Muddling through the blogosphere

March 11, 2018
by blogwalker

Your Digital Footprint – Lunch with George Couros

K-12 teachers – use four words for every kid every time they write: write, categorize, tag, publish.” George Couros

Last week was my first time to attend the California League of Schools (CLS) Annual Conference – and I’m so glad I did! The highlight of this 3-day conference was joining George Couros’ lunchtime session Your Digital Footprint. Below is the session description:

We all have a digital footprint, as do our schools and organizations. “Googling” ourselves makes this apparent, whether or not we had a say in what shows up about us online. As individuals and as schools, what can we do to actually shape this footprint? With open sharing of our learning, a digital footprint can easily be developed for either an individual, school or organization. This is not about branding as much as it is about modeling for our students that we are learners along with them.”

As a director of my district’s digital citizenship program, I’ve been concerned about our seniors graduating and heading on to career or college pursuits without a digital portfolio. For the past 10 years, Kathleen Watt, my #digcit program co-director, and I have been offering workshops to help teachers support their students in creating and curating K-12 digital portfolios. We recommend blogs as the best venue for students to begin an ongoing process of documenting their learning journeys. So it felt like a pat on the back to hear George make the same recommendation.

There’s a reason @GCouros has 212K followers!

George also pointed out that not only do students need to have portfolios – so do teachers. He then reiterated that the best ePortfolio students and teachers can have is a blog … Oh, wow, why had I never made this personal connection before?!?

A blog is a portfolio.”

This quote was my biggest takeaway from the lunch session and conference.

George’s stance that “teachers need to create portfolios using the same platform they are pushing” was also validating. Years ago, we purchased Edublogs Campus Press for district-wide access. Outside of my district job, Blogwalker has been my personal space for reflecting on new ideas and resources, documenting conferences and workshops attended, and showcasing the work of colleagues and leaders who inspire and add to my teaching toolkit. But until this session with George, I had not thought of this blog as a portfolio.

I left the conference re-energized and committed to adding another round of blogs and blogging back into my workshop offerings, using Google apps (and VoiceThreads, podcasts, video creation, etc.) to create, collaborate on, and curate content that will ultimately be housed on a blog.

Over the years, I have cut back on my blogging workshops because, too often, I see teacher-created blogs used simply as a venue for posting homework. I suggest, instead, using a Google Site rather than underutilizing a blog. So, yes, I will continue to recommend that teachers post homework on a G Site – but with the strong recommendation that they to tap into all that a blog offers for maintaining a personal ePortfolio!

Tomorrow marks the 12th anniversay of my first blog post (in which I thank Edublogs … and reference MySpace). I see I left my first-ever comment:

Hi, this is a comment.
To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.”

Since 2008, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in, learning from, and contributing to a number of amazing communities (Google Teacher Academy, Microsoft Innovative Educators, Rushton Hurley’s MERIT program, CSU Sacramento’s iMET program, UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Teaching for Social Justice, and more). I think I’ve always attributed acceptance into these programs to luck and maybe a good recommendation or two.

I realize now that everytime I apply for a local or national program, I’m asked to include my Twitter handle (@GailDesler) and social media links, such as a blog. I’m wondering how many review committees have visited Blogwalker before sending their “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted” letter. When those committees have to make cuts to their lists of applicants, are educators with personal blogs/ePorfolios given priority over those without?

I would love to hear from fellow bloggers why you blog and what benefits you have experienced. I warmly invite you to leave a comment.

And if you need a little inspiration and motivation to start blogging, subscribe to George’s The Principal of Change blog!

December 17, 2012
by blogwalker

2012 Edublog Awards – And the winners are …

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!

