What is Your Sentence VoiceThread Project – Please Add Yours



‘Sentience Structure’



I have been working on my NCAIS Master Teacher Academy project with my group of 5th grade students. I wrote about Daniel Pink’s Two Question video earlier. In my last post on Learning to Teach how to Learn is Hard, I wrote how I was having to help my students take time to go deeper with this project. After 3 days of work in our Digital Learning Class, they have added sentences for each of the 5 people, added their sentences, (two were absent so not quite done). Some worked on trying to come up with who the two people are that Daniel Pink refers to as “He taught a generation of kids to read,” and “She invented a device that made people’s lives easier.” I do not know about you, but these were not obvious people to me so I thought the students should figure out who they are by researching. I have to say, that some of the students were taken aback when I said, I do not know for sure who these two people are, help teach me. It is interesting to listen to their findings. I think this might be a neat way to flip the research of people where the students are given a sentence and then must make the case for who the person is or why it is their sentence. Some of my students did add reasons why it was who they think it was. I left this part pretty wide open as I wanted the process to be guided by the students and not directed by me completely. As I wrote previously, this is not easy for both of us in the room as the students looked to me for advice and approval, and I struggled with saying just enough. I enjoyed watching the students begin searching for the sentence to see if it would be that easy. Of course, the result was usually Daniel Pink’s blog which meant the students had to try different search terms and strategies. I had hoped this would be the case as I tried to scaffold the lesson in such a way so that students would develop this understanding.


Now it is your turn to add to this VoiceThread. Please take the opportunity to add your sentence, have your class add their sentences, and figure out who those two people are. Pass this VoiceThread along to any one who might want to add to it. All I ask is that the work be serious in nature. If you have a video camera, record video, if you have a good microphone, record audio, or if you only have a keyboard, type the sentences. I would suggest if you are typing that you use a Word Processor to type the sentence and then copy and paste it into the comment as while any sentence is good, a misspelled sentence seems less educational.


Learning to Teach how to Learn is Hard

I worked with my Digital Learning class today on my Master Teacher Academy project inspired by Daniel Pink’s Two Question video. As we discussed the concepts, responsibilities, and outcomes, I had the sense that what I was asking them was very new to them. I like reading Dean Shareski’s posts as he has an inspiring message as I try to adjust my teaching. I am trying to have my students guide their learning more with me assisting and coaching as we both learn together. My students today were in too much of a rush to get the project done. I felt like I had to hold them back as I want to go deeper and get to a level of emotional connectedness to this project. Granted, it may be that I am too connected to the project, since it is my project and not theirs. I understand that, but I am guiding more here for a reason. Anyway, I am sure we will get to where I want us to get as my students rise to the occasion. I was struck by how this video echos many similar themes. I am working on growing as an educator and this helped me today. That makes me better today, then I was yesterday. Thank you to Dean Shareski and Shelley Wright.

There will more about the project I described later, but for now let’s listen and learn from Shelley and her students.

What Inspired Me This Week


‘To be inspired’


I took part in the first ever NCAIS Master Teacher Academy this past week and wanted to share a few inspirations from my wonderful learning adventure. In no particular order here they are:

1. Chris Gergen’s from Bull City Forward presentation was brief but deep. His book Life Entrepreneurs looks wonderful. His advise:  Think unreasonably. Young people are often afraid to risk failure so they do not take the risk. Going from fear of failure to fear of regret is often the step entrepreneurs take. Check out Unreasonable Institute.

2. Learning Times – Jonathan Finkelstein have amazing resources available to connect my class with all sorts of topics and people.

3. Smithsonian Conference Series offers so many ways to connect our students to learning.

4. Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education His TED talk is amazing and should shape all that we do with respect to creating learning environments for our students. His wiki is at http://sugatam.wikispaces.com/

5. The NCAIS Change Agents who presented how to deal with challenges that are presented. It is simple in that within Challenge is the word Change so there will be challenges with change.

6. NAIS iTunes Channel has some great resources.


Digital Learning Class Portfolios – Second Trimester


Manage Project‘ 

My Digital Learning course, formerly called Foundations of Technology, for 5th grade are developing their online portfolio that could live outside of both the classroom and our school. My goal is to give the students an opportunity to share their work and reflect on what it means to them. The idea of parents or other students also sharing their comments is a secondary goal. A third goal will not be obvious since the actual portfolio is the showcase for finished projects, and that is creativity, design and even fundamental technology skills centered around formats, copyright, privacy, communication, and others that are embedded into the projects we create. I used the term scaffolding with the class today as I wanted them to begin to connect the things we do in class instead of thinking, we start new each time. I was prompted to talk about this due to the age old question of “can I, can ya, or  can you”. I have a standard answer in that I ask them the question of “Where is Kenya?”. Often they understand this play on words although I feel like I am undoing some long learned rule of learning. I told the students today that if I taught you how to use it last week, it is OK to use it this week as that is the scaffolding part of this class.

