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Friday, August 3, 2012

A Space is Place to Begin: #MNLI Day 4 Reflection

I had a conversation with Polly today that the majority of work we are seeing during design studio involves teachers creating a Wikispaces for their classroom.

This was not intentional. We used Wikispaces to organize or conference. Maybe providing the model lead to many teachers using this as their platform for connected learning. I like more robust solutions such as CanvasGoogle Sites, or Wordpress but I understand the comfort teachers have and the control they get with Wikispaces.

Building your Online Space.

At the same time I also joined the personal learning seminar yesterday as part of the Connected Educators Month. It was hosted by Barbara Bray, Darren Cambridge, Mimi Ito, Steve Nordmark, and Sylvia Martinez.

They asked the audience, where teachers should start. I argued, after seeing the work teachers have done at #MNLI12, that you have to start by building an online space for you classroom.

So in the end it doesn't matter what tool you use just get your class online. When you open your classroom up to an online space you:

  • Provide voice to the disenfranchised.
  • Open up opportunities to assess process over product.
  • Model the creation of a digital footprint
  • Create opportunities for reflective learning and teaching.

I am amazed, and slightly disappointed, that so many of the participating districts still do not have a district wide solution for a CMS or a LMS.

Kevin Leander and Michelle Knobel have long argued that new literacies involve new spaces and new stuff for learning. I am so happy to see that many teachers built an online space as an extension of their classroom. Maybe their districts will respond:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

#HackJam: #MNLI12 Day 3 Reflection

On day 3 of the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute I hosted a #hackjam. We all fought some torrential rain and found a restaurant with wifi. It was spotty so we couldn't develop too may remixes but still participants were amazed about x-ray goggles.

Basically a #hackjam is a self-organized event to show some of the great Mozilla tools such as x-ray goggles that allow you to remix websites.

It is such an easy tool to use and a great way to introduce some basic coding to students. I have used it in the past to highlight how words can shape persuasive language.

We began by remixing the New York Times and giving everyone at the table an Olympic medal. We then discussed classroom implications.

No Publishing Feature

This is when we noticed a hiccup. The publishing button for x-ray goggles no longer works. I posted a message to the hackasaurus google group.

Atul Varma, of the Mozilla, Foundation, suggested it was a litigation or security issue. Emma Irwin said it was x-ray goggles getting ready for full deployment out of alpha release.

Either way we needed a work-around. We developed three: screenshots, screencasts, Evernote Webclipper, and Google Drive.


The easiest solution was to take a screenshot. Stephanie did this with her remix of a Facebook page. She created one for a math class studying prime numbers:

The screenshot only worked with very small frames. We could not take a screenshot using Skitch, or Grabit longer than the window.


I used a screencast to share my remix. It was a tribute to our logistics team Zach and Jim. I apologize ahead of the time for the feedback. I should have downloaded the audio track and reuploaded rather than record it through the speakers. It also short as I clicked on a video link I embedded. It must have refreshed while I was using x-ray goggles.

Evernote Webclipper

The work around that I see with the most potential is Evernote. We took a screenshot with Evernote woebclipper and then added it to a shared notebook. I see potential for this for educators. They could share the notebook with everyone in the class. Teachers could then add comments on the remixes and students could add reflections. This would provide important evidence.

Here is Jared's example

Google Drive

Jared also printed his screenshots as a pdf. He then combined the two documents into one PDF document. He then uploaded that document to Google Drive.

This is nice because you can embed the pdf on other sites.


The #hackjam was very successful. Teachers found new ways to teach code and the ideas for the classroom were huge. I look forward to sharing more events in the future.

Striking the Balance: #MNLI2 Day 2 Reflection

Its Tuesday (or it least it was when I was supposed to write this post) and we are moving into the hard work at the Microsoft NERD Center. Teachers worked to  shape their final products, attended a wonderful keynote by Polly Parker, and got to pick digital text and tool sessions.

I am left with one major take away. Striking a balance is hard.

It has always been our goal at MNLI to be agnostic about the tools and stress the pedagogy, but working with teachers demonstrates how important differentiating technology will be for students.

I came up with my solution. I am not going to teach you how to use a tech tool. Period.

I cannot strike a balance. I have to stress the digital text  side and show you how to transform the classroom.

The Basics

If you want to learn the basics I will show you, but it will be in the context of using digital text and tools to enhance your pedagogical goals.

If you want to learn the basics teach yourself. I have posted videos for all of my sessions on how to use the basic features of the digital tools we will be working with.

Trust me. After doing professional development around technology for the last decade I have come to the conclusion that this is the best solution.

The alternative is me saying, "Now click here" over and over again as I work the room to make sure everyone clicked at the same time. It is not a good use of instructional time.

Play Time

Instead I will offer play time. Experimentation is at the heart of the #MNLI12 experience. You see this in design studio and in the digital text and tool sessions.

So in my DT&T session I offer play time. This is after I share my pedagogical reasons for using a digital text and tool. During play time you can try out the lesson or you can sit and watch the video tutorials.

This approach builds in the level of differentiation necessary for our success. It also frees me up to provide support to participants regardless of their ability. If after watching the one or two minute clips you are still stuck...then I will help. But in the meantime I am going to focus on using the digital text and tool to enhance my pedagogical goal.

 As teachers we should do the same in our classroom. Provide resources to students, whether they are videos, peers, or handouts, that will reinforce basic skills of using technology while as educators we focus on transforming literacy practices.