Last night, my friend, colleague, and co-author — Dawn Reed — and I were featured on the National Writing Project’s weekly podcast, NWP Radio. Enjoy this episode in which we discuss the interwoven themes of reading, writing, and technology through a conversation about our book, Research Writing Rewired.
I’m interested in how infusing technology into the classroom as exemplified by Youth Voices and other initiatives changes the way teachers see their own role and their own identity.
I’m also interested in examining the relationship between teachers’ sense of identity and their pedagogical philosophy (and how technology can cause that to shift). There are the cliched metaphors: sage on the stage, guide on the side. If you were to select a metaphor for how you see your own role as a teacher, what would you pick?
And, here is my response…
Looking at the idea of transformative technology integration and how teachers see their own role and identity, I think that the biggest shift for me comes when teachers stop looking at it as “integration” of technology and just see it as a part of their teaching.
At risk of being glib, I will characterize the shift that I see as this… most teachers that I encounter, when beginning a class or a professional development initiative claim to be “not very techie,” even if, in fact, they are. I think that this stems from two causes. One, they simply don’t feel confident in the technology that they do know, even though they may know a great deal about it; they don’t want to risk looking like they don’t know something in front of students. Second, they see barriers to technology use (filters, software, hardware), and, for a variety of reasons, choose not to advocate on their own behalf for getting access to that technology for them and their students. Again, I don’t mean to generalize and criticize, it’s just this is the pattern that I generally see.
To that end, when teachers finally gain some confidence, then also take the risk and invite students to work with technology (even if they do now know it well themselves). Once they experience some successes, they begin to just think about what they are teaching and the technology becomes a part of that conversation, not just as an after-thought or as an add-on. At that point, it is not so much about the technology, but about the literacy practices that the technologies enable.
Looking at the idea of a teacher’s sense of identity and their pedagogical philosophy, I suppose that I would talk most about the work that I did with seven Red Cedar Writing Project teachers for my dissertation project. In that project, they created digital portfolios that represented their teacher research through digital portfolios. Once they took that intentional focus to represent their own identity through a website, it became clear that they had to think not only about design, colors, and fonts, they also had to ask pedagogical and ethical questions that then showed up in their work. We wrote two articles about this process, on for English Journal and one for the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. Also, you will want to look at some of the work on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK).
My metaphor. Oh boy… I suppose that those models of guide on the side and other ones like that are overused. So, the one that I keep coming back to when I work with teachers is that we are all on a ladder, learning more and more about technology and literacy each day. Typically, what happens is that I find myself on one rung of the ladder, usually just a few steps (or less) ahead of the teachers with whom I am working. Then, they begin climbing as we go through a PD experience and, eventually, they ask me a question that I don’t know the answer too, a rung or two above where I am at. So, I reach, and I learn, and I come back and teach them more. Then they climb. Then they ask. Then I climb, and so on. So, we keep climbing the ladder, sometimes pulling and sometimes pushing, but most of the time simply climbing in tandem. I hope that makes sense.
This morning, I was fortunate enough to be invited “home” to present my session, “Creating Your Digital Writing Workshop” at Red Cedar Writing Project‘s WIDE PATHS II. Beyond the wonderful feeling of being “home” with about 30 colleagues from RCWP and sharing my book with them, I continue to be inspired by the amazing work that teachers do in their classrooms and schools, despite the continued barrage of criticisms that come both directly from politicians and the media as well as indirectly from the ways that our society and government structure “educational reforms” such as Race to the Top. For more on what these “reforms” mean for organizations such as the NWP, check out Sara’s recent post on IdeaPlay.
At any rate, there were many good parts of the day, and ideas from the conversations in the opening session were captured by Dawn on the presentation page. There were a number of issues that came forward, and the conversation was rich since, as a group, we were talking as knowledgeable peers, many already engaged in digital writing practices. Most notably, we thought about a number of issues related to the actual composition of digital texts, moving beyond the logistical questions that often come up (as important as they are) and into conversations about how and why students compose digital texts. Maggie captured one idea (and I am paraphrasing) in the idea that digital media allow us to create texts that are “long enough to accomplish goal, but also short enough to keep interest.”
Then, throughout the day, there were three strands: social networking, collaborative writing, and visual studies. Overall, I feel like the day was filled with timely, relevant, and useful information, right out of the NWP tradition of “teachers teaching teachers.” We worked together, learned some new ideas, got reminded of some ideas I had forgotten (like using Diigo), and, while I couldn’t attend everything, here are some notes from the other wonderful sessions throughout the day.