September 5, 2011
by blogwalker
1 Comment

7 Reasons Why Students and Teachers Should Know How to Blog

In the digital age, kids need to have an understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. They need to learn the technical how-to’s, as well as a more global comprehension of how to navigate the online world. ” Tina Barseghian, Mindshift


Reasons 1-6 are from Jenny Luca, Australian teacher/librarian – and one of my favorite Tweeters: Six Reasons Why Kids Should Know How to Blog. Here’s an abbreviated list, but please read Jenny’s post for the rationale behind each reason:

  1. Create positive digital footprints
  2. Communicate with digital tools
  3. Transparency
  4. New ways of thinking about digital tools
  5. Effective digital citizenship
  6. Pride in work


Reason 7 also comes indirectly from Australia, via Ronnie Burt (Edublogger Sue Water’s US counterpart): Improving Parent Communication in 3 Short Steps – Ronnie has summarized a post from Edutopia that reviewed the results of a recent parent survey from the National School Public Relations Association. Despite the efforts of  many school sites and districts to improve school-to-home communication through Facebook and Twitter links, those two social media networks did not make the top of the list at all. They actually ranked below television and attending school board meetings! The results show that:

Luckily for those with blogs, 4 out of the top 5 methods most requested can be taken care of in a flash. In short, parents like information to be on a website (which is really what a blog is) and they like email notification*.”

*Providing email notification is as easy as dragging and dropping a widget/gadget into your sidebar.

Love it when the research supports practices I have seen first-hand making engaging students in reading and writing –  and at the same time bringing parents (and grandparents) on board:-)

April 22, 2011
by blogwalker

Favorite Free Online Tools for Educators – Stepping up to “the challenge”

Edublogs logo

Edublogs logo

If you’re not following Edublogs’ Teacher Challenge: 30 days to using the best of the web’s free tools for educators, I think it’s a discussion you’ll want to join! The Challenge format is a great way to organize, archive, and share the many ways teachers are using web tools to engage students and extend learning.

Having stepped up to the challenge when there are already 17 fabulous challenges posted, with many of my favorite tools (e.g., VoiceThread, LiveBinders, Skype, Glogster, Wall Wisher, etc.) already listed, has me reflecting on tools not yet listed that I see being used in powerful ways.  I’ve decided against posting on tools that are platform specific, such as PhotoStory 3 (Windows) or iMovie/Movie Maker 2. I’m also going to pass on tools I think look fantastic, but I haven’t personally used yet with students, such as Museum Box.

I’m going with Audacity.  Audacity is one of my favorite free cross-platform tools. Students love Audacity, especially ELLs (English Language Learners). I posted a tribute to Audacity back in February. Ironically, I haven’t been able to interest many teachers in this great tool.  I’m guessing the fact that I typically present Audacity as part of a web tool series and that teachers are initially swept away with more visual tools, such as VoiceThread, PhotoStory 3, etc., explains why they, consequently,  often do not find the time to return to and really explore the power of Audacity.

To me Audacity is all about the power of the human voice – and the ability to easily edit that voice. Combine Audacity with blogging and you can catapult student voices out to the world.

OK, I’m heading into the 30 Day Challenge to begin working on my post.  Do you have any Audacity stories, samples, resources you recommend I include in my challenge piece?

December 28, 2010
by blogwalker

The $2 Interactive Whiteboard – I’ve seen it in action!

One of my favorite things about the Edublogs Awards is the end product: an amazing compilation of links to innovative, super smart educators, many who are new to me, annually assembled in one convenient location.

Given the current economic crisis in California public schools, I was drawn by its title into the winner of The Most Influential Blog PostThe $2 Interactive Whiteboard. High school physics teacher Frank Noschese’s case for the $2 IWB over the $4,000 front-of-the-room IWB will either confirm or make you rethink how to maximize dwindling technology budgets for the sake of student learning.

In my case, I already had a window into the benefits of the $2 IWB while visiting middle school science teacher Kelli Quan’s classroom. From the video below, I think you’ll understand my excitement in watching Kelli’s students – on the first day of the new term – already collaborating, questioning, and learning from each other. Due to some time constraints, I interviewed Kelli prior to her teaching the lesson – and prior to reading Frank Noschese’s post; therefore, I did not ask about the use of IWBs, mainly because her site lacks funding to jump on the IWB bandwagon.

