Muddling through the blogosphere

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December 11, 2016
by blogwalker

Teaching and Learning in the Time of Trump

Last week a school district colleague shared a beautiful letter her 9th grade daughter Emma had written for a homework assignment: Write a persuasive essay on a topic you care about. Emma chose the topic of equal rights for women – on a global scale. She wrote her essay in a letter format, addressed to President-elect Trump.

The English teacher was actually on maternity leave, so the assignment came via a long-term substitute teacher. But Emma’s letter was too timely and too well-written to not have an authentic audience, an audience beyond just the teacher. I shared with my colleague the National Writing Project’s Letters to the Next President website. Of all the phenomenal projects and communities the NWP sponsors, Letters to the Next President has to be one of the most timely.

Last Wednesday, Teachers Teachers Teachers,  a group led by Paul Allison (New York City Writing Project), discussed the topic of Teaching and Learning in a Time of Trump in their weekly Google Hangout.

In addition to addressing some immediate community actions/reactions in the days following the election, the panel also discussed the need for teaching media literacy. Links to referenced articles are posted on the site.

I am very grateful for an exponentially growing support group for “teaching and learning in a time of Trump” – with the NWP at the top of my list. I also want to recogize Harvard’s Project Zero: Children as Citizens project as as a second global microphone for students.

From my own region (northern California), I’d like to acknowledge Sacramento City Unified for stepping up to be the first school district in the greater Sacramento region to approve a resolution declaring Sac City a safe haven for students who may be “fearful of deportation and hate speech.” The resolution is in response to the “intolerant rhetoric made over the course of the 2016 presidential race.”

As the January 20 Inauguration Day fast approaches, a quote from Teachers Teaching Teachers panelist Dianca London continues to resonate with me: “Apathy is not an option anymore.”


Note: Featured image is licensed Public Domain

May 27, 2012
by blogwalker

Teachers Teaching Teachers – Connected learning for educators

I have a folder in my file cabinet marked Teachers Teaching Teachers. In it are notes I’ve jotted down from various Teachers Teaching Teachers shows – snippets of inspiring quotes from teachers across the nation or sometimes the world, titles to insightful books and  articles, links to thought-provoking websites, and always, always ideas that prompt me to rethink how to empower students as writers and as (digital) citizens.

The notes are not well organized. Some are in notebooks; some on scraps of paper. I wish I had been a little more systematic about including the dates. But in my defense,  more often than not, I’m racing home from the flat lands of Sacramento (where I teach) to the Sierra foothills (where I live) to be online with the TTT group by 6:00 PST, so grabbing a notebook is often secondary to locating my headset or working through connectivity issues.

But so many gems! From the inception of the YouthVoices project (which has included amazing and timely additions, such as Voices from the Gulf project following the BP oil spill) to the recent show on the art and genre of string games, I learn something new from each episode – and log off with an even greater appreciation of this embracing, connected learning community for educators.

This Wednesday TTT celebrates its 300th show, an event made possible by the leadership and commitment of my friend/mentor/National Writing Project colleague Paul Allison. If you’ve not had the pleasure of joining a Teachers Teaching Teachers show, the video below will give you a glimpse into the many ways Paul promotes connected learning for both students and teachers.

Hope to see you in the TTT chat room for Wednesday evening’s 300th episode:-)


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.


January 20, 2010
by blogwalker

Teaching about Haiti

So glad I made it home in time tonight to login to Teachers Teaching Teachers and join the conversation on teaching about Haiti and its devastating earthquake.

New York Times Learning Network editor Katherine Shulten shared the dynamic resources she and her co-editor are developing for the Teaching and Learning with the New York Times site. Check out 5 Ways to Teach About Haiti, and the new lesson plan: Project Haiti: Holding a Teach-In.

Other resources shared from the chat room included:

Despite audio issues with Skype, tonight’s TTT session was too good to end. So mark your calendars for next Wednesday because Katherine Shulton has agreed to join hosts Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim for a second session on teaching about Haiti.  Katherine invites us all to visit the above resources and to bring questions and suggestions to next week’s session.

How are you and your colleagues teaching about Haiti?

June 6, 2009
by blogwalker

Resiliency – What are we learning from our students?

I’m intrigued by the topic of resiliency. I’ve spent quite a bit of time at several Title 1 elementary schools this year, working with 4th graders on technology-infused projects.  What I have observed is that, despite grinding poverty levels and what are often intolerable, grossly unfair home situations, for the most part, kids are amazingly resilient.  In each classroom there are three to four students who are unable to maintain and need a bit of physical space away from their classmates, but the rest of the class manages to get through the day much the same as as their more affluent counterparts at wealthier sites. Why is that? What’s the key to being resilient? And what can we learn from our students about resiliency?

