National Writing Project

NWP Focuses on Teaching and Writing in a Digital Age

By: NWP Staff
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 10, No. 1
Date: 2005

Summary: NWP has launched the Technology Initiative, which provides support to NWP sites to create resources and high-quality professional development models for using technology in teaching at all grade levels.


Web pages, blogs, email, PowerPoint presentations. Most writing teachers know about these new intersections of text and technology, but not all of us know how to make use of them in the classroom. How can the National Writing Project help teachers bridge this gap? With the help of Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), the NWP is responding.

Senator Rockefeller, who has for many years cosponsored legislation authorizing federal funding for the NWP, knows of the project's track record in advancing high-quality professional development opportunities, and he understands the organization's commitment to preparing all students to be powerful learners and writers in a digital age. So it was natural for the senator to turn to the writing project in 2003 to create a two-year pilot effort, during which local sites could develop programs that would integrate technology to support learning and the teaching of writing. Through Rockefeller's cosponsorship, along with that of Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the NWP Technology Initiative came into being.

In the first stage of the Technology Initiative, the NWP invited five writing project sites to form a network of lead sites. These five sites will spend two years studying, refining, and expanding their models for professional development in technology. The sites are the Alaska State Writing Consortium; the Bay Area Writing Project, California; the Red Cedar Writing Project, Michigan; the New York City Writing Project; and the Marshall University Writing Project, West Virginia.

Ultimately, these lead sites will assess, document, and offer high-quality professional development models for teaching students in all grade levels and all subjects. NWP Executive Director Richard Sterling elaborates on the potential of this work: "What might teachers encounter in these programs that will give their students an edge? Take the science teacher who has always assigned students to write lab reports and turn them in to the teacher to grade. With new technology, this teacher could help students put their reports on a website or blog so that students around the world could, for example, do joint water-quality experiments or projects on climate change."

In January 2005 the writing project accepted applications for seed sites to further the mission of the Technology Initiative. During February, between six and ten sites will be chosen to advance this work. Each site will be awarded a $15,000 initial grant to

  • expand high-quality professional development opportunities at local sites for teachers in the areas of technology, writing, and learning
  • create opportunities for teacher-leaders to explore or deepen their work with digital tools with a diversity of students, and then integrate that learning back into the core work of the local writing project site
  • disseminate knowledge throughout the NWP network of sites.

Commenting on the Technology Initiative to the Huntington, West Virginia, Herald-Dispatch, Senator Rockefeller underscored the importance of the mission: "Technology isn't just the wave of the future; it's the reality today. To reach students, enable them to perform better, it's absolutely essential that our educational curriculum is in tune with the times."

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