As I am wrapping up my two week experiment with going all-in on #IndieWeb WordPress I have had the pleasure of learning from so many great people. I recently discussed session ideas with David Shanske and Matthias Pfefferle about different ideas as we brainstormed sessions.
My ultimate goal is to provide the documentation support to David and Mathias and other people who work on the technical side. I want to provide as David suggested, “a functional solution.” Here were some ideas I had:
A WordPress Theme Developers Guide to to the #IndieWeb
As I finish my two week WordPress experiment I am using Alan Levine’s new theme publishing posts under a variety of conditions and then checking out how microformats2 get rendered based on post kind. Be cool with folks to work on best practices to creating IndieWeb child themes. Each we can focus on our favs or the most popular. I chose Dimensions because I think the whole #rhizo #ds106 and Virtually Connecting crowd would dig how #IndieWeb stuff works. Many of them will use what Alan build because when the cogdog barks you howl back.
I also want to try to do the same with Hueman. I like that theme and I think it will just be a matter of removing bad microformat classes. This could have great benefits for the WordPress #IndieWeb community. Creating some rules for folks would rock.
Post-Type Discovery Pages
Text structure matters as much on the front end as it does in the back end. During my experimenting folks shared the Post Discovery Pages on the wiki. Anyone trying to learn how to update their blog with microformats2 would love this resource. We can make it better. The pages describing each post kind lack parallelism. Compare the page on note, article, and bookmark. Some post kind discovery pages like article stubs while others could pass Kerouac novels. Any easy but important update to the wiki would involve designing a template and make each post-kind that links from the post-discover page to match each other. We need to make the layout of wiki articles as predictable as basic math.
What I build
In #IndieWeb spirit you showcase something you have hacked together. For me I am working on three pieces academics and teachers could use. A static page for a professional organization, a syllabus, and a course website. Each resource will use CSS Grid and microforamts2. I am trying to keep the HTML as plain as possible to encourage sharing and remixing. Some day not in the distant future I hope to use these as th backbone for a decentralized LMS and professional network.
The end of the semester, unlike the winter weather, has rolled on in. Similar to meteorologists we teachers have to use tools to gather data and make predictions. On their own these readings do not describe much. A climate is so much more than a thermometer reading. Taken together, however, we hope multiple measures of performance can demonstrate some growth in learning.
At the Mozfest session on Thimble, however, I felt we wanted to focus on the tools for measuring. Instead we need to consider the climate of space that allows learning to thrive. Many of the teachers who attended the session on Thimble immediately requested features that we could loosely label, “testing mode.”
Thimble should not have a testing mode. Any teacher can remix an activity or a teaching kit to have learners move from blank page to published product. I just wonder how much we miss when we base our writing assessments on products of learning and not the processes of learning.
My Semester with Thimble
I chose to do a portfolio assessment for my EDU 106: New Literacies: Digital Texts and Tools for Life long Learning. I don’t think “code quizzes” would be a better approach. There are awesome games to measure those types of learning outcomes. Play CSS Diner or Flexbox Froggy.
I would have missed so much learning if I just used a “final project” approach.
The student who taught half the class how to use Google fonts…would she receive credit?
How about the learners who pinged every corner of social media for help…does this effort not count?
How about the student who struggled but persisted to get an “MVP” published. Should his portfolio be judged on the same scale?
When you teach with Thimble so much of the learning happens as students exchange strategies and designs. When we only use tests or constrained projects as a thermometer of the class we miss so much of the climate.
My Portfolio Assessment
I created a task for the class. I tried to Mr. Miyagi my students. Almost everything to be included in the final should have been done. The students then had two templates to choose from. One portfolio uses the basic three page template included on thimble.mozilla.org and the second template was one I hacked together (a lot of broken JS and used CSS in my template).
I offered an optional design studio the last day of class. Many people went from their paper prototypes (I required this) to a basic portfolio by the end of the class. They all used the <3 project on thimble.mozilla.org.
You can check in and follow the portfolio submissions on our class stream.
