My Word: Make

I’ve seen a lot of friends on Twitter using the “one word” idea. It’s a simple but powerful way to focus in on a theme for the new year. Or maybe not so simple. I’ve struggled with a single word that is large enough to encompass how I want to approach the year and not so intangible as to be meaningless. I’ve settled in on the word “Make” for a few reasons.

First of all, I really got involved in learning more about the Maker’s Movement this year, through work with the National Writing Project. Our CLMOOC was focused on the “make.” I am intrigued by how helping students learn through doing, and creating things/ideas is coming back around again.

Second, I am not a physical maker. I bumble my way through any project you hand me. When I fixed the toilet in our house one day, you should have heard the cheers and seen the high fives we gave each other. I mean, I had fixed the toilet, for goodness sake. That was a breakthrough.

So, this idea of focusing on “make” is always a way to slowly get me out of my own comfort zone. I know I have students who struggle with writing a story but could take apart a car engine, and even put it back to together again. I know I have students who can make an engaging video, publish it on YouTube, and yet, they can’t quite write a paragraph with deep meaning.

I can’t say right now how this word “make” will make its way into my daily life. But I do have a wide definition in my head of what it means to “make” and I’ll keep mulling this one over. It’s digital, physical and internal, and I am going to “make” 2014 a year of diving in as deep as I can.

In that vein, one of the things I have been doing is pulling together a Flipboard magazine around the connections of making and learning, and Connected Learning. It’s a start, and I am making the magazine happen. (meta-make?)

Peace (in the word),

Hello 2014

My son and I used the Aurasma app to color in the new year. Happy New Year to you and thank you for stopping by.

Peace (every day, all year),

Reflecting on 2013: Life’s a Blur — Make a List

I don’t know about you, but the end of December rolls around and I realize that another year has skipped past me. If I don’t take time to reflect a bit, it’s all gone right out the window. Of course, one of the reasons I blog is to remember, to archive the thinking and reflection and experimentation that I dive into. This blog is a like a huge USB Memory Drive plugged into my head and heart. Ok. Enough sappy metaphors.

In the interest of using technology to share, I created a visual of the ten events that I want to remember from 2013 (I used a software program called Simple Diagrams) and then put the image on Flickr, and then moved it over to ThingLink, so that each image has a short bit of text with a link to the sites mentioned.

Peace (in the year),


ASCII Art for the Holidays

I wanted to share put this site of ASCII art by j. stark. This may be an old site (hosted by Geocities! I see some art dates back to 2000) but it has some neat artwork that is still timeless.

Happy holidays, where ever you are and whatever your beliefs. Thanks for stopping by.

 |"|")/"\<""|"\ /  "|"| ||_"   <"|\ |/"\|  ||\/||\ |\ |   | /|"|"
 |"|"\\_/_> |  |    | |"||_    _>| \|\_/|/\||  ||"\| \|   |"\| |

                        /       \           ___,---,__
                       |        :|         (/_/|\ \|_/)
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    =_jgs=_|=_-./                                   ^

               (J U S T   B E   C A R E F U L   W H E R E   
                  Y O U   P U T   T H E   C A R R O T !)

 (art by j.stark)

               .'          `\
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Peace (on earth, let it be),

A Digital Holiday Story: Breaking Glass

I did a version of this story years ago as a podcast and updated the text a bit, and then used the iMovie app to pull it together as a digital story. This is one of our family traditions – writing notes to our future selves and stuffing them into glass ornaments. What’s yours?
Peace (in the glass),

Humbled and Honored to be in the Mix

I am honored to have been nominated for some Edublog Award categories this year. If you have the inclination and time, I’d appreciate support. Just being part of the crowd of blogs and folks in these spaces is enough for me, though. Like many of my colleagues, I don’t blog for awards. I blog to reflect and understand and to share, and connect.

But, thank you.

