Muddling through the blogosphere

July 4, 2011
by blogwalker

ISTE Day 4: Suzie Boss – Ripped from the Headlines – Real Events Yield Relevant Projects

I already knew when I saw Suzie Boss’s Ripped from the Headlines – Real Events Yield Relevant Projects listed on ISTE’s Wednesday session that I would be ending the conference with a bang. With Paul Allison (National Writing Project/Teachers Teaching Teachers),  Katherine Schulten (NYT Learning Network) , and Matt Baird (Science Leadership Academy) joining Suzie, this “lecture session” quickly became an interactive discussion session.

Suzie opened the session with Poll Everywhere question on current events: What makes a headline project-worthy?

  • messy problem – no “right” answer?
  • relevance, high interest?
  • ongoing issue or consequences (Weinergate, for instance, wouldn’t be lasting)?
  • connection to curriculum/standards?

We flashbacked to 2010 and the BP gulf oil spill and meaningful learning – Q: How do you design meaningful curriculum around a current event? Paul Allison shared Voices on the Gulf – a wonderful, year-long, National-Writing-Project connected project.  I was glad that he selected pieces created by Margaret Simon’s students. Having been involved with the Voices on the Gulf project, I really enjoyed watching Margaret’s students publish their thoughts and creative efforts around the oil spill to an authentic audience.

Suzie: “Students need to have empathy with people who are the front lines. Where can we help students develop empathy through current events selectively – without being ambulance chasers.

Matt  jumped in, opening with the June 26 Doonesbury cartoon that addresses the “just Google it” issue. His point: “When you’re looking for projects that will have meaningful transformative experiences – they should be something students can’t google.” The focus should be on the process of learning as opposed to content – “you’ll get richer learning.”  Microsoft Excel, for instance, rather than being taught as a stand-alone class, should be woven into an real topic, such as the Japan earthquake and tsunami. When students put together actuary tables of costs/benefits  in their math class, it spilled over into Matt’s history class. Cost of lives had not been considered in equation. Headlines don’t always have to be national/international.  With the BP oil spill, words such as “fracking” became increasingly woven into discussion. Philadelphia’s drinking water has changed to dead last. Are there any correlations? SLA Spanish classes, went to Dominican Republic to apply clean water ideas. Eleventh grader Humanities students had to come with elevator pitch – cross curriculum connections.

A Real Events Yield Relevant Projects approach to teaching and learning is about student voiceand choice, inquiry-driven learning. It’s about students getting “activated” – so they can go out and do something.

Question: How do you go from an event to a project?

  • PBL process guides inquiring learning – going deeper than a current-events chat
  • students make meaning, do or make something with what they have learned
  • results in authentic products

For an example of the above, checkout Kim Coffino’s  Quakestories wiki.

In the current test-driven climate, many K-12 classrooms have stopped weaving current events into the school day. Time to reverse this trend!

July 3, 2011
by blogwalker

ISTE Day 4: Facing History & Ourselves – Ostracism & Bullying

I’ve been a long-time fan of Facing History and Ourselves, a site and organization dedicated to “helping classrooms and communities worldwide link the past to moral choices today,” so I was thrilled to find a seat in their Tuesday session: Ostracism and Bullying: An Online Case Study for Educators. If you’re not familiar with Facing History, here’s a quick window into their work:

John Englander opened session with the statement that ostracism and bullying are affecting kids’ opportunities to learn in a safe environment. His opening activity was to turn to someone and think/pair/share and “reflect on a time in your adolescence/youth when you saw, heard or experienced bullying.” It’s one of those 100% inclusive topics, so we quickly and easily delved into small group and then a whole group discussion.

An interesting point raised by John is that “elementary students think standing up to a bully is cool; by middle school, students no longer think it’s cool. He also shared research by Catherine Bradshaw (Johns Hopkins University) showing that kids believe that teachers who try to stop bullying only make it worse.

