Muddling through the blogosphere

March 24, 2013
by blogwalker

CUE 2013 – Day 2 Take-Aways

Continuing on with my reflections from the fabulous 2013 CUE Conference, here are my take-aways from:

Friday, Day 2:

Opening Keynote with Sir Ken Robinson – I’ve been a long-time  fan of Sir Ken, starting with his first TED Talk and his Changing Education Paradigms animation. It was great to  hear him in person and be reminded that:

“Every single one of the 100 billion lives who have walked the face of this earth is unique and unrepeatable…To be born at all is a miracle, so what are you going to do with your life?”

“We have to get away from standardizing to personalizing – in ways that celebrate diversity. Technology drives this revolution.

“Educating is not a process of directing instruction, but to inspire, to feed curiosity, to facilitate. If we aren’t facilitating learning, then education is not happening.”

Session 5 – Elementary Flipped Teaching – Using the Cycle of Learning to Innovate CCSS Instruction – For a window into Lisa Highfill’s innovative teaching, start with a visit to her website. Lisa asks both in her teaching and in her session “What is it I can do now (with new technologies) that I couldn’t do before?”  The video below illustrates her  “explore, explain (flip), apply” cycle for delivering curriculum:


Session 6Get slammed With Google – Loved the energy in this session! Definitely click on the link to see for yourself how Mark Hammons, Diane Main, Jen Roberts, Bill Selek (no live links yet), Scott Kley Contini, Joe Wood, Megan Ellis rocked the audience with their Google tips and tricks (AKA slams)!

During my whirlwind 2 days at December’s Google Teacher Academy, Mark’s Google News Archive Search was my favorite “slam.” Judging from the post-CUE 2013 conversations on my flight home from Palm Springs, Mark once again wowed an audience. Grand Slam!

Megan Ellis (a MERIT 11 colleague) shared a simple but very important Google tool: custom Google search engines. For educators  like me, who teach tough topics, such as the Holocaust, Megan’s How To Tutorial is a gem, simply explaining how to create, for example, a Researching the Holocaust search engine with middle-school appropriate links.

But seriously, you will want to check out each Google Slam demo!

Session 7 – Visual Storytelling, Digital Storytelling, Cinematic Narrative: Literacy Across the Curriculum – Because it is so easy to get sidetracked in great hallway conversations at CUE, I arrived half way into Ken Shelton’s dynamic session, something I immediately regretted. Ken laid out the key elements of digital storytelling:

  • understanding of topic
  • content curation – simply grabbing a bunch of pictures is not going to to do it – 7 image limit. If you can’t find images that work, create your own
  • media literacy – what is the value of an image? How about music? Does if fit the narration?
  • develop a storyboard  – Great motivational stratgy that Ken uses with his students (in case they’re tempted to gloss over this important pre-producation step): switch storyboards & threaten to grade group on another groups completion of the project
  • production
  • reflection – what did you learn? what would you change?

What’s missing from my session summary are the powerful images and and stunning videos he used to illustrate each key element.  For example, to show the difference between “digital storytelling” and “cinematic narrative,” he shared this BMX video and this stunning Inspired Bycycles video.

If you missed Ken’s #cue13 session, but will be attending ISTE 2013, I’ll see you in his Making Movies with the iPad, iPhoneography, and Photoshop Basics session. I plan to arrive early!

Session 8Explore, Flip, Apply: Empowering the Learning Cycle Through Technology – Although I caught only the tail end of Ramsey Musallam’s session (once again caught up in great #cue13 hallway conversations), having heard him present before (MERIT 11, CVCUE Fall 12), I wanted to end Day 2 with his winning style of brilliant + hilarious. I wasn’t disappointed.

Explore-Flip-Apply model

I think many teachers are put off by the idea of “flipping” instruction because they are concerned about putting hours and hours of time into creating instructional videos that students will be required to watch for homework, another form of lecture-based instruction, often limited to lower-order thinking. Ramsey’s approach to flipped instruction definitely taps into Bloom’s  higher order thinking skills (applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating).

Using the Explore-Flip-Apply model, Ramsey has his AP Chemistry students explore a concept first.  Then the “flip” comes in. Rather than introducing a concept with a video, he jumps in on the spot and creates “short, tailored video designed to address misconceptions and assimilation errors that arose during student exploration.” Rather than spending hours creating detailed screencasts, the “technology became a slave to the pedagogy, rather than vice versa, and the videos became, if you will, ‘inquiry spackle'” (quote from OnCUE, Spring 2013, Vol 35, No. 1).  For tons more resources, strategies, and samples, visit Ramsey’s personal website and Cycle of Learning.

