Friday, December 29, 2006

Good news to end the year

Two pieces of good news from Andy Carvin this morning:
  1. DOPA Dies on the Vine
  2. Updates on Seymour Papert

Believing that DOPA might die and hoping that Mr. Papert might continue to recover - these are good ways to end 2006.

Thinking positive thoughts, this morning I removed the "Revise DOPA" widget on the sidebar of this blog. Thanks to Brian Grenier for developing and sharing it with everyone!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Family Internet Night

On December 5, 2006, I hosted a Family Internet Night in my third grade classroom at Arbor Heights Elementary in Seattle. Families were encouraged to come and learn about the classroom blog at – and to talk about online safety for the kids.

Lights and SnowflakesTurnout was great, I thought. Eight families came, a total of 25-30 people filled the room. We turned out the classroom lights, turned on the holiday lights that encircle the room, fired up the laptop and projector on the PowerPoint presentation, and we were off, for about an hour.

I recorded the audio on a little mp3 player/recorder strapped to my arm. The audio is 41 minutes long. It is NOT a professional presentation by any means, but it IS a genuine conversation with a third grade teacher, his kids, and their parents – all struggling together to learn and understand what this all means…

The podcast (4.8 MB) runs 41 minutes.

The PowerPoint presentation (1.5 MB) guided the conversation.

Listening suggestion: Follow along with the PowerPoint presentation while listening to the audio. On the other hand, the audio stands on its own pretty well, I think.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Five things

It's taken me too long to respond to Doug Noon's tagging me to write about five things that people might not know about me. Honestly, what has held me up the most was figuring out what five people I should, tag, or send this on to. Now that I've figured that out (see below), here is my list:
  1. I ride my bicycle to school every day. Rain, shine, snow, sleet, whatever. It's only a mile and a half, but there are some BIG hills.
  2. I am a voting member of the Recording Academy (the Grammy's). For several years I sang with the Seattle Symphony Chorale, participated in a few recordings, sang on a couple of film scores, and even performed as "whistler 2" on my wife's recent recording.
  3. I am one quarter Icelandic. Twenty-three thirty-seconds Norwegian. One thirty-second German. I hope that all adds up to one.
  4. I'm an alumnus of two Husky Universities: University of Connecticut, BA in psychology and University of Washington, MEd.
  5. I can touch my nose with my tongue.

There. Not quite as elegant a list as some others I've read, but it will have to do for now. This was a fun excercise. I now pass this on to the students in my third grade classroom. This is breaking the rules of just naming five, and I really hope to hear from more than five of them on this. It is not a required writing assignment, but I know many of them will find this interesting and challenging.

My kids each have their own blogs. Look for "Five Things" blog entries along the left side of in the next couple of weeks. I'll be cross-posting this entry there shortly. Who knows how many other student bloggers will get tagged with this?

AnaLisa, Bailey, Casey, Chelsea, Christopher, Delaney, Elyjah, Ethan, Jaylynn, Jonathan, Keean, Kyra, Lakota, Lindsay, Logan, Maribeth, Nathan, Nicole, Riley1, Riley2, Ryan

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas, 2006

Merry Christmas 2006
Originally uploaded by mahlness.
It is Christmas Eve. Nothing puts me more in the mood for the holiday than the annual "trimming" of the school home page (, something I've been doing for many years. Traditions are so important, and the ones we have a hand in creating are ever special.

And when you get a chance to create anew, it is really exciting. Last night I had a video skype with the rest of my family, at my sister's home in Ithaca, NY. Three thousand miles away, and yet we spoke and saw each other, for over half an hour - my mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, and his daughter. But THE moment for me, without doubt, was being able to sign and converse with my deaf/blind brother (who still has enough sight to read signing). We have a date to reconnect Christmas morning.

This afternoon I mailed out 21 Christmas cards to my third graders. Normally I would have handed them out in class on the day before our school vacation, but school was cancelled that day because of a massive power outage in the region. So, we had an aborted, incomplete ending to school...

Next week, I'll crank up the volume on the classroom blog, and see how my kids feel about The Big Question. Thank you, Logan, for writing about it. (The official classroom vote was 16 - 3)

I hope Santa is good to everyone. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sunset on a season

Solstice Eve Sunset 6
Originally uploaded by mahlness.
We just returned from three days in a cabin on a bluff on the Washington Coast, looking out over the Pacific Ocean, at Iron Springs, holed up with no phone, no TV, no Internet. Lots of good hiking, birdwatching, and fireplace-watching.

As the sun set on the day before the winter solstice, it felt good to think about the days getting longer. And yet, some of life's shortest moments can be the sweetest - like this sunset.

Merry Christmas, everyone. - Mark

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Been humbled by the lack of electricity here in Seattle for the past three days. Living in a world where you cannot get warmer than 50 degrees F, where you cook outdoors in 30 degrees or less, where you feel lucky to have running water, where you can't even think straight because all your energy goes into staying warm.... and there are city folk all around us who are still freezing in their little homes, for a fourth day. So far behind, so grateful for the things that do work, and the heat that has mercifully returned. Much more to say here in the next few days, I hope - if our cable Internet connection is restored.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Men's Exchange a Success

getting ready...
Originally uploaded by mahlness.
Well, we had an excellent time after school today for our annual cookie exchange. Six guys exchanging cookies, swapping recipes, thinking about how we really should be enjoying cigars, telling tall tales and baking horror stories....

We did take a look at the video of our appearance on Sara Moulton's special on the Food Network from 2003. And we even put together a short podcast, where we introduced ourselves and our cookies.

More links are at and our new wiki:

Oh, and the cookies were delicious! Happy Holidays from the Bakers: Mark, Mark, Dave, Walter, Roberto, and Keith!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Men Bake Better

The holiday season is fast approaching, and men all over are scrambling for their recipe books. You can feel the excitement in the air. Guys are counting heads, multiplying by 12.... Women teachers are asking the men on their staff what it's going to be this year...

It is time for the Men's Cookie Exchange! Men baking cookies and exchanging them with other men. At schools, where we are in a minority, especially at the elementary level. We have been left out for way too long...

Men's Cookie ExchangeThis holiday tradition has been going on for some time - about ten years. A couple of years ago we were even featured on The Food Network on a Sara Moulton Holiday Special! Here are a few behind the scenes pictures of the shoot at my house and in my classroom.

There is a web site with pictures and stories from the past eight years:

On that site you will find lots of mouth watering pictures, recipes, tips, complete instructions - even a song!

So do stop by, and by all means, join in! There is now of course a wiki: It has just been started up, and we hope to hear from others joining in on the fun. Please feel free to contribute, add pictures of your own exchange, recipes, maybe a podcast of your exchange - the sky's the limit!

This is for real. Our exchange at Arbor Heights this year is scheduled for December 13th after school. We should have six bakers this year, which will be great. There are times when you just have to throw political correctness out the window, and have some good fun. Please - spread the word!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Family Internet Night

Last night I hosted the second annual Family Internet Night in my classroom. This is a real formal sounding name for families coming in and listening to me show and talk about our classroom blog - with some talk about safety. My presentation was heavy on potential and excitement, and lighter on the safety. I figure there are plenty of folks out there spreading fear - I choose to spread closeness and common sense.