Four components of participation in social networks
Impact on Writing
Thoughts from the discussion, after creating our own personal network maps on paper
What does it mean to “know” someone? Be connected to someone?
How and when do we connect to someone? To a group? Knowing that we have access to the network at our fingertips, when and how can we leverage it?
Thinking about how they are invited to join social networks (Pixie Hallow, Webkinz, Facebook, Second Life) and the commercial/consumer interests that some of these networks have? What about the critical literacy practices that students need to have to understand how they are positioned within and across these networks?
Do we create networks that are “echo chambers” where we only listen to others in our own network that do not allow or invite us to think about alternative or opposing ideas?
Are we co-opting the purposes of social networks? What are we trying to teach them so that they can be digital citizens? But, are we replicating traditional, teacher-centered practices that would be the same in Blackboard, or are we taking advantage of the aspects of social networks?
Heather introduced Etherpad as a tool for collaborative response to an article, then used VoiceThread as another tool for response, too. In using the two types of tools, we were thinking about the ways that text and voice comments can contribute to our own understanding of other texts, including an online article and responding to a video.
This got me to thinking more about VoiceThread and how to have students use that as a tool for conferring. I think that the idea of having students comment one another’s work while still “in process” is powerful. Not sure how to embed the comment at the exact moment of the video that it would be pertinent, however. A tool like Viddler‘s commenting feature would work more effectively for that, I think.
Lots of time for playing with the tools. Thinking about collaborating across time and space with Skype, Google Docs, VoiceThread, Diigo, and other tools. What is also interesting to me is to think more carefully about the nature of the collaboration…
What are the affordances and constraints of the tools?
What is the task that we are asking students to complete? How does that enable collaboration, or does it simply require cooperation?
Are you asking students to create single-authored, multi-authored, or co-authored products? How does changing the role of the writer change the technology that you are able to use?
Forest Gump, and the ability to visually recreate history
Kent State image with fence post removed
Asking students to define “literacy” and how they experience misinformation and critically evaluate information and images. Thinking about “photographic truth” and the implications of how images are constructed in an age of easy photo manipulation.
Reggie – Thinking about how to fit visual literacy into the already crammed English curriculum with digital storytelling
Moving from statements of belief (ala “This I Believe”) to statements of change created as a digital movie. Combining elements of argumentative writing with visuals.
Then moving from this digital video project into understanding how to create a traditional text for the ACT. In this example of women’s body image, this includes ways that the student could use the same arguments and refutations used in the movie project and translating them into traditional essay structures (building context, argument, counterargument, rebuttal, etc).
Complexity of assessing these texts with a rubric that was already in place. Looking at three examples — one on body image, one on global warming, one on the “open beverage” rule. But, are there some qualitative differences in these works? I think so, and I am wondering how we can help students see that there are some standards of quality in the production of digital texts. One option would be to have a “viewing” day in the class, and then inviting them to revise based on what they saw in other videos as well as feedback on their own.
Final Reflections on the Day
We were going to have a large group discussion to report out on the day, but ran out of time. My final thoughts are that Andrea and the entire RCWP team organized a wonderfully thoughtful day of exploration into these three strands: social networking, collaborative writing, and visual studies. As we continue to think about the future of what it means to be a writer and a teacher of writing in a digital age, the conversations that began today can continue to guide our work into the future. I look forward to this team sharing their insights at the NWPM retreat this summer!
My friend and RCWP colleague, Marcus Brown, has been working for about a year to open the Village Summit in the house next door to his Lansing home. You can read about many of the trials and tribulations that Marcus, his wife, and everyone involved in creating the Village Summit have had to endure in this article from the Lansing State Journal.
In trying to figure out a way that I could help Marcus and his cause, he suggested that I spend some time with him and help develop a website for the center that highlights its services and activities. And here is where the power of digital writing comes into the picture…
Marcus and I began talking about this last year and began a Google Site for his organization. As it does, time slipped by, we both neglected the website for a long while, and kind of forgot about it. But, when talking with him over breakfast in December, and trying to figure out how I could help, he began discussing all the ways in which we wanted to use a website to reach out to his community — people in his neighborhood helping with the Village Summit, other community organizations, the Lansing Mayor’s Office and City Council, and beyond. I was thinking about the software that he could use to compose this site, immediately moving my mind to the suite of tools that Google offers including Sites, Picasa, Maps, and Calendar. After working together for the better part of two hours, we updated the site, adding images, maps, and a calendar, not to mention a good deal of Marcus’s writing and poetry that show his passion for education and serving his community.
