Monday, December 7, 2009 is Everywhere!

What are you doing the next couple of weeks? How about joining, for FREE, the . If you haven't participated in the k12onlineconference in the past from 2006, 2007, 2008 and now this year 2009, don't worry, you can pick up with this year and still participate in the sessions from 2006 since everything has been archived and believe it or not, it is all still very timely!
If you are thinking that the timing is wrong, you are remembering correctly, the k12online conference used to be in October. But the conveners thought to shake things up and in a global manner has provided the k12online confernce at a time when some of our closest educators are finishing term and going on vacation and have plenty of time to joining in the conference.


Last week I was lucky enough and caught up with a fireside chat with Keynote Kim Cofino. It was amazing to listen to Kim's keynote and then to have her available to ask questions or get more clarity about her presentation. Now where else can you get that kind of connection from a face to face workshop? The best thing about it, was there were over 120 of us in a chat room asking questions of Kim and each other. That fireside chat and text is available at
Take time and head over to and check out the schedule.
Add k12online to your twitter, your facebook and join the k12online ning.

Hope to see you at the next fireside chat! Oh, did I say this is all FREE? Well it is.


You can follow @Twitter k12online

You can follow on Facebook k12onlineconference

You can follow @ the Ning

Cross-posted at

Monday, November 23, 2009

Join me @MathPlayground

Sometimes an educator comes along whom you have the privilege of meeting and having a conversation, and she has a huge impact on your thinking. Last Thursday evening  at Seedlings
excuse the shameless promotion, Alice, Bob and  Cheryl, interviewed Colleen King, an entrepreneur from MA.     She would prefer to be known as a math teacher. Colleen is very humble as a businesswoman and very impassioned as a math teacher!  (Here is the audio of our interview.)
As educators we are always looking for ways to instill a love of learning to our students. In my opinion, textbook companies, state education organizations, national and international standards provides us with the scope and sequence which sets the road map. Then assessments are supposed to provide the checks and balances which indicate how we as teachers, schools, states and nations are performing. We compare ourselves to others and constantly revise and make improvements to what and how we are teaching. We deliver content, we ask students to practice for fluency and achievement improvements and then we move on. At that point most of us consider our job is done, it is up to the students to hold onto the information and then deliver it at the appropriate time. This is where Colleen King differs in her beliefs and delivery.

We have long known that play is the important work of childhood. I would also recommend that is important to adulthood too, but that is another story.You can gain more information by researching the old guys, Piaget and Vygotsky,  and the new guys, Mitch  Resnick  and  Daniel Pink. Here is an interview by Alan November with Daniel Pink.  We know that when children and students play with concepts they internalize their learning and are better able to demonstrate their knowledge across many platforms, problems and solutions. We know students need to reflect and create in order to own their learning. We usually say we don't have time for this allotment of practice and play. However, Colleen found a way. She asked students about gaming, she asked students about motivation and engagement. While it is very important to read, listen and understand how play should be incrementally woven into our classrooms and our thinking,  Colleen King demonstrates this applied thinking to math in unusual and engaging ways for our students. Colleen tutored students and observed, she listened to students and then she went on a crash course and learned programming to bring this to life.
Math Playground Fractions

Please check out her website  to get started. I started with the Fraction Balance,  and moved to the suggested Fraction-Decimal and finally the  Fraction-Percent. When we think about students internalizing fractions, fractions and decimals and finally fractions and percents, we plan good instruction and then give many practice examples and hope that the students understand enough that they will be able to solve problems they eventually encounter in real life and on assessments. Colleen has done an excellent job of bridging the math instruction to math play with gaming, which our students live for. By making games for instructional practice and play, Colleen has provided a way for students to engage in the important work of playing with math tools and rules. As stated on the website,  "is for elementary and middle school students".  However, I contend that many teachers and adults would enjoy the challenges and reminders about how to systematically solve problems and play at math.
As soon as Colleen made this available to students she began seeing how students were using the new tools. Then students modeled her presentation videos and they began filming their problem solving strategies. This is what we want, our students to model, and create. These students are extending their learning and following in Colleen's footsteps of living life as a life-long problem solver and learner.You will see from the videos the students made about solving math problems that they have internalized the process enough to begin creating and teaching, just what we want.
I am glad to be sharing this site with you. I shared today on my Facebook account and within an hour I received a comment from Katie: " I had no idea about thinking blocks! Now my plans are set for tomorrow! :) Have a good holiday!" Please share with your students, their parents, and your friends. Spread the word that it is Math Playtime!
This is part one of a two part series between Cheryl Oakes , Tuesday and Bob Sprankle, Thursday. Give us some feedback and let us know what you think about and more!

Monday, October 26, 2009

When was the last time you watched someone teach a digital learner?

Cross-posted at
Watching a digital learner last week while someone else was teaching was a real treat.

I watched Deb Barrows, a Mission Sales Specialist for Fablevision, and former
technology teacher,
teach Sarah Fryer, who is famous for her youtube response to President Obama's
talk with students, how
to use Animation-ish. Animation-ish is a product produced and sold by
Fablevision, a company dedicated to all learners developing their true

Just as you would create a multi-page comic, a flipbook, you follow the
same idea with Animation-ish. It is similar to creating a storyboard.
It was the tool as much as the process that intrigued me. We were at
the Maine Technology Conference ACTEM, where we heard
Marcos Torres talk about using the resources of youth and media to
learn with our youth. Animation-ish is one tool that I would classify as a current resource our youth will embrace.

