Update: I submitted my badge application and recieved feedback from Doug.

This “just for fun” badge actually documents the successful work flow of a badge. Doug created the badge, explained the competencies being addressed, described the evidence needed. I then submitted my material. Doug reviewed it and left me this feedback:



I then went back and revised my original post. If you want to track my edits look at my source code I left the old version in html comment form.

Doug Belshaw issued a challenge. As part of the Mozilla Web Literacy Map roll out he encouraged folks to submit artifacts that would demonstrate competencies on three areas of the map,

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 13.57.10


I am submitting my badge under the working title of Wisdom, Virtue, Sincerity, Valor, and Austerity in Online Spaces.



  • Accessing the web using the common features of web browsers– I try to teach students how to to explore the web by creating and remixing videos and think alouds of online data: I created videos of students reading online that I allow others to use
  • Using hyperlinks to access a range of resources on the web- I try to find and share links to open education resources such as this one. I was looking for OER sources on the web, and put out a call on Twitter. This link came back to me.
  • Reading, evaluating, and manipulating URLs I wrote a dissertation on differences in searching and evaluating online sources.
  • Recognizing the visual cues in everyday web services- I make online minilessons to teach students how to search the internet and research ways to teach credibility.


  • Using keywords, search operators, and keyboard shortcuts to make web searches more efficient –My  dissertation research focused on improving search results.
  • Finding real-time or time-sensitive information using a range of search techniques- I write about the need to teach and read socially complex texts.


  • Researching authorship and ownership of websites and their content- I create online materials to teach students to focus on authorship.


  • I use my brain as my virus and phishing detector.


Composing for the web

  • Inserting hyperlinks into a web page-  This post
  • Embedding multimedia content into a web page-I can embed multimedia into posts.
  • Creating web resources in ways appropriate to the medium/genre- I write in a variety of places using the norms of thos sites such as Medium.
  • Identifying and using HTML tags- I used the comment tags so people could track the revision history on this post.


  • Identifying and using openly-licensed work- The image I remixed for the header on this post used two openly licensed images.
  • Combining multimedia resources and Creating something new on the web using existing resources- I make remixes using popcorn.

Design and Accessibility

  • Iterating on a design after feedback from a target audience– I got feedback from Doug and then revised this post. This website is the rough draft of my life
  • Improving the accessibility of a web page by modifying its color scheme and markup- I try hard to choose color schemes that allow those with red/green color blindness to differentiate.
  • Demonstrating the difference between inline, embedded and external CSS- I spent this semester trying to use Thimble to teach myself CSS. I have created my first page that no longer uses HTML tables but relies on CSS containers. The actual page isn’t live yet (Department website but containers work

Coding and Scripting

  • Composing working loops and arrays and Using a script framework- I dabbled in javascript when creating a simulated web environment. I do not know java but if I can stare at code long enough I see patterns, kind of like poetry, and can then edit the code. I made changes to the timing and feedback loops.



  • Tracking changes made to co-created web resources– This is the first collaborative story I wrote in Gdocs with my 6th graders.
  • Co-creating web resources- Ian and I edit the digital texts and tools page. Please join us and add your stuff.
  • Configuring notifications to keep up to date with community spaces and interactions– Much to my wife’s chagrin as things chirp and beep all day long.
  • Using synchronous and asynchronous tools to communicate with web communities, networks and groups– I use asychnronous and synchronous chat in my teaching.


  • Encouraging participation in web communities– I encourage folks to be digital residences.

Community Participation

  • Using constructive criticism in a group or community setting -I use online communities on Google+ for Feedback.
  • Defining different terminology used within online communities- I use the discourse of specific affinity spaces and use these spaces for learning.


  • Identifying rights retained and removed through user agreements– I added the Creative Commons plug in to this site.


  • Distinguishing between open and closed licensing- I use only open lecensed images on this site.

As we live online we navigate a sea of myriad rivers merging. Those who use the web literacy map can guide multiple streams of information.

As educators we need to draw a map (of the territory such as the Web Literacy Map) using creativity and all means available to you. To [further] illustrate this point, when even the roads are unknown, enter the online spaces, and familiarize yourself with the languages and practices. Determine which areas have steep learning curves, which areas are wide open, and measure the width of roads to understanding.