When Paul Allison‘s email arrived last week, with an invitation to listen to a Teachers Teaching Teachers podcast on resiliency, I rearranged my work schedule so I could make it home in time to join Wednesday’s conversation. It was worth risking a speeding ticket in order to join NWP ‘thinking partners’ Lynette Herring-Harris, Suzanne Linebarger, and Vanessa Brown, and others who would be  leading the discussion.

I’ve learned to keep a notebook with me during the TTT sessions to record resources, strategies, and great quotes, such as:

I’ve added the above titles to my summer reading list and also made a note to myself to contact Suzanne Linebarger directly to learn more about the work she is doing up north in Butte County with third graders, especially the program she developed to combine technology with the genre of cooking to build resiliency in her students.  I’ve known Suzanne for about ten years, through our Writing Project connection, and am always blown away by her insights, her work – and her humor. Her latest gem was during Wednesday’s TTT session, when she mentioned how she deals with the lack of Internet connectivity at home that is a reality for most of our Title 1 students: Start them thinking about where they can get online: a neighbor’s house, a relative’s house, the public library, etc.  On Thursday, when I headed in to work with a classroom on a VoiceThread project (please checkout the project embedded below), I found myself ‘going live’ with those same problem-solving strategies.  When I asked how many had Internet access at home, few raised their hands, but when I threw out some suggestions, heads started nodding.  OK, Suzanne, where are you posting your work?!

My contribution to the topic of resiliency is to share a bit about that VoiceThread mentioned above. Halie Ferrier, the wonderful teacher who had asked me to come work with her students, had also organized in May a Day of Tolerance unit for her 4th grade team.  I suggested that she invite Marielle Tsukamoto in to speak with the students on tolerance and resiliency.  Marielle has worked with me on the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project.  We’ve tried to capture through interviews the lived experiences of those citizens of Japanese heritage who were denied their Constitutional rights following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Each interview is testament to resiliency.

Following Marielle’s visit, along with a reading of Yosiko Uchida’s The Bracelet, Halie’s students stepped back in history, assumed the role of internees, and wrote letters to a friend back home, along with an accompanying piece of art. Thanks to VoiceThread, the students’ historical fiction is now crossing genre lines and mixing with biography, as Marielle and others who experienced discrimination, exclusion and forced removal first hand begin to join in the discussion:

Oh, and the image of bamboo – It symbolizes resiliency in all its forms.

    Image copied from

February 26, 2009
by blogwalker

VoiceThread + Teachers Teaching Teachers

Of all the Web 2.0 tools, VoiceThread is probably my favorite, so powerful, yet easy to learn. So when I saw Paul Allison‘s email invitation to join last night’s Teachers Teaching Teachers session with VT developers Ben Pappert and Steve Muth, I grabbed my headset and logged in, ready to learn about VT’s new Groups feature.

I’ve learned to always keep a notepad by me during the TTT sessions to jot down gems.  And last night’s session was filled with them, both by the guest speakers and in the chatroom discussion.

In looking over my notes, I see I’ve highlighted insights shared by Bill Ferriter. I follow his blog and therefore already had an appreciation of his strategies for engaging students with VT in meaningful ways. Here are a few gems from last night’s conversation:

  • We need to teach our students the skill of commenting! Bill provides students with guidelines such as “find a point made by someone else and respond to it.” To keep students focused, he limits them to adding only one new thread to a conversation.
  • We need to teach – and model for – our students the art of “collaborative dialogues,” including the skills of “productive conflict.”  Challenge them to find something they don’t agree with and in their commenting, “respectfully disagree.”

As soon as Paul has added the link to the last night’s discussion, I’ll return to this post and add it.

January 25, 2009
by blogwalker
1 Comment

Three January Favs from Teachers Teaching Teachers

Following the January 14 Teachers Teaching Teachers Skypcast, I’ve been trying to get the word out to teachers in my district, region, and edublogosphere about three outstanding projects:

# 1 – BrainFlix’s great video contest, with its goal of helping students prep for the vocab section of the SATs. Come on, what better way for kids to build their vocabulary levels than by creating or viewing vocab videos?! The rules are simple and explicit and students can win $. So checkout the list and invite your students in. The contest ends March 16. What a great opportunity for our students to contribute to an online learning repository.

#2 Read-i-cide: A Conversation VoiceThread – Thanks to George Mayo for sharing about a VoiceThread created by Bill Ferriter with Kelly Gallagher . If you are concerned about the impact on mandated anthologies + worksheets on students’ engagement with reading, come join the VoiceThread conversation.

