Muddling through the blogosphere

March 24, 2019
by blogwalker

SFJAZZ 2019 Concert – A tribute to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“In every freedom and social movement, music has been at the center as a tool for communication.” Marcus Shelby

On February 22, in honor of Black History Month, SFJAZZ Education hosted its annual School Day Concert, featuring award-winning bassist, bandleader and community activist Marcus Shelby and his quartet, along with vocalist Tiffany Austin and poet Paul Flores. This year’s theme was a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with a focus on the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement.

SFJAZZ 2019 Concert

Marcus Shelby and SFJAZZ Education are committed to bringing rich music experiences and appreciation into classrooms, especially in low-income communities, by providing interactive performances infused with history and social justice themes. This year’s performance featured pieces that played a central part in our nation’s struggle for human rights and for civil rights, showcasing the work of Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, and more.

Over 800 students from schools in the San Francisco Bay Area traveled to the SFJazz Miner Auditorium to attend this free event.

SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco

Thanks to an ongoing collaboration between SFJAZZ and California’s High Speed Network, three California middle schools were able to attend the concert virtually: Preuss Middle School in San Diego, Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, and Elk Grove Unified’s Samuel Jackman Middle School.

Throughout the hour, the performers encouraged the audience to join them by clapping and singing along. They also intermittently called out to the Samuel Jackman and Preuss students and projected their rooms onto the large screen. (Brewer Middle School had to cancel at the last minute.) The performers ended the concert by inviting students to ask questions. Based on the number of students lined up in the SFJAZZ Center and at Preuss and Jackman, the concert organizers will probably want to allow more time for Q&A during their 2020 concert.

Setting up for the concert definitely involved a time commitment on the technology end, as the schools would be connecting with Ultragrid, a newly developed, high-quality video conferencing program from the Czech Republic. In Elk Grove, Technology Services and the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) started testing connections weeks earlier and continued troubleshooting right up till the day before.

Their efforts paid off. From start to finish, both the audio and video connections were excellent, making it possible for close to 1,000 middle school students (in-person + virtual) to enjoy, learn from, and interact with a highly talented group of professional musicians.

A huge shoutout to SF Jazz! Their Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights Concert was a remarkable event and a powerful example of using technology and bandwidth to bring innovative learning experiences directly into the classroom.

 Spending the morning with Jackman band teacher Benwar Shepard and his students was as inspiring as the concert itself. As the concert came to a close, Shepard summed up the importance of bringing jazz into our classrooms:

“Jazz education…and jazz as a style itself… is America’s truest art form. The seeds of jazz have led us to where we are today.”

February 5, 2012
by blogwalker

Fighting for the Right to Fight – Resources for ‘Red Tails’

Thanks to George Lucas’s release of Red Tails, the story of WWII’s Tuskegee Airmen, students and teachers have a wonderful new resource for celebrating African-American History Month.

I know a Tuskegee Airman. His name is Alexander Jefferson. I met him 4 years ago at the Denver Airport. He was on the same flight from Sacramento to Denver. I spotted him at the baggage pickup zone.

It probably seemed like an idiotic question, but seeing an African-American gentleman wearing a Tuskegee Airman jacket, I had to ask, “Pardon me, but were you a Tuskegee Airman?”  He was actually on his way to present to students in one of Denver’s public schools (saw his picture a day later in the Denver Times as he stood surrounded by young students). Our 10-minute conversation was absolutely the most worthwhile time I have ever spent waiting for my luggage.

Alex was one of 32 Tuskegee Airman to be shot down over Germany, and the only one to have written about the African-American experience behind barbed wired in a German prison camp: Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free. From NPR’s recent interview, you can get an idea of his energy, his resiliency, and his commitment to fighting for social justice.

One month after meeting Alex, thanks to the coordinating efforts of  Janine Lim and our Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC), we were able to record Alexander Jefferson as he connected from Michigan with students at two Elk Grove school sites (Ed Harris Middle School and Monterey Trail High School) – bringing a “living voice” into their U.S. History class discussions:

With the opening of “Red Tails,” I thought teachers might be looking for a range of primary sources to frontload the historical context of the film – and to ignite a passion for learning more about the Tuskegee Airmen and our nation’s pre-Civil Rights era. Here is a starting list:


  • Tuskegee Airmen – A Proud Heritage – A teacher’s guide from the Museum of Aviation.
  • From Tuskegee to Jim Crow – An interview with Sacramento’s George Porter, a mechanic for the Tuskegee Airmen – recorded during a Civil Rights discussion in high school history teacher Martin Billings’ classroom.
  • Red Tails Trailer – According to YouTube descriptor, this is the official George Lucas trailer.

