First Day Jitters: Digital Literacies Workshop for HS Students

workshop teaser

I haven’t written much about this, since I have been knee-deep in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, but today is the first day of a five-week workshop program I am leading for high school students around digital literacies, remixing the web and game design. I’m a little jittery. You know that feeling? My workshop is part of a partnership between the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and a local urban school district, which got a big grant to offer up a comprehensive program to support English Language Learners this summer. There are tutorial sessions, group activities, work programs and workshops in this Summer of Power program.

I am one of the workshop leaders. Along with a WMWP colleague, who has expertise in ELL, I am going to have these high school students explore the digital worlds from a couple of angles — first, through creating avatars to represent themselves in a webcomic space and beyond; then into remixing websites with the Mozilla Webmaker tools; and then into video game design with Gamestar Mechanic. Meanwhile, I am weaving in game design from the very first week (tomorrow, we hack the game of Chess, for example). Writing will be at the heart of what we are doing — from writing in and out of the day, to storyboarding projects, to reflecting on the experience and possibilities. I am working to line up some outside visitors, too, from the field of computer programming and video game design, and I am reaching out to the Mozilla folks, too.

I don’t know the students, and I have not worked much with high school students, and the language barriers are somewhat of an unknown. Yet today, I have to give an elevator speech (15 minute presentation) six times, to six different groups of students, as they will be deciding which enrichment workshop they want to attend. I am using Prezi to present my overview, but I decided to start with a non-threatening quiz — showing icons from the gaming world and I’ll ask if they recognize them (we’ll be using a lot of visual clues this summer). There is one outlier in the mix (Mr. Monopoly) who does not originate from a video game. We’ll see if they can pick him out of the lineup.

What has me on nerves, though, is not the students, so much. Since this is not my school, I worry about the infrastructure of technology and whether things will work as I need them to work, and what kind of support I will get when they don’t. I did visit the lab last week, checked out the computers, and foundĀ  a few upgrades that needed doing. The teacher there is fantastic, and she got to work on the upgrades even as I was leaving the lab. She wants it to run smooth. That’s a great sign.

I’ll let you know how it goes …

Peace (in the pitch),
Kevin

 

WMWP: Writing to Go

WMWP Writing to Go

Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project just published a second round of profiles of teachers with lesson plans around writing, complimented by student work. It is called Writing to Go, and I was lucky to have been asked to contribute to the publication. My topic: teaching the synthesis of reading across multiple texts and using evidence from those texts in analytical writing. (This is also my main teaching goal this year).

The book has a wealth of great ideas, from using images to inspire writing, to how to build a sense of community through reading and writing, to using primary sources to inform writing, to how to best analyze the potential of quotations and dialogue. Writing to Go was rolled out at the WMWP 20th anniversary last week and will go on sale through the WMWP office and website in the coming days. It also provides a nice look inside the work being done by various WMWP teachers.

Peace (on the pages),
Kevin

The Coding Video

I’m a little late to this party for sharing this video (it got lost in my draft pile) but I wanted to share out this video about the importance of learning coding and programming, and its connection to literacy. This fits in nicely with a summer camp program for high school students in which we intend to explore hacking as literacy, and the concept of learning coding as literacy is right in the mix.

Peace (in the code),
Kevin

Teach the Web: Empowering Student Agency and Creativity

Webmaker Project Student Agency Ideas

Over at the Teach the Web MOOC, the task this week (week four) is to create a resource that will push our thinking around the work we have done so far with remixing, creating and more into the realm of education. This is a crucial step forward for those of us playing around with the Mozilla Webmaker tools and others.

As the Teach the Web folks put it:

“Our aim is to continue strengthening this community, sharing experiences and make some hackable, shareable resources that push the boundaries of participatory, collaborative, learner-centric learning.”

The task includes a hackable Thimble activity page that allows you to use a template to build and share a resource of ideas.

Here is Mine, which I called “Not So Secret Agents.”

