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

Hanging Out with Teens with Dreams

Katie Eder and Crew on EdInnov Hangout

I am thankful I was asked to host an Educator Innovator session the other night with Katie Eder, the teen founder of an expanding project called Kids Tales, which provides free writing camps with paths to publication for young writers, often in communities that are struggling.  All camps are organized and run by teenagers. The teens write curriculum, pitch for funding, and created a non-profit. In fact, the entire Kids Tales organization is completely run by teenagers.

When we talk about Connected Learning, about how to empower young people to engage with the world through networking and through learning and through making, the Kids Tale story shows how a vision by one young person — Katie — can lead to an entire network of other engaged teens, reaching out to help young writers. And all with minimal help from any adults. It’s also a good example of how technology does not have be a central aspect of Connected Learning — it’s about the connections.

Katie and some of her fellow members of their Board of Directors, Shreya and Morgan, as well as my teaching friend Charlene Doland, joined me for the hour-long discussion about writing, empowering students and making change in the world. I was inspired by the work they are doing. I hope you will be, too.

Take a look at the archives and resources:

Peace (in stories),
Kevin

Curiosity Conversation: Virtual Reality Storytelling

Bonnie

I have known Bonnie Kaplan for more than a decade now, through our affiliation with the National Writing Project and our common interest in digital storytelling. She is an avid video documentary filmmaker, and we have jumped into more than a few projects over the years (including the Collaborative ABC Project and the launch of the iAnthology writing space for NWP-affiliated teachers).

When I learned she was just back from a course on Virtual Reality Storytelling, out in California, I wanted to chat with her, to pick her brain a bit about the potential and the possibilities of this new technology in terms of where it might lead us into storytelling down the road. (You can read her blog reflections here).

Then I remembered Scott Glass and his Curiosity Conversation ideas from CLMOOC this past summer, in which one teacher reaches out to record a discussion with another on a topic of personal interest, so Bonnie and I chatted via Hangout.

I am grateful for her time and friendship, and her reminder that stories are at the heart of any digital storytelling.

Peace (in the chat),
Kevin

Random Notes from a Convergence

Normally, I am more organized with my thinking at conferences, but I didn’t bring a laptop to this past week’s Annual Meeting of the National Writing Project in Atlanta, and my notes and media are all over the place. So, this is a bit of this and a bit of that. I am sure I am leaving out something I wanted to say …

First, this: Sticky Notes for Literacy.

The NWP AM sessions that I attended reflected an underlying theme of the conference: how does an organization like our local Western Massachusetts Writing Project energize teachers and provide avenues (the buzzword is Pathways, which is the name for a multi-year venture by NWP to support local sites) for them to emerge as leaders now and into the future?

WMWP sketch note

In one session, a group of NWP teachers shared a beta version of a website resource they have been building, which curates articles and documents and other media files from across the many NWP websites as a way to provide information for new leaders. So, if someone who went through a Summer Institute (0r some version of it) wanted to learn more about how to start a Writing Retreat for teachers, or a book study group, they could tap into the website and easily find what others have written about on the topic. I think, once it is done, the online site will have a lot of potential.

In another session, related to Connected Learning, there was talk of how to move Connected Learning ideals into the university classrooms, particularly with an aim at pre-service educators. In the small group discussions, I joined in an intriguing look at the potential intersections of Civic Engagement (or, as Mia Zamora put it, Civic Imagination) and Connected Learning. Mia is planning an interesting project early next year, on this topic, that will be open to anyone, and it sounds intriguing.

WMWP at NWP 2016

I also helped my site director, Bruce Penniman, make a “pitch” to the NWP and a room full of spectators on the merits of a project that we are developing that provides a “pathway” for new leaders from content areas at our site. We want to create a Civics Literacy Leadership Institute, for social studies teachers, that is modeled on a Science Literacy Institute now underway. The idea is to merge literacy practices into content-area instructions. NWP folks are considering funding a number of projects, and we hope we are in the mix. It was as gentle a “Shark Tank” as you can imagine.

In the Plenary Session, we NWP teachers were encouraged to stay true to the ideals of teaching and advocacy and the writing project (teachers teaching teachers — teachers as writers) in this uncertain age. NWP Executive Director Elyse Eidman-Aadahl and NWP Director of National Programs Tanya Baker brought inspirational, and much appreciated, words to the room about staying engaged in the national conversations and doing meaningful work in our classrooms and in our regional networks.

WMWP at NWP 2016

Both Elyse and Tanya infused powerful poetry into their talks, and were separated by two powerful student poets who shared their stories of the power of writing and a few poems that brought us teachers to a resounding applause. We are always a good audience for young writers.

And when Tanya asked us to write to end the Plenary, I did, with her words in my ear.

She asked us to write ...

Finally, I met many friends here and there and everywhere, some of whom I only interact with on Twitter. So, chatting in person with Jennifer Orr, Michelle Haseltine and Karen LaBonte, among others, were a great joys of connection. And hanging out and catching up with my good friend Bonnie Kaplan at the Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Site was a perfect way to spend part of my Friday.

Wait … I can’t forget the NCTE Hackjam, where Andrea Zellner, Chris Butz and other new and old friends hacked the conference space with blackout poetry and human coding and schwag remix on the floor, and escalator, of the conference hall. I only came to NCTE for the Hackjam (now in its xxx year .. I don’t think we really remember), and it was worth it!

Peace (back home),
Kevin

 

Heading to my Teaching Home: National Writing Project

Create Something

If ever I needed a chance to connect with other educators, now is the time. This morning, I head south to Atlanta for the National Writing Project Annual Meeting, and I am grateful to be part of a teaching community like NWP. It’s a place of spirit and invention and sharing and caring. I’ll soak in that spirit as best as I can, and find some (if only temporary) rejuvenation with my fellow writing project colleagues.

I’ll be attending a few sessions tomorrow, including the main plenary session, and taking part in pitching a new leadership project for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project site in one of the afternoon sessions for NWP’s Pathways project. We’re hoping to fund a Civics Leadership Course, which — let’s face it — is more necessary now than ever.

Peace (in flight),
Kevin