National Writing Project

Transforming Professional Lives through Online Participation

Publication: English Journal
Date: July 2014

Summary: The NWP principle of "going public with our practice" has taken on new meaning as avenues for connecting and going public have continued to open. This article takes a deep look at what happens when five teachers take their practice public and put themselves professionally "out there." You'll hear stories of how online participation has helped teachers overcome isolation by making connections and developing professional learning networks, grow and evolve their own teaching practice, and develop their writer identity.


A thousand questions would whir through my mind whenever I introduced something new into Room 216. A couple of years ago, I made a decision after much reading, thought, and nervous consideration that I wanted to drop the traditionally expected homework from my class. I had countless reasons why I didn't want to assign worksheets or require the usual answer-these-questions-after-yourreading assignments. Instead I told students that I wanted them to spend 20 minutes a night (on average) reading whatever they chose to read that wasn't assigned for another class. I suggested newspapers and magazines online, titles they could borrow from the library for their e-readers, and books they could take from my classroom library. I knew we had been talking about more accountability for students at school and I knew what I was deciding to do would not be popular. Thus, I worried: What if it won't work? What do I say to back up my reasons? How do I explain it to the various stakeholders of my classroom?

When I found myself starting to question—or others starting to question—what I was doing in the classroom, I realized that I had found something in my personal learning network (PLN) that was every bit as valuable as the collaborative learning I was engaged in with the members of my PLN; I realized that I had created an incredible support system.

My peers online were talking about, trying, or actually making the same changes in their classrooms—everything from eliminating traditional homework to using independent free-choice reading in the high school classroom to bringing the outside world into the classroom with technology—that I was setting out to make in my classroom. Chances are that one of them had run up against similar concerns and could help me think them through."

About the Authors

LUKE RODESILER is an assistant professor of secondary education at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, and a teacher-consultant with the Red Cedar Writing Project.

MEENOO RAMI is a former English teacher and Philadelphia Writing Project teacher-consultant, and current works as manager for Minecraft Education at Microsoft.

GARY ANDERSON is a former high school English teacher, and currently works as a writing instructor at William Rainey Harper College.

CINDY MINNICH is a high school English teacher, certified school librarian, and a National Writing Project teacher-consultant.

BRIAN KELLEY is a middle school English Language Arts teacher, and a co-director of the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project.

SARAH ANDERSEN teaches high school English and runs the YA Love young adult book blog.

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