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March 12, 2011

Jobs, You Evil Genius! I - Must - Have - iPad 2!

Jobs Jobs - stop messing with my head. I've lived this long without an iPad. Why do I suddenly feel a growing obsession to get one? 


March 11, 2011

Use Storify To Tell Your Story and Document the Social Web

Storify-header Storify is a new platform that allows users to quickly tell a story using material from the social web. Yesterday I received an invitation to try out their beta.

Just as I began exploring it, my Twitter feed alerted me to the tragic events in Japan. Without much planning, I began using Storify to collect material about the earthquake / tsunami from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr  and other news feeds.

While I kept my narrative to just a few sentences, users can add additional comments to each element. My finished story appeared on the Storify site and I used the embed code to also post it on my blog

As an advocate of document based instruction, I realized that Storify has great potential in the classroom. It's a easy tool for teachers and students to gather a variety of social media and web content. It would be especially useful way for students to critically evaluate web and social media content.  As a historian I also think if it as a first, rough draft of history - a social document for future generations.

~ I regret that my first use of Storify was to document such a tragic event. My prayers go out to all those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami. I hope to be able to tell happier stories in the future.  

Storify Overview from Storify on Vimeo.


Earthquake and Tsunami Devastate Northern Japan

This Storify essay is a first, rough draft of history - a social document for future historians. Text, image, video and tweets from the initial reaction to the event. (March 10, 2011 GMT-8)  ~ I regret that my first use of Storify was to document such a tragic event. My prayers go out to all those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami. I hope to be able to tell happier stories in the future.

March 09, 2011

Kids Explain 4 Strategies for Making Math Come Alive

During this summer program students entering eighth grade were coached by an intern in ways to investigate and talk about the math in their lives.  Here's the 4 strategies the students used: 

Math-alive 1. Look for math in real life - Nic ponders the permutations in picking out his clothes. 
2. Frame your experiences as word problems - Shanice eagerly monitors price changes in a coat she wants to buy. (Spoiler alert: she gets it!)
3. Try out different ways to solve problems. Nik crafts a way to determine his baseball batting average.
4. Explain and share your thinking. Shaniece describes what they do when one them gets stuck on a problem.

Watch the video to hear what they discovered in their own words. "I see math when I'm walking down the street.... I see math in myself."

For more information on the project click here.

Hat tip to Matt Karlsen

March 07, 2011

Student Personal Tech Devices in the Classroom? A Cartoon Parable

"The Cameraman" - From Cartoonist Chris Ware, animator John Kuramoto and Ira Glass of This American Life. First grade teacher, Jeff Potter tells Ira about an art project and the impact of  personal "technology" in the classroom. 

"The camera really changed the way we behaved.... We lost our humanity."

Were the cameras really responsible for the student insensitively to the fight? Was banning the cameras the only alternative the teachers had? I don't know. I wasn't there. 

But it does strike me that the cameras were also a catalyst to creativity, collaboration, and powerful student engagement. Is this a parable about balancing the benefits and liabilities of cell phones and other student personal technology in the classroom?

Hat tip to David Kwasigroh

March 03, 2011

How to Use Web 2.0 to Teach Literacy Strategies to Struggling Readers


This week I'm heading out to work with intermediate (grade 4-6) teachers on strategies to assist struggling readers. We'll focus on three core skill area - defining, summarizing and comparing using my guide to "18 Strategies for Struggling Readers." Plus I'll introduce some great websites that they can use with the strategies - the new digital literacy meets the old text literacy. 


There are two key elements in each skill area that can help students construct meaning and build background knowledge. 


  • Before the formal definition has been introduced, students should be asked to make connections between their prior knowledge and the term.
  • After the term has been defined, students need activities to more deeply process the term. The focus should be on descriptions, not definitions


  • Students should be asked to make their own judgments about what’s important to them (instead of just repeating the details the teacher highlights).
  • Students will be able to more readily summarize, if they are asked to share what they’ve learned with an audience other than the teacher. They need use a text structure to organize their thinking. 


  • Students should develop the comparison, not simply repeat the model that we present to them.
  • Student should be asked to share what they learned from the comparison. They need use a text structure to organize their thinking.

I've selected some Web 2.0 sites that will enable students to use the strategies in a variety online settings. I've picked free sites that have easy learning curves.  For example, we will use One Word to negotiate meaning through images, explore summarizing text structures with Five Card Flickr and design comparisons with Wordle and Books nGram Viewer.

