Take a look at Lookybooks

My friend, Susan, showcased this very cool site for picture books called Lookybook and I realized that you can embed the books as a flash file in the blog itself. I love picture books and use them all the time in my classrooms so this site is very much welcome (thanks, Susan!).
I liked this one in particular. It is called Jazz by Christopher and Walter Dean Meyers. I know it is impossible to read here so feel free to go to the site and take a look at the book directly.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.lookybook.com/embed/1206-embed.swf" width="241" height="277" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in picture books),
Kevin

The Great Pumpkin Contest — 2007

My neighborhood is a tight community, with all sorts of unofficial events meant to draw us together. Each year, one man — you can see him here the video dressed up like a clown — organizes a pumpkin contest, and more than 100 pumpkins are often put on display.

Here is a tour of this year’s crop of strange pumpkins:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=4035392027853588895" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in pumpkins),
Kevin

Week in a Sentence: The Reflective Dogtrax

As promised, I am sitting in for The Reflective Teacher (who may be off reflecting or something — not sure) and hosting his Week in a Sentence feature, which I have really come to love for narrowing my own week down and for reading the week of others. What a fantastic idea.

Anyway, I will start off with a podcast. This comes from a workshop I gave at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project this weekend on podcasting, and as a hands-on activity, we created a podcast version of their own Week in a Sentence — with great results.

Listen to the WMWP teachers

Next up is Karen, who is off to see the Red Sox play (did I mention I am a Yankees’ fan in a house full of Red Sox fans — doh), who writes:

Tickets to a Red Sox playoff game in my pocket – I SO did not want to teach this week anticipating my trip to Boston and my first playoff game ever! Go Red Sox!

Matt, who just interviewed me for a project he is doing on claymation and moviemaking in the classroom, writes about the act of teaching:

I modeled a writing lesson today where I tried to come up with writing ideas live in front of a audience of squirrelly second graders and it did effectively hold their interest.

My friend, Bonnie, is up in Vermont, enjoying the foliage season, and she writes:

What’s a week without Boil Down…Today it’ all about Al for me…BRAVO, the Nobel Peace Prize…how will this event impact on our political landscape…I’m hoping for an Al Gore for President….I know, pie in the sky…that’s okay…off to Vermont to take some photos…
Bonnie

Nancy has a wedding to get to! (open bar? I bet teaching is far from her mind right now)

So thankful for the 4-day week; and now it’s wedding time–see you in two weeks!

My colleague from the WMWP, Susan, writes about her travels in her role as a leader and inspiration in the writing project:

The power of and learning from collaboration has pulled me from Amherst, to Berkeley, to Billings and home again this week guiding my work forward.

2,000 teenagers in one room, screaming and shouting! Sounds fun! It was for our friend, Graycie in this extended-sentence entry (which is perfectly fine by me):

Fearing the worst, I was part of the faculty keep-them-from-fighting/escaping team during the very first pep rally in our new gym which meant that for the first time all 2,000 teenagers would be in a confined space being mightily pumped up by loud music, louder cheering, scantily-clad cheerleaders, popular sports dudes and a very loud microphone. I was wrong; they cheered and yelled and danced in the bleachers and sang and hollered for the teams and the cheerleaders weren’t raunchy and it was just: So. Much. Fun.

Jody was thinking of chickens this week. That’s right — chickens.

So … our school wide topic is ‘Things with Wings’ which brings me to having made endless phone calls (which led to other possible leads and yet more phone calls) in hope of finding some fertilized chicken eggs to hatch in class. I have the incubator, not eggs yet. Teaching – always taking me on a weird tangent or three throughout the week!

If you missed the opportunity, be sure to go to The Reflective Teacher next week and add your thoughts. We’d love to read (and hear!) you.

Peace (in connections),
Kevin

What Students Say

The folks over at the Digital Ethnography site (who do some fascinating work) created this video about what college students are really saying and experiencing in their lives in this digital age. They used a Google Docs to have more than 200 students edit a document and create surveys of each other.

Interesting.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dGCJ46vyR9o" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (with information),
Kevin

Your Day/Week in a Sentence

Since my good friend, The Reflective Teacher, is taking a break this week from his wonderful Boil Your Day Down Into One Sentence feature, I told him I would be glad to host this week’s edition.

So, if you want to participate, use the comment feature here on this post, write and submit your sentence  (and even better, write your sentence and also provide me with a podcast version — you can even email me the audio file at dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com and I will host it for you), and I will collate it all before the end of the weekend.

Peace (in community),
Kevin

Way to Go, Edublogs!

James Farmer sent out an email this morning, proudly announcing that the Edublogs network now has 100,000 edublogs. That is an incredible number, I think, and I hope that more and more teachers are finding their way to free Edublogs and its network (did mention it is free?).