Bansenshukai. Ninpo.com. 

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.

My Plan

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.

Second Life NSF Model

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).

Distributed Design

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, participating in this type of research [Design based] gave me the opportunity to work toward solving challenging pedagogical issues in my classroom with collaborators who were experts in the field; it was fantastic professional development for me. As a researcher, I get to see what happens when a promising practice is put into action in a particular context. Everyone wins – students, teachers, and researchers.  -Sarah Hunt-Barron

Last night the Literacy Research Association sponsored their sixth netcast. We focused on formative research and how this translates to the classroom. Two themes kept reoccurring throughout the talk around new metaphors for education.

  • In order to empower teachers we need to consider teaching more of an engineering career.
  • We also using the principles of design thinking, need to rethink the concept of rigor in research.

This new mindset would help transform research and professional development.

Teaching as Engineering Science.

Formative, or design based research does not begin with a question. Instead you start with a goal in mind. Then you develop learning activities, grounded in literature to reach this goal. As you begin the work you take note of factors that enhance and inhibit the goal and enter into a process of iteration. Basically it boils down to, “How can we design something and what can we learn from designing it?”

Education in terms of practice and research benefit when we draw on engineering and a design metaphor. We need to create situations for students to design their won learning and engage in MakerEd. We need to think of our own practices as teachers in terms of a constant iterative practice based on reflection and a goal for the greater good.

Rigor or Vigor?

The panelists also held a wonderful discussion on what should count as rigor in educational research. They discussed the amount of data analysis necessary to do formative experiments well. It involved a constant examination of quantiative and qualitative factors through numerous design cycles. Just like engineers teachers and researchers need to build things and change what does not work.

I found myself on a train during the show so spent more time on Twitter as wifi on Amtrak did not allow me to watch the live. I brought up the idea that maybe rigor does not work as a modifier for research. After all rigor means to be stiff. That does not seem to share principles with iterative design.

Jeremy Lenzi shared a wonderful idea with me. Maybe we need research with vigor and not rigor.

Vigor, mean to life, to be lively, anyone who has spent time doing classroom research knows fidelity can be out of reach beacuse we are talking about lively spaces. The panelists argued that the greater good and the pedagogical goal should drive research. Sounds more like vigor than rigor to me.

Professional Development and Formative Design

Just before the show I also participated in the weekly #edchat on Twitter. We all discussed ways to improve training teachers get once they work in the field. I see many parallels to the panelists talk in terms of improving education through high quality professional development.

Teachers need to design their own professional development. They shoudl create this design cycle around a pedagogical goal. Then over the course of their “learning cycles” teachers can use a process to see whta works to reach that goal and change what is not working.

The goals can from many places. Teachers might have to develop student learning objectives for their evaluation systems. Maybe the teacher and  her building administrator work together to  develop goals after formal observations. Finally teachers might just choose a goal such as improving internet comprehension and seek out opportunities to learn about pedagogy rooted in research.

The design cycle works for professional development. Teachers just need to build iterative design and reflective teaching into everyday practice.

Professional Development Built on Design Thinking

When selecting professional development to attent teachers should make sure opportunities to make, create, break, and iterate are included. There is no need for districts to spend thousands of dollars to see speakers. We have YouTube for that.

Spires & Young (2012) https://www.citejournal.org/articles/v13i4General1Fig2.jpg
Spires & Young (2012) https://www.citejournal.org/articles/v13i4General1Fig2.jpg

Formal professional development should revolve around the design cycle. For example at the New Literacies Institute we build the class around inquiry. Background knowledge is taught before the conference through learning modules. At the conference itself teachers choose a pedagogical goal. Next researchers work with teachers to  identify digital texts and tools that align to that goal. Using these resources participants  create learning activities that should enhance the goal. Finally they bring the project back to the classroom and iterate.


Design thinking has reshaped my vision of education. Every aspect from teacher preperation, to curriculum, professional development, and research needs new models and metaphors. We need to consider design thinking as a guiding principle, an overarching theoretical perspective. As an end result the act of iterative teaching and reflective practice  will then get ensconced in every classroom at every level.

