Monday, December 31, 2007

Mid Year's Day thoughts

It's New Year's Eve, and I've been barraged by print, TV, and now blogs with end of the year reflections. You know - best of, worst of...

But I'm smack dab in the middle of a school year. If I start thinking back to February or March of 2007, it's sooo long ago. Those kids in that class are no longer a close part of my life. How can I think about the year of 2007 as a separate entity? It has two distinct and incomplete parts: the class of 2006-07, and the class of 2007-08.

It is this annual cycle of the classroom teacher. It starts in August and ends in June. There is a definite rhythm and pacing to a year - starting up, getting to know you, building skills, building relationships, more, more, more, and then letting go. I doubt there are many professions with such a cycle, especially where you start all over every year.

It's like a living, breathing organism. You get to "be" a part of that special organism for ten months, then shed its skin (which takes a part of you with it every time), and then take a deep breath and do it all over again.

But I love it. I love the age I teach (8/9 year olds, third grade), and I love the process.

There is much handwringing going on in some edtech blogs as the year "ends". Much ado about the state of schools, the educational system, what's wrong with teachers, why teach anymore, etc. Here are three noteworthy ones, especially because of the comments:

I thought about adding my 2 cents on all of them, but I ran out of gas. I am outraged at many of the same things these guys talk about. But this is what keeps me going:

The 9:00 bell. That's when the kids come in the door. Thank goodness for the kids. There, I've said it again.

Yes, it kills me when I see dysfunction in my educational system. Yes, it breaks my heart when I see 4th and 5th graders not using, and losing, the incredible tech skills they had in my classroom. Yes, it is incredibly frustrating when absolutely nothing I have tried in over a decade of encouraging technology use with my colleagues has made a bit of difference.

But that 9:00 bell keeps ringing. For one year my kids and I will have an incredible experience. Nobody can take that away from us, and my kids will remember.

So, Happy Mid Year to all you classroom teachers out there, especially Clarence, Doug, Brian, and Sarah. Enjoy the rest of it!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Leaving town to find the neighborhood

It's Christmas, and I'm having a great time playing. Today I had a couple of hours, during which I left my little house and connected to people in my town - because I first connected with a worldwide network.

My vehicle for this trip was my XO laptop, named Lincoln.

An OLPC NeighborhoodI had been following Tom Hoffman's posts about the OLPC, and found one of particular interest: Up Seemed cool to try out, so I managed to get connected today - and was amazed as little XO user icons began to populate my "Neighborhood". Great fun, and a little intimidating, as I wasn't sure exactly what to do... I asked a couple of folks to chat (I think), joined a couple of chats, and looked in on a couple of shared activities: drawing and photo/video (this made me nervous, so I didn't stay long)...

With mouse over the XO users, I saw a couple of names I recognized. Then I found one who ID'd himself from Seattle. A short Google search brought me to an XO user group - in Seattle! They even have a blog - and a F2F meeting tomorrow. I don't think I can make the meeting, but I'm definitely following the blog. I know a few of the people involved. Such a small world, but sometimes you have to travel far to find what's in your back yard.

Bouyed with confidence, I decided to try installing Opera on my XO, since the the default browser is definitely wimpy. Now, that was a challenge. I felt like I was back in the early nineties, groping around in DOS... Point and click, what's that? Only a couple of typos interrupted my progress, until I eventually had Opera running - and added as an "Activity" to my interface. Many thanks to those maintaining the OLPC wiki on the Opera install for making the procedure pretty clear and relatively painless. Web browsing is already ten times better - and once I get the hang of Opera, it'll be great. The machine really is pretty quick on the web.

Funny that it took flying so far to find something right around the corner. Such is the world in which we live.

I can't wait to get this little laptop running in my classroom. There are classroom networks and neighborhoods forming around the XO right now. I want to be ready for this. Maybe we'll find another class in Seattle :)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Three Amigos

The Three Amigos
Originally uploaded by mahlness

Overwhelmed with an embarrassment of laptops, here they all are, with the TV in the background. Left to right:

FW: New Feature: "Teacher Assignments"

I mentioned this before here as a part of a larger bunch of thoughts. It is such a wonderful development that I think it needs its own space and mention. I just posted this to my classroom blog on Classblogmeister:

To the readers of this blog, there is a new feature here which you might find interesting: "Teacher Assignments". In the left column of this page are assignments given by me (the teacher, Mr. Ahlness) to the third graders at

So if you are interested in reading different points of view on and different interpretations of those assignments, please check out this feature by clicking on an assignment. All student writing on that topic will be listed in the center column (where you are reading now), underneath my description and expectations of the writers.

Many thanks to
David Warlick for adding this to our blog. Happy Holidays! - Mr. A.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Merry Christmas Story - and Poem

Doug Noon just posted a wonderful holiday greeting from E. B. White. Thank you, Doug. In that spirit of sharing on a special day, here's a poem, and a story that came our way today, on Christmas.

My wife and I were midway through our walk through our neighborhood park, and I thought the home-brewed stout I had in my pocket would have to wait for another day. But out of the corner of my eye I saw Chris. We called out, waved, and I ran over to him. I delivered the stout a little sheepishly (you would too, if you were delivering one you made to an Irishman who knows a good stout) . It has become a bit of a tradition.

Handshakes, laughs, and many thank you's later, we parted, but I heard a faint, "Mark...!" We stopped. Chris ran up to us and hurriedly put in my hand a poem he said his sister had sent him - with his reply below. We did not read it until we got home. It had started to snow...









WM. DAVIES 1871-1940.

We do indeed have time,
to stand and stare and thank
our god for all we see.
It is the same in any
age, if we but realize
that all we see is passing
and has no permanence.

Christmas 2007 Snow cThe comment is so Chris, the ultimate Irish philosopher and nature lover. Added by hand with a manual typewriter, I'm pretty sure. If there were ever a time to think about this, it would be now.

It's snowing at the moment in Seattle - hard - on Christmas. Unbelievable.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Blogging, responsibility, and letting go

So much happened in my third grade classroom the week before Christmas Vacation. We finished up their first PowerPoint presentations ("How to make a six sided snowflake", done in cooperative pairs). They wrote scripts for a video of "how to make a six sided snowflake". This was to be their first video. They storyboarded, and they task analyzed - again. They performed and recorded, and a few partners actually produced a simple movie, with title/credits and some simple transition effects. I hope to have a few of them available on the Internet soon. Then they blogged - see below...

