The questions that we have collectively explored the past two days leave me with many thoughts, which I will get to in a moment. First, I need to synthesize this weekend with the other working retreat that I recently attended — the CEE Leadership and Policy Summit in Chicago.
Having had two weeks to reflect on that meeting, I think that its essential purpose was two-fold:
- How do we, as a professional organization of English Educators, induct new members into our field and give them the material and emotional support that will help them succeed?
- In what ways is the nature of our work changing and how can we respond to as well as be at the forefront of those changes?
What I took from that meeting — and am still working on from it — is that we, as a field, need to begin articulating our positions on what have previously been controversial or taboo subjects and, whether we all completely agree on the position or not, have something to rally around and begin focusing our attention towards. Issues like the achievement gap, restructuring doctoral programs, addressing globalization, teaching literature, and others are all broad enough that we could gain some consensus and need to do so.
In many ways, I think that this weekend is similar to the work of the CEE Summit in that we are trying to capture the state of the field related to wrting with technology (nature of the work) and figure out how to share best practices in the teaching of digital writing with other teachers (induction). There is at least one significant difference between NWP and CEE that I need to address first, and then I will explain how I think we might mobilize in a similar way.
My understanding of the NWP is that we can not, by our very nature as a federally funded program, take a specific advocacy role on issues in the same way that NCTE/CEE can as a non-profit organization. That said, I think that there are many things that NWP can say, definitively, about the nature of digital writing in K-12 classrooms and teacher professional development (based on the work represented here this weekend) that NCTE (or, to my knowledge) any other network of teachers can make claims about.
In other words, we need to use the momentum from this weekend to clearly and concisely say something to all the sites in our network, the field of education, policy makers, and the general public about the nature of writing, how it is changing, the roles that literacy can play in empowering youth, and why the work that we have done in this tech initiative matters.
If NWP was willing and able to produce a book entitled “Because Writing Matters” or “Writing For a Change” — and those books are seen within the scope of our mission and not stretching our advocacy role — then I think that we need to begin thinking about a book such as “Because Digital Writing Matters” or “Learning Multiliteracies and Enacting Change.” We have the case studies, research, and capacity to do this. All that we need to figure out now is how to get started.