Red Cedar Writing Project


WIDE PATHS for Mandela, June 2014


This page will collect links and resources. If you're looking for something and it isn't here, feel free to ask Mitch:


Previous WIDE PATHS institutes:

  • (These links were moved to the list under Tuesday's resources discussion.)


Agenda (subject to modifications)
Note: We end at 3:30 every day. Also note that our lunch hour is split in two. This is to give people time to get food if planning to hit a spot on Grand River before we launch into a discussion.


  • 8:30am, Welcome
    • Introductions & community builder (Name, school, what brings you here…)
    • Background on NWP & RCWP
    • Situating ourselves this week: How to get online, schedule for the week, other details

  • 10:30am: Break

  • 10:45am: Discussion
    • Sacred Writing Time, then discuss: What are your goals with digital writing in the classroom? When has it strengthened student learning? When has it crashed and burned? If you invite your students to write digitally, why? If not, what limitations are preventing digital writing?


  • 8:30am, Sacred Writing Time: Make three headings: yourself, your community, your world
    • Write for three minutes at each level: What do you stand for? What topics, concerns, issues do you have about yourself, your community, your world
    • Now highlight the ones that you most care about. Think of it this way: Which ones would you be willing to engage in conversations about? Which ones would be you willing to grab a box, stand on it on Grand River and shout about?

    • We spoke of using values as a way of accessing the right conversation... Our Values website may offer something to the conversation.

  • 9:00am, Session: __Civic Engagement:__ KQED Do Now
    • Focus on civic discourse and participation
    • Possible tools to use: KQED, Twitter, blogs, and all the magic included on KQED’s Do Now pages

  • 11:30am, Lunch break--discussion moved
  • 12:00-3:30pm, Sandbox time
    • Welcome to the first sandbox time session where we apply new ideas to our teaching and learning lives.
    • We have three-hour sessions each of the next three days. Use this time to delve deeper into one or more of the ideas shared this week, and ideally, actually re-work your curriculum or develop a student invitation to do some of this work.
    • On Friday, we'll have some sandbox time, but we'll also report out what we've been working on. Sticking with the NWP model of teachers teaching teachers, let's all share at least one application for this in our classrooms come fall. Keep the Mandela angle in the back of your mind--how can we adapt our instruction to use any of these tools, topics, lessons, projects, etc. to engage all of our students, not just the ones already planning on going to Harvard.
  • 3:00pm, Lunch discussion will happen at 3:00 instead so we can get into the sandbox sooner.


  • 8:30am, Sacred Writing Time: Reflect on a time when you were faced with a challenge that encompassed the use of technology? Were you successful in meeting the challenge? Or were your attempts unsuccessful? Did the use of technology empower you or encumber you in your effort to overcome the challenge?

  • 9:00am, __Student Voices:__ How digital writing can help students write for authentic audiences
    • Reggie - The Public Service Announcement as a vehicle for critical thinking
      • Focusing on authentic audience
        • Building the context for the possibility of authenticity
        • Blending technology, student-inquiry and the position essay
      • Assessing the Digital Essay
        • CARP Design Principles
        • The ACT +Writing Option Position Essay
        • The Problem/Solution Essay
      • Digital essaying with the psa: possible tools to employ
      • Online design tools: LucidPress and Design Shack.
    • Reggie's folder of good stuff.

  • 11:30-1:00: Lunch with the RCWP summer institute crew (Snyder-Phillips cafeteria)

  • 1:00-3:30pm, Sandbox time
    • Apply new ideas to our teaching and learning lives.


  • 8:30am, Sacred Writing Time:
    • Update: What are your questions and concerns with digital writing in your classroom? After a few presentations and hours of sandbox time, what benefits and complications might affect us and our students, especially those who are struggling for whatever reason?