Anyway, eight families showed up, about 25 people, and we went on for an hour. I talked for about half an hour, loosely following along with a PowerPoint presentation (link here soon). We then had a few minutes of Q&A (podcast to follow here soon). Finally, kids took their families over to computers and showed them the inner working of their blogs.

At that point, several kids just HAD to post new articles - or send comments to classmates. "Mr. Ahlness, I just sent in a comment! Can you look at it?" Over and over. So this was an incredible opportunity to show everybody - live - what the teacher sees when a blog is posted. And more importantly, it showed everybody - live, and on the projected screen of my laptop - how I dealt with blog postings. I opened my email program on my presentation laptop.

One blog was approved immediately. "It's there, Logan!" I hollered across the room. A couple of other kids I called up to my computer while I looked at their articles or comments in the database. This was very powerful. Remember, their parents are watching. So there I was, reading through their article, talking with the student at my side, asking them if they didn't think there might be a period somewhere in that long string of words.... Or if they knew that a particular word was spelled wrong - and then figuring it out with them. I was at the keyboard, teaching. My students were at my elbow, looking at the laptop and talking with me. And their parents and siblings saw it all on a big screen, in the middle a room full of excited conversations and aha's.

This is powerful stuff. This is NEW stuff. Oh my goodness, it is an exciting ride. I will do it again next Monday for families who could not come last night.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Louis Schmier

Not many folks have heard about Louis Schmier - at least, not as many as I think should have. He has been posting his Random Thoughts on educational lists since early 1993. His writing is amazing. An example is this excerpt from his recent Chaos Theory Of Education:

"....Be careful what you wish for. If you want to change the world of your classroom, start with yourself. Too often many proponents of learning-centeredness ignore the ramifications of this paradigm shift. They really don't deal with the need for an alteration of our own attitudes, intentions, expectations, and acceptances. They don't really address the requirement to change their thinking and feeling. Changing the paradigm isn't enough. You've got to change your thinking. You have to retouch the mental pictures you have of yourself and each student. You've got to think of yourself and each of them not in terms of the problems such a shift creates, but you have to identify yourself with the promising possibilities. Remember the warning attributed to Einstein: "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.'..."

When I start to swing way too wildly at real and imagined obstacles, pushing forward with the latest tech thing, I return to his writing for balance. It brings me back to the student, the center, the focus, of the teacher's life. His writing can bring me back to earth, and remind me of why I do what I do... as in this excerpt from his classic To Be A Teacher:

"....If you want to be a teacher, you first have to learn how to play hopscotch, learn other children games, learn how to watch a snail crawl, read "Yertle the Turtle", and watch "Bullwinkle". If you want to be a teacher, you have to blow "she loves me, she loves me nots" with a dandilion or pull the indiviudal petals of a daisy, wiggle your toes in the mud and let it ooze through them, stomp in rain puddles, and be humbled by the majesty of a mountain. If you want to be a teacher, you have to fall in love each day. If you want to be a teacher, you have to paddle a canoe, take a hike, or just get out. If you want to be a teacher, you have to fly a kite or throw a frisbee, make sandcastles, love people, and listen intently to the rustle of the leaves or the murmur of the brook or the whisper of the breeze. If you want to be a teacher, you have to dream dreams, play games, talk to the flowers, catch fire flies, admire a weed, walk barefoot in the rain, hold a worm, and see what is yet to be...."

Christmas dogwood, 2006

I maintain the complete archive of his Random Thoughts on my school web site. If you have some time over the upcoming holidays to do some reading from an inspired voice, a teacher whose passion is in the right place, browse through the Complete Random Thoughts. There are several hundred, but every single one is a jewel, a light in a dark night.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Eating in a snowstorm
Originally uploaded by

Been feeling so out of step with the educational institution lately.

Kind of like a hummingbird in a snowstorm, like these brave souls who live right outside our doors and windows in this unusual deep freeze in Seattle. A hummingbird who knows the weather is wrong, not what it is supposed to be. A hummingbird who has no choice. Too late to head to California or Costa Rica... wouldn't last more than a few hours in a frantic flight south without a swig of nourishment...

In Seattle, these Anna's hummingbirds brave snowstorms and nighttime temperatures in the teens, because this IS where they live. The incredibly sweet and fragrant "new dawn" viburnum blooming through snow on bare branches provide the "organic" piece- others will follow soon. People get up before first light to thaw the frozen feeders for the birds who have spent the night in a state of torpor, their heart rates slowed to a crawl, so they can meet the day and go for it again...

In Seattle and elsewhere, web 2.0 teachers do this, every day of the school year. Thanks to those who feed us.

from Karl Fisch - 2020 Vision

Here's the Google Video version of the latest from Karl Fisch.

Here's his blog post -

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Lan Party Podcast

On November 20th I hosted a classroom LAN party about the K12 Online Conference. I recorded some of my thoughts at the beginning. There was a small turnout, and this recording is simply me talking about the conference - and a few other things. In listening to it, it seems to capture pretty well my feelings about the conference.

(17 min, 2 MB)

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Friday, November 24, 2006


Once upon a time there was a turkey named Galaxy who lived on an organic turkey farm in Northern California. She had a good life. The owners of the farm were vegetarians, and they raised turkeys only for their eggs. Turkey eggs, you say? Actually, they are delicious and a little bigger than chicken eggs. People often use them in Mexican food.

One November a few years ago, it was noticed that Galaxy was no longer laying eggs all that often. She tried to hide her shortcoming in many ways. Her owners, being people of conscience and non-violence, decided to look the other way as they appreciated her many fine qualities. But, times being tough (and they WERE turkey farmers after all), they had a talk with Galaxy the night before Thanksgiving. With heaviness of heart, Farmer Sunshine asked, “Galaxy, if there was a painless way for you to become dinner to save our farm, would you consider going to Axelrod’s?”

“Oh my gosh, please not the Axelrod’s - they are carnivorous, right wing, bible thumpers – please, I would do almost anything else…”

“Galaxy, I know it isn’t a perfect solution, but you’ve lived a happy life, and quite frankly, we’re desperate!”

A turkey of deep conviction, Galaxy sighed deeply, gave Farmer Sunshine a full wing embrace, wiped a tear from her organic eye, and trotted off down the path to the Axelrod Gun Shop.

Several of her companion turkeys saw what was happening, and in a desperate act of solidarity, they ran after her holding signs that read “If you kill her, you have to kill all of us!”

This gesture jolted Farmer Sunshine back to a memorable day from his college days at Berkeley, back in 1968, and he spoke to the group. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” he reasoned.

Suddenly the ground began to shake violently, and every single turkey stopped, looked at each other, and screamed in unison, “EARTHQUAKE!” As the dazed and shaken turkeys looked on, Farmer Sunshine slipped off the barn platform, and was struck on the head by a collapsing beam.

“Head for the hills, and meet me at the Golden Gate Bridge!” screamed Galaxy to all the terrified turkeys. But then she stopped in her tracks and wheeled around to face the panicked flock, her wings flung wide and embracing. She had only one thought in her mind. “Sister turkeys, we have to make a tough choice today.”

An aftershock knocked everybody over. They dusted off their wings, hugged each other in relief, and one of the younger hens threw out an idea.

“Hey, let’s do a sit in on Thanksgiving – block all the highways leading to Grandma’s house!”

“No, Valerie,” one of the old hens muttered, “That has been so done, and Farmer Sunshine will wake up and find us, because he will recognize the rhetoric with which we’ve been imprinted!”

