The NWP Search Story Playlist

I’ve been experimenting with the new Google Search Story creator and wanted to see how I could collaborate with folks in my network of National Writing Project folks.
So, I put out a call and got some pretty neat stories. I do notice that people struggle with the “telling a story” as opposed to connected links around a topic. In my view, it has more power when the viewer (reader) is trying to determine the mind of the person (character) doing the search queries. It reminds me a story I once wrote that only used personal checks (it was inspired by a published story that did something similar). The storytelling was more about what you leave out than what you put in. This search story idea is similar — how can you leave enough gaps in the narrative for the viewer to figure out what is going on?

Anyway, I tried to find ways to share out the stories that my NWP friends and I were creating, and Matt Needleman suggested a YouTube playlist, which made sense (no video editing on my part) and I realized that you can embed the entire playlist in a blog post, which is pretty neat.

The playlist is here, if you need a direct link: or watch the embedded videos down below.

What’s your story?

Peace (in the search),

NWP and MacArthur Foundation, continued

Last year, the National Writing Project received a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to develop resources and engage in conversations about the integration of technology into our concepts of writing, and then bringing those ideas out to other teachers. In November, we held a large one-day event that brought together all sorts of smart people to talk about the implications of digital media in the lives of young writers, and what such a move looks like in the classroom.

I consider myself lucky to be part of the project known as Digital Is … and I just saw on the RSS wire this morning that the MacArthur Foundation has graciously extended the grant funding (translating into $1.1 million in grants over two years).

Here is a blurb from the news:

The focus of the two-year grant will be on developing and disseminating resources and professional development opportunities for teachers, building processes and rubrics for assessing multimodal student work, and collaborating with other organizations working to support young people in using new digital technologies. Established in 2008, “Digital Is” enables local writing project sites across the country to conduct workshops and develop resources for teachers in all 50 states.

I’m excited about the entire Digital Is concept and I have been working with teachers here in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project around developing resources for a future Digital Is web-based home.

Here is a video of a discussion that took place back in November as the culmination of the Digital Is conference:

Peace (in the digital world),

Digital Writing Matters

Troy Hicks (of the Chippewa River Writing Project and author of The Digital Writing Workshop) has put together an interesting slideshow for a presentation around a book he has been working on with the National Writing Project called Because Digital Writing Matters (a spin on an earlier NWP book called Because Writing Matters).

As with most everything that Troy does, this slideshow deserves a look, and the book (not yet published, I don’t think) should be another keeper in our collection of tomes laying out the foundation for the New Literacy movement in the classroom, particularly around composition with media and technology.

Peace (in the slides),

Supporting the National Writing Project

With concerns about changing in funding from the federal government for education, the National Writing Project has set up a new site with information about our network of teachers.

It is called NWP WORKS!

If are you part of NWP, please write or contact your representatives in Washington. If you are not part of NWP, but wonder what it is, then the site can help you, too.

The National Writing Project focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation’s educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all.

Peace (in the network),

Dear Senator Scott Brown: Support NWP

Some of you may know that we have a new senator in these parts — Republican Scott Brown to replace Democrat Ted Kennedy — and this is the first time I am going to be contacting his office (Sen. John Kerry is next). This comes as the National Writing Project is concerned about the reorganization of funding for educational programs. NWP receives substantial funds from the federal government for its work with teachers across the country. There’s a worry that the reorganization may cripple the NWP.

So, I composed this letter to my new senator:

