Monday, May 28, 2007


Originally uploaded by mahlness
Today I replaced the rotting and broken seat boards on this old bench with wood our next door neighbors had given us when they moved. They were getting divorced. Roger had lots of wood and asked if I wanted it. Several years later now, much of that wood is still stacked in our garage, waiting for me to find the right time and the perfect project. I had figured they'd be a part of a bookshelf. These new boards on our backyard bench were part of our neighbors' waterbed.

It sits in the shadow of a laurel hedge separating our property lines. It feels good to put the wood to use. As I was ripping and refinishing each board, I started thinking about the purpose and function of this particular wood - from waterbed to private refuge. If I were Billy Collins, I'd have some pretty darn good poetry coming along right now...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Not one glue stick...

... was used in the production of this book".

That should have been the little tag line at the end of each of the books my third graders produced this year for our school's annual Young Author's Conference. Not exactly leading edge web 2.0 stuff, but in the world of an elementary school, where glue sticks, markers, scissors, pencils, and crayons are the tools every child uses to produce a "book" in our celebration of literacy and authorship, this was pretty cool. It was a big deal.

A few weeks ago we got a slick color laser printer (HP 2605DN), thanks to the generous parents of my kids. It can duplex print, so I went out and bought heavy glossy paper for the pages and printable card stock for covers. The kids wrote from the get go in Word, writing, revising and editing on our classroom computers. Several of them posted rough drafts of some of their chapters on their blogs. The illustrations ended up slicker than whatever, as the kids photographed their artwork with our ancient Mavica and inserted those images into their digital stories. Many brought in photographs from home, took pictures of those pictures, and inserted them. They thought this was pretty cool, and they learned an amazing amount of technical stuff oh so quickly.

Not one glue stick. Not one curling up corner of a paper stuck onto another paper to try and look professional. No smeared crayon or runny paint job. These look pro. Looks do matter, you know. And of course they can be reproduced again and again, being totally digital. My kids will have them as one of the many pieces on a CD they will each get in four weeks to document much of their work this year.

Their third grade work might have been stuck in a box, stored and forgotten in an attic or under the stairs like mine was/is. Maybe it would have ended up in the back of a teacher's file cabinet in a file folder. Some of their work may go that route. But it also can and will exist on a CD, in storage online, on a flash drive, on a hard drive, a DVD, on a blog, and who knows what other media.... to be retrieved - and edited, improved, and built upon - in an instant. Forever.

Monday, May 21, 2007

K-12 Online 2007: Call for Proposals!

Hoping for an even more exciting and inspirational year.... which would be quite something!

Announcing the second annual “K12 Online” conference 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, October 15-19 and October 22-26 of 2007, and will include a preconference keynote during the week of October 8. This years conference theme is “Playing with Boundaries.” 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 any of a variety of downloadable, web based formats and released via the conference blog ( and archived for posterity.

Week 1
Strand A: Classroom 2.0
Leveraging the power of free online tools in an open, collaborative and transparent atmosphere characterises teaching and learning in the 21st century. Teachers and students are contributing to the growing global knowledge commons by publishing their work online. By sharing all stages of their learning students are beginning to appreciate the value of life long learning that inheres in work that is in “perpetual beta.” This strand will explore how teachers and students are playing with the boundaries between instructors, learners and classrooms. Presentations will also explore the practical pedagogical uses of online social tools (Web 2.0) giving concrete examples of how teachers are using the tools in their classes.

Strand B: New Tools
Focusing on free tools, what are the “nuts and bolts” of using specific new social media and collaborative tools for learning? This strand includes two parts. Basic training is “how to” information on tool use in an educational setting, especially for newcomers. Advanced training is for teachers interested in new tools for learning, looking for advanced technology training, seeking ideas for mashing tools together, and interested in web 2.0 assessment tools. As educators and students of all ages push the boundaries of learning, what are the specific steps for using new tools most effectively? Where “Classroom 2.0″ presentations will focus on instructional uses and examples of web 2.0 tool use, “New Tools” presentations should focus on “nuts and bolts” instructions for using tools. Five “basic” and five “advanced” presentations will be included in this strand.

