Learning Alongside: Embracing Digital Storytelling with Social Justice in Mind
No living thing is unitary in nature; every such thing is a plurality. Even the organism which appears to us as an individual exists as a collection of independent entities. – Goethe
Every fall, Coloradans head to the mountains to see the aspens turn. For just a few weeks, the stands of trembling green leaves that have shaded us through summer hikes transform into gorgeous golden ribbons weaving down the mountainside through the pines. At no time of the year is it more evident that aspens grow not as lone trees, but in colonies, many qualifying as one of the largest organisms in the world. This is because the root system of each colony is intertwined into a single rhizome so that every tree in the stand is connected to every other tree nearby, sometimes covering as many as twenty acres.
The rhizome metaphor works well to describe the “colony” of three interrelated projects that we–co-authors Adam Mackie, Cindy O’Donnell-Allen, and Jenny St. Romain– describe in this resource. Focused on digital storytelling, teaching to learn, and enacting social justice, these projects involve elementary students, preservice teachers, and practicing teachers. The colony was originally inspired by a question emerging in the 2009 summer institute of the Colorado State University Writing Project: “What if we formed a partnership between young writers and community members to collect oral histories about Fort Collins?”
This question was the impetus for designing a “Saving Our Stories” digital writing workshop for English Language Learners held during the summer at a local elementary school. That workshop was the impetus for two other programs: 1) a professional development institute on teaching with technology also held at the school, and 2) a service-learning project taken on by preservice teachers charged with creating and implementing writing curriculum informed by principles of culturally relevant teaching.
We invite you to browse this set of resources with these questions in mind:
- What is the potential for writing, in all its forms—digital and analog—to save stories that matter but would otherwise be lost in students’ lives, families, and communities?
- How can technology support hands-on, interactive literacy learning for students and teachers as well?
- How can learning to write, learning to teach, and teaching to learn with technology enact social justice on behalf of students, teachers, and their communities?
Keeping It Real: Preservice Teachers Meet the SOS Project
“I get that all these methods and standards and theories we’re learning about teaching writing are important, but how am I supposed to know if they really work until I have my own classroom?”
If you work with or have been a preservice teacher, my guess is that you’ve considered this question on a regular basis. I hear it from my Colorado State University (CSU) students, too. Even though Colorado State University’s licensure program operates on a Professional Development School model, integrating students into practicum settings as soon as possible in their programs, my students may have little opportunity to design and teach sustained curriculum until they are student teaching, depending on the freedom granted to them by their cooperating teachers.
This isn’t the only problem my students face. Most of them are eager to get on with changing the world through literacy instruction, but actual methods of teaching from a social justice perspective may be less clear to them than their admirable intentions. Furthermore, translating the ease with which they use technology in their personal lives into techniques that will support their future students’ learning remains a puzzling prospect. Finally, as the ELL population continues to grow in Colorado, they are nervous about meeting the language needs of these students in meaningful ways.
In Spring 2010, the same semester before the SOS Project began, I was acutely aware that assigning more readings that focused on social justice approaches, digital literacies, and ELL instruction just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. My university students needed a project that would allow them to apply what they were learning about teaching with real kids in real classrooms.
The Promise of Service Learning: Writing Grants, Finding Partners
I saw an opportunity to address these challenges by incorporating a service-learning project into “Teaching Composition,” an upper-division methods course I was teaching. We are fortunate at Colorado State University, the state’s only land-grant institution, to have a robust service-learning program that provides grants twice a year to faculty whose goals align with the program’s mission to “support the development of meaningful, active, hands-on learning experiences that promote academic excellence while serving genuine community needs.” Developing instructional materials for the SOS Project that aligned with the goals and objectives of my Teaching Composition course seemed like a good match for this mission. I also anticipated it would allow my students to enact teaching methods with a focus on social justice, digital literacies, and the writing needs of ELLs.
