Upcoming Series on Teachers Teaching Teachers

Each Wednesday for the next three weeks, I will be hosting a series of episodes that invite teachers highlighted in the book on for conversations about teaching in the digital writing workshop. Here is the announcement for this week’s webcast:

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Choice and Inquiry in the Digital Writing Workshop
September 30, 2009

This week, please join Troy Hicks, author of the new Heinemann title, The Digital Writing Workshop, and Director of the Chippewa River Writing Project at Central Michigan University, as we begin a three-part series exploring the principles and practices described in the book. For this first episode, we welcome four teachers to the conversation as they discuss how they foster student choice and inquiry in their writing classrooms:

  • Penny Kittle, Kennett High School in New Hampshire will offer perspectives on writing workshop principles and why we need to begin to focus on digital writing
  • Sara Beauchamp-Hicks, formerly of Negaunee High School in Michigan will discuss her use of wikis and Google Docs to spur student inquiry
  • Chris Sloan of Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City will share insights on how students can make choices with RSS readers and blogging
  • Shannon Powell of Central Montcalm Middle School in Michigan will discuss her experiences as a new teacher as she has begun to use digital writing in her classroom, including her recent integration of “SSR with RSS” for a class of reluctant readers

Then, on October 7th we will explore the idea of “author’s craft” as it relates to creating digital texts and, on October 14th, discuss the process of conferring and response to student writers as they create digital texts.

We would invite you to join us on Wednesday at http://EdTechTalk.com/live at 9:00pm Eastern / 6:00pm Pacific USA Wednesdays / 01:00 UTC Thursdays World Times

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Back to School, Back to Digital Writing

Image from Heinemann.com
Image from Heinemann.com

Well, the summer has certainly slipped by, as they all tend to do, and I am now getting back in the swing of things.

To that end, I have exciting news to share — the publication of my new Heinemann title, The Digital Writing Workshop. Building on the writing workshop principles of choice and inquiry, conferring, examining author’s craft, publishing student work, and on-going assessment, the text explores many ways in which K-12 teachers can integrate digital writing into their classrooms. I am honored to have worked with many colleagues who contributed ideas to this book and look forward to talking about it in a number of ways this school year.

One way is through my launch of a Ning site to support conversations about the book through a social network. I encourage you to join the Ning and contribute to our on-going discussions about how you are using digital writing in your classroom.

Another way is through some professional development that I will lead this year, including last week’s presentation to the Mason-Lake ISD secondary English teachers, next month’s UPRA conference, and the Wisconsin State Reading Association’s conference this next winter. Also, I have been invited to lead another NCTE webinar and hope to appear on Teachers Teaching Teachers later this fall with some of my colleagues who have contributed to the book.

All of this will, I hope, help me get back in the habit of blogging more regularly, too. So, thanks to all of you who have supported me in so many ways as I wrote this book. I look forward to continuing the journey of becoming better digital writers and teachers with you.

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Teaching Blogging with Kathi Yancey

Today, I am at Fordham University, presenting at their summer literacy institute focusing on 21st Century Literacies. I am honored to have the opportunity to present with Kathi Yancey, and she is currently in the middle of her session about “Blogging Alive,” asking participants to think about the purposes and audiences for blogging.

She began by asking people to make a concept map of their blog search, beginning by choosing a question and then using Google blog search to find anwers to their question. She made the point that she was less concerned about the answer to the question than about the process of the search itself. She asked students to then create a concept map outlining their search, and to make sure to include the links from one blog post to another, thus showing the nodes that developed.

Next, she discussed a variety of purposes for blogging, including students writing to and with each other. She also suggested that students connecting their school lives with the world such as the the blog of unecessary quotation marks.

Finally, she asked how we might use blogs as spaces for online learning this year. She talked about the ideas of “misfires” and “workarounds.” Misfires in the sense that an assignment designed for a particular purpose doesn’t really work the way it is supposed to, but you can learn from it. Workaround in the sense that you may have planned for one thing, but got another (e.g., planned for a lab, but only got one computer in your classroom). She also shared Wordle, and showed us how to make a Wordle image from the words we used to describe the MAPS of digital writing this morning.

Image created using www.wordle.net
Image created using http://www.wordle.net

An enjoyable day all around, I appreciate the invitation from Marshall George to present as a part of the 21st Century Literacies institute this year.