And, so, in less than two hours, the Village Summit had a (revised) website.
On the one hand, we could look at this as nothing remarkable. Yep, we have Google Sites and can insert plug-ins and, wow, doesn’t that make life easier for us when we make web pages.
Yet, in digging a little deeper and thinking about the socio-cultural, technical, and political literacy practices associated with how Marcus composed a site about a community center for a variety of audiences and purposes, I find the digital writing task in which the two of us were engaged to be quite fascinating. To be sure, even a few years ago, he could have created a similar site with a variety of web-based tools or software. It would have taken awhile, and he would have likely had to use a site like Geocities that put ads on his work (or buy a domain).
But, using this suite of Google tools, and having a specific set of purposes and audiences in mind, he was able to compose a multimedia text — a website that employs text, links to videos, images, and maps — to distribute his message. Composing community. All in about two hours. In less time than it used to take us to design, produce content for, and upload a basic website using Dreamweaver and FTP.
And, it’s free.
And, it’s collaborative, so others can add content.
And, it’s a public voice for a community that, even a few years ago may not have had the time or resources to develop a web-based message.
To me, as a teacher of digital writing, this was really an epiphany. Yes, of course I knew that anyone could hop online and make a site, or a blog, or a wiki, or a twitter account. Yes, I realized that our digital writing can be collaborative and shared widely. Yet, I didn’t think very clearly, until that day when Marcus and I met, about the power of digital writing — in really just a moment — to compose entire communities, to bring something into existence in ways that would have been difficult or impossible even a few years ago. I had heard of it happening with different tools, over time. But, in just under two hours, we were able to take what Marcus had started a year ago as a dream, and what we initially tried to capture on the web last summer, and brought them both together.
For me, watching Marcus connect his many literacy practices and personal passions to create this website show the heart of what it means to be multiliterate in a digital world.
Thanks, Marcus, for reminding me of it, and for all that you do to serve your community.
From our site visit earlier this winter, the media and public relations team at CMU has put together an article and podcast about the Chippewa River Writing Project. I find it fitting that as we pursue digital writing within the project that the way in which it was announced to the CMU community comes in the form of a web-based article and podcast.
The National Writing Project, a federally funded professional development program with nearly 200 sites, provides over 7,000 programs for K-16 teachers across the country, reaching more than 135,000 participants in 2008. The CRWP was one of ten new sites established in the U.S. this year.
“We aim to develop programs unique to CRWP that will distinguish us in the state and nation by addressing the issues that face us in northeastern Michigan. We will do so by utilizing technology for distance learning and building on the strengths of the English department and interests of local teachers,” said Troy Hicks, a CMU English faculty member and director of the CRWP.
Hicks is optimistic about the impact the writing project site will have on teachers in the area.
“My goal is to establish the CRWP as a site that partners with teachers in suburban and rural settings throughout northeastern Michigan, utilizing technology to both support their professional learning as well as to become a key component in their own teaching,” Hicks said.
My journey with the National Writing Project began in 2003 with my participation in my first summer institute at Red Cedar Writing Project and has continued to take me in places, personally and professionally, that I could not have imagined. To say that beginning a new writing project is a dream come true, despite the cliche, would be an understatement. So, it is with great anticipation that I look forward to our summer institute that begins in a few short weeks.
As a key component of the summer institute, we have created a wiki to organize, share, and archive our writing, teaching demos, and discussions. My hope is that by working with a digital writing space as our main point of contact in the summer institute, we will establish the habits of mind that will make collaborating and communication with digital writing tools a part of the fabric of our writing project. Because our service area will cover so many rural communities in northern Michigan, my plan is to engage teachers and students in digital writing so that they have opportunities to connect outside of their classroom, school, and district in meaningful ways, with technology being a part of an equation that focuses first on the writer and then on the mode and media of the writing.
So, as the summer institute gets closer and I have more opportunities to think about how we are engaging in digital writing, my hope is to capture some of that thinking here. In additional to having human subjects research approval and media releases from all the participants in the summer institute, my plan is to blog more regularly so we can really document how a digital writing project unfolds in its first year.
Wish us luck, and feel free to join the wiki and contribute, too!
Been a long time since I’ve been blogging… hope to get “caught up” on some emerging ideas over spring break. But, for now, here is some good news from RCWP. Congrats to Janet for her leadership and all my colleagues whose work made this award possible!
Janet Swenson knows that effective communication depends on far more than simply the written word. Over the past few years numerous powerful and inexpensive communication technologies have become available to the average user. Cell phones enhanced with camera, video, and keyboard capacities, along with fully functioning, highly portable mini-notebook computers, have emerged in conjunction with Internet-based social networking and collaborative writing opportunities.
