Annotation Invitation: Critical Literacies and Student Stories

Annotation Event: Critical Literacy

As part of the ongoing Writing Our Civic Futures project, through Educator Innovator and Marginal Syllabus, a crowd annotation of Linda Christensen’s deep article on how she turned her classroom around to focus on the lives of her students is underway.

And you are invited.

The project uses the open sourced Hypothesis tool, which allows for discussions and annotations in the margins of online documents. Linda Christensen is also participating, so you might have a chance to dance in the text with Linda. The article — Critical Literacies and Our Students’ Lives — was first published by NCTE via In the Middle, and Christensen’s views about how to pivot towards authentic stories in times of testing is an important sharing moment.

I’ve been moving some of my annotations of the paper version of her piece to the online piece, via screenshots. But you can add text, images, gifs, videos, sound, and more in Hypothesis, creating a multimedia collage of thoughts and connections.

Critical Lit Margins6

I was fortunate to be invited to take part in a video conference with Linda and some other educators to talk about what she wrote and the nature of public annotation of writing, as sort of a preview for the annotation event. She was very open and insightful, and I most appreciated her thoughts when I asked her about how she was feeling about opening up her words to annotation in the commons. (see her response)

I hope you can join us in the margins …

Peace (in and beyond the classroom),
Kevin

 

On the NWP Stage: Dear Intolerant Parent

This spoken poem response to a parent critical of teachers bringing social justice issues into the classroom roused the Plenary Session of the National Writing Project this past week. Michelle Clark delivered this piece from the stage.

Clark and two other teachers were sharing the work they had done with the Holocaust Educators Network and then their own classrooms, and she had explained the powerful work that came from students’ project to create an art show/auction to support immigrant families in California as a way to open up dialogue. The poem is a response to a parent who sent her an email, critical of that project.

Peace (bring it on),
Kevin

Getting Playful at the City Museum

City Museum, St. Louis

Some museums are designed to places of playful learning. Some, teach you. No museum that I have gone to is quite like the City Museum of St. Louis (where we are attending a National Writing Project conference). The City Museum is like some Alice in Wonderland, brought into an old building and the only way you experience it is by following the unmarked paths, and getting lost for a bit.

You’ll come across dark caverns, a ten-story slide, more smaller slides than you can fathom, unlit tunnels, myriad nooks and crannies, displays of bizarre artifacts, a human hamster wheel, an airplane connected to the outside roof of the building, a tunnel of mirrors, a huge pencil for balancing upon, and so much more. Oh, there’s also a circus that performs daily. And a small train for little kids.

City Museum, St. LouisIt’s dazzling, disorientating and all designed for play and exploration. Sort makes me think of CLMOOC and its ethos of immersive learning.

City Museum, St. Louis

And what it also makes me think of how to design a physical space for play, and how to imagine a museum of sorts that pushes the boundaries of what we expect from such a space. There are museums of discovery, and then there is the City Museum. It was a fantastic way to cap our last full day here in St. Louis.

Peace (twisted and turning),
Kevin

Meeting Up in St. Louis … and Making the Path Forward

Elyse at NWP

She made the best of the situation. No surprise there. National Writing Project Executive Director Elyse Eidman-Aadahl worked the large crowd of hundreds of NWP educators and leaders at our annual meeting yesterday here in St. Louis, Missouri, by keeping to the script of a traditional Plenary Address — a celebration of the work and spirit of the 180 writing projects sites across the country.

Just as we have done every other year (see annual report).

We heard stories from the stage about the impact of the writing project. We were mesmerized by stories of three outstanding educators who took part in the Holocaust Educator Network, and then returned to their schools to engage their students in powerful discussions of social justice and equity. One of those teachers dazzled the audience with a spoken poem addressed to a parent concerned about the teaching social justice in schools.

All this came as inspiration and celebration, even as Eidman-Aadahl  acknowledged that the federal SEED funds that have supported the work of the writing project has disappeared, and the NWP itself is shrinking. The main office is dwindling in staff, whom we gave a rousing standing round of applause for, to show our collective appreciation for the work they have done and do behind the scenes on many projects.

NWP won’t be disappearing, but it will be smaller than it probably ever was since it was first founded on the campus of Berkley in the 1970s, and began to spread out, thanks to the energy and vision of founder Jim Gray. Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project site is nearly 25 years old.

WMWP Cohort at NWP Annual Meeting

“We are not closing shop, by any means,” Eidman-Aadahl told us. “We’ll still be here. You’ll still be here.”

