Muddling through the blogosphere

April 10, 2011
by blogwalker

Igniting National Poetry Month: An update

The 2011 National Poetry Month poster, designed by Stephen Doyle.

The 2011 National Poetry Month poster, designed by Stephen Doyle.

It’s April. Time to update last year’s Igniting National Poetry Month post with some wonderful new resources:


Update #1 -A year ago the New York Times Learning Network titled its poetry page as 11  Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month. They too have done some updating! This year you’ll find double the number of activities listed  on their Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month with the NY Times.

Be sure to checkout the Learning Network’s Second Annual Found Poem Challenge. What a great activity for kick-starting the week! The challenge includes links to samples and tools for scaffolding students through the process of building powerful “found poems,” such as NCTE’s Found and Headlines Poems article.

Update# 2 Poets. org – Last year I linked only to’s home page and the Poem in Your Pocket link. This year, I’d like to direct readers to a few more great  pages on this site, such as the Teaching Poetry Curriculum and Lesson Plans and the Tips for Teachers (on making poetry a more important part of the school day).

Update #3 – National Writing Project – If you’re looking for links sure to inspire, encourage, and support you in your efforts to nurture a love for poetry in your students, the NWP’s National Poetry page will not disappoint you. Their continually expanding resources include categories that range from Spotlight Poetry Programs for Teachers to Teachers as Poets, Poets as Teacher. It’s the voices of teachers sharing their challenges, successes, and strategies for bringing poetry into their students’ lives that makes this site so unique, so valuable. It’s the depth and breadth of articles from Writing Project teachers like Lesley Roessing, for example, sharing what she has learned about Creating Empathetic Connections to Literature that makes visible the power of “teachers teaching teachers.”


Addition #1Poetry Foundation – Their growing bank of resources includes a poetry tool, learning lab, glossary, audio and podcasts, children’s poetry, along with Poetry Outloud. Plus, you can download a free app with hundreds of poems.

Addition #2 PBS NewsHour Extra: Poetry includes lesson plans, links, rules and tools, teacher favorites, student poems, poetry submission and more. Links to Minstrel Man and  and I’m Nobody provide windows into the power of poetry to impact our students’ lives.

Voices from the Fields

Addition #3 – Interested in poetry as a tool for teaching for social justice? Check out the Voices from the Fields website.  I bought a copy of the book, which pairs poetry with personal narratives/oral histories, about 9 years ago, before there was an accompanying website. If you are looking for additional first-hand accounts of the migrant farm worker experience, here’s a link to a project I did eight years ago to connect elementary students with college students who spent their childhoods  working the fields of California.

Addition #4 – And just for fun, how about the exuberance and humor of  poet Carlos Andres Gomez, whose style might serve as a call to high students who thought they were not into poetry:

June 29, 2010
by blogwalker

Live from ISTE NECC – Ruston Hurley

Rushton Hurley – such a fun, outstanding presenter – one of California’s best – is starting Matching Teachers and Technology: Good Ideas, Common Mistakes by sharing Shorewood High School’s Lip Dub reverse order video. How   cool is that to involve a whole school in project?!  (And here’s a link to show how they put the project together.)

Rushton is opening the session’ with a hilarious, topic-related multiple-choice quiz.  An now into the session topic, starting with some do’s and don’ts.

Part 1: Training:

Don’t let teachers require themselves to be technology experts! Do remind teachers of their expertise.  Example:  If kid is turning in paper report or multimedia, you understand the content. Remind students that they have a multimedia option (but students are responsible to check equipment prior to due date) or they can do a poster. “Cool” matters. What about kids who don’t have computers at home? Let them work with others. In digital video projects, kids celebrate each others’ work.

Don’t schedule everyone at your site for a computer  lab training! It’s not about something you’re being required to do; it’s about learning on a personal level. Do allow regular (and short) sharing time – like 2 minutes worth of sharing. Find out what others are doing.  Good chance other teachers will have a similar idea/issue they’d love some help rolling into a video clip.

