Ad-Free Edublogs


This is good news. Edublogs — which is where my blog and my blogs for my classroom are hosted — has announced that is now advertising-free. In the past few years, you had to pay for the premium service to remove ads (and get a host of other cool tools but it was the advertising that generated criticism) and to be honest, I have gladly paid for it for this blog and will continue to do so. I have been a huge fan of Edublogs through the years, even during its various growing pains, glitches and more. I have stood with it because I have valued the service and sort of feel like Edublogs is part of my virtual home.

And now I can recommend Edublogs more highly ever to other teachers.

I always warned folks of the advertising because if you are using sites with kids, you should avoid shoving ads into their eyeballs. And not all teachers want or have the resources to pay the $40 a year to get a premium service. With the announcement, that roadblock is gone. In reading the press announcement, it seems like the company has finally reached a critical mass to become profitable enough to go without ads (they are seeking their one millionth blog — wow).

Thank you, Edublogs.

Peace (in the ad-free world),

Ernest Morrell: Urban Sites Keynote

I know this video is long (an hour — for the web, that is an eternity) but I was at this National Writing Project Urban Sites Conference in Boston where Ernest Morrell gave this passionate speech about nurturing all of our students and acknowledging the multiple literacies of their lives. He’s someone worth spending an hour with.

Peace (in the sharing),

Simple Diagrams is Simple

I saw a few folks talking about Simple Diagrams, a software platform that runs on Adobe Air. It can be used to make, well, simple diagrams and it works quite nicely. The diagram gets outputted as an image file. There’s a playful essence to it, I think, which might come in hand with kids in the classroom. There is a free version and a paid version of Simple Diagrams, but the free version gives you quite a large toolbox to work from, although one limitation is the inability to save a diagram in progress. I created this one for Day in a Sentence in a short bit of time.

Peace (in the play),

On the Lookout for Days in a Sentence


What’s been going on with you? Share out your week or a day in your week with Days in a Sentence. Here’s how it works:

  • Think about a moment, or a day, or the entire week.
  • Boil it down into a single sentence.
  • Share it out as a comment to this blog post.
  • Over the weekend, I will collate the submissions into a single post.
  • Be part of a reflective writing community.

I hope you can join us.

Peace (in the collection),

Days in a Sentence, Released

dayinsentenceiconI relaunched Day in a Sentence last week and honestly, I wasn’t sure if anyone would come along for the ride. Thankfully, a few folks did, and I have something to share this week. I’ll be posting a new call for this coming week tomorrow (I think), so if you didn’t get a chance to add your reflective sentence this past week, no worries. We’ll gladly and happily make room for you in this coming week.

And now, this week’s Days in a Sentence.

Tracy and her boy are doing some exploring where it is cool, a respite from the heat. She writes, “Jack and I are celebrating his first attempts at crawling by camping out at his grandparents…thoroughly enjoying the air conditioning that we don’t have so he doesn’t work up too much of a sweat with his movements.”

Nancy seems swamped with kids, but lets the caffeine kick in to help control the ruckus. She writes, “I have four kids this week and I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge but I’ve found a Mother’s Helper in my 7 year old niece, so that, along with coffee, is keeping me alive!”

Bonnie has been working hard with teachers learning about learning in the digital age. She writes, “On this hot morning for a second day of our digital teacher lab I’m blasting up north on the NYS Thurway!”

If our lesson were imagery this week, Lynn would get a shout-out of praise. Heck. I’m going to do it anyway. Her sentence is so vivid. She writes, “Here in Northern Mexico I am sweltering beside the Sea of Cortez, yet can’t get enough of the watery horizon alongside the desert landscape, the huge brown pelicans diving for fish and the bathwater-warm sea.”

And Cynthia’s sentence reads like family poetry. You can even hear the music of her accent. She writes, ““MyMy, it’s ‘morn din’; time to go to the playroom for coffee” is music to my ears each morning during our stay in Dallas as we get ready for Tommy LaRue’s fourth birthday party on Saturday, music even when it’s morning before the crack of dawn.”

And finally, Debbie writes of her son, home from college. That’s still a few years down the road from me as a dad, but it feels like another world on the horizon. She writes, “Spending time conversing and “being” with my son, as he visits from college for the weekend, planning and envisioning his future.”

Meanwhile, over at our iAnthology Writing Space (for National Writing Project teachers), I posed the same query and received these wonderful reflections:

  • “Should I do some work, hell no, it’s Saturday.” — Martha
  • “A day of reading, wiki making, and yard work. What might be the connections?” — Rita
  • “Today my mom is 93 and my 90  year old dad will be honored for his commitment to the Democratic Party; they still live together in our first and only house. Yes, they are both fragile and need more help(that they continue to refuse) but not a morning goes by without a call to them to begin my day.” — Bonnie
  • “The day began with sun and ended with darkness.” — Jim
  • “I woke to a dream where my dog Siegfried was cueing me with terms from teaching ELL’s, and we were putting them on post-it’s for a workshop, my colleagues Callie and Christineand I, and as the dream faded I held tight the truth that ideas can come from anywhere (while gardening) and everywhere (dreams of talking dogs) and there are also waking dreams we shape, often with words.” — Susan
  • “I should model better what I want from others.” — Dixie
  • “Strangers become friends, workshops inspire, and community grows enveloped in the magic that is the U of MdWP Summer Institute 2011.” — Cory
  • “Last night our room was too quiet without him; we’ve hardly spent a night apart in 31 years, and I’m so glad he’s home.” — Rita C.
  • “Hard work, dedication, and perseverance all learned from my father who served 40 years on the fire department!” — Jeremy
  • “As I swing my leg off my bike, unclipping from my pedals, pulling myself out of the ride that almost did me in, one thought surfaces in my foggy brain, “That was a close one.”” — Alicia
  • “Too many hidden, changed, altered agendas take my breath.” — Peg
  • “t has been a blessing sharing your thoughts and ideas with the Writing Project folks.” — Hector
  • “I can create success tomorrow by knowing that opportunity is always just a breath away and is often uncovered by what seems to be failure, but I must make my heart believe it first.” — Peg
  • “Siblings diving into mom’s old chest freezer and examining the fruits and layers of her life.” — Joanne

Thanks to all of you writers and friends. I appreciated your Days in a Sentence.

Book Review: The Internet is a Playground

coverJesus — David Thorn must have a lot of time on his hands. Actually, he admits it. He had tons of time on his hands as he worked at a design company, so he began visiting chat rooms and created a website where he wrote for the sole purpose of enraging people and engaging them. Thorn then unleashes his own wicked sense of humor that comes at the expense of any fool who emails him or mentions him (wait a sec — that could be me) in his uproarious book The Internet is a Playground.

This collection of his actual correspondences (from his website:  with nincompoops and fools willing to engage him in an email battle of wits had me laughing out loud, and then hiding the book when my older sons asked what was up.  The chapters that are “profiles” of assorted idiots weren’t as entertaining to me. Yeah, this is not a book for kids. And it may not be a book for most adults either, particularly if your radar for vulgar and non-PC writing is on high alert. You will be offended. That was fine with me, but it may not be with you.

Thorn skewers so many people, and unfolds such incredibly funny fake narratives and cutting jibes, that you just have to dive into his head and go with him. I found myself uncomfortable with what he was writing on more than one occasion, but what the hell … that’s what books are supposed to do, right?

Still, you buy this book at our own peril. And you write about him at your own peril, too. (gulp — I liked the book, David. I did.)

Peace (on the playground),

Dipping Toes in the Data “Stream”

I have been toying around with Google+ and for the first few days, I felt lost. OK, so I still do. But not as much as the first few days, which inspired me to write and share this poem on Google+

Another Network

Streams seem
to find me
if only because I leap so suddenly
into currents
only to find myself drifting in circles
in search of a rock to use as anchor
to hold onto before I get too lost in the new world
and so
here I am …. reaching for stones ….

Peace (in the poem),

Book Review: Rules of Play

One of the visitors to our recent Game Design Camp — Bryant Paul Johnson — lent me his copy of Rules of Play by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, and while I won’t say it is an “easy summer read,” I can say that it is a book worth skimming and reading the summary sections if you have any interest in the ideas of play and gaming and design. Rules of Play is more a textbook than anything, but I found it pretty fascinating to jump into the theories of how we play, and how game design can tap into those elements of our personality.

It begins with the sentence: “This book is about games; all kinds of games.” And then it digs pretty deep. I really enjoyed the handful of narratives from folks who have designed games, as they “talked us” through their iterative process that begins with an idea, is developed slowly through trial and error and game playing, and then shifting into publishing. One section around the development of a Lord of the Rings board games was pretty fascinating.

The book delves into such topics as games as systems, the mechanics of how we play, games as cultural rhetoric and more. While the cost of Rules of Play may be somewhat prohibitive (about $30), Google Books has a version of it online as an ebook that provides enough of the text to make it worth a read. I found it useful in my own exploration of game design for learning.

Peace (in the play),

The Figment/NWP Story Hook Connection

I came across this story contest through Twitter and given that it is a partnership between the National Writing Project and a story writing site called Figment, I thought it was worth checking out. It is, and I want to invite you to join in, too. The idea here is that published author Courtney Sheinmel has created the first line of a story. You need to finish it, using the Figment website to do so. The writing concept behind the partnership is all about the craft of catching the reader with an opening hook.

Here’s what Courtney came up with:

“I wish spoken words were things that could be erased, forgotten.  But now I knew, and we could never go back.”

The contest is open to anyone on Figment, which apparently is a boatload of interesting writers writing interesting stories. There are already lots of stories in the contest. I wrote mine about the end of a relationship and the balancing act between letting go and hanging on. (read Plugged/Unplugged)

Here is how you get started (full rules and regulations are here):

1. Sign up for an account on Figment
2. Create something new based on the opening lines given
3. Tag it “NWPstarter” (in the tab called “details”)
4. Press “Publish Now”

The deadline is Sunday, July 17 at 9PM EST. Come on and write. And good luck.

Peace (in the stories),

Come Join the Reboot of Day in a Sentence

Some of you may remember (hopefully, fondly) our Day in a Sentence collaboration, which first began over at now-defunct blog of The Reflective Teacher, and then migrated here at this space for a year or two, and then went off to volunteer blogs from time to time, and then found a home over at Bonnie’s space, and then … well …. we needed a break.

But it feels like it may be time for a reboot.

So, I cordially invite you into Day in a Sentence, version 2.0. Not sure how it works? It’s simple.

  • Think about a day in your week or your entire week;
  • Boil down the essence of that day or week into one single reflective sentence (it can be about teaching but it doesn’t have to be. It should be about a moment in your life);
  • Use the comment link on this blog post to share your Day in a Sentence;
  • I will gather up all of the sentences and post them as a full blog post either this weekend or early next week (I am away this weekend);
  • Be part of a writing community that is reflective.

Here is my Day in a Sentence for this week:

I almost pitched a shut-out …. against my 11-year-old son’s all-star little league baseball team in a parents-versus-kids scrimmage, and now my arm hurts in the shadow of that near-glory moment.

And since I am using Cinch quite a bit, here is my podcast sentence (if you do a podcast of your sentence, just leave the link with your sentence and I will try to embed the audio):

I hope you can join us.

Peace (in the reflection),