Be back soon with Day 3 Take-Aways.


October 29, 2012
by blogwalker

Back from Fall CUE

Image from

I’m back from my first Fall CUE Conference. Two wonderful, jam packed days of connecting with colleagues and attending great sessions!

Here are my Friday take-aways:

The Personal Is Political: Remix and Fair Use – KQED’s Mathew Williams gave an awesome session on “learning opportunities for creating remix videos using found video footage online with an emphasis on fair use and critical thinking skills.”  Mathew presented remix as as  research method – and a critically important skill.

It’s been a while since I last visited KQED’s website, but I plan to make time to explore their awesome Quest page.

Designing Online Communities of Practice with Brokers of Expertise – I’m a huge fan of Brokers of Expertise (have even given a few BofE workshops), but couldn’t pass on an opportunity to hear Jon Knolle present. News flash: If you’d like to provide the California Department of Education and State Superintendent Torlakson’s Task Force with some feedback, here’s your chance, through Brokers, to share your vision for Education Technology in California Schools, share your vision for visual and performing arts and creative education in California Schools, and share your vision for STEM education in California schools.

Prezi Primer – Christine Olmstead and Randy Kolset did a great job of touring the newest features of Prezi to both those familiar with or new to Prezi. I really like the greater variety of themes as well as the option to easily upload PowerPoints.

KQED Do Now: Engage Students with Topical Issues Using Twitter – My second workshop with Mathew Williams was equally excellent. Check out the rich ways KQED’s Do Now program engages students with current issues using social media tools such as Twitter.  I’ll definitely be including this site in my upcoming district Twitter workshop for administrators.

Saturday Take-Aways:

Feedback Machine: Using a Mail Merge with Google Spreadsheet for Student Communication – If you’re impressed by Flubaroo (as I am), then you will be in awe of how Alice Keeler takes instant online feedback to the next level with her Google spreadsheet tips and tricks.  She’s posted the session links and tons of extras to her tech page.

Licensed to Drive … Google Style – Loved Mark Hammon’s humor, injected throughout the hour.  Glad to know that when inserting images to Google Drive, the citation is automatically included. Cool.

Do You Flubaroo? How to Use the Auto-Grading Script Effectively – I’m pretty familiar with Flubaroo, but I really liked presenter Roni Habib’s suggestion to use it at the beginning of the school year to build online communities – and take it to a Wordle.

Digital ID Project – My project co-creator/curator Natalie Bernasconi and I were at first a little bummed to see our session was scheduled at the end of the conference. That soon changed, thanks to the opportunity to spend our session with some pretty incredible teachers:-).

Will definitely plan to attend next year’s Fall CUE Conference. It’s not often that a fabulous conference is within driving distance of Placerville;-)


March 18, 2012
by blogwalker
1 Comment

Digital ID Project – An invitation for collaboration

Bringing digital citizenship into the core curriculum

I just returned from a 4-day trip to the fabulous CUE Conference in fabulous Palm Springs, California. In addition to joining some outstanding speakers and sessions (which I’ll blog separately later today), the conference was also the first time my National Writing Project/MERIT colleague Natalie Bernasconi and I were able to co-present our Digital ID project.

We were fortunate to have a wonderful group of teachers and administrators, ranging from elementary through high school, joining us for the session – with a several jumping right in to join the wiki and add to the resources.

The goal of the Digital ID project is to collectively and collaboratively- in one online location – provide students, teachers, and parents with the resources and strategies to make digital citizenship an integral part of the core curriculum – while addressing the legal requirements of current legislation such a AB 307 and the Broadband Data Improvement Act.

Natalie and I warmly invite you to download, tweak, share, and contribute to our growing bank of resources. We especially want to draw your attention to our Digital Citizenship PSA Challenge. We would love to showcase your students’ projects!


May 4, 2010
by blogwalker

California’s Great ‘Bait and Switch’ Trick

saveedtechI’m headed to the Capitol this morning to fight for our EETT ARRA funding. CUE director Mike Lawrence sums up the issue in a sentence: “California directed schools and districts across the state to spend millions to support Educational Technology, then failed to distribute the over $72M in stimulus funds to pay for it!”

Having seen first-hand the positive ways the meaningful (beyond multiple-choice) integration of technology into the curriculum can impact teaching and learning in my district’s EETT classrooms, I have a few thoughts to share with our Assembly members:

Honorable Members of This Subcommittee:

My name is Gail Desler.  I am a technology support teacher for the Elk Grove Unified School District. I am here to today to urge you to honor the primary goal of the EETT ARRA grant:

“to improve student achievement of the state content standards and technology literacy in grades four through eight with expanded access to technology, electronic resources, professional development, and enhanced communications.”

