Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Teachers and Students as Makers

This summer at the RIWP, in the Summer Institute on Teaching Writing, we have been exploring what it means to use digital tools in teaching and learning and how to use those tools with intention and purpose. We have come together to re-learn what it means to MAKE stuff in school. We want to instill in our teacher participants the transformative notion of students as producers--as MAKERS--of digital texts.

We began our first week with Digital Introductions, a fantastic creative free-for-all in which we were all to create a digital means of introducing ourselves to the group. Nearly everyone chose a different media and application, and we were thoroughly wow-ed by the results of letting teachers tinker with digital tools. During our first week together, back in the middle of July, we gave ourselves permission to try and fail, to screw up and to make stupid stuff. We also gave ourselves permission to make awesome things, to experiment with tools we had previously been afraid of, to remix and repurpose ideas so that they could live new lives in a digital world.

Here, Emmanuel introduces himself to us using a Six Word Memoir:

In an amazing feat of looping Vines to make a much longer montage, Anne introduces herself to us here:

And, as a third example, here is Kelly's introduction, using a digital tool called Sparkol:

As you sail into August with thoughts of the school year starting to sprout up, think about ways you can MAKE STUFF, both concretely and digitally, with your students this year. Think about ways you can, yourself, as their teacher, make stuff and tinker and show them it's okay. Trust me when I tell you: Making, tinkering, and playing--with digital tools or not--will bring your teaching back to life again. We are all trying to reconstruct what it's like to be a child, someone who learns by engaging and doing and not by obligation, fear or duty.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Renewal at Just the Right Time: The Summer Institute

The Rhode Island Writing Project's Summer Institute begins this morning, and for the first time since arriving at the RIWP in 2004, I will be co-facilitating the SI. In the world of the Writing Project, this is an assignment unlike any other, a coveted post within a network of exceptional teacher leaders, a chance to practice, practice, practice what we preach.

Our first day looks like most Writing Project first days. It will begin with some low-stakes writing and talking, icebreakers and a community-building activity: a partner interviewing activity adapted from an idea in Linda Rief's Seeking Diversity. After that, we will take a break to mingle and talk over muffins, croissants, danish and coffee. Then, we will break into groups and visit stations around the room, responding to these three questions: What does it mean to teach powerfully? What does digital literacy mean to you? What does a writing-centered classroom look like? After examining, writing about, and discussing the results of this activity, we will Introduce Writer's Notebooks (a la Ralph Fletcher's Breathing In, Breathing Out) and do some writing and sharing to close out our first day together: What is your earliest memory as a writer? Of writing?

I look forward to meeting our ten teacher participants in a couple hours. I feel grateful to have this opportunity to work with teachers who are eager to dive in, to learn with their peers and to write with their peers. Stay tuned to see what happens!