Using Mozilla’s Pop-Up Video Tool on Dav Pilkey

Mozilla Popcorn Popup Videos

I’ve been interested in the various tools that Mozilla has been putting out around hacking the web (with HTML5), and my son was in a video class this summer that used the beta version of Popcorn, the new video tool of Mozilla. One offshoot version of Popcorn is Pop-up, which allows you to layer in pop-up text on online videos in a fun way. I decided to talk back to Dav Pilkey in a short PSA video he did around reading.

View my pop-up video here

You can access the tools via Mozilla’s Webmaker site. Things are still in beta, but all of these tools would be useful for the classroom, particularly around the idea of hacking the web. You can see my post earlier this summer about Thimble, the website creator education tool from Mozilla.
So go on, give it a try. Think of it all as emerging legit hacker tools for kids.
Peace (in the pop),

Book Review: Program or Be Programmed

I guess I must be late to the discovery of Douglas Rushkoff. But, better late than never, right? I just finished his Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for the Digital Age and I have to say, it was just what I needed: a perfect balance of a message that I try to articulate (put young people in the seat of knowledge and creation) with warnings about the shifts that are taking place in our culture around technology and digital media. In the end, Rushkoff is positive about the possibilities but the theme of needing to understand (if not create) the underlying programming of technology and be aware of its biases is a critical part of understanding our times.

I have more little sticky notes in this short book than I know what to do with but Rushkoff explores many interesting themes in lively writing and under the guise of technology and media have certain qualities that either complement or hinder our own desire and needs when we sit down at our devices.

  • Technology is built so that time is always in fast flow, but we are not built that way. We need time for thinking and reflecting, and we need to avoid the suck of digital media into the never-ending flow of information. He reminds us of the early days of email and chat rooms, where the slowness of connections actually forces us to think before we wrote and reacted to the writing of others.
  • He reminds us that we do have choices in what we do, but mostly, those choices are situated by the programmers. There is an illusion of choice, and illusion of agency, in our interactions with digital media.
  • Rushkoff talks a lot about identity (who you are and who you represent yourself to be), telling the truth in online spaces, and social compacts that we have (don’t sell out your friends in networking spaces). These ideas really do connect to what we need to teach our young people about digital citizenship.
  • He also explores the ideas of what it means to have openness on the web, and how sharing and stealing are two very different ideals, and why sharing progress is better for society as a whole than stealing it is. Yes, these ideas have been explored in a lot of areas, but Rushkoff again connects them to the social compacts that we all agree to (tacitly) as humans using technology to interact and create in these artificial spaces.

Finally, as the title suggests, he implores us to know something about the ways of programmers. He doesn’t necessarily argue that everyone should be a programmer (although it is interesting that Rushkoff is now part of the Code Academy, which is built around the notion of educating the public about code) but he does believe that some ancillary knowledge about the 1s and 0s underneath the source code provides us with an insight into the intent of the technology, and maybe provides us with a path to adapt it for our own needs.

Peace (in the program),


“The Tweets” Come to an End

Tweets title

I was tweeting out about The Tweets comic yesterday, releasing the series of comics in a series of tweets w/comics through the course of the day (except for the final one, which I had not yet finished). I had a few good responses but I am going to just put the rest of the series here in this post and provide you with a link to the Flickr set where the short-run comic resides now. If you missed yesterday, The Tweets was inspired by a news story about politicians paying for fake followers on Twitter. I got to wondering: who would get that kind of job? Well, Stew did. And Frank was there, too.

Go to The Tweets

Tweets 3
Tweets 4
Tweets 5
Tweets 6
Tweets 7
Tweets 8 final
Thanks for reading.

Peace (in the frames),

PS — you may notice my reference to another webcomic character, Boolean, in that last strip. I imagined he might be friends with these two dudes.

My New Webcomic: The Tweets

I heard a news story the other day in which presidential candidate Mitt Romney was accused of having “fake” Twitter followers as a way (I guess) of buffering up his likeability quotient. The piece then said that some companies will get paid to create fake Twitter followers (although Twitter will ban folks for life for doing that) and it occurred to me that someone’s job might involve being a fake follower. Thus, a quick webcomic about two friends who are unemployed called The Tweets. It’s nothing fancy. But I hope you get a chuckle. This will be a short-run comic. In other words, it’ll be over quick!
Here are the first two comics in the series. The guys are Stewie (tall dude) and Frank (small dude).
Tweets 1
Tweets 2


Peace (in what I hope is your funny bone),

PS — I am using the webcomic site — Strip Generator — for this one.

Connected Educators: ED Talks with Massachusetts Teachers Association

(This is from an afternoon practice session. Thanks to @massteacher for sharing)


Last night, I joined eight other presenters in an format of presentation built off the model of TED talks. We were each given just seven minutes to make our presentation, and I had to go first. I actually didn’t mind because then, I could just kick back and enjoy the rest of the sharing of thoughtful folks. My presentation was about game design in the classroom as a way to spark inquiry and to shift the agency from the game companies to the young people themselves — by allowing kids to make games.

