This course will become read-only in the near future. Tell us at if that is a problem.


Today, on the first day of this study group, we’d like to encourage you to jump in here and introduce yourself to the whole group. Tell us a little bit about yourself – Where are you from? What do you do day to day? What are you passionate about? What brings you to this study group?

We would also love to know what your goals are for this study group – both what you hope to get from the group and what you believe you can offer too. 

Thank you. Excited to see you here!

Task Discussion

  • Troy Hicks   March 9, 2012, 12:47 a.m.

    Hello All,

    As we come to the end of week one, I too realize that I have been remiss in a formal introduction. Here is that one, straight from my "academic" side:

    Dr. Troy Hicks is an associate professor of English at Central Michigan University and focuses his work on the teaching of writing, literacy and technology, and teacher education and professional development. A former middle school teacher, he collaborates with K–12 colleagues and explores how they implement newer literacies in their classrooms. Hicks is director of CMU’s Chippewa River Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project, and he frequently conducts professional development workshops related to writing and technology. Also, Hicks is author of the The Digital Writing Workshop (Heinemann, 2009) and a co-author of Because Digital Writing Matters (Jossey-Bass, 2010). In March 2011, Hicks was honored with CMU's Provost's Award for junior faculty who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in research and creative activity. Most importantly, he is the father of six digital natives and is always learning something new about writing and technology from them. 

    On a lighter note, I like to consider myself someone who is always interested in learning. Learning from my children, my students, my colleagues. I want to be a better teacher of writing, and I think that tech can play a huge part in that process. So, I am here, to work with all of you, maintain strong ties with NWP, and, well, generally learn some new things. 

    Finally, like Heather, Ben, and others who have raised thoughtful questions about technology, I remain somewhat critical/skeptical. I am at an edtech conference in Michigan right now, leading into a literacy conference this weekend. The titles of many of the sessions here are something like "10 Web 2.0 Tools You've Never Heard Of," "50 Apps in 50 Minutes," and "Using Screencasting to Flip Your Classroom." I pause when I hear each of these titles. Not because I am not a techno-geek, because I am. Instead, I worry that we are putting the tech cart before the learning horse. If we are going to do things digitally, we need to do them as well or better than what we would do in an analogue manner. 

    Looking forward to seeing what you all have bookmarked from Digital Is!

  • Kim   March 8, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

    Hi Everyone.  I've been reading your posts all week (what a job that has been!), this is my first chance to sit down and introduce myself.  My name is Kim Douillard.  I teach a multiage class of first, second, and third graders (I keep my students for 3 years)--and in all my spare time, I direct the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP).  On paper I teach 80% and direct 20%, but you can probably figure out the actual figures!

    In my teaching and through my writing project work I want to create spaces for equity, access, and social justice.  I want students to have opportunities to learn in ways that are relevant to them--not just "do" school.  I feel like writing, digital tools, and inquiry are opportunities to go beyond putting old practices in new packages.  I'm interested in ways to use digital media to go beyond repackaging curriculum or "prettying" up products.  I want digital tools to transform learning for my students--not just be a fancier typewriter.  It feels like right now many schools are buying technology that simply replaces one presentation tool with another (interactive white boards replacing document cameras or overhead projectors) rather than thinking about how these tools impact students and student learning.

    I've been doing quite a bit of experimenting with digital tools--facebook and twitter, ipods and ipads, blogging, social bookmarking...  And our writing project has been experimenting as well--with some fun results.

    I look forward to learning with all of you--I already have lots to think about!

  • Christina Cantrill   March 10, 2012, 2:31 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Kim   March 8, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

    Hi Kim. Nice to see you here! I'm excited about all the experiments your site is doing too and love how the experiment and play has been getting you there (following the SDAWP on twitter now!) ... I am thinking also that you might have some thoughts to share about the ways that inquiry has led you all to some of this based on this experience that Janet and Margit wrote about too at Writing for Change. ... And then, I'd love to also learn more about your work with your students ... how lovely to work together for three years!

    Thank you for joining in here and introducing what you bring to the mix.

  • Heather   March 8, 2012, 8:05 p.m.

    Today I'm all about putting the cart before the horse, so I've been reading at Digital Is, bookmarking, commenting...and now I'm backing up for a late introduction.  Hi, I'm Heather.  I come from the awesome Red Cedar Writing Project, and my brain is currently experiencing low frame-rate from being overwhelmed with YOUR smart ideas.  I teach fifth graders at a small rural/suburban blend elementary school in Michigan, and I love it, even on days when the full moon and solar activity and spring-like weather turn my classroom into Arkham Asylum.  

    This year's big-fun-wacky digital learning for me has been centered around using video game design.  We've been weaving video game work into science, reading, writing, and soon, even social studies.  To me, this work has been rich in ways I never predicted last October when I first started seeing blog posts pop up on my RSS and got curious.  Beyond the academics, it has opened up connections with my students, because I'm a pretty big PC gamer, and honestly, this work made me feel like I had permission to talk gaming with my students.  More than anything, I think this has helped my students see me as a fellow learner, and they are more open to learning--and so am I.

    I'm hoping to unpack more of this experience in the next few weeks, because I sometimes get a little carried away with the digital exploration, but don't do the job of careful reflection without some structure.  I'm hoping to soak in lots of your ideas and impressions and questions.  I'm hoping to continue in my quest to sort what is enduring in teaching writers in any age (okay, maybe not prehistory, but you get my thinking, right?).  

    I'm going to stop and grade papers now, before it just all degenerates into hysterical babble.  Happy to be here!

  • Christina Cantrill   March 10, 2012, 2:38 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Heather   March 8, 2012, 8:05 p.m.

    Welcome Heather! So nice for you to join us and I love the way you describe the work and co-learning you are doing now with your students. We would hear more about all of this! The part that interests me the most here is this dialogue between your history of gaming and your students. It sounds very rich and, from the sense I pick up from your writing here, very rewarding too.

    The weather is being crazy here too (I'm in Philadelphia). Kind of cold today but the Cherry Blossoms are blooming and the daffodils in the garden are already big and yellow. I think we all might be experience a bit of what you are seeing in your classroom too. :)

  • Christina Cantrill   March 14, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Heather   March 8, 2012, 8:05 p.m.

    Hi Heather.

    Wondering if you would be interested in sharing your work in Digital Is as a mean of unpacking it a bit. If so, let me know, and I can give you a little orientation to the ways to do that and make you a resource creator (which you can read more about there too:


  • Christina Cantrill   March 8, 2012, 10:24 a.m.

    I realize I haven't introduced myself either. I'm Christina and I have the great honor to work for the National Writing Project as national program staff. I direct our Digital Is program, funded by the MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Initiative.

    My writing project home is the Philadelphia Writing Project where I showed up almost 20 years ago now as the administrative assistant. I'm not sure how great an assistant I was, in truth, but I ended up being part of an interesting convergence there -- on the one hand spending time watching teachers as they looked carefully and descriptively at student work inspired from the Prospect Center's Descriptive Review process, and on the other hand, being fascinated by this new Mosaic web browser that was plugged into the computer in front of me. I put these on two hands, as the dynamic nature of the World Wide Web can seem lightening speeds faster than the much slower and deliberate process of looking at student work. However in many ways what interests me about these two things is very much the same, and very much related to the hands themselves -- ie. the focus on creating. And that's why I am still here too ... inspiring early on by the writers, makers, tinkers and leaders I found within this community of educators.