Don’t start with standards. Standards are important, but not as a starting point. Do show something fun. The professionalism of teaching comes down to understanding what it takes to get someone to care about learning something. IDEA: Use a tool/site such as + Cool Iris to create sample of words that illustrate college majors. Why cool? Because concepts and words then become visually interesting. Hey, being able to capture a kid’s interest is so key!

Part 2: Using Funds

Don’t limit technology to labs. Do show what’s possible with one or two computers in the classroom.

Don’t buy expensive software a teacher hasn’t used. Do learn what’s freely available. How to ask for money: Explain to administrators, “This is what I’m already doing; and this is how I could expand it if I had…”  IDEA: Wow them with Google SketchUp sample –  so hands-on creative! If you want kids to think about astronomical issues, for instance, turn ‘um loose on SketchUp.

Don’t blanket the campus with expensive hardware. Do use targeted spending to focus purchases.  Spend it on the teachers who will use the technology. You’ll anger a few on campus – but  if you give something to everyone, you anger the teachers who are using the equipment. With grants, spend the taxpayers money well; send the equipment on to those who are using it.

Bottom line: Technology matters – If we never give students the to opportunity to explore, how will we know what they’re capable of.  Technology connects us with kids in new ways.

Here’s the link to the agenda for this session and here’s the link to Rushton’s website.

Just checked my Twitter stream… it appears a ton of others sitting in this room share my opinion that Rushton’s session rocked!

June 29, 2010
by blogwalker

Live from ISTE NECC – Day 2 – Alan November

One of my all-time favorite conference speakers is Alan November, so I’m sitting in a huge ballroom right now, with hundreds of other educators, waiting to learn from his Empathy: The 21st Century Skill spotlight session.

Key Points:

  • Question: Where is that sense of urgency in American classrooms to connect children via the Internet? And the need to expose students to the human side of the Internet? – as is currently the case in many classrooms across Asia.   When will American teachers realize the Internet is about relationship building of people to people … It’s not about students doing Google searches in order to type a research paper.
  • Worries: Alan expressed concerns about the US  economic downturn.  The only way we can get out of debt is by selling outside USA – so why aren’t we focused on globalizing the curriculum? Globalization should start in kindergarten! Every single teacher should be working with children all over the world. We need “audacious goals.”   All kids should graduate with knowledge, skills, and a network of people they can tap into. Skills and knowledge in a global economy are not enough!
  • Top skill students need: Empathy – the most important skill students can have in global economy is the ability to  hold different points of view at same time. But Americans are not good at this.  Africans and Europeans, for instance, are educated to learn different languages, cultures, etc.
  • Sobering reality: In the US, K12 education might not be at the leading edge of thinking about technology in a global economy. We need to be teaching students to seek multiple perspectives. For example, to understand the background and impact of Turkey’s application to join European Union being turned down, students need to research from both a US perspective and a Turkish perspective. In a global economy,  you have to see issues from the other point of view – you have to have empathy.
  • Googling for multiple perspectives: Getting “country codes,” for instance,  influences the “basic grammar of the web.” A search for country codes will bring up the two-letter combination for any country.  Now add site: to the country code. Check it out – the difference between Googling European Union +Turkey as opposed to European Union site:tr is in the perspective. Potentially a huge difference! Other samples shared:
    • To examine the American Revolution from both the American and British perspective, Google”American Revolution”. This search will not only bring up the opposing point of view, but could bring students in contact with classrooms in the UK, also studying the Revolution. It’s not enough to read about the American Revolution – students need to approach it from different perspectives.
    • How about a unit on Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars.  For a Danish perspective on the Nazi occupation, Google “Number the stars” site:dk. And why not take it a step further: find a classroom in Denmark and collaboratively start the process for creating a trailer for the book, via a Google Doc.
  • A bit of irony:  Public schools were put in place for democracy. How ironic that the very skills/tools to become our nation’s president (Twitter, Facebook) are blocked in so many U.S. schools.