Holiday decorations 2007aThe last day they created "stained glass" windows. It's always tough as Christmas approaches in elementary school. Everybody wants to be visited by Santa, no matter what their religion. There are wish lists appearing everywhere, even on their blogs. So we went for it. Even listened to The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg - read by Liam Neeson on that last day.

But eclipsing all this glitzy technology and holiday celebration was the WRITING they were doing on their blogs. I have not seen this much productivity before. There is a true writing frenzy going on in my classroom. I start and direct some of it, but a lot arises organically from the environment I've created. I have had to redefine and stretch that environment regularly - because my kids want to write.

(As you look below, please understand, for a teacher to be able so see for himself, for parents and kids to see, and indeed the world to look at an assignment and see what each child did with it, how they compared with their peers, etc - is just phenomenal. One more incredible development David Warlick has added to Classblogmeister!)

They write when they are supposed to at "writing time", but also when they finish other work early, when it's recess, when they have earned "free time", and so on. The culture of the classroom is changing.

When people talk about student directed learning, they are often referring to older students. Elementary school teachers are real clear on what happens when you just let students decide what they want to do - chaos - and not much learning. You can't just let them go, for goodness sake. Overly simplistic here, I know, but for a teacher, well, it can be a big stretch, and a larger leap of faith, to loosen the decision-making boundary.

But in my classroom of third graders, we have been playing with that boundary. It's not always pretty, and it's hard for the kids sometimes when they do not see, hear, and feel the teacher imposed boundary they are so used to. It's hard for the teacher, too :) It is a dance we do, the setting and relaxing of these boundaries and responsibilities.

Holiday decorations 2007bOh well. "Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't" - Chief Dan George, in Little Big Man - one of my favorite movie lines of all time. And that's what it often feels like right now. And in the mystery and uncertainty of the days just before Christmas, it feels good to go to a more relaxed and trusting place, knowing it is all good.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Holiday greetings from the guys

It has been very quiet on the blogs I usually read. I imagine many are scrambling with last minute shopping and family plans for the holidays.

In the chaos of the last week of school before Christmas Vacation, I managed to snag a couple of videos that I hope capture some of the joy, the fun, the spontaneity, and the delight that is still possible - as a teacher in an elementary school. With apologies to the ladies (sort of) from an oppressed minority:

The Men's Cookie Exchange (

The Men's Bell Choir (premiere performance)

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

OLPC - Merry Christmas!

OLPC - Merry Christmas!
Originally uploaded by mahlness
OK, the little guy arrived in Seattle on Dec 19th. One hour later I am blogging this from its cute mini keyboard. Been on the Internet (to school first of course), been to MySpace, uploaded this picture to Flickr from it, and am posting this via Flickr. Did not read one bit of directions - there weren't any with it, anyway. Managed to figure it out with oldster intuition. Kids would have figured it out twice as fast.

No matter what you hear about this, it is simply breathtaking. One Laptop Per Child - the buy one, give one program goes through Dec 31st in North America.

Somewhere in a place where they don't have much, some kid will be having a fantastic time with one just like this little guy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Too much

Sometimes we bite off too much. It's only Wednesday evening, and I feel like it should be Sunday night. Don't try this at home (while teaching third grade):

  • Monday - Family Internet Night, in my classroom, 6-7 PM. Six families in attendance, about 20 people. A new PowerPoint presentation, recorded audio for video mesh of mp3/ppt, coming soon.

  • Tuesday - Presentation/participation in, via speakerphone, the K-20 Network's Board Meeting. My third graders and I all had a chance to contribute, in our classroom. Using 19th century tools to talk about 21st century practices... (maybe more here later on this)

  • Tuesday evening - Family Internet Night, as on Monday - a repeat presentation for those who could not make it Monday - six in attendance: two families and a colleague. Recorded part that I missed on Monday. (had enough snacks left over - whew) . The video here is a screencast of the version from December, 2006. Live screencast version coming soon...

  • Wednesday - Jr Seahawk News Reporter meeting in my classroom. Snacks, writing via the news reporter blog.

  • Wednesday - Introduction of video production, via RCA Small Wonder, of How to Make a Six Sided Snowflake (and completion of PowerPoint presentation of the same).

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Alumni - Your Blogs are Back!

I just posted the following to my classroom blog at

To all past bloggers here at - all of your blog articles are back online! For the past few weeks, they have been unavailable, while the servers for classblogmeister were upgraded.

So, for those in Room Twelve from 2005-06, your blogs are all intact, right here, where they always have been. There is also a "Related Link" to your blog on the upper left corner of this page.

For those in Room Twelve in 2006-07, your articles are now ALL back, under "Room Twelve Alumni", on the right side of this page.

Many, many thanks to David Warlick, for giving us Classblogmeister, the wonderful tool that lets us blog here safely!

May not seem like such a big deal, but I had groups of former students coming in to my class asking about their blogs - like, what happened to our blogs? Are they gone?

Although most of these kids are not actively contributing (right now), it's clear their writing is still important to them - even what they wrote way back in third grade.

I wonder if they'd be checking back with me just to be sure I had their Writing Portfolio from third grade intact - or if I'd I had passed it on - and if their 4th and 5th grade teachers had their third grade writing safely tucked away in manilla folders in file cabinets...?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Men Bake Better, 2007

OK, the holidays are fast approaching, and it's time to let go of some of those debilitating worries about being all PC.

At my school, for the 11th straight year, the men are preparing for The Men's Cookie Exchange. If you are a male teacher in a school, please consider organizing the guys - and sending us your story/recipes/pictures/video! We will share it on our web site and our wiki!.

Sara Moulton Special aGosh, a few years ago we even had Sara Moulton feature us in a Food Network Special. Here Sara takes a picture of us during a break in the filming in my classroom. She spent the day with her crew at my house and in my classroom. We play the video of the special every year at our event. We've definitely had our 15 minutes! Be sure to check out: Dave's Christmas Crunch Cookies and my Toffee Bars - both featured in the show.

Here's a slideshow of my set on Flickr, with pictures going back to 1998, of the Men's Cookie Exchange. Just a bunch of guys having fun:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

We may have eight bakers this year! Guys, please join in! Our results will be posted on the web, the wiki, and YouTube, of course.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Two steps forward...

...and only one step back, that's progress. Today I introduced my third grade bloggers to PowerPoint, a program and technology older than they are. For goodness sakes, they've been blogging for two months. Yikes!

