Sessions at Wisconsin State Reading Association Conference

Tomorrow, I will be presenting two sessions at the Sessions at Wisconsin State Reading Association Conference. Here are descriptions of the sessions and the related presentations:

From School to Screen: Why Digital Writing Matters (9:30 – 10:45)

Without question, writing continues to change in the twenty-first century. Teachers, administrators, parents, and other stakeholders value the teaching of writing — and see that our very notion of what it means to be literate is evolving —  yet continue to wonder how best to teach writing in a digital age. Based on work with the National Writing Project, we will discuss practices that hold promise as we develop understandings of what it means to write digitally, create spaces for digital writing in our schools, and extend assessment practices that account for the complexities of writing in a digital world.

Creating Your Digital Writing Workshop (1:30 – 3:30)

Digital writing tools such as blogs, wikis, digital stories, and social networks can contribute to what you are already doing in your writing instruction as well as appeal to a new generation of students. Building on the principles discussed in the first session, we will explore how new ways of thinking about well-established practices in the writing workshop—student choice and inquiry, conferring on writing, examining author’s craft, publishing writing, and broadening our understandings of assessment—could be updated for the digital age. With examples of how to teach digital writing throughout, this session will help you create your digital writing workshop. Join the Ning!

For both of these presentations, I want to acknowledge and thank my many colleagues from the National Writing Project with whom I have been able to collaborate in my research, teaching, and professional development work.


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Framing an Approach to the Digital Writing Workshop

After a wonderful week in Philly and while reflecting on my experiences at the NWP Annual Meeting, “Digital Is” Conference, and NCTE Convention, I was fortunate enough to engage with a Michigan colleague who, as a part of her master’s program, is doing an inquiry project on establishing her own digital writing workshop. She had picked up my book (thanks!) and then had some questions for me, specifically related to her teaching context. With her permission, I share excerpts of our email conversation here in hopes that it may be useful for some of you attempting to establish digital writing workshops in your own classrooms and schools. The exchange begins with her first question, and I have indented my responses for clarity.

1.  Access is my biggest issue.  Currently, I share a laptop cart of 20 with the whole school (about 220 kids).  I do have 5 computers in my classroom, but I am unable to sign out the cart on most days, leaving me one day a week (to compete with the whole school) to sign out the laptops.  I am currently dreaming and searching for grants to get more computers for my own classroom, but access continues to be an issue.  Not all of my students have access to computers or internet at home, and most aren’t able to use a computer during the school day.  (The competition to use one of the classroom computers can be pretty stiff, especially since many of my students have computer usage written into their IEP…  leaving all the others without class time access.)  How does one go “fully digital” without access?  Do I make blogging their weekly writing a requirement and then have them come in during lunch or after school?  Or do I wait on that part until I know everyone has fair access?

I am in a fairly fortunate position…  my class sizes are small.  But how much do I push the envelope?

You have two problems here — the immediate and long term need for access. So, I will address both.

First, for the short term, no, you should not wait. Kids, and parents, are resourceful, and if you create an assignment and give them a fair amount of time (one post per week, with one response to a peer, perhaps), then I think that it is more than fair to require that as homework. If you make extra time available at lunch or after school, in addition to the one day a week that they have in your class, then this is even more fair. Sadly, we will never have equal access (which is what I think you mean be “fair access”) and I don’t think that should preclude students engaging in digital writing. So, your plan is reasonable. Push the envelope, not only because you know it is pedagogically sound, but because you know that students can rise to these expectations so long as you make them reasonable.

A more long term question is embedded in your desire to get grants to buy more machines. With tools like netbooks and iPod touches as very low cost, that might be your best entry point for a one-to-one system. Honestly, you won’t have full access in your classroom unless your school supports a building-wide initiative, or you get your own for your classroom. So, that is an admirable goal, but I would really encourage you to push for a school-wide initiative in order to make substantive changes in the ways that students and your colleagues engage with technology. You might want to look at this book to help make an argument about why and how laptops can support student learning: Warschauer, M. (2006). Laptops and literacy: Learning in the wireless classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

In short, you are thinking about this in all the right ways. Trying to make things fair for all of our students is the sign of a passionate teacher, and I appreciate your efforts. That said, I can understand why you feel you are not being fair. One blog post a week, I can assure you, is a fair assignment, and one that moves your students in the right direction to becoming digital writers.
 

2.  Some of my parents are concerned about their child’s off task behavior while  on the internet.  One parent has demanded that we not let her child use the computer at school at all, because she can’t be monitored well enough.  This child is only in 6th grade, so I will continue to have her for 2 more years.  Any ideas to help sway her parents?