Peace (in appreciation),

Lost Notes, Memory Tricks and the Discomfort Factor


The other night, at practice with my band (Duke Rushmore), we did something unusual. We’ve been working on some new songs for the past few weeks and as such, have ignored some of the old ones that we have always played. It’s part of learning, I guess, that we focus our energies on the present. But at practice, we decided to go back to some old songs that we used to know by heart. As the drummer kicked off the beat to the first one, I realized in a panic that I didn’t know what my first note was or how the song even began.

It was incredibly uncomfortable to feel so lost in the music.

The interesting thing is that I was not alone that night. In just about all of the old “chestnuts” that we pulled out, someone in the band — or more than one of us — didn’t know this note, or that chord, or where the break happened, or how to make the transition, or the order of the solos. We kept looking around at each other, asking: how could we have forgotten? Someone please help!

And we laughed.

But as a teacher, it reminded me something important. We take it for granted that our students are accumulating knowledge and experience, and that at any moment, they should be able to tap into the past work for the present assignment. Except, that doesn’t always happen, and we teachers get frustrated. Didn’t we already cover this? we wonder. The reality, though, is that without exposure and reminders, things get lost.

It was a humbling experience, floundering in a setting where I can usually thrive. I didn’t like that feeling, even in the company of friends who were not judging me for my missed notes, or wrong notes. My brain was working harder at retrieving information than it usually does acquiring it. I made a mental note about that process, and then got back to work re-learning my saxophone solos.

I’m still learning.

Peace (in reflection),

Celebrating Cranks, Creativity and Community: Nominations for Edublog Awards 2013


It’s that time of year again and I have a few folks/sites that I would like to consider for this past year’s Edublog Awards. (It’s been ten years of Eddies, apparently). Honestly, the flow of information from my RSS and Twitter and other sites is so fast and furious that I don’t often keep track of where things comes from. But there are always a few sites and folks and blogs and spaces that spring to mind each year.

So …

Best Individual Blog: I’ve long been a huge fan of Larry Ferlazzo and his work around collecting and curating information, and this year, he seems to have written more about his classroom and students than other years. Larry’s work around reaching students in a variety of ways — via media and writing and analysis – has really been an inspiring thing to watch. His themes around parent engagement in schools and reaching ELL students in meaningful ways fill a gap in my own reading. Plus, his curation around content from the web is always a relief — that he has done it and not us. Thanks, Larry!

Most Influential Post of the Year: When Chris Lehman writes, I read. And his post following the NCTE conference this November was so perfect, capturing both the frustration and the promise of teaching these days. Entitled On Broken Doors and Butter Knives, Lehman reminds us (as he did in a NCTE session) that what we are doing every day has value, and that we need to rely on each other — other educators — for community.

Best Twitter Hashtag: I am still excited every morning to see what the #nerdybookclub has up and running, and I just love that there is a group of us teachers who just plain love books that can connect with each other and with authors around the love of books. And then, we bring that passion into our classroom.

Best New Blogger: Kim Doullard started up her Thinking Through My Lens to explore photography for a monthly challenge, but her blog and her lens have taken on such interesting angles. Each day, Kim uses her camera to capture a view of the world, and then writes fascinating reflections on what she sees. Plus, she often turns her lens around on her own perceptions of the world and the world of teaching.

Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast : I have to give a shout-out to the DS106 community, which is difficult to explain in a nomination form. It is a shell of an engaging open digital storytelling course, yet it is not a course at all. And it ain’t a MOOC, either. It’s is pure inspiration around creativity. The great thing is that anyone can get inspired and create with its various elements — including The Daily Create. With video and audio and visual and written suggestions, the DS106 community pushes the boundaries of what is possible in any classroom.

Best EdTech/Resource Sharing Blog: Sylvia Tolisano’s Langwitches Blog is a treasure trove of helpful hints, ideas and practical guides to doing things. Plus, it has a cool name. I’ve used her handouts and pointed folks her way on any number of occasions, and always appreciate her thoughtfulness around sharing.

