Spring Cleaning

11 April 2010

I'm still getting the blog ready to move to its new digs. Google, in its magnanimity, extended the deadline from end of February to first of May for blogs like mine to bend to their will. If all goes well, readers should notice no changes.

In the meantime, I'm doing a little spring cleaning on my sidebar. For those of you reading posts via an aggregator, this won't be a big deal. However, I like to keep my recommendations current. This means that nearly everyone occupying that space represents a blogger who posts regularly, looks for solutions, challenges my thinking, and makes me laugh. Perhaps not all blogs hit all of those sweet spots, but those are my basic criteria for sharing with others. So, I've removed a few links and added some others.

The new additions fall under the category of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Although this concept may have originally been seeded by special education, it's really much more than that. In my mind, it's really about differentiation with a focus on accessibility. So, without further falderal, I would like to welcome the following to my sidebar and hope that you will give them a look:
  • Assistive Technology bills itself as a "blog on the topic of assistive technology, eLearning, mind mapping, project management, visual learning, collaborative tools, and educational technology" and is written by school psychologist Brian Friedlander. The blog is primarily a showcase for computer and web-based tools.
  • Karen Janowski writes over at EdTech Solutions: Teaching Every Student. Her posts are an amalgam of tools, instructional strategies, and her reflections on working to create an accessible learning environment for every student.
  • Over at Free Resources from the Net for Every Student, Paul Hamilton not only shares links for tools, but instructional ideas and support for teachers in implementing these tools.
  • Finally, I am late to the party in noting Ira Socol's blog: SpeEd Change. Part policy, part ed theory, part tech, and part awesome, the blog is a thoughtful examination of UDL.

I hope you'll have a look at these. Are there other UDL blogs (or just new to the edusphere blogs) I should know about? Drop me a comment or email.


Everything You Never Wanted to Know*

15 February 2010

*...and were afraid someone would ask.

My ScienceOnline 2010 interview with Bora is available for your reading pleasure over at A Blog Around the Clock. Enjoy!


Everybody Lean

12 February 2010

I was recently notified by Google (Blogger's daddy) that in about a month, they will no longer support the method I use to create content for this blog. This came as a bit of a shock to me, as I have been happily "FTP-ing" for nearly three years. My options at this point are...

  1. Allow the googles to move my entire blog to a blogger managed URL.
  2. Export my content and then import it into WordPress.
  3. Create a subdomain at my current URL for blogger to use as a "custom domain" and publish there.
  4. Start over with a new blog.
  5. No longer blog.

Out of all of these, number 3 will probably be the option I choose. The reason why #1 isn't a good option is that I would lose management control of my blog---no way to keep the trolls away from honest readers and myself. No thanks. Option #2 is the back-up plan as it would allow me to keep publishing to the same domain; however, 5 years of content is a lot to move (and/or lose...including comments) and would also require a complete template redesign. I think I mentioned in a recent post that early March is off the charts in terms of scheduling. Not the best time to have to overhaul things online. Options 4 and 5 don't appeal to me on a personal level. I'm not ready to start over and/or stop writing---although those are always possibilities for the future.

The Great Googly has promised to write code that will automatically redirect to the new digs and maintain search results/page ranks. I'm not sure when I'll be transferring my content or what glitches will occur along the way. So, hang on. We'll keep leaning to and fro on this rollercoaster.


ScienceOnline 2010: Final Thoughts (For Now)

18 January 2010

---photo by MamaJoules

I don't really know how to eloquently sum up the whole ScienceOnline 2010 experience. All I can think of is a Keanu Reeves' like "Whoa."