# Center for Social Media – I’ve already blogged about the excellent resources Peter Jazsi, Renee Hobbs, et al, are adding to this site. I keep adding more and more of their links to my Toolkit4BlogWalker wiki. But, oh my, for some hilarious examples of remixes, checkout all the categories at

January 17, 2009
by blogwalker
1 Comment

Transformativeness – I Get It!

Professor Peter Jaszi, from the Center for Social Media, was one of the speakers on Wednesday evening’s very informative and engaging Teachers Teaching Teachers Skypecast. I’ve printed out a copy of the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, which Jaszi helped produce. It’s actually an easy read – and only 17 pages long, so not too intimidating.  I really like the premise that “educators need to be leaders, not followers, in establishing best practices in fair use” and that we should be exploring the issues with our students.

I’m looking with particular interest at page 13 of the Code: Developing Audiences for Student Work and its use of the term “transformativenss”:

“If student work that incorporates, modifies, and re-presents existing media content meets the transformativeness standard, it can be distributed to wide audiences under the doctrine of fair use.”

Between Jaszi’s Skypcast and reading through the Code, I had a vague idea of what transformativeness might look like, but somewhere on the Center for Social Media site, I found a link to a YouTube video that absolutely made transformativeness visible. Note: Not appropriate for younger audiences

December 6, 2008
by blogwalker

Why We Should Teach Media Literacy

Last week’s Teacher Teaching Teachers Skypecast brought a group of National Writing Project teachers together for a discussion of Henry Jenkins‘ paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Lots of gems in his findings, enough to justify printing out all 68 pages. Jenkins defines participatory culture as one:

1. with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement

2. with strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others

3. with some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passes along to novices

4. where members believe that their contributions matter

5. where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).”

This paper is great piece to share with administrators, who will be happy to see that textual literacy still remains a critical skill for the 21st century; in fact, “before students can engage with new participatory culture, they must be able to read and write.” New literacies “build on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical analysis skills taught in the classroom.”

Jenkins’ includes the New Media Consortium‘s definition of 21st century literacy: “the set of abilities and skills where aural, visual and digital literacy overlap. These include the ability to understand the power of images and sounds, to recognize and use that power, to manipulate and transform digital media, to distribute them pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new forms.”

Renee Hobbs is also cited in the paper. I recognized her name, but until reading Jenkins’ paper, had not looked at her work. Her My Pop Studio website “encourages young middle school and early high school aged girls to reflect more deeply about some of the media they consume – pop music, reality television, celebrity magazines – by stepping in to role of media producers.” Great resources for helping students to become critical consumers of media!

So what are the challenges of participatory culture?;

  • Unequal access – I’m impressed with the ways in which Philadelphia is trying to address the access issues.
  • Transparency – How do you show how media shapes people’s understandings and beliefs?
  • Ethics challenge – Making ethical use of the Internet visible to students…that’s a huge issue!

I think what amazes me about the power of participatory culture is collective creativity, made so visible by groups such as Playing for Change:

Of course, it is availability of the Internet that makes participatory culture possible. Fourteen years ago, I stood before a school board and requested that the computer in my portable classroom be hooked to the Internet. A board member challenged me with “So will this change the world?” At the time, I wasn’t sure having a classroom connection to the Internet would change the world, so my response was “I don’t know, but it certainly reflects a changing world.” Wish I could continue that conversation 14 years later;-).

July 6, 2008
by blogwalker

Packing My Bags for NYC!

I’m heading out tonight for New York City , where I will spend the next two weeks at Columbia University participating in the 2008 Memorial Library Summer Seminar on Holocaust Education. I am already anticipating that these 14 days will be a life-changing experience. Iimage of memorial library at columia university realize that across time there are common threads between the events that trigger discrimination, exclusion, and the forced removal of any group of people. Going into the event, it is my plan to develop a lesson around Ishmael Beah’s compelling story (which I first discovered at a local Starbucks) A Long Way Gone – Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.

There are many similarities between the Holocaust and the genocides of the 21st century, but there is, I believe, one significant difference: the absence of the Internet during WWII. In presenting the dark side of history to students, today educators can also provide opportunities and venues for students to take social action. Eighth-grade history teacher George Mayo’s Many Voices of Darfur project and Canadian teachers Jim Carleton and Mali Bickely’s collaborative projects (NECC 2008 keynote speakers) are excellent examples of empowering students to make a difference. Celebrities such as Robert DeNiro are tapping into the power of the Internet, especially video, with powerful pieces such as Armed and Innocent, which includes an interview with Ishmael Beah that I will be including in my lesson.

I realize that the Holocaust Seminar will be an intellectual and emotional roller coaster ride and that, for many reasons, including the  challenges inherent with writing about the unthinkable and unspeakable, not all sessions will be “bloggable” – it is the lessons learned – and to be learned, along with the resources, that I hope to share out with other teachers and their students.

Memorial Library image from:

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