Reflections via Comics: What They Are Learning

We are midway through our digital literacies workshop with high school students (as part of a larger initiative to target English Language Learners with academic support and enrichment and jobs over the summer) so we had them go into our Webcomic site to write about a few things they have learned so far this summer with us.

We like that students are referencing a range of learning, from creating games to using the Webmaker tools to our vocabulary activities around digital literacy terms.

Halfway Reflection1

Halfway Reflection2

Halfway Reflection3

Peace (in the sharing),


What PARCC Costs

The two consortia are keenly aware that states might find it difficult to win support for the new tests if they represent increases in cost or test-taking time. They are taking pains to point out what they see as the value their tests will add compared with current state tests.” — Education Week

The consortium developing PARCC, one of two tests aligned to the Common Core, announced recently that it will cost close to $30 per student to administer its math and ELA assessments. PARCC is still expected to be rolled out in the 2014-15 school year, as far as I can tell, and along with trying to figure out how to meet the technology needs to administer PARCC, there is the cost of giving the test itself (which includes a mid-year summative assessment and an end-of-year formative assessment).

That will be about $30 per student, according to PARCC. So, in a school of 500 kids to be assessed, that bill runs to $15,000.

I’m not sure who actually pays that bill (the state or the district or the school) but in these cash-strapped days, that’s a chunk of change, right? (Oh, and if your technology is not ready for the tests, a paper/pen option may be available … for an additional $4 or so.) I know at our school, that would mean some personnel cuts, most likely. But I am not sure what our state pays for our standardized testing right now, either, so maybe it is a wash. (I did some searching for a number but came up empty)

Over at Education Week, an article by Catherine Gewertz explains more about the PARCC announcement. You should read the whole thing,  but here are some take-away pieces from her article for me:

States are grappling with how to build support for different tests, something that can be difficult even without a price increase. But for almost half the states in PARCC, and one-third in Smarter Balanced, that job is even tougher since the tests will cost more than what they’re currently spending.


PARCC’s pricing includes only the two pieces of its summative tests: its performance-based assessment, which is given about three-quarters of the way through the school year, and its end-of-year test, given about 90 percent of the way through the school year.

Its price does not include three tests that PARCC is also designing: a test of speaking and listening skills, which states are required to give but don’t have to use for federal accountability; an optional midyear exam; and an optional diagnostic test given at the beginning of the school year. Pricing for those tests will be issued later, according to Colby.

If states want to give paper-and-pencil versions of the PARCC tests, which will be available for at least the first year of its administration, that will cost $3 to $4 per student more, according to a frequently-asked-questions document prepared by the consortium.


States vary widely in what they spend for assessment, so they find themselves in varied positions politically as they contemplate moving to new tests.

Figures compiled for the two consortia’s federal grant applications in 2010 show that in the Smarter Balanced consortium, some states paid as little as $9 per student (North Carolina) for math and English/language arts tests, while others paid as much as $63.50 (Delaware) and $69 (Maine). One state, Hawaii, reported spending $116 per student.

In the PARCC consortium, per-student, combined costs for math and English/language arts tests ranged from $10.70 (Georgia) to $61.24 (Maryland), with a median of $27.78.

— from  Education Week

Keep an eye out on this kind of news, because PARCC and Smarter Balance are coming, and it pays to be informed, and to be in the testing business.

Peace (outside the bubbles),


A Simplified HTML Code Cheat Sheet and Thimble

Yesterday, the high school students in our digital literacies workshop began using Thimble, the Mozilla Webmaker tool, to begin tinkering around with website creation. Soon, they will be creating a portfolio of some of their learning around hacking, remixing, game design and other strands of thinking, and I am leaning towards having them create their portfolio in Thimble. First, though, they need the basics of HTML coding.

I showed them this famous video yesterday as we continued our discussions around the possibilities of technology and the job market when they graduate. A few are definitely interested in a technology career. They were struck  in this video by how far-ranging technology skills are in various jobs, and they were very intrigued by the videos of the workplaces in these technology companies, even though I pointed out that most smaller companies probably do not look like this (for example, having a sound room with drum sets. Cool.)