I’ll be adding to the list throughout the month, so if you have any resources to share or activities you’ll be doing to commemorate the challenges and accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen, please jump in and leave a comment:-)

February 16, 2009
by blogwalker

Tuskegee Airman Videoconference Now Online

Looking for resources for Black History Month? Thanks to the wonderful Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC), you can read about my recent videoconference with Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson, and then watch the clips:

Still in awe of how videoconferencing can enrich teaching and learning – way beyond the walls of the classroom.

January 19, 2009
by blogwalker

60+ Years Earlier: Going into the Inauguration

Alexander Jefferson videoconferenceI very much enjoyed Tuesday’s interactive videoconference with Tuskegee Airman Alexander Jefferson, who connected from Wayne State University in Michigan to an 8th grade US History class and a 12 grade African American Studies class in my district.

I had the good fortune to meet Alex last April while waiting for my luggage in the Denver Airport.  Since he was wearing a Tuskegee Airman jacket, I could not resist introducing myself.  As he shared his story of “fighting for the right to fight,” I immediately started thinking of ways that he could share his World War II experiences with middle and high school students. To top it off, he showed me a copy of his book, Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free, which includes sketches from his time spent in a German POW camp for officers – the first time in his miliatry career that he enjoyed equal treatment as his fellow white officers. No question about it, students needed the opportunity to hear and learn from his first-hand experiences in a pre-civil right decade.

Nine months later, and with the help of the Berrien County’s energetic Janine Lim, we did it! Throughout a highly interactive hour, students learned that the fight for civil rights did not begin in the 60s. The Tuskegee Airmen persistently fought to overcome barriers and indignities, and in no small way laid the groundwork for what has transpired through the past 60+ years.

Today as we commemorate the life and sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Jr., and tomorrow as we head into a history-making inauguaration, I think perhaps the students participating in last week’s event will understand the anaology of the turtle on the gate post, who could not have reached that position without the help of many others – such as one Tuskegee Airman who has made a life career on taking a stand for social justice, fighting for the right to fight.

And what a good use of technology to take students beyond their school sites and community:-)

June 30, 2008
by blogwalker

Collaborations Around the Planet

Janine Lim

I’m in Janine Lim’s CAP session. She’s walking us through the new features at CAPspace, which make it easier for teachers to connect and to advertise their videoconferencing projects. The new Templates option makes it easy to provide others with information on specific projects. Once you’ve completed your template, you can click on the Collaborate button if you’re wanting to locate partner classes or to just share about your project.

Heading in to check out the links on her blog…and looking forward to RAP 2009!

February 27, 2008
by blogwalker

Meme: Passion Quilt

I’ve been tagged by Murcha for a meme challenge. Here are the rules:

  • Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce

That’s a big question – what are you passionate about teaching your students?! I want them to love learning and I want them to feel empowered to make changes. I see Web 2.0 as a pathway to both those goals. Yesterday I spent the morning with a group of 1st graders from one of our semi-rural sites, Franklin Elementary School, a small (about 500 K-6 students) site on our district’s outskirts . To get to the school, you actually drive through a historic cemetery. Less than half the students in this classroom have Internet access at home.

The purpose of my visit was to connect this group of students to a group of 1st graders in Edmonton, Canada, for a Read Around the Planet videoconference. I was too busy working the remote control to take any photos. Fortunately, a 7-year-old artist named Giovanni captured the interactivity of the event with the sketch below, which he graciously presented to me at the end of the conference.



It is my hope (passion) that in the years to follow much of the time Giovanni and his classmates spend inside the four walls of the classroom will be spent connecting, exploring, learning, and creating beyond those four walls – much like the scene depicted above.

I am tagging Steve Hargadon, Monica Edinger, Janine Lim, Larry Ferlazzo, and Mathew Needleman, whose work/passions have already inspired me.

December 24, 2007
by blogwalker

NPR Celebrates 10th B-day of Blogging

My favorite radio program NPR included a podcast on blogging’s 10th birthday in today’s Morning Edition – What could I add to Vicki Davis‘s excellent description of blogging as a classroom tool for extending teaching and learning? Perhaps one blog post and two 30-second videoclips:

  • The blog post that best sums up how and why blogging can boost literacy skills: Will Richardson’s Jan 2007 post Blogging to Teach Reading – “blogging is reading with the intent to write,” which is a whole different ball game than reading to answer a multiple-choice test!
  • From Florin High School students Erica and Phillip explaining, during a 2005 CUE presentation via videoconferencing straight from their classroom, what blogging means to them.

