Muddling through the blogosphere

January 12, 2014
by blogwalker

EdCamp Sacramento

Saturday marked the first time an EdCamp has taken place in Sacramento. It was also my first time to attend one – and now I’m eager for more EdCamp experiences. If you’ve every attended an Unconference (e.g., Steve Hargadon style), then you know the format: attendees gather at the beginning, suggest sessions – which are shared conversations, not formal presentations, and then delve into day, with the understanding that if a session doesn’t fit your needs, you’re encouraged to switch to another (“law of two feet”).

Oh, and EdCamps are FREE.

As simple as it seems to host one (e.g.,no need to send out call for proposals in advance or print programs), I’m pretty sure the EdCam Sac organizers Colin O’Connor, Peter Strawn, Trisha Sanchez, Cynthia Cost, and Danielle Lemke did some heavy lifting beforehand to make sure the day ran smoothly.  Wireless worked, sites were not blocked, coffee and donuts were abundant. Bravo, Team EdCampSac!

I loved the opportunity to connect – and reconnect – with teachers within and outside of my district.

Kristen Swanson, a co-founder of the original EdCamp – and  also an attendee at #edcampsac, offers a more in-depth look at the rationale and power of EdCamps in her recent Edutopia article Why EdCamp. Judging from the group discussion at the close of yesterday’s #edcampsac, I think all who attended would agree that with Kristen’s summary:

The Edcamp model provides educators with a sustainable model for learning, growing, connecting and sharing. Everyone’s expertise is honored, and specific, concrete strategies are exchanged. When professional development is created “for teachers by teachers,” everyone wins.”

December 1, 2013
by blogwalker

My 2013 Edublog Award Nominations #eddies13

Thank you, Edublogs, for sponsoring the annual Edublog Awards event. Every year, I look forward to discovering new ideas and resources, learning from innovative educators, and the opportunity to give a shout out to those who have inspired me in the past year.


 My 2013 Edublog Awards Nominations:

  • Best Individual BlogKevin’s Meandering Mind – This is not the first time I have nominated Kevin Hodgson’s blog for an eddie, but this year, I’ve moved his nomination from Best Teacher Blog to this first category. Kevin’s love for teaching, music, poetry, comic creations, collaboration, reflection and more continue to inspire and recharge my thinking about what it means to be a connected educator.
  • Best Class BlogMr. Bentley’s 5th/6th Grade Loop – Last summer, Edutopia’s Suzie Boss asked me if I had a recommendation for a teacher in my district who immerses students in Project-Base Learning (PBL). Suzie now joins me in recognizing the amazing teaching and learning that happens in Jim Bentley’s classroom. If you can’t visit his classroom in real time,  Jim’s classroom blog will provide a window into his teaching. Be sure to check the resources he and his students have created for producing award-winning documentaries and PSAs.
  • Best Group BlogYouth Voices – An annual invitation to  “youth of all ages to voice their thoughts about their passions, to explain things they understand well, to wonder about things they have just begun to understand, and to share discussion posts with other young people using as many different genres and media as they can imagine!
  • Best Ed Tech / Resource Sharing Blog – Free Technology for Teachers – Richard Byrne’s blog is a treasure. So many great technology tools clearly explained and demonstrated.
  • Best Teacher BlogAlice in WonderTech – A year ago this week, I traveled to Mountain View (California) to attend the Google Teacher Academy, where I met amazing teachers from across the nation and world – including Alice Chen, a middle school ELA teacher. Alice is a fearless explorer of new technologies and a sought after trainer in her district, region, and state. Her blog posts are a reminder that even if we stumble a bit in adopting new ideas and tools, we are still moving forward.
  • Most Influential Blog Post of the YearUsing Writing to Combat Bullying and Cliques – OK, I’m not sure if an article posted to Education Week counts as a blog post, but in the month since reading David Rockower’s powerful article, I’ve passed it on to both colleagues and administrators (and even adapted a Google Doc version to center on cyberbullying).
  • Best individual Tweeter@LarryFerlazzo – I really appreciate the constant flow of outstanding resources and articles Larry shares through Twitter.
  • Best Twitter Hashtag – #upstanders – Margaret Mead’s words from the past sum up the power of this timely/timeless hashtag: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
  • Best free web tool - Mozilla’s PopcornMaker – What a great tool for introducing students to the art and power of remix.
  • Best Open PD /Webinar Series - Common Sense Media’s webinars (which include participation certificates) are a wonderful new resource and free online PD option for teachers to learn more about what it means to be a digital citizen.
  • Lifetime AchievementMike Ribble – With much appreciation for all that Mike has done to ignite conversations and communities around issues of digital citizenship.