The best response that I have heard to this is from a colleague, Bud Hunt (who blogs at http://budtheteacher.com/blog/). Basically, he says that it’s not the internet that makes the kid go to Facebook/IM/game sites/etc. It’s the kid. Your job is to help teach the kid to be productive, ethical, and responsible online. But, that’s part of her parents’ job, too. And, filtering/censoring the internet is not going to solve that. Keeping her offline at school, in short, is not going to help her be a better digital writer nor is it going to help her learn behaviors that are going to make her a good digital citizen. We have to recognize that kids, and all of us, can and should have time to play and explore online, and that should be balanced with doing work. This is true offline as well. So, your job is to help the parents see that it’s not the internet that is distracting their daughter, it’s their daughter that’s distracting their daughter. Show them what you are asking her to do, talk about how that should be engaging her, and then discuss what other reasons might be present for why she is not engaging in the digital writing task (is she a struggling writer? are other kids in the class not responding to her writing? other?)

3.  What do you say to those that value the very traditional 5 paragraph essay “make my kid ready for the MEAP and ACT” kinds of writing, and do not believe that digital story telling, podcasting, and creating PSAs will help their child learn the so called “nuts and bolts” of writing?  Thankfully, I do not get a lot of that at my school…  but I am sure others face it quite a bit.

Like crafting a blog post, composing a digital story, or writing a letter, the writing a 5 paragraph essay is one type of genre that students need to master for a specific writing context. My argument for focusing on digital writing is simple — use the MAPS heuristic and help students talk about the mode, media, audience, purpose, and situation of a given writing task, then use that language across tasks. So, as they compose a blog post, talk with them about the similarities and differences between writing that post as compared to a traditional essay. When kids understand the rhetorical choices that they are making, then they will be better able to discern how and why to make these choices.

Moreover, if kids are engaged in authentic writing tasks through digital storytelling and other means, then it will give them more fodder to choose from for these exams. That is, if they are passionately writing about their own ideas in a variety of other contexts, then when it comes time to perform on the state test, then they will have a variety of ideas to choose from. Rather than drilling them with decontextualized prompts each day, engage them in real writing, and they will be able to craft an essay when they need to.

Beyond that, one footnote. The best MEAP essays are NOT five-paragraph ones. I know that you know this, but point parents to the MEAP released items and talk with them about what the best essays look like. Talk with your kids about it, too. Then, see how that type of essay writing can be fostered by making good rhetorical choices (ala the choices one makes as a digital writer).
 

4.  Just for fun… 
What has been your favorite digital writing workshop activity to experience?
What activity has been the most valuable as far as engaging students in writing, both in and out of class?

I love digital storytelling. Love creating them. Love teaching them.

That said, my favorite and most valuable activity is having my students create a writer’s profile. I am copying and pasting the next few paragraphs from a blog post I made on the Ning a few months back…

At the beginning of each writing class that I teach, I invite students to “interview” each other with Nancie Atwell’s writing survey from In the Middle. While they are interviewing each other, I walk around the room and, with their permission, take their picture with a digital camera. This encourages some offline collaboration that then turns into the basis for their online relationships as readers and responders.

After the interviews, they then take the answers to the questions that they gave, and begin to create an individual page with an autobiographical profile on our class wiki. Before class begins, I have already created a list of students on a page of the wiki, so that they can then link their profile to the class list.

Often times, over the course of the semester, this profile page grows as they add their writing territories (Atwell), responses to a “50 questions” activity I lead them through,” and links to the writing pieces that they are developing over the semester. Also, other students can go into the wiki and comment on each other’s profiles, including responses to writing. These profile pages grow and change over the semester, just as they grow and change as writers.

Two examples of these class pages linked to individual profiles can be found in my ENG 315 course and this summer’s Chippewa River Writing Project.

 

Thanks for supporting me on my quest to “digitize” my writing workshop!

 

You are welcome, and thanks for taking the next steps — I applaud your enthusiasm and professionalism. I look forward to hearing about your work.

Cross-posted on the Digital Writing Workshop Ning.

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Notes from Danielle Nicole DeVoss’s Opening Keynote at NWP’s “Digital Is…”

Danielle Nicole DeVoss asks us to think about what digital was then and is now…

Digital is…

  • Networked — we compose in networked spaces
  • Collaborative — people are able to connect and create through these networks (LolCats)
  • Multimodal — typography, kinetic type, digital stories
  • Re-Mediated — taking a media object and recreating it so it moves across media; moving across text to audio to video (StarzBunnies)
  • Remixed — taking bits and pieces and parts of other media to create new messages and meaning
  • Policed — digital millennium copyright act; You Tube copyright issues (Fair Use)
  • (Requires) Critical thinking — because of the visuals (Harry Potter, Redbook)
  • (Can be) Democratic — Iran and Twitter, YouTube Debates

Writing is Digital — this is, as Elyse put it, our moment.


