Muddling through the blogosphere

image for Saturday Seminar 2017 flyer

February 1, 2017
by blogwalker

How to Bring Teachers in Your District on Board with Technology

I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had over the years to attend and present at educational technology conferences hosted by outstanding organizations such as ISTECUE, Google’s EdTechTeam, National Writing Project, and NCTE. Being able to attend keynotes and sessions by nationally known educational visionaries, such as Will Richardson or Kylene Beers or Rushton Hurley, provides sufficient inspiration and innovative ideas to energize my teaching throughout the school year.

When I attend conferences outside of the Sacramento region or outside of California, I’m also aware that very few teachers from my district have been able to find the funding to cover registration and travel costs. Many are just dipping their toes into the technology integration waters and are not yet ready to submit a workshop proposal, for instance, which might entitle them to attend a conference with registration fees waved (a benefit I frequently take advantage of). And those who do attend some of the two-day, three-day, or four-day conferences often share with me that they ended their conference experience a bit overwhelmed by all the mind-blowing tips and tricks from the many technology rock star presenters.

I love what my district is doing to bring teachers on board with technology integration. Last Saturday, we hosted our 2nd annual Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminar at one of our high schools. For a mere $20 (which covered breakfast and lunch costs – and was waived if you volunteered to present), teachers could begin the morning with an amazing keynote from nationally/internationally known technology innovator and #HyperDocs queen Lisa Highfill. Following the keynote, our teachers could then select four 1-hour, hands-on sessions to attend.

Photo of Lisa Highfill presenting at Elk Grove USD's Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminar

The ever-inspiring Lisa Highfill rocks the Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms house!

To give you an idea of the wonderful variety and range of topics, here are a few session descriptions:

  • Teaching in a [Semi]Paperless Google Classroom – Teachers of all grade levels can learn tips and tricks to setting up their Google Classroom and implementing assignments.  Basic knowledge of Google Drive very helpful, but not required. I will show you what it looks like from teacher view and student view.
  • e-Portfolios for PRIMARY Students – Start an amazing journey to meet CCSS with authentic assessment using 21st century tools. Come learn how to create digital portfolios of student work to provide them with important opportunities to reflect on, curate, and showcase their learning beyond the classroom walls. Engage easily with parents and connect them to the heart and soul of your classroom.  It’s EASY, versatile, and accessible from ANY device. You’ll love it!
  • Extension Must-Haves for TeachersChrome extensions can make you a millionaire! Okay, so not really, but they can help you and your students be more productive and isn’t that more important than money? Come learn how to install and use the top must-have extensions you need now.
  • NASA & Project Spectra – Come learn about various tools you can use to teach astronomy & magnetism, grades 6-12.  Get hands on practice with interactive games, find resources that augment your regular class materials and try your hand at mapping magnetism on another planet. “Project Spectra!” is a science and engineering program for 6th – 12th grade students, focusing on how light is used to explore the Solar System. “Project Spectra!” emphasizes hands-on activities, like building a spectrograph, as well as the use of real data to solve scientific questions.

I believe what makes our Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminars so immediately relevant to attending teachers is that, other than our keynote speakers, every presenter is a district teacher. Across grade levels and curriculum, our presenters share best practices that work with our students – students who the attendees may have taught in the past or may be teaching in the coming years. Add to that motivating factor the fact that all presenters are easily accessible for an on-site visit or via district email, I know many attendees left ready to implement on Monday new ideas, strategies, and tools.

photos of teachers attending session to learn about Twitter

Awesome group of Elk Grove USD teachers delving into the power of Twitter.

It was my privilege to co-present Extending Student Voices Through Videoconferencing with Erica Swift and Twitter: What’s all the fuss about?! with Cathe Petuya. Already several teachers have contacted me with questions and ideas for weaving videoconferencing into their curriculum and others (via Twitter) to express their awe at the power of Twitter.

