Muddling through the blogosphere

November 26, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE Ports of Entry Session

It was my privilege to join Monica Edinger and William Teale for an early Sunday morning NCTE session, Ports of Entry.

I’ve known Monica – and stood in awe of her work – for close to ten years, so I don’t know why the level to which she promotes questioning, creating, and sharing with her 4th grade students still amazes me. For a glimpse into her Web 2.0 journey, start with her presentation and then take a tour of Edinger House, her classroom blog.

William Teale added another layer to our presentation by pointing out that, although Monica and I have been exploring and experimenting with new tech tools for over a decade, many teacher are still intimidated by technology and the time commitment required for meaningful integration into the curriculum. Bill showcased two online projects: ePals and in2books. Although I was vaguely familiar with both ePals and in2books, I did not realize these two programs are both under the umbrella of ePals, a once fee-based program that is now free and very dynamic. The power of ePals is that a teacher with limited tech proficiency can easily enroll his/her students not only for online pen pal “demographics dances” (bill’s words), but can also connect them to powerful lessons and projects that promote global awareness and social action on such vital topics as water.

The in2books project provides free books to Title 1 schools, grades 3-5, and connects students with an adult pen pal (carefully screened by the organization!) for the purpose engaging students in reading and writing and promoting a love of books. Here’s a link to an NBC spotlight on the program –

OK, and the good news about our 8:30 a.m.-on-a-Sunday session was that our participants outnumbered the three of us, were impressively awake, and seemed to share our enthusiasm for Web 2.0 in the elementary classroom 🙂

July 22, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE – Helen Barrett on ePortfolios

Helen Barrett is sharing her commitment to life-long portfolios and building the argument for portfolios in our own personal lives, not just for our students.

Realizing I had my camera with me, I logged onto and recorded Helen’s session.

July 22, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE Keynote with Ernest Morrell

Ernest Morrell is opening the session with 4 discussion questions:

  • What will be demanded of students in terms of literacy in the 21st century
  • In what ways is the nature of literacy changing?
  • How should the discipline of English change in response to the changes in literacy?
  • What are the ways that your students practice literacy when they are not in class?
    • filmmaking
    • video games
    • virtual worlds – adopting different identities


  • “Historical Memory” – Important to teach students that once they post something, it’s there forever
  • Very complicated now to figure out what is reliable information
  • Switching from the “you need to learn to do this by yourself” to “you need to learn to do this collaboratively.”

Dynamic, challenging time for teaching English and literacy – and meeting increased literacy demands. Teaching 21st century literacies can help us to address many of these challenges while providing opportunities for youth to produce socially and academically powerful texts in ways that were not previously possible – democratizing access to literacy.

Big Question: Motivating students – Expectancy Value Theory of Motivation – 1) Motivation is measure of how confident you are in your ability to perform a task and 2) motivation is measure of how relevant the task is to you. Value + Expectancy = Motivation


Elementary Students: Teatro- Theater of the Oppressed (Pablo Freire)- Education for humanity’s sake. Elementary students out of Watts neighborhood of L.A. doing tableau on violence in their neighborhoods. Actors (students) then invite audience in to dialogue. Students were producing both academic text and socially relevant text.

11th Grader English Students – Great Gatsby unit on critical media literacy & the American Dream. Students analyzing images in 50 Cent and Seventeen and learning to read images. Between the gangster image and glamour image, teens die due to inability to read the media. Critical media literacy is a citizenship skill! The American Dream tied to wealth, not citizenship. Assignment = counter media campaign (e.g., female athletes, tough guy tutoring younger students) If you don’t like the media, make a new media – that’s the difference with 21st century literacy. Students must learn to de-construct images – and to create their own.

Critical media production: documentary filmmaking – ( – Students documenting cultures of their communities. Link between academic literacy and documentary filmmaking. Students become experts on their topics. Requires a high level of literacy to produce a documentary.

Teaching film and television:

  • Watching a film in English/Language Arts class (The Odyssey/Godfather example). Using an epic text that talks about ideology of western civilization. Students use analysis of film to inform their analysis of text. Looking at camera angles to “privilege” certain characters. Having students write essays around popular culture.
  • Spoken word and hip-hop in the English classroom – If young people are engaged with it, it’s important to talk about. Hip-hop reflects problems we have in society. It’s one of the few youth-created popular cultural forms. Involves complex uses of language and literacy. The Poet in Society Unit – poetry is cool again. But everything we do is mediated by the poetry of our time. Think of T.S. Elliot as a social activist, writing apocalyptic poetry about the demise of civilization. Assignment: comparing Grand Master Flash to T.S. Elliot.

