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Maple Syrup, Duck Blinds, and Compost: Digital Tourists at Womogo H.S. in Connecticut

Written by Bryan Ripley Crandall
April 12, 2013

Last Saturday at the Literacy Essentials Conference at CCSU, CWP-Fairfield 2012 teacher, Colette Bennett, presented a workshop called: “High Tech Reading Circles” with colleagues from her school. Colette stepped up  literacy leadership in the state partially through a small enhancement fund CWP-Fairfield made available to teachers through the NWP SEED Teacher Leadership grant). The presentation they made highlighted how they work digitally with varying grade levels in a school district that is becoming ‘paperless’. Teachers have the power to create their own textbooks (ones that are student-centered) through the many environments that are available to them online.

After the presentation I returned home to re-read Sarah B. Kajder‘s work in Adolescent literacy and the discussion of “Unleashing Potential With Emerging Technologies” – a chapter assigned to my pre-service graduate students who will one day (soon) be teaching. As I re-read Kajder’s exploration of digital tools, I realized that Womogo High School – part of an agricultural district in the northwest corridor of Connecticut – is living the power of technology via their English Department. I asked Colette if she minded SKYPING (it’s a verb now — I just made it official) my class to do the same presentation for my students.

This is a short aside: The young men from Sudan, Somalia and Liberia recently taught me the power of SKYPE after I moved from Syracuse. They continue to share their writing with me through SKYPE and taught me how to show desktops so we could workshop online. Here, students with limited and interrupted formal education (SIFEs) with only a few years of schooling in the U.S. already had knowledge of how to tap into the power of SKYPE to maintain a community for their writing. This is beautiful.

Their knowledge is what allowed me to suggest to Colette Bennett to visit my graduate students tonight (Yes, that is Colette leaning on the heads of graduate students at Fairfield University). She presented her conference talk to my graduate students digitally and, in this way, unleashed the enormous potential of the emerging technologies already in use by English teachers at Womogo Regional High School. She brought Kajder’s chapter alive.

In terms of Connected Learning – her presentation modeled equitable, social and participatory learning across several environments where new knowledge was production centered on student interests and where youth openly network with a shared purpose to reach academic excellence. I totally felt connected and I can’t help but be impressed by the collaboration and digital savviness of the teachers at Colette’s school.

And that’s what I have to say this Thursday morning.

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