A CASE STUDY OF THREE TEACHERS IN THE KENTUCKY
TELECOMMUNICATIONS WRITING PROJECT
SUSAN NELSON WOOD
A DISSERTATION PROPOSAL PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
Susan Nelson Wood
This dissertation has been a five-year collaboration crafted and supported by many
people. none of whom accept simple solutions for complex problems.
In times of
educational reform and accountability, times when the hard work lands squarely on the
back of classroom teachers, the Bingham Trust signified trust in teachers by generously
funding the Kentucky
Telecommunications Writing Project (KTWP).
Binghams for the boldness of their support.
acknowledge my gratitude to Carol Stumbo, Bud Reynolds, and Robin Lambert in
Kentucky; Chris Edgar and Nancy Shapiro from Teachers & Writers Collaborative in
New York City;
Eliot Wigginton for his belief that teachers and students can and must
work together: and
Dixie Goswami who said,
"When the communication is working, the
technology is invisible.
" All of these people contributed ideas, time, and faith as they
nurtured the KTWP throughout the three years of its existence.
Mv deep appreciation
to all the teachers and students who participated in the
KTWP. especially Emmy Krempasky, Beverly Paeth, and Sue McCulloch-Vislisel.
These professional teachers worked endlessly and enthusiastically, believing in their
students and themselves.
At times the work was painful, but none of them gave up, and
.-I & 4
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Words can not express the gratitude I feel toward Dr. Linda Leonard Lamme.
primary mentor at the University of Florida. as well as my friend, she invited me into the
professional conversation, welcoming my collaboration on many projects exploring
literacy, integration, and equity.
She was the first faculty member to believe in my ability
and to show an interest in telecommunications.
She herself dared to venture, from the
familiarity of her own classroom, into cyberspace as she integrated electronic networking
into children's literature and language arts
She is fearless and kind.
enthusiastic and intelligent.
Without her unfailing belief in the power of literacy to
change lives, none of my work would have happened.
In addition, I was extremely fortunate to work with an exemplary doctoral
committee, a veritable goldmine of expertise.
Their collective wisdom guided my
research skills and their individual kindness fostered more fundamental beliefs.
Bolduc graciously deferred retirement to serve on my committee.
demonstrated the value of a technology-intensive and discussion-rich environment, and it
was in his seminar on curriculum theory and technology that I began to develop a
conceptual framework for visualizing the power of electronic communication.
Dr. Dorene Ross led me to construct personal theories of reflective practice grounded
Consistently, her focus on teacher learning and teacher education has
focused my thinking, helping me clarify themes and issues.
She modeled logic and rigor,
and she has challenged me intellectually throughout the five years of my doctoral studies.
cLG, --- 4- 4I-- ----- -1 1 -- ___-- 1_----_- ** t 1-
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Dr. Robert Sherman guided my growth as a qualitative researcher.
His gentle ways
and sharp mind taught me how to observe more closely, how to appreciate quality.
have. indeed, come to appreciate greatly his own eve for detail and the essence of his
His philosophical perspective helped me meet obstacles with equanimity, and
from him I learned how to use many different tools appropriate to the task.
Dr. Jane Townsend nudged me to make my
her inspired and guided me. helping me formulate questions.
Her own research served as
a model for mine, demonstrating the art and quality possible in educational research and
providing me with organizational strategies.
I admire her wit and wisdom, her tenacity.
She is a creative genius, and she remains a critical friend.
On a personal note. I owe my deepest thanks to family and friends whose belief in
me has helped me to believe in myself.
parents, have always been there when ne
inspired and encouraged me from the be
Ruth and Kelvin Nelson, my loving and devoted
;eded. Joe Wood, my friend "for fifty years,"
inninge. The women of Gainesville. an entire
community, served as my dissertation support group and raised me throughout.
reason. Dr. Marnie Gibson Lamm provided the love that has made all the difference.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOW LEDGMENTS. .......... .... ... . . . .....
A B ST RA C T ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ...
Background . . .. . . .
Statement of the Problem ...........
Research Questions. .. . . .
Significance of the Study .... ........
* a. a a a a a a a a a a a a
* a a a a a a S S a a a a
. . . .
. . . . .
2 REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE. .. ..... .............. 9
Teaching W ritingi. ... .... . . . 10
Teachers' Professional Development .. . . ...... .. ... 15
Telecommunications Networks. . . . . . . ... 22
3 M ETH ODE a a . a. a . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .* . ... 29
Setting of the Study. . . . . . . . ... .. 29
D ata C collection. . . . . . . . . . ... 34
D ata A analysis .... .. ... . . a . . ....... 37
4 THE NATURE OF THE TEACHERS-ONLY DISCUSSION......... 41
The First Y ear.................... ......... ............... 44
The Second Year. ... .. ...
The Third Year . . . .
Summary . . . . .
- a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a a
5 THE NATURE OF INDIVIDUAL PARTICIPATION................ 69
B ev .. . . . . . . . .. . . .. .. 87
Sum m ary. . . . . . . . . . . . 113
6 THE NATURE OF TEACHER LEARNING. .......... ........ 116
Teachers' Interpretations of their Learning . . . .... 116
Cross-Case Interpretation of Teacher Learning. . ........... 126
Factors that Foster or Constrain Teacher Learning. . .... . . 131
Sum m ary .. .. ... .. .......... ... ... .. ........... 138
7 SUMMARY AND DISCUSSION ............................... 139
Sum mary of the Results . . . . . . . . 139
D discussion. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..... 144
Im applications. . . . . . . . . . . . 149
A INTERVIEW PROTOCOLS . . . . . .. . . . 158
B TEACHER SURVEY. .
REFEREN CES .............. . ........... .... .. . .. 162
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... 173
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
A CASE STUDY OF THREE TEACHERS IN THE KENTUCKY
TELECOMMUNICATIONS WRITING PROJECT
Susan Nelson Wood
Chair: Dr. Linda Lamme
Instruction & Curriculum
Teacher networking is a critical feature of school reform.
This case study, conducted
over a three-year period, explored the impact of telecommunications networking on the
professional development of teachers.
Special funding enabled teachers, with no prior
expertise but required by educational mandates to integrate technology and writing, to
form a private electronic network connecting their students and themselves.
Methods used to describe the teachers-only discussion and planning area of the larger
network and to analyze the nature of teacher learning over the duration of the project
Data included field notes compiled from the online discourse, tape
recordings and transcriptions of interviews, artifacts from the project, informal surveys,
The analysis of three years of online discourse-- over a thousand notes in which
teachers talked freely about their personal and professional lives-- described the network
as an egalitarian discourse community whose main function, mutual support, resulted in
significant teacher learn:
and created shared-space
content and innovation.
During the first year participants mastered the technology
. In the second year they focused far more on curriculum
The final year they wrote for publication and presented at state
and national conferences.
A closer look at the individual participation of three of the teachers revealed three
areas of teacher learning: writing, technology, and professional development.
indicate that teachers varied in their commitment to the network and their learning from
Although all three involved their students and participated consistently
throughout the duration of the project, they developed three different patterns of use,
purposes for use, and functions of use.
The study confirms Smylie's (1995) seven factors
that work as facilitators or barriers to teacher participation and learning, and it suggests
that the most critical factor was related to the personal goals of the teacher.
L. J. Perelman's (1992) prediction that "the classroom and teacher have as much
place in tomorrow's learning enterprise as the horse and buggy have in modem
transportation" (p. 19) challenges traditional educational practice.
advances are transforming the world in general and schools in particular as virtually every
school in the United States now has microcomputers.
Suddenly telecommunications is
the link connecting education to the world, and, due in part to the role of technology as
both a teaching and a learning tool, education has ceased to be defined as the mere
transfer of information, a one-way passivity, but is seen instead as a more dynamic
transaction where both the teacher and the learner are changed.
Educational systems are
being restructured, changing the teacher's role in the teaching and learning process as a
result (Ely & Minor. 1992: Means, 1994: Molenda, 1992).
In January of 1994.
Vice-President Albert Gore took the first steps toward opening
the "superhighways" of information networks to the students of the United States when
he and one of the country's largest telephone companies, Bell Atlantic, agreed to provide
free access to schools.
Soon this vast network and technology will be a classroom
commonplace (Beckner & Barker, 1994).
Howard Rheingold (1993) writes.
curriculum decision-making. how to best implement this technology, remains a great
Such rapid innovation makes irrelevant today what was done only yesterday
and presents us with pressing needs: "the necessity of properly preparing teachers as
decision makers, the importance of planning and fully implementing pilot projects, and
the need to keep up-to-date with the technology" (Hebenstreit et al. 1992. p. 67).
Increasingly, technology itself has come to be viewed as a catalyst for reform, the
"revolutionary force that instigates and supports reform by teachers and administrators at
the school level" (Glennan & Melmed, 1996, p. xiv).
In Kentucky, a state undergoing
comprehensive restructuring of the entire educational system, technology has been
integrated into every aspect of educational reform (Phillipo, 1991).
The 1990 Kentucky
Educational Reform Act (KERA) mandated that Kentucky schools be transformed, and
three assumptions served as the basis for broad-sweeping change statewide:
1. All children can learn and at relatively high levels.
Technology exists to support learning.
What children learn should be approximately the same across the state.
by whom, and when, they learn changes to meet individual differences.
Policy makers operated under the assumption that "technology without [educational]
reform is of little value, and that widespread reform without technology is probably
impossible" (Glennan & Melmed, 1996, p. xx).
Nationwide, educational reform efforts
recognize that "technology is not only a catalyst and a tool for change, it is also an
required by law to implement technology and other innovations into their classrooms, but
staff development, training teachers and schools to integrate technology, remains a
In a typical scenario, computers are distributed (or not), explained (or not), and
expected to be used (or not). Traditional
"deskilled" (Apple, 1986; Frymier, 1987
Iv, teachers have increasingly become
Gitlin. 1983; Goodman. 1988; Shannon, 1987).
Deskilling has been most common in educational systems where teachers are handed
ready-made curriculum, materials, schedules, and so on, and are expected to function
This model has not worked with efforts to integrate technology:
providing hardware to a school will not change the teacher's daily practice: even 'user
computers are not easy to use for a newcomer .... Teacher training is the only
way to overcome these difficulties and is therefore an absolute prerequisite to the
introduction of information technology in schools" (Hebenstreit et al., 1992, pp. 26-27).
Research in teacher training and staff development demonstrates that "traditional"
modes are not effective (Guskey, 1986).
According to a recent study by the Critical
Technologies Institute, prepared for the United States Department of Education,
research strongly suggests that teachers must acquire new skills needed to operate
technology-rich environments" and "current professional development policies do not
encourage teachers to acquire such skills" (Glennan & Melmed, 1996, p. xviii).
attempts to meet the needs of classroom teachers have failed, often because the efforts
Thomas Boysen, Kentucky's Commissioner of Education, defines a "self-renewing"
teacher as one who accepts the challenge to "relearn.
To do that, teachers must see
themselves as learners, charting their own professional growth in order to achieve the
desired goals and outcomes mandated by educational reform (Matthews, 1992).
Calderhead calls for professional development to be a "long-term aim referring to
communities of teachers working together, rather than a short-term aim for individual
teachers" (p. 145).
Teacher networking has become a critical feature of school reform: since traditional
staff development is inadequate especially where restructuring is happening-- new
models, studies of "exemplars of professional discourse communities"
S. Department of Education, the Office of Science
and Technology Policy, and others have called for researchers to gather data and assess
"effective applications of technology to the training and professional development of
" (Glennan & Melmed. 1996.
Telecommunications. a recent
technological innovation, provides a vehicle for teacher learning, creating the opportunity
for that "continuous, life-long process of professional development" that fosters good
(Calderhead, 1992. p. 146).
Statement of the Problem
This study explored the nature and impact of the participation of three Kentucky
educational reform and state law to integrate technology and writing into their teaching.
Private funding enabled them to form an electronic network, creating an opportunity for
professional dialogue with other teachers in the state.
How did they participate in the online discourse? Ho
What shape did their network take?
w did they interpret their
What, if anything, did they learn from the experience?
fostered or inhibited their learning?
At issue is the question of how teachers may "change their beliefs and
understandings as the result of conversational interactions, and how change interacts with
their goals, which may include (any or all): achieving some practical task (a private and
external goal), achieving agreement (a social and mutual goal), and achieving a better
understanding" (Draper, 1995, p. 223).
Also at issue are questions about professional
development and the suitability of telecommunication networking as an effective learning
environment for teachers.
The purpose of this study was to examine the teacher-only discussion and planning
area of one telecommunications network, analyzing the participation of three teachers
over a three-year period and comparing their interpretations of the experience to
determine the impact of telecommunications networking.
The research focused on the
What is the nature of the individual participation of three teachers in the Kentucky
Telecommunications Writing Project?
What is the nature of their learning?
What factors fostered teacher learning and what factors constrained it?
Because qualitative research attends to participants
perspectives and understandings
(Bogdan & Biklen. 1982). and because this was an examination of one setting, this is a
case study utilizing ethnographic methods to explore "the nature of the lived experience"
Case study research is "focused on discovery, insight, and
understanding from the perspectives of those being studied" and is qualitative and
"hypothesis-generating" (Merriam, 1988, p. 3), arising from "the desire to understand
complex social phenomena" (Yin, 1994, p. 3).
Significance of the Study
Telecommunications enables learning to occur collaboratively across both time and
distance (Davies. 1995: Hebenstreit et al., 1992).
It supports teachers as they move from
being providers of information to facilitators, reduces professional isolation, enhances
teacher development and productivity, promotes idea exchange among educators, and
contributes to innovations in curriculum design not possible in a traditional classroom
(Tinker & Kapisovsky, 1991).
In addition to considering recent developments in
technology and education, current trends in teacher education, and studies of teacher
kinds of shifts required by reform and technology-- can be informed from such a project's
This study has the potential to offer one model of teachers working together
through telecommunications on common problems of instruction, designing staff
development over extended periods of time, and exemplifying the very standards schools
are setting for students.
To situate this three-year study of teacher discussion on a telecommunications
network, in the second chapter of this dissertation, I document three areas of research:
theories and practice in the teaching of writing, general trends in professional
development for teachers. and research about telecommunications networks.
chapter, I explain my research methodology and the design of the study. In
In the third
fifth, and sixth chapters, I present analysis of the data, and in the final chapter I
summarize and discuss the results.