Involving students in researching their own communities, with goal of making world a better place. Using an Inconvenient Truth, for example, as a key piece, moving kids beyond their own issues to issues of world. Engaging in research to make the world a better place = Youth Voices.

Critical Minds Project: English class for 9th grade, low-performing students – “A Day in My Life” was first prompt for these east L.A. students. Turned essays in photo essays > digital film.

“There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.” Marshall McLuhan

“The question is not whether English will change, but how it will change.” Ernest Morrell

To see Ernest’s PowerPoint: (user=profmorrell; password=morrell).

I’ll send out a Tweet as soon as I’ve uploaded the podcast for the session.

July 21, 2008
by blogwalker

Opening Day – 21st Century Literacies

Kathy Yancy is the opening speaker for NCTE’s Institute for 21st Century Literacies.

  • First task: Define literacy
  • Second task: Define 21st century literacy
  • Third task: Identify 10 key terms that define 21st literacy
  • Fourth task: Put key terms onto chart paper in some form. Here’s what our group of 4 came up with (using

Bonus of opening session: Kyene Beers‘ explanation of “dip in/dip out” approach to Holt Language Arts program – very different than the scripted approach! I’ll be doing a podcast with her later in the conference.

June 28, 2008
by blogwalker

BYOL Diigo Session

Alice Mercer and Jennifer Dorman are leading this hands-on Diigo session. Love the ease of sending a Diigo link out to your blog – or to Delicious. The highlighting and annotating features take bookmarking to a next level. “Diigo is way to digest and retrieve information later,” Maggie Tsai, Diigo developer, is explaining.

For classroom teachers, the ability to add definitions, explanations, etc., makes Diigo a great tool for scaffolding access to online text. If the sticky notes get overwhelming, you can hide them. You can also create groups. Worried about monitoring? No problem. You have lots of options that will work with your district’s AUP. You can block to public or open it to let others view it. Use the gmail alias hack to set up students accounts – approved by you. OR…coming soon…teachers will have the option of creating student accounts – without student email accounts.

Diigo = critical literacy tool. Use for reflective writing. When searching a topic, use Diigo instead of Google to provide students with previewed, reviewed sites.

Classroom idea: set up a “tag” dictionary – it’s one of the options available when you create Diigo groups. Makes for easy evaluation: search a tag and then you’ll see which students have annotated the site.

Concept of tagging vs. concept of list – You can switch list into slideshow presentation of the websites you have chosen from Diigo. The pages are “live,” not just images.

March 2, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE’s “Shift”

I’ve been following the discussion in response to Karl Fisch’s NCTE – “Shifting” Toward a New Literacy” post with great interest because the focus is on Kylene Beers’ invitation to join the 2008 NCTE Conference in San Antonio with its theme of Shift Happens.

I first became familiar with Kylene Beers’ work in 2000 when I received my first NCTE middle school publication Voices from the Middle. Kylene, then the editor, opened the March issue (Vol 7, Number 3) with a message entitled Technology, Bus Rides, and the Digital Divide. Her concern eight years ago was that students at our nation’s poorer schools did not have access to the technology that would allow them to move “beyond being merely digitally literate (students who can download sound clips from the Web, insert clip art into papers, and send e-mail”), so she chose to include articles by teachers who “refuse to let wealth or gender or location or race – or even mundane things like number of computers in the school or glitches in computer lab scheduling – dictate who has access to the Information Highway.” Through this issue, I met Nancy Patterson, Gretchen Lee, Jim Burke, and Jeff Wilhelm, whose work and passions, eight years later, continue to inspire me.

In 2004, Kylene dedicated the March issue (Vol 11, Number 3) to Learning through Technology, with her Editor’s Message entitled: Equality and the Digital Divide. She shared that, four years later, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, sites with minority populations were fast acquiring more computers. She also shared her concern with Hank Beckers’s troubling findings that “teachers in low socioeconomic schools (SES) are much more likely to use computers for remediation and skill reinforcement than for gathering and analyzing information. The reverse is true in ‘other’ schools (i.e., higher SES levels).”

