In Knowledge Quest: Educator Advocacy

Advocating Advocacy KQ
I had the pleasure of being asked by Melissa Techman, a guest-co-editor of the September/October 2014 edition of the Knowledge Quest journal, to write a piece about educator advocacy. My aim was to share some of the work that our Western Massachusetts Writing Project has done with regional teachers around getting published in local newspapers and to showcase practical advice on how to hone a message that is both positive and focused on supporting teachers in the classroom.

My piece — Advocating Advocacy: Raising Voices to Make Change – did not make it into the paper version of the Knowledge Quest magazine (darn, and we get it at home, too, as my wife is an administrator and a librarian) but the piece is available as an online exclusive for viewing and sharing. I owe a debt to my networking friends Steve Zemelman and Menoo Rami, who answered some of my questions about work they do to support educators in finding their voice through writing. And I need to give a a shout-out to a local teacher, Michele Turner Bernhard, for allowing me to use her story as a teacher-writer as my lead-in to the piece.

You can find the article through the American Library Association website or just go here to the article itself, as pdf file. And it is always worth checking out Steve’s Teachers Speak Up website for what he has been up to. And for inspiration, read Menoo’s book, Thrive.

Peace (in the raising of the voice),


App Review: Hyperlapse

It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of Facebook and Instragram, mostly due to Zuckerberg and company’s shifting feet on privacy issues. But a new video creation app put out last week under the Instagram umbrella (but it is its own app) called Hyperlapse is pretty nifty. (and it does not seem to have any place for privacy invasions, other than what you might film as video).

The free app allows you to easily shoot a scene that then gets converted into a timelapse video. The controls are simple to use and you have a few options when you are done around speeding it up or slowing it down, and then saving it to your device or sharing it to, eh, Instragram or Facebook. Projects don’t save in the app, as far as I can tell, so when you are done, you are done. It sort of feels like a neat cousin to Vine (but don’t tell Twitter I said that).

(don’t blink … it’s over before you know it)

I’m still thinking about how to use Hyperlapse more, but here, I composed a shot of a ceiling fan, from below, and I think it looks pretty artistic. I’m wondering if I can get a shot of my son playing baseball …

Peace (in the app),


Time to Unplug for August (my blog vacation)

It’s that time of year when I need to pull back from blogging and some other virtual writing, so this space will be nice and quiet for the rest of August. Along with some much-anticipated family vacation time, I will be doing some prep work for professional development I am facilitating and finally getting a chance to think about my keynote for the K12 Online Conference. Basically, it’s a breather.

See you in a few weeks!

Peace (in the silence),

In the News: Me, the teacher/writer

MassLive Article
The regional newspaper (for which I once worked as a journalist in my life before teaching) did a feature story on my role as a contributing writer for the collection, Teaching with Heart. I tried to raise the role of teacher advocacy in the interview, as best as I could, and I hope the message may resonate. The collection, by the way, is fantastic, with short essays by dozens of educators writing about poems that are important to them.

Read the article and check out the book (be sure to use the discount code at the bottom of the article)

Peace (on the page),

Children of the Screen: Reading Offline vs Online

Offline vs Online Reading Skills
A conversation with some friends had me sharing out an old piece I had written about online reading comprehension. Much of what I learned about how kids read with screens comes from the folks at the New Literacies Institute (some of whom are still in my orbit — Ian and Greg). In that article, I had created this chart with help of other folks through some crowdsourcing, and mostly, the chart still holds up.

You can read the piece over at the Learn NC site.

I’d also be remiss not to share out a few of my webcomics that I had done around this theme of “children of the screen” when I was writing Boolean Squared. (It’s a bit dated, as you can tell from the reference to Apple still developing an ereader, which became the iPad. Was it really that long ago that I was writing this BS?)

Peace (on the screen),

Where ‘Dogtrax’ Came From

(my first dog, Bella)Bella headshot

The other day, a friend on Twitter posed the question of where my moniker, Dogtrax, came from. Actually, Maha Bali was riffing on the fact that Alan Levine, whose work with #ds106 is crazy fun, and I both have dog-related nicknames (he is Cogdog and I am Dogtrax). She wondered if we had some connections to each other (we don’t, other than #ds106) and what the story was.