You'd think it was a backward step, but I look at it as necessary:
  • They will need to know how to use this program in their immediate future, as they move through middle and high school. I believe in that short term, PowerPoint is a necessary critical skill to know - one that will help them, will give them a leg up if they are fluent in its use. I know this sounds really stodgy, but I am visited regularly by middle school kids who thank me for teaching them how to use this program...
  • I'm ultimately moving toward video production with them, and it seems like this is a necessary step - kind of like doing a storyboard before you write a book (excuse the 20th century analogy). We DID do paper/pencil storyboard work last week, in task analysis work for a "How To" writing piece.
  • For the kids I teach, PowerPoint has the perfect learning curve, with enough carrots along the way that they absolutely gobble up the knowledge and crave more...
  • I see it as a prerequisite, in terms of students preparing a quality presentation of an idea for a multimedia world. For a wonderful exploration of web 2.0 technologies from an artistic design perspective, see Dean Shareski's presentation from the K12 Online Conference "Design Matters".
  • Finally, the beginning mastery of this program, as I teach it, encourages collaboration, exploration, and fearlessness in approaching the unknown. In their future workplaces these kids will go far, I believe it.

Every year, for the past 6 or 7 years, I have introduced PowerPoint to my third graders. Every group I've had is able to do twice as much as the previous year has - in the same amount of time. So we ultimately get more sophisticated than, and we will go much farther than, their predecessors.

Look for "How to Make a Six-Sided Snowflake" - in multiple forms, soon....

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

One long day

The point to this post is twofold: to chronicle an extraordinary day, and to remember.

Chilly StartI started out the day freezing, as usual, because the heat in our school is wacko (like mostly not on). Temps outside are in the 30's and 40's. The Music Room was 56 F this morning.

Heat SourceThe staff room temp was again about 50, the only heat later coming from a space heater I have put in there. There has been no heat in our staff lounge for over 8 days.

All I want for Christmas...While I was ticked off at being so cold, I took a shot of one of the windows in my classroom. The duct tape is failing again, and I'm out. It's all I want for Christmas...

Thank goodness for the kids!!! We muddled through another mysterious Everyday Math lesson, and then got on to the business of writing... close to finishing up a short "How To" piece, complete with rough draft on paper, a paper storyboard, and a blogged version. The kids have done well. This is all in preparation for their "How to make a six sided snowflake" PowerPoint presentations they will start next week. and hopefully followed with our first video versions of the same. I have big hopes here, but I am worried about it being just too much for the kids so early in the school year. However, they continue to surprise me...
Computer repairNew Motherboards
In the afternoon in my classroom, I had the motherboards replaced on 4 of my Dell Gx 280's by school district staff. Turns out two of the machines may well have had memory, and not motherboard, problems. Oh well, knowledge is helpful. Thanks Barry and Sylvester!

My day ended at the Second Annual Arbor Heights Elementary Holiday Bazaar. It was great fun, shopping all the vendors, watching and listening to our great choir... I bought a couple of great holiday candles (from a current parent), and a pair of earrings (from a former parent). A hug from one of my super kids on the way out sealed the day as one to remember.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Edublogs Awards - the dark horse

I wasn't going to get into the Edublogs Awards thing, I really wasn't. But there is a dark horse nominee in the Best New Blog category who deserves everyone's attention.

The Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier.

Louis is a professor of history at Valdosta State University in Georgia. He's old enough to be collecting Social Security. He's just survived two near death experiences. Read his blog.

He started blogging this past summer. Yet he has over 600 blog posts, going back to 1993. Read his blog.

Below is part of what Andy Carvin had to say about Louis on his PBS blog:

Louis has always been a blogger as far as I’m concerned. It’s all too easy to say that blogging was invented around 10 years ago when the first blogging tools were developed. But the spirit of blogging - journaling one’s life experiences and sharing them as part of a broader community conversation - predates those tools by many years. Louis’ Random Thoughts is perhaps the best example of an educator using the Internet for self-reflection, professional inspiration and debate of anyone I can think of from that period of time. And now he’s embracing blogging as a way to bring his writings to a new generation of teachers and students.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Louis. You’re already making it a better place. -andy

I wrote a little tribute as well. But you should really read his blog.

If you are still undecided, read some of Louis' words from his classic 1994 post, To Be A Teacher:

If you want to be a teacher, you first have to learn how to play hopscotch, jump rope, ride-and-seek, learn other children games, learn how to watch a snail crawl, blow bubbles, read “Yertle the Turtle”, and watch “Bullwinkle”. If you want to be a teacher, you have to sing “she loves me, she loves me nots” as you blow at a dandelion or pull the individual petals of a daisy. It you want to be a teacher, you have to stop and watch a rainbow, listen to a distant train, wiggle your toes in the mud and let it ooze through them, stomp in rain puddles, look up and watch an airplane, 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 watch intently the artistry of a spider weaving its web. If you want to be a teacher, you have to fly a kite or throw a frisbee, skip stones in a lake or brook, make sand castles, and love people. If you want to be a teacher, you have to listen intently to the rustle of the leaves, to the murmur of the brook, to the pitter-patter of the rain, and to 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, hold a worm, and see what is yet to be. If you want to be a teacher, you have to think silly thoughts, have a water gun fight, have a pillow fight, swirl a tootsie pop in your mouth, burn sparklers at night, and see in a tree more than a mass of atoms or so many board feet of lumber or something that’s in the way. If you want to be a teacher, you have to skip as you walk, laugh at yourself, smile at others, hang loose, always have an eraser handy, concoct an original recipe. If you want to be a teacher you have to be inspired and inspire. If you want to be a teacher, you have to fix a bird’s broken wing, pinch the neck of a deflating balloon and play a tune, do zany things, play with a yo-yo, and lose yourself in the quiet scenery to find yourself. If you want to be a teacher, you have to feed the pigeons or squirrels, sing in the shower or tub, smell the flowers, play with finger paints, and do a belly flop in a pool. If you want to be a teacher, you have to bring joy into everything, watch in awe a sunset or sunrise, ride on a swing, slide down a slide, bump on a seesaw, and respect even a cockroach as a miracle of life. If you want to be a teacher, you have to ride a bicycle or roller skate or ice skate, and live today. If you want to be a teacher, make all those marvelous feelings and images an intimate part of you and bring them into the classroom with you and share them. If you want to be a teacher, as Carl Jung advised, you have to put aside your formal theories and intellectual constructs and axioms and statistics and charts when you reach out to touch that miracle called the individual human being.

So vote. Best new edublog 2007

Then go spend some time with the man who knows what it is to be a teacher. Read his blog, it will change how you feel about teaching, and probably much more.