Since 1993 Swenson has directed the Red Cedar Writing Project (RCWP), an educational outreach program and professional development network that serves teachers of writing at all grade levels. RCWP is also MSU’s site of the National Writing Project, which aims to improve student achievement across the United States by improving the teaching of writing and improving learning. Keeping pace with emerging technologies is one of the ways that RCWP does that.
Thinking about the tools almost exclusively, and we want to focus on literacy practices
What is Literacy? What is Technological Literacy? How are they different? How do they support one another?
Literacy — the ability read, write, listen, speak, view, and visually represent texts in print and non-print media. Technology literacy — the ability to understand and employ different tools (pencils and paper, computers, cameras, recorders, etc.) to effectively convey a message to an audience.
The ways in which these two concepts, literacy and technology literacy support one another — we have come to understand that being “literate” changes across contexts, thus it is a complicated set of practices that people use to communicate for a variety of purposes and audiences. Adding technology into the mix opens up new opportunities for communication and collaboration that makes us rethink the ways in which we consider what it means to be literate. In other words, technology has the potential to affect our worldview because it changes the way that literacy is enacted. in these contexts. And, in an increasingly digital world, we have to make the connections between literacies and technologies more and more explicit so readers and writers understand how, why, and when to use particular technologies to communicate.
We can sometimes forget the fact that literacy is what we are most interested in and can get caught up in the technology itself
Framing our thinking about the teaching of writing with the strategies from the Writing Next Report
Writing prompt: Portfolios
Yes, I use portfolios in my English Education methods class, ENG 315. I think that the immediate benefit of using a digital portfolio, as it has always been with portfolios, is that students see the value in collecting and reflecting on their work over time. The digital portfolio offers them even more flexible ways of presenting their work, as they can create straight-up web pages and they can embed images, video, or audio. This allows for multimedia compositions that wouldn’t necessarily be possible with print-based portfolios.
Drawbacks. Well, let’s face it… assessing any writing is tough work, especially when you are trying to assess a collection of writing that has been developed over time. Thus, I have my students engage in self-assessment for their portfolios. This is the only way that I have found really gets them engaged in the process as writers, forcing them to be thoughtful in the selection process and be honest about the amount of work that has gone into the writing and revising process.
Writing Prompt: Think of a student who was challenged to write in your classroom.
My most difficult student that I ever had to deal with was one of my seventh graders. Along with all the special education diagnoses that he had been given, he was also just not a friendly kid. Not outright defiant, nor anti-social, but just difficult to connect with. At the time, I tried to offer him some options for writing with technology such as creating a PPT, but I wasn’t really equipped to differentiate instruction or help him grow as a writer. I do wonder how a student like him would react to some of the newer tools that we have been discussing today, as well as to the chance to easily get feedback from other writers and not just me. Taking his writing public might have made a difference (and, simply typing it would have helped, too). All in all, I think that the challenges he faced were partly motivational and partly learning disabilities, and I wonder how these tools might have been helpful for him.
Final reflection — what was your biggest “aha” and what will you take back to your classroom?
The major tech tip that I will take back with me is the Google Scholar setting that allows you to export directly to EndNote/Zotero. That is going to be just so incredibly useful for me. Once Zotero gets set up to share your libraries easily, it will be great. I can create online reading lists of open source readings or readings that can be accessed on campus, and skip the whole process of having to create course reserves!
In terms of professional development structures, I really like how Andrea framed the day with the early discussion of literacy and technology. She made it clear that this was a discussion about how to use the Google Applications in the service of literacy instruction and not just about “this tool, that tool, and the next tool.” That was good to make her ideas about that explicit early in the presentation, even though the rest of the day did kind of suffer from the “mile wide, inch deep” problem.
Finally, I enjoyed having to articulate my thoughts about a particular tool during the last activity. By comparing Knol with Wikipedia, it forced me to come back to the ideas about literacy practices. That might have been helpful to include as a framework for the final activity — a reminder that we should look at the tool as a way to support literacy practices.
All in all, a great day with lots to think about. Thanks, Andrea!
Thanks to all who have sent kind words my way about the webinar. It promises to be a learning experience for Dawn and I as we consider what future collaborations might look like.
This podcasting project collaboration has been a wonderful two years of work, culminating next spring in the release of our chapter in the Herrington, Moran, and Hodgson text, Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom from TCPress.
I will reflect on the webinar later this week, so long as final projects don’t bog me down with too much grading!