I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the solution, though, because students would still be developing curriculum for students they would never meet since the SOS Project would take place in the summer. To address this problem, Elizabeth (Beth) Lewis, Co-Director of CSUWP, agreed to let my students develop and pilot a similar curriculum they could actually implement in her high school classroom that semester. These were the aims of the project as I described them in “Developing Digital Pedagogies,” the service-learning grant proposal (service learning proposal #1 – developing digital pedagogies.pdf) that was funded by CSU’s Office for Service Learning. Here’s an excerpt of that proposal:
In this project, CSU preservice English teachers enrolled in Teaching Composition (E402) will collaborate with Centennial High School (CHS) students on a digital storytelling project entitled “Saving Our Stories.” In the spirit of Story Corps, these podcasts and videos will document the everyday experiences of historically underserved populations in the Fort Collins area. Throughout the semester, E402 students will research local history and develop and teach research-based curriculum aligned with Colorado’s newly adopted academic standards to CHS students. At the conclusion of the project, CSU students will share their project findings and recommendations with teachers in the CSU Writing Project who are also studying digital pedagogies. The project will
- allow preservice teachers to contribute to the profession,
- create a body of digital stories significant to the Fort Collins community, and
- help support CHS’s emphasis on academic standards, communication skills, and community service and involvement.
In addition to allowing the CSU students to invade her classroom, Beth also team-taught the CSU course with me that semester in preparation for teaching it later as an adjunct. As a result, we were able to plan activities for both the university and high school classrooms in tandem.
The Devil’s in the Details: Goals and Implementation
We organized the university students into five teams with each team responsible for developing a particular aspect of the SOS curriculum to pilot in Beth’s class. The historical research team researched local history on underserved populations in Fort Collins in order to identify a variety of useful resources (e.g., archival, primary source, print-based, online) that the high school students would find useful in conducting historical research. The research methods team located resources and developed curriculum to help the high school students learn to conduct primary research in the Fort Collins community. The podcasting team learned digital storytelling methods for recording and editing effective podcasts, and the video team likewise developed curriculum to teach the high school students methods for recording and editing digital stories using photographs and video. Finally, the Ning team learned how to design an effective Ning to showcase the digital stories and worked with the other teams to collect content for the site. (Team descriptions and assignment sheets for students’ projects and Igniteshow presentations are attached below.)
This approach allowed me to address the challenges outlined above. First and foremost, both the university and high school students were able to develop critical literacy methods and materials that they could immediately apply with students in an actual classroom. Students studied online archives from the Fort Collins History Connection and took a private tour of El Museo de las Tres Colonias, a living history museum located in an adobe home originally inhabited by Latino sugar beet farmers.
In the process, they learned troubling truths about the inequities Latinos have historically faced in Fort Collins. They also developed digital literacies to preserve stories from the Fort Collins Latino community that would otherwise be lost. Though the materials and activities didn’t focus specifically on methods to support ELL students’ language needs, they clearly had a culturally relevant focus. Beth drew on the materials developed by CSU students on the historical research and research methods teams for the SOS unit she taught her high school class, and CSU students all visited her classroom during the school day to assist with teaching the CHS students how to record and edit podcasts, slideshows, and videos.
Most of the CSU responded positively to the service-learning project, though a few were uncomfortable with the ambiguity inherent in the process of developing curriculum entirely from scratch. As experienced teachers know, this process is messy and often overwhelming. It involves multi-tasking and, with a project of this scope, requires collaboration with colleagues, and coordination with community members. Still, some of the CSU students were so enthusiastic about their experiences, they applied to take part in the “Teaching with Technology” workshop that summer along with experienced CSU fellows. As part of the workshop, they worked with 4th and 5th-grade ELLs in the SOS Project in the afternoons and saw firsthand the fruits of their labors as they taught the kids to create digital stories.
