Slice of Life: Connecting and Conversations

(Note: This is a Slice of Life post. You can join in with your own slice, too. Head over to Two Writing Teachers to get more information about the writing activity that takes place online every Tuesday.)
MountainMoonTalk 2013

We’ve just started school but we had the pleasure yesterday of connecting our classroom in Western Massachusetts with a class out in Arizona to talk about a book that both classes have read: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin. This book was our entire school’s summer read but the students in Arizona are using it as a read-aloud. They’ve done a whole lot more work that we have and they shared out a lot of great ideas about the book, asked questions and considered a few different angles of the rich storyline of a character who heads off on an adventure in China to bring good luck to her village and family.

This is the first time my students have connected with another classroom, and they were pretty focused and jazzed up about it, even though we had some trouble hearing and they had some trouble hearing us. I realize I need to have a better system of students being closer to the computer for sharing — a little chair or something — and because we are at the start of the year, I didn’t feel quite as prepared as I would have liked for my own students sharing.

But my teaching friends in Arizona — Michael Buist (whom I met during our Making Learning Connected MOOC) and Jennifer Nusbaum — were great to work with, and I love extending the classroom beyond our walls, reaching out to make my students feel connected to something larger than themselves. It was a great first step at the start of the year.

Peace (in the discussion),

PS — here is the whole hangout:



Online Animated Gif Creator

(Bart Gets Jiggy with It)
The other day, I wrote about a struggle to create an animated GIF from a video file. Yesterday, another member of #ds106 graciously shared out a website that does the work for you. The site — called GifSoup — allows you to input a YouTube video file, tell it where in the video you want to convert, and then creates the GIF. The site then pops out code and links for sharing, and allows you the option of downloading. The free version is limited (no more than 10 second clips) and comes with a company watermark.
I had some trouble with a few clips last night, where the end result was a smooshed, flattened GIF. But I think it was a glitch that fixed itself, and this morning, the site worked fine for me. Give it a try. The assignment at #ds106 was to find a scene that represented a movie you liked or did not like, and create an animated GIF of it.
This is from the movie, Bird:

And another one for fun from Futurama:

(Bender goes on a Bender)
Peace (in the frame),

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.