For the purpose of this study, the following terms have these meanings:
1. "Telecommunications" is an overarching term that describes electronic point-to-
point connections between individuals and groups.
includes connections that utilize existing telephone lines, dedicated lines, and cable and
The trend within telecommunications is networking, connecting
individuals who have common interests.
such as America Online and Prodigy. 0
Some use commercial information utilities,
others are part of education networks such as
A T& T Learning Network and the National Geographic Society Kids Network.
\Wide Web make telecommunicating possible for most citizens.
State networks in Florida
Kentucky (KetNert) New York (NYSernet), Texas (TENET). and elsewhere are
further indicators of the rapid spread of telecommunications networking within education
(Barron & Orwieg, 1993: Jordan. 1993: Roberts. Blakeslee. Brown. & Lenk. 1990; Weir,
are phone lines used expressly for telecomputing.
"Download" is the term used to explain the process of transmitting or receiving a
file, and "upload" is
used to explain the process of transmitting or sending a file from
one computer to another.
An "electronic network" allows groups of individuals to send and receive messages
All messages are stored until the individual group members opt to read,
respond, delete, or save them.
" is a small, lightweight computer with a flip-up screen that can be powered
by batteries and is easily portable.
Network participants "log on,
" or sign on, to the network by entering a usemame and
Networks are closed to the public.
The server, or host computer, charges a
fee for participation.
7. A "modem" is a
a result, memberships are monitored and online time is billed.
Communication device that converts electrical signals from a
computer into an audio form that can be transmitted over regular phone lines.
s," personal computers, are designed for use either at home or at school.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Teachers and students both participated in the Kentucky
It was a project designed to impact the teaching of writing.
students were the most active participants, writing to each other for a variety of purposes,
their teachers wrote too.
This particular study is limited to the teachers-only discussion
area, the place where the teachers wrote and planned together.
What does an electronic discourse community created by a small group of
teachers look like?
How do the different members participate over the long-term?
what ways does a computer network foster teacher learning?
What factors promote or
Because the technological innovations inherent in an electronic discourse
community are so recent, because it is uncommon to find longitudinal studies conducted
in teacher development, and because studies of teacher learning situated on a computer
network are rare, this study offers a substantive challenge to the fledgling researcher.
Although my study has not been done before I was able to examine the
intersection of literature from a variety of research areas to support and inform my
This three-year study of teacher discussion on a telecommunications network is
framed then by theories from several domains.
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In this chapter of my dissertation, I
general trends in professional development for teachers of writing, and research about
telecommunications networks for teacher learning, all interrelated. Clearly, my study has
the potential to extend current research, especially in the areas of professional
development and telecommunications technology.
According to James Britton (1972), we "learn to write above all by writing," and
the teaching of writing is grounded in theories of language and how language works
(Sapir. 1961; Vygotsky, 1978; Wells, 1986).
differentiate communicative purposes. For e
Various theories use various terms to
example, Kinneavy (1971) identifies four
types of discourse: reference, expressive, persuasive, and literary, and the National
Assessment of Educational Progress uses three: expressive (self-centered), expository
(world-centered), and persuasive (reader-centered).
Fulkerson (1994) defines four philosophies of composition: expressive, mimetic.
rhetorical, and formalist.
He classifies major theorists according to these headings and
explains the value of category: expressive emphasizes the writer, mimetic emphasizes
correspondence with "reality,
rhetorical emphasizes the effect on the reader, and
formalist emphasizes "traits internal to the work" (p. 4).
Berlin (1994) groups theories of writing into four camps and he traces the
historical roots of each: the Neo-Aristotelians or Classicists, the Positivists or Current-
writer, reality, reader, and language, but that they disagree in terms of which element to
He suggests that it is only in the classroom pedagogy that theory is revealed.
(1986) meta-analysis of research on written composition conducted
from 1963-1983 categorizes four approaches to the teaching of writing and summarizes
what works best.
In the presentational approach, the teacher presents information about
writing and assigns students tasks designed to illicit
" the primary method
of instruction in the individualized approach is one-to-one; and the natural process
approach uses very little formal instruction.
Hillocks terms the most effective approach
and defines the role of the teacher in this approach as being that of an
artful facilitator who utilizes a wide range of social-collaborative processes.
The Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project was conceived as an open-
ended opportunity for teachers with little or no prior experience as writers, or as teachers
of writing, to work in collaboration with each other and with students.
By interacting in
written discourse, the participants considered ways to integrate writing throughout the
curriculum, a goal of the state reform.
but other than the "environmental" na
The teachers served as facilitators in the project,
ture inherent in the design of the project, they did
not prescribe to any one "best approach" to teach writing nor did they emphasize a
particular mode of writing.
Myers (1983) identifies three theoretical approaches to teaching writing in the
classroom (modeling, processing, and distancing), each with a different set of
Telecommunications Writing Project, teachers generated a variety of
written models for each other to imitate (modeling), encouraged a discussion of ideas
(processing), and provided real audiences for each other (distancing).
theories, distancing in particular, inform the questions of this study.
Modeling, the first theory, is closely related to behavioral theories and suggests
that writing is about producing text.
In this approach, writing is taught by duplicating
parts (Brown, 1915) in order to create a whole, and the writer "'imitates or approximates
the language present in the environment" (Myers, p.
Modeling can be seen as
prescriptive, a focus on drill and correctness, but it encompasses any attempt to teach
writing with an awareness of text and product: word choice, sentencing, form, and
Modeling theory as a framework for effective teaching of writing supports
research that asks questions about the text (Polanyi, 1958; Winterowd. 1970).
Theories of processing, the second approach, come from cognitive psychology
and focus on the mental process of the writer instead of on the text produced. In practice,
the emphasis here becomes one of meaning, problem solving, and brainstorming. Within
this research tradition are housed many current studies that look at the stages of the
writing process and the writer's discovery of meaning and content
(Emig, 1971; Graves,
1975: Rohman, 1965; Nystrand, 1977).
Distancing, the third theory, views writing not as a product or a process but as a
relationship between the writer and subject and between the writer and audience, shifting
Written discourse is shaped by the distance between the writer and the subject.
rhetorical situation and the distance from speaker to audience determines the form the
writing takes as well as questions of style.
Writing is considered appropriate, even
only in terms of the context and the social relationship
Theories of distancing are found in James Britton
's taxonomy (1975) of
expressive. transactional. and poetic writing which states that all writing begins with
personal experience (expressive).
Britton and Moffett'
theories of writing development
's theories of child development: "The cognitive perspective expands
gradually outward to accommodate audiences remote from self and to encompass
subjects broader and broader in time and space" (Moffett, 1983, p. 153).
Teachers and their students joined the Kentucky Telecommunications Writing
Project in an attempt to meet state mandates.
Writing online with no models to follow,
the teachers participated in a three-year project conceived as an authentic, problem-to-be-
Toward that end, writing was not taught explicitly according to discrete skills but
was viewed instead as a vehicle for thinking about a wide range of issues within a
community of others.
Teachers, students, and online guests formed this learning
community and all became writers and readers.
The community provided a social context
for their written discourse.
Like their students, the teachers in KTWP wrote daily.
functional. an interpretation of their experience.
Their writing was
Writing, according to James Britton,
raw, unsifted. uninterpreted.
Expression. in any form whatsoever, is an interpretation of
experience: we learn in the process of expression itself and we learn also from experience
made available, brought to hand so to speak, by being expressed"
(Britton. 1983. p.21).
Writing as a vehicle for cultivating the teacher's voice and for exploring personal
experience is one way to create professional dialogue (Modra. 1989; McDonough, 1994;
Yinger & Clark, 1981).
By writing online teachers use language to "view themselves"
for the purpose of behavioral change (Berlak & Berlak.
Because it's often difficult
to view ourselves, the discussion needs must be a collaborative event that includes an "an
emotional as well as a rational dimension.
change, it entails emotions.
Because behavioral change is personal
Emotions attach to the ways we view ourselves, our actions,
and their results" (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993, p. 34).
According to Bakhtin, meaning
exists only in the meeting of voices when teachers, as authors, both address and respond
to the voices of others-- in the turning outward, in listening to the voices around them and
in being moved to speak (Dyson. 1995).
The Russian psychologist. L.
Vygotsky (1978). identifies this relationship
between the role of language to make experience conscious and the social culture that
makes consciousness possible.
"Human learning presupposes a specific
social nature and a process by which [people] grow into the intellectual life of those
around them.. .in collaboration with more capable peers
learning occur best within a sociocultural context (Mayher. 1990).
teaching lies in a willingness to attend and care for what happens in our students,
ourselves, and the space between us.
stance of listening
Good teaching is a certain kind of stance. .a
" (p. 244).
In the Kentucky
Telecommunications Writing Project, teachers taught writing
while participating in an electronic discourse community, writing and reading each
Teachers became their own teachers, a different kind of professional
development model, similar in some ways to the National Writing Project (Gray, 1969).
The National Writing Project (NWP) invites teachers to form writing communities where
they write to learn, learn to write, and learn to teach writing.
According to Mary K.
experience in the Bay Area Writing Project,
"From this sustained experience, we
relearned how to teach writing from the inside out-- testing the methods which our
colleagues demonstrated against our own immediate responses as writers" (p. 254).
the NWP, KTWP represents a trend in the professional development of teachers, one that
differs from traditional in-service.
Teachers' Professional Development
Calderhead (1992) describes the need to improve our understanding of the
professional needs of teachers,
"If we are seriously to pursue the goal of reflective
teaching for a substantial number of teachers in schools, we need to place the issue of
teachers' own professional learning much higher up the agenda of teachers' in-service
leading to a growing consensus on the nature of what constitutes an appropriate
professional development system (Duff. Brown.
& Van Scoy, 1995).
Rather than continue the "deskilling" model, rather than mandate improvement
upon teachers by bureaucratic control, rather than believe that administrative praise,
expert mentoring, or nudging will "bring out the best in teachers" (Blase & Kirby, 1992;
Ceroni & Garman, 1994; Fletcher, 1991), current trends in professional development for
teachers view teachers as independent, self-directed human beings and recognize that
they have a history of experience that may be utilized as a learning resource; they have
social roles and developmental tasks that influence their readiness to learn; and they have
a strong need for immediate application of knowledge (Knowles, 1980).
The Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project represents an independent,
self-directed network comprised of teachers with a wealth of life experience, engaged in
the challenge of integrating the technology into their work with students.
studies of teacher learning are invariably situated in traditional learning environments, as
opposed to a cyberspace network, and conclude that adult students learn best under the
following conditions: a learning-centered classroom, personalized instruction, activities
related to experience, a friendly and informal climate, self-direction, and flexibility (Conti
& Fellenz, 1983).
Efforts to integrate past and new learning include social forces as
teachers analyze their own autobiographies as learners.
Learning journals, critical
and cultures created to support application of individual needs are
Research in staff improvement at the Children's Center at the University of South
Carolina (Duff. Brown, & Van Scoy, 1995) concludes that teachers need a learning
opportunity that takes a broad view of teaching as a profession, a view that recognizes the
"barriers and hurdles" inside as well as outside the workplace.
A holistic view that
encompasses personal growth as a part of professional growth, a broad spectrum of needs
including physical and mental health as well as environmental factors, recurs within the
body of research.
For example. Bell and Gilbert's (1994) three-year study of teachers in
New Zealand finds personal and social development intertwined with the professional.
The need for collaboration and participation is emphasized throughout the
Collaborative learning assumes that knowledge is socially, rather than
individually, constructed by communities of individuals, and that the collaborative
shaping and testing of ideas is a process through which individuals make meaning.
Success for teachers as learners seems to come when learning is situated in a climate that
fosters collaborative learning.
Learners must be willing to listen to and respect different
points of view, exercise responsibility for their own learning, and be committed to the
group (Imel, 1991).
Teachers who participated in the Kentucky Telecommunications Project formed
an electronic community in which they felt free to discuss whatever issues seemed note-
They wrote for each other to read.
A telecommunications network may or may
not foster collaborative learning, but it is certainly unique in terms of a learning
Schein. 1979) were synthesized by Smvlie
1995) to define an adult learning theory that
explores the relationship between learners and the environment.
He identifies seven
specific conditions that may promote teacher learning:
shared power and authority
egalitarianism among teachers
autonomy and choice
organizational goals and feedback mechanisms
integration of work and learning
accessibility of external sources of learning
Smylie's model describes some of the characteristics of the Kentucky
Telecommunications Writing Project and illuminates this study of teacher participation
and learning via an electronic discourse community.
The move to conceptualize teachers as reflective practioners capable of using
informed judgement and exercising thoughtful decision making, embraces a view of
teaching that is complex and holistic (Berlak & Berlak. 1981:
concept of constructivism holds that the learner develops (or "constructs") knowledge and
that opportunities created for such "construction" are more important than instruction that
originates from the teacher" (Ely & Minor, 1992, p. 8-9).
As teachers examine their
practice, they learn about themselves and their work; they construct knowledge about
A growing body of research suggests that teachers learn best when engaged in
authentic learning tasks.
Teacher-initiated research, inquiry-based learning that is field-
based, and the opportunity to conduct self-studies are growing trends in professional
Lytle (1992) indicates a need for staff development that regards people's
diverse routes into the field as assets, begins with practitioners
questions. recognizes the
need for building community, and creates contexts for knowledge generation.
According to Holland (1973), teachers have strong social needs and often feel
isolated from their colleagues and dissatisfied with their work.
Generally. teachers do not
work together to support and encourage each other professionally (Ashton & Webb,
Yet significantly, opportunities for collegial interaction have demonstrated a
positive effect on teacher attitudes and student performance (Little, 1982).
McLaughlin (1994), drawing on three years of field work, illustrates a different
way of thinking about teachers' professional development.
Teachers who report a high
sense of efficacy, who feel successful with today's students, shared only one
characteristic: membership in some kind of a strong professional community which they
identified as the reason they feel motivated and successful.
attributes of healthy professional communities.