Service-Learning Redux: Capitalizing on Lessons Learned
While the service-learning project was not without its hitches, we deemed it successful enough to give it a try again in the Fall 2010 semester with some important refinements that would garner us another service-learning grant entitled “Integrating Digital Pedagogies in Culturally Responsive Teaching.” As the title suggestions, this proposal (service learning proposal #2 – culturally relevant teaching.pdf) focused more specifically on helping students develop culturally relevant curriculum that also featured genre-based writing techniques. In the overview I presented to my CSU students at the start of the project (Keynote presentation on SOS.pdf), I explained the following:
By completing this assignment and participating in the classroom activities that accompany, you will be able to tell future employers that you know how to:
- Design standards-based, “culturally relevant” instruction (Gay, 2000) with the needs of English Language Learners (ELLs) in mind
- Teach genre-specific stylistic techniques
- Integrate print-based and digital tools in your teaching
- Incorporate guest speakers and field trips into your teaching in meaningful ways
- Collaborate with colleagues
I maintained key elements of the original program in that my students developed research-based instructional materials, connected with the Fort Collins Latino community, and worked with Beth’s CHS students. While students in the spring semester had developed materials emphasizing non-fiction writing, my new class of students in the fall focused primarily on literary genres. I used monies from the service-learning grant to buy mentor texts written by Latino authors, such as Pablo Neruda, Sandra Cisneros, and Gary Soto. Students drew on these works to develop methods for teaching genre-specific stylistic techniques, culturally focused content, and grammatical concepts to ELLs. I invited in Megan Baker, a CSUWP fellow who teaches social studies, to model how she teaches her students to write found poems based on primary source documents on immigration originating from Ellis Island. As well, documentary poet Jake Adam York visited our class to read from his work and describe his process of incorporating court trial transcripts and other historical documents into his poetry based on the Civil Rights era. These guest speakers allowed my CSU students see the potential for interplay between non-fiction and literary genres from both a teacher’s and poet’s perspectives.
I adjusted the project teams to reflect these adaptations. Students on the artifacts team developed standards-based curriculum to help students learn how to write creative texts inspired by photographs, found objects, etc. The documentary team developed materials to help students learn how to write creative texts inspired by archival documents. The prose writing team created lessons using mentor texts by Pablo Neruda and Gary Soto to teach students how to write and respond to poetry, and the poetry writing team drew on Sandra Cisneros’s work to teach students how to write vignettes and respond to prose. The living histories team designed activities to help students capture significant stories pertinent to local Latino history, using digital and print-based tools. Finally, the “all things digital” team created curriculum focused on digital storytelling tools, such as video and still cameras, podcasting equipment, and social networks like Nings or wikis. For whatever reason, students in this class reacted in almost uniformly positive ways to the project, and again, some took part in our CSUWP summer workshop on “Teaching with Technology” alongside practicing teachers.
I will continue refining the service-learning project for future CSU students because I want them to see the immediate impact of their coursework. I want them to learn culturally relevant pedagogies for melding academic and creative writing with their own students, especially ELLs. I want them to learn how technology can be more than just a shiny tool, but can instead actually enhance their teaching and amplify student learning. I want to create occasions for them to see how collaborating with colleagues can give the stamina to endure the often messy business of teaching.
I want them to understand firsthand that theory matters, practice matters, and that the two can be beautifully and mindfully intertwined. I want to let them know they don’t have wait to change the world.
Open service learning proposal #1 – developing digital pedagogies.pdf
Open service learning proposal #2 – culturally relevant teaching.pdf
Open E402 handouts – SOS Project teams .doc
Open CAS assignment sheet – Fall 2010 .pdf
Open coffeetalk igniteshows assignment sheet – Fall 2011.pdf
Open Keynote presentation on SOS.pdf
Helping ELLs Own Their Stories: An Interview with Preservice Teacher Brittany Belmarez
In this interview, preservice teacher Brittany Belmarez describes her experiences working with practicing teachers in the Teaching with Technology workshop and English Language Learners in the SOS Project, a digital storytelling workshop.