Best Teacher Blog: Paul Bogush can be cranky. I suspect he won’t mind being called that. In that cranky blogger way, Paul not only shares out what is going on in his learning spaces — the success and the difficulties — but he is always persistently pushing back against Big Business’s influence in the educational spheres, most notably the Common Core. Paul does his research around policies and then skewers them. In the process, he reminds us teachers to be skeptical and open-minded about the flow of money and influence, and about the spaces where our young students inhabit.

Best Individual Tweeter: There are few other folks in my Twitter feed that I look forward to than Chad Sansing. Chad’s insights into the world, and his innovative practice around open technology and learning opportunities, keep me inspired to try new things and to venture forth into the web in new ways. He uses humor and insights, and humility, to extend his ideas to the world. I, for one, am always grateful.

Best open PD / unconference / webinar series: I took part in a Make/Hack/Play course through P2PU with Karen Fasimpauer as facilitator. The three week (or so) sessions allows participants a chance to explore the ethos of making and playing but I loved the reflections best of all. The course allows us to move at our own pace, shifting from real space and virtual space, sharing out the ideas that moved into projects.

Best group blog: My best group blog is Youth Voices, which is a community of student writers from a variety of schools and global places. I am never surprised by the depth of writing and explorations, but I am always pleased with what comes in via my RSS feed from Youth Voices. It is a powerful network of inquiry, with posts that come from the heart of youth and pop culture and questions that drive curiosity.

 Lifetime Achievement: When I first started blogging and reading blogs, Wesley Fryer was writing about learning in new ways and sharing out his ideas. He’s still doing it. And I am still learning from him. His footprints are in multiple spaces these days but I always appreciate what Wesley is up to, particularly via his Moving at the Speed of Creativity (and is there a better name for a blogging space? I don’t think so.) Thanks, Wesley, for all that you do to move the world further. I hope my nomination doesn’t make you feel old!

Peace (in the reflecting),






Teacher Perceptions: the Pros and Cons of Kids and Technology

At the start of a professional development session the other night, I asked the participants to take a short survey (which served two goals — gather information to guide the session and show them how to use a Google Form to gather information to guide teaching) about the  perceptions we have about our students and their use of technology. They were limited to two choices from each list that I gave them on the things they see as positive and the concerns they have as teachers (so, be aware of the limitations).

But here are what they see as positives. Notice how finding information at your fingertips is a huge positive, and second is the use of social networking for a good cause.
PD Digital Kids 2 positives

For me, the most startling thing from the results is that no one clicked on developing a positive digital identity or footprint, and that lack of awareness by these teachers led me into a three hour session around that topic of digital citizenship and digital identity, and how to nurture both in our students. What the teachers came to realize is that their district has no systematic approach right now to this topic (other than visits by the police and district attorney’s office about cyberbullying, from a legal perspective), and so for many, it was an eye-opening experience, and a powerful step forward to staff discussions about what role schools play in explicitly teaching kids how to be good citizens with technology. (disclaimer: my district doesn’t have a systematic approach either.)

On the flip side, they also gave information about the negative perceptions, or most pressing concerns, of technology in the lives of their students. Here, the data showed a wider range of views.
PD Digital Kids 2 negatives

Concerns about protecting kids from bullying in online spaces and the posting of images online without regard to permanence and/or privacy garnered the most clicks here. We talked about these two topics a lot, particularly with the rise of Instagram in the past year.

I’d like to point out that gaming got a bad rap  (maybe deserved on some level), and I suspect that many teachers and adults see very little value in gaming, even though that is a huge part of kids’ lives right now. (But, notice in the top chart, a few did select the math/science connections to gaming, so maybe I am reading too much into this). I did not really address that in this workshop, as much of our time was spent doing work around digital identity, ways to address negative online behavior before it happens, and perusal of the CommonSense Media Curriculum.

Peace (in the PD),