Monday, November 26, 2007

SSR 2.0 - Into the News

Yet another chapter exploring the 21st century boundaries of SSR (sustained silent reading) in an elementary classroom, started last year with Is this SSR, 2.0?

This year, I decided to introduce the possibility of reading on a computer at silent reading time much earlier in the school year than last year with my third grade reading group. I started by encouraging the reading of student blogs.

This was pretty exciting to everybody at first, even though they had barely been exposed to what blogs actually were. Eventually, interest kind of leveled off, with some kids going back to books when they couldn't find anything written by kids that interested them.

arborheights2Then a couple of weeks ago somebody asked if they could read news, from CBBC. Of course, I said. I had set up an rss feed to it on our school's web site, so it was real easy for the kids to get there.

There were pictures, both a blessing and a curse online. And of course there were links to plenty of other stuff, like online quizzes, flash animations of this and that - and games! "But I got here from the news site" was a popular explanation for straying off course from "silent reading".

So I was forced to lay out some expectations real clearly, based on what I felt was reading that would stretch and yet reward their reading chops. For instance, reading captions on a series of pictures was not OK. Were they reading? They all claimed to be, but I watched as kids went back and forth from one picture to another... So eventually I said no, they at least had to be looking at a screen with more space devoted to words than pictures. This was uncomfortable for me at times, as I'd much rather have the kids decide, reason and discuss it out - but my third graders are 8 and 9 year olds. Sometimes it's more important to be clear than permissive.

It has been a challenge, but in the last couple of days we have reached a good place. Kids are reading news articles - for understanding. The pictures hook them in, but they do read. I've added a little debriefing/sharing time right after silent reading for the kids to tell us all a little about what they were reading. Most can't wait to tell something incredible they just learned. Topping the list are often stories like the cat with two heads... but there are also mentions of a football stadium collapse in Brazil, with a discussion of the fact that "football" in Brazil, and most of the world outside of the US, means soccer. Some popular articles today:

I imagine their tastes and interests will change. I bet they will discover and be attracted to new sources of information (that will be good places for them to stretch their reading comprehension and decoding skills). They will also quite likely be drawn to sites that will be the equivalent of comic book "reading" - which I will quite likely say no to.

In the meantime, they are becoming better readers, because they are motivated. And their world is shrinking, their global understanding is expanding, and they are making deliberate choices about what type of reading really appeals to them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Spin the Turkey
Originally uploaded by mahlness
Sometimes in the classroom it's important to just say, "Let's play". No educational objective, no lesson plan, no excuse. Let's just play.

For the last dozen years or so, my third grade classes have decended into delirious chaos for a few minutes on each of the two or three days before Thanksgiving, as we play "Spin the Turkey".

Over a dozen computers all going at once, with speakers cranked up, and the words flying through the air and spilling out into the hallways, "Cranberries!", "Pie!", "Giblets!".... and the ever dreaded "Yams!" People hear us WAY down the hall. Everybody knows what's going on in Room 12....

Kids screaming, teacher frantically updating the ever rising top three scores on the chalkboard, excitement building around a player who is still spinning, with a score over 80.... OMG!!!

Today, with two top scores of well over 100, during a 10 minute period on the first day - it was a good start. One more try tomorrow. Someday somebody's gonna break 200...

Fun for all ages, a real game of skill :)

Download it here:
Spin the Turkey

It's so important that we teachers don't forget how to play with our kids.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Not all peaches and cream

Not all peaches and cream
Originally uploaded by mahlness
A big grant gets you lots of nice equipment, but also a few headaches, especially when tech support is mostly you.

Two of the temporary (tan) cpu's in place in my classroom, pending replacement of motherboards on my GX 270's. Four of ten need this done...

Saturday, November 17, 2007


There was a stir on the classblogmeister list when David Warlick recently explained that, because of server load issues, classblogmeister blogs written prior to May 31, 2007 would not be available. Well I was shocked, I pleaded the case for all the reasons you might imagine, and I was incredibly discouraged.

Words came back to haunt me. Someone blogged a while ago, "Blogmeister is great, but when David gets tired of it, it will be gone". When I read that, I said no way, he'd never drop it. I stuck with it when things got a little rocky...

But when I read that old blogs would not be available, I saw it as the end of an incredible run. I wrote briefly to the list. A few others did the same. I was depressed. In my mind I composed more emails to the list or personally to David - but I never sent them.

I had always hitched my wagon to the Warlick Star. It had come through every time, getting better and brighter. I decided to wait. My gut told me to. My heart asked me to.

Today David let us all know he's adding another server, so classblogmeister will be faster and back to where it was. And all those old blogs will be there. Way back to the beginning. Incredible relief!

Some reading this will shake their heads and wonder what all these classblogmeister teachers have been smoking. Why put all the eggs in a single basket, carried by one person?

Trust is a scary thing sometimes. You have no choice when you're driving down a street and have to trust oncoming traffic to stay on the other side of the road - or when you climb aboard a plane and are in the hands of a person you only hear through a bad sound system.

Right now there is no other choice - not if you want the state of the art classroom blogging tool with the strong educational core of classblogmeister. When you get something for free like classblogmeister is, you don't really have much leverage. When you sign up to use it, there is no guarantee of service.

All you're left with is trust. Trust is something I want to have. I want to trust people. We've all been burned when somebody we trusted let us down. That's part of life.

But when you trust somebody with things you care about so very deeply about, a bond can form. When that trust is rewarded by coming through, over and over and over - a community can form that is very strong.

That is what has happened with classblogmeister. Call me crazy, but I'm real happy I've hung in there. There is still nothing else like it. Thanks, David.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Teacher desk, 2.0

Ok, I'll stop (soon, maybe) with this everything in the classroom 2.0 thing.... However, this physical change was so dramatic, the change in my daily work space so freeing....

See if you can tell which of the pictures here is 1.0 and which is 2.0:

Desk 1.0Well duh, right? My dog of a "teacher workstation" is now gone, replaced by a laptop. This was no easy thing to accomplish, and very few teachers where I teach are able to move away from these hopelessly outdated and underpowered beasts. They are, BTW, the only machines on which teachers are allowed to bypass the filter.

Desk 2.0My little laptop (which I bought through a grant I wrote) was reconfigured by a nice network analyst. It has more processing power and 4x the memory of my old teacher workstation - which I refused to use for anything but attendance. Oh yeah, it's also wireless, so my teacher desk is now mobile...

Two days ago I uploaded pictures to Flickr on it. I posted a blog article on that laptop.

From my teacher desk, for the very first time.