Thanks to the Edublogs Awards, I am now watching the video with new eyes, struck by the fact that 100% of her students had access to a powerful, affordable technology throughout the lesson as an integral part of their introduction to scientific thinking.

Think I’ll head back to the Awards in search of more low cost/no cost gems to share with teachers.

November 18, 2010
by blogwalker

Nominations for the 2010 Edublogs Award

Edublogs Awards – It’s that time of year again. I really appreciate this opportunity to recognize those who have contributed greatly to my PLN:

  • Best Individual BlogEducating Alice – Monica Edinger’s posts will keep you on top of the latest in children’s literature – along with insights on how to team literature and technology.
  • Best Individual TweeterLarry Ferlazzo – I don’t always have time to read through the sheer volume of great resources Larry shares on his Websites of the Day site, but every time he posts a resource to Twitter, I know it will be well worth my time to open the link.
  • Best Group BlogVoices on the Gulf – Once again, my friend, mentor, and NWP colleague Paul Allison makes “keeping it real” part of this timely online community of teachers, students, and community leaders who have joined Paul on a year-long investigation into the impact of our nation’s worst oil spill.
  • Best Class BlogMs. Cheung’s Connection – A 4th grade teacher in my district who always teaches from the heart (despite the pressures of a Title 1 site in its second year of Program Improvement), Teresa Cheung’s projects are always a source of inspiration.
  • Best Resource Sharing BlogThe Edublogger – You don’t even have to be a blogger to benefit from Sue Water’s shared conversations, great resources, and wonderful humor.
  • Best Teacher BlogKevin’s Meandering Mind – When teachers new to blogging ask me where they should start, I recommend following (NWP colleague) Kevin’ Hodgson’s continuing journey with 6th graders into the possibilities and limits of “teaching the new writing.”
  • Most Influential Blog PostMiguel Guhlin’s recent post Nurture Human Talents. If you are looking for the research and the argument for all students’ right to become producers of information (not just drill ‘n kill consumers), you definitely need to read this piece.
  • Best Educational WikiResources for Digital Writing and Digital Teaching – Considering Troy Hicks’ volume of outstanding publications and presentations, his wiki is the next-best-thing to traveling to a conference to attend one of his sessions or heading to Amazon to order one of his books.
  • Best Use of AudioYA! Cast – Looking for a site to amaze teachers about the possibilities of Audacity and podcasting? Robert Rozema’s pre-service teachers can show you!
  • Best Use of VideoThe Power of One – (NWP colleague) Lesley McKillop’s 4th graders take their voices beyond the classroom via video to change their community and to connect with online communities across the nation in creating and sharing information.
  • Best Use of a Social NetworkKnow ELLs – Feeling a  little overwhelmed about how to best meet the needs of your English Language Learners? From the National Writing Project, such a brilliant group of teachers sharing their expertise and resources!
  • Best Use of a PLNEdutopia: What Works in Education – With project-based learning experts such as Suzie Boss leading discussions and amazing workshops (including last summer’s session on studying and teaching the PB oil spill), I think there is something for everyone at this site!
  • Lifetime Achievement AwardGeorge Lucas – In a year when teacher-bashing seems at an all-time high, I really appreciate all George Lucas has done to support teachers and celebrate public education.

November 18, 2010
by blogwalker

Edublogs Awards – Need a little inspiration?

I’m working on my list of 2010 Edublogs Awards.  If you’ve not participated before in this great opportunity to acknowledge the educators who inspire you and contribute to your teaching toolkit, checkout the new Edublogs widget I’ve pasted below to see who others are nominating.

Hoping to finish and post my list of nominees by the end of the week!