So, I share now the portfolios of my students as we work on creating a digital portfolio using VoiceThread. For the price of a site license, this is incredible software for our students to begin telling the story of their learning. Remember that learning is often messy. That term is from a web site that I have read for years. http://learningismessy.com/blog/

Miriam W. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550600/

Sydney L. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1597437/

Alex G. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550599/

Wilson H. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550601/

Maggie D. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550598/

Lexi C. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550596/

Haley C. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550602/

Ted M. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1597392/

Jack E. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550595/

Drew H. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550603/

Annie W. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550594/

Ian W. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550591/

Davis C. http://damiddle.ed.voicethread.com/share/1550593/

Bridging the Divide with Writing Tools



As I left work yesterday, Pete McWilliams asked me if I ever needed a testimonial on the power of our Google Apps for Education, let him know. I said I would love one as I would be interested to know how he was using them and if it was helping him teach writing better in his seventh grade class. Pete, or as he is known, Mr. Mac. has been teaching at Durham Academy for many years and has always been willing to learn new ways of integrating technology into his teaching. He epitomizes the term life long learner. When I envisioned how Google Apps for Education could be used, I hoped to get him on board as I knew he might see the benefits of being able to collaborate in real-time. Mr. Mac has for years used Remote Desktop to monitor students as they write their papers in the labs. We would get the program setup for him and he would observe and when needed take control of the student’s computer. This allowed him to type suggestions to the student inside of their document. He told me he envisioned this type of tool 42 years ago when he began teaching.

In November, Mr. Mac came to the training sessions I held on how to access and use some of the features of our Google Apps for Education setup. We then worked together as he was beginning his current writing project. I have seen the success his students are having but did not fully realize all the benefits he and his students until I got his letter this morning. I have tears in my eyes as I am proud and happy to hear this type of report on how the tools are helping him and his students. He told me to share his letter with anyone, so I want to share it with you. Thank you Mr. Mac.

January 27, 2011

Mr. Karl Schaefer

Dear Karl,

Durham Academy continually stretches her faculty through the introduction of new technological hardware or software. The latest magical–and it is truly magical–advance is Google Docs.

Google Docs allows a teacher of language arts to do that which this particular teacher only conceived of at the beginning of his career. How could interactive writing occur in a manner that would allow the teacher in one physical space to read a student’s writing in a totally other geographical location–while the student was in the act of composing? Google Docs finally provided a way! For several years it has been possible to sit in a DA computer lab to interact electronically with students as they write, offering constructive criticism and responding to questions. But with Google Docs it is now possible to interact electronically with students as they write beyond the school walls. Last Sunday, for example, I sat at my kitchen table and worked–electronically–with a student polishing an essay from her home, offering immediate suggestions about grammar, punctuation, organization, style, and the like. The important point here is that pupil and instructor could each observe without delay that which the other was writing, thus allowing the student to persevere at a difficult time. This efficient, personal intervention afforded the student the opportunity to grow in her composition skills under the tutelage of her teacher despite the fact that class would not reconvene for over forty-eight hours. Needless to say, the reverse was also true. That is, the teacher could see the mind of the student at work during the writing process.

So kudos to Durham Academy for providing this computer-assisted program that truly is a magical link insofar as it affords student-teacher reciprocity in real time. If one of the grounds of good pedagogy is integrating into the curriculum strategic means for academic success, then Google Docs stands on its own merit. As a revolutionary bonus, use of this tool also saves paper!

Pete McWilliams



Instruction, Teaching, Learning, Change in 1806 Minutes



Atlas, it’s time for your bath’  http://www.flickr.com/photos/73645804@N00/440672445


I read Sarah Hanawald’s post on why are we teaching this stuff and was intrigued. I am in my second rotation of my new Digital Learning class for 5th graders. I calculated how many minutes of face time I have with them to be 1,806 minutes. That is based on meeting 5 times in a rotation of 7 days. The last rotation is just 2 days. There are 9 rotations to a trimester. On average, classes meet for 43 minutes. All of this added up gives me 1,806 minutes of face time or what I have thought of as instructional time. Why do I look at it this way? Is it habit as I my class flows with the others being offered. Is it because I am afraid to try something new? Is it because students have different tools at home and I cannot trouble shoot the issues? Is it because it takes less time to do it the way I am familiar with teaching? I am sure it is a bit of all of these things since I am a human being. Is it the best way to deliver the content to my students by using only the 1,806 minutes allotted by the schedule? Clearly it will not work much longer as I am painfully aware of all that I am not able to teach or expose my students to since the clock is ticking on these 1,806 minutes. I am working on devising the curriculum, projects, and other aspects of the Digital Learning class for 6th graders as I want to adjust it for the older students. How can I maximize the time best and still not burden them with outside work or homework?

