Muddling through the blogosphere

July 28, 2007
by blogwalker

Student Bloggers: A New Category

Thanks to some year-long mentoring by Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim, I am now fully on board with students having their own blogs. I logged off Wednesday night’s Teachers Teaching Teachers Skypecast with some concrete ideas for providing students with the scaffolding to incorporate and share research in their blog posts. Paul has set up a wiki with the instructions for getting Youth Voices 2007 students up and running with Google Reader. I can see how this common thread will help connect readers and writers within the elgg setup and community and stretch their thinking/reading/writing skills as they post and respond.

I am also remembering an NECC conversation with Mark Wagner, who mentioned a student blog he added to his reader: My Year 8 English Blog. After reading Casper’s piece on plastic bags, I sincerely hope this young writer will continue posting when he enters his 9th year.

And thanks to Karl Fisch’s recent post, I discovered 7-year old Abby’s blog. I’m looking forward to following her through the school year. Abby’s will be a great site to share with teachers. This is definitely not MySpace! And check out her ClustrMap!clustrmap.png

Hence a new category in my Blogroll: Student Blogs.

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June 6, 2007
by blogwalker

Library of Congress Joins the Blogosphere!

It was my good fortune eight summers ago to travel to Washington DC for a week-long American Memory Project Summer Teacher Institute at the Library of Congress. What an amazing week and experience to tour first-hand our nation’s library! Eight years later, the LOC has continued to digitize hundreds and hundreds of primary source documents in their huge effort to make these resources accessible to the public – especially to teachers and their students.

I love being on their listserv. What I’ve pasted below is from today’s email, and is representative of the information, resources, and services – FREE – they offer:

* Asian Pacific Americans Community Center Help your students understand Asian Pacific Heritage through the resources of the Asian Pacific Americans Community Center. Don’t miss the Primary Source Set on Japanese American internment during WW II.
* New RSS Feed – Poetry 180
Did you know that a poem is available for each weekday of the school year from the Library’s Poetry 180 project? Now these poems can be delivered right to your computer desktop through an RSS feed. Teachers and poetry lovers: sign up today!
* The Battle of the Bulge – Interactive Essay This unique presentation uses U.S. Army situation maps to illustrate this famous WWII battle. Your students will enjoy the interactivity and the historical expertise shared by Library of Congress experts.
* Amazing Grace This new Web site explores the history of “Amazing Grace,” one of the best-known hymns in America, through items from the earliest printing of the song to various performances of it on sound recordings. Don’t miss the illustrated timeline, the essays on the history of “Amazing Grace,” a discography, and a selected bibliography.
* Pictorial Americana
Are you looking for a primary source image to use as a lesson starter or to support a teaching objective? Browse the table of contents of Pictorial Americana for a list of topical sets of images about American life and history. Several new sections have been added.

* The Civil Rights Era in the U.S. News & World Report Photographs Collection –
U.S. News & World Report photographers took these sixteen images during the struggle for African American civil rights. Use the images to help your students understand both the violence and hope of this pivotal time in American history.

* A Century of Creativity – The MacDowell Colony
As students move into summer leisure, encourage them to celebrate their creativity. They may be inspired by a visit to the online version of this Library of Congress exhibition. Students will learn about famous works that trace their origin to the MacDowell Colony, such as Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” Aaron Copland’s ballet “Billy the Kid,” and Dorothy and DuBose Heyward’s play “Porgy.” Students will enjoy hearing insider knowledge shared by Library of Congress curators.

* World War I: The Great War
This new presentation from the Veterans History Project offers the experience of World War I through the voices, images, and personal effects of those who were there. Students can examine written accounts (letters, diaries, and memoirs) and photographs that will breathe life into a study of this long-ago event.

* Science Tracer Bullets Online – Global Warming & Climate Change Are hurricanes, melting glaciers, rising ocean levels, eroding coastlines, crop damage, food shortages, absence of rainfall, shrinking aquifers, wildfires, and lowered water tables signs of worldwide global warming? If your students are grappling with how to understand this topic, introduce them to this listing of vetted print and Internet resources from the Science Reference Section, Library of Congress.

The content celebrates nationally observed heritage months, but many teach these topics year-round.

* Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month This Library-wide Web portal offers links to video selections, sound files, Library collections, and teaching materials pertaining to Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

* Jewish American Heritage Month This Web site, created collaboratively by the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, offers students a glimpse into the life experiences of the generations of Jewish Americans who contribute to the fabric of American history, culture, and society.

*The first of four Library of Congress Summer Institutes for Educators are almost upon us. We look forward to making new friends as well as seeing some old friends this summer!

*If you plan to visit the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Atlanta, consider registering for a half-day, hands-on workshop – The Library of Congress: The Crash Course (Tuesday, June 26, 1-4 p.m.)

But the most exciting part of the email was the mention that the LOC now has a blog – As soon as I finish this post, I’ll be adding the URL to my Bloglines account!

