Consuming versus Creating

I’m in charge of a writing prompt over at a P2PU inquiry group around digital writing. My topic is to connect writing with “making,” and creating, and as part of that discussion, I shared my view that we need to make sure we are using technology to provide avenues for shifting kids from consumers to creators. A link to this chart by Gary Hayes was an interesting connection, too, for while it looks at the ways that people participate (or don’t) in online spaces, it also maps out the role of consumer versus creator.

Myth of Non-Participation

One of the questions I pose to our inquiry group: where are YOU on the chart? What about you?

Peace (in the creating),


Me, on the Mound

Dads v Kids Baseball2
Way back in early spring, I wrote about being a coach with my son’s Little League team for Slice of Life. Well, the season just ended (believe it or not) with my son’s team having a great regular season and a weak All-star season. But, we had a blast, and on the last practice, we had a fun game of adults versus kids baseball. The pictures here are of me, pitching to the boys. Yeah, my arm hurt the next day but it was worth it!
Dads v Kids Baseball

And the game ended on a tie: 3-3.


Peace (on the field),


Book Review: Content-area Writing

We’re going to be using this book — Content-area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide — in the coming weeks with some ELA teachers, as we explore the possibilities and the shifts of the Common Core in our state. Just like one of the other books by two of three authors that I use a lot — Texts and Lessons — this resource by Harvey Daniels, Steven Zemelman, and Nancy Steinke is pitch perfect for teachers who want to learn more about writing in the content areas, but don’t quite know where to start. (see my review of that book)

Daniels, Zemelman and Steinke give a nice overview of the importance of writing to learn, no matter what the class, and then offer up possibilities for the classroom. The book begins with a series of quickwrite activities, and then ventures into longer project-based options, and ends on an interesting chapter around writing for standardized tests. This structure, plus the breezy style of writing, makes the book very accessible for a wide range of audience. There is a lot of practical advice, including sections on “what could go wrong” for teachers to consider when implementing the ideas. There are helpful connections to real classroom examples, and then further connections to the science, math and social studies classroom experiences.

I think the book will be a hit with teachers in our professional development.

Personally, I enjoyed the project-based writing chapters (what they call public writing) and have become intrigued once more with the i-Search paper format, which has nice connections to research skills and inquiry writing by students. In fact, after reading Content-area Writing, I am now intending to start the year out with an i-Search project with my sixth graders in September, helping them early on in the year with some research and analytical skills that will hopefully set the stage for longer pieces as the year progresses. (The i-Search idea is built around choice, inquiry and writing). Last year, we didn’t get to research and essay exploration until the end of the year, which did not help my science and social studies colleagues out in their content-area classes all that much.

Peace (in the writing),



Gamestar Mechanic’s Online Learning Environment

An Introduction to the GSM Online Learning Course from E-Line Media on Vimeo.

I am trying to take advantage of a partnership between the National Writing Project and Gamestar Mechanic to learn more about the summer design project that Gamestar has launched for kids. Young gamers enrolled in the online program use webinars and one-to-one coaching and game-building activities with professional game designers to learn more about designing video games. I’m hoping to pop into some of the discussions and take part on the outskirts of the activity, as much as I can.

I missed a webinar the other day (it’s summer!) but I was looking over the documents shared in that session, and I liked how the focus was on the entire design process, in particular: how to revise your game after getting feedback. My own work has been trying to connect game design theory with writing process theory, and if we can find more ways to make revision more meaningful for young writers, then I am all for trying to make those connections. (see our Video Game Design site)
Check out this handy chart from Gamestar:
Game Design Process_ Gamestar Mechanic

Peace (in the gaming),

Remembering Woody Guthrie at 100

You may not know it, but today is the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth. There was a big lead article on one of our alternative newspapers this week about the 100th anniversary because Guthrie’s granddaughter is performing his songs at a local concert (Arlo Guthrie lives not too far away) and the article reminded me of the power of Guthrie‘s songs and fierceness of message and heart.

