More Notes from a Tech Conference

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about a Technology Across the Curriculum conference that I helped to organize. Yesterday, I did some reflections on how the conference went and today, I wanted to try to bring you a little deeper into the conference work. Much of this has already been posted on our Western Massachusetts Writing Project News Weblog as a way to distill information to our teachers, but I wanted to share it out here, too.

Here is a collage of photos (I used a site called Stained Glass Collage to mix and match up some photos).

Here are some podcasts:
Finally, here are two comics created by participants in the Digital Storytelling workshop (using Make Beliefs Comics):

Six Words Can Say a Lot: Days in a Sentence

This week’s Day in a Sentence was narrowed down to Day in Six Words, and the words came from all over the blogosphere this week. There were many new voices (partly as a result of the 31 Day Comment Challenge), plenty of veteran writers, and an incredible collection of tales told in minimalistic creativity.

I am going to keep my own narrative intrusions in check this week and allow your voices to come through on their own (because, well, they don’t need any help from me). But I did do something a bit different with your comments/words this week as yet another way to bring us all together in once “voice” and you can find that experiment at the end of the post.

With further ado, here you go:

  • Seniors graduated Friday. A bittersweet celebration. — Cynthia
  • Field trip – 8 chaperones – hell yeah! Sara P.
  • Learned lots from Will Richardson seminarAnne M.
  • Not getting out produces distorted viewpoints. Christine
  • Wet weepy spongy soggy rainbow day — Mary
  • With friends and sunshine, then rain.Illya (who has been experimenting with six day memoirs on Twitter for the past few days, and I have been trying to keep up, too)
  • Did that Simon says no comment.Ken (who originally let me know: Oil C wot oil do.)
  • Sydney Wednesday. Melbourne Saturday. Perth Tuesday.Kathryn
  • Two-on-two, full-court — DUMB! Larry (who admits that the full court game was a bit too much for him)
  • A whirlwind of activities encompasses me!Amy
  • “Wolf-children on crack” describes my class. — Liza
  • Need to learn to let go.Dani
  • Festival’s coming. Kids crazy. Teachers crazier. — Karen M.
  • Mud-covered frog hunters are wildly happy.Connie
  • Kind of mellow week. Almost summer! — Andrea
  • Sent staff survey. Received zero responses. — Andrea (she was inspired to keep going)
  • One soul who wears many hats. — Eric
  • The Quilt binding encircles us all.Jane S.
  • It’s that time…awards, honors, accolades.Delaine
  • Telling students they’ve failed is excruciating. Nina
  • Graduation ends K12; creates new beginnings!Tonya
  • Last Wednesday class today!! Time for ….!?!?!!!!Illya
  • Wondering if any “boilers” could hear me all the way from California hooting and hollering Wednesday night as many of the teachers and students in my filmmaking project headed onto to the stage at our regional SEVAs to receive awards and recognition?!? Gail (more than six words but Gail also has leeway on my blog)
  • Mulling on the importance of simplicity.Kate
  • Digitalstory dreams as new mac arrivesBonnie

And listen to Bonnie (if it works):

powered by ODEO
Meanwhile, at a Technology Across the Curriculum Conference on Saturday, I had participants in a podcasting workshop record their own Days in a Sentence. I did not limit them to six words, but you can listen to their voices (and I added a second sentence for this week, too).

Peace (in words, short words)


PS — So, friends, I took your six words, mashed them all together, and created this found poem of your thoughts. It was an interesting endeavor and I believe all of you are represented in some fashion or another. What does the poem mean? The poet remains silent. 🙂

Six Words As Collective Thought
A Day in Sentence Found Poem

In bittersweet simplicity:
the quilt of students we once received
now graduate
but just one soul creates celebration/importance;
Just one soul produces sunshine;
to dream a whirlwind of mud-covered
friends who encompass a “response” in these Days
and arrive wildly happy with honor,
then (in digitalstory festivals) I project rainbows of wolf-children wearing hats, two by two —
hooting and hollering like the spongy virtual frogs of Will Richardson
as these viewpoints arrive through the recognition that
learning always honors teachers (even with crazy kids encircled in whirlwinds).
I’m mulling this:
Does this stage of summer create new beginnings?
Or end the time of today?
Let go. Let go.
Hell yeah!

Reflecting on a Conference

Yesterday, my Technology Team at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project hosted a Technology Across the Curriculum conference and we had about 25 teachers attend, which is pretty decent for a Saturday morning. Most of them were not affiliated with the Writing Project and so, we are hoping that this served as a positive introduction to our ideas of “teachers teaching teachers” and “writing to learn” as the focus of activities.