Week 2
Strand A: Professional Learning Networks
Research says that professional development is most effective when it aims to create professional learning communities — places where teachers learn and work together. Using Web 2.0 tools educators can network with others around the globe extending traditional boundaries of ongoing, learner centered professional development and support. Presentations in this strand will include tips, ideas and resources on how to orchestrate your own professional development online; concrete examples of how the tools that support Professional Learning Environments (PLEs) are being used; how to create a supportive, reflective virtual learning community around school-based goals, and trends toward teacher directed personal learning environments.

Strand B: Obstacles to Opportunities
Boundaries formalized by education in the “industrial age” shouldn’t hinder educators as they seek to reform and transform their classroom practice. Playing with boundaries in the areas of copyright, digital discipline and ethics (e.g. cyberbullying), collaborating globally (e.g. cultural differences, synchronous communication), resistance to change (e.g. administration, teachers, students), school culture (e.g. high stakes testing), time (e.g. in curriculum, teacher day), lack of access to tools/computers, filtering, parental/district concerns for online safety, control (e.g. teacher control of student behavior/learning), solutions for IT collaboration and more — unearthing opportunities from the obstacles rooted in those boundaries — is the focus of presentations in this strand.

This call encourages all, experienced and novice, to submit proposals to present at this conference via this link. Take this opportunity to share your successes, strategies, and tips in “playing with boundaries” in one of the four strands as described above.

Deadline for proposal submissions is June 18, 2007. You will be contacted no later than June 30, 2007 regarding your status.

Presentations may be delivered in any web-based medium that is downloadable (including but not limited to podcasts, screencasts, slide shows) and is due one week prior to the date it is published.

Please note that all presentations will be licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

As you draft your proposal, you may wish to consider the presentation topics listed below which were suggested in the comments on the K-12 Online Conference Blog:

special needs education
Creative Commons
Second Life
video games in education
specific ideas, tips, mini lessons centered on pedagogical use of web 2.0 tools
overcoming institutional inertia and resistance
aligning Web 2.0 and other projects to national standards
getting your message across
how web 2.0 can assist those with disabilities
classroom 2.0 activities at the elementary level
creating video for TeacherTube and YouTube
google docs
teacher/peer collaboration
The first presentation in each strand will kick off with a keynote by a well known educator who is distinguished and knowledgeable in the context of their strand. Keynoters will be announced shortly.

This year’s conveners are:

Darren Kuropatwa is currently Department Head of Mathematics at Daniel 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 ( He will convene Classroom 2.0.

Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach, a 20-year educator, has been a classroom teacher, charter school principal, district administrator, and digital learning consultant. She currently serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching graduate and undergraduate preservice teachers at The College of William and Mary (Virginia, USA), where she is also completing her doctorate in educational planning, policy and leadership. In addition, Sheryl is co-leading a statewide 21st Century Skills initiative in the state of Alabama, funded by a major grant from the Microsoft Partners in Learning program. Sheryl blogs at ( She will convene Preconference Discussions and Personal Learning Networks.

Wesley Fryer is an educator, author, digital storyteller and change agent. With respect to school change, he describes himself as a “catalyst for creative educational engagement.” His blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity” was selected as the 2006 “Best Learning Theory Blog” by eSchoolnews and Discovery Education. He is the Director of Education Advocacy (PK-20) for AT&T in the state of Oklahoma. Wes blogs at ( Wes will convene New Tools.

Lani Ritter Hall currently contracts as an instructional designer for online professional development for Ohio teachers and online student courses with eTech Ohio. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who served in many capacities during her 35 years as a classroom and resource teacher in Ohio and Canada. Lani blogs at ( Lani will convene Obstacles to Opportunities.

