Archive for category collaboration

Audience Collaboration Preso at ISTE12

I have been presenting at ISTE/NECC since 2008 and have done a variety of different presentations. This year I decided to do a BYOD (bring your own device) session where my team and I shared how we use our favorite tools when working in different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  After we each took a turn sharing, we asked the audience for their favorite tools or apps in each specific category.  While I moderated, Michelle and Amanda took notes and updated a Weebly website we created for this presentation.

I really enjoyed this highly interactive style of presentation. It definitely took some pressure off of me to carry the entire preso, but more importantly it allowed for collaboration. The audience collaborated with us to form our website, and my team collaborated well to balance a bunch of responsibilities simultaneously.

Thanks to my team, and thanks to our audience for making this #ISTE12 presentation so enjoyable.

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The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators

Richard Byrne just published a new eBook titled The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators. I was extremely excited to participate with a chapter about online learning.  Crossposted below:

There are many teachers who want to start using technology in their classrooms, but just aren’t sure where to start. That’s why I got together ten prominent ed tech bloggers, teachers, and school administrators to createThe Super Book of Web Tools for Educators. In this book there introductions to more than six dozen web tools for K-12 teachers. Additionally, you will find sections devoted to using Skype with students, ESL/ELL, blogging in elementary schools, social media for educators, teaching online, and using technology in alternative education settings.

Here’s the list of contributors to The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators:
George CourosPatrick LarkinKelly TenkelyAdam BellowSilvia TolisanoSteven AndersonCory PloughBeth StillLarry FerlazzoLee Kolbert, and Richard Byrne. If you like what you read, please visit the contributors’ blogs and let them know.

The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators

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Bridging the Gap: Letters from Students to Teachers

Cross Posted from Rush The Iceberg: Bridging the Gap – A Collaboration

Elementary School Student to a Middle School Teacher

Edna Sackson is an elementary school teacher in Melbourne, Australia that consistently offers thought provoking tweets and prolific, pedagogy challenging takes on the current state of education at her blog, What Ed Said.

What Ed Said and Rush the Iceberg were honored to be featured blogs of the week at The Next Step.

We decided to guest post on each others’ blog because we firmly believe that all teachers, regardless of grade level, can provide important insight into the craft of teaching.

Elementary School Student to Middle School Teacher

Dear Middle School teacher,

Here are some things I would like you to know about me, and some questions I would like to ask you, before I leave elementary school and join your class.

I am a person. I have likes and needs and wants and problems and interests. Please teach ME, don’t teach your subject.

I love learning. I am curious and I wonder about all kinds of things. I love to explore and question and experiment. I hope you won’t squash my natural desire to learn, by grading everything. My learning isn’t reducible to a letter or a number. It would be much more helpful if you gave me constructive, directed feedback to guide my future learning.

There are lots of different ways that people learn. My teacher calls them learning styles. Not everyone in my class learns best by listening to a teacher talk. Learning isn’t a passive activity. I hope you don’t think of students as sponges, who soak up what you deliver. I hope you will give me opportunities to learn by listening, by talking, by doing, by seeing and by moving around. Will you incorporate music and art and technology into our learning, irrespective of what subject you teach?

Middle School

Do you think creativity is important? I’m used to presenting my learning in a million creative ways, both offline and online. I hope you are not a teacher who thinks that learning can only be expressed through a written essay. Did you know that composing a song, making a movie, creating a cartoon, recording a podcast and doing a play are all great, creative ways of demonstrating understanding

I am not used to having a different teacher for each subject. Please remember to consult with each other, before assigning homework, so that you don’t overload me. I am not even used to learning different subjects. Most of my learning has been trans-disciplinary, because that’s how learning works best. I make connections between the different areas of my learning and construct meaning in that way. Please talk to the other subject teachers, so that you can help me make meaningful connections across disciplines.

Please don’t blame me or my elementary school teachers for the things I can’t do and don’t know. Maybe your expectations are different, or maybe your style is different… but you’re a teacher, so help me to learn.

I am a person, just like you are. I get hungry and thirsty and sometimes need to eat or drink, even if the bell hasn’t gone for the end of the period. I sometimes need to go to the bathroom, when it’s not recess. And yes, I sometimes just get tired of sitting still and need a break before I can concentrate again. I am a person, even though I am smaller than you. Please don’t talk down to me. Talk to me just as you would to any other human being.

