Muddling through the blogosphere

November 26, 2018
by blogwalker

Grading … Please add to the conversation!

Over the past year, I have looked at literally hundreds of teachers’ report cards, from kindergarten to 12th grade. They have questions stemming from my district’s new student information system (SIS). In order to troubleshoot an issue, I need to actually access their grade books. In the process, I am realizing what an individual concept grading is. Even at the same school site and grade level, teachers can have very different approaches to determining student grades. The one constraint they do have in common is that ultimately they need to be able to transfer student grades to district-adopted report cards.

In my years as a classroom teacher (elementary and middle school), which included four different districts, I don’t remember ever sitting through a faculty meeting or training that mandated a particular way to grade. Grades were simply due by a given date. You might have to explain to a parent or two how you arrived at a grade, but, other than that, overall grading practices weren’t driving faculty conversations.

One thing I always appreciated about the freedom to choose my own grading practices is that I could easily modify or change my approach as new ideas and resources came my way. Although I no longer have my own class, I still find grading practices a fascinating topics, which is why Trevor McKenzie’s recent Tweet on report cards caught my attention.

November 22 Tweet from Trevor McKenzie

If I were still in the classroom, I know I would adopt Trevor’s collaborative process. So simple, yet reflective and action-based.

Besides retweeting Trevor’s message, I also bookmarked it via Diigo, tagging it with the category Grading. I was surprised to see that, despite my interest in this topic, Trevor’s Tweet is only my 3rd item in that category. The other two are blog posts, and also equally thought-provoking:

  • Grading Practices That Grow Writers – A guest post on the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) blog from Arina Bokus. “Two years ago, I started to question my grading practices and what they communicated to my students. What mattered in my class – the learning process and growth or the outcome and fixed skills?” I love Arina’s recommendation to build a grading rubric that includes both the drafts and final product, plus a reflection.
  • Delaying the Grade: How to Get Students to Read the Feedback – A guest post on the Cult of Pedagogy blog from Kristy Louden. Oh, when I think of how much time (Saturdays!) I put into providing feedback on student writing, I wish I had known about Kristy’s system: “Return papers to students with only feedback. Delay the delivery of the actual grade so student focus moves from the grade to the feedback.”  Read the article for a more detailed walk-through of her six steps, listed in her infographic below.
Infographic with steps to get students to read feedback.

Infographic created by Kristy Louden.

Three is always a good number, but I’m betting there are more great articles on strategies for grading practices that promote student agency, encourage next steps, and spark on-going conversations. You are warmly invited to leave a comment with any resources and/or recommendations you might have.

good grades by Gan Khoon Lay from the Noun Project

Fall CUE logo

October 20, 2018
by blogwalker

#FallCUE 2018 – Some highlights and great resources

Fall CUE image, large version

I just returned from a jam-packed weekend at the 2018 Fall CUE Conference in Napa (California’s wine country). The challenge at any CUE Conference is trying to decide which of the many enticing sessions I should attend. I think I made some great choices.

Saturday Sessions

Empowering ELLs in the Google Age – I loved starting the conference with Abby Almerido‘s session. Although the focus was on ELLs, the speaking and listening activities were applicable to all students. If you check out her presentation, you can see that visual literacy – a must-have 21st century skill for all students – is at the heart of her work.

Using her slides, Abby challenged us to team with another person and:

  • View a fuzzy photo (slide 6), form an opinion, and provide 3 support statements as evidence.
  • View 4 images (slide 7) and come up with a common theme to connect theme. 

4 different images for students to find a common theme.

  • Come up with a question that invokes some tension (slide 9).
  • Consider the power of using moving images (slide 10).

Such simple, yet powerful, strategies to not only build speaking and listening skills but to also scaffold students into writing activities. Loved all the shared conversations from this session!


Painless Privacy: Empowering Educators to Safely Create Content  – If you are a classroom teacher, I recommend that you go through the entire presentation from Calif. Dept of Ed’s Geoff Belleau and Elizabeth Wisnia. I know how frustrating it can be for teachers to start a lesson, only to find that a website they wanted students to use is now being blocked, sometimes for inappropriate content, but often for student privacy issues – another 21st must-have skill.

Some issues and terminology we all need to be aware of:

  • Phishing and Whaling (slide 8) – “Whaling,” a new term for me, refers to scams that tackle organizations. “Ransomware,” which is usually generated based on click-bait, can quickly set off encryption all your personal data. A good reminder to back up your work!
  • Teens & Social Media report (slide 16) – From Common Sense – If you are looking for resources for a Parent Night, this is a great resource. I like the video because it includes both negatives and positives of social media.
  • Future Ready Schools (slide 18) – Kudos to the California Department of Education for developing the Future Ready Framework, a format for “thinking holistically about the challenges and possibilities of technology in K-12 spaces,” and sparking conversations on ways to enhance and maximize data privacy and technology efforts. I appreciated Geoff’s recommendation to not get overwhelmed by all 7 gears; instead, start off by choosing two gears to focus on. Framework implementation can be done at district and site levels.

Future Ready Schools 7 gears image

  • K-12 Cyber Incident Map (slide 19) – If you haven’t visited, this is a wake up call! The map includes  “D Dos (Denial of Service) attacks” (red pins), which any teen can activate by paying a small fee to a 3rd party that is able to flood a school’s network and shut it down, for instance, so students will not have to take an online test scheduled for their next class period.
  • Think Like A Cat (slide 22) – If you haven’t already seen Common Sense’s excellent videos on student privacy, head back up to slides 36-38. Then check out the Think Like a Cat video, part of a PBS series, that shows how news can be manipulated.
  • Shorty Awards – The Best in Social Justice (slide 44) – Cannot wait to share out about this award, which “honors a program, project, or initiative that seeks to address and dismantle systemic structural and interpersonal inequities based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability status and any intersection(s) thereof.” A great tie-in to digital citizenship initiatives!

So glad I attended this session. Teaching students about the importance of protecting their online privacy is one of four themes my district focuses on for our #DigCit program. Love having all these resources in one place.


