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NWP's TLN: Connecting Tech Teachers

Written by Felicia George
June 01, 2011

Does anyone know of any computer programs that can assist in the development of verbal ability for an autistic child? My principal is about to purchase Smartboards for our school and she has asked me for my recommendations. What do others use and how has it worked for you? Our university is looking into scoring software to assess student writing. What do you recommend?

When you have questions like these who are you going to call? No, it’s not the Ghost Busters of movie and song fame but the National Writing Project’s Technology Liaisons Network (TLN) Discussion forum. And as evidence that TLN is to place to call, the question about interactive whiteboards received 19 responses. If you don’t know what the TLN Discussion forum is then you really need to read this resource.*

The Technology Liaisons Network of the National Writing Project was established in 2001 after the organization began giving sites additional funding for a technology position on their leadership team. This funding was provided as a catalyst for local writing project sites to pay attention to the developments in technology and their impact on writing and literacy, as well as a way to support sites who were already finding creative ways to use new technologies in writing instruction. And, in true writing project practice, recognizing that teachers would turn to their colleagues for support and advice, the NWP set up a network for the tech liaisons to have online conversations. The TLN began as an advisory committee and then joined the other Special Focus Networks, each concentrating on the needs of a particular group or issue, in 2006.

What started out as a closed forum for tech leaders at a local site has been opened to all teachers interested in learning more about using technology for writing and literacy instruction. The NWP TLN discussion is one of the most active forums hosted by NWP and offers a wide range of support for teachers at any level interested in any aspect of technology. It is an active online community where a simple question is likely to garner five or more responses within a day or two of its being posted. Teachers also use this forum to share information about new products they have found, websites that are especially useful, recognition for their work, and anything related to technology.

Here’s a sample of what has been posted to the forum:

I teach business in a small, rural high school. Although I try to touch on many state standards in language arts and math, particularly, in my classes, Illinois currently has no standards for business. As the only business teacher in the district I have a great deal of freedom regarding what I teach.

I talked with the guidance counselor just before Christmas about having a class in Web 2.0. It would basically be a digital writing class, but we wouldn’t call it that. She was very excited about my proposal, and wants a class description early in January.(!)

I will have to make the class description match something approved by the state, but what I really need to decide is what will be covered in this semester-long class. I envision computer apps (which covers Office applications) being a pre-requisite; it is required for all freshmen, anyway.

Good techies, what would you cover in a Web 2.0/digital writing class that is called something else, aimed at high school sophomores-seniors?

Sue Fuller, Eastern Illinois Writing Project


In my sophomore paperless English class our assignments include the following:

  • Pechakuchas -20 slides @ 20 seconds, no text – oral presentations. I actually narrow it down to 12 slides @ 10 seconds each to start = 2 minute presentations.
  • Google Docs/Wikis to create study guides/digital portfolios
  • Moodle discussions – much more conducive to whole class participation
  • Blogging and comments on blogging – I give them a daily topic
  • Digital storytelling – complete with narration
  • Hyperlinked research papers
  • Peer evaluation – Google Docs/blogs/wikis
  • Quizlet – for vocabulary
  • Online personality/learning styles quizzes
  • Brochures/Twitter feeds/Facebook pages – characters in books
  • Powerpoints that don’t suck!


One thing I’ve found this year is my sophomores don’t know what to do with CHOICE! It’s like they’ve not been allowed to make the decision regarding which assignment to choose. Their eyes spin when they see the multiple options, so you might want to start simply.

Teralyn Cohn, Southeast English


Both Kevin and Teralyn offer great suggestions, and I would add one more for you to consider. Since this is a business/computer app class, and you have lots of freedom to change it, could you make it a project-based, service-learning style experience?

For instance, could you have the students connect with a local small business or non-profit and then work to create a business plan using office tools, design tutorials for the employees/volunteers about digital writing technologies, organize a social media campaign including blogging, podcasts, and videos, and also employ other technologies as appropriate for a variety of genres/purposes/audiences?

I wonder if giving students a general guide with the types of technologies that they must use would be enough to get them moving in the right direction, and then let their interests and experiences guide them from there?

Troy Hicks, Ph.D., Assistant
Professor of English

Director, Chippewa River Writing


*If you’d like to join go to (if you are not already a member of the site you will need to join by clikcing on the word Join NWPi in the NWP Interactive box right hand column under the small map). Once you are signed in, click on NWPi. This will take you to the NWPi space, where you can choose to join a number of discussion forums by selecting Manage Subscriptions on the left column. Check the box for NWP Technology Liaisons. You can receive the individual posts, digests or nothing in your email by selecting email
preference which is highlighted in red in the paragraph preceding the list of discussion groups.

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