Playing with MixBit as Video Remixer

The founders of YouTube have put out a new video tool called MixBit, which is sort of like Vine and the Instagram video tool but with the twist of remixing. I’m still figuring it out, but here is a video of my dog on the floor.

What the site does is divide up your video into segments, and allows you to remix the video in other ways (or use segments from other people’s videos, which is interesting and worth investigating).
Here, I remixed some of my dog with some other dogs and cats on the site.

You know when something is new and you are still figuring out the possibilities? That’s where I’m at with MixBit right now.
Peace (in the mixing of bits),
PS — Firefox does not yet play nice but Chrome works fine.


Duke Rushmore Video Mix Tape

I’m playing around with another video/music mixing tool called Dragontape. Here is my band, Duke Rushmore, in various YouTube videos:

We play at a Pig Roast today, in fact. So if you are in Western Massachusetts, come up to Liston’s Bar in Worthington. We’ll be rocking the roast from 1 about 3:30 p.m.

Peace (in the muse),
PS — That’s me singing background vocals and playing the saxophone.

Teachers, Meet the Technologists; and Vice Versa

I’m not sure if you follow Audrey Watters at her various Hack Education spaces, but you should. You definitely should. She is insightful, probing and opinionated about a lot of things related to education, particularly of the way school districts and for-profit companies seem to be in a dance together more often than we would like to admit (Common Core Approved!) .

In short, she’s a great read (and writing a new book, so that’s cool). Her recent newsletter pointed readers to a series of posts she is developing around teachers and technology coordinators, and the divide between them (if you are unlucky to be in a district where that happens).

She writes:

“..all sorts of chasms remain between the realms of education and technology, between teachers and technologists. If we’re to bridge that (and recognize that there may well be places where we can’t, where missions and methods are irreconcilable) we should probably start by learning a bit more about one another — a little bit more about the education and the technology components, as well as the business and politics, of ed-tech.” — from

Check out the two collection she has up already and then come back in the future for the third (What Learners Should Know About Ed-Tech). As with everything she writes, there is a lot to digest here, and a lot to consider, and all of it is important.

An Ed-Tech Guide for Teachers and Technologists

Part 1:  What Technologists Need to Know About Education

Part 2:  What Educators Need to Know About Technology

Peace (in the connections),

NEA Policy Statement on Digital Learning

The National Education Association (NEA) has put out a policy statement related to digital learning. (Thanks to Troy Hicks for forwarding the link) You should read it yourself but here are some sentences that jumped out at me as I read through it:

All students—pre-k through graduate students—need to develop advanced critical thinking and information literacy skills and master new digital tools. At the same time, they need to develop the initiative to become self-directed learners while adapting to the ever-changing digital information landscape.


The appropriate use of technology in education—as defined by educators rather than entities driven by for-profit motives—will improve student learning, quality of instruction, and education employee effectiveness, and will provide opportunities to eradicate educational inequities.


We as a nation must address the issues of equity and access in a comprehensive manner in order to see the promise and realize the opportunities that digital learning can provide.


Teachers need access to relevant training on how to use technology and incorporate its use into their instruction, ESPs need access to training on how best to support the use of technology in classrooms, and administrators need training to make informed decisions about purchasing equipment, technology use, course assignments, and personnel assignments.


As different digital tools are created and used, the impact of technology on traditional socialization roles must be considered. The face-to-face relationship between student and educator is critical to increasing student learning, and students’ interactions with each other are an important part of their socialization into society.


What do you think of the statement? I think it covers a lot of ground, but mostly through the eyes of a labor group (I know, that’s what NEA is, and I am a member). I see this document in partnership to others emerging from other groups, such as NCTE, around the learning of and the teaching of digital literacy.

Peace (in the sharing),


Settling in with Feedy as Google Reader Alternative

I know lots of folks are giving up on RSS readers now that Google is pulling the plug (any day now) on Google Reader. I’m still a regular reader of my feeds, though, and while I did not use Google Reader itself, the apps and sites (including Reeder on my Mac and Mr. Reader on my iPad) that I use tapped into Google Reader (a complicated business that I don’t quite understand well enough to even try to explain). Since the news came out about the death of Google Reader, I’ve been trying to figure out: what now?