Working with words

  1. Explore word frequency with Wordle
  2. Search published works with Google Books Ngram Viewer
  3. Foster writing skills with One Word writing prompts
  4. Expand vocabulary and word choice with TelescopicText 

Working with words and images

  1. Create mindmaps and graphic organizers with  
  2. Drag and drop words to create poem based on a photo with Pic-Lits
  3. Foster visual thinking and creative writing with Five Card Flickr 

Kid-friendly search sites

  1. SweetSites
  2. Ask Kids


For more ways to use Web 2.0 sites in the classroom
download a free PDF at my post
"87 Free Web 2.0 Projects For the K-12 Classroom"


Image credit flickr/Mike Licht


March 02, 2011

Vintage 1910 French Postcard Predicts Bill Gates and NCLB

What an uncanny prediction of contemporary American education - digitized information being force-fed into bored students. Looks like a vision of one of those computerized test prep programs guaranteed to bring up the standardized test scores.

But I'm not sure - do you think that's educational savior - Bill Gates, or an overpaid public school teacher unwilling to give away his collective bargaining rights?

For another satirical look at the current education scene see yesterday's post -
"John Stewart "Teachers are Destroying America"


Click image to enlarge

Part of series of images (circa 1910) attributed to French artist Villemard in which he predicted Paris life in 2000. Hat tip to D'Arcy Norman

For another uncanny prediction, see my post "First Google Map Discovered - Created in 1652"

March 01, 2011

Jon Stewart "Teachers are Destroying America"

Thanks Jon for satirizing the latest attempt to pit one segment of  working Americans against another.

"The greed that led you into the profession?" I started teaching for $6700 a year and got to spend my summers standing on a ladder - always hoping I could finish the last of my paint jobs before heading back into the classroom.

Enjoy the clip - when it comes to education, there's little to laugh about these days.
For another satire on the current education scene see my post "Vintage 1910 French Postcard Predicts Bill Gates and NCLB."

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in Dairyland - Message for Teachers
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook


February 27, 2011

Isabella's Story: Working to Sustain Her Sugpiaq Fishing Heritage. Now She's Fighting for Her Life

Regular readers of my blog will recognize how unique this post is. It's far from what I normally write about. But I feel compelled to tell a story in the hopes that I can help spread the word for a friend in need. Isabella, my next door neighbor, is fighting for her life against cancer. You can help with a donation, tweet or status update.
Here's her story.

Isabella Blatchford, a native Alaskan Sugpiaq Indian, was well on her way to creating a sustainable seafood business. (She had already sold to Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse!) She saw it not only as a viable business, but a means to support her Sugpiaq heritage and honor her tribal elders - the last handful of Sugpiaq  speakers. In February 2009, she discovered she had Stage 4 cancer. Using a blend of standard and alternative medical treatments, she was able to beat the odds for the last few years. 

However in February 2011 her cancer tumor markers went back up rapidly, and her doctors are have told her that it is time for a quick change in her method of treatment. She has the opportunity to travel to Mexico for treatment. She is in need of $7,000 by April 20th, 2011 in order to obtain treatment. 

I used my limited editing skills to make this video from some local Portland newscasts. Her brother Richard, created a website to accept donations -

Isabella Update: Here's a story and powerful video from the Oregonian An Alaska native who lives in Portland battles cancer while working to save a tribe's language (April 13, 2011)

Isabella needs your help. Even a small donation will be appreciated. And you can help her get the word out - contribute a Twitter link or a Facebook status update. 

Thank you for anything you can do. 

Photo: Torsten Kjellstrand/The Oregonian

February 21, 2011

ITSC 11 Conference Prezi Cast (Day 2)

Prezi cast 2 This post wraps up my work as guest blogger at the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference 2/20-22, 2011 in Portland, Oregon. It was my first ITSC conference, but it won't be my last. A very impressive line up of facilitators and knowledgeable participants. I'll be back next year! Enjoy the Prezi.

See more of my ITSC11 posts

More of my Prezis. 


February 20, 2011

ITSC 11 Conference Prezi Cast



I'm pleased to be invited as a guest blogger to the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference 2/20-22 in Portland, Oregon. Here's the first installment.



Big hat tip to Mike Gwaltney who helped gather content. Be sure to stop by his blog  "Democratizing Knowledge" for more ITSC 11 coverage.