Open brittany belmarez podcast_4.mp3
Teaching to Learn: Using Technology Purposefully to Support Student Learning
How can technology support hands-on, interactive literacy learning for students and teachers as well?
Increasingly, teachers have access to hardware, software, and the internet; yet many of us continue to feel apprehensive about how to use these resources effectively to enhance our teaching. Technology can’t be the ever ubiquitous “something more” on top of everything else we are expected to learn and implement. It has to make us better, and it has to support and improve student learning.
For several years prior to the SOS Project, the Colorado State University Writing Project (CSUWP) had offered weeklong workshops during the summer that ran concurrently with our summer institute. These workshops were open to any teacher, and the topics varied to reflect current issues, needs, or challenges we perceived that teachers and schools were facing. The issue we selected for our weeklong workshop in Summer 2010 was teaching with technology, not just as a shiny “add-on,” but as a tool that could amplify our writing instruction in ways that pencils and paper alone could not.
Also in the works was our planning for the Saving Our Stories Project, also described in this resource. Based on the service-learning experiences in Cindy O’Donnell-Allen’s class for preservice teachers at Colorado State University (CSU), we knew that we would need more than the usual couple of teachers to lead this young writer’s workshop. We speculated that the young writers would be eager to learn, but we wanted them to use technology purposefully as they captured their digital stories. We knew we wanted more than “point and shoot” and “record and press play.”
This parallel goal—to teach teachers and students to use technology purposefully and effectively to improve learning—led us to the idea of pairing the workshops and featuring student and teacher interaction as part of the mix. Our partnership school where we were holding the SOS Project agreed to the concept and offered us a computer lab where we could also hold the Teaching with Technology workshop. Students would learn how to tell stories well while teachers would learn how to use technology well. Together, they and we would learn how well the two could mix.
Selecting Workshop Participants
To recruit participants during Year One, we modified our usual procedures of opening the weeklong workshop up to any teacher and limited it to a continuity event for our own writing project teachers, whom we knew would be patient during implementation as we worked out the kinks. We were able to use NWP monies to completely fund the workshop and provide modest stipends for teachers to attend, which they might use to pay for graduate credit at a reduced rate. We also bought books on teaching with technology, including The Digital Writing Workshop by Troy Hicks, who made a guest appearance because he was providing professional development in the area.
This abundance of riches also enabled us to invite CSU preservice teachers who had worked on the SOS service-learning project in Cindy’s university class. Because they had already developed and implemented SOS curriculum in the classroom with high school students, the preservice teachers entered the workshop with existing expertise that allowed them to learn alongside our CSUWP fellows. In our first year, this resulted in the optimal mix of a one-to-one match of six CSUWP teachers to six CSU preservice teachers. In the absence of NWP funding in Year 2, we opened the workshop up to teachers outside CSUWP as well, including our alternates for the summer institute. This allowed us to generate enough revenue to cover our costs and to use the weeklong workshop as a kind of “farm team” to identify recruits for our subsequent summer institute.
Setting Up Shop: Workshop Design
As described above, our overall goal for the workshop was to help teachers use technology effectively to amplify student learning. In addition to discovering when and how to use it to meet their teaching goals, we also knew that they would need to learn the actual equipment and software right away so that they could provide support for the SOS students. At the same time, especially because our own fellows would be attending, we wanted to remain true to our CSUWP value for inquiry-based learning. This meant the workshop couldn’t just be a “how-to”; it also had to be a “why-to” or a “why-not-to,” as dictated by one’s teaching context and purposes.
For instance, Smart Boards were becoming increasingly available in area schools, but were they the best tool to support hands-on, interactive literacy learning? If so, we should spend time on learning how to use them effectively during the workshop. If not, we needed to spend our time exploring other digital tools. Regardless of the technological tool, we needed to problematize its use and to always, always make sure it supported our learning goals for students. Otherwise, it shouldn’t make the cut.