In EETT Rounds 1, 2, and 4, the Elk Grove USD met and exceeded performance goals, with students in grades 7 and 8 at all 5 targeted middle schools showing substantial growth on California Standardized Tests (CSTs) in the academic area of English/Language Arts. As for technology proficiency, students and their teachers also exceeded performance objectives.

We are currently in our second year of EETT Round 7, this time working with grades 4 and 5 at three elementary sites.  Two have been classified as Title 1 for a number of years; the third school more than meets the requirement for free and reduced lunch and awaits reclassification.

I recognize that, when looking at student achievement, the State restricts its definition to standardized test scores.  Last year, all three EETT 4th grades improved their CST scores in English/Language Arts – and showed huge gains in technology proficiency.  At David Reese Elementary School, for example, 4th graders showed a 6-point gain in English/Language Arts (which included the 4th grade writing sample) over the previous school year and substantial gains in their abilities to use information technology.

Regardless of the EETT Round, thanks to the on-going assessments of our external evaluators, the explanation is clear and simple: the gains in student test scores can be attributed to the fact that EETT funding is being used as intended – providing students with access to digital literacy tools and providing teachers with the training to effectively integrate those tools into the English Language Arts curriculum.

Through a partnership with the Area 3 Writing Project (local affiliate of the National Writing Project), teachers receive professional development on  best practices for improving  literacy, with the recognition that new definitions for literacy no longer distinguish between literacy in general and technology literacy in particular.

At a time when low test scores have locked many Title 1 schools into a daily grind of students working in isolation on multiple-choice/fill-in-the-blanks test prep, I have watched our EETT sites use the training, support, and tools to unlock higher order thinking skills, allowing students to engage in complex tasks that foster collaboration and creativity, much like their counterparts at more affluent school sites. I have witnessed what can happen when EETT funding gets feet walks into classrooms.

I invite you to visit Elk Grove’s EETT sites so that you too can see first-hand how the technology and training are providing an at-risk student population with opportunities to expand and learn beyond the confines of ‘basic’ or ‘proficient,’ beyond the walls of the classroom, and beyond the margins of their surrounding communities.

California should seek alternative funding for the CALPADS program and not take away from this already established and effective program. On behalf of the Elk Grove USD and all the districts that have applied, I implore you to stop holding EETT ARRA dollars hostage and to immediately release the funding – while there is still time to ensure that teachers will receive the professional development needed to bridge unacceptable achievement gaps and digital divides.  Using the EETT ARRA money to provide students with better access to information technologies and teachers with the training on how to use those information technologies makes a key difference in our schools—not just in improving CST scores but also in increasing students’ and teachers’ abilities to use 21st-century literacy tools.

I’m told it’s basically a done deal: the Assembly will take the EETT money from the classroom and use it to fund the P-20 data-gathering program Calpads.  Already knowing that yet one more program for measuring academic acheivement is not likely to directly benefit students, I think it’s worth our time and effort to fight for a program that is making a difference, especially in our Title 1 schools.

March 14, 2010
by blogwalker

CUE 2010 Take Aways

I attended some great CUE sessions, both for the resources shared and the presenters’ engaging presentation styles.

Thursday Sessions:

  • Internet Safety Awareness: I blogged this  outstanding session live- and a week later am still thinking about the question Larry Magid poses to ‘tweens and teens: What does it mean to be a friend in 2010?
  • Sharing Stories with Google Earth – Joe Wood – Between the resources Joe shares and his engaging, energetic, humor-infused style, his sessions are always fabulous. I’m going to keep checking his website where he has promised to upload a live recording of the session.  As soon as  that happens, I’ll update this post, so you can see first-hand how Joe used Google Earth and Google Maps for a digital story of his childhood.  In the meantime, for Google Earth resources and ideas, check my Friday section below.

Friday Sessions:

  • Google Tools for Educators: LACOE’s Nancy Moore and Chris Jones led this hands-on session. They set up a great resource page to guide us through the workshop and for later use.  It’s been a while since I’ve looked at Google Books, but, oh my, the huge assortment of books and magazines in the public domain is pretty impressive, including Life Magazine from the beginning!I really liked the main workshop activity: Using Google Maps to annotate the stops mentioned in Thomas Slocum’s 1899 book Sailing Alone Around the World. Having Nancy and Chris’s handy Google Maps tutorial as a reference really helped everyone delve into the task.
  • Teaching Internet Literacy as a Genre – Heather Wolpert-Gawron – This presentation just hummed along, starting with Heather’s opening statement: “We can’t assume that a good offline reader is a good online reader, or that a good reader of one genre is a good reader of another.” A few take-aways from Heather’s session:
    • Think aloud – Narrate everything!  Teaching Internet literacy is about methodical think aloud.
    • Tap into Use the “largest mall in the world” for teaching navigation tools. “Without navigation tools in their heads, students will fall into shopping traps.”
    • Twitter – If you follow science feeds or history or news feeds you can break for a “syn-nap” and check out the link. “Syn-nap”  = spontaneous learning – stop and act on Twitter news item.
    • Teach basic rules of netiquette for commenting on a blog.  Let students use emoticons, which help them to find their writer’s voice.  Have students take a netiquette quiz.
    • Formal writing vs. texting – there’s a time and place (compare to shorthand – a great analogy to share with administrators who are concerned that text-speak is eroding students’ writing skills) – use for notetaking. There’s a time and a place.
  • Extreme Makeover: Education Edition- No Blog? No Wiki? No Twitter: No Problem! Steve Dembo. I picked this session because I’ve never heard Steve Dembo present before. I have to say, he’s right up there with his DEN colleague Hall Davidson – what a stage presence! I didn’t think I would have any take-aways from this session (just because I’m already an enthusiastic user of blogs, wikis, and Twitter), but I was wrong:!It took about a minute to register for this extremely user-friendly tool. Thanks to iPadio, I’m over the heartbreak of losing  as my favorite tool for podcasting from my cell phone.  Three minutes after posting my first ‘phlog,’ I had an email from the iPadio team, welcoming me into the community and providing me with more tips.  Checkout iPadio’s speech to text feature…Oh my, oh my, think of the possibilities…

Saturday Sessions:

  • Using Technology to Make the Reading/Writing Connection – Arnie Uretsky – I’m not sure  by paraphrasing Arnie’s key points that I could do justice to his unrolling of the reading/writing connection, so I’m pulling some direct quotes from his handout:

Everything we read was written first.  It’s a simple idea but a profound one. Understanding the structure used to construct a story or essay can provide powerful entry into developing reading comprehension and fluency….We all give lip service to the fact that reading and writing are interconnected skills, but often we don’t directly teach the common elements that are critical to both activities…

…With my students I use the analogy of multiplication and division to illustrate the relationship between reading and writing.  Multiplication and division are opposites of the same concept.  The same is true of reading and writing.  When you read information, you put the information together from the text you are reading, much like putting together sets in multiplication.  When you are writing, especially when you are writing in response to literature (or science, social studies or math), you are deconstructing the elements of the story or essay so you can cogently explain them to others.  Good readers also systematically deconstruct what they read.  …”

Throughout the session, Arnie stressed the importance of explicitly teaching schema to our students.”Students need something to hang their thinking on.”  Graphic organizers are a must!

  • Read/Write/Think – I’ve been a long-time fan of NCTE’s site and am familiar with their Student Interactives, such as the Diamonte builder and the Story Map builder. The one drawback to this great site is students can’t save their work on this site – so print it!
  • Scholastic Graphic Organizers – All the graphic organizers provided by Scholastic are PDF’s, so you can save them and print them. Another take-away from this session: If your students have been working with Read/Write/Think’s character traits graphic organizer, you can pull up Scholastic’s printable Character Sheet and Traits List, print it out poster-size and now you’ll have a character chart for you wall.
  • Tools for Reading, Writing, and Thinking – Need graphic organizers for teaching cause and effect? Checkout these cause and effect formats.
  • Writer’s Companion – This is the companion website for Arnie’s program.  I’ve looked at this well-thought-out program before  – and always walk away with the understanding that Writer’s Companion offers more for the reluctant writer than Inspiration.  If I had $ to purchase software for grades 4-8, I’d chose Writer’s Companion in a flash.

CUE 2010 – Ah, so many tools, so little time; so many great presenters, so little time; so many opportunities to connect and re-connect with the CUE community…

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March 7, 2010
by blogwalker
1 Comment

Kicking off CUE 2010 with Internet Safety Awareness

From start to finish CUE 2010 was outstanding!

I was delighted to arrive in time for the Internet Safety Awareness and Education panel session. Anne Collier of lead the discussions, which ranged from “sexting” to identity theft.   Anne was joined by:

Larry Magid of “It’s all about how kids relate and interact on the Internet. The Internet predator issue is minute compared to how kids harm themselves.” Larry had a few questions for us:

Question 1: What does it mean to be a friend in 2010? How do we encourage kids to be cyber citizens – who care about each other. WE have a lot of work to do. We have to help students create a new social culture where children become each others keepers. Larry referenced a Palo Alto high school that has had a rash of teen suicides. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, kids who commit suicide often put out warning signs.  Fellow kids are the most likely to see those warning signs.  But we seem to have this mentality to not respond.