  • 9:00am, “Round robin” style discussions, similar to round table continuity events, where we spend ~30 minutes on each of the following topics plus leave some room to address other concerns that arise in days 1-3 of the workshop (big thanks to Josh for the three suggestions here):

    • 1) Evaluation of Digital Teaching and Learning
      • When we bring digital tools into the classroom, we change both how we teach and how our students write. Digital writing is somewhat different than offline writing - the layout, the content, the links, the linear progression, the dialect, etc. I am wondering if there is room to discuss how to evaluate or grade or even determine if our students are "writing" when we bring in these tools into our lessons.
      • When students compose tweets or a series of FB posts about a topic or lesson- how is that different or the same from a couple of pages of traditional writing? When teachers send out text reminders or create FB groups, what standards are we held to vs. a traditional flyer, handout, listserv, or traditional F2F meetings? What teachers/students do you leave behind in the process of being more digital and progressive?
      • Variety of rubrics (see Reggie's g-doc)
      • What is evaluated must also be taught first. Not fair to score what wasn't reviewed.
      • Co-create assessment language and then co-evaluate mentor texts.
      • Writing conferences with the composer.
      • We need to let kids fail. So what happens when the product isn't good? How do we even judge "good"? (See exhibit Elizabeth's students on Michigan Radio.)
      • What about "real-world" grade implications? If it isn't an A, should it get an A? Different evaluation requirements for different contexts (Elizabeth: independent study is different than journalism?)
      • How would you grade your own child? (Process, proficiency, etc.)
      • Remember artificial time constraints of marking periods, terms, graduation, etc.
      • Amanda's doc on assessing writing.

    • 2) Time and Access are two of the biggest obstacles to becoming digitally literate. Do we address these two issues? That is, we will talk about the need, the benefits, and the ways in which teachers can use digital technology in our professional lives - but what about these two concerns? The TIME it takes to learn and how we can get access to them. TIME in terms of learning, investing in, having the time to spend changing or revising the way we currently teach. And ACCESS in terms of hardware and software, of course, but also ACCESS to technology or digital tools in our actual classrooms or schools (Does your school allow students access to wifi, Youtube, or various social networking sites?)
      • Do we address w/students how to achieve the same goals without tech tools?
      • When should we force/suggest/encourage NONscreen work?
      • A lot of new research shows that handwriting is "good for our brain."
      • Cuts down on plagiarism too (side benefit)
      • Time is a huge problem for students who can't/won't do work at home, lack educational support at home, etc. How can we support those students?
      • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) can solve some of the problems. But what about the digital divide re: BYOD?
      • Our classroom culture can cross some of these divides.
      • We have a poverty problem and that very often skews toward racial divides.

    • 4) Teacher buy-in and community buy-in (how can we convince the doubters?)
      • Show student work. And act like it was no biggie. :-)
      • Share the excitement.
      • Talk about the content more than the tool. (Mary's example: Learn how to flip classroom before learning tool that helps you do it.) Keep the horse before the cart.
      • Discuss the purpose of the lesson/unit.
      • Build a culture of failure. It's okay for teachers to fail.
      • Sharing our practice leads to contagious pedagogy. If we see other teachers doing awesome work, we want in. Invite people into your classroom. Share out at staff meetings.
      • Stick with the hard work of being on the tech committee. It's tough, but teacher voices need to be heard.
    • 5) What do lower-grade students need to be successful?
      • How can K-4 teachers have kids ready for 5-8 digital work?
      • Address tech teaching standards.
      • Model the thinking involved for students instead of having them do the work themselves.
      • Teach the absolute basics like keyboarding.
      • What about the Dvorak method? More info at the Dvorak Zine.
      • Learning keyboarding on the cheap: Find used AlphaSmarts.
    • 6) How do we meet them "where they (students) live" with technology (the students who are already heavily online)? How can we engage in maker culture in the schools?
    • 7) How can we educators get more training? How can we be self-directed with tech?
      • Jump in with digital professional learning networks.
      • NWP has a lot of this going on.
      • Listen to the students. Let them self-direct when possible. Like choosing your own topic when writing.
      • EdCamps: some info here.
      • YouTube tutorials
      • KQED MOOC, y'all.
    • 8) How can we continue this work?
      • Keep #widepaths alive, i.e., keep hashtagging your ed tech discoveries, thoughts, PD opportunities, etc. OR should we just use #RCWP?
      • Share ideas and opportunities on the RCWP listserv.
      • Share good videos and tutorials to the RCWP YouTube channel (, maybe tag them #widepaths.
      • Have future F2F WIDEPATHS get togethers. A mid-year share-out would be great. Maybe do both a Google Hangout AND a face-to-face gathering.
      • Focus group on grant writing for technology.
      • RCWP-centric edcamp/unconference
      • Boost RCWP's Facebook use.
      • One platform for archive conversation, another for one-way announcements?
    • 9) What PD texts or resources do you recommend, e.g., Troy Hicks’ books, etc.? If I want to delve deeper with digital writing and teaching in July, what should I read/do? Post recommendations to wiki page.

