Wednesday, July 24, 2013


"Everything really interesting and powerful happens at borders."  --Mary Pipher

My sister returned to her home in Indianapolis today after a four-day stay at my house, during which she  gave me a copy of Mary Pipher's book on writing, which I am currently rereading.  The quote above resonated with me as I am at the border between summer and Back to Work.  I return to duty tomorrow after a brief and busy few weeks away from curriculum work.

Transitions of all sorts bring out the Irish melancholy in me that is beyond wistful wishing that time would pass more slowly.  This particular summer I have dealt with a number of "borders" over the short time I was away from the office:

  • visiting my daughter in her first new apartment in Rochester MN, so far away from us in Ohio
  • supporting as caretaker my 86-year-old aunt as she transitions into senior independent living
  • celebrating the 21st birthday of my youngest "child" 
  • exploring the healthful possibilities of a vegan diet with a brother, nephew, and good friend
  • preparing to work with a new boss, a new curriculum colleague, a new technology specialist, and many other new administrators and teachers I have yet to meet.

Each of the above tugs at memories and pushes toward horizons; and each has the potential to be "really interesting and powerful."  Each puts me in a zone of proximal development where I need to be whether I prefer it or not.

I wish for each of you the most interesting and powerful of borders between summer and a new school year, whenever your transition may be.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


1.  Common Core State Standards = Ohio's New Learning Standards


2.  PARCC Assessments = Next Generation Assessments (NGA)

3.  There is nothing better in the world from a new boss than the gift of time.  Today was a good day.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Where Did I Save that File?

Eighteen months ago, the devices I owned were a thirteen-year-old Dell desktop and a flip phone.  Through a series of fortunate events, beginning with a generous Christmas gift and most recently attending training during which I received a "free" device, I now have access to that same desktop, as well as a laptop, an iPhone, an iPad, and a Chromebook.  I am at least as connected as I want to be, and sometimes more so.

One important shift I am making since beginning to use multiple devices is to learn how to save documents and sites in a place where I can get to them from any device.  I am learning this the hard way, having first endured a stage in which the file or site I needed at work was stored on my home computer or vice versa.  My outbursts of frustration while attempting to prepare a presentation without all needed resources in front of me has no doubt contributed to the sad reality that my own offspring don't want anything to do with the field of education.

I have come across two solutions to to the "where did I save that?" question.  The first is to create documents in an environment such as Google Drive, where creating a document is very, very similar to creating a document in  Microsoft Word, except it is automatically saved as you type and even better, is saved "in the cloud" where you can get to it from home, school, in-laws house, on your smart phone, etc.

Then there is the problem of accessing your bookmarked websites from a different device from where you saved them.  Social bookmarking solves this issue. Lee Lefever at Common Craft explains Social Bookmarking in Plain English in just over three minutes.  I use a social bookmarking site called Diigo rather than Delicious, as referenced in the video, because Diigo offers educator accounts.  Basically, social bookmarking works just like bookmarking sites on your computer, except your favorites are stored "in the cloud" so you can access them from any device.

Social bookmarking and Google Apps for Education (GAFE) are pillars of Web 2.0, which means they are social.  And why does this matter?  Because, to be honest, use of Google Docs and Diigo can mean far more than just finding your resources more easily.  You can share both your Google Docs and your Diigo bookmarks with just one other person (your teaching partner?) , the whole world , or anything in between. It took me some time to understand why the social aspect of these tools is useful, until I started thinking about student research. Until I thought about combining social bookmarking with RSS feeds. Until I had to prepare a presentation with colleagues--we worked together on a Google Doc without ever meeting face to face.

Recently I collaborated with teachers from my district and instructors from our local community college on an English course for remedial twelfth-graders.  Using Google Docs, we could all work on the syllabus and curriculum map together.  Or I could allow district teachers to edit the document and college instructors to view but not edit.  Further, this group could start to share resources for the course with Diigo.

It has not gone perfectly, and it won't for you either.  But there have been advantages, and with each project we all get smarter.  Do not fall into the trap of thinking everyone uses these tools efficiently and effectively except for you.  Just jump in and you will find the piece that makes your work easier.  Find the tool that excites your students and they will help you become more expert.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Great Investment Opportunity

Many years ago, my dad was given the opportunity to invest in a new fast food concept--a little restaurant called Wendy's Old Fashioned Hanburgers. Having 8 children to feed and clothe, he politely refused.  That might have been his worst investment decision ever.  Where's the Beef?

I really don't want to make the same mistake.  There is a ground floor opportunity created by the demise of Google Reader, and I am determined to be in from day one.  Not as a financial investor, but as an investor in my own learning and professional development.  I've been learning about a technology called RSS, which has great potential because I can have the news and blogs that I enjoy delivered to me to read at my convenience. Whenever I see the little orange icon on a webpage, I know that I can add it to my RSS aggregator and updates from the page will come to me without me having to remember to look for them.

The folks at Common Craft explain RSS in Plain English.  Just know when you take a look at the video link that Google Reader is no longer available.  I have had good luck with an RSS Reader called Feedly.  And it is pretty easy to find ideas for RSS feed subscriptions.

RSS feeds have amazing implications for student learning too.  Potentially useful resources can be delivered to students when they create RSS subscriptions that are content-based.

One idea:  Start by going to Google News.  Search for the topic in the search box, and then create a subscription to either the search results or a useful looking site within the search results.

An entire class can follow an issue of interest such as global warming or bald eagles all through the year.  Use Google Blog Search to find blogs to add to the RSS feed.

RSS is not a new tool, just an underused one.  Why haven't I been aware of the power of RSS technology?

July 2013 is a restart moment for RSS, with the discontinuation of Google Reader.  There are plenty of RSS users who are all starting over with a new reader.  What better time to jump in?