We are all teacher-leaders with Dakota Writing Project (DWP), Vermillion, SD. DWP is a chapter of the National Writing Project. Reva (Belle Fourche, SD) and Anne (Mitchell, SD) teach middle school language arts, Teresa (Mitchell, SD) teaches high school English, and Lindsay (Austin, MN) teaches middle school science. In addition to our teaching duties, we have recently been involved with co-facilitating a digital writing marathon, a 6-credit online writing and technology course sponsored by Dakota Writing Project through the University of South Dakota, Vermillion.
Reva, Lindsay, and Anne were all participants of digital writing marathons sponsored by Dakota Writing Project approximately 5 years ago. These marathons were held specifically for teacher-leaders involved in Dakota Writing Project and involved exploration of several online writing spaces throughout two marathon "legs" -- one held in throughout the month of July and another held in throughout the month of January. Each week participants explored the "technology space of the week," completing various writing activities. In addition to being one of the spaces we explored as a teaching tool, Tapped In became the "hub" for the marathon activities. Within the marathon "room," marathon participants chatted weekly about their discoveries and also added thoughts to asynchronous discussions.
Last spring Dakota Writing Project director Michelle Rogge Gannon decided to bring the digital writing marathon experience to teachers outside of DWP. Under MichelleÕs leadership, two marathon groups formed -- one facilitated by Lindsay and Anne (July 2010 and January 2011) and one facilitated by Reva and Teresa (September 2010 and January 2011). The marathons involved exploration of online spaces such as VoiceThread, Diigo, Googledocs, Glogster, and Prezi; however, both groups once again utilized Tapped In as the main center for weekly chats and discussion threads. Teacher participants (from South Dakota and Iowa) could also find everything they needed to complete their coursework successfully within the rooms set up for each group (the course syllabus, tutorials for the various tools, transcripts of chats) and could share some of what they created throughout the course (lesson plans utilizing one of the tools they explored, links to Glogster posters, and links to Prezi presentations). All coursework was completed online, offering participants flexibility and convenience in tackling their tasks.
We also called on Jeff Cooper, TI volunteer, to help us set up our space and to guide our marathon participantsÕ through some of TIÕs other resources. BJ Berquist also offered guidance in managing our spaces.
The marathons have been so successful that we plan to offer another marathon starting this summer. Tapped In has allowed us to provide quality professional development teachers entirely in an online format, and we look forward to continuing to use it for future digital writing marathons.