Lunch Break with PORTS – Can’t think of a better way to spend a tech conference lunch break than PORTS booth at Fall CUEwith the California Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) team. PORTS is  one of my favorite resources for bringing California’s parks into the classroom virtually. Although it’s a little hard to see the screen behind us in this photo, Ranger Ben Fenkell  and I are connecting live with Ranger Parker at La Purísima Mission State Historic Park (near Santa Barbara). This California Mission videoconference is one of the latest offerings in the growing PORTS options for bringing grade-level appropriate history, geography, science, and architecture virtual field trips into your classrooms – for free. And, of course, I have to boast a little that the 3rd grade Gold Rush videoconference on the PORTS landing page features an amazing teacher from my district, Cathe Petuya, and her students.


Information Overload: Media Literacy When Fake News Is a Thing – I joined Scott Padley’s session, hoping to take away a few new thoughts and resources on teaching media literacy. And I did. It’s truly a challenge to pack such a dynamic, challenging topic into one hour, but Scott did. His Teaching Truth site and his slideshow, are both treasure troves and include:

  •  MIT’s research on fake news – a fascinating article and video with MIT’s findings that “fake news spreads further, faster than real news.”
  • Ladder of Inference – I had not seen this infographic before. Scott explained how it illustrates the thinking process that we go through, consciously or unconsciously, to move from a fact to a decision or action.

infographic to show progression of ideas that influence us.

  • Search Tips: “It’s all about algorithms which reinforce our biases.” Part of stepping out of our “filter bubbles” is to recognize how our Google search returns are quite possibly reinforcing our biases.

What could be better than attending Scott’s media literacy session? Having Scott join Kelly Mendoza and me for our Sunday morning session. 😊

Sunday Sessions

Adding to the awesomeness of the Fall CUE experience, I had the pleasure of teaming with Common Sense’s Kelly Mendoza for two sessions:

  • Thinking Critically About the (Fake) News – Here’s the link to our digital handout.
  • Can I Use That? Teaching Creative Commons, Copyright & Fair Use to the Remix Generationdigital handout

If you weren’t at Fall CUE, but will be attending Spring CUE in Palm Springs, we’ll be doing both sessions there. Please join us or stop by to say hello.


Make Digital Citizenship the Norm…Not the lesson –  Nicole Nadiz’s session title captures my #DigCitCommit for the 2018-19 school year. Nicole’s expertise and resources made for a highly interactive, thought-provoking hour, and some wonderful takeaways:

  • Educating staff has to be part of the process of rolling out digital citizenship.” As co-director of my district’s digital citizenship program, I email and post regular updates to our school site #DigCit coordinators with new resources for them to use with students. With Nicole’s quote in mind, from now on, those emails will include tips and resources for site coordinators to include in staff meetings.
  • Collaboration in Common – I learned about the CiC resource last May while attending Sacramento’s first Media & Information Literacy Summit. With support from California’s Department of Education, CiC “allows teachers to discover and share resources and to connect with educators from across the state in virtual communities focused on the topics that matter most for teaching and learning.” I #DigCitCommit to being a regular visitor and contributor to CiC, and look forward to connecting with and learning from other California educators around media literacy topics.

I recently blogged about Nicole in my “Hacking” the Learning Standards post. Given that she also lives in the Sacramento area and that our paths seem to be crossing on a regular basis, I am fortunate for the face-to-face opportunities to learn from her. The good news is that anyone, anywhere can learn from Nicole by visiting her blog 3 Rs 4 Teachers: Promoting Rich, Relevant and Rigorous Teaching and Learning.


Sparknado – Ending my Fall CUE experience with Brandon Schut’s fast-paced, humor-infused session was a good call. Although the digital handout for his session is on a Google Site (one of my favorite tools), the session was all about Adobe Spark, Adobe’s fantastic tool for “transforming your ideas into stunning visual stories.” My big takeaway from this session was an advantage for students of Adobe Spark over Google Sites: the built-in image library includes the Creative Commons citations, which are automatically added when you embed an image. And the citations will also be listed at the bottom of a Spark page.

Images shows credit to the photographer is automatically generated when you embed an image in Adobe Spark.

Although Google Sites are automatically filtered to find images licensed as CC0 or Public Domain, which means attribution to the creator is not required, creators most likely appreciate the recognition – and you eliminate possible copyright questions your readers might have. Although you can track down attribution information on images found in a Google search or insert, having the credits already populated in accordance with Creative Commons’ recommendation for “ideal attribution” is a time saver.

I think Greg Eiler’s Tweet and gif (below) will give you a bit of window into Brandon’s energy and dynamic presenting style.


A huge thank you to the CUE staff for putting together an outstanding event. As you can see from my post, the Saturday/Sunday event was well worth the trip to Napa. Thank you also for providing delicious box lunches both days (along with a coffee stand/truck that even sold kombucha). The lunch breaks were a perfect opportunity continue conversations sparked by the Fall CUE 2018 innovative presenters.

Apparently, it’s not to soon to start the countdown to Fall CUE 2019, as the logo is already being widely shared. See you there.

Fall CUE logo

Digital Citizenship in Action

October 1, 2018
by blogwalker

“Hacking the Learning Standards” with #DigCit Connections


“Stop thinking about digital citizenship as a stand-alone technology topic and begin thinking about it as an essential component of a well-rounded humanities curriculum.” Kristen Mattson, Digital Citizenship in Action

A top priority of my day-time job is co-directing my district’s Digital Citizenship program. Last week a teacher at one of our elementary sites reached out with concerns about a recent string of events, ranging from cyberbullying to even an attempted hack into some of their canned curriculum programs. As the computer resource teacher (CRT), he is the single staff member tasked with teaching digital citizenship, the norm for most of our elementary schools.

Yes, that would be teaching “digital citizenship as a stand-alone technology topic.” My co-director, Kathleen Watt, and I are constantly rethinking best practices to help teachers embed digital citizenship into the core curriculum in ways that go beyond stand-alone or one-and-done approaches and that bring students into an on-going conversation and commitment to practice good citizenship in person and online.

