Just returned from the 2013 CUE Conference, a 3-day event jam-packed with educators initiating conversations and sharing resources and best practices on innovative, effective technology integration.  This year the Common Core State Standards were at the core of the conference.

Here are a few of my take-aways from Thursday, Day 1:

Session 1 - Collaboration Around the Common Core Using Brokers of Expertise – Eddy Avelar walked us through the layout and resources of the California K12 High Speed Network’s (K12 HSN) Brokers of Expertise site. I’m looking forward to connecting with and learning from the California CCSS group.

Session 2Digital Tools for the ELA Common Core - Jonathan Brubaker has posted his session slides on sqworl.com, a new tool for me. Not only can you view his slides, but each tool he introduced for building students’ academic vocabulary is shown on his sqworl site.  I really like Big Picture, which features photos from flickr.com, and “ lets you view and share photos in the style of The Big Picture, Boston.com’s excellent photo blog.”

Jonathan reminded participants that “text complexity” cannot be based on lexile alone. The Grapes of Wrath, for instance, has a 4th grade “quantitative level” but the “qualitative level” is much higher. One comment really resonated with me: “Text complexity should be a conversation  - don’t use it as an excuse for Readicide. Reading has to be the point – not lexile” (e.g., AR).  He ended the session with a huge shout out to Touchstones Discussion Project guides for building critical thinking and powerful classroom discussions.

Session 3 – Making your (Google) Voice Heard – If you still haven’t created a Google Account,  Brandon Wislocki’s session would convince you to drop everything and set one up so you can start using Google’s free Voice program and app. A big advantage for teachers is being able to use Google Voice as an alternate number for students and parents to call.  But there are so many more possibilities! The fact that the messages are saved as embeddable mp3′s and are translated into text is just a starting point. Think of the possibilities for extending learning beyond the school day, especially for your ELs!

Session 4 - Online Writing that Meets the Common Core – Jason Saliskar started his session by laying out via grade levels what CCSS Anchor Standard 6 for Writing looks like by grade level. I love that it’s all there on his presentation link! A favorite take-away from Jason’s session is that in teaching writing in the Common Core era,  ”writing short is going to matter as much as writing long” (from Pam Allyn). Loved the videos Jason included, such as a Teaching Channel look at poetry, technology, and CCSS from an elementary language arts teacher and the 3-minute video embedded below on Explaining the Common Core State Standards:

Keynote Session – Ending Day 1 with Catlin Tucker’s inspiring keynote was a perfect close. Her session was recorded, so as soon as I have that link I’ll add it to this post. In the meantime, I encourage you to subscribe to Catlin’s blog and to follow her on Twitter (@CTuckerEnglish). In stating that “Technology can’t be an add-on – it has to replace and extend what we already do,” Catlin presents compelling ways to take powerful fiction, such as To Kill and Mockingbird and connect it real world issues, such as the death penalty. For high school English teachers who fear that CCSS means letting go of the classics, you definitely want to connect with Catlin Tucker. She takes 9th grade English, technology, and the Common Core to new levels.

I’ll be back soon with some CUE Day 2 take-aways.

Wayne Maeda

I will remember for a long time to come the beautiful memorial service, reception, and solidarity of the diverse community who gathered Friday at the Sacramento Buddhist Temple to honor the memory of Wayne Maeda. He leaves a huge legacy.

You can learn more about Wayne’s commitment to teaching for tolerance by reading his book Changing Dreams and Treasured Memories: A Story of Japanese Americans in the Sacramento Region.  Sac  State’s Asian American and Ethnic Studies program and department is a result of Wayne’s vision and passion for combating hate crimes and other social injustices.

I called on Wayne many times in the last eight years to meet with teachers in my district to provide the historical context needed to help build our Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. He never once said no to my continual guest speaker requests.

Two years ago, I traveled with a group of Sacramento teachers and students to the legendary World War II internment camp Manzanar. I will never forget this experience. The trip was paid for through a California Civil Liberties Public Education Grant – written by Wayne.  Wayne also invited my friend and talented videographer Doug Niva to accompany us. The result was the I’m American Too documentary. I know that all who have watched the documentary and who knew Wayne, myself included, will consider the documentary a tribute to Wayne’s dedication to “never letting the mistakes of American history be repeated.”

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Albert Einstein

In my workshops with teachers, I illustrate Einstein’s quote with the Bully Bystander PSA and Margaret Mead’s with the Price of Silence PSA. Both videos show that, despite the gnawing, gripping, disheartening feeling that any form of bullying is really not OK, it takes the tremendous courage of a single individual to be the first one to cross the line from bystander to upstander. These are the stories we need to celebrate and share!