Do you know the difference between work and learning? My sister is in middle school and she often has lots of work to do. Some of it is just work. Please don’t assign work for the sake of it, unless it’s clear to both you and me how this work will further my learning.

Do you value collaboration? Will you allow us to sit in groups, rather than facing you, so that we can talk and make sense of our learning, while we continue to develop our social skills? Will you encourage us to work collaboratively, by cooperating, communicating and showing mutual respect? Speaking of mutual respect, I hope you don’t mind if I suggest that you need to respect your students, if you want them to respect you. Some teachers think they earn respect automatically when they get their degree!

I’m looking forward to the next stage of my learning. I hope you are looking forward to teaching me.

Your future student.


Middle School Teacher to an Elementary School Student

Below is my response to a letter from a fictional elementary school student written by Edna Sackson, author of What Ed Said as part of two guest posts on each others’ blogs.

Thank you for the letter you sent me! I will work hard to incorporate your suggestions into my class.

I thought I would give you some realistic expectations for the beginning of your middle school experience.

Just like a carnival, your elementary school is small and most of the activities are focused on you.


At a carnival and your elementary school almost everything is designed to make you smile and laugh, even though you are learning.

There is plenty of space to walk around at a carnival and your elementary school.

For the most part, you can see all the attractions at carnival in one night due to its size.

Elementary schools are different than middle schools just like carnivals are different than amusement parks.

Middle school is like an amusement park, offering many things to many different people. If you want to get scared, there are rides for you. If you want to get wet, there are rides for you. If you want to go on the “kiddy” rides, there are “kiddy” rides for you.

But there are many rides and attractions that you will not be able to get to because of time.

Middle schools and Amusement parks are big and require great amounts of dodging people who are not paying attention where they are walking.

Oh, and the lines; the lines are boring.

Once you are on the ride, going up the first hill of the Grade Abolisher (soundtrack by the Bower-Kohn’s), then racing towards the first of 21 loops and 12 barrel rolls, the distinct blend of fear and excitement are worth every minute waiting in line.

Knott's Berry Farm

That is what it is going to be like in middle school.

There will be many extended times of boredom, however, if your willing to be patient and get on the ride, you will eventually be rewarded with new information that will help you find out who you really are.

There are too many things for me to tell you before your first day of middle school; however, here are a few things you can do to make the transition easier:

- Each teacher has close to 200 students, they may not learn you name right away, please do not get offended.

- Most students in grades above you are too interested in themselves to bully you.

- Organization is very important and needed! Use a calendar, daily agenda, or binder reminder your school gives you – DAILY and EVERY PERIOD!

- Many teachers will use sarcasm in their classrooms, do not take it personally. Look up the word sarcasm.

- Do not be afraid to take academic risks. If you happen to get teased by other students, they will forget soon.

- Many middle school teachers love “nuance”…look up this word and try to find nuance in your lessons as much as possible.

- Everyone is just as nervous as you are about changing clothes in the locker room for PE.

- Please ask questions…please ask questions…please ask questions

Middle School


Middle School Student to a High School Teacher

Stephanie Mechmann, author of English Teacher Geek, the Featured Blog of the Week for The Next Step. Continuing the Bridging the Gap posts begun with the collaboration between me and What Ed Said, this post is from a Middle School student to their future High School teacher.

Have you seen that movie “American Pie”? You know how Jim thinks he knows “things”, but only knows apple pie?


Remember that when I walk into your class for the first time around the first of September. I will likely have what my social studies teacher calls my “bravado mask” on much of the first quarter. Whatever that is…I don’t get it. We watched a lot of movies.

I had an English teacher that talked about how he didn’t expect us to be professional writers because, well, none of us were. That gave me confidence to take risks in my writing (he always told us to do so!). Please don’t expect me to write like Lois Lowry or Jordan Sonnenblick. But, they’re cool.


Oh, here are a few things I’d like you to know before I get into your class.

I still care a lot about what people think of me. My school counselor says that is my most adult-like trait. I don’t get it.

I still have to move around a lot in class. I’m addicted teachers allowing us to work in groups. I kind of get why. I see the workers at Target always talking (My math teacher said he likes to dress up in khaki pants and a red polo on weekends and walk around at Target answering people’s questions).