    I live in Philadelphia and I spend most of my time, well, working for the NWP. I also am a long-time volunteer and current board member at another maker-centered arts and social justice organization call Spiral Q. Our mission to support joy and creative collective mean-making. What could be better than that?

    I am looking forward to this group … excited to experience an online study group with you all … and I bring to the mix an inquiry around the ways that teachers lead in online spaces (here’s a little study I did on that topic recently) and an interest in exploring opportunities for inquiry, descriptive reflection and leadership that parallel and complement what we know how to do off-line too.

  • Katherine   March 8, 2012, 6:02 a.m.

    While I have been replying to some of the engaging posts resulting from introductions, I have not introduced myself.

    I'm Katherine Frank, and I'm one of the facilitators for this study group.  I was the founding director of the Southern Colorado Writing Project while at Colorado State University-Pueblo, and I have recently moved on to a new role in Indiana at Indiana University East. 

    My engagement with this study group and especially Digital Is allows me to remain connected with the work of the National Writing Project as well as inspires me to inquire into my own practice and relationship with digital communication.

    As I have posted in response to some of the introductory comments, my relationship with technology is an evolving one.  I like to experiment, stretch my thinking, and take risks in the classroom.  I enjoy challenging myself and my students and creating a space where we learn from one another.  I am also committed to making learning relevant and authentic, and, at times, this can be tricky (at least for me) when using digital communication/literacies.  I find the tensions resulting from this trickiness stimulating, and I enjoy grappling with the challenges that result from my own thinking, practice, and student input.

  • Ben   March 8, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

    My name is Ben Bates and I'm behind.  I'm not on Facebook.  I don't own an Ipad.  I've never uploaded a photo or tweeted.  I don't have the net on my phone.  About 20% of the time, I forget and leave my phone at home.  On my campus at Langston we had "new" computer consoles (no 'net) with document maps (!!!!!) installed when the semester started and I promptly lost my little key to the cabinet.  When students have their heads bowed to their "smartphones" in class, I think of how students ignored their instructors in pre-digital times.

    Now, my campus situation (unwired classrooms, equipment that is obsolete on the day it's installed) is a tragedy, which would take nothing more than money to solve.  but how to explain my PERSONAL lack of engagement with Youtube and Twitter and such?  What can I say, I'm underwhelmed.  Most of the classroom applications I've used amount to new clothes for old bodies of information.  People can only do four things with language: read writespeak listen; these are skills that get better with practice.  To the extent that we can engage our students in building language skills, actively producing and consuming texts, we educate them.

    By way of introduction, I teach mostly Theatre Arts.  If we're doing MacBeth, we could "update" the play in an infinite number of ways, including digitally, as a means of drawing a young audience, but in the end, if students don't actually read the script, I don't see the point.

    I know we were supposed to answer questions in this piece, and I've enjoyed some of the comments about what each member hopes to bring to the group.  So in addition to being late this is also incomplete, because my contribution is highly questionable.  My digital exposure has been extremely limited.  I was more atracted by the "inquiry" part of this group than the "digital" part.   I'll have questions.

  • KevinHodgson   March 8, 2012, 5:17 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Ben   March 8, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

    And yet ... you are here, Ben, so something must be stirring. I think it is good to have doubts about the role of technology in our classrooms. While I am one of those pushing, I also am a father of three boys, and I look at them and think about the balance of digital media. I'm glad you are here, Ben, because we need all sorts of voices and opinions in the mix of these kinds of discussions.


  • Tellio   March 8, 2012, 7:08 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Ben   March 8, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

    Yes,  and I think that the Wright Brothers' plane is pretty underwhelming in light of what has grown from it.  Perhaps you are getting a siren call in the right brain and hear that undeniable tremor of something changing,  the weird frisson when the zeitgeist shifts a quarter turn and you become partly aware of your place in Plato's cave.  I can answer questions from my own experience and I will certainly keep you in mind as one of the skeptical anchors in our collective's continuum and I hope you will ante up a little of that need for certitude.  I will, in return, be willing to partly acknowledge that what amounts to change is really only new clothes on old bones.  I look forward to it.

    But for starters,consider this:

  • Jack Zangerle   March 8, 2012, 12:23 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Ben   March 8, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

    I definitely agree with Kevin here. I am someone who definitely needs
    to check my own enthusiasm sometimes. It is easy to get blindly
    wrapped up in all the possibilities that tech has to offer
    (yesterday's Apple event is a great example) that we can forget to
    keep an eye on the actual literacy and learning that needs to be
    central. I'm eager to look at this with a more critical eye as well.

    That being said... How awesome does the "new iPad" look;)

  • Heather   March 8, 2012, 7:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Ben   March 8, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

    I feel like I get the idea of being underwhelmed by some of the social media.  For me it is definitely more about the social, less about the media.  Twitter doesn't fit my lifestyle, and I'm not super interested in participating in that arrangement of community.  YouTube is sort of different for me.  I don't really troll around, but I'm part of a community, Nerdfighters, that was sort of born on YouTube and has become big and interconnected both digitally and IRL.  That community led me to connected communites...which is kind of how things have always gone, right?  Everything new is old...and maybe everything old is also new.  Okay, I just stepped off an edge.  Anyway, I'm glad you're here!

  • Ben   March 8, 2012, 11:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   March 8, 2012, 7:08 a.m.

    Humans had not flown like birds before the Wright brothers but we were reading before Ipads, sending short messages before Twitter, shooting videos before You tube....  Flying was literally new to human experience.  I'm going to stop sounding like a digital Luddite and try to look ahead but I wanted to suggest that the new media doesn't stand up to some of the claims and comparisons made for it.

    Loved that video.  Made me think maybe my siren call isn't coming from the right brain after all?

  • Christina Cantrill   March 14, 2012, 9:13 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Ben   March 8, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

    Hi Ben.

    Returning to your introduction here because I personally am very interested in the connections between performance and participation, whether on or off-line. I work with a group in Philadelphia called Spiral Q,, which supports individuals/groups/communities in coming together to make and publicly performing stories and issues (in the form of parades, pageants, demonstrations, plays, etc.) that are of importance to them in their place and their communities. I think of it as cardboard-YouTube before YouTube! And much of what excites me about that work is both the power of making, building and creating together ... and then going public with the work. The public is key. And it is in these same ways that online work is so exciting to me -- the ability to both co-construct and the public nature and intention of the work too.

    At least, that's the potential I see and where thinking about performance leads me. The Q's origins come from activist work around AIDS and the work of the group Act Up. A friend, who is an activist and a puppeteer, once said that demonstrations should be opportuntiies to actually "demonstrate" what is really possible -- what we want to see in the world! And I take that to heart when I think about online spaces too.

    Would love to learn more about your work as a teacher as well as an artist. I think this intersection is key for movement in this future we are creating as writers, teachers and makers, both on and offline.


  • Katie Kline   March 6, 2012, 12:17 p.m.