If you have any questions about any part of this, email one of us:
Darren Kuropatwa: dkuropatwa {at} gmail {dot} com
Sheryl Nusbaum-Beach: snbeach {at} cox {dot} net
Lani Ritter Hall: lanihall {at} alltel {dot} net
Wesley Fryer: wesfryer {at} pobox {dot} com

Please duplicate this post and distribute it far and wide across the blogosphere. Feel free to republish it on your own blog (actually, we’d really like people to do that ) or link back to this post (published simultaneously on all our blogs).

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Trip to Toronto

Well, I only went virtually, but still...

Background first. I was invited several months ago to give a presentation at the International Reading Association's annual convention in Toronto. It was to be a part of a day long preconference institute. Try as I might, I could not find the $ to get me out there for a couple of days, and I was extremely disappointed. In sending my regrets to the organizers, I threw out the idea of presenting virtually, kind of as an afterthought. Well, that afterthought became reality.

Last Sunday I gave the presentation, via a DVD I produced. There is/was a wiki, we had a live Seattle/Toronto Skype chat after the presentation, and it was just a huge thrill. And an incredible learning experience.

I started my presentation a couple of months ago, writing an abstract and laying out what I thought would be an informative presentation. My travels through producing a 30 minute piece took me to three of my third graders' homes, where I interviewed and filmed them while they were blogging. It took me through the ins and outs of filming myself, trying to figure out what looked good (not much), what sounded good, and then learning that I just had to stop SOMEtime, for goodness sake, and finally learn to live with what I had. It was quite a journey.

Then there was all the incidental learning - pbwiki, which I had not used nearly as much as wikispaces. I learned the basics of Camtasia, a very slick program to to produce all sorts of A/V presentations, in pretty much any format you want. I learned tons more about compression, file sizes, video displays. The dvd I sent out for the conference was over 4 GB - that was interesting to learn about, too, burning one of those puppies. Afterwards I even put up a couple of pieces from the presentation on teachertube.... then of course was embedding those videos here and there... it never ends.

Ah yes, but what about the message? It was all about blogging with my third graders, of course. The biggest problem was that I just had way too much to say. How to condense the message and at the same time make it meaningful for an audience I knew nothing about was a challenge. I'm afraid I got a little scattered at times. What I ended up showing was the world of blogging in the elementary classroom - what it is like for my kids and me. I decided that was the important message to give - just to show people exactly what it is like for my kids and me. The audience saw and listened to three of my kids blogging from their homes. This was an eye opener to me, too. I also just talked on camera, as somebody might do at a conference presentation - from my back yard and from my classroom.

And then it was 15 minutes too long. But most of the material from the cutting room floor ended up on the wiki - along with the presentation itself. Here are the main bits and pieces:
  • Technology and Literacy: Perspectives from the Classroom: precon1small.wmv (63 MB, 30 min) - the main presentation.
  • Family Internet Night: familyinternetnight.wmv(28 MB, 8 min.) - one of the cuts, but stands well enough on its own. It's a PowerPoint presentation with commentary.
  • SSR 2.0, the Podcast: ssr1.wmv (4 MB, 6 min, podcast/screencast) - blending of a podcast done some time ago with some still images - just seeing if I could do this in Camtasia
  • The wiki for the preconference institute
  • My presentation page on the wiki

Many thanks to:

  • Janice Friesen, for mentioning my name to the conference organizers over a year ago.
  • Jill Castek, for encouraging and guiding me though the process, and for hosting my session in person.
  • Don Leu, for his "Miss Rumphius Effect" and for his leading the search into new literacies.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

TipLine - Gates' Computer Tips: [TIPS] background view of blogging using blogmeister

A follow-up to the previous post here on that Family Internet Night video, this post says it better than I did, especially talking about, the tool that makes it happen:

TipLine - Gates' Computer Tips: [TIPS] background view of blogging using blogmeister

While that one runs fine on teachertube, even in full screen mode, here's a higher resolution version you can just download and save - it's a 27 MB wmv file: familyinternetnight.wmv

Monday, May 14, 2007

Family Internet Night - on teachertube

Well, I finally took the plunge and uploaded something to This piece I developed for a larger presentation elsewhere (more on that later), and it got cut out because of time constraints. I think it stands well enough on its own - at least I hope so.

