What a simple Flag Counter can do to promote writing and reading

The Cav Visitors

The Durham Academy Middle School blog, The Cav is now hosted on Edublogs. I wrote about this in October, 2010 when we made the change from using our FirstClass setup. I have been very pleased by the switch as it affirms what I believe our students need to do more of which is writing for an authentic audience. Below is a message that Sam K. sent to the students at our school on December 24, 2010 at 4:35 PM while on break.


So far on The Cav, we got:


417 Americans (obviously), four British people, two guys from Philippines, and 1 from Russia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Canada, South Africa, Australia, and Pakistan who have visited The Cav.


Check out The Cav every now and then!




Sam K.





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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/clickykbd/2710697870/

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

The Backchannel students use to get ready for exams

Class of 2016 Spanish Prep


The Class of 2016 is buzzing as students get ready for exams next week. This backchannel happens all of the time and many teachers are now able to collect and use it by including a Moodle Discussion Forum for these posts as well. Knowledge to the people!

12/7/10 6:37 PM

Hello Spanish takers! We have made a Spanish Exam Prep for Spanish 7 1/2 set on Quizlet! It has 283 terms on it. Come join my Quizlet group for access! Email me if you’re interested.


Ryan S.

12/8/10 4:45 PM

Now has 420 terms!


Ryan S.

12/8/10 9:12 PM

Can you send me the link please….I need Sspanish help…

Sydney A.



12/9/10 4:41 PM

Thanks… could you add me…


Sincerely, Caroline G.

12/9/10 5:40 PM

Now has 618 terms! We are pretty sure we aren’t expanding it more.


Ryan S.

Update: Prep Continues

12/12/10 12:53  PM

Same! add me por favor!!


🙂 MacKenzi 🙂

12/12/10 5:40  PM

Im interested… add me



B-ball season, probably practicing

12/12/10 6:09  PM

You guys have to add yourselves, I’ll send you both an email on how to do it, I’ve already got the others in. One second..


Ryan S.

12/12/10 7:47  PM

How do I add myself?




-Stephanie 🙂

12/13/10 3:51 PM



Ryan S.

12/13/10 4:27 PM

This is a screen shot of my recent responses.


Ryan S.

Quizlet 2010-12-13 at 4.19.58 PM.png


12/13/10 3:59  PM – I asked Ryan for the links so everyone could see it


And here’s the link to the group.


12/14/10 10:26  AM – I asked Ryan why he changed the name.

The old name was Platypus. I made the group in like 1 minute during History class last year. I never knew that it would get this big! I wanted it to be more recognizable to DA people.


Ryan S.

I believe this is a good indicator how students are learning to collaborate and share with tools not sponsored by the school. I plan to blog about this sharing and how we must be doing more of it as it is a skill that should be taught much like any other skill schools teach.


Updated on 12_14_2010

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: http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading.aspx

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.

Donnelly Think Board Using Google Doc

Donnelly Think Board - Google Docs.jpg

Students never stop amazing me with how quickly they adopt and put into practice new tools. We have been using Google Apps for Education since late October and each day I see students being successful with this new tool for OLD uses but also now using them for NEW uses. Patti Donnelly’s English class is using a Google Doc as a Thinking Board to discuss how they could collaborate throughout the school using technology. I will share with you some of the writing, understanding this is a LIVE  private document that as I write this post, students are adding their ideas and thoughts. I asked permission to share some of their content and was granted it. The image above was created by the students in the Google Doc.

Student additions:

Student Cyrus: I’m in green (they chose colors to easily identify editors)

Like Mrs. Donnelly was saying during LA, what if we could collaborate throughout the school technologically? We start small, then inspire the city, which leads to the country, then the continent, then the world. DA has almost all the tools necessary, iTouchs, laptops, and now with access to Google Docs, we could easily be socially involved with the upper and lower schools. The problem is will we. Mrs. Donnelly, I think you’re right; if we have the tools, why not try it-the worst that could happen is that it doesn’t work, but who cares, at least we tried. If we start, it can and probably will cause a chain reaction, which means the world will be able to connect wherever and whenever via Internet or maybe a worldwide software. This global change may not happen in our lifetime, but if it works, it could cause a whole planet to connect and communicate with technology. Also, the global connection could be used for not just business or school, but also helping end world hunger, or pollution, or stopping war. Imagine how much better this world would be without that stuff. But you can’t know what’s happening in the world if you can’t communicate. Families could have more time together, because they wouldn’t have to hunt down information about the world. Learning would be upgraded and fun, and the world would be happy. If we want a change in the world, we should start now, and I think it could start at DA.

Student Collin: Guys, what Cyrus says make a lot of sense. This would be the ideal situation but, this may not happen because it is too big. We should try and express our opions here because if we do then people who look at this will look deeper and catch on.

Teacher Donnelly: Cyrus, this is so powerful!  What do others think?  Just brainstorm ideas….what comes to mind?

Student Hunter: Black/Yellow

I agree with Cyrus, It makes a lot of sense but this might be hard to get out to everyone.

Student Cyrus:

I think we should add some stuff about how people learn. I believe there should be 3 separate parts of a school-

1. the section for visual learners

2. the section for audible learners

3. the section for learners who need to move to learn

We can have technology in every room, which means there would be quicker access to information. Kids also get more excited with technology in the room, which means they will be more excited about learning, and like the video said, school is kinda boring right now, which is why more and more people are dropping out. You’d think advancement in technology would be good for schools, but hardly any schools have used it to an immense advantage. Technology also gets students more involved because they’re not jut listening to a teacher talk. Mrs. Donnelly is introducing iTouchs and laptops to us, except we use them for school, not surfing the web. DA can definitely take a huge step towards the world of technology if we try.