Let me take you back to the vendor area at the conference. Deb demonstrated how to use the software to create
a mini story. Sarah watched intently and followed the model and created
a mini-story. Then Deb created a new story at a different level and
Sarah immediately created another story. You can see an example of
Sarah's final creation for the day. Deb commented that, "What I really
loved was watching Sarah use the interactive white board
like a pro! You could actually see her thinking when she was creating
and making choices. It was so cool." Lori Collins, Professional
Development Director for Fablevision, was at the booth and her demonstrations focused
on the options Sarah had with Animation-ish. Both Deb and Lori are
expert teachers and they know how to engage digital learners.Watching Sarah, I was reminded of looking at this moment through the eyes of a
digital learner. How shall we teach differently for our different
Sarah watched while Deb demonstrated. There were no words
exchanged as Sarah drank this all in with her eyes. I watched as she
observed for a few minutes while Deb modeled, then I saw her use her
skills and create her own story. Lori picked out a couple of the
important transitions and demonstrated them to Sarah. Sarah instantly
transformed the the software and the experience into her own creation.
She did not need the steps laid out for her, she did not need a
worksheet to follow along, she viewed a model, created an attempt,
erased, started again, and within 15 minutes she created her own story.
There was no tentativeness, only trial and error, an attempt at an
idea, an assessment, another attempt and then a brief reflection and

Do we need new tools for new learning?
Animation-ish allowed for a story to be told and created. We all have a
story to be told and shared. If we think back to all of the cultures
before the written word was the norm, the history and culture were
shared through oral traditions. Today our learners are visual, our
teaching should be visual, our stories should be visual. We may not be
very sophisticated with our initial attempts at visual story telling,
but our visual stories will be powerful.

Other resources:
Sarah's cooking video Black Bean Dip.
Sarah and Animation-ish You can view a short movie of Sarah using Animation-ish.
ACTEM, Maine Technology Conference

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


365 could be days but in this case it will be photos. There are many folks who have participated in this. Bob Sprankle urged me to try this with my iphone. I can do this and so you will see my FlickR stream.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Compelling Reason for Change!

Usually, we expect the photo to tell a story, a good image is worth 1,000 words.
The set up for the photo. A family party, my 81 year old Mom, my brother and his wife from Virginia unable to make the trip. The computer placed right on the kitchen counter, in the middle of the food, the middle of 28 family members walking through the kitchen, stopping to chat or make a comment, just as we would do if Jeff and Barb were in the room. We were using a freeInternet telephone service called SKYPE, well, free between Skype to Skype. There is a fee if you Skype to a landline or cell phone, but that information is listed on the SKYPE information page.

I am hearing more and more from grandparents who have set up SKYPE on their home computers, so they can see and talk to their grandchildren, each week. I am reminded of purpose. If you had mentioned to those grandparents that they could be in touch with their children, friends or neighbors who have moved away I don't think that would have been enough of a compelling reason to learn something new. However, with the birth of a new grandbaby, time and distance have proven to be overshadowed by a new technology and have given purpose to reach out and see someone.

We use SKYPE at our school to allow community members access to committee meetings. We SKYPE students, who are medically challenged, into their classes. We could SKYPE guest speakers into our classrooms, we could SKYPE grandparents in to visit classes on Bring a Grandparent to School Day. We have the technology, now we need the compelling reason for change. Leave an idea for how you have used video conferencing in your classroom.
Google Video you will need a google account for this.

Monday, September 7, 2009

We Believe in YOU and We Will Help!

I had the opportunity last week to attend Tufts Dental School Parent Orientation. Interesting, our son is 24 and going to Dental School and we were invited to an orientation. I was interested to see what kinds of technology a Dental School would be using. I often refer to dentists and dental practice of years ago and compare that scenario with educators and schools of years ago and then ask people to think about the changes in those professions. Which profession do you think has changed the most? And if one profession has changed significantly, then why hasn't the other?

No surprise that the explicit message of the day was, We believe in you and we will support your journey towards graduation. This was mentioned multiple times throughout the day. I found myself wondering, do all our students hear and believe that message, whether in the youngest grades or a senior in High School? Do all our parents hear that message? Do parents and students believe that school personnel will teach, guide, support and make sure that each student will be successful throughout the grades K-12? Yes, I realize that Tufts is very competitive and they have chosen carefully. However, if that is the excuse or reason we look to as we explain our challenges in public schools, for NOT believing in students or NOT supporting them, then I am sad to be counted among such educators.

Do I do believe that as educators we can explain away our failures and disappointments? Not for long. This is our chance to offer positive change, a chance for a future and a chance to offer what we know will help our students along. We are all, administrators, educators, students and parents, amidst many challenges as we guide our students towards success. If we can promote positive, incremental use of technology and allow each student to accomplish their potential we will realize that We Believe in each student and our support will allow them to be fully functioning citizens in the 21st Century.

Oh, what did I see in terms of technology in the Dental Clinics and classrooms? In the clinic I saw the standard chair for the patient, the tools, the sanitation protocol and one technological change. The patient records were all digitized. No folders or forms but rather a computer set up in each cubicle. In the simulation lab for 170 students the teacher speaks into a mic and projects throughout the lab on multiple FLAT TV screens sprinkled throughout. The instructor also has the ability to project from the computer or the video feed of her during the instruction. The Tufts Dental School also, has a whole digital network for instructors and students with the lectures archived in a variety of modes for future access, digitized books and data bases. All of this I am sure comes at great expense. However, as technology changes and becomes more available we will see the best of these ideas available to the K-12 level. All of this is to say that, We Believe in You and your steps to allow your students to be fully functioning citizens in the 21st Century.
Cross Posted at

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to School in your Neighborhood

This is cross-posted at
I was doing a little research for my back to school post at TechLearning Blog. I read through the blogs of my peers, I researched school calendars of other countries, I researched four  day school weeks, and the reasons why our school calendar is the way it is, in the Northern Hemisphere at least and why school calendars are different in the Southern Hemisphere or not.