Note to self: Next year do NOT wait till the last day to post nominations!

November 29, 2013
by blogwalker

GoldieBlox vs. Beatie Boys – A digital citizenship lesson in the making

If you (like me) believe that implementation of effective digital citizenship plans at school sites should include opportunities for students to put digital citizenship lessons into practice, then I bet you will share my interest in a recent lawsuit filed by the Beastie Boys against the California company GoldieBlox over the now viral Rube Goldberg style “Princess Machine” video.

I really like Eriq Gardner’s post Beastie Boys, ‘Girls’ Viral Video in Copyright Infringement Fight because he includes the four factors a judge would use in evaluating a case for fair use:

Is that “fair use”? To answer the question, a judge will be looking at the four factors of fair use: the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion taken and the effect of the use upon the potential market.”

I would love to hear from teachers who plan to share the article and case with their students as a shared read, or, better yet, as an invitation to discuss, debate and follow the case. To add to the messiness of the case, I recommend adding Sylvia Martinez’s post Need an Inspirational Video? How about one of kids making not selling? for raising some thought-provoking questions about the video.

As school sites in my district head into the second year of implementing  digital citizenship curriculum (to meet CIPA e-rate requirements and, more importantly, to ensure that students are “community ready” as well as “college and career ready”), many teachers have shared with me that while they are comfortable initiating conversations and lessons on cyberbullying, digital footprints, and online privacy, they do not feel prepared to move beyond teaching about plagiarism to addressing copyright and fair use. I think the GoldiBlox vs. Beastie Boys case may change their reluctance as they – and their students – follow the case and come to understand that fair use is an argument – on a case-by-case basis.

Thank you to the ever-inspiring Jim Bentley for tweeting me the link to the GoldBlox article. I bet Jim’s 5th grade filmmakers will also be following the case!


November 9, 2013
by blogwalker

A Shoutout to Kentucky, Fearless Explorers of the Common Core

I kicked off the 3-day weekend (Thank you, Veterans!) with a cup of coffee and the September 30 edition of Time Magazine. It was the cover story on Google that prompted me to purchase a copy, but while flipping backwards through the pages, I found Amanda Ripley’s article The New Smart Set – What happens when millions of kids are asked to master fewer things more deeply?

Between background on how the Common Core Standards were created (Sorry, Tea Party goers, but “the federal government had nothing to do with their creation; sorry, “leftist critics,” but the CCSS were “developed by teachers and researchers at the behest of a bipartisan group of governors and state education leaders,” not by “corporate reforms.”) and Kentucky’s pioneering process and results, I highly recommend this article for educators, parents, and politicians.

From my 20+ years as an educator, I’m a firm believer that any new program needs 3 years of implementation before its value can truly be assessed and judged. Such is the case with Kentucky’s roll out of the Common Core. Year 1 (2010) was met with a normal amount of concern, fear, and frustration over standards that were intended to take students deeper into English Language Arts and Math than previous state standards. As they headed into the first round of testing synced to the Common Core, state officials communicated to parents, teachers, and students that “if you raise the bar, fewer will reach it – at least for a while.” Teachers had flyers to share with parents and PTAs provided briefings. Clearly, the communication piece was seen as central to the shift to Common Core.

