National Writing Project

Teachers Are the Center of Education: Writing, Learning and Leading in the Digital Age

Date: May 17, 2010

Summary: Teachers Are the Center of Education is part of a series of reports highlighting the importance of teachers and the quality of their work. This report features eight Writing Project teachers by spotlighting their innovative use of digital tools for writing and learning.


"When kids make a video about something, they know it a lot better than if they were writing a research paper," says Joel Malley, a Buffalo teacher who is a teacher-consultant with the Western New York Writing Project. "There are a lot of decisions involved when they decide how to match up music, sound effects, audio, who to video or what shot to take. There is a deeper embedded knowledge required."

Writing has never been more important than in this digital age. While the fundamentals of good writing remain constant, new forms of writing are quickly evolving, as the teachers profiled in Teachers Are the Center of Education: Writing, Learning and Leading in the Digital Age demonstrate.

For example, words are now regularly joined with images and voices—and teachers note how students become more engaged and motivated when using digital tools to create texts.

But effective teaching with technology requires far more than just adequate hardware and software. Teachers Are the Center of Education—a partnership among the College Board, the NWP, and Phi Delta Kappa International—shows that it takes commitment, trained personnel, planning, resources, and ongoing evaluation.

For more, read the accompanying article, Teachers Must Be Confident With Technology to Effectively Employ It in Their Lessons, by Paul Epstein, co-director of the Central West Virginia Writing Project.

To meet the challenges of teaching and learning in the digital age, Teachers Are the Center of Education offers these recommendations:

  • Every student, at all levels of education, needs one-to-one access to computers and other mobile devices in the classroom.
  • Every teacher, at all levels of education, needs professional development in the effective use of digital tools for teaching and learning, including the use of digital tools to promote writing.
  • All schools and districts need a comprehensive information technology policy to ensure that the infrastructure, technical support and resources are available for teaching and learning.

Featured NWP Teachers

Joel Malley
Joel Malley, Western New York Writing Project

We are preparing kids for a different world — a world where they need to know how to tell compelling stories. And the types of stories that are compelling these days are not just print stories.

Katherine Suyeyasu
Katherine Suyeyasu, Bay Area Writing Project

There is this initial excitement around technology, but I do not want it to be a surface exposure. If we are going to use technology, I want it to give the students something to grapple with and to encourage depth.

Paul Epstein
Paul Epstein, Central West Virginia Writing Project

... Illustrating your writing, learning how to manipulate things — sound, text, images — it is a digital, multimedia world these kids are moving into. They're going to have to and want to participate fully in that multimedia world. And if we can get them ready for it now, it's just going to be that much easier.

Paige Cole
Paige Cole, Red Clay Writing Project

You can get computers and use them poorly. You can use them as worksheets and you can use them as test prep ... Or you can explore true digital literacy, which is a whole other animal.

David Brown
David Brown, Philadelphia Writing Project

[Using digital tools] started with being able to have my kids publish their work.... The kids had a different feeling, a different look on their faces when they saw their work typed up and printed out.

Erin Wilkey
Erin Wilkey, Greater Kansas City Writing Project

It's one of our academy goals that all students use technology tools for different projects. My seniors will write texts using different types of writing—persuasive, personal, informative, creative and reflective. I created a spreadsheet for the students to keep their notes, writing and documents on Google Docs. I have them divided into response groups. And they're sharing with their group in the online space."

Jennifer Woollven
Jennifer Woollven, Central Texas Writing Project

I think that our approach here, where we're looking more at skills that are broader that students will need in the future, like being able to collaborate with others, solve problems and communicate, is a step in the right direction. We have to realize that things are changing and that students are going to have different sorts of jobs.

Alina Adonyi
Alina Adonyi, Central Texas Writing Project

One of the most important parts of going digital is saying to the students, 'Here you go. It's your turn. Teach me.' And to be comfortable with that is really crucial.

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