August 12, 2007
by blogwalker

Tackling Life – A South Sacramento Story

raiders1995.jpg The front page of the Sunday Sacramento Bee features the first of a three-part story that I wish every educator – across the state and nation – had access to: Tackling Life – South Sacramento Raiders. Bee staff writer Jocelyn Wiener has followed former team members of the 1992 south Sacramento Raiders Junior Midgets football team to see what paths their lives have taken in the 15 years since the photo was taken. For the most part, their stories are filled with obstacles associated with living in low income, crime ridden neighborhoods, starting with dysfunctional, broken, or nonexistent family ties, moving on to the pull of escalating gangs and peer-related drug dealings, and ending all too often in incarceration and/or early death.

The story is played out in the Elk Grove Unified School District (my district) and Sacramento City Unified School District (Alice M’s district), but I think the two areas featured in the article could easily and accurately be replaced with countless other urban school districts nationwide. When I look at the annotated map of the south Sacramento area that Wiener has included in the article, I am sure thousands of students in similar social-economic areas could create compelling stories using Google maps to make visible to an online audience what poverty really looks like. I say this after four years of connecting high school classrooms across the state and nation through blogging and interactive videoconferencing in projects that invite students to share, discuss, and ponder social actions revolving around challenges they face on a daily basis in their local communities. For students living in communities such as south Sacramento, the challenge is not so much how to survive four years of high school, but rather, how to survive four years of traveling to and from school, along with the in between weekend events and confrontations.

I am wondering if any of the survivor or success stories from the 1992 team are due to a teacher – or two – along the way who made a difference. For the many that dropped out of school, I’m sorry they never had the opportunity to learn from dedicated, talented teachers such as Bob LeVin, an English teacher at Florin High School, one of the high schools a number of the 1992 Raider members would have attended. Bob LeVin is a teacher who understands the enormous challenges faced by many of his students just getting out the front door each morning to attend class. He cares deeply about their present realities and tries to offer a curriculum that is engaging, while at the same time challenging and geared to preparing students to live, learn, and work in the 21st century. Always looking for new ways to package literacy skills, in the 2003 school year he invited me to his classes to introduce the students to Enrique’s Journey, a blogging project that connected his Florin students to a group of high school students in Lompoc, a small farming/military community in southern California. Pleased with the way the Enrique project offered a voice to many students who rarely participated in the face-to-face environment, Bob was definitely up for continuing the journey. And we did, with the 2004-05 Youth Voices Coast to Coast project.cue.png To illustrate how this project took students beyond the walls of the classroom and the confines of the Florin community, I’ve included a picture from a videoconference session during which Bob’s students joined students from San Francisco’s Galileo High School to co-present with me to a group of educators at the 2005 CUE Conference about the Youth Voices project. I’ve also included some clips from the session so you can hear first-hand how Web 2.0 technologies directly impact students and teachers: one student’s take on the project, another student’s take on blogging; Bob LeVin’s wrap-up.

In addition to involving last year’s students in the 2006-07 iteration of the Youth Voices project, Bob also introduced filmmaking into his English classes, empowering students to document local histories and events. Within months of putting cameras into their hands, many of his students submitted entries in local and regional film competitions. All finished the year with an appreciation and understanding of multimedia literacies.

peewee.jpgBut the deal is Bob LeVin mainly teaches 12th graders. Regardless of whether they are in the Elk Grove or Sac City School District, I hope the members of the 2006 south Sacramento Raiders Junior PeeWees will have the mentors, supporters, teachers, and positive school experiences necessary to ensure that they stay in school all the way through to their senior year.

I want to acknowledge Jocelyn Wiener and her team for documenting and sharing a story that needs to be told. With schools re-opening over the next few weeks, I think this series is an timely reminder of how important it is for every student to feel that he/she is a valued member the community, especially the school community. I look forward to Part 2 and 3 of Tackling Life.

Note: 1995 and 2006 team photographs by Bee photographer Anne Chadwick Williams.

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July 5, 2007
by blogwalker

Some NECC Favorites

Time to reflect on some favorites from NECC 2007

  • Favorite toy: Flip video camera – Priced at 75$ at Costco for the model that offers up to 30 minutes of video, this pocket-sized camera has a popout USB plug in. So no more hunting for cables. And at that price, I think teachers will feel more comfortable checking out the camera to students. (Thank you Scott Merrick)
  • Favorite RSS News Aggregator: – This reader is more like a customizable newspaper format, and, unlike Bloglines or Google Reader, you can share your reader. (Thanks David Warlick)
  • Favorite URL: Tiny URL – For all the times I haven’t cited where I found an image included on this blog, for instance, because the address went on forever and every, here’s a nifty way to provide readers with a greatly shortened version of the URL. (Thanks Will Richardson)
  • Favorite Web 2.0 Projects: Read Around the Planet – a great way to involve primary students in literary virtual community (Thanks Janine Lim) and Flat World Project – connecting Georgia to Bangladesh (Thanks Vicki Davis).
  • Favorite Session: Using Wikis in the Classroom – I already had a inkling of the collaborative power of wikis – but I did not realize the huge, huge amount of upload space included with (Thanks Adam Frey)