Question 2: What does it mean to turn our children into agents of social betterment?

Rebecca Randall of Common Sense Media – There needs to be more of a home-school connection. Kids are leaving digital footprints, but they don’t really have the brain development to understand the consequences of their actions. Kids need to warn their friends that they’re posting something inappropriate.  As educators, we need to do things pro-actively and build a culture of responsibility – a “culture of dignity.”  It’s not just about doing no harm, but about doing good.

Lynette Owens – Trend Micro (content security) – Global Citizens Program – Tech alone is not the answer to Internet security – there has to be an education piece. The security piece is not as well represented in typical i-safety programs:

  • Education by far has worst instances of malware – access to hacked URLs is 6X worse in education than all other organizations.
  • Information software stealing is 4x worse in education.
  • Disturbing statistic: 10% of ID theft = child identity theft. The technique of “social engineering” is on the rise. For example, with any current event,  such as the death of Michael Jackson or the Winter Olympics, criminals will rush to web and try to plant themselves wherever they think kids will be – but it’s really a hack link. They’ll make offers to children, which require downloading something to view whatever the offer is. Kids are often opening pop-up for codecs – that will log all keystrokes and send that information back to somebody.
  • Teaching students about the security side of the Internet should be an essential component of our media literacy programs. Kids don’t like being manipulated. After watching some of the Internet Security 101 tutorials,  students will realize that downloading a cool movie, for instance, could result in loss to their privacy.  Our Internet safety programs should promote the process of critical thinking.
  • Note: March 16 Trend Micro – will launch  Internet safety video conference. Will definitely be checking their site for this event!

The questions I will be revisiting on a regular basis, sharing with teachers and parents, and weaving into my Internet safety workshops are What does it mean to be a friend in 2010? and How do we create a culture of dignity?

February 28, 2010
by blogwalker

OnCue – Beautiful Resources from Spring 2010 Edition

One of the  many benefits of attending the annual CUE conference is the year’s subscription to the OnCue Journal.  My Spring 2010 copy just arrived today and, as usual, contains a few gems. My favorites are the links from CLRN’s Kelly Day in her Global Connections article:

  • African Voices – from the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History – This beautiful online collection “examines the diversity, dynamism, and global influence of Africa’s peoples and cultures over time in the realms of family, work, community, and natural environment.” Grades 6-10
  • International Children’s Digital Library – from the University of Maryland – A growing, international collection of children’s books, with a “focus on identifying materials that will help children understand the world around them and the global society in which they live.”  The selections are in multiple languages and include a wide assortment of authors – ranging from award-winning Calling the Doves’ Juan Felipe Herrera to featured authors such as Barry Polisar, whose book Insect Soup brings you up close and personal to critters such as the lice:


    Illustration by David Clark

Take my advice, avoid lice. They simply are not very nice.”

Oh, and besides an ICDL widget to add to your blog, you’ll find a link to the ICDL app for your iPhone. I love this project and website! Grades K-adult

  • Arctic Climate Perspectives– from WGBH Educational Foundation – A great video for viewing the impact of global warming on Barrow, Alaska. “The Inupiaq people who live in Barrow present their observations of these changes based on their centuries-old knowledge of their environment, and describe how these changes are already affecting their lives.” Grades 6-12
  • California of the Past – Changing Lives through Film – Kudos to the Oakland Museum of California for this wonderful collection of short videos from community members sharing their California experiences. Great examples for teaching the art of first-person narratives! Grades 4-12

I’ll be heading down to Palm Springs later this week to attend the Spring CUE Conference. Hope to meet Kelly Day and thank her for the above links.

March 5, 2008
by blogwalker

Twitter Preso at Edubloggercon

twitter.pngI’m at the CUE Conference a day early to attend the Edubloggercon. Sylvia Martinez is up right now doing a session on Twitter. With Twitter, comes a new term “microblogging.” She’s explaing how Twitteriffic works. She’s moved on to Tweet Scan and explaining the API thing, which allows 3rd parties “to suck stuff out of Twitter.” Tweet Scan allows you to search terms, such as your name, to see what Tweets are out there. Good way not to miss Tweets directed to you.

I like Steve Hargadon’s comparison of Twitter to a cocktail party. The participants are starting to chime in with the “presence” of Twitter community, because “there is a conversation going on all the time.” “It’s like being in the break room, not everybody is in there all the time, so no need to take it personally if you don’t get a response, unlike email.” And there’s even a My Tweets Map application…

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