What I am learning: K12 Online Conference

I’ve been trying to set aside some time to explore the K12 Online Conference Workshops and keynotes, but it is difficult to carve out the hours needed. So I have tried to focus a bit on what I am interested in seeing what happens.

A few things that I have discovered as the conference is about halfway through its schedule of released workshops and presentations:

  • Thankfully, the entire conference will be there forever, so I can always go back (note to self — go back)
  • I have been participating most in the podcasting workshop called Flat Agents of Change that uses a Ning site at http://bitbybitseedlings.ning.com/ to gather people together to use some tools for audio. I set up an account with Podcastpeople and it worked quite well, and I may use it for an upcoming workshop on podcasting. They also suggest using a site called Gizmo, which is similar to Skype but allows easy conferencing and recording of the conferencing for later podcasting (So you could interview and record in Gizmo, and then podcast it via Podcastpeople). I’ve also introduced a few forums there, and need to resist taking over their site. So, please, come join this podcast site and give the tools a try.
  • I have followed the Release the Hounds workshop because I was interested in the concept of the “unproject” in which students propose and work on their own multimedia projects — primarily in math — and the teacher is a partner in the creation. But students have control over their learning.
  • I tried to use the Trailfire in the Trailfire workshop because I like the idea of setting a “path” through the Internet for my students, and I even had a project in mind regarding Greek Gods and Myths in preparation for a novel we are about to read. But I just cannot get my Trailfire to work and so another kick in the tires for technology that is frustrating.
  • I came upon a program called Jing for sharing screenshots and video tutorials, etc, during one of the presentations and I haven’t yet installed it but I am on my way. I want an easy way to share with others and I want it to be free. So, maybe Jing is the route — it seems interesting.

On Monday, the K12 folks will be showcasing the workshop that Bonnie and I have created about our Collaborative ABC Movie Project and we certainly hope to have a lot of folks explore our project with us and also — even more important — to contribute to the hands-on portion of our workshop, which involves the use of VoiceThread to create a collaborative ABC project across the world.

K-12 Online Conference 2007

Peace (in K12 Online virtual worlds),

OnPoEvMo: Forgotten Relics in a Flattened World, October 2007

This is the final poem in my year-long project to create at least one poem per month for an entire year. Some months have been easier than others and the past two months, I have felt the well go a bit dry on me. But I wanted to wrap things up somehow and this poem came to me one early morning. My next step is to come back to all 31 poems (yep — 31) and see which ones are worth editing and revising and publishing. My intention is to use Lulu self-publishing to put together a book of the poems from the year.

But for now, here is the last podcast poem:

Forgotten Relics in a Flattened World
(October 2007)
Listen to the Poem

It’s done now
30 poems plus one and I’m done
but I don’t think I will ever be finished
with this one —

the words will never stop dancing
although sometimes they break apart if I drop them
and shatter into a million different thoughts —
I bend down to collect them with my fingers
and glue them back together in a frantic attempt
to understand —

even then, some words will scuttle off to the corner and collect dust
as forgotten relics
until the time comes when I am in no mood for anything
but quiet —
it’s then that they come out of hiding to join me
as old friends crawling into my pocket
for my fingers to hold as comfort food–

a year spent in poems is absurd
if you think about it —
the pressure to create something so great
sits so heavily on the mind
that you feel as if there were no more poems anymore ever to be found
no more rhythm anywhere in this world that you haven’t beat your head upon
or felt the pounding of in your heart —
the flattened landscape slowly becomes something literal
you wonder if the edge of the abyss is just beyond you,
just beyond your vision,
just beyond you …

no, this poem will never be done,
not ever.

Peace (with self-motivated projects),


Kids and Creatures: The Monster Exchange

My sixth graders have been working on descriptive writing in class and the culminating project was something called the Monster Exchange, in which our young writers had to create a monster and then write up a one-paragraph story that featured good descriptive writing. Then, everyone got someone else’s writing and had to identify the creature in the story.

I got the idea for the Monster Exchange years ago as part of an online, collaborative project in which students from different schools created illustrations, emailed them to each other, and then wrote up descriptions of the “visiting monsters.” I liked the idea and adapted it to the fact that I have four sixth grade classes (80-odd students) and they kids just love it.

Here is a video tour of the monsters:
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

Peace (in monsterville),

K12 Online Conference workshops

The K12 Online Conference kicked into high gear yesterday with the start of some workshops presentations. Everything seems to be podcasts and videocasts and there were some explorations of new tools and collaborative efforts in the workshops released into the wild yesterday (everything is virtual with K12).

Go ahead – check it out at the K12 site. More workshops are on tap for today (and every day for the next two weeks — including the one Bonnie and I created that gets sent into the public view on Monday)

Peace (in virtual space),

Week in a Sentence: The Reflective Dogtrax

As promised, I am sitting in for The Reflective Teacher (who may be off reflecting or something — not sure) and hosting his Week in a Sentence feature, which I have really come to love for narrowing my own week down and for reading the week of others. What a fantastic idea.

Anyway, I will start off with a podcast. This comes from a workshop I gave at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project this weekend on podcasting, and as a hands-on activity, we created a podcast version of their own Week in a Sentence — with great results.

Listen to the WMWP teachers

Next up is Karen, who is off to see the Red Sox play (did I mention I am a Yankees’ fan in a house full of Red Sox fans — doh), who writes:

Tickets to a Red Sox playoff game in my pocket – I SO did not want to teach this week anticipating my trip to Boston and my first playoff game ever! Go Red Sox!