Two percent. Just 2% of code separates us from our Chimpanzee brethren. Yet that small difference has lead to humanities’ migration, the rise and fall of civilizations, and the creation of vast works of art.

Small differences matter.

Much like our genetic code online reading and traditional reading share many similarities. The differences, however, create a layer of complexity that mirror the vast chasm found in the cognitive abilities of chimpanzees and humans. Yes those students who have the prerequisite social practices to succeed in traditional academic reading tasks do outperform peers in online reading environments. Yet these shared cognitive skills and social practices do not explain all the differences in performance when we measure online reading comprehension.

via Pixabay

New and more complex skills and practices are required to read in online environments. This 2% (an analogy not actual data) represents the set of skills and practice that allow some learners to take online texts and reshape the meaning for future learning.

Michio Kaku in his book The Future of the Mind describes the difference between primate and human consciousness in terms of simulating the future. Kaku wrote (2014, chapter 7, 24:26):

Human consciousness involves the ability to create a model of the world and then simulate the model of the world in order to obtain a goal.

For Kaku intelligence should be a mark of how divergent thinking allows some to create more complex models and more frequent simulations of the future.

I see many parallels with definitions of online reading comprehension. When reading online more successful students do not simply assimilate information as traditional definitions comprehension would have us believe. Skilled online readers “manipulate and mold information to achieve a higher goal” (Kaku, 2014, chapter 7, 24:26). Based on my dissertation research and classroom observations I see three critical shifts: strategic text assembly, socially complex texts, and multimodal design.

Strategic Text Assembly

For the brief amount of time that book reigned in human history the reader did not have to build her own texts. An editor, publisher or author had the power of creating and shaping the texts we read. No more. Skilled online readers engage in strategic text assembly which I define as the ability to read for meaning while flexibly applying both navigation strategies and comprehension monitoring strategies.

Navigational Strategies

In my research navigational skills was a key difference between successful online readers and those who could not accomplish an inquiry task. The students who could manage multiple tabs, navigate search engines, and move between multiple sources did better. These are the easily quantifiable and teachable differences as we shift to reading online.

Comprehension Monitoring

Comprehension monitoring, or checking your own levels of understanding has always been recognized as an important skill for meaning making. Here online reading and traditional comprehension share much of the same DNA. Students who succeed in online environments skimmed more websites and spent more time engaged with sources when they judged them to be relevant.

I also noticed an intersection of background knowledge and working memory.A lack of background knolwedge did not phase skilled readers. This I documented in my work as very few students knew much about the domain of my inquiry tasks (American Revolution). I also noticed but did not have the data to fully support the thesis in my dissertation, that these skilled readers seemed to have a more robust working memory. They seemed to hold more information in their working memories that they could later mold into new meanings. They could quickly use the information they read and check it against their understanding of texts they visit in three or four clicks.

Socially Complex Texts

A believe the participatory nature of online texts requires a fundamental shift in how we define texts. Socially complex texts, concurrent arguments that unfold in print and social media with varying degrees of authority and amplification, now dominate our online reading environments. Basically socially complex texts are authored by opposing forces discussing an issue with equal passion and often mutual disdain. This requires a new set of reading skills to detect bait-clicking, astro turfing, and real grass root efforts. Accomplishing these goals requires readers to put a much larger emphasis on not only sourcing skills but also analytics.

Sourcing Skills

In my work, and in the research of those much smarter, we have established adolescent and adult readers do not attend to sources. I found very little evidence of readers evaluating websites. I asked students to identify authors, evaluate an author’s expertise, evaluate a publisher, evaluate bias, and evaluate sources within a source. Few students could identify an author let alone evaluate other markers of credibility.

We must teach students greater sourcing skills. We need them to engage in multiple source readings. More importantly we cannot decontextualize sourcing skills. A checklist approach, or a third step in some inquiry cycle will not work. Credibility judgements interweave through out the meaning making process and change based on the reading of tasks.


