We Play with Language and Words

invented words 2015

We play with language and words a lot in my classroom, and we recently finished up our Word Origins unit, which culminates in each student inventing a new brand-new word. They then use our classroom wiki account to add their invented word and definition (and podcast) to a collaborative dictionary project that has been underway for many years, with hundreds of invented words now in our online space.

Here is this year’s collection of words. I have students working to move these words into the larger wiki dictionary site.

Peace (Word!),

Looking at the Data of their Digital Lives

DlDay Voicethread
Each year, I present my sixth grade students with what we call the State of Technology and Digital Media Survey. The idea is to get a snapshop of their impressions and to get a glimpse of their use of technology, particularly outside of school. This year, for Digital Learning Day, I put the results into a Voicethread and narrate some of what I see.

I used these results for conversations this week around the idea of digital lives, digital footprints and digital citizenship as we launched into a new unit around technology. (By the way, if you want a copy of the survey, here is a template from my Google Docs. Feel free to steal it, remix it, use it as you need.)

But I invite you, too, to add questions and observations to the Voicethread. Make it a conversation. Do the results of my students resonate with what you know about your students? (Note: I teach sixth grade, so these are 11 year olds). Haven’t used Voicethread before? Now’s the time to give a new tool a try.

Peace (in the sharing),

When FOX (News) Came to Town

Yesterday, I celebrated Digital Learning Day with television cameras in my face and boom microphones dangling over my head. Don’t worry. I wasn’t in trouble. Instead, a crew from the Fox News network out of New York City traveled to my small school in Western Massachusetts to document an hour lesson around digital footprints and digital citizenship for a special they are producing in a couple of weeks.

Fox News Host John Roberts, fresh off the plane from the previous night’s grilling of Rep. Eric Cantor (whose ideology is as far removed from Western Massachusetts as I think you can get), hung out in my classroom as my students discussed privacy issues, data collection from companies, Facebook and Instagram, and their own media lives. I’ve known the television folks were coming for a few weeks now, and my students were ready.

“Act natural,” I told them in the morning. We all laughed at that.

They did more than that. While the class Fox joined is a wonderful one, the students really upped their game yesterday. They were articulate, thoughtful, and fully engaged in the discussions we were having about how the things they do now online impact the way people will perceive them in the future. John Roberts spent some of the time asking them questions about their own use of technology, whether parents talk to them about how they use websites, and what kind of steps they take to protect themselves. (He had his questions written out on his cell phone, which he kept pulling out to read to the class, ironically). At the end of the class, as my students were huddling to line up for their class, Roberts was right in their midst, having informal conversations with them about digital media. (I forgot to pull out my camera! Doh.) It was a nice moment, you know?

Roberts also interviewed me, one-on-one, in the morning, asking about why I think teaching 11 year olds about the concepts of digital citizenship is important. I think I was pretty articulate, too (although who knows what will end up on the cutting floor and how I will be portrayed.) Their larger piece is about data mining, and privacy issues, so I can’t say how much of our discussions will end up in the hour-long program (I suspect just a few minutes). While I was a little nervous about having a television crew in the classroom (and Fox, to boot), they were very kind and understanding, and appreciative of the time.

And if my own message gets out there to more teachers and parents about being vigilant about privacy, sharing and what companies do with our data, than it was time well-spent. I’m just hoping I am portrayed in the “fair and balanced” light.


Peace (in the settings),



Digital Learning Day: Not Everything Digital

This is part of an ongoing series of discussions I am having with my good friend, Anna Smith, about digital literacies. (You can follow the entire thread of our back and forth talks here.) The other day, Anna asked the question of “where isn’t digital” as she considered a quote by David Wees about the importance of digital literacies in a technology/media-rich world.

Here is an infographic that she created to make her point:

I could have gone in any number of directions here in response to her post, but I found myself thinking quite literally about the areas in my life when things are not digital, and how wonderful that is. It reminded me that technology can’t replace everything, and some experiences still require tangible connections (family) or intangible moments (dreaming).

Here is my infographic response:
Where isn't digital response

And, as per usual, I did some reflection via a webcomic about my thinking:
Reflection This Isnt Digital

Peace (in the learning and sharing),