In the past few weeks, I’ve been following a discussion on the NWP Tech Liaison’s listserv about comic book software. From the Oregon Writing Project, TL Glen Bledsoe recently shared a project he and his students created using Comic Life software. And from the Western Mass. Writing Project, Kevin Hodgson has created a digital storytelling site where he posts inspiring projects and wonderful resources – among them Bubbleply, a free download that lets you add dialog bubbles to images and even video. So for the teacher who would love to make the genre of political cartoons accessible and engaging for students, I can envision introducing students to LOC image collections and then turning them loose with free software such as Movie Maker 2, Comic Life or Bubbleply to add a new layer of possibilities for student analysis of primary sources. Who needs a costly textbook (or scripted lessons) when our nation’s library has opened its doors 24/7!?!
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March 31, 2007
by blogwalker

“E” is for Empowered

aa_chavez_peace_2_m.jpgYou cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read…You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride.” Cesar Chavez

It jumped right out at me as I opened the front page of today’s Sac BeeE is for Empowerment. As he did in life, on what would have been his 80th birthday, the legacy of Cesar Chavez inspires those still facing barriers of racism and discrimination to stand up – or sit down – or walk a line – for justice.

Since accepting Kevin H and Bonnie K‘s invitation to contribute to a collaborative digital storytelling project – The ABC Project – I’ve been pondering how to represent the letters “E” and “P” via multimedia. What better way to commemorate (the unofficial) Cesar Chavez Day than by reviewing his life and important contributions to civil rights.

I’m starting by reviewing a set of lessons I developed in 2002 (just before I left the classroom to head over to our district office): Crossing the Line, The Circuit, Esperanza Rising, and Lupita Manana. With luck, I won’t find too many broken links. Somewhere I also have some interviews a group of 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students conducted with several students at Sac State, who themselves grew up in migrant labor camps, along with their wonderful professor Maria Mejorada. With luck, I can find those tapes. My idea is to create a movie using student voices to narrate images from fields of California, where young and old still toil to bring fresh produce to our tables.

“Si, se puede” = Empowerment
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March 29, 2007
by blogwalker

Karl Fisch, You Do “Deserve a Medal”

I started reading Karl Fisch’s blog last summer. I think it was through Will Richardson’s blog that I discovered Karl’s Fischbowl. Or maybe it was through David Warlick’s or Bud the Teacher’s posts. But as I read through Karl’s post this morning, I was able to travel back with him to August, when he very generously posted a PowerPoint he was planning to show faculty. A great presentation designed to get teachers thinking about the future and the need to prepare students for it (their future, not our present). The presentation included slides pertinent to Karl’s site, Arapahoe High School.

I also remember, shortly after this above post, another one appearing letting readers know that the PowerPoint was now available as a Flash video. Although I realized the presentation was now more streamlined, I don’t remember thinking there was any kind of xenophobic message there – none whatsoever.

So I am feeling bad for Karl this morning as I read through his post and see some of his second thoughts about the now much viewed – over 2 million!!! – Did You Know video. I had actually already read Will Richardson’s March 23 post Over 2 Million Views, but went back for a re-read this morning. This time I made my first – and last – trip to Tom Hoffman’s blog. Hoffman’s response reminds me of a recent incident I had, on a very minuscule scale compared to Karl’s video, when I sent out via district email a link to a free comic book design website – and got a hand slap from a curriculum coach who, rather than check out the link I provided, dug through the site and found a place where students could post a “happy thought or prayer.” Sort of ended my motivation to share resources. I certainly hope that will not be the case for Karl Fisch.

Ironically, it was only yesterday that I included a link to Did You Know in a response message on the NWP Tech Liaison’s listserv. And, while on a roll, sent it on to my bookclub listserv, since we’re reading The World Is Flat for our April read.

I want to thank and acknowledge Karl for sharing a wonderful resource. I second Will Richardson’s statement: “I agree with Will – “Oh. My. Goodness. You deserve a medal.
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March 28, 2007
by blogwalker

Writing to Be Heard (e.g., Podcasting)

I don’t know why it was not obvious to me that writing to be heard is different from writing to be read. Miguel Guhlin‘s recent post Podcasting as Writing was a huge “ah-ha” for me. I’ve already tagged and printed out the article he references by Nancy Updike. I was barely past Nancy’s statement “I had to stop writing the way I thought I should, and start writing closer to the way I think and speak; the words had to fit me, so that I could read them out loud,” when I reached for the highlighting pen and starting underlining not just the parts about “better writing through radio” but also the parts that make clear to me why I was having a hard time recording my own writing.

Writing to be heard is its own genre with its own set of rules. In a nutshell, I realize that outside of emails, I don’t write the way I speak. Hence, when the microphone is on, I stumble through my written script.

I like Miguel’s summary:

  • Think of podcasting as story-writing.
  • Hook ’em fast and hard.
  • Frontload the drama.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the questions floating through your head during an interview.
  • Write simply

From Miguel’s and Nancy’s excellent tips, I headed over to NPR. As a commuter, I spend at least 2 hours a day in the car. A highlight of my commute is being able to catch an NPR This I Believe audio essay. Of the many I have listened to, each one draws me in, with one story as compelling as the next. The first story to pop up on the NPR site today was Living What You Do Every Day. Yep, it follows the suggestions (rules) listed above, including one Miguel did not include: “Try writing a host intro before starting to write the opening of the story.  That will help you sort out what should go in the story’s set-up, versus how the story itself should start.”

After listening to a few more from the This I Believe collection (and with a vow to listen to one-per day from now on), I’m adding a few more suggestions to the list:

  • Short sentences are good.
  • Don’t use a 25 cent word when a 5 cent one will work
  • Contractions are ok to use
  • Active verbs are easier to understand than passive
  • Highlight and mark up your script so you know which words/phrases you were intending to emphasize

Next on my do-write list: a PowerPoint on Podcasting as Genre:-)
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March 25, 2007
by blogwalker

Teaching Keyboarding- a rationale + free sites

“What’s the use of having a machine capable of working at lightning speed if the information it needs trickles in like molasses in January?” (from “The Most Crucial Computing Skill” by Erik Sandberg-Diment/ Science Digest/ January/ 1984)

underwoodkeyboard.jpgI learned to type in high school – on a typewriter, not a computer. Touch typing is still at the top of my list of “Useful Things I Learned in High School” list. When computers entered my life, I quickly transferred the skill to a better tool that pretty quickly rekindled my love for writing (which I had lost somewhere in my middle school years).

I was recently invited by a wonderful 8th grade English teacher to help start her students on a blogging project, The Outsiders. Most of the students knew the keyboard by touch, or something close to touch. But for the few who did not yet have this skill, it was truly like “molasses in January.”

I was glad to have stumbled upon The Tech Savvy Educator‘s post on Online Typing Tools, a great resource for sites that have computers, but minimal budgets for software (or the students are tired of the same K-8 keyboarding program;-). And a quick Google search returned links and links of white papers and district tech standards such as to add some research to the mix.

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March 3, 2007
by blogwalker

Good Things Happening at Nicholas Elementary – SCUSD

Alice Mercer, 5th grade teacher at Nicholas Elementary School in the Sacramento City Unified School District is experimenting with a number of Web 2.0 tools to support and engage her students in learning. Through a visit to her Ms. Mercer’s Class Website, I discovered very cool FREE – and “not-yet-blocked” tool that Alice is using to host her online Homework Club –

“Vyew (pronounced “view”) is an Anytime Collaboration and Live Conferencing™ platform that provides a virtual space for Web users to create, collaborate and communicate with each other. Vyew includes a rich set of tools that enable collaborators to work together on documents, images, screen captures, desktop shares, whiteboard annotations, and more. ”

I met Alice in last week’s EdTechTalk. Very exciting to discover a teacher doing good things for kids right one district over!
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March 2, 2007
by blogwalker

Electric Pen Chosen as Tech Learning Site of the Week

Kevin Hodgson‘s Electric Pen classroom weblog site provides teachers with a window into Web 2.0 possibilities at the elementary level. It is also Tech Learning‘s site of the week. What a well-deserved recognition! Kevin is my friend, mentor, and also a fellow NWP Tech Liaison. I’ve had the good fortune to join him in the Youth Radio project, a project he developed to connect students across the nation, and now across the world, in blogging and podcasting about thoughts, stories, and issues in their own communities.

Kevin mentors and inspires teachers as well as students. His SciFi novel in Six Words wiki, for example, was my first experience with collaborative writing in a wiki. Whatever learning adventure he is sponsoring, I know it will be worth the learning curve – which he manages to keep to a comfortable minimum.

Kevin’s projects serve as examples on the “New Bloom,” an updated version of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which points towards technology-enhanced activities as the means for taking students beyond “Remember” (the old “Knowledge).

Yeah Kevin!
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January 14, 2007
by blogwalker

Negreponte’s Hope for Peace = OLPC

On the eve of MLK Day, I am glad I found NicholasNegreponte’s interview Computers for Peace posted on Edutopia. Here my three favorite Q&A’s from the interview:

  1. Are there regions of the world where the OLPC model will not work?There are some cultures where it works more naturally, like Brazil, which is a very bottom-up society. There are others where it is harder, like China, not only because it is a teacher-centric and top-down society, but because Confucius would not have advocated laptops. His theories about teaching, the centricity of teachers, and the required obedience of children are pretty strong.
  2. Critics of one-to-one laptop programs in the United States say the computers facilitate more in-class distraction (instant messaging, MySpace, and so on) than learning, that they allow children access to inappropriate content, and that the benefits of constant access are so far unproven. Do you share those concerns?We do not share those concerns, but that is not to say they are not real issues. Our kids in Cambodia learn English using chat and MySpace. Children are distracted if the teaching is not interesting. One education minister just said to us, about the $100 laptop, “Finally, education will include learning.”
  3. In an ideal world, what is your single greatest hope for this project?A three-step hope: World peace through the elimination of poverty through education through learning. Education is the goal; learning is the means. A lot of learning can happen without teaching. We’re banking on that.
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