The Ning Thing

I have been trying to understand social networking a bit more these past few weeks, as I think this is the direction I want to take our Making Connections project that creates an online shared writing space for middle school students in our Western Massachusetts area (this past year, we had about 200 students writing and responding).

My dilemma has been, what platform? I know others are using Elgg and it seems interesting but a bit complicated for teachers in my group who are not tech savvy and need to be able to troubleshoot and help students basically on their own. There are aspects of Elgg that I really like, including the automatic tag-links created via profile writing. Elgg

And then, there is Ning. A few months ago, I became part of the Classroom 2.0 community over at Ning and it has been quite a wonderful experience. Created by Steve H., Classroom 2.0 has grown leaps and bounds since I came on board. And this network has shown the power of the collective voice, as teachers are sharing resources, strategies and questions, and probing deeper into the Web 2.0 tools, and questioning such things as assessment in the connected world.

I also wanted to try my hand at administering a Ning network, so I created an informal one for technology liaisons within the National Writing Project. It was easy to set up my own Ning network — incredibly easy, and we now have 23 members (I am hoping for many more but don’t want to push too hard). I like the ease of administration and the use of widgets that allow such easy access to load and share videos, audio, and anything else you can think of.


And again, this is just another tool for creating a sense of community, so I enjoy “seeing” some old friends and some new friends in the Ning space. And that is a big part of the social networking experience, I think.

Peace (with networks),

Social Networking Videos

I came across two wonderful videos about social networking this past week that I have shared elsewhere but want to keep on sharing, since I do believe that this wave of technology is still on the way up and is gaining more footholds every day.

Here is one in general about social networking from Common Craft folks:

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And here is one made by Chris Sloan, a Writing Project friend and fellow musician from Utah, about using Elgg networks in the classroom:

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I’ll write more this week about my own forays into social networking (as a participant and as a creator).

Peace (with you, and you, and you …),

What We Do Online

This graph comes from a report in BusinessWeek and is kind of interesting to think about, particularly in terms of generational divides, but also in terms of the amount of time people are using to create their own content online.

(You will have to follow the link to see the actual graph — this one came out too small to read unless you wear microscopes for glasses)

Here is a link to the article itself.

Peace (in ever growing numbers),


Back on the Grid

I’m crossing my fingers here but I believe I have finally regained access to my Edublogs. It’s a long story that has to do with technical stuff that I don’t even understand but it seems to have been resolved (although now I see that James is doing more maintenance this weekend so I will hold my tongue).

Anyway, last week, I received my latest issue of Wired Magazine and, there, on the cover, was … me.

Back in February, the magazine had said it would personalize the July covers for the first 5,000 readers who sent in a photo. So, I did it, and then forgot all about it until it came in the mail last week. My sons were quite impressed and thought I was famous, although they could not figured out what Wired meant and why anyone would use that word for the name of a magazine.

It’s great to be back blogging again.

Peace (with consistency),

Radio Silence

It’s been days since I have been able to blog and even now, I had to move from my desktop to my laptop and tap into a neighbor’s wireless network. The updates to Edublogs by James, combined with some lack of updating the cache system through my Internet provider, has left me staring at error messages at my blog sites for the last week. I am still trying to get my provider to help me out and I hope for progress today. Ahhhh.

But it is strange — this desire to want to write and blog and share, and being unable to do so in a way that has become second nature and comfortable for me — via this blog site, and I miss it terribly. I don’t know why, but I do. I guess the daily act of writing and sharing and thinking has become part of my world in a very natural way, and so the disruption of technology in that process is a bit jarring for me.

So what have I been doing?

I’ve been touring through the Ning network a bit deeper, writing some poetry, and starting a self-publishing venture through Lulu — Later this week, I get a proof copy of a novella of a story called The Note Who Got Lost in the Masterpiece and a book of poems inspired by a vacation trip to the coast of Maine in 2004 that I published yesterday on Lulu. I don’t expect to get rich off this venture but at the very least, I want to have bound copies of my writing for my sons to have and be able to read, and think: my dad is a writer.

Plus, I need to start thinking of my claymation camp that starts next week. I began a blog for that camp to share the kids’ work ( with family and our network of teachers in the Western Mass Writing Project. Which reminds me — I need clay! And markers! and other materials!

Oh, and I began to use concept mapping tool to conceptualize how the new blogs in our Massachusetts Writing Project network are interconnected. Here is my Map of the Blogs.