Apologies in advance for what will be a long post here, as my “reflection in action” during the conference consisted more of trying to find free wifi and navigating the Riverwalk than it did of actually having time to sit down and think. I tried to break my thinking up by day, for what that’s worth, and hope that these thoughts are useful for all my readers, especially all my colleagues who were unable to attend.
That said, NWP/NCTE2008 was a wonderful week of connecting and collaborating with colleagues, and there is so much to think about it is hard to know where to begin. So, I will organize it by day.
One thing that I will note here and throughout the rest of this post is that I sensed a definite shift, a change in the tone about how people are talking about newer literacies and technologies. In a sense, it is as if we no longer had to begin every conversation, every presentation with a disclaimer: “let me tell you why I use technology in my teaching of writing.” Instead, the conversations simply began with the premise that we simply are using technology to teach writing.
And that is darn cool.
Now for a summary of the week.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Wednesday brought me in early to work on a book project with NWP, and we had some great discussions about the state of digital writing as well as the Letters to the President Project. Having been in the process of interviewing a number of educators this fall, getting this day to work with Danielle and then meet with Elyse
and Christina from NWP brought some clarity to my thinking (something that has been sorely lacking as I have been digging through loads and loads of data). I feel very confident in the work that we did and that the book will be useful for educators in a variety of contexts.
I was able to interview someone from Google about the use of Google Docs in education, and that conversation (among the many I have had with NWP colleagues) reminds me that things are definitely changing. Yes, there are still issues of access and the digital divide. Yet, I think that students and teachers are finding more and more opportunities for thinking about how to teach digital writing because the tools are (almost) all online and (almost) all free. Not to go overboard on the idea of the conference theme, but I could finally see the revolution in action over the course of this weekend. Teachers are beginning, across the board, to make the shift.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
On Thursday, the NWP Annual Meeting kicked off and, for me at least, the best part of the day was the new site meeting. I enjoyed the Writing in a Digital Age session, but then got caught up in other things all afternoon, in particular some great news… Last week, on my birthday, I was pleased to learn from NWP’s Executive Director that Central Michigan University had been awarded an NWP site! Thus, this was my first official meeting as a new site director. When asked how I was feeling, all weekend long I repeated the “excited, but terrified” mantra. Attending the NWP Annual Meeting as a site director was a new experience, and again I was amazed at the ways in which technology and writing were simply a part of the same conversation now. As I begin to think about how to frame the work of our new site, I am encouraged by
the fact that being digital will be a major part of who we are. A talk with Bud Hunt later in the weekend reaffirmed this belief that our site should intertwine our web presence with our core work, and I look forward to tackling that when I get home.
Also, another cool aspect of Thursday was that I was interviewed by Paul and a crew from the Pearson Foundation about how writing is changing in a digital age. They were getting interview with a large number of TCs throughout the annual meeting, and I can’t wait to see how the videos they will be producing turn out.
Here are some of my thoughts from my preparations for that interview:
Why is writing important now?
As it has always been, writing remains a key mode of communication. It is important today because writers in a variety of personal and professional roles are being asked to produce a greater variety of texts, for a greater variety of audiences.While many teachers — especially those involved with NWP initiatives — continue to build on the principles of good writing instruction, we need to continue our efforts and supporting the teaching and learning of writing in all of our classrooms, K-12, and across content areas. As writers adapt to new situations for composing texts, they need to be adept in a variety of writing skills and genres.We, as educators, are the ones who introduce them to these skills and genres when we keep our attention on teaching writing with intention.
Writing in a technological world means what?
In an increasingly networked world, writers need to adapt to different purposes, audiences, and contexts for writing that have been enabled by newer technologies. This also involves a shift in how we think about who writers are, how texts are produced, and where texts are distributed.
Regardless of how “digital” we think our students are — and, no doubt, most of them are more adept at particular digital skills like using Facebook, Twitter, or text messaging, they do not necessarily come to those tasks with the capacities that make them critical and creative digital writers. Not only do they need to understand the technical aspects of creating hyperlinks, posting to a blog, or collaborating with a wiki, but they need to have the intentional focus as a writer to understand the audience and purpose for which they are writing. Who reads your Facebook updates and why? Can you write to that audience in the same manner as a you can when you produce an academic paper, even if it is posted on a blog?
Moreover, they need to consider the ways in which we can compose with multiple modes and media. For instance, one can argue a position through a traditional essay, a 30 second public service announcement (either an audio or video), or in the form of a single-page advertisement with an image and few words, or no words at all. Understanding when, why, and how to use different forms of media to convey a particular message requires a working knowledge of the mode — that is, what does an audience expect in order to be persuaded — and how to effectively manipulate the media.