I played it for humor, as if I were trying not to give away some grand secret. But then Alan shared out one of his very first blog posts, in which he explained where Cogdog came from. That made me feel as if my diversions to Maha’s questions weren’t warranted, so I told her I would search my blog for a post in which I explain my name.

I guess I never wrote it, so here it is.

Where Dogtrax Came From

The nickname Dogtrax is a variation of a nickname I had a child. I grew up in an apartment complex with lots of kids, and we would gather to play sports most afternoons and most weekends in the grassy field near the side of the apartment building. Baseball in spring; soccer in the fall; and football (American football) right into the cold months of winter. We had a whole range of ages, so little kids would be in the huddle with older ones, and usually, someone went home hurt during the games. It was just the way of the world.

A good friend of mine was a star athlete and he excelled in neighborhood football. Me? Not so much. But I was big for my age, so I could block whenever my quarterback friend wanted to run down the field. I should mention here that I have/had red hair (“had” being the fact of life of getting older), and there is a football play called Red Dog, which my friend liked to call when he wanted to run for a touchdown with me blocking in front of him.

Thus, my nickname for a long stretch of time as a kid in our neighborhood was Red Dog. Interestingly, nobody outside of our block called me that. It was a real name connection to where I lived at the time.

Cut to college, where my drinking buddies and I were talking about childhood memories and nicknames, and I told the story above of the football field, so my friends in college began to call me Red Dog again, and then they later dropped the Red to leave just the Dog (a word which later became pop culture slang for friend, as in Dawg. We take no credit for that. Just saying.)

Which leads us to Dogtrax. Its origins are in my very first email address I ever created — too many years ago to now even count — and a little music machine. Around the same time as I was discovering email (this must be the early 1990s), I was using a Tascam four-track recorder to record and produce some original music, and in the vein of feeling “professional,” if only for myself, I took to labeling my tapes (hand-delivered to friends) as being created by Dogtrax Productions (the trax being in reference to “tracks” of music. X sounded cool, but now it is overused, right?)

When I needed to create an email username, I went with Dogtrax@xxxx, and I have stuck with it ever since as I have moved email hosts and moved into Twitter, etc. I don’t really think about it much until someone like Maha asks me or someone at a conference says “Oh, you’re Dogtrax.” Actually, that makes me feel sort of foolish in the moment. “Eh, yes, but I am Kevin.”

Even as the world has shifted more towards open names in webspaces, I still fall back on my Dogtrax moniker, as sort of a touchstone of childhood and young adult memories, and a bit of a veil of identity, too (now completely gone as I write this). The name has guided my avatar creation over the years, too, to some degree (see an earlier post here about my shifting avatars). I realize, as I write this, that Dogtrax is my anchor in shifting spaces, an identity that has stayed constant over the years as my presence in different networks and communities has come and gone.

It’s interesting, too, that the Internet world is overrun with LOL Cats, and us dog-related identity folks (like Alan and I) often find humorous ways to push back against the feline presences in our feeds. When we wag our tails, it means we’re happy, by the way.

And that is the origin story of Dogtrax.

Duke(my current dog, Duke)
Peace (in history),

If It’s Not on the Web, Does a School Exist?

I’ve had the oddest experience lately with my sons’ school district (where I live but don’t teach). The other day, I was trying to find some information about one of my boys’ teachers, and I could not remember their email. So I went to search for the school district website.

Nothing came up.

I thought for sure it must be me, using the wrong search queries. So I tinkered with words to modify the search. I went very specific with my terms. I even waited a few days and tried again.

Nothing came up.

It was as if the school district had been yanked off the Web. I went to our city website and searched for a link to the School Department.


I scratched my head. Later in the week, my wife came downstairs, clearly frustrated, because she was trying to email my high school son’s guidance counselor to talk about his junior year. She had been searching and searching and searching for the high school website for 30 minutes.

Nothing came up.

I’m baffled on a few levels. First, I suspect that the school must have done some upgrade to its web presence that has completely taken it off the grid (maybe a new Google “Right to Be Left Alone” experiment?) at a time when schools need to do more to reach out to parents. But where is the site? And, second,  I find it interesting that, as a parent, I really do expect our community schools to have at least some sort of presence on the web so that information is available. I want information, now.

I’m assuming this disappearance is only temporary. The school is still there (or so my son tells me …) and my wife cobbled together an email address from some older email archives. But still, it should not be this difficult to find a school, right?

Peace (on the web),