The italicized question above not only functioned as a litmus test for us, but it also suggested that we needed to learn about technology use, period. This meant we needed to explore other questions as well, such as:
- What instructional standards exist that address digital learning?
- How were other teachers implementing technology in their classrooms?
- How might we revamp our classroom curriculum to purposefully incorporate digital tools, including hardware, software, and social networking tools?
These questions guided our purposes and our workshop design. As you will see on the attached flyer, we spent the mornings as follows:
- constructing and editing digital texts using podcasts, images, and video
- documenting our learning on a blog
- reading about issues, standards, and methods for teaching with technology and engaging in online discussion about these on a Ning
- exploring various social networking tools and Web 2.0 applications, such as Twitter, Glogster for Educators, Prezi, Storybird, etc.
- determining how we might purposefully integrate technology into our personal classroom curriculum
In the afternoon, we immediately applied what we had learned by working with the SOS students as they developed and edited digital stories.
We also attended the Friday celebration where students debuted their work. Although we tweaked the workshop slightly in Year 2, the general structure remained the same based on our success in Year 1. We plan to replicate our recruiting strategies and workshop structure for Year 3 as well.
Our continued goal for this evolving project is to find those productive intersections where students and teachers can learn with technology alongside one another to become more powerful writers in their own lives.
Open teaching with technology flyer.pdf
Saving Our Stories: Digital Storytelling with ELLs
“What if we formed a partnership between young writers and community members to collect oral histories about Fort Collins?”
What if? Those two little words work like magic at the Colorado State University Writing Project (CSUWP). During the last week of our summer institute each year, we feature a segment called “Paying It Forward in CSUWP.” In that segment, we ask our new fellows to envision how they might keep developing as writers, teacher-leaders, and teacher researchers now that it’s time to go home.
Moving from “what if?” to “why not?” and finding the resources to make a good idea happen has resulted in many core programs and opportunities at our site, from weeklong workshops for teachers and young writers, to a writing series with published writers for our fellows, to professional development programs, teacher research groups, writing groups, and advanced institutes. The summer institute of 2009 was no exception.
During our “Paying It Forward” session that summer, Bill Wright, a high school English teacher, posed the “what if” question above when we asked our new fellows to help us think about how to make a social justice orientation more central to our site’s work. The idea took root, and in Summer 2010, we offered the first “Saving Our Stories (SOS) Project,” a one-week summer writing workshop we offered to 4th-6th grade English Language Learners at one of our partnership schools in Fort Collins. Armed with pencils, digital still cameras, Ipod Touches, FlipCams, and MacBooks, students documented their own histories alongside those of their families and the Latino community in Fort Collins.
They wrote in writer’s notebooks and shared their work in quickreads, writing groups, and Author’s Chair. They read vignettes from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and studied odes written by Gary Sotoand Pablo Neruda, then wrote their own in their writer’s notebooks. They researched the local history of Latinos in Fort Collins and listened to guest speakers whose families had lived that history.
They also visited El Museo de Las Tres Colonias, a restored adobe home that preserves the history of migrant workers who immigrated from Mexico to the sugar beet fields of northern Colorado shortly after World War I.
They polished the most promising drafts and worked with preservice and practicing teachers attending a concurrent “Teaching with Technology” workshop to record and edit them into podcasts.
They posted their final products to the workshop Ning and shared them with family and friends at a celebratory reading at the end of the week.
Each day was structured as followed:
- Morning Pages in writer’s notebooks and quickreads
- Creative writing exercises
- Reading like a Writer activities
- Special guests/Fieldtrip/Interviews
- Writing groups
- “Tech Time” with teachers (five-frame stories, recording and editing podcasts, using FlipCams)
- Author’s Chair
- Friday: Celebratory reading
The SOS Project was an unqualified success. To a person, the students asked for a sequel the following summer, and their families were enthusiastic about the opportunities their children had experienced. The Saturday following the workshop, the Fort Collins newspaper published a feature article that spanned two pages, and the Poudre School District created a mini-documentary they played on the district’s public access channel and posted to their website.