We cannot use new tools to support outdated paradigms of measurement. We cannot rethink learning without challenging education. We will not develop opportunities for connected learning without rethinking assessment.
I am not saying all measurement is bad. In fact I am rather found of counting things and I am excited about the possibilities of machine learning. With Thimble, for example, I would love a summary pre/post of lines changed, unused CSS, elements changed. Basically I want to know how far a remix deviates from an original template.
Not sure how hard revision history would be, but that would make a powerful source of data for teachers.
This, however, would never be enough.
Assess by Learning
I am learning! I am assessing. The two can not be separated. I am also documenting my learning through a series of blog posts I share with the class. For example I talked about my struggles with the navigation and the creation of my media page.
Assess by Leading
In essence by sharing my work I am teaching by leading. I am also seeing leadership emerge as an important element in the connected learning classroom. There are folks people turned to as their skills leveled up. There were task managers who could keep their classmates on point. So many different roles emerged that helped to contribute to our climate.
The spaces we create matter just as much as the people who fill them.
David Kellog recently posted to the Extended Mind Culture and Activity listserv that printing press transformed language more than the computer. I disagree. Rather than explain using just words I “atomized” and confused the work by remixing in pesky images with the email thread.
Any emphasis is mine.
In a recent interview, Chomsky was asked how computers would transform
language. He scoffed a little, and remarked that he didn’t think they
would, at least not nearly as much as printing presses did. I am inclined
to attribute this view to Chomsky’s general anti-developmentalism, but on
reflection, it occurs to me that there are three good reasons to suspect that so far, Chomsky’s right.
First of all, the printing press made it possible to create whole
populations of literate people. The impact of computers has been much more
restricted, simply because it requires a certain capital threshold to buy
into that impact, and this threshold is denied to whole countries and to
whole sections within even the most affluent countries.
Secondly, the printing press made it possible to turn information into a
printed commodity at a moment when the creation and distribution of
commodities was a central neoformation in human productivity. The impact of
computers has been–well, largely to create and distribute commodities. But
this just isn’t a neoformation any more, and it actually has the effect of
atomizing and trivializing information in many cases,
a journal article, I take a moment to marvel at how much historical
perspective–how many opportunities to learn things while looking up other
things–I lose when I simply “hunt and peck” for articles I need on the
Thirdly, and most importantly from a CHAT perspective: the priniting press
changed our unit of analysis for language in a very fundamental way:
meanings, wordings, and soundings became clearly
distinct and differentiated for the first time. There isn’t any comparable
shift in the unit of analysis for language wrought by computers.
For the illiterate, the printing press made it possible to abstract
meanings from wordings and wordings from soundings for the first time: the
distancing effect destroyed forever the illusion that words were simply
names for actual objects and forced every literate person to think in terms
of examples of concepts instead. Even for the literate, the printing press
made it possible to see wordings and even soundings as made of
interchangeable parts, and of meanings as examples of concepts that have to
be built up from soundings and wordings.
(As an idealist, Chomsky has a good grasp of this: he often points out that
words like “river” only really refer to concepts within the mind, not to
physical objects, and the correspondence of that concept to reality is
really a coincidence and not a reflection of any kind–what he is not ready
to accept is that that coincidence is carefully set up and stage managed by
culture and history and not simply a product of evolution.)
The computer actually obscures all this, not only by bringing graphics,
sound, and text together again, This is a bad thing? but also by creating, on the semantic
plane, the illusion of a single concrete virtual reality,
when in fact all we really have are separate computers, which we can use to create that
illusion by technical rather than imaginative means.
We often think of the history of information as speeding up as it
progresses, the way life appears to a man in his late middle age. But it is
also possible to regard it as slowing down, the way life appears when we
look at a small child, or, more generally, when we consider this history
not as the creation of information but instead as the creation of potential.-David Kellog
It was fun.
Feedly Has Just Announced the Release of Shared Collections
I have long advocated teaching and learning across open and distributed networks. Much of this work has centered around individual blogs aggregated through RSS.
Like everyone I used Google Reader, and I shuttered at its demise. Long before the death of Reader, however, I had transitioned to feedly.
