Teachers Teaching Teachers: Making Space

I was fortunate to be part of a recent discussion about online student publishing the other week on the wonderful Teachers Teaching Teachers program. While the focus was on Space, a new online publication for and by students, the talk also moved into how the web provides a unique platform for publication. Space uses YouthTwitter for students to submit work and network with each other.

We were joined by a few students, too, and I love that their voices were part of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast of Teachers Teaching Teachers.


By the way, this was the 100th episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers, which is a great accomplishment on the part of Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim and others. They really dig deep into issues.

Peace (in discussions),

100 Tools for Learning

This list of 100 web-based applications came into my RSS the other day and it seems like a wonderful resource, moving across all sorts of applications, programs and possibilities. This comes from Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day at the Center for Learning and Performance.

I deeply appreciate when other people put in the time to compile a list like this and then share it with the world.

Check out the list of 100 applications (pdf)

Peace (in sharing),

Just One More Book: My Review, part 4

The wonderful children’s book blog — Just One More Book — published another of my reviews of favorite picture books. This one is called The Three Pigs and it is written by David Weisner. What I like about the book is how he takes the traditional story and completely breaks down all of the narrative walls.

The folks at Just One More Book are always looking for listener feedback (you can do it on the phone, even) and for guest reviewers. This is my fourth review so far in the past year. Take a look at Just One More Book.

Here is my review of The Three Pigs

Peace (in pictures and stories),

The Pew Report: Teens, Technology and Writing

A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project starts out with this:

Teens write a lot, but they do not think of their emails, instant and text messages as writing. This disconnect matters because teens believe good writing is an essential skill for success and that more writing instruction at school would help them.”

The report is interesting and I need more time to digest it all. But certainly some trends seem to emerge from the data. The report indicates that teens are writing, and writing quite a bit, but their perception of whether that counts as “real writing” is low. Perhaps their writing in emails, on social networks and blogs, and in other technology-related projects is not being validated enough by adults because it falls outside the realm of traditionally-accepted practice.

One alarming trend is the perception by boys, in particular, that writing is not fun and not something that they are interested in. This gender gap correlates, too, with the fact that more girls than boys are using online platforms for writing, expression and communication. I see this in my classroom, for sure.

The Pew report also indicates that there seems to be both positive and negative connotations of how technology is affecting the writing habits of you people and what kinds of writing is being done in and out of school.

Check out these tables:

It is clear that writing is still a focus for teens (always a good sign) and that the imperative of educators is to use that desire to write in the classroom in meaningful ways. We need to use their interests in their authentic writing to guide them into instruction that we deem important and vital for them. There are ways to do this, but how many teachers are considering this? Not enough.

Yesterday, after the release of this report, I was contacted by a reporter from The Boston Globe for some comments on the Pew study. The reporter’s angle (there is always an angle) was that some findings in the report indicate that IM/Chat lingo is creeping into the classroom and into formal writing.

I certainly have seen that happen (and wrote a poem about it yesterday) but I explained that there is a balance between allowing young people to express themselves in a language that they can call their own and also reminding them of the expectations of formal conventions.

In my class, we talk about the English Language, and how it is a live entity and not dead on the page, and therefore, changes happen. The reporter seemed pretty much set against the idea that language shortcuts such as IM lingo are valid ways to communicate and that she was worried about the downfall of the English language as she knows it. So, I guess I will see how I am portrayed in the newspaper.

Check out the Pew report yourself and see what you think.

Peace (in writing habits),


Moving Music into Learning

I am convinced that music gets a short thrift in most classrooms. I know that, as a kid, if my teachers had at least once in a while use music for lessons, I would have been much more engaged in what was going in the class. I try to use music as much as possible — from analyzing song lyrics to listening to music to writing songs.

The other day, I came across Mr. Duey, who is a teacher from Detroit who raps, and after watching this video about Fractions, I ordered his CD. Even if it was bad, I figured any teacher who tries something like this needs support.

And the CD is pretty decent. It is divided into curriculum areas — Math, English, Science and Social Studies — with an audience of middle school students. Topics range from writing essays to solving improper fractions to latitude/longitude lines. I got the CD yesterday and my own two kids were boppin’ around the house, reading the lyrics and listening to the hip-hop beat. Mr. Duey’s rap about Integers even sparked a discussion about the number line and positive and negative numbers.