Her research defined the
They "embrace diversity, maintain
problem solving structures, maintain strategies for critical review and reflection, exhibit
high levels of trust and teamwork, and pay active attention to the ongoing renewal of
community" (p. 48).
promote teacher empowerment. increase collegiality, and keep teachers up-to-date on
Whole-faculty study groups show promise as a vehicle for integrating
initiatives and focusing school improvement efforts on increased student learning.
focus of most study groups appears to be on the local school context as an alternative to
traditional staff development (Charles, 1995; LaBonte, 1995; Sanacore, 1993).
Teacher networks appear to be one of the few realistic options for restructuring
education (Mann, 1989).
A comparative study of five professional teacher networks
situated in Montana. Alaska. Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, respectively, concludes
that networks have significant positive impact on curriculum renewal.
provide teachers with the professional benefits of collegial relationships, reduce
professional isolation, support individual classroom practices, and offer access to field
tested materials and information (Stoops, 19
domains, electronic discourse communities,
Current research argues that computer
offer one of the best sites for carrying out
such dialogues between peers (Fey, 1994; Hawisher & Moran, 1993).
Clearly, the move is to explore new models for training teachers, collaborative
models that empower teachers' own voices.
"In educational change and educational
research, the formerly unheard and undervalued teacher's voice has been accorded
increasing respect and authority in recent years" (Hargreaves, 1994, p. 60).
teachers raises questions about how teachers develop and voice professional knowledge.
"A growing narrative research tradition is demonstrating the impact of small, safe inquiry
1992, p. 159).
"Voice" is defined as "a necessary part of reflective teaching as it is an
instrument of self consciousness that allows teachers to examine their beliefs and
experiences. By talking. .. teachers raise to a level of consciousness the complex matters
of their work" (Richert, 1992, p. 190).
Teacher participation and teacher learning, as demonstrated in the narratives and
writing that the teachers post online, is broadly conceived (Sparks-Langer ), but
may include such things as: wisdom of practice (Shulman. 1987), craft knowledge
(Leinhardt, 1990), art/aesthetics of teaching (Eisner, 1982; Kagan, 1988), teacher action
research (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1990), and narrative inquiry (Connelly & Clandinin,
This study is be "grounded in an image of persons as intelligent human beings,
capable of reflecting on themselves and their behavior and revising their behavior in the
light of reflection" (Berlak & Berlak. 1981, p. 256).
"Reflective practice is an integrated
way of thinking and acting focused on learning and behavioral change; it is individuals
working to improve organizations through improving themselves.
It is a powerful
approach to professional development" (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993, p.
), and it is not
easy (Mackinnon & Grunau, 1994).
This study of teacher learning explores a new model, a collaborative, professional
development model that uses telecommunications.
As an environment that may or may
not support teacher learning, telecommunications serves as a vehicle for teachers to form
a discourse community and offers a potential context for teacher learning.
This study is
"Technological innovations have paved the way for new communities and
collaborations to develop.
While the modes of conversation have remained the same, the
means by which these modes of conversation are carried out have not" (Kurshaw &
Harrinton. 1991, p. 5). Telecommunications and the Internet offer several forums for
professional development. Electronic journals, discussion groups, electronic courses,
electronic conferences, e-mail, networking, and coauthoring are some of the possibilities
(Monty & Warren-Wenk, 1994).
Research on these various services is proliferating but
does not appear systematic, nor does it seem to discriminate by form.
In addition to considering theories of writing and the teaching of
writing, current trends in teacher education, studies of teacher learning over the long
term, and recent developments in technology and education, this research project will
extend what is now known about online learning communities.
Current literature in telecommunications research seems to range from glowing
testimonials to quasi-experimental studies to a few controlled experiments usually of the
Although the online discourse is archived in an electronic text and is easily
retrieved, the dynamics of the virtual community, the educational value of the
interactions, and the complexity of participation are not capable of being reduced to
controlled conditions: good qualitative studies are rare and the literature "is far from rich"
Telecommunications research is usually tied to a specific network but has not
examined teacher learning
For example, the QUILL project in Alaska was
designed as a three-year study intended to build on existing computer and writing
research and became instead a study of a particular software innovation (Bruce & Rubin,
More commonly, comparative studies focus on how electronic discourse differs
from face-to-face interactions.
For example, the
Intercultural Learning Network (ICLN),
a loosely organized set of participants, including elementary, middle, and high school
students and teachers, junior college, undergraduate, and graduate students and faculty
and a few participants from outside the educational system, explored the uses of
electronic message systems for instruction (Levin, Kim, & Riel, 1990).
Current research focuses largely on distance education networks.
A study of
computer conferencing at the British Open University (Kaye, 1995) demonstrated that
students and teachers can replicate electronically the dialogue that occurs in the
face-to-face class and that in some respects (e.g., increased levels of turn-taking by
students) electronic dialogue may be even richer.
Computer novices mastered the
technicalities of computer conferencing without having face-to-face training, learning
instead by direct experience.
This study concluded that "distance education systems
should place more emphasis on active and cooperative learning strategies which value the
personal experience and knowledge which all contribute" (p. 142).
Studies of electronic networks invariably talk about social dynamics and
"communicogram," a visual representation of the exchanges, revealed that although the
majority of responses were non-interactive, they indicated "the reflections of the learners"
(Henri. 1995. p. 159).
In other words, computer mediated conferencing is an individual
process in which the learner reaches personal objectives through support from members
of the group.
The quest for new kinds of communication patterns is common throughout the
"Online discussions are characterized as having multiple threads to the
discussion and a non-linear pattern.
Users can create their own syntax and lexical symbol
system to convey and clarify affective expression" (Ruberg & Sherman, 1992).
(1994) work describes an ethnographic study of an electronic
community comprised of university students involved in a seminar on networking.
Ethnographic research explored the cultural meaning of the events and contributed to
understanding of the applicability of ethnographic research and online education.
In analysis of an Earth Lab Project. Goldman, Chaiklin. & McDermott (1994)
found that "the messages are thick with affiliation work.
With many topics to cover and a
pleasant relational space for communication, the conversations touch on issues of
importance to the lives of each involved.
The correspondents co-construct a space for the
mutual exploration of their individual and shared lives" (p. 271).
telecommunication networks support "the social view of writing, which emphasizes the
communal contexts of literacy.
Janet Eldred shows how computers have supported the
computers, in addition to being the private tools they were originally conceived to be
have become instruments for social intercourse
"' (Costanzo. 1994. p. 17).
In her case study of a teacher education course utilizing telecommunications,
Schrum (1992) identified some of the requirements for implementation and pointed out
fundamental stumbling blocks: "We are only beginning to find ways to facilitate
integration of new technologies into the classroom for the improvement of teaching and
We have frequently not put into practice what
we know about good education
and innovation when attempting to bring about change" (p. 17).
Kulik (1994) conducted a meta-analysis synthesizing over five hundred individual
studies about the effectiveness of computers as learning tools.
His study concludes that
students receiving computer-based instruction: learn more. learn in less time, like their
classes more, and develop more positive attitudes.
Other studies on student learning
demonstrate that telecommunications helps students work collaboratively, solve
problems, and experience writing as communication in the real situation. (Chen, 1994;
Allen & Thompson, 1994).
Fey (1993) found that an electronic environment where
responses link feelings to thought and where responses are shared with ease leads
to more powerful learning for some students.
In a comprehensive study of "technology-rich" schools, the Critical Technologies
Institute concluded that when technology was not a "marginal addition"
instruction were altered dramatically reforming and reorganizing learning by effectively
frameworks and student outcomes, an easy access to computers, a project-based approach
to learning, a developmental approach in harmony with a larger vision, an external
funding source at the start, an improved communication among adults, a large budget,
and an increased sense of engagement and attitude on the part of all participants.
schools are representative of the best practices across the nation
" (p. 34).
Telecommunications, a potentially interactive learning environment.
possible for teachers to form professional discourse communities (Butler & Kinneavy,
Studies of electronic teacher networks have begun to appear.
In an early effort to
explore electronic conferencing as a form of professional development, the National
Science Foundation (1989) evaluated a study that linked on-site workshops and computer
The rationale and the conclusions supported the two methods as having
more of an impact than either would have had alone.
Results of a descriptive study conducted by Lincoln (1992) from in-depth open-
ended interviews with faculty in higher education about the use of scholarly networks
and professional self-image indicate that regular network participants formed
communities with discussion of courtesy, equity, and self-image.
She also reports that
the style of conversation is informal and humorous as well as intellectual.
Watts and Castle
's (1992) study of the NEA School Renewal Network discloses
six necessary conditions for successful interactive networking: encouragement of
group development, equal portions of "high touch" and "high tech," the availability of
In Alabama, fifty math and science teachers participated in a four-year project
designed to train each other.
Teachers met for inservice workshops at Auburn
University, then began to use microcomputers, and finally trained other teachers.
rural teachers in particular, the project offered fellowship, shared problem solving, and
relief from professional isolation (Baird & Swetman, 1994).
Electronic networks can provide a supportive environment.
conclude that an electronic community requires careful design, user comfort with
technology, and commitment; moderators play essential roles in nurturing collegial
connections and reflective conversations (Spitzer & Wedding, 1995).
(1995) on initial attempts to introduce telecommunication networking reveals major
obstacles were lack of time, access to equipment, and resources for implementation.
The Creative Teaching and Learning Cooperative in Oklahoma has established a
research protocol in which faculty collaborate via electronic mail, discussion groups, and
Studies of the project reveal that 90% of the faculty voluntarily participate due
in large part to the fast and efficient communication system (Malloy & McKeon, 1995).
s (1989) study of a distance education course conducted with primary and
secondary teachers in Australia explores the struggle between a philosophy of socially
constructed knowledge and a teaching pedagogy that is highly individualistic.
the lens of emancipatory pedagogy to address critical issues of reform and policy.
" according to Smyth,
"have had a long history of having been treated as the
Hawisher & Selfe (1994) take a critical look at the rhetoric of technology,
electronic discourse communities, and telecommunications.
As editors of Computers and
Composition, they reviewed research, published reports. and other observations.
argue that the "enthusiastic discourse that has accompanied the introduction of
computers"must also describe the less positive and more problematic aspects of computer
In particular, they take a critical perspective on computer conferencing and suggest
that participants may "self-discipline themselves and their prose in ways they consider
socially and educationally appropriate"
They call for further studies.
From this literature on teaching writing, teachers
professional development, and
telecommunications networks, the following themes emerge that are relevant to the
1. Writing allows teachers to make conscious the complexity of teaching.
2. Teachers, as adults, learn best in a supportive, collaborative environment engaged
in authentic tasks that are self-directed.
Collegial interaction has a positive effect on teachers
Telecommunications enables teachers to form communities in which they can
examine themselves and their work, constructing knowledge.
An electronic environment where readers' responses are linked to emotions and
In this study I investigated what happened when teachers with little or no prior
experience attempted to meet the demands of educational reform by participating in a
explored the nature of the teachers-only discussion and
focused on the participation of three individual teachers.
I used qualitative methodology
and collected data over a three-year period from a variety of sources.
By and large, the
methods used to analyze the nature of the teacher learning were descriptive and
Since the study focused on teachers in one telecommunications project, and
was limited to the particulars of that project and to the unique features of three teachers in
that project, the resulting analysis may be characterized as a case study.
describes the selection of the research site and participants, explicates the research
method, defines its relevance to the research questions, discusses the research
perspectives, and defends the research reliability.
Setting of the Study
Description of the setting.
The Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project
a three-year project, was designed to support a small group of Kentucky
taonbor rc' 0 /-t r nf th0Ar nnan"naAn ifr/-n n-nlvo 0A1yi inntr'nn I ro^rar.*-, ntn/ +t lf
KTWP was funded for $145.000 the first year and approximately the same
amount for two more years thereafter by a grant from the Bingham Trust, a private
foundation, in collaboration with Teachers & Writers Collaborative of New York City.
Application information was sent to every Kentucky school district, to the seven
National Writing Project sites in Kentucky, and to personnel at the state Department of
Any teacher of any discipline (grades 4-12) from any Kentucky school was
welcomed to apply
. The only prerequisites were a willingness to use writing in the
classroom, to involve students in curriculum decision-making,
and to participate for
Fifty-one teachers submitted written applications, which included personal
letters and letters of support from their administrations.
Based on geographic location of
the site, grade level of the class, and the level of commitment from the teacher as well as
from the school district, five sites (seven teachers) were selected by a committee to
participate for a three-year period.
Each teacher received compensation in the form of
materials and resources: project money enabled the teachers to purchase necessary
materials (i.e., books, computers, phone access), and a technical support person was
available to visit their schools.
The teachers chosen to participate in KTWP represented public, private, and
4-12, various disciplines, urban and rural, large and small.
and teachers included:
fourth grade self-contained from Paducah in Western Kentucky;
Chapter One eighth grade reading from Covington in Northern Kentucky; high school
from rural Hi Hat in Eastern Kentucky.
These sites, a diverse mix of geography, districts,
schools, and classrooms, were representative of the state.
Via modems and phone lines, the pioneering teachers and students in the
Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project used technology to communicate online
to meet the demands of educational reform.
Students and teachers from each of the five
sites designed writing activities based on their local communities and shared their work
online using telecommunications to connect with the other classrooms in the project.
KTWP aimed to develop curriculum and program in the following ways:
* to improve the writing and thinking skills of students;
* to center writing activities around students and their communities;
* to base classroom activities on established writing theory and practice;
* to involve students and teachers in the design and assessment of the curriculum;
* to use technology to enhance writing instruction in thoughtful, meaningful ways;
* to emphasize and celebrate diversity and differences; and
* to address the seventy-five valued outcomes mandated by the Kentucky
Educational Reform Act and subsumed under six learning goals:
basic communication and mathematics skills;
core concepts from disciplines;
responsible group membership;
Students and teachers in the five classrooms formed online conferences, in
essence public forums for students and teachers to discuss a number of issues.
for each other, for audiences beyond their own classroom community, the students and
teachers from the five sites worked collaboratively, becoming a larger community of
Each site "logged on" receiving and sending notes daily.
The volume of writing
exchanged over the three years was massive; often a hundred notes would be posted
within a twenty-four hour period.
Different conferences were designed for different purposes.
Students from the
two high schools, for example, formed writing response groups, sharing and offering
suggestions for improvement.