What I was exploring in this resource is a push to give students and young people more agency in the world of digital media, and thinking about how tools such as XRay Goggles, Thimble, Popcorn Maker might engage them in the work and play of understanding the digital media world. In making not just the web more visible but also the intent of media producers, my hope is that young people become more active participants and creators, instead of passive consumers.

This thinking is valuable to me, not just now with my sixth graders, but also for this summer, when I am slated to teach a digital literacy workshop for five weeks with high school students in a nearby urban center. The program, which the Western Massachusetts Writing Project is a partner to, aims for English Language Learners. My workshop with students will be centered around hacking literacies and video game design, and all this work with Teach the Web is really informing my thinking and helping me put the pieces together for the summer.

This particular activity — the resource I am sharing here — gave me room to frame some of the larger ideas around using technology and digital tools to empower students. That’s an important message for me to remember, and nurture, and build lesson and activities off of.

Peace (in the agency),
Kevin

 

From Slice of Life to Six Word Stories: Teachers With Students

This weekend, as part of a professional development session I was co-facilitating, I asked the teachers into the room to ‘write into the day’ with a Slice of Life prompt — find a moment in which in you interacted with a student, and write about it. Almost everyone shared their Slice of Life out, and it was a wonderful range of stories — from inspiring, to discoveries, to frustrations.

Next, I asked them to focus even further — and narrow down their Slice to a Six Word Memoir. Many expressed difficulty with this task, and yet, they did an amazing job. We used Padlet (formerly Wallwisher) to post their six word stories. As I explained, not only were they learning about a new technology tool, they were publishing AND gaining some ideas for how to get their students to write in a variety of formats and technologies (from pen to the web).

Check it out:

Peace (on the wall),
Kevin

 

Happy Birthday, Western Massachusetts Writing Project!

We’re having a 20th anniversary celebration of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project tonight at the University of Massachusetts, with special guests (including National Writing Project Executive Director Sharon Washington and poet Lucille Burt) and viewing of student work and WMWP activities over the last two decades. It will be great.

Here is the news blurb that went out:

At the event, WMWP will release its newest publication, “Writing to Go II,” a book featuring a range of writing assignments by WMWP teachers, each coupled with student work for those assignments. Participating teachers and students represent schools in Hampshire, Hampden and Worcester counties.

The project will also celebrate its growth from a cadre of 15 teacher leaders who completed the first Summer Institute in 1993 to a multi-faceted project that in 2011-12 delivered professional development programs to more than 1,100 Massachusetts educators in 11 Massachusetts counties, with most activities centered in Hampshire, Hampden, Franklin, Middlesex and Worcester counties. To capture highlights of the past 20 years, the program will include a digital collage, a timeline, displays of other teacher and student publications, and features on key programs and future plans. A Massachusetts Senate resolution honoring WMWP, filed by Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg, will be read.”

So, of course:

Peace (in the celebration),
Kevin

Western Massachusetts Writing Project is …

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad
Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project is nearing a 20th year anniversary, and I have been tasked with pulling together a video montage to show at our celebration event coming up in a few weeks. One of my colleagues had collected some quotes from folks at a recent event about how they feel about WMWP, and I decided to use some of those with HaikuDeck, and then later, I will move the slides into the larger video.

Peace (in the celebration),
Kevin

 

Video: Explaining Classroom Inquiry Projects

Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has been working in partnership with an urban middle school on strengthening the writing and literacy instruction. One aspect of that project is that teachers have to design and launch a classroom research/inquiry project. What we found was some confusion over what that should look like, so along with written instructions (and future one-on-one sessions),I created this short video as another way to explain what inquiry might look like.

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

Teachers: Raising our Voices

Kevin Gazette Article
Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has an ongoing partnership with the local newspaper to feature teachers writing about educational issues on a monthly basis. This month, I wrote about going to a School Committee meeting and watching teachers become political advocates for learning, and for kids, and urging the rest of us to find our voices, too, when it comes to educational reform and issues.
I created a modified podcast of the article (which you can read through the link off the WMWP website).

Peace (in getting heard),
Kevin