Assignments That Do Not End


In my Digital Learning Classes students have written reflections after watching movies in our course. They share these Google Docs with me using a template I created. The reflections are not meant to be in depth and for the most part are done when the unit is over. However, the sharing never stops, unless the student stops sharing the document with me or deletes it. A couple days ago when I opened Google Docs, I noticed that this particular student had edited a long ago “finished” assignment. He is no longer my “student” but he is clearly still thinking about role models as he updated his reflection from May 4, 2011 to include the following new information.

Not only is he a brilliant scientist but also a perfect dad. I learned that every role model has his problems.

I felt a jolt as I looked at the revision history to see what caused this student to open up a long ago closed assignment for a class that he is no longer in. Clearly, he wanted to adjust his role model to more clearly define his current definition of what role models are as it relates to his dad. He left the first part, but deleted the last sentence. As a teacher, I think there are two really great things going on in this revision. 1. Connected learning as the student is still thinking about role models. 2. His realization that every role model has problems is profound and will serve him well as that was a hope of mine when I posed the question.I also felt sadness and am curious as to what happened with respect to “his problems”, but am not sure if I should inquire as the assignment is over and perhaps he did not mean to share it with me. What if he did mean to share it with me and is waiting for me to ask him about his revisions? In a world where documents are not deleted each year and learning continues, the relationships with students do not always stop just because a class ended. Welcome to connected learning.

BTW: I will be talking to the student, but not sharing what I find as that will be between us.

How would you handle this situation?

UPDATE: I did speak with the student and he assured me everything was OK and I assured him that if he ever needed to talk with me about anything, my door and document was open to him. I believe, and studies show that the best way to improve education is to improve the relationships between teacher and student. I would like to think this is an example of how we have one more area to connect.

Google Apps for Education + VoiceThread = Transformative


I have spent the morning working in a computer lab and a classroom with 5th grade students and 7th grade students who are working on culminating projects. The groups have research in the library or in the field and are now working on presenting they’re learning to classmates and teachers. Both start in a Google Presentation which will be converted to a PDF when done for use in VoiceThread. I watched as students collaborated on the presentations in various ways:assigning jobs, adding images and text, or writing scripts in a Google Doc. The goal of both of these projects is to tell the story of what they have learned. We are fortunate to have desktops, some laptops, and some students who bring their own laptop so access is not an issue. In the past, students could not easily collaborate and create simultaneously as they can now. This lack of creation friction has allowed one group to create the PDFs, upload to VoiceThread and record it in only 4 classes. It took much longer in the past since we had to many, many more steps to arrive where we are today. Other groups are well on their way to creating deeper learning while learning how to work collaboratively.

The 7th grade science students will be teaching their fellow classmates on topics of the river study unit during exams. This brings the role of teacher into the life of a student in meaningful and real ways.

If your school does not use these web-based tools, Google Apps for Education and VoiceThread, please consider it, as they will transform your learning community into a frictionless environment where the technology supports the learning goals instead of limiting.

I am very happy and proud to have helped bring this transformation about. Now it is time to eat my lunch as I have used it to write this short post.

To Share or Not To Share is Not the Question – We Need to Teach Sharing and Collaborating

By Ryan Gallagher

Photo: on 12-15-2010

I have been thinking about this post since reading Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s blog post on what do you have to lose on her Langwitches Blog. The post came to my attention after I clicked on a link that one of the people I follow on Twitter shared. I am grateful to the person in my PLN who shared it although the fact that it was shared is exactly the proof of this post. I used Instapaper to read it later on my iPad, found myself thinking about it while I mucked the barn in the cold dawn of the morning, and each day at school when I watched my students practice learning how to find their voice with VoiceThread and Google Apps for Edu. There is so much good information in this post and links, that I plan to show it to my faculty and anyone else who happens to read this post. I may even create a workshop around the core ideas on sharing and tools to do it effectively. It summarizes what I have been advocating for our students to do more of for about four years. My role may be the advocator in chief for many of these technological tools as I feel strongly that our teachers and students must embrace the skills outlined in the ISTE NETS for Students and ISTE NETS for Teachers. Students in my Digital Learning class are working on their portfolios with VoiceThread and many are on the third or fourth attempt either to perfect it or because there were issues. This is not a waste of time as the learning gets deeper each time they practice. I think it is important for all of us to find our voice and frankly, get over how we sound. I helped a Spanish teacher record a brief piece for the exam that is being administered. It took four takes to get it just the way we wanted it. Truth be told, the second one was golden but I lost it somehow. Again, learning is messy. She remarked how she had trouble listening to herself. I assured her she needed to get past that and the only way to do that is to do more, not less.

