Password Protection Inc.

passwords for mr h

As part of our Digital Life unit, we talk a lot about passwords. One of their activities is to imagine they have been hired by us teachers, who are too lazy to create strong passwords, and they have to to come up with a memorable, yet secure, password for each of us. They have to use what they know about us as teachers, or as people outside of school.

They then test out their passwords with this great site: How Secure is My Password? The site really gets them thinking about the role of numbers and characters in password creation. The prompt engages them in a fun way that then leads us to reflect back on their own use of passwords in their digital lives.

I had my students write their recommendation for me down on a sticky note and put it on a whiteboard. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • harrisburdickwriter
  • HedgeHog41
  • E&Lart2
  • Doyourlunchcount
  • Sax-o-phone
  • RRGiants50
  • Books$1234book$

Peace (in the word),

The MultiMedia Mouse Story, revisited

I took my story and pushed it into Prezi and had better results. I was even able to add some more audio to elements of the story (using pitch variation in Audacity to change my voice, somewhat). And unlike my use of Storehouse, the videos are embedded and play nicely. See what you think:

Peace (in the process),

Scenes from a PD (Nurturing a Culture of Writers)

Six Word Memoirs

I have the good fortune to be part of a team through our Western Massachusetts Writing Project who is working with an urban middle school around the theme of “Nurturing a Culture of Writers” this year. I won’t say everything is completely smooth and easy. The teachers we are working with are overwhelmed with initiatives this year, and we are having them do a lot of reading and planning around writing with their students.

Six Word Shoutouts

The other day, as part of our opening “writing into the day” activity, we had them write Six Word Memoirs and then, Six Word Shout-outs — noticing someone else and giving them praise. You’d be surprised at how powerful six words can be and how this simple activity, with both its inward and outward look, really changed the tone of the session, and set the stage for some incredible discussions and activities around writing in the content areas.

I worked with math teachers for part of the day, and talking about using writing in the math class is always tricky. We used the “newspaper front page” activity as an example of public writing (which was our theme). We had fun creating articles and then discussing connections to content understanding.

Newspaper Front Page

We were very pleased with how our professional development day went with these teachers, who are all so dedicated to helping their students make progress with writing and higher order thinking. I worry that they are being spread so thin by an ever-increasing series of mandates from their district, and from our state.  You can see it in their faces, and in their body language. I admire their resiliency, and appreciate that they bought into our writing PD over the four hours we were with them.

Peace (in making PD count),

The Mouse Problem (A Mixed Media Story)


I’ve been working, and struggling, to pull together this mixed media story for Digital Writing Month. The story is called The Mouse Problem. One struggle has been how to represent different parts of the story with different kinds of media. I did figure that out, using audio, flowcharts, video and other elements to tell parts of the story, which is already a combination of writing genres (texts, letters, newspaper articles, etc.)

The largest struggle has been: how do I post it/where do I post it so that others can experience the story as I have written it? This is no small matter, and I tried a few different spaces. You should know that the original is a Powerpoint, so if you were here with me, I would pull the story up and put the presentation/story into “play” and it would be fine.

But adding audio and adding video to PowerPoint in an online space? And having all of the attached files ready to for play by a distant audience? Not so easy, and the source of much frustration for me. I’ve tried a few different sites (Slideshare, for example) and found them lacking. I feel a bit as if I am losing agency with my story and my work with every hosting space I try.

I ended up using Storehouse (by dropping files into Dropbox for access by the storytelling app). But I had to edit the video to make it fit, only to realize that unless you turn the audio on in a later video in the story, the audio in the upper video (where the reporter gets a call) won’t work. Ack. This DID not happen when I was working in the app to design the story. It’s only in the web version. (And I loved that audio!)

I’m just going to live with it for now, as I figure out other possibilities. Anyone? I want to host a Powerpoint with video/audio files that play sequentially in the story. (Now thinking … what about Prezi? Hmmm).

What this points to, for me, is that digital writing continues to offer a push/pull concept — opening up possibilities for new kinds of writing but also limiting our expression and agency based on the tool itself. Whenever I run into this, I am reminded of the beauty of workarounds, if they work, and how one’s lack of knowledge about technology and composition would force you to make constant compromises for your work. I hate making compromises for a vision I have for a piece, and I hate that I often have to live with something less than my vision.

Sometimes, that’s the case.