As a co-curator of the Digital ID project, I invite you and your students to step up to a global microphone and share, via VoiceThread, what it means to be an upstander, not a bystander.

On Wednesday, I will head over to an elementary site in my district to give a one-hour session on Project-Based Learning (PBL). I am thrilled for the invitation and the opportunity to initiate conversations on how technology can support teachers in taking student learning to new levels.

Within a 60-minute limit, my goal is to make clear that Common Core Standards are “the what” and PBL is ”the how,” with technology there to help fuel the scope and impact of authentic learning.

Image from Ginger Lewman, ESSDACK, 2012

Thanks to the outstanding PBL resources available online, I did not have to start from scratch to build my presentation. Between Edutopia’s dynamic PBL resources, with Suzie Boss leading the way; the Buck Institute for Education’s PBL site; and Ginger Lewman’s PBL in the Primary Classroom LiveBinder and her Life Practice blog site – where I found her wonderful “At the Intersection” illustration  - gathering links to share with the teachers was like hitting the jackpot every time I Googled PBL.

My slideshow presentation walks teachers through the definition and some sample best practices, gleaned mainly from Edutopia. My goal for the remainder of the school year is to replace Edutopia best practices with PBL samples from my district.

I’ve included my notes in the slideshow – again crediting Suzie Boss, Ginger Lewman and BIE for much of my narrative.

If you have resources, samples, or activity ideas (appropriate for a 60-minute workshop), I hope you will jump into the conversation and leave a comment.

The Google Cultural Institute is a dynamic set of stunningly beautiful collections. The purpose of the Cultural Institute is to help preserve and promote culture online. Google has created this site

to provide a visually rich and interactive online experience for telling cultural stories in new ways. Discover exhibits by expert curators, find artifacts, view photographs, read original manuscripts, watch videos, and more.”

My introduction was through the Art Project. I’m sorry I didn’t make note of the Google curator who led us through the Google Hangout tour of beautiful works of art from museums around the world. I think I was too swept away by the possibilities of virtual museum tours for students.

The Art Project is just one component of the Cultural Institute. How about having at your fingertips the opportunity to  view a selection of books Nelson Mandela received both in prison and during his political career, including the inscriptions supporters wrote on the inside pages of the books. Or how about a visit to Anne Frank, her life, her diary, her legacy? Or the Fall of the Berlin Wall, revelation not revolution?

Thank you, Google, for your commitment to “building tools that make it simple to tell the stories of our diverse cultural heritage and make them accessible worldwide.”

This post is a part of a continuing set of reflections on my favorite take-aways from my whirlwind two days at the December Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View.

Following Jennie Magiera’s introduction during the opening round of “Demo Slams” to the Chrome extension Webpage Screenshot, Mark Hammons stepped up to the mic and walked us through the steps of using Google’s Advanced News Search feature to locate amazing primary sources available through the News Archives, such as newspaper clippings from the 1860′s that reference Abraham Lincoln.  You will definitely want to share Mark’s video (below) with your history/social studies teachers.  A perfect exercise for meeting CCSS requirements to provide students with access to primary source documents! Thanks, Mark!

Oh, but wait…..there’s more to share on how to search the News Archives.  Dan Russell, Google’s Search King, just created Google News Archive …fast (see video below), with the invitation to share out with other teachers. Thanks, Dan, for a perfect clip to add to Mark’s. Google and Google leaders are simply amazing!

Filed Under (Google) by on January 2, 2013 and tagged , ,

I knew when I headed to Mountain View for my two days at the December Google Teacher Academy (GTA) that I would be in a continual state of amazement and that the two days would move at the speed of light. Four weeks later, with the distraction of the holidays over, I’m revisiting my notes and ready to start sharing my favorite GTA take-aways, one gem at a time.

Gem #1: Webpage Screenshot - Jennie Magiera, my fabulous team leader (of the fabulous Team Heinlein) jumped right into the opening round of “Demo Slams” with an introduction to the Chrome extension Webpage Screenshot. Richard Byrne (Free Technology for Teachers) has created a great video that explains the cool features of this free tool, including the option to capture an entire page, not just what’s showing on your screen.

I love the ability to edit the text in the screen capture (even though your edits do not impact the original web page).  What a great option for challenging students to question information or to kick-start a lively faculty meeting! Capturing a front page item from our local Sacramento Bee, for instance, and giving myself credit for the upcoming New Year’s fireworks celebration took less than a minute to capture, edit, and save.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a Google Search gem.


The annual Edublog Awards are a great event for discovering new resources for digital age teaching and learning.  This year’s event was a standout for me for three reasons:

#1. #UnfollowBullying won for the Best Twitter Hashtag. Very exciting to watch a student-initiated, student-led campaign move from vision to reality! (Yes, the students are from my school district:-).