Our keynote speaker, Mike Flynn (who is the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and a teacher at my school and a good friend), did a fantastic job of setting the tone of the day. Mike presented on the topic of the value of video in the elementary classroom, focusing in on a television program that he and his second graders produce around curricular themes (weather, salmon, etc). He injected some good humor and, also, laid out the rationale for such ventures (student engagement, knowledge of subject, public speaking, etc). I later joked to him that he may have lost a few folks when he mentioned that sometimes he is up until 3 or 4 a.m., working on editing of the movies at deadline.

We then broke the day into two sections, with three workshops. Everyone went into a session led by Tina on social networking for teachers. We wanted to give everyone a view of the ever-connected world. Tina had everyone visit, and urged them all to register, for Classroom 2.0 and begin connecting with other teachers. At the start of the conference, I noted that more than 20 teachers from my own network had posted greetings for them at our blog site, and they were all duly impressed and encouraged by those words. (another thank you to everyone).

The other two sessions were Audiocasting in the Classroom and Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum.

The podcasting session was a combination of exploration and then hands-on work, using Audacity, which only one participant knew about. We also recorded a collective Day in a Sentence podcast (to be released later today with the Day in a Sentence post). They loved using Audacity and immediately understood the potential of the use of voice. One of the teachers is at my own school and we began planning how my class of sixth graders might team up with her class of fourth graders for a collaborative project.

The digital storytelling session, led by Mary, had folks working with both Make Beliefs Comics (always a huge hit) and VoiceThread. They loved the potential of VoiceThread. I had set up a master account, and created alternative identities for them to use and experiment with. I could tell that the examples we showed in the areas of math, science and history were hitting some chords with them. Our discussion at the end of the session (which I will podcast later) was also informative.

At the end of the conference, a number of folks asked when we would be doing more of these hands-on technology conferences and that is something our team will have to think about. There clearly was interest and our model of engagement and hands-on work was what these teachers needed. They wanted time to play and we gave that to them. Almost every hand in the room was raised when Mary asked how many of them learned something they could try out in the classroom on Monday.

For the most part, it was a smooth conference to run, with a great team of folks. We held the event at my school, and so I had time to prepare during the week (putting Audacity and PhotoStory3 on all of the computers). The wireless Internet network was wicked slow, for some reason, and so loading time for some web-based applications took a bit of time. The participants were more patient than I was. I paced the room.
Also, I want to give a shout-out to my school district’s Information Technology leader — Kim F. — who volunteered to come to the Conference, and act as tech support and troubleshooter for the sessions. I often run into teachers who are at odds with their Tech Staff and come into conflict. I know I am lucky to have Kim around and for her to give up a Saturday morning to be with us — as a volunteer — says a lot about her support for teacher inquiry. (And I let her play with my XO Computer, which had her full attention for a time).

I’ll be posting a few podcasts in the coming days and some photos from the conference. All in all: a great success.

Peace (in reflection),

Recognizing Some Friends: The Fantastic Commenters

As part of the 31 Day Comment Challenge, we were asked to consider a visitor to our site who exemplifies the concept of a “good commenter.”

I have so many wonderful visitors and so many great contributors, that this is difficult, so I will have to narrow it down to two folks.

First up: Matt Needleman, who always has a constructive thought or words of praise or a link to some great resource. He has been a bit quiet lately due, which I attribute to a combination of factors. But I always look forward to Matt and his comments. Thanks for being a visitor here, Matt.

Second: Bonnie Kaplan (who, I should admit out in the open, kindly gave me this very award at her blog, so it feels a bit strange). Bonnie and I have been on a few tech adventures together through our friendship with the National Writing Project. We push each other, and we help each other, and we are regular visitors and contributors to each other’s blogs. I always know she is at least one reader out there. Thanks, Bonnie: you get a badge, too.

Here is your badge (created by Scott McCloud). Wear it with pride!

Peace (in recognizing the network),

I invited You and You came in: Thank you

Yesterday, I posted a request for folks in my “network” to help me welcome participants in a Technology Across the Conference being held tomorrow. I wasn’t sure what I would get, but I should have known so many thoughtful and wonderful voices would come through. My hope is that the participants in the conference (many of whom are new to the Web World and technology) will see the power of connecting with others.