We often share (tweet, blog, text, email) #digcit tips from Kristen Mattson, pulling from her wonderful ISTE publication Digital Citizenship in Action – Empowering Students to Engage in Online Communities. So I was delighted this week to receive the fall edition of ISTE’s quarterly magazine, Empowered Learner, in which Dr. Mattson’s article “Embed digital citizenship in all subjects” is the featured spotlight article. The article is a reminder and wake-up call to start “hacking learning standards to create opportunities to weave digital citizenship education into content area classes.” This process is exactly what Kathleen and I needed to help our elementary teacher.

Adding to the process, Saturday morning I received an email notification that Nicole Nadiz had posted new content to my Collaboration in Common feed: Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Digital Citizenship. I love this Google Doc! It’s a road map to “hacking learning standards.” Nicole has paired CCSS with Model School Library Standards (MSLS) and Common Sense Education. It took all of 3 minutes to add Common Sense Digital Citizenship connections to the Teacher Notes of our ART of Reading Laterally lesson. One down, three to go (The Forbidden Treasure, On Coming to America, I’m Not Leaving).

Whether it’s your own curriculum or district-adopted curriculum, having Nicole Nadiz’s document really speeds up the process for making the digital citizenship connections for whatever Common Core ELA Standards are listed in a lesson. Please note that Nicole has also invited educators to add their lesson samples via this Google Form. I just submitted The Art of Reading Laterally.

“Helping students explore the fine line between our technology and our humanity can be the work of every educator if we’re willing to be creative in the ways we think about curriculum and the ways we think about digital citizenship.” Kristen Mattson



August 26, 2018
by blogwalker

Rethinking Reading Logs

Renoir 1880 Young woman reading a Journal

Renoir 1880 Young woman reading a journal. Image in Public Domain.


I’ve been part of a book club for almost 18 years. Every month I look forward to sharing what I liked or didn’t like about the selected book with my fellow “Bookies” and listening to and enjoying their perspectives. Recently I tried to recall the title/author of a YA novel we had read a few years ago. I wanted to recommend it to a friend. Dang! I wish I had been keeping a reading log.

Reading by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images


Today I did a little research on the value of having students keep reading logs. Only minutes into my search, I could see that reading logs are a contentious issue in the K-12 community. The awesome Pernille Rip posted three years ago On Reading Logs, discussing both the pros and cons and giving five tips, with Keep it in class and Stop rewarding at the top.

The reason I am proposing reading logs is because I see them as a much better option than requiring students to use computer-based programs to track, rate, reward and/or restrict their reading. Although these programs can help students find books at their current reading level, reading levels are flexible. Too often reading levels are used to limit student choice and to impose forced point quotas, two steps guaranteed to kill the love of reading. If your school is still supporting these online programs, I highly recommend reading Pernille’s After Accelerated Reader and Donalyn Miller’s (AKA “the Book Whisperer”) How to Accelerate a Reader.

In line with Pernille’s tips, the purpose of the reading log would be to provide students with a place to keep track of what they have been reading and to become mindful of their own reading habits. The reading log would also provide teachers with a window into their students’ choices and interests.

The reading log would not require students to log hours/minutes or number of pages read. It would not require nightly parent signatures. I’m going with a Google Spreadsheet (inspired by the amazing Alice Keeler). Here’s a link to my first draft for a Student Reading Log (which could easily be shared with students via Google Classroom). I would love any feedback or questions you might have!

P.S. My book club is reading Barbara Shapiro’s The Art Forger this month. And, yes, I am going to start logging our books!

Photo by Tim Geers on / CC BY-SA

July 29, 2018
by blogwalker

#DigCitCommit – Heading into the New School Year

With the start of the new school year only days away, it’s time to send out some new #digcit resources to teachers and administrators. This annual email is something my colleague Kathleen Watt and I send off in August as part of our district’s digital citizenship program. Typically, the new resources come from sessions attended or vendors booths visited during the annual 4-day summer ISTE Conferences, which take place the last week in June.

This year, some wonderful #digcit conversations started a few weeks prior to the ISTE 2018 Conference, thanks to a Tweet from the awesome Nancy Watson. The Tweet included Nancy’s thought-provoking infographic gem 5 Stages of Growth into a #DigCit State of Mind.

Ten years ago, when tasked with supporting district-wide digital citizenship initiatives and programs, Kathleen and I can definitely remember site administrators and teachers who were at Stage 1: Digital Aversion. Over the years, thanks to organizations like Common Sense, ISTE, and Google, we’ve continued to share timely, relevant resources on #digcit topics, ranging from taking a stand on cyberbullying to building a positive digital footprint. This school year, we look forward to being involved in conversations ignited by the 5 Stages infographic as our school sites develop and submit their 2018-19 Digital Citizenship Implementation Plans.

Besides the infographic, Nancy’s Tweet included a powerful hashtag: #digcitpln. Even if you were not at ISTE, a quick Twitter search for #digcitpln will bring up lots of opportunities to participate in upcoming digital citizenship related discussions, chats, and events.

#digcitpln – an invitation to action!

There is another Twitter hashtag we’ll be including in the email: #DigCitCommit. It still gives me chills when I think back to this year’s opening ISTE keynote speech. Chief Executive Officer Richard Culatta’s emphasis on the importance of making sure we are grounded in what it means to be contributing digital citizens set the tone for the conference. His invitation and challenge to share our 2018 commitments to model, teach, and promote positive digital citizenship practices can be followed via #digcitcommit.

Richard Culatta #ISTE18 keynote

There is one more ISTE takeaway we’ll be sharing in our district email. This takeaway is not actually from the conference. It comes from two questions posed by Matt Hiefield on ISTE’s Digital Citizenship PLN Discussions page:

How are school districts assessing digital citizenship behaviors and communicating these behaviors to parents?  Has anyone put digital citizenship language on report cards?”