What happens next is not exactly known, but it follows the trajectory of the wave of Republicanism in this country: cut the top level of everything (even if it causes disruption and chaos) and let the local community determine what survives and what doesn’t. (I don’t agree with that political rhetoric but it’s hard to ignore that’s what’s happening.)

“The future of your (writing project) site is in your hands. The future of our network is in your hands,” Eidman-Aadahl said, and I thought of the guiding philosophy of “teachers teaching teachers” as what might continue to guide us forward. “Walk towards your purpose. We will get through.”

And then she left us with a challenge. The National Writing Project is celebrating its 44th year this year. She wants us to be around to celebrate its 50th year in six years from now (maybe, this writer says to himself, a new president and administration will realize the impact of NWP on the quality of education in this country. Hmmm.)

So, she said, what about a “50 for 50” campaign of some sort. Local sites can determine what that might mean. Maybe it’s 50 new leaders at the site in six years. Maybe 50 new writing resources developed. Maybe 50 classrooms reached. Maybe 50 testimonials to the reach of the writing project.

50 for 50 … we can do this.

Peace (in St. Louis),
Kevin

The Last National Writing Project Annual Meeting Hurrah?

NWP Presentation Materials

It’s not easy to write the title of this post nor its contents, even while staying positive in spirit and tone.

Tonight, after a day of teaching, my wife and I head to St. Louis, Missouri, for what may well become the last Annual Meeting of the National Writing Project. The federal education department shut off the last bit of support for NWP’s work with teachers/professional development. While NWP will surely survive in a diminished form with other partnerships and initiatives, the lack of support by the Trump Administration (which had already started to diminish in the Obama Administration, too) will pose difficulties for many of the NWP sites around the country, I am sure.

The writing, so to speak, has been on the wall for years, even with the documented success of the writing project’s impact on classrooms and schools (see this report). A recent newsletter update from NWP indicates this kind of event may now fade away in its current form, which is the coming together of NWP educators to learn together, to share together, to connect together. I think I may have only missed one or two Annual Meetings since I started teaching more than 16 years ago. I suspect it is expensive to host these gatherings, and when looking at the bottom line, it makes sense that this would be something to cut (or merged into NCTE as a strand, perhaps?)

At a recent leadership retreat for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, this topic of reduced and loss of NWP funding was front and center as we talked and set forth plans for the coming year. We know we can’t expect some rich benefactor to step in (but, heck, we’re open and ready for it to happen), so our site work around professional development and offerings for teachers will have to find some balance of bringing in funds for that work to pay for other projects. The fate of our core Summer Institute is OK for the immediate future, but unsteady in the years ahead.

In St. Louis this week, I am part of a presentation with the National Park Service that looks at how we can use National Parks and Historic Sites for engagement of teachers and students. Our work here with the Springfield Armory site has been fruitful for teachers and young people, particularly during our summer camp program. That project, which I facilitate, is funded through the Mass Humanities organization, for which we are thankful, and for which we know might be model of partnership support going forward. Still, small NWP grants have helped pave the way for this work in the years past.

So, yes, we will celebrate the National Writing Project at a the St. Louis gathering of the Tribe that has always energized us (and not far away, the National Council of Teachers of English meeting will be starting its meeting, too … another Tribe), and we’ll worry about the future of NWP, too. I consider the National Writing Project and the Western Massachusetts Writing Project my professional “home” and the prospect of such uncertainty is unsettling. It also makes me wonder which charter school, private venture, religious school is getting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ attention instead of the NWP.

Peace (in Missouri),
Kevin

Comic: Virtual Presenters in a Virtual Conference

Gone Virtual?

Someone outside of my usual teaching and technology life asked about my upcoming presentation at the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing, and they got sort of hooked into the “virtual” piece. I think they heard “virtual” and thought I was going to be wandering through some virtual reality workshop.  Maybe with goggles on. I wish. Instead, I will be in a Blackboard Elluminate platform (which is pretty far from VR, believe you me).

Their pondering about what I was doing for 4T inspired the comic up above, which I hope you might see as an invitation to join me in my 4T session on Emergent Learning (or Expecting the Unexpected) with a specific lens on the Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC).

Promo: 4T Virtual Conference

It’s free. It’s virtual. It’ll be later downloadable.

Peace (also, free, and distributable),
Kevin

 

Add comic and reminder about info on session …

 

 

Network Fade: The End of the iAnthology

ianthology

After eight years, we finally pulled the plug on something known as the iAnthology Network. Hosted on Ning, it was created for National Writing Project teachers to connect, to write, to share in a closed space. We had weekly writing prompts, photo prompts, book groups and more. We were not part of the official NWP umbrella. More of an unofficial space.