My PE and computer teachers used sarcasm and, for the most part, I understood what was going on. However, I did get in trouble a few times when I was trying to be sarcastic but it came across as me being a jerk. I’m still learning how to use sarcasm.

I understand that you are trying to treat me like I’m an adult. But, I’m not yet. Point to the older students for me to look up to. Especially if they are cute.

In all honesty, I’m not too afraid of the school work and homework because my middle school teachers have trained me to only think about that lame test we take every spring. Seriously, that is all they talk about. The only thing I have mastered is how to bubble in circles. I think that is sarcasm.


I’m still immature and my parents say I will be until I get a real job other than handing out flyers for the local ice cream shop. You should try their mint-n-chip…it’s a party in your mouth! Especially if you put rainbow sprinkles on top of the ice cream! Now that’s sarcasm! Right?

The only remaining curiosity I have is related to my social life: both my real and made up one in my mind.

Even though I may look annoyed when you talk to me, I am listening to what you are saying just like Jason Biggs’ character in “American Pie” is outwardly annoyed with his dad giving him advice on “things”, but inside is intently listening.

Oh, I secretly like Justin Bieber.


High School Teacher to a Middle School Student

I am thrilled to have Stephanie Mechmann, author of English Teacher Geek, Featured Blog of the Week for The Next Step, write the following guest post.

Stephanie is continuing the Bridging the Gap posts begun with the collaboration between me and What Ed Said. I want to thank Stephanie for contributing to a better understanding of the transition Middle School students experience going into High School. (Here is my letter to a High School teacher from a Middle School student.)

This post is from a High School teacher to their future freshman.

Dear My Soon-To-Be-Freshmen,


Welcome to high school. You’re not in Kansas anymore. But don’t worry: contrary to popular belief, there are no flying monkeys, evil witches, or fruit-throwing trees. High school is a whole new land that will be your home for the next four years. During this time, you will grow and develop as much as you did in your first two years of life. High school is a time of tremendous change and I love being a piece in this part of your life.

With that said, expect changes. From my experience, the greatest change you will encounter is the lack of intimate knowledge your teachers will have about you. In the middle schools that feed into my high school, students are grouped into quads. Therefore, your math, English, social studies, and science teachers all share the same students. They can conference about your progress and share valuable insights that will help one another understand you better.

That ain’t high school, frosh. In my particular school, there are at least 5 to 6 “freshman” teachers per subject. We don’t all share the same kids. It’s much harder for us teachers to share that valuable insight about you.

My advice? Be proactive. Chat with your teachers before class, during passing, before homeroom, or after school. And not just about school work! Talk about what you saw on TV last night, the cool new t-shirt you’re wearing, or how bad the cafeteria tater tots are. Make a personal connection with your teachers. We will know you better as a person and will be better able to help you as a student.

Other, more concise advice on what your teachers will expect of you: be organized! You will have about 7 classes worth of notes, handouts, and assignments to keep track of. High school teachers will treat you as an adult. They expect you to be organized like one.

Be ready to move on. Middle school is a very nurturing environment and middle school students tend to idolize their teachers. Please don’t compare what your middle school math/English/social studies/science teacher did last year to your current math/English/social studies/science teacher. It’s like comparing your ex-boy/girlfriend to your current one.

Be fluent in sarcasm. It’s the language of most high school teachers.

Be ready to be challenged. As previously stated, your new teachers will treat you like adults. We want to help you become independent-thinking, problem-solving, creative adults. In order to get you there, we are going to challenge you like never before. Many of you have earned As with very little effort. Those days are gone. It doesn’t mean that you won’t get As!!!! But. . . you will have to take better notes, write better essays, think more critically, and study more than you have previously.

Be involved. This has nothing to do with your academics. But go to an athletic event, the fall play, the cabaret night. Better yet, don’t be a spectator. Participate! Join a team or club. You will meet other students you wouldn’t normally meet and might actually gain an upperclassman friend. School isn’t just about classes and grades. Have some fun, develop your leadership and social skills.


In the next four years, you will make many memories that will last a lifetime. It’s going to be exciting and terrifying all at once. Every time you are gripped by that terror, summon the Lion’s courage. Pull back that curtain: you won’t see a scary, all-knowing, all-powerful wizard. All you’ll see is a man or woman or girl or boy. Meet your fears head on. All you need a little courage, some heart, and an ounce or two of brains. I have faith in you.