Students from all sites initiated and moderated some of the
conferences; often the writing was informal, such as "Video games"
conferences, like "Communities,
were more structured, in this case as students engaged
in more formal writing and research about their communities.
"Poetry" or "Lit Groups"
were initiated by teachers and were highly structured.
three-year period, dozens and dozens of student conferences were established.
centered writing projects were the mainstay of KTWP and the entire project was designed
to improve the quality of student writing.
Teachers were free to participate in the student conferences, and often they did,
but mostly, the teachers wrote to "Journal," a private discussion area, a place for teacher-
talk, a virtual teacher's lounge that students could not read and a lace for the teachers to
pc's at home, and lap-tops on their travels, these teachers regularly "logged on" to their
Once there, they read, wrote, and reflected, engaged in the same processes as
No requirements governed participation.
The teachers themselves chose
when, what, and how to write, and early in the project, they agreed to write online each
week but often did not do so.
Although the number of teachers participating from each site varied from year to
year, the seven teachers chosen initially from five sites did not know each other before
the project, but they did meet face-to-face several times throughout the grant period as
they attempted to involve students in classroom decision making, utilize
telecommunications, and find ways to integrate writing across the curriculum.
the teachers chosen for the project had ANY prior experience with computers, with
curriculum design, or with student empowerment.
Most had little prior experience with
One teacher even admitted in an early interview that she could not let KTWP
interfere with her established curriculum and the way she taught.
Description of the subjects.
Within the bounded system of the teachers'
discussion area of the Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project were at least seven
teachers who could be observed more closely.
In qualitative research,
sampling methods are purposive when the researcher selects a sample in order to
discover, understand, and gain insight.
In purposive sampling the researcher selects a
sample from which she can learn the most (Merriam, 1988).
number of participating teachers varied because of, in part, project proliferation when
other teachers from each site were invited to join.
Emmy in Paducah, Sue in Louisville,
and Beverly in Covington (see chart) were selected for this study because all three
teachers participated regularly and consistently throughout the duration of the project.
addition, of the five sites, these three were the only sites where teachers worked alone.
At the other two sites, Lexington and Hi Hat, the teachers functioned as a team, a
somewhat different kind of experience.
PROFILE OF THREE CLASSROOM TEACHERS
Emmy Krempasky Sue McCulloch-Vislisel Beverly Paeth
5 years, 5th grade 24 years, 15 at Brown 3 years, Ist, 2nd, 8th grade
Elementary Ed., BA English Education, MA Reading specialist, Rank I
Purchase Area Writing Project First Louisville Writing Project No experience with writing
Never used telecommunications Never used telecommunications Never used telecommunications
Western Kentucky Central Kentucky Northern Kentucky
Paducah Louisville Covington
Suburban, independent Urban, public school magnet Inner city, independent
McNabb Elementary The Brown School Holmes Jr. High
5th grade I th-12th grade 8th grade
Self-contained English composition Chapter I reading
Since the purpose of this study was to explore the nature of teacher participation
in a telecommunications network, this cyberspace-based case study was situated in a
teacher-only discussion area on a private electronic network.
nature of teacher participation over time and the teachers' in
In order to examine the
terpretations of the
experience, the case study database spanned a three-year period, the duration of the
project, and relied on multiple sources of evidence (Yin. 1994).
Data consisted of field
notes compiled from online discourse, tape recordings and transcriptions of interviews,
artifacts from the project, including newsletters and brochures, informal surveys, and
participant observation notes taken during three planning meetings held in Kentucky.
Field notes were comprised of the online dialogue, notes written and
posted in a public forum by participating teachers.
compiled the writing.
I monitored all online activity and
Significantly, the online discourse amounted to more than a
thousand pages of field notes collected over the three-year period, from August 1992
through June 1995, downloaded and stored.
Interviews focusing directly on the case study topic were conducted
__, i '" ^ -
with the project participants throughout the duration of the project.
Data were collected
on-site during interviews in March. 1993, with seven KTWP teachers; in June, 1994, with
ten KTWP teachers; in July, 1995. with seven KTWP teachers; and by phone in
Open-ended questions centered on classroom practice. teaching successes,
curriculum problems, personal theories of teaching, and issues of professional change
(interview protocols Appendix A).
Each teacher was asked a common set of questions in
the form of a one-to-one, conversational discussion.
To minimize distractions, interviews
were tape recorded using a small machine and long playing tapes.
All interviews were
conducted in private, and the average interview took about an hour.
Follow-up interviews, primarily for clarification, were conducted by telephone
with three of the teachers.
Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed.
questions focused on describing their participation, interpreting their experience, and
validating the study.
Since the inception of the project in August, 1992, until its conclusion
in July, 1995, I collected data and had full access to all documentation of the project.
read applications and participated in the awarding of the grants; the proposals from the
teachers and all supporting documentation were in my files.
Other artifacts from the
project, including student-produced newsletters and brochures were also collected.
addition, the participating teachers wrote chapters for a book, The Nearness of You:
Students and Teachers Writing On-line (Edgar & Wood, 1996), published by
Those writings were also part of the ethnographic record.
-way through the project. I administered one survey (Appendix B).
A set of informal questions was posted online to "Journal," the teacher discussion area,
Participant observation notes.
Once each year. I traveled to Kentucky, making
four on-site visits to attend planning meetings where participants met and talked
These meetings were held in Louisville in November, 1992, in Lexington in
March 1993, in Louisville in June 1994, and at Shakertown in July 1995.
unobtrusive tape recorder and making extensive notes in longhand, I observed and
recorded these meetings.
Data analysis in this case study was an inductive process relying on the "sufficient
presentation of evidence and careful consideration of alternative interpretations
Theoretical sensitivity acquired during the research process and baLanced
by my personal and professional knowledge of the technical literature enabled me to
recognize what in the data was important and to give it meaning (Hitchcock & Hughes,
Conducted in stages corresponding to my questions, analysis focused primarily on
field notes (compiled from the online discourse) and also on participant interviews.
To answer my first question, what is the nature of the
teachers-only discussion in the Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project (see
Chapter 4), three years of online discourse-- the teachers'
notes written to "Journal"
were mapped and patterns sought. The field notes,
a total of 1,236
more than a thousand pages.
Close scrutiny of the three-year period revealed patterns in
. .I - n
included listing the authorship and general contents of each note by mapping each note
according to which teacher wrote it, when she wrote it, and what she wrote about.
In an attempt to determine the rules of their online community and to define the
culture, I selected one window of time halfway through the project and conducted an
intensive analysis of a three month period (December 1993 to April 1994) of "Journal,"
the teacher discussion area.
I sifted through the online discourse during this period-- a
three hundred and ten notes (the average note was about 450 words) written by
Data analysis of this theoretical sampling of the discourse relied primarily
on Spradley's method (1980) of domain analysis and was facilitated by the use of
computer software, specifically The Ethnograph, which made it possible to reorganize
and manipulate text according to different codes.
Categories were examined, themes
generated, and a final taxonomy enabled me to describe the network metaphorically.
To determine the nature of the individual participation of
three teachers in the Kentucky
Telecommunications Writing Project (see Chapter
chose three teachers to examine as subunits within the case.
To unearth and make
explicit tacit understandings, instead of studying their participation holistically,
explored each as a separate case, taking account of unique aspects of individual cases
(Merriam, 1988) and analyzing the embedded units (Yin, 1994).
I resorted the three years
of online discourse separating the notes of these individuals, rereading, summarizing, and
categorizing each teacher's words.
Descriptive interpretations were constructed
To answer my third and fourth questions, what is the nature of
their learning and what factors fostered and constrained the learning (see Chapter 6), I
shared my findings with the teachers and conducted final interviews.
verification allowed comparisons to be made between my interpretation and theirs.
Cross-case comparisons were made between the three teachers
perspectives and then
linked by tentative hypotheses, resulting in the final drafting of a descriptive and
explanatory case study
(Merriam, 1988; Yin, 1994).
Patterns were determined using
taxonomic analysis, and a final theory about the nature of teacher participation in a
telecommunications network and its impact on classroom teachers was constructed.
explanation-building process reflected "theoretically significant propositions" (Yin, 1994,
The research perspectives.
At the time I helped write the initial grant proposal for
Telecommunications Writing Project, I intended to be one of the classroom
teachers involved in the project, but instead I entered graduate school at the University of
During the duration of the project I maintained an active role, observing the
project, collecting data. and supporting the efforts of the five participating Kentucky
On occasion. I myself posted notes to the teacher discussion area.
From the outset of the project, teachers understood their role in an experiment-of-
In the initial application packet they agreed to collaborate in a project whose very
design was based on openness and inquiry.
They understood that the project would
themselves to be part of a daring venture with no preconceived outcomes or expectations.
They were willing to see themselves as researchers as well as "subjects
Reliability of results.
" in a study.
The findings in this particular study of the Kentucky
Telecommunications Writing Project resulted from inquiry and not personal bias.
Interpretation of the nature of the experience was based "only by the actions and words of
(Van Maanen, p. 3).
Sufficient data-base evidence existed to support and
To ensure trustworthiness, the results of this study were checked
and rechecked with the participants.
Use of participants' names and other identifying
descriptors served to hold the research accountable, and compatibility between my
constructions and the teachers' realities also ensured a high degree of truth value.
consistency and meaningfulness of the research results was attained from triangulation of
multiple data sources (including artifacts, surveys, and participant observation notes)
collected over a three-year time period.
Plausibility of the study-- a study that produced
theory grounded in the data-- make it applicable to other contexts,
theoretical propositions (analytic generalization)" (Yin, 1994, p. 10).
THE NATURE OF THE TEACHERS-ONLY DISCUSSION
To answer my first question, what is the nature of the teachers-only discussion in
the Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project, three years of online discourse were
mapped and patterns sought.
The 1,236 prose notes posted by the teachers of the
Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project to "Journal," their private discussion area,
during the three-year period each averaged about a page in length. Although I read all of
the notes at the time they were written and read them all again when I transferred them to
print copy and bound them in large, three-ring binders, for the purpose of this study I
initiated formal data analysis by carefully rereading the entire discourse.
noting observations in three ways.
I read slowly,
First, using the analysis technique of putting
information in chronological order (Yin, 1994), I listed each note according to authorship
and general contents: mapping the number of the note, the date it was written, who wrote
it, and what it was about.
This process reduced more than a thousand pages of dense text,
notes, to an easily examined timeline constructed on about one hundred,
three by five, index cards.
Processing naturalistically obtained data, such as this, is considered an inductive
process where the researcher reconstructs the participants' constructions in an inductive
discourse. constructing the timeline. I also sought patterns in smaller sections of time
(usually three or four months) or
according to the quantity of notes (approximately fifty
I recorded my observations, constantly asking.
"What's going on
here?" (Wolcott. 1990).
compiling my notations, and making categories for each
These descriptive interpretations (Merriam, 1988) served to explain the
nature of the teachers-only discussion in the Kentucky Telecommunications Writing
Project based on features and patterns of each teacher's participation by year as well as
over the three-year period.
Finally, I chose one. four-month window of time halfway through the three-year
period (December 1993 to April 1994) of "Journal," the teacher discussion area. in which
to conduct intensive domain analysis (Spradley. 1980). another way to determine the
nature of the discussion in the Kentucky
Telecommunications Writing Project.
through the online discourse during this period-- a total of three hundred and ten notes
(the average note was about 450 words) written bv the teachers. Sorting domains was
facilitated by the use of computer software. The Ethnograph. which made it possible to
reorganize and manipulate text according to different codes.
Categories were examined,
themes generated, and a final taxonomy enabled me to describe the network
One thousand and one notes, the total number of notes mapped, were analyzed for
the nmincPnq nf thp chnrt on th fnllxino u nano
T\ixn hinnrtr n thrtvrv nnd rtv-v nte were
ears some notes were sent blank, some were deleted bv teachers to erase errors, some
were duplicates, and some were lost during the filing process.
Teachers from each of the five sites participated each year, though some of the
teachers, like Nancy. entered the project late, and others, like Delores and Debbie. relied
primarily on their colleagues to do the writing.
In addition to the teachers at the five
sites, participants included a poet in residence with the project, project directors, myself,
and other educators interested in KTWP.
The following chart represents the number of notes written by members of the
Number of Notes Written by Members of the Network
Covington Beverly 30 33 23 86
Louisville Sue 22 73 33 128
Paducah Emmy 61 69 54 184
Hi Hat Delores 4 1 0 5
Bud 50 48 6 104
Lexington Kathy 2 42 9 53
Nancy 0 6 17 23
Debbie 4 0 0 4
Jane 4 14 3 21
Group Notes 16 3 0 19
Director Carol 101 27 0 128
Robin 0 2 67 69
Poet Mike 8 38 29 75
Others 21 44 37 102
The First Year
The online conference began officially in September 1992. and although
telecommunications was new to the participants, no one received directions about how to
write or what to write.
None of the teachers had ever been online before, and they had no
prior sense of what writing online might look like.
The teachers defined their culture, and
they chose to write their notes in the form of friendly letters. following a fairly standard
For example, the notes on -Journal"
usually opened with some type of greeting.
Unlike old-fashioned one-to-one letter writing.
"Journal" notes were conferenceed"
the audience was more public.
Often the greeting was overarching:
"To all. Hey
everybody. To: KTWP Journal colleagues, Hellooo everybody, Dear fellow KTWP'ers,
Dear Everyone. To: KTWP folks. Dear KTWP Teachers, Dear Friends, and Greetings to
Other times, notes were addressed to particular individuals, even though all
participants read them: often they just began:
"Yes. .. Just a quick note, Hello, Good
morning! Hev out there!
I had a brainstorm just a minute ago.
It sounds like...
know that you have to be in a state of worry and anxiety."
Notes usually had some type of closing followed by a signature.
generally affirmations, words intended to leave the readers feeling good:
"Take care, all.
Have a good week!
Happy New Year. friends.
Keep up the good
You deserve it.
Pleasant dreams everyone. Fondly.
Love & aspirin.
Let me know what I need to do.
If I can help along the way. I'll be
Although the form of the notes was fairly standard. participants wrote their notes
to suit themselves and their moods.
The pages and pages of print-outs revealed patterns
in the writing, patterns of idiosyncratic behaviors, patterns that show the uniqueness of
The first note sent was from Bud, the high school social studies teacher
from Hi Hat. who also helped direct the project, perhaps establishing the style as well as
setting the mood.