    I've enjoyed reading everyone's introductions so far, enough to feel compelled to participate in rather than follow the discussion. I live in Kansas City, Missouri and teach composition courses primarily to freshman and sophomores at Univ. of Missouri - KC. I am also the director of the Greater Kansas City Writing Project.

    I'm thinking about a phrase from the Welcome & Getting Started page which said that the group would  "enact the collaborative and participatory process that is indicative of digital communication." I guess this is an assumption about digital communication that I don't share. While I certainly believe it can be both collaborative and participatory, digital communication is often not either of these things.

    So I guess this is what I bring to this group, a real desire to question what we know and how we use digital writing. I can tell already that I'll be taking from the group more than what my contribution will be worth -- I need to fiddle around with and write in more digital  spaces.

  • Christina Cantrill   March 6, 2012, 12:31 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katie Kline   March 6, 2012, 12:17 p.m.

    I think your attention to what is really collaborative and participatory is essential here Katie and a huge contribution too. So thank you so much for joining in!


  • KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 6:29 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katie Kline   March 6, 2012, 12:17 p.m.

    I like that we can question our assumptions, Katie.

    If those two concepts -- participatory and collaborative -- are ideas that are not often reached in online spaces, what do we think holds those possibilities back from becoming the fabric of the space? (I wonder if they are our idealized version of what we hope a digital writing space will be about.) Or maybe those aren't the goals for digital writing spaces to begin with?


  • Delia King   March 6, 2012, 7:46 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katie Kline   March 6, 2012, 12:17 p.m.

    I wonder what our students would say about digital writing being "collaborative and participatory".  I think of collaborating with one of my PD partners via a google doc, when her daughter, a junior in college, walked in and started to watch our agenda develop before her eyes.  She was amazed at what we could do 50 miles apart.  I was a little surprise that a college junior going into education didn’t know about this collaborative digital tool. 

    I think as(digital) educators , we need to share with our teaching partners and staff the power of collaborative digital writing.  Of course, there will be the ones that are fearful.  Let them watch.  Lead them slowly.  Teacher teaching teachers, that’s our model.smiley

    My second graders are digital writers.  They write blogs, create glogs (glogster) and make digital stories.  I hope that their future teachers will not be afraid to embrace digital writing, so that they can continue to grow digitally.

  • Tellio   March 7, 2012, 8:28 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 6:29 p.m.

    It is hard not to think of physics with your  reply here, Kevin.  What is the dark matter that holds together the fabric of  digital writing spacetime?  This isn't as wacky as it sounds.  But wouldn't the next step be not the theoretical side of digital writing spaces, rather the mapping of the "stars" in that space?  I think a visualization of digital writing spaces might be in order.  Mindmapping in some collaborative way to 'draw' that space or heck just swapping a soggy cocktail napkin with some mapping out of the 'usual suspects' (wikis, texting, blogs) and the unusual ones (gaming texts, twitter mashups, screencasting with annotations, annotexting).  Might be one of the new collaborative digital spaces that Ms Kline speaks of.

  • Tellio   March 7, 2012, 1:46 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katie Kline   March 6, 2012, 12:17 p.m.

    Yes, I feel the same way--fiddling, muddling, fumbling, doodle.  That is me in this Model T universe we call Web 3.x.  I need all the help I can get. 

  • Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:58 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katie Kline   March 6, 2012, 12:17 p.m.

    Katie's "real desire to question what we know and how we use digital writing" -- as well as the subsequent conversation about what "collaborative and participatory" actually mean -- are great themes to have develop in this first week.

    I would like to touch on the "collaborative" idea for a moment. I'll try to do that mathematically:

    collaborative > the sum of its individual parts > cooperative

    My thought is simply this: many good teachers mistake cooperative for collaborative, when cooperative means that all we have to do is get along, not that we have to produce something together (which may, in fact, require some dissenting opinions). Collaborative is also more than the sum of its parts, in the sense that we can't all just contribute something completely disconnected from one another and call it a collaborative project or literature circle discussion. 

    Collaborative means that we all come to the table with our own ideas, then discuss, debate, and develop a shared understanding, product, or process. This is hard work, and can't be accomplished in five minutes of "pair and share" alone. That is a start, but not an end, to collaborative learning. 

    Digital tools and spaces shouldn't be called "collaborative," although that is how they are normally described. They are cooperative -- we can all add something to a wiki or a Google Doc. But, they only become collaborative when our social norms and expectations of one another push us to be something more together than we are alone. Also, we need to invite and respond to questions. 

    So, in the spirit of collaboration, anyone else want to add to this definition?

  • Tellio   March 8, 2012, 7:51 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:58 p.m.

    Perhaps what we are talking about here is a taxonomy of ''allying behaviors" (lame, I know).  It starts with cooperating moves through collaborating and finishes with collective action.  For example, our Writing Project has an NWP Connect site.  We were invited by the managers to join in the work of the Project to create a conversation on the site. I answered the request, but the call to 'cooperate' has resulted in not so much as a wee fart much less a comfortable silence from the others. Without the affordances of cooperation there can be no collaboration or collective action just as Maslow remarked that without the 'necessaries', actualization is damned nigh impossible. 

  • Tellio   March 9, 2012, 6:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:58 p.m.


    Have you read this by John Spencer on collaboration:

    And this, too:

  • Christina Cantrill   March 14, 2012, 9:20 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katie Kline   March 6, 2012, 12:17 p.m.

    Hi Katie.

    Your inquiry here around participation and collaboration did prompt me to think about the ways that we do make something participatory and collaborative. It's so interesting to me how many times I've ended up being in situations where I am being lectured about participatory culture, for instance (not at the writing project, mind you ... but elsewhere! :). Painful! ...  And in this I think is the rub here ... these tools are powerful, they allow us to do all sorts of new things. But, we really need to practice doing things in a participatory and collaborative way! And it's not easy -- for instance, how could we have made this study group more participatory ... more collaborative? That would be the goal of a study group after all ... it's why we called it a study group. And it's why we are using these tools because they provide those affordances. Yet, is it? What do we really need to do as colleagues, as teachers, as learners, to make these really critical shifts to create the more democratic spaces that we really want to see?


  • Jeremy Hyler   March 6, 2012, 10:21 a.m.


    Good morning everyone!  My name is Jeremy Hyler and I am a 7th/8th grade language arts teacher at a very small rural school in central Michigan.  I teach three sections of 7th grade and two sections of 8th grade.  I am essentially the middle school language arts department.  I am also a teacher consultant for the Chippewa River Writing Project. I went through the summer writing institute in 2010.  I currently do professional development for the Chippewa River Writing project with my partner about Informational Writing and the Common Core and I am currently working on being a co-director with another CRWP colleague for a middle school summer camp.

    What I am most passionate about is writing and teaching writing. I am also passionate about digital literacy.  This year I have fully implemented cell phone usage into my classroom and Google Documents.  My students have done Glogs through Glogster and I have done two lessons with them this year on Twitter.  I currently have one resource already posted on the Digital Is website about Boys and multi-genre projects.  I have been really interested in boys literacy over the past few years.  Currently I am working on a piece of writing about cell phones that I hope will turn into a published piece.  I have presented at MRA and MCTE here in Michigan and I am hoping to present at NCTE next year in Las Vegas.  I see a lot of opportunity with the new Common Core National Standards and would like to explore different medias that are out there.  With doing this, I am hoping I can create more resources for teachers and find more tools for the 21st century learner in my classroom.