All this article intends to be is a jumping off point for a conversation. There are some facts which this post is based on, but no hard core research. That is for someone other than myself. I was surprised to see the last PEW Internet Trust survey about school calendars was in 2004. Maybe PEW has something in the works. I hope so.

As many of us begin our school year in August and September it is interesting to note that most US schools are looking at 177 to 185 student days. In my quick search of overseas school calendars I located some beginning at 185 and extending to 200 student days. This should give us pause, in the US. Why do our students attend school fewer days than our global friends?

Most of us are beginning school at the end of the harvest season. I find this to be true in the Northern Hemisphere as well as the Southern Hemisphere. I understand why this was true a hundred years ago, maybe even 50 years ago, but I don't know the percentage of students and families who are engaged with the harvest of our crops and why this type of calendar should still hold true.

Many schools  base their  calendars with respect to local religions and culture. Many states and countries dictate the school calendar with some variation at the local level. This is true across the globe.

Then the question of the number of days per week that schools are in session. Most schools stick with the traditional 5 days a week. It is interesting that when energy costs rose astronomically some (very few) schools decided immediately that they would make a huge shift and designed school calendars with longer school days and fewer days per week. Did this shift make sense educationally too?

I wonder what it would be like to make a school calendar and school day based on the needs of students and teachers? What is your school calendar based on?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What is in your toolkit?

I am getting ready this week to work with some special educators on a project they have in mind, yet, in addition, I am going to introduce something I know they need and hope they will use. If you have read my posts before, you know I usually speak about purpose, and the reason for trying something, reflecting, and then deciding whether to keep with the new tool, journey, conversation. Here is one conversation I cannot get out of my mind. This post is dedicated to all the students in our classrooms and even those standing outside of our classrooms. I will keep this in my toolkit forever and will do my best to share with others. Thanks to the special educators mentioned in this post they are my heroes.

If I had a dream that I could awaken to in the morning, it would be that all of us had heard of Universal Design for Learning and had this embedded into our daily practice with our students and peers. Karen Janowski recently spoke about Universal Design for Learning at Edubloggerconeast and asked the audience how many had heard of Universal Design for Learning. It was surprising how many great educators in the room had not yet heard of Universal Design for Learning, UDL. What was more surprising was that once this group of educators heard about UDL, they were ready to take the journey. We would love for you to join us, too.

What is UDL? The CAST website describes it as: Universal" does not imply a single optimal solution for everyone. Instead, it is meant to underscore the need for multiple approaches to meet the needs of diverse learners.
UDL mirrors the universal design movement in architecture and product development. Think of speakerphones, curb cuts, and close-captioned television—all universally designed to accommodate a wide variety of users, including those with disabilities.
Embedded features that help those with disabilities eventually benefit everyone. UDL uses technology's power and flexibility to make education more inclusive and effective for all.

Isn't that what using technology is all about? Finding alternative ways of completing an activity? Can you think of a Universal Design concept that you yourself have benefited from? Now, can you image using this model in your classroom? (My favorite examples of UDL that I personally benefited from are posted here.)

With UDL options and strategies two exceptional classroom teachers Lisa Parisi and Christine Southard have accomplished what we all strive for. What did they do? How did they do it? By adopting UDL strategies and their own philosophy these two fabulous educators have added this to their list of accomplishments: 96% of their students, both regular and special ed, had achieved or exceeded grade level standards in both reading and math. from the UDL spotlight

You can read about an award they won from the CAST spotlight, nominated by Karen Janowski. (Check out Karen's blog, as well.) The CAST website and the associated websites offer a virtual classroom for educators in how to plan for your lessons, strategies for students, a network of others who are working in the UDL field. This will require some reading on your part and then some elbow grease to add new components to your daily class management. Read Lisa's open letter to Jason, a science instructor, about how he can introduce UDL into his classroom. Her letter is compelling and at the same time a roadmap to success for anyone wishing to use UDL strategies. Check out Christine's blog for more insight on how UDL affects their teaching, their thinking and their classroom pedagogy.

We can all do this! Lisa mentions that a PLN, personal learning network will help. Here is the address to a Personal Learning Network you can join. Please consider this your PLN, share, ask questions, get support and watch your students thrive.

This may be the most impressive thing you can do for your students this year. Add UDL to your toolkit. Share your experiences with us. Next year when Karen asks, "How many have heard about UDL?", I want all the hands in the room to be proudly raised!
If you have other resources please share them here with us!
Image from:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What do effective K-12 technology leaders do?

What do effective K-12 technology leaders do? What actions and behaviors can you point to that make them effective leaders in the area of technology?

I liked this beginning blog post on Leadership, so thanks to Judi, Judith Epcke, a District Technology Integration Specialist in Northbrook, IL.

Happy Leadership Day 2009! As I watched my twitterfeed today, I noticed the hashtag #leadershipday09. After a little investigating, I learned that Leadership Day was started by Scott McLeod in 2007. The idea behind this day is for bloggers to craft posts to assist their (or any) administrator with the idea of being a leader with regard to educational technology. As Dr. McLeod says,

Administrators’ lack of knowledge is not entirely their fault. Most of them didn’t grow up with these technologies. Many are not using digital tools on a regular basis. Few have received training from their employers or their university preparation programs on how to use, think about, or be a leader regarding digital technologies.

