Youth Radio — podcasting to the world

I wanted to give some props to the work of students in our Youth Radio project, which is still coming together as the school year progresses. Our kids in Massachusetts, California, the Philippines, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, and Mississippi have been using the weblog site to publish audio pieces and then using the comment feature to react.

Gail D. even had the Californian Youth Radio-ans present our project to MegaConference 2007, which opened up our virtual doors to the world in a new way. (Unfortunately, my school district was on vacation and I was out of town that day).

I think it is safe to say that we are still navigating our expectations of student writers and readers and our own conceptions of how to use audio with the Internet for real writing in new and engaging ways. Someone asked if this was really “radio” and I would say, probably not, but I think the word calls to mind distant voices being pulled together at one source.

Peace (with Internet airwaves),


The Ins and Outs of Edublogs

I’ve been following closely the work of Mike over at his Edublogs Tutorial site, where he is generously walking people through the inner workings of the WordPress platform that is beneath the hood of Edublogs. (For example, I finally figured out that I could add widgets to my sidebar)

Mike has already shown such things as:

  • Adding MP3 files to your posts
  • Installing a message board
  • Linking photos
  • Using the sidebar options for widgets

All in all, he is very patient and very thorough in breaking down his steps but also acknowledging when things go haywire (as they sometimes do for all of us). Check out his site and give him some feedback. I personally think he needs a sexier name for his site but that is just me. 🙂

Peace (with platforms),

Dogtrax Audiocast: The Roadbowlers

For a number of years (in the1990’s), I fronted a band called The Roadbowlers with some good friends — Chris and Susannah — and we played mostly in bedrooms, for an audience of only ourselves. We had a few gigs here and there, but the music we created was mostly just for the three of us.


I continue with my Dogtrax Audiocasts with a look at The Roadbowlers.

Listen to my audiocast: The Roadbowlers

As a special bonus, I created another Thelonius (claymation) movie in which the little dude investigates just what the heck a roadbowl is.


Peace (with bowling on the road),

PS — Here is the Wikipedia entry on Roadbowling for all you non-believers.




The Pogues — Irish Punk Poetry

I have long been a fan of The Pogues (and one of best friends early on bought out the domain name — although he now lends it to someone else) so when the opportunity arose to see the unretired band in Boston, how could I resist? This is the third time I have seen them and they are a ragged bunch, particularly their singer, Shane MacGowan. But there is poetry in the raggedness, beauty beneath the surface.

Erik Jacobs for The New York Times (view the full article)

Some lyrics — from a song called Love You ‘Till the End:

I just want to see you
When you’re all alone
I just want to catch you if I can
I just want to be there
When the morning light explodes
On your face it radiates
I can’t escape
I love you till the end

I just want to tell you nothing
You don’t want to hear
All I want is for you to say
Why don’t you just take me
Where I’ve never been before
I know you want to hear me
Catch my breath
I love you till the end

I just want to be there
When were caught in the rain
I just want to see you laugh not cry
I just want to feel you
When the night puts on its cloak
I’m lost for words don’t tell me
All I can say
I love you till the end

Peace (with pints of guinness),




Good Tech Advice from NWP

Jeff Grinvalds, of the Nebraska Writing Project, just published an informative article for the NWP on reducing technology glitches in the classroom (what? I never have glitches, do you? Hmmm) that gives some practical advice for teachers considering technology.

He begins with a personal story of working to create a movie project with his students, only to realize that, “After the show was over and we went to watch the tape of the acts, and I realized to my chagrin that I had not run an audio cable from the video camera to the VCR, so we had this wonderful footage with no audio.


Check out Jeff’s article: Technology in the Classroom — How to Reduce the Glitches.

Peace (with the writing project),

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Where we’re at

Once again, I had the good fortune to be invited to join the Teachers Teaching Teachers skypecast this week and was able to talk up my Making Connections and Youth Radio collaboration projects. I like hearing the voices of my colleagues and friends, and being part of the discussion on a variety of topics and I feel as I learn some new things along the way, too.

You can listen to the podcast of the conversation now, too. Take a listen

I want to thank Paul A. and Susan E. for the wonderful job they do in playing host to such a wide range of teachers and topics.