We then moved on to Facing History’s amazing new resource: Bullying: A Case Study in Ostracism. The study evolved as part of research conducted by Harvard and Facing History and Ourselves and with funding from the Carnegie Corporation. At the heart of the project is a collection interviews with five girls around a simple problem that began in 7th grade and quickly escalated into a complicated and serious ostracism issue. (Click here for an overview of the project.)

After a brief introduction and tour of the site, John invited us to do a jigsaw activity with groups picking one case study to listen to and to then share out some of the experts who’ve reflected on study – many provocative thoughts! My partner and I picked Sue’s case, starting with the audio file, which comes complete with a verbatim transcription. We moved on to listen to the case study review – the classic, snowballing effect, so typical of middle school bullying scenarios.

Facing History’s Ostracism & Bullying case study and accompanying resources is one of my best ISTE 2011 take-aways – a resource I’ll be sharing with district colleagues as we come together this summer in search of online resources and assistance with the horrific issues of cyberbullying that currently occupy well over 50% of our middle school counselors’ case loads – and so quickly spiral out of control, negatively and too often disastrously impacting the lives of our students.

Thank you, Facing History visionaries, for providing this beautifully constructed/scaffolded resource!

July 2, 2011
by blogwalker

ISTE Day 3: Infographics – Jane Krauss & Diana Laufenberg

Jane Krauss and Diana Laufenberg are leading  the Beyond Words: Using Infographics to Help Kids Grapple with Complexity session: “With digital data burgeoning, helping students make sense of information is more challenging now than ever. Infographics –visual representations of data- can play a critical role in developing students’ information literacy so they can make sense of their world. ”

Here’s their presentation link, which also includes a Session Description page. I love being able to revisit how they constructed the hour-long session. From the Session Links Chart , you can explore a broad sampling of online infographics, starting with the first infographic – Minards Map.

From Minards Map, we moved on to a high school student’s Utah Ski Map. Jane posed the question: How could you show distance to airport? Great audience participation in response to this question.

Besides the links on the chart, Diana recommended visiting David McCannless’  TED Talk: The beauty of data visualization, which I’m heading into watch right now.

I became intrigued with infographics following the BP oil spill. The enormity of the disaster was instantly understandable to me via infographics like 50 Ways of Visualizing PB’s Dark Mess. Much inspired by Jane and Diana’s presentation, one of my goals for the new school year is to explore infographics as a tool for English Language Learners.

June 27, 2011
by blogwalker

ISTE Day 2: Sandy Hayes – Using Images and Music Ethically in Multimedia Writing

I’m  joining my NWP/NCTE colleague Sandy Hayes to explore more resources for teaching about copyright. Sandy’s starting with the  Simpson’s Intellectual Personality quiz, followed by Fair Use and Cultural Development – a beautiful look at evolution of art icons.

“Fair Use is not a formula. It’s a matter of interpretation. And you can talk about “fair” and “more fair.”

Sandy’s approach to this messy topic is very user-friendly and a wonderful complement to Renee Hobbs’ Copyright Clarity session. Sandy has already posted her PowerPoint and her handout on the ISTE Workshop Description page. Besides a great collection of teaching resources, her handout also includes a template for an analytical storyboard for a book trailer of PSA.

Super job,  Sandy!

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.

June 26, 2011
by blogwalker

ISTE Day 1 – NWP Hack Jam Session

I’m starting my ISTE 2011 experience at the Science Leadership Academy at the HackJam Session, organized by the National Writing Project.

Chad Sansing startedthe session with a Monopoly game intro activity. Great beginning-of-the-year activity. I’ll post the link to his preso, which includes the game directions, as soon as Chad uploads the slideshow.

We moved on to, which allows you to easily change content on websites [an opportunity to “pimp your writing” (not my words)].  Click on the X-Ray Goggles link, and then drag the icon onto your toolbar.Just a click of the mouse and you can pull up the source code for any website…and then, if needed/desired, do a little editing.  Looking forward to following conversations on how to roll out this tool, ethically and powerfully, with students.

Very fun session!

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