Matt shared a draft from his school district:

ISTE PLN discussion post from @MattHiefield

If you, like me, are in a large school district, then I’m sure you already know there would be many steps and committees involved in changing district report cards. But baby steps could have a powerful impact and ripple effect. For those monthly student awards assemblies, for instance, how about changing the Good Citizenship Award to the Good (Digital) Citizenship Award?

I know parentheses are typically used to include information that clarifies or is an aside note. I’m proposing that, in the case of (Digital) Citizenship, the parentheses indicate something that goes without saying.

In the 2018-19 school year, I hope to see more school sites recognizing that not only is “digital” part of our students’ lives, but it can also be documented and acknowledged as part of their school day. Students who are using their online voices to address issues and make positive contributions to all the communities to which they belong (online and face-2-face) are already stepping into Stage 5: Digital Advocacy territory

One more bullet point I’m thinking of adding to Matt’s list is “Students verify information before posting or sharing.” I’ll also draft a sample letter that teachers or principals could send home to parents to explain the integration of “digital” into grading practices and policies. The more stakeholders involved in the conversation, the better.

It’s possible I already have an elementary school ready to start the (digital) citizenship conversations.


July 22, 2018
by blogwalker

Already Missing Alaska

Oh, Alaska, I miss you. It’s 100+ degrees this week in Sacramento and the air quality is pretty bad. But memories of last week’s ocean breezes, stunning mountain ranges, breathtaking inlets, and endless blue skies dotted with eagles are only a photo away. It will be a long time to come before I forget the week-long Seattle-to-Skagway cruise I shared with my daughter.

Friday, July 6 – Departing from Seattle

Lucky me! My daughter lives in beautiful Seattle. So when I mentioned to friend and colleague Cathe Petuya that I would be in Seattle for the 4th of July, she highly recommended that, instead of flying home on the 6th, my daughter and I should board a cruise ship and head to Alaska. And we did.

On deck of the Celebrity Solstice, leaving Seattle.








Saturday, July 7 – At Sea

From walking the many decks, to Zumba classes, to nature talks, to kicking back with a good book, to breathing in the fresh air, a day at sea kind of sets the tone for the trip.

Walk, relax, watch the skyline.

Great nature talks from Brent Nixon.

So many great spots to enjoy the quiet beauty.



Daylight coming to a close (9:00 pm).













Sunday, July 8 – Ketchikan

Ketchikan is located at the southernmost tip of Alaska’s “Inside Passage.” Exploring Ketchikan by foot was a wonderful way to start our first day in Alaska. An afternoon kayaking trip was the perfect finish.

My first eagle encounter, as we climbed to an overlook point.

Ketchikan’s Totem Heritage Center houses a “priceless collection” of totem poles retrieved from Tlingit and Haida villages.

All totem poles in the Totem Heritage Center were carved from western red cedar, the “tree of life” for native people of the region.






Entering the Tongass National Forest (17million+ acres!) for a kayak outing, paddling around the Tatoosh Islands. First time to see enormous orange jelly fish.

Tatoosh National Park residents.














Monday, July 9 – Tracy Arm Fjord

Waking up to chunks of ice floating all around us as the ship entered Tracy Arm Fjord and approached Mendenhall Glacier was definitely a trip highlight…as was heading back to Juneau for an early evening whale watching trip.

The beautiful jade-colored water is due to silt run off from Mendenhall Glacier.

Rachel leading the way down the trail for a close-up look at Mendenhall Glacier.










Although I saw a number of Juneau’s humpback whales breaching and blowing, my iPhone photo-taking skills did not do the sightings justice, but, if you look closely, you will see a pod of orcas. Our captain was over-the-top excited about the orcas. He shared that he could always count on whale sightings; orca sightings he could not guarantee.

Tuesday, July 10 – Skagway

Skagway marks the cruise’s farthest point north and is where the great Klondike Gold Rush lives on through its restored 19th-century buildings and its historic railway. A short bus ride out of Skagway and we were off on another kayaking adventure.

What’s a little rain when you are surrounded by incredible beauty.

Heading back to shore with the wind giving us a boost.










The return trip to Skagway via the historic White Pass Railroad provided a window into the Gold Rush, with Chilkoot Trail visible during most of ride.

Boarding the White Pass and Yukon Trail train. Note: tracks are only 3 feet wide to accommodate the many twists and turns.

Wednesday, July 11 – At Sea

Sailing the Inside Passage on our way to Victoria, British Columbia.

500 beautiful miles from southern Alaska to Victoria, BC.

Thursday, July 12 – Victoria

Victoria is a jewel of a city! So inviting, so walkable (I hit 30,000 steps on my fitbit by nightfall).

Viewing arrival in Victoria from Captain’s deck.

Yes, that is Washington’s Mt. Baker in the background.










Friday, July 13 – Back in Seattle

The view from Seattle’s Queen Anne’s lookout – the perfect end to a magical week.

I can still remember the day Alaska joined the union (January 3, 1959). My teachers did a happy dance because Texas was no longer the biggest state. But until this trip, I hadn’t thought about just how much bigger Alaska actually is:

You could fit Texas into Alaska 2 times! One-fifth the size of the Lower 48, Alaska is bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined!” How Big Is Alaska

Wait, how big is Alaska?

You could fit California into Alaska 4 times!”


Yes, it’s been hot this week in Sacramento, with possibly some record-breaking temperatures predicted for next week. But I will be able to pull from treasured memories of a beautiful trip and enjoy the feeling of contentment that comes from traveling to new places.

“People don’t take trips… trips take people.” John Steinbeck

July 1, 2018
by blogwalker

#ISTE18 – My Top Takeaways

The vibrant city of Chicago + the ISTE 2018 Conference = a winning combination. A week later, I’m sitting down to reflect on some wonderful takeaways.

Start to finish, #ISTE18 was an inspiring learning experience, beginning with Chief Executive Officer Richard Culatta’s opening keynote. Culatta’s emphasis on the importance of making sure all students are grounded in what it means to be contributing digital citizens set the tone for the conference.