Scott's call to join him on Leadership Day 2009 was all I needed,plus Judi's blog post to get me started. I chose this prompt: What do effective K-12 technology leaders do? What actions and behaviors can you point to that make them effective leaders in the area of technology?

When I reflect on conversations I have had with administrators, who I consider movers and shakers using technology to compliment their administrative skills, there is one common denominator I have observed; a willingness to try something new. I don't mean trying some new software program or web tool just to try something out. Rather, the administrator has had a chance to zero in on a problem, look for solutions and has a purpose for trying something new. Often, when I am working with individuals this process is time consuming with many days between the initial identification of a problem, a time to research and get back to the administrator with some possible solutions and then the actual trial of a solution.

If I could encourage administrators to try one thing it would be for all administrators and educators to join a Personal Learning Network. Usually, a PLN is an online network where you reach out and touch someone virtually. Pose a question or problem to your own network and have those experts give you support to try some solutions they have tried. The wisdom of your team will astonish you if you have never tried this type of problem solving. Your PLN doesn't have to be local to your school, your district or your state. Through many social networks you will find a network that meets your needs. Start first with your favorite professional organization. If that group doesn't have a social network started look to the next organization. You will be demonstrating to your staff and students a new way of problem solving, the way of our future.

Please read Scott McLeod's follow-up post for Leadership Day 2009.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

#NECC09 Bernie Dodge Place Puzzles, bring field trips to the classroom

Please also read this post by my good friend Susan Van Gelder

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thinking of sharing your technology projects? Have a Technology Student Showcase~!

photo by Alice Barr
Sometimes you make a plan because you want to learn something new, other times you make a plan and when you learn how much you didn't know you are so glad you followed through! Well, on June 13, 2009, Alice Barr and I drove to Newport , Maine in order to attend the Technology Student Showcase at Sebasticook Valley Middle School or here at Sebasticook Valley Middle School. Am I ever glad we did! Not only did Alice and I have a good time catching up about technology in both our schools, our new superintendents, new macbooks our teachers and students will receive in the fall, but, also we were excited to participate in a student technology showcase and hopefully bring some ideas home to our respective school districts.

We were greeted in the parking lot by Drew and his teacher Keith Kelley, who explained how students chose a project to rebuild an old Mustang convertible. Drew excitedly and carefully explained the steps involved in the rebuilding process, how hard it was, how many times they had to rebuild the steering mechanism and how proud he was to see the finished product. Then Kern Kelley met us at the sidewalk and began the tour of the Technology Student Showcase Spring 2009. He handed us a Scavenger Hunt, so we would be sure to view each project spread throughout the school building. We first ran into a student carrying around an Acer Netbook, headphone and mic attached, Skyping with Cindy Lane, a google certified teacher from St. Louis, who had made an appointment for a 15 minute tour of the showcase event. How many of your middle school students would be comfortable talking to a computer screen, as they video conferenced their way through a tour? Does this sound like a marketable skill for our 21st Century Literate students?

Then we viewed the mock up of the building and school mascot, that the students had created in Google Sketchup. The students had re-created their school building in 3D, right down to the detail of the full size moose in the school library. (after all it is Maine). There was a plugin for Google Sketchup that allowed anyone to hold up a specific piece of paper with a print out of a design in front of the video camera which portrayed a 3D visual of the school mascot or the school. How many of your middle school students would be comfortable designing a mock up of their school or any item related to school? Does this sound like a marketable skill for our 21st Century Literate students?

Then we proceeded upstairs to the Gallery of product designs. This was a gallery of items that 7th graders built in a design class, based on a raw skateboard decks from a local Maine business of a well known skateboard. The students were challenged to use a skateboard or multiple skateboards to design something that they would buy, or others would purchase. Not only were items for sale during the showcase, but if an item did not sell, then the teachers were going to put these items out on ebay to recoup some money for purchasing more supplies, or some student entrepreneurs would actually split the profits after paying for their own supplies. There were skateboard photo frames, skateboard shelves, skateboard push carts and even a very inviting game chair made with skateboards with cushions. How many of your middle school students would be comfortable designing a product for re-sale? Does product design sound like a marketable skill for our 21st Century Literate students?

After that we walked through the darkened gymnasium where several groups were playing Wii bowling, Wii exercise and RockBand. I was disappointed not to get a chance at RockBand, but we were much too busy. We traveled upstairs and found a part-year Art Room, and part-year Technology Education Room. Keith explained that he works at both middle schools for a half year each. He has a specific curriculum for each grade level. 5th and 6th graders work on hands on projects and build self propelled or wind propelled boats, or motorized cars. Then 7th graders begin product design using guitar kits or skateboard decks. Finally, 8th graders spend a half year designing and building their own skateboard from scratch. They use drills, routers and all kinds of paints and polyurethane to complete their projects. The student create and vote on a graphic design for their year as 8th graders. The logo is then transferred to each skate board. The students have skateboarding and skateboard safety in their physical education classes. This is a team effort! How many of your middle school students would be comfortable designing a product for their own use? Does product design sound like a marketable skill for our 21st Century Literate students?