I also noticed a link there, explaining 10 ways to use Edublogs in the classroom:

1. Post materials and resources

The web is a fantastic tool when it comes to distributing resources – all you have to do on your edublog is upload, or copy and paste, your materials to your blog and they’ll be instantly accessible by your student from school and from home. What’s more, you can easily manage who gets to access them through password and plugin safety measures.

2. Host online discussions

If you’ve ever struggled to create an online discussion space – you’re going to love what edublogs will do for you. Students can simply respond to blog posts and discuss topics you’ve set them without the added complexity of using a bulletin board – commentators can sign up to receive emails when their comments are replied to and you can easily manage and edit all responses through your blog’s administrative panel.

3. Create a class publication

Do you remember the good old days of class newspapers? Well, they just got a lot easier with your edublog – you can add students as contributors, authors and even editors in order to produce a custom designed, finely tuned and engaging collaborative online publication by your class.

4. Replace your newsletter

Always enjoyed photocopying and stapling pages and pages of newsletters on a Friday afternoon? Though not! It’s ridiculously simple to post class information, news, events and more on your edublog

5. Get your students blogging

It’s all very good sending your students off to blog sites, or even creating them for them, but you need to operate as a hub for their work and a place where they can easily visit each others blogs from. Your edublog can be used to glue together your students blogs, and besides which, if you’re asking your students to blog… you should certainly be doing it yourself.

6. Share your lesson plans

We all love planning and admin, right? Well, using an edublog can turn planning and reflection on classes into a genuinely productive – and even collaborative – experience. Sharing your plans, your reflections, your ideas and your fears with other educators both at your school and around the world using an edublog is a great way to develop as a teacher, and a brilliant use of a blog.

7. Integrate multimedia of all descriptions

With a couple of clicks you can embed online video, multimedia presentations, slideshows and more into your edublog and mix it up with your text and static resources. No cds required, no coding necessary – just select the video, podcasts or slidecast you’d like to use and whack it in your blog to illustrate, engage and improve your teaching toolbox.

8. Organise, organise, organise

You don’t only have to use your edublog as a pedagogue… you can equally easily use the tools to organise everything from sports teams in your school, to rehearsals for the upcoming production. You can set up as many edublogs as you like, so don’t be afraid to use a dedicated one for a dedicated event – your can even use it as a record to look back on down the line.

9. Get feedback

There’s nothing that says you can’t allow anonymous commenting on a blog (although you’re also entirely within your rights to put all comments through moderation!) but why not think about using a blog as a place for students – and even parents, to air issues, leave feedback or generally tell you how great you are.

10. Create a fully functional website

One of the great things about edublogs are that they are much, much more than just blogging tools. In fact, you can use your edublog to create a multi-layered, in-depth, multimedia rich website – that hardly looks like a blog at all. So, if you’d rather create a set of static content, archive of important information or even index for your library – you can bend an edublog to suit your needs.

Peace (with edublogs),
Kevin

Technology Reaches Out

(NOTE: this one has been sitting in my blog bin for some time)

This wonderful video — appropriately titled “Inclusion” — was shared through a listserve that I am on through the National Writing Project and it features a fourth grade classroom that uses Skype to videoconference with a fellow student who is homebound due to Leukemia. The video is narrated by students and it is powerful in the ways that we can use technology to reach out and connect with others.

View the movie

Peace (with potential),
Kevin

CreativeCrowdwriting

I came upon an interesting article in Wired Magazine about something called Creative Crowdwriting and it involves writing a novel by opening up the publication to the entire world to add to, edit and alter. The platform is often a wiki and the response to such endeavors is mixed — some see it as nothing more than unstructured mayhem while others tout it as an ideal product of collaboration.

Here are two of the “novels” that the article cites:

This concept is similar to the one I have used with wikis and collaborative storywriting, in which I invite a set audience (usually my students but sometimes my teaching/professional colleagues) to add to a developing story via a wiki. The results have always been interesting but the product is less the goal than the collaboration, I think. I am not sure more brains have made the stories any better.

Here are two of my collaborative wiki stories:

But here is an application of this concept that I would like to try with students with wikis and collaboration — creating Make Your Own Ending Stories via a wiki site and I might try that this year.

Peace (in wikis),
Kevin

How To … Podcasts (in a minute or so)

One of the fun podcasts I have in my Bloglines is called One Minute How-to and the host invites folks to come on and discuss something, anything really, in about a minute. The topics are all over the place and really insightful.

This is the brief overview of the site by George Smyth:

The One Minute How-To is your podcast. Each episode features someone just like you who explains how to do something. The catch is that the participant is only given 60 seconds. This means that they need to get right to the point, but isn’t that a good thing?

Here are two that I saved:

Peace (in brevity),
Kevin