Given the manageable scope – and reasonable expense – of organizing and hosting a district-centered Saturday technology conference, I highly recommend this concept as an effective way to encourage technology “newbies” to explore how different tools offer new possibilities for teaching. I’m pretty sure the “newbies” who attended our Saturday Seminar are now ready to head off to CUE, ISTE, and other popular technology conferences – minus the intimidation factor. And based on the above session descriptions, I will be encouraging ALL of our presenters to start submitting proposals – beyond our 2018 Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms event.

If you are already sponsoring district-based/centered technology conferences, I would love to hear any suggestions or answer any questions!



November 22, 2014
by blogwalker

It’s that time again: #eddies14

edublog_awards_170x290_v2-2h4n5ynI love the Annual Edublog Awards. Every year, the event puts me into a reflective mode, as I think back through memorable posts, tweets, and virtual connections.

In making my 2014 nominations, I’ve focused mainly on two areas that are very important to me:

Resources for a connected educators

Resources for primary grades (too often the marginal or missing component of tech conferences)

Resources for transitioning to Project-Based Learning (PBL)

So …. drumroll please ….

  • Best Individual Blog – Primary Preoccupation – Kathy Cassidy’s blog is the first resource I share with primary teachers in my district who are starting their journeys into connected learning with their young students.
  • Best Group Blog – Digital Is – Sponsored by the National Writing Project (NWP), the Digital Is blog and website continue to offer an amazing range of topics, discussions, resource, and best practices on teaching (digital) writing and promoting (digital) literacy and connected learning.
  • Best New Blog – Mrs. Petuya’s Class Blog – Oh, such joyful learning takes place in Cathe Petuya’s Kindergarten classroom (my district). She is a fearless explorer ever in search of ways and tools for developing and supporting student voice – beyond the walls of the classroom.
  • Best Class Blog – Mr. Bentley’s 5th/6th Grade Loop – For a journey into powerful PBL instruction, with young filmmakers at the helm, you will want to revisit Jim Bentley’s blog often. Amazing teaching and learning (my district)!
  • Best Teacher Blog – The Tempered Radical – Year after year and from the classroom trenches, middle school teacher and NWP colleague Bill Ferriter pushes my thinking and expands my teaching toolkit.
  • Best Ed Tech/ Resource Sharing Blog – Edutopia – If I went back over my Tweets for the year, I’m pretty sure Edutopia would be at the top. My #1 go-to place for PBL resources and tips.
  • Most Influential Blog Post of the Year – No Longer a Luxury – Digital Literacy Can’t Wait – Written by Troy Hicks and Kristen Hawley Turner and posted to the National Council for Teachers of English website, this is the article I continue to share with teachers and administrators.
  • Best Individual Tweeter – @LarryFerlazzo – From app recommendations (love Shadow Puppets) to ed articles, Larry continues to find, create, and Tweet about an incredible range of useful resources (starting with his Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day blog).
  • Best Free Web Tool – Twitter.
  • Best Use of Media – Ms. Cheung’s Terrific Kinders – This wonderful teacher (my district) started a new journey this year: teaching students in TK (Transitional Kindergarten). She is already tapping into the power of voice to document her students’ journeys into literacy and numeracy.
  • Best Educational Wiki – hickstro – I am a better teacher thanks to the incredible depth and breadth of resources Troy Hicks so generously and regularly shares.
  • Best PD/unconference/webinar – Teachers Teaching Teachers – Throughout the year, I try to keep Wednesday evenings free to join Paul Allison and the weekly gathering of innovative, thought-provoking educators who join this weekly Google Hangout. And the good news is if I can’t join the Hangout, Paul always posts it to the site.
  • Best Mobile App – Shadow Puppet Edu – Again, with my focus on finding resources for primary grades, finding an app that makes recording over images and embedding the image/topic/lesson into blog very easy, I’m glad to have discovered (thanks to a Tweet from Larry Ferlazzo) Shadow Puppet.
  • Lifetime Achievement – Suzie Boss – Suzie Boss’s support and documentation of classroom teachers – within and outside my district – who are empowering their students through Project-Based Learning has been ongoing and far reaching. From her Edutopia posts to her publications, EdChats, Tweets, and presentations, Suzie is responsible for a growing bank of best practices in PBL and 21st century teaching and learning.

