learning in our schools — urban, rural and suburban.

Professional development provided by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project values reflection and inquiry and is built on teacher knowledge, expertise, and leadership.

Central to our mission is the development of programs and opportunities that are accessible and relevant to teachers, students, and their families from diverse backgrounds, paying attention to issues of race, gender, language, class and culture and how these are linked to teaching and learning.

We then began to talk about what programs represent those ideas. We’re trying to determine which areas of WMWP should remain the central backbone of who we are and what we do. It was decided that the Summer Institute, the English Language Learners network, our Best Practices conference, professional development with schools and continuity programs for teachers must remain a top priority.

The message that came out from the meeting is: we’re down but not out, and we will find  a way not only to survive, but to thrive. I don’t think we are afraid to change, as long as we keep the values of our program alive. Coming at it from that angle gives a clearer sense of possibilities, I think.

Peace (in the writing projects),

Some More Thoughts from the NWP Web Retreat

We’re still working here in Kansas City around creating interactive, social networking spaces for National Writing Project teachers. I’ve been using Cinchcast to add some reflective podcast thoughts. Give a listen if you want to hear what’s been on my mind after a full day of “playing” and “building” in the Drupal site:

Peace (in KC),

Some Initial Thoughts on NWP Web Presence

I am in Kansas City with a whole group of very talented and smart representatives of the National Writing Project where we are exploring ways we can use a new NWP Social Networking site to the advantage of the teachers in our various sites. Last night, we had some initial activities, including discussing the elements of a website that makes us want to come back it time and again. Themes that emerged included:

  • Usefulness to a specific interest
  • Fun, and use of humor
  • Collaborative elements
  • The voice of someone with experience
  • Multiple points of entry to content
  • Easy to navigate
  • and more

We then broke into our site teams (I am here with a wonderful teacher from the Springfield schools) and worked on a paper activity using widgets that might be available as we work today to design our space. My partner, Anne Marie, and I talked about simplicity of design and which elements would allow for the easiest way for our teachers to enter into conversations. It was pretty interesting and will lay the groundwork for some activities today.

Peace (in the NWP),

Connecting with NWP (Connect)

I am off to Kansas City today to join so many other colleagues in the National Writing Project to learn about and go deeper into the fairly-new social networking platform of the NWP, which is called NWP Connect. With federal support now gone for NWP, a lot of sites like my own Western Massachusetts Writing Project is gearing up to use an online presence to keep a firm foothold in the world of teaching and professional development, and keeping our NWP folks connected.

This week’s NWP Web Retreat should allow us time to conceptualize how that might look and how we might use this new space for both connecting to the larger NWP network, and also, constructing smaller “communities” for our sites right in that larger space. For us at WMWP, this dovetails nicely with an ongoing effort to revamp and relaunch our website this summer. We’ve had lots of ideas in the past around lesson plan sharing, writing spaces, professional development, and more that could find a home inside the NWP Connect space.

The retreat also comes right before an important meeting we are having at WMWP on Monday in which we really brainstorm what our network will look like as funding comes to a close, and how we can best survive. I am hoping some of the ideas from this weekend will help me share out some possibilities with online spaces during those difficult conversations.

A few weeks ago, when we started the planning, I sent out an email to all the folks going to the retreat. I shared out a Prezi Meeting space and asked them to consider using it to write three words that describe their online selves — sort of an identity idea. A handful of my friends took me up on the offer, and the Prezi up above is the result of that sharing via Prezi Meeting (which I hadn’t used before, so I was curious to see how it would go).

Peace (with a little bbq sauce on the side),