Muddling through the blogosphere

September 20, 2009
by blogwalker

National Day on Writing – Come Join the Celebration!

If you haven’t already marked October 20th on your calendar to take part in the National Day on Writing, please read on! In recognition of how integral writing has become to all of us as we journey further into the 21st century, the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is inviting our nation to come celebrate composition in all its forms by submitting a piece of writing to the National Gallery of Writing.

NCTE National Day on Writing

Why a National Day on Writing?

In light of the significance of writing in our national life, to draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we engage in, and to help writers from all walks of life recognize how important writing is to their lives, October 20, 2009, will be celebrated as The National Day on Writing. The National Day on Writing will

  • celebrate the foundational place of writing in Americans’ personal, professional, and civic lives.
  • point to the importance of writing instruction and practice at every grade level, for every student and in every subject area from preschool through university. (See The Genteel Unteaching of America’s Poor.)
  • emphasize the lifelong process of learning to write and composing for different audiences, purposes, and occasions.
  • recognize the scope and range of writing done by the American people and others.
  • honor the use of the full range of media for composing.
  • encourage Americans to write and enjoy and learn from the writing of others.

What a wonderful opportunity to write as an individual, a family, a classroom, a school site, a department – to write from all walks of life.  All the resources you might need to get started with your piece are available on the website, from a flyer about the event to a link to Writing Between the Lines – and Everywhere Else, a look at how young people are using forms of digital media to reshape the process of composing.

A huge thank you to all the folks at NCTE for your gift to the nation!

July 8, 2009
by blogwalker

Kathleen Yancey at NECC – Best session I did not attend

I should have known that Kathleen Yancey would pack ‘um in at NECC – and I should have been there early.  Try as I did, I could not persuade the ISTE door person to let me in.  But I lucked out….Sandy Hayes taped (with permission) “The Yancey’s” whole session. And Carla Beard blogged the session.

Live from NECC 2009 – Kathleen Yancey from Gail Desler on Vimeo.

What can I add about a session I did not attend, besides the above snippet?…How about posting NCTE’s 10 Belief’s About the Teaching of Writing (another gem shared by Sandy Hayes)?!

May 24, 2009
by blogwalker

More Gifts from the Nat’l Council for Teachers of English!

I’m surprised that my MS Word spellchecker continues to underline literacies.  It’s been more than a year since  the National Council for the Teachers of English President Kylene Beers posted a definition of 21st century literacies, moving away from what had for decades been a word that existed in singular form only. I’ve probably referred teachers to this link almost as many times as I’ve recommended visiting NCTE’s wonderful Read, Write, Think site. And for colleagues who ask me about research on writing in a digital age, I refer them to Kathleen Yancey’s Writing in the 21st Century report. I’ve also recently joined NCTE’s English Companion Ning, where I have opportunities to join such groups as the upcoming discussion of Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It.

But wait, here comes one more huge gift to teachers from NCTE: The National Gallery of Writing :

To celebrate composition in all its forms, we are inviting diverse participants –students, teachers, parents, grandparents, service and industrial workers, managers, business owners, legislators, retirees and many more — to submit a piece of writing to the which will be a digital archive of samples that exhibit how and why Americans are writing every day, accessible to all through a free, searchable website.”

Thank you, NCTE!  I’m working on a multimedia essay right now (A Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom, a piece inspired by Ernest Morrell’s keynote at last summer’s NCTE Conference on 21st Century Literacies) that I hope to soon submit to the Gallery.

November 27, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE ACE Workshop Makes “the Shift” Visible

I love being part of the ACE group, which always offers a Monday hands-on tech session at NCTE. Each year, I walk away with a deeper understanding of what 21st century teaching is all about.

Rich Rice opened the workshop with a session on K-16 Educational Blogging and Podcasting.

My NWP colleague Troy Hicks led the second session: Writing with Wikis. Troy opened the session by asking “what’s the matter with wikis?” Some participant ideas:

  • danger of overriding work(and we went live with a flurry of posting – and overriding each other)
  • tough to keep organized

His second question: “What’s good about wikis?” Participants’ thoughts:

  • small group projects, e.g., poetry project
  • collaborative essays
  • allowing students to incorporate information in different ways
  • creating policy documents

If you are looking for ways to make visible to teachers the power and possibilities of collaborative writing, take a tour of the many projects Troy has shared through this wiki. I love his Project Write: Book Discussions. The author links take readers to wikipedia-like resources pages. What a great model!