I have argued that analytics is the most important literacy skill that no one is teaching. At least not in the field of literacy. Definitely not at the K-12 level. Analytics involves so much more than click counting. By examining how an idea travels, the frequency of times readers and authors mention an idea, and tracing it back to its source all require analytics. These skills are even more critical when we begin to think about writing in multimodal spaces.

Multimodal Design

Design matters. Readers must understand how multimodal choices affect the meaning process. As part of our Teaching Internet Comprehension to Adolescents grant I worked with a seventh grade urban classroom in the Northeast. We discussed how design affects meaning making. We looked at three websites about Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia man who contests his death row conviction of killing a police officer. The first text used an informational text structure and tried to inform the audience. The second two, one from Abu-Jamal supporters and one published by the police union took argumentative stances. We discussed and examined how the font and color choices impacted meaning and tone.

I can teach students to write argumentative essays in online environments but I could never account for the impact of design using pencil and paper.


Small differences in code matters. I have not done a full analysis but if I examined the wizard behind most webpages I am sure the majority of text is copy. The HTML and CSS probably account for a smllaer percentage. Yet just as our intelligence and consciousness is contained in just 2% of our DNA code, this small amount of code has changed reading and writing forever.

My favorite time of year rapidly approaches. For the last three years I have had the honor of serving as co-chair and co-organizer of the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute. Each year we refine our model to ensure participants engage in personalized inquiry learning.

Screenshot 3:26:14 11:53 AM

Massachusetts New Literacies Institute
July 8-10, 2014
Holyoke Community College
Holyoke, MA

This year I am excited to announce our first blended conference. By flipping our instruction we have reduced the cost and schools can now send even larger teams of teachers.

Screenshot 3:26:14 11:51 AM

More importantly a blended approach makes greater pedagogical sense. We will meet as community online before we gather face to face in Holyoke. This will allow us to focus on key shifts in the field and enrich our understanding. Then when we all come together for the face to face sessions we can focus on transforming our instructional practice through the use of digital texts and tools.

This year we will focus on the instructional shifts required by the Common Core State Standards and explore how to enhance these shifts with technology.

The best professional development experience I have had in thirty years.  -Participant

What is the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute?

The Massachusetts New Literacies Institute brings together hundreds of educators from all grades and subject areas for three days of rich in-depth professional development. MNLI uses a blended model of delivering content. This consists of pre- Institute activities followed by the three days of hands-on experience with leaders in the field of literacy research.

Before attending the Institute, participants will complete three media-rich learning modules on the cornerstones of New Literacies: Online Reading Comprehension, Online Content Construction, and Online Collaborative Inquiry. These learning events will include videos, learning activities, and synchronous chats. They will prepare the participants for the three days of hands-on digital text and tools sessions.

During the Institute participants are immersed in a series of hands-on technology workshops. Small groups, led by a member of the MNLI team, will focus on enhancing their instruction and supporting the Common Core State Standards and other state initiatives through the integration of digital text and tools.

What I learned at MNLI has changed the way I teach forever -Particpant

Cornerstones of the Online Research and Media Skills Model

The Common Core State Standards expect student to have the online research and media skills necessary to for college and career readiness. How do you prepare students to be ready for technology and careers that do not exist? Instead of focusing on specific tools the MNLI team puts pedagogy first and focuses more on social practices of New Literacies  rather than tools we use.

New Literacies examines much more than just using digital tools. It is an examination of how digital tools allow us to express a sense of agency, while negotiating meaning within different social contexts. Using this theoretical underpinning we  believe online research and media skills involve three cornerstones: online reading comprehension, online content construction, and online collaborative inquiry.

Online Reading Comprehension

The skills, strategies, and practices necessary to question, locate, evaluate, synthesize, and communicate online information from multiple sources and modes.

Online Content Construction

Process by which students construct and redesign knowledge by actively encoding and decoding meaning in digital spaces.

Online Collaborative Inquiry

A group of learners, either global or local, who reach a common outcome through multiple pathways of knowledge.

If you could only attend one conference for the rest of your life make it MNLI -Participant

Learn More

If you want to learn more about our institute please visit MNLI.org. There you will find registration information, conference details, and examples from the past conferences.

Each Wednesday, from now until June, I will also release new information and posts related to the conference.