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A Power of Twitter

There is a lot of power in social networking and specifically the synchronous interaction capability of Twitter despite the many valid concerns people have raised.  Without going into all the positives and some of the negatives, I just want to share a cool story.

Yesterday, late afternoon, I was working (watching a video) at my desk (dining room table) with half an eye on Twitter.  A tweet came up from Kelly Dumont who, in the relativity of a global social network actually lives fairly close to me.

Instantly my ears perked up and my eyes widened.  I started thinking, wow, thats the closest any of my Twitter friends have been to my little neck of the woods (St. George is a beautiful little town in Southern Utah which is only about 2 hours from me).  So I tweeted back:

My comment obviously wasn’t one of my intellectually shining moments because Kelly said right back:

When I made the previous comment, I hadn’t been thinking about meeting Kelly at NECC, only about seeing a Twitter friend near Vegas, and I never saw Kelly when he visited my campus last school year (but had heard the story so still should of known better :).  So, I responded in my normal sarcastic way that also acknowledges I had obviously said something foolish:

From there the joking took a turn, and this is where a Twitter conversation turned into a life experience that I will appreciate for a long time:

I checked out the site he linked me to and saw he was presenting about using social networking tools in school at a conference that caters to student and faculty tech leaders in K-12 schools throughout Utah.  I quickly thought about what the next day held, and since I was working on projects that could be put off an extra day I said:

From that point, we figured out the logistics through a series of more tweets and in a little more than 12 hours from the beginning of the conversation I left Las Vegas for St. George.  I arrived about 20 minutes before the presentation began, said hi, quickly outlined what we were going to be talking about, and ended up co-presenting at a 3 hour workshop this morning with Mr. Dumont.

I had no idea Kelly was going to be in St.George before he posted that first tweet so to be able to go from joking around on Twitter to presenting at a conference in less than 16 hours was quite an experience.  Kelly and I don’t have each others phone numbers, we have never emailed, we have never Skyped, but we were able to seed and grow an idea in a matter of minutes that brought us together at a place to teach.  A power of Twitter.

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Facebook and Professional Privacy

I first joined Facebook a year-and-a-half ago as a way to try and connect with my students in a place they were already hanging out online.  I created a group for one of my courses and invited my students to join voluntarily.  A handful did and we ran some discussions and small projects from inside the network.  I wasn’t happy with the use for education and moved over to Ning, administrating (with my assistant principal) a much larger private network last school year.

I basically left Facebook alone for the last year, except when an occasional student would send me a message or a friend from the past would say hi.  Slowly more and more friends began to find me. Then about a month ago it seems like my little high school discovered FB, and we now have reunions happening on a daily basis. That’s a problem. I now have high school friends, college friends, employment friends, random FB friends, and former/present students of mine on FB.  Interestingly, the one group of my life not represented is my PLN.

The risk for something inappropriate (old pics, wall comments, etc) getting associated with my name started becoming a concern so I went back to FB to explore my privacy options.

I was contemplating just creating a separate identity for my high school students and redirecting them to that persona, but was happy to find that I could take care of my accessibility concerns through customizable privacy settings.

The first thing I did was go into Privacy and select Profile.  Since I am most concerned about the Wall feature and an old friend leaving an undesirable message in public, I just turned that off completely. If anyone wants to say hi, they can just as easily send a message.

Now in order to customize my privacy settings I had to create lists to separate people, basically: family, high school friends, college, colleagues, and students. To do that, just go to Friends, and on the right hand side you can select ‘make a new list.’ Add each of your friends to the appropriate list.

Once I created lists then I could determine who could see what throughout FB.  Since I didn’t want my students to see any videos or photos with my name, I just went into each of those categories and selected Customize, then excluded certain groups (note that I put family in the same exclusion category as students….haha):

Im pretty sure with these changes I’ve created an environment that allows students to still find me, to private message me, and to chat with me when they want but have eliminated the possibility of my personal life overflowing into my professional one.

This is the only network I belong to that has any students or non-professional friends on it so had to take extra precautions. What have you done on FB, or even Myspace, to ensure professional integrity?

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