Dear Senator Scott Brown,

First of all, congratulations on your election. I hope you get settled soon and act in the interests of all your constituents in our state in your work as our United States Senator.
I am writing to you today as a sixth grade teacher and as a constituent with three young boys in the public school system. I am writing to you also as someone who cares deeply about the children who come to my classroom every day. I am a member of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, which is based at the University of Massachusetts and a site of the National Writing Project network. The National Writing Project is an organization that I have been part of ever since I began teaching seven years ago and it has changed the way I approach my students as learners in countless, positive ways. The Writing Project has become a second home to me as I continue to develop my skills as a teacher of writing and literacy, and of technology, and its support of my endeavors have been invaluable over the years.
In case you are not familiar with it, the National Writing is an organization with teachers at the center of its work and it empowers us teachers to share our best practices with other educators, to network with each other, to learn from each other, and to make share classroom research around what works best to teach students in all the content areas. We strongly believe that writing is a  crucial way that students learn, whether it is in the Language Arts, the math or the science classroom.
Here in the Pioneer Valley, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project provides professional development for schools by tapping into the expertise of teachers themselves. Our writing project hosts a four-week Summer Institute where teachers conduct research, examine the teaching of writing and become writers themselves. We host numerous conferences for teachers and we have established ourselves as a leader in emerging technology in the Pioneer Valley.
I am writing to you because of proposed changes in the federal educational budget that could negatively impact this work. As you may know, President Obama and his administration are proposing a revamping of the educational funding system. The National Writing Project has been consolidated in the administration’s budget proposal with five other education-related projects as part of a proposed competitive funding stream directed toward State Education Authorities. Money would flow from the states to organizations that the state’s deem worthy.
My concern is that support for the National Writing Project could be in danger under this umbrella plan for block grants. While our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has worked hard to forge connections and partnerships (and run joint programs) with our Massachusetts Department of Education, not all states and not all writing projects have the same bonds. I worry about the competitive nature of the block grant concept and question whether the approach is the right one for educational organizations that work directly with teachers.
If  funding dries up for National Writing Project sites, then proven initiatives that improve instruction and put effective tools of literacy learning into the hands of students might be in jeopardy. The mission statement of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project centers on access and diversity issues for all students and teachers. We work hard to reach those classrooms in urban and rural areas, places where resources are already limited. The strength of an organization like the National Writing Project is that we, the teachers, and our students are tied together with a desire to use literacy for authentic learning.
Let me give you an example of a project that the National Writing Project funded here in Western Massachusetts.
A few years ago, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project launched an initiative known as Making Connections. The goal of our venture was to use technology (weblogs and podcasting) to create an online writing space for middle school students in urban (Holyoke, Chicopee) and rural (Athol) and we had about 20 teachers in a half dozen school districts involved over the three years that we were funded by the National Writing Project. More than 200 students wrote about, and learned about, what it means to live in a rural community or an urban community. Some classes did shared science experiments and collaborated on scientific abstracts. Other students wrote poems and stories. High School students in Chicopee were mentor writers with elementary students in South Hadley. The NWP grant also funded a free summer writing camp for students in Holyoke and Athol. These were opportunities that many of these students would never had had without the vital support of the National Writing Project, and that support began with funding from the United States government.
Here is another example. In the past year, I have helped launch an online social networking site for teachers in writing projects in the New England and New York area. Our aim is to find ways for teachers to connect through tools that break down the geographic barriers. We now have almost 200 members on our site and teachers are using this technology to share lesson plans, to ask questions about classroom activities, to share their own writing and to connect with other teachers. This project is funded directly from the National Writing Project. Without that support, our site might never have gotten off the ground.
The National Writing Project provides numerous other opportunities for teachers right here in our state to to conduct research on the best methods for teaching writing, to write for professional publications, to interact with experts in the field as well as expert teachers from all 50 states. This active network of teachers allows us to share and learn innovative and improved ways of teaching, and I fear that the loss of funding under President Obama’s plan will, at the least, make those opportunities for connections much less likely.
Senator, I am asking for your support in efforts to continue direct appropriations for the National Writing Project and to support the work of teachers in classrooms across the state. By supporting the National Writing Project, you are showing support for teachers and for children. Even teachers who are not part of the National Writing Project benefit, through exposure to best practices at conferences and through discussions with colleagues. If improving schools is a goal, then the National Writing Project deserves your support. Please urge your colleagues in Congress to support the National Writing Project.


Kevin Hodgson

I also created this quick video for Sen. Brown:

Peace (in the future),

Me and the National Writing Project

I shared this over at our iAnthology site (an experimental online writing space for teachers in the National Writing Project) but I thought I would share it out here, too. I’ve been trying to create some sort of timeline (this is an idea that my friend, Susan, has talked about — documenting points of entry into the NWP) with digital tools of my life with the National Writing Project.
I worked for some time with Photostory, but the project just stalled out on me. And none of the online timeline makers seemed to do the trick. Yesterday, it dawned on me that my recent infatuation with Prezi might be worth pursuing for this project.
I’m still tinkering with it (there is too much text, I notice, and so viewing it full screen is best).