I look forward to seeing you this summer.


As an educational blogger I struggle on the hunt for great images. I made a commitment this year to try and use creative commons images or remix other images. Much of my artwork comes from flckr or from artists on deviantart.com that enable downloads. I will then edit these images using pixlr editor in Chrome.

Royalty free stock photos sites simply charged too much money for a small guy like me. I do not blog to make money. I have an add free website as I try to model the kind of teaching I would like to see in my education students.

I want them to see the power of blended learning. Teacher candidates need to know that in order to teach writing you need to struggle at being a writer. Most importantly I want my students to understand how a blog, or writing in general, creates the reflective practioner.

So I do not have the funds for big photo services. I also do not often have the time to remix photos, even those with a CC license.

Enter Getty Images

For those who do not know Getty Images is a stock photo company with over 80 million photos. They have now made 34 million of those images available to not for profit publishers. This will be huge for small time bloggers such as myself.

How does it work?

You first visit the website and search for images. I am working on a haiku for #walkmyworld and I looked for a “Golden Eagle.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 10.34.26 AM


You then click on the embed code and you will get html code for embedding an iframe.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 10.36.38 AM


That it. You can add the code to your blog and add the website.

The Caveats

Below you will find the TOS from Getty. Notice that images maybe taken down, they collect analytics, and reserved the right to embed third party advertising.

You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.

The Limitations

iFrame. Need I say more? You cannot embed by url only. This limits the use of the images in say Google Presentations or Haikudeck (though Getty sells images through HaikuDeck).

I use a slider on my blog. I need to upload the images here or use an image URL. An iFrame will not work. I am sure many will run into similar limitations.

Also some services do not allow iframes as a security risk. So I am hoping Getty will eventually offer watermarked images with proper attribution or a shortened link back to their store.

You also cannot search by embeddable images only (atleast I could not figure out how). I had to “waste” a lot of time looking through great pictures.


Bloggers and schools, who do not have large budgets, could benefit greatly from Getty’s new service, but the search engine needs work. My first search came up with an image for “Golden Eagle.” My next searches “frozen bridge,” “Connecticut River winter,” “Connecticut River frozen,”  and even “river,” had page after page of images I could not use. I did not find one image I could embed. I do not have that kind of time. The search tool in Getty images should allow me to filter for embeddable images only.

Getty stated that their images were being ripped from the Internet anyways so they wanted to find ways to give proper attribution and possibly look for new revenues streams for photographers. That is a lesson I can get behind. I just need a more functional search tool before I recommend widespread use in schools.

My Try.

Here is the haiku I wrote for #walkmyworld using Getty Images:

Once perched, Eagle flew
At river’s edge no longer
Fish gone now frozen

[relatedkingpro show=”4″ images=true width=”150″ height=”150″ placeholder=false]

It’s amazing how the smallest comments can have large impacts on ones life. I once spent hours coding and then just I simply quit. The year was 1987. I  stood as a scrawny 6th grader in fron of a class getting ready to demonstrate a progam I created in BASIC.


The computer I used was a few years old (1983-1984ish). I am not sure of the brand. My father got it has a hand me down from a neighbor.  We called it a PC compatible. It had two 5 1/2 inch floppy drives and you had to use a separate boot disk to start the computer.

When I moved to Pennsylvania from Texas I took to the computer and began to teach myself BASIC and DOS. I had these manuals you could use as self teaching guides. I was so proud of my program. I created this code that allowed the user to generate a number at random. A spaceship would then scroll up the screen based on the number you rolled.

I thought it would be great to show the program when we had to do a demonstration speech in 6th grade. My father dragged the computer up the stairs of East Ward Elementary school and I set it up. Lets just say I did not get the reaction from the audience I expected. Hours and hours of writing code were reduced to a thrity second demo.

Then a student ( who will remain anonymous) ask why I did not use a particular component in the computer or a different language. I remember not even knowing what he was asking about but for some reason I felt defeated. I assumed I would  never know or maybe never afford. Who knows, but on that day I gave up.

That was the last program I ever wrote.