He wrote often and with a balanced tone. sometimes serious,
sometimes very playful: "I feel like a butterball." In his notes, he mixed the personal with
the professional, serving to nudge everyone else to participate more fully: "I really would
like to hear your suggestions about the 'pods'
you are using. Kathy.
Would they help us
His notes were usually long and informative, and he addressed the other
KTWP teachers by name, responding to their efforts with a cheerleader's enthusiasm:
"Just wanted to add my Rah! Rah's! to our time in Louisville.
I was really proud of you.
Like a general, he planned and made requests: "All of you need to be thinking about how
we want to structure our time."
He also reported on the "movements of the troops,"
keeping the others up-to-date on the action: "How are your kids coming with their project
Jane mentioned that St. Peters and Paul were about to decide to do a teen
Tfl --J 1 1_ 11_ I l ^ l A i. :.. C-.___ i .....
happen here this year.
" Carol \was not a classroom teacher. but an administrator working
with the Kentucky Department of Education.
She wrote lots of notes. extremely long
notes, and was busy organizing the network. arranging and opening conferences.
reporting from Frankfort. and updating the teachers on reform mandates:
this medium to explore the cultureicommunities of all the sites?
"-How do we use
Can we relate geography
to that? These are two important KERA (Kentucky Educational Reform Act) goals.
her notes she was sometimes authoritative, pushing the teachers to have more theoretical
"I'd like to hear more as you begin to move further into using Atwell's
" Toward that end, she seemed to model the behavior she sought:
"The reform is
based on the belief that teachers need to be the decision makers, but how is that
She encouraged the teachers and was full of praise for their efforts: "You can
be proud of what you have accomplished.
" In a friendly manner, she offered tidbits of
detail from her regular life: "Mv car is still buried in a blanket of snow." As the stress of
her job mounted: 'I am exhausted so this will have to be a quick note." her tone became
more curt with less humor and more directives: "I have been waiting for these kinds of
questions to emerge.
" She wrote long notes articulating her vision for the network:
would like for us to remain a demonstration network," interspersed with short notes about
the load of work she was under: "an all-day and evening work session.
" After May, her
participation faded and finally halted altogether mid-way through the second year when
she became director of the Region 8 Service Center in Eastern Kentucky.
confidence as writers.
Participation during the early part of the year was tentative as
teachers mastered the technology and began to develop their voices.
experienced technical difficulty during the early stages of participation: "I've been
tempted to hurl my laptop out the window,
discuss: "Sometimes it can be rather frustrate
and problems were a popular topic to
ine." But the teachers seemed to share the
challenge and the dominant mood was optimistic: "We are all working out technology
Everything will improve in good time.
" "I will be much better at this next year
because of the frustration and thinking that went into this year."
Slowly, they became
"I'm really getting the hang of this telecommunication stuff."
slowly becoming an expert.
"The computer has become not only a learning tool but a
writing tool as well." "We are all finally computer literate!"
On the whole, the teachers began their telecommunications project with a certain
degree of reservation: "Enclosed you will find a list of my students." Notes were fairly
formal, sent almost like progress reports: "We are starting an "Issues' conference per your
" Aside from Emmy, more than anyone, who was warmly enthusiastic and
personal: "Love ya!"
chapter), most of the
(Emmy. Beverly, and Sue are discussed in detail in the next
k teachers wrote with a polite tone: "We would appreciate
ig on their classrooms and discussing details of the KTWP
collaboration, such as who will edit the next newsletter: "'It has been very difficult to
I ,l- nt 4tn a.. an A F)/*/* at 1n Cje... nalnl nn' 4i ni I sn a rta ni c I1
,,V /I I, / ,1 ^ ^ ^/ff
Dear KTWP Teachers.
Our people are so eager to meet your students via the network.
share their 2reetin2s with your classes.
(That is. if you are on-line and actually
We are brainstorming, but are still not sure of what direction to
the video deadline?
Deb. Jane, and Kathy
Jane and Debbie. the classroom teachers at Saints Peter and Paul. relied on Kathy,
the technology teacher, to upload and download all notes until necessity forced them to
figure it out for themselves when Kathy went to Florida to attend a dying relative: "It
would be inappropriate to call Kathy for help during this trying time.
Soooo. here we sit.
We push some more buttons-- ones we haven't ever pushed before."
The early months of the conference were a chaotic jumble of notes as teachers
attempted to log on and send their greetings.
student notes were intermingled. Bv Decem
talk: "I'm eager for us to get a conference of our own.
For the first three months, teacher notes and
ber. teachers were expressing a need to really
There are a lot of things to share
that all of the ears out there don't need to hear everything.
" In January 1993,
was opened as a separate conference for teachers only.
In addition to their school or site
accounts, teachers were given individual accounts with their own user-names allowing
them to write more personally within shared privacy.
Suddenly, all the teachers became
Improvements. at least in volume, were measurable.
In the first three months of
the project. for example. 39 notes were sent, most of them fairly brief.
When the private
more familiar with the technology their own voices emerged.
All teachers participated fully:
Marked changes occurred.
"I really feel compelled to share some of my discoveries
" talking about themselves: "My second son's story is very akin to that of your
thinking about you.
responding to each other: "Emmy. you know that all of us are
and sharing enthusiasm about their learning: "The first thing I had to
do was reflect on my own style and method of teaching.. .I have learned that it is okay to
fail as long as I learn.
" By the end of the first year, everyone joined the discussion in a
personal way: "I love reading notes from all of you,
all articulated pleasure at being
"part of the family.
The Second Year
Over the summer and into the start of the second school year. online activity
decreased as teachers reported mainly on travels with family and planned for the new
Emmy was the most active of the teachers, writing frantically in early August:
"What do I do?
I'm a fourth grade teacher!"
The other teachers responded with notes of
support, advice, and plans: "You've got lots of friends out here to lean on!"
series of notes about Emmy's dilemma-- after six years teaching fifth grade she suddenly
found herself, with little warning, assigned to teach fourth grade, the high-stakes
accountability grade-- kicked off the second and most prolific year.
At the mid-point of the three-year period, participation peaked.
A total of 400
April 1994. 310 notes (a total of 556.483 characters) were exchanged on
average length of a note was 1.795 characters or about 450 words.
At no other time were
so many notes exchanged, and at no other time were notes as developed.
Domain analysis (Spradley. 1980) of these notes reveals patterns in the discourse,
topics and features of the discussion.
Although these patterns can be seen throughout the
three-year period, close analysis of the mid-way point uncovered a relationship between
the pressures of statewide mandates and the teachers
efforts to be autonomous, their need
to feel secure about themselves and their work in the midst of massive reform. and their
desire to define themselves as professional educators.
Discussions about KERA, implications for change, and the status of changes at
the local level of each site were on-going;
the resulting stress was a visible part of the
Reform issues talked about the most included technology as integrated
into the curriculum, not an add-on, and alternative assessment, especially using open
ended questions and portfolios.
Portfolio assessment in writing and mathematics was
mandated, for example, in every fourth grade classroom.
spring of the second year. one teacher reported. "I've bee
Exhaustion is close at hand.
As assessment time neared that
*n running running running.
The stress level is at an uncontrollable level.
preassessment jitters is driving even the calm into turmoil."
Emmyv, now a fourth grade
teacher, wrote long and often of the stress she was under: "I just feel the weight of the
whole school on my shoulders and I lust feel like collapsing."
Another day she
Emmy's questions, confusion, and concerns, as well as those of the other teachers
in the project. continued to be addressed by Carol,. the State Department
Service Center Director. until Carol faded out and stopped participating.
summarize recommendations, clarify issues, and answer questions. Her
Carol wrote to
view from the
State Department. her KERA updates. reports. announcements, and news as it occurred,
were a positive counterweight to the frustrations and stress: "The other news, it seems to
me. is good--that teachers will be given more time to get ready before serious actions
begin to kick in.
" At one point toward the end of the second year Emmy confided to
"I know I wouldn't have ever made it back to school after Christmas if you hadn't
given me support."
Carol's efforts to keep the teachers informed about reform and to answer their
questions were not enough.
The KTWP teachers continued to write about feelings of
helplessness in the face of state mandates and as a result of characteristics of their
professional and personal lives that were non-negotiable.
As teachers mired in the
language of KERA, grappling with the stressful changes, struggling to make the "big
words plainer," they shared their angst:
can write it in my planbook. My assist
"I can't seem to pull all of this together so that I
ant principal is more worried about what is written
in that book than what I'm doing in the classroom. He
teaching a learning outcome or is that learner standard.
t% ** '4 i* 9 ^<
wants me to make sure that I'm
(What are they being called at
domain: "Tomorrow s KERA inservice will test our mettle!"
"I'm still struggling as to
what this all really means.
" "I'm still struggling with the other content areas.
felt comfortable trying to do what I know is best for my students and still conforming to
"I really need some answers to how to meet everyone's
requirements of me.
feel pulled in so many directions. I WANT ANSWERS!"
don't know what a basket case I've been.
struggle that I've been facing." "Like ot]
The stay in the hospital is a result of the
her teachers. I have had bad days when I have
wanted to kill everyone but I truly love teaching." "Sometimes I feel like sand that gets
battered and battered bv unending waves, that never knows the end of repeated
I want the tide to go out."
"I've swung from wanting to quit yesterday and
sell handbags at Lazarus'. to delight that my kids are suddenly excited about KTWP."
The Kentucky teachers in the project struggled with mandatory limitations, but by
the second year they had developed strategies for helping each other balance the stresses
of such constraints.
Words of support appeared as a recurring pattern, and mutually, the
teachers chose to create a community based on positive language: "Emmy and Carol, the
discussion level between you two is remarkable!!!"
"I marvel at the questions you posed
" "We need more like you speaking and helping to shape what can truly be
the most successful reform in the history of our nation."
Although criticizing was not often used by the teachers in their notes, at least not
directly when it wan used it was isiinllv citiintd in a nnwer icup
Whn has the nnwer
responses to it. one teacher wrote.
"A lot of them [other teachers] don't have faith that
their technology coordinators are going to be able to help them.
" And their own
administration-- or lack of it-- came under fire in some cases, such as when Bev wrote
with some disgust that once again.
"The principal had changed the schedule for next
Questions about the power structure of KTWP were also raised fairly often,
but the critical tone that appeared elsewhere in other notes was adjusted when the
criticism was closer to home:
"I feel somewhat uncomfortable with this group having a
captain when we are engaged in learning shared leadership."
Actually, the Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Program was itself a
mandate considering the three-year commitment the teachers made to the project and the
evolutionary nature of the design.
A large portion of online activity was devoted to the
inner-working of the project, some of which was mandatory, most of which was organic.
Online planning involved all the teachers and covered all aspects of the project, ranging
from the logistics of making travel plans for face-to-face meetings: arrangements about
scheduling, planning, traveling to meetings, ride sharing, bringing students, reserving
rooms, and finding equipment, to the more subtle negotiating of power and group
By the second year of the project, even deciding where to meet. taking turns for
who travels where, and reaching consensus about such decisions had become an integral
nart of the discourse:
"l.onnk like I am ferilitatino the next meetin:o however I think we
The wires were heavily used for online planning:
"I think we need to do some
planning before the 22nd so that we don't all come together with no idea of what to do";
"We haven't heard from you all vet about your slides for the
presentation"; asking questions: "How many packets do you think we should prepare?";
making requests: "Let me know what I need to do": putting theory into practice:
"Perhaps, since this project is to be ours. we are the ones that are to be guiding, molding,
and forming this project as we go we all need to take more ownership": volunteering: "I
would be willing to facilitate the next large-group meeting if no one else has offered";
and humoring each other in their efforts: "Have a safe trip!
Kentucky Parkway especially if you are driving alone. It i
Be careful on the West
s known for people falling
asleep and falling off the side!"
Clearly, the teachers in KTWP recognized in themselves the freedom to define
themselves, at least within the limits of their mandates, and the process was not an
"I don't have the answers," one of them wrote, but it was understood that
collectively they did.
Describing themselves for each other to read, reflecting on their
own processes, the teachers in the study found plenty of opportunities to reflect, to
recreate themselves for themselves.
One way they did it is by listening: "I think I am a
"Listening to what other people have to say can be a learning experience."
Listening to each other describe themselves, they consciously became a team: "I
will bend over backwards, go to extraordinary lengths to avoid hurting anyone's feelings."
being the youngest of seven has given me a wonderful gift of compromise."
responses to your team-building questions have been wonderful, enlightening."
From team-building activities that shared something thev knew about their own
team-working skills to writing about their
"hot buttons" and other personality traits.
during the second year of the project, the teachers learned to open-up. to become
reflective readers and writers and thinkers:
"A serious dialogue is difficult for me at
"Some of my best thoughts come in rattles."
"Most of the time I wander around
here talking to myself and only partially verbalize thoughts."
Language skills, reciprocity, tolerance, trust, and willingness to participate, are
old fashioned values/skills necessary for successful community building anywhere,
whether in a classroom or lodged in cyberspace.
The network provided the opportunity
for teachers to collaborate, to share power and authority, to recognize each others's
expertise, to meet personal challenges, to participate in decision-making, to integrate their
work with their learning, and to have access to colleagues and resources.
existed but what the teachers made of it was determined them.
According to Van Maanen,
"A culture is expressed (or constituted) only by the
actions and words of its members and must be interpreted by, not given to, a fieldworker
Domain analysis revealed patterns of language inherent in the words the teachers
the teachers on KTWP defined themselves and their project, over and over and
. 1 1 1 T I fT -i i II -I U 1 I
will reread. I will talk. I will save, I will get that to you, I will post a note, I will take the
computer. I will open a conference. I will tinker with the options. I will try,
will write more. I will mail copies. I will keep
I will check,
ou posted. I will critique. I will be back,
I will tell you. I will summarize. I will ask. I will bring. I will make sure, I will go
through it. I will start. I will work, I will get it done. I will plan. I will explain.
I will get
caught up, I will be authoring, I will meet, I will have, I will confirm. I will promise, I
will keep trying."
With determination and commitment, promises were made and promises were
kept, and another social skill appeared patterned throughout the notes:
apologized to each other often.