December 20, 2009
by blogwalker

Sunday Morning Tour of EB Award Winners

Thought I would start my Winter Break with a tour of the 2009 Edublog Awards. At first glance, it looks a bit like a “round up of the usual suspects,” with awards going to many folks I’ve been following for sometime – and whose contributions to the edublogosphere continue to inform and inspire my teaching practice and toolkit.

But thanks to the awards, I’ve added three new blogs to my Google Reader:

  • Happy Rainbow – Mr. Halpern’s byline of “Journey of a Male Kindergarten Teacher” kind of says it all. I’m glad to have to this window into the kindergarten world (pretty much an unknown territory for me).
  • Billings Beta – In so many school districts, those school-to-home connections start to get a little fuzzy at the middle school level.  I doubt if this is the case at Billings Middle School, with Jac de Haan, the school’s Technology Integration Coordinator, posting about relevant topics, such as Facebook updates and digital identities.
  • Ms. Yollis’s Classroom Blog – I really value having tips from primary teachers on how post comments to a blog. Visuals such as the chart below help make the art of digital composing visible – and help move students beyond “me too” and “that’s cool” kinds of comments:

    Image copied from

Congratulations to all the 2009 Edublog Award winners!

December 5, 2009
by blogwalker

Three Days Left to Narrow Down Edublogs Awards Nominations

Tuesday, December 8,  is the cutoff for the 2009 Edublogs Awards nominations. If you’re not familiar with the Edublogs Awards, I recommend checking out last year’s winners.  Besides being an opportunity to recognize the efforts of educators who have become valuable contributors to my personal learning network, the end result of this contest is an excellent list of great resources to show teachers who are new to the edublogosphere and are wondering how blogging and Web 2.0 tools can benefit them and their students.

With the nomination deadline only 3 days away, I’m spending the morning visiting the blogs currently in my Blogines and Google Reader accounts and also revisiting my nominations from last year. So here are my 2009 nominations:

