Ignite: David Lee Finkle – Question Things

Yesterday, I reviewed a comic strip collection from David Lee Finkle called Mr. Fitz, which makes fun of teaching and standardized testing and being with middle school kids all day. So, yeah, it was right up my alley. David Finkle presented in one of the NCTE Ignite sessions in Las Vegas, using comics as his presentation. I love his David explores with his students what we mean about “writing” and “reading.”
David’s key inquiry to explore with students: When Do Stories Matter?

Peace (in the frames),

My NCTE Ignite Session: Short Form Writing

My friend, Sandy Hayes, has edited and published all of the Ignite sessions from NCTE (Ignite sessions had a format of 20 slides, transitioning every 20 seconds), and here, I talk about short-form writing and what it mean to our definitions of what writing is, and becoming, and whether we validate the many shortened ways that people write in different spaces.

(I’ll share out other Ignite sessions over the coming days, too. There are some wonderful presentations in the mix!)
Peace (in the ignite),

NCTE Podcast: Celebrating Teacher Voices

ncte podcast
I had the pleasure of talking with Steve Zemelman and Harry Ross, of the Teachers Speak Up initiative, about the Western Massachusetts Writing Project’s partnership with our local regional newspaper. WMWP celebrates teachers as writers, and the partnership with the newspaper has opened up a regular educational column in which teachers write about their views on education and classroom experiences and strategies in a positive light.

The podcasts, which are hosted by NCTE, explore the rationale behind the partnership, as we as gives some practical advice for teachers who are seeking ways to get their views of the educational landscape (and debates) into the public sphere. I hope you have time to give it a listen, and add your own voice into the mix.

NCTE: Making Our Voices Heard

Peace (in the voice of teachers),


The NCTE/NWP Hackjam Rocked!

(note: yeah, I am still processing and writing about my visit to Vegas for NCTE and NWP.)
Hackjam2 Chad and Andrea

At the NCTE Meeting, there is always a Tech To Go booth set up, where teachers share technology tools and learning strategies. It’s cool, but most of us are usually passing by it on the way to other things. On Saturday, I skipped a session so that I could hang out with some NWP friends — Chad Sansing and Andrea Zellner — who were collaborating on a Tech to Go session version of a Hackjam. First, you need to understand that the negative connotation around hacking is all wrong, and upside down. Instead of imagining some creepy programmer causing mayhem and mischief, think of an average person repurposing media and technology for their own needs, and remixing the world to their vision. Yeah, that’s hacking, and it doesn’t have to be a technology-based idea.


Chad and Andrea got us started with a fascinating adventure that had nothing to do with computers. We were given one of two “secret missions” — either go into the NCTE exhibition booths and take as much free stuff as you could find, and then come back to the Tech to Go area and remix it; or grab some sticky notes and hack the long line of celebrity photos in the main hallway leading into NCTE. I joined the image hack crew, and we had a blast adding dialogue boxes to the pictures. Lots of folks were stopping, wondering what we were doing and reading what we were writing. It was very mysterious, and fun, and the activity really had us thinking of how to use humor and hacking to remix a public space.


Unfortunately, the hack didn’t last. Someone soon came down the hallway shortly after we left, and removed all of our sticky notes. Luckily, we had already tweeted and photographed our work, saving the hacking for posterity (for good or bad). But the activities (including the remixing of the free stuff) reminded us of agency of the user, of remixing our experiences, and of how to shift our thinking from passive consumer into active participant.

Which led us to technology, where we used some of the new Mozilla Foundation tools in its Webmaker system to hack some web content. The Hackjam was a blast of fresh air from the room sessions, and Chad and Andrea made it fun and engaging, and steeped into the larger ideas of helping our students have agency in the media-saturated world.

You can view Andrea’s Storify collection of the tweeting that took place during the session. It’s a handy overview of what happened.

Peace (in the hack),


Cyberbullying: An Overview and Teaching Strategies

This is my presentation from an NCTE session on bullying. My part was to have us think about the aspects of cyberbullying and to consider strategies for teachers. This was part of a larger conversation about the effects of bullying and our need to address it on many fronts. The influx of digital media in the lives of young people has the potential to exasperate and increase the ways that students get bullied — inside and outside of our schools.

I was also asked to share some resources. These are either ones that I shared in the presentation or were shared by audience members during the discussion times. I hope (we hope) these resources allow you a chance to educate yourself, your students and the families in your communities about cyberbullying by viewing prevention through the lens of learning.

Peace (in tolerance),


Getting Ready for Vegas (NWP/NCTE)

This coming week, my wife and I had off to Las Vegas for the annual gathering of the tribes of the National Writing Project and the National Council of Teachers of English. Last year, due to budget cuts, I did not go to the annual event — the first time that I missed it since I became part of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. And boy, did I miss it.

I’m involved in three different workshop/presentations in Las Vegas – one with NWP and two with NCTE. (Everything takes place at the MGM Grand Hotel)

On Thursday, I am joining some amazing NWP colleagues to present a session around Game Design for the classroom. We’re aiming to bring folks into the world of gaming from the standpoint of creation, not just playing. So, along with showing the pedagogy of game design and the connections that it can have to the classroom (along with motivation of students), we’re going to have folks doing some game design activities in the sessions. It should be a blast.

NWP: Changing the Game with Games-based Learning

1:15 – 3 p.m.

MGM Grand Conference Center, 3rd Floor, 301

On Friday, I am one of a handful of speakers in a session at NCTE around bullying. My topic is cyberbullying, and how schools are working to address online situations and how teachers can frame discussions around the larger issue of digital citizenship. My goal is to avoid the message of “the Internet is bad” and instead, show how young people need guidance on how to behave when in online spaces, both for their own safety and also for the respect of others.

NCTE: Stop the Bullying

2:30 – 5:15 p.m.

MGM Grand Ballroom, room 119, level one

And on Saturday, I am giving an Ignite talk along with a bunch of others. Ignite talks are 20 slides that change every 20 seconds, so you have go be light on your feet. While the them of the session is around professional connections and inquiry, my Ignite explores the idea of short-form writing (Twitter, updates, etc.) and how writing can change to meet the forms of the day.

NCTE: Ignite Session: Supporting Collaboration and Inquiry

11-12:15 p.m.

MGM Grand Ballroom, room 122, Level One

And on Sunday, we rest. And fly home. We reconnect with our kids. And get ready to teach the next week with a dose of inspiration from being part of a gathering of educators.

Peace (in the week ahead),