Matt, who just interviewed me for a project he is doing on claymation and moviemaking in the classroom, writes about the act of teaching:

I modeled a writing lesson today where I tried to come up with writing ideas live in front of a audience of squirrelly second graders and it did effectively hold their interest.

My friend, Bonnie, is up in Vermont, enjoying the foliage season, and she writes:

What’s a week without Boil Down…Today it’ all about Al for me…BRAVO, the Nobel Peace Prize…how will this event impact on our political landscape…I’m hoping for an Al Gore for President….I know, pie in the sky…that’s okay…off to Vermont to take some photos…

Nancy has a wedding to get to! (open bar? I bet teaching is far from her mind right now)

So thankful for the 4-day week; and now it’s wedding time–see you in two weeks!

My colleague from the WMWP, Susan, writes about her travels in her role as a leader and inspiration in the writing project:

The power of and learning from collaboration has pulled me from Amherst, to Berkeley, to Billings and home again this week guiding my work forward.

2,000 teenagers in one room, screaming and shouting! Sounds fun! It was for our friend, Graycie in this extended-sentence entry (which is perfectly fine by me):

Fearing the worst, I was part of the faculty keep-them-from-fighting/escaping team during the very first pep rally in our new gym which meant that for the first time all 2,000 teenagers would be in a confined space being mightily pumped up by loud music, louder cheering, scantily-clad cheerleaders, popular sports dudes and a very loud microphone. I was wrong; they cheered and yelled and danced in the bleachers and sang and hollered for the teams and the cheerleaders weren’t raunchy and it was just: So. Much. Fun.

Jody was thinking of chickens this week. That’s right — chickens.

So … our school wide topic is ‘Things with Wings’ which brings me to having made endless phone calls (which led to other possible leads and yet more phone calls) in hope of finding some fertilized chicken eggs to hatch in class. I have the incubator, not eggs yet. Teaching – always taking me on a weird tangent or three throughout the week!

If you missed the opportunity, be sure to go to The Reflective Teacher next week and add your thoughts. We’d love to read (and hear!) you.

Peace (in connections),

What Students Say

The folks over at the Digital Ethnography site (who do some fascinating work) created this video about what college students are really saying and experiencing in their lives in this digital age. They used a Google Docs to have more than 200 students edit a document and create surveys of each other.


[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dGCJ46vyR9o" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (with information),

Your Day/Week in a Sentence

Since my good friend, The Reflective Teacher, is taking a break this week from his wonderful Boil Your Day Down Into One Sentence feature, I told him I would be glad to host this week’s edition.

So, if you want to participate, use the comment feature here on this post, write and submit your sentence  (and even better, write your sentence and also provide me with a podcast version — you can even email me the audio file at dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com and I will host it for you), and I will collate it all before the end of the weekend.

Peace (in community),

Something Strange

I read about this Reactable instrument somewhere and then I found these clips on YouTube (where else?) and I am not sure what to make of it. It is called a “tangible interface” instrument, which means that you manipulate the sounds with objects and space between the objects, on a surface board of light and electricity.

It reminds me of a professor I had in college who had been part of the New York City experimental music scene and then ended up in our dinky little college. He used to have us create all these different sounds, using different tonal patterns and (gasp) reaching into the grand pianos and plucking strings, banging on parts, etc, as a way to get beyond the traditional aspects of composition. We often did this with the door closed so that the other music teachers would not see us, since putting your hands in the guts of a grand piano is often a huge no-no. I remember composing this very bizarre piece for prepared piano and soprano sax — I worked hard at it, trying to get it just right — and when we played it live, it was as if I were in another world. We shook off melody and harmony in order to achieve something new.

Anyway, take a look at the Reactable:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/0h-RhyopUmc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/vm_FzLya8y4" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in experimental music),

WMWP Best Practices: Beyond the Basics

The Western Massachusetts Writing Project is hosting its annual Best Practices this coming weekend, which not only allows our folks from the Summer Institute to shine as workshop presenters but also showcases much of the work that the organization is doing.

I am giving a workshop presentation on podcasting and my hope is to post some of the audio we record at this blog and at our WMWP Newsletter blog. We also have a great local writer — Leslea Newman, author of many books for kids and adults — who will be leading a writing event for all of the day’s participants.

Here are a few of the other workshops on tap for that day:

  • Why Write in Math? Communicating the Metacognitive Process of Problem Solving.
  • Thinking and Rethinking Strategies for Working with English Language Learners.
  • Thoughts in the Looking Glass: Reflective Writing in the Classroom.
  • Writing Portfolios: Helping Students to See Themselves as Writers
  • Assessment in Backwards Design
  • Walking Tall: Autobiographical Writing

Looks pretty interesting, doesn’t it?

Peace (in the gathering),

Web 2.0 profile

Steve H., whose creation of Classroom 2.0 got me interested in Ning social networking platforms, just published an article about Web 2.0 in education and in an accompanying wiki companion to his article, he features folks who are using different tools in the classroom.

I had responded to Steve’s initial request for folks using tech in the classroom, andI wrote a bit about using a Wiki to create a collaborative dictionary with my sixth graders. So I find myself in good company on Steve’s list of teachers. You can view all of the teacher profiles and projects that Steve is featuring at his own wiki site. There are some great ideas there and inspiring teachers for all of us to follow.

And here is his master list:







Peace (with profiles),