Listening and Teaching


listen closely‘

I read a blog post this summer from Steve Goldberg about this TEDx talk and added it as a favorite to my list of talks to listen to when I reconnected to the Internet. In addition, I finally purchased a set of hearing aids after going years asking my students and grandchildren to repeat what they said as my mild to moderate loss impacted me the most in these situations. Getting older and needing equipment to restore what I used to have naturally is all part of the process. I got my hearing aids at Costco and have been very happy.


With the equipment installed, I now am working on my intention and listening practice. I suggest that we all try to do a little bit better as our students and children/grandchildren have a lot that they are saying.

5 ways to listen better


4 Ways sound affects us

Evernote and Skitch – Hey You Got Perfect in My Awesome!

Skitch is acquired by Evernote A Great  Skitch Heart Love


Two of my favorite applications that I use on my desktop, laptop, iPad, and iPod Touch are now together. It reminds me of the old commercials where the person is eating chocolate and bumps into the person eating peanut butter. While at first upset, they realize it is a perfect match and the rest they say is confectionary history.

Skitch has been used at our school for the last 3 years and quickly became the most used piece of software next to a browser. In fact, it became a verb in my teaching as we skitch anything we need to add to documents, VoiceThreads, Portfolios, or to create a great desktop picture. It is the Swiss Army Knife of software tools. I have paid for others and know how to take a screenshot, but Skitch remained my go to tool. While the use of expiring betas did make it a source of frustration since each time the version expired, I had to blast out an update, the sheer power of what could be done with the software out weighed the 10 to 15 minute task of blasting out the latest version. When they announced Skitch Plus last year, I contacted them as I wanted to buy it for our school. Sorry, Keith said but they are working on an educational solution, but it is not ready. He then gave me a 5 year license to Skitch Plus for our school!

Evernote has become an integral part of my productivity and as I get older, the best way to remember what is so easily forgotten by my brain. As our school gets ready to pilot test iPads, I believe we need to put Evernote into the workflow for students and teachers since it will increase the efficiency of every member of the team. With the new groups and sponsored accounts, it is practical and economical to test out a new way of document workflow even within our existing systems of Moodle, Google Apps for Education, and FirstClass.

Here are two stories of how our school could use Evernote. Sixth and Eighth Grade Science Teacher from Evernote’s Blog and Montclair Kimberley Academy’s 1 to 1 program with Evernote.

I am excited to see what these two companies can do together and look forward to the day that we look back and cannot remember a time before they were together.

A side note, my granddaughter and I share our love of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and I suspect someday, she will also share my love of Evernote and Skitch.

Innovation and Learning Cohort – Chapter 1 Word Cloud

This school year I am co-leading an Innovation and Learning Cohort of 19 teachers at Durham Academy who are reading The New Culture of Learning by David Thomas and John Seely Brown. I shared this post there today and wanted to add it to my blog as I am excited to be undertaking this learning and discussion with fellow teachers. We are blogging at where you are welcome to follow along or leave a comment.


Thought it might be interesting to take all of our comments about Chapter 1 – The Arc of Learning and paste them into a Wordle to make a word cloud. The larger the word, the more times it is used in all of the comments. Good to know words like students, learning, kids, think, learn, curious, and read play such a role. I think we need to stop using my name so much though as it is used more then school!  I will add this to our VoiceThread, because, that is what I do:)

As part of our cohort we plan to hook-up with Page Lennig’s group at Wyanflete School later this year. Her school is doing a cohort that is similar and is reading the same book. I was at her group’s site and saw she had linked to this video so I thought our cohort should read it as well. I like this video as it features a message that resonates with me and my teaching as well as featuring fellow educators whom I have visited with or followed online for years. As part of my “collective” al of you continue to shape my teaching and learning. Thanks and I hope I add to yours.

Watch the full episode. See more Digital Media – New Learners Of The 21st Century.