    I believe I can bring insight into the use of cell phones into my classroom to this group and I am hoping to find more tools my students could use with their phones.  This is a new adventure for me and I am willing to go wherever it might take me.

  • Jack Zangerle   March 6, 2012, 11:37 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jeremy Hyler   March 6, 2012, 10:21 a.m.


    I'm really intruiged by the idea of cell phones, or other student owned devices, as compliments to the technology provided by the school. I can't wait to hear about how you use this in your classroom, and how you got the support to be able to take on this work. Really exciting!

    I've been reading as much as I can about BYOD policies. This seems like it may be a way to help close some of the in school technology gaps.  

  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 11:41 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jeremy Hyler   March 6, 2012, 10:21 a.m.

    I am looking forward to your expertise in cellphone use.  I am not nearly so sure about the Common Core National Standards, but I am a pragmatist there.  BTW, on a Google note did you know that you can upload videos into Google Docs?  I just found that out this week. 

    I would like to know more about how students actually write with the cellphone-both smart phones and feature (dumb) phones.  I have used and like iPadio and Cinch, but haven't used them much in the classroom. 

  • Katherine   March 7, 2012, 5:48 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jeremy Hyler   March 6, 2012, 10:21 a.m.


    I just read your Digital Is blog post on this:  "Texting in Class:  The Pros and Cons of Celly" (  Fascinating!  And it is clear that since this post in January, you have done quite a bit to develop your use of cell phones in the classroom.  Your use of "opportunity" with respect to connections with the Common Core is equally exciting.


  • Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:43 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jeremy Hyler   March 6, 2012, 10:21 a.m.


    As we think about cell phones (or tablets, or laptops, or pencil and paper for that matter, since the CCSS assessments will all be on computers) as a technology to support literacy learning, I agree that Jeremy is pushing our thinking in smart directions. I am encouraged to go back to the six components of the English language arts and ask -- beyond being an interesting technology -- how can we use this device to support literacy through:

    • Reading
    • Writing
    • Listening
    • Speaking
    • Viewing
    • Visually representing

    More importantly, where do we see these things in the CCSS? We have a tiny, tiny window of opportunity here to make a difference. The CCSS writing standards all have something like this in their language: 

    “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.”

    How do we plan to do that, exactly, without just having our students copy and paste their five-paragraph essays from a word-processor into a web browser for a computer to then give an automatic, holistic score?

    Jeremy is helping us think about using cell phones and, by extension, the internet to produce and publish writing as well as present relationships between information. We just need to make sure that those writing the assessments and creating curriculum see cell phones as more than a novelty. 

  • Christina Cantrill   March 14, 2012, 9:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jeremy Hyler   March 6, 2012, 10:21 a.m.

    Hey Jeremy. I'm so excited that you are continuing to blog for Digital Is and I wanted to just point out this resource by Joe Wood in case you didn't see it -- Digital Writing and the Common Core, I was thinking it might be of interest to you and others to share how some of what you are experimenting with supports common core because as we see here, there are many elements of writing, reading and research of and with digital texts and multimedia that are part of these standards.

    Thanks so much for all your wonderful contributions. Christina

  • Avil Beckford   March 6, 2012, 7:27 a.m.

    My name is Avil Beckford, and am a researcher and writer. I use my blog as a professional development tool for adults. Interesting conversation about Twitter. I have been on Twitter for a while but haven't been that active recently. How many of you have participated in Twiiter chats?


  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 11:16 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Avil Beckford   March 6, 2012, 7:27 a.m.

    I have followed #edchat and #lrnchat.  They are a good starting place as is this list of twitterchats:

    If you have time at 12 noon ET you can pick up the conversation here:


    Perhaps we could do a twitter chat?  What would our hashtag be?

  • Christina Cantrill   March 6, 2012, 1:58 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   March 6, 2012, 11:16 a.m.

    Seems like a good idea. We should also share content with the #p2pu tag itself -- I notice many people use that. #nwp is another tag that would be an interested community too (ie. the National Writing Project).

  • KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 6:38 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   March 6, 2012, 11:16 a.m.

    Proposed Top Ten Twitter Hashtags for This Space (not be used, please):

    • #mybrainisfriedfromteachingtoday
    • #nwprocksitinthedigitalworld
    • #gooddiscussionspace
    • #digitalisisabitlikecandy
    • #shoutingintocyberspace
    • #mycomputertypeswithoutme
    • #hereswhatithink
    • #iamhere
    • #p2pu4u2
    • #stillwritingwithwords



  • Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:46 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Avil Beckford   March 6, 2012, 7:27 a.m.

    Thanks for mentioning twitter chats, Avil.

    If you haven't yet, you should participate in #engchat on Monday nights at 7:00 PM EST. Meenoo Rami, an NWP teacher, has written about her work with #engchat on Digital Is

  • Avil Beckford   March 8, 2012, 12:44 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:46 p.m.

    Troy, I'll try to attend one of those chats! Avil

  • Christina Cantrill   March 8, 2012, 12:49 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 6:38 p.m.


  • _briank_   March 5, 2012, 8:41 p.m.

    Hi I'm Brian Kelley

    ive been teaching 8th grade for 17 years in Pennsylvania.  As a recently inducted Fellow of the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project I want the first fifteen years of my teaching back!

    Since that isn't possible I'm here to continue improving.

    We just started using a classroom Twitter account to be an ally for something in nature--to be its voice.  

    The NWP was the push I needed to see myself as a writer.  Im taking a writing course (literacy in bloom) hosted by PAWLP at our local botanical gardens.  Also, keeping an blog, regular engagement on twitter, and now this course is just part of trying to be a better person and then a better teacher--even forcing myself to type write now on the iPad is just part of the first hand experience.

    Aside from teaching-writing-reading life I'm an assistant football coach at West Chester University (D2).





  • Katherine   March 6, 2012, 4:50 a.m.
    In Reply To:   _briank_   March 5, 2012, 8:41 p.m.

    Hi, Brian.  Welcome to the group!  I'm intrigued by the Twitter project and the focus on voice (and potentially argument, it seems).  I used Twitter in an introductory college literature course last year, initially to teach, study, and discuss poetry--we ended up discussing the "poetic potential" of Twitter as well.  The students liked (and engaged with) Twitter so much that we ended up leaving our Blackboard forums behind and using Twitter as our main discussion tool throughout the semester to discuss short fiction and the graphic novel (our other genres).  I watched as student participation increased, tweets came in (during and outside of class time) when students were on trips connected with athletics, and layers of communication multiplied as students changed profile images to better correspond with tweets.  The potential Twitter presents is impressive and intriguing.


  • KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 5:12 a.m.
    In Reply To:   _briank_   March 5, 2012, 8:41 p.m.

    That sounds like a bit of virtual Lorax: I Tweet for the Trees.

    I like that idea of giving a voice to something in medium like Twitter, but then I would worry: do we have enough followers to give our voice power? I'd be curious to know more too ...