Need more convincing on the need to teach students to manage global relationships? Check out some of the podcasts on the November Learning website.  You might start with An Interview with Rahaf Harfoush, a member of Barack Obama’s Social Media Team. Her viewpoint: If you want to become President, you have to build and manage relationships.

Much inspired- as always – by Alan November, I’m heading to ISTE Central to purchase a copy of Global Education: Using Technology to Bring the World to Your Students and then into the vendor’s area to find Rita Oates and continue a conversation about promoting global communities through the wonderful – and free – ePals program.

June 28, 2010
by blogwalker

Live from ISTE NECC – Day 1

I arrived at the Denver Convention Center too late for the Monday morning ISTE NECC 2010 sessions, due to a delayed flight out of NYC.  But the afternoon sessions made up for missing Will Richardson’s and David Warlick’s morning sessions.

BYOL Session: Free and Easy Bibliography: Scaffolding Student Research with Zotero – Having heard NWP colleague Troy Hicks refer to Zotero as a favorite Web 2.0 tool, I was excited to join Trevor Owns’ workshop.  His program description sums up this free, open source tool: “See it, save it, search it, and cite it with Zotero.” I loved Trevor’s presentation and also the fact that his workshop description will make it easy to replicate the scope and sequence of the session.

And if teachers or students need any help on downloading the program, saving links, annotating them, or being able to easily insert citations into a Word document in MLA, APA, etc., the tutorials and documentation on the site are excellent.

I’m looking forward to sharing Zotero with my colleagues. There’s definitely a wow factor built into this tool!

Spotlight Session: Tammy’s Favorite Free Web Tools – I love Tammy Worcester‘s fast-paced, humor-infused presentation style.  Out of her list of favorites, my top three are:

  • Today’s Meet – Create a chatroom on the fly – no login needed.
  • – Now at the top of my “Easiest tools for podcasting” list.
  • BibMe – Even easier than David Warlick’s bibliography maker

Looking forward to – and will blog – Tuesday sessions!

July 8, 2009
by blogwalker

Kathleen Yancey at NECC – Best session I did not attend

I should have known that Kathleen Yancey would pack ‘um in at NECC – and I should have been there early.  Try as I did, I could not persuade the ISTE door person to let me in.  But I lucked out….Sandy Hayes taped (with permission) “The Yancey’s” whole session. And Carla Beard blogged the session.

Live from NECC 2009 – Kathleen Yancey from Gail Desler on Vimeo.

What can I add about a session I did not attend, besides the above snippet?…How about posting NCTE’s 10 Belief’s About the Teaching of Writing (another gem shared by Sandy Hayes)?!

July 1, 2009
by blogwalker

Live from NECC – Alan November on “The Student as a Contributor”

It’s pretty much a no-brainer that students, not their teachers, should own the learning that’s happening in classrooms. But how do we make that shift? Alan November has a list of “jobs” that will help transfer contol to the learners:

  1. Screencasting – Put students in charge of producing tutorials for other children. With the research to show that a different voice explaining a concept can have an impact, why not ask our students to produce tutorials across the curriculum. Free screencasting tools such as Jing make this job very accessible to students. Example: Eric Marcos’ 6th graders’ math tutorials.
  2. Podcasting– Don’t underestimate what younger students can learn by telling sotires about what was taught/learned in class last week! Example: Bob Sprankle’s classroom.
  3. Google Custom Search Engine – I’ve been meaning to explore this tool, so I just started a custom search for the Change Writers’ project, an on-going collaborative community of 4th grade readers and writers. I loved Alan’s suggestion that teachers organize a “search engine design team.” My only concern in enlisting students to contribute is Googles’ 18 years or older requirement for using their tools. But what kid wouldn’t love sharing the rotating task of “question answerer”?!
  4. Goggle Docs Class Scribes- Research show that kids who take notes “live” do better than kids who take notes “written.”  Assign  three class scribes per week, who are in charge of producting “perfect notes.” Teacher structures by creating the headings and then assigning students to specific headings. Example: Daren Kurapatwa’s Pre-Cal 405– features a daily scribe to share learning journey into pre calculus.
  5. Ultimate Job = Contributing to the world – We need to teach kids there’s a larger world!