I am sure that I will be processing all of the ideas, conversations, and experiences for awhile. There is quite the archive of tweets from the conference, if you are so inclined. Here are some of my Lessons Learned:
  • I will never be the owner of a Sleep Number bed. I tried to find my perfect sleep number---I really did. I inflated and deflated the inner balloon in the mattress. I set different numbers for each side so I could do a comparison before making a decision for the night. I even read the posts Bora suggested for us in my search for a comfortable night on such a mattress. It was all for nought. The problem with these mattresses is that they have no give to them---they don't conform to the shape of your body or your sleeping position. Very uncomfortable.
  • I gained a cold (courtesy of Scicurious) and lost my coat. Double sigh.
  • As frustrated as we educators are with our IT staff and administration when it comes to using web 2.0 tools in the classroom, I can guarantee you that similar frustrations are being voiced at colleges, universities, science museums/zoos, and other institutions. However, there are exceptions to every rule. Damond Nollan, web manager at NCCU, is just such an exception. While there is no doubt that there will always be concerns about web security and the "digital footprints" we leave as we make our way through the internet, these should not rule out our attempts to learn and connect. Thank you, Damond, for your leadership in this area.
  • Cell phones in learning (and not just for science) will become increasingly important. I understand the challenges of harnessing their power for the classroom---and that we educators will have to figure out how to manage that. However, I picked up two interesting pieces of information last week that has made me more determined to work on incorporating cell phones into instruction. First of all SMS (texting) is the "king" of communications---it works across all types of carriers and in all countries. Secondly, it is a tool that is not necessarily impacted by disparities in equity. (Data plans/Smartphones are---but not texting from a basic cell phone.) This means that the kinds of divides we see among "haves and have nots" for other technology and access don't exist with this tool.
  • I still cannot believe I really met all of the amazing people that I did. I will try to work on a list and some links to share of new-to-me blogs and conversations. There was only one session which was a disappointment to me---the moderators being the only evidence of a clique I ever saw for the conference and their approach to a topic which showed no hint of personal reflection was a bit insulting. However, the blogosphere takes all kinds. I can appreciate examples of what not to do just as much as the blogs which inspire me.
  • Finally, below are three screenshots of tweets from the conference. They are the ideas that intrigued me most, but didn't get explored. Perhaps they will serve as fodder for future posts. If you have some thoughts to share about any of these ideas, I'd enjoy hearing them.

Assuming that ScienceOnline continues and grows, I wonder if what makes it intimate and participant-driven will be able to stay as the center of things. What is the maximum size a conference can be for remaining a reflection of what attendees build for themselves?

Did you attend the conference either in-person or "ether"eally? If you're an educator, would you be interested in something like this---what sorts of topics would be most useful? Educon is coming up, which is probably akin to ScienceOnline in some ways, but does not attract the diversity and expertise we had last week (although it attracts plenty of attention from the EdTecherati). Maybe we need to reboot our educational gatherings.

Update: There is a great list of BlogMedia Coverage on the ScienceOnline 2010 site. One in particular, is a response to this post by Greg Laden. Go give him some comment love.

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ScienceOnline 2010: The Beginning of the End

17 January 2010

Today is the last day of ScienceOnline 2010. The conference experience has been one akin to a reunion---so many people I feel like I have "known" for a long time from their blogs and Twitter feeds, and this was our chance to finally meet in person.

I enjoyed the sessions I attended, as well as those I facilitated. The Data Visualization session I moderated was particularly interesting to me. I had adapted my material for the "unconference" format and also for a different audience. I almost exclusively present to educators these days. Scientists? Not so much. But I liked the connections that they made with the material and the discussions they had about the changes they see happening in the sciences. I expect that these conversations continue in one form or another, as DataViz seems to be of increasing interest.

One of the things I have appreciated the most at this conference is the diversity of connections to science. There are science librarians; artists who paint or photograph scientific concepts; online and print journalists, bloggers, authors, and editors; students and educators from public and private institutions; science industry reps; physicians; museum, zoo, and aquarium staff; and many others. These various areas of expertise lend so much to the conversation. Journalists are contributing to the discussions of ethics in science reporting while librarians give us different ways to document and catalog work. Teachers can help researchers understand what is needed for their students to participate in citizen science projects. Those institutions which are already using social media can help the rest of us understand what is and isn't working. I don't know what this would look like in the context of an educational conference, but we need to find a way to do this.