Most frequently, the apology was connected to how often
they were writing.
Equally, they felt they were writing too much:
"I'll try to be more succinct in the future,
"I'm sorry that I haven't been online in awhi
"Forgive the length of
" or they felt they were not writing
ile." "Sorry. I have not been writing
at least once a week like I promised."
Apologies were also made regarding the quality of the writing's content:
it isn't seen as rambling." They apologized for digressing, disagreeing, upsetting, and
talking behind someone's back. All apologies in this category represent a fear that they
offended their readers. It seemed important to maintain that sense of community support
and to avoid a critical tone:
"If I gave that impression I am very sorry."
"These are all
some thonl~hts to make Is think not make anvnne nnorv "
sooner, and glitches that were a part of their telecommunications.
Sometimes the sender
used a faulty command, sent a repeat upload, or had difficulty using the online editor. /
of these problems were inherent in their process of continuing to master the technology.
Sometimes errors just happened, like the morning Emmy accidentally sent a piece of
student writing to "Journal":
Sorry about that.
So much for putting on
pantyhose and trying to send notes so early in the morning!"
And often lines would be
missing in text and strange extra characters appeared because of forces beyond the
By far, the largest category isolated in data analysis was all about supporting each
Reciprocity, positive feedback, encouragement, validation, and affirmation.
Sharing sympathy was an unspoken commitment.
This domain was so full. that simple
listing seems effective here:
"'Keep up the good work.
I told you you would get a lab,
It is a good question.
How right you are!
You are correct.
Jane's analogy of a marriage is a good
Nancy, I enjoyed your note. I think it's a great idea.
You all are
a wonderful group of dedicated teachers who care about kids. It is good to have you back
online. Jane, I'm very impressed!
I respect you professionally and personally.
Nancy, bravo for getting Chris involved. Our students look forward to your remarks
because you have been so careful about dealing with their psyches.
to be in a state of worry and anxiety.
I know that you have
You are a remarkable group and I am proud to be
I I1 I I *. .
Chapter One National Recognition Program.
You do everything with real excellence.
Jane. you should be proud of yourself.
We are here for support.
I have a great deal of
respect for the differences each of us brings.
learn something each time I am online.
There are many truths.
Your "sisters" won't let anything bad happen to you.
find writing and reading KTWP stuff such relief!
After a long
cannot begin to tell you
how much I treasure your part of KTWP.
It was a pleasure to come home to find you all
I was proud to be part of us!"
Many notes used the word "thanks."
Teachers wrote: "Thanks for response, for
help. for thinking, for questioning, for notes, for advice, for good wishes, for listening, for
the photos, for the words of encouragement, for the information, for insight, for time, for
mail. for the reminder, for recruiting, for hospitality, for sensitivity, for the message."
Requests for help were usually answered: "If I don't write about everything I
promised please remind me every once in a while."
Instances of helping behavior--
giving phone numbers: sharing information-- how to open a conference or save in ASCII:
answering questions: finding information; volunteering to respond, moderate, or
contribute energy to one task or another were woven throughout all notes.
Reflection about projects was a regular topic: "I still have serious misgivings
about the haste with which this project (a video project) was launched, the vagueness of
the audience and purpose, the time it will take from an already stretched curriculum to do
. .. .. .t2 f I 1 It A 1 1 / I l . .. .
* R- _
* i)l~ I
and ultimately the older students, too. is to figure out how to find compromises and
solutions to the problem that satisfies everybody's needs."
The kinds of work these teachers did, the work that was necessary for their
professional lives, also included sharing ideas and asking questions of each other
There were no
"Why shouldn't the same thing be
happening with teachers?
If it isn't. then are we continuing to learn?
Do we really want
to produce graduates who can only deal with things if they remain fixed and constant--
abide by the
answer?" The solutions and compromises seemed to come from
collaboration when it works:
I am asking you to pay special attention and to point out to your students the
writing from Trisha Fitzsimmons at Saints Peter and Paul school asking for
volunteers to join a writing group to write a fictional chapter book.
in the "Fiction" conference.
This letter is
I've got a group here that is extremely excited about
this project, but need input from other sites.
Together, all participants will edit
and revise -- it should be a valuable learning experience for all who participate.
Our site will be responsible for the actual publishing of the finished product. I
would hope that every site will have volunteers.
Remember we also need
Their role will be to take the finished book and illustrate as they feel
Success also seemed inherent when details of projects done individually were
shared with candor and used for further reflection:
"My eighth graders all wrote, illustrated and bound personalized Christmas story
books for their first grade 'little brothers and sisters. The pride of authorship was
evident as they sat and read these books to the little ones.
received was varied.
and turned back to pla
The response they
Some were overwhelmed with joy-- others put them down
ty. One little girl threw hers on the floor and jumped on it.
The teachers worked hard the second year. writing often and at length. reading
and responding, creating their network:
"I could literally spend the next couple of weeks
responding to comments and questions that are part of the KTWP notes that I have
downloaded since December. I think what I need to do is to work at it as I can, selecting
what seem to be critical issues to me." Time was often a problem for KTWP teachers:
Usually. I would capture. edit, highlight, and hang the notes.
While this is going
on, I have
so many reflections and observations on what I've read.
happens?????? Well, it's back to teach another class, settle a dispute, answer phone,
Where do all my brilliant thoughts and meaningful responses to student
o? Right out the proverbial window. By the time I actually sit down to
write, my fervor is gone. my ardor has cooled.
If this is what happens to the
grown folks who know how important this all is, what can we expect from
Remember when one of yours wrote about his terrible family life?
caused a sensation here. We were on our way to computers at the time. so he got
some immediate feedback. Know that if they had had to wait a couple of days to
get to the machines, their minds would be off somewhere else. Thl
student just sent touched me deeply because I can feel his pain that
e poem your
is shared by so
I need to sit down and tell him so right away- usually I can't.
Whatever the constraints, and it seemed to be somewhat different for each of
them, some things they shared in common, like motivating learners, making learning
"How can we get students talking more to each more, weighing what has
been said, learning how to read and respond to one another rather than passing each other
in the electronic sky and meeting only occasionally
"How can we help students
become more thoughtful about their own writing?" "How can you help others through
the work that you do on KTWP?"
their work. and such sentiments were readily expressed during the second year:
2et a sense of grounding from KTWP.
Working with all of you gives me a confidence
Nice to feel like I belong."
"We need to get together every once in a while to vent
frustrations and to pat each other on the back for all the good things we accomplish."
Belonging, that sense of family and place, was created by sharing pieces of
personal selves as well as the professional.
Even though the teachers never met each
"s families, talk of relatives, relationships, recipes for soft pretzels. dog stories,
family customs, friends, and family trips, appeared throughout the discourse:
description of Greg [her husband] thawing the pipes was great.
I know too well that
scenario... Johnny and I lived in a log house for five years and every single winter the
pipes not only froze, but burst.
One winter we literally went ice skating on our kitchen
Tell Greg to be thankful he has a basement to work in; we only had a crawl space.
I can just see you upstairs in your cold office typing away -- in my mind you are wearing
ear muffs, a big thick sweater, and those wild crazy animal slippers!"
Talking about personal stress was one of the most frequent topics the second year
of the project. The teachers wrote about their lives, telling stories of home. of school, of
their communities. Their voices speak for themselves as blocks of text makes patterns:
"Over the week-end a seventeen-year-old brother of a student was shot and is in serious
condition after major surgery.
There is never a dull moment here and sometimes, I just
motive established vet. and no suspects.
What's happening to our society?"
things return to normal soon.
Mvy father's fears which seem to be great now in normal
circumstances [a retired coal miner with "Black Lung
in conditions like this.
" disease] are magnified even more
He can not rest. thinking that if my mother becomes ill, that we
will not be able to get her to a doctor, that they will freeze to death if the electricity or gas
goes off. When your body begins to betray you. somehow you begin to believe that you
are at the mercy of all external forces.
And a lot of elderly people are.
Two people died
yesterday as a result of the cold in Ky.
"He [the principal] did not want me worrying
about it over the weekend [losing her Chapter 1 classroom].
Fat chance of that
was only up all night thinking and worrying about it. I've thought of nothing
else since the meeting yesterday."
"I'm covered from head to toe with red blisters oozing
My guess is poison oak.
I've soaked in oatmeal.
I've applied every ointment
known to WalMart."
Predestination. unavoidable disasters, meetings, conferences, bitter cold, flash
floods, snow days, burst pipes, problem pets. road conditions, rain, personal injuries,
dinner plans gone awry. frustrations, illness, student fights, paperwork, blizzards, car
problems, furnace problems, flu, positive Mammograms, car wrecks, broken bones,
leaking roofs, pulled muscles, portfolios, abscessed teeth, root canals, sleep deprivation,
dogs dying, bills, children marrying, arthritis.. .. many things happened the second year,
n r man\ix ctrxripo irprf tarlA
was a kind of strength solace-- as this comment written during the LA earthquake
"I just thought it was interesting that although the vehicular highways were
down, the information highway continues to roll."
When the blizzard outside resulted in a blizzard of online notes, as teachers had
time to write and read and think, humor became another strategy for dealing with cabin
fever and dangerous weather: "If we don't get back to school, we are all going to die of
Humor and good-natured bantering was often the response to personal stress,
as when Bud. the coordinator of the project, had a car wreck (that turned out ok) during a
particularly bad blizzard:
"Did you sort of get what you deserved-- running around like a
bad teenager when God and the governor were telling you to stay wrapped up in your
The Third Year
The third and final year of the Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project
began with some obvious changes, mostly changes in focus and in leadership.
summer, KTWP teachers attended a writing workshop in Louisville and began drafting
their thoughts about using telecommunications in their classrooms for possible
Writers Collaborative of New York City invited the KTWP
teachers to submit chapters for a book, tentatively entitled Telecommunications Is Not
A(ntTl' .,rr f + -tnt- n ,nr*l/-nl-/-ktnn +br<0+-vl D nknwI ,Il-. t tbfl nia r nrnrt9 ^ A^ ;fr r
A n r ^\I f7 u~ f /ty/yi t /i
All the project participants had pledged to act as a model for other teachers and
other schools, sharing what they learned.
During the final year of the project as the
KTWP teachers began to be invited to speak at inservices and professional conferences.
they talked online about the purpose of the project beyond their own classrooms.
"Proliferation" became an issue: "I'm thoroughly sickened by the word proliferation.
know that the grant's purpose is to get out the word about how technology can be used in
the classroom in ways other than electronic worksheets.
I'm all for that!
making and cloning more of us isn't the best way to proliferate."
The discussion was
complex and they questioned their reasons for seeking a broader professional community:
"We will have to make sure that we don't get so comfortable in our own little world that
we have created that we don't keep trying to make it better.
and seeing what others are doing."
Or looking outside our world
"You don't have to prove that technology is the
greatest thing since white bread, but what you can share with teachers is how it can and
should be used--not just for student growth but for teacher development as well."
From the outset, the teachers had held on to the idea that the project was all about
Certainly, problems with getting online, busy phone lines, running out of
online connect time, down computers, line noise, uploading, classroom management and
scheduling, sending laptops home with students, implementing school technology plans,
and learning other networks' systems (KETNET, Internet. KIDlink, Breadnet. local BBS,
INT m Ar\ 11 ..ryr-rTTTT, nrr 1 i t 1 1 1 11 1 1
"Yesterday, I sat in a room with eighty-seven teachers from all over Kentucky who are
about to plunge into telecommunications.
I was identified as somewhat of an expert
because of KTWP and was immediately surrounded by eager but scared people."
the rest of the Monday with our district technology coordinator.
He has the techie mind and I bring in the educational side. We
on several important projects."
He's really a great guy
are making a great team
"I have been working with Marian, our tech center
coordinator, about using telecommunications in our district.
We want to get the district
hooked up for next year so that elementary, junior high, and high school students can do
some projects together."
This growing sense of expertise colored the nature of the discussions on
especially in terms of professional development issues.
awaiting the first day [of school].
I've worked all day on computers and my classroom
after a full day of staff development.
When will staff development be delivered to
meet the needs of the staff?"
"We have been inserviced and professionally developed to
" For the teachers on the network, professional development at the local level was
a failure; they viewed professional development as something they did for themselves.
They had begun to see themselves as providers of staff development and as such took
steps to make that happen.
As the teachers at Saints Peter and Paul wrote in August: "We
want the status as in-service providers again.
We are continuing to work within the
During the third year of the project, the nature of much of the teacher talk
centered on the professional development of the participants, and the primary focus of the
network became curriculum.
Under Robin's leadership, online time was devoted to
planning and managing a complex authors
"'This author project is like a big
puzzle, working out who can do what, with whom, for how long, and when." Robin wrote
67 of the 278 notes during the third year. more than any other participant.
"Please let me
know bv September 9th about how many kids you think you'll have who will want to
work with the authors and about how many writings you think they'll post a week.
is just an estimate-- I promise not to hold you firmly to it, but I need to have an idea when
I approach the writers.
"" She itemized business and took care of it too, establishing
deadlines and finalizing grant business ("There is very little room for financial
She was enthusiastic, writing with a mix of personal and professional.
As one of the teachers wrote to her: "Robin, I can't tell you how pleased I am that you are
get the feeling that you are always reading, thinking, doing.
Your energy is
In spite of the warm welcome given to Robin, and perhaps because of the changes
in leadership and focus, other subtle but noticeable changes occurred that last year.
notably, participation slowed, gradually declined, and eventually faded out as the year
ended. During the third year, the volume of teacher notes sent to "Journal" was lower
.1 .* 1 .l -, I
car"); issues in education (school-related violence, class size. site-based politics, and the
like); and curriculum ("We are up to our ears in novels").
The year ended, as it began,
with a writing workshop and the opportunity to revise and refine chapters for the book.
Several teachers were unable to attend.
At the beginning of the project, few of the teachers had any prior experience with
computers and none of them had ever participated in a telecommunications network.
Most did not consider themselves to be writers, and all were grappling with massive
curriculum innovation mandated by statewide education reform.
The special funding
provided by the Kentucky Telecommunications Writing Project enabled them to try
something new, on their own terms without models or prescriptive expectations.
teachers were invited to participate over a three-year period with few requirements or
In the teachers-only discussion area,
" teachers wrote more than 1,000
notes in which they talked freely about their personal and professional lives.
planned and they reported.
