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New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute Inspires Teachers To Go Digital

July 18, 2009 – The New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute was held at the Friday Institute from July 12 – 17, 2009. The weeklong institute entitled, “New Literacies, Inquiry, Equity: Teacher Leaders for a New Educational Era,” focused on how a new literacies approach to education that leverages emerging digital tools can create challenging and engaging learning opportunities for students and teachers. Forty-eight teachers from across the country (and China) came together to share ideas, learn from leaders in the field of new literacies, engage in project-based inquiry, and answer the question: What will you contribute as a new literacies teacher leader?

Teachers were inspired by featured speakers, including Don Leu from the University of Connecticut, who challenged the group to promote equity for all students by teaching online reading comprehension. Yong Zhao, Director of the Confucius Institute at Michigan State University, encouraged participants to embrace the “death of distance” and become teacher leaders of the world. Milton Chen, Director of Edutopia, skyped in from California and shared student learning vignettes from the international Digital Youth Project. Cindy Williamson, Director of Curriculum & Instruction at NC DPI, shared the exciting new work on NC standards and assessment. A panel of teacher leaders relayed personal success and challenges in their quest to implement educational change. Joselyn Todd, from Cary Academy, encouraged teachers to “think big, start small, and go for the early win.”

Each afternoon, teachers engaged in Cool Tool sessions featuring Second Life, Voicethread, Fizz, Trailfire, SAS Curriculum Pathways, and much more. They then moved into Design Studio where they collaborated with a partner to create an innovative inquiry project based on their state’s curriculum standards. The hands-on, minds-on experience prompted the teachers to design and produce innovative lessons using new digital media. They learned how social networking environments can be applied to the classroom and explored dynamic instructional and assessment models for 21st century learning. Additionally, they learned how to embrace the YouTube aesthetic by using video as a learning and creation tool that can amplify student engagement, creativity, and complex thinking. Throughout the week teachers engaged in 21st century forms of communication using Twitter, Nings, YouTube, and wikis.

The week culminated in a Design Studio Showcase where participants shared the innovative inquiry projects they had created during the week. Participants explored their leadership styles and created a plan to engage partners and lead new literacy innovations in their school, district, and/or state. Teachers grasped new visions and gained new knowledge of how to tap students’ curiosity, unleash creativity, engender 21st century skills, and be change agents for a new educational era. Institute sponsors included the NC Business Committee for Education and BB&T.

To view the projects and join in the ongoing dialogue, visit

Additional information about the institute, including resources, can be found online and on the Institute wiki.

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