But as part of this month of the Connected Educator, I wanted to share out some of my distillation of ideas from the other presenters, too. I hope I do them justice. You should know that the presentations were videotaped (mine was done twice because the first time through, we had some technical difficulties) and will be available at the Massachusetts Teachers Association YouTube site at a later date. I will be sure to share that out later.

And now, some sharing of my reactions to presentations from:

Dan Callahan, K-5 instructional technology specialist in Burlington and chairman of the Board of Directors for the Edcamp Foundation, [@dancallahan] who talked about the EdCamp model (best title of presentation yet: Dan Callahan is Ruining Professional Development) which upends the ownership of PD from administrators to participants. I’ve watched EdCamp from the fringes but feel inspired by Dan’s work (as well as my own colleague, Gail, whose passion for EdCamp openness has me thinking). At EdCamp, the day begins with an open slate, and folks bring their expertise into the sessions. I like how Dan jokes that he is part of a “vast conspiracy” to kill off dull professional development.

Lily Huang, public education organizer with Jobs with Justice, spoke of needing to make more connections among labor groups, so that when one population, such as immigrant students targeted by government, is under fire, others can rise to the challenge. Lily noted that teacher union groups need to make themselves more visible as a way to encourage support of the profession, and as a way to protect our classrooms from politics.

Suzy Brooks, a third-grade teacher in Falmouth, tech enthusiast, MassCUE Pathfinder and Girl Scout [@simplysuzy], brought us into the workings of her classroom, encouraging us to encourage engagement with our students through inquiry projects that move beyond the tests and assessments. I loved the project where her students worked on a literacy project focused on encouraging new parents to read to their newborn babies, which culminated in a class trip to the maternity ward at the local hospital.

Diana Marcus, fifth-grade teacher, tech enthusiast and president of the Burlington Educators Association. [@pgroom209], discussed the power of collaboration among teachers, whether it is with a colleague down the hallway (she joked that she had skyped with another class …. just three doors away) or with another educator halfway around the world (in her case, she explored Voicethread with a teacher in England). I liked how Diana acknowledged some of the reasons why collaboration doesn’t always work, and then proceeded to turn those barriers and fears on their heads with suggestions.

Jason Pramas, artist, photojournalist, (non-union adjunct) communication professor and activist, took us on a visual tour of his hometown (@openmediaboston), Peabody, and asked us as teachers to make sure we not only teach local history, but also, that we give the broadest representation of history as possible. In other words, don’t just tell the story of the business community: tell the family histories of the people who have lived through the ups and downs of a community, and bring all perspectives into the story.

Mohamed Zefzaf, Middlesex Community College professor and ESL teacher, told a personal story of growing up in three cultures, and how coming to live in the United States in his early 20’s opened his eyes to possibilities, thanks to the strengths of our educational system. He noted how it took participation in classes here to realize the biases of his former cultures (Moroccan), and he encouraged us to validate the experiences of all of our students, where ever they come from.

Wick Sloane, Inside Higher Ed columnist and Bunker Hill Community College professor, handed out copies of The Bill of Rights and argued that we, teachers, must do more to connect our students with the tenets of the founding of our country, and teach our students how to write, persuade and influence policy makers around education. He suggested using Walt Whitman’s I Hear America Singing with students as a way to encourage reflection on values.

Chelsea Slater, student and vice president of the Vice President of the LGBT Student Union at Bunker Hill Community College, energized the crowd with a topic that she says we educators have to hear. Her message? Schools are failing their students by putting them into age-grouped classrooms (as opposed to learning-strategy classroom), by orientating curriculum around standardized testing, and by having a college educational system that is outside the financial grasp of most students. Chelsea’s presentation featured her own illustrations of her thinking, which reminded me a lot of Scott McCloud’s work. Her message might have been difficult (no one wants to be reminded that we are failing some of our students) but her participation was vital, I think. Her video presentation will be worth checking out later.

Peace (in the afterwards),


Using Edmodo as a Summer Reading Space

This summer, I have been experimenting with Edmodo social networking with my incoming sixth grade students. It began with some conversations with a teacher in Texas who was interested in learning more about using technology, and I suggested we join forces and launch Edmodo for a collaborative summer reading project. Our students are reading The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg and responding periodically in our shared Edmodo space to discussion prompts.

I’ve been interested in both the function of Edmodo, which is talked about a lot in teacher circles, and in finding ways to connect summer reading with writing in an online space. The collaborative element with friends in Texas is sort of like icing on the cake.