They listened and they responded.
Together, the participating
teachers created the network; they defined it; and they used it to meet their needs.
the three-year period, they became stronger writers and teachers of writing, they mastered
Using the metaphor of a quilt, it is as if, during the first year, the teachers were
handed the materials and given time to learn how to use them.
At the same time, they
began to manipulate the materials: crafting, drafting, and designing something of use.
the second year, they had a working network and through hands-on learning had mastered
At this stage, their focus became more content specific: reform. curriculum,
Simultaneously, time was given to examining and understanding
process: what was happening, how could it be better? The language was positive and
The individuals were conscious of their relationship to the group and efforts
were universally geared toward group successes.
In the electronic network they created,
members were part of a community whose main function was warmth and support,
encouragement, and listening.
By the third and final year, they had begun to share their
work with others, writing and talking in a larger professional community.
THE NATURE OF INDIVIDUAL PARTICIPATION
Although all participants were considered in the analysis of the teachers-only
discussion, the focus now narrows in an attempt to determine the nature of the individual
participation of three teachers in the Kentucky
Telecommunications Writing Project.
this chapter, analysis focuses specifically on interpreting the participation of three
individual teachers (Emmy, Bev, and Sue) at three sites (Paducah, Covington, and
Louisville), examined as subunits within the case.
In an attempt to unearth and make explicit tacit understandings, instead of
studying the participation of individual teachers holistically, I explored each as a separate
case, taking account of unique aspects of individual cases (Merriam, 1988) and analyzing
the embedded units (Yin, 1994).
I resorted the three years of online discourse separating
the notes of these individuals, rereading, summarizing, and categorizing each teacher's
Descriptive interpretations were constructed explaining features and patterns of
each teacher's participation.
These sites (see chart) were selected because they represent the only project sites
with just one teacher, rather than teams of teachers, participating as an individual.
five sites initially chosen to participate in KTWP. two involved teams of teachers
as newcomers joined the network. These three teachers participated
consistently over the three-year period, making it easier to compare their online
PROFILE OF THREE CLASSROOMS
Western Kentucky Northern Kentucky Central Kentucky
Paducah Covington Louisville
Suburban, independent Inner city, independent Urban, public school magnet
McNabb Elementary Holmes Jr. High The Brown School
5th (4th) grade 8th grade 11th-12th grade
Self-contained Chapter I reading English composition
Paducah is a small, rural city of approximately 29,000 citizens in the
western part of Kentucky where the Ohio River meets the Tennessee.
In 1992. McNabb
Elementary, in the Paducah Independent School District. served approximately 640
students, of which 44% were Black and 54% were White.
More than half of the students
at McNabb qualified for the free lunch program, representing low income families.
fifth grade class, self-contained, was the first site selected for the Kentucky
Telecommunications Writing Project.
The teacher, Emmy Krempasky, described her
to 30 students as a heterogeneously mixed group.
At the start of the project. Covington Independent School System was the state's
largest independent school district, serving approximately 5,300 inner-city students.
Holmes Junior High had 800 students and was in the process of adopting a middle school
Bev Paeth's Chapter I reading program
served 20 to
students in five different
Students scoring at or below the 49th percentile on the CTBS,
many who had failed one or more grades and were reading below grade level, were
identified as eligible for Chapter I services.
The class was 27% Black and 73 % White.
The Brown School is a first- through twelfth-grade urban magnet
school, part of the Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky
At the time the study was initiated, the school attempted to maintain an equitable gender,
race, and socio-economic profile, representing every geographic and demographic
element of Jefferson County.
The six hundred "independent thinkers and learners"
attended Brown applied for admission, were screened and interviewed, and were accepted
based on their willingness to commit to the program.
a community of learners committed to nurturing creative growth in body,
and spirt; appreciating diversity amongst themselves and others; challenging
accepted beliefs and shaping new understandings; and pursuing academic rigor,
the staff and students are currently re-visioning their school by building into their
norms cross-age groupings, interdisciplinary classes, flexible
blocks of time, and
extensions of the school walls, days, and year.
Sue McCulloch-Vislisel's eleventh- and twelfth-grade composition class, Comp
III, was devoted to "good and effective writing."
thing in common.
All participated regularly and consistently throughout the duration of
the project, and like their sites, Emmy in Paducah, Bev in Covington, and Sue in
Louisville differed too (see chart).
PROFILE OF THREE TEACHERS
Emmy, the teacher from McNabb Elementary in Paducah,
was a graduate of Murray State University with a bachelor's degree in elementary
The summer before the project started, Emmy had attended the Purchase Area
Writing Project, a National Writing Project site where teachers are trained in writing
It was at the Writing Project that Emmy picked up an application for
At the time she had been teaching fifth grade in Paducah for five years.
that she did her student teaching in Belize, Central America.
At the start of the project,
Emmy had never utilized telecommunications, and although her school was fitted with an
Emmy Krempasky Bev Paeth Sue McCulloch-Vislisel
5 years, 5th grade 3 years, 1st. 2nd, 8th grade 24 years, 15 at Brown
Elementary Ed., BA Reading specialist, Rank I English Education, MA
Purchase Area Writing No experience with writing First Louisville Writing
Never used Never used Never used
telecommunications telecommunications telecommunications
from other teachers and from my students.
This grant seems to be about four things:
children learning through writing, children learning with technology, children having a
voice in their education, and teachers sharing and learning from each other."
Bev, from Holmes Junior High School in Covington, graduated from
Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in 1969, took time off to raise a family,
received her Master's from Northern Kentucky University during the first year of this
project, and then continued to work on Rank I certification and a Reading Specialist
At the start of the project she had taught for three years: first and second
grades in Chicago and eighth grade in Covington.
Although Bev had no prior experience
with modems, her classroom was already set-up as a computer lab.
experimented with a reading and writing workshop model based on the work of Nancie
According to Bev,
"I am allowed to design my own curriculum and my only
concern is time. I give the students an active role in designing the curriculum, the
classroom environment, and in decision-making.
I struggle with writing just as my
I share with them my concerns about writing, and together we work on
improving our writing by working together and sharing ideas."
Sue taught for 24 years, the last fifteen at the Brown
School in Louisville.
in the 1960's.
Educated at the University of Washington in Seattle and at Stanford
she was a participant of the first Louisville Writing Project, had
to get the students to the goal."
containing 20-30 computers. /
The school housed five computer labs, each one
although many students had their own compatible
computers at home, laptops were also available to students for at-home and weekend use.
At the start of the project, Sue did not own a computer and had no prior experience with
Interpretation of Particioation.
Although they were very different kinds of
teachers with a wide range of experiences, all three teachers participated actively and
wrote regularly throughout the duration of the project.
All three participated willingly
with their students and remained involved from the beginning until the ending.
represents the quantity and frequency of notes written to "Journal" by Emmy, Bev,
and Sue over the three-year period.
Emmy contributed 184 notes, Sue sent 128, and Bev
Such information is deceptive, however, since it does not take into
consideration the length of the notes, or their contents.
In an attempt to
determine the nature of the
individual participation of the
Quantity and Frequency
three teachers and ultimately
the nature of their learning, I
sought patterns in their words.
I ^xn t i 0A/ +1/--B n ..i n**an/-
their oral comments made privately to me in a series of informal interviews conducted
throughout the grant period.
In order to unearth and make explicit tacit understandings,
instead of studying their participation holistically I explored each as a separate case,
taking account of unique aspects of the individual cases (Merriam. 1988) and analyzing
the embedded units (Yin
patterns of each teacher"
Descriptive interpretations explained features and
s participation and the nature of their learning.
As indicated in the pie chart, Emmy wrote the most.
In each of the three years,
the volume of Emmy's writing doubled and even tripled that of the other teachers.
Altogether, she sent 184 notes over the term of the project, but. more significantly, her
notes were long, detailed pieces of writing.
intimate details of Emmy
Highly personal, filled with story, rich in
s life, her writing was often punctuated with conventions
chosen to convey strong feelings-- capital letters, punctuation marks, and interjections.
The first year. Emmy's first note was written all in capital letters.
like "glad" and "love ya," expressive and personal language permeated her writing most
of the time.
Emmy was the first teacher to really "open up,
' sharing details of her life,
talking about what it meant to be a teacher in the project, and expressing enthusiasm for
being online: "The students are enjoying Maniac Magee.
" "The banquet was a smash,
Early on. Emmv was frustrated with line noise but remained excited, said she was
"getting the hang of' telecommunications. that it was "contagious."
project she expressed alternately her frustrations and successes with the technology (I'm
not able to zet things online:
" "I am slowly becoming an expert"), but no matter how
badly things seemed to go for her, she would seek a way to make it valuable ("Everything
will improve in good time
For example, when she failed to meet a group deadline for
editing the KTWP newsletter, she admitted defeat immediately and then tried to
compensate with ideas and other projects, modifying what. for her students, had been an
impossible time line.
Emmy wrote regularly and was an exceptionally strong participator.
She sent 61
notes the first year. nearly twice as many as Sue or Bev, and she nearly always wrote
personally. in a friendly voice ("Dear Friends"). She responded positively and warmly to
what the others wrote ("You did a great job on the brochure") and engaged in genuine
dialogue ("Have we created conferences that are extensions of school work?").
regular pleas to the others to write more often ("Will anyone be online during Christmas?
I certainly hope so
to get more involved ("Surely you all are going to join me in
my wandering words").
length about KERA. H
She reported on her classroom, raised questions, and talked at
Jer stress was worked out online: "I write away my confusion.
Emmy' s writing was filled with personal narrative.
She reported on the everyday
events and trivia of her life in rich detail ("left-over Chinese food from a date last night"),
but Oh well.
"). writing with a light-hearted tone ("Yes. it will send me over the edge,
I'm there enough as it is.
No one else showed Emmy' s level of dedication to the project.
and extent of her participation indicated the significance of KTWP to her personally and
Such was also evidenced in her stories.
She wrote about falling asleep
with the computer in her lab.
When her account was down for some reason, she found
another one to use.
Mere hours after the sudden death of her mother,
Emmy was online
with KTWP to talk about it ("My mother died this morning
A few weeks later, rather
than miss a planning meeting across the state in Eastern Kentucky, she brought her dad
with her to the meeting.
After her mother's death in the spring of the first year. Emmy
She described herself as "shell shocked" and "empty.
" "'Maybe I'll get my
head clear enough to put my thoughts together for more writing later."
During the initial
period of mourning, she wrote much less and when she did she used the network as a safe
place to work through her grief: "I just can't seem to shake this feeling that I was less
than I should have been for my mother.
" The support of her KTWP colleagues mattered,
"The personal notes have been a great help.
The second year.
During the first summer of the project. Emmy wrote often of
her increased interest in technology: "I've been reading our Internet book.
Great night time reading.
" She hinted that she had a surprise for
Mike, the graduate student in Arizona volunteering as an online poet to the project, was
writing some wonderful travel adventures and posting them to "Journal"
largely ignored by the teachers busy with other topics.
where they were
Emmy took it upon herself to
create a new conference ("Well,
created a NEW conference
"This will be a
great place for us to share our travels.
I loved [the story] of Bev's sleepless night looking
for a hotel. Then I try to imagine Bud's adventure down the wrong street in New York.
Seeing this conference continue throughout the year would be great.
students to develop an interest in travel and geography.
create the conference ("It was rather easy to do"), even
actually the "third or fourth attempt" before she succee
with Kathy about Internet, KETNET, NYIT, braces, ha
I'd love for my
" Emmy described her efforts to
though she admitted it was
ded: "After a short consultation
rdware. KERA. KETS. and the
training I'm missing, I realized that even I could start a conference."
A few weeks later ("NEWS FLASH!!!!!"), Emmy found herself assigned to a
fourth grade classroom after having taught nothing but fifth grade.
Like her mother's
death in the spring, the change was sudden and surprising, and Emmy turned to the
network for solace and support: "This is a note that I can't translate the doom and despair.
I'm a fourth grade teacher!
You might think that with the mark that I'm exclaiming
excitement, thrill, delight, or even pleasure.
I'm a fourth grade teacher!
I'm not excited
or thrilled or delighted or even pleased with the announcement.
I'm a fourth grade
What am I to do?"
I'd love to keep Maniac Magee but that's a fifth grade book.
Within days she
had accepted her new "challenge,
wondered "could there be a purpose in this change?"
and decided she was "'ready to take the fourth graders and do wonderful things with
" She wrote about her "nervous excitement
saying she had not "figured out where
I 'm getting my energy.
" During this period, Emmy wrote frequent notes, signing them
"Your resident fourth grade teacher."
Within a month, her tone had changed somewhat as the realities of the day-to-day
teaching and the pressures of her work requirements began to mount: "The test results
have been the hot topic at our school.
We are having so many committee and grade level
meetings that I can't seem to get anything completed.
Not to mention the parent/teacher
conferences, student conferences, lesson planning, assessing student work, and the added
responsibilities that I have had added to my job description by my principal." Time was a
"I could stay up the rest of the week and still not get caught up on the paper
"I got behind on so much work I didn't know where to begin."), but for Emmy,
teaching fourth grade-- a high pressure accountability grade-- in the midst of statewide
reform began to overwhelm.
"I think I have bitten off more than I can chew.
" "Now that
I'm caught right on the battle field I'm facing shell shock and other calamities.
The solution for Emmy's challenges was often technology.
was a priority for her:
"I won't have the dishes done or the report cards completed, but
I'll be able to compute without any trouble.
" Her enthusiasm for technological
another online service, she and her students -connected with a fourth grade class in
" She explained with pride:
-My students were learning from the updated
news on cable on CNN. Prodigy news updates. and from eyewitnesses [the California
students]. .I'll try to post some of their writings.
They wowed me!"
Emmy's expertise and interest did not go unnoticed, and she became a liaison for
other teachers in her school ("I also have many primary teachers that are interested in
corresponding with other primary classes
" "She attended a presentation that I did at our
regional technology expo and came up to me afterward").
helping them get "hooked and
" Her writing was permeated with talk of technology and stories of her experiences,
like the day she "had a child barfing all over a computer, monitor, and keyboard."
to do? She learned to just "rinse it with water" and it worked. She sent supportive words
to the other KTWP teachers, helping them learn how to maneuver: "I'll also get a
conference opened up for the special project this week.