#2. The Digital ID project was voted a finalist for Best Educational Wiki.

#3. Jaden’s Awesome Blog won for Best Student Blog. Fifth grader Jaden got his start as a blogger while in Linda Yollis’s 3rd grade.  Jaden’s blogging skills reflect the reading/writing possibilities that can happen when an outstanding teacher blogger models that students earn their right to their own blog by demonstrating 21st century citizenship and literacy skills through Linda’s classroom blog. Jaden also won the Most Influential Blog Post category for his Ten Things I’ve Learned about Blogging post. I love that Jaden attended the virtual awards ceremony prepared with an acceptance speech! Just wish that Ms. Yollis and her students would switch to Edublogs, as my district, like many, blocks Blogger:-(.

Congratulations to all the nominees, finalists, and winners!


As much as I look forward to opportunities to showcasing good teachers and good teaching, this year’s Eddies deadline kind of crept up on me. I am therefore not nominating in every category, just the ones where a nominee jumps right out at me.


  • Best individual blog – dComposing – Paul Oh continues to provide thoughtful reflections on education trends and resources
  • Best group blog – Youth Voices – supported by the National Writing Project, a great online community for students to connect with and write with other students on shared interests and passions.
  • Best class blog – Mr. Bentley’s Class Blog – a great resource for teachers hoping to weave movie making into the core curriculum.
  • Best ed tech / resource sharing blog – Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog is a treasure.
  • Best teacher blog – Kevin’s Meandering Mind – For more than a few year’s, Kevin Hodgson continues to be a key contributor to my online PLN.
  • Best library / librarian blog – Sheldon High School Library blog
  • Best individual tweeter – For the 3rd year, I nominate Jackie Gerstein – https://twitter.com/jackiegerstein – every tweet is a valuable resource, tip, or insight.
  • Best twitter hashtag – #UnfollowBullying
  • Best free web tool – Twitter (90% of my PLN)
  • Best educational use of a social network – Teachers Teaching Teachers – I try to logon to this Wednesday night event as often as possible – and always end the hour rethinking best practices.
  • Lifetime achievement – Paul Allison – Year after year, he is the guiding light behind the Teachers Teaching Teachers community.


T-shirt signing at Florin HS

If you are planning to submit nominations for the 2012 Edublogs Awards, I hope you will consider #UnfollowBullying as a candidate for the Best Twitter Hashtag category. #UnfollowBullying, a student-created, student driven initiative, is “in recognition that students are the ones who will lead the charge in their online communities to ensure that all students are treated with respect and kindness.” Past winners in the Best Twitter Hashtag category have (simply) created a stand alone hashtag. One of the many distinguishing features of #UnfollowBullying is that the hashtag comes with a dynamic online student toolkit to help students everywhere stand up, speak out and be the change.

Wall signing at Ed Harris MS

Almost a year ago, NWP colleague Natalie Bernasconi and I began creating and co-curating the Digital ID wiki. Initially a collaborative project for gathering digital citizenship resources and best practices, the project has evolved into a platform and global microphone for student-created content.

This week, we will begin showcasing student content from #UnfollowBullying. Yes, this student-led campaign is from my school district, and in my role as a tech integration specialist, I am supporting the project. But the evolution of this project has been dynamically student-driven and is resulting in some amazing samples of students addressing and crafting the topic of cyberbullying in ways that challenge issues at their own school sites. From T-shirt signing events, to wall signing events, to newscasts, the students are broadcasting across the district and beyond a call to action.

 Note: Be sure to listen to the entire newscast to learn about the many ways Toby Johnson Middle School students are challenging cyberbullying.

What Natalie and I have witnessed over and over through our respective teaching assignments (Natalie, middle school ELA/AVID teacher; Gail, K-12 tech integration specialist) is that, although teachers play a pivotal role in initiating the shared conversations on the ethical use of the Internet and social media, it is students who must lead the charge in confronting cyberbullying.

What makes the #UnfollowBullying campaign so likely to have an impact on how students regard both their rights and  their responsibilities as (digital) citizens is that all sites across my district will be rolling out a digital citizenship curriculum (mainly from Common Sense Media), ensuring that, with teachers joining in, a week-long campaign can continue on throughout the school year, woven in multiple ways into advisory periods, computer lab classes, and, most exciting, into the core curriculum.

As National Writing Project Teacher Consultants, Natalie and I have a deep respect for the model of teachers teaching teachers. In our daily work with students, however, we stand back in awe at the power of students teaching students. It is truly the full circle of digital citizenship.

We hope you will join us in nominating #UnfollowBullying for a 2012 Edublogs Award!

P.S.  For more information about the Digital ID project and ideas on weaving digital citizenship into the curriculum, please visit our 2012 K12Online Conference presentation.