It is a PowerPoint presentation I shared with the families of my third graders in December, 2006 - with voice over narration.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Flexible thinkers

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how easily my third graders can use a tool, especially a new one, to solve a problem.

We're in the middle of writing these books for our annual Young Author's Conference, and of course not everybody is right on schedule... just like grown ups and deadlines. On Friday when I reminded them that their writing was supposed to be DONE by now (and perfect), there were a few gasps. Not that this deadline should have been news, but, well anyway.... So somebody raises her hand and asks if there is a way they can take their books home for the weekend to work on. All their writing is saved in Word on our local server, and they know they can't get there from home. Well, I was about to answer, but...

A few hands shot up, and somebody explained to her that she could just copy/paste to her blog, save it (and not "request publishing"). Then she could log in from home, and copy/paste from her blog into Word, upload the new version to her blog, you get the idea.

We have never talked about this. They came up with it on their own. Several knew this was the answer the moment the question came up. As a matter of fact, a couple of them said they had done this two months ago when they were collaborating on their Science Fair Project presentation.

Teacher nods his head, gives kudos all around for being creative thinkers, and wishes them good luck on their books. And has a flashback to a similar incident a year ago...

How can we possibly question giving them these new tools?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Games - cracking the door open

I had an interesting conversation with my third graders this past week.

It involved talk about video games, especially violent ones. I had noticed a lot of them wrote, and even blogged about their plans and then experiences playing PS2, WII, XBox, and so on. Lots of talk about Halo and Halo 2. Now I am not a game player at all (like zero), but I know that's a pretty violent one, and you're supposed to be 16, or 18 - or something. These kids are 8 and 9. So one morning I asked them about their game playing. It was as if I had lifted the lid on another world that they were all too eager to talk about. Lots of bravado, talk of levels, scores, and kills (!), especially from the boys - but I did manage to ask some yes/no questions, the answers to which disturbed me. Over half the class said they regularly play violent video games. There was this sort of guilty, cringey feeling I could see going around as they looked at each other and admitted (confessed) this to their teacher (good, I thought). I asked if their parents thought this was OK, and most said yes. So then of course I had to ask about their parents.... A clear majority of my class said their parents regularly played video games. I asked about dads - about 3/4 of the hands went up. I asked about moms - over 1/3 of the hands went up. I nodded my head, the teacher just asking about their lives outside of school, appreciating their honesty, saying we ought to talk more about this, etc. I did tell them that I was bothered by this, that I did not think it was good for them to spend so much time with violent games.... But I was truly stunned.

Lots of big time edtech bloggers talk about the potential of video games in education. I suppose that is so, since the kids spend so much of their time in that world. But man, do I have a long way to go. Now, are we talking Halo for third graders? Not likely, but I wonder what the educational world can ever tap into in games that will even come close the the addictive lure of violence my kids (and their parents) are so captivated by?

Maybe some educators are thinking that replicating the game playing medium somehow in school will draw kids back into the educational system. I understand that line of thinking, certainly. But my gut tells me kids are more drawn by the violent content than the slick interface. I hope I'm wrong. It does not feel good going down this road.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Publishing Drafts

I just posted this to my classroom blog over at I don't know how it will turn out, but it feels right...

Blogging Drafts

This is just a note to let the readers of know that some of the third graders here are publishing drafts of their writing - that is, unfinished work, writing that may contain mistakes.

Normally, the writing on their blogs is pretty close to perfect, in terms of the conventions of spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. At least we try :)

Right now everybody is working on a book for our annual Young Author's Conference. A few brave writers in room twelve are posting their works in progress - for you to take a look at - and even offer feedback on!

So if you see an article with the word "Draft" in the title, keep this in mind - and please feel free to leave a comment for the authors. They will certainly appreciate it. Thanks! - Mr. A.