Off to play in the foothills 🙂

April 13, 2007
by blogwalker
1 Comment

Interactive Videoconferencing – New Resources

I was delighted to discover via Ben Rimes’ Tech Savvy Educator my new favorite blog – Janine Lim’s Videoconferencing Out on a Lim. Her 35 Staff Demos post includes some great tips for getting teachers to understand and feel comfortable with this powerful tool that can very quickly blast open the walls of the classroom.

I started videoconferencing with teachers and students five years ago, just as California had increased the bandwidth at all California colleges and universities, with the obligation that they leverage their resources to K12 sites. In the spring of 2002, I bussed three groups of Elk Grove students over to our nearest college campus, CSUS, for three separate video conferences. At the time, my district did not have the bandwidth or a camera to connect from classrooms. The first conference connected a group of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders from a Title 1 school in Elk Grove to a 6th grade class in Santa Barbara that wanted to share an interactive tour of artifacts from the Henrietta Marie, a slave ship that sank off the coast of Florida over 300 years ago. This traveling exhibit was stopping at a number of sites across the nation, but Elk Grove (south of Sacramento, California) was not one of the stops. Sixth graders acting as virtual docents to a group of their peers who had no possibility of viewing the exhibit in real time was definitely a winning concept!

The Elk Grove students, of course, wanted to reciprocate and 3 weeks later hosted Voices from the Fields, an interactive interview to connect the Santa Barbara kids with Maria Mejorada and several of her CSUS students, all who had grown up in migrant labor camps across California. A powerful session!

The 3rd videoconference, Always Running, was actually two conferences. The first connected an English class at a continuation high school in Elk Grove to a continuation high school in Lompoc, California, to talk about Luis Rodriquez‘s controversial novel Always Running. Following this first conference, the students blogged about what it meant to them to be “always running” in their own communities. After finishing the novel, the two groups met again via video conference, but this time Luis Rodriquez traveled to the LA County Office of Ed and joined in. We had stumbled onto a tech tool that could truly change the lives of students.

In all three of the above interactive videoconferences, students had taken content from their language arts and social studies programs, researched, questioned, read between the lines, and stepped out beyond the textbook and walls of the classroom to share their thoughts and concerns about social justice. I can’t help but compare this model of technology integration to the test prep “read passage/answer multiple-choice questions” version/vision (or lack of) of tech integration that seem to be spreading faster than a California wild fire.

Five years later and many video conferences since, all Elk Grove secondary sites and nearly all elementary sites now have the bandwidth to connect right from the classroom. We don’t have videoconferencing cameras at every site, but I have one packed and ready to take to sites (I work in my district’s tech services dept). And, “oh, the places we will go”….

Our California Parks is doing an outstanding job of making state parks accessible to classrooms with a growing variety of virtual field trips. But I wasn’t really getting the concept of unlimited possibilities across by just telling teachers about videoconferencing or even showing them a few clips from past events. Thanks to the Park Services commitment to K12, I’ve been able to bring them on live during faculty meetings to connect with rangers in the desert at Anza Borrego and the tide pools of Sea Cliff to talk about videoconferencing possibilities for their students. Teachers are leaving the meetings totally energized and jazzed about interactive videoconferencing.

I can see that one of my Youth Radio colleagues, Cheryl Lywoski, has already responded to Ben’s post. I want to remind Cheryl about the Megaconference Jr., a fabulous annual event that connects classrooms around the world in a 24-hour conference. This year Jim Faires’s Elk Grove classroom went international right out of the classroom and joined the Megaconference. The kids did an excellent job presenting the Youth Radio project. But what we always see when connecting kids is that kids just want to talk to other kids. In this case, the world got a little smaller as Jim’s students noticed that the class they were talking to in Australia were dressed in shorts – since it was summer “down under” – and the class in Taiwan was already into Friday – it was Thursday in Elk Grove. So Cheryl, if you read this post, Jim and I have already talked about the possibility of a virtual (via video conferencing) end-of-the-year pizza party for our Youth Radio sites 🙂

I’m adding Janine Lim’s blog to my short, but growing, list of IVC resources:

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