Central Michigan University Hosts National Writing Projects of Michigan Annual Network Retreat

Technology was a key topic of discussion during the Summer Retreat.

Monday, August 9th marked the opening events of the National Writing Projects of Michigan annual network retreat on the grounds of Central Michigan University’s Mt. Pleasant campus.  The three-day retreat drew in NWPM members from all across the state, encompassing most of the eleven sites that make up the NWP’s Michigan network.  For many, the event was not just an opportunity to socialize with colleagues both near and far, but the chance to look ahead to the development of future collaborative efforts between sites as each makes plans for the year to come.

CMU’s Kathryn Koch, Interim Dean of the College of Education and Human Services, and Pamela S. Gates, Interim Dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences welcomed participants Monday evening with opening addresses.  Guest speakers, meanwhile, included NWP national coordinators Christina Cantrill and Paul Oh, who presented on digital networking spaces and highlighted their latest projects.  Danielle DeVoss, co-author of the upcoming Because Digital Writing Matters, invigorated participants with her opening presentation “Digital Is…”, while updates from the Holocaust Educators Network and a colorful book display offered NWPM members fresh ideas for future work.

Aram Kabodian, Red Cedar WP, and Karen Chichester, Eastern Michigan WP, discuss uses of educational technology during one of the NWPM sessions.

Participants spent the day on Tuesday sharing their local site work related to the summer institute, continuity, professional development, and youth/community programs. One partipant noted that “the opportunity to hear voices from all the other Michigan sites reconnects us as a network.  The sessions stimulated and grew my/our site’s thinking.  Thank you for providing this time and space to work together.” Finally, on Wednesday, participants joined in a “town hall”meeting about the ideas presented over the course of the retreat, and left with many ideas for their sites.

The annual retreat marked CRWP’s second participation since its official launching in 2009.

CRWP Teacher Livens up the Classroom with Bitstrips Comics

Powell created a gallery to highlight students' creations with Bitstrips.

Shannon Powell, CRWP 2009, and teacher at Central Montcalm Middle School has found a way to breathe new life into classroom projects using a creative technology called Bitstrips for Schools.  The online software acts as an innovative and user-friendly program that allows students to develop and publish their own unique webcomics.

For Powell, Bitstrips offers students the attraction of playing while working.  Many of her most reluctant writers found an opportunity for success using the creative medium of the webcomic.

“My students are addicted to this program,” confesses Powell.  “I could hardly keep them off it, and they were happy to have new assignments and complete them so they could share with the rest of the classes.  Having a purpose in playing really kept them interested in what they were doing.”

Powell’s success with the program was featured in a recent article on Bitstrips for School’s own blog.  Excited by the work her students produced for such projects as a Favorite Books gallery, she encouraged colleagues to try webcomics in their own classrooms, many of whom soon had their own success stories to share.

Tyler's webcomic uses humor to tell about his favorite book by Rick Riordan.

Powell notes the interdisciplinary aspect Bitstrips has to offer when she recalls, “One of our social studies teachers wanted to use the program to make brochures for other countries her students were studying, and math or science concepts could easily be explained through comics as well.”

Formed in 2008, Bitstrips has formed a partnership with the National Writing Project, and is currently available for free download through August 31st to NWP teachers.

CRWP Director Featured on NWP’s BlogTalkRadio

As one of three featured guests on the February 11, 2010, episode of the National Writing Project’s periodic web-based radio show, BlogTalkRadio, CRWP Director Troy Hicks talked about the ways in which writing project sites choose readings for their summer institute participants.

NWP BlogTalkRadio (2-11-10)

Hicks focused his attention on how the CRWP Leadership Team invites participants to read selections that encompass five broad themes:

  • To get an overview of the NWP, as well as its principles and practices;
  • To be inspired as a writer;
  • To begin thinking about teacher research;
  • To better understand digital writing; and
  • To engage in one’s own personal inquiry about the teaching of writing.

Moreover, he discussed the ways in which CRWP teachers use the discussion forum features of their wiki to carry on professional conversations about the texts that they read, as well as the ways in which participants last summer created podcasts as a response to a text about digital writing.

As the CRWP Leadership Team continues to plan for the 2010 Summer Institute, they will continue to build on these themes to find books, articles, and online readings that will enhance participants’ experiences over the four week invitational.

As a way to begin that conversation, we wonder… what professional texts do you think would be worth considering for this summer?

CRWP Leaders Attend NWP New Site Leadership Institute

Penny Lew, left, and Troy Hicks discuss plans for CRWP professional development at the NWP's New Site Leadership Institute
Penny Lew, left, and Troy Hicks discuss plans for CRWP professional development at the NWP's New Site Leadership Institute

Over the MLK holiday weekend, Troy and I spent four packed-full days with the NWP New-Site Leadership Institute at the Scottsdale Marriott at McDowell Mountains. The NSLI is an annual invitational retreat bringing together leaders from new sites to explore the work of the NWP beyond the Summer Institute. While there, Troy and I gathered ideas for recruiting potential TCs, discovered different angles from which to look at continuity, considered the yearly budget, and began developing a vision for the CRWP.

One idea that stood out for both of us involved the CRWPs role in teacher professional development.  After reading the Rhode Island Monograph, we began discussing the possibilities of combining continuity with the development of  TCs presentation skills.  By using a regularly scheduled gathering time, a TC will have the opportunity to present a teaching demo, conference session, or professional development seminar to the group.  The group then uses a protocol similar to that used in writing groups to help the presenter revise his or her session.  This may prove to be a great way to keep TCs connected, spread the name of the CRWP, and to promote promising practice throughout the profession.

The work at the NSLI was GRUELING, and opportunities to enjoy the gorgeous, sunny, 75 degree days were limited to a few stolen minutes here and there, but it was a greatly focusing weekend that left me excited and invigorated for the year to come!