My takeaway quote: “Our ability to recognize truth from fiction is essential for the well being of democracy.” #digcitcommit

Richard Culatta #ISTE18 keynote

#ISTE18 Sessions

With over 1200 sessions to choose from, narrowing down my choices was a bit daunting! Below are some of the highlights:

Day 1

Global Education Day – Having joined Steve Hargadon and Lucy Gray for their ISTE 2017 highly interactive forum, I already knew Global Education Day would be an awesome start to my #ISTE18 experience. Check out the website for an overview of the event. In my role as co-director of my district’s digital citizenship program, I really want to support teachers and students in exploring pathways to global citizenship via organizations such as:

  • The Global Oneness Project: “Founded in 2006, as an initiative of Kalliopeia Foundation, we are committed to the exploration of cultural, environmental, and social issues. We house a rich library of free multimedia stories comprised of our award-winning films, photo essays, and articles, accompanied by companion curriculum for teachers.”
  • Project Wonder: “The Wonderment is a free online platform where kids, schools and organizations come together to create a world of good.”
  • Qatar Foundation International (QFI): “QFI inspires meaningful connections to the Arab world by creating a global community of diverse learners and educators and connecting them through effective and collaborative learning environments —inside and outside the classroom.”
  • Girls Thinking Global: “The mission of Girls Thinking Global (GTG) is to create a global community of organizations serving girls and young women by leveraging technology to create a collaborative space that connects best practices, knowledge, and expertise between non-profits.”

Day 2

Students Won’t Stop Fact-Checking Me: Teach Kids to Read News Critically – Definitely at the top of my #ISTE favorites! With Bill Selak directing questions to panel members Vicki DavisAmanda Dykes,  and Scott Bedley, the session was informative and super fun.

In response to Bill’s question on the panelists’ favorite fake news activities, here are a few nuggets:

Research Communities – Have students compete for the most reliable source (= process over product)

  • Fake news has been politicized – truth vs. fiction
    • Truth vs. fiction bell ringers (Vicki Davis) 
    • Have students create their own fake news
    • Have students Photoshop themselves into photos
  • Fake News Challenge
    • Challenge students with 3 fake and two true. Media literacy is about “discernment.”
  • National Geographic – Real or Fake resource

Bill also asked: What is your favorite tool for curating/evaluating digital content?

  • The Human Mind is the best tool
    • Google search
      • Site:edu
      • Country codes
      • Image search – download and drag
  • Use your phone to call…
    • Call NY Public Library – Call and they will answer.
    • Call the White House – OMG, Scott Bedley shared how easy it is to call the White House…only days before comedian John Melendez pulled off this prank:

The Google You Might Not Know About – Where to start with all the links shared by Leslie Fisher during this super fast session?! Here are few that were new to me:

  • How to use the OCR setting that is hiding in Google Drive

  • Steve the Dinosaur: Did you know when you are not connected to the Internet and you see the dinosaur icon, you can turn that into a game?
  • OK, I already knew about this feature, but hadn’t thought about what a powerful tool this could be for our primary grade students. Am adding it to my Digital Kids, Digital Writers bookmarks.
  • Google Doodles Archives: Ever wished you could retrieve a Google Doodle from the past?
  • Experiments with Google: New to Google; new to me. “Since 2009, coders have created thousands of amazing experiments using Chrome, Android, AI, WebVR, AR and more. We’re showcasing projects here, along with helpful tools and resources, to inspire others to create new experiments.”
  • Google Tilt Brush: “Tilt Brush lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality.
    Your room is your canvas. Your palette is your imagination. The possibilities are endless.”

Tony Vincent #ISTE18

An Emoji Education: I will definitely be diving deeper into the awesome resources Tony Vincent shared on the power and possibilities of emojis in teaching and learning! By the end of the session, I understood Tony’s statement: “Emojis aren’t just cute pictures you can type. They are now a part of the fabric of modern society.”

  • You can copy these from your laptop (not limited to phone). Site shows what emojis looks like on different platforms. Two-minute video on upcoming emojis.
  • Emoji Translate: Check out 7 emoji translator sites via Lifewire.
  • Emoji Prompts: Oh, I love this site. Created by an educator for a fun class activity.

Day 3

I can’t imagine a better way to start Day 3 than attending the ISTE PLNs breakfast. I am deeply honored to be the first recipient of the #digcitpln award. My pathway to this award and to being an advocate for the teaching of digital citizenship started a number of ISTEs ago, when I attended a #digcit PLN (aka SIG) organized by Mike RibbleThank you to Nancy WatsonJulie Paddock and Kristen Mattson for your #digcit inspiration and support. And  the journey continues…

#ISTE18 PLN Awards Breakfast – Julie Paddock, Gail Desler, Kristen Mattson, Nancy Watson

Now I See It! Integrating Video Tools into Formative Assessment, Reflection, and Student Media Production – This is the first time Troy Hicks (my National Writing Project friend and digital writing mentor) has presented at ISTE. What a treat! And thank you, Troy, for the very complete website and guiding slideshow.

Day 4

#DigCitPLN Meeting – I LOVE being part of this awesome PLN and look forward to ongoing virtual and f2f chats and meetups. Again, a shout out to Nancy WatsonJulie Paddock and Kristen Mattson for your leadership in building this important PLN.

#ISTE18 #digcitpln meeting.

Google Smackdown – Question: What could possibly move even faster than a Leslie Fisher session? Answer: A 60-minute #googsmacked session! No need for me to summarize the ideas and energy; just open the slideshow for a window into the Smackdown.

Google Pro Tips: Keyboard Shortcuts, Awesome Extensions, Geek Moves and More – What a fabulous session to end my #ISTE18 experience! This is my first time to hear David Chan speak. I enjoyed both his warm humor and the plethora of Google tips and resources listed on his Doc, starting with Keyboard Calisthenics and ending with Must Have Web Apps.

Four fabulous days of learning, connecting, and networking! The icing on the #ISTE18 cake was rooming with, walking with, debriefing with, dining with, etc., with dear friends (who I hope will be joining me for #ISTE19).

ISTE18 Photo opp with Sandy Hayes and Cathe Petuya.