' As the teachers in KTWP
prepared to make their first public presentation to the Kentucky Educational Technology
Conference, Emmy took a leadership role.
"We really need to do work on our
presentation for KETC."
By the mid-point of the second year, Emmy was posting as often as she did the
first year (69 notes), but her notes became even longer: three or four or five pages single-
spaced were not uncommon.
Although her writing continued to be peppered with
personal talk, everything personal seemed to relate to weightier professional issues. For
selling technology to others.
While reading The Bridges of Madison County she wrote
about "an analogy between KTWP and the lover.
" In a wav. she was obsessed:
constantly thinking about KTWP. the students, school stuff, and computers.
paragraph she continued to say. "I have been doing a lot of thinking about c
" In the same
Just when I thought I have made it as an 'expert
in children and learning
I'm finding out there is so much more to consider."
In January. Emmy ("a caged animal") experienced "a brief stay in the hospital.
At her request, her dad "brought me my laptop,
and she quickly wrote a seven-page
In it. she addressed many issues ("thoughts to chew"), such as quality
of student writing and future presentations about KTWP to other groups,
and she raised
"What's the reason we want to bring on the primary blocks?"
'"Are we setting
up teachers and students for failure?" "Is writing to KTWP just a matter of posting their
For Emmv. the network served as an intellectual outlet.
She wrote and wrote and
"I have more observations like that.
associated thoughts and explained,
She filled the screen with her freely
"I'm trying to shuffle this information.
" She poured
forth questions, thoughts. and concerns about her teaching and how it fit with KERA's
mandates and concluded.
"I hope you are ready for more questions on assessment."
Huge segments of the discourse the second year are a series of notes between
Emmy and Carol, long, detailed discussions in which Carol answered Emmy's many
'school in crisis
status without facing the sanctions?"
"Whv are we worked overtime
when I really need to be in the classroom with my students?"
"I feel pulled in so many
Educational reform was causing many Kentucky teachers to choose early
retirement rather than change, and Emmy's position as a fourth-grade teacher was
"I keep reading about the turn-over rate for fourth grade.
some of the burden has to be shared.
Struggles with the mandates kept Emmy at the
"We are still trying to get the writing portfolios scored, the math portfolios
completed, and get ready for the other assessment.
She followed educational debates in
the media and reported to the others.
"I'm going to fax some anti-KERA materials.
might give you all a little idea of what the grass roots are saying in this part of the state."
Her lengthy notes seemed written as much as an outlet for her own thinking about
KERA's impact on her teaching as to inform or discuss.
"I meant to drop a short line
about testing and I ended up rattling.
"I love this world of telecommunications.
" Emmy wrote toward the end of the
Even when network difficulties threatened her complacency. Emmy
continued to be a positive participant.
She would speak up about her feelings and then
discuss the complexities of the situation until she seemed satisfied to continue.
"I am very much disgusted with the writings that have taken place in the poetry
" Emmy wrote after some of her students had downloaded poems written by high
conference guidelines had been violated.
"There are issues here other than censorship
I feel that my rights and the rights of my students have been
Aren't we responsible to be sensitive to others?"
One of the last notes from Emmy as the second year ended was written from a
Bob Evans restaurant on her "way home from a PRISM Task Development Team
meeting in Frankfort.
" The level of her own professional development was evident at this
point in the project and she had become highly active statewide.
In the name of
telecommunications, she was traveling, talking. and teaming with others.
year ended. Emmy headed off for another intensive PRISM meeting (two weeks) and a
three-day KTWP writing workshop.
According to her. she was "not looking forward to
being away from home for so long."
Her summer was a series of such travels.
she was "tired of being away from home and excited about the start of the new year."
her trademark style, she reported.
the closet until mid October.
"The suitcases are finally where they belong.
might have to check into a hotel in a week or so.
want to forget the very important skill of checking in!"
The third year.
we are in the third year of KTWP.
Gee!" Emmy began the
last year of the project with a bang, telling her colleagues to "get in school so your kids
can write." She questioned the value of staff development and wrote of her readiness to
start a new year ("I'm more determined than ever to do my part to make sure this district
"I have survived the first week of school-- three days of staff development
my class of fourth and fifth graders may or not be.
Unfortunately. I won't know for sure
for at least a week.
Once again. Emmy faced changes in her classroom, teaching a split fourth and
fifth grade for the first time ("a lot of time is spent in planning:
students is a blessing.
" -'Having returning
" "I love my job and wake up looking forward to getting to
She wrote a total of fifty-four notes during the third year: nine long notes were
posted in rapid succession as the school year started ("Oh. I just love the beginning of
"What changes are some of you having?" Emmy asked the other teachers.
Emmy, change and growth were inevitable.
At this point too. she shared feelings about
her father's changes and remarriage ("My daddy has been full of surprises.
The project underwent an important change as
Robin Lambert was hired from Alabama to serve as the new director.
Emmy's class first and was told by the proud teacher.
"You'll just love the area and my
don't know how I manage to keep getting some of the best classes.
Emmy's notes were still peppered with humor and some personal talk, but for the
most part she had become engrossed in teaching and educational issues.
introductions were posted quickly
loving Jack Prelutsky.
Emmy talked of curriculum and reported "the kids are
"My students have been spending a lot of time writing historical
" She asked about getting some literature discussion groups started.
She took an
personality has changed so much.").
directly to their comments, and raised many relevant issues:
violence at school. class size. and
site-based decision making,
politics, are a few.
Late one November night. Emmy sent a note prefaced: "Attention All this is not a
She told the story of a ten-year-old
student who brought a gun to school
in order to shoot another student.
conferences and was agitated. TI
She'd been through a day of police and parent
he case continued through a series of notes, until she
finally announced that she was "taking Monday off" to go to a technology training in
"It is hard for me to say that I don't have what that kid needs.
Mostly, throughout the third year of the project, Emmy's notes were rich with talk
about technology ("It's just like driving a car"),
offered to others.
and much of her online work was help
For example, she sent directions to all on how to read your own notes
by sending them to yourself.
Once again she took the lead in planning a KETC
"We could be of much assistance by presenting some of the innovative
things we are doing in our classroom.
" "English teachers still appear to be very shy about
THEY NEED US!" "We are all very fortunate to have been allowed to get a
step up on what is happening.
We shouldn't forget where we were just a few years ago."
Emmy was busy and professional.
Her name was on the approved list as an
inservice provider in the state, she was contacted by a "Chapter 1 bulletin board system
out of Indianapolis to post some articles about my experience with KTWP.
" she helped
design a weather telecommunications project with another network ("I might say that it
with other colleagues across the state.
" At the local level, she participated on two
technology committees, chaired her school's technology committee. and served as the
technology coordinator for her building.
She took an active interest in training other teachers.
"After our region's recent
Technology Fair. I realize there is a big need for good presenters in the area of teachers
actually using technology in their classrooms.
special extended school service grant, she rep
"" While serving as a consultant for a
orted, "It was during a planning session that
I stumbled across the lack of teacher experience with technology and writing.
mentioned about student ownership, authentic audience, and purposeful writing
All the teachers were extremely interested in learning more about it and
then to include this in our curriculum."
By the end of the project, Emmy was looking forward to the end of the year and
the last day.
She wrote long, thoughtful notes about the project and discussed her
for next year (move to KETNET).
"I'm looking forward to a weather project that will
link Kentucky schools by more than just weather observations.
According to Emmy.
"My experiences with telecommunications have
been life changing.
I have learned about my state, my students, educational practices, and
even myself" Three years after the start of the project. Emmy continued to teach fourth
grade at McNabb Elementary, but she had taken on larger responsibilities too.
become a fourth-grade leader and expert on portfolio assessment and student writing
representative for PRISM and KETNET
She traveled the Kentucky presenting
workshops at the Kentucky Educational Technology Conference and at state sites of the
National Writing Project.
" in The Nearness of You:
Students & Teachers Writing On-line (Edgar & Wood, 1996) in which she stated she had
"weathered the hurricane
and now "wanted to start preparing for the next storm."
Over the three-year period. Bev sent a total of 86 notes, less than half the number
sent by Emmy and less than a fourth of the number sent by Sue.
And yet, unlike other
teachers on the network, Bev's participation never wavered, as she sent approximately the
same number of notes each year, almost like clockwork.
Also unlike the other teachers,
Bev talked primarily from a professional rather than a personal stance.
Although she sent
the fewest notes, her notes were lengthy, developed and detailed, written report-like, and
filled with unique features: a personal warmth, a keen sense of her audience, and a
dedication to professionalism.
Regularly, Bev sat before her computer at home, writing
consistently, considering the student perspective, and telling lots of classroom and student
She took her work in the classroom as well as online seriously, and she asked
hard questions and raised important issues.
The first year. Bev was enthusiastic about the project from the beginning, and
quickly involved her students.
In her first note posted to "Journal" ("Hello from
Covington!"). Bev used the pronoun
and signed it "Holmes Jr. High.
" From the
note was very short (233 characters), written all in capital letters, and ended with a faulty
send command, she showed immediate sensitivity, audience awareness, and civility: "We
are having fun reading everyone's messages.
" Also, instantaneously from the beginning,
Bev and her students assumed project responsibilities and made promises to participate:
"We will try to open a conference soon.
Active participants from her beginning, Bev and her students shared enthusiasm
for the project.
The second note posted from Covington was not sent from Bev, but from
her student, Tyana.
"'the newsletter editor here at Holmes Jr. High School."
In it. Bev's
students responded to the Saint Peters and Paul newsletter request, discussed deadlines
("the deadline is OK"), and assumed immediate ownership and responsibility. ("I would
like to hear from Bunny, Jonathan, and the others that were in our group. .
everything done by Friday.
Early in the project, teachers in KTWP attended the annual conference of the
National Council of Teachers of English held in Louisville that year. and they had the
chance to meet face-to-face after writing to each other online.
Such opportunity seeded a
professional collegiality which brought Emmy and Bev into the forefront of teacher talk
In her third note, Bev.
"enthused about my trip to Louisville,
" responded to
Both got author's autographs and were excited to meet the others,
words about Richard Peck,
Virginia Hamiliton. and Arnold Adolf were
rx n 1 l l .-__ 1 1_
J:--A.-.*..j r? ....... .. .. : _._11_
Even as Bev began to write herself.
on the teacher-onlv network ("Dear Fellow 1
likely to be "We.
speaking in her own voice to her colleagues
KTWPer's"). the first word of her notes was
" She reported on how grant money was being used and made every
effort to apply all outside resources to the students
("We now own a fax machine for our
She wrote in response to Emmy
"s kids. reporting that she used their writing
for another project, and she detailed her students
"We have been very busy
here with a candy sale to benefit the Covington Community Center.. .The kids each got
$10 or $15 to go shopping to buy toys that will be distributed by the center.
We had fun
wrapping the toys and 6th period got to deliver everything to the center."
Bev's notes, of all the teachers, were richest with descriptions of her class and her
For example, shortly after the fax machine was added to the classroom, Bev
"While my class was discussing a chapter in The Outsiders we got a fax."
Jonathan. a student at home sick ("I think I might have the flu") faxed three pages of his
On another day, when the class participated in a community project by
helping to build a house for the family of a class member, the student took "the video
camera home to tape her family talking about the house and Habitat.
s classroom stories,
participation in KTWP seemed to matter mightily to
I'm glad to see some responses to B's and M's writing. Both girls had son
trouble right before the Christmas holidays and are a constant worry to me.
threatening to kill herself.
M was in school this week. Monday through
Wednesday. but has been absent Thursday and today.
She has not seen her
B is presently in day treatment and will not be back at school for
However, the counselor went to see her and B told her about KTWP and
that as soon as she gets back she wants to write to everyone that wrote her.
counselor told me that she kept talking about KTWP.
Bev's students mattered to her.
Throughout the three years of the project. she
wrote often of her students, speaking of them almost as family: "Two of my students Tico
and Tonva lost their mother on Tuesday.
She had heart problems and died suddenly.
There is no father around and they probably will go live with an aunt in another school
We hate to lose them.
" And most often her notes detailed their suspensions.
fighting, drugs, and other problems:
M. S. is in the process of getting expelled from school.
and the Dean found a knife on her.
She got in another fight
She has received some personal letters from
kids at Wheelwright and I really appreciate them writing to her.
many problems that we could not deal with at school.
She just had too
She was never a problem
in my class and I know that her limited involvement with KTWP was good for
her. She has the home address of Jimmi Lou and she may still write to her on her
own. I'm keeping my fingers crossed with Bridgett. She seems to be tr
hard lately and has been in school two weeks straight-- a record for her.
In Bev's reports, the traditional roles of students and teacher merged and blended.
She admitted she learned from them as she leaned on their expertise: "Whenever I can't
figure out all this technology stuff. I turn to the students for help and they usually can tell
me what I am doing wrong.
" Under her mentoring, her students tackled several
community service projects and literacy projects.
She transformed her classroom into a
putting the responsibility and ownership on student shoulders.
At the same
time she continued to monitor their learning ("Students still have trouble with peer
editing and coming up with ideas for writing").
Like Emmy. Bev used "Journal" to talk about her problems and concerns,
although Bev limited her talk to professional issues. In terms of technology, specifically
software incompatibility, she wrote in response to another teacher,
"You are not the only
frustrated person in Kentucky.
" Like all teachers. she said,
"My biggest problem is to
find the time to do all that I want to and need to do.
something that demands my time and energy." An
" "There seems to always be
i feeling isolated and overwhelmed,
she wrote, "I believe I am the only teacher in KTWP who sees her students for 55
minutes a day. Trying to do reading workshop, writing workshop, reading aloud a novel,
dialogue journals, conferences, mini-lessons, KTWP. book projects, research projects,
and community service projects.
We run out of time."
Bev approached all her problems with an optimistic sense of challenge, seeking
solutions instead of sympathy.
When buried by the reading and by her efforts to integrate,
she wrote about how she involved kids ("I have one student who comes in early everyday
to capture notes and I want to involve more kids"), and she used the network to think
about strategies for handling massive notes-- asking her colleagues,
"How do all of you
manage to keep up with the volume of notes that are written?"
Later she wrote,
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