Along with the CD is a DVD that I have not yet watched, but which shows the making of the music and this following video. I can’t wait to check it out.

Hey ya, Mr. Duey!

Peace (in rappin’ teachers),

poemtextmessage: a poem in SMS

This morning, I had an inspiration to write a poem using the shortened SMS language of the cell phone and chat room (and twitter, too, I suppose).

So, here goes:

(listen to the poem, translated)

u thnk txt &wrds r doa
but omg rotfl bout that @shmh
‘cos ov cors, imo, 2moro will ch8g 4 us &4u
QFT: ppl r str8ng & lng str8ngr
th4, i activ8 ur txt 4u
w/lnks & soh fwiw &hope u
h/o 2 w/e u can
& now pls gt bc 2 yr hw
yer PAW

Pce \\//

Day in a Hyperbole, over at Ben’s Place

Day in Sentence Icon

It was the most amazing thing.

Out of nowhere, I received this call on my bluetoothed-gamma-radiation-brain-a-ma-phone from Radio Earth, asking if I would be willing to be interviewed about the plans by the global government to use the concept of Day in a Sentence on an intergalactic mission now being planned for next year.

You may not have heard about the latest development of Day in a Sentence, but our community of writers may soon include beings from another world, another language, another …. oh heck, so I get carried away with my introductions.

This week, Ben B. is taking over the Day and he wants you to use some exaggeration in your reflection as he brings us in a potentially strange and humorous direction: Your Day in Hyperbole.

Go ahead and fib all you want. Ben encourages your creativity and he only asks that you avoid some of the more standard words to fluff up your otherwise mundane day (I know that isn’t true, but now I am working on reverse-hyperbole). See his blog for more details.

I’m trying think up my own Big Whopper.

Please head to Ben’s blog called Awaiting Tenure

Peace (in tall tales),

Behind the Scenes of Stop-Motion

I just found this pretty neat video that brings us behind the scenes of the making of a stop-motion animation movie. I got the link from a great site called AnimateClay, which always has interesting resources for those of us interesting in exploring the world frame-by-frame.

Peace (in frames),

Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 4

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

Nine years of legal battles finally ended this month and a developer is set to destroy a plot of woods near our house for some upscale homes. It breaks our heart. Although we know this land is not ours, we feel as if it is kin to us. We have walked the paths for what seems like forever, with our dog and then with our kids. Resting spots along the trails are homes for treasured memories.

And now, the trees are almost gone and the place looks like some wasteland littered with sawed-off stumps, fallen trees and dead brush. The birds don’t sing quite as loud, nor as happy, as they once did, it seems to us. And where have the deer gone? The chipmunks? The moose we saw running to there one year? And the bears and fox and fisher cats. All moved to some other destination, no doubt, by the roar of machinery.

(This is a path that used to be like a tunnel of overgrown trees. We used to have to stoop to get through. Now, it is just wide open space, and not in a good way)

Yesterday, the five of us walked through there again on a beautiful Spring day and I remembered:

  • The twin Big Rocks that are sliced down the middle where the kids used to climb and eat apples, just resting and listening. It was always apples, in my memory. The rocks seemed smaller but I guess it is because the boys are bigger;
  • The little island the boys call Frog Island that requires them to balance across log bridges. There are no frogs there and I can’t recall anymore how we came up with the name;
  • The place just beyond the Big Rocks where the woods suddenly change to dense Mountain Laurel, and the rocks on the trail become slippery and hidden from sight;
  • The fallen log that my oldest son used to try to crawl under, instead of over, and now finds his body too big. The log is still there. Still blocking the trail like some silent guard.;
  • The upward incline on the path where I slipped one winter morning with my toddler son in the backpack and slammed his head into the tree (no serious damage except intense guilt);
  • The place where two rivers connect just beyond a tunnel, which sits below an old railroad bed, which may be home to a bike trail someday if that legal battle ever gets resolved;
  • The sense that all this will disappear so very soon and my kids will be poorer for it.

I tried to joke with my youngest that the Lorax might pop up out of the tree stumps but he would not have any of it. “No Lorax! No Onceler!” he shouted, and I wish this world had no need for the Lorax and that the Oncler understood what he was doing before the devastation of the Truffula Trees. Sometimes, such knowledge comes too late.

I am experimenting here with the new Flickr Video feature. This is the stream that runs into the tunnel. I made the video with my digital camera. Peace (in preservation),