Stay tuned for more of my ITSC11 posts
Don't forget to conference tweet use hashtag #ITSC11
More of my Prezis 



February 18, 2011

2 Twitter Visualizers: Follow the Backchannel at ITSC 2011 Conference

Nametag_logo_itsc11 I'm pleased to be invited as a guest blogger to the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference 2/20-22 in Portland, Oregon. To help live and virtual attendees follow the backchannel here's two Twitter visualizers based on the the conference hashtag #ITSC11.      

Also - here's my Prezi intro to Portland.

Wiffiti Screen
(2/27/11 Note) Since this visualization is time sensitive, I have posted a short video screen shot. 

Twitter StreamGraph 

Flowing graph of the words most frequently used in the latest 1000 tweets marked with the hashtag #itsc11
View full screen

(2/27/11 Note) Since this visualization is time sensitive, I have posted a screen shot. For the next few weeks you can click on link to live versions.




February 17, 2011

My Portland Prezi Preview to the ITSC 11 Conference


I'm pleased to be invited as a guest blogger to the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference (ITSC) Feb 20-22. Here's my Prezi introduction to my adopted city of Portland, Oregon. Looking forward to meeting all of you.

Stay tuned for more of my ITSC11 posts.  

Don't forget to conference tweet use hashtag #ITSC11

More of my Prezis


February 14, 2011

Instructional Technology Strategies Conference - Portland - Last Days to Register!

ITSC11I'm pleased to be invited as a guest blogger to the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference (ITSC) Feb 20-22 in Portland, Oregon. More  I'll be there, but you better hurry up and register. Registration closes on Wed 2/16!

ITSC 2011 (twitter/ITSCPDX) is hands-on conference with a focus on the practical use of technology in the classroom - workshops are small sessions led by facilitators, not presenters. Plus, I'm available to lead Portland brewpub tours!

Here's a great "ITSC11" SlideShare by Sacha Chua: "The Shy Connector’s Guide to Getting Ready for Conference Awesomeness"  Hope to see you at ITSC11 in PDX!

Jerry Seinfeld: History Teacher - Observations in the SNL Classroom

Seinfeld-history-teacher Last week I used this classic Jerry Seinfeld piece from Saturday Night Live as part of an administrators' workshop. We had lots of fun. Here's your chance to borrow the idea.

Goal: I was working with a team of principals and district administrators who wanted to provide more consistency in their teacher observations and look for strategies for using observations to assist teachers in reflecting on their instructional approaches. We first met at district office before going out to observe a few classrooms and share our impressions. I thought it would be useful (and fun) to warm up with Seinfeld's disastrous history lesson. 

Click to view the video

Here's the process I used:

  1. We watched the video.
  2. A volunteer agreed to take the role of an administrator who just observed Seinfeld teaching. I played the role of Mr. Seinfeld as we both met for a post-observation conference.
  3. I set up a "Fishbowl" discussion group among the remaining participants. Half would pay attention to the administrator conferencing with Seinfeld. They were asked to record two types of admin questions or comments on a T-Chart - either ones that caused Seinfeld (me) to reflect on myself as a teacher or judgmental questions / comments that caused me to get defensive. The second half of the fishbowl group focused on me (Seinfeld). They were asked to record two types of comments I made - either comments where I was reflective on my lesson / teaching or comments where I got defensive / argumentative.
  4. I asked each of the fishbowl groups to compare within their two groups.  We then we shared in a full group discussion.

While there was little positives to find in the Seinfeld lesson - the activity got us thinking about ways in which an administrator can give teachers feedback that is less judgmental and more likely to cause teachers to reflect on their lesson and instructional approaches. 

Sample judgmental admin question: "You say that you want the students to 'think about history' and forget about the details, so why did you start asking a series of content questions on material they had already failed on the test?"
Similar theme explored in a non-judgmental, reflective tone:  "What are some of  the methods you like to use to gather feedback on student mastery of content? How do you use the information to design a lesson?"

It was a great icebreaker and loads of fun for everyone. Later in the day we observed some actual classrooms taught by teachers who had volunteered to host us. We came back together as a group and compared our impressions using the district evaluation instrument. We compared our results to calibrate the observation tool. Our final activity was to develop some feedback to give the teachers who hosted our visits. We crafted comments that were more reflective than judgmental. The volunteer teachers' principal later delivered the feedback to the teachers. 

Everyone thought it was valuable session. I hope you can find some use or ways to modify. 

How to set up a Fishbowl discussion group  Download Fishbowl-discussion 58kb pdf