Instead in middle school I discovered social computing. I would troll Prodigy and find interesting things. I got my hands on computer files that taught me how to make free pay phone calls, remove the scramblers on cable boxes for HBO, and other nefarious activities.

I did not take computer programming in Junior High or High School. You had to take computer science first before programming which would teach PASCAL. The pariah status I felt in 6th grade and the social pressures of middle school, combined with memories of reformatting spreadsheets kept me far far away.

Returning to Code

I began experimenting with HTML as a teacher when I needed to create my own websites. I realized the joy I remember having in searching for patterns on code. I could stare at the source code of pages and see poetry. There was alliteration in those lines.

Still I could do just enough to mess up websites.

Then as part of my PhD work at the New Literacies Lab I had to learn some basic XML. We were creatign a simulated internet and these ran on xml scripts. I didn’t do much more than changing timing, texts, and dimensions but I found it enjoyable.

Just recently, like last week, I took my first stab at moving from HTML to CSS. You just cannot use HTML tables anymore for the mobile web. I had to learn some CSS. I was able to name and make a few objects and even made them float.

Should I continue?

I have ideas. I want to see them come to. I just wonder if my time should be spent learning to code. I registered for #CS50 Havard’s MOOC for coding but haven’t gotten past week one.

I wonder if I should just be an idea guy. Should I instead look to work with programmers and instructional designers to develop my ideas?

I do see poetry in code, but poetry is hard.

Today I was fortunate to participate my first, and possibly the first ever unhangout. I can not contain my excitement about this wonderful tool.

Unhangout is another wonderful project from the MIT Media Lab and supported by the MacArthur Foundation. It is an open source project and those more familiar with the innards of code can modify and use. Basically, unhangout works as a platform for virtual unconferences.

Screenshot 7:29:13 2:08 PM

Anyone familiar with the BarCamp or EdCamp movements will understand the workflow. There was a lobby where participants could join a Google Hangout OnAir. The lobby had a wonderful chat feature.

Then there were breakout sessions organized into separate hangouts. Thus ten people could join a session.

Today’s unconference was a joint venture from the #clmooc sponsored by the National Writing Project and connectedlearningtv. The developers from the MIT Media Lab also attended. I joined late and entered the room Writing as Making/Making as Writing. Their were seven other participants in the room. The Google Hangout worked, beyond some usual bandwidth glitches, quite well. I was able to share stories of what happens when we “schoolify” making and discussed how writing is both instant improv and a deep reflective process.

There were some limitations. Today’s unconference was small scale. Google Hangouts may or may not have a cap of 10 participants. This would limit the number of people who could actively participate in each breakout session. Yet maybe smaller sessions will allow for more in depth conversation. I cannot wait to see where the MIT Media Lab developers: Philipp SchmidtDrew HarrySrishti Sethi take the project.

Overall, for me, unhangout is one of the most exciting digital texts and tools to emerge in sometime. In terms of classroom use I see many potential opportunities. We could have interest driven self directed professional development (i.e.#edcamp). Students could join book clubs or discuss specific disciplinary texts across districts, states, and international borders. Most importantly students could find others with similar interest driven passions and create their own unhangout experience. This would unite the connected learning principles with emerging pedagogies of digital texts and tools.

Finding Our Voices in Lost Voices

New-Orleans post Katrina Sept 2005: house busted by Katrina's wrecking ball

flickr photo shared by Gilbert Mercier under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

We want every student to leave Gear Up knowing they have a voice. They are “active players and not spectators in life” as Walter Dean Meyers., the author of Handbook for Boys wrote (our shared reading this summer). To this end we had students explore what it means to be a lost voice through poetry.

As many of our readers know I am also interested in exploring how the pedagogy of poetry can be enhanced with the use of digital texts and tools. Over the last six years, my colleagues Sue Ringler-Pet and Ian O’Byrne have been exploring the intersection of poetry and technology. We present a project at NCTE celebrating a poet laureate through technology.

This year we chose Natasha Trethewey and her work with documentary poetry. Trethewey says she attempts to find lost voices in historical events. This seemed like a perfect project for the 100 students attending our Summer Academy.