Peace (in pods),

PS —  Here is an archive of shows that I participated in at TTT.

WritingMan the Superhero

Don’t bother to ask me where this little venture came from (the bright recesses of the mind, no doubt), but I had come across two different sites that are related with creating your own version of superheroes. The first — ComicVine — seemed pretty cool except I could never, ever, upload a picture to my profile (frustrating). The second — HeroMachine — allows you to create an image of a superhero, but you can’t save a profile there.

So I figured I would just grab aspects of both sites and put them here. Consider this the first public viewing of the newest superhero: WritingMan!!



Super Life

Mortimer Mandrake was born to a human mother and a robotic father (don’t ask) and was raised in a household built upon words and sentences. Literally, the house was constructed on a bedrock of phonics. As Mortimer grew older, he realized his life was slightly different than his friends and soon came to wield the amazing Power of the Pen. One day, his parents were sucked into a giant Black Hole that opened up in his math homework and Mortimer was left to defend himself in this world and in other worlds. His weapon of choice is a golden Feather with magical ink that turns thoughts into reality. In his role as WritingMan, Mortimer defends the Universe against the dreaded StandardizedTestMan and his evil sidekick, Apathy. With a cry of “My Ink Never Runneth Out!” and the ability to jump through words by making thoughts reality, WritingMan is on a quest to connect all of the creative power of the Universe into one Gigantic Book of Cool Words and Stories.
List of Known Powers

  • Grammar ray
  • Multi-lingual
  • Multi-Platform skills
  • Creative spirit
  • Able to choose words in a single second
  • Sense of Adventure

List of Known Weaknesses

  • Standardized tests
  • Altered Spellcheck
  • Apathy
  • Dangling Participles

Peace (with pens of power),



OnPoEvMo: Nerf Ball Boys — March 2007

Our young boys have been playing Nerf Basketball in their room almost constantly since the holidays. It’s amazing to listen to as they crash the boards, shoot free throws and come up with imaginary teams and players. To us, down below, it sounds as if the house is coming apart at the seams as they jump and play.

So, for another installment of my One Poem Every Month for a Year project, I present a tribute to the March Madness in my house.


Nerf Ball Boys

(March 2007)

Listen to the poem

Slamming, Jamming, Quiet!
It’s like a riot up there
as feet take to air
and come crashing back down to the ground —
the house shaking with the fury
of the nerf ball boys in constant, ever-active motion.
They drive to the basket as Yao Ming ducks his head,
Shaq elbows his way into the action,
Kobe shows amazing reaction
to the defenders and dives over Bird for the dunk.
Not like Mike, but close.
The nerf ball boys are at it again
When will this ever end?
The game is on the line and then
the fake — left, then right, a turn of the screw,
and he’s gone right past you, the crowd roars —
I can’t take this anymore
The basket breaks into pieces like plastic confetti,
and tumbles to the ground as the buzzer sounds
and the nerf ball boys collapse into a heap of glory
and that’s when they begin to tell the story
of the last minute heroics that brought the crowd to its feet.

Peace (with teamwork),


Making Connections: Midway Point, part two

In our big Making Connections project this year (we are in the second year, thanks to funding from the National Writing Project), we asked students to take an online survey before they started to do any blogging. We were looking to gather some data about perceptions of students as writers and users of technology. We have had about 250 students take the survey, which we believe gives us some reliability. Some teachers will be sharing the data with their students and with their administration.

Here are four questions that jumped out at me:

How do you use technology to communicate to others?

Do you think you write better on paper or on the computer?

Do you think schools should teach technology as a ways to communicate with others?

Which of these tools have you used in the past year?

Feel free to poke around:

Peace (with data points),


Making Connections: Midway Point, part one

I am project leader for an initiative (funded by the National Writing Project) that seeks to use weblogs to connect students. We have 15 teachers from five school districts, and about 300 students using blogs to write and interact.

We just finished the first phase of our project, in which students introduce themselves and comment with each other. We have had almost 1,200 posts on the Manila-based Weblog that we are using (the poor server). This weekend, the teachers all met to talk about how things are going. For the most part, they are not technology-proficient, so this project is pushing them in new, and sometimes frustrating, directions.