In recent years, participation in the site dropped and became a trickle and my Western Massachusetts Writing Project and our sister site, Hudson Valley Writing Project, decided not to fund the Ning anymore. The National Writing Project funded the launch and supported the iAnthology for the first few years with small grants. The whole structure and original design of the iAnthology was based on something that was known as the eAnthology, which was a summer writing space for teachers going through their Summer Institutes.

My friend, Bonnie Kaplan, and I worked closely together to launch the iAnthology  — I remember us both thinking, will anyone sign up? — and we guided it through the years, working to give more ownership to members (we had a large list of folks who volunteered to host writing prompts every week).

When it was active, it was wonderful.

But it was time.

Most social networks eventually fade as part of the natural arc of participation over time. With us, Facebook and Twitter and other social spaces began to fill in where there was once a gap.

Still, we celebrate that 800-plus teachers with National Writing Project affiliation were able to find a writing home for a bit that kept them connected. If you were part of the iAnthology, thank you. I hope we stay connected and that you keep writing your heart out.

This infographic captures some of the iAnthology:

Remembering iAnthology-network

Peace (lingers),
Kevin

Immigration, Social Justice and the Armory: Kickstarting a New Adventure

Armory WMWP PD May17

I am helping to co-facilitate a new project that connects middle school educators and students with the Springfield Armory, our local National Park historic site through writing and inquiry and service learning projects.

Yesterday, at our first meeting, we began our work on the project, as our group of teachers from an urban magnet school took a tour of the Armory itself and learned of its rich historical resources, took part in a workshop on Authentic Writing and Performance Tasks, and began initial planning for a free summer camp we are offering at the end of June for city students at the Armory.

I can’t say enough about the educators who have agreed to be part of our project, called Minds Made for Stories (influenced by the work and book of the same name by Thomas Newkirk, who argues that narrative is the underlying nature of all writing that we do). They were inquisitive, passionate and ready to dive into the work ahead of us.

The overall theme of our project is Social Justice, and the thread that will tie our work and the development of the camp is “immigration,” as the current climate around immigration is a central focus in the lives of many of the students at the school where our teachers teach. This became clear as we worked through a variety of topics, as teachers talked about the all-consuming worries and anger about the current immigration policies and politics of the national stage.

We’ll be looking at immigration, and racism and other related topics, through the lens of the Springfield Armory and its workforce, and its work as munitions center for the country for much of the 20th Century. We’ll have guest speakers to talk about oral history, and have student at camp design some sort of service learning project that can go back to their school in the fall.

The project is supported by the Mass Humanities organization, the National Writing Project, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, the National Parks Service via the Springfield Armory and the Veterans Education Project. There are lot of moving parts to this one, which makes it challenging to coordinate and exciting to put into motion.

Peace (today and every day),
Kevin

Making, Coding, Writing

 

Check out this video archive from the National Writing Project that lays out the theoretical and pedagogical connections between the Maker’s Movement, the use of code for understanding and the writing process.

How would we teach reading if our end goal was that people became strong, powerful, authoritative, engaged, participatory writers? If that was our goal, and then we saw reading, actually, the ability to access the knowledge of others as something that you do on the way to what you produce, would we think about both of them differently? And I think there’s probably actually both on the coding and the making side this notion that if your real emphasis is not on the consumption side, but on what somebody will produce themselves or with their peers, we would shift a million things in teaching.” — Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, NWP Executive Director

Peace (in the shift),
Kevin

Civics Education and the First 100 Days of Trump

I sure was busy with online Hangouts this week, and I spent Thursday night with some teachers talking about Civics Education in the age of Trump and how educators can grapple with the start of this crazy presidency. The Educator Innovator session was quite interesting, I thought, as host Rachel Roberson used the Letters to the President concept from the Fall as a central focal point, and asked us to explore where a teacher goes from here.

I talked about the fatigue I am feeling in relation to the political stage these days and about striving for political balance in my classroom. I was interested to hear about the work being done by others in high school  classrooms, libraries and programs that reached out to children of migrant workers. We all talked about finding ways to create and nurture the space in our classrooms for discussions to happen, no matter the political viewpoints of students.

Since one of our themes at the end of the discussion was finding ways to help young people focus on change at home, in their own community, as an empowering educational opportunity, I want to share out the new collection of resources from Educator Innovator called Local Election Toolkit. It has some great ideas and lesson plans, and uses Letters to the President as a rich resource.

Peace (one day at a time),
Kevin