This file has been created and published by FireShot

Here are just a few comments that jumped out at me:

  • Bonnie reminds us that, “You have your passion and your great work to move the group along with you.”
  • Michele provides a crucial axiom that I try to follow: do it yourself first. “These tools are incredibly powerful for learning, but it definitely helps when we start with using them for our own learning first.”
  • Cheryl gives a rich portrait of her work with students in all of its global facets and then encourages folks further. “The Web 2.0 offers so many rich possibilities for learning! Grab ahold and hang on for the ride of your life! Once you are hooked, you are there for life!”
  • Sue reminds us to move slow, but steady, forward. “Don’t stress at not knowing it all — just focus on one step at a time.”
  • Tracy puts great faith in us presenters and also notes an important element: learning can be a good time. “Relax and get ready to have FUN: you’re in excellent hands.”
  • Janelle says she will come back to our conference site and hopefully get our folks to return the favor of discovery. “I think reading your blog will inspire me to be more diligent with my own site! So thank you for that!
  • Bud frames his thoughts with the reason for all of this: our students growing up in a global world of virtual connections. “We’ve a big responsibility to learn how to navigate that and to share our learning and guidance with our students.
  • Somewhat new to the blogging world, Ann gives some of her own advice: “Try to make the time to really learn and use these new ideas and tools. They will take you to places you never imagined possible!
  • Rod draws connections between writing and technology. “We write to process that learning. There is no better way to excel learners into the thinking process than by using web 2.0 tools.
  • Mary also wants our folks to enjoy the creative process. “Like the others have said, ‘Have fun yourselves with the technology.’
  • Claire puts the focus on learning new classroom practice. “When I started blogging I had no idea how powerful it was going to be for my own professional development. I am learning so much from so many talented people.”
  • Christine (who is not all that far away, it turns out) also encourages the sense of exploration. “I hope you discover just how fun learning technology can be.”
  • Peter encourages patience. “I know that you will have a great day learning about the many tools available to you. Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed–it’s completely normal.
  • Kate knows the adventures that are ahead. “You’ll pretty soon get a feel for the whole Web 2.0 adventure and start thinking about how you can use these great tools to get your students up and running headlong into the digital literacy challenges of the 21st century.
  • Joe moves slowly and carefully into new tools and suggests that all teachers do the same. “Getting started with this can be overwhelming because there are so many choices and so much to learn.

It’s not too late for you to help out, either. You can visit our Tech Conference Blog and leave a comment, too.

Thank you to everyone who has helped. I deeply appreciate it.

Peace (in networks that work and play),

Running a Conference on Tech Across the Curriculum

On Saturday, my Western Massachusetts Writing Project is hosting a half-day conference at my school on using technology across the curriculum. Our hope to is have conversations and hands-on activities around the topic of integrating technology and writing into the various content areas (math, science, social studies, etc.) The model for this event was inspired by a similar conference put on by Bonnie and the Hudson Valley Writing Project last year (I had the pleasure of being the keynote — see the article that Bonnie wrote for the National Writing Project).

We have about 25 people signed up (we had set a limit at 30) and we are all feeling a bit antsy, I think, about the event. (The technology better work! he says with anxiety) I was lucky to have my friend, Mike Flynn (the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year) sign on as keynote speaker, and he will be talking about video production in the elementary classroom.

Our other sessions are:

  • Connecting with the World: where we will be exploring the benefits and possibilities of social networking for teachers and students. The hands-on activity will include joining Classroom 2.0 and beginning some interactions with other teachers on the vast and growing network (7000 members!).
  • Audiocasting in the Classroom: where we will be listening at and looking into the use of audio recording and podcasting in the classroom. The hands-on work will be a group Day in a Sentence podcast (be sure to listen for it) and then we are either going to show them Audacity or the online podcasting site called Odeo Studio. Our intention had been to use PodcastPeople, but we just found out you know have to pay for its services (bad bad bad).
  • Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum: where we will try to show some examples of digital stories and then move into using VoiceThread to post to a thread that I created and then, hopefully, have them create their own threads. I also have PhotoaStory on our laptops, so we can shift to that, too, if necessary.

Our new WMWP Technology Team has been using a Ning site to do some planning for this event and they are a great group of teachers who are interested, but not all quite experienced, in the use of technology in the classroom. I think this will be as much a learning event for us as for our participants. And isn’t that what makes a conference so interesting? (I hope so)

If you want to look at our Technology Across the Conference weblog, where we will launch our workshops, you can do so by going here: Any feedback or suggestion from you is most welcome.

In fact, it would be very cool if some folks went to our Conference Blog and left a comment for folks coming in on Saturday. Maybe a welcome to the Web 2.0 World or a piece of advice on how you use technology or links to cool sites or just about anything. If you do so, please leave where in the world you are located, so they can see the connections that are possible.

