Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Whew. First field trip of the year is history. Now on to the stuff I did not do last night. Sent out an email to school staff about a coupla mini workshops I'll offer at our inservice day Friday. Hope somebody comes.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

About me

(Updated July 14, 2007)

I'm going to start with a bit of current philosophy and get to the bio stuff later. Scroll down to get to that business.

I've doing technology related activities in the classroom for a long time, and I believe my perspective may be a little unique. I've been teaching the same grade (third) now for 16 years. In the same school. In the same classroom for the last 13 years. So, many things have stayed the same. It's nice not to have to worry about stuff like where you're teaching, what grade level you'll be teaching, having to learn a whole new curriculum, etc, etc, etc. That's a huge bunch of energy most teachers have to put out quite often. I choose to put mine elsewhere.

I also get to see things - like kids and technology - change with a clearer perspective. I don't have to wade through the variables of location and age to see how kids are changing, or to see how their use of technology is changing. Most of the other variables stay the same. The big changes are the technology and the kids. And that's where my energy goes. Every spare ounce, I have after I've jumped through the administrative directive hoops.

It was interesting when Friedman's The World is Flat came out. I absolutely gobbled it up. For me, it affirmed that I have been doing absolutely the right things with my third graders for the last dozen years. I am teaching them the skills they will need to succeed when they join the work force. Not the specific skills, of course - but the mindset, the attitude, the way of looking at learning and working together, the ability to learn how to learn, with confidence.

My Work
I'm a third grade teacher in the Seattle Public Schools. I've been doing this at Arbor Heights Elementary School for 16 years now - yikes! Before that, I taught special ed. - severe behavior disorders - for 10 years. So I'm no spring chicken.

I'm obviously very much into technology in education. It's something I've been doing since 1993, when I got an Internet account through NASA's Quest program. In August of 1994 I started up my school's web site. It was the 9th or 10th elementary school with a web site in the world. It is the only one of that group remaining at the same URL - on a personal account, as it has been since since day one. - or these days, will get you there. Let's see, other big markers...

In the spring of 1994 I started The Earth Day Groceries Project. A ritual I go through each spring, it has become the largest educational activity coordinated on the Internet. Of all the web sites and Internet activities I've ever done, the Earth Day Groceries Project is the one that floats my boat, makes me feel like I've made a difference - and the one that connects me most closely with other teachers around the world. Five years ago, I established it as a non-profit 501(c-3). There is a blog, of course :)

I've been using Internet technologies in the classroom with my third graders since 1994. We started out with a 286 laptop and a 2400 baud modem, dialing up to my personal Internet account. Today I have 17 computers in there (4 are laptops), and we are of course on a high speed connection.

I wrote a chapter in Innovative Approaches to Literacy Education: Using the Internet to Support New Literacies that chronicles much of the story of my early years working with technology in the classroom. Published in April of 2005, and an IRA Book Club Selection in June of 2005, the book (my writing in particular) seems hopelessly out of date by today's standards. But there are still good stories and ideas...

My Life
I live in Seattle, Washington, USA, not far from where I teach. I ride my bicycle to work every day. I have a wonderful and talented wife. Our teeny home is made even smaller by our three cats (here's the other guy in the fam). The rest of my biological family lives in CT and NY. I've been out west since 1973. BA (psychology) from UConn in '73, MEd (sp. ed.) from U. of Washington in '81.
Hobbies outside of tech related stuff - birdwatching, music (only listening, anymore), home brewing (I grow my own hops). I wish for more time in the day, every day...

Other web work
I started publishing web pages and sites before the first book on html was written (1994). Here are a few that I am responsible for:
Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Peregrine Falcon Slideshow

and of course the newest, where I spend way too much time:

Tune in about a year from now for another scintillating update... -

About this blog

(updated July 14, 2007)

Welcome to my personal blog. I'm Mark Ahlness, a third grade teacher at Arbor Heights Elementary School in Seattle, Washington, USA. I'm using the back end to power this blog, while hosting it on Some may recognize the root URL as the Arbor Heights home page. This blog does not have anything to do with the school web site, the Seattle School District, or anything related to or owned by the school district. The views expressed here are my own. I've owned and maintained since 1994.

This space is a place for me to talk about what's going on with technology in education, share ideas with others, etc. I sometimes throw in a bit about family life, birding, etc.

If you have feedback to me that you'd rather send in an email, feel free to do so, at

Peace - Mark