At the 5th Anniversary celebration of the CRWP, I listened with a group of six other teacher-consultants as Jeremy Hyler informally fielded questions about teaching full-time and raising a family while co-authoring Create, Compose, Connect. Afterward, I realized that many teachers would like to hear Jeremy’s answers, so I invited him to participate in a short interview. The five questions and Jeremy’s responses are below.
DM: How did you and co-author Troy Hicks arrive at the idea for the topic of Create, Compose, Connect?
Jeremy: The idea came from using mobile technologies and digital tools in classrooms, in addition to how they are becoming more and more prevalent in schools. Troy and I researched and discovered, though there were some great books available on the use of mobile technologies, especially cell phones, there wasn’t anything out there for teachers who teach English and are trying to find ways to adapt technology in their lessons along with incorporating the Common Core Standards.
Troy and I hope teachers can find some valuable information to take back to their classrooms.
DM: Who is your target audience for this text? Is this the same audience you see for the advanced summer institute in July?
Jeremy: In terms of audience, the text is designed for grades 6-8. However, the lessons and activities can easily be adapted for upper elementary and perhaps even some high school classes.
The advanced summer institute that Troy and I are hosting in July is not meant to be for certain grade level teachers. It is meant more to help teachers become familiar with digital literacies and become leaders in the world of digital literacy. We will use the text to help the participants of the advanced summer institute design their own ideas and lessons to take back to their schools and classrooms.
DM: How did you structure your writing time to accommodate your teaching schedule, family time, and other commitments?
Jeremy: I have to laugh when answering this question because it wasn’t easy, but after about six months I developed a routine. Thank goodness my children were young enough and they had early bedtimes. Typically all of my children were in bed between 7:00 pm and 7:30 pm. This is when I took advantage of rest time too and took about a two hour nap most nights that I wrote. I would set my alarm and get up around 9:00 pm and begin writing. I would write for two or three hours and then go back to bed.
I would discipline myself to get all of my grading done on my conference hour or if I needed extra time I would grade prior to taking my nightly nap.
In terms of Troy and me meeting online, we would meet whenever our schedules didn’t have a conflict. It worked well! Typically we would write, meet online to discuss revisions and changes, and then we would go back and revise. Afterward, we would meet again to see what our next direction should be.
DM: How has co-authoring a book changed your teaching experience?
Jeremy: The experience of co-authoring this book goes all the way back to attending the summer institute in 2010 where I became more comfortable sharing some of the lessons I implement in my classroom. Because I co-authored this book with Troy, the experience has allowed me to grow and reflect as a teacher. Again, I opened my classroom to another educator for an entire year and Troy did an excellent job of challenging my thinking about the relevance of the lessons and units I teach my students using technology. Now I am constantly asking myself the question, “why” when it comes to how I am implementing technology into my lessons. Furthermore, I carry that thinking further and apply it to other lessons that may not incorporate technology.
Also, it has made me repeatedly realize that collaboration is important in the workforce, especially in education where we can collaborate as teachers and develop some really rewarding units that are cross-curricular and more beneficial to students.
DM: What else should we know about the process of teaching and writing a book at the same time?
Jeremy: I would like to let teachers know that I want to be able to reach out and help in any way I can. That was one of my main goals for wanting to write this book with Troy. As educators we are embarking on an interesting journey in education; there is a lot to learn in terms of incorporating technology, and I feel it is important to take this journey together. Feel free to contact me via Twitter at @Jeremybballer.
As a teacher myself, I learned from this conversation with Jeremy that writing takes determination and persistence as well as a concerted effort to be organized, meet deadlines, and fulfill all the other commitments in our lives. Living a writerly life is more intense than some authors would have us believe, but the rewards are well worth it. Congratulations to Jeremy, and we look forward to his continued blogging and his next book!
Jeremy, along with CRWP Director Troy Hicks, will be facilitating a workshop this summer during the week of July 21-25, 2014: Create, Compose, Connect! An Advanced Institute for Building Digital Literacy Leadership. To register, visit our secure CMU registration page and for more information please email Troy: email@example.com.
Deborah Meister is a high school language arts teacher at Fellowship Baptist Academy in Carson City, MI, and a Teacher Consultant at the Chippewa River Writing Project. She has co-directed the CRWP Middle School Writing and Technology Camp for the past three summers at Central Michigan University with author Jeremy Hyler.
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