Finally, Alice and I ended up in the computer lab where the 8th graders one year, built computer towers for a lab for student use. There were some 6th graders explaining their projects, their osprey webcam, their osprey book and their research projects as well as their Kerpoof video projects. Throughout all the projects and conversations we had with students there were 2 common denominators. One, most often the students spoke of collaborating on their projects, not only in the one class, but collaborating with a team who worked asynchronously on the same product. How did they manage? The just wrote notes, said one student. However, when pressed, they wrote notes in Google Docs when appropriate and other times, they left big notes taped to their robots to let their team know what needed to happen next. Or in a research team, the students worked in a google spreadsheet in order to determine the next steps. These students articulated that this is the wave of the future and they are just practicing what they imagine they will be faced with in their workplace someday soon. How many of your middle school students would be comfortable researching, collaborating asynchronously? Does this kind of work sound like a marketable skill for our 21st Century Literate students?

Check out the video for a tour of our day. or view here What are you doing to practice 21st Century Literacy? Will you be marketable in the 21st Century? Oh, BTW, the 21st Century is now.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Where does your library fit in the 21st Century Skills continuum?

This is a response to Darren Drapper's latest post at TechLearning. The post is a collection of quotes from some of our best thinkers and practioners in the field of library media science. Darren's question What is your vision for the ideal school library and what role do Media Specialists play? prompted my response:

"I see the ideal school library media center as the hub of our ideal media literate schools. I take the word media very literally and seriously. The hub should be the life of the school, the staff, the students and the larger community. The ideal school library media center should be the conduit to the world and other library centers. Where better to exemplify the collaborative nature of our lives than the library media center? As many of us know from experience, the virtual resources we have at our finger tips are exponential. We can use them all to our advantage, we can solve problems by interacting with digitized information. However, unless we have that ideal library media center at our disposal and an opportunity for some f2f, face to face, interaction, we will be living in a echo chamber and our solutions and ideas will not resonate with our world. My ideal library media center would have a window to the world where anyone, staff or students could video conference with an individual or group and get out of the echo chamber. What an opportunity! Can't wait to hear some other ideas. Thanks for the post Darren."

What is your ideal library media center all about?
I know our public librarian and I have had this conversation. I didn't have any answers at the time, but I know it is a conversation worth continuing. I am in the middle of proposing a 3 year Technology Plan for our district. I know the time my committee and I have spent working on this has been informative and will change how we go about the business of creating 21st Century Citizens. The consequences are immense, the conversation needs to happen, the disruptive push needs to move our school walls and our library media center walls.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

MLTI Student Conference 2009

Please check out the results to our survey questions here

A few months ago, I along with Kern Kelley, Alice Barr, and Sarah Sutter, were asked to be part of a presentation to 800 MLTI students at a student conference on the University of Maine campus. After several sessions on SKYPE and planning with conference organizer Jim Moulton, the 5 of us, were going to present to an auditorium of 800 participants in an interactive fashion. How can 800 participants interact with the presentation? With Google online tools! Wait a minute! I know we have a hard time when we get 20 students in a classroom using a wireless access point in one room, we freeze up, have slow speeds getting to a website, but with 800, oh my!
Jim assured us that the University would get their best thinkers and doers working on this. Dr. Bruce Seegee and the fine engineers from CISCO took on this mission and would actually join us in the session to watch the bandwidth use and troubleshoot if necessary. This would be a perfect opportunity for all the conference participants to observe what happens behind the scenes to make things work at their schools and for all to see that when using technology we always have a backup plan.
Our presentation was the final session at the end of a very busy and productive day. Our session was titled (

Block 3 - Only Google is big enough - Everyone, all together, one room, one session!

o In 2009 Good Questions are More Powerful Than Good Answers - Google Super Session (Alice Barr - Yarmouth High School; Kern Kelley - MSAD #48; Cheryl Oakes - Wells Ogunquit CSD; Sarah Sutter - Wiscasset High School)Maine's own team of Google certified educators will be leading the whole gang through a series of activities that will demonstrate the power of the Google Toolset. Sure, we all use Google, but wait till you see what you can do when you understand how to leverage Google's power to go beyond getting answers and learn how to use Google to ask your own thoughtful questions of people in your class, in your school, around your state, or even around the world!

As part of the preparation, the five of us, created a series of questions in a Google Form, and sent the questions out to our worldwide networks, in 10 days we collected information from all our personal networks, and after some clamoring this information is published for all to share and use. Thank you to all who participated in our survey. We hope you will create a survey that we can participate in at some point in the future.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My favorite school project cross posted at

Staying in Character for Sarah Brynes
Permanent link

My favorite project is gearing up. How can it be my favorite, it is only the second time doing this with students? Well, the energy the project created and sustained, the comments from students, and the story all rolled into one, it is my favorite project. There is so much crammed into this project! There is something for everyone, including students, teachers, administrators, parents and students!

You can follow these guidelines and create your own social network project with any book you are using with your students. A NING, is a great social network to use with students ages 13 and older. NING is a very supportive site, and if the project is for an educational institution the NING folks will remove the ads from your ning site. All you need to do is email them, tell them your NING URL, say you are a school and ask for the ads to be removed.
The full directions are at posted here. Please try this out. We have been very happy for years with our free Ning service. The whole process took me 1 minute to fill out the form, and then wait 2 days for the ads to disappear. It couldn't be easier!

The eighth grade teachers, I am working with, chose a book for all 120 students to read. Part of the writing the students are asked to do is about writing in character. So, for this book, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, all the students read, choose a character they want to be, create a page in the Ning site and then blog, answer questions, create an avatar all in character. The name we chose for the Ning is, Staying in Character for Sarah Brynes. We hope by adding this piece of technology the students will feel free to write with purpose, share with purpose and think outside of themselves. By adding this work to a Ning, we create a social network where students can work while in class and continue conversations outside of the school day.