The only reason I stuck with Google Reader were bundles. Bundles were public blogrolls that you could share. The only thing I missed with feedly were bundles.
Feedly to the Rescue
Feedly (detailed in their post here) has just released an invite only beta test of the public collections. This invite will first be open to 60-90 users, then be open to Pro users (feed your local developer) , and by 2015 to all users.
I love the developers at Feedly. They are very responsive to users and I have had the privilege to beta test many of their features with my teaching cap on. After playing with the features for about a week. I am very impressed and see many applications for the classroom.
How to Use Public Collections
The collections are based off of your normal feeds. You just get the option of making some public while keeping others private. The ease of use will make the service an asset to any classroom that relies on blogs.
Set up a Profile
First you set up a profile.
You choose a username (this is permanent and how people will find your collections)
Choose a display name
Then you click on the pencil to add images
Feedly does not host any images. You must choose images from your blog, Flickr, by using the image url.
Add a quick biography.
Choose your Public Collections
Click on Shared Collections
Then you make a collection shared (public) by clicking on the lock button
You will see all your collections but people who see your profile will only get the shared collections.
If they are not members of feedly visitors will be prompted to join but can continue on to your shared collections without joining feedly.
Follow the Shared Collections
You are given many option when you visit someone’s shared collections
You can add individual sites
Add the entire collection to your feedly account
Or you can share the feed through the usual social media channels.
My Pedagogical Workflow
I have missed bundles in my teaching and I am ecstatic to replace them with my shared collections on feedly.
I wanted to detail my workflow and describe how I plan to use shared collections
Building a Class Public Collection
I first make a collection of the rss feeds for each student in my classes.
These are arranged by separate collections
These collections will be public so my students can follow or add the feeds to their chosen rss aggregator.
Build a Comment Private Collection
I then make a separate collection of each sites comment feed.
Commenting is important so I want to track this among students.
I do not make these collections public
Use Tags for Classroom Management
This is an idea I stole from Laura Gibbs, and it has quickly become steadfast practice.
I make a series of tags (currently Commented, feedback, recommend…and one unused spelling mistake).
I then tag posts as I read them.
The tags help me ensure I provide feedback where needed, and spread my comments around to all students.
I can add tags anytime
They then appear when I read an individual post.I can then search by Tags in Feedly when I need to track progress in my gradebook.
Possible Future Pedagogical Uses
Use Tags for Mentor Texts
Recently I have noticed that many of my students need scaffolds in learning the unique affordances of blogging platforms. They may not also grasp common practices n article or literary analysis. I want to use tags to track posts that can serve as mentor texts. I imagine tags such as:
Quote-analysis posts that draw on a specific quote
Reflection posts that connect a text to a personal narrative
Metaphor-Quotes that use an image as a metaphor
Synthesis-Posts that bring together many sources
Tutorials-Posts that teach.
Overtime I will be able to collect and share these posts with my students. More importantly I will have them tagged in Feedly so I can use the texts to make videos of text structure analysis or simply to share wonderful mentor texts.
Turn SSR into RSS
The idea of students curating content that meets their needs through an RSS feed most excites me about shared collections. The Common Core State Standards, and more importantly common sense, state that we need to increase the amount of non-fiction reading.
The use of feedly, through shared collections, will allow students to design their own reading materials. More importantly it takes the silence out of reading. These are interactive and shareable texts.
I tried to embed a shared collection on my blog using an iframe but that did not work. I don’t know if that is a lack of my knowledge or a yet to be released feature. I am sure embedding will be rolled out.
I also know I have to really spend my time curating collections. I want smaller, more meaningful collections, and not the regurgitated press releases found all over the net. I also know that I need to learn more about categories and RSS in general to make the process more seamless for students (look to #ccourses for more information).
An RSS feed will always be my primary content curation tool. I find the news I want to share. I never liked Twitter or any social media for an rss reader. My news isn’t stackable. I want it anchored and waiting, not floating by in some stream. I have tried lists and circles with authors I like but then you have to wade through comments and sometime vitriol.