I know I’m missing a few categories, so if you have recommendations, please post a comment.

Be back soon.



April 28, 2013
by blogwalker

Hulk Hogan Taught My Son to Read – Sports Literacy in the Common Core Era

My son was a late reader.  He entered 2nd grade already a grade level behind in reading. That changed one Saturday afternoon when he stood next to me at a checkout stand at a convenience store. He spotted a wrestling magazine with his hero Hulk Hogan featured on the cover. As he handed the magazine to me with the plea of “Please, Mom. It’s Hulk Hogan,” I put aside minor concerns of appropriateness for a 7-year old and purchased the magazine. Within the hour, as I listened him begin the article on Hulk, I saw, with each sentence, his fluency, confidence, and energy level escalate . In less than 60 minutes, Hulk Hogan transitioned my son from a “reluctant reader”  to a reader.

As a teacher, in the years since witnessing first hand the power of sports literacy, I am always on the look out for resources that bring reluctant readers or disengaged students on board with literacy. I found a great one this morning via the National Council for Teachers of English Teaching and Learning Forum: Alan Brown’s Sports Literacy blog. Alan Brown is an assistant professor of English education at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Aimed at middle and high school, the Sports Literacy Blog provides an array of  resources and literature recommendations for integrating sports-related topics and readings across the curriculum. With the Common Core Standards’ emphasis on informational reading, sports literacy would be an easy cross-curricular connection.

In November, I am hoping to attend the NCTE’s 2013 Annual Conference in Boston. It is always a fabulous conference, worthy of the travel expenses. With National Writing Project (NWP) and NCTE members like Troy Hicks, Sarah Kjader, Bud Hunt, Paul Oh, Sandy Hayes and Kevin Hodgson leading sessions, I always leave with new understandings of  the power and possibilities of digital learning. This year will be no exception. Alan Brown has proposed the following session:

The Intersection of Literacy, Sport, Culture, and Society. The session will include keynote speakers, reactants, and round table leader,s all focusing on a wide array of sports and literacy connections.”

If I make it to Boston, I promise to blog the session!

November 25, 2012
by blogwalker

Back from NCTE 2012 Convention

I’m back from a 5-day trip to Las Vegas, host site for the 2012 NCTE Annual Convention: Dream, Connect, Ignite. The opportunity to hangout with and learn from NWP and NCTE colleagues more than made up for having to traverse the ultra smoke-filled, incredibly noise-filled casinos that lay between the MGM Grand rooms and convention center.

I arrived in time for Thursday’s NWP Plenary session, where I joined a room full of educators “writing together, writing in the moment.” What better way to start a conference than with Tanya Baker’s words, which came to life each of the five days, that “I am smarter and better because of the many NWP mentors who continue to push me ahead, as a writer and as an educator.”

A few take-aways:


  • Natalie Merchant’s Thursday Night Opener – My first conference take-way will actually go to my niece: Leave Your Sleep– Natalie Merchant’s collection of classic children’s poetry – put to music – which Natalie played for a delighted conference hall of English teachers, as she strolled through the gathering.