Through the silenced flock there passed a slight jolt, then a quiet sucking sound. Grace had found a package of discarded lifesafers, and passed them around to her querying companions. They all took a deep breath, but then they noticed the tide on the beach next to the farm receding at an alarming rate…

“Tsunami!!!!” Galaxy cried.

They ran as fast as they could. Galaxy led the group up the hillside, but then realized, to her horror, that the Axelrod’s farm was behind the gate at the top of the ridge. However, looking back, Galaxy wondered if the huge wave looming on the western horizon would actually top that ridge anyway. Suddenly, she remembered that none of the turkeys living at Farmer Sunshine’s ranch had had their wings clipped. They could fly, but how far – and what friendly spot could they find to land, on the day before Thanksgiving? The forest on the opposite ridge looked wild and free and inviting, if a little scary.

Suddenly, all eyes looked up and saw a huge object slowly descending into the field right in front of them. At first they were too dazed to actually see it well, but as the propeller slowed, it was easily identified as a helicopter owned by animal rights activist, Vega Green. She stepped out, and with a sweeping motion of her gentle arm, beckoned the terrified turkeys to the helicopter, to the ride of their lives. Assured that none of them would become Thanksgiving dinner, they broke into a rousing chorus of “for she’s a jolly good fellow” as the helicopter lifted off the hilltop.

Galaxy looked down on the chaos below. As the helicopter flew over Farmer Sunshine’s farm, she saw him stirring and pulling himself to his feet. It appeared his wife was dead. Galaxy brushed a tear from her eye, but resolved to keep her sadness to herself. The others needed her strength now.

As Farmer Sunshine and the farm became a distant vision, Valerie and the other young hens laid their daily eggs, and began thinking of what they could do to change the world with them. Galaxy silently took the controls of the helicopter, swung it around, and headed back toward Farmer Sunshine…

“Yo, Galaxy!” Valerie screamed. “What are you doing?”

“Just picking up the pieces.”

“Well, pick them up on your own, you crazy old hen!” shouted Valerie, as she shoved Galaxy out the open helicopter door.

Galaxy felt her heart jump into her throat, spread her wings, and like an eagle flew for high ground in the Sierras. The snow had just started to fall in the higher elevations. "Tonight I shall roost in a tall pine, and dine on pine cones,” she thought. She peered through the trees ahead, and her eyes caught sight of a distant marker, “Donner Pass”.

Now Galaxy was an old turkey hen, and she had actually studied the history of the west in school. “Yikes – but as long as I’ve not flown through a time warp on my way down here, I’ll probably be OK.” Nonetheless, she felt strong and just kept going, veering directly south toward Mexico. It was warmer there, and for some reason, turkey had never really caught on, except for the eggs….The End

My wife and I wrote this story tonight.

I have enjoyed the writings of my third graders for many years, as they wrote about how a turkey might escape being served for Thanksgiving Dinner. So on the day after Thanksgiving, my wife and I tried our hand at the assignment. We passed the laptop back and forth, literally, one sentence at a time. No rules, except that you could only write one sentence and could not change anything already written. Either of us could write "The End" at any time.

Go ahead and try to figure out who wrote what. I did not write the first sentence.

Besides being great fun and lots of laughs, the process we used is one that suggests to me collaboration of the kind I want to use with my kids this year. We'll use a wiki for this - as soon as I can figure out a format that will work - and a way that will make it as immediate, fun, and rewarding as the experience we had tonight.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving online from Arbor Heights kids

Getting into the holiday season online is a lot of fun with the kids, even if it takes a little more time. I just posted the following message to a couple of lists. This is my first recycling of a blog idea from last year that worked well:

Hi everyone,
An update on some recent holiday online contributions from kids at Arbor Heights:

1) My third graders just posted “turkey escape” stories on their blogs at This is the second year my students have blogged these fantasy stories… it is amazing to see where young desperate minds will go :)! Feel free to leave comments for the writers!

2) The Jr. Seahawk Newsletter for November, just distributed at school today, the 22nd, is also available online – as is the podcast version, where you can hear the reporters reading their reports. It works well to listen and read along…. two places to get to the newsletter:

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! - Mark

Monday, November 20, 2006

An adjustment

Classroom LAN Party
Originally uploaded by mahlness.
Well, the classroom LAN party happened, sort of. Three brave souls showed up, besides me, and we took a look at some of the K12 Online Conference. I think we all enjoyed ourselves. But definitely a small turnout, considering the invitation list...

Yesterday I had listened to Terry Freedman's excellent (and sobering, for me) podcast from the conference, Selling Web 2.0 to Senior Management, so I was kind of prepared for a low turnout. I think change at this level, from the bottom feeder, grassroots level, will ultimately fizzle - as energy and enthusiasm wane from lack of support and positive feedback.

Time to try another approach, adjust the strategy...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Final reminder: Classroom LAN Party: November 20th

just posted this to tictech. I wonder how many will show up...?
Final reminder, honest:
Monday, November 20th, at 3 PM, I'll be hosting a "Classroom LAN Party" in my classroom at Arbor Heights Elementary in Seattle. The topic with be the recently concluded but still existing (and growing) K12 Online Conference.

Friday afternoon I finished the installation of Quicktime and the latest Media Player on all 15 classroom computers. Then I completed the uploading of, linking to, and describing of - over one gigabyte of information (!) on our local server. This is not just any old information. These are the multimedia presentations from educators the world over - prepared for the K12 Online Conference. The conference is still online, but my aim here is to provide a place where people can easily sample, discuss, and view in entirety presentations requiring broadband connections. A test at 4:30 today had 12 computers simultaneously humming along nicely with different podcasts and video presentations.

Anyone is welcome to attend. Bring a set of earbuds or headphones (I have extras) - there will be time for individual exploration. Also feel free to bring along your IPod, flash drive, or other storage device to take with you as much as you'd like. And oh yeah - it IS a party - so feel free to bring snacks :) There will be signs to "Room 12" once you're inside the front door. We'll start with an intro right at 3 PM, and go as long as people want to stay... - Mark

Mark Ahlness

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Potential and reality

Posted to tictech this evening:

--- In, "Baeder, Justin" wrote:> This story describes a number of teachers using blogs, wikis,> podcasting, and similar new technologies in the classroom:

> Mark A. is in good company.

Justin, thanks. In the summer of 2005 I remember telling a friend how I was going to start blogging with my third graders in the fall -and how there were thousands of teachers all over the place doing this - and how I was coming so late to the dance. How wrong I was. We are still so few.

A couple of things happened today in the classroom that opened my eyes once again - to potential and reality:

At 2:00 I tuned in to a "Webinar" on a computer in my classroom, hosted by Discovery Education and Steve Dembo. The presenter was David Warlick. He was speaking to a Group at MassCUE in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.... talking about Friedman's The World is Flat - and many other things. On my classroom computer, I had David's presentation computer. In a corner of my screen I had an IM chat going on with over a hundred virtual attendees. In another window I had a live wiki where we were all encouraged to sign in and take notes while David spoke - and we could all share these notes and thoughts later, of course....

And the audio - get this - was on my classroom phone. I set it on speakerphone, so I could move around and get work done, glance at the computer screen (controlled by David), and listen, live, to a big time presentation from a world class educator.