RSS is a great tool, and if teachers want to utilize blogs outside of a closed system they are a must. If you are a teacher and you are looking for a method to organize 100’s of student blogs, you need shared collections. I have already been a long time supporter of feedly. My one reservation since leaving Google Reader– no sharing of feeds, has now been resolved. It now makes the short list of RSS readers I recommend for classrom use.
As an e-editor for the Literacy Research Association I am part of an amazing collaborative of folks trying to connect our work to classroom practice. In order to move towards this goal we have started a series of monthly focused netcasts. Each month we highlight a current issue in literacy research. This month we are focusing on academic vocabulary.
Twitter Introductory Chat
We begin each month by framing the issue using the #literacies hashtag. The preshow Twitter chat is held the first Thursday of the month. Four questions guided the chat
What is the role of direct vocabulary instruction vs. learning language through use in context?
What is the balance between “academic” vocabulary & technical or discipline specific vocabulary?
How does technology impact vocabulary acquisition?
What implications in instructional practices and principles should we consider?
The show is available via Google Hangouts-on-Air. This broadcasts the show live, which means you can watch the show live while it is happening…and ask questions. To get involved in the show, you can view (and ask questions) here. You can also watch it on YouTube after the show has completed, and share with teachers, students, and other educational partners that you believe would be interested in the topics, or the series.
The purpose of the Research to Practice series is to connect current research and “best principles” to what is happening in the classroom.
Twitter Follow Up Chat
Then on the third Thursday of the moth we have a follow up chat once again using the #literacies hashtag. This will be on 5/15 at 8:00 pm.
Come Join Us
The monthly series that the Literacy Research Association have developed can be very rewarding for practicing and pre-service teachers. We encourage you to watch past episodes. Most importantly please join us tonight (5/6) and use the twitter hashtag #literacies during the show.
As a teacher educator I have incorporated these monthly topics into my classroom. I know of school districts that now use the monthly series as part of personalized professional development. Whatever your purpose and goals I hope to see you there,
Last week I had the honor of accepting the Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship Award. The award, is designed to support faculty with nine credits of release time for a research project. I plan on using the time to develop an idea I have dreamed up over the last few years.
Over the long term I want to create an online environment to support the teaching of sourcing skills and argumentative writing. My thinking is we decontextualize the inherent bias and perspectives found in the act of reading and writing texts. I want to teach sourcing as a mindset and not a skill set.
Building off of the work of Rick Beach and the lessons I learned studying under Don Leu I want to use role play and bias thinkalouds to contextualize sourcing skills within Internet Inquiry.
Basically students would interact in this online simulation. They would have to visit different buildings in the town. Each building would have its own purpose. Users would encounter an avatar on each side of a contemporary issue. They would also visit a librarian with a more neutral stance. Finally there would be a store where students would have the option to visit. There they could unlock features to customize their avatars by completing learning events centered on sourcing Finally there would be “field work.” Here students would have to conduct online research and collect and analyze data.
The long term version of my idea is to develop learning activities that can bolster adolescent students’ abilities to use online sources in their argumentative writing. Using the Fellowship I hope to create the biased think aloud videos.
It would be the first step in massive instructional design process. Hopefully I can use the materials I develop and the results I find to successfully seek out external funding.
Why Formative Design
For this work I will draw heavily on Reinking and Bradley’s(2010) work on formative and design experiments. As a Neag Fellow with the New Literacies Research Lab I worked closely with Dr. Reinking on formative design and hope to bring the learning to bear on the project. Reinking and Bradley suggest:
Formative and design experiments are grounded in developing understanding by seeking to accomplish practical and useful educational goals.
They are focused on less-controlled, authentic environments instead of the tightly controlled laboratory-like settings.
They use and develop theory in the context of trying to engineer successful instructional interventions. Thus, they dwell in the realm of engineering science rather than social science.
They entail innovative and speculative experimentation.
They are interdisciplinary employing multiple theoretical and methodological perspectives and orientations.
They seek understandings that accommodate many complex, interacting variables in diverse contexts.