Here are some of the teacher posts from this weekend:

Most students from Southampton have made their introductions and have had had a chance to go back on and make comments to introductions of students from other schools. This went very smoothly in Southampton. Many responses were made to students from other towns. We did tell all students to make at least 3 responses to students from OTHER schools first before responding to someone from our own school. We also reminded them to look for studentsto respond to who might not have any responses yet. One frustration some students had was that they did not know who had responded to their introduction. If there was more than one student with the name “Bob”, for instance, they did not know which one in order to respond back to him. Or, students were not signing their response.” — Lisa

The successes include seeing all of the connections that students are making as well as seeing the empathy being gained as they learn that other student are having shared experiences. Hinting about the upcoming experiement has also been a real postitive as students witness the nature of science as others repeat the Skittles experiment to gather more data. — Jack

Everything is going okay so far. The only problem we have had has been gremlins in the machine that won’t accept the kids’ passwords or even their existence as members when they try to log on. The weird thing is that on any given day some kids get on successfully while others do not. There seems to be no consistency in who the particular victims will be – someone may have no problem one day, but may have to try 2 or 3 times to get logged in the next day.” — Mary M.

I was a little disappointed in my students’ introductions, but I think that as soon as they see the traffic that has hit the blog, they will become more enthusiastic. Right now, like me, I think they are a little overwhelmed. — Denise

Our students created self-portraits by hand. We took digital pictures of them and then uploaded them to a photo storage website. The only pitfall was figuring out how to do all of this–trial by fire and LOTS of time. If anyone needs help with this, thanks to just-in-time learning, I am now a Master Jedi. LOL” — Michele

One problem I ran into was that some students would hop on the blog whenever they got a few extra minutes in the day. They were able to get their work finished quickly; posting their own and responding back and forth to several people. This was great, but the problem was that with the extra time, they just started to casually blog to one another. I had to have the “this is not myspace” talk with them and remind them that all of the other people and teachers on the blog can and would be reading what they write.” — Deb

I’m benefitting because I’m gaining some technological skills. My students are improving both their writing and technological skills, and they’re making meaningful connections with students from other communities. I think my students especially enjoyed posting their self-portraits – Michele, who is a technology wizard, helped a great deal with this. The drawings don’t really look like them, but they capture their personalities quite well! One thing I really like about this project is the security of the site and the control we have as teachers. ” — Paula

Many of the students are excited about the project and are looking forward to continuing. It is sometimes difficult to manage all the students as they are not very independent when starting a new endeavor. We are ironing out the wrinkles as far as logistics, scheduling, and other problems go. ” Ann

Things are going well, slow but sure. My fifth grade students are enjoying this ‘new’ way of talking, especially the relaxed writing style. It was refreshing to see some of my more reluctant participants jump on the tech train. I am wondering how I can keep this same enthusiaism as we try to find time and space in the computer lab. The chatter is great. Kidos want to get on and talk with each other. I have one student who got onto the site from home. I’m not sure about this…I wonder how I can control what happens outside my perview? I have a new layer of responsibility that I’m not yet sure about.” — Mary F.

I have a group of enthusiastic bloggers this year. Although they are not as advanced with technology as my group last year, they are tenacious.” — Eva

It has been difficult for us to “squeeze” the blogging into our curriculum, but the kids are enthusiastic and most want to do more. It’s interesting how these kids perceive the responses they have been getting – some were disappointed to find out that they were corresponding with “white kids”, and others were disappointed to have responses from younger students “Miss, why are you trying to “hook me up” with a 10 year old!” But, it’s good for them to see outside of their culture and very limited horizon. And once they began to understand everything, they were accepting and look forward to the experience.” — Wendy

Again, I’m having trouble when I really wasn’t expecting to. I planned to blog with a class that I had a support teacher with and that is usually a pretty enthusiastic bunch, the principal had been notified and seemed to be on board, etc., and Wendy said she would help if I needed her. Then- My support teacher and Wendy were assigned to new Lindamood Bell classes during that block, the principal got MCAS panic, and my class, for the most part,decided they are not that interested!” — Mary D.

So, as you can see, there is a lot of reflection going on with the project, and many hurdles to overcome. In the next day or two, I will share the data from a survey we had our students take around technology.

Peace (with connections),