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Teaching teachers about connected learning

This morning, we are in the middle of week two of our Chippewa River Writing Project summer institute, and the timing for writing this post couldn’t be better.

Yesterday, we went to the CMU library and our English reference librarian, Aparna Zambare, gave us an introduction to the library databases and Zotero. Minus a few technical glitches with getting Firefox installed, participants in the institute were immediately drawn in to Zotero, figuring out how to use it to cite materials from the library’s databases, link to books on Amazon, take snapshots of current web pages, and then tag and make notes on their items. As they begin to frame their teacher research projects, I felt that introducing Zotero as a bibliography management tool would provide them with a constant place to keep track of their sources and reflections on those sources. So far, it seems to have worked, with one participant commention about how he could see using this tool in his classroom next fall.

Then, this morning, we are being introdcued to the idea of creating a personal learning network by Sara Beauchamp, Technology Liaison from the Upper Peninsula Writing Project. She introduced us to the idea of the Networked Student, which led into a conversation amongst participants about how and why we might want to learn these tools for our own learning as well as for use in our classroom. She reminded us that using all of these tools can become overwhelming if we let them, and that they are messy when we begin using them. Yet, over time, you can learn to adapt some of the tools to make them useful to you.

She continued by sharing RSS in Plain English and Google Reader in Plain English. We then moved into the process of setting up their Google Readers. We are thinking about all of this in the context of teacher research projects, and Sara also framed the demo around some of the ideas in Christensen’s Disrupting Class. As the demo continued, participants set up their readers with feeds related to their personal interests and professional inquiry. We then had time to add feeds to our Reader and think about how to structure folders to that the information is organized.

Through both presentations, we came to think more about how information is accessed, shared, and integrated into our own research and learning. This is a good point for us to be at as we begin developing our teacher research projects and reach the mid point of our summer institute. More learning to come!

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Reflections on Day One of a Digital Writing Project

In the few moments that I have before beginning the second day of the Chippewa River Writing Project summer institute, I wanted to pause to reflect on what happened in day one as it relates to digital writing. We were able to get up and running with very little trouble in way of having people use their own laptops, connecting to the network, navigating the wiki, and begin posting discussion items and making page changes.

As we continue on today, we are going to introduce Google Docs as a means for creating collaborative responses, begin looking at the tools for creating digital stories, and also continue use of the wiki for posting teaching demonstration materials and continuing with online discussions.

My overall impression of participants’ thoughts on all of this is that they are quite comfortable with the technologies, as we have introduced them slowly and purposefully. As we continue working with digital storytelling this week, I want to allow for plenty of play time that is framed by discussions about how and why we (and our students) should compose in digital environments. To me, the play time in these early stages is the most important part, so along with discussions about the writing process and writing pedagogy, I am hoping that people just feel the freedom to play and explore in this first week of the institute.

One thing that we have to figure out is how we plan to sustain our site’s work after the institute. I know that this is a topic of great consideration at many rural sites, and it will be no different here. I have been thinking about the affordances and constraints of setting up a Ning, a Facebook group, a Google group (list serv), or some combination of all of them. I don’t want to be spread across too many digital spaces, but I am not sure that our wiki will serve that purpose for keeping everyone connected in an immediate manner. There was talk of Twitter yesterday, too, but again I am not sure that is the best way for us to stay in touch as a local network. Any ideas are welcome!

Time to get moving into day two. My goal is to post more regularly as we move through the next four weeks, talking about the successes and surprises of working in a digital writing project.

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Coming soon from FRONTLINE’s Digital Nation

From the FRONTLINE Newsletter

FRONTLINE continues its yearlong exploration of life on the digital frontier with its multiplatform Web and documentary project “Digital Nation.” The next installment — coming in mid-June — will explore “Education in the Digital Age” with a Web-exclusive chapter on educational Technology and a new video feature “How Google Saved a School.”

Coming Soon: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/

Contribute to “Digital Nation”: Educators can create and share their stories and experiences with technology in the classroom through “Your Digital Nation,” our user-generated video site. Are you skeptical about the use of technology in the classroom? Do your students thrive with computers and laptops? Has technology contributed to an embarrassing or enlightening moment in your school?

Learn how to submit your stories: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/participate

Story on CRWP from The News @ Central

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.

CMU becomes site for National Writing Project

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!

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