From an educational perspective, the school principal and the CSUWP fellows who led the workshop saw academic benefits as well, including the sorely needed opportunity for ELL students to participate in a summer enrichment program their families could not otherwise afford. Workshop activities were based on Colorado’s P-12 academic standards geared toward increasing students’ potential for success in and beyond school. In the service of preserving the history of the Latino community, students developed valuable 21st-century literacy skills and increased their understanding and appreciation of their own history.
They, and we as a site, also witnessed the power of collaboration firsthand. By design, the SOS Project involved multiple partners:
- Johnson Elementary School, one of our professional development partners, who hosted SOS and the Teaching with Technology workshop
- CSUWP teachers and Colorado State University students from the Teaching with Technology Workshop who helped the students learn the technology they used to document their stories
- Community members who served as guest speakers
- Local businesses who provided lunches for the students during the week
- Community foundations like the Fort Collins Rotary Club who bought workshop materials and books the students were allowed to keep
- Public services like El Museo de Las Tres Colonias and Transfort, the public bus system who transported the students to the museum for free
In short, the “what if” that began in the summer institute and became the SOS Project demonstrates the power of writing, in all its forms, to enact social justice on behalf of the students and teachers the CSU Writing Project serves.
Making History Ourselves: An Interview with SOS Project Directors
In this interview, Jane Phelan-Jones, Cameron Shinn, and Diane Witteveld, teacher directors of the Saving Our Stories Project, document what students learned as they composed digital stories to preserve the history of the Latino community in Fort Collins.
Open interview with SOS teachers_0.mp3
Transforming the World One Story At a Time: A Preservice Teacher’s Reflection
By Adam Mackie
“To speak a true word is to transform the world.”
Sarah, one of three fifth and sixth grade students gathered around a Mac laptop, reads an ode about the different kinds of hair in her family. She describes her mother’s hair as short and brown and how in the summer it puffs up like a cupcake. Sarah says her sister’s hair blows in the wind like a weeping willow tree and limns about her father’s balding head. The tone and mood of Sarah’s poem “Hair” precisely captures Sandra Cisneros’ vignette “Hairs” in The House on Mango Street, combining truth with a little bit of humor. Sarah poetically matches Cisneros’ words: “Everybody in our family has different hair” (6). Sarah (a pseudonym) is one of 18 participants in the “Saving Our Stories (SOS) Project,” a week-long, Summer 2010 workshop sponsored by the Colorado State University Writing Project (CSUWP).
Then as a graduate student and pre-service teacher at Colorado State University (CSU), I joined a concurrent Teaching with Technology workshop comprised of other pre-service teachers and K-12 teachers. I was excited to learn more about teaching and learning using digital technology and how to better implement digital media and learning into my language arts and composition classrooms. I also was eager to gain practical experience teaching students like Sarah how to create digital compositions. Many of the teachers, including myself, had been to a digital writing workshop with Troy Hicks, an author of Because Digital Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Online and Multimedia Environments (2010), earlier in the week at the CSU campus. During the workshop with Hicks at CSU, I worked alongside two other pre-service teachers to practice composing a digital story and collaborated on a piece titled “Digital Storytelling with Troy Hicks.” We sought to carry out the principles we learned from Hicks into the SOS workshop, striving to teach students sound writing skills first and then teaching them how to use digital technology second.
As a whole group, we met for approximately three hours in the morning throughout the week of the SOS workshop. We started the day with a daily writing session where all the teachers posted and responded to assigned readings, and each other, in an online discussion forum created on a group Ning. Later, in small groups, I joined two other teachers and recorded podcasts into GarageBand on Mac laptops that captured our thinking and our dialogue. The podcast discussions gave me the opportunity to hear how other teachers imagined using podcasts to save the stories of students in their upcoming classrooms and to share my own.
