My Evernote Edu | collection


Besides continuing to use Evernote for my own use, I will be incorporating Evernote in my classroom and using with my students. There are so many possible directions and ideas on how to incorporate it into the classroom that I’m excited to get started.


Stop Stealing Dreams (the entire manifesto on the web) – Stop Stealing Dreams



Stop Stealing Dreams (the entire manifesto on the web)

Feel free to read and share. But don’t edit or charge for it.

If you’d like the other editions, including a handy PDF on-screen edition, click here.


if you don’t underestimate me, I won’t underestimate you

Bob Dylan


Dedicated to every teacher who cares enough to change the system, and to every student brave enough to stand up and speak up.

Specifically, for Ross Abrams, Jon Guillaume, Beth Rudd, Steve Greenberg, Benji Kanters, Patti Jo Wilson, Florian Kønig, and that one teacher who changed everything for you.

A lot to think about and digest, ultimately it’s about reinventing our schools to become what they need to be.

Accentuate the Positive, Sometimes I Can’t Help it because of my PLN

Today is the last day before a break, I’ve been feeling particularly enthused with information that I’ve been coming across via my PLN. I had loaded several tabs in my browser, and was finally getting a chance to look at them in detail. I saved an article in one tab that was shared and it just seemed like a good example of why I get that feeling such as the quote from Michael Wesch of our goal as teachers to. . .

A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education via kwout

That chance to have such a positive influence on children’s lives which can’t be duplicated exactly but which each of must discover on our own.

 Later I had a chance to watch the video on mobile computing that Thomas Whitby shared on the PLN Ning and I was further filled with those strong emotions that help me to feel that I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now but a teacher in the classroom. 


At the same time I sometimes wonder if I need to diminish these feelings. Maybe I shouldn’t be feeling this way of unmitigated happiness, that there are teachers struggling with the most basic of needs both for their classroom and their students. A nagging sense of “I took the easy way out” when I had finished the teacher’s training program and went to a suburban school sometimes creeps in. But I’ve always had the belief that being older when I received my teaching credential I was going to focus on becoming a good teacher rather than tolerate the low pay, low morale, and chaos that teachers in my program talked about experiencing first hand when they were at some inner-city school. I actually enjoyed my student teaching in some of the tougher schools in San Francisco, but when I surveyed the teachers at one of the “better” schools, everyone of them said if they had to do it over again that they would never work in that district. I had been working so long in the financial district at law firms and been around cynical, burned out adults that I knew even though I was going to be in the classroom I wanted my collegues to have an optimism and zeal to match my feelings for my new career that I was embarking on. So I searched elsewhere in the Bay Area and came to where I am at now. And I really have a firm belief that this should be the best of times to be a teacher and in the classroom, but for many it doesn’t appear to be the case. We have at our disposal the most innovative, transformative tools ever. My students can transport themselves so easily outside the classroom and so much of what the internet is about is learning. Its genesis afterall had to do with sharing information and research. Everyday there is some new bit of research and tools which help us accomplish and clarify our goals. And for many of us we are reaching a point where the technology is becoming transparent to the goals of collaboration and building a community of learning and sharing outside the classroom. Our students connect, are engaged, and I can see the relevancy of activities to by the passion which they pursue them. 

Why people become teachers is not something anyone can always answer quickly, but for myself I remember a transformative moment when I was reading Antione de Saint Exupery and his book Wind, Sand, and Stars as he rode with a group of dead to the world middle aged men on an omnibus as he was going to the airport to transport the mail in the stary night. I knew then that I could make a difference, that I in my naive understanding of the teaching profession mattered.

Wind, Sand and Stars – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – Google Books via kwout

And this sense of making a positive difference the:


is so key to how not only we make our students feel as Michael Soskil recently posted about, but also how we feel about ourselves and our relationship to teaching that Angela Maiers has written a manifesto about. It is so insistent, not vague or unclear, but strident and mandatory. I wish that I could reach out to every teacher whose lost that sense because no one has reminded them of the incredible i
mportance and relevance of what they do. And perhaps this need is the most relevant arguement yet to helping teachers losing their hope to create their support, their network of nurturing and nourishment, their own PLN.