Already looking forward to #ISTE18. Philly, here I come!

May 28, 2018
by blogwalker

Media & Information Literacy Summit – My top takeaways

A highlight of my week was attending the California Department of Education’s first Media & Information Literacy Summit here in Sacramento.  Below are my top takeaways from a very full day of excellent keynotes, panel discussions, and a resource fair.

Opening Comments: Jennifer Howerter, California Department of Education (CDE) – Jennifer started by going over a few definitions that would be central to our summit conversations:

  • Media Literacy – “The ability to encode and decode the symbols transmitted via media and the ability to synthesize, analyze and produce mediated messages.”  NAMLE
  • Digital Literacy – “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” ALA
  • Digital Citizenship – “Being kind, respectful and responsible, and participating in activities that make the world a better place.” ISTE
  • Information Literacy – I like this broad definition, which was new to me, from ALA:

Information literacy forms the basis for lifelong learning. It is common to all disciplines, to all learning environments, and to all levels of education. It enables learners to master content and extend their investigations, become more self-directed, and assume greater control over their own learning. An information literate individual is able to:

  • Determine the extent of information needed
  • Access the needed information effectively and efficiently
  • Evaluate information and its sources critically
  • Incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally”

Welcome – Deputy Superintendent Tom Adams, CDE – Deputy Superintendent Adams opened by asking “Has the Internet changed the role of the teacher?” He referenced Stanford Professor Sam Wineburg’s findings that “we can’t assume fluency with media unless we ensure skills of healthy skeptics,” and also included several of Wineburg’s thought-provoking questions and statements:

“Since 2016, with the barrage of information and instruments for sending the information, do we want pre-selected information? Or do we want to individualize our own? We’re in a new context for educators. Students don’t lack media skills, they just need to add to the toolkit. With the California Standards, all core subject matter requires an inquiry-based approach.”

A Superintendent’s Perspective – Encinitas Superintendent Tim Baird, Encinitas Union School District – Loved Tim Baird’s opening quote:

Great journeys all start with driving questions,” … followed by his opening questions “What if we shifted from emphasis on teaching to emphasis on learning? What if we allowed students to Acquire, Analyze, Apply. Rather than start with content, start with process skills….Learning comes first – ahead of teaching. AAA leads to student dreams.”

Baird ended his keynote with a reminder that Media/Information Literacy is a basic human right, referencing UNESCO’s Five Laws of Media and Information Literacy in critical times.

From the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) .

For the Love of Learning – Director of Literacies, Outreach, and Libraries Glen Warren, Encinitas Union School District – I’ve met Glen Warren several times in the last few years, thanks to Jane Lofton’s invitations to attend the Librarian’s Dinner at the annual Spring CUE Conference. But until Wednesday’s Summit, I had never heard Glen present. Oh, my, he is an amazing speaker, who combines insights into changes needed in education with a wonderful sense of humor. I love laughing while learning!

If you are looking for YouTube examples of satire to include in a Media and Information Literacy unit, Glen shared a few: Blockbuster Offers Glimpse Of Movie Renting Past and New Sony Nose Buds Allow Users to Blast Different Smells into Nostrils.

Right off the bat, Glen had us thinking about the difference between telling student to “Go search that vs. Go research that!” His model for ramping up students’ research skills is A E I O U (see graphic below):

AEIOU graphic from Glen Warren.

Luckily for Summit attendees, in the afternoon, Glen stepped on the stage for a second presentation: Curious Skeptics Formulating Questions.

Image in Public Domain – From Wikimedia Commons

I couldn’t find the same shopping cart image Glen used to symbolize “shopping hungry,” which I know (all too well) is never a good idea. But sending students out on the Internet without a list of questions is an equally bad idea. By jump starting the search/research process with an initial list of questions, students start with an intent. I love some of these well-known phrases Glen had us rethinking:

  • Claim, Evidence, Reasoning – it’s the mantra. But how about we start with some good reasoning.  Response to Intervention (high brow) – change to Response to Inspiration.
  • Essential Question > Essential Student Questions
  • Begin with the end mind > Begin with the endless in mind

In short, “we are killing students’ capacity to ask questions.” This issue is not limited to K-12, as illustrated in the video Glen showed of Stanford students sharing why they don’t like to ask questions. (If I can find this video, I’ll come back and include it in this post.) 

We also looked at the UC Davis research on how curiosity helps learning and memory.

We need to start teaching and encouraging students to ask questions, a skill that is included across the Common Core Standards (i.e, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.K.3), NGSS (Asking questions and defining problems in K–2 builds on prior experiences and progresses to simple descriptive questions,
Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.), the Model School Library Standards for California Public Schools, and the California English Language Arts Framework  (Students should have many opportunities to
creatively respond to texts, produce texts, develop and deliver presentations, and engage in research
to explore their own questions.)

In a nutshell, at every grade level, students need to be asking questions – and we need to be teaching them how to hone this critical literacy skill. Glen referenced the book Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, published by the Right Question Institute (R?I) The R?I team has developed a method called the Question Formulation Technique (QTF). QTF steps include:

  1. Establish a question focus
  2. Brainstorm 20 questions
  3. Identify closed-ended or open-ended questions
  4. Prioritize your list

Bottom line: “If students are allowed to develop their own questions, they are more likely to be engaged in finding the answers.” Such a simple, powerful strategy to teaching and learning – and probably my top takeaway from the summit.

California Global Education Project (Subject Matter Project) – Executive Director Emily M. Schell, Ed. D., San Diego State – As a longtime, proud member of the California Writing Project, one of nine Subject Matter Projects across state, I was delighted that Emily Schell would be presenting (in place of Dr. Monica Bulger). She drew the audience in from the start by sharing a story of her own son’s learning and career journey, and then presented a compelling case for the need to promote media and information literacy as a pathway to “global competence.”

Emily Schell #MAILS2018 Keynote. Image from @christhejourno

Emily reminded us of the important work done by:

Emily’s work with the California Global Education Project (formerly known as the California International Studies Program) builds on the work I am currently doing with digital citizenship initiatives. I am excited to connect with the CGEP group and learn more about their global citizenship projects.