So, writing has always been a complex act, and newer technologies offer writers numerous opportunities to get their message across. Writing in a technological world means that we, as writers and teachers of writing, need to be aware of these choices and how we can best utilize them to have the intended effect on our various audiences.
One disappointment… no more Tech Matters. That institute, more than anything else I have done, has shaped my thinking on teaching digital writing. I will miss it dearly, but understand the choice that was made to go to a more site-focused technology retreat. So, while I am sad to know that Tech Matters is no more, I am encouraged by the work that is happening across the NWP network related to digital writing. There are some promising things on the horizon, one of which I hope becomes this book project.
Thursday night ended with our traditional RCWP dinner. Janet thanked all of us and praised our new site, but I want to say thank you, Janet, both for dinner and for all that you have done to enable teacher leaders to fill entire tables at an annual meeting, reflecting on a year of shared work.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Friday brought breakfast with a friend I hadn’t seen in some time as well as the invitation to be interviewed for NCTE’s Centennial film being produced by John Golden and his colleagues. Wow, what an incredible honor to be invited into that work. He asked me to reflect on how the teaching of writing has changed over the past few years with the advent of Web 2.0. What an honor and a wonderful opportunity. In preparation for that interview, I wrote the following:
The read/write web has finally delivered the promise of having a real audience and varied purposes that writing teachers have so long looked to bring to their classrooms. From the beginning of the process writing movement, when Emig first looked at the composing process and Sommers identified revision strategies of experienced and novice writers, teacher researchers such as Murray, Graves, Calkins, Atwell, Ray, Fletcher, Portalupi, and others have been trying to invite student writers to see audiences and purposes beyond the classroom and traditional school genres. While this began to occur in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000’s, there was still something “fake” about this writing. Yes, it was shared with peers in class. Yes, it was read at author’s chair or published in a school anthology. Yes, it went home and made it on the fridge. And, if it was lucky, that student writing made it to a local newspaper or other venue for publication. When the internet really hit big at the turn of the 21st century, writing teachers felt as if they could have a purpose and audience beyond the classroom and school. Some were able to publish their writing online, but things got in the way: FTP, limited or no access to the server, passwords, firewalls, as well as the onerous HTML editors. The promise of the web was to democratize information, and it did — if you could figure out how to create web pages and uploaded them. Even discussion forums — with all their ability to post and respond to writing — hit the scene, there was still something impersonal and difficult about “publishing” one’s writing.
Then, when read/write web tools such as blogs and wikis emerged, and “push button publishing” become possible for anyone, anywhere. Along with the increased bandwidth and access to internet-enabled computers in schools, the ability to post and share writing on a blog was revolutionary. Finally, the goal of “publishing” work for an authentic audience and purpose emerged as a goal for writers, both in and out of school. No longer did a writer need to know HTML (although it helped),
or have a specified program on his or her computer. We could write (and publish our writing) any time, any where.
This has resulted in a shift in thinking that Knobel and Lankshear discuss in their work on New Literacies. In a nutshell, the traditional vision that we have of a single writer, working alone on a piece of writing that has been culled together from a series of authoritative sources has been replaced with one of a collaborator who is able to build on the ideas of others, and participate in what boyd calls
“networked publics.” We can access our documents any time and any where that has a network connection, including on handheld devices and mobile phones.
What this means is that — in addition to being able to write in multiple modalities and media — students must be made aware of the ways in which their writing is distributed and perceived across the many networks in which they participate. What this means for teachers — and NCTE — is that we need to consider the many ways in which students see themselves as writers (and, according to the Pew report sometimes do not see themselves as writers) and invite them to be intentional about how they read and write in a digital age.
We have learned a great deal about revision and how audience and purpose can lead to intentional writing. NCTE should continue to support scholarship and professional development that builds on the principles and research findings that we have, noting the ways in which we as teachers can guide “digital natives” who may know how to send a “tweet,” but may not always be thinking about the ways such a message can be interpreted. In short, we need to continue the professional conversations that we have been having about writing and revision over the past three decades, taking what we know about these processes and moving them into the era of the read/write web.
NCTE continues to move in the right direction. In just the past year, they have adopted the statement on teaching multimodal literacies, and released two research and policy briefs (one specifically on 21st century literacies and the “Writing Now” brief that encompasses a broader view of the composing process). By offering the summer institute on 21st century literacies, webinars, and the “Tech to Go” sessions at the conference this year, NCTE keeps moving ahead with this work in practical manners. The website redesign and Inbox blog offer good examples of how NCTE is trying to stay in touch with members.