A folk song is what’s wrong and how to fix it or it could be
who’s hungry and where their mouth is or
who’s out of work and where the job is or
who’s broke and where the money is or
who’s carrying a gun and where the peace is.  – Woody Guthrie

One of my favorite Steve Earle songs is this tribute to Woody, called Christmas in Washington about the state of politics. I hope you enjoy it and remember Woody as an American icon.


Peace (in the song),

PS — Why isn’t today’s Google Doodle about Woody? (It’s about artist Gustav Klimt.)

Embedded Tech in Common Core PD

One of my goals for working with educators around the Common Core is to showcase how technology and media also fit into ways that we can engage our students as composers and creators. During two full-day sessions this week, I led a group of teachers not only through the layers of Common Core in our state, but also through various technology tools that were part of the learning. In other words, I tried to embed the technology as much as possible, and then made that embedding visible, so that teachers might see some possibilities for doing the same in their classroom.

Here are some of the technology ideas we used:

Feedback at the end of our two days together indicated an appreciation of deeper understanding of the Common Core standards, but also an appreciation of how technology was used in meaningful ways as part of the learning. As I told them, I hoped I was planting some seeds for them for the future, and that by using the technology themselves for learning, they might transfer that to their students.

Peace (in the sharing),


Book Review: The Last Book in the Universe

It seems odd to admit it, but I didn’t realize that Rodman Philbrick’s novel, The Last Book in the Universe, would be a dystopian book. Well, duh. It was the title that caught my eye, and also, I have enjoyed various Philbrick novels this year (our summer reading is The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg).

But I wondered what book would be the last book?

Set in a future after “the big shake” has decimated just about everything and everyone, society is splintered in a few protected areas, surrounding what is known as Eden, the home of genetically perfected society of people known as “proovs.” Yes, biblical and literary allegory looms large here. The main character is Spaz, and the plot revolves around his adventure is to get back home to his foster sister, who is dying of leukemia. Spaz, who is an epileptic, is joined by an old man, Ryter (say that one out loud), and a young boy who remains mostly nameless. Ryter has been writing a book, which is an unknown and forgotten art form, and he joins with Spaz to capture one last adventure (like Odysseus, he notes, to which Spaz asks, who?) before he dies.

Like Anthony Burgess has done in A Clockwork Orange, Philbrick has invented an entire lexicon for this world that has been almost destroyed, and it is survival of the fittest and quickest, and luckiest. And while Philbrick paints a terrible place, he laces his story with hope, and I won’t give away what we understand becomes the “last book” in the universe, except to say that the book has lots of action, thoughtful inquiry into modern day culture, and insights into the unspoken power of capturing our stories in words for the future.

Peace (in the last book),


A Digital Literacies Mind Map

digital literacies mind map
One of the two online inquiry groups I am participating in at the P2PU is all about writing and literacies in a digital age, and one of the participants has been sharing a conceptual mind map that she is working on around her own conceptions of digital literacies. The map is changing as our conversations grow, but I like the logical approach and I also like how the map is still underway and in the midst of change.

It’s worth your time to see what Sheri Edwards is up to with her map, and for us to think about: what may be missing, and what do we see on her map that overlaps with our own understandings.

Peace (across the map),


Key Phrases: Massachusetts Common Core Guiding Principles

Mass Common Core Guiding Principles

In a recent session with educators looking deeper into our state’s Common Core document, we did an activity around the Guiding Principles, which really put the standards in a good perspective. Here, teachers were given one of the ten principles, asked to synthesize the information, and then come up with a key word or phrase. We then used Answer Garden to collect those phrases as a word cloud activity.

Peace (in the guide),


Common Core: The Potential and the Pitfalls

I just finished up two full days of leading inquiry around the ELA Common Core (as reflected in our new Massachusetts ELA Curriculum) with a great group of elementary teachers. I’ll share out how I embedded a lot of technology sharing into our inquiry study, but I wanted to feature this podcast that we did with Cinch. They had to write (actually, they wrote … a lot) about the potential and the concerns they see with the new curriculum (as well as illustrate their relationship with Common Core in a drawing), and then I asked for volunteers to podcast what they wrote. This all stems from some reading we did in the Pathways to the Common Core book by Lucy Calkins and others (worth the read!).

Listen to the podcast

Peace (in the voice),