Learning in a Networked World – Will Richardson’s Message to Durham Academy

Networked Teacher


Today almost seems like a dream. Will Richardson is in our school talking to most of our faculty. The Middle School will be watching a movie we are creating as they are having Olweus training.  I have wanted this to happen for the last five years but wondered if we were up to the discussion as a school. I was thrilled when Lee Hark, Upper School Director, asked me last year for a list of speakers as he was looking for someone to kick off our school year. Faculty are participating in a back channel provided by Will where our faculty are able to discuss what he is saying. This is a whole day event that will challenge us to engage in a conversation that will help us answer the big questions facing our school and students.

I plan to weave the challenges he is into our Innovation and Learning Cohort that is discussing the book: The New Culture of Learning by David Thomas and John Seely Brown.

Bravo and thanks to Durham Academy for being willing to discuss these challenges.

His presentation is at this link.

Getting Digital Again


After a wonderful summer break where I worked around the farm, played with grandchildren and rested,  I headed to the NCAIS 21st Century Teacher Academy today to listen to David McGeary. I am presenting tomorrow on VoiceThread and doing an Ignite presentation tonight as part of the NCAIS Master Teacher program. I am doing my Ignite on the premise of old technology committee meeting notes. I hope the humor is not lost on the audience. The idea is that the more things change, in education, many things stay the same. Check it out if you want as it will not embed for some reason.

I have written about that program in past posts. Next week I head back to work to get ready for the school year. There are many changes awaiting me next week with a new Moodle setup (both Moodle 2.0 and being hosted at Moodlerooms), Lion OS on the lab computers. I look forward to the challenges that lay before me as I will appreciate the change from trying to keep the squash bugs away from my squash and instead getting used to the scrolling in Lion.

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.

Digital Citizenship PSA’s





For our unit on Digital Citizenship, we watched movies from Common Sense Media and The Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Students responded to questions in a Google Doc shared with me for some of the movies and others we used a Moodle Forum in our class. The goal of the unit was to have discussions that would lead to deeper thinking of their digital life. As a culmination, students in both classes created Wordles for a Public Service Announcement. They could do it on any topic of interest as long as they felt they could provide tips. I love hearing it from the mouth of the digital natives as you will hear that they do know more then we often think they do when it comes to be safe and appropriate online. I suppose it could be do to the “pleasing the teacher” syndrome, but think that most students do have a plan and simply need guidance from adults in their life as the learn to make, as Cheyse calls it, “Digital Footsteps”.


We hope you enjoy our PSA’s and that in some way help you with your digital life.


How do you Deal with Failure or Being Wrong!

Updated 5_3_2011 due to the original YouTube video no longer being available. I had been wanting to write about being wrong or in some cases failure. Not every idea I have is a winner by any stretch of my imagination. The thing is though that I am willing to try and at time fail big in public. I had to do a major mea culpa earlier in the year when I had to get the students who were under 13 to delete the Google accounts I showed them how to create. I was wrong to do that an made it right or as right as I could. I am not saying we need to celebrate failures or being wrong like we do being right or succeeding in what we try, but let’s balance it a bit. People, and therefore schools are not always right or successful. Some of the things we do just do not work or do not work anymore.

I had the following TED Talk by Kathryn Shultz in my TED app on my iPad to watch. I had not yet watched it and then came an email from Patti Donnelly, a fellow teacher, who said she had played it to her class. I like the message it sends as I think there is a lot to showing our students that sometimes being wrong is in fact, being right.

Old post from January 2011.

Each day I learn from what I do wrong and try to reflect to be a better educator. Jason Ramsden just shared this link via Twitter and I thought it worthy of a post before I leave school. When I was a Science teacher most of the experiments we would do in class would work, not all but most. I used to tell my students that most scientists are wrong most of the time, but if they are right once, it can be a successful career. I hope I continue to fail and learn from it and I hope my students do the same.

I did find a solid movie by Robert Marzano where he discusses Responding to Failure so thought I would add it here again.

Collaboration Imagery of Campus Leads to a Discussion

Students in my Digital Learning 5th and 6th classes do a short unit on Digital Imagery where we discuss elements of telling a story with a picture. We talk about Rules of 3rds, Perspective and then work with iPhoto to make edits that can enhance or highlight what “caught” the student’s eye. Each student then exported two of their favorite images and uploaded them to this collaborative VoiceThread where they were to label their images with their name and tell the story of the image. Once they had done theirs, they were to look at and comment on other images. I am pleased to say that students began to discuss how students took the photos or how they edited them. The larger goal of this collaboration was to develop a conversation between students about the project. I am very pleased with some of the photos as the students show a good eye for capturing interesting images. Students in Digital Learning 6 also created movies using the online tool, Animoto of all of their images. You can view them at

Will Schools Reach a Singularity?

