Many Thanks to Many Colleagues

Crafting Digital Writing Picture
Image from Janis Selby Jones’ blog “Write the World”

There are a few moments in one’s career where you pause long enough to say “thank you” to all your colleagues for all the opportunities that they have provided you.

So, I am taking one of those moments this morning to say thanks to the many teachers, students, fellow English educators, and friends that I get to collaborate with — especially those who helped me create my book Crafting Digital Writing — and to let them know that it has been selected as this year’s winner for the Richard A. Meade Award for Research in English Education.

I will create a much more detailed “thank you” speech for November, but for the moment I hope that this brief blog post captures my appreciation to the many people who helped bring this book together as well as to the hundreds of teachers who have read it, are reading it, or will be reading it at some point in the future. I say often how I am as busy as ever, but I am doing the work that I love to do — connecting with teachers and students — and I look forward to more opportunities for writing about those connections.


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DLDay 2014 NCTE Chat

In the next few weeks, I will be participating in a few events related for Digital Learning Day. Here’s one of them:

January 19, 2014: Celebrate Digital Learning!

ncte chat logoAs you prepare for Digital Learning Day (#DLDay) — February 5, 2014 — join two NCTE members and edubloggers for a conversation about classroom technology’s past, present, and future.

Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) and Troy Hicks (@hickstro) will host #nctechat on Sunday, January 19th, 8 PM EST, and will invite you to consider three big questions while sharing tech tips and teaching tools:

  • To begin, what was your first brush with technology and how did it change the way you wrote, read, and interacted with others?
  • As you think about your classroom right now, what are your plans for Digital Learning Day this year? With critics concerned that technology has become more and more of a distraction, how can we help our students stay focused on smart, intentional work?
  • Finally, what are you looking forward to learning, trying, or making in 2014?

Join us for a conversation about the history of Digital Learning Day and great ideas for teaching digital reading and writing in your English classes!

UPDATE (January 22, 2014): Here is a link to the Storify archive of the chat.


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Thinking about Reading in a Digital Age

http://library.sdsu.edu/technology-update/borrow-ebook-reader
Image from San Diego State University Library

As the title of my blog says, I am certainly interested in the intersections of digital teaching and digital writing. Thinking about the ways that writers can use certain technologies to reach rhetorical goals has long been an interest of mine, and this fall I am turning my attention to the other side of the new literacies equation: digital reading.

My next project, in collaboration with my colleague Kristen Turner and many teachers that we know, will focus on how we are/are beginning to teach reading in a digital age. Here is the short summary of what’s driving our inquiry:

We wonder how this notion of rereading plays out in the digital reading of adolescents.  If the CCSS demonstrates an increased need for this kind of instruction related to print reading, we must attend also to reading in non-print forms.  We know from previous research that digital readers do not always read with focused attention on the Internet, and we can assume the same is true for their mobile devices.  How are adolescent readers navigating these spaces?  How might we teach them to read these complex texts critically?

Our work will be compiled into a new book for NCTE’s “Principles in Practice” series, and builds on the NCTE Policy Research Brief Reading Instruction for All Students. Our goal is to visit about 10 middle school and high school classrooms where we can see innovative digital reading practices going on.

As a part of this work, I am currently reading Jenkins et al’s new book, Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom, described in more detail in this blog post. So far, I have appreciated the stance that Jenkins and his colleagues have taken in the text, one that honors the deep, thoughtful types of reading practices that most teachers would find familiar and useful while also positioning students — as members of a participatory culture — in ways that demonstrate their unique abilities to remix and interpret texts.

It’s all very meta right now — studying digital reading while doing lots of digital reading and annotating myself. I look forward to getting into some classrooms soon to see how my colleagues are continuing to bring reading to life with a variety of new digital tools and literacy practices.

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HuffPost Live Interview

At the invitation of colleagues from NCTE, I just participated on HuffPost Live in a conversation about literacy rates in America. Please check it out and share.

[iframe]http://embed.live.huffingtonpost.com/HPLEmbedPlayer/?segmentId=51e437cc02a7601c1b00051e[/iframe]

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Is There (Finally) a New Paradigm for “Teacher Accountability?”

Two compelling events happened yesterday, each raising the possibility of a new paradigm for teacher accountability and each important in its own way.

First, Bill Gates published an op-ed in the Washington Post, “A fairer way to evaluate teachers.” Here is the heart of the piece:

This is one reason there is a backlash against standardized tests — in particular, using student test scores as the primary basis for making decisions about firing, promoting and compensating teachers. I’m all for accountability, but I understand teachers’ concerns and frustrations.

Even in subjects where the assessments have been validated, such as literacy and math, test scores don’t show a teacher areas in which they need to improve.

If we aren’t careful to build a system that provides feedback and that teachers trust, this opportunity to dramatically improve the U.S. education system will be wasted.