Allen Web led the third session, opening with a small rant on the design of 21st century computer labs, which look amazingly similar to 19th and 20th century “labs.” Small but revolutionary idea! I’ve asked Allen to send me a photo of the lab he has designed, where laptops are placed on small tables that can easily be moved to accommodate whatever project students might be working on. I now understand why the use of technology in classrooms with access to a few laptops always seems so much more powerful than what I typically see happening in elementary – secondary computer labs.

My favorite link on Allen’s LitArchives site = Civil Liberties Online Resources. Not on his LitArchives site, but very exciting is his Literary Worlds project. At a glance, more impressive than read/write projects I’ve viewed in Second Life!

I led the 4th session with an introduction to VoiceThread.

The 5th session was my first time to participate in one of Carl Young‘s workshops. Oh my, some great ideas and resources for teaching the realities of digital identities! Given that few K-12 students have received much instruction, either from home or school, on the ethical use of the Internet, Carl’s suggestion to those whose digital identities may already be questionable as potential employees, grant recipients, etc., to get out there and create a positive web identity. Love Carl’s resources and samples posted to Being Proactive!

Ewa McGrail, who organized this year’s ACE event, ended the day with a great activity and resources for teaching copyright and fair use. I’m really glad she’s posted the handout, since we ran short on time.

Interested in becoming a member of ACE? Contact Ewa. Next year’s NCTE ACE workshop will be in Philidelphia, one of my favorite cities:-).

*Image from Library of Congress American Memory Project –

November 26, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE Ports of Entry Session

It was my privilege to join Monica Edinger and William Teale for an early Sunday morning NCTE session, Ports of Entry.

I’ve known Monica – and stood in awe of her work – for close to ten years, so I don’t know why the level to which she promotes questioning, creating, and sharing with her 4th grade students still amazes me. For a glimpse into her Web 2.0 journey, start with her presentation and then take a tour of Edinger House, her classroom blog.

William Teale added another layer to our presentation by pointing out that, although Monica and I have been exploring and experimenting with new tech tools for over a decade, many teacher are still intimidated by technology and the time commitment required for meaningful integration into the curriculum. Bill showcased two online projects: ePals and in2books. Although I was vaguely familiar with both ePals and in2books, I did not realize these two programs are both under the umbrella of ePals, a once fee-based program that is now free and very dynamic. The power of ePals is that a teacher with limited tech proficiency can easily enroll his/her students not only for online pen pal “demographics dances” (bill’s words), but can also connect them to powerful lessons and projects that promote global awareness and social action on such vital topics as water.

The in2books project provides free books to Title 1 schools, grades 3-5, and connects students with an adult pen pal (carefully screened by the organization!) for the purpose engaging students in reading and writing and promoting a love of books. Here’s a link to an NBC spotlight on the program –

OK, and the good news about our 8:30 a.m.-on-a-Sunday session was that our participants outnumbered the three of us, were impressively awake, and seemed to share our enthusiasm for Web 2.0 in the elementary classroom 🙂

July 22, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE Keynote with Ernest Morrell

Ernest Morrell is opening the session with 4 discussion questions:

  • What will be demanded of students in terms of literacy in the 21st century
  • In what ways is the nature of literacy changing?
  • How should the discipline of English change in response to the changes in literacy?
  • What are the ways that your students practice literacy when they are not in class?
    • filmmaking
    • video games
    • virtual worlds – adopting different identities


  • “Historical Memory” – Important to teach students that once they post something, it’s there forever
  • Very complicated now to figure out what is reliable information
  • Switching from the “you need to learn to do this by yourself” to “you need to learn to do this collaboratively.”

Dynamic, challenging time for teaching English and literacy – and meeting increased literacy demands. Teaching 21st century literacies can help us to address many of these challenges while providing opportunities for youth to produce socially and academically powerful texts in ways that were not previously possible – democratizing access to literacy.

Big Question: Motivating students – Expectancy Value Theory of Motivation – 1) Motivation is measure of how confident you are in your ability to perform a task and 2) motivation is measure of how relevant the task is to you. Value + Expectancy = Motivation


Elementary Students: Teatro- Theater of the Oppressed (Pablo Freire)- Education for humanity’s sake. Elementary students out of Watts neighborhood of L.A. doing tableau on violence in their neighborhoods. Actors (students) then invite audience in to dialogue. Students were producing both academic text and socially relevant text.

11th Grader English Students – Great Gatsby unit on critical media literacy & the American Dream. Students analyzing images in 50 Cent and Seventeen and learning to read images. Between the gangster image and glamour image, teens die due to inability to read the media. Critical media literacy is a citizenship skill! The American Dream tied to wealth, not citizenship. Assignment = counter media campaign (e.g., female athletes, tough guy tutoring younger students) If you don’t like the media, make a new media – that’s the difference with 21st century literacy. Students must learn to de-construct images – and to create their own.