Peace (in the presentation),

The National Writing Project Annual Meeting

It’s that time of year: the Annual Meeting of the National Writing Project. Next week, I’ll be heading off to Philadelphia to join my fellow colleagues in celebrating and exploring the art of teaching writing, and the art of writing, in a variety of sessions.

My hope is to blog and tweet about my experience there, including the exciting Digital Is conference on Wednesday that comes from an incredible new partnership between the NWP and the MacArthur Foundation. The work, which I am part of, helps take a look at where writing is going in the digital age. We’re in the process of developing online resources but this conference will bring together a lot of people to look at, discuss and then consider the implications of digital composition. I am presenting a piece of student work — a digital science book.

That same night, I am going to a a conference entitled: The Power of Youth Voice: What Kids Learn When They Create with Digital Media. I can’t wait for that!

My only other presentation at NWP this year is on Friday, when I am joining a number of other people in roundtable discussions about how to use an online social networking site to discuss books. A friend and I are focusing on a section of the online site where we talk about graphic novels and comics. We even had an interesting online book talk about a graphic novel that was fascinating and a bit frustrating, and shows the possibilities and the drawbacks of an online discussion site.

I am planning on going to three other sessions while in Philly:

Writing in a Digital Age

This workshop explores the evolving nature of writing and literacy today. Participants will examine students’ digital writing from a range of classrooms and consider the digital and physical environments that support such writing practices. Participants will have opportunities to discuss the implications of what they observe for their own classroom and writing project site work.

21st Century Literacy and the Graphic Novel

This session will focus on the prevalence and permanence of the graphic novel. We’ll examine its integration of multiple literacies as well as its impact on youth culture, youth identity formation, and the development of students as readers and writers. Participants will examine the graphic novel as a format and as a specific mode of communication and written self-expression and will explore its potentialities in the classroom as a tool for fostering the developing literacy of diverse student populations. Through discussion, participants will develop rationales for the increased use of graphic novels in 21st century classrooms.

Reading the Research: Living and Learning with New Media

This Reading the Research session examines a research report titled Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. Funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of their digital media and learning initiative, this report emerges from a three-year study carried out by researchers who explored the ways that the interaction with and use of new media impact the lives and learning of youth today. Facilitators and participants will explore implications for their local writing project work and applications for local programming.

Plus, all of the other fun stuff — like social gatherings, the big morning address to all NWP folks in attendance (a great way to see how many people are there at the conference), with guest speaker Billy Collins. (wow!) I wonder if I can get him to sponsor me with my 30Poems 30Days project. Ha!

And of course, my work over at the NCTE meeting on Saturday (presenting and then book signing. See yesterday’s post)

And, to top it off, I am hoping that we can gather up a bunch of folks from my Tech Friends networking site — where NWP technology liaisons like me come together online to chat, share and connect. We usually try to convene for a dinner and face time.

I hope to see you there!

Peace (in the City of Brotherly Love and losers of the World Series to the Yankees!),


The Writers’ Saga, continued

Mark Twain arrived home this week, safe and sound inside an envelope. He is part of a group of Writer figurines making their way around the country by visiting various Summer Institutes of the National Writing Project. We’ve packaged the concept as a spy story, in which The Writers have been instructed by President Obama to investigate the National Writing Project and report back. The reporting has been done at a Ning site for technology-minded folks within the NWP.
What I’ve been doing, other than overseeing The Writers’ various journeys, is creating little stopmotion movies to keep the concept fresh and to poke fun at The Writers. Yesterday, I gave Twain his own feature, arriving home in one of my son’s Pirate Ships, floating along the blue waters of one of our futon couches. Meanwhile, we still have no word on the whereabouts of Edgar Allen Poe, who seems to have disappeared in the US Mail system.
I decided to try something a little different with this movie, using ComicLife to create the dialogue on images and then mixing up images and video. It was tricky and I am not sure I kept enough time for the reading of the lines. Let me know. I can always go back and re-edit, if necessary.
If you want to see the other segments of The Writers, go: First here and then here and then here. That should bring you up to speed.