  • Best individual blog: Educating Alice -It’s hard to pin down Monica Edinger’s blog category-wise. Although she is a classroom teacher (4th grade, Dalton School NYC) and shares amazing student work (such as blog posts of 4th grade reviews of Wild Things movie), she also provides her readers with insightful windows into authors and new books for young readers – and has led me to a host of other great blogs and bloggers.
  • Best individual Tweeter: Jackie Gerstein – Without even looking, I’m pretty sure about 90% of my retweets spring from Jackie. Luckily, her tweets seem to come through early in the morning. Love starting my day with her shared resources, such as PBS Digital Natives Map.
  • Best Group Blog: YouthVoices – I’m repeating last year’s nomination for this category. The credit for this dynamic project that engages a growing student community goes to Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim.
  • Best new blog: Ms. Robertson’s Class – 5th grade teacher Heather Robertson, new to blogging as of November 5 (when she attended one of my EETT workshops), is committed to taking her students beyond the confinements of the high-poverty, high-crime that surrounds her school site. I’m looking forward to following her first year’s journey into the edublogosphere.
  • Best class blog: The Electric Pencil – Tough to decide whether to nominate Kevin Hodgson for his personal blog ( a constant source of ideas and inspiriation, such as today’s post on teaching Three Cups of Tea) or the class blog.  I went with the class  blog since it’s such a motivating site to show other teachers and their students.
  • Best student blog: Little Miss Room 18 – My favorite student blogger from the 2009 Bloggers Challenge.
  • Best resource sharing blog: Reading Rumpus –  I’ve just discovered Cheryl Vanetti’s (AKA Tasses) blog, but oh my, if you’re looking for succinct insights into books for young readers, I think you’ll share my enthusiasm for Cheryl’s posts (ranging from why you might actually want to pick a particular hi-lo book to a fantastic must-share glimpse into how a graphic novelist creates his craft).
  • Most influential blog post: The Art of Reading – I applaud and appreciate the steps Doug Noon is taking to promote this students’ love of reading – as well as his on-going efforts to confront hard topics.
  • Best teacher blog: Creating Lifelong Learners – Mathew Needleman’s blog is the first one I recommend to elementary school teachers (who often feel restrained by a scripted curriculum for a mandated language arts program) who are looking for resources and common sense approaches to technology integration. And I’m really looking forward to joining his K12 Online Conference session Steal This Preso – Copyright, Fair Use, and Pirates.
  • Best Librarian blog: Joyce Valenza’s NeverEndingSearch – Every middle school should a librarian like Joyce, who continues to introduce new tools and topics and makes me rethink how to better use some of the ‘old tools’ (such as PowerPoint).
  • Best educational tech support: The EdubloggerSue Waters – Sue continues to teach me new Web 2.0 tools, explain a bit about their power, and provide me with easy-to-use tutorials.
  • Best educational use of audio – YA! CastsRobert Rozema’s innovative Web 2.0 projects are grounded in research and a great resource for making visible the power of the human voice. Second year to nominate YA Casts, but podcasts such as Walter Dean Myers’ Monster, for example, are pretty tough to compete with!
  • Best educational use of audio and images:  Letters from the Internment Camps – OK, I’ve just added a category, but I find Halerin Ferrier’s 4th grade VoiceThread to be a model for taking students’ voices – and their understanding of complex social issues – beyond the walls of the classroom.
  • Best educational wiki:  End to Copyright Confusion – Such an important topic – and Renee Hobbs and her team have done an awesome job of providing the background and resources that truly make this whole messy area of fair use understandable – and discussable.
  • Best educational use of a social networking site: The Digital Writing Workshop – I resisted joining this ning because, to be honest, I’m pretty ‘ninged out.’ But after buying Troy Hick’s accompanying book, a must-read for anyone teaching writing from K-adult, I find my self heading in to checkout the conversations on a pretty regular basis. Take, for example, the current thread on Framing an Approach to the Digital Writing Workshop, which directly addresses issues such as access to and ethical use of the Internet – and much more. If you like to hang out with brilliant educators from the National Writing Project or the National Council for Teachers of English, or if you are just want to join conversations on the possibilities for teaching writing in a digital age, I recommend joining this ning.
  • Lifetime achievement:  Steve Hargadon – Hmmm, where to start listing reasons why Steve Hargadon deserves this recognition?!….Maybe with his creation of Classroom 2.0, which provided so many educators (myself included) with their first experience with a ning.  And how about the amazing and free Edubloggers’ conferences that he organizes across the nation and always before NECC (and our state CUE conference)? Plus he is an awesome keynote speaker. And the way he stands quietly in the background while encouraging others to step into the limelight…now that’s a gift!

How luck to be teaching in a time with  so many great bloggers to learn from!

October 10, 2009
by blogwalker

Good News – to pass on!

The highlight of my week was learning that I am an Edublogger Competition Winner! With that honor comes the opportunity to pass on to someone else a free, 12-month  Edublogs Supporter subscription.

I’ve decided to turn this option into a competition within my school district. Although a number of teachers have added blogging to their toolkit, as far as I know, not a single principal in the district is an active blogger in the edublogosphere. But wouldn’t that be awesome to have an “in-house” administrator join the ranks  of principal bloggers whose blogs have been added to Scott McCloud‘s growing Moving Forward wiki, such as elementary school principal Vincent Baxter, middle school principal Chris Lindholm, and high school principal Patrick Larkin ?!

My plan is to send out an email to every site representative in our Technology Advisory Committee with an invitation to nominate their principal for the EB subscription (I’ll provide the training and support). The form will be very simple, maybe something like

I nominate ______________ to become an Edublogs Supporter because I know he/she will __________________________________________________________.”

I’d like to include in the email links to 3-5 exemplary principals’ blogs from elementary, middle, and high school sites.  Do you have any recommendations?

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