Simply amazing. And free. The message was revolutionary.

But what blew me away for real was a conversation with my third graders this morning. One of my kids shared with the class, via her morning journal, projected for the class to read - that she was excited to be getting a my space started with her dad this weekend. I asked her if she was talking about the "computer" MySpace. She said of course. There was a low buzz in the classroom. I asked if anybody else in the room had MySpace accounts. Four hands went up, timidly - and a little proudly...

These are 8 and 9 year olds. Anybody who thinks social networking is years away from elementary school kids is dead wrong. My second annual "Family Internet Night", scheduled none too soon, happens in the last week in November. - Mark

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Guerillas in their midst

I was intrigued by the writing of Miguel Guhlin today. He cited another writer who inspired him. Interesting reading. Guerilla fighters in education....

But I would suggest the web 2.0 educational guerilla fighters are already there, unwilling to settle for baby steps when the rest of the world is moving ahead by leaps and bounds. We are there.

We cannot not surround and change the educational technology establishment by external force. And we do not have the time or patience to quietly play by the rules of that establishment, hoping somebody will eventually notice the cool things possible in web 2.0. We are working behind the scenes, using every tool, every lever and advantage, but... we have also infiltrated the ranks of the everyday teacher, the student body, the parent organizations, the school boards, the mainstream media. We will change minds, not twist arms. We will not go away nor shut up. We are guerillas in their midst.

(The image of Che Guevara appearing here is from Wikipedia, attributed to Alberto Korda. It is used in line with with the the owner's wish that it be used to promote "the cause of social justice throughout the world". Che Guevara represents many different things to different countries and cultures. It is his passion and committment to social justice that speaks here)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Call for Help to the Blogosphere

A comment becomes a post. In A Call for Help to the Blogosphere, Tracy Fowler asked for help from colleagues, ammo for her presentation to her school district leaders who have blocked blogs. I left this:
I'm a third grade teacher in Seattle, Washington - blogging with my third graders again this year at The community of learners that developed last year - and that is developing now with a new class - is unlike anything I have ever seen in the classroom. I've been using computers in my classroom for over a dozen years. I am in my 26th year as a classroom teacher. I have never seen anything come along to motivate student writing like blogging does - it's not even close.

Students write from home. They stay in at recess to write - yes, even the boys! They read the writing of others from different parts of the world. They exchange ideas with students and adults from different cultures. Third graders.

Would this be possible without blogs? Maybe - but certainly not with the immediacy, frequency, and voice that this medium provides. It is the medium students choose to use today. If we teachers do not guide these young learners along the way in this medium, teaching as we go - about safety, ethics, community, academic content - well, then I believe we are doing them a disservice.

My third graders from last year wrote some incredible pieces. Some of their writing was about blogging. I encourage the reading of The Class of 2015, from my own blog, where I quote and link to their articles (their writing is all still there, of course).

I would also encourage the reading of a series of posts I wrote about blogging with my third graders:

Please remember that every single word that appeared on these student blogs (including all the comments) was approved by me, before it appeared there.

Finally, in order for this new community of learners to exist at all, teachers in school districts need to have access to these writings, to the blogs of educators who are helping to build it now.

Tracy, good luck. See you out there - Mark

Mark Ahlness

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Three good ones

I've had many thoughts (several of them frustrations) swimming around in my head lately, but I've simply not had the time to write. Along came three great posts today that expressed so well what I was thinking about - and wished I'd been able to write. Then while I was cleaning up in the back yard, the hummingbirds started arriving. I took a bunch of pictures, and some of them seemed to take on the attitude and demeanor of the authors, all teachers...

  1. JeffThomas Friedman in Shanghai, from Jeff Utecht. "But that the best skill we can teach kids is to 'Learn how to learn.' But how do we do that in an old school in an unflat school. Does a school need to be flat in order to teach and learn to learn? While I agree with Friedman on this point I don't think that goes far enough. Learning how to learn is one thing. Learning to learn, unlearn, relearn, remix, mash up, unlearn, relearn, is something completely different. And that you can not do in a non flat school......"

  2. ClarenceClassroom 2.0, from Clarence Fisher. He cites and discusses an article by Daniel Pink, now five years old, and says, "I'm getting to the point where I want to be finished with old ways. I truly believe that we are actively harming the kids in our classrooms when we are not preparing them for the society they live in. But more and more I roll around at night, get up early in the mornings and wonder what those new ways look like. Do we even know what we want? ..."

  3. Miss VickiContent Filtration: A little dirt for your health?, from Vicki Davis. My favorite part is when she dishes out some advice for those in charge of the filters, starting out with: "Solutions can emerge on this issue, but professionalism and trust must be present if improvement is to occur. To me, this discussion boils down to several things:
    * If you want students to treat teachers with respect, treat teachers with respect.
    * If you want students to treat teachers as the authority, give them some authority...."

Thanks Jeff, Clarence, and Vicki!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hard work and coincidental rewards

The boss
Originally uploaded by mahlness.
Usually you work hard and get rewards for that work. Sometimes you don't. And sometimes you work hard and get rewards that don't have anything to do with your hard work - just because you are THERE.

Today I spent a couple of hours in my annual ritual of taking down my hop vines and weaving them into wreaths. It was a cold, wet, afternoon in Seattle. The wreaths will look real nice when they dry out and we use them over the holidays, but it was hard, cold, wet work. And the rewards are still a long way off.

Suddenly there was an encounter between two male Anna's hummingbirds - right over my head. There was a lot of noise and big aerial displays. I was standing in the middle of it. Having just taken a picture of the wreaths, I had my camera ready, and grabbed several fun shots of these beautiful birds (they live year round in Seattle). The fun lasted a good 15 minutes.

What a treat. Sometimes you just need to work hard, and good things happen - because you are THERE.

I am hoping those who worked so incredibly hard to put on the K12 Online Conference will experience some of those sweet, coincidental rewards. Lots of people work very hard, and expect rewards for that work. Some just work hard on something because they believe in what they are doing. Today I made wreaths. For the past month, the organizers of that conference have made bouquet after bouquet - brightening the lives of many, many people.

I do hope good things come their way. I will write more about the conference soon.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween bloggers

Halloween 2006
Originally uploaded by mahlness.
I just posted the following to tictech:

Hi all,
My third graders scrambled at the last minute to blog some stories for Halloween (we call it Book Character Day at our school), and I think they did a pretty fair job. So if you're looking for some interesting evening reading at home on Halloween, head on over to and check out the entries on the left side of the page dated 10/30 and 10/31. Remember, they're just 8 and 9. Feel free to leave comments for them!
Thanks - Mark

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Riding a bubble and watching my back

So much has happened in the past two weeks I've not had time to stay even with regular work stuff, never mind write something here. There is a small break this afternoon. It's a beautiful fall afternoon in Seattle, but I need to write about this.

The bubble started forming when the Seattle Times ran an article about students blogging. Very nice, I had a couple of quotes. But then the story was mentioned on the blogs of David Warlick, Will Richardson, Wesley Fryer, and Andy Carvin. I was pleased, of course, a little embarrassed at all the attention. Now, it was a very nice article, but it really brought home to me how desperate the web 2.0 education community is for ANY kind of positive mention in the mainstream media. There has been more talk about Oprah as the key. Only kidding a little - maybe not at all.