In a few hours, I will board a plane bound for the west coast, headed back to my normal quiet life. I am already anticipating returning here for ScienceOnline 2011.

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Notes from ScienceOnline 2010: Day 1.5

15 January 2010

The event has not begun in earnest yet, and I can already tell you that ScienceOnline 2010 is the best. conference. ever. It's a place where egos do not appear to exist---only enthusiasm to share and learn. People are very friendly, always willing to strike up a conversation and share a story. Bora is a delightful host, boundless in energy and as genial as I had always imagined.

I don't have enough headspace at the moment to fully develop a post, but I did want to share some of my observations from the first day or so.
  • It is a different sort of crowd here. Not only is everyone interested in science, but also in social media. Several people I have met have described that they are the only ones in their lab, library, or office who dabble in blogging and tweeting. Many of them have run up against institutional policies or disinterest in these endeavours. This is an important for me to note, because I run across so many teachers who feel the same way. It is not just schools which are undergoing growing pains when it comes to integrating "web 2.0" (or whatever you wish to label it)---we are not as behind as we might think.
  • Blog posts are like lesson plans. You know how we educators will spend hours crafting what you think is the most awesome engaging lesson in the history of your classroom, only to have kids chew it up and spit it out...only to discover on another day when you have 5 minutes to plan that students love things? I've heard a few comments here around the same sort of relationship with posts. Scientists who take a ton of time to research and construct a post only to find that they get more conversation and comments on the "toss offs." Maybe there is something to be said for deadlines.
  • People rarely resemble their avatars---even the ones who use their own photos. I don't care how many times I've seen someone's tiny avatar on Twitter or on their blogs, the 3D experience is very different.
  • Blogging 101 was a ton of fun. An hour was woefully inadequate for getting people up and running with their own blogs, but it was enough time to allay some fears and provide places to start. I so enjoyed their positive energy and enthusiasm. I really hope that at least some of them get into blogging.
Most of the sessions will happen tomorrow. Considering the atmosphere oriented toward personal learning, the level of participation, and the openness of this conference where everyone can contribute, I really think this may well be the most powerful learning experience I have had.

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ScienceOnline 2010: Sessions

12 January 2010

The countdown is on! I leave for North Carolina in the wee hours on Thursday. By Friday morning, I will be sleep deprived and jetlagged when I will be starting my first session at ScienceOnline 2010. Go me!

Blogging 101
This session is meant to be a boot camp, of sorts. Those attending will be new to blogging, so we'll start with the basics:
  1. What is blogging and why would anyone want to have a blog?
  2. How do I get started? (choosing a platform/hosting, template basics)
  3. How can I create and publish a post? (how posting works, including adding links, graphics, video, etc.)
  4. How do other people find my blog? (ways to connect and communicate your information; dealing with comments and establishing “house rules” for visitors; logging visits)
I have set up two blogs, one in Blogger and one in WordPress, for us to play with. We are scientists, after all. Why not experiment a bit?

After our boot camp, I'll be expecting them all to drop and give me 20 (posts).

Data Visualization
Readers here know that this particular topic is my new passion. I am really looking forward to a conversation which puts a science spin to things. Research scientists, physicians, science writers, and other stakeholders are going to have some unique needs.
  1. How do the capabilities of open publishing and associated tools change the ways in which we can visualize and share data with various audiences?
  2. What do you need your data to do that you can’t currently make happen (either due to lack of knowledge and/or tools)? For example, would you like to be able to overlay various samples with Google Maps?
  3. What tools (both commercial and open source) are you using to develop visualizations?
  4. How can we use visualization to better communicate messages with the general public?
I have pulled a few slides to use as a way to guide the conversation along and stimulate some thinking, but beyond that, our discussion will be participant driven.

