Muddling through the blogosphere

June 27, 2011
by blogwalker

ISTE Day 2: Will Richardson – This is not a unit

Love it when a presenter already has his/her presentation posted online.  No surprise that Will Richardson’s This is not a unit presentation is already accessible for his many followers – and you can also follow the backchannel discussion at

We’re starting with  a look at the learning network of Mark Klassen, a young self-taught (with input from the online public) cinematographer who freely shares all his work and invite comments. “Sharing my work online so that other people can see it and give me feedback and advice on it has become a huge part of the way I learn.”

Seymore Sarrason – at age 91 raised the question: What does “learning” mean to you? Will has thrown the question out to the audience – none of  “productive learning is the learning process which engenders and reinforces wanting to learn more. Absent wanting to learn, the learning cntext is unproductive or counterproductive.”

Question: How do we get kids to come home with a passion to learn more? What do we really want kids to leave school knowing?

Mark Klassen has learned online from professional cinematographers.  Who can our kids learn from? Check out his In 60 Seconds graphic.

On to 8 shifts:

  1. Do talk to strangers – reality is that predators are mainly those they know. (Nancy Brace?) We don’t mess up enough to block out the world. Using his ClustrMap as his classroom – everyone who visits wants to be there. No one is teaching kids to do this well. We have to figure out how to bring strangers into our learning live.
  2. Create your G-portfolio – what comes up when you Google yourselves? So how do we help students become “Googled well” Grad requirement at some schools: students must be googled well under their own names.  It’s about having kids be publicized online. Will shared Katrina Gurule’s “my kick butt graduation speech” on FB, as example of students not understanding nothing’s private on the internet and you can’t take it back. Do students like Katrina Gurule really think that they’re never going to be employed.
  3. Share widely – If we share the best practices of our profession, we can lift up the profession.
  4. Manage information – Twitter, for instance.  Referenced  NCTE definition for 21 century literacies and asked how many kids are illiterate because we only give them one source of info (handout).
  5. Be crap detectors – Howard Rheingold (Walter Kronkite) – will push your thinking.  How do you determine authority? – kind of stupid the way they do it – but we’re at first phase of measuring how folks do stuff online. – still widely visited.
  6. Follow your passions – how can we give kids learning content that aligns with their passions. – created around the Hunger Games – set up by 3 kids who never met each other.
  7. Learning to learn (instead of learning to know) – Khan Academy – big debate – if you don’t have access to instruction, use it – but is it high-quality education? Given the amount of information out there – we can’t ignore the impact in our f2f teaching. Our students are picking their own teachers. Are we helping them do that? – myon reader (amazon for kids)
  8. Solve problems – not solving in the back of the chapter – literacy = problem solving -across cultures,etc. Check out TED with Dan Meyer.

Parting question: How do we change schools? Lots to think about from this session.  Will definitely be revisiting slideshow.

March 26, 2011
by blogwalker
1 Comment

The NWP Does Not Offer a Finder’s Fee

If you are connected in any way with the National Writing Project (NWP), then I bet the scenario below is a familiar one:

On Tuesday I had an email from Skye Smith, a first grade teacher in my district, who wondered if I could offer her a bit of help using Movie Maker 2. In my current position as a technology integration specialist, I often have the privilege of witnessing outstanding teaching from teachers who create an environment that so exciting, inviting, and supportive that I’ve barely left their classroom before I’m already online or on the phone with other colleagues to share about my latest amazing-teacher find.

And that was exactly how it went on Tuesday. One of Skye Smith’s students, a budding writer (and also a Level 1 English Language Learner) had been inspired by the expression “ants in your pants” to create a hilarious story by drawing on the literal meaning of the words. Skye shared with me several video clips of the student reading her story to her classmates, who were clearly and completely enthralled.

Because the students were also following the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, they thought maybe if they turned Ants in Your Pants into a movie, they could share it with the children of Sendai, Japan, “to give them something to smile about, maybe even laugh about.”

Over the course of two days, Skye’s students busily and collaboratively transformed Ants in Your Pants from a vision to a full-on video production. And in the process took learning to action.

Barely out of the parking lot, I called Lesley McKillop, a 4th grade teacher at Skye’s site – who participated in last  summer’s NWP Summer Institute through our local Area 3 Writing Project. I prefaced my description of Skye’s teaching style and lesson by stating, “We have to bring Skye Smith into the Writing Project!”  Throughout our 5-minute phone call, we must have said at least 6 times, separately or simultaneously, “We have to bring Skye into the Writing Project!”