  • _briank_   March 6, 2012, 7:04 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 5:12 a.m.

    Ah, followers...before there can be followers there can be hashtags.  We explored some basic nature-oriented hashtags yesterday in groups of three around the warm glow of the iPads: #nature, #conservation, #extinction, #rainforest...etc.  Today they'll return to it with a longer list of hashtags and write Twitter-length comments or questions in their writer's notebook.  With a focus on audience, we'll select a few as our inaugural tweets and come back in 24 hours to see what happened...maybe nothing.  

    I see it building to writing informative and persuasive essays in class--highlighting our golden lines and tweeting them to hashtags--linking our better essays to a tweet--and writing poetry all in the name of being the voices for the voiceless.

    After a few weeks I see continuing the use of twitter in this vein but then opening it up to being the voice for someone or something in our community (world community or local).

    It will be interesting to see what followers we pick up along the way (our account is currently following 45 writers and writing magazines as an extension of the term "mentors in the classroom")

    While I dont want them hijacking Richard Louv's time I do anticipate teaching them how to best message and potentially connect with someone with a relevant question.

    In an informal poll more that half of my 8th graders have a twitter account and none understood its power for learning--just socializing.  So, in the end, I'm hoping they walk away with another tool I their pocket for high school and not another toy.

  • KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 7:26 a.m.
    In Reply To:   _briank_   March 6, 2012, 7:04 a.m.

    I love all of those ideas you outline here. Interesting how many of your kids have Twitter going already. I've had sixth graders ask me: What's a Twitter? One student asked me that question and then said he had a Twitter account. He just signs up for anything/everything, I guess.

    Allow me to digress a bit: if I use Twitter, but have no followers, does my tweet become words with no audience and thefore, why am I tweeting? Do the words just disappear without a single trace? I've thought about this in regards to a class Twitter account we have, too (created and used during the Nartional Day on Writing).

    It's nice to see other grappling with similar issues around technology and writing, audience and publication, and voice of our students in the world.


  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 7:29 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Katherine   March 6, 2012, 4:50 a.m.

    I am sponsoring an intern at University , Seanna Wilhelm, who is running a blog for English majors this semester.  One of her projects is to have a twitter nanolit contest.  I hope it works as successfully for her as your appears to have worked for you. 

    You have given me an idea for using Twitter as an alternative to a Blackboard discussion board.  I have added a graphic novel to my semester's readings (Habibi) and I am going to try something with a Twitter hashtag #habibi later this year.  Thanks for inspiring me.

  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 7:33 a.m.
    In Reply To:   _briank_   March 5, 2012, 8:41 p.m.

    I can see where you are going with your writing--a mashup of the adventures of a young assistant football coach who is an orchid enthusiast.  If you have read The Art of Fielding, you know this isn't so far-fetched.  I'd give it a read.

  • Jeremy Hyler   March 6, 2012, 11:01 a.m.
    In Reply To:   _briank_   March 5, 2012, 8:41 p.m.

    Hi Brian,

    I too am a Blogger and would like to know where you blog. I would be interested in following your blog and you on twitter as a fellow middle school language arts teacher.

    I also would like some of my teaching years back.  I look at writing and myself as a writer in a whole new light.



  • _briank_   March 6, 2012, 11:06 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jeremy Hyler   March 6, 2012, 11:01 a.m.

  • Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:35 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   March 6, 2012, 7:29 a.m.

    Have you checked out HootCourse?

  • Tellio   March 9, 2012, 5:39 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:35 p.m.

    Thanks for HootCourse suggestion.

  • Christina Cantrill   March 14, 2012, 9:33 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Katherine   March 6, 2012, 4:50 a.m.

    So I wanted to respond to Brian, Katherine and Terry here ... I think it would be amazing if you all were to share your twitter work and experiments in Digital Is. I think many people who use twitter professionally are still trying to figure out how twitter can support learning in the classroom -- it's a complicated tool! Would you be willing to share and write about what you've learned as well as your questions about this work?


  • bonnie k   March 5, 2012, 7:54 p.m.

    HI everyone,

      I'm Bonnie Kaplan Co-Director from the Hudson Valley Writing Project and it feels good to say that I know a good number of the people who has posted in this group and I'm excited to be working and sharing here with them and new NWP folks. 

    As a retired high school English teacher after 28 years, I have been lucky to be engaged in the work of professional development with our writing project and honored to be working and learning with people like Jack Zangerle who has been co-facilitating our tech team.  

    My days are never the same anymore and for the next few I'll be right here in Aruba enjoying a week away from New York and traces of winter but I have a lot to do with I return home.  I work with Jack at his school in a wonderful project with his 8th graders and fellow teachers in exploring PSA's and issues based learning for the second year.  I have another project running at another school in our service area also examining the issue of digital writing, so while I don't live in a classroom anymore I do have invitations in to many others.

    In this age of teacher bashing and confusion as to how technology should be used, I try and stay positive, as we all do.  Since New York State has recently settled on a plan of school reform, everyone wonders what it will mean for teachers and ultimately the learning of students.  
    I have been reading some of the posts and I like Kevin, like to think of myself as an adventurer in this digital world, open to what's coming, ready to explore with this NWP community. 

    I think too that I'm interested in bringing technology into the world of literacy, not keeping it separate.  In Jack Zangerle's room technology and writing have merged together and that feels authentic.  

    I wonder too how social media will support this and as I get ready for a new iPad, what will these tools offer educators... 

    I'm thinking about a lot of things now even with the music kicking in just under our balcony. 

    I'm ready for more


  • Katherine   March 6, 2012, 4:57 a.m.
    In Reply To:   bonnie k   March 5, 2012, 7:54 p.m.

    Hi, Bonnie.  Welcome!  This is the sentence in your post that really caught my attention:  "I think too that I'm interested in bringing technology into the world of literacy, not keeping it separate."  Your focus on authenticity regarding this process seems essential.  And yet, as you point out, the merging itself is constructed--at least from your perspective--and while perhaps not always the case for the students themselves, the classroom context creates a space where merging is a constructed process.  I'm not presenting this as something negative necessary, but it does add this layer of complexity that makes us contemplate more deeply and naviagate more carefully.  --Katherine

  • KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 5:28 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Katherine   March 6, 2012, 4:57 a.m.

    Good point -- and one I struggle with: if we are trying to tap into the literacies of our students outside of school and we bring those into a learning environment, are we removing the thing that makes those literacies vibrant for our students? Is it another way that adults suck the fun out of something for our students?

    I've thought about this a lot in the implementation of a video game design project we did this past December. I was conscious of trying to use their interest in video game playing to shift them into video game creators, while keeping the frame on learning and engagement, without driving the love of video games out of their system. It was a difficult juggle, and I am still not sure if we completely succeeded.



  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 8:14 a.m.
    In Reply To:   bonnie k   March 5, 2012, 7:54 p.m.

    Looks to me like you are redefining the classroom in such a way that perhaps it is a room in name only?  I predict a time when not only will we redefine or do away with the word classroom, but also 'teacher' 'student' 'principal' 'school' well, you get the idea.  If the writing we do is digital, doesn't it follow that the social conventions and institutions we have will be digital?  Mebbe, and I hoping all of you will be able to help me refine that rough thought over the next few weeks.

  • Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:33 p.m.
    In Reply To:   bonnie k   March 5, 2012, 7:54 p.m.

    Thanks, Bonnie, and welcome to even more digital learning (even from Aruba, no less!). 

    A question for you, since you taught through some of the most tumultuous times in the history of English -- summed up succinctly, if not entirely correct in the "phonics vs. whole language" debate...

    ... how do you liken (or is it appropriate to liken) the impact/effect of digital reading/writing devices on our understandings what it means to be a reader and writer vis-a-vis the shifts that happened in the 70s and 80s? I always wonder, if Rosenblatt were alive today, would she be writing about the reader, the text, the poem, and the iPad?

    In other words, how does the device itself change the ltieracy experience? Or, does it?

  • Christina Cantrill   March 14, 2012, 9:44 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 5:28 a.m.

    The MacArthur Foundation just released these principals and thinking about what they call "connected learning" (see: and it feels like what you are all thinking about and playing with here too. It would be so excellent to hear you and Lisa and Bob thinking about the ways that this work felt "connected" and where you face challenges you are still thinking about too. 

    This is such an amazing resource btw. Thank you all for putting it together and for the students for sharing their learning, work and insights too.


  • Christina Cantrill   March 14, 2012, 9:52 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 5:28 a.m.

    One more note, Kevin ... I love the way that you and the teachers just put the camera in front of you and talked. That's a wonderful way to share reflections on practice ... and you do it in so many of your DI blogs and resources too ( I like this because it makes the sharing much less laborous (I think ... right?) and feels quite authentic. 

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  • Jack Zangerle   March 5, 2012, 7:27 p.m.


    I'm Jack Zangerle, and I'm the 8th grade ELA Teacher in Dover MS in Dover Plains NY.   I'm also a husband and father of a 7 and 9 year old. They have given me a new lens through which to see learning. I also serve as the MS English dept chair and the sysop for the ms. As a member of the HudsonValley Writing Project I work closely with Bonnie Kaplan to facilitate our Tech team that meets monthly on Saturday mornings. I've learned so much working with her!
    Day to day I spend the majority of my time working with the 8th graders trying to build a love of reading and helping them find themselves as readers and writers. As the Dept chair my time is being increasingly consumed with the shift to the CCSS and assessment and APPRs and state assessment and local third party state mandated assessments and assessments and assessments and assessments (oh my!)  Study group likes this and the engaging dialogue I get at HVWP tech team and other meetings help me to stay excited about the moments that still exist for good teaching and learning. 
    I am absolutely passionate (bordering on an unhealthy obsession) with technology- and especially its role in learning.  I am often struck by the idea of "digital natives" and I wonder what we are saying students are natives of. Sometimes I feel it is like a metaverse (Neil Stephenson reference) version of The Lord of the Flies. Young people have access to the most sophisticated technology tools humanity has yet to imagine and yet, for the most part, "school" has relegated the use of this technology to Oregon Trail, or if they are lucky, a typing tutor. Then adults stand aghast when students misbehave or wander the internet in cyber tribes. How can we expect students to use technology and unlock the potential available, when often technology is supposed to be something hidden away when important work is to be done and used  to play after work time. I'm hopeful that we are entering an educational time when we begin to learn how to use technology to further learning experiences and as a natural extension of all the best literacies practices that we already know in the analog world. 
    I hope to "get" from this group more information about the place that exists at the crossroads of the analog and digital world and to find thinking about what it means to be a literacy teacher with the tremendous tools and opportunities available today.
    I can't wait to share resources and ideas and possibilities with the members in the group.       
  • KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 5:23 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jack Zangerle   March 5, 2012, 7:27 p.m.

    HI Jack

    I love this line of yours: "I'm hopeful that we are entering an educational time when we begin to learn how to use technology to further learning experiences and as a natural extension of all the best literacies practices that we already know in the analog world."

    I'm looking forward to the conversations


  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 9:52 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jack Zangerle   March 5, 2012, 7:27 p.m.

    I think your crossroads metaphor is particularly apt.  Digitally speaking, the node is at crossing of roads.  I like to think of myself as the proprietor of a little digital convenience store where someone in need walks through the door and I say, "How can I help you?"  and when they get what they want I call after them in true Apu, "Thank you.  Come again."  Thanks for that image.laugh

  • Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:28 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jack Zangerle   March 5, 2012, 7:27 p.m.


    Thanks, Jack. I, too, appreciate the "crossroads" metaphor and wonder if, like the beginning of the "social turn" in literacy studies -- the turn in the late 70's, early 80's that recognized the influence of home language and dialect, the experience that readers bring to a text and not just its authorial meaning, as well as the power of understanding writing as a process -- we are also at a "turn" in our understanding of digital literacies. 

    Or, perhaps a crossroads. 

    Or, some other traffic signal, preferably not a stoplight.

    Looking forward to the conversation and what you are learning at HVWP!

  • Christina Cantrill   March 14, 2012, 9:57 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Jack Zangerle   March 5, 2012, 7:27 p.m.

    Hi Jack!

    I also was struck by this crossroads metaphor and I think it is where we often find ourselves today. Are you and your monthly tech-colleagues finding stuff there and what does it look like ... what do you make of it? Curious to hear more.

    Okay ... this is probably my final comment for the evening ... not because there isn't more to say -- you all bring such interesting things to this conversation -- but because it's 10pm and I'm trying to go to bed earlier these days.



  • Delia King   March 5, 2012, 6:41 p.m.

    Where are you from? I live in a suburb of Grand Rapids Michigan with my husband of ten years.

    What do you do day to day? I spend a few hours a day commuting to my school in the middle of Michigan.  Once at school, I teach a very active and energtic group of 23 second graders, of which 18 of them are boys.

    What are you passionate about?  I am passionate about teaching young children to love to read and write.  In addition to teaching I enjoy spending time with family, being outside, reading and writing.  I am an avid walker and plan to start jogging by the end of March.

    What brings you to this study group?  When I participated in Chippewa River Writing Project’s (CRWP) summer institute in 2010, I made a promise to myself to take advantage of all the opportunities that CRWP had to offer me.  So being introduced to digital writing and numerous digital tools that summer, I decide that I needed to use them in my classroom.  The journey began.  I am learning more and more as I continued on this digital journey within my classroom and beyond.  Now I am conducting PD for my district and other Intermediate School Districts, as well as hosting pre-service teachers in my classroom.   We, CRWP, always try to have some sort of digital component to our PD, so I am here to continue my learning into being a digital writing teacher.


    ·         My experience of being a veteran teacher attempting new technologies and how it has gone

    ·         ideas of being in rural district without tons of technology but enough to make it work


    ·         network of other teachers to collaborate with

    ·         ideas of ways to be more digital at a primary level

  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 9:55 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Delia King   March 5, 2012, 6:41 p.m.

    I really get the idea of making tech work in rural places.  We are both edupunks in that sense.  I look forward to any cool/thorny/interesting problems you have and even more to the ways you have tried to solve those probs.

  • Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:24 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Delia King   March 5, 2012, 6:41 p.m.