My kids have been web 2.0 for a long time from our classroom. It's fun to finally be a part of it with them. I wish my colleagues could do the same.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


One laptop per child. Still a few days to get one of these amazing machines... Hoping mine will be here by Christmas:

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Parent conference, 2.0

Parent conference, 2.0
Originally uploaded by mahlness
This was the scene today in my classroom as parent - teacher conferences began.

Showing student writing to a parent does not necessarily involve pulling some papers out of a manilla folder any more. Just head to the student's blog:

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Replacements, not add-ons

This is another one of those overly long comments that became a blog post (and then of course I had even more to say once it got put here). I just left the following comment on a post by Brian Crosby, Questioning Blogging For Students:

Brian and Paul,
In terms of expectations for student writing, teachers correcting, and so on... This discussion is really no different than the "How good does it have to be before we can put it up in front of the school?" discussion teachers have had with themselves, their colleagues, and their students for a long time. But now of course the stakes are higher, with the worldwide audience.

As a third grade teacher (for a long time), I've found myself getting clearer and clearer in my expectations with my kids on their writing, to the point that they are even stated publicly on our blog. See the new "Teacher Assignments" area on our classblogmeister blog at If kids submit something that doesn't measure up, they get behind the scenes specific feedback from me the next time they log in. (just for old times' sake, they see it in red - grin)

There's a helpful and very active classblogmeister group at I think anybody considering using classblogmeister will find it useful.

Lastly, the critical concern appears to be TIME, right? That's the bottom line that many don't consider when giving advice to classroom teachers. Sure, maintaining a classroom blog for your students takes time. So does teaching writing. We teachers have to be willing (and allowed) to change the way we do things - the way we teach, the way we plan, the way we evaluate, the way we archive work.... Jeff Utecht lays it out pretty clearly, I think, in a recent post:

"It’s really no secret. You have to change the way your class runs, you can not add blogs to what you do, they have to become what you do!"

People like Paul (in the comment that prompted Brian's post) are just naturally asking if the same rules apply in web 2.0 land. For me, it's not that expectations have changed. But the change in audience certainly makes me take a closer look at those expectations. This is a good thing.

The tough part is time, of course. Jeff was exactly right in that we teachers cannot ADD blogging to what we already do. There is not enough time in the school day, nor in a teacher's life to do that. So we have to REPLACE part of our practice with blogging (or wikiwork, Tubing, Twittering, whatever).

These new tools can't be used as add ons. They have to replace existing practices.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sometimes you just get lucky

Lincoln ParkNeeding some outside air after the K12 Online Conference over the last couple of weeks, I headed out the front door Sunday morning to go for a walk in the park. Yikes, our car was gone. What was I thinking? My wife had it in Portland where she was doing a performance. No problem, thought I, I'll just walk the neighborhood. Then I thought - why not just walk to Lincoln Park?

Ducks are backI walked there in 20 minutes , and it was beautiful. Red breasted mergansers and harlequin ducks have returned to Puget Sound, gorgeous muted fall colors were on the trees. I walked around the point on the water, past Coleman Pool, an incredible outdoor saltwater pool, closed now for the season. I looked west at the Olympic Mountains, seeming to rise 8,000 feet right out of the water, some snow still visible on the peaks, even at the end of summer...

Fall in the ParkWe found Lincoln here. Or rather, he found us. I've written the story of that event many times with my kids at school. Perhaps I'll post it here sometime. It's a good story.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

My school is a mile and a half from our house. I ride my bike there every day. I found that bike with a "Free" sign on it a couple of blocks from our house - I had to put some air in the tires.

Our SchoolThis is my 17th year at my school. I actually mentioned this at our open house a couple of weeks ago. I recorded my little speech and put it up as a podcast on my classroom blog. I could not possibly have landed at a better school.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

I kept thinking about these things as I walked today. In this day of always trying to multitask so you can *maybe* get everything done, it was nice to just walk. No earbuds in my ears, only the sounds of community and wildlife that I chose to pay attention to. I just got to think.

Thistle Street StairsMaybe it's because so many things have been going so badly lately, I don't know. But all I could think of today was how lucky I am... to live where I live, to work where I work. As I peeled off layers on the walk back UP to our home (huff, puff...), I thought of where I live, on this itsy bitsy speck of the earth. And I thought about how much I have. Only a very small fraction of the over 6 billion people on this earth have what I do.

Well sure, I have worked hard. But so have billions. And somehow I have ended up here, at this point in time and space. I shake my head and smile. I feel this huge wave of gratitude wash over me.

I said this at the open house, and I say it to myself almost every day:

Sometimes you just get lucky.

(I am going to remember this post at Thanksgiving!)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wireless at last!

Originally uploaded by mahlness
My classroom finally has a wireless access point. I'm sure there will be many speed bumps along the way, but the road seems so wide open right now!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

When Night Falls - picture it!

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR
Do you have a picture of your community at twilight, or as the sun is going down? Please consider joining the When Night Falls Flickr Group and sharing it with the world.

It will then become a part of When Night Falls, a free 24 hour Elluminate session, the final event of the K12 Online Conference.

When Night Falls begins at 12:00 AM Saturday, October 27 GMT and ends 24 hours later.

Directions for joining the group and adding your pictures (up to 2) can be found here. Thanks!

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thanks to the neighbors

Our Internet access is down right now. That big mama is down in our part of town, thanks to a windstorm that has taken out power to much of the Seattle area. Power went out at school 4 minutes after school was dismissed.

We have power at home, just a mile and a half from my school. But what good is it these days if you can't get on the Internet? So I fired up my laptop and found five wireless networks available - one unencrypted. Their ISP is apparently up, and so here I am.

Reading and sending email of the day, going through Bloglines, updating our Netflix queue - all that important stuff.

I know, I know, this is not really smart. I naively believe my laptop is reasonably secure. I'm sure somebody will tell me I'm taking wild chances with critical personal information.

Well, I guess I'm just too trusting, then. Thanks to the neighbors, they're good folk.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Regrets from a dream

A couple days ago I posted here about a dream that turned out to be real. Almost as soon as I posted it, I regretted two things:
  1. forgetting to thank the tech department in my district. I did so privately, but a public thank you is appropriate in this case - thanks, folks!

  2. not realizing that, with a wide open Internet, this would have been the perfect time to give a peek into Second Life. Aaack! This one really kills me - how could I have missed this?! Every teacher at the little in-service at least knew something about Flickr, YouTube, and MySpace. But I would bet you anything, nobody in my school has been to Second Life. Alas, Billy Brennon will have to find another time to show off his moves (yes, I'm Billy).

