This weekend, I flew down to the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project site to take part in a series of exciting discussions about the work being done by various groups (such as the Western Massachusetts Writing Project) that are considered Technology Seed Sites. This means that we are pioneering some use of technology for professional development for our network of teachers. The NWP brought us all together to share the successes and challenges that we are facing in our work.
I talked about our Making Connections weblog project that is designed to reach out to urban and rural communities and help forge relationships with teachers in those districts, provide support for technology implementation, and get kids from very different communities “talking” to each other via weblogs. We are just about to entire Year Two of the project. You can view the report from Year One here.
In Kennesaw, however, I was able to get an inside look at what the other sites are doing and much of it is very interesting. For example:
- Third Coast Writing Project (in Michigan) has been conducting mini-institutes around the concept of digital storytelling (which seemed to be a common strand among some of the 8 Seed Sites). They have created a cadre of workshop presenters and a task force to think through technology.
- The Maine Writing Project has been moving away from the term Digital Storytelling and into the realm of Writing in Modern Media, which reflects a general shift towards reflection on how we are re-casting composition in our classrooms.
- The Prairie Lands Writing Project (in Missouri) has been focusing in on technology institutes for its teachers as well as professional learning communities where thoughtful educators come together to brainstorm the integration of technology with writing.
- The Oregon Writing Project has created a vibrant state network of technology leaders, with hopes of filtering knowledge down to the individual sites.
Meanwhile, Inverness Research has been gathering data from interviews with project leaders and they presented some initial findings to us, including:
- There are many challenges to using technology in the schools (access, equity, etc) but the work is exciting.
- Much work focuses on three areas: Writing with technology (genres, rhetorical context, etc); Teaching with technology; and professional development.
- There is very little research out there to help provide the framework for what we are doing — we are in “uncharted territory,” as they put it.
- Teacher-leaders involved in these ventures are becoming “hybrids” in that they are forging a connection between the disciplines, writing and technology in new ways.
- And more …
Yesterday, I took part in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project‘s Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing. This is our annual event to showcase some of the inspirational work going on in our classrooms through workshops and roundtable discussions.
I led a workshop called Blogging for Beginners, and the teachers who worked with me created their own blogs through either WordPress or Edublogs this morning. Instead of a traditional written reflection, we opted to record their voices as they discussed how they envision using blogs for personal, professional and/or educational uses and post it as an audiocast. (That move was inspired by Paul Allison’s efforts on his site called Teachers Teaching Teachers — thanks again, Paul, for providing a framework and inspiration).
Take a listen to the reflections of teachers
We also had the pleasure of a wonderful keynote speaker, Anika Nailah, who discussed passionately how fiction writing can bridge cultural divides and allow people from different backgrounds to “come into the same room” as others. Anika also had the audience doing some writing and examining our own cultural backgrounds with language. She also allowed me to record her speech (I am the technology liaison for the WMWP) and audiocast her talk for members of our network who could not attend.
Listen to Anika’s keynote speech
In the past two years, I have been on the local NPR affiliate (WFCR) two times — first, as a guest commentator speaking of the values of nurturing student leadership and community service at my school (Norris Elementary School), and, second, as a leader of the National Writing Project-funded Making Connections Weblog Project.
As I continue to explore ways to integrate audio into Weblogs, I figured this would be a time to link those two radio files to this site.
This summer, while in Chico, California, I attended Tech Matters 2006 through the National Writing Project and all members of the institute are encouraged to submit a grant proposal that supports technology at our local writing project site.
My proposal is designed to help connect the writing projects in our renewed state network and provide assistance to various project leaders within our site, as well as other TCs, in using Weblogs, wikis and audiocasting.
Here is an overview of my grant proposal.
One of the more exciting ventures that I oversaw last year as a leader with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project was a new partnership with our area’s largest newspaper, The Springfield Republican. Inspired by a similar effort at the Vermont Writing Project, the monthly publication seeks to highlight teachers in our WMWP network and the writing that is being done by their students. Among other things, this newspaper connection helps with continuity of the site by keeping our network connected. It also helps get the word out about the National Writing Project.
The basic format is:
- Short teacher introduction into the writing topic
- Samples of student writing
- Resources for other teachers
- Connections to our Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks
You can view PDF versions of some of the features at the newspaper’s online site.
This year, we have some topics in mind, including:
- Family Writing Nights
- Writing in the English Language Learners classroom
- Connecting Writing and Math
- Classroom Publications