    NCTE 2012 Convention


  • Sir Ken Robinson’s Friday Keynote – Being a big fan of Sir Ken’s TED talks, it was a treat to see and hear him live. Three quotes I now carry with me:
    • on empathy (which is usually defined by what it is rather than its absence) “When you don’t have it, unimaginable things can happen.”
    • “Imagination is the heart of human life – from it springs set of competencies. Creativity = applied imagination.”
    • “Our resumes don’t come at birth – we earn them – we create them.”
  • Will Richardson’s (20 minute) Ignite Session – “Networks are the new classrooms…The network is more powerful than the node (e.g., Twitter)… The literacies, skills, dispositions have changed – we have to change too (from analog to digital). Connected teacher network graph by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach makes visible the need for us to stop being teachers and to start being learners. Our students need to see us as learners”
  • Stop the Bullying – Although I am deeply involved in this topic as a stepping stone into positive digital citizenship, I knew with this outstanding panel, I would walk away with new insights and resources.
    • Ferial Pearson – Reminded us of the power of pro-active vs. re-active  – and the value of spending the 1st week of school building community – with the result that students will understand what “respect” looks like.
    • Kevin Hodgson – I know that back at my district, I’ll be pulling from Kevin’s When Bullying Goes Digital Prezi, including his reference to Our Stories Count.
    • Kylene Beers – For all the times I’ve talked with students and staff about the need to “google well,” I can’t believe I haven’t also walked them through the steps for setting up a “Google alert” to notify them instantly when their names pop up in cyberspace. Great tip!
    • Lester Laminack – I can’t help thinking about the impact Lester’s Sticks and Stones Break Bones but Words Can Really Hurt You presentation could have on a faculty or student body as they plan their own anti-bullying campaigns. Such a compelling, gripping story.
    • Chris Crutcher – So sorry I couldn’t stay for Chris’s presentation.


  • Meenoo Rami’s #engchat Tech-to-Go  session – If you haven’t been able to participate in the synchronous Twitter session, the good news is Meenoo is archiving the sessions. Meenoo recommends TweetChat for easy following and adding to #edchat discussions.
  • Chad Sansing and Andrea Zellner’s Hackjam Tech-to-‘Go session – So glad I was able to catch the last 10 minutes of their high-energy presentation, just in time to learn about Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker, a great free tool to “enhance, remix and share web video.”


  • Reports from Cyberspace – It’s definitely worth getting up early on a Sunday morning when the session is co-hosted by Sara Kajder, Troy Hicks, and Bud Hunt!  Here are a few gems from each:
    • Bud – “If you don’t have a rationale for the (tech) tool, don’t use it”
    • Sara – In addition to exploring ways to use a Livescribe pen (to create “pencasts” of notes and audio, which can then be sent on to Evernote), SoundPaper (lets you create “talking labels”), and WeVideo (for book trailers), I’ll definitely be checking out Subtext (currently available as an iPad app, but scheduled to go live to the cloud), described by Sara as the “game changer” for having students collaboratively close read texts.
    • Troy – Five Ways to Destroy Digital Literacy:
      1. count slides, images, links – with a rubric reflecting that
      2. blog without blogging (wikis, docs, wiki) – instead of recognizing and tapping into the power  of connective writing.
      3. criticize “digitalk”  – instead of recogning the benefits of students “code switching” as described by Kristen Turner  – these kids are more digitally aware.
      4. ask only “googleable” questions – For example: Let me google that for you –
      5. always be thinking about the “coolest” website app, or gadget – when instead, you could use Google docs to read, confer, respond with students).

Sunday (ACE workshop)

  • I wish Katherin Garland’s session on Prezi had been filmed.  In the Prezi workshops I’ll be doing back in my district, I will definitely draw on Kathrin’s reminder to “think conceptually” as I attempt to model her simple, elegant creation of a favorite author Prezi.
  • Thanks to Carey Applegate’s session on Storify, I’m now on board with this free tool for telling our stories. Carey posed the question, “How would your story change if you could bring in images, film, etc.?”  Carey’s example illustrates her question:

There is nothing like the power of five days spent with 9,000 English teachers to truly “push me ahead.”  What I learned in Vegas will be reflected in my upcoming workshop.

I’m already looking ahead to next year’s event…in Boston!

June 29, 2012
by blogwalker

ISTE 2012 – Day 1 Highlights

My four-day excursion to San Diego for the ISTE 2012 Conference has been jam-packed with awesome sessions, great conversations, and  fun!  Here are some highlights from Monday:

Ignite sessions– “5 minutes and 20 images to tell your story, share your tool, and inspire an audience of your peers!” Such an energizer and a great model to take back to students, teachers, and administrators! The slideshow, unfortunately, does not include the speaker notes, so I’ve included a short description of each:

  • Chris Walsh –  Fast Five for Infinite Thinkers – Loved his 2-minute rule: “If you can find it online in two minutes or less don’t TEST on it!”
  • Mary Ann Domanska –  Publishing Kids’ Creative Podcast Stories Online Using Haiku – Primary grade teachers, you will love this one – a celebration of young writers honing their craft via technology.
  • Traci House – In Record Time: Disruptive Innovation to Say the Least – The August tornadoes that devastated Joplin, MO, could not stop Traci’s determination to open school on time, tapping into local and international aid and fast-forwarding into 21st century learning – textbook free.
  • Rushton Hurley – How Digital Video Changed One Teacher’s Life – Rushton is a master at combining humor and content – and in 5-minutes inspiring the crowds to consider the power of movie making to empower students and teachers.
  • David Jakes – What If? Five minutes was not enough for David Jakes’ message.  I recommend watching his 2011 K12 Online Conference presentation if you are striving to create culture to support change.
  • Vince Leung – The Evolution of Learning: Past, Present, Future – A compelling argument to bring real world examples (e.g., sports and video games) into the classroom – because those are the areas that students are willing to fail – and then continue on until they succeed.
  • Lisa Parisi – Jump Off the Testing Train – “Testing is not teaching.”
  • Justin Reich – Will Free Benefit the Rich? Fighting for Technology Equity – A call to provide ALL students with the same opportunities for challenging and meaningful use of technology within the school day.
  • Will Richardson – 19 Bold Ideas for Change – I’ve heard Will Richardson speak before, but not with this much passion. The 19 bold ideas for change are listed on the slideshow (you’ll have to scroll through), kind of like very compelling thoughts for the day. For example, Idea #11: “Repeat after me …’I want to be found by strangers on the Internet.'”
  • Alfred Solis – What is 1,000,000? – A High Tech High teacher… who has had Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey show up in his classroom to acknowledge his roll out of project-based learning.
  • Selena Ward – Igniting Creativity with Movie Making – “Movie making with kids is not about creating Hollywood films.”

Using Music and Images Ethically in Multimedia WritingNCTE’s Sandy Hayes provided wonderful historical context, resources, and tips for helping students learn to “flex their fair use muscles.”  Sandy’s one-page, double-sided handout lists her resources and includes the chart she uses with her 8th graders to help them development their analytical thinking skills.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills Birds of a Feather Session – I went to this session with a small but burning question: Has P21 considered adding a 5th C to their current list (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity): citizenship……the answer was “yes.” Whoohoo! (Digital) Citizenship will soon be the 5th C…so be on the lookout for a revised P21 poster🙂

Will post highlights from Tuesday and Thursday sessions later today:-)

September 24, 2011
by blogwalker

Teaching Writing “Out of a Box” – Can we reverse the trend?

Writing in its many forms is the signature means of communication in the 21st century. ” (National Writing Project)

Image from the National Writing Project

I was not taught how to teach writing as part of my teacher credential program.  It is through my 16-year affiliation with the National Writing Project that I have joined conversations, learned strategies, and shared best practices on helping students improve their writing skills – in ways that help them see themselves as writers and to actually look forward to writing.

Following my participation in the Area 3 Writing Project’s 1995 Summer Institute, as I headed into the new school year, I could almost immediately see the difference in my 6th graders’ attitudes and progress as I revamped my writing program.  By the time we headed to science camp, many had already transitioned from “having to write” to “getting to write.” I can still remember our first stop on the way to camp, where the students had an hour to explore a sandy beach, watch the seals and seagulls, and marvel at the pounding surf.  I noticed a number of students sitting silently, counting on their fingers.  I realized that, in their heads, they were counting syllables – for words they would include in the haiku poetry they would write down that night in their notebooks. Writers in the making!

Not surprisingly, in our current test-driven climate, many school districts have adopted scripted, formulaic writing programs with the belief that writing can be taught step-by-step out of a box program. Sadly, I think districts often value most programs they have to pay for – over the knowledge and expertise of their own teachers on effective ways to improve students’ writing.

I started my morning reading Paula Stacey’s Let’s Stop Teaching Writing, an article by that was included in today’s National Writing Project Daily. I value Paula’s reflections on teaching writing to 3rd graders and share her belief that “In our desire to help students engage in the process of writing, we have defined a process that really isn’t writing.”