Student Collin: This makes sense but we need to really stretch this out. If we want to pull this outside of our classroom we need to build it into a large essay type thing. Then we can pull it outside and place it inside the real world for everyone to see and then press it into this.

Student Cyrus: I think we could make something like the video or maybe an essay and post it on youtube. Mr. Schaefer’s blog is going to help with the publicity, too.

Student John H.: is purpleish-

Think, is it the way you learn or is it or the things you use to learn. The answer is not that technology is the answer, it is how we use it. We have the tools we have all we need, we just need to use it to our liking. We have the goods we just need to use them. If you do not enjoy using the technology you can go to another side of campus. Or if you enjoy working with sound you can go to certain classes or go to a different moodle course or something along those lines.

Student Collin: Guys, What if we build advanced moodle course that recognizes advanced students and give them challenges that the teachers will allow them to do in class. For example. The 6th grade course would have different sections that are password protected so that the teachers could give the password to the best of students. Then when there is review or something that is stupidly simple for that student so they do added work for tons of extra credit and other incentives.

Student Cyrus: People should take a test to see which part of the school they belong in. The moving learners can be interactive and play games or something that helps them learn well. The visual learners can look at diagrams or charts to help them learn, and the auditory learners can listen to the teacher explain about the material.

If this doesn’t work, we could just have different types of schools. I still think technology should be used more in schools, though.

With this sort of discussion taking place in a 6th grade class, I wonder what could happen by 8th or 9th, … In fact check out this link that came across my Twitter feed today where what the students above are discussing is taking place. http://www.prototypedesigncamp.com/

What a great time to be a teacher with the tools we have today.






1920’s Report 21st Century Style

Students in Mr. Dahlgren’s history class were given the task of reporting on the 1920 using VoiceThread. These students chose to us iMovie to assemble the report and then exported it as a QuickTime movie to upload to VoiceThread for sharing and distribution. I think it shows good design and story telling elements. The students were self-motivated to undertake the more complex project but in the end delivered a powerful report. Great job and story, Kit and Emma.


Connected Learning – The Thrill of Discovery and Looping

Stephen Barringer sent me and other teachers the following link to a Google Presentation on the Future of Learning.

Hey Everyone,
I am sure you have probably already seen this presentation, but on the off chance you have not, this is incredibly thought provoking.  Especially, the short video clip that is embedded on slide 98, which deals with the way we teach math.  It is an exciting and also terrifying time to be in education when you contemplate the ways it will have to adapt to the incredibly wired children of the future. 
Here is the link…..  Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

He is absolutely correct and I thought I would embed the video he mentioned as I agree. In fact, last year when TED x NYED was in the planning stages, I heard about it on the Ed Tech Talk podcast called 21st Century Learning hosted by Vinnie, Alex, and Arvind. Dan Meyer presented at the very conference. It is nice to see the ease at how resources can be shared with each other to connect our learning. I am also starting to see a loop where topics I learn about are coming back to me from people outside of my personal learning network. Does this happen for students?
How did you learn Math?

Shea Craig also shared a Google document on the cool things going on now on “The Creative Internet

Updated 11/30/2010 After I reflected on this post, I realized that school is all about looping in that each year students hear about information from the year before in many classes. I believe it was Sir Ken Robinson who said “Most great learning happens in groups” (at 10:48). I am glad to be part of such a large group of learners and reflective thinkers.

Teaching Beyond Borders

Ms. Joanne Shang taught her 7th grade Chinese course from Beijing using Skype for video, audio, and screen sharing. Our Moodle was used to connect her VoiceThread so students could respond to the prompts and she could then listen to their comments in Beijing. The screen sharing was useful as she shared an animation of writing characters and the students “air wrote” the characters. It was a very natural learning exchange and not that much different then a regular class except for the fact their teacher was in China and it was 2:00 AM there. Great work by the teacher and students. This was without a doubt the most amazing use of Web 2.0 tools as we combined all of our teaching and learning tools to make up for what started as the problem of not being able to find a substitute. There is no substitute for a dedicated teacher and tools that work.

There were of course issues with earlier sessions when Ms. Shang tried to teach her Upper School classes. The connection was not as strong due to over use by one of the hotel guests. Even though Ms. Shang had run tests the day before, there was no way to account for a person downloading massive files while she was teaching. I am glad our class was in the middle of the night and that the network folks at the hotel kicked off the bandwidth hog.

This is a short video that I took while the class was going on. I actually was in and out of the class as I was showing a different class how to use Google Apps for Education in the lab next door. I even called Dr. DuPont so he could see what we were doing. Of course the students in the lab next door also were looking in through the glass windows as their interest was indeed piqued.

Twitter Hash Tags and Professional Learning Communities

While I was at NCAIS2010(hash tag #ncais2010) in Charlotte, NC., Melissa Tredenick was at Independent Schools Association of the Central States (hash tag #isacs10). The power of a hash tag allowed me to follow her posts as Pat Bassett gave his talk in Chicago. I loved her summary of what he had to say about Change. Melissa Tredenick Change I agree with Pat and will continue to move in that direction. Thanks Melissa and others in my PLN.