(consider this part of the 31 Day Comment Challenge’s task of turning over a blog to readers through the use of comments — please use my conference blog to do so.)


Peace (in connections),

Your Days/Week in Six Words

This week’s Day in a Sentence returns to a popular format — the Six Word Variation. I had been thinking of this for a few weeks now, but then Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (at her blog, 21st Century Learning) used the technique this week on Twitter, asking folks to submit their Six Word Memoir.

Once again, I was moved by how powerful the writing can be within the six word limit (and see the book called Not Quite Was I Expecting for a collection of six word memoirs — great stuff).

So, I ask you to consider joining us this week with a six word recap of either a day from your week or your entire week. Here is how Day in a Sentence works:

  • Boil down your day or week into six words
  • Use the comment link on this post to submit your six words
  • I collect all of the comments and then post them all as a collection on Sunday
  • Feel free to use podcasting, video, plain ‘ol writing, hand signals (no wait, that won’t work)
  • Everyone is welcome!

And since one of the tasks of the 31 Day Comment Challenge is to use comments and submissions from visitors in a blog post, this works out nicely. So I am tagging the challenge here, in hopes that some new folks will wander in and take part in the activity.

Here is my Six Word Week, and I am experimenting with Odeo Studio for a podcasting workshop this weekend, so let me give it a try with my words that relate to some state standardized testing this week that has kids and teachers on edge:

Math testing stresses us all out.

powered by ODEO

Peace (in minimal words).

Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 7

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

Both Larry and Nancy tagged me to be part of this Meme that seeks to get a little deeper into who we are as people (yep, I am not a blogger-‘bot … yet). And I was thinking how much that is part of the Slice of Life adventures, too.

So here, goes:

1. What was I doing 10 years ago?

Ten years ago, I was ending a ten-year stint as a newspaper reporter, going back to school to become a teacher and beginning a two-year journey as a stay-at-home dad (which I loved).

2. What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (really, yesterday):

  • Go to post office to mail off present for niece (already late)
  • Go to Staples and makes some copies (hear strange SNL voice in my head)
  • Read with son, who is home sick today (and I am home with him)
  • Work on getting ready for Tech Across the Curriculum workshop on Saturday (crap — it’s right around the corner)
  • Remember to get other kids from school (very important!)

3. Snacks I enjoy…

Bananas, apples, yogurt, cookies.

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Fund an innovative school for inner-city kids; buy a new guitar; build a recording studio; become a professional writer.

5. Three of my bad habits:

Act too quick on impulse; am better at writing mind then voicing my mind on emotional issues; and sort of messy at times.

6. 5 places I have lived:

  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • Georgia (in military)
  • my mind

7. 5 jobs I have had:

  • Third shift gas attendant
  • Handyboy for dentist (and he had me shovel coal, if you can believe it)
  • Newspaper reporter
  • Sax player in Portuguese wedding band (when I was a teen and not for long)
  • Teacher

8. 6 people I want to know more about:

Bruce Springsteen (and his songwriting process)
Sonny Rollins (and his saxophone ideas)
Barack Obama (is he for real?)
ee cummings (for his style of poetry)
Frank Lloyd Wright (for imagining something altogether different)
Georgia O’Keefe (because my mom was fascinated and I wonder why)

I will offer to pass this along, and like Larry, say that you can pursue it or not, depending on your time and energy and interest.

Peace (in bios),

The Lost/Found Generation Video

Stay with this one, as the narrative first moves forward with one message, and then backwards with the real message. It is simple in production, and yet the simplicity of it makes it powerful. Just voice and words.

But think of the writing that went into this — knowing that it would have multiple meanings when read forward and then backward. Very cool.

Peace (in the found generation)


And now … crazy warnings

Language is a funny thing.

Just check out these warnings found on products. Is it just because we, as humans, are generally stupid? Or is it fear of litigation? Or maybe something got lost in the translation from the place where things were made to the place where things are sold.

In any event, have a laugh on me and the folks over at Crazy Warnings.

Disposable razor:
Do not use this product during an earthquake.


Furniture Wipes
Do not use for a baby wipe.

Stickers to put on the seat of a potty training toilet
This is not a toy. Stickers require adult supervision.

Warning: When Motor Is Running – The Blade Is Turning

Instructions on the bottom of a grocery store pizza
Do not turn upside down.

Bottom of a Coca-Cola bottle
Do not open here.

Oh, there is plenty more at the Crazy Warnings site, too.

Peace (in instructions),