There is no way that I can cover all of the topics and skills, nor can I address all of the literacy needs in the 1,806 minutes. What do I cull from the list? How do I help my students be both learners and active instructors in the coursework? I read Jonathan Martin’s post about Reverse Instruction. Perhaps that is the solution or at least a part of it. Could my students create tutorials as part of learning tools? How would that change the nature of the course? Would the work overload their schedule? Lastly, like Sarah mentions, what would happen if I gave my students 5% (90 minutes), 10% (180 minutes) or even 20% (360 minutes) of the class time to create or follow their interests and create learning objects for the class? Would their intrinsic motivation be enough? It might be worth trying a Flip in my 6th grade class. Stacey Roshan has even more flipping going on.

Updated 1/26/2011
I have thought more about how to flip my class around and wonder if it would be worth the time and effort as I teach a course that has a short life span. Tools I teach with today will for sure evolve or go away in a few years. Here is what I mean. I used to teach HyperStudio to teachers from around the state as well as students. While the program still exists, I no longer use it. I need to focus on flipping the broader skills and not the finite skills of how to use the File Menu of software X. The skills of telling a story are as vital as the many other skills that go into using any one piece of software, and have a longer shelf life. I think what I need to flip is telling helping students to tell the story of what they are learning instead of how to use software X. Of course, blended into all of this will be digital literacy skills but not tool skills. Last week I asked a student Kit M. (who I have blogged about earlier) how she learned to make movies. She told me how her brother is into extreme sports and she became the videographer. She then needed to edit the movies so she taught herself iMovie and then Final Cut Express. When I asked who taught her Final Cut, she looked at me, you know the look I am talking about. Uh, no one I taught myself. Exactly my point. I also read a great post from the Electric Educator on flipping your classroom.

Today I got this video link from my director. It shows how Duke is flipping, and I mean flipping.

By the way, if you are interested Jonathan will be the Keynote Speaker at NCAIS INNOVATE 2011 http://ncaisinnovate11.wordpress.com/

The North Carolina Association of Independent Schools Commission on Technology is pleased to announce:

NCAIS INNOVATE 2011: Thursday, April 7th and Friday, April 8th 2011 at Saint Mary’s School (Raleigh, NC)

Keynote Speaker: Jonathan E. Martin, Head of School, St. Gregory School, Tucson, AZ | “Innovative Schools make for Innovative Students”

An independent school head since 1996, Jonathan holds degrees from Harvard University (BA); Starr King School for the Ministry (M.Div., Unitarian ministry); and the University of San Francisco School of Education. He is a member of the board, and Program & Professional Development Chair,  of the Independent School Association of the Southwest (ISAS). A prolific blogger, Jonathan contributes to his personal blog, http://21k12blog.net/ 21k12 as well as for  http://www.connectedprincipals.com/ Connected Principals and the http://www.thedailyriff.com/ Daily Riff. Jonathan has presented on 21st century learning for the Independent School Association of the Southwest (ISAS) Heads, the Arizona Association of Independent Schools (AAIS), and at many Rotary Clubs in Arizona and California.  He has upcoming presentations on 21st century learning at the US Department of Education’s ONPE Annual Private School Leadership Conference and the Annual Conference of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).


Is it a Toy? Is it a Bird? No it is a iPad


‘Superman’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/12426416@N00/142079357

I have been part of a group of teachers who are looking at the iPad to investigate how our students could learn with them. I love it and see benefits, but think I agree more with these two blog posts. I am guilty of promoting cool tools without working as hard to adjust the teaching styles or the learning environments. Does a SMARTBoard on the wall make the learning different by itself? Is it transformational or just easier to control the computer?

I shared these links with our crew as I have yet to answer the deeper question of how will my students learn differently with this device? Is the iPad the best tool to put in the hands of students? While I like my iPad a lot, I have wondered how I would teach my class if each student only had that device. I think this is an important question to answer before or if we take a leap. I could teach some of what I do now but not the “heavier” lifting topics. For instance, no VoiceThread due to lack of Flash support. Creation is limited or at best restricted and I believe learners need to be creating more and consuming less.

Cathy Davidson has a great post about the iPad and how it alone will not change anything if there is not also a change in learning and teaching style.  How would our students learn in new ways with this device? Could they learn more if they either had a laptop or a desktop?

