Summary:This short article on the 4T Virtual Conference on Writing could be the perfect starting point for sites/leaders looking to integrate online learning into a program or those ready to make the jump to a fully online conference/professional development experience. Key to the success of the 4T annual online conference, which is hosted by the University of Michigan Schools of Education and Information and the Oakland Schools, has been the 15 hours of training all presenters and facilitators receive on effective interactive webinar facilitation and moderation.
4T Virtual Conference on Writing in Digital Spaces
This virtual professional learning effort was spear-headed by Associate Director Delia DeCourcy who is acting as the conference chair. The 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing is a satellite of the annual 4T Virtual Conference (teachers teaching teachers about technology), which is sponsored by the University of Michigan Schools of Education and Information and Oakland Schools. Slated for October 11-14, 2015, the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing will focus on the research, pedagogy, and tools of writing in digital spaces in the K-12 classroom.
Throughout the 16 sessions, participants will explore the complexities of teaching writing in a digital age in which students potentially play the role of writer, multimedia creator, collaborator, publisher, reader/viewer/audience member, and critic during their online engagement both during and outside of school. The virtual conference also provides a space for dialogue between K-12 and university educators about the ways that the teaching of writing is enacted in schools, colleges, workplaces, and communities. All sessions will be recorded and archived for access by educators who can not attend synchronously. The conference registration is free, as are continuing education credits for Michigan educators.
The idea for the conference grew out of both a desire to offer educators a focused professional learning experience around digital writing as well as an interest in virtually connecting Michigan Writing Projects. We have been successful on both counts. Members of the conference are Troy Hicks (Central Michigan University/Chippewa River Writing Project), Liz Kolb (University of Michigan), Amber White (North Branch District Schools/ Saginaw Bay Writing Project), Delia DeCourcy (Oakland Schools ISD/Oakland Writing Project), Andrew Steinman (Kent ISD), Paula Deidrich (Co-Director Northern Shores Writing Project), Michelle Schira-Hagerman (University of Ottawa).
Most of the featured speakers and moderators for the conference are Michigan Writing Project TCs, including presenters from the sites just named as well as Red Cedar Writing Project and Lake Michigan Writing Project. In addition, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl has signed on to be our opening keynote speaker and Troy Hicks, Director of the Chippewa River Writing Project is the closing keynote.
What makes the 4TDW significantly different from other virtual offerings is that all eight featured speakers and their moderators received 15 hours of training on effective interactive webinar facilitation and moderation. And the featured speakers and their moderators developed their webinars collaboratively. These pairs are almost entirely made up of TCs from different sites, which has been invaluable in terms of creating more connections across Michigan WP sites. We also now have a strong cadre of Writing Project people in the state who are experts in effective virtual presenting.
Based on the summer training and recent webinar run throughs, the strength of the featured speaker sessions is clear. Our audience (462 registrants as of the writing of this report–half of whom are Writing Project people from across the country) will learn about a vast array of digital writing topics: from writing for video to digital literature circles to hacking as writing to rethinking informational writing products in a digital age to effective strategies for teaching research as an iterative process.
The session format breakdown is as follows:
- 2 keynotes
- 3 special invited guest session (including Kristen Turner)
- 8 featured speakers
- 2 panels
Conference sponsors include Write About, Literacy and Beyond, and the Michigan State University Masters of Educational Technology Program. Oakland Schools and the University of Michigan School of Education have also provided significant funding and resources. We have door prizes from Zaption and Explain Everything.