Doing that interview really helped me articulate my thinking, and I appreciate the opportunity to have done it.
Friday morning brought me to my first presentation with some NWP colleagues, “Revising the Writing Process: New Literacies in the English Classroom.” Paul Allison, Chris Sloan, Aram Kabodian, and Dawn Reed were able to present their work related to blogging, podcasting, digital storytelling, and social networking to a crowd of over 100 (don’t believe me — check out the pictures below!). I won’t go into detail on the session, as we have all our materials on our wiki, but suffice it to say that the work these four shared is both amazing and timely. Participants left with only a tiny handout — a bookmark with our URL on it — but loads and loads of ideas. I think that my friend and Project WRITE colleague Liz Webb recorded the session as a podcast, and I will try to get a link to it.
Friday dinner brought together friends and alums from MSU, packing a restaurant. A few of us ended up in the Italian place next door when the tables overflowed. Despite missing the conversation with the large group, it was great to spend time with so many people who have ties to the green and white, even if just for a short while.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Saturday brought a meeting with my editor on another book project, on that I will be very excited to return to as the semester comes to a close and hopefully involve some Project WRITE teachers (as well as their students). Then I was off to present at my Tech To Go kiosk for “RSS Feeds and Teaching English.” Again, more of the work of that session can be found on my wiki, so I want to reflect for a moment on the process of presenting that session (thanks to Bud Hunt for the photo).
My thoughts on the Tech To Go session are mixed, but all in a good way. On the one hand, I wanted to have it be a little more formal with a larger screen and some chairs, so people would feel free to linger. On the other hand, that was precisely the point. People were able to move around, or just stop by is something caught their eye. Having to
reexplain RSS got a little repetitive over the course of the hour and fifteen minutes, but I think that people walked away from the session — no matter how long they stayed — having just enough info to go back and try things out. I hope my wiki page helps them do PD in their own school. As for the Tech To Go Sessions, ideally, I would like to see
them working there with computers in front of them, so they could try it out at the moment. Yet, perhaps there is some value in getting these micro bursts of information about newer literacies and technologies. I
will be interested to see how the conference evaluations reflect people’s experiences with these Tech To Go sessions and to think about how we can shape them for next year.
After browsing books, I was fortunate enough to see Barry Lane heading towards his room with all his gear in tow. After offering a hand to help, and having a quick discussion about when we met in October at the MCTE conference, we were able to walk and talk on the way to his session room. He remembered our conversation in October, reminded me that I needed to send him the podcast (which I finally was able to do
today!), and offered me one of his CDs for helping. When we got to the room with time to spare, he asked if he could interview me for his YouTube channel. I encourage you to watch the video with Corbett Harrison instead!
Video Added 12/5/08
Then, was time for me to sit. Whew…. A session presented by Bill Bass, Melissa Lynn Pomerantz, and Debra Solomon Baker from St. Louis on “Extensions: Using Technology to Extend the English Classroom.” The three of them talked about how they used participatory tools in their classroom, including the use of audio recordings embedded in word docs to give students feedback, a variety of formats for discussion forums, and how to organize your personalized professional development with RSS feeds. It was good to hear Melissa and Debra in particular talk about how very simple uses of technology were having such a profound effect on their teaching.
Later in the afternoon, as PSU was crushing MSU, I was able to ignore the pain of the game by thinking about my third session, “Why Should We Write with a Wiki? Professional Development and the Read/Write Web.” Working with Mary Sawyer and Tim Dewar to frame a session on how pre-service and in-service teachers perceive literacies, I was able to share some of the work of Project WRITE and how teachers engaged in professional learning and collaboration with a wiki. In talking with the two of them, as well as other participants in the session, we were all able to enjoy a thoughtful and engaging close to Saturday. While
Anne Whitney’s Nittany Lions whipped on my Spartans, at least we were able to have a good conversation about how teachers learn digital literacies and we talked about how to continue supporting graduate students in the NWP network.
Saturday night brought a trip down to the San Antonio Market District, and fun night of conversation with RCWP colleagues.
Nacho libre anyone?