Peace (in the digital),

Dog Counter Culture: Tinkering with Mozilla AppMaker


I’ve been meaning to try out the recent addition to the Mozilla Webmaker tools, something called AppMaker, and Melissa Techman’s recent presentation at the K12Online Conference spurred me on. The AppMaker is designed to teach both simple and complex skills around designing an app, which can be viewed online and on mobile devices that run the new Firefox IOS.

As with most Webmaker tools, there are remixable projects to start from, which I found handy. I used a Cat Counter, removed the cats, added my own dogs (current and deceased) and made the Dog Counter Culture app. I am thankful for this handy guide at Mozilla Webmaker, which had detailed instructions on how to remix the Cat Counter app. I just followed the directions, tinkered with the settings and it didn’t take me long to have an app.

DogCounterCulture App

Here is the web version of the Dog Counter Culture app. (Yep, that’s me … barking like a dog). Here is the install link if you have the Firefox IOS. I don’t. But maybe I should try it out?

I wonder, now, how I might pull this AppMaker into our Hour of Code activities in early December. What kind of apps could my students make and why would they make them? Need to get some brainstorming under way. If you have an idea, please drop me a comment. I’ll be asking my students, too.

Peace (in the app),

Envisioning a Transmedia Story

The Mouse Problem

The first week’s prompt at Digital Writing Month — to create a transmedia project of sorts — has me revisiting an old story. I started this back when I began teaching the book, Regarding the Fountain (by Kate Klise), as a way to talk about inference and different media to tell a story. Her book is told entirely in artifacts. It’s a hoot, too.

The Mouse Problem is my attempt to do the same, in hopes I might get my students to create their own artifact story, too. So, here I am, back with The Mouse Problem, trying to move it along by adding more media to it. (I have two classes reading Regarding the Fountain right now, so this is good timing for me). The story is a mystery story, with a play on words.

There is a page (it is written in Powerpoint) in which an anonymous caller rings up the newspaper reporter. This morning, I used Soundcloud to record the conversation. I’ll weave it into the book at some other time, in some way. (Although I feel as if I should add sound effects to the audio, too).  

I am thinking of other media that can be integrated to tell the story, too. For example, could I design a simple video game, for some sort of chase? How about a Vine video for a television reporter?

And how will I embed all this media in a meaningful way? Working on it …

Peace (in the think),

Book Review: The Blood of Olympus

The Blood Of Olympus

The other day, a former student who is now in high school visited my classroom. I immediately asked, “What are you reading?” Just like old times, when he and I would chat about books in my sixth grade classroom.

Blood of Olympus. You?” he asked.

“Same,” and we both laughed. Years have passed, and somehow, writer Rick Riordan still has us reading his books of mythological demigods in the midst of crisis, saving the world. My 10 year old son and I just finished The Blood of Olympus, which it the last book in this particular series that is an offshoot of The Lightning Thief series, with hero Percy Jackson.

Listen, no one will ever put these books up on the same literary level as Shakespeare but Riordan has done something magical — he has hooked an entire generation of adolescent boys (and girls .. plenty of my girls read these books, too, but my boys are more likely to be disengaged with reading and so I often think of them here) with stories of mythological action and adventure. I appreciate that he has developed some interesting female and male characters, weaving their stories in and out of the course of the books. And add in a gay demigod character, too, and Riordan is reaching out into a wide terrain in his series.

My son and I both agreed, after finishing the book the other day, that Riordan in The Blood of Olympus, did an admirable job of tying up many loose ends and bringing the entire series to a close, with the defeat of the Earth goddess who was intent on waking and destroying the world with vengeance and revenge.

And as we flipped through the glossary of Roman and Greek terms at the end, we could not help noticing a little teaser text. Riordan is at it again. The next series is set in Asgard, and so it looks like we’ll be moving into Nordic territory soon. Odin, here we come!

Peace (in the book),

My Emoji Bio

My Bio as Emoji
Over at the Digital Writing Month launch site, there is an emerging “roster” of folks who are participating in activities this month. I decided to play around with mine a bit, by using an app that turns text into emoji and making my biography very visual. It was interesting, trying to represent some ideas with icons and it reminded me of how visual composing can sometimes coincide nicely with written composing, but not always.

I decided to deconstruct the biography a bit, noting some of my thinking as I was putting it together.
Deconstructing my emoji

What would yours look like?

Peace (in the image),