    1. – “Loans that Change Lives” – Based on the concept of micro-lending, shows entrepreneurship around the world. Teacher contributes a one-time, recyclable $25. Students then research and decide which village to fund.  Teaches kids to actually invest in, for instance, the rain forest. Tons of content and topics for students interested in making a difference.  Check out the wiki –
    2. Pitol House, New Orleans – This project, created by 3rd grade teacher Natalie Watts and her students, is an example of students creating a legacy.
  6. Teach children to find work of other children – Challenge your students to be curriculum researchers, which will ultimately leade to their owning whatever the assingment is. Thomas Friedman has a recent piece about American kids being at a deficit because they can’t see work other children around the world are doing.Fifth graders, for instance, reading Number the Stars, if allowed to search YouTube, would find projects such as

An essential piece in shifting to student ownership is promoting the life-long learning piece…

What a great final session to NECC 2009! Time to head to the airport.

July 1, 2009
by blogwalker

Live from NECC – Alan November on Designing Globally Connected Assignments

Alan opened the session with a look at where technology is going in the future, via a TED session – Oh my, in mass production of “wearable tech” won’t cost more than a cell phone.

Ideas for designing rigorous and globally connected assignments:

Suggestion 1 – Teach students ethics of content development – have students create code of ethics. Critical piece – teaching kids how to behave when they’re not in school.

Suggestion 2 – Think about and question what skills can we teach today that will outlast any technology? The real revolution is not technology, it’s information and global communication Implication: what’s flowing through wires is more important than the wires. But teachers need to ask what information do we need and what relationships.

Suggestion 3 – Globalize the curriculum. Question: Are there any points in the curriculum for students to think globally? (ie, Teaching American Revolution – only from American point of view? or ask students to find sources in England that deal with the American Revolution. But teach them how to find pieces written from a British perspective. Tech Tip: Try Google trick: “General Gage” “American Revolution”. Coming up with some “404 Not Found”s? No problem. Head to the wayback machine to get archived articles. Alan used the Wayback Machine to bring up article on General Gage written in 2006 by Thomas Ash. When you show students a different point of view they are more engaged. Nothing like a little dissonance to enliven the research process!

Suggestion 4 – Design assignments where you cannot plagiarize – No more “go to the Internet and get a source”; instead “find 5 different university viewpoints that differ from textbook.” Pedagogy trumps technology. Assignment design should be built into staff development.

Suggestion 5 – Every department should find assignments that require a global view. For example, what if assignments were so compelling that students would even work on them beyond the school day? Student News/Action Network – started by group of kids at Washington International School. We need to give kids environments that are so globally connected that they will want to keep going back – even after the school year.

Session Gem: Ownership of learning needs to shift to students. How about starting the school year by identifying 10 most difficult concepts to teach in your subject area. Ask students to come up with the solutions. Oh, wow, so simple, so powerful – and would work across the curriculum!!

June 29, 2009
by blogwalker

Live from NECC – Media Literacy with Jamie McKenzie

I’m joining Jamie McKenzie‘s last session of the day: teaching media literacy. We’re looking at the of wikilobbying (coined by Stephen Colbert – whose video we’re watching, which has unfortunately been removed from YouTube). So the question is “how do we alert our students to how Wikipedia works?

Phtoshopping Reality – Activity: Show Evolution video from Dove. What question of import would we ask students when sharing this video? Well then, checkout the slob evolution version. How about comparing these two versions to the Green Peace version Dove Onslaught(er).

“Media literacy deserves a prominent placement in district curriculum documents, especially in English/language arts classes” – Jamie is following up this statement with Dove Onslaught video with discussion on deconstructing video and ads. Question: how does “crescendo” (which is a film technique) play a part in this video? Music gets louder, pictures get increasingly horrifying.

