From Notebook to Video: A Journey
My story with technology starts many years ago when Lil Brannon, as a new site director for the UNC-Charlotte Writing Project, and I attended an NWP conference. Talk at that conference swirled around technology, technology grants, technology in the schools, technology in our daily lives. We looked at each other as we heard person after person talk about technology. And we decided that I would take a leadership role in advancing our site with technology. I knew a little about computers; I owned a cell phone; and I had encouraged my students to take active roles in technology-driven projects at the junior high level. We set out to add this piece to our writing project site.
The next year Lil decided to send me to Marshall University in West Virginia for a technology workshop. The paper specifically said Experienced, but we figured I could learn quickly. That didn’t prove to be the case and to make matters worse, I fell and broke my ankle a week before I was to depart. So I arrived at the university in a wheel chair, needing much more help both with navigation and with technology than any of us had imagined. Will Banks came to my aid—both pushing me around town and around the university and with the background technology pieces I seemed to be missing. It was during this time that I saw the true spirit of Writing Project folks as everyone attempted to make me feel a part of the group.
I took home hundreds of ideas, set up Nice Net accounts for all my classes and demanded that my students write weekly responses to literature, questions, and other students. I taught them about Flick’r and about the very beginnings of digital storytelling that I gleaned from Peter Kittle. Lil and I planned our first summer technology workshop and we were off. I believe we had twelve participants and we taught such basics as how to negotiate Microsoft Word as well as the beginnings of blogging—Nice Net—and its advantages for students. Some of our students who were already somewhat tech savvy took off into parts unknown, such as creating websites, podcasting, and other things that were in their infancy. Lil and I smiled as we watched the excitement over these technological accomplishments grow.
By the next year we had moved from PowerPoint to MovieMaker and our technology institute took off with cumbersome video cameras whose recorded images required much revamping before Microsoft would recognize the file. The next year we had discovered the Flip video cameras and could send all participants out to make movies at lightning speed.
Not only was our technology use growing, so was the number of folks who were good at technology—really good. We began to put theory behind our technology projects and to study the results of each area we entered. We worked with still cameras and students whose English was a second language. We talked. We became more sophisticated. We built websites, praised Google, checked out new Web 2.0 options on a daily basis. We established a technology team that would work with members of our site and school systems all over our area.
With the advent of smart phones, tablets, and other gadgets, we think we are unstoppable as technology gurus on the cutting edge and as innovators in school technology practices. I still lag behind the others and sometimes I forget to tweet at a meeting or record my Facebook status, but my students handle computers and computer projects with ease, figuring a way to read tweets during the recent Egyptian protest and now at the Wall Street protest when the school computers wouldn’t go to Twitter. They are quick to set up a video or create a podcast.
And all this started many years ago when Lil Brannon and I decided to break out of isolation and join the tech world.