Supporting Materials for the ITRT Position


I believe that technology can be an effective tool to facilitate student learning provided the instructors using the technology have a clear and practical understanding of it (through personal use and experience) and have established specific goals and protocols that logically relate the use of the technology to the teacher's pedagogy and the larger objectives of the curriculum (similar to the methodology in the TPACK model). Gaining this facility is a process, but the process begins with personal use. For example, until instructors have kept a blog for a period of time, they will have difficulty effectively incorporating blogging into their instruction. In my role as a Technology Liaison (see below), my goal was to:
  • introduce the technology and the options it provided,
  • guide teachers in the effective use of that technology in their personal use,
  • facilitate discussion of the technology in relation to the teachers' pedagogy and curriculum once they had become personally familiar with it,
  • assist with incorporating the technology into the classroom to achieve the stated goals,
  • and help teachers evaluate how effective the use of the technology was in meeting those goals in order to make adjustments for future use.

Leadership

  • Technology Liaison for NVWP - From its inception in 2001, the Technology Liaison (TL) network encouraged professional development in the same model of the rest of the project: teachers teaching teachers about the best practices they discovered through their own work and research. To facilitate this, the National Writing Project (NWP) held annual conferences, which I attended from 2001 to 2005, at which TLs presented on a range of issues related to instructional technology. NWP also organized virtual workshops for TLs to discuss technology development at the individual sites and created an online network for TLs to continue that discussion throughout the year. In that role, I coordinated the use of technology between the National Writing Project and the local site at George Mason University. Part of my responsibility included helping the board to plan and implement its use of technology in the project and to maintain the project's Web site and online community services. I also designed and delivered presentations and workshops to teachers throughout Northern Virginia, focusing on the role of technology in improving writing (see presentations below). I have continued to stay involved in the TL network even after leaving the classroom, and I also continue to provide many of the same services to NVWP as I did when I was the official TL.
  • Assistant Coordinator for the Center for the Fine and Performing Arts - I assisted with the planning, design, and implementation of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts program, a 4-year specialty program at Woodbridge Senior High School. My responsibilities included maintaining a Web presence for the program, facilitating program operation, and serving as lead teacher for the four-year humanities program.
  • Use/Safety Panel Attendance - In the spring of 2007, I served on the “Acceptable Use Policies” and “Internet Safety Curriculum” committees in Prince William County to help revise and develop county-wide policies for safe and effective use of online technologies in the classroom.
  • Web Content Manager - For the past three years at JBS International, Inc., I managed the development, implementation, and content of multiple online resources and document management systems to support more than 2,500 State and Federal users. This included training staff and clients in the proper use of these systems.

Professional Development

  • 695 Courses - I conducted courses in English/Education 695 through George Mason University. The second focused exclusively on using technology to improve writing.
  • NVWP Presentations - I provided multiple workshops in a variety of venues in my role as Technology Liaison for NVWP. The workshops were presented in these contexts: 695 courses, NVWP Summer Institute sessions, high school in-service offerings, and Language & Learning Conferences. Workshops included (note that these have not been revised since Spring 2007):
    • Developing Fluency and Reflection Online - This workshop will consider ways that asynchronous and collaborative writing online can be used to encourage more fluent and reflective writers. We'll look specifically at forums, blogs, and wikis, discuss theories about their place in the curriculum, and consider specific tools, methods of implementation, and evaluation.
    • Research 2.0 - (NVWP) notes and resources for using emerging online technologies to improve the research process.
    • Working with Blackboard - an overview of important points about using forums, blogs, and wikis in Blackboard specifically.
    • One-Day Tech Workshop - (NVWP) an overview of current issues, applications, and resources as they relate to education generally and the teaching of writing specifically.
    • Tech4TCs - (NVWP) a series of five workshops for NVWP Teacher Consultants that explores a variety of emerging online technologies, focusing primarily on how these tools can help develop student writing.
  • Senior Trainer - Part of my work at JBS International, Inc. was to provide training to internal staff and to members of and consultants to the Children's Bureau. I trained staff on the use of the online portals and databases we created, the use of hardware, and the use of software we developed to aid in gathering data during the Child and Family Services Reviews. In total, I was responsible for training over 2,500 State and Federal users.