And the results … drum roll please … In Year 2, the second year of testing, “Student scores rose 2 percentage points, with the portion of college and career-ready students up 20 percent to 54 percent since 2010. The graduation rate has increased to 86 percent from 80 percent in 2010 since the adoption of the standards” (from the Council of Chief State School Officials). The  overall rise in test scores from Year 1 to Year 2 might seem small, but thanks to a little mentoring from University of California at Davis professor and researcher Carl Whithaus, I know that a 2% statewide gain is significant.

As my school district heads into CCSS field testing, with a bit of apprehension over the technology integration (both for the infrastructure and the devices students will use for the testing), I know I will continue to check back to Kentucky’s Department of Education site to keep up with their Friday Fast Five.

Thank you, Kentucky, for being the first to dive into the Common Core challenge and for sharing your lessons learned.

October 21, 2013
by blogwalker

Benefits of Being a Connected Educator: CCSS Resources

I am a connected educator. Through dynamic networks such as Twitter, the National Writing Project, MERIT, and Google Certified Teachers, I can start every day with amazing new resources and thought-provoking, shared conversations on educational topics – such as the Common Core State Standards. Below are a few of my favorite CCSS-related links that have come my way over the past year:

    • Common Core and Ed Tech blog – In less than a year since going live with this blog, middle school teachers (and MERIT 2011 colleagues) Gene Tognetti and Karen Larson have had over 30,000 visitors to their site. It’s the inviting conversational tone and innovative mix of technology and CCSS that makes this blog such a valuable resource. I thought, for instance, that I was pretty familiar with the resources posted to the Buck Institute’s Project-Based Learning pages until I read Gene’s post Three easy to understand presentation rubrics from Because I’m fortunate to know both Gene and Karen personally, I know the CCEdTech blog will continue to be a resource that connected educators can contribute to and learn from.
    • Buck Institute of Education’s Rubrics – The BIE’s CCSS-aligned rubrics, such as the Presentation Rubric for PBL, help teachers guide students in making effective presentations in a PBL project and assess their performance. To keep up with all-things PBL, I recommend connecting with Suzie Boss via Twitter (@suzieboss) and  through @edutopia.
    • Teaching Channel –  With 117 videos to date focused on making the CCSS understandable to viewers by filming real teachers with real students, the Teaching Channel is an invaluable just-in-time resource. I welcome the regular email  updates from Sara Brown Wessling‘s listserv letting me know when new videos are available, such as the examples below that provide insights on different approaches to teaching “close reading.” A great teachers-teaching-teachers model!

It’s hard to imagine fully embracing/questioning/teaching the Common Core without my daily dose of connected educators’  mentoring and inspiration via a variety of social networks. My goal for the new school year is to share a monthly post with more CCSS resources. Please jump into the conversation if you have favorite CCSS resources and/or strategies to share.

October 14, 2013
by blogwalker

A Week for Honoring “Upstanders”

Last week started with my fingers crossed that Malala Yousafzai would win the Nobel Peace Prize.  Even though she did not, her story and her words have had a huge impact, almost rendering Jon Stewart speechless:

Malala is a tough act to follow when gathering stories of those individuals who have chosen to cross the line from bystander to upstander and, in the process, change the history of the world, or at least a corner or two of the world. But John Riordon’s untold story – until last night’s 60 Minutes feature on Daring Rescue Days before the Fall of Saigon  – definitely qualifies as an upstander’s story.

As we head towards National Digital Citizenship Week, if you and/or your students have stories to share about upstanders, from the past or present, I hope you will join the on-going conversation on the Upstanders, Not Bystanders VoiceThread. The VoiceThread includes separate slides for elementary, middle, and high school students, plus adults (1st slide), but everyone is welcome to respond to others’ comments across grade levels and generations. The current stories (“thread”) range from heroes on the playground to historic and global upstanders – with room for more!

