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What's the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing?

What's the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing?

Written by Delia DeCourcy
September 22, 2016

When crafting definitions, it’s helpful to break terms and concepts apart. And I think that’s useful to answer the question raised in this post’s title: what’s the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing?

Short answers might include:

  • An online gathering of amazing educators

  • A well-designed virtual learning experience

  • An extended digital conversation about teaching

But those phrases don’t provide much detail or get at the heart of this four-day event in October. Let’s work backwards. I’ll start with digital writing.


Kevin Hodgson, who happens to be the closing keynote, recently wrote in his post “Defining Digital Writing” that we should drop the “digital” altogether and just go with “writing”–or “composing,” which he prefers. I wish we were at that point. But alas, I’m not sure digital writing is ubiquitous enough for that. Maybe it just hasn’t been around long enough, which has me wondering: when was digital writing born?

Did digital writing come into being with the advent of the personal computer when writers gained the ability to cut and paste, forever altering the writing and revision process? Or did the game really change with the birth of Web 2.0, which brought the democratization of publishing: the shift from one to many publication (mass media) to the many to many publication that we experience today? Now that we can all create, talk back to, and share texts of all kinds–alpha, video, audio, multimedia, social media, and often have the option to comment on or respond to other writers’ texts–our roles as readers and writers have become vastly more complex. And that’s a lot of what the 4T Virtual Conference is concerned with–how to help our students become critical consumers and producers of digital texts.


The 4TDW, as we call it for short, is a series of free, one-hour webinars. I know, I know. You’re thinking: webinars are so boring! And yes, many of them are. But we work hard to make sure the 4TDW webinars are interactive. The planning team works with the presenters on the design and delivery of their sessions to engage attendees through virtual conversation and activities. You’ll walk away with strategies, ideas, and resources that you can use in your classroom immediately. And you can connect and learn from the comfort of your sofa or watch archived sessions later if you’d rather.

The conference’s featured speakers and returning featured speakers are practitioners and Writing Project teacher consultants and directors dedicated to reflecting on and improving their practice. The special invited guests and panelists are researchers and scholars at the top of the field. This year’s line up includes sessions on a wide variety of topics–from digital writing across the disciplines to “creative writing” using informational texts to multi-modal composition.

 The virtual nature of the conference brings people together from across the globe. Conference attendees also play diverse roles in education: K-12 teachers, administrators, university professors, Writing Project teacher consultants, and district and county literacy leaders. This makes for a rich, ongoing conversation that spans elementary, secondary, and higher education because too often K-12 teachers don’t get to hear about the writing and research happening at the college level and vice versa. We’re also excited to be bringing together Writing Project people from all over the country to share learning, as well as to introduce the Writing Project to educators who may not have heard about the wonderful things it does.


The 4TDW is actually a satellite conference of the 4T Virtual Conference, which was started in 2011 by Liz Kolb, a research professor at the University of Michigan School of Education. At the heart of that conference is the goal of teachers sharing effective practices for technology integration with other teachers. Session focus on pedagogy and instructional design rather than just tools. So we took that idea and zeroed in on digital writing. The 4T happens in May. And our sister conference, the 4T Virtual Conference on Data Literacy, happens in July.


Presenters from the 4TDW will be posting on Digital IS over the next few weeks. And I’ll follow up with posts that share the themes that emerge throughout the conference. We hope you’ll join us for at least a few of the Sunday conference sessions, beginning Sunday, October 2. But if not, you can always watch the archived recordings–one of the great things about virtual learning. REGISTER

Conference Partners: The National Writing Project, University of Michigan School of Education, Oakland Schools Intermediate School District, multiple Writing Projects sites in Michigan

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