Critical media production: documentary filmmaking – ( – Students documenting cultures of their communities. Link between academic literacy and documentary filmmaking. Students become experts on their topics. Requires a high level of literacy to produce a documentary.

Teaching film and television:

  • Watching a film in English/Language Arts class (The Odyssey/Godfather example). Using an epic text that talks about ideology of western civilization. Students use analysis of film to inform their analysis of text. Looking at camera angles to “privilege” certain characters. Having students write essays around popular culture.
  • Spoken word and hip-hop in the English classroom – If young people are engaged with it, it’s important to talk about. Hip-hop reflects problems we have in society. It’s one of the few youth-created popular cultural forms. Involves complex uses of language and literacy. The Poet in Society Unit – poetry is cool again. But everything we do is mediated by the poetry of our time. Think of T.S. Elliot as a social activist, writing apocalyptic poetry about the demise of civilization. Assignment: comparing Grand Master Flash to T.S. Elliot.

Involving students in researching their own communities, with goal of making world a better place. Using an Inconvenient Truth, for example, as a key piece, moving kids beyond their own issues to issues of world. Engaging in research to make the world a better place = Youth Voices.

Critical Minds Project: English class for 9th grade, low-performing students – “A Day in My Life” was first prompt for these east L.A. students. Turned essays in photo essays > digital film.

“There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.” Marshall McLuhan

“The question is not whether English will change, but how it will change.” Ernest Morrell

To see Ernest’s PowerPoint: (user=profmorrell; password=morrell).

I’ll send out a Tweet as soon as I’ve uploaded the podcast for the session.

July 21, 2008
by blogwalker

Opening Day – 21st Century Literacies

Kathy Yancy is the opening speaker for NCTE’s Institute for 21st Century Literacies.

  • First task: Define literacy
  • Second task: Define 21st century literacy
  • Third task: Identify 10 key terms that define 21st literacy
  • Fourth task: Put key terms onto chart paper in some form. Here’s what our group of 4 came up with (using

Bonus of opening session: Kyene Beers‘ explanation of “dip in/dip out” approach to Holt Language Arts program – very different than the scripted approach! I’ll be doing a podcast with her later in the conference.

March 2, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE’s “Shift”

I’ve been following the discussion in response to Karl Fisch’s NCTE – “Shifting” Toward a New Literacy” post with great interest because the focus is on Kylene Beers’ invitation to join the 2008 NCTE Conference in San Antonio with its theme of Shift Happens.

I first became familiar with Kylene Beers’ work in 2000 when I received my first NCTE middle school publication Voices from the Middle. Kylene, then the editor, opened the March issue (Vol 7, Number 3) with a message entitled Technology, Bus Rides, and the Digital Divide. Her concern eight years ago was that students at our nation’s poorer schools did not have access to the technology that would allow them to move “beyond being merely digitally literate (students who can download sound clips from the Web, insert clip art into papers, and send e-mail”), so she chose to include articles by teachers who “refuse to let wealth or gender or location or race – or even mundane things like number of computers in the school or glitches in computer lab scheduling – dictate who has access to the Information Highway.” Through this issue, I met Nancy Patterson, Gretchen Lee, Jim Burke, and Jeff Wilhelm, whose work and passions, eight years later, continue to inspire me.

In 2004, Kylene dedicated the March issue (Vol 11, Number 3) to Learning through Technology, with her Editor’s Message entitled: Equality and the Digital Divide. She shared that, four years later, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, sites with minority populations were fast acquiring more computers. She also shared her concern with Hank Beckers’s troubling findings that “teachers in low socioeconomic schools (SES) are much more likely to use computers for remediation and skill reinforcement than for gathering and analyzing information. The reverse is true in ‘other’ schools (i.e., higher SES levels).”

I mention Kylene Beers’ long-time commitment to examining digital divide issues for three reasons:

  1. I wanted to be sure that Karl Fisch and his readers know that Kylene did not jump on the “shift happens” bandwagon overnight and that
  2. a significant and growing number of NCTE teachers continue to “show us how to make sure our students, all students, ride this technology bus, up front, with eyes wide open, to take in all this road (Information Highway) has to offer. To name just a few: Dawn Hogue (who has just posted to her Polywog blog her second interview on CyberEnglish; Ted Nellen, whose posts to NCTE Talkies are always gems; and Bud Hunt, also a NWP colleague, whose blog was one of the first added to my Bloglines account…and many more!
  3. and with much appreciation for Karl Fisch’s continued sharing of outstanding conversations and resources:

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