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.

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.


Gaining Time from Richard at Free Technology for Teachers


‘In Search Of Lost Time’


I have read Richard’s work at Free Tech 4 Teachers for a few years and am amazed at how much he creates for us teachers to use. I was thinking of doing a project with my sixth graders using Animoto as I wanted to test how it would work with my 6th grade students. We are going to take some images on campus and I think we could be creative with how we showcase them in our class blog. This will also allow me to talk more about copyright as we will use music from Animoto.

I plan to use some of this handout with my students and perhaps with my teachers in a June workshop I hope to have as I am still waiting to get at least 6 teachers to attend.

Making Videos on the Web.


Speaking of Copyright, Richard posted this today about the YouTube Copyright School. It describes what will happen if YouTube Users videos they upload violate copyright.

Thanks Richard for the time and effort you put into your web site and tutorial guides.


Reverse Instruction Session

Upside down

‘upside down church’

I attended a Reverse Instruction by Brad Rathgeber who will soon be the Director of The Online School for Girls. These are my notes from his presentation.

Pedagogical approach that moves the lecture components of a traditional class online.

Not an approach for teachers already practicing true Project-Based Learning or extraordinary progressive educators.. as they will find this passe.

Online lectures take 30% less time when delivered online.

Online assessment can also be moved online for some of the mini-assessment.

Murry Ganz is a teacher he shared 5 sections of  AP Biology at Hockaday Girls School in Texas.

His Takeaway:

  • Got over the fear and saw he could move much of the work out of school.
  • Do not go too fast with the students as they will need to learn how to use the new system.
  • Teachers at the school got to know faculty members better and in fact it also helped the students learn each other names.
  • Movies should be around10 minutes in length at the longest.
  • Use class time for discussion and labs.
  • Encourage them to ask questions.
  • Students really liked it as they can listen when they want and can replay it as often as they want.
  • Online Learning should be personal and have personality. If you are a hand talker, use your hands in your videos.

Tools: Screencast-matic, Smartboard,  Quia is also used for grading or quizzing for about $50.00 a year. VoiceThread. Use Document camera. They use Eduvision.Tv to host videos.

Use Open Content like iTunes U, Khan Academy, MIT Opencourseware, other universities have put many courses online.

Getting Started:

  • Start with one thing
  • Be comfortable in front of a camera
  • Take an online course
  • Try a multitude of presentation tools
  • Don’t be afraid to try a lot of approaches
  • Engage in networks that expand your knowledge: PLNs

For many teachers, Reversed Classrooms are the start (not the end) of the journey into online education.


Finding Your Voice with VoiceThread




‘Voice and Data’


On April 8, 2011, I will be presenting a workshop at NCAIS Innovate focusing on and showcasing how students can learn to use VoiceThread to create a Digital Portfolio. In both of my Digital Learning classes students learn to reflect on their learning and find their voice by recording their reflective thoughts. I believe we need to do more of this type of work with our students as they often do not have the opportunity to both reflect and to tell the story of their learning. I also want my students to learn, collaborative communication as put forth by William M. Ferriter, Adam Garry in their book Teaching the iGeneration. From his Ed Tech Talk podcast on August 8, 2010 he offers this valuable quote:

Collaborative and competitive dialogue is something I talk about in Teaching the iGeneration and something that VoiceThread facilitates nicely.  We could talk about how our world emphasizes competitive dialogue—-kids are surrounded by marketing messages and celebrities and politicians screaming for attention and unwilling to listen to other viewpoints——but collaborative dialogue is essential for solving the kinds of global, cross-border challenges our world is facing.

Here are a few of my student’s Digital Portfolios (These are works in progress as we are still creating)


Link to Griffin’s Portfolio

Link to Madeline’s Portfolio

I also want you to find yourr voice by adding a sentence to a VoiceThread project based on Daniel Pink’s Drive book, and Two Simple Questions. Video is at:

Link to actual “What is Your Sentence”


May we all find our voice!