I tried to find a one-page simplified sheet of HTML coding commands, but then I gave up and made my own, inspired by some of the examples at another site. After showing an example in Thimble, I set them loose, bringing them to a blank Thimble page and having them play around a bit. This is not easy, and I tried to use the metaphor of learning another language (these students are all English Language Learner students). But they do persevere, a nice quality to have in a technology workshop, and a few of them even published some basic “fan” pages of artists they like. Their eyes shone when I would tell them, “You have just published a site to the Web.”

If it helps you, then feel free to use my HTML Code Sheet:

Basic HTML Code by KevinHodgson

Peace (in the commands),


Reflecting a Bit on the Making Learning Connected MOOC

Reflecting on CLMOOC Diagram

I’ve been struggling a bit with how best to reflect on the experience of being part of, and a facilitator of, the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration that is nearing the finish line. We’re in our last Make Cycle now, thinking about the question of “what’s next?” for how we bring our experiences in the MOOC to our educational spaces. I tinkered around with the above diagram, but I don’t like it all that much. What I was trying to get at it is how the MOOC has helped me think more about the ideas of connecting the writing experience to the making experience.

A question still out there for me is: Do I need to expand my definitions of writing and making in order to further incorporate each other in my teaching practice? Or do I need to bring more making activities into my classroom?

Maybe it is a little of both. Certainly, my students don’t just sit around and write all day. But lots of our making is done with technology, and here is where I would love to think through more about moving the concept of the Make offline, and more into the hands of students (instead of the keyboard of students).

Here are some ideas I am thinking, with the concept of the Connected Learning principles in mind ….

Last spring, I had mentioned to our art teacher — a wonderful colleague always open to ideas — about the idea of a Maker Faire for students. She had never heard of a Maker Faire, but she was intrigued. I never followed up with her after that but I wonder if there is some way to create a Maker Space in our school. I’d have to show the connections to the curriculum, and we have a new interim principal coming in, so that might influence a lot of what we do. I’ll have to do more research on school day-based Maker Faire experiences.

A colleague of mine, Gail P., has been in and out of the MOOC this summer, and she and I have talked about finding ways to connect her kindergarten students with my sixth graders, but we never got it done. This coming year, I’d like to try to make that happen on a collaborative project of some kind. In the past, I’ve tried to do some reaching across grade levels, but that dwindled away with schedule changes and curriculum shifts. It seems like it could still be done with a little creative adjustments.

Last summer, I used Edmodo with my students, but then never got back to it during the school year as a way to connect across the classes and beyond our school. I am thinking I would like do more of that this year, and I know there is a group of us sixth grade teachers in the MOOC who have been mulling over the possibility of connected our classes in some online space. I would like it to be a specific theme — the years my classes were part of the Voices on the Gulf and the many Voices for Darfur project were powerful learning experiences with global implications. Having an audience and collaborators from other parts of the world opens up the learning experience in new ways, for sure.

As for me, I don’t know how the MOOC will evolve past its end date. I found a lot of creative, generous and talented educators in the MOOC and I have looked forward to all the sharing. I am sure some of those connections will continue to be nurtured in other spaces and in other projects, but I am realistic, too. I know that when a collaborative venture like a MOOC — particularly one that is sprawled out across many different spaces — comes to a close, many connections get lost.

Going back to my diagram up above, what I was trying to capture is the eye-opening experience of how so much of the work and play and learning that we do is connected to each other, and how we make sense of those experiences through writing and collaboration and sharing. The MOOC has been a powerful pathway for learning this summer. I say that as a facilitator, but also as a participant. I hope others feel the same way, too. It’s been a chaotic, fun and energizing adventure, and I am grateful to have been here, watching the learning unfold along various trajectories and catching a ride along the way.

Peace (in the reflection),


Bringing in the Outside Voices

Lou Franco Visit Collage

I am co-facilitating a workshop with high school students this summer, and our theme has been digital literacies. While I have a pretty good sense of how to teach technology and writing, I am by no means an expert in computer programming or in video game creation (although working with my own students over the years has helped). So, I have been working to invite folks from “the field” to talk to our students, and yesterday, we were fortunate to have a local computer software programmer — Lou Franco — give up some of his time to talk with the students for about 45 minutes.