I am currently out of the classroom, working as a technology integration specialist, and therefore am not in a situation of having to take a stand with an administrator or “writing” coach on teaching a boxed program. To those of you who are in that situation, I recommend initiating grade level and site discussions around the National Writing Project’s Core Principles:

  • Teachers at every level—from kindergarten through college—are the agents of reform; universities and schools are ideal partners for investing in that reform through professional development.
  • Writing can and should be taught, not just assigned, at every grade level. Professional development programs should provide opportunities for teachers to work together to understand the full spectrum of writing development across grades and across subject areas.
  • Knowledge about the teaching of writing comes from many sources: theory and research, the analysis of practice, and the experience of writing. Effective professional development programs provide frequent and ongoing opportunities for teachers to write and to examine theory, research, and practice together systematically.
  • There is no single right approach to teaching writing; however, some practices prove to be more effective than others. A reflective and informed community of practice is in the best position to design and develop comprehensive writing programs.
  • Teachers who are well informed and effective in their practice can be successful teachers of other teachers as well as partners in educational research, development, and implementation. Collectively, teacher-leaders are our greatest resource for educational reform.”

Given the incredible amount of bureaucratic requirements and accountability issues administrators must deal with,  I think it’s easy for them to lose their vision of what students really need to thrive in today’s digital world. I recommend sending good resources their way. Resources such as Edutopia  to provide them with a window into “what works in education,” or the NCTE’s  working “definition of 2st century literacies,” or the NWP’s Digital Is  to inspire and re-energize them with a  “collection of ideas, reflections, and stories about what it means to teach writing in our digital, interconnected world.” Because writing matters.


April 10, 2011
by blogwalker

Igniting National Poetry Month: An update

The 2011 National Poetry Month poster, designed by Stephen Doyle.

The 2011 National Poetry Month poster, designed by Stephen Doyle.

It’s April. Time to update last year’s Igniting National Poetry Month post with some wonderful new resources:


Update #1 -A year ago the New York Times Learning Network titled its poetry page as 11  Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month. They too have done some updating! This year you’ll find double the number of activities listed  on their Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month with the NY Times.

Be sure to checkout the Learning Network’s Second Annual Found Poem Challenge. What a great activity for kick-starting the week! The challenge includes links to samples and tools for scaffolding students through the process of building powerful “found poems,” such as NCTE’s Found and Headlines Poems article.

Update# 2 Poets. org – Last year I linked only to’s home page and the Poem in Your Pocket link. This year, I’d like to direct readers to a few more great  pages on this site, such as the Teaching Poetry Curriculum and Lesson Plans and the Tips for Teachers (on making poetry a more important part of the school day).

Update #3 – National Writing Project – If you’re looking for links sure to inspire, encourage, and support you in your efforts to nurture a love for poetry in your students, the NWP’s National Poetry page will not disappoint you. Their continually expanding resources include categories that range from Spotlight Poetry Programs for Teachers to Teachers as Poets, Poets as Teacher. It’s the voices of teachers sharing their challenges, successes, and strategies for bringing poetry into their students’ lives that makes this site so unique, so valuable. It’s the depth and breadth of articles from Writing Project teachers like Lesley Roessing, for example, sharing what she has learned about Creating Empathetic Connections to Literature that makes visible the power of “teachers teaching teachers.”


Addition #1Poetry Foundation – Their growing bank of resources includes a poetry tool, learning lab, glossary, audio and podcasts, children’s poetry, along with Poetry Outloud. Plus, you can download a free app with hundreds of poems.

Addition #2 PBS NewsHour Extra: Poetry includes lesson plans, links, rules and tools, teacher favorites, student poems, poetry submission and more. Links to Minstrel Man and  and I’m Nobody provide windows into the power of poetry to impact our students’ lives.