The morning workshop prepared me for the mindset I needed to effectively assist Sarah and her classmates in their digital writing pursuits later in the afternoon. I formed a small group with Jenny St. Romain, English teacher at a local high school, and Stephanie Griffin, another pre-service teacher attending the workshop. Our discussion focused on how we planned to use digital technology in our classrooms. Part one of these discussions can be accessed here and part two can be accessed here.
The workshop afforded a space for me to discuss digital technology with other teachers and gave me an opportunity to practice using Apple applications, such as iPhoto and GarageBand. After receiving instruction about how to use the necessary digital technology, it was time to put theory into practice as we worked with the students from the Saving Our Stories Project. The objective was to teach students a way to write about their culture and heritage in the form of digital odes using tried and true, pen and pad, writing practices as well as writing practices involving 21st-century, digital technology. Along with The House on Mango Street, the class also used excerpts from Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things and Gary Soto’s Neighborhood Odes as mentor texts.
Cameron Shinn, one of three co-directors of the SOS Project, said that the teaching objectives also aimed at showing students that writing could be fun, exploratory, conducted with digital technology, and capable of connecting to a person’s culture and heritage. The students went on a field trip to Museo del Las Tres Colonias, a museum in the Fort Collins community that “provides a living history of Hispanic life” during the 20th-century. Shinn told a story about how one student saw a sign that read, “No Dogs or Mexicans.” The student was appalled at how such a comparison could be made, which led to many teaching moments related to discrimination and acceptance throughout the rest of the week.
The SOS Project is a way to teach students how to use digital writing to “hang on to rich pieces of history,” Shinn said.
Shinn further explained how the program introduces students to multiple forms of media, from digital photography to audio recording, and gives students a safe place to explore their personal cultural backgrounds through both traditional and digital forms of writing. He said the aim is to empower both teachers and students and awaken them to exciting new forms of literaries in the 21st-century.
The culturally relevant podcast that Sarah created accomplished the purpose of using digital writing to express her family’s culture and heritage in an exciting and engaging fashion. Sarah and the other students I worked with during the SOS workshop gained skills that will potentially follow them well beyond the summer into many different facets of their lives. I am confident that Sarah will use the skills gained at the SOS workshop to accomplish her future writing goals whether she goes on to be a public broadcaster of podcasts or not.
Through writing, reading, and recording her ode, Sarah was able to accomplish the purpose of saving a story relevant to her life. At the end of the week, parents were invited for a viewing of all the students’ work that was compiled on a Ning platform. The stories demonstrated both a student accomplishment and the power of digital writing assignments. Videographers from the open access channel for Poudre School District even created a documentary that included interviews with students and teachers about the service work they were performing.
Sarah’s ode about her family’s hair was just one of many digitally saved stories that students produced during the workshop. The podcast that Sarah created was made, not for a compulsory grade, but as an activity she chose during her summer months. Sarah also learned how writing is conducted for multiple purposes: for preserving stories about her family, for communicating alphabetically with pen and paper, for recording digital podcasts, and just for fun.
My involvement with the SOS Project continues. In Summer 2011, I was invited to join two CSU Writing Project fellows to facilitate another weeklong workshop called Teaching with Technology. We planned a schedule for the week and brainstormed ideas for what would be most useful for teachers to take away from the workshop. I gave mentoring presentations to teachers on how to use digital tools creatively and modeled classroom activities that were designed to show how digital media and learning could be used in a 21st-century classroom. An example of a blog discussion we held during the workshop can be accessed here.
SOS reaffirmed for me the transformative power of storytelling and helped shape my current vision and philosophy as a poet, teacher, administrator, and teacher researcher. Following my summer with SOS, I applied and was accepted into the 2011 Summer Institute of the CSUWP and became a fellow. I continue to be transformed as I write poems, tell stories, such as this one, teach composition, literature, and professional development full-time at CSU, or spend time with my wife and two children in Fort Collins.