National Writing Project

Summer Institute and E-Anthology Make a Comfortable Fit

Date: July 2007

Summary: Sally Crisp and Shari Williams, director and co-director of the Little Rock Writing Project, introduced a technology component at the site's pre-institute sessions and granted participants the technology units required by the state—preparing fellows to plunge right in to the E-Anthology and making the summer institute even more attractive to teachers.

 

“We wanted the E-Anthology to be integrated in the summer institute, not just an add-on,” says Shari Williams, co-director of the University of Arkansas, Little Rock Writing Project (LRWP), speaking for herself and the site’s director, Sally Crisp.

Williams, who has been an E-Anthology coordinator for many years, was familiar with the power of the national nature of the forum, but she also knew that many teachers approached their initial summer institute E-Anthology postings with trepidation. She knew that careful planning would be required in order for the E-Anthology to “play a prominent role and be a more organic resource.”

State Requirements Provide Support

As it turned out, a bit of serendipity provided a tool to help ease in this expanded role: the state of Arkansas was now requiring that teachers complete six professional development hours in the uses of technology.

If some of us had not read it online first, I don’t think she would have put it out for everyone.

Since the E-Anthology is an online forum for invitational summer institute participants to publish their writing and reflection, to respond to each other’s writing, and to discuss issues important to them as educators, it fit perfectly.

Williams and Crisp saw an opportunity to seamlessly integrate the E-Anthology. They introduced a technology component at the site’s pre-institute sessions so that, in addition to the traditional team-building activities, institute participants would become familiar with the technology required for the E-Anthology as well as with the technology-based forum the leaders were setting up for members of the institute’s research groups to communicate with each other and with the summer institute staff.

This plan also allowed the fellows to get the six technology hours required by the Arkansas Department of Education every year—making the summer institute even more attractive.

A Fast Start

“Now, when fellows arrived for the first week of the institute,” Williams says, “they were able to plunge right in to E-Anthology writing. We did not need to take time out for instruction. Even during the first week they were using the E-Anthology to respond to assigned writing.”

The integration of technology into the institute also allowed planners to make better use of time. According to Williams, “We had been using around 90 minutes two afternoons a week in writing response groups. By adding the E-Anthology requirements and using other online tools, we freed up some campus time, and the participants were still getting the benefit of having others read and respond.”

New Technologies, New Efficiencies

The expanded use of technology also allowed Williams and Crisp to address a growing challenge: the five-week, all-day schedule for the summer institute was becoming more difficult to maintain. For example, travel time to the summer institute was an issue, particularly for participants who might be juggling household responsibilities with attending an institute.

So Williams and Crisp reduced the fellows’ time on campus to four weeks and utilized more online tools. They found that fellows actually extended their time together and experienced less of a disconnect. This way of organizing the summer institute also served as a demonstration for ways to use technology with students in K–12 classrooms.

Connecting the Cyber World with the Local World

Throughout the summer institute, fellows realized that the E-Anthology added a dimension to their writing response groups that went beyond the traditional face-to-face interactions as they posted work and received comments from people they didn’t know.

Williams remembers how the E-Anthology benefited one particular writer. “During the first week of the summer institute Pam Sowell wrote a very personal piece about a time she confronted a robber. She didn’t feel comfortable sharing it with the whole group, so she posted it on the E-Anthology. After some of us read it there, it opened the door for her to go ahead and share it with the whole group. If some of us had not read it online first, I don’t think she would have put it out for everyone.”

Multiply that experience by the many ways summer institutes at sites throughout the nation are using the E-Anthology: the postings to the “A Day in the Life” forum that allow fellows a seat at what is going on nationally in the summer institutes; the “I Am From” poems that come from many sites, binding together teacher-consultants across the country; the postings and responses as teachers write about their challenges teaching writing. All this and much more make the E-Anthology an invaluable resource when it is thoughtfully integrated into the summer institute.

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