Here at the end of the Digital Literacies Resource Development Retreat, I’m brought to my laptop in reflection. When I look back at the last three days I see in my mind the shadows cast by many incredible educators. I hear the voices of people from many corners of the country, and I feel the effects of being where trying new things is encouraged.
Being able to step away from our familiar desks at school, offices or couches at home, or that old familiar coffee shop affords us a unique perspective. While being disconnected from those locations, but connected in person to a cadre of high functioning professionals, there was a general feeling that a lot of important work was going to be done.
The retreat did not disappoint. Aside from breaking for meals and stopping around 7:00, there was near non-stop writing, developing, conversing, questioning, and thinking. There was never a moment when I wasn’t able speak my mind or pose an honest question to a variety of people and expect a thoughtful response.
With all the possibility for continual chatter, it struck me that so many of us were able to spend a majority of our time working independently. The collaborative atmosphere waved above our heads as a flag deeming that we had claimed this space and time as our own. There didn’t need to be a schedule about who would meet with whom at what times or in what ways; we just worked.
This weekend made me think about my dream classroom, about that school-topia we all wish to create for our kids. We want learners to be in control, but not be afraid to give it up. We want learners to write without fear of letting the words go in favor of new ideas. We want groups of learners to collaborate and work independently at their own pace in a way that allows the most authentic progress on projects.
The spirit of innovation and tinkering seemed inherent in our crafting of resources for the space on Digital Is. My resource evolved hourly it seemed, as I conferred with Christina Cantrill, Troy Hicks, Tracy Lee, and others. Being in an environment where learning, writing, and collaboration were all so closely tied emboldened me to tell new stories, ask different questions, and listen in new ways.
The philosophy of the retreat, to quote one of my fellow developers, seemed to be just throw it up, and see what happens. That attitude disarmed us all as we allowed it to permeate our thinking.
It wasn’t a philosophy that came about in a committee or a study group. The words uttered are simply a casual sampling of our evening activities. After a long day of work, we retreated to playing pool in the lounge. After considerable failure, at the price of great entertainment, it was Lindsay Sorenson who tried to encourage us to be confident in our play.
I’ve always thought that the willingness to participate and the ability to discover were closely related. The National Writing Project provides educators with such a rich variety of learning opportunities to participate in and then helps ensure that discoveries are able to happen.
If we can exploring the meaning of digital and how it affects what we call writing–a challenge both broad and complex–in such a setting, think about what such an atmosphere would allow our students K-12?