More Media Literacy Resources:

It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at Jamie McKenzie’s work. Even at a glance, I can see that the websites he has shared are rich with content and thought-provoking ideas.

June 29, 2009
by blogwalker

Live from NECC – Scratch Community

Mitch Resnick, from MIT, is leading the Scratch session. Scratch is all about creating, building, and inventing – to be makers of things. You can’t be fluent in digital media just by interacting; you need to also be able to create.

Bridging Divides:

  • making and interacting
  • art and engineering
  • creativity and systematicity
  • individual and community
  • inside and outside school: Reading, for example
  • physical virtual

Scratch initiative – allows you to create interactive media – and share – via YouTube type website. Everyday an average of one new project a minute is posted (12 -13 year olds the highest users, but extends from age 7-50.) Program allows you to download existing projects and adapt to make personal. Remixing has become a cornerstone. Lots of shared expertise.

My Red Neptune -This young Scratch developer is thinking creatively, reasoning systematically, working collaboratively. Probably 3 most important skills for succeeding in 21st century.

Scratch kids are becoming computational thinkers.The Scratch team wants to promote possibilities for everyone to think computationally. To be a computational thinker, you need to be a computational creator. Sample: Rapa Nui – science fair project measuring response times. Tons of cross-curricular ways. Checkout Expo Elementary gallery!

Scratch broadens the range of participatory storytelling. Oh, wow, so many possibilities for engaging and stretching learners…and Scratch is free! So how do we get the word out to more educators? Join the Scratch community of educators at

July 2, 2008
by blogwalker

Digital Storytelling with Arnie Abrams

Arnie Abrams is opening the session by stating that digital storytelling should be more about the writing – and the writing process – than about the technology.

Benefits of digital storytelling:

  • can be made interactive
  • provides real audience
  • works for the “YouTube generation”
  • helps develop visual literacy
  • helps to understand mass media
  • requires presentation skills
  • develops writing skills

We can now do digital storytelling 2.0 – interactive (VoiceThread – my idea, not his;-)

Ten step development process:

  • start with a good story
  • write an outline/script
  • storyboard
  • brainstorm visual ideas, music
  • findavisual, shoot
  • edit visulas
  • add title , graphics
  • record narration
  • match visual to audio. add music
  • produce, revise, present, distribute

Meg Ormiston quote “Without a structure students will focus on adding images, music, and other elements instead of focusing on the content and organization”

Storyboarding – recommends using index cards so kids can move slides around.

Ways to build a digital story:

  • Stills in a folder
  • PowerPoint (export PNGs)
  • Slide show programs – Photoshop Elements
  • Video editing programs
  • Flash
  • DVD authoring

Software options:

  • iPhoto – Mac only and lacks features, such as titles
  • Photoshop Elements – has slideshow option – with 2 audio tracks! And nice pan and zoom effect; add clip art on top of images via drag and drop; good edit control – but only makes WMV format – appropriate for 5th grade on up
  • PhotoStory 3 – Windows only. You can work only with stills – and doesn’t run with Vista. You can bring in your own music – or create your own copyright-free music.

Video Editors:

  • Corel VideoStudio – appropriate for 6th grade up – Windows only. Allows importing music and video from DVDs. Bottom third option for text. Has 5.1 surround sound – nice for exporting to DVDs. Also allows exporting into all the basic formats (mov, avi, etc.)
  • iMovie – previous versions great, but iLife 08 pretty much sucks – but you can download previous version.
  • Clicker – works on Mac and Windows – Arnie has developed storytelling templates to get kids started. Appropriate for primary kids. Includes text reader, but they can also use microphone option.

Tip for copyright issues: Include a disclaimer on your site with offer to remove images, etc., by request. Here’s a sample one from Arnie:

“Many of the digital stories on our site include images and audio found on the Internet using commonly available search engines. The stories have been created for non-profit, educational use by students and teachers and we hope are within the fair use protection of existing copyright laws. If any copyright owner objects to the use of any work appearing on this site, please contact us and we will remove the work and review the propriety of including it.”

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