Day Three of Glogging: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

We finished up our week yesterday with a good amount of time on our Glogster space as students worked on their posters about Three Cups of Tea (while also practicing their original puppet plays, which we will perform for younger students next week and also videotape).

The two mini-lessons I showed them were how to add a podcast to their poster and how to import videos that are related to the book project. I did have a conversation with one student who wanted to have some media about Monster Trucks and he tried to defend it by saying that he wanted to show the differences between cultures. Nice try, but no dice. (But I told him he could make another personal Glog after the project and that satisfied him).

Now, you can record and embed audio right with the Glog, but in my test in the morning (Note: always test technology before letting the kids in the house!), that didn’t work. I’m not sure if it was the microphones (we have a bunch of fairy cheap mics), or the wireless data flow, or what, but it didn’t work for me. So, I turned to the trusty Microsoft Sound Recorder, which I often forget about but which is an easy way for students to record audio (sound recorder is in XP, under Accessories and then Entertainment). The sound quality is mediocre but workable. Students watched me walk through it and then they were off to the races. (They are recording a short book review)

I also showed how to embed videos, and even gave a list of URL addresses for videos like the Three Cups of Tea song, interviews with Greg Mortenson and others. I reminded them again that just because they can do something doesn’t mean they should — there should be some rationale and there is no reason why a poster should be plastered with videos just to fill the space and just to be cool. I think they got the message.

So, things were moving along during the first three classes, but in the fourth period, just as they were logging in and getting down to work, the entire Internet of our school crashed. I could tell something was wrong as hands began shooting into the air. “Mr. H, this isn’t working,” became a familiar refrain. After realizing what was happening, I quickly shouted out, “OK, everyone move to recording podcasts now,” which is the moment when our principal walks in for a quick visit to see students at work in the classroom.

Ha. Now imagine the scene: hustle and bustle, with one group shouting out puppet play lines behind our puppet theater (they are practicing using loud voices for performances), as other students are scrambling to record podcasts and a few still working on their Three Cups of Tea questions. The noise level is, well, pretty high. For me, it is pretty normal for tech-related projects. There is a lot of activity going on. I know some principals would be wondering just who the heck is in charge here.

I am lucky. My principal doesn’t ask that question. He quickly called the office, and asked that our tech person figure out why the Net was down, and then he wandered around, listening to the students at work on their podcasts. We chatted for a bit, discussing how the video that he showed at our recent staff meeting (I can’t remember the title, but it is the one about children needing to use technology to learn and be ready for the future — they hold up signs, etc, and look depressed) and how it was met with a decidedly mixed reaction by our staff.

Then he left the room, and we kept on working. I just wish the Internet connections had come back on. It never did.

Peace (on the posters),

Day Two of Glogging: Getting Down to Work

Yesterday, my students got deep into Glogster as they began working on their Three Cups of Tea assignments, where they are addressing such questions as culture, character traits and challenges. The day of play on Wednesday really helped and I am giving them the option of pairing up with another student, if they want.

I offered the pairing up for two reasons. First, for some students, working with others is a great way to learn (for others, though, it is a distraction so it’s a fine line and I not afraid to pull teams apart). Second, I am a bit worried about wireless bandwidth with Glogster. For the most part, it has been fine, but the site has gotten gummed up during various class periods as data is streaming on our laptops. Teaming up means fewer laptops running, which I hope will reduce the load (particularly when we start using microphones to podcast the book reviews).

One other difficulty some students ran into: they had to do some trial and error on finding the right kind of sticky pad for the text they had, as some of the options allow a lot less text than others (it creates a scroll down bar, which is not great). Other than that, the technology learning curve had very few bumps in the road yesterday.

I began the class yesterday with this great video of Greg Mortenson’s daughter, Amira, singing a song that she helped compose (according to the interview in the book) and performs. I love that she is about the age of my students — they can relate to her on some level — and that the music video shows footage of Greg in the villages that we read about. My kids loved the video and were singing the chorus of “Three Cups of Tea” as they worked on their glogs. A few asked how they could bring the video into their glog (that’s for another day, I told them, but I like that they saw that possibility).

Peace (in more than just pennies),

PS — On another note, my science teaching colleague heard all of the students talking about glogging and her interest was piqued, so the two of us are going to brainstorm how they can create billboard-style posters for the Engineering a Bridge project now just starting. And my co-teaching colleague set up his own Glogster account for his pull-out students, and then told his wife, a teacher, about it, so she went and set up her own acc0unt and is now working with her high school students. You might want to check out Glogster, too. It’s free and easy to use and very engaging.

Day One of Glogging: It’s all about Play

Yesterday, my students dove into Glogster — the online virtual poster site — and boy, were they having fun. The night before, they had homework that included reading through a short tutorial of how to use the site. The rest of the homework was writing about Three Cups of Tea, which is the basis for the project that they will begin today in earnest.

I decided to hold back on letting them begin the project so that they could have a chunk of time to just play. I have to keep reminding myself how important this is — this play time with technology is not a waste of time but a valuable space for exploration. Too often, we just have kids jump right in. You know, though, that they are going to explore, so why not give them time to do it?

