Looking for Feedback on the Idea of a Digital Writing Project

As we prepare to head to the NWP Annual Meeting and NCTE Convention in just about a week, I am also plugging away at our Chippewa River Writing Project Continued Funding Application. I have come to one of the most compelling parts of the report, at least for me… the point where we reflect on the summer institute and think about what that means for our site. So, here is where I am at right now and, in the spirit of collaboration, I look for any insights that you might be able to offer me here as I try to articulate my vision of our “digital writing project.”

Thanks in advance for your feedback and I look forward to seeing many of you in Philly next week!

From the CRWP CFA — Troy’s Reflections on the Summer Institute:

Our summer institute, from its inception, focused on a clear integration of literacy and technology. In seeing ourselves as a “digital writing project,” we began our work with the intent that a “web 2.0” ethos of collaboration, creativity, and commitment would infuse our work. As we reflect on our experience as leaders in this first summer institute, and review the comments of TCs, we see that these elements were present. In terms of collaboration, we relied heavily on the wiki and Google Docs as spaces to share all of our work, from our initial writer’s profile to our responses to teaching demos to our own personal writing. Teachers began the institute with the expectation that they would, indeed, become part of a collaborative and connected group, largely enabled by the technologies that we chose.

In terms of creativity, we invited participants to engage in literacy and technology not just from a functional perspective (although, getting the technology to simply function was sometimes a problem!), but from critical and rhetorical perspectives as well. Our use of digital storytelling, for instance, highlights this perspective. While inviting participants to create their own digital stories, we also analyzed the stories that others had created to get a sense of what worked, what made the digital stories more than simply a collection of images set to a narration. By constantly moving back and forth from the technical to the critical and rhetorical aspects of composition – both analog and digital – we feel that participants were better able to articulate what was creative about their work, as well as why that approach worked.

Finally, we look at the commitment or level of engagement from participants. While we are happy to report that participants in our summer institute, like participants at countless other institutes, reported that their summer experience was, to use an oft-quoted phrase, “life changing,” we were also surprised to see the level at which they believed the digital aspects of our work influenced them. For instance, one participant may sum it up best by responding to the “most important thing” question from the final SI survey conducted by Inverness: 

The most important “thing” I gained is confidence with some interactive technology to implement in my classroom. I think implementation of the Wiki will benefit my students. Their mindset is that school work isn’t “real” work, and I’d like to change their mindset. Use of the Wiki will assist, I believe.

Simply stated, we “wikified” our teachers’ beliefs about what it means to be a writer and teacher of writing. Like Wikipedia, where many contributors create a collective whole that is, indeed, much more than the sum of its parts, we feel that our summer institute, with its focus on “collaboration, creativity, and commitment” allowed participants to see writing, and digital writing, in an entirely different perspective. We hope, like all NWP sites do, that this new vision will help inform the ways that they teach writing in their classrooms, especially in the ways that they integrate technology.

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Author: Troy Hicks

Dr. Troy Hicks is a professor of English and education at Central Michigan University. He directs both the Chippewa River Writing Project and the Master of Arts in Educational Technology degree program. A former middle school teacher, Dr. Hicks has authored numerous books, articles, chapters, blog posts, and other resources broadly related to the teaching of literacy in our digital age. Follow him on Twitter: @hickstro

2 thoughts on “Looking for Feedback on the Idea of a Digital Writing Project”

  1. I love this sentence:

    By constantly moving back and forth from the technical to the critical and rhetorical aspects of composition – both analog and digital – we feel that participants were better able to articulate what was creative about their work, as well as why that approach worked.

    I also think that your statement about teaching coming expecting to become part of the technological movement, and being ready for it, is important. I’m not sure all of our folks come in the same way and I wonder if there is something about the image your site projects to the world that we are lacking (but hopefully, can integrate as we revamp our web presence).

    I don’t have much for you to add, Troy. Looks good and interesting.

    You may want to drop this into Tech Friends if you are looking for a specific NWP audience with tech experience. Just a thought.



  2. Troy,

    Just a quick response to the notion of the Digital Writing Project. I’ve always been impressed with the ability of the NWP to support and sustain so many writing project sites – and still maintain personal connections to each of them and to many individuals within those sites. Achieving the goal of having a writing project site in the reach of every teacher, however, is going to require a huge leap across paradigms – not impossible by any means, but it is change, and fairly significant change. Glad you are moving on with this notion – because change always comes whether we want it or not – being proactive ensures our ability to influence the amount, direction, and kind of change.



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