    Thanks, Delia, for sharing more about your context. All aspects of rurality, including the times, spaces, and places that our kids connect online, are all a very-much needed part of this conversation.

    I would really hope to hear more about how your in-district and other PD experiences this year -- as well as your colleagues' reactions to the "digital components" -- are affecting you as a professional development leader. 

  • KevinHodgson   March 5, 2012, 6:27 p.m.

    Hi everyone

    I am Kevin Hodgson. I teach sixth grade in Western Massachusetts; I am the father of three boys; and I am the technology liaison with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. I'm interested in the ways that multimodal technologies are becoming the definifing literacies of my students' lives -- the way they use their mobile devices, and video, and shorthand English, and more as a way to communicate. I see technology as one of the tools that facilitates this transformating of writing into a more comprehensive definition of composition.

    But literacy and writing have never been more important than in these times. Those skills form the heart of all of the technology impacting young people today. I don't buy into the digital immigrant/native dichotomy because while kids are more fearless than adults, they often don't have a purposeful stance in what they do. We're needed now, more than ever, in my opinion.

    Another strand that interests me is that idea of "connectiveness" -- of how people and information are becoming more and more linked together. Maybe not in a coherent fashion, and maybe that's OK, but how networks ... work. For my students, it means an audience that shifts from me, the teacher, to potentially the world. That concept of publishing has really impacted how my students write, and whom they write for.

    Personally, I see myself as a sort of explorer more than anything else, but I try to keep an eye and lens on learning during my explorations. I am hopeful this study group, and the use of Digital Is as a text, will provide some fertile discussions around our expectations of young people and of teachers, and maybe the discussions will help me map out some ideas for reaching out to more teachers at my school and in our regional area.

    I'm looking forward to the adventure ahead ...


    Kevin Hodgson


  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 10:26 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   March 5, 2012, 6:27 p.m.

    "Personally, I see myself as a sort of explorer more than anything else..."  As a Kentucky boy true blue through and through,  this makes me think about Daniel Boone.  He blazed trails.  What that really means is that there weren't any trails so he made them and 'blazed' the trees so that others might follow.  A good trailblazer never looks back.  He or she lets those marks speak for themselves.  That would make your blazed equal digital texts, right?  One of the emotional difficulties of being a scout on the edge of this great untrod tract of digital land is that when you take a water break and look behind you, often no one else is with you.  Not even miles away.  And you wonder if anyone will ever find your blaze.  I like this extended metaphor. Has a heroic/tragic element to it, doesn't it? I have definitely felt this.

    I see myself much more domestically--I am Jeeves.  When Bertie Wooster asks for his best golfing trousers  I respond agreeably, "Very good, sir."  I know he looks terrible in them and that they don't really suit, but...I happen to also think that when the ground is ready the seed will take.  And I will be there.  I was on Twitter in December of 2006.  In the summer of 2007 I tried to get teachers at the Summer Writing Workshops to use it.  Begged them to.  Promised them untold professional development wealth should they adopt it....Big, fat yawn for the digital toy that would be king.  I tried again the next summer.  Another WTF moment.  Finally, in 2009 somebody said, "Have you heard about this Twitter thing?"  I could only respond, "Very good, ma'm."

    Perhaps Daniel Boone and Jeeves can work together?

  • KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 6:32 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   March 6, 2012, 10:26 a.m.

    Like this line, Jeeves "... when the ground is ready the seed will take." My story as a tech person at SI is similar, so I won't rehash the odd looks of some teachers (nor the one who stormed out of the room when I was showing them the eAnthology.)

    I think I've had to be patient, too, but I don't always feel like just waiting around, either. Thus, the explorer. And some bread crumbs. And periodic backtracking to see who might be following and need a helping hand.


  • Katherine   March 7, 2012, 6:04 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   March 6, 2012, 6:32 p.m.


    I have been following your bread crumbs for a while on Digital Is, actually.  As a tech person on the margins, I admire the explorers--the trail blazers--and I benefit from the paths that they point out to me.  I have not fully immersed myself in the process--I have not embraced technology as my "way of being," so to speak--but I like to take hikes every now and then and occasionally take my turn breaking new ground.

    So, something like, Tellio's response to the conversation about constructed spaces and creating "new," radical spaces for which we (read "I") do not necessarily have the language yet to define (and should they be "defined," or rather "described" so as to preserve/protect fluidity?) stretches my thinking and inspires me to explore a bit more.


  • Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:21 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   March 5, 2012, 6:27 p.m.

    Kevin, I think that we channel the same pedagogical spirit. Your thoughts here are parallel to my own:

    "I don't buy into the digital immigrant/native dichotomy because while kids are more fearless than adults, they often don't have a purposeful stance in what they do. We're needed now, more than ever, in my opinion."

    This is a point that we should, nay, must make clear to our colleagues. Whenever I do a workshop with teachers, I tell them that there are more college degrees sitting in the room together at that moment than any other space in their entire county or region, maybe even the state. 

    How do we help literate, caring adults who share a love of reading and writing connect with youth who, coincidentally, enjoy reading and writing, too, even if not in all the "schooly" ways that we might want them to be?

  • Tellio   March 5, 2012, 11:55 a.m.

    Introduction: Terry Elliott (aka tellio)

    Where are you from? I live with my wife and three kids (out of the nest)  on a sheep farm in central Kentucky near Mammoth Cave.

    What do you do day to day? I teach general education writing and literature courses both f2f and online for Western Kentucky University.  I am tech liaison for the WKUWP and the Kentucky Reading Project. 

    What are you passionate about? Reading, writing, literature, sustainable agriculture, tech pedagogy, mentoring, creating.

    What brings you to this study group?  I am struggling to help my students enter the digital age.  If Seely Brown is correct that the skills I am teaching have a half-life of five years, then everyone must be struggling.  I don't really believe that teaching someone to summarize has a half-life of five years.  That is nonsense.  I do, however, think that the way I do it now with Firefox,Diigo and Word probably does have a short digital lifespan. 

    We would also love to know what your goals are for this study group – both what you hope to get from the group and what you believe you can offer too. 


    1. "Take A Penny":  Find better digital ways.  Find a better digital path for a summer Tech Academy I am facilitating for the Kentucky Writing Project. Find new repertoire for my writing/reading/researching/literature students.
    2. "Give A Penny":  Share my digital ways.  Help others refine and define their digital ways.  Collaborate on useful projects that support digital writing and inquiry.
  • Troy Hicks   March 5, 2012, 6:04 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   March 5, 2012, 11:55 a.m.


    You make a strong point here:

    "If Seely Brown is correct that the skills I am teaching have a half-life of five years, then everyone must be struggling.  I don't really believe that teaching someone to summarize has a half-life of five years.  That is nonsense."

    I agree -- many of the "gurus" in educational technology make these predictions, proclamations, dichotomies that are really unhelpful. I think that we need to stop using phrases like digital immigrants and natives, as well as "21st century literacies." Isn't it about time that we start seeing these skills and habits of mind as a part of literacy? 

    Which, of course, leaves us with the question: what do (digital) readers and writers need to know and be able to do, both to comprehend and compose texts, as well as to fully enjoy the aesthetic experience of each of these processes?