Voices from the Fields

Addition #3 – Interested in poetry as a tool for teaching for social justice? Check out the Voices from the Fields website.  I bought a copy of the book, which pairs poetry with personal narratives/oral histories, about 9 years ago, before there was an accompanying website. If you are looking for additional first-hand accounts of the migrant farm worker experience, here’s a link to a project I did eight years ago to connect elementary students with college students who spent their childhoods  working the fields of California.

Addition #4 – And just for fun, how about the exuberance and humor of  poet Carlos Andres Gomez, whose style might serve as a call to high students who thought they were not into poetry:

January 1, 2011
by blogwalker

Reports from Cyberspace – Heading into the New Year

What a great start to the New Year! I woke up to beautiful snow (something we get only a few times a year here in Placerville, CA) and my morning edition of The nwp Daily, full of thought provoking posts, Tweets, and links for stepping into 2011.

The first link I clicked on took me to Troy Hicks’ Summarizing of Our Reports from Cyberspace. Attending the NWP / NCTE Annual Conference was just not in my budget this year, so I tried to attend virtually, which proved to be a challenge.  For example, following the Twitter stream of #nwp10 and #ncte10, proved to be a bad idea.  With the 140 character limit, session-goers tended to Tweet what a great session I was missing – something I already realized. And one session I really, really wanted to attend was TroyBud Hunt, and Sara Kjader’s Three Reports from Cyberspace workshop.

But thanks to Bud’s video editing and Troy’s post, this morning I was able to click on the YouTube link and virtually attend Sara’s excellent part of the threesome’s workshop – Assessment in the context of digital teaching and learning. There is something about viewing a presentation “live” that is simply more impactful than reading about the session. I’m starting the year with a firm resolution to think more deeply about assessment: assessment of learning; assessment for learning, and, more important, assessment as learning.

Also in The nwp Daily was Paul Allison’s link to a post by one of his 8th graders  – Speak with the Heart, an invitation for other students to collaborate on a multimodal piece that will be hosted on the Voices from the Gulf project.  I’m  imagining this project will fit Sara’s description of a “messy work in progress…making it authentic…making it ‘commentable.'” And “keeping it real,” to quote Paul’s take on teaching and learning in general. And such a good use of cyberspace!

Right up there with my New Year’s resolution to get a better handle on assessment in a digital age is my resolution

to delve more into technology as a tool for English Language Learners. I am fortunate, in my current position as technology integration specialist, to support K-12 teachers with their technology questions, concerns, and visions. Sure, I still visit classrooms that are having “test scrimmage” or “power down days,” but I also, on a very regular basis,  witness powerful teaching and learning. Heading into 2011, my reports from cyberspace will include sharing some of the best practices and tools for ELLs…starting with the Stories from the Heart project – with a shout out to Audacity.

Looking forward to a year of sharing, collaboration, learning, and attending some great conferences – in real time and/or virtually;-)

October 23, 2010
by blogwalker

Building a News Story = Building 21st Century Literacies

News 10’s Nick Monacelli’s September SECC session on Building a News Story was outstanding! And the good news for teachers – across grade levels and subject areas – who were not able to join us live at Channel 10 is that you and your students now have access to the entire presentation:


As I’m writing this post, I’m also re-listening to Nick’s talk – and thinking that the samples, tips, and discussion all help  to make visible NCTE’s Definition for 21st century literacy:

Literacy has always been a collection of cultural and communicative practices shared among members of particular groups. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies. These literacies—from reading online newspapers to participating in virtual classrooms—are multiple, dynamic, and malleable. As in the past, they are inextricably linked with particular histories, life possibilities and social trajectories of individuals and groups. Twenty-first century readers and writers need to

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
  • Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments”

Many thanks to SECC and cameraman Doug Niva for hosting this wonderful resource.

January 16, 2010
by blogwalker

Accelerated Reader- Four questions for administrators

As school districts everywhere brace for yet another round of budget cuts, I have a question: Why not attendance7drop the annual online testing fee to Accelerated Reader? This question has been on my mind  ever since NCTE colleague and mentor Allen Webb shared his observation that “school districts tend to value programs they have to pay for – regardless of the actual value or impact of those programs.”