Alan November

In her article, Silvia has this image and quote in her post which I think is the heart of the matter. We need to teach our students how to share and collaborate as a skill and not as something to be avoided or prevented. I love it when we have club and the students exclaim that we now have readers from South Africa or other countries because we made our school “newspaper” a blog this year. The Cav is one attempt at sharing done by our students. They write the posts and the two teachers serve as editors to make sure it meets the standards of a journalistic paper before it goes live. We had a FirstClass blog for the last three years but never knew if anyone was reading it. Our new Google Apps for Education accounts are allowing students and teachers to share work with each other.

Read the blog by Silivia and lets get to work teaching our students how to find their voice and how to share their learning with other learners.

Sharing helps me everyday via my Twitter stream, the Diigo bookmarks that are shared by other teachers from around the world, Google Reader where articles are brought to me around interest areas. How can we not help our students to harness the power of these curated streams of information. To not is to do them and ourselves a great disservice. Dean Shareski also did a post on how to make better teachers where he suggests we get all teachers blogging to reflect on their teaching. Another great idea for me to weave into the workshop that is starting to take shape in my head.

As I was finish this post, I want to share a message I received from a teacher and a picture of a tweet from Melissa Trendenick that she sent while at a conference where Pat Bassett was speaking. Both affirm my points in this post. Without the tools and sharing, learning is diminished.


Hi Karl,

I have a student who is in Korea and is missing a week and a half of school due to the death of her grandfather. She is currently completing assignments for our short story unit using google docs and Moodle. She is able to read the short stories from Moodle and is writing (and having teacher and peer edits) via google docs. Thank you for these wonderful tools. Otherwise, She would miss two weeks of work.


Just wanted you to know, these tools have a powerful impact and daily extend my course beyond the wall of my classroom.



Melissa Tredenick Change.png

Giving Students a Voice on the World Stage

I sent this message to the faculty today as I wanted them to read the ISTE articles. I can not attach them here as you must be a member, although the link below will take you to the articles that are visible. I reccommend that you become a member if you are not one now.

The evidence I see happens each day in the computer labs, in the classrooms with laptops, and sometimes even at lunch break when students do things like play online video games or collaboratively write a story in a Google Doc for “fun”. I also am slowing seeing students making better decisions with how they add to their digital dossier. Slowly….

Dear Faculty,

Durham Academy is a member of ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) through a membership paid for by the technology department. Each month ISTE publishes a magazine called Learning and Leading with Technology. I read it cover to cover and then pass it on to the other members in the department. You can read some selections here:

I am attaching 2 articles to this message (see above) as I think they are thought provoking and show what is possible when students use their voice with the tools we have available to all of us on campus.

Dreaming Up Ideas discusses Social Media in schools and how it can help students and teachers develop a PLN (Personal Learning Network) This is not without controversy for sure since most schools take great pains to “protect” students from some of these tools. Many are available to our students and are a part of their life outside of school and for some in school when it comes to Google Docs, Blogs (The Cav), VoiceThread, and Skype. I think there is value in protecting but also in teaching students how to use these tools for learning as in the absence of this guidance, they can and often do make errors in judgement.

Lessons from New Zealand discusses how students were encouraged to develop and use their voice in the classroom, community, and across the world. Again, we have the tools are our fingertips and some students are already exploring them. I heard a member of The Cav say the other day that we have a reader from Pakistan and wondered why and if they were a terrorist? I assured them that not all people in Pakistan are a terrorist:(.

I do believe that giving student work “legs” as Matt Scully from Providence Day School called it in one of his NCAIS workshops is powerful in two ways. We all work harder to write it right when we know more people will read it. The use of the tools also helps students develop the digital and critical thinking skills necessary to more successfully manage their digital dossier. One big hurdle is that sometimes our work has mistakes or the learning is messy, but in the end we help the students to learn how to grow and use their voice and that is a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say.