Citizen Science and Students
This session is moderated by Sandra Porter of Digital Bio and we are joined by Antony Williams (ChemSpider). Sandra has written a post to get the conversation started on her blog. If you have examples of ways in which your students are involved with research science (e.g. water quality, bird counts...), please leave a comment on her blog. I know that ChemSpider has already done a bit of thinking about this and other sessions. Me? I'm a bit of a slacker in this group. You know---the person you never wanted to do a group project with because they totally biffed the whole thing and then got the same credit as everyone else? I'm teetering on that line, but I am working on getting my poop in a pile. My experience has been more from the classroom vs. researcher side, obviously; but I am hoping to speak to how schools can be engaged with ongoing work.

So, there you have it. As for sessions that I am just attending for my own edification...well, I haven't made my final decisions yet. I do know that on Friday morning after my Blogging 101 session, I want to drop in to the Podcasting workshop. In the afternoon, I've signed up to go to Duke's Immersive Virtual Environment to experience a "3-D simulator that shows the path a molecule of ethanol makes from a beer can to your brain, with molecular-scale stops along the way." I've signed up for the Saturday evening dinner and may nab one of the last Monti tickets for Thursday (although I worry about arriving late). I have time to attend a couple of sessions on Sunday morning before the long trip home. Amongst all of this, I hope to post updates here. I'll hang out the "Do Not Disturb" sign on Monday.

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A Preview of Coming Attractions

11 January 2010

---Science Online 2010 Promo by Cephalopodcast

Later this week, I'm off to North Carolina for ScienceOnline 2010. Bora from A Blog Around the Clock started recruiting me last August. And I, being a girl who can't say "No," decided to jump on in and participate this year.

I was telling some colleagues earlier this week that what intrigues me most about this conference is that while it is all well and good for us educators to promote "21st Century Skills" in classrooms---here is a group of adults (most of whom were educated in "traditional" environments) who are remaking their professional world. Can we, as educators, claim that blogs, wikis, cell phones, and other tools have a place in the classroom when we don't couple that with examples of how real world professionals use these? I won't pretend that the kinds of online tools available to a kindergartner today will be the same as the ones when s/he exits graduate school, but I will predict that open access and the ability to connect with others across the globe will be even more important. So I am approaching this conference with a bit of an anthropological take.

I am leading or co-moderating three sessions (more on that in another post). It has been fun for me to un-think my usual approach for this "unconference," where sessions are driven by the knowledge, skills, and interests of participants. I like the idea that I don't have to be the expert...and I also like the idea of being part of the collective expertise for the sessions I attend. My plan is to immerse myself in as many events as possible. I am hoping not to become too starstruck among the science blogerati that will be present: Carl Zimmer, PZ Meyers, Dr. Isis, and more.

So, expect a slew of posts (I believe that is the proper collective noun) this week about ScienceOnline 2010. You can also follow the event on Facebook, Twitter, and via the main conference wiki. Just click the ScienceOnline 2010 link at the beginning of the post. If you can't be there with us in person, at least you can be present in ether.

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The Big O-5

10 December 2009

Ye Olde blog turns five today.

It's hard for me to believe that another year has passed in this space---one that has seen me through job changes, surgery, grad school, a move to this domain, conference presentations, numerous personal ups and downs, 1400 conversations (including this post), and nearly 300,000 visitors.

I recently wondered if there is something equivalent to "dog years" for "blogging years." Five years is not a long time when compared to a human lifespan, but is about half of Blogger's existence...and roughly one-third of my online existence.

These milestones are reminders for me to be grateful for many aspects of this online existence. I am always thankful for my readers and commenters. Some of you have been coming along for the ride nearly as long as I've been here. Thank you to those of you who link to this space and share posts. All of you have provided me with an incredible community to learn with and share. I am a better educator for all of your efforts.

Shall we go for 10?


I Get Around

02 November 2009

In another month, this blog will be five---old enough to be eligible for kindergarten next fall. And along the journey with this space, I've been fortunate enough to be able to connect in real life with many of the bloggers listed on my sidebar. I've met Ryan, Jim, Hedgetoad, Kirk and one of the bloggers (Luann) from Stories from School---all of whom are based in Washington. I recently met three teachers I've been following for awhile on Twitter (and now work with another educator I first connected with through that network). I've met Hugh (nee RepairKit and now the Thoughtful Teacher) and exchanged snail mail with Kiri8. There have been other encounters where my online life and real life have bumped into one another---no doubt there will be more.