October 11, 2013
by blogwalker

Connected Educator’s Month – Off to a great start!

October 21–25, 2013

A huge shoutout to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Education Technology for once again (2nd year) sponsoring October’s  Connected Educator Month (CEM) and to Mike Ribble, Jason Ohler, Common Sense Media, and Cable in the Classroom for their combined efforts to declare the week of October 19 -26 as National Digital Citizenship Week. So many great opportunities to promote digital/global citizenship skills!

Students speak out through #UnfollowBullying

And if last week is any indication, CEM will be memorable from start to finish.  On October 1, I had the privilege of co-facilitating a booth for my district at the state capitol for the anti-bullying rally  Stand Up! Speak Out! What a privilege to have the opportunity to boast about the #UnfollowBullying student-created, student-led campaign, which, like CEM, is heading into its second year with students leading the charge.

On Saturday, I headed to UC Davis to join in the California Writing Project’s 40th year celebration. The collective energy, creativity, and passion for sharing past practices in promoting students as (digital, multimedia) writers and showcasing their achievements was infectious. I left with wonderful ideas for powering up the CCSS through primary source documents (e.g., tons of digitized documents from the Library of Congress collections) , great tools for engaging and supporting ELs (e.g., Tellegami with primary students, and even Voki), and great questions to take back to my district regarding the upcoming SBAC tests (California’s choice for CCSS testing). Peter’s Kittle’s Storify account will provide you with some insights into the day’s events – which started with a pitch to participants to tweet the event via Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s #Hashtag video.

Week one of Connected Educator’s Month was a blast. Hmm…I’m thinking every month should be about connecting educators and their students.

September 2, 2013
by blogwalker

Powering Up the Grapes of Wrath Lit Trip


Grapes of Wrath 75th Anniversary

I took my first Google Lit Trip about 6 six years ago. Jerome Burg presented the site and concept in a packed session at the annual CUE Conference. After touring Jerome’s Grapes of Wrath unit, I left the session in complete awe of how Google Earth could transform the teaching of literature in ways not possible without the technology.

Once again, I stand back in awe of a new online option for making a the Grapes of Wrath Lit Trip even more compelling and interactive.  The National Steinbeck Center (NSC) is inviting students, teachers, and the community at large to join in the 75th anniversary celebration of the publication of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath by following the Joad family’s journey – at the height of the Dust Bowl – along America’s Route 66 through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, on their way to  California in hopes of a better life.

Last week, the National Steinbeck Center went live with the Grapes of Wrath blog. From Oct. 4–14, 2013, a team of artists, writers, musicians and others will be interviewing people along the route as part of a collaborative, public exploration of the human experience of struggle and resilience.

How can you bring your students into the journey across Route 66? On the front page of the blog, look for the turtle logo on the

NSC postcard turtle

right hand side. You can download the turtle postcards and instructions. If you would like Elizabeth Welden-Smith, Curator of Education and Public Programs, to send you postcards for your classroom, you can contact her via email ( with your teacher name, school name, address and the number of postcards you would like. Your students can fill these in and either send them back to the NSC, or they can scan them and upload them onto the blog.

Kind of like Google Lit Trips on steriods, no?!


August 17, 2013
by blogwalker

Texting While Driving – This one can’t wait!

I want to give a shoutout to AT&T for sponsoring the Texting & Driving … It Can Wait website and for hiring an award-winning filmmaker to produce the 34-minute PSA It Can Wait.

The PSA focuses on four separate stories of lives, both victims and perpetrators, that were changed in an instant. It’s not easy viewing, but given the alarming statistics of people killed or severely injured each year by drivers who were texting, I strongly recommend it not only to young drivers (the largest percentage involved in texting while driving accidents) but to all those who might be tempted to text while behind the wheel.