Friday, October 12, 2007

The strangest dream

This afternoon I had the strangest dream...
I was at school, a public school in the US, in the computer lab. Flickr images were coming through - on blogs, websites, and wikis! YouTube and Google video were popular. MySpace was even open! You could go anywhere!!
It was not a dream. It happened, it really did.

Why? Because there were no kids in the building. It was an in-service day and I had asked for and been granted wide open access to the Internet for our school.

Access like we have at home. Just like most of our kids have at home.

The filter walls are up again by now. I'm at home, and it's Friday evening. Most of the links on the local web page I set up for the in-service session will not work on Monday - youtube, flickr, twitter, myspace. I need to assemble and post/send those links to my colleagues, asap, so they can follow up at home, on their own time.

Interesting connections were made: watching an alum of my class a few years ago on YouTube, flying on the trapeeze with a troupe in California, our music teacher's famous tap teacher giving a lesson on YouTube (with Gregory Hines in there...), me showing my wife's MySpace page as an example of how professionals are using social networking, a teacher showing colleagues what her own kids at home are looking at (and producing) on YouTube - and much, much more.

This was a small window, way too small. But it felt good to look out from where I spend the majority of my waking hours. It felt wonderful to talk with my colleagues in a real world Internet situation.

The computers could handle it. Bandwidth was no problem. We even watched parts of David Warlick's Oct 9 Fireside chat in Elluminate. That was pretty mind blowing for everyone....

People smiled, laughed, and grooved to the music as we watched Free Hugs. There were gasps and heads shaking as many watched Battle at Kruger

I wish we teachers were just given a chance...
  • a chance to use these incredible tools with our kids.
  • a chance to prove we know how to use them.
  • a chance to learn like the rest of the world does.
  • a chance to show we can be trusted with our kids.

Oh by the way, nobody looked at porn. Nobody played a game. Nobody cussed in a chat room.

I was watching. I was teaching.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

for Quita

Today was your last day girl, and it was a very sad one. I know you are now someplace even better than your earthly home - which you loved very much indeed. Dance on, Quita, and thank you.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Quita (Kee-tah) was 14 years old. This morning I took her to the vet to have her put to sleep, as she was suffering terribly from kidney failure. It is surely one of the most difficult things we humans have to decide and do. When is the right time? There really is none.

She went quickly and peacefully, even purring a little during her last few minutes. The vet was wonderful.

I am not able to do much today. I've spent the last couple of hours scouring my computers and cameras for digital pictures of Quita, and then putting them in a Quita set on Flickr, a final tribute and thank you.

My wife just called from NYC, so there were many tears all over again as I told the story of Quita's passing. We loved her dearly.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Third time's the charm

I told my third graders first thing Friday morning that it had never happened before. I had never had a class where EVERY student published an "About Me" intro piece the first week on their blogs.

This is the third year I've had a group of third graders blogging. We had a ton of challenges to overcome (not the technical stuff Clarence Fisher dealt with yesterday), but it was exhausting nonetheless. I guess the area that got a little overlooked in the mad writing/editing scramble was our new math curriculum (break my heart - ha).

But they did it. Every single student published an article on their blog.

Congratulations, kids of, you did it! And thanks to all of you who helped your classmates with their writing!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Slow baby steps

New lab, almost
Originally uploaded by mahlness
They do add up, those slow baby steps, but it seems forever to get anywhere.

The picture here is my school computer lab, which we reconfigured for this school year. Wiring was a nightmare, requiring many more hours than the actual set up and deployment of the new (donated) cpu's.

And today, my third graders at finally got their passwords and logged on to their blogs for the first time. In our classroom - they will not use the lab.

Baby steps that will soon become giant leaps, I hope.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why teachers give up on web 2.0

(I'd love to quote directly, but his school has a tag on his email prohibiting any such use. The message is, however, archived and available on the classblogmeister list)

Wondering why teachers give up on web 2.0 technologies? Read this short post about which is better, wikispaces or pbwiki. In the end, it simply does not matter what a teacher thinks. Place the blame where it obviously belongs:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A little update

Will Richardson writes in District Administration Magazine, in From MySpace to SchoolSpace:

THIS FALL, THE 45,000 STU-dents in the Seattle Public School system will be encouraged to create and publish pictures, videos and other work to their personal Web pages, where they'll even be able to create communities of "friends" online.

Sound like MySpace? Close. It's "Medley," a component of a new social learning network being rolled out by the district in an attempt to bring the potentials of Read/Write Web tools to students in a more managed environment. Named "L3rn," the network is the next step in a process that started over two years ago with an initiative to put grades, attendance and homework information online for parents and students to access.

The initial flurry of media activity announcing the promise of L3RN (above being the last I've saved) also coincided with the departure of the people who developed it. It is worth noting, and watching, where they are now. There will be good stuff coming from them again.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One less...

Originally uploaded by mahlness
One less set of encyclopedias in the world.

One less bookshelf to hold them.

I cleaned house and consolidated space in my classroom after school today. Friday afternoon, at the end of the first full week of school this year - and my back is killing me.

But I'm very excited about what there is more of...two more laptop stations.

Symbolic? But of course.

Gone: a set of never-used 20 year old encyclopedias and a bookshelf.

In their place: two screamin' laptops, with the world of knowledge a couple of nanoseconds away.

My back feels better already.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Day two, step one

Type to Learn
Originally uploaded by mahlness
First step, gotta know how to type - at least a little bit. Learning where all those letters are, using Type to Learn.

There were six more kids on other computers at this point. The other half of the class was doing silent reading. Then we switched, of course. :)

For the second day of school, I was very pleased. The kids are just amazing. It will be a very good year.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Not one computer was touched

Ready to go...
Originally uploaded by mahlness
It was the first day of school for my third graders today. Nobody even touched a computer. It's not like I don't have any, or I don't have any plans for them to be used :)

It's because of where my kids are coming from. We spent the day dealing with pencil and paper tasks, passing out textbooks, and all the routines that go with those things. That is what they know. I have to meet them where they are.

Maybe on the last day of school this year I'll be able to write a post titled "Not one pencil was touched" or "Not one book was touched".

It is entirely possible. I'm going for it.

And I bet the first day of school next year, we'll be getting right on those computers. It is changing that fast.

Oh yeah, my new class - they're wonderful!! You'll be hearing from them soon, at

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Lucky teacher

Time to put aside the distractions of summer and buckle down. The kids come into my classroom in four days. I'm scrambling.