DA Middle School has Gone Google Video

Gone Google


Durham Academy Middle School implemented Google Apps for Education in November of 2010 so that all students, regardless of age, could access the powerful collaborative tools. With little training and few issues, students and teachers have Gone Google in meaningful and substantial ways to advance the learning of our students with this transformative collection of tools.

Google launched a Gone Google campaign for companies, schools and others to tell how Going Google has impacted the organization. I also read a blog post by Dean Shareski about how he started this Google Doc. I thought I would combine the two ideas and created my own Gone Google Doc to see if students and teachers would help create a Gone Google Video. After asking a few teachers to nominate students, I nominated teachers who were actively using Google Apps with their students. I created a Google Doc asking for a short video and shared it with the people.

The directions:

Teachers and students, I would like to hear how using Google Docs has helped you with school. The idea is to get short (30 – 60 second) videos where you answer the following statements. I will take the clips submitted and edit them together to create the Gone Google movie. We will do this all in Google Docs.

The idea is for you to create a short 30 second video clip that you shoot on your own with your computer and then upload it to Google Docs and share it with me, I can get it from there to make the Gone Google Video.

The Script:

1. State your first name and grade (No last names as it is going on the Internet)

2. Complete this sentence: “I have gone Google because I ………….

(Talk about how Google Docs helps you or any other comment that works for you).

3. Complete this sentence: My tip on how to use Google Docs is to ………

(Perhaps it is something you do for yourself that helps you be more productive).

4. Complete this sentence: I wish I could do _____________ with Google Docs?

(Optional  –  leave out if you have no wish).

5. Add any other comments you want.

Technical Directions:

1. Use your computer’s web cam and Photobooth or iMovie or any other software to create the movie. (If desired, I can video you at school).

2. Leave a gap at the start and at the end so I can trim it. 3 seconds is a fine amount to leave.

3. Name it lastname.gonegoogle.

4. Upload it to Google Docs and Share it with me. It should be in a .mov format.

5. Have the movie to me by 3/22/2011

6. If you need help uploading the file, see this link:

I am sharing it via our VoiceThread so if you would like to leave a comment, please do.


Flapping Our Wings in 6th Grade Digital Learning Class


Image: ‘With the Wings of a Bird’


I knew I wanted to try new methods of teaching and learning with my new sixth grade Digital Learning class. For the price of $39.95, I set up an Edublog for us to use to reflect and share our learning experiences. We just did our first post which asked students to write about an image that I provided to them via our blogs Media Library. The image is from Wikimedia Commons which allows me to also discuss copyright and some advanced skills like linking and target for links. We also discussed categories and tags so that we can build a logical tag cloud.

I plan to have them write reflective posts from home as work they do outside of class and to teach them how to share their VoiceThread portfolios through the use of embedding code. This was just the first post of what I hope will be many more from my students. They are editors which mean posts they make go live which as I told them, puts the responsibility on them to make sure their posts are “postable”. We went over the blogging and commenting guidelines which you might find useful to read as well.

Visit the blog and watch us learn together.

Student Back Channel

Computer Screens


Image: ‘Backchannel, from the Back of the Room’


Ryan has done more solid work with the backchannel resources. This just appeared in the Class of 16 Students FirstClass Conference. What makes a student to want to share like this? Is it built into the DNA of our students to share? How do we foster more of this sharing so that all students are involved in creation, curation, and publication? How do we make sure teachers are harvesting this back channel?

One way to do all of this is to bring it to light and promote it I believe. Many teachers have created Moodle Discussion Forums for this harvesting as it helps everyone. Of course, there are some who are concerned with quality and fear the backchannel resources could be erroneous. Which is better, nothing or somethings that may need to have the group correct?

Hey guys,

In case you haven’t noticed, I have posted lots and lots of personal glossary words for Kanoy science! If you don’t think you have a complete Personal Glossary #3 list so far, then check it out! (You may have to already be logged onto Moodle for the link to work)

Also, apply to my Quizlet group, “Cavaliers”! We have lots of History and Spanish sets along with a few LA ones. However, we don’t have very many French sets. I recommend Ryan St_____s’s group, “French 7 Engebretsen” for French sets.


French 7 Engebretsen:

Science 7 Kanoy:


Ryan S.