Singularity Book


”The Singularity is Near’…very’

I am just finishing up a very interesting interview done by Leo Laporte Tom Merritt with Ray Kurzweil at TWIT Triangulation. While I know that some people feel that he is out there with his predictions and ideas, I was fascinated with his statements in the interview how humans look at change as linear when in many cases it is exponential due to our intuition being linear (time code: 3:40 – 6:20). The inability for humans to adapt to the exponential leads us to misinterpret most of the changes that are taking place today. I can remember a time when I was young where we had a party line phone that hung on the wall. We would interrupt our neighbors talking to find out when they thought they would be done. I took one of my first computer training classes in Hadley, Massachusetts around 1983 where I believe I used Windows 1.0 and struggled with understanding how to make the computer do much of anything. I knew there was something to this machine, but wondered if I could ever figure it out given how I was struggling to understand the input mechanism needed to make it do anything. Only 28 years later, I make my living teaching adults and students how to use technology to learn, create, communicate, teach, and share then I ever could have predicted in that classroom in Hadley. When I started teaching at Culbreth Middle School in 1993, I had the chance to use a Macintosh with HyperStudio. My teaching and my students learning changed as I began to use the technology in centers of learning allowing students to create projects that demonstrated what they were learning. It was not easy as we had floppy disks to manage, Appletalk networks to maintain, and those wonderful Imagewriter printers. This was exciting to me and altered my teaching career to become what I am today, a Digital Learning Coordinator where in the lab next door students are using Google Docs to collaborate and edit in real time. Students visiting from France are able to talk to their families back home in real time. We have used tools to teach from China with audio, video along with students recording spoken language in a VoiceThread while the teacher in China accessed it to listen in near real time. I could never have imagined this in 1983 or even 1993 and perhaps even 2003. Now, I can do it with nothing more then the tools built into the computers and a user account. Cost is $0.00.

As Ray discusses in the interview the advancements are predictable (time code:13:10 – 15:00) in that there is a steady progression in the advancement of technology. He talks about how we are moving towards creating computers that will allow nano-molecular computing. He said that when it happens he will have his “cell-phone” implanted in his body, as “that is where it belongs”. In addition, when asked about what the “Singularity” is he describes it as the time when computer intelligence reaches parity with human intelligence. This means that computers will be able to recognize patterns like our neocortex does for us. (time code: 21:12). I also liked the way Ray describes how 50 years ago we could not of told people that one day they will be able to use Skype, Facebook and other technologies to communicate. (time code: 25:00)

It is now 2011, and if Ray is correct, in only 18 years, the intelligence of a computer will be equal to the intelligence of our human brain. My grandson, Elliot, who is now 10 weeks old will be 18 at this time. What will his school look like then? What technologies will he employ in school? What will he use outside of school? What technologies will be banned or considered disruptive?

If schools follow the path we have thus far, schools will look and function much the same as they do today with some schools embracing the new technology more rapidly then other schools. Yes, we now have phones in the classrooms, although that was controversial when first suggested. Teachers have laptops, although most did not want them when first asked. Classrooms now have mounted LCD projectors with some even having SMARTBoards. If we go back further, I am relatively sure there were committees that were formed to discuss whether or not schools should deploy the new fountain pen when that technology was introduced. I can only imagine the discussions that took place at my high school in 1973 when the new IBM Selectric was ordered as it replaced the nice old fashion Manual typewriter.

How will learning change? How will teaching and schools change as we approach this singularity event? How will schools prepare for the event or will they? What role will schools play in this event horizon?

Anyway, listen to this interview as even though it may wierd you out, think about my grandson coming of age at that time and realize we must prepare for the singularity in some way as the change is coming in exponential ways.

Power aug

Updated: 4/21/2011 – I just read about this on Cathy Davidson’s blog and thought I could include it here as it relates.