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Notes from “Digital Storytelling: Enhancing Language, Visual, and Media Literacies”

Digital Storytelling: Enhancing Language, Visual, and Media Literacies

MRA 2009 Presentation

Ledong Li, Tingfeng Luo, Wen Wu, Fan Zhang, Oakland University

  • What’s Your Story?
  • Stories Surround Us
  • What is digital storytelling?
    • Daniel Meadows: “short personal multimedia tales told
      from the heart”

  • Educational Use of Digital Storytelling
    • Focus on specific topic and contain a particular point of
      view
    • Topics range from personal tales recounting historical
      events, exploring life in one’s own community, to the search for life
      in other corners of the universe
    • They can vary in length, but in education they typically
      last between 2-10 minutes

  • Procedure
    • Write script
    • Collect assets
    • Create storyboard
    • Draft, edit, and finalize
    • Publish it as a movie file

  • Hardware
    • Computer
    • External hard drive/flash drive
    • Headset with microphone
    • Scanner
    • Digital Camera/Digital Video Camera
    • Facilities with access to internet

  • Software
    • Movie Tools: Flash, Premiere, Photostory, Movie Maker,
      iMovie
    • Imaging Tools: Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, iPhoto
    • Audio: Audition, iTunes, Garageband, Audacity
    • Players: Windows Media Player, iTunes, VLC, Flash

  • Why digital storytelling?
    • Storytelling has been important to individuals since the
      early days of civilization
    • In education, storytelling remains a way to teach subtle
      points and make elusive abstractions concrete
    • With the latest development of computers, multimedia
      systems, and the Internet, “images, sounds, animations, and video
      clips” can be brought together with “texts,” providing a wide range of
      story formats

  • The Changing World
    • Friedman, “The World is Flat”
      • Globalization 1.0 (1492 – 1800) Countries/trade
      • Globalization 2.0 (1800 – 2000) Companies/labor
      • Globalization 3.0 (2000 – Present) Individuals/internet

  • Moving from web 1.0 to web 2.0
    • Mode: Reading to writing
    • Primary Unit of Content: Page to post
    • State: Static to dynamic
    • Viewed through: Web browser to Browsers, RSS Readers,
      phones
    • Architecture: Client server to web services
    • Content created by: Web coders to everyone
    • Domain of: Geeks to “mass amateurization”

  • What does this mean for learning?
    • Obvious answers
      • New technologies and tools
      • Different workflow processes
      • Competition and expectations of end users

    • Less obvious answers
      • New expectations for the relationship between learners
        and instructors
      • New modes of writing and communication
      • New literacies

  • Web 2.0 to Literacy 2.0
    • Web 2.0 – business model focused on a service rather than
      product that values participation, collaboration, and distribution
    • Literacy 2.0 – students are appropriating digital
      applications, networks, and services; they are developing new ways of
      reading, writing, viewing, listening, and recording — new ways that
      embody this 2.0 environment
    • Literacy 2.0 necessarily involves extensive
      participation, collaboration, and distribution of expertise and
      intelligence

  • Purpose of our Study
    • Engaging graduate students (in-service teachers) and
      undergraduates (pre-service teachers) in how to make digital stories
    • Examine the potential of digital storytelling used to
      enhance traditional and new literacies
    • Bridging literacy methods, changing perspectives, how to
      inform instruction

  • Roles that participants played
    • Writers
    • Text editors
    • Visual designers
    • Image editors
    • Voice recording specialists
    • Audio editing
    • Movie producers

  • Impacts on education
    • Practical and learner-centered
    • Meets ed tech standards
    • Enhances literacies: language, visual, media
    • Helps build useful skills in web 2.0/literacy 2.0:
      participation, collaboration, distribution

San Antonio, Tech To Go, and Back to the Snow

alamo at nightApologies 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.

From NCTE 2008

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).

tech on the goMy 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.

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Brief Review of Webb and Rozema’s “Literature and the Web”


Earlier this summer, Allen Webb and Robert Rozema published their text through Heinemann, Literature and the Web: Reading and Responding with New Technologies. I received a copy as a gift, and just got a chance to read it over Labor Day. Besides thanking the two of them for mentioning my blog in the book, I also want to compliment them on the way that they approach the task of teaching with technology.