They seek generalizations from multiple exemplars rather than from random samples and controlled experimentation.
Basically formative and design experiments are meant for real classroom research. I cannot develop my entire vision as part of this project I hope to just focus on the biased think aloud. It is an intervention, rooted in theory that addresses my pedagogical goal ( a more developed post explaining this connection is forthcoming).
My Pedagogical Goal
I will use pre-recorded interactive read alouds that contextualize the bias and perspectives inherent in websites about science topics. In other words students will be given a video of a website that is read and annotated by a narrator with a specific bias. The perspective included in the read alouds will help to contextualize the sourcing skills required for argumentative writing. This lack of contextualization of sourcing skills has long plagued studies designed to improve argumentative writing in science (Guzetti, Snyder, Glass, & Gamas, 1993; Abell, 2007) and the critical evaluation of websites (Goldman et al, 2012).
One of the greatest take aways I carry with me from my time under Dr. Leu is that issues we face today in educational research are too complex for the broken single research model. If I was to fully envision the role playing I want to create I would need to be part of a team of theorists, programmers, ethnographers, instructional designers, statistician, and multimedia specialists. Ohh and funding. Funding would help.
Until then (and the project will begin full force next spring) I want to invite folks on board. If you are an educational researcher and you are committed to working endlessly for no monetary reward on the hopes of improving connected classrooms I welcome you. The most critical needs of the project would be someone with a background in multimedia, science education, and someone knowledgeable in item response theory. Though enthusiasm for the project and an ability to learn in the open is all this team (currently me) requires.
As a teacher I have a fundamental goal of teaching writers that will some day teach writers. I try to do this by modeling what it means to write and making my process as open as possible. I believed this when I taught in 6th grade and I believe it now at the college level.
That belief is not the only thing that does not change.
My students (I teach all writing intensive classes) still struggle with writing leads (or as I found out on Twitter last night ledes….for the journalism folks). They will also have to teach young writers on how to start a paper.
Library of Mini-Lessons
I decided to continue my mutlimodal writing mini-lesson series. We discussed on #engchat class night how we should work together to create library of mini-lessons that students would use in a blended environment.
First I explicitly defined what goes into a good lead/lede. I settled on restating the problem and drawing in the audience.
I then looked at mentor texts. I selected examples from Medium. When I was taking screenshots I wished I would have written down author information so I could propoerly cite. Discovery on Medium is not great yet.
I then created a sock puppet mini-lesson to discuss the lesson (tutorial post coming in next few days).
Here is what is missing.
More guided practice. I have not figured out how to include this well in my mini-lesson. I am thinking I would need to to screencast the re-writing of a lede and then have students complete a Google Form or Doc on the re-written lead. They would then need to share and discuss their writing.
More indepenent practice. This would hopefully translate into student writing.
Writing Leads for Your Audience
Audience matters. At the secondary level you should know the discourse practices of your field. For example I looked at the last five issues of The Reading Teacher and Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy almost all of the articles start with a vignette.
When I compared that result to research journals only about half the articles started with a vignette. In more technical journals authors often just state the problem. In research journals the first sentence and the first citation seem to carry more weight.
The best writing festers. A small idea takes hold somewhere in my world and begins to gnaw at my time. Then the scheme and design of my thinking spreads into my other daily needs. Normal routine gets enveloped by the desire to write. As if good ideas replicate like a virus. Once infected I cannot move on until I get these observations and thoughts out.
Getting those thoughts out in a manner others can, and want to, understand gets tricky.
My ideas for writing end up scattered on post it notes, files, docs, napkins etc. I often say I do my best writing when hiking or when I pace back in forth in my office. Basically for me the writing process gets messy.
So I have set a new goal for the next month or so that I hope translates into my normal writing process. I want to keep ideas in draft form, a writer’s notebook in essence baked into WordPress.
This should add an extra step, or at least allow me to focus on the most important in writing, drafting. I will also hopefully spend more time on the most critical phase of the writing process revising. Finally staying in draft form for longer should allow me to spend some time editing. This we know is often the last, and most important step, before publishing.