Peace (in the fun),

The Journey of the Writers Across NWP’s America

The Writers: NWP SI Spy Movie from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

I shared this in a few different spaces yesterday, so why not here, right? I am overseeing a fun project this summer in which I have mailed off four different Writer figurines (William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, Virginia Woolf and Mark Twain) to various National Writing Project Summer Institutes (month-long gatherings where teachers talk about writing, do much writing and share best practices in the teaching of writing).

Folks then take the little Writers to events and, much like a Flat Stanley project, they then write from the experience of the Writer about what they see and experience. We are using a Ning site to share out the journal entries and a Flickr site to share photos. It’s been a lot of fun to read what people are writing and with the various adventures about halfway through, I figured I would grab excerpts from the entries and share them out.

So, here goes:

William Shakespeare

“After my long journey, I felt as if “I could not budge an inch” but was invited to join my new found friends for a quiet bar-b-que dinner on the patio where I was presentented with “a dish fit for the gods.” My parched throat was quenched with a tall glass of sweet tea and great conversation during what I am told is an unseasonably cool evening in the Delta.”

“What a great day! I woke up Tuesday morning, June the 16th, excited because I knew I was headed home with Lee Claypool this afternoon. My day began with a lesson on endings and writing demonstrations from two of the wonderful teachers attending the Delta Area Writing Project at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. I sure learned a lot. They sure have some wonderful, hard-working teachers in the Mississippi Delta!”

“We started the day in her writing class. Such happenings today. People were scurrying around stuffing items in brown bags and creating some sort of board. All I could think was, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.” I am hoping this is true. All of the work these writers are doing preparing for company of some sort to come and be entertained.  After class, we went to the library at the university. I noticed that Melanie was researching famous quotes from none other than myself. I am not certain why she wasted her time on this as I was right there with her.”

“I kid you not, we were flying going north bound on the highway, breaking several traffic laws…but on the way south, I think John studied the traffic code because he abided by each and every technicality in the book, as we cruised down Interstate 69 on down to Highway 61. All in all, I think I am ready for my Monday assignment. I learned a lot about John and his family. While speaking reservations maybe in short supply, they are nonetheless dangerous with words…even the ones in English. John is a very stoic person, but is an easy to go person; just don’t cross him. If you do he will be all for your pain while you lose your gains. Overall, this family is a smart and intelligent bunch. I would almost be tempted to demand a full week of analysis with this family…¡John contou-mi que não havia nenhum rum nessa bebida! ¡Tenho uma dor de cabeça de proporções épicas! John told me that there was no rum in that drink! I have a headache of epic proportions!”

“We then proceeded to this place called Meadowview. I expected to view a meadow, but there was not a meadow insight. Instead, I saw a group of African Americans. This race was unknown to me. I also overheard Aurelia talking about someone named Barack Obama. She said how proud she was to have the first African American President. She said, “Lord have mercy; I am so happy.” She introduced me to the crowd, which included 3 people in a wheelchair and several on walkers and canes. These were the people that lived in the meadow view without a meadow or a view. She introduced me, and as famous as I am no one at this place knew who I was. Aurelia did an excellent job of explaining me. They were not impressed.”

“My writing has been greatly influenced by the diverse people and music I encountered on my visit. Drum beats from the African family of Mufato sent visions of the vast African jungle sounds echoing through my mind. The Blues is Alright!!! I sat in on a soul-stirring, heartbreaking, blues with Howling Harold, Singing Sal, Jammin Jack and Bad Boy Bobby Blue. They really put their heart and soul into their music and have inspired me to do even more romantic writing. Maybe a revision of Romeo and Julliet where…oh well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise. The smooth sounds of the Junction Jazz Trio caressed the depths of my soul and the beauty of the Delta women is unsurpassed.”