I fully support the first two components and possibilities of the AR program:

  • provide students with a rich library of books, from beginning to advanced reading levels, thereby making a wide range of topics accessible to all readers.
  • provide students with regular chunks (at least 15 minutes) of sustained silent reading (SSR) time.
  • It’s the third component – test the heck out of students with online multiple-choice tests – that I find troubling. As to the fourth component – provide students with prizes – I think researchers such as Alfie Kohn have already made a compelling case against reading incentive programs.

    I understand that change is hard, especially if it involves giving up programs sites are currently paying for. But given the realities of the  budget crisis, I think it reasonable for an administrator to consider the following questions before renewing the annual AR subscription:

    #1 Have you checked into the research on AR? No, I don’t mean the research the Renaissance Learning folks post about their own products.  I’m talking about research such as the above paper by Alfie Kohn, or recent findings by Stephen Krashen, who has generously shared his insights on the English Companion Ning:

    Accelerated Reader (AR) may be “the most influential reading program in the country” (“If you’re shopping, find the books that work for kids,” December 17) but there is no clear evidence that it works. It fact, it might be harmful.

    AR has four components: It makes sure children have access to books, provides time to read, quizzes children on what they read with a focus on details, and awards prizes for performance on the quizzes.

    It is well-established that providing books and time to read are effective, but AR research does not show that the quizzes and prizes are helpful. Studies claiming AR is effective compare AR to doing nothing; gains were probably due to the reading, not the tests and prizes.

    AR encourages an unnatural form of reading, reading focusing on often irrelevant details in order to pass tests.

    AR rewards children for doing something that is already pleasant: self-selected reading. Substantial research shows that rewarding an intrinsically pleasant activity sends the message that the activity is not pleasant, and that nobody would do it without a bribe. AR might be convincing children that reading is not pleasant. No studies have been done to see if this is true.”

    #2. Have you polled your parent community on their opinions about AR? NCTE collegue (and former district colleague) Teresa Bunner recently shared her perspective (which is very close to a scene and conversation I witnessed last year at my county library):

    As a mom it often irked me to no end to watch a big deal be made at awards assemblies for earning so many points on AR when I knew my kids read all the time, just not AR books or not short easy read books that earned them points quickly! … Truly, truly when we take time to match kids with the right books, they enjoy reading. I believe that having taught elementary, middle and high school.”

    #3. Have you started a conversation with your veteran teachers on their views on AR? About a year ago, I first blogged my AR concerns. I’d like to re-post comments by two educators/bloggers whose opinions I very much value:

    From Mathew Needleman:

    We had a similar but differently named program at my last school and I absolutely share your concerns. The program we had took over the computer. In other words, teachers would use that computer exclusively to run (insert program name here). In addition to leaving behind advances in computing/technology of the past decade, I too felt that the quizzes really weren’t getting to higher level thinking and were essentially replacing the SRA kits we used when I was in elementary school. If we can do it with paper and pencil, why use the expense and electricity to do it on a computer?”

    From Cathy Nelson:

    I would wager that the improvement in reading seen is not from “students reading and taking tests,” but rather just from reading. The more practice one has at something, the better they get, and testing (even a computerized commercial program) has nothing to do with it. Do you really want to give credit to a program for the hard work you have done in getting kids to read? Credit goes to the teacher, not the tool. AR is as good as the one who implements it–not the tool itself. Let’s not inflate the egos of Renaissance Learning anymore than they are already inflated. This is a tool and nothing more. Success is based solely on the implementation (by the teacher.)”

    #4. What are you students saying about AR? A teacher in my district recently shared with me that one of her 4th graders brags about being able to pass an AR quiz just by reading the write-up  on the book jacket. Hmmmm…..In taking a closer look at the winning entries in our district’s No Excuses…Go to School poster contest, I’m thinking  this winning entry by a middle school student provides a window into the student perspective. I wish I could see the title of the book the student is gripping as he hops the fence to skip school.  What do you bet it’s not on the AR list AND it’s got “the flow” going for this escaping student.

    I’m sure there’s a 5th question administrators should be asking of AR.  If you think of one, please post a comment.

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