  • 11:30am, Lunch-3:30pm, Sandbox time
    • Apply new ideas to our teaching and learning lives.


  • 8:30am, Sacred Writing Time: You are encouraged to pick one or more prompt:
    • Write a letter to a "Yeah, but" person, be that staff member, administrator, parent, student, support staff, or legislator.
    • Collect your thoughts from this week. What are your top two or three takeaways? What ideas or projects will change your teaching?
    • Write about your "Mandela" student. How could our work here this week help this student be more engaged, earn better grades, etc.?

  • 9:00am, Session: Teacher Leaders
    • How to be the “teacher down the hall” that others go to with questions
    • Taking our work this week back to our daily contexts
    • And more!
    • Digital writing lesson plan template from Crafting Digital Writing.

  • Next steps for this work: Proposed timeline
    • Today (June 27th) discuss our takeaways: What pieces of our work this week will you focus on in your classroom this year?
    • Wednesday, September 17, 2014: Meet via Google Hangout to establish your specific focus for the year. Which project/assignment/etc. will you infuse with WIDEPATHs work? How will you keep track of it for your write-up for Digital Is? (To access the Google Hangout, please make sure Mitch has your email address.)
    • September-January: Do the work with your students. Keep track of it. Use it with your teacher evaluation if possible to kill two birds with one stone!
    • Thursday, January 22, 2015: Check-in: Would you prefer face-to-face or Google Hangout for this? Face-to-face would have to be weather-permitting because January.
    • Wednesday, March 4, 2015: Meet face-to-face on campus to discuss plans for writing up your reflection for submission to Digital Is.
    • Thursday, April 16, 2015: First-draft feedback (small groups via Google Hangout)
    • Wednesday, May 20, 2015: Revisions due. No meeting, just a deadline for your convenience.
    • Thursday, June 4, 2015: Due date to have your resource posted/published on Digital Is!

  • 11:30am, Lunch break
  • 12:00pm, Lunch discussion
    • Let’s bring the focus back to our “Mandela” students. How can our work here so far help these kids? Where/how can digital writing boost struggling students?
    • How might we be able to spread this work to help overlooked students in our classes, schools, and districts?

  • 12:30-3:30pm, Sandbox time & report out
    • Sometime before Monday, please take a few minutes to complete this three-question feedback survey to help us improve RCWP workshops. Thanks!
    • Give away the books! Win a copy of Crafting Digital Writing or Because Digital Writing Matters. Yowza!
    • If you have not yet completed your stipend paperwork, see Mitch a.s.a.p.
    • Likewise, if you need a letter regarding how much PD you completed this week, be sure you see Mitch if you haven't already.

    • In the last hour, let’s go around the room to talk about how we each plan to apply one or more ideas gained this week.
      • I need to help many of my students, including J, to know how to comment on each other's wikis, papers, etc. I'll be sharing info with them, but this zeega I made is an attempt to share the overall idea in a fun, musical way. It's based on the song "Closing Time" by SemiSonic. I will also be looking for ways my students can create zeegas themselves to make short, visual messages. A link to my lyrics if you couldn't understand them.