Franco was part of the Hack for Change in Western Massachusetts and along with his day job of software programming, he also works on developing mobile apps. In fact, the first thing he did was pull out his iPad and show us an app that he is developing that creates a filter for 3D photography. He gave out some 3D glasses and as he chatted about working as a software developer, the kids checked out an image that he shot of some of our supplies. (He also has written an ebook about developing for the IOS platform.)

I liked how Franco talked about job opportunities, dedication to doing something you are passionate about, and the advice he gave to students who are thinking that programming or technology might in their future. He suggested they begin by building webpages around a topic they know about, writing expository pieces for Open Source software, and volunteering web design services to social service agencies and small businesses. This will allow them to create the start of a portfolio, which can translate into job opportunities.

These are all messages we are regularly sending to these English Language Learner high school students in this program (which is built around academic support, workshops and then jobs in the afternoon). But Franco brought a new and experienced voice into the mix, and for that, I am very thankful. It says a lot when someone gives up part of their day, travels to another town, and meets with high school students he does not know after getting an invite from a teacher he does not know (Lou and I sort of know each other on Twitter).

Peace (in the visit),


Sparking A Conversation: You Have Permission to Make

We invite you into this conversation about this video by Adam Savage, about the state of “making” in our schools and why the reduction of those spaces is negatively impacting the lives of students. I found a lot in what Savage is saying that resonated with my thinking but Terry took some of the comments to task, asking that we enlarge the possibilities.
What do you think?

Or go directly to the Vialogues site.
Peace (in the dialogues on vialogues),

A fun remake of “Who’s on First?”

We’ve finally (mostly) ended youth baseball in our house (the playing, not the watching, darn those Red Sox last night), and I was reminded of this classic joke of “Who’s on First” and a later version of it.  The heart of the joke, of course, is language, and timing.
Here is Jimmy Fallon and a crew of famous comedians (You should recognize most of them):

And the original, which is a classic:

Peace (on base),

Remixing the Hacked Picture Book Project (or Hacking the Remix)

Remix the Hack the Book

A day after the high school students in our Digital Literacies workshop “hacked and remixed” a Richard Scarry picture book, we handed them out some sticky notes and told them that we were going to “remix the remix.” Their task was to come up with new dialogue for someone else’s poster project, and attach that dialogue with the sticky note. The students were intrigued, adding some humorous touches to the posters.

This is all part of our conversations around the remix culture of the Web, and grounds our work with some of the Webmaker Tools we are starting to use to remix websites and create webpages.

Peace (in the mix),


Hacking Education Week for CLMOOC

Education Week Hacked for CLMOOC

I used the Hackasuarus tool Xray Goggles to hack Education Week so that all the news (fit to print) is about the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration. I mean, this is the way the homepage of the journal should look, right?

Check out my hacked Education Week edition

You want to hack, too? Check out the Xray Goggles site, and use the tool to hack away. Go ahead and hack my hack, too. If you do, share out the link. Keep the ideas flowing ….

Peace (on the web),


Remix Your Summer/Remix this Website

I was honored the other day when my friend Laura, from the Mozilla Foundation and Teach the Web, was inspired by my post about hacking a picture book with high school students. She created a Thimble website project that took Hacking a Book in a new direction. The wonderful thing about Thimble is that it is designed to be remixable, so I could not resist the urge and remix Laura’s work, and I went in another direction with it. Instead of “hacking the book,” I went with “remixing the summer” and used a book as my inspiration.

Have you ever read Weslandia? It’s the perfect summer vacation picture book by Paul Fleischman, with a social outcast boy (Wesley) creating a summer project to top all other summer projects: he invents his own civilization, and then by the end, the other kids in his neighborhood are part of the mix. I love that story (and use it for other projects with my sixth graders.)

So, my remix of Laura’s remix of hacking the book is about remixing your summer, with new and undiscovered countries unfolding around you.

Check out Remix the Summer

And while you are there, why not remix it once again? See the “remix” tab on the top of the page. Go ahead. Change it, make it your own and share it back out. Let someone else remix it again. It’s all good.

Peace (in the worlds of imagination),