So the bubble was launched. The day before I had offered a workshop on wikis for my colleagues at school, recorded it for a later podcast. A few days later I hosted a workshop for anybody in my district, on setting up a Classblogmeister blog. Also recorded for future podcast. Meanwhile I was getting excited about the upcoming K12Online Conference, and a little nervous about my presentation in it. I tried hosting a local Skypecast, and had some limited success.

Gaining altitude.... In the past week I've participated in three Elluminate sessions connected with the conference. These were incredibly exciting experiences, talking in real time with people from all over the world. What an incredible collection of brilliant and passionate people!

Dizzying heights now... My little conference presentation, and I DO mean little, especially when you look at what other presenters are cranking out, is released on Thursday. I'm starting to notice how thin the sides of this bubble really are, way up here... (does a bubble really have sides?)

This, for a third grade teacher, is a great ride. But it is scary. Sometimes I know I get carried away with my own success and start talking publicly with more boldness than I should, given my position. There are times I get so excited. I can't believe others are not "catching" whatever it is I've got. Then I get upset. Often I end up feeling impatient, resentful of the impediments to implementation. My presentation on Nov. 2 grew out of that frustration.

I feel danger out there. For whatever reasons, my colleagues and mentors in web 2.0 are not anywhere near here. I am grateful for each and every one of them, I truly am. But I feel very vulnerable.

When you request more open access to web 2.0 and the result is LOSS of access you used to have, and nobody says anything, you wonder. When you are talking loudly and excitedly (out of character to be sure, but I can't help it) about the greatest things you have ever seen - and everyone around you gets very quiet - you watch your back.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A bird in the hand

Cedar Waxwing by John K. Cassady
Originally uploaded by jcassady.
I climbed up the stairs, lifted up the blanket at the top, then the box underneath that, then there was a towel. Just where was the dead bird?

My wife had sent me a couple of angst ridden emails during the day at school about how one of our cats had snagged a bird, a juvenile cedar waxwing. There was blood all over the place, she had covered the bird up on the stairway to the basement. She was in the middle of teaching voice lessons....

I was not looking forward to going home. "Get the shovel ready", a colleague had advised me. For a possible mercy killing - and burial.

But it was alive. I saw movement, then felt it struggling under all this stuff. Five hours after the incident. I carefully picked it up, trying to figure out where its body was in all the blankets, not let it get away - and mostly, fearing I'd break a fragile wing or foot. Carried it outside. Put it on a post, about 7 feet off the ground, in a sheltered area.

The bird stood up on the post, turned around, and flew off. A straight, strong flight.

I think the bird will be ok. No blood - it was probably berry juice. We wondered later if the bird had actually had too much overripe fruit...? Probably flew into a window and stumbled into the house through an open door.

I had held the bird in my hands, about a foot from my face for a few seconds. We looked each other in the eye. The bird was panting. My heart was racing. When it flew away, I felt happier than I had in a long time.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Skypecast for Seattle educators

I've set up a Skypecast on Monday, October 23rd, from 7 to 8 PM (Seattle time) to discuss "the status and potential of web 2.0 in the Seattle School District". Skype ( is a free Internet "phone" program anyone can use to communicate with anyone else on the Internet. I'll post more info shortly, but here's the location:

Anyone is invited to participate in the conversation. Please spread the word - Mark

Monday, October 16, 2006

K12 Online Conference - underway!

It's underway, in grand fashion. I was lucky enough to experience two events right in my classroom today, thanks to a flash drive and the luck of timing...

  • David Warlick's simply amazing "Pre Conference Keynote". This is a broadband download (85 MB, one hour audio/video), but definitely worth the wait: Wow!
  • The Monday Night Fireside Chat with David Warlick on Elluminate. It's over now, but I managed to get in for most of it. Fifty or so were there, David on live video, chatroom, whiteboard, sharing the mike - goodness, what an exciting place to play. And I would say the ideas expressed there definitely matched the newness and thrill of the environment.

I encourage folks to tune into the Conference Hitchhikr page, and feed for your rss reader.

Technorati Tags:

Saturday, October 14, 2006

wiki work

Here is a little in-house in-service I did on Friday, October 13th, 2006, at my school, Arbor Heights Elementary, in Seattle Washington. It was meant as an introduction to the world of wikis for my colleagues, so it started off on a very basic level, but by the end of half an hour or so, we had a few editors working on our fledgling school wiki - and, I hope, thinking way beyond that, to where the potential of this medium can take us - as learners and teachers. I recorded and edited my remarks in a podcast (27 min, 1.6mb). We worked from a local web page I hastily put together to guide the learning (sometimes referred to as the "Staff Links" page in the podcast). It appears below:

Wiki Work
In-Service, Oct. 13, 2006


  1. Know what a wiki is
  2. Know the difference between a wiki and Wikipedia
  3. Understand basic navigation on a wiki
  4. Familiarity with the school wiki,
  5. Create a wiki identity
  6. Hands on experience editing and creating pages on:
    * the staff wiki:
    * the school wiki,
  7. Begin to understand the educational potential in school,
    with kids and adults Wikispace
roomtwelve.wikispaces.comroomtwelve.pbwiki.comWild about Wikis
(great article by
David Jakes)
Mark's wiki category
(scroll down)
Arbor Heights entry on Wikipedia

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sticks, stones, and lupines

Had a rocky experience a few days ago on a large educational list. Made a comment suggesting the list ought to be moderated (after a racist comment was made and many emails followed in a flurry), offered to help... This was met with over a dozen list responses, all in opposition to this. People were very upset. Somebody suggested I might be a troll. We're not talking a Grimm fairy tale here, folks.

So I did not write back. I thought about things. I reminded myself that I have done good work, that I have made a difference. That Don Leu thought enough of my work to mention me first in his groundbreaking The Miss Rumphius Effect: Envisionments for Literacy and Learning That Transform the Internet ...that the very list I was writing to was spawned from Don's article.


And when I reminded myself of the history: vindication. It was a big part of web 1.0, that project. There were interviews, many websites on the topic, and I even wrote a chapter in a book published by the IRA.

Of course the book at the heart of all this is Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney. I love this book. It is the highlight of my reading curriculum, every year - and I always manage to wait until we're close to Earth Day before pulling it out. Basic premise: young girl promises her grandfather three things:

  • to visit faraway places
  • to live by the sea
  • to make the world a more beautiful place

Miss Rumphius does the first two, no sweat. But it is not until she is an old woman that she discovers and shares the beauty of lupines - flowers that multiply, and spread, and on, and on...

I'll be spreading seeds again this year, not throwing sticks and stones.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Amazing start

My third graders have been blogging at now for eight days. They are taking to the medium so easily. Kids are blogging from home. They are sending comments. They are responding to comments. They are completing classroom writing assignments, and they are writing about things they care about, like Whats hard in class, The First Day Of Third Grade , or The Playdate. Family members are sending in comments. Their music teacher is in a car accident, and they want to write about it. I'm emailing parents about url's to family blogs in their comments. Holy cow. I feel like the engineer at the wheel of a speeding train who's not so sure about the brakes...

It is hard not to draw comparisons to the wonderful group from last year, the first blogging third graders at Last year they started on November 1st. This year they started on September 29th. This year's group is moving forward, much more quickly, much more easily.