In other words if I add this intermittent step I may just use my pre-writing to focus on the single most important step in writing: drafting, revising, and editing.
I have made improving my blog a personal and professional goal. I want to document my thinking about education while making the writing process transparent in the open.
By drafting before I publish I hope to let ideas fester. Some topics may fizzle others may flourish. Once I have a list of drafts I can work from the writing I already started. Finally I will publish the pieces that matter…or get finished.
It is usually the same thing.
Back in October, as part of Connected Educator Month, I set a goal to focus on being a better blogger. This involved focusing on the technical aspects of learning the WordPress platform, reading and then reading more, and doing more writing.
I may not be a better blogger but I sure I have pressed the publish button more this year than in my entire seven year history as an educational blogger.
I am honored that friends and colleagues now seek me out for advice. The biggest questions other writers have usually revolve around two elements. Where do I find the time? Where do I find the ideas?
I find the time by integrating blogging into my instruction, scholarship, and service. I want to model for my students the power of open learning and reflective practice. I want to push my thinking by writing in public. I focus on content that teachers and researchers in the field need. I do not need to find time. I am doing my job (please note like all teachers I am often crushed under the weight of my to do list).
The ideas do not come as easily. You have to find inspiration in strange places. I look to my kids, my students, recent twitter chats, my rss feed, Google+. I try to rein-vision thinking from other fields into educational settings.
If you approach blogging with a flexible and open mindset the ideas will edventually follow.
This post and the video above came almost verbatim from an email exchange with Dr. Kristy Pytash. She helps to moderate the #walkmyworld project and wants to up her blogging game. The script for the movie, except for the line about carving time for manuscripts, is verbatim from our email exchange. If you allow it ideas can come from anywhere.
Blogging like all writing does not come easily but we do not suffer from writerss block. We just have not developed strategies to generate ideas and formulate our thoughts. Look across your digital landscape and you will find yourself swimming in inspiration. Connect writing to your practice and you will come to see blogging not as something extra to squeeze in but part of the routine that improves your life and the lives of your students.
I have asked the students in my hybrid literature and literacy classes to re-imagine the writing mini-lesson. Students in my graduate classes may also choose to develop a digital text and tool learning activity.
Many may, and should, post a recording of a lecture that goes through the steps: explicitly define, model, guided practice and independent practice. Some students wanted to play more with technology. They wanted to create texts to use in the classroom.
So I decided to play as well. I created four short tutorials on winning at academic writing.I focused on the secondary and college level. Elementary and middle school teachers, however, can get the general idea.
Tutorial One: Defining the Game
In this video I introduce the idea that academic writing is its own genre with specific discourse practices.
Tutorial Two: Do not be Wishy Washy
In this video I discuss strategies for framing the problem and taking a position.
Tutorial Three: Play with Words
In this third video I discuss the importance of defining key words and concepts. I had this idea I used to improve my writing from high school through my doctorate. Good writers define key words great writers make up their own words.
Tutorial Four: The Idea Pocket
In the last tutorial I describe the importance of pre-writing and using evidence from your sources. Throughout the series writing success is defined as a grade not as the piece itself. This is the antithesis of what I believe as a teacher of writing.
The snark just provides a gateway into writing and discussing academic writing as a genre is beneficial to developing writers.
These mini-lessons and others like it can teach students some of the basics of the genre. They would never be enough. I would need to also include mentor texts and exemplars of student work. These works could then be annotated using a variety of tools such as a pencil, subtext, or poetry genius.
I could also create a bank of more minilessons using Plotagon. Technology now allows on demand direct instruction. So I hope over time to have a bank of these short video tutorials.
If you want to contribute to the effort please feel free. I am trying to highlight my efforts to support open learning. I find the writing community (looking at you NWP and #FYCchat) to be open to open learning. So if you want to help curate, critique, and create great digital texts and tools to support writing contact me. Lets learn, fail, and reflect together.
slider image credit: Writing on Windows. everRiviere. Deviantart.com https://www.deviantart.com/art/Writing-on-Windows-77253620