A Policy Brief from NWP: Teaching in a Digital Age

The National Writing Project provides a wealth of information and experience and connections and this policy briefing/report just got published on the NWP site. It is a research briefing from a company hired by NWP to look at data from technology work at sites within the NWP. (A disclosure: our Western Massachusetts Writing Project site was one of the sites included in this study of a project known as the Technology Initiative).

You can read the full report — entitled “Keeping the Promise of the 21st Century: Bringing Classroom Teaching into the Digital Age”here but I thought I would share out some of the findings, in my own words:

  • Teachers learn best from other teachers who are using technology, not from some canned professional development;
  • It takes time for teachers to think about and integrate technology, so one-shot professional development is less effective than long-term supportive work;
  • Technology is best used and most effective when students are engaged in real classroom projects with authentic learning standards;
  • Teachers who effectively use technology are engaging and motivating their students;
  • Access to technology is a real issue – either to the equipment or through “firewalls” set up by school districts;
  • Students in poorer school districts often have the least access to technology and technology-inspired curriculum, although they may need it the most;
  • State and federal standardized mandates offer little incentive for teachers to engage in use of technology.

The report also adds some “policy implications” for its findings:

  • Teachers have to be the leaders and demand more professional development and access to technology for their students. It can’t rest with administrators;
  • K-12 teachers should connect more with Universities and other institutions for access to technology and expertise;
  • Teachers need hands-on experiences using technology themselves and then time to consider the implications of the classroom;
  • Provide students in underserved communities with access to technology and related curriculum opportunities;

And more …

This report is worth the read and it once again makes me proud to be part of the NWP, as it moves to think about writing in new ways that engage our young learners and makes writing relevant in their lives.

Or, as the report notes:

NWP is distinctive among professional development providers. It is a network of teachers who build leadership and knowledge of teaching and learning from systematic study of their own classroom practices and the practices of colleagues, as well as from research. These leading teachers—called teacher-consultants—share their professional knowledge and practices with other teachers through local NWP professional development programs. . . .

Peace (in-between the numbers),


  1. Good read as usual. Could you expand a bit on the “policy implication”
    >K-12 teachers should connect more with Universities and other institutions for access to technology and expertise<

    I would be interested in learning how to do this. I did send out an invitation to a local “teachers” college for blogging buddies but never heard back. I may not have taken the best approach for finding success but would like to make some more connections outside of our little community.


    • I wish there were more open avenues for these collaborations, Gail. I wonder if Western Mass Writing Project should step in and create pathways for connections. Let me think on that. There MUST be plenty of teachers-in-training who would die to use blogs to connect to young learners as part of their education.

  2. In my district, it seems that the higher and lower income schools often have the same amount of technology. However, the way they use the technology is fundamentally different…where the higher income schools use it to get to higher levels of thinking, the lower-income schools use it for remediation and kill-and-drill type activities.

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