The text makes the idea of using technology very approachable because they maintain a consistent thread through the entire text, one that focuses on how we ask students to respond to literature and how technology can support that response. So, beginning in the introduction, they ground their discussion of how to use technology in principles that guide good response to literature:

  • Entering the story world
  • Close reading
  • Understanding social, cultural, and historical contexts
  • Responding to the text

Throughout the text, they return to these main principles and discuss how teachers can use newer technologies to support these types of reading responses. This approach encourages me to continue thinking about how to ground discussions of technology and newer literacies in larger discussions of pedagogy, and not vice versa. As teachers design units of study and connect them to state standards, the text boxes in each chapter will help them connect back to these principles of reading response. The projects that they describe in the text all seem very doable, although I do wonder if some readers of the text will want more step-by-step instructions.

One technology that I wonder more about — as a response to literature — is digital storytelling. While I don’t fault them for not covering that topic in the text, as Rozema does a great job of discussing how he invites his students to create podcasts in response to literature as one form of multimedia, it is a question that I have more and more. What is digital storytelling? Is it a personal narrative, or can we call other forms of digital video production “digital storytelling? That is, if it is non-fiction, or a response to literature, does it count as a digital story? Or, does it matter so long as kids are engaged? Could his podcasting project be adapted (relatively) easily to digital storytelling? Also, what are the copyright implications when remixing chunks of literature already present on the web, such as in Project Gutenberg?

That side note notwithstanding, the text is sharp and full of examples. My favorite chapter comes in the conclusion, where Webb and Rozema discuss how to become a “web advocate.” “[B]eing a web advocate,” they argue, “means mentoring those around you.” I couldn’t agree more, and I look forward to learning more from the two of them, as they have been mentoring me for years. It is great to see their thinking captured in this text, so they can mentor others as well.

Reflections on Project WRITE’s Summer Institute

Today marked the end of our Project WRITE summer institute, and there were both smiles and tears to be found amongst the many of us who shared our writing this morning and our professional learning this afternoon. My partner, project leader Liz Webb, structured an amazing week, given all that we had to do from evaluating student work to preparing a lesson or series of lessons for the school year and sharing a piece of personal writing. Each morning began with one of her writing starts, and the teachers are working together to produce a book through lulu.com. Then, we would spend some time evaluating student work with the NWP’s analytic writing continuum, and have time for professional reading groups. Finally, I would introduce a short tech topic each afternoon (digital storytelling, Zotero, and SlideShare, respectively) and teachers had the option to continue working on the new technology, or work on their own curriculum plan.

Needless to say, this semi-structured playtime offered a number of teachers who have felt hesitant, if not a bit resistant, to technology all year the opportunity to create some amazing products. I am impressed with the scope of the lessons as well as the ways in which teachers integrated technology, in small and large ways. A few of the key lessons that came out this week:

  • Continuing to differentiate between a blog and a wiki, as well as the purposes for them. Some teachers were finally able to really absorb Edublogs, digging into the overall design of their site, working with widgets, and figuring out categories for organization. Others wanted to stick with wikis, which worked out well, too, to talk about the overall design and organization of a site. In each case, we talked about purpose and audience, considering who would be doing the most posting, commenting, and reading, and making decisions from there.
  • Digital storytelling catches like wildfire. Always. I introduced it on Monday, beleiving that it might be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Instead, a number of teachers took to it. This raised (and continues to raise) a series of questions for us about fair use, copyright law, Creative Commons, and how to invite students to build on, cite, and ethically use the work of others. We discussed how some uses may be fair within your classroom walls, but how posting to YouTube made it a whole different game. Suddenly, many teachers this week became hyper aware of this, and I think that it will be an interesting thread that continues into our fall PD.
  • Finally, having time, time, time. We were supposed to have this week of intro last summer. For a variety of reasons, we didn’t. And, while I don’t regret the work that we have done or the many successes that we have had, I do wonder what we might have been able to accomplish over the school year if we had been able to kick off last summer with an entire week of work like this. Ah… a lesson for a future PD experience.

All in all, we enjoyed our time together, minus the extreme heat in Brody Hall. I think that a number of the teacher grew in leaps and bounds, and we all grew in some way or another. I was very impressed with the transparency of technology today in our final read around, where a digital recorder was passed from person to person, pages were brought up on the wiki, and images were shown to complement the work being read. And, we hardly had a hiccup.

So, thanks to everyone in Project WRITE for a great week. We are looking forward to getting the data from your students plugged into our spreadsheet so we can see, statistically, if there was growth in your writers above and beyond what we would have normally expected. The professional learning was a critical part of this project, and now we need to see if we are “taking it to the kids.”

Next week, RCWP’s version of “Tech Matters.”


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