iRead- Using iPods for Literacy

Here’s a 10 minute video describing how one of our great elementary school teachers is using iPods to help with elementary literacy and reading fluency. The video needs some work1 but the idea is sound and interesting2. It’s a bit of a HEF ad but they’re a good group that helps fund projects like this so I’m happy to help them out. iRead Project 1 I’m still learning and clearly I need to keep working. 2 By the way, iRead is not my title of choice. I don’t put i or e in front of anything by choice.

Two Ways To Fail

Here are two options our new filtering system currently gives when you try to access a blocked site1. Option One Misspelling aside, this warning is not pleasant. It assumes what I’m doing is bad and that I am acting with bad intent. Apparently I need a scary warning. I am being treated like a deviant. This does not please me. Option Two Well, am I blocked? Is the site down? I don’t know. This message does nothing for me and leads to frustration and irritation. I suspect the filter but have no obvious way to confirm it2. Super. The message I want is simple. Let’s choose something with a blue or green background. It can be unique looking so teachers can spot it easily but it can also be calm and polite. Maybe something like . . . There’s nothing wrong with treating people with respect and politeness. The scary page isn’t going to deter people who are interested in bypassing the filter and it only insults those who are going about their business with legitimate intent. 1 I’m not going to get into the whole filtering things again. My views on that are probably known if you know me. 2 At least not by myself while at school. I did confirm it via my network of Internet malcontents.


Phone Call to the 14th Century

Via This American Life I bring you “Phone Call to the 14th Century” (at the 26:34 mark).1 Basic idea for those of you who have yet to listen- it’s a game show based on calling a hut in the 14th century and imparting as much key wisdom as you can in one minute. Such a simple idea and such potential for a history classroom. Simply remove 14th century and make your call as specific as you’d like (for instance the Aztecs pre-Conquistadors). Make your time longer or shorter, but keep the time pressure on or it’ll lose focus quickly. Students have to analyze the civilization at the time and think of all the things that might help that civilization, then it’s a matter of prioritizing them. I’d have them make the calls as actual recordings and then make it into a real game show. I’d probably have them categorize their main points and justify them in writing. Judges (teachers, parents, previous winners?) would judge who got the most major points across to achieve the most change. I’d consider other twists as well- Try to give the worst advice. Have other civilizations call. Then you’d have double the analysis going on but I’d probably do this after as a second or third round. It’d be a fun review activity. 1 There’s […]


Utter Nonsense

It’s all in the processing. Ask students to make sense out of what appears to be nonsense. Take the Ask A Ninja “What is podcasting?” episode. Does it seem like gibberish? For sure. Is there a very definite underlying logic? Without question and that logic can be explained.That’s the type of thing I’d start them off with. It’s not that hard. It really does have a purpose and structure. I might move on to something like this. First this scene from The Royal Tenenbaums. They’ve got to make some sense of it. Then expose them to this rather odd ode to The Royal Tenenbaums Jim Groom and I made a while back. Shorn – Jim Groom Bares It All from Tom Woodward on Vimeo. What is the connection to Twitter? A simple question that involves a lot of processing and understanding. Make your own, have students make their own. I’ll also recommend Motionographer as a great way to be exposed to interesting video to use for this type of exploration.

Wolverine Love Poems

I’ve been interested in using this Garfield Minus Garfield site for a while. Here are a few ways I might use it. Instant creative writing prompt- Write a love poem to a wolverine. Or write a love poem from the perspective of a wolverine. Or simply write a love poem using the word “wolverine” at least once1 The image matters. Having images like this always changed the quality and engagement I got from my students. And we have a vocabulary exercise, in this case, for the word consume. Depending on where the student is at, they could match words to provided comics, find their own comics matches etc. I’d probably have them find their own matching comic and create a sentence along the lines of “Though Jon consumed the socks, the meal did not quench the fiery passion in his heart.” If you feel like really making your students work, you might white out all the words and have them use the comic of your choice to explain something complicated or leave the words in and ask them to provide the context that will make it make sense. For instance- this comic re-worded could become . . . a look at King George III’s thoughts on the American colonies2. Part of the assignment would be explaining why your comic makes […]