Panel Discussions

The summit included three panel presentations, each with different members, with a different set of questions to address. Below is a sampling of questions and responses:

Question: How do we help students work through hyper-partisan media?
Response: From Chris Nichols – NPR created Politifact California as a response. “Trust, but verify” (even when referring to NPR).

Question: How should we be rethinking schools?
Responses: Establish a credential program for administrators that includes information literacy. CHANGE CREDENTIALING PROGRAMS! Teaching thinking should be at the top. Capstone projects should be included at every grade level. Embed research across the curriculum – so no kids miss out.

Question: How does media/info literacy support student engagement and empowerment?
Responses: Media literacy can help bring awareness to a variety of health issues. Kids need to analyze information they’re finding online; they need to be “health literate.” A Health Framework will be released in 2019. Suicide prevention and mental health issues will be included. Check out the Directing Change contest, a venue for kids to create and share Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about critical health topics.

Question: How can we help students understand bias in media?
Response: Tara Woodall – Have students google a current event (e.g., Colin Kaepernick). How is the same event depicted in different headlines? Here’s where connotation comes into play. Writing shouldn’t be a formula. Ethical use of information, such as following citation rules, happens naturally when students can carry it into their own writing. Tip: Team up writing teachers with statistics teachers.

Resource Fair Breakout Sessions

Common Sense

Sue Thotz, Common Sense

It’s always a treat to join Common Sense’s Sue Thotz (Senior Program Manager, Education) at any event. Here’s a link to Sue’s Summit presentation: News and Media Literacy with Common Sense, which is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amazing – and free – resources Common Sense provides for teachers, students, and parents on current topics connected to digital citizenship.

As co-director of my district’s Digital Citizenship program, I deeply appreciate always having Common Sense’s timely, content-rich lessons and resources to share with teachers. And did I mention that both Kathleen Watt (my #DigCit co-director) and I are both Common Sense Certified – as is our district. 🙂

Like Common Sense, KQED also has a long history of providing resources to engage students (aimed at secondary students) in current topics, via KQED Learn, such as those listed below:

  • Go Above the Noise – Students watch a video and read an accompanying article. A great example is ”Free Speech” vs. “Hate Speech”
  • Deeper Dive (from Go Above the Noise) – Explore and then reflect. Students are able to share with other students within the KQED community. 

Copyright & Creativity for Ethical Digital Citizens
Although they were not included in the schedule, two representatives from (AKA iKeepSafe) were in the audience and available during the breakout sessions, with a handout that provides a justification for teaching copyright: “In short, because students today are creators and publishers – so they need to understand the basic ground rules around creative work.” Check out the website for an excellent set of lessons, starting with kindergarten through high school, including a set of videos for secondary students.

Information Literacy ToolkitSummit coordinator Jennifer Howerter took the stage again to share CDE’s newly released Media & Info Lit Toolkit: Collaborate in Common, “a free online toolkit filled with resources and current research that teachers, administrators, and parents can use to help support their efforts to advance media and information literacy and the implementation of California’s standards and frameworks.” I definitely plan to spend some time exploring this site and adding to the content.

What’s Next? Media Literacy in our Nation and the World – Tessa Jolls – The closing keynote speaker was Tessa Jolls (President, Center for Media Literacy). Tessa summarized beautifully both the importance of media literacy and the message I will integrate into future workshops:

Media literacy – It’s not a new subject to teach – but a new way to teach all subjects. It is a call to action!”

I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to attend the California Department of Education’s first Media and Information Literacy Summit. I appreciate CDE’s recognition that, increasingly, media and information literacy are critical skills in an age of misinformation. In reflecting on the expertise and energy of the speakers and panelists, the introduction to the Model School Library Standards, and the “Curious Septic” theme, start to finish, the Summit was well worth the $20 registration fee (which even included a box lunch). I am already looking forward to attending the 2019 Media and Information Literacy Summit.

Hope to see you there!

May 7, 2018
by blogwalker

Shoutout to PBS for “Secret War” Documentaries and More

My school district is in south Sacramento, an area that includes the hidden neighborhood of Florin. By “hidden” I mean it’s wedged between the two booming cities of Sacramento and Elk Grove, yet little, if any, construction or restoration is happening in Florin. Vacancy rates are high, with many buildings in disrepair and no longer habitable. Florin does not even have a post office or its own zip code. But hidden neighborhoods have hidden histories and stories.

442 soldier visits his mother at Florin farm.

Before World War II, Florin was known as the “strawberry capital of the West Coast” and was home to a small community of Japanese Americans, who farmed the strawberry fields, often two generations, or even three, working the fields together: Issei, Nisei, and Sansei. In the weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, all persons of Japanese heritage were removed from the West Coast, virtually changing overnight and forever the history of Florin. Few would return to reclaim their farms or businesses.

Florin businesses for sale. Photo from UC Berkeley Calisphere

Thanks to the support of Bob Fletcher, a Caucasian neighbor/upstander who looked after their farm and paid their property taxes, Al and Mary Tsukamoto and their young daughter Marielle returned to their Florin farm.

Over the past 15 years, through my friendship with Marielle, I have had the privilege of learning about the internment years and their impact on the Florin community. With the reality that each year there are fewer WWII survivors left to tell their stories – and with the support of my district and the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC), we began the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project (TOR). The 16-minute video below will introduce you to a number of our interviewees (including Marielle), provide you with a quick tour of Manzanar, and remind you what can happen when a nation fails to uphold the Constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens.

Today the strawberry farms of the Florin-Elk Grove region are farmed primarily by Hmong and Mien families, refugees from a hidden chapter of the Vietnam War: the Secret War in Laos. During the Vietnam War and amid fears that Communism was spreading from North Vietnam into Laos, the United States sent the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) into Laos to disrupt the spread. Over 40,000 Hmong and Mien were covertly recruited to fight in the Secret War. It was the largest CIA operation ever undertaken. Hundreds of thousands of Laotian civilians were killed in the fighting or in retaliation for their support of American troops.

