My Weblog/Podcast Workshop Site

A friend asked me to share the Weblog site where I launch many of my workshops on Weblogs for teachers in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project with very little, if any, knowledge of Weblogs, Wikis, podcasting, etc. At this point, the site is only the main interface and not an actual blog, although I have used it for that during various workshops (it all depends on audience and purpose).

Feel free to use the workshop site as you like.

Peace (with sharing),

PageFlakes — Rss-ing the world

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, in a way. One of my projects this year is to work with our Massachusetts Writing Project (newly reconstituted with Susan at the helm) with newsletter weblogs for all of sites, and then collect all news via RSS feeds to a single blog site.

This would give us a collective voice for sharing information and by using RSS feeds, I am hoping that it will be less work for everyone involved (except for me, in setting the darn thing up).

Our writing project site also envisions a time when all of our assorted projects (Project Outreach, English Language Learners Network, Reading Initiative, etc) will have their own blog space for sharing with others, and we want to be able to collect their news at one site, too.

So I started toying around with PageFlakes and Mike, over at his Edublogs tutorial site, showed the world how to collect feeds from PageFlake and then move that code over to an Edublog site — just what I may need. (Thanks again, Mike!)

Check out my public PageFlake site and give me any feedback. I have collected all the feeds from folks in the Western Mass Writing Project who have completed the three-hour Weblog/Podcast workshops with me.

Peace (with Pageflakes),

More WMWP Technology Autobiographies

This weekend marked the second in my series of workshops for fellows at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project around blogging and podcasting. Note: Three hours is barely enough time! As part of the series (funded with a grant from the National Writing Project), I have all participants create a blog with Edublogs, post a technology autobiography, and then — using a free MP3/voice recorder and Audacity — create a podcast of their writing. It’s a lot to take in but everyone has come away saying it has been a wonderful experience.

Last time, I shared some excerpts from their writing and the audio (although the flash player isn’t working and I think it is due to the voice recorders somehow but can’t yet seem to pinpoint it, so just click on the actual links to the audio files — thanks), and so I will do this again.

Listen to Susan

” During graduate school, my job in Harvard’s African American Studies Department brought me in contact with my first computer. Thank goodness! I can’t tell you how many late nights I snuck into my office to use the computer to transcribe all the interviews I was conducting and write all my thesis papers. It quickly became hard to imagine all those undergraduate English papers I wrote on the typewriter–talk about a hindrance to revision! ”

Listen to Carole

“I started out in teaching by not teaching. After student teaching, I was not at all sure that I wanted to continue, so I took a job as a Radio Shack manager. Personal computers were just hitting the market in a big way, and “user friendly” was not part of the vernacular yet. Explanations in manuals for how to correct problems often involved patches to correct a “misunderstanding” between the hardware and the software. I will always be thankful for that year. Users and sellers were much more exposed to software and hardware code. We had to pick up a lot of information to make computers work for our customers. As a result, without any real training, I can more easily pick up software that is new to me.”

Listen to Mike

“My first successful experience with technology in the classroom came as an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts. In 1997, the chemistry department pioneered an online homework system called OWL (online web-based learning) for use in their general chemistry courses. This system allowed professors to assign homework modules to their students and then monitor their progress throughout the semester. Before OWL, professors weren’t able to check or correct homework assignments in an efficient manner. Test grades suffered because students didn’t have the motivation to complete their homework. OWL gave students deadlines to help them budget their time more appropriately and to avoid the last-minute cramming sessions that became all too common. Another feature to the OWL system was instant feedback. If students selected incorrect answers to questions, the system would explain why that particular answer was incorrect.”

Listen to Tammy

“When I started this year, my team had a smartboard. I had never heard of this piece of technology before. What made it so smart? I had created a blog for my students to use and the math teacher on my team told me that the smartboard would be a great tool to help me show the kids how to use the blog. She and the computer lab teacher showed me various things I could do with the smartboard. I could circle pages in red, green, blue, or black! I was so excited to use it. Then, we came to the issue of moving the board from the math room to my room. There was also an issue of where to put the projector. On top of that, the cables and cords were too short to actually reach the outlets and computer and projector all at the same time. We literally had to fidget with it for two days. But we got it to work.”

Listen to Jane

“When I was attending library school in 1996, the first thing we had to do was pass a Technology Test to show that we had at least mastered some rudimentary uses of the computer. Among the tasks were to send an email, link to some appropriate websites, do some simple research using a database. I was terrified and sure I would never be a librarian ever ever ever. We had four weeks to send in our assignments, which meant that if you didn’t know how to do it, you could learn. I used the very clear tutorials they had fashioned for us, passed with flying colors, and felt very proud of myself; much more so than getting into grad school in the first place.”

Listen to Corinne

“I thought that this workshop was two Saturdays ago. When I came into the computer lab, there were people in the room for a workshop. At that moment I didn’t have anything to make me think a was early. Then the workshop started and everyone knew everyone. Still I didn’t click in. As the conversation continued I began to think I wasn’t in the right place. These people not only knew each other, they had been working for some time on a project together. Even though I then knew that I wasn’t were I was supposed to be, I was sucked into the project these people were working on and the ideas of what I could or would do with something like this–blogging. My thought began to take off.”

Listen to Joanne

“My writing history started with a notebook and pencil, moved up to ink and then I actually owned my own typewritter. The first computer I owned was an Apple and I loved the idea that making changes in what I wrote didn’t involve erasing carbon copies. Can you still buy carbon paper? I’m glad I don’t even know.”

Words from Chuck (but no sound)

“I’ve resigned myself, prematurely, to being the opposite of a technogeek. An all-thumbs Luddite, but that’s not who I could be. I don’t see myself as a whiz at this, but at the same time, I can learn it. It’s so darn user friendly these days, idiot-proof as they said back in the 1900s. So, I’ll keep trying”

Listen to Mary

“Some thirty plus years ago my dad gave me a Texas Instrument chessboard and a cassette tape. He told me it was a computer. With wires and plugs in hand, a portable cassette recorder and an old black and white TV I proceeded to enter the world of technology. It was exciting. Once I figured out how to connect each device (Device not being in my vocabulary as a tech term then.) I played chess with the computer. It amazed me. I knew then that there was no turning back for me. I had ventured into a new world.”

Listen to Abbey

“I would like to expand my technology knowledge to have a real interactive blog with my AP Language class this summer as they read their summer reading books. I would like to make blogging part of assignments, not just a place for me to post. I am also interested in podcasting because other schools have done “This American Life”-esque shows, and that just sounds really cool to me. Some of my top kids are capable of making really amazing presentations and movies for classes, and I would like to use some of that energy to make our language applications more interesting to them and more connected to the real world.”

Listen to Margaret

“We thought we were so cutting edge, working in the computer lab with our classes connected to the internet. We now realize that our ‘cutting edge’ activities were merely worksheets that the students filled out using the same internet source as a reference, but it was a start. As we continued to learn more about the internet, we were able to develop lessons and activities that allowed the students more flexibility concerning topic and searching opportunities. This workshop is my first introduction to blogging and podcasting, so I am once again delving into another layer of technology in hopes of expanding my knowledge so that I can share new learning experiences with my students as well as my colleagues.”

Aren’t these wonderful? I am proud of our brave WMWP blog explorers.

Peace (with taking chances),

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),