On Sunday, I was able to make two additional connections. I could hardly stand the thought of traveling to DC for work and not find a way to meet some of my favourite educators. The writers of Organized Chaos and Elementary, My Dear, or Far From It were gracious enough to take some time away from family and their schedules to take me to brunch. I've read their blogs for years and have always been impressed with both the passion for education they bring to the edusphere, as well as the compassion they have for the students and families they work with. I have admired their intellectual curiosity and their ability to connect with readers. My heart has been both heavy and joyful at times as they've shared their window into the educational world. And now, after sharing some ricotta pancakes, bacon, and mimosas, as we chatted a mile a minute about a range of topics, I find myself even more enriched from spending some "face time" with them. Thank you both for a wonderful visit (and to OC for her very kind words).

I will be out and about a bit more this year. Some of it is work related and some of it is personal. Here's a quick rundown of my schedule at this point:
  • Within my home territory, I'll be at the annual WSSDA conference later this month, WERA conference in December, and NCCE and WSTA in March. I have presentations on a variety of topics for each of these.
  • In January, I'm headed to the Triangle area of NC (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) for ScienceOnline 2010. I am hoping to also get to Educon 2.2 in Philadelphia, but right now I don't have a funding source. Keeping my fingers crossed.
  • I'll be taking my grading presentation to the ASCD conference during the first weekend in March. If you'll be in San Antonio, let's grab a margarita on the riverwalk and talk some education.
Are you headed to Washington state? I can tell you from experience that we bloggers are a friendly group. We don't bite, bark quietly, and play well with others. If you find yourself getting around, too, drop me a line and let's get together.

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Back to Our Regular Programming

26 October 2009

Various projects over the past week haven't left any time or headspace for blogging...until now. A return to our usual programming will return tomorrow. Stay tuned.


Science Online 2010

05 October 2009

This year will mark the fourth annual ScienceOnline Conference. The name might be seen by some as misleading, as the conference itself is not virtual (unlike the K-12 Online Conference). Instead it is a gathering of those who advocate for science using online communications. It is "a free three-day event to explore science on the Web. Our goal is to bring together scientists, physicians, patients, educators, students, publishers, editors, bloggers, journalists, writers, web developers, programmers and others to discuss, demonstrate and debate online strategies and tools for doing science, publishing science, teaching science, and promoting the public understanding of science."

And this year, I am going. (And presenting with Sandra Porter from Discovering Biology in a Digital World and Antony Williams from the ChemConnector. And doing a "Blogging 101" session.)

Although I have a greater association with the "online" vs. "science" part of things anymore, I find myself looking for more ways to integrate the real world with the virtual one. Spending time with like minded folks will be good for my working life...and more importantly, good for kids. I realize I'm biased, but I think the sciences have the greatest potential for connection between professionals in the field and students in the classroom. Especially when I run across articles like this one describing how blogs and other online tools bring scientific research within reach:

Every school year, teachers across the country set out to make the work of scientists understandable and appealing to students, who might otherwise find it indecipherable and dull.

This fall, a New Hampshire educator was helped in that mission by a group of scientists—working from a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Those scientists were conducting research in the Phoenix Islands, a remote collection of atolls and reefs in the central Pacific. During breaks, they kept a blog on their work, which Julianne Mueller-Northcott’s students followed every day. Her students e-mailed questions to the marine scientists, who responded when they had time and a working satellite link.

That arrangement is just one of many aimed at connecting students through technology with scientists doing research in the field, an increasingly common practice in schools. Museums, colleges, federal agencies, and individual teachers have become more adept at putting students in direct contact with scientists, even those working in very remote locations—like aboard the NAI’A in the central Pacific, 6,000 miles away.