I had my first "back to school" dream last night. It was not a good one - they're usually not, at this time of the year. It was awful - I can still remember it clearly - aaack, it was so real.

Yesterday I moved student folders around on our server at school, saving the work from last year's kids. And then I created new folders for all my new kids.

And then, of course, the blogs. I posted a farewell message to last year's group at, with hyperlinks to all their blogs, so it can serve as a sort of archive of their old home page. Added them all to the "Room Twelve Alumni" group and changed their passwords. Sent an email to all their parents letting them know their kids can still keep blogging if they want, and what their new passwords will be.

Finally, I set up 22 blogs for my new group of third graders. This will be my 17th year teaching third grade at this school. I shake my head in disbelief, and remind myself of what I often say when it comes up in conversation, "Sometimes you just get lucky".

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

MySpace - another look

No, not MySpace in the classroom, of course.

I've had a MySpace page for a little over a year, I guess. I just wanted to see what it was like, to see the dangers, to try and understand the fear. So I have one. I've done basically nothing with it. I have a puny 3 friends. Well, they're not puny, it's just such a short list.

A couple of weeks ago my wife went on MySpace.

Here's her MySpace page.

Now you have to understand that my shock came in large part because of the reaction I had received over a year ago when I casually let it pass that I had set up a MySpace page. The earth shook. "You did what?!!" I had crossed a line of sanity. Several lines, it seemed.

That tune changed when a big-time publicist recently said my wife absolutely HAD to have, among other things, a MySpace page, like right now for an upcoming NYC recital. Things got different, fast. I am Mr. Tech Support in our household, so my work was ripping and uploading mp3 files, CD cover images, setting up an html coded profile, linking to a YouTube video, helping with passwords, etc. Once that was done, I sat back and watched, amazed.

My wife is now, just a couple of weeks later, part of a well-organized community on MySpace - mostly classical performing artists. (bonus points if you can find another edtech apostle amongst her friends) I had no idea this world was there. She has added current and former voice students (she teaches at PLU). Even more amazing. It is a very different world from blogging, but it has similarities. There is a "Twitter" sort of IM capacity, there are networks of "friends" constantly changing in size and shape. There are "bulletins". I'm only scratching the surface, because I know so little...

It is an amazing community. I find myself going from friend to friend - being intrigued over and over by the folk in her ever expanding friends list. It's surprising where you can end up in a couple of clicks. You can be on Renee Fleming's or Neil Young's site in a couple of heartbeats. Lots of junk for sure, but the networking opportunities are amazing.

So where are the teachers? Do we not need to network? Is subscribing to an rss feed for an edtech blog, one after another, manually, enough of a network? Or is there more?

MySpace is exploding. The edtech blogosphere is not even close to moving this quickly.

What is the lesson here, and can we learn anything from MySpace? Should we be there?

I am. Wanna be my friend?

Monday, August 27, 2007

In the public eye

Many thoughts have almost bubbled up into a post here this past week, but there has been a lot of competition for my time, mainly setting up my classroom for the new school year. I've put in well over a week so far on my own time. Tomorrow I HAVE to report, and it will be a day I'm finally paid for. Classroom teachers reading this are nodding their heads, uh-huh.

In the meantime...

There was recently an amazing story reported by Doug Noon about an elementary school in Alaska that turned down state bonuses for staff members because their kids had made great academic gains. The story was reported here.

There were some interesting comments left on Doug's post, including one from Melissa, in Oregon, which cited an article where the sentiment, especially in the comments, was clearly of the mind that teachers have got it made.

Which brings me to something that has been bugging me no end - that those of us in the classroom are truly helpless in the public eye. I'm talking about people commenting anonymously on blogs and other online publications having free reign to take potshots. Consider this post and following comments. The public has a field day saying whatever... The one employee who engaged in the conversation and was not anonymous is no longer employed by the school district. Would I have liked to say something there? Of course - but at what price?

My school recently had a particularly nasty incident with our school's Wikipedia entry. Somebody altered the entry with several libelous, judgemental, unsubstantiated statements. After I fixed the damage (immediately), how did we deal with it? On our own, in-house. Would it have been nice - maybe even appropriate - to be backed up by our employer? Of course.

What is my point in this ramble, exactly? I guess it's that teachers at schools are really out there on our own in this medium. You gotta watch what you say. And you are at the mercy of a potential multitude of folks who are ready to say anything, with nothing to lose, anonymously.

To all the teachers like Mary, at that school that went through the very difficult discussion about the ethics of accepting money because of the achievement of their students, I say thank you. Thanks for the uncomfortable time you are spending in the public eye. You came up with a decision that had to be incredibly divisive - and now you are exposed to all kinds of criticism, from colleagues and the public. I hope you are able to move and have a great year with your kids.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Changing needs and expectations

I don't read it every Sunday, but today I sat down for a few minutes with the Parade magazine that came in our paper. What Kids Really Need is an amazing article telling parents about the technology needs of their kids today. Now I agree with pretty much everything they had to say, but what blew me away was that this was coming from a magazine with a readership of 71 million, that has been around since 1941. Parade is an institution in the U.S. A very mainstream, relatively conservative, lightweight, breezy Sunday read for many Americans. A couple of sections really struck me:

From "Choosing the right computer" -

The average student needs to browse the Web, write reports and communicate via e-mail. Less than $700 will buy a computer that can do all that, monitor and printer included. You’ll want to add software to protect against viruses and spyware ($30 and up, annually), a surge-protecting power strip ($10 or more) and perhaps speakers ($20 and up).

As your budget increases, so do your options for processing ease and storage capacity. After you’v e covered the computer essentials, extra RAM
(about $100 per GB) will make the computer work faster and more reliably. A larger hard drive (250 GB will cost about $50 extra) also is a worthwhile investment.

If you already have a computer or two at home, consider wireless networking. A simple router and software runs about $100, but the ability to share a single printer and Internet connection could ultimately save you money. So, too, could a home server, which will back up the files on all of your computers, so they’ll be safe if one should crash.

Then there was advice on buying a cell phone for the kids - with a nod to the fact that they are banned in many school districts. But this part had me nodding and shaking my head at the same time: "Computer must-haves" -

A computer can cost $600 or $6,000. Here are some features you don’t want to be without:
• At least 1 GB RAM. The more “random access memory” you have, the more programs your little mulit-taskers can run at once.
• At least a 120 GB hard drive. This “permanent memory” stores programs (like Word or Excel), games, photos and music.
• An external hard drive. Most operating systems let you automatically back up your files. If the computer crashes, the prom photos and the senior thesis will be safe.
• Security software. It’s essential to protect against viruses, phishing and other nasty cybertricks.