The lesson plan we used appears below:

Step 1: Read “The Elegy of the Native Gaurd” and “Beyond Katrina”

Step 2: Then discuss the following prompt in the Google+ Community: Trethewey in explaining why she writes said her purpose is, “giving voice to the groups and individuals blotted out of public memory.” In these two poems what groups and individuals were brought to the light? What words, phrases, or stanzas capture the emotion or plight of these voices?

Step 3: Annotate the text using the PDFZen. Identify key events, characters, and emotions

Step 4: Record and upload your poem (written in Language Arts) to SoundCloud
-Set up a Soundcloud Account
-Post your Account Name to Google+
-Follow everyone in the class
-Record your Poem
-Upload Your Recording to Soundcloud

In order to make the projects manageable the students coule pick from the following historical events: Slavery, Civil War, WWII, 9/11, and Katrina. They then had to create a narrator for their poem, draft, and record the poem

Here are a few examples:

My Thoughts

Overall the project went very well. Yet it is not over. These poems will be used as models, and a few as mentor texts, for middle school students in Hartford who will complete the same project this Fall. We will share these voices in Boston at NCTE.

The lesson also demonstrates how good analytical reading does not need to favor informational, narrative texts, or poetry. In fact the best lessons will result in some type of performance piece (the poem) that required students to question and annotate a variety of sources for a variety of reasons.

9/11, with Katrina as a close second, seemed to be the most popular theme among students. I wonder if this is a due to proximity to New York (almost all know of a life touched by the tragedy). The boys (shocking) seemed to gravitate to lost voices in wars.

The poems are a good, but many have an overarching sense of prose, rather than poetry to the stories. Now I cringe at giving students rules when teaching poetry (in fact I asked teachers not to require stanzas at all let alone a minimum number) yet in the next iteration I want students to try to find more poetry in their voices. I may ask students to write their lost voice as a narrative first and then convert this prose into poetry. This had worked in the past as well.

Our Summer Academy is about building bridges to the future in the hope that the entire New Haven class of 2018 is college bound. I hope by exploring lost voices, we helped students find their own so they lear not to be “spectators in life.”

On day 3 of the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute I hosted a #hackjam. We all fought some torrential rain and found a restaurant with wifi. It was spotty so we couldn’t develop too may remixes but still participants were amazed about x-ray goggles.

Basically a #hackjam is a self-organized event to show some of the great Mozilla tools such as x-ray goggles that allow you to remix websites.

It is such an easy tool to use and a great way to introduce some basic coding to students. I have used it in the past to highlight how words can shape persuasive language.

We began by remixing the New York Times and giving everyone at the table an Olympic medal. We then discussed classroom implications.

No Publishing Feature

This is when we noticed a hiccup. The publishing button for x-ray goggles no longer works. I posted a message to the hackasaurus google group.

Atul Varma, of the Mozilla, Foundation, suggested it was a litigation or security issue. Emma Irwin said it was x-ray goggles getting ready for full deployment out of alpha release.

Either way we needed a work-around. We developed three: screenshots, screencasts, Evernote Webclipper, and Google Drive.


The easiest solution was to take a screenshot. Stephanie did this with her remix of a Facebook page. She created one for a math class studying prime numbers:

The screenshot only worked with very small frames. We could not take a screenshot using Skitch, or Grabit longer than the window.


I used a screencast to share my remix. It was a tribute to our logistics team Zach and Jim. I apologize ahead of the time for the feedback. I should have downloaded the audio track and reuploaded rather than record it through the speakers. It also short as I clicked on a video link I embedded. It must have refreshed while I was using x-ray goggles.

Evernote Webclipper

The work around that I see with the most potential is Evernote. We took a screenshot with Evernote woebclipper and then added it to a shared notebook. I see potential for this for educators. They could share the notebook with everyone in the class. Teachers could then add comments on the remixes and students could add reflections. This would provide important evidence.

Here is Jared’s example

Google Drive

Jared also printed his screenshots as a pdf. He then combined the two documents into one PDF document. He then uploaded that document to Google Drive.

This is nice because you can embed the pdf on other sites.


The #hackjam was very successful. Teachers found new ways to teach code and the ideas for the classroom were huge. I look forward to sharing more events in the future.