Reflections of Blending English and Technology in the Classroom

Posts Tagged ‘Reflection

IWP – Powerful PD for All Educators

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This past July I finished Level II of the IWP (Iowa Writing Project) a branch of the NWP (National Writing Project). I am currently working on my Master of Art in English through UNI and was required to take IWP as part of the graduate requirement. Although some of the courses I have taken in my program will have little impact on my current teaching assignment, I have been forever changed personally and pedagogically by my experience with the IWP.

IWP is a member of the NWP (National Writing Project). The NWP and IWP began in the 1970s to promote writing in all grade levels, across all curriculums to increase student learning. Both also promote the professional development and reflection in teachers through writing.

I have always found creative writing difficult to teach. How does one inspire creativity in students? How do you grade/assess creative writing? I have had no problems teaching Advanced Writing and Research – using MLA as my text and modeling how I tackled research papers, students easily learned the skills necessary to complete assigned papers. Creative writing, on the other hand, was a more difficult subject to teach. Every year, for one semester, I would assign students compare/contrast, persuasive, classification, etc. papers. They would complete them, sometimes share the writing, I would grade them with my trusty rubric, then they would be tossed into the recycle bin.

Last summer I took IWP Level I and was revived with a passion to write personally and teach writing to my students. I started the school year with a toolbox of ideas and enthusiasm to try a new way of writing in my classroom. I threw out my old lessons and began anew, inspiring students with models of stellar writing, poetry, objects, locations, etc. I organized my classroom into a  workshop -style model – “Inspiration” on Monday and Wednesday, writing on Tuesday and Thursday, sharing on Friday. I allowed my students to explore multiple genres of writing, choosing the best fit for each individual topic. I modeled response – a major area that was lacking in previous years. The students wrote, created, shared, laughed, and cried. A community of writers was born, and when our class suffered a tragic loss of a student during the semester, it was their writing, his writing, their responses, and their memories that helped them heal. In fact, they graduated with a meaningful class motto – part of a piece that he had written that year. This past year had been my most successful and satisfying as an educator and I attribute it to my IWP experience. The students also found value in their writing, wrote more, and enjoyed the class. And although my focus was on the Creative Writing class that I taught, the things I learned in the IWP trickled over into all of my classes.

This year BCLUW will focus on Project Based Learning, and writing will fit seamlessly into our goals for student learning. Using the IWP instructors, BCLUW will have professional development days focused on ways to incorporate writing into the classroom. Throughout the next couple years, part of our PD days will be spent filling our toolboxes with writing strategies to help our students learn, write, read, and reflect. Throughout the year I will update this blog on the impact the PD is having on staff and students.

The NWP and IWP offer opportunities for all educators, regardless of subject and grade. My experience included a myriad of educators, from a shop teacher to an elementary teacher, writing and researching how best to incorporate writing into their own classroom. IWP has been the most powerful PD I have ever taken. It has not only changed the way that I teach, it has changed the way my students view writing and themselves as writers!

Written by sfarnsworth

July 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Writing

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Reflections Year 1 of BCLUW’s 1:1 Initiative

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I am an English teacher at a 1:1 high school (all students grade 9-12 have laptops provided to them by the school), and although planned to blog the entire first year of implementation, life carried me away and the year ended as quickly as it started – with no blog. Now opportunity and a little time, plus nudging from my PLN (Personal Learning Network), has brought me back to my original goal of blogging.  So here it is, number one, a frightful consideration… how will I be perceived? Will anyone even read my thoughts? How will blogging transform me as a teacher?

I begin my maiden voyage with a reflection of the first year of 1:1 (Collaborative notes from an end of year staff meeting)


1.  Each staff member found personal success with implementation in their classroom and tools for their particular curriculum area.

2.  Staff agreed that the students were responsible and took excellent care of their laptops. ( we all chuckled at the memories of  the mobile lab issues that we  used to face – not charged, missing computers, check-out nightmares)

3.  Students were more organized! Opportunity to teach appropriate use of social networks.

4.  Leveled the playing field – everyone had the same opportunities and tools.

5.  Higher level of creativity in assignments and projects.

6.  Other student leaders emerged, not just the typical ones.

7.  Less paper use.

8.  Classrooms without walls, communication with students and staff increased.

9.  Student engagement outside of regular school hours increased, especially in areas of student selected interests such as Blender, Youtube channels, etc.

10.  Finally, students commented on how it was now “fun” and “engaging” to come to school.


1.  It was difficult and scary to give up control.

2. When is the best time to use in class – not just a novelty tool, but one to enhance the learning.

3.  Learning all of the new tools available. (this is where consistent PD helps)

4.  Must be specific with expectations.

5.  Getting the students up to speed. We were surprised how much they didn’t know. (folders, labeling, cameras, audio, etc.)

6.  Planning next year’s role-out.

7.  Continuing with the same vision without losing the excitement and drive, unity in faculty, and pushing students to evaluate their usage.


Finally, the staff reflected on advice they would give to other schools interested in implementing 1:1.

1.  Visit other 1:1 schools and bring a group including – teachers, administrators, board members, and STUDENTS!

2.  Must have the infrastructure in place to support the needs of all students in every classroom. (wi-fi, projectors, etc.)

3.  Enthusiasm is contagious, don’t let a small group of nay-sayers hold back what is best for the students.

4.  Must have sustained professional development. (We are bringing Apple back this year as well)

5.  Kids are kids, they will push limits, play games, get off task, etc. but you wouldn’t take away all the books in the school because someone was reading when they weren’t supposed to, would you? Sometimes they need a break!

6.  Finally, you are still in CONTROL of what happens in your classroom – classroom management!

Written by sfarnsworth

June 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm