Muddling through the blogosphere

October 17, 2016
by blogwalker

Creating a Culture of Civility


entrsekt - October 2016

entrsekt – October 2016

The October issue of entrsekt, ISTE’s quarterly journal, immediately caught my attention – with the cover boldly featuring Jennifer Snelling’s “A Culture of Civility: The New Tenets of Connecting in the Digital Age.”

In a highly contentious election-year atmosphere, I really appreciate having at my fingertips the research, examples, and reminder that “Civility and citizenship come from understanding alternate viewpoints and being able to have conversations and respectful debates.” 

When ISTE released the 2016 Standards, I was delighted to see Digital Citizenship as an integral component. In reading “A Culture of Civility,” I was struck by the connection between Digital Citizen and Global Collaborator, and how both standards promote “vital skills to empower students to thrive in an uncertain future.”


In my day job, I serve on a district committee tasked with making sure teachers have access to a wealth of high-quality resources, such as Common Sense Media, for teaching and modeling digital citizenship skills with their students. Initially the topic tended to be taught in isolation, as part of an homeroom advisory period or in a computer class, for instance – too often without providing students with opportunities to put their digital citizenship skill set into practice. The arrival of Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education has thankfully brought technology integration into the core curriculum – along with the need to make sure all students are firmly grounded in what it means to be a positive, contributing digital/global citizen.

One of the many note-worthy quotes from Snelling’s article is from psychiatrist Dr. Helen Riess, who stresses the importance of developing listening skills, a first step in building empathy:

As soon as there is a culture of disrespect for opposing opinions, we lose the art of not only listening but also of compromise and negotiation, and that’s what’s contributing to this polarized society.”

In response to Dr. Riess’s concern, I’d like to share that, occasionally, when visiting classrooms in my district, I enter just as a student has apparently posted something inappropriate online. Instead of taking away the Chromebook, I love how teachers are tapping into technology misuse incidents as teachable moments on how to respectfully disagree. It is inspiring to watch students come to understand that being proficient in the genre of commenting is a non-negotiable, must-have skill for the digital age.

I am bundling the “Culture of Civility” article (which does require an ISTE membership in order to access) with two of my favorite digital citizenship resources on teaching the art of commenting as a genre:

  • From Linda Yollis’s 3rd graders: How to Write a Quality Comment

With interactive technology tools such as Google Docs, blogs, wikis, and videoconferencing making it so easy to take student voices beyond the classroom, creating a culture of civility is an essential step in empowering students to listen to and learn from a mix of shared and alternate viewpoints.

If you have resources to add to the topic and conversation of promoting a culture of civility, I warmly invite you to share them by leaving a comment.


August 11, 2011
by blogwalker

Teachers Teaching Teachers – via Google+ Hangout

I try to keep Wednesday evenings free (6:00-7:00 pm) so I can spend an hour with the always amazing group of educators joining EdTechTalk’s  Teachers Teaching Teachers session. With Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim at the helm, the TTT hour is an opportunity to learn about, discuss, and question innovative tools, strategies, and programs for energizing classroom practice.

Last night’s session was no exception. I had my first encounter with Google+ Hangout – and was impressed. Unlike our Skype audio sessions, 10 of us were able to participate via microphones and webcams – and I don’t think anyone lost their connection (as so often happens with Skype).

The main topic was Youth Voices,  “a school-based social network that was started in 2003 by a group of National Writing Project teachers…for the purpose of bringing students together in one site that lives beyond any particular class.”  A goal for the new school year is to bring more K-12 classrooms into the community. We also talked about building on “collaborative issues that tend to connect everyone” (such as last year’s Voices on the Gulf).

Looks as though gardening will be the opening collaborative issue, with multiple themes and possibilities:

  • Aquaponics: Adam Cohen shared his website and passion for aquaponics and urban farming.
  • Window farms: It was about a year ago that Teachers Teaching Teachers included a discussion on Woolly Gardens.  I am equally excited to start conversations with colleagues on creating window farms!
  • Horn of Africa: Paul Allison will be bringing his students on board this year with Peter Little’s work.

Once again, following a Teachers Teaching Teacher session, my head is spinning and I am in awe of the amount of thought-provoking content shared in a single hour.


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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April 11, 2007
by blogwalker

Hard Questions for Teachers Who Teach Blogging

I am looking forward to tonight’s Teachers Teaching Teachers Skypecast. Susan Ettenheim has posted a list of questions shared and voiced by many teachers who have been “out there” a while blogging with students.

I have another question to add, but it’s technical not pedagogical, yet impacts a group of Youth Voices students’ ability to maximize features: What do you do if your access at school is via Macs and it doesn’t matter if it’s OS 9 or OS X, the interface is horrid!!!! Students have to scroll all over the place to find anything. I’m asking this question based on yesterday’s visit to Bob LeVin’s classroom at Florin High School, where many students do not have access at home. I am hoping there might be a simple fix for the Macs. With last year’s Youth Voices Coast to Coast (West Coast, that is), we learned that for full functionality of the Manila interface, for instance, we needed to use Firefox.

(Oh, and I did open Blogwalker in both versions and was happy to see that the Edublogs appearance and interface on a Mac are identical to being on a PC. Thanks, James. 🙂
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April 6, 2007
by blogwalker

Edublogs Resources – Keep ‘um coming!

Thanks to Kevin H’s post, I found Mike Temple’s very useful site on Edublog Tutorials. He has great beginning how-to video tutorials, but also advanced (for me) user tips on customizing your sidebar and adding all kinds of snazzy widgets. As an added bonus, you can follow along his discussion with my Sacto neighbor Alice Mercer, plus a link to her online tutorial. I’ll throw into the mix the handout I’ve put together for teacher workshops – with a commitment to keep it updated 🙂

Many thanks to James Farmer for his huge part in bringing teachers on board with Web 2.0. And, oh my, I just checked out the wonderful tutorials he has added – starting with a slide show on Why Blog? and moving on to Mike Temple’s start up videos – and links to Alice’s classroom blog .

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March 11, 2007
by blogwalker

Blog Rubric – A Work in Progress

I think it’s important that students understand that blogging is different then IMing or text messages – two genres associated with fast, spontaneous dialog. To justify blogging within the school day, I believe our students should gain a sense of audience, which, depending on the blog project, may extend across geographic, socio-economic, and generational boundaries. And let us not forgot the administrator, be it a curriculum “coach” or even a supportive principal. How can we justify the in-class time if we do not promote opportunities for our students to grow as writers?

With enhancing student writing at the core of this post, I am throwing out a rough draft for a rubric. As I toy with this draft, I’m thinking of the students in the Youth Radio podcasting project. The problem with this draft is that it’s my words and does not yet reflect the voices and input of the students themselves – or any exemplars/non-exemplars. I’m hoping to get with Jim Faires’ class when they come back “on track” for some feedback and a revision session or two.


Blog Rubric

A Road Map to Full-Credit Posts and Responses


  • Blog Etiquette – Shows clear respect for the learning process and patience with different opinions. Shows initiative by asking others for clarification, bringing others into the discussion.

  • Critical Thinking – Entries indicate critical thinking and personal reflection about the discussion topic and an understanding of questions and comments before responding. Makes connections from ideas of other Youth Radio members.

  • Writing – Entries show excellent command of Standard English.


  • Blog Etiquette – Shows respect for learning process. Comments often encourage others to participate.

  • Critical Thinking – Most entries indicate critical thinking and personal reflection about the topic. Ideas are interesting enough that other participants respond to them. Comments are logical but may not make connections from other Youth Radio members’ posts/responses.

  • Writing – Entries show good command of Standard English.


  • Blog Etiquette – May make some insightful comments; however, by insisting too forcefully, or by not participating enough, does not contribute much to the overall progress of the discussion. Word choice and tone may send negative messages.

  • Critical Thinking – Posts indicate limited personal reflection about topic. Comments may not always flow logically from previous comments or responses.

  • Writing – Entries contain a number of grammatical and/or spelling errors that may cause readers confusion and interference with understanding.

Not Yet Meeting the Standard

  • Blog Etiquette – Displays little respect for the learning process. May respond about individuals rather than about ideas.

  • Critical Thinking – Responses display a lack of preparation and/or reflection.

  • Writing – Numerous grammatical and/or spelling errors make entries difficult for reader to follow.

My favorite online road map so far to “good blogging” was posted by Susan Ettenheim to the Youth Voices elggWhat’s Good Blogging on the elgg? Intended to be read online, this resource uses hyperlinks to provide examples and additional explanations. It also includes a great list of sentence starters.

And for the billionth time, I’ll reference David Warlick by ending with his guiding questions for evaluating a blog:

When reading a blog, ask:

  1. What did the author read in order to write this blog? What did he or she already know and where did that knowledge come from?
  2. What are the other points of view? What are the other sides of the story?
  3. What did the author want readers to know, understand, believe, or do?
  4. What was left unsaid? What are the remaining questions and issues?

When writing a blog, ask:

  1. What did you read in order to write this blog? What do you know and where did that knowledge come from?
  2. What are all points of view on the issue?
  3. What do you want your readers to know, understand, believe, or do?
  4. What will not be said? What are some of the remaining questions about the issue?

Oh, and I like Kathy Schrock‘s Guide for Evaluating a Blog.

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