Strawberry fields of Florin now farmed by Hmong and Mien refugees.

As typically happens with refugee or immigrant families, the parents may arrive not speaking English. The children often put much energy into assimilating into their new homeland and communities – and consciously separating themselves from their native language and culture. Once again, hidden histories from Florin-Elk Grove neighborhoods, those not included in history books, could disappear if we do not document them.

Thanks again to the support of my district and our partnership with SECC, Kathleen Watt (TOR co-director) and I have produced a short documentary to introduce you to our newest Time of Remembrance section: The Vietnam War.

In addition to preserving the hidden histories of the Florin-Elk Grove region, we also want to build an archive of primary source documents and accompanying curriculum that teachers can bring into their classrooms. Even if adopted textbooks do not include or reference the Secret War in Laos, or include stories from the Hmong and Mien cultures, teachers can address that void by using the growing TOR resources. For a second grade unit on folk tales, for instance, teachers can introduce our Forbidden Treasure hyperdoc lesson, which features a folktale from local author See Lor and even includes a snippet of See reading her favorite passage.

We are currently seeking more Secret War resources for secondary grades. Kathleen and I looked forward with much anticipation to the recent airing of Ken Burns 10-part documentary on the Vietnam War. We wondered if he would be including a section on the Secret War. He did not.

But we have some exciting news: Adding to their long, long list of outstanding documentaries, PBS has added two recent documentaries: The Hmong and the Secret War and America’s Secret War: Minnesota Remembers Vietnam.

We were thrilled to see independent researcher and historian Tua Vang (whom we have interviewed for TOR) and author Gail Morrison (whom we met during her CSU Sacramento presentation) both featured in The Hmong and the Secret War documentary. We are also thrilled to have two more powerful resources to add to our Vietnam War section.

A shoutout to PBS for continuing to delve into tough topics and to create invaluable classroom resources that make hidden or undertold chapters in history accessible to teachers and students. Last month I blogged about the amazing PBS series directed by Anne Curry: We’ll Meet Again,  which featured Reiko Nagumo’s painful memories of her family’s removal from their home – and Mary Frances, the childhood friend who crossed the playground to stand up for her. Next month, as part of the Crossing Lines Seminar, in addition to the above-mentioned documentaries, I will also be sharing/showcasing PBS’s: Defying the Nazis: Sharps’ War, Violins of Hope: Strings of the Holocaust, Children of the Camps, The War at Home, and Ghosts of Rwanda.

I cannot think of a more valuable resource for helping all of us, young and old, understand the causes and impact, whether hidden or front page news, of major world and national events. With almost 50 years of bringing high-quality programs into our homes, PBS – and my local KVIE – are treasures. #ILovePBS #ILoveKVIE

April 30, 2018
by blogwalker

Making Empathy and Support Visible for All Students – A Shoutout to Sac City USD

Attending Sacramento City USD’s No Time to Lose – A Professional Conference to Activate Change for LGBTQ Youth was a wonderful way to end the work week. This was my second time to participate in this annual event, so I already knew the conference experience would remain in my thoughts over the weekend – and for a long time to come.

Superintendent Jorge Aguilar set the tone for the conference with his opening comments. After referencing the district’s commitment to strive for “equity, access, and social justice,” he stated:

“When you treat data with utter respect – as representing a child or family – data can take us into a humane body of work.”

In a time when test scores remain a mandated focus for public schools, it was inspiring, instead, to hear a superintendent raising awareness over the staggering bullying statistics that LGBTQ youth deal with, as shown in this recent infographic from GLSEN:

Infographic fro GLSEN on bullying stats LBGTQ youth deal with.

The power of the No Time to Lose Conference starts from the moment you pull into Sac City USD’s parking lot, where you see not only the Serna Center (district office) but also a second building, the Connect Center:

“The SCUSD Connect Center is a centralized Student Support Center that serves as a “gateway” to critical support services for students and families in our school district.  It offers an innovative solution to addressing the health, wellness and educational needs of SCUSD’s children, youth and families. This central hub is designed to increase coordination of services by providing a single, easily identifiable point of access and assistance to address the social, emotional, and health needs of all students.”

A shoutout to SCUSD for making it so easy for students and parents to find a wide range of much-needed family services. In addition to the Connect Center, SCUSD also supports the work of the Gender Health Center, a short drive from the district office. The Gender Health Center “is a non-profit organization meeting the counseling needs of the WHOLE community in Sacramento and the surrounding areas by making our services accessible to the most under-served communities, including the LGBTQQI community and focusing on the “T” or transgender.”

Throughout the conference, speakers from within and outside of SCUSD drew attention to the needs of our LGBTQ students and invited input from the audience. For example, Sacramento psychiatrist Dr. Swati Rao referenced the GLSEN infographic (above), drawing our attention to the fact that the majority of LGBTQ students feel that “schools are unsafe and unwelcoming.” She also shared that, thankfully, verbal harassment of LGBTQ youth is on the decline, due in large part to GSA clubs, supportive teachers, anti-bullying programs, and the integration of LGBTQ stories into the curriculum (per California Senate Bill 48).

Every speaker deepened my awareness of the need for students, teachers, and community members to understand the importance of being an “ally.”

“An ally is an individual who speaks out and stands up for a person or group that is targeted and discriminated against. An ally works to end oppression by supporting and advocating for people who are stigmatized, discriminated against or treated unfairly.” GLSEN Safe Spaces Kit – Guide to Being an Ally to LGBTQ Students

Just like my first No Time to Lose conference, the student speakers and and student panel were the absolute highlight of this year’s event. If you were not in attendance, one of the resources shared, the short video below, will provide a window into the world of daily challenges faced by transgender youth:

I look forward to continuing the conversations started with district colleagues who shared the No Time to Lose day with me – and becoming more actively involved in a variety of support efforts and events sponsored by my district, such as the recent LGBTQ Staff Awareness Training, which sparked conversations across school sites and departments.


Skip to toolbar