It's a very cool idea; and, one of many available to classrooms. I am hoping that the ScienceOnline conference will help uncover more ways for classrooms and researchers to connect. I suspect that at least part of that discussion will involve how we also support each group in learning to use online tools. From the education side of things, a recent survey has shown that while many educators use social networking or web 2.o tools, they believe that they could use professional development in terms of using these more effectively in the classroom. Perhaps there will be some good tips I can pick up in January to share with teachers---and maybe I can share some things with the scientists about working in k-12 environments.

See you there!

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Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

03 October 2009

Like many internet users, I do most of my reading through an aggregator. It wasn't always this way. The motley crew of blogs on my sidebar represented part of my daily perambulations around the web. I still try to get out and visit sites every once in awhile. As nice as Google Reader is at collecting things for me to enjoy, I miss seeing the blogrolls and additional features that others have on their sites. I always have an eye out for a new read.

I recently made an effort to search for science education bloggers. You see, other than Science Teacher and Science for All, I really don't have anyone on my sidebar that represent science ed. I always enjoy Mrs. Bluebird, but her stories are more about kids and classroom than anything science. And as I searched through Twitter profiles and a recent collection of all things education blog, I noticed that there are three basic categories of extant science education blogs.
  • First, there is the "hobby blogger": someone who has a blog that is only updated every 4 - 6 weeks, at best. I removed these from my consideration because blogging (in my opinion) should be about sharing and conversation. Someone who only writes 8 - 12 times per year is not interested in using a blog to network or nurture relationships. Typically, these are teachers who just want to be able to say "I have a blog!" Sadly enough, this was the greatest percentage of science education blogs out there.
  • The second category represents teachers who use their blogs to communicate with students and parents. This is a great use for those stakeholders (and one I tried myself)...but it's not designed to be particularly reflective or used for connections outside that circle. I removed those from my search, too.
  • The final category is comprised of science teachers who only post about educational technology. These aren't bad blogs, either...but again, the conversation is not about science education. (For those of you who think this is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black, you're right. I'm not entirely science oriented myself, anymore---but I do try to keep a toe in.)
After eliminating all of the blogs that fell into the above categories, there were a few left. I have to say that I wasn't all that impressed with either the writing and/or the format. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, people used to have some pride in their templates and ease of use for readers. What is up with bloggers filling up every square inch of the page---with the text such a hot mess that you can't tell where a post begins or ends?

Blogging, like any medium, is bound to change with time. I don't expect permanance, but I am hoping for continuity of ideas. I have to believe that there are science teachers out there who are interested in sharing their tales. If you have a recommendation for me, please do leave it in the comments.

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The Name Game

29 August 2009

In a few days, I will begin a new adventure in my career. I will be a generalist, to use the education parlance---rather than a specialist of science. In fact, I will be doing very little scientific work at all. This brings up the question of my nom de internet. Can one be a "Science Goddess" without being in the scientific arena?

The internet is an intriguing beast to watch evolve. No one used to think about the digital footprints they were leaving...and now, nearly everyone has one. Whether or not it is truly representative of one's self (especially if you have a common name) or its impact on our future is hard to know. We are all kind of making this up as we go along.

I have decided to keep my moniker for now, although I may begin blogging under my real name in the near future. My reasons for holding on to the alter ego are simply because of the digital footprint being generated. To be sure, I am not the only one using the handle. However, being first gives me certain "squatting rights" in other places (like Twitter). It is how others in the edusphere have come to know me over the last five years and how many people search for and find me. There is a certain level of reputation that I would like to keep. Many of you know me by my true name, so I won't claim to keep the alias as a route to anonymity. (An interview I did re: social networking in education will "out" me in the next month or so, anyway.) One of my goals in using an alias was not so much to protect myself, but rather the people I interact with and the experiences I reflect upon here. I do change some or all of the identifying information, while the observations and interpretations are my true understanding. I like the history and reminder of how my on-line life has developed over time. One must never forget one's roots, eh?