The Power of Time Perspective

I’m not a fan of the presentation style but what Phil Zimbardo is saying is interesting and relevant to what we do in teaching and education. I’d start about the 1:40 mark- so that’s only 5 minutes of invested time if you watch it. —-My summary—- People end up biased in their perceptions and break down into the following categories with two main options in each category. Past Oriented (positive/negative) – looking backwards and basing decisions off that Present Oriented (hedonistic/fatalist) – focus on the now Future Oriented (goals/transcendentallife begins after death)- cost benefit analysis, anticipated consequences So the goal is to be able to shift perspective depending on the situation. Optimum profile is high on past positive, moderately high on future, moderate on present hedonism and always low on pass negative and present fatalism. Past positive – gives you roots, identity Future – wings to new destinations and challenges Present hedonistic – energy for exploration Any time perspective in excess ends up being bad news. If this interests you at all there’s a much longer and more detailed PDF available on Zimbardo’s horrific flash site. It’s under Publications>Downloads (which I’d link to directly if the page wasn’t in flash). —-Application—- So there’s the obvious application to students and teaching them to use different time perspectives. I’d also like to […]


6 Word Teen Memoirs

This would be a fun way to start off the school year. It’s similar to a number of things I’ve posted before but I liked these and the presentation is really nice. Ways I might twist it for the first days of school – maybe it’s just your summer in 6 words, your prediction of the school year in 6 words or you have to produce one for someone else in the class on whatever topic is chosen. Make sure you show good examples. Just another example of rules and being “inside the box” driving some really interesting content production. Hat tip – Jackie Gerstein

I Suck

I received this message last night. . . . I used to love your website when you took some techie idea and translated it for us commoners (non techie teachers). Now you seem to be so caught up in fighting “them” that you have forgotten “us”…the lowly teachers who are just trying to use technology. Come back ….I want the “old you”. The non cynical you ….the one who has great ideas of how to use technology in the classroom. Yes., the powerpoints and slide shares are horrible, and the world is falling apart, but we need great minds like yours to translate tech to teach….please add the “a” and stop worrying about the world. I agree totally with her comments regarding the blog1 and its downward spiral. 2 The only thing is, I’m not sure how to get back to when I thought this blog was good and worthwhile. I was in a school then. I interacted with students and teachers. Things were exciting and I had real problems to solve and a living lab in which to test my ideas. That was my world. Now, I mainly sit in an office building that is as devoid of children as it is of color. Don’t get me wrong. I work with great people. We try to do great things […]

The Circle of Openess is Complete

Alan Levine, the magical CogDog, interviewed me a few weeks back asking about good things that happened to me because of the open way I share my work. He compiled a huge number of these stories for his presentation at the Opened Conference and they are well worth watching. Watch the archived version of Alan’s presentation below. OK, with all that as a set up here’s what I thought was wild about today. I’m in Virginia watching the conference which is in Vancouver1 on uStream 2. Up pops Alan’s presentation and I end up watching my own video interview which was a surprise. At almost the same moment I see over twitter that Jim Groom is there watching me as I watch me. I don’t know why this seemed so amazing to me but it did and still does. I see this as an amazing story of openness on so many levels and such a cool example of the beautiful way information can flow in instantaneous ways. 1 3,000 odd miles away and nearly 3 days of driving 2 because it’s a conference about openness after all


Intro to Theme Tweaking: Firebug has Magic Eyes

A couple of people at work were discussing how to make a good website for a school newspaper. I couldn’t help but point out the beauty that is The Collegian and mentioned it was based on WordPress with some theme tweaking. So one thing led to another and now a number of people are interested in learning how to do this type of thing. I’m the one-eyed guy1 who’s attempting to guide them. I’m no master of CSS, PHP or even WordPress but I have managed to do a few things over time- usually through trial and error. The movie below kind of talks about why CSS exists and then delves into using Firebug2 to explore website and learn how/what to change in the CSS to tweak themes. Firebug Introduction from Tom Woodward on Vimeo. 1 Too obscure a reference? 2 I find this plugin to be nearly magical and highly encourage you to use it for this and a variety of other purposes.