Naturally I'm better at teaching all the skills involved. I have all the experience from pitfalls and successes to build upon - but this year's group has come in with more skills. Not because they are a sharper group, but simply because the world is changing so fast, and what kids know, what they care about, is so different - and is changing so fast.

The learning curve has also changed. With many, if not most, of the new skills I'm showing my kids, many of them writing techniques, I'm seeing a huge increase in single trial learning. Show 'em once, and they have it. For a teacher out of a special ed. background, this is just mind boggling. For a teacher who wishes all his kids would remember that 8 plus 5 equals 13 once they've been told.... well, it's head-scratching time.

It's not as though this is the most capable group of third graders I've had in 16 years of teaching third grade. It is simply because they want to learn this way, because it means something to their world. This IS the way they learn.

Monday, October 02, 2006

What matters

I've been talking recently with a newspaper reporter who is working on a story about blogging in schools. This in itself is very exciting, but what happened this afternoon reminded me of what matters, really.

The reporter asked me today about the possibility of getting feedback from the parents of my third grade bloggers - from last year. So I went through some old emails and sent a note to 11 past parents at the end of the day. Hopped on my bike and headed home. When I got home I had heard from three of the parents - willing to talk about (last year).

What matters is the family connection. What matters is the continuity. What matters is that parents see the potential of blogging - and are willing to go to bat for it.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Living With War

When you are a public school teacher, you think twice about posting political stuff. But when something comes into your house that strikes a chord so true, you really have no choice.

Friday night, the end of the first month of the school year. Neil Young comes to call: Living With War, released in May of 2006. Thanks to Darwin and Rebecca, our friends and neighbors, to waking us up.

Please listen and pass it on. It is free. It is important.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Almost there

Tomorrow my third graders will post their first articles on their new blogs. Today was pre-launch:
  • learning how to get to their blog
  • learning how to log in
  • learning their password and where it goes...
  • learning how to choose and set a template
  • learning how to name their blogs

We did it, in the classroom, in about half an hour. Pure chaos. There were sweet moments, though. Every single kid logged in, completing at least 4 of the the above items.

Tomorrow they will post their "about me" pieces they have saved in their folders. They currently range in complexity from about six words to three well written paragraphs.

We have talked so much about safety - probably too much. They do understand. They come with a healthy fear about public discosure of personal information. I'll help them refine and sculpt that shell of protection all year long.

The most attention they have paid as a group, to words on a page read by their teacher - was when I led them through the Blogger's Contract. It was a very solemn time, good questions - and then there were a couple of intentionally ridiculous questions that we all laughed at.

They signed the contract.

I gave them their passwords.

They were off...

Look out world, here they come, the 8 and 9 year olds from

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fed up

I've really had it up to here with the whitelisting in my district, so I just posted this to tictech:

> Yes, they have generally unblocked the sites I asked without much problem. I'm still investigating the rule that flags WordPress sites

Anybody who thinks it's OK to continue with teachers having to laboriously request unblocks on specific sites in a domain, anybody who is OK with the unethical practice of whitelisting entire domains in this school district - I have a little task for you.

Request 13,780 individual unblocks on That is how many EDUCATIONAL wikis are currently blocked in the Seattle School District. Four wikis are currently unblocked. It took me two months to get that. It was not pretty. When you finish with those 13,780 unblock requests, let me know, and I'll give you a few more whitelisted domains. - Mark

Monday, September 25, 2006

Stories from the classroom

I read a post from Doug Noon this morning in the midst of my frantic Monday morning routine. When you read something that rings so true to what you go through, to what you experience regularly, it makes you feel ok about the mountains you have to climb with your kids to get to the good places... Doug wrote in Monday Morning:

It’s been rough getting the kids ready to work on it at the beginning of the year. This is the first year that I’ve had something ready for them at the beginning (well…almost ready), but I’ve found that I also needed to get them ready for it. They need to learn a lot about working with a word processor. To keep things simple, I have them use TextEdit, which has all of its font and style settings hidden and out of the way. I want them to use it for its spell checking feature, which the website doesn’t do. I’ll show them some basic HTML formatting later. Right now, many of them are challenged with the problem of moving

the words around on the

screen, to get rid of the big spaces, and spellling. Oh, and file management is a huge problem. They lose their work. Or they label everything with their first names, or there’s no name. They forget to log out of the file server, and put their work in each others’ folders. They need a LOT of help.

I often worry and wonder about sharing the trivial day to day stuff that I go through trying hard to incorporate web 2.0 technologies in my third grade classroom. But then I realize there are not really that many doing what we are doing. All the more reason to share it, I guess.

My kids will hopefully post to their blogs by the end of the week. Right now (Monday night) they don't even know they have a blog. Miles to go, mountains to climb...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Planting time

Normally harvest time around here (and I have been very busy with my hops and grapes), I find myself also in the position of planting seeds. Covering them up, giving them a little water, saying encouraging things to them (doesn't everybody talk to their seeds?). This of course has to do with the start of the school year cycle. A few I just planted:
  • keyboard practice with my new third graders.
  • getting another teacher in my building to (maybe) start up a classblogmeister blog.
  • talking with a newspaper reporter about blogging with my kids
  • starting up wikis for my school and my classroom
  • offering web 2.0 workshops for teachers in my district (I'm planting that one this week
    oops, a couple I forgot (really have to mark those rows!):
  • starting a Wikipedia entry for my school
  • starting an email list for the school PTSA

I have great hopes for these seeds. Some will need more tending than others. Some might even be duds. But there is potential for an incredible, sparkling garden filled with beautiful blossoms during the dark days of winter this year.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Did You Know?

A couple of days ago I showed Did You Know? by Karl Fisch at the end of a staff meeting in my elementary school. I had waited to show it at the end of a meeting, because it is a natural closer. I gave it a very brief intro and let it roll. I had been offered different times to show it at other meetings, but I went with Karl's suggestion to show and go. No discussion, just go on with your work, your day. Meeting over - no discussion.

In retrospect, I think this is a very powerful thing to do, if you have a striking point you would like folks to ruminate on, and if you can choreograph it just so. Discussion diffuses uncertainty and anxiety. Even if you don't find the answers, just defining a problem often makes it go away and makes it easier to forget about. If you want to leave people feeling uncertain, anxious, and wondering, do not allow discussion. I think this was Karl's intent. The musical score certainly followed that plan. Our music teacher immediately commented on the unresolved chord at the end, had to rush home to resolve it... I know this is no big revelation to professional speakers - but it is not the way we usually run staff meetings at schools.