And the sharing and communication that goes on during these times is quite fascinating. They really do rely on each other as much as me, and what they now know about the site (which is free and allows a teacher to set up a “classroom” of students) will help them with their projects. They are designing a Three Things about Three Cups of Tea poster, with a podcast book review.

The most difficult part of yesterday was making sure they read their Glogster-generated username (called a nickname) and password. Both are a random string of letters and numbers. I had tiny slips of paper with their information to hand out to them (I wonder if I will need to go through all that again today?)

They were clearly frustrated to learn that they could not change their user names and make their glog site their own, but I explained that we in the virtual class could see who they were (they added first name last initial to their profiles and when you are logged into the class, you can see those names — but only if you are a member of the class) but the random user names gave a nice protective shield from the outside world. They understood and it was another lesson in protecting your identity when online.

Here is a glog that a student did, in the 20 minutes they had to work. I know that I will have to keep talking about design with them and repeat my mantra: “just because you can do does not always mean you should do it.”

Peace (on the glog),


Boolean Squared: In my old school …

My new character, Jenni Peg, gives Boolean some info about her old school where the most interesting part of her learning experience was done in spite of the teacher. I hope that is not the case in your classroom. Or mine.

Peace (in the frame),

Day in a Sentence on a Wallwisher


I am back to hosting Day in a Sentence and it is cool to be doing it for the first time in 2010. I am going to direct folks to a Wallwisher site that I set up because it is just so darn easy to use and I want to show people what this site is and allow them to think about possibilities.

Are you new to Day in a Sentence?

Here is what it is all about:

  • You reflect on a day in your week or your entire week;
  • You boil down your reflection into a single sentence;
  • You share it out (in this case, on the Wallwisher, but often, we use a blog post)
  • By Sunday or so, we share out what everyone has written.

You are invited to join us! Come to the Wallwisher and leave a sentence. You can even add audio links, video links, or even your blog address with your sentence.

I wrote about my entry into Glogging with my students this week. We had a great time just saying that word, you know?

Peace (on the wall),

PS — Oh, yeah, I can embed the wallwisher, too.

Boolean Squared: Girl Tech Power

I am still introducing my new Boolean Squared character, Jenni Peg (Jpeg), and she gets some questions from Boolean. She also lets it be known that she won’t be a meek and quiet girl, but don’t worry — she will not become some annoying genius, either. Like any new kid, she is just trying to stake out her turf.

Peace (in the peg),

New Ambassador for Children’s Lit

Katherine Patterson has taken over as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, taking over from Jon Scieszka (God, I won’t miss having to spell his name!).

I know Patterson mostly from Bridge to Terrabithia, but she has garnered much praise for her other books, too. She certainly will be a change from the man-whose-name-I-can’t-spell, but I like that different kinds of writers can take on the role of promoting young people’s literature.

Patterson’s platform will be “read for life,” according to the press release.

With books, she said, kids (and adults) use their “powers of intellect and imagination” and experience “delight.” Stories also teach children about people from other religions, races, and countries, she said. “Books help us make friends who are different from ourselves.”

Good luck, Katherine. I hope you keep inspiring young readers.

Peace (in the book),

Introducing … Jenni Peg

It’s a new year and time for me to introduce another character to my webcomic, Boolean Squared. Since the comic has been overrun with mostly boys in the main roles (Mom and Cylene the Cyborg are girls, by the way), I was asked (by Tina) to add some another female character.

I had been mulling over the idea of adding a new student to the class so it made sense for her to be a girl. I want the new student to be smart, a bit prickly, and much younger than Boolean and Urth — sort of a technology prodigy who has advanced up a few grades.

Her back-story will involve living in Japan for a bit, so that she can talk about the block of businesses and vendors in Tokyo where all cool new tech is introduced to the world.

I asked my PLC network for some cool names for my new character, and Jennifer Brandon — who also came up with the idea for the i-invention that Boolean created earlier — suggested Jenni Peg, or Jpeg. I loved that and would never have come up with that myself. Plus, using Jennifer’s name gives her some props for helping me out with idea.

So, introducing: Jenni Peg

Peace (in the frames),

Three Things about Three Cups of Tea

I decided that I will move ahead with the school-based Glogster this week with my students as we finish up Three Cups of Tea. I’m excited about it and I think the students are going to love the experience. One of my reservations about messaging among students is not an issue (thanks, Gail) as Glogster has shut down that option for students to message anyone other than their teacher. I also imagine the most difficult thing will be getting all the students logged in with their Glogster-created user names and passwords, but I created a spreadsheet with all that information and have printed out slips of paper for them to use.

Here the assignment they will be getting for homework that will form the basis of the Glog they will create. The book review will actually be done in the form of  a podcast (I hope):

Three Things about Three Cups of Tea

I also worked up a rubric to help keep them focused on the work, adding in an important design element to the rubric.

Peace (on the journey),