Reflections in a Glass House

09 June 2009

In my years (!) of blogging, the subjects I've explored, the kinds of posts I develop, and the types of blogs I most cotton to have all changed with time. This has been (and occasionally still is) a place to vent frustrations and let loose of things which would otherwise induce insomnia and further crankiness.

What I've learned, however, is how to take those ugly pieces and look at them from a standpoint of what is within my control. It's not enough to just rage against the machine. It isn't enough to play the perpetual victim. My job is not something that is done to me. Ditto for any classroom/district position I have held. This is not to say that every decision which affects my work is within my hands, but I can accept responsibility for the parts that are. I'm a work in progress as is well documented in the archives for this blog.

I'm starting to notice that I am distancing myself from edublogs that are little more than pity parties. I fully support their right to post whatever they choose...I just wonder how many times someone can blame all of the problems of a classroom on the administrators/students/parents before there is some sort of realization that as a teacher, you have the power to make some choices. Feel like your students are nothing but lazy? What will you do to change that or motivate them differently? Fussing about how parents are absent from your classroom? How will you reach out to them in new ways? You think that every decision your admin makes is the wrong one? If you think you can do a better job, then get off your butt and be a principal or take on some other leadership role. But to read post after post where everyone but the teacher is wrong about education doesn't engender sympathy. It just makes a teacher sound bitter and readers feel sorry for their colleagues.

Maybe the problem with glass houses is that they aren't reflective of what's inside. Instead, it's simpler to just look outward and assume that all of the sources of our problems are on the other side of the walls. Perhaps instead of throwing stones, we'd all benefit by stepping into a mirrored room once in awhile.


Superbowl Sunday Buffet

01 February 2009

It's Superbowl Sunday here in the states. Doesn't seem like the right time to post anything too serious---so I'll queue up some things for later in the week when we are back to our regularly scheduled winter doldrums. How about some lighter fare to snack on today?

First of all, I would like to acknowledge the Lemonade Award bestowed upon the blog by Leesepea. If there's anything I pride myself on, it's the ability to make chicken salad out of chicken sh...er, lemonade from lemons. There is an enormous demand for this particular talent with my current job, unfortunately. But it's nice to know that at my ever-advancing age and all of the "been there, seen that" which comes with an extended experience in education that I still have a shred of intellectual curiosity left. Much more to do, though.

If you're looking for a diversion this afternoon to take your mind off the game, why not try one of these?
  • Superuseless Superpowers posts a wide variety of new heroes for us to admire. What if you were only bulletproof after the 12th bullet? If you had powers of invisibility...but could only achieve 99% opacity? Teleport things...but only 1 inch away? The mind boggles. I would love to read the kinds of stories kids would write about people with these stunted superpowers. I've also been wondering what my superuseless superpower could be.
  • Thanks to a tip from Joanne Jacobs, I've been checking out ZERO Out of FIVE. This blog is devoted to the funniest exam answers provided by students. Perhaps you have one to contribute from your own classroom?
  • Perhaps you might be interested in Passive-Aggressive (And Just Plain Aggressive) Notes? We've all seen them---in the dorm, in the staff room, and stapled to telephone poles. This blog is devoted to to the "painfully polite and hilariously hostile writings from shared spaces the world over." Somehow, it's reassuring to know that people who leave these sorts of notes aren't confined to my workspace.
  • Improv Everywhere has some wonderful projects. My favourite is the Best Game Ever, where they showed up at a little league game and gave it the big league treatment---everything from shirtless guys with painted on logos, to programs, to a jumbotron and play calling by professional sportscasters. If the commercialization of pro sports has you down today, go have a look at things through this lens.
  • Pedigree is running an ad on alternative pets (e.g. water buffalo, rhinoceros...) for today's game---but even better are the behind the scenes ads where there are interviews with the "pet owners." See the whole campaign on Fire That Agency!
  • Finally, I ran across some BBC shorts called Look Around You. These spoof 1980's science classroom videos. Topics range from germs to ghosts to maths. Enjoy "Water" shown below. Others available on YouTube. I can hardly wait to use these with upcoming staff development opportunities.