During the show it was quiet, there were a few chuckles, soft wows, and so on, as you would expect. All responses I got in the last couple of days were positive, and full of thanks. It made my colleagues think - and question, which was what Karl intended, I'm sure. The question most clearly formed and spoken later was something along the lines of, "OK, so what do we DO?" We are concrete, elementary school teachers, after all :)

And in those afterward conversations I found myself more than once ready to leap on the soapbox much too quickly and eagerly, talking about things like "learning how to learn" "collegial collaboration", and "fearless, confident problem solvers" - at least with my third graders. Way too much for most to digest in a single encounter. Oh well, I figure at least they can see my passion - and assume this is something important enough to get the old geezer all worked up :)

Thank you Karl. Your presentation was very well received in my elementary school. I think my colleagues left the meeting with more on their minds than the every day rat race of teaching. It is good to move out and way from our narrow focus, regularly and often, to see the big picture of the world we are preparing our kids for. Your view of that big picture was a new one for many of us, and I thank you for passing it along.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another day, before it really starts

Not every day for me has technology so interwoven throughout like today. I love to integrate technology into how/what I teach, and also into my daily life, but today was a bit much.
  • It starts with Miguel Guhlin posting a provocative piece based on a comment I made on his blog yesterday about the preoccupation and fretting (in my opinion) over getting parents to sign a paper saying it's OK for their kids to blog. Then he goes and uses big words like prevarication - forcing me to go to, for goodness sake.
  • Then I get word that my district has finally unblocked my school's wiki - - yahoo!! I bite my tongue one more time and send thanks to my IT staff. A few minutes later I ask them to unblock two more wikis I plan to use as collaborative writing spaces with my class this year. I hear back in a few minutes that they are unblocked. Hooray, they've got it figured out! I have a feeling Adam Frey helped out, and I am extremely grateful.
  • During silent reading right after lunch, I get an email from my wife, in Bratislava - she's using a computer in the little computer room in the hotel there. All is well, she gets an extra rehearsal before recording, in the"largest recording studio/hall in the world, left from the era of communism..." - hope she takes a picture or two. All is well. She will email now - no more 6 minute, $20 phone calls -I hope. I will send her an email to wake up to when I finish this post. Anyway, this is a huge boost to my day. My kids are wondering why I have this incredible energy in the afternoon :)
  • At the end of the staff meeting today I finally get a chance to show Karl Fisch's "Did You Know?" After a meeting filled with hand-wringing over school test scores and what to set as goals for this year (with little talk about HOW to do this), it was nice, I hope, for folks to step away from it all, to look at the big picture. Reaction was good, I think. The music teacher loved it and went on about the unresolved chord in the music at the end - said she had to rush home and resolve it (I love it!). A couple of other teachers said in the hall after that they felt like crying while watching - like what can we DO? I will write to Karl, and will write more about it here.
  • Then I get a reminder email from a photo researcher from Macmillan McGraw-Hill. She hasn't heard back from me about getting pictures of me and kids working on The Earth Day Groceries Project - which they would like to include in their new third grade Social Studies textbook. This of course would be very cool - but tracking down the right pics at the right resolution for text publication, to say nothing of tracking down parents of past students with a permission form I probably have to come up with on my own - aargh and yeah! Maybe this weekend.
  • And then an email from a colleague working on funding for The Earth Day Groceries Project, wondering if I have compiled media news mentions of the project in 2006 yet - something to present to the folks who may fund the project one more time next spring. Critical stuff, and I have done next to nothing. This weekend.
  • Then I decide I just have to blog about all this. I have a mound of papers to wade through and plans to make for tomorrow...

Last year I wrote an entry, Just another day, about the insanity of being in the world of web 2.0 with third graders. After a day like today, when the kids don't even know it's out there yet, when I haven't even opened the door to the blog, when the wiki with my kids is just a vague vision, when I am just beginning to gear up for using technology in school... well, it makes me wonder what resources I'll have to muster when it REALLY gets going. No matter. It will be worth it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11, 2006

Way out here in Seattle, where thinking about the distance of 3,000 miles away from NYC is a grim, coincidental reminder to me of the lives lost that day, I woke up and flipped to MSNBC. They were replaying 9/11/01 coverage to the minute, from NBC. I was shocked and appalled, and had a hard time turning away. It was 6 AM Seattle time, 9/11/01, all over again. I dragged myself to school, having a hard time shaking off the memories. I had a big day ahead of me.

Today was the fourth day of school for my third graders. They were three years old on 9/11/01. I had spent a fair bit of time thinking about how to handle the fifth anniversary in the classroom. Doug Noon posted a very helpful and powerful piece, Teaching for Change on Sept. 11. I left a comment there with several others, mostly about that day in the classroom. So I was ready, decided I would let the kids bring it up, and if they didn't, I would.

With five minutes left in the day, I brought it up. Asked if they knew what was special about today, that "special" did not always mean happy and joyous, etc. Maybe five kids had anything to say. They were clearly waiting to hear from me, I could feel their eyes and ears tuning in. So I talked about being a teacher on that day, how I had a new class, like they are now. How everyone was scared that day - kids and grown-ups. How what happened made people feel so very sad - and angry. And I said more than once that they should ask their parents about it when they went home, that they should try and sit down with family and talk about it, that they should talk with their older siblings, ask them about it. It was a moment, with these young kids who barely know me, to tell them I was a regular person, that they have a place in my world, and that they will have a place in mine. All this took five minutes.

And then I raced home on my bicycle to drive my wife to the airport. To put her on a plane bound for London, then on to Vienna, and finally to Bratislava - to make a recording for Naxos.

Everything else that happened today paled in comparison to saying goodbye to her at the airport. The flight was delayed. Our hearts beat faster for a while. She is in the air as I write this.

It is just another day, after all... but it will never be the same, ever.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

100K educational wikis?

Wikispaces has set a goal of setting up 100,000 educational wikis. The new icons on the right sidebar will take you to the site where they say:

Back in January, we decided to offer our Plus Plan to K-12 teachers for free. We didn't set out with a grand strategy, just an interest in helping teachers with our easy to use wiki technology.

Over 10,000 educational wikis later, we've heard countless stories of excited students and empowered teachers. They've told us about their collaborative essays, group study guides, online lesson plans, and classroom notice boards coming alive on Wikispaces.

Now we're taking the next step - we want to give away 100,000 free K-12 Plus wikis. That includes all the features and benefits that normally cost $50/year - for free. No fine print, no usage limits, no advertising, no catches.

We hope that you'll read on, try a wiki at your school, and help us spread the word.

- Adam, Dom, and James

We've got one set up for my school at I really hope to have the kids and staff involved, but of course we first must get around the filter. It was blocked (all of wikispaces is). Right now it is visible, but you can't edit it - kinda defeats the purpose. This is one of the failures and hollow promises in whitelisting web sites. Hopefully they'll get it straightened out soon. I haven't really made much of this yet, but I hope to have this be the "year of the wiki" with my class. We'll be blogging again, of course, at - hopefully by early October.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

i want my password back! i want more blogging

Quoted directly from a last year's student, a comment left on my "Adieu" post on

"i want my password back! i want more blogging..."

This after three days in a new class, without a blog, without a VOICE ...and with so much to say

This student goes on in his comment to let me have it for not letting him post about - and leave a link in his blog article - to This went back an article he submitted for publication over the summer, after school was out. I left him feedback about the appropriateness (in my opinion) of that game being linked to from his blog. All this behind the scenes, thanks to Classblogmeister. So I continued to teach - a little - to offer a little guidance.

The learning goes on. He is writing, still learning the language. He is involved in putting forth a persuasive writing piece (ohmygod, there's a standard in there somewhere!), because he was given the opportunity - in third grade. He remembered how to hyperlink his blog url to his comment. He's probably sending comments all over the place. He's on his way.

Now to figure out a way to help him have a blog with his teacher this year. He's still in my school. That will be harder than teaching my kids this year. I could be wrong - I really hope so.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Blogs blocked in Alabama!

