Teacher as Writer

Transforming Professional Lives through Online Participation


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 "out there" professionally. You'll read stories of how teachers have overcome isolation by making connections and developing professional learning networks online, grown and evolved their own teaching practice, and developed their writer identity. The writers also share how online participation led them to new levels of teacher leadership through exciting professional opportunities that became available because of the visibility they gained by "going public with their practice."


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.