Another vision of today’s students

Here is yet another intriguing video on why we should consider technology as integral to education:

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Notice the desire to create, remix and use technology to explore the world.

Peace (in illumination),

Alliteration, Personification and Quidditch: A classroom tour

Every now and then, I like to share out some of the projects my students are engaged with in the classroom. The past two weeks, we have been working on Figurative Language as we gear up for poetry, and then songwriting. I wrote a post about the use of hyperbole for tall tales over at TeachEng.Us last week. We also looked at comic books for Onomatopoeia, did some games around Idioms, reviewed similes and metaphors, and listened to color poems for Imagery.

For Alliteration, we worked on tongue twisters, using Dr. Seuss as an entry point into the crazy ways that words can make your tongue jump, twist and turn. Some of the students participated in a podcast of their tongue twisters, after I first shared out the twisters that I wrote for myself and the other three teachers on my team. I used a little Olympus voice recorder to move around the room.

Take a listen to our Tongue Twister Podcast

Then, for Personification, we talked about how it can be used for an entire story (Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, for example) or in a sentence. We created some sentences, got on the computers, and they had to illustrate one of the four Personification sentences that we composed. Here are some of the illustrations:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Finally, our school is in the middle of Quidditch season, and one art activity that we do with them is the creation of team t-shirts. I went into the art room with my camera to capture some of the work they were doing for our team: The Ice Legend.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Here is the shirt the kids are working on for me. I let them do what they want and hope they won’t embarrass me too much.

Peace (in student work),

Technology and Changing Teaching Practice

Thanks to Bud the Teacher for this one.

I am a co-editor on a book (which will be published sometime in the future by Teachers College Press in partnership with the National Writing Project) on how technology is changing teaching practice in the writing classroom, and how teachers are assessing such work in light of national and state curriculum standards. It’s been very interesting to read the chapters as they filter in (mine is about a digital picture book project).

The NCTE is also looking for stories of how technology is impacting our teaching practice and what it means. Here is what they write on their website:

We’re interested in how your teaching has changed—in how you have altered, adjusted, or shifted your habits and expectations—since the time you began teaching. For example, what has changed in your approaches to reading? Writing? Evaluation of students? Use of technology? Confidence level? Rapport with parents? Balance of personal and professional life?

Whether you are a 30-year classroom veteran or a new teacher, you have a story, and we’d like to hear it!  Email us 150 words or less describing changes you have made in your teaching and your teaching life. Please include your full name, school name, years of teaching, and a preferred email address or phone number in case we need to contact you. Send stories to

You might want to consider writing up a piece about your classroom. I, for one, am thinking of something along the lines of podcasting.

Peace (in reflection),

Six Trends of Emerging Tech

(Note: this is an old post that has been sitting in my bin. Doing some spring cleanup)

The 2008 version of the Horizon Report shows six possible trends in emerging technology that is worth a look. (You can download the full report here).

The report identifies:

  • Grassroots video
  • Collaborative Webs
  • Mobile Broadband
  • Data Mashups
  • Collective Intelligence
  • Social Operating Systems


Peace (in the future),

Sketching out my head

Stacey, over at Two Writing Teachers, had this link in post this week (sent forth by her mom) and I just love it. It’s called Sketchcast and it allows you to draw and embed into your blog (and with the new freedom of Edublogs, you can embed it right into a post now with going through hoops and hurdles).

Here is a sample I made about a look inside my cluttered head:

I am wondering how to bring this into the classroom, as my kids don’t have their own email addresses. I might be able to use the Google Email Hack, though. Or maybe I can set up a classroom account and just let multiple kids create multiple sketches at the same time.
Peace (in sketch form),

The World of Comics


I was prowling around the web, searching for some comics that I might be able to use for a lesson on Onomatopoeia today when I found this site called


I love comics and I always have loved them, back from the days of delivery newspapers as a kid. I used to spend hours with the newspaper and comic books when I was young, and I still wrestle with my own kids to get to that section of the paper. I think the web, like so many things, has the ability to make content more available in our own time frame, for our own interests in a way that is changing the delivery and discovery of comics. (There are downsides to that, too, including the lack of serendipitiously stumbling on something cool that you did not know was there).

When I travel to other cities, I always buy the local newspaper. It’s part of the old journalist in me to see how things are faring in the local newspaper market.  You can often tell the status of a community by the quality of its newspaper. I also turn to the comic page to see what comic strips I am missing.


This comics site has a lot of comics that you might find in various daily newspapers, but what I found it interesting is how they sort them and break them down by age and gender. It made me truly wonder who designates what age a comic is appropriate for? Whose to say that I don’t like a little Reality Check in the morning? Or that Lola’s joke about ebay dentures this morning won’t be funny for a man?