Made me wonder just how many TEACHERS have this type of equipment, either at home or on their desks at school. Hmmm.... At home I'm squeaking by, just keeping up with those specs, but in my classroom, the slowest computer is my district issued "teacher workstation", which doesn't even come close. If we teachers are expected to lead, well, this is just so obviously out of whack....

This also made me wonder (again) if the day is finally coming closer when those technology in schools naysayers will finally give up asking, "yes, but does it increase academic achievement?" Will they finally now begin to realize that it just doesn't matter - we live with technology, so we teach with it, too - duh. Just like the pencil, the light bulb, the TV, and on, and on...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


New computers
Originally uploaded by mahlness
It's happening, at last. Most of the equipment I bought with grant funds just arrived a couple of days ago: 10 CPU's, 10 LCD 19" monitors, 5 laptops. Hours and days of work ahead ahead of me - heck, they're not even plugged in yet, never mind configured, added to the network, etc, etc - but it's pretty exciting nonetheless. Here are 8 of the 12 desktops - the other 4 will be across the room. One laptop on the projection cart, one for me on my desk, and three... somewhere else...

Things will look a little different when the desks are back :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Night Baseball in Seattle

Sexon the hero 2Last night I witnessed part of a comeback that made everybody (at least the 37,000 Seattle Mainers fans at Safeco Field) feel good, extra good. Richie Sexon, mired in a really horrible hitting slump, hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. I lost a latte, betting he'd go down swinging as he had in his two previous at bats. Here he's mobbed at home plate. Yes, that's the Mariners' Moose waving the flag.

First pitchGoing backwards in the evening, the ceremonial first pitch was thrown by the Burger King guy, I think. Weird.

But my favorite moment of the evening was reviewing some of the pictures I had in my camera, and discovering that I had captured a modern day version of a famous painting, Night Baseball, by Marjorie Phillips. Joe DiMaggio is at the plate, Yankees vs. the Washington Senators, 1951:

Baseball at Night
my picture is a little more glitzy, but the moment frozen in time is the same..

I use Night Baseball every year in art, as a prompt that sets everybody off on a chalk pastel picture of a game involving a ball. It's great fun, and it was great to step away from a lot of much more serious things for a few hours last night.

My whole collection of shots from the evening is on Flickr, here. Thinking of you, Jeff Utecht, now back in Shanghai, you woulda loved this game.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I have been stewing.

Ever have something just awful happen, and you can't say something? Ever have your dreams dashed and you can't say anything? Ever have people you don't know contact you because you might be able to shed some light? Ever weigh every single word in a phone call? Ever use personal email, and home phone numbers exclusively? Ever been so angry you could just spit, and you can't even get up a wet mouth? Ever really want to trust somebody, but you can't let yourself?

Fear does that to you.

This where I am.

The departure of the two people responsible for the development of L3RN last week has shocked and rocked me. The wind of promise is out of my sails. My hopes are taking on water.

So I send cryptic emails, trying to find out more - and giving up a carefully measured very little of what I know. I lose sleep and second guess myself to ridiculous levels.

Fear. It is a powerful silencer.

Monday, August 06, 2007

8 random facts

Sarah tagged me on this, so here goes...

The Rules:

  • Post these rules before you give your facts
  • List 8 random facts about yourself
  • At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
  • Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged
  1. I love grape jelly, and make it myself, from grapes I grow.

  2. I was one of the first kids in my kindergarten class to learn how to tie his shoes.

  3. I've only read the first 3 Harry Potter books (for shame!)

  4. Heights scare me.

  5. I prefer hot over cold weather.

  6. My vision used to be 20-10

  7. I have this fantasy of getting my 1967 Vespa running again...

  8. Not once have I ever been to school or taught on my November birthday.

I think the grown-ups are having too much fun with this, so...

I know the rules say you're only supposed to tag 8 people. But how can I possibly choose only 8 from my last year's class of third graders? So, here's a list of ALL of them, linked to their blogs. I'll cross post to the class blog first, then I gotta start leaving comments for them. Not all have written this summer, but let's see who responds:

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

Sunday, August 05, 2007

L3RN in the News

There has been quite a buzz lately about this. If you have not heard yet, not to worry - you will soon. L3RN is Seattle's entry into a school district providing safe, yet very cutting edge, venues for its students, parents, and teachers. The media has picked it up, from right here in blogland, to newspapers, to e-zines, to print magazines. Here's a list of references/reviews I've compiled as of August 5, 2007:

This is only a partial list for something that is still not officially released. Teachers (like me) are trying it out in the summer, planning its use in their classrooms next school year. I have lots of questions, but it is extremely exciting to see my district going forward - and indeed, leading, in the use of technology use/integration for our kids in this 21st century!

I know there are many more mentions and reviews. If you have more citations, please leave them as comments here. Thanks!

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why I'm excited

Update, 8/4: for a well written perspective on this, read Andy Carvin's The Return of the Original Edublogger on

One might think I had just figured out how I was going to use Twitter in my classroom, or that Flickr was going to be unblocked, or that my classroom was going to have a wireless connection next year. No, I'm not excited about technology in education (well it IS related... read on).

What I'm excited about is teaching. About caring. About reaching and touching each and every student. I'm excited that so many more people can now be hearing that good message. If that sounds mushy-gushy, oh well. So what.

Louis Schmier is blogging.

Yes, you read that right. Louis Schmier, professor of history at Valdosta State University. The author of hundreds of "Random Thoughts", distributed on the Internet via email lists since 1993. The man who was blogging before the term "web" in web-log even existed (well, barely).

Louis Schmier's Random Thoughts are now blog posts - all of them.

Subscribe in your favorite rss reader. Add links to the posts that mean something to you, or that you want to return to later. It is such a kick to be able to link to his classic To Be A Teacher, as a blog post from 1994 - yes! Use the search feature to see how often he wrote about "blueberries", for instance. And now, in his latest Random Thoughts, you can leave comments for Louis - and everybody else. Huge thanks go to James Farmer for letting this happen, and for lighting the way in the conversion of hundreds of web pages to blog posts. This was an enormous undertaking, long overdue. I've been the html guy for way too long. Now it is all in Louis' hands, where it should be.

So, without further ado, I present to you an enormous body of incredible work, 600+ Random Thoughts (in a blog) about teaching, caring, and being a real human being:

The Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier

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