A Myriad of Resources from NWP Annual Meeting

The National Writing Project sent out a flurry of posts the other day about its resources and materials gathered from the NWP Annual Meeting last month in Orlando.\

Peace (in the NWP),

Reaching out to Rural Teachers

nwp rural websiteThere are still ideas left over from the National Writing Project Annual Meeting that I keep meaning to get back to. This is one of those. I was a co-presenter at a workshop around finding ways to use technology to reach out to teachers and students (and mostly, in this context, NWP teachers) who are geographically apart from others. Given how isolating that experience can be, we wanted to explore the options for teachers to connect with others (again, mostly in context of NWP).

Here is the website that we built (NWP: Across Geographic Boundaries) and shared for the session. But I wanted to share out two things.
challenges share
First, we had a good discussion at the end of the of the session, where participants shared out some ideas that were on their Action Plan. We created a podcast as a way to archive and share the thinking going.

Listen to the podcast

And a colleague from Oregon talked about how their NWP site is using Second Life as a virtual meeting space, all in context of deeper integration of technology across their writing project site. Peggy also shared this video, which is certainly worth watching:

Peace (in the sharing),

More from National Writing Project

I tried to take some videos of the various elements of the General Assembly presentations at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting. The result: my hand would not always remain steady. So, these are a bit jumpy and the sound is just OK, not great. I am sure (hopeful?) that NWP will eventually have good videos of these available.

For now, though:

The incoming president of NCTE — Yvonne Siu-Runyan — gave a powerful welcome to the 1,000 plus NWP teachers in the room:

NWP Executive Director Sharon Washington gave insights into the busy days of a teacher:

And Donalyn Miller gave a passionate speech about being a writer:

Peace (in the jumpy sharing),

Reflections from National Writing Project, ancillary discussions

nwpam2010Sometimes at a conference, some of the most interesting conversations happen in the spaces in-between the official sessions. I made a few mental notes about some of the informal discussions that I was part of at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting last week — in hallways, near the snack area, after sessions, etc. — and thought I might share some of those topics out because I seem to think that they are bigger topics than I first imagined. That’s what happens when you get to talk with very smart people, as I was lucky enough to do last week.

Digital Identities: A few of us had a long conversation one night about the use of social media and tools and how we go about finding a “voice” on those platforms that is real. We find ourselves often caught between our official role as a “teacher” and 0ur role as a creator of content. There are legitimate fears from educators about how authentic one’s online voice should be, and yet, I would argue that we need to let some of that come through in our writing, our sharing, our collaborations. Hiding behind a veil of parsed language seems increasingly at odds with why one would create an online space in the first place, doesn’t it? And yet, I myself create a sort of wall for myself, too, ducking behind a nickname in some spaces. But I do try to write with an authentic voice as much as possible.

Future of Apps: There is no doubt that the biggest change from last year’s NWP meeting to this year is the explosion of Apps on handheld devices, and there was plenty of talk outside of sessions about what that means. Will the use of Apps mean a push towards allowing cell phones and other handheld devices into the classroom? That’s what we wonder, and then, we talked about what that would mean. Will the influx of new applications open up new spaces and new ways for composing and creating? In a session I did around stopmotion movies, one of the participants pulled out his iPhone and used a new app (imotion) for making stopmotion that used the camera in his phone. In minutes, he had created a movie and emailed a version of it to me from his cell phone. That’s pretty amazing.

First Steps: I had a lot of conversations with folks, wondering how they could take their first steps into the digital conversations. I mentioned places to enter with Twitter, and with social networks, and I pushed the use of RSS feeders to follow blogs. It seems to be me that this wave of conversation signals a concern that teachers are being left behind, and that they cannot ignore the technology any longer, if that was their tact. There’s more and more talk, and more and more evidence, that the media and tools that our students are using outside of the classroom are not filtering their way in, and the teachers I talked with are concerned about that trend. They want to feel relevant to the lives of their students.

The Standards: This topic came up in sessions as well as out of sessions. How do we balance the use of technology with the push and pressures of standardized curriculum and assessment? It’s a legitimate concern, and one that is local to the school and district where we teach. Some of us have greater freedom, as long as we are following curriculum frameworks, while others have more shackles, such as a cookie-cutter curriculum. It seems to me that we need to find ways to get more administrators involved in the kind of discovery that teachers are doing. If teachers have that support from the principal or superintendent, they are more likely to dip their toes into the water.

Plugged Out: At our conference, there was no Internet access. The cost was too much for NWP, I suspect. What that meant was that all sessions were off-line explorations, which works better for some ideas than others. But it was clear that many of us felt odd and strange, off the grid as we were. Many of us (not all) are used to taking notes online, sharing ideas from conferences “in the moment,” using backchannels for related discussions, creating multimedia interpretations of events, etc. It wasn’t until someone in a session pointed out that what we were feeling in this unwired space was probably exactly what our students feel like when we tell them to turn off and hide their cell phones when they walk in the schools. It feels disjointed when you have integrated something into your ways of communicating, and then find it suddenly revoked. We persevered, as most of our students do, but it never felt quite right.