I have mixed feelings on Edmodo. One one hand, as the video overviews hows, it offers up some great possibilities for collaboration in a networking space that feels comfortable to students. Teachers have flexibility on sharing, moderating and more. And there are various communities for teachers to participate in on Edmodo, which allows extension of learning networks. Parents can be invited to view the work going on in classroom spaces (as observers), and you can even make some or all of the space public (see below). My students seem to have adjusted nicely to using the space with no help from me at all (I visited their classroom for one quick overview in June and handed out a paper with some basic instructions, but other than that, they have been on their own with their book and Edmodo). I think that demonstrates the ease-of-operation of Edmodo in a nice way.

edmodo sample

See some of our discussions around historical fiction and Homer Figg

But I also find Edmodo strangely limiting in its structure, and it may just be that I don’t find my way through its structure all that intuitive. Threaded discussions don’t happen all that naturally, it seems to me, and I am not all that high on the design of the site (which, I know, seeks to mimic Facebook, whose design I absolutely hate). And while Edmodo is free for schools, I worry about all of the funding it is starting to gather from venture capitalists (it just raised another $25 million).

So, we should be paying attention to these developments and wonder how those investments are going to pay off. Is there going to be advertising? Data mining? Corporate partnerships? There has to be something in works beyond philanthropy by the investors when it comes to that much money for a space dedicated to young people. That worries me. (see this nice overview of Edmodo to go deeper into the growth and shifts of the platform)

Peace (in the space),


Got Gaming? Preparing my Ed Talk Presentation

video game presentation icon image

Tomorrow, I head out to the Berkshires for the annual conference and professional development event of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Tomorrow night, I am taking part in the MTA’s Ed Talk, which is billed as a local version of TED Talks. I’m really looking forward to being part of the event, but it has been a struggle to create a meaningful presentation in a seven-minute limit. Plus, I am trying to keep in mind some of the things that make TED special: high interest, use of humor, pacing.

I had all sorts of ideas for my topic on video game design in the classroom. I thought it would be cool to come on stage with a massive inflatable game device. I couldn’t find any that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. (but I still have an idea that I am pursuing here.) Then, I thought: I’ll start out by playing one of my student’s games on the big screen. That might have worked (I intended to mutter loudly as I hit obstacles) and I even did a video capture of it, just to time it out. It was way too long, and so, I scrapped that, too.

In the end, I will do my best with injecting some humor and use pacing as best as I can, and hope that my seven minutes generates enough interest in the audience (the Ed Talks will be filmed and shared on YouTube) to spark some thinking of why we need to help our students make the shift from player to creator, and how game design connects nicely with writing process theories.

Here is the announcement info from MTA about the event, which features some very interesting folks and I am sure they are going to be lighting up the stage with some great ideas.

Heading to MTA Summer Conference at Williams? Join us Wednesday, August 8, at 7:30 p.m. for ED Talks.

Come hear 11 new “ideas worth sharing” about education and community presented in the style of TED Talks. Eleven speakers – a student, a vice principal, two community college professors, K-12 educators and a community activist around among them – will offer up their viewpoints in five- and seven-minute presentations.

The presenters are:

  • Suzy Brooks, a third-grade teacher in Falmouth, tech enthusiast, MassCUE Pathfinder and Girl Scout. [@simplysuzy]
  • William Burkhead, assistant high school principal in Plymouth and athletic coach. [@northeagles]
  • Dan Callahan, K-5 instructional technology specialist in Burlington and chairman of the Board of Directors for the Edcamp Foundation. [@dancallahan]
  • Kevin Hodgson, sixth-grade teacher in Southampton and technology liaison with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. [@dogtrax]
  • Lily Huang, public education organizer with Jobs with Justice.
  • Katrina Kennett, high school English teacher in Plymouth in search of good books and bold ideas. [@katrinakennett]
  • Diana Marcus, fifth-grade teacher, tech enthusiast and president of the Burlington Educators Association. [@pgroom209 and @marcusBEA]
  • Jason Pramas, artist, photojournalist, (non-union adjunct) communication professor and activist.
  • Chelsea Slater, student and vice president of the Vice President of the LGBT Student Union at Bunker Hill Community College.
  • Wick Sloane, Inside Higher Ed columnist and Bunker Hill Community College professor.
  • Mohamed Zefzaf, Massachusetts Bay Community College professor and ESL teacher.

ED Talks will take place in Hopkins Hall 001 (Lower Level). The program is being coordinated by MTA members Camille Napier-Bernstein (Natick) and Monica Poole (MCCC).

ED Talks will be video taped and available for viewing soon on MTA’s YouTube channel.

See you there, if you are there, and if not, see you on YouTube!

Peace (in the game),


Hacking an Image with Tags and Text

Someone shared this site — ThingLink — as part of a Connected Educator activity (head here to see the activity, which involves adding tags and text to an image of an old classroom), and so, I dove in and added text and links to my Connected Me photo. Now, text and links should pop up when you hover over sections of the image.
I guess you can add links and text even if you are not registered and signed in, so that is interesting to consider for classroom use. My Connected Me image is not open to collaborative tagging. (I am not sure if you can moderate, however.) I’m trying to embed it here, to see if the tags and links work as an embed, too.
BUT: here is one that you can try. I “borrowed the image” from the wonderful Visual Writing Prompts site.

Peace (in the connections),