First Project of the Year Called POS (Parts of Speech) Reflections

One of the most difficult times I have in creating projects is balancing projects which are real world, significant and applicable to life versus the academic standards and foundational ideas in terms of 5th grade learning standards that I need to reinforce. Teaching parts of speech has always been one of the most challenging because while I always prefer to use the students own writing to reinforce concepts. But rather than having students make a list of adverb, verbs, etc. from their writing I try and let them create their own way of teaching the concepts using a narrative structure and several presentation tools. I've done this particular project several times and always start with a set of Discovery Education videos called Pendemonium that tell a story while teaching parts of speech.

I've used Comic Life in the past and broken down the groups by topic such as "adjective" or "nouns" groups, etc. This year I again had the students grouped the same and begin by creating their story using a linear story board (link will download or display pdf) from Tech4Learning. I decided this year to have them writing a script in Google docs and then using Voicethread to record the story with students being expected to follow a basic set of instructions and created a homepage to also link off group pages and if needed embed screencasts or in this instance links to a screencast. I also as has been my practice for awhile to have some kind of simple bulletin board to post questions and share ideas.


I again used a Wallwisher this year but it wasn't running or loaded very slowly in many instances and I didn't push the students to use it this year. I liked how it has expanded to become something more than just a simple text based tool.

They were also expected to create their own artwork, although that could mean anything from drawing and scanning hand drawn artwork using Skitch and uploading to our classroom Flickr account to using the drawing tools in Kerpoof to create images. I tried to introduce Aviary education this year since there are education accounts available to students but I'll need to show them more on what they can do with the tool since they seemed to prefer the ease of using Kerpoof at this age.

We watched all the videos in the series and I asked students to not only keep track of what the rules of grammar introduced in each video but also to write down what happened in each episode in terms of plot, setting, and characters. The notes were turned in and as I told the students this was a primary way for them to show evidence of learning the rules of grammer. Students were then asked to brainstorm their own story. Earlier in the year I had done several activities surrounding Bloom's Taxonomy and I again referred to the poster that I have up in my room and asked students to think up ways to achieve the higher levels of thinking with what they were going to do for the project. I gave them the sheet to begin creating a storyline and have a rough drawing of what they needed. Several groups preferred to jump right into a shared Google doc. 

Everyday as students finished with that day's work they were expected to do a reflection on what was done and whether everyone was contributing.

Groupself Assessment


I also gave students a deadline of two weeks to complete the work for the Voicethread and also to create a Glogster that was to advertise their Voicethread like a movie poster but also needed to have at least four links to learning tools or websites. but had to extend the time allowed so that all students could finish. I also set up a Wallwisher for students to ask questions and post ideas but the tools has become problematic in its not being reliable to use.

The final results were to be posted to a wikipage that each group was given as a home page. The homepage was expected to have a description of the project as well as a Glogster poster which was to advertise the final voicethread as well as have at least four links to learning tools to help in understanding the part of speech assigned.

An example of what the final wiki pages with the Voicethread and Glogster can be seen here.

The final projects for the most part turned out well. The hardest part was getting students to check and adjust their volume level using the headset mics or built in mics on the computers. 

Students were asked to play their Voicethread and to share ideas behind their project. I used a Coverit live blog that I embedded in the wiki and could moderate comments while the presentation was happening.


I ended up with two sessions because I couldn't remember how to restart a previously paused session. 

Since this was the first time many of the students had used many of these tools the groups that were most successful were those that were proactive in learning how to use the tools and how to embed them in their wiki page. We had also brainstormed all the possible jobs involved with completing the project but some groups struggled to complete everything on time. 


So Is this what cloud computing will be like?

I always try and visualize what cloud computing would look like through an apt metaphor.

I usually picture a cloud or balloon floating through the sky with one string dangling down and that is my connection which stays open all day and night.

What would it be like if someone strung up another line to my cloud?