Access: This is a constant from year to year — how to make sure our student have access to the technology and access beyond the firewalls so that the tools that we want to use for learning are not hurdles of frustration. I still hear about computer labs being used only for reading assessments, and of firewall filters being so strict as to be meaningless. Like many, I long for the day when this is NOT an issue facing schools.

Peace (in the discussions),

Reflections from National Writing Project, day three

I spent almost all of my day with the NWP Makes! Session, in which NWP teamed up with MAKE Magazine to think about hands-on learning and the informational writing that can be partnered with artistic discovery. We spent much of the morning “doing” — working at tables on arts activities that included sock puppets, bottle cap jewerly, LED bracelets and more. I led the table on Stopmotion Animation, where we created a dance party video with characters created by the participants.

Then, each table had to design a “mock up” website of how they would teach someone else how to do their activity. This sparked a lot of interesting discussions, as you might imagine. We then toured the room, to see and make comments on what other groups were creating, and the informational text they were composing.
Here is what my group created:
NWP Makes 014

Here are the mock-up sites:

As we ended, we were asked to reflect on the experiences of the day as we sought to consider the possibilities of what we did for the classroom and for our Writing Project sites.  Here’s what I wrote:

What has me thinking, and what still resonates from last year’s Digital Is Conference, is how engaging these kinds of hands-on, collaborative projects can be for creators of any age. However, for the most part, we as a society have mostly driven arts and crafts – ie, Makes – from many of our schools due to the pressures of budgets, standardized curriculums and standardized testing. As a result, many of these kinds of creative endeavors fall to after-school programs (Girl and Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, private companies, etc.) or electives, and are not necessarily integrated right in the classroom instruction as much as they used to be. Perhaps making the connection of “creating” with “composing” more visible is a way to start to change that tide.

On a side note, my state (Massachusetts) recently passed a law that mandates documentation of creativity in our schools. That sounds harsh, but it is designed by some state legislators to show that while mandated testing is not going away, schools should not be drill-and-killing the learning spirit out of every child. The development of a Creativity Index would not doubt open up the doors for activities and projects like this, in which the experts teach the non-experts, when then turn around to become experts themselves.

Peace (in the making),

Reflections from National Writing Project, day two

Yesterday, at the National Writing Project General Assembly, more than 1,000 NWP teachers gathered together in one huge hall, and that in itself is a powerful experience to be part of. NWP Executive Director Sharon Washington and others urged us to remain positive in the face of increasing negative scrutiny from Washington and the national media, and to remember that it is our students — those young minds and hearts — that need our attention and nurturing.

The keynote speaker was Donalyn Miller (aka The Book Whisperer) who emotionally gave us a view of her history as a writer, and how difficult it is for her, and how her connection to the NWP helped find her a place to be and to thrive. She also brought us inside her classroom for a bit, too and all that added to a powerful keynote. (I am including a brief excerpt of her presentation here).

At the end of the assembly, Sharon Washington urged us to write (the silence of 1000 people writing together is an incredible moment) about the times when we emerged from our own difficult times in writing.

I wrote a poem about my first days at my own Summer Institute, and how the possibilities of writing opened up for me in new ways, and has never left.

I remember the room –
the nervous energy,
the possibilities

of writing

of wondering how it was
that so much of our days
would be carved out of words

I wondered
but did not question

I wrote:
streams of stories

I wrote what had been set aside
somewhere inside of me,
waiting for the space with which
to flourish.

I wrote as if the summer would never end
and I’ve never stopped writing

Peace (in the sharing),

Reporting from National Writing Project, Day One

nwpam2010During the first day’s events at the National Writing Project, I periodically called in a “podcast” as a way to reflect after the sessions. I’ll write about the sessions more later.

After: Digital Literacies Roundtable

After: Gaming in Education Lunch

After: Why Games Matter

After: Across Geographic Distance

Peace (in the sharing),

The NWP(eeee) Dance Party(eeee) Theme Song

This morning, as I was planning out my NWP Makes! Session a bit more for next Saturday at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting, it dawned on me that a dance party stopmotion movie is what my group should create during our hour long working time (and then, they will document what we have done with technical writing). They’ll be using clay and wikistix to create little people.

And, so, I thought: I need to write a song for the video. A song about an NWP Dance Party. So, I composed it (using some music software) and wrote it and recorded it this morning, and have it now all set to go for the session.

Wanna hear it?

NWP Dance Party Theme Song

And here are the lyrics:

Put down your pens
Put down your papers
Put down your laptop
‘Cause you’ll get to it later

You’ve got to move-move
You’ve got to shake it – shake it
You’ve got to bend it back
An don’t even try to fake it

NWP Dance Party!

Ten thousand words
Can say the same thing
But this is like a language
that can make your heart sing

Come on the dance floor
And give it a little shake
Who knows where it’ll go
or what you can make

NWP Dance Party!

Peace (in the boogie),

What Steve Says … it’s a cinch!

I am following the lead of my fellow NWP friend, Steve Moore, who writes that using the site Cinch for podcasting from mobile device is one way to go, and I wanted to find something easy to use for the upcoming National Writing Project Annual Meeting.

And, well, Steve was right: Cinch is a cinch to use. I don’t have a phone with apps, but I just registered my phone number and called the Cinch Line and a minute later, what I said was on the site as a podcast.

And I can embed it:


Peace (in the voice),