Rewind a year back at the same site (Prairie Elementary), and Lesley would have been the topic of my parking lot phone calls.  Following a visit to Lesley’s classrom and watching, for instance, her students transform “show-not-tell” writing into award-winning multmedia pieces, my phone calls were to NWP colleague Pam Bodnar – along with emails to A3WP director Karen Smith – to say, “We have to get Lesley McKillop into the Writing Project!”

No, the NWP does not award finder’s fees for bringing inspiring teachers into a Summer Institute.  The project is all about teachers teaching teachers. NWP is sort of a “give one/get one” concept that exponentially supports and promotes outstanding teachers on their journeys to becoming coaches and mentors beyond their own school sites. “NWP believes in knowledge that grows organically in and by the specific community of learners” (Joseph McCaleb).

I joined the NWP community 16 years ago.  Like so many of my fellow NWP colleagues who have more eloquently explained the importance and benefits of this vibrant, dynamic community, I realize that it has become second nature to me to actively recruit the best of the best for the A3WP. No finder’s fee needed.

From the bottom of my heart – and in view of my list of Teachers from My District Who Should Join the Writing Project, teachers whose expertise should be extended to a national audience – I hope we can convince our representatives to restore funding to the National Writing Project, a project that  “bridges that gap between what was not in our teacher education classes and what our students demand from us as we prepare them for their worlds” (Ellen Shelton, Mississippi Writing Project).

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)?!

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 – Slam Dunk Research via PowerPoint

I’m drawn to this session because the write-up states “model has your students investigating and answering higher-level questions.” The presenters are from Deep creek Magnet Middle School, outside of Baltimore.

A slam dunk model has 5 basic steps:

  1. questioning
  2. information sources
  3. activity
  4. assessment activity
  5. enrichment (extended) activities

Here’s a link to the session wiki –

Why PowerPoint? To help ‘late adopter’ teachers. Jamie McKenzie has already created the PowerPoint template – The idea is to make it easy for teachers to organize the project for students, including providing the links.

Session was a good combination of Jamie McKenzie resources and a truly simple way to introduce late adopters to using technology (which hopefully filters down to their students).

May 30, 2009
by blogwalker

Telling Our Classroom Stories

As the school year draws to a close, how do you document those moments, events, or projects that made a difference to you as a teacher – and to your students as learners? I really like the model National Writing Project colleague Bonnie Kaplan has produced. The combination of a 3rd person narrator using voice over (mostly) stills makes a good story even more compelling.

Dover DS Intro from Bonnie Kaplan on Vimeo.

And I’d like to thank my friend Kevin for sharing his reflections on bringing movie making into his 6th grade curriculum and for pointing me to Bonnie’s gem.

May 24, 2009
by blogwalker

More Gifts from the Nat’l Council for Teachers of English!

I’m surprised that my MS Word spellchecker continues to underline literacies.  It’s been more than a year since  the National Council for the Teachers of English President Kylene Beers posted a definition of 21st century literacies, moving away from what had for decades been a word that existed in singular form only. I’ve probably referred teachers to this link almost as many times as I’ve recommended visiting NCTE’s wonderful Read, Write, Think site. And for colleagues who ask me about research on writing in a digital age, I refer them to Kathleen Yancey’s Writing in the 21st Century report. I’ve also recently joined NCTE’s English Companion Ning, where I have opportunities to join such groups as the upcoming discussion of Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It.

But wait, here comes one more huge gift to teachers from NCTE: The National Gallery of Writing :

To celebrate composition in all its forms, we are inviting diverse participants –students, teachers, parents, grandparents, service and industrial workers, managers, business owners, legislators, retirees and many more — to submit a piece of writing to the which will be a digital archive of samples that exhibit how and why Americans are writing every day, accessible to all through a free, searchable website.”

Thank you, NCTE!  I’m working on a multimedia essay right now (A Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom, a piece inspired by Ernest Morrell’s keynote at last summer’s NCTE Conference on 21st Century Literacies) that I hope to soon submit to the Gallery.

March 8, 2009
by blogwalker

EdubloggerCon-West pre-CUE event

Due to very iffy wifi connections, I was not able to do much live blogging from CUE (although I did Tweet much of the conference). Here are a few of the gems from  the Wednesday pre-Cue EdubloggerCon-West meet up (Thank you, Steve Hargadon, for putting together this event!)