    What are some of the "digital ways" that you employ in your reading and writing? 


  • KevinHodgson   March 5, 2012, 6:29 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   March 5, 2012, 11:55 a.m.

    I like the "penny" goals, and way you framed them.

    What are the plans for your tech academy? What do you envision it looking like?


  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 8:30 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   March 5, 2012, 6:29 p.m.

    I have done these tech academies for three years now and I am grown weary of their old skool ways.  Last year in the planning for them I tried to push for more 'edcamp'-y and 'unconference-y" behaviors.  No go.  I know in my heart and soul that this static PD is largely a failure even though it certainly looks like stuff is going on.  (By static PD I mean knowledge from on high to a passive soul.  There is a power dynamic there that might have worked in an un-democratic, hierarchic, paternal world, but not for the affordances of the digital and networked one.)

    So...I am pushing once again for a bottom up, folksonomic, democratic tech academy that is more crowdsourced (could I possibly fit more buzzwordification into a sentence).  I have a stickyboard site for gathering ideas about how I might it to look.  if you want to add some.  Here is the link to it. 

    Thanks for your comment and your conversation here.  My Writing Project has a site at NWP Connect that is a freaking ghost city so I appreciate a broadcast that gets a listen and a call out.  I always did love call and response when I was a kid in church.

  • Tellio   March 6, 2012, 9:46 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Troy Hicks   March 5, 2012, 6:04 p.m.

    Thanks for the encouraging words.  Don't get me wrong though, JohnSeelyBrown (JSB) is a real inspiration.  His theory might well become the big thrust engine for my practice. 

    I agree that previously helpful words might just have become our enemies or perhaps only friendemies.  Even JSB screws up with the new wine in old bottles analogy when he likens using digital tools in the analog classroom.  Figuratively, that is worse nonsense than usual.  The bottle metaphor gets in the way.  The point about digital is that it can be everywhere.  How can a bottle be everywhere and, worse, how can you put 'learning object stuff' there.  When the words begin to trip us up, then maybe we don't need new bottles.  We need new words or old words need to be repurposed or borrow from other fields that are more digital friendly.

    That's where JSB wins though with his emphasis on mashup and new context creation.  Genius.  Classroom becomes collective.  Class becomes tribe. Learner becomes mashup artiste.  Teacher becomes concierge. All of these have an uncomfortable mien to them.  I like that.  That means they are not dead metaphors yet.  They are not cliches. 

    To answer some of your practical questions:

    What do our mashup artistes need to know and be able to do?

    I think we need to identify universal skills, ones that transcend the digital/analog dialectic (crap, I hadnt't intended to bring that bastard Hegel into this post, oh well).  For example, the above mentioned 'summarizing'.  Critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, argument, rhetorical organization are all examples.

    I think we need to analyze when to use which tool from the toolkit.  In class I tell students to always have a Plan B if the technology fails.  For example, If our digital annotation tool, Diigo, fails (server down, browser disagreeable) then we need to slip into an analog Plan B--print copy with sticky notes.  We use the same skills in different contexts.

    I think we need to identify which world works best under which circumstance.  I think, for example, that it is hard to beat the 3X5 card for convenience as a memory jog.  I put my lesson plans on one side and my assignments on the other.  But if I were gathering the info off of them for another purpose, perhaps a book or wiki, then I might want to use an app on my iPod touch where I could tag the data for mashups--tweeting assignments to students.

    What are some of the "digital ways" that you employ in your reading and writing?

    1. Diigo-->digital annotation-->creation of summaries
    2. Google Forms for whole class sharing and critique.
    3. Kindle Fire highlighting and annotation with public notes on Findings
    4. iPad screencasting with Explain Everything and Educreations.
    5. Blogging here.



  • Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:16 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   March 6, 2012, 9:46 a.m.


    I'm with you, especially on your comment "In class I tell students to always have a Plan B if the technology fails." Because it does, and class must go on.

    However, I add a corollary. Plan B is, in theory or in practice, not exactly the same as Plan A (simply, un-digitized). If we are only using the technology in a way that makes our Plan B seem flashier because, oh wow, we can use Diigo instead of post-it notes -- and we are not truly embracing the networked possibilities of digital spaces -- then we do ourselves, our students, nor the technology and justice. 

    Great ideas to keep our discussion moving, all of them.

    Even ones influenced by Hegel.


  • Tellio   March 8, 2012, 8:25 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Troy Hicks   March 7, 2012, 11:16 p.m.

    Agreed if, in the inimitable words of Daft Punk, the Plan A doesn't allow us to

    Work It Harder Make It Better
    Do It Faster, Makes Us stronger
    More Than Ever ...

    then Diigo would be....silly.  But it isn't.  Or I don't think it is.  I don't really have anything but a sample of one in my own case and my own observations of others as evidence.  To me it is a matter of friction.  Any tool that adds excessive 'friction' to the task at hand without increased benefit is ill considered.  And by tool I mean any tool digital or otherwise.  Part of our function as learning shepherds is to assess the risk in using any tool and to determine benefits both short and long term.  Diigo, for instance, has a lot more learning curve friction short term. This is generally true of new digital tools except for ones that students already bring to the class (FB, cellphones, gaming). But that friction can be reduced through selectively introducing and becoming skilled at parts of the tool's affordances.  Show the advantages of personal social bookmarking first then move toward group bookmarking then to highlighting/annotating/extracting notes, and ultimately toward publishing to blogs. 

    Of course, if I am in the field with my sheep, then I take my sticky pads and stub of a pencil to annotate the world.  Less friction and no harm to my Ipod touch if the ram butts me. 

  • Jack Zangerle   March 8, 2012, 12:40 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   March 8, 2012, 8:25 a.m.

    I agree that we have to keep an eye to what a technology adds and what obstacles it presents. It is unavoidable that some learning curve will be implied in using a new tool. It is impoartant to look for balance in how much time it "adds" to the process because of this learning curve. This is a pressure I feel when introducing a new technology and the powers that be inquire about how much time will  be spent on the "technology" and not the "content" (their words). 

    Once the tools are in place, the rewards can be powerful.

    I was also interested in your comment about annotating your world as it reminds me of a conversation a collegue and i have been having. We spend a lot of time asking students to annotate while they read and "show us their thinking" so they can read deeper and better disucssion a text with small or large groups. As we move to more and more digital texts, (mutli media and otherwise) we have started to wonder about what annotations might mean in this space. Students prefer to be able to write on the work they are reading and often ask to, even when the particular book might prohibit it. Ideally, digital tools can free students to do the kinds of things that tools like Diigo offer, but there are not always an option. I'm thinking specifically about testing situations, which are moving to be almost completly computer based, how then do we help students to employ these skills which they feel are effective and want to do but the techmnology or the technology situation is actually stoppping them.

    Ironically, the testing craze is likely to lead to more technologu in classrooms, but I worry that it will be for all the wrong reasons and possibly even practices. 


  • Tellio   March 9, 2012, 5:48 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Jack Zangerle   March 8, 2012, 12:40 p.m.

    With augmented reality hardware and software, annotating the world has never been as easy.  I hope it isn't another way for digital divide to widen.