Websites and Software

  • NVWP Website (Wordpress) - I assumed control of the NVWP site in 2001 and have developed it through many iterations, starting with a static site built in MS FrontPage, through a Joomla version, and finally to its current Wordpress version.
  • WSHSBeyond (Joomla) - This site is no longer active, but I started building it in 2002 to create an online space for students across multiple courses and teachers to connect using discussion forums, blogs, and wikis. Students in the humanities program (three grade levels, six teachers) would collaborate through the networking tools on this site. I wrote a blog post about using Joomla to build the site in 2007.
  • Personal Wiki - This site is where I initially collected notes for my presentations and work with NVWP. Many of the presentation and course notes are still on the site.
  • CFSR Portal (Drupal) - My current work as Web Content Manager for JBS International, Inc. involves managing multiple portals built on Drupal. I manage content and layout, recommend features, monitor performance, and train staff on proper use. This work is proprietary, so I cannot provide login access to non-JBS / Children's Bureau staff.
  • Document Management Systems (KnowledgeTree / SharePoint) - I use both KnowledgeTree and SharePoint with my current employer to help manage thousands of documents. I advise on organization, monitor performance, and train staff on proper use.
  • I've also worked with a variety of software and online applications for education, including: Moodle, BlackBoard, SchoolFusion, and various grading and school record-keeping systems.

Examples

Below are a few examples of the ways in which I used online technology in my own teaching of English and creative writing courses.

  • Discussion Forum (English Humanities) - I used a discussion forum across three sections of English 10 Humanities to encourage student writing, develop fluency, improve assertion and support in thinking, and connect concepts in the course with the day-to-day lives of students. Every two weeks, students were required to write at least 500 words on the forum. This could be all in one post, over a number of posts, or in response to other students' posts (though they were required to make one original post per grading period). The topic was connected to a unifying theme for the course: the concept of "the true, the good, and the beautiful" and how those concepts informed the literature and art of the various cultures we studied. On the forum, I asked students to look at their daily media (TV, magazines, internet, movies, books, advertisements, etc.) and ask three questions: What is this thing saying about truth, or goodness, or beauty? How do I know that? And what do I think about that assertion? Over time, I saw students really progress in their ability to think critically about media and entertainment, develop their understanding about assertions and support when making an argument, and grow in their ability to express their thoughts in writing. And because the audience was authentic (peers across multiple class sessions), the motivation to write clearly about topics that mattered to them drove students to improve. It was one of the most successful writing-related assignments in any of my courses.
  • Mini-Blog / Research Paper (AP Language and Composition) - The county-mandated research paper forced students to gain skills in a range of technology, most notably online research and database use. To help students avoid the predictable pitfalls of random Google searches and Wikipedia "transcribing" that so often happens in research, I asked students to start a mini-blog on the class website at the beginning of the school year where they were to collect articles, quotes, images, and other things they found online that related to at least two different topics they thought they might write about for the research paper. These were short notes, with a link/capture of the item and a sentence or two about why they had selected that item or what was significant about it (like a more-focused-than-normal Tumblr blog). My main purpose was to force students to think about topics over a period of time (instead of during the final week before the paper was due), but it also allowed me to build in small lessons about online research over the first two grading periods, rather than trying to cram it all in. Students were asked to use one of the methods we learned for each of the new additions to their mini-blogs. While I'm sure they didn't always follow that guideline, it was clear over time that they were adding at least a few new techniques to their research kit.
  • Blogging (Creative Writing) - Students in the four-year creative writing program were asked to keep personal blogs about their reading and writing experiences. We built the blogs on an early version of ELGG because we wanted to maintain privacy for their writing while still allowing students to read and comment on each other's posts. Students were required to write two posts per week (of about 250 words each): one discussing something they were reading in a given genre, with a focus on writing styles and techniques they noticed, for better or worse; the other discussing their writing progress and process for that week. The regular reflection helped students gain better insight into their writing and learn to read "as writers." At the end of each semester, students reviewed their posts and composed two writings that answered the questions: What have I learned about writing from my readings? What have I learned about myself as a writer?