Today I had a sense of what that would be like:

I received a contact from Google, at first sort of dismissed it as another Google tool that I would check later. It said there was an unknown IP accessing my account. I move between home and school and hardly think twice as I access the WIFI signal. I thought it was something through my district. I wonder about the relationship between my district then the county and some commercial provider.

I checked my own IP and it wasn’t me. I suddenly had the vision of a room in Russian, many computers searching and trying  combinations of letters and numbers breaking through accounts. I thought about the Chinese dissadents who have to protect themselves against such attacks.

I tried another website to trace IPs and it connected to Google maps and showed me a location a few miles from where I live. Then I was thinking about my home wireless, but I created a monster of a password with numbers and letters that would be impossible to break.

I changed my password, something I haven’t done even with all the warnings that I’ve seen about changing and making it more secure.

Maybe there is some credit card information that would be enough to cause me trouble.

No, it ended up being a web 2.0 company called Boxbe.

I had signed up for an account and they had been agressive in accessing my account information, even putting a filter amongst my personal Google filters that I was not aware I had approved.

So my little balloon cloud is still floating, unaware, my data, and personal information. Who convinced me this was the way to go? I supposed the same feeling that had me do much of the digitization and consolidation of my life into one place accessible, 24/7.

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Email Must Go!

Responding to a Tweet from Bud Hunt on the question of whether students should have email or not

I think of email as being similar to the issue surrounding QWERTY. A communications dinosaur who served its purpose and is no longer relevant based on the tools that classrooms and school districts have at their disposal.

I first used email in the late 80’s at a law firm. At first I remember no one knew of a use for it other than to send quick messages to other people that we needed to meet face to face.

Perhaps I should list the parts of email I hate.

Part of my dislike starts with the “carbon copy” model of how information used to be moved.

BCC – is an easy one – so communication happens but it is not known by everyone involved who saw what was written. To me this is the equivalent of speaking to someone as happens in an interrogation and know that there is the possibility that someone else is listening in on the discussion behind a mirrored glass wall.

CC – the secondary recipient of a message can communicate but again is not the primary person the communication was intended for. It is used to gain support or to move difficult communication to a more monitored situation, can be just an FYI, or simply a habit someone has to respond to all and not pay attention to the hierarchy of the original message.

The decision making chain – this is a set of email messages that go back and forth between a group of people and there seems to be no consensus but a communication of why a time shouldn’t be used, why the idea is not acceptable to a person responding, and then another set of times or ideas which must then go around the group, ad infinitum. Usually the best approach is to look at the last email with the same subject and hope that the person hasn’t edited any of the previous messages.

Email chains – periodically my district gets an email that is sent to the entire district, the responses of “please don’t respond to all” leads to more instances of “please don’t respond to all” this usually goes on for 20 or 30 messages at least.

Timeliness – email gives instant communication and yet people are allowed to either respond immediately, let a sufficient time pass as to, what let someone know the message is not important or was it accidentally missed? Did the person ignore the message or was it was caught up in the “junk” filter and deleted in which case it will need to be resent. This usually isn’t discovered or clarified until a second message or face to face conversation occurs. I’ve missed numerous emails because the spelling of my name is unusual and a typo causes me to miss a message. Although I wonder sometimes if there is always the lingering doubt on the part of some people that I may be purposefully ignoring something. When an email is sent there is no indicator when a response is expected or most of the time even received.

You can google,yahoo,flickr,twitter,plurk,ning me and my name will most likely pop up as well as how to contact me!

Email is where I get spam, the type of chain mail that says if you don’t pass this on, or fraudulent communication offering me money.

I cope with it by mostly being pulled back so as not to have any misinterpretation occur. At the least it allows for both personal and professional communication, but I think it also mixes them up as well.

I suppose I now look at email with all the quarks and irrationalities as like someone looking back from email to snail mail or letters handled by various people and passing through odd machines to reach a recipient and typing machines with black carbon paper sandwiched between two other sheets of paper.

Solutions? Take a range of the other communication tools besides email and see which works best for an organization’s needs.