In my current job as a technology integration specialist for a K-12 district, I’m part of a team tasked with ensuring that digital citizenship is being taught at all school sites (meeting CIPA E-Rate requirements). Beyond the school day, I co-curate the Digital ID wiki, a collaborative project that provides students with a global microphone for sharing content on four main issues of digital citizenship: cyberbullying awareness and response, building digital footprints, respecting intellectual property, and protecting online privacy.

Twenty-four hours after my first viewing of It Can Wait, I’m still thinking about where this epidemic misuse of social media might fall on the digital citizenship spectrum. But whether texting while driving is addressed within a digital citizenship program or as a stand alone topic – it can’t wait.

The  PSA’s message to put your phone away while driving is so compelling, from start to finish, sharing it with students could have a life-changing and, hopefully, a life-saving impact.

June 30, 2013
by blogwalker

ISTE 2013 Takeaways – Day 3

ISTE 2013 Day 3

Session 1

Tech That! Extending Student’s Digital Environment into the ClassroomRobert Craven and Rushton Hurley were

From Dr. Ruben Puentedura

From Dr. Ruben Puentedura

a dynamic duo. My biggest takeaway was an introduction to Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation,  Modification, Redefinition) model for technology integration, which makes visible the transition from technology as tool for enhancing learning to technology as a tool for transforming learning.

A great tip from Robert: Give your PD workshops at sites, targeted to what teachers at that site need.

A great reminder from Rushton: When students take their work to an authentic audience, they want to know if their work is “good.” When they publish solely for their teachers, they want to know if their work is “good enough.”

A great read: New Media Verizon Report – Tips on how to pull experiences students have outside of class into class.

Session 2

Digital Citizenship: A Crosswalk from Common Core to Core Curriculum- I’m plugging my own session because any opportunity to co-present with my Digital ID co-curator Natalie Bernasconi is always an energizer and a privilege.  Having Common Sense Media’s Kelly Mendoza joining us was  icing on the cake.  And having Mike Ribble in the audience further validated the importance of weaving digital citizenship into the core curriculum.

Session 3

Advanced Searching for Inquiry Meets the Common Core – Project-Based Learning educator Mike Gorman and a IT director Anita Harris teamed for this session.


  • “Search is research.”
  • A Google Advanced Search should be a basic search for students. Brilliant!
  • A few more search tools:
    • – CCSS short research – Nural net of word associations.
    • wikipedia – great starter – take it into a Wordle * great idea for finding key words
    • wolfram alpha – Find, for instance, nutritional value of a burger
    • – Human reviewed search engine for students.  Credible results – great starting point – check out biographies
    • Twurdy (too wordy) – color-coded – down to age 8
    • Google Custom Search  – why not involve students in creating it?
    • think-pair-share – Funny how this time-tested strategy works as well today as in the past – especially in PBL classrooms.
    • Twitter Advanced Search – How did I not know about advanced search feature, which does not require signing into Twitter. Could be a great way to bring more educators on board with the power of Twitter.


Birds of a Feather Session: Digital Citizenship

Good news! Thanks to the vision and commitment of Mike Ribble and Jason Ohler, ISTE may soon be adding a Digital Citizenship SIG (Special Interest Group). I loved being part of this high-energy group discussion. We brainstormed the SIG’s potential goals and projects, which included providing a forum for exchanging best practices, working with teacher prep programs to ensure that teachers are well-prepared for integrating digital citizenship into the curriculum; and creating a digital citizenship massive open online course (MOOC). And we even agreed on the Twitter name: @digcitsig.


Digital citizenship:

  • Can’t be top down, can’t be taught in isolation, and can’t be tested; it should be crowd sourced
  • None of our online programs are evidence-based – we need to empower kids – not scare them. Discussion is key! (not just lessons).
  • In the time of Common Core, we need to provide digital environments to teach digital citizenship; otherwise, it’s like teaching swimming without a pool.