I’ve tried out about a half-dozen RSS readers in the last few weeks, and it may be because we settle into routines so easily or something else, but none of them felt right to me. I have decided for now to use Feedly on my computers and am still alternating between Feedly and Mr. Reader on my iPad. (I was happy to see that Feedly allows other services to use its code, just as Google did for other apps, and so I was able to export and import my RSS feeds into Feedly and then set up Mr. Reader to borrow it from Feedly — which sounds like a big shell game, doesn’t it?).

Feedly has a nice feel and design flow to it. The migration of data from Google to Feedly was painless.  I didn’t like it when I thought it was only a browser add-on, but the recent shift to a cloud-based web reader has me hooked. And the reader seems nice and quick. I am sure I will be fine. I have to admit, though, the whole experience had me reflecting on the value of reading my RSS and I determined that I still gain a lot of knowledge, connections and insights from the folks I follow, and I am not quite ready to give that up, even though Twitter and other places cover a lot of the same ground.

From my early days with Bloglines to my shift to Google Reader, and then into Reeder and Mr. Reader,  and now into Feedly, my habits as a reader of RSS continue to evolve, and all of this reminds me that so much of the technology and tools that we take for granted (reading RSS in the morning over coffee, for example) in the hands of others, and if they (Google) want to kill a useful tool, there’s little we can do about it (unless you know how to build your own reader. I don’t)

Peace (in the feeds),


The Coding Video

I’m a little late to this party for sharing this video (it got lost in my draft pile) but I wanted to share out this video about the importance of learning coding and programming, and its connection to literacy. This fits in nicely with a summer camp program for high school students in which we intend to explore hacking as literacy, and the concept of learning coding as literacy is right in the mix.

Peace (in the code),

Thinking Through Instagrok for Classroom Research

I’ve written before about using Instagrok with my students as a way to hone and focus their research skills. I recently write a piece for Instagrok folks to share with teachers, to share a bit of how I have approached using their site. I also included a few ThingLink images as a way to document what Instagrok is and I will be sharing these resources out with some teachers I am working with through some consulting work with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project.

This one

and this one

and here is the link to the whole piece I wrote.

Peace (in the grokking),
PS — as a note of disclosure, in return for writing the piece, Instagrok provided me with code for some teacher accounts, which I will be giving out to the teachers I am working with.

Letting the Poem Go: A Collaborative Writing Experiment with Teach the Web

poem playback
Writers often hoard ideas, right? We huddle with our screens, our pens, our ink and paper, and use our mind as a net to gather ideas and make sense of them. I do that. But I am also intrigued by the collaborative nature of online spaces and how we might open up our own ideas to others and let our stories and poems go, and see where they end up.

This week, I used a tip from the Teach the Web MOOC to use Edit Pad, and I started a poem, which I then tossed into the world with an invitation for others to add, remix, delete, and do what they would with my words. You never know who might be up for such a challenge, but luckily for me, I had Ian, Chad, Hayfa and Laura willing to jump into the mix.

collab poem

And wow …. it was pretty cool. Not only did they add words, they added a music soundtrack, a background image, different kinds of fonts … as well as their own lines of poetry. You might think it would be cool to watch that collaborative process unfold, right? Well, with Edit Pad, you can. This open source html editor/notebook comes with a “time slider” so that you can watch the document grow from start to finish. I found it mesmerizing, particularly as my words truly did become fence posts for the others to build around.

Or maybe we need another analogy. Maybe my words were stars, and Chad, Ian, Hayfa and Laura built a galaxy around me. I like that much better.

See the final poem

View the edit mode of the poem (go ahead — add some more)

Thank you to Laura and Chad and Hayfa and Ian for being writers with me.

Peace (in the poem),


How to Use Memory Objects for Digital Stories

Yesterday, a visitor asked a bit about how I teach the Memory Objects/Narrative Writing/Digital Story assignment, and I am happy to walk through what we do.

First, this writing is part of our unit around paragraph structure and paragraph writing. The emphasis for this particularly piece of writing is “narrative” and telling a story. I begin by reading the picture book Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox as a way to talk about memories. This delightful picture book tells the story of a young boy who helps his elderly friend recover her memories through a series of gifts. It’s a perfect segue into our discussions around not just memories, but the artifacts and objects that we collect to remind us of events and people and experiences.

Second, they begin their writing. Since this is a lesson around paragraph structure, we emphasize through graphic organizers some of the main ideas, and how to develop the body. This paragraph later becomes the script for their digital stories. I share my own examples with them, and show them a few digital stories from prior years. For some, the hardest part is figuring out what to write about. So, I give them a few days to mull it over.