When our students join the ning they must fill in a profile with required questions. Sometimes this part takes a lot of thinking since we are asking them to respond in character immediately. This sets the stage as they answer questions about their zodiac sign, their moods, who they would like to meet, etc. Here is my profile:
About Me: Ms. Lemry Moods:empathic, supportive, futurist Who Would I like to meet?Eleanor Roosevelt Interests: gardens Zodiac Sign: Gemini Describe your life-changing moment and how it changed you. My life changing moment each year, is when I meet students who have grown another year older. I love hearing student ideas about school, technology, the future. I think it best when I attend 8th grade and 12th grade graduations and see what wonderful young people you have all become. Once the students get past the profile page, they head off and create an avatar of their character. We use this free avatar service. This is always fun for our students to compare their avatar with all the other Ms. Lemry's and avatars their peers have of the same characters in the book. After their avatar is posted they begin answering 3 prompts left by their teachers. The students/characters are also encouraged to comment to the other characters at they populate the Ning and as they answer the prompts.

When we started this project last school year in May, we had 4 weeks of school left, we will be in a similar position this year. I was sure that the students would start out in character, but soon would revert to themselves and comment about their dances, weekends, and their own 8th grade graduation. However, that did not come to pass. The students stayed in character for the entire project. The students had very thoughtful comments and blog responses.

This year I hope that the author, Chris Crutcher will check out the Ning and see how he has positively affected the students in our school. After all, by posting in our Ning we will have a wider audience. Check out Chris Crutcher's myspace. Our Ning will have opening day June 6, 2009. You can check out the main page from last year for an idea about what this looks like What is your latest book project?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

cross posted at

This is the perfect letter that we are all waiting for. So, we are sharing this with all of you who are intrepid technology users, early adopters, keep trying things, keep taking risks.

Dear Mr. P and Mrs. O,

I just wanted to let you both know how impressed I am re: the Ning Our Space site and the Our Tube site. Ted was very anxious to share his site with me.
The poetry video was a wonderful surprise, I watched many of the students and really was surprised @ the level of confidence some of the students showed.
I also think that this is a wonderfully safe way to introduce our children to Social Networking sites.

Thank you for allowing them this opportunity and for communicating this project so well through my child.

Have a great vacation week,

a parent

This was the best way to begin my spring vacation and will provide the motivation to keep using these new Web 2.0 tools with our students.

If you have followed my blog entries this entry is a follow-up to my Meet a 21st Century Learning, a Prosumer, a Student! post.

As teachers, we create projects, invest our time and our students' time in the projects which really are about the process of learning and demonstrating new skills. The project that our 8th grade language arts teachers and students have worked on all year, OurSpace, is about to come to an end. If you have followed my posts I apologize for this quick summary. We created a ning, kept it private-or a walled garden, as a place for our students to live in a social network where we demonstrate cyber-netiquette, appropriate chat, non-cyberbullying, copyright, creative commons with photos and music and finally uploading of a video poetry project. There is one more piece to this year long project, the piece that started the project, a pilot-an idea that blossomed to this full fledged project, one year ago this month. Next week, the teachers and students begin working in the Ning and take on a character in the book Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher and actually live out the book through a series of descriptions, dialogues and predictions. It is a clever project enhanced by the social networking tools of the day.Since the projects are in a walled garden I captured a page from last year and published it here for you to view. (

Often times we rely on our students to 'promote' what we are experiencing in our classes. In theory that is a practice we would like to continue, however, in our busy times we need to be explicit about how that happens. In our case, a note when home to all parents explaining that the students' culminating poetry video project would be published on their web (ning) page. The projects are a glimpse into what is happening in our classes, a glimpse into what is happening in a teen's life, and a glimpse into how each individual student added to the quality and intensity of the grade level poetry project. When we make our classrooms transparent, we take a risk. This is what we must model for our students, the risk is part of the learning and the experience. A note from a parent is worth the risk. Listening to several students who personally thanked me at the end of multiple classes is worth the risk, the student who began her own ning site is worth the risk.

I must thank our school community for taking a risk using Web 2.0 21st Century Tools to enhance literacy. I must thank our principal who champions the use of technology and takes a risk every day promoting these different tools. Of course the teachers are very high on my list as they struggle, with me, through the newness of the landscape. The students did all the work, so a huge thank you to them for paving the way for newer projects to continue in years to come. These skills will keep them on the cutting edge of our ever changing work and career environments. Finally, our parents, I must thank them for attending the Internet Safety evenings, listening and trying out new challenges with their very savvy Internet students, keeping up with the new paths of this digital world. A huge thanks to a parent who found the time to write a note expressing what many parents are thinking and experiencing as they take this digital journey with their students. This makes it all worth the risk.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Oh, this stirred things up!

After reading David Warlick's blog post , which was a response to Wes Fryer's blog post, and having left a comment for David, I had to post myself and continue the conversation!

David and Wes were both blogging about Solutions for Dropout Prevention and the recent Dropout Prevention Summit that Wes attended in Oklahoma.I recommend these blog posts as great reading and fodder for an even greater conversation. Include the students in this conversation.

When I put myself in the place of a student in college, high school, middle school and elementary school, what are my eyes be seeing? A time to be f2f with my people. A time to text about what happened last night. A time to share a youtube. A time to wonder about some of the usefulness of some assignments. When I listen to what excites our students what am I listening to? My professor emailed me some really constructive comments for my essay. She really used the technology. I learned how to use the copy machine to scan a document to my email!(A really useful skill for this time!IMHO)Thanks for teaching us how to blog on a ning, it is the coolest part of my day, I can't believe I am in school when I am on my blog! We are playing a math game and giving feedback to the developers!
Have you seen such things in your school? Have you heard such things in your school? What can make the difference?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Resistant to Change?