This comes from the man, through his foundation and reputation, who has been one of the most influential educational “reformers” in the past decade. And even he is cautioning us about the ways in which the current push to tie test scores to teacher accountability is wrong-headed. Finally.

NCLE Report: Remodeling Literacy Learning
NCLE Report: Remodeling Literacy Learning

On another front, the National Center for Literacy Education shared a new report, “Remodeling Literacy Learning: Making Room for What Works” on Capitol Hill. The main findings include:

  1. Literacy is not just the English teacher’s job anymore.
  2. Working together is working smarter.
  3. But schools aren’t structured to facilitate educators working together.
  4. Many of the building blocks for remodeling literacy learning are in place.
  5. Effective collaboration needs systemic support.

This morning, I participated with colleagues on the NCTE Task Force about computerized scoring and the PARC and SBAC assessments. We have a plan for a white paper, and hope to have it done next week.

So, is there maybe, just maybe, a bit of hope for a new paradigm in teacher accountability dawning on this fine spring day? With the complete lunacy of our current accountability system now exposed for the racket that it is, my hope is that we are turning a new page for students, parents, teachers, and our nation.

Update: April 5, 2013

In addition to correcting a grammar error, a colleague has also suggested that I add a link to Peter Smagorinsky’s op-ed from April 3rd, “Seeing teachers as technicians ignores what else they give students: confidence, moral support and inspiration.” Here is a brief segment from his post that highlights his main ideas for rethinking teacher evaluation:

In order for a teacher evaluation system to be legitimate, it should have a related set of qualities that go well beyond the simplistic approach imposed by the U.S. Department of Education. A credible evaluation system is valid (it has buy-in from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives, including the teachers for whom it is developed); it is reliable (similar results would be available from different assessors); it has utility for all participants regardless of the outcome of the evaluation (including those who are found deficient); it fosters the development of better teachers; it provides data that contribute to this development by attending to multiple facets of faculty performance; and it is conducted respectfully in terms of the magnitude of the job and the resources provided to undertake it.

I look forward to hearing more about his proposal at the CEE conference later this summer and when it is published in English Education later this year.

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Out Like a Lamb, On to the Showers

Well, March certainly treated me like a lion would — full of travel, committee obligations, teaching, and lots of writing for some upcoming chapters — and I’m happy to say that this final weekend was much more lamb-like. That said, tomorrow I jump into the April showers, and when it rains it pours. Here are a few things on my radar for this next month:

Heinemann, 2013

Perhaps the best news is that my new book, Crafting Digital WritingComposing Texts Across Media and Genres, hits the shelves at the end of April, just around time for IRA if all goes well.  I have been able to give some talks on the book already, including my closing keynote at the Michigan Reading Association pre-conference earlier this month. Thanks to everyone for your kind words about its upcoming release, and I hope that it lives up to your expectations.

Also, I was invited to serve on an NCTE task force that has been charged with the assignment of delivering a white paper early in April that will respond to SBAC and PARCC’s potential use of computerized scoring for the writing portion of their Common Core assessments. At this point, there are many hundreds of writing teachers around the country who are up in arms about this, and probably your best place to take immediate action would be to sign the “Professionals Against Machine Scoring Of Student Essays In High-Stakes Assessment” petition. I have avoided doing so thus far simply because of my position on this task force, but would encourage you to check it out if you haven’t already.

Finally, I have been working with some colleagues from CMU to develop a proposal for the Gates Foundation “Literacy Courseware Challenge.”  Part of the application process was to develop a brief video outlining your product. With the help of an amazing team of colleagues at CMU, we are able to pull together the grant proposal and this brief video for our “minimum viable product” (or, perhaps more commonly, a “proof of concept”) grant for Project WRITE. Even if we are not awarded the grant, my hope is that we have a good idea that we could pursue as a team at CMU. Please let me know what you think.

Project WRITE from Media Production on Vimeo.

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Examining Digital Learning Day

As with all educational initiatives and fads, I strongly encourage everyone participating in the Digital Learning Day celebrations this week to do some homework about the history of the day itself, as well as some of its corporate, foundation, and “core” partners (which, for the record, include the two professional organizations I call home: NWP and NCTE).

So, this week I’m playing with Storify and trying to curate a “live textbook” about Digital Learning Day, but looking at it from a critical perspective. In other words, I am trying to follow the money. Thus, as Digital Learning Day enters its second year… I wonder what do we know about the day itself?

  • Who are the corporate partners? Who are the foundation partners? What about some of the “core” partners such as iNACOL, CCSSO, and Pearson?
  • What are the broader themes and messages that we should explore, based on the stated interests and goals of these partners? Who wins and who loses in these partnerships? Teachers? Students? Taxpayers?
  • Finally, what is the vision of digital learning that these corporations, foundations, and “core” partners represent?

I pose these not to extinguish the excitement that so many people have in Digital Learning Day. But, I do want to raise awareness and ask the unasked questions. I’ll be curious to find out what everyone else discovers and reports back this week.

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