I mention Kylene Beers’ long-time commitment to examining digital divide issues for three reasons:

  1. I wanted to be sure that Karl Fisch and his readers know that Kylene did not jump on the “shift happens” bandwagon overnight and that
  2. a significant and growing number of NCTE teachers continue to “show us how to make sure our students, all students, ride this technology bus, up front, with eyes wide open, to take in all this road (Information Highway) has to offer. To name just a few: Dawn Hogue (who has just posted to her Polywog blog her second interview on CyberEnglish; Ted Nellen, whose posts to NCTE Talkies are always gems; and Bud Hunt, also a NWP colleague, whose blog was one of the first added to my Bloglines account…and many more!
  3. and with much appreciation for Karl Fisch’s continued sharing of outstanding conversations and resources:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

February 24, 2008
by blogwalker

In Praise of Great Teachers

a_wteachers_0225.jpgThanks to a post in the NCTE Talkies listserv this morning by Nancy Patterson, I visited (revisited) high school CyberEnglish teacher, Dawn Hogue‘s blog. I’m very glad that Dawn has posted the podcast of her recent interview (Part 1) with Professor Susan Antlitz about the importance of technology as a means of engaging student writers and “keeping their writing alive.”

I’ll be thinking about Dawn and other great teachers, who like Dawn “know things,” when I sit down tonight- after the Academy Awards – to read Time Magazine’s feature article How to Make Better Teachers.

Image from,8599,1713174-1,00.html

November 25, 2007
by blogwalker

Back from NYC

nyc.jpgNational Writing Project and Nat’l Council for Teachers of English hosted their annual conferences last week in New York City. What a treat! I managed to squeeze in some sightseeing coming and going from the hotel to the Crowne Plaza and the Javits Convention Center, and each evening, and all day on Sunday. And even managed a side trip to The Dalton School to visit with Monica Edinger‘s 4th graders.

From each NWP and NCTE session, I gained resources and ideas for presenting Web 2.0 tools to teachers and students. Here’s a smattering:

  • My kick-0ff Thursday session was an outstanding presentation by NWP Tech Liaisons sharing projects under the umbrella of Writing in a Digital Age. Starting with Kevin‘s link to the Pew Internet and American Life Project stats — and ending with Petter Kittle‘s amazing “multimodal” piece on the art of unicycling (note to self: check with Peter to see if he has posted this and samples from his composition class to the web), this session was a great way to start the conference.
  • Friday morning started with Nancy Patterson’s NCTE session. This was my first time to meet Carla Beard ( and Lisa Rozema. Carla started her session on wikis by playing Lee Lefever’s Wikis in Plain English, which drew the audience right into Carla’s humorous, informative presentation (note to self: ask Carla for links to sample teacher wikis shared). Lisa Rozema ended the session with her original screencast on Google Reader (note to self: ask Lisa if she has posted this clip online).
  • Saturday’s Technology Roadshow, organized by Sandy Hayes, was a blast. I wanted to drop in all six table discussions. During the opening presentations, I listened in awe as Sarah Kajder talked briefly about Google Lit Trips. Although I’ve visited the site before, had not considered how dramatic this site is when projected onto a full screen. (Note to self: ask Nancy Patterson if she has posted her student-done “digital narratives” to the web.)
  • Monday’s ACE (Assembly on Computers in English) session – well worth the added cost of two more days in NYC!
    • Got to meet Ted Nellens (, who hosted the session at his Westside HS campus.
    • Got to hear Lisa Rozema present again – this time joined by her husband Rob Rozema (whose student-done podcasts I share with teachers and students alike). To their Google Reader intro, Rob and Lisa added a piece on having students use RSS both for news feeds and blogs to support students in their research projects (note to self: ask Lisa for student samples of blog posts and responses supported by links to articles and posts from their GR accounts).
    • Got to hear Troy Hicks demonstrate the “frustrating parts of wikis” with his reassurance that the “frustration was reversible.” (Note to self: ask Troy for permission to share the wiki he created for this workshop.)
    • Got to work with Ewa McGrail on Copyright and Fair Use Issues for Educators (note to self: ask Ewa for permission to share her activity sheet, which is a hands-on approach to PD on this important issue).

I’m back home now, fighting a terrible head cold but excited to bring with me such great resources to share with my California colleagues, along with memories of the NYC experience.

Skip to toolbar