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The Revolution will not be Televised, it will be on Twitter (How I experienced the new literacies during the Iranian election)

We see the question all the time on what does 21st century literacy mean for our students?

There are numerous answers floating out on the internet so I reflected on the NCTE version, because in its narrowest traditional and simplistic definition literacy has to do with learning English and the ability to read, write and participate in society. The problem is that many teachers do not understand that the means through which competency is accomplished has radically shifted as many teachers have seen the Shift Happens video and with it the expectations and demands on how teachers need to guide students to achieve this new definition of literacy.

In reflecting back on my experience last night it met all the 21st century standards as presented:

I felt that I was able to achieve a clearer picture last night as to the new literacies that I need to direct my students toward when I watched the citizens of Iran react to the Iranian election. It really started out with a few “tweets” from teachers on Twitter. In particular one from Larry Ferlazzo caught my eye.

The link took me to a the story of Twitter still being accessible to citizens even though all other communication means was being shut down as well as a raw embeded Youtube video

How different is this video from a mainstream media or classroom download from Discovery Education streaming and yet how much more powerful is this video in displaying the events of what was happening. How should a teacher prepare a student so that they can “understand” unedited, raw, footage?

At this point I chose to stay with Twitter as my means of accessing information I pulled up Tweet grid and put Iran Election into the search as a hashtag (#iranelection).

Again do we teach students how to use hashtags, where to access information be it RSS or Twitter or other social networks? If a student has grown used to trusting the sources or their information how will they ever cope with information feeds that can be contradictory and confusing?

So besides the question of whether a student would have the knowledge of where to look for information, in looking at the screencast what other sorts of information might a student need to have knowledge of? Are there recognizable names or trusted sources of information? Would a student understand the various hashtags and when and how to use them? Would a student understand the purpose of RT or re-tweeting and how it was being used? If your not used to seeing converted URLs so that they are smaller for tweets would someone click on them? For a student not familiar might they appear to be meaningless and not good potential for information? This year I had several student trying to use the URL addresses as a means of searching and I’ve seen this at other times as well.

I was struck by not only the amount of information, but also that people seemed to be sharing, concerned, and trying to be helpful. Lastly what I noticed in the feed was the fact that none of the other mainstream media services that I would normally use CNN, MSN, was providing much information if any.

Twitter was the primary source of finding information. The hashtag #iranelection became my tag for my Diigo bookmarks. I figured I would later go back and add more tags but was just trying to keep up with the stream of information.

Where did the links that were being shared lead to, what else but to many of the websites that are filtered or blocked in school districts. First off it was fascinating to see twitter feeds by people in Iran reporting events as they happened.


For general election information there was of course the updated Wikipedia page. There was pictures from Flickr for example here, pictures on Twitpic here , videos on Youtube here and here, links to Iranian citizens posting on Twitter, some people were aggregating links for others here and here as well as videos and many mainstream media sites such as the BBC who were also posting pictures and videos, and online newspapers that could take large periods of time to track down and filter . And even organized protests for different cities and online petitions.

By the time I scrambled off to bed I felt overwhelmed but informed. I had the lingering question of how do we begin to prepare our students for an experience such as this when classrooms are prevented from using them as teaching tools? There is no possible way to begin to understand the idea of taking an overwhelming amount of information in the noise vs. valued information context unless a direct experience of and practice with occurs. Learning in this manner is learning to ignore and filter out was is unimportant or redundant, not how we teach when we expect students to know the minutest arcane details in a text book written by an academic.

What were educators on Twitter doing. Earlier in the day I had read a blog post by Rob Jacobs that Miguel Guhlin had shared about moving teachers from a PLC to a “professional networked learning collaborative.” Many of the educators in my PLN were participating and reading and writing as the events were happening and it reminded me of the potential power of a PLN network graphic that Rob had created

At one point in my Tweetdeck feed all the members of my PLN were sharing something about the situation in Iran.

