Rowan University’s Writing Arts department was honored to host the New Jersey Writing Alliance’s twenty first annual conference. The New Jersey Writing Alliance is a non-profit organization who serves to improve student writing from levels K to 12 across the state. This year’s conference took place on Wednesday, May 24th, in the Rohrer College of Business. The conference “Responding to the Moment: Information Literacy Now”, organized by Jaclyn Partyka and Jason Luther, centered around informational literacy. Its goal was to provide educators with the tools to inform middle and high school students about digital literacy. There was a special focus on preparing for the new educational standards as stipulated in NJ Senate Bill 588, which highlights the importance of educating people how to navigate the digital landscape of news, social media, and information.
The event opened with keynote speaker Olga Polites. Olga Polites, a professor at our campus, was instrumental in passing NJ Senate Bill 588. Her participation in this program was an honor considering her hard work both at Rowan University and for the state of New Jersey.
After the keynote concluded, participants were able to choose and attend one of four workshops during three different sessions themed around digital literacy. Topics of special interest included grappling with the growing AI presence, finding credible sources on the internet, and reducing apathy in students regarding mainstream media. Instructors occasionally included games, activities, panel discussions, or time to talk amongst themselves alongside traditional lecture format. These multiple teaching styles ensured that the information would stick with the audience. It also provided hands-on examples for future ways to teach their students.
Not only was the day full of valuable information for the faculty and librarian attendees, but it was also a day to build connections. The day allowed for communication as well as learning. Whether it was trying to find the sessions, discussing what they learned, or sitting outside and complimenting the gooey chocolate chip cookies, the participants had time to learn about each other and education. This strengthened the community of teachers and librarians in New Jersey. The additional presence of middle and high school teachers, as organizer Partyka comments, also helped Rowan faculty gain a new perspective on teaching that’s not necessarily college orientated. The combination of differing teaching experiences and disciplines added more value to this strengthened community and resources.
Informational literacy is a daunting topic. It’s hard to understand individually and especially to teach to a new generation. Tips, tricks, and techniques are vital to understand and instruct about digital literacy. A community is also vital to develop new teaching strategies for this topic. The twenty-first conference of the New Jersey Writing Alliance, hosted by Rowan University’s Writing Arts Department supplied tips, tricks, techniques, and community in abundance. All in all, the conference of New Jersey Writing Alliance succeeded in their goals of education and preparing their audience about informational literacy. They fostered connections and community among the attendees, providing a support system to strengthen the teaching of all involved.