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Wow… A “down” day in that I had no presentations to do. Instead, I was able to meet with some colleagues throughout the day to discuss some projects as well as catch a few sessions. One of the more interesting
ones was a panel of British scholars — Julie Blake, Tom Rank, and Tim Shortis — who talked about their work with digitizing texts in the British Library, teaching 21st century literacies to teachers, and understanding the role of txting in our language. All were thought provoking and helped me consider the many ways in which as the nature of literacy continues to change, the ways that we frame the discussions about the change matter as much — if not more — than the changes themselves. The idea that sticks with me most is that we, as educators, can help provide context, in a variety of ways, to the vast bits of knowledge that are out there. The project that the British Library is undertaking to organize and contextualize the texts in their collection is simply mind-blowing.
Also, Kathy Yancey delivered another outstanding address that suggested we reframe the teaching of writing. I can’t even try to capture everything she said, but it was great stuff.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Final day. ACE Workshop. As it has been the past two years, lots of fun to talk with teachers about the use of read/write web tools in the classroom. As always, the sessions were fast-paced and I again talked
about Writing with Wikis. We had fun overwriting each other in Wikispaces, yet it seemed like most participants walked away with some ideas about why and how to use wikis in their classroom. Before we had
to go to lunch, Allen Webb shared his new website, Lit Archives, and talked about a number of ways to engage students in classic literature by harnessing digital versions of those texts and inviting them into virtual worlds.
After eating with my friend Carl Young, I had to catch a cab back to the airport. Finally able to get on wifi for free, I tried to write this blog post but (as you can imagine) ran out of time after checking email and talking with my Michigan colleagues who were about to hop on the plane with me.
So, NWP/NCTE 2008 comes to a close with me writing the bulk of this post (novella?) on the plane heading home towards Detroit. Of all the things that I didn’t do, I feel bad that I didn’t keep up with Twitter via SMS all weekend, as Andrea worked very hard to get that as our networking tool for the weekend. And I missed a lot. A lot. I look forward to reading everyone else’s reflections.
Yet, it was still a good conference. And the talk about technology and newer literacies filled most of the conference presentations and hallway conversations, implicitly or explicitly. I was able to help highlight the work of my colleagues and friends, some who were able to be at the conference and others who were not.
For as much as I did, as many new people as I met and those who I became reacquainted with, I have to say that I am tired. Not looking forward to shoveling snow, although I am looking forward to seeing my kids, my friends, and my family over the holiday weekend.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my students, friends, and colleagues reading this. Thanks for sticking through this post and sharing these reflections, as well as the entire conference, with me.
See you next year in Philly, hopefully with a crew of teachers from our new writing project site.
I found this article interesting. Part of me is like: I shouldn’t do anything in my class I wouldn’t want broadcast.
But then part of me is like: Hey, they’re taking things out of context and slanting the information..
Got me thinking… and here is my response to the list:
I agree with you on both of the ideas you share, for sure. Case in point — the photos of me in this week’s RCWP newsletter. I knew that some people where taking pictures (mainly because I saw the cameras), but these look like ones snapped with a cell phone, of which I was not aware. Of course, there is nothing for me to be embarrassed about in this situation [they missed the part where I picked my nose, I suppose 😉 ], but it reminded me of how quickly and easily photos and videos can be shared now.
So, in some sense, I know that when I am teaching, I have a “filter” on. Even if it isn’t a photo or a video, I teach in a computer lab, and I know that a student could email, blog, wiki, facebook or tweet about whatever I say or do. Given CMU’s current state of contract negotiations between the faculty and the administration, I am *extra* careful whenever students ask me about anything related to that during class time. Even those times when I used to feel free to share personal writing or admit to the fact that I wasn’t quite clear about a concept or an interpretation of a text, I do take the mental pause of thinking… where and how could what I am saying and doing be shared out of context. “Oh, look at that liberal professor admitting that he doesn’t totally understand the concept of warrants in the logic of argumentation…”
Of course, this type of monitoring used to happen all the time merely through notes, gossip, and PTA meetings (whoops… did I just say that?). Now, it is just faster and the “evidence” of what you said or did is more accessible and permanent. In this case, should the band teacher or cheerleading coach be embarrased for what they did? Probably not, because we all do humorous things to get attention. Should the yellers and jabbers be embarrased? Probably. However, have we all had moments, as the article states, that are “regrettable moments of a teacher pushed to the breaking point.” I know I have. At least they haven’t been caught on tape. Not yet, at least.
So, does it scare me that these moments could now be on YouTube? Yes, a little bit.
But, they are a natural part of teaching.
I hope that the years of positive student comments can outweigh one regretable moment on YouTube, if it ever happened.
I will take the risk and keep teaching.
Thanks for sharing this article.
So, I repeat Heather’s original query: Thoughts. Ideas.
I look forward to hearing from all of you and thank you again for your kind words about the Fries Award.