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Friday, November 18, 2005

Keeping the Writing Central, or There’s a reason it’s not the “NTP”

Today I attended two Tech Liaison (TL) workshop sessions and two TL general sessions, and though I've been thinking about how I'd blog about this first day almost from the start of the first session, it's hard for me to separate out what I learned from each, because there were so many times that themes were repeated and expanded upon that it's difficult for me to think of them as separate experiences. Still, there were several threads that ran through the entire day--—let me try to tease them out.

Thread #1: the tech liaison is an important part of the site leadership team. This was mentioned at least once in every session I attended, and at first, I thought, Well, sure, it's an official role, it's part of the leadership team. But when I began to think more carefully about what it means that the NWP has required each site to identify a tech liaison--what that means about the way this organization thinks about technology, about collaboration, about the necessity that learning happens in a community--—well, let'’s just say I began to get a bit overwhelmed at the enormity of what this role could be.

Thread #2: the tech liaison is many things to NWP sites. This thread started with the first session I attended (for TL newbies) and continued on through each session and every conversation I had with my new colleagues, all of whom were interested in what we were doing at RCWP, and all of whom were enthusiastic about discussing their current projects and goals at their sites. (Also, all of them knew [of] Troy, though that'’s an entirely different story. I'm beginning to think I could have been upgraded to the Westin penthouse suite if I'd mentioned Troy's name at check-in.) In that initial session, the presenters had us brainstorm about the role of the TL at our sites. Here's what we came up with: the Tech Liaison is a bridge; the expander of a site's tech presence; a website developer; a provider of professional development opportunities; a developer and maintainer of internet databases and listservs; a leader of group of minds; a part of a larger tech team; someone who doesn't need to have all answers; someone who enables, empowers, inspires, facilitates, and educates; a creator of online communities for networking; a creator and facilitator of workshops; an important part of the leadership team; a maker of decisions about the site as a whole and the ways in which that site considers and employs technology; a resource for teachers to feel more secure about technology in classrooms; an email connection; a maintainer of the continuity connection; a source of pd information; the person people come to with questions about classroom technology; a catalyst; a connection; a pioneer; the one who opens doors to cyberspace, and who makes constellations in cyberspace to help Teacher Consultants begin to navigate.

Thread #3: there's much work yet to be done. This was the rallying cry today--not just from the workshop presenters, but from the participants, as well. I had conversations with colleagues from all over the country who were facing challenges at their sites. There was the woman who had just recently become her site'’s TL and who now finds herself responsible for redesigning her project'’s entire website; I met another woman, also a new TL, whose first responsibility in her new role was to rebuild the contact info database that her disgruntled predecessor had destroyed when she left. I met TLs who were concerned with how to help teachers at their sites who have plenty of enthusiasm but little access to technology, and I met TLs who were interested in strategies for helping teachers working in schools with almost unfettered access to technology but no real idea how to go about it. I heard writing teachers expound on the values of wikis, of blogs, of audio-performance, of digital video, of Inspiration, of hypertext, of PowerPoint, and then I heard a number of willing and enthusiastic TLs from a range of sites say, "Yes, but HOW?"”

The only answer we had, though we didn'’t always put it this way, was that the writing always has to remain at the center of our work. As one participant put it at the end of he day, "“It's the NWP, not the NTP--we need to keep the writing central." Another participant I was talking to said it this way: The technology should facilitate the learning, not drive it. Even though today provoked more questions than it answered, it was wonderful to spend an entire day in the company of people who could agree on that much.


Blogger hickstro said...


You have summarized many of the main themes from the TL day with insight and honesty. I think that one of the main points for our network now is, as you note, advocacy. We have “talked tech” for a long time, and it is time to recenter digital types of writing—composing, more accurately—as the main point of our work. It isn’t about platforms, it is about access and the ability of sites to support TCs and students.

I hope that we can continue to lead by example and look forward to having you onboard as the co-TL this year.

Good luck with the Westin. Let me know how that goes for you…

12:13 AM  
Blogger Janet Swenson said...

I know that we have a unique take on this work. Last night, Mitch and I met with Les Burns, brand-spanking new director of the Bluegrass WP, Jenny Denyers, director of the Toledo WP, and Kirsten, director of the Minneapolis WP. We're thinking of doing an I-75 Research Project--connecting TCs on this north-south thoroughfare. Kirsten was just there because she is a fellow writing CENTER director as well as a writing PROJECT director. She and I have talked often about how this changes the work of both the center and the project.

At our site, as both of you obviously know, working with undergraduate and graduate students and faculty on writing in digital environments means that we have a "warehouse" full of tech "experts." Unlike sites who try to identify ONE person to serve as TL, we work in an environment pretty much permeated with tech saviness.

Still, the critical moment comes when we start to think about what exactly the role of the TL could be. What will you, Steph, and Troy and Mike do that David Sheridan, Kym Buchanan, Andres and others in the WC won't? Here's one...you'll write a dissertation. You will stand beside the teachers not on the day/hour that they need help, but like Troy in his dissertation research, will be in for the "long haul."

Teachers need friends. They don't need anyone doing research "on them" (and you never would). They need people who can help them think things through. They need people who share their goals of leaving the world better than it was when we came in. They need people who have their eyes on the prize--a generation of children who are able to communicate with themselves and with one another in ways that contribute to the development of a world culture that focuses on enabling the development of the full potential of each individual.

So...just save the world, Steph...that's all we want of you. P.S. if that extends your dissertation an extra year, it's okay

11:02 PM  

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