It showed not only the power of members of a PLN being connected to a network but also gave me a sense of satisfaction seeing people step up and participate by sharing and crediting sources of information as they were found, good digital citizens all 🙂 I can’t think of a better example of what 21st Century literacy means than my experiences from last night.

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Identity and Branding as Reflected in Student User Names and Avatars

As I wrote my previous post about identity I realized that the idea of identity as meme or brand was on the margins of what I was thinking about? When do we begin addressing some of these further important ways to represent self or construct our self to students? Isn’t this a foundational concept in the importance of literacy and digital citizenship?

In flogging that dead horse of needed 21st century skills, the familiar concept of preparing student’s for the workplace, I would think that branding would be critical from the stand point that as a person moves through all the career positions and companies they work for then their identity will be less and less vested with who they work for and more with themselves. But when I read articles professing the critical importance of branding

and even a magazine devoted to the topic, I’m a little bothered and concerned for what we might potentially be teaching our students. And yet, we are in a global economy right, what implications does that have if the competition to succeed is that much more difficult. What are we to make of the concept of branding and identity when students so commonly and purposely use misinformation for their identity?

At the same time I was wondering which of Mike Ribble’s  nine themes of digital citizenship covered the concept of digital identity and branding. I could see the concept fitting into several areas but most involved treatment of others. It seems the idea of digital identity is more for the treatment the external self and conditioning the perception of others.
brand-called-you-cover.jpg (JPEG Image, 476x600 pixels) - Scaled (85%) by you.
Jeff Utecht also had also been reflecting on branding and identity and raised some thoughtful questions as well as practical thoughts about when to introduce the concept and how to use these ideas in the classroom. As he points out, Clarence Fisher has worked on creating a classroom identity with his Thin Wall blog that students work under, and this is probably I think the best way to help the students internalize the ideas of team work, collaboration, and cooperation. I came away from the article though  with realizing that a student’s branding or identity will need to change over time. And while It is interesting as two of his colleagues did to create an identity for their children, digital identity for me involves the freedom to explore how other’s perceive one’s identity differently than what a parent chooses for you at birth.

When I think of identity and playing with identity in the past before computers I first think of artists and fashion designers, and those who had to meet the demands of their patrons and pursue their creative focus while satisfying the censorship waiting for anyone who dared not represent the world as the church deemed appropriate.

Perhaps the first modern artist that I am aware of to play with identity in the photographic medium is Marcel Duchamp who created the pseudonym Rose Selavy and placed “her” image on perfume bottles and used the name as attribution for several of his art works. Later in the 20th century I think what our student today would like to do is similar to the work of Cindy Sherman and her series of pictures in which she appears as vastly different persona. While our students may not go so far in creating their identity, I’m still struck by Dana Boyd’s words,”that social network profiles are where youth write themselves into being.

I think there is a natural tendency to play with the concept of identity and branding as it is the synthetic other that people around us see. Do we choose to idealize or modify our identity and brand for what we would like to be? What do we do with students who want to use frightening user names or identities? Last year one of my sixth graders used the user name “evilpsycho2” and the other students knew he wasn’t and were’nt uncomfortable with him using it. I wasn’t so comfortable but at the same time I couldn’t in my mind jusitfy forcing him to change it because I also knew him and had also set up the use of user names as an opportunity for the students to play with and have the freedom to come up with their own.

Today as students create content for others beyond the walls of the classroom we see that identity and brand are becoming more important as the number of people they reach with their content grows as well. I wonder what kind of effect this sizable audience will have on young students. We discuss all the time the importance of an authentic audience and authentic projects for our students but not how large the exposure should be.

From a practical standpoint I always tell my student to try and find something that represents them, but what if they want to do the opposite?

This year I had my students use three avatar creators to represent themselves. I gave each an assigned user name which incorporated which section they were in and a number. I told the students that they were to plan on keeping these identities for most of the school year. Last year when I gave the students the option of creating their own user names it seemed appropriate for sixth graders, but then I had students changing their user names repeatedly and it was difficult to keep track of. Several students also repeatedly changed the icon or avatar to represent themselves and also used copyrighted images and objects which didn’t really relate to themselves other than they thought the image was “cool.”