See if this applies to you?

old snow shoes, new snowshoes, how hard is that???

BubbleShare: Share photos - Easy Photo Sharing

Many of you are probably thinking it is a no brainer, new snowshoes! Well, I am going to make a connection here from old wooden snowshoes, comfort, a known quantity and any new technology, uncomfortable, an unknown and new, just plain new.

Why did I drag my old snowshoes out of the basement to go snowshoeing with friends?
They were there.
I knew how to use them.
I knew they would work.

What was my purpose for snowshoeing on a winter day?
I wanted to go snowshoeing on a windy day when the ski lifts were not operating.
I wanted to be with my friends.

What were the results?
I grabbed my ski poles, for balance and breaking trail.
I put on my snowshoes.
I hiked perfectly in the snow.
I slipped and slid all over the ice.
My friends did not slip and slide with their new and improved technologically tuned snowshoes.
This is pretty funny, you are the geeky girl and you have the oldest equipment!

What did I think after the trip?
All during the hike my friends commented on how unwieldy my old snowshoes were.
Several people commented during the hike, oh are those your grandfathers snowshoes?
I did slip and slide out of control on the ice while my friends with the new 'technology' were able to move through snow and ice with ease.

How does this relate to technology and our classrooms? We need to plan. We take out the tried and true. It has always worked. It will work again.
We continue on until someone in our network, asks us to join them. We may be reluctant, we may go along with them giving the excuse that we don't have time to try something new, the old way has worked..... but I ask you to ask yourself.
Why are you doing something?
What is your purpose?
How are your results?
After you reflect will you do this the same way again?

That is all we can ask of ourselves, if we can affirm that what we are doing is the best and we have the results to prove it, then that is all we can ask of ourselves. However, if we have a network where we can share and reflect and try something new, compare the results then that may be the best that we can do for our students. Are you still resistant to change?
Not me, I purchased some .... some new pink ultra modern snowshoes!
LLBean photo.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Meet a 21st Century Learner, a prosumer, a student!

For the past couple of months I have worked with 100 eighth graders as they navigate their way through a private Ning, a social network, we created for their language arts classes. We followed the protocol of creating gmail accounts for the students based on a special gmail account. The end result is that the students do NOT use that email to receive any communication. The communication from teachers and students takes place on the Ning. (This in effect is due to the CIPA regulations for students under the age of 14. )

The Ning was created as a walled garden where students can practice their online skills in a supportive environment. The skills we are teaching have to do withinternet safety, cyber citizenship, appropriate use of content, specifically looking at Creative Commons and how to find music, images and video that is available for shared use. The language arts teachers use the site for writing prompts and soon will open it as a forum for discussing a grade level novel. The clever name of theNing is grade8ourspace .

Students spend class-time working on their writing prompts, they reflect and comment to other classmates instead of the teacher being the only one to comment on a prompt. Students soon realized that they could use the site all hours of the day or week, including weekend days and they were posting their own writing prompts for their peers. I have to admit that I thought their prompts generated much more conversation than the prompts about character development. However, if we don't start with character development, there may not be the next level of writing!

Here are some examples of student prompts :
Relationship problems?
Where do you go? Who do you talk to? Who will listen? Will they understand? Why don't they care? Doesn't anyone feel the same way?

Feeling alone and depressed.

Many teenagers between the age of 13-18 go through depression. It could because of parents divorce, friend fight, losing a boyfriend/girlfriend or living in regret.
There were 22 comments in response to this.

What is your idea for the 8th grade trip?

I would like to get some good ideas for the meeting we have with Mr.G, so what are you ideas?

What is your fear?

My fear is falling off tall things like cliffs or the stage or the thingy on the rock wall. And spiders they are just creepy and gross!!!!!!

Each student prompt had about 20 responses, or 20% of the students. The teacher prompts had the full class of students responding and then students responding to other students.

During school vacation, I received an invitation to another ning. The Ning was created by one of our students. I joined and was happy to see a decidedly different ning. The student had invited all the 8th graders and teachers. The Ning was created just because she could. I asked if I could interview her about this and she agreed.
This is what I learned. Darian started the Ning because she was bored. She thought up the name based on her personality. She send out a broadcast notice to join her Ning to all in the Language Arts Ourspace Ning. So far about 20 people have responded. She mentioned that it was a place to hang out and have conversations about anything anyone decided to write. At her site, the members started a couple of groups. One student has added a series of videos about "Who will sit with Josh?" This is a spin off of a YouTube series about a boy and his life. Another group that has started up is Save the Wildlife,A place to talk about animals... and environment!! About our planet and other things to like recycling!!
Darien mentioned that her creation of this Ning will probably help her in the future when she is working. I asked some questions about being the creator of the site and if she had a plan about how long she would keep the site alive,( probably forever) and if she knew how to make the site private or how to block people. She confessed that she saw those were possibilities but hadn't read how to do that. I shared some tips with her and she made some changes.

What does all this mean and how does it relate to schools, teachers, curriculum and content? The ourspace for language arts Ning, social network, was received well by the students and teachers. Many of the students began their own prompts and participated in replies to multiple questions on the language arts Ning. This was allowed and monitored. Once Darien realized the power of the network she then created her own social network to reflect her personality. Darien also confided that another student she knew created a family Ning for her own family. I don't believe we can restrict and confine learning to our school day hours. I am hopeful that with more Web 2.0 tools and less emphasis on school control, that we will open the pathways for our students to participate in their own form of on demand learning. How can educators use the current online real estate for projects to continue 24/7 learning? What are some projects that make sense for our digital learners? What are the tools we can provide? What are the connections we can offer? Once we share these kinds of tools we can't close Pandora's Box, why would we want to?