Without the right pedagogy, without a significant change in learning goals and practices, the iPad’s potential is as limited (and limitless) as the child’s imagination.†† That’s great on one level–but it misses the real point of education as well as the full potential of the device.† What iPad and all forms of digital learning should do is help prepare kids for this moment of interactive, complex, changing communication that is our Information Age.† This is the historical moment† that these kids have inherited and will help to shape.† Are we preparing them for the challenges we all face together simply by spending our tax dollars on iPads?

Read all of her post at http://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/pointed-response-nyt-article-ipads-schools

I am not sure where we will go with iPads as there are still some hurdles to overcome with content creation. Would it be the best tool for all students or are there grade levels where it makes more sense and some grades where it makes less sense. I agree with Mark Belinsky.

“But the iPad will leave students between a computer and a hard place. Indeed, it is a third device. And one that I’m quite fond of. But it’s a poor substitute for computer learning”…. It’s not that I want to deprive young students of these experiences, but when I think of the potential for interactive curriculum, there is so much more than what the iPad can offer. And it can be delivered faster. While the lack of proper mutli-tasking might be good for focus, it certainly slows things down. When I’m researching for an article or a report, I have the virtual equivalent of having books and articles scattered across my desk. When I have several devices, I often do, relegating a content type to each device. Kids who are in the process of learning what the world has to offer don’t need to be doing so with the brakes on.

Read all of his post at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-belinsky/horrified-by-schools-that_b_804750.html




What is My Sentence? and Am I Better Today Than Yesterday?


I have confessions to make regarding the iPad, iBooks, and Daniel Pink’s Book Drive. I have owned all of them since April 8, 2010. Drive was the first and only book I purchased to test the iBook app on the iPad. I started to read it but never felt compelled to continue as there were so many other things to do each time I opened up the iPad. Goodreader and Instapaper get a lot of attention as does Angry Birds and Doodle Jump. I still prefer to listen to audiobooks as I have a 25 minute commute to work each day. That leaves me 50 minutes of listening time each day. Between audiobooks and podcasts, I can learn a lot each week on a variety of topics related to ed-tech and how advances or news about technology. I subscribe to MacBreak Weekly, This Week in Tech, iPad Today, This Week in Google which are all from the TWiT Network. The Ed Tech Talk Network keeps me plugged into what is happening in the Ed Tech world.

After reading the blog post by George Couros, I have picked up the book again and am reading it as well as annotating like crazy. I have been thinking about my sentence and have yet to focus in on what it is as it changes depending on what I am doing or thinking. A couple I have come up with are: He was willing to try new things with his students or He was willing to help his colleagues.  These sentences both relate to  my teaching and not the other parts of my life. Those areas would produce a different sentence. He loved his tractor and farm, or He loved to play with his grandchildren. Can a person really be one sentence? One big problem I have is that my sentence is in the past tense! Yikes, Am I already a past tense? I think this means I have not found my sentence but rather am still looking for it since I will know it when I hear or think it. Maybe my sentence is not one that I know but is defined by others? I will sit with this some to see what comes of it. I have created a project for my class to create a video of their sentence. Maybe 5th graders will not over think it like I am.

The second question that Pink asks is “Was I better today than yesterday?”. This is somewhat easier, as I try to be more present each day which, I believe, can lead to being better. I struggle with being better each day as I can often get on a tangent and become critical or arrogant with what I think is the correct answers to questions or issues. This can lead to mistakes in judgement and certainly days when I am not better then I was the day before. Of course we could also debate what “better” means I suppose. I do know that I want my actions with my students and colleagues to be based on helping us all be better tomorrow then we are today as it applies to educational technology. For that, is my sentence now.

Daniel Pink’s Two Questions

Daniel Pink’s What’s Your Sentence? A collection of people telling us their sentence.

Daniel Pink’s Speech from RSA Animate

Image: ‘from the driver’s seat‘ 

Stop Me if You’ve Seen This

By now many folks have seen this video of the Google Presentation Demo Slam. I saw it on Twitter and today came across it in Page Lennig’s Blog: The TechKnow. Her post got me thinking about how our roll out of Google Apps for the Middle School has gone. I believe we have given the best tool we could have given our students and echo much of what Page talks about in her post, except for all of the teachers who came to my training brought their laptop:). I am very grateful that we have the tools for our students as we have removed many obstacles that used to prevent the fluid learning process.

Homework Delivered from New Zealand


This student has been mentioned in my blog before for some of the things he does with the tools he uses in his learning. I got this message and image today from his Geometry teacher, Mr. McGivney and thought I would share it. I of course do not know if the solutions are correct, but I do know that learning is not stopped just because a student is not on campus or even in America.


Thought you would enjoy the attached.  Nathaniel B’s geometry homework from New Zealand!!!


—– Original Message —–

Hi, Mr. McGivney,

Attached is a photo of my homework from last night.


Nathaniel B………

Sheard Advisory

8th grade