So this year I spent more time with the fourth graders helping them brainstorm and reflect on what they wanted.

I let them choose from one of three avatar creators:
Build Your Wild Self
Skype’s Wee World
Become an M&M Character

student avatars one by you.

I then created a screencast using Jing showing the students how to capture their avatar using Skitch and then to upload them to our classroom Flickr page.

As you can see most of the students chose Skype’s wee world characters but a few did use the other avatar creators. Later I also created a screencast showing how to upload the image to our Class Blogmeister account.

So where do I stand on all this, my primary concern is for my student’s safety and awareness of the danger’s inherent in revealing too much personal information and their responsibilities as digital citizens, but at some point in a student’s learning it seems this push to hold back and blur the true identity must begin shifting towards posting an identity that draws people to them, something that appears trustworthy and holds value.

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What does Digital Identity mean for the Classroom?

A couple weeks ago at the CR 2.0 meet up in Sacramento we were talking about using social networks and how to set up accounts and use them. The discussion shifted to how to create an identity and I realized that there is a schism happening between teachers as adults and our students and how they create identities at least on social networks. Having read Dana Boyd‘s recent “crib notes” on a presentation at Penn State, there is an interesting difference between teens in writing their identity versus adults. Teens consider their digital identity most important, however they are prone to purposeful misinformation in how they present themselves because they expect their friends to understand the humor in what they are writing.

Teachers on the other hand can be such a serious lot and our perception of what we should write about and create for our identities is different. If you asked an adult what was most important they might propose that their “real world” identity was most important and informs or constructs their digital identity. So on the one hand teens think the digital identity is most important but not being factual acceptable. While adults who may value their real world identity as more important place greater importance on factual truth or to be as close to the perceived reality of themselves as possible. I’ve come to realize that for many of my virtual relationships since I have never met these people F to F that this is all we have to go by. The different roles we play and the relationships we form are based on ever changing roles and responsibilities. There is no possible way of anticipating and writing identities that will be permanent and inclusive of all we are. This problem can be especially problematic if expectations and perceptions do not meet the reality of the person or we mismatch our involvement with others beyond what we should such as was shared by Jen Wagner.

Bud Hunt was tweeting about questions and ideas about creating identity and I realized that we may continue to struggle with our expectations of what our identities should look like when teens or students don’t approach constructing identity in the same manner.

And then Will Richardson responded:

Of course the question is can we teach what we perceive so differently than our students?

Do we begin helping the students think about digital identity and try to change their approach to identity?

I realized the question is more complex once the idea of “writing” as a part of creating identity is taken into consideration. Writing can now take the form of the squence of pictures that are posted on Flickr, the series of videos uploaded onto youtube, and writing is now really an act of the creation of content, the juxtoposition of a sequence of media either text or images. I’ve been creating content for years, some content is still available some content has been erased or destroyed. I have placed my identity in the hands of different Web 2.0 companies and the servers they run. I also have content that sits on my computer or is stored on hard drives but it is no longer formated to be “readable” by others. For that I need the help of others. And do other’s include my PLN, professional organizations that I participate in? In Second Life how does the lines of code that give shape and form to my appearance affect my identity? So how much do I really control my digital identity?

Perhaps our students and teens have it right as I really wonder how much I do determine my digital identity. Should we worry about the veracity of what we try to represent ourselves as because after all we don’t really control much of what formats and frames our identity. The shifting of what others see as our identity seems to me like quicksand that we’ve risen above with some constructed identity that slowly sinks over time to be dredged up only by someone seriously interested in exhuming one’s past. I can post as much contructed information as I want but to me the Google search is still the most telling representative of my identity. If I search on Google for myself, much of the content is based on recent chronological events or on what has been most examined by others. But in my instance no matter now much I’ve worked, the music databases that have been created push my actions of twenty five years ago when I played a minor role in independent music circles to be intertwined with the past few years with my identity as a teacher. How much choice or control do I really have in creating my digital identity?

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