Mozilla X-Ray Goggles: The Intentional Hack of My Blog

For a year or so, I have had friends in the National Writing Project run Hackathons or Hackjams, using various tools to show how hacking skills are another form of literacy, and how those skills are becoming ever more important to young people in a digital world because it provides them with agency via remixing and a lens to critique online sources.

One of those tools is the Hackasaurus Xray Goggles, a handy bookmarklet from Mozilla that lets you change the text and design of a website. I finally got around to checking it out, and boy, it is pretty fun to use.

Check out what I did to my own blog site here — compare it to the real thing:
A Hacked Meandering Mind

I wonder how this might be used for the political season? And it does bring up questions of ownership, right? Who owns a webspace and what does it mean when you hack it? I see that Mozilla is working to create an unique URL for sites that get hacked via Goggles. (Right now, you can only save the HTML code of the hack). Interesting …

Peace (in the hack),


Walking the Web: Mozilla Enters the Fray

The boys in my comic — Walking the Web — think they see a dangerous creature. It’s the open-source Mozilla, springing from the ashes of Netscape, and gearing up to launch Firefox. Google Chrome can’t be too far down the road, right? When you think of it, the browser wars have been an interesting, and unexpected, development, right?
Walking the Web Comic 14

Peace (in the browser wars),


The Literacies of the Digital Dream Scene Project

During an upcoming keynote address for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, I am going to be sharing out our Dream Scene digital storytelling project as an example of bringing media and technology into the classroom in a meaningful and powerful way, with writing still at the heart of what students are doing. I’ve been working on a visual depiction of the process that students go through as they develop their Dream Scene project.

See what you think:
Dream Scene Project

And here is our collection of published dreams (so far):


Peace (in the dream),


Walking the Web: Internet Explorer and Bill Gates

I admire Bill Gates for his push into philanthropy (but not so much his push into education). The boys in my comic meet Gates right at the moment when Microsoft realized, a bit too late, that the Web was the place to be, not the desktop. Oh well.
Walking the Web Comic 12

Walking the Web Comic 13a

Walking the Web Comic 13

Peace (in the strip),

MiddleWeb’s Professional Book Review Collection

A book review that I did for the MiddleWeb site (aimed primarily at middle school teachers but has a lot to offer to teachers of all levels) is part of the site’s Fall Book Review Festival. There are some interesting books on the list and all the reviews were done by educators, so you can mostly trust the lens. The book I reviewed — How to Teach Critical Thinking Skills Within the Common Core — was just OK. I wouldn’t rush out to buy it, but if it were on our teacher resource shelf, I’d pull it down to peruse.

Read my review

And, of course, I could not resist a comic element.

Peace (in the review),


Walking the Web: Marc Andreessen and The Mosaic Browser

Before folks launch into me here, I know that Marc Andreessen has done other things since he and his partner, Eric Bina, created the Mosaic browser (which became the basis for Netscape). Ning is just one of Andreessen’s many ventures. But the boys in my comic, Walking the Web, only see his role in history as helping to develop and release Mosaic because, in historical terms, that is his one great achievement, and all done while still very young and living on pizza and cookies and milk (according to various bios).
Walking the Web Comic 10

Walking the Web Comic 11

Peace (in the browser),


Research and Writing and the Web

I’ve been asked to give a 50 minute literacy-based workshop to my upper elementary colleagues today (sort of a last minute request) and since my professional goal this year is to really dive into developing research skills with my sixth graders, I am going to share out some strategies for using technology to help students conduct research. As luck would have it, this week, I got a book that I had ordered about research and am already loving it, sharing it and will be using part of it today.

The book is by Christopher Lehman and is called Energize Research Reading and Writing. (Lehman is a colleague of Lucy Calkins and collaborated with her on the Pathways to the Common Core book that I have also shared.) This book outlines the rationale behind the push for more research-based reading and writing in the new standards, but also offers up a lot of practical advice. I will do a more formal review when I dive deeper into Lehman’s book.

Here is my agenda for the session today. Understand that while this handout succinctly focuses in on tools and standards, our discussions and activities are all framed around student research and writing. Our state standards call for research in the earlier grades, ramping up over time until sixth grade (which I teach) when suddenly the research component expands greatly. I’ve been revamping my curriculum to shift basic research skills early in the year so that my students have some knowledge about search queries, citation of sources, and more.
Research and Writing and the Web

Peace (in the search),


Focusing on Literacy, not Technology

norris tech checkin survey

Yesterday, we began an after-school inquiry group with teachers around literacy instruction and technology. There is a small group of us planning various sessions and I was up first. So, I brought up the Draw a Stickman site (episode two) on my interactive board and asked the teachers to help make the story, referring periodically to the ways in which I use the site with my students early in the year to talk about the main literacy concepts we will touch upon: protagonist/antagonist, setting, foreshadowing, conflict/resolution, etc.

I offered up the view that we need our students with the interactive pens in hand, not the teachers. And here is a perfect site with an engaging activity with many points for discussion about literacy, and even the opportunity afterwards for students to retell or write the story of the hero stickman.

What this allowed us to do with the 15 or so teachers who stayed after school, on their own time, to do is to think in terms of literacy, not technology. In fact, we are working to frame the inquiry group around the ideas of teaching literacies in all of its varied forms through the lends of using technology to engage students. The point is that the focus is not the technology. That’s no small thing, I would argue, and we often fall into the trap of the tool shaping instruction as opposed to the instruction using the tool.

After our interactive story activity, which broke the ice nicely, we shifted into using Edmodo for an inquiry space that I had set up for us as teachers. Our challenge is that we have teachers from kindergarten right through sixth grade, and that is a wide span. But we are all teachers and learners, and one of our goals is to create a community of learners that is built on sharing, reflection and exploration. You can see from the survey results above that we all have a mixed group in terms of their own perceptions of technical savvy (and also, that they want to focus on writing instruction in our sessions). So we went slow and methodical, and Edmodo worked well for our goals (easy set-up, easy to use, familiar format to many), and in very little time at all, we were all busy writing and sharing and replying, and building the connections.

Their writing task was to create a Technology Autobiography, where they were to write about their first brush with technology that made them step back and say “wow.” The responses were fantastic, from one who wrote about remembering an earlier career in programming (who knew?) to another remembering an early version of Logo programming (the Lego-styled system that Scratch is built on), to others whose first brush with Skype opened up a range of possibilities.

And they were writing, which is the literacy connection. The technology — Edmodo — allowed us to connect as writers but we all agreed that, as best as time would allow, we would return to our writing space to share resources. I know that is easier to promise than it is to do, and there are ghost towns of online spaces all over the place. But we facilitators will see what we can do to encourage us to keep coming together as writers and learners (and one colleague reminded us that our new teacher evaluations require some reflective writing, and so, why not our Edmodo space?)

Peace (in the inquiry),


Walking the Web: Tim Berners-Lee

While I am sure the boys in my Walking the Web comic are excited to meet folks who were key to development of the World Wide Web, you have to imagine that they might get bored every now and then. This is not a knock against Tim Berners-Lee or anything, but I wanted to have one of the characters dream of their favorite snack, Ding Dongs.
Walking the Web Comic 7

Walking the Web Comic 8

Peace (in the snacks),