“On top of the refrigerator, I watched the mother wash dishes and tidy up the house before putting the children to bed. This was a hard task for her; considering that the children were not ready to go to sleep. The mother patiently waited until the children fell asleep before beginning her own bedtime rituals, or so I thought. After the children fell asleep around 9:30, the woman sat down at her computer and began to write something at the computer. The woman then realized that she had forgotten me again. She allowed me to take a peek at what she was writing. She was working on a love letter. There were many pictures representing love and even a pleasant melody that accompanied the words. As she tried to record her raspy voice on the computer; she began to cry. This showed me that this woman felt like “Love” was one of the most important things in the world. She finally put the microphone away and decided to try again later. She began to nod at the computer as the 11:00 hour approached. Once she realized that she was nodding, she placed me inside of her bag and went to sleep.”

Edgar Allen Poe

“(Editor’s note: Tiny Edgar spit these lyrics out extemporaneously the other night while I was strumming the chords to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” It quickly grew into a raucous jam session that lasted well into the night. Working from memory the next morning, I wrote the following.)

To the Tune of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan)

Verse 1:
David’s literary storehouse brought me down.
And Josh’s minutes helped me along.
From Mao Tse Tung to Perez Hilton,
I feel like writing in Holland McCombs.


(and a poem)
“On to our writing groups we did go
Under the watchful eye of Mr. Poe
Once again we had an informative day
Looking forward to what others will have to say”

(in the vein of a Perez Hilton gossip column): “Oooooo friend, let me tell you about little Mr. Edgar Allan Poe…He has been showing up in all these crazy photos that David has been taking. And David was even over heard saying that he took Edgar home with him…I think little Mister-sister Edgar Allan Poe is a ….”

“Edgar is appalled that Jenny has been pilfering all of the posts from A Day in the Life at the e-anthology. The posts here all come from folks at WTWP not her! What a hussy! If I was still writing, I’d come up with some wicked way for her to endure the particularly pesky parts of pilfering.”

Mark Twain

“I arrived at the South Central Kansas Writing Project Summer Institute on the heels of a powerful prairie thunderstorm, full of wind and lightening. A great deal has been said about the weather, but very little has ever been done about it. These Kansan writers are a varied and hearty bunch who definitely enjoy feeding the soul and the body during writing activities.”

“Upon reflection of my day spent on the plains of Kansas, I can heartily say I enjoyed myself. I have said before, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” and that remains true in this place. Many outsiders see the flat prairie as dull and boring, but the wide open spaces feed the imagination, letting new ideas and possibilities prosper.”

“It appears these teachers are open to incorporating technology into their writing and classrooms. I learned several new words today including “google” which is both a noun and a verb, and exabyte, which I personally consider a lazy attempt at description. As a veteran river man, I could sympathize with those writers who seem to be almost drowning in the possibilities.”

“I must tell you that I am relived to know that I may stay here at the Appleseed Writing Project for a few days before I must continue on my long journey again. I have learned about many new fangled machines so far and I hear I may even get to use a contraption called an I-pod for something on this stop. It is hard to say what I can do with that little piece of shiny blue metal. I have been told that it holds up to 4 Gig of music. I can’t quite comprehend how that little flat piece of metal can hold anything, let-a-lone, music. It is not even big enough to use for an eating utensil. And what is a Gig anyway, and how will it be used?”

Virginia Woolf

“Saturday, June 6 Virginia attended the Western Mass Summer Institute orientation. She enjoyed the great snacks especially the grapes. Although, she did mention that her preference was a distilled form of the fruit.”

“I emerged from my envelope to discover a table full of professionals (teachers, I believe), in conversation about writing (can this be true? Oh joyful days). I propped myself up against a notebook and took it all in. The writing, the reflection, the laughter … it was a wonderful experience and I could have stayed there for days just listening. But duty called and I was again on my way.”

“What a refreshing site to see–women writing, expressing their opinions, conversing with each other, being the majority. A long way from what I felt and believed to be similar to slavery–enslaved by expectations and restriction, prim straight-laced, docile. But here I see women writing, being expected to teach others to write, demanding their voice be heard. Ah yes, it seems the way has been paved for women to have their own space–a room of one’s own, if you will–, money and choice of partners. There are many deep emotional, psychological, and intellectual issues to be explored within these scholarly walls.”

And here is the Flickr slideshow:

Peace (on the journey),