Third, we jump into iMovie. Since most have not used iMovie before, I give a tutorial and then they had a  good part of two days to play around with the program in ways not related to the digital story. I showed them how to add titles, use transitions, embed music, drag in photos, etc. This is not wasted time. This play time gives them a chance to explore, try out techniques, fail and try again, and more. I have found they need a good grasp on the possibilities before the real project begins.

Finally, they either bring in their objects or they bring in f lash drive with images of the objects. If they have brought them in, they use PhotoBooth to take photographs (hint: use the “reverse image” feature if the object has writing, since PhotoBooth takes mirror shots). What is nice is that iMovie integrates PhotoBooth and other applications seamlessly into the program. We talk about using Garageband to create a soundtrack and Free Play Music as a source for music (which leads to a longer discussion about “mood and tone” of music working in conjunction with the mood and tone of the writing.)

When they are done, they have the option to upload to our class YouTube site, or just export to the desktop.

The whole project takes about a week (of about 30 minutes a day), although I continue to have some stragglers. That’s always the case.

This is one of the projects that I do not grade. Surprisingly, of my 80 students, only two have asked me that question (will this be graded?). Instead, I see this as a way to value writing, introduce a useful bit of technology, and offer up an authentic publishing venue for them to tell a story. The level of engagement is very high across the board. It reminds me that if the activity is enriching as an experience, the need to grade every little thing seems a little less important. At least, it does for this particular kind of writing/technology adventure.

I hope that helps you think about how to bring digital storytelling into your classroom.

Peace (in the sharing of memories),


Playing Around with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality: Digital Writing Cover
For some time now, I’ve been intrigued by the movement towards more “augmented reality” apps are allowing people to layer information on top of the view of physical objects. I suppose this idea has been given a great big push forward with the emergence of the Google Glass project.

But, how to experiment with it?

Erin Klein, a friend in several teaching networks, shared a post this weekend at her blog that helped show one way forward. She describes in great detail how she is beginning to use an Augmented Reality app called Aurasma, which is a free and allows you to set up a virtual layer of information on top of images. (The layer is called the “aura” by the app.) What’s nice is that it is not overly complicated. You essentially choose the layer (either one that comes with the app or you make your own), then choose what it is that you want to layer information over, take a photograph of it, and then whenever you look at that image through the mobile device screen, the layered information magically becomes visible. While there is a bank of “auras” built into the app, Erin assures me that you can create your own media (video, etc.) and use that as the layer, too.

You can even publish the augmented reality layer at the Aurasma website, and share it with others.

I experimented first with a little dancing ninja popping up on a flower pattern on one of our rugs, and then brought my 8 year old in to check it out. Yeah. He was jazzed about it.  He kept putting his hands down to the ground, wondering where the ninja was. But, the thing is, you would need to have my rug in your viewer in order to see what I am even talking about. No offense, but I am not inviting the world into our sun room to watch the ninja in action.

So, I looked around my bookshelf for a book that I thought others might have access to. Since so many of my friends are in the National Writing Project, I pulled out Because Digital Writing Matters, and layered a floating Earth on top of it.

Want to see?

Tap to view my Aura.

If you don’t have the book itself, you can point your mobile device at this image of the book and click on the link above (This is where you will need to juggle your mobile device with your computer, I suspect. Oh, and you have to have the Aurasma app downloaded, too. I should have mentioned that. Center the image with the app open, and the layer should start by itself). It should still work by using the embedded image of the book, although you have be sure to carefully situate the view in the screen.

(I just tried it with the embedded image and it worked!)

So, what’s the point? There’s the cool factor, for sure, but is there more to it than that? Erin does a much better job explaining how you might begin to conceive using Augmented Reality in the classroom for learning, and she has plenty of great information about her work and ideas at her blog. She even has a free guide to using the Aurasma app, as well as some handy videos. I love it when other teachers share what they are doing. Thanks, Erin!

I could see this technology being used in a classroom (with access to mobile devices, by the way) where presentation posters hang on the walls, and students use the app to create layers of information about their projects; or in a library, where book reviews might be embedded as invisible overlays; or perhaps the layers are part of an informational treasure hunt around the room, or school; or … well, who knows? The ease of Augmented Reality is still pretty new, and so, the possibilities are still unknown.

What would you do? What will you do? If you make something, share it out in the comment section, so I can check it out.

Peace (in the reality, slightly augmented),