(update, Sept 7, 2006: as it turns out, blogs are not blocked in Alabama, see the comment from Sheryl on this post)

From Miguel Guhlin, via podcast with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach For those who think DOPA will never pass, for those who think their blogs on are safe, for anybody who believes passionately in the opportunities web 2.0 offer your kids, please listen:

Blog Banning

The noose is tightening, and it is not just in Seattle.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A very different start

Tomorrow I go in to school for the final day of set up. The next day the kids come. In Seattle, we start school with the last wave in the US.

Most of my kids will be eight years old. Blogging? Yikes, there is so much to get together before we even talk about blogging. But it is exciting to think about the possibilities....

Today Doug Noon posted Your Blog Ate My Comment which got me thinking about my own comments and how to keep track of them. He also talked about his network account, how useful it is and so on. His post is definitely worth a read.

Hours later I was using my network account, and I was planning to use Doug's strategy for keeping track of his own comments.... and thinking about how to help my eight year olds keep track of the comments they will be making on other blogs this year. Good golly, this is a heck of a lot more than making sure the pencils are sharpened and the bulletin boards look fresh.

The reason this is so important for me to get a handle on is that last year several of my kids spent as much time reading and commenting on the blogs of others as they did writing on their own blogs. Would they like to be able to track their comments? Would I like to track their comments? My goodness, yes!!!! Last year we spent a lot of time talking about commenting strategies. For all the obvious reasons, this would be an incredible tool to add to the belt of the classroom teacher, and a fantastic reflective/self-evaluative piece for my kids.

Two days before they come through the classroom door, a month before they log on to their blog for the first time, my planning starts. And everything is very different.

K12 Online 2006

This looks absolutely outstanding!
Announcing the first annual "K12 Online 2006" convention for teachers, administrators and educators around the world interested in the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms and professional practice. This year's conference is scheduled to be held over two weeks, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30- Nov. 3 with the theme "Unleashing the Potential." A call for proposals is below.

There will be four "conference strands"-- two each week. Two presentations will be published in each strand each day, Monday - Friday, so four new presentations will be available each day over the course of the two-weeks. Each presentation will be given in podcast or screencast format and released via the conference blog (URL: TBA) and archived for posterity.


Week 1
Strand A: A Week In The Classroom
These presentations will focus on the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools (Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using the tools in their classes. They will also show how teachers plan for using these tools in the delivery of their curricular objectives.

Strand B: Basic/Advanced Training (one of each per day)
Basic training is "how to" information on tool use in an educational setting, especially for newcomers.
Advanced training is for teachers who have already started using Web 2.0 tools in their classes and are looking for: (a) advanced technology training (eg. how to write your own blog template or hack existing ones), (b) new tools they can make use of in their classes, (c) teaching ideas on how to mash tools together to create "something new," (d) a pedagogical understanding of how technologies such as Weblogs, wikis, podcasts, social bookmarking sites, RSS feeds and others can deepen learning and increase student achievement, or (e) use of assessment tools to measure the effectiveness of Read/Write Web technologies in their personal practice and with their students.

Week 2
Strand A: Personal Professional Development
Tips, ideas and resources on how to orchestrate your own professional development online; the tools that support Professional Learning Environments (PLEs); how to create opportunities to bring these technologies to the larger school community; how to effectively incorporate the tools into your personal or professional practice; or how to create a supportive, reflective virtual professional community around school-based goals.

Strand B: Overcoming Obstacles
Tips, ideas and resources on how to deal with issues like: lack of access to tools/computers, filtering, parental/district concerns for online safety, and other IT concerns while trying to focus on best practice in the use of Web 2.0 tools.

For organization purposes, each strand is overseen by a conference convener who will assist and coordinate presenters in their strand. The first presentation in each strand will kick off with a keynote by a well known educator who has distinguished his/herself and is knowledgeable in the context of each topic. This year's conveners and keynote presenters are:

A Week In The Classroom
Convener: Darren Kuropatwa
Keynote: Bud Hunt

Bud Hunt teaches high school language arts and journalism at Olde Columbine High School in Longmont, Colorado. He is a teacher-consultant with and the Tech Liaison for the Colorado State University Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project, a group working to improve the teaching of writing in schools via regular and meaningful professional development. Bud is also the co-editor of the New Voices column of English Journal, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English. A consumer of copious amounts of New Media, Bud blogs and podcasts about his practice and larger educational issues at

Basic/Advanced Training
Convener: Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach
Keynote: TBA

Personal Professional Development
Convener: Will Richardson
Keynote: Ewan McIntosh

Ewan McIntosh is an educational technologist and teacher of French and German. Based in the Edinburgh area of Scotland he frequently works around the UK and Europe, leading student and teacher workshops and conferences. He is an experienced workshop facilitator in the area of Web 2.0 technologies in education across stages and curricular areas. Ewan blogs at

Overcoming Obstacles
Convener: TBA
Keynote: Anne Davis

Anne is known for seeing the educational possibilities in the use of weblogs with students in classrooms, having implemented wonderful ideas and weblog projects with students and teachers in K-12 classrooms and at the university level. She currently works at Georgia State University in the Instructional Technology Center in the College of Education as an Information Systems Training Specialist. Her weblog, EduBlog Insights is a co-winner of the Best Teacher Blog in the second international Edublog Awards, a web based event that recognizes the many diverse and imaginative ways in which weblogs are being used within education.

We'd like to invite you to submit a proposal to present at the conference. If you have something you'd like to share with the community, both people who are new to blogs and/or experienced bloggers please email the appropriate conference convener above with your ideas. The deadline to submit a proposal (just the proposal, not the finished product) is September 30, 2006. One of us will contact you to finalize the date of your presentation. Your presentation may be delivered in any web-based medium (including but not limited to...podcasts, PowerPoint files, blogs, websites, wikis, screencasts, etc.) and must be emailed to your assigned conference convener one week before it goes live, (see above strands) so that it can be uploaded to the server.

The conference organizers are:
Darren Kuropatwa

Darren Kuropatwa is currently Department Head of Mathematics at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is known internationally for his ability to weave the use of online social tools meaningfully and concretely into his pedagogical practice and for "child safe" blogging practices. He has more than 20 years experience in both formal and informal education and 13 years experience in team building and leadership training. Darren has been facilitating workshops for educators in groups of 4 to 300 for the last 10 years. Darren's professional blog is called A Difference (

Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach

Sheryl is a technology/education consultant for the National Education Association (NEA), the Center for Teaching Quality, SRI International, the Virginia Community College System, the Virginia Department of Education, the Miami-Dade Public Schools, the Alabama Best Practices Center and adjunct instructor in the School of Education at The College of William and Mary. She has had several journal articles and book chapters published, been featured on public broadcasting television and radio shows, and is a regular presenter at local, state, and national conferences speaking on topics of homelessness, teacher leadership, virtual community building, and 21st Century learning initiatives. Sheryl blogs at 21st Century Collaborative (

Will Richardson

Will Richardson is known internationally for his work with educators and students to understand and implement instructional technologies and, more specifically, the tools of the Read/Write Web into their schools, classrooms and communities. A public school educator for 22 years, WillÂ’s own Weblog ( is a primary resource for the creation and implementation of Weblog technologies on the K-12 level and is a leading voice for school reform in the context of the fundamental changes these new technologies are bringing to all aspects of life. Will is the critically acclaimed authour of the best-selling book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms (March 2006, Corwin Press).

Conference Tags: k12online, K12online06

If you have any questions about any part of this, email one of us:
Darren Kuropatwa
Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach
Will Richardson

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