I know everything out there is just waited to be sorted and indexed and put into little small piles of information. But I kind of wish they would let me, and not them, do it for myself.


I noticed that they also have a category just for web-based comics, although I wish comics would begin to push the envelope a bit, using hyperlinks and embedded audio and video, and other elements of the web. I think it is possible to push beyond the frames.


Peace (in little square stories),



A Poem a Day

Bud the Teacher showed me this, via Twitter.


You can sign up for a poem to be delivered to your email inbox every day for the month, and I already have two wonderful gems come my way. This is just one way to celebrate the art of poetry, which hopefully extends across the year.

You can sign up here.

Peace (in poetic delivery),

Day in a Sentence: slicing into your week

Day in Sentence Icon

The Day in a Sentence has always been purposefully minimalistic.

It’s about narrowing down your reflection to its essence. But the recent Slice of Life project (kudos to Two Writing Teachers) that I have been part of has demonstrated how insightful it might be to pull back a bit and broaden that focus.

So I am going to suggest that we consider doing just a bit more writing than a sentence this week.  I ask you to consider writing a few sentences or a short paragraph that brings us inside your classroom and sharing that experience with us.

Of course, you still have the option of a single sentence (that is always the default, given the lack of time that so many of us have).

As usual, please use the comment link here at this post. I will collect all of the submissions and then post them together on Sunday. If you decide to podcast your writing, just provide me with a link or email me your audio file at dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com and I will host for you.

Here is my submission:

The toolbox of figurative language can be fun for writers and readers, I assured my students, and then we launched into the realm of hyperbole. They caught the exaggeration bug quickly, easily telling tall tales about their lives. The alliteration was also a blast, as we tied up our tongues with our own twisters and read from Dr. Seuss’s Oh Say Can You Say. I had more volunteers to read from that book than pages and more laughter than time. But idioms? Oh my. Perhaps it is their age but idioms confused so many of them. And for my few students whose second language is English, idioms are like some bastion of imprecise phrases. One even asked, what do you mean, they don’t mean what they say? We took it slow, but not slow enough.

Peace (in slices),

PS — Alice M. has agreed to be host of Day in a Sentence next week. If you think you may want to host, please just let me know. It is simple, yet informative.

Matt’s Rip Van Winkle

My good friend, Matt Needleman, put together this video about the state of education, using animation and the story of Rip Van Winkle. Matt tries to show, in a creative way, how much the world has changed but not our schools.

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Thanks, Matt!

Peace (in waking up to the real world),

Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 1

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

I had not meant to write. I was going to wait a week and get back into Slice of Life, in its weekly incarnation, in round two. But something in the newspaper caught my eye and I felt the need to reflect.

The news article was about the death of a local activist, Herb G., whom I remember clearly and dearly from my years as a newspaper reporter. I first met Herb and his wife, Charlotte, as a school reporter for the regional newspaper, and I could count on either one or both of them calling me or stopping in to the newspaper office on a regular basis. Charlotte-and-Herb or Herb-and-Charlotte — they were always referred to as one name, it seemed — were transplanted New Yorkers who came to our city to work in the social service sector.

But their heart and soul were in the areas of social justice and education. Everything they did was done through that lens. Local politicians used to roll their eyes when Herb and Charlotte came into a meeting. They knew they were in for a grilling. As a newspaper reporter covering the city school system, I was a main contact for them to get their message out. Our city was not quite as progressive as it is now. (And that, too, may just be a projection of hope of the present). The community was in the midst of an ideological struggle between the conservative old guard and the newcomers with families seeking to cast a broader net for all people. This does not mean the conservatives were heartless, but they often resisted any change. And they resented the influx of Hispanics and Asians who were arriving on a steady basis. The progressives eventually won out.

In those days, Herb and Charlotte were fearless in their discussions and debates. They demanded equal access to education for all children. They decried any implications of racial imbalance. They sought to nurture and cherish the various cultures of city residents. They were the first to call for action when racial epitaphs were written on public property and the last to end the discussions for learning. Their own children were long grown up, but they saw themselves as advocates for those could not speak, or were scared to speak, for themselves.

It would not be unusual for me to be caught in a conversation with Herb and Charlotte that might last a good hour or two. They knew they had me and they bent my ear as much as they could. And boy, they could talk. Charlotte often greeted me with a warm hug, even after I had left the school beat and was reporting in another city. She was about human connections.

Their message of social justice did come through for me. Now, as a teacher, I still think of Herb and Charlotte often as I try to show my students the bigger world beyond their insular community. Their message resonates today.

So I was saddened to learn that Herb passed away. Charlotte, too, died last year. Their legacy remains, I hope, in the ways in which the people they touched — including me — see the world.

Peace (in social justice),