I want to thank the students at my middle school. I learn so much from them each day. We are on this journey together. The names were changed for this blog post. You know who you are!

Friday, March 6, 2009

A stunning video listen to the voices.

This video is an excellent video to watch prior or after a book talk on Disrupting Class by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael Horn and Curtis W. Johnson. The SEEDLINGS were honored to have Michael Horn with us on Thursday March 5, 2009 to discuss the implications for all educators, students and parents.
Sharon Betts offered up this video as a reminder to us about who are customers really are.

What do you think?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Conquering a Challenge!

 Cross-posted at
Two years ago I tried something I had never tried before. I entered the Mt. Dew Vertical Challenge ski race. My first race was all new to me. I had never raced on skis, never in a slalom and never in a crowd of all ages from 5 year olds to 70 year olds. My heart was pounding when I reached the gates during my first race in 2007. My purpose was to have fun, but in the process I discovered the same kind of feeling many of us have when we encounter something new and challenging.

In January 2009, at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, I raced the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge slalom course. My youngest son raced at the same time I did, he was on his snowboard trying to best his record. I started out with him, but soon was pretty far behind him, but I keep at it.  I was almost as nervous as the first time I raced and throughout my race I talked my way through the slalom course to the  bottom. I kept reminding myself that I could keep going fast and not to slow down until I was past the finish line.   By the time I was at the end of the slalom course and still standing, I was thinking about whether I had beat my old record and if I had improved. My goal for the entire year had been to beat my previous time, and since I moved into a new age group I hoped I could be first in my age group.

While I was racing this year, I was reminded  that when I am presenting to others, I have to imagine that there are some in the audience who are feeling nervous, scared, and probably that "just get me out of here before anyone notices how little I know feeling". I think all presenters who are mindful of that nervous feeling will be able to reach some timid members in the audience and encourage them to try something new with purpose.

I am happy that I have kept at my own Vertical Challenge for the past three years. I am happy that each year I have gotten a little bit faster. I am happy and surprised to report that I did win my age group, FIRST PLACE. I have a medal to prove that I won, but just knowing that I kept at it was enough for me. As much as I enjoyed winning, I am confident that I will remember the nervous, heart pounding sensation that accompanies trying something totally new and out of my comfort zone. If I can take that to each professional development event that I am involved in and share, I hope those in the audience will gain some confidence that they too can conquer any challenge. I will be right behind you!

Oh, by the way, my son not only won his age division but was the fastest snowboarder on the mountain! Way to make his momma proud!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How are you using technology in your school?

How are you using technology in your school? cross posted at

School systems have done a great job getting up to speed with getting information into the Student Information System (SIS) with technology. The technology is available, for example, to make attendance an automated part of the day, and now attendance is easier and more efficient than in the past.

When aggregated information needs to be looked at it is easy to sort and filter the information in order that the presentation is timely and focused.

Rather than looking through pages and columns and rows of information trying to find a needle in a haystack, teachers and administrators can answer a question using a filter or sort. When you ask teachers or administrators to give examples of how technology is being used today in their schools they can quickly list things like attendance, testing, looking at data, communicating with the staff by email, communicating with the public, by email and webpages.

The teachers did not readily come up with how technology has impacted their instruction. I wonder why?

Our teachers are using an online writing program to score student writing, at first this was confused with supplanting the way students would learn how to write, but in the long run, it provides a structure on how students should write giving the teacher lots of time to work with individuals on the how to write and individual instruction. So, in effect you can say that technology allows the teacher the opportunities to give more individual instruction while others are writing. The teacher has the same goal to instruct students on how to write a descriptive paragraph, give students time to practice and to write for an audience. Technology can help but it doesn't take over.

My son told me that in college he has an awesome writing teacher, she uses the technology to edit his work and by using arrows and speech bubbles on the papers he emails her as her feedback, she gives him guidance on how to improve. She is able to tailor the instruction to her individual student. He liked it, maybe it made the edits and changes more about his writing. Maybe it made the edits more focused about the writing and he was able to get past that it felt like it was directed at him the person.

How are you using technology differently in your instruction? Do you have some suggestions about what made your students more interested and engaged in their work? Share them with the group here in the comments.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

7 things Meme, thanks Jennifer Dorman

When I was checking my technorati account I found I had been tagged by Jennifer Dorman in a Meme. This is a fun way to share with the network, some things about myself that they many not know.
Quickly put:
1. I am a Webhead since 2005, February. Being a Webhead has opened many doors.
2. I am a Webcaster, at EdTechTalk, Thursdays a SEEDLINGS show 19:30 GMT.
3.I am getting ready for the Mt. Dew Challenge, this weekend. Looking to break my record.
4. I get to blog with one hundred 8th graders at my school, and one hundred 5th graders, can you say busy?
5. I love my job at Wells Ogunquit CSD where teachers, students and our community touch the future.
6. Meeting my virtual friends/network in a face 2 face setting is a highlight of any year!
7. I am teaching in an online class with the best group images4education!

I will tag Susan Ettenheim, Alice Barr, Carla Arena, Sarah Sutter, Jeff Bailey, Jim Burke
Ernie Easter (who already has posted his 7 meme)

Happy Learning and Sharing, it is about the conversations!