  • Jose Rodriguez – How do you get students away from mandated scripted learning. Using Two-Minute Tamales (Gary Soto), for example, at end of story, students produce a video. Jose starts with as a free version of a SmartBoard. Students build a 5-minute play for which they develop the script for narration. They have to build in dialogue. is an easy interface (large font, upload images, etc.). Jose uploads from iMovie to, which has an option to save as non-flash-based file (QuickTime). Small file too!
  • Copyright discussion: Checkout flickrstorm tutorial posted by David Jakes on his site.
  • Janice Stearns – virtual meeting through ustream – Besides video and back channel,  Janice also brings in coveritlive –  which adds the appeal of making conference look like sports live blogging, but you can moderate it! Whoot Whoot. Looks like an easy, baby step into video conferencing. Move them on to Elluminate as next step.

February 22, 2009
by blogwalker

Happy First Birthday to The Edublogger!

Of all the EB enhancements James Farmer has added over the past year, The Edublogger is my absolute favorite.  Such great tips, so well explained, and so easy to turn around and apply to my own blog and blogging practices.  Thank you, James, and Happy Birthday to The Edublogger (Sue Waters)!

Seems like with every contest The Edublogger promotes (i.e., 30-Day Challenge to Better Commenting), both the process and the product become road maps for 21st century teaching and learning. So in response to Sue’s call to join the celebration by writing a post on any of 12 topics, here’s my contribution:

#9 Favorite Blog Widget: ClustrMaps – Last year I was helping Jim Faires, a 6th grade teacher in my district, get his students up and running with YouthRadio, a collaborative project developed by Kevin Hodgson. Jim was introducing his students to podcasting. The question he posed to the class was “What if the whole world was your audience?!”

When the students completed their podcast, they watched as Jim uploaded it to the YouthRadio blog.  It was then that one of the them spotted the ClustrMap. Jim opened the enlarged view. Try to imagine their amazement and exhuberance when they realized the blog had visitors from all parts of the world and every continent (ok, not Antarctica). Suddenly students were scurring for an atlas to accurately identify each state and country.

Not only was the ClustrMap a built-in geography lesson, but it also illustrated and answered Jim’s question: truly, the whole world had become their audience.

November 27, 2008
by blogwalker

NCTE ACE Workshop Makes “the Shift” Visible

I love being part of the ACE group, which always offers a Monday hands-on tech session at NCTE. Each year, I walk away with a deeper understanding of what 21st century teaching is all about.

Rich Rice opened the workshop with a session on K-16 Educational Blogging and Podcasting.

My NWP colleague Troy Hicks led the second session: Writing with Wikis. Troy opened the session by asking “what’s the matter with wikis?” Some participant ideas:

  • danger of overriding work(and we went live with a flurry of posting – and overriding each other)
  • tough to keep organized

His second question: “What’s good about wikis?” Participants’ thoughts:

  • small group projects, e.g., poetry project
  • collaborative essays
  • allowing students to incorporate information in different ways
  • creating policy documents

If you are looking for ways to make visible to teachers the power and possibilities of collaborative writing, take a tour of the many projects Troy has shared through this wiki. I love his Project Write: Book Discussions. The author links take readers to wikipedia-like resources pages. What a great model!

Allen Web led the third session, opening with a small rant on the design of 21st century computer labs, which look amazingly similar to 19th and 20th century “labs.” Small but revolutionary idea! I’ve asked Allen to send me a photo of the lab he has designed, where laptops are placed on small tables that can easily be moved to accommodate whatever project students might be working on. I now understand why the use of technology in classrooms with access to a few laptops always seems so much more powerful than what I typically see happening in elementary – secondary computer labs.

My favorite link on Allen’s LitArchives site = Civil Liberties Online Resources. Not on his LitArchives site, but very exciting is his Literary Worlds project. At a glance, more impressive than read/write projects I’ve viewed in Second Life!

I led the 4th session with an introduction to VoiceThread.

The 5th session was my first time to participate in one of Carl Young‘s workshops. Oh my, some great ideas and resources for teaching the realities of digital identities! Given that few K-12 students have received much instruction, either from home or school, on the ethical use of the Internet, Carl’s suggestion to those whose digital identities may already be questionable as potential employees, grant recipients, etc., to get out there and create a positive web identity. Love Carl’s resources and samples posted to Being Proactive!

Ewa McGrail, who organized this year’s ACE event, ended the day with a great activity and resources for teaching copyright and fair use. I’m really glad she’s posted the handout, since we ran short on time.

Interested in becoming a member of ACE? Contact Ewa. Next year’s NCTE ACE workshop will be in Philidelphia, one of my favorite cities:-).

*Image from Library of Congress American Memory Project –

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