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Online Book Groups

Written by Jeremy Hyler
December 08, 2011

In the winter of 2011, I helped facilitate an online book discussion of Because Digital Writing Matters (BDWM) at the Chippewa River Writing Project at Central Michigan University. We used the book group as an opportunity to involve teacher consultants and other professionals in reading and collaborating online. Book group participants talked about writing, technology, and ways the NWP supports 21st Century Skills and shared their thinking about digital writing.

One of the main digital tools we used for this online collaboration was the National Writing Projects of Michigan Wikispace. Participants in the book group used the space to view discussion topics and post responses. Book group facilitators posted new questions each week throughout the five-week program.

Discussion topics from the text included:

  • Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPAK)
  • Networked Environments
  • Writing Process Strategies
  • Classrooms in Transition
  • Ethical Issues
  • Standards for Student achievement
  • Professional Development

To begin and end the book discussion, we hosted an interactive, live chat using Wimba, a virtual classroom environment with many features, including audio, video, application sharing and content display, and MP4 capabilities. Besides making it easy to collaborate with other Writing Project colleagues, the Wimba classroom gave the book group participants a chance to interact with the authors. During the kick-off session and wrap-up sessions, Troy Hicks, one of the co-authors, was present and created an audio archive of the discussions (click “download mp3 audio” in right column to listen). Furthermore, Danielle Devoss and Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, the other co-authors, participated in a session.

iAnthology Book Group
Our book group is only one of many discussions that have focused on Because Digital Writing Matters. Mary Meyer, from the Prairie Lands Writing Project, led a discussion around topics from Because Digital Writing Matters on the iAnthology Ning. The iAnthology Ning is supported directly by the NWP and was created to connect Writing Project teachers through shared writing and learning. The discussion topic on the BDWM group changed on a weekly basis, but participants could always go back to a previous topic discussed in the book. Some members posted videos to show their thinking. The BDWM book group remains open for any iAnthology member to join.

Discussion topics include:

  • Standards and Assessments
  • Composition
  • Digital Poetry
  • Professional Development
  • Reflections

Thinking About Digital Writing
The book groups profiled in this resource helped the participating educators become more aware of the changing nature of writing and written expression in the digital age. The teacher-participants came away from these discussions with new ideas about what it means to write digitally and about what digital writing could look like in their own classrooms.

Because Digital Writing Matters: A Book Talk from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

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