And finally — we are off to see the Boston Red Sox play ball on July 4 in Beantown on a mini-vacation (says the Yankees fan in a family of Red Sox lovers!)

Peace (with patience),

My Collaborator and Friend: Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

June brought some really wonderful news to our school. My good friend and collaborator on claymation/movie projects — Mike Flynn — was awarded the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year designation for 2007. Mike is a wonderful second grade teacher whose emphasis on hands-on learning, project-based explorations and embedded mathematics certainly puts him in a top tier of teachers I know.

Mike2For the past three years, his second graders and my sixth graders have worked together on claymation movies and it has been a pleasure to develop the project with Mike. He is insightful, flexible and moves towards recognition of the abilities of all the children in his room. Last year, Mike also joined me in presenting a workshop on moviemaking in the classroom at our Technology, Teaching and Writing Conference at UMass (sponsored in part by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project).

He is also a talented musician and he and I have played together as part of an old band of his and he has brought his talents to the stage at our school when I have helped our Student Council organize concerts for Katrina victims and the Asian tsunami disaster. Like me, he finds creative refuge in writing songs.

Mike deserves all of the accolades and is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year (where do I cram the ballot boxes?).

Peace (in celebration),

OnPoEvMo: In-Security, June 2007

The end of the school years allows me to think about my students in different ways and one of my students this year seemed to have so much potential is so many areas and yet could never refrain from tearing down everyone around her with biting words. So here is this student, wrapped up in my own poetic analysis as part of my One Poem Every Month for a Year project.

(June 2007)
Listen to the poem

Insecurity rages inside of you
you don’t curl up — you lash out —
words moving like daggers through the air
hitting the mark often
drawing blood in looks of surprise, and hurt,
and sadness,
yet bringing forth so little satisfaction
that you wonder why you do this —
drawing circles in the sand around you —
when all you really want is
someone to care about you.

Peace (with understanding),

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Musicians and Artists

I had the pleasure (yet again) of joining in on the Teachers Teaching Teachers show this past week with Paul Allison, Glen Bledsoe and Lee Babar, and while our intent was to talk about how things went this year with digital stories, the discussion quickly veered to how the arts can inform our teaching practice. I think we were in agreement that the arts can engage students in a variety of levels and that music, art, drama, etc, should be integrated into the regular classroom, and not just some “special” class.

We all talked about our backgrounds in music (‘cept for Paul) and Lee even pulled out her banjo and knocked out a few tunes. Very cool. Glen shared some of his electronic music compositions published through Magnatunes and explained a very interesting composition program that uses artwork to create music (still trying to get a handle on that one).  Time for a TTT Online Concert!

 Listen to the podcast of the show

Peace (in music),

My Dog, Bella

I was trying out a computer from the school where my wife and I will be running a claymation camp (but she just got promoted to Curriculum Coordinator at her school and won’t be around the camp much!!) and created this little movie of my dog, Bella, as she sits by the window all day, waiting for someone to bark at.

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Good Dog!

Peace (with kibbles),

Moving from Manila to Edublogs Premium

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my work with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and our intent to use blogs more frequently. So far this year, through a generous grant from the National Writing Project, I have worked with almost 30 teachers and WMWP leaders to create their own blogs within Edublogs as a way to understand the potential and tinker with podcasting.

The second phase of that project is to establish a network of blog sites through our entire Massachusetts Writing Project network and we decided to contract with James Farmer and use his new Edublogs Premium account that allows us to create and administer our network, with James doing all the maintenance and upgrade work (Thanks, James!). Plus, everything will fall under the url/banner of a common MassWP web address.

In the past, we have used the Manila platform made available by the National Writing Project and we certainly appreciated the no-cost element to the blogs, but they just never caught on with our teachers, mostly due to the complexity of the platform. I used to see eyes rolling on the back of heads when I gave workshops. I am hopeful that Edublogs/Wordpress will be easier to use (it is) and more likely to become part of our network.

Our hope is that over time, a MWP/WMWP network of interconnected blogs begin to form and that first phase is the concept of online newsletters with rss feeds pulled together. We hope the blogs are not only for individual teachers, but also for the various programs within WMWP and MWP — such as Project Outreach, the Reading Initiative, and the English Language Learners network.

Here are some of the blogs I have established in the past month:

So far, so good.

Peace (with shifting platforms),