I have a few other things to share that I will be using for post fodder later in the week. Enjoy your pizza, beer, and cheering on your favourite team today!


This Many

10 December 2008

The blog is four today. Four years old, that is. "Four" those of you keeping score at home, this is post number 1259 and as of this post, there have been ~198,920 visitors.

Although the blog has had various growing pains over the years, it is still plugging along---even at its advanced age. Soon, I will have to think about enrolling it in kindergarten and saving for its college fund.

Many thanks to my Readers for making these small successes possible. I am grateful for everyone who takes time to stop by (or who subscribes via RSS)---and, as always, for those who are moved to comment. You continue to shape my growth as a professional educator and impact the work I do with students and teachers. I don't know that I would be able to reflect and improve without you.

I can't claim that I'll be around four years from now, but I will be here for the foreseeable future in some form or another. I hope you'll be along, too.


It's That Time Again

07 December 2008

The annual nominations for the Edublogger awards are out---so get your finger ready to vote for your favourite blogs in several categories. If you're so inclined, you can even put in a plug for me in the "Best Individual Blog" arena. (Many thanks to @MissBaker for the nomination!)



09 November 2008

Clix hasn't given up on me yet, apparently---although my blogging has slowed down quite a bit in recent months. I don't know how "Uber" I am, but I feel like one of the old guard. In a couple of weeks, this blog will turn four. It's not old enough to send to kindergarten, but it has outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed a lot of the eduspheric field. Little notices like this one will keep me going for awhile longer.

There will be several interesting weeks ahead. As noted elsewhere, our state has a new education leader. This has a very direct impact upon me and the work I am involved in, so there will be a period of transition and also one of preparation for the legislative session that begins in January. Will the WASL go away? Will I be called to provide testimony on other potential changes to science education? How will I support the implementation of our new standards and their impact on over a million children?

America appears to be poised for change these days...embracing it, even. Amongst all of this large scale and personal level change, I'm glad to be able to have this constant steady space. So, thank you, Clix, for staying on.


All Out of Bubblegum

31 August 2008

It's not one of greatest movies ever made, but They Live has one of the best lines ever written. In the film, Rowdy Roddy Piper (yes, the wrestler) plays a construction worker. He discovers some special sunglasses that allow him to see the real messages the government and media are pushing (e.g. "Obey" and "Conform"). Worse yet, some people aren't really people at all. Of course, Roddy has to make the world safe again for the rest of us.

In the best scene of the movie, Roddy walks into a bank wearing his sunglasses and carrying his selection of firearms stolen from a police car. He sees the attention he is creating, smiles, and announces to the people in the bank, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick some ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum."

Let's face it. Working in education requires this sort of outlook. Most days, you've got to go into the classroom and walk that fine line between innocuous and hardnosed. Blogging can also be that way. It's your turf. It's your space where you define the rules of participation by yourself and others.

Are you an edublogger? One who is all out of bubblegum and kicking some ass? Leesepea thinks I do even though I can't rock the plaid shirt thing the way Roddy does. (Thank you!)

Personally, I'm groovin' on the elementary/primary blogs out there for the moment. Organized Chaos continues to be a major favourite (if you do nothing else today, please please go read her post on the future President she had in class) and who can resist Mimi over at It's Not All Flowers and Sausages? Did you see Unlimited's post about how her wee ones applied their view of the real world during story time? You cannot make up the stuff they post. It is both inspiring and heartbreaking all at once. And I, for one, feel a little better knowing that they're out in the world doing their thing in the classroom for kids and on their blogs for us teachers. You go, girls!


Re: Miss

24 August 2008

Jim over at Teacherninja was kind enough to pass along this award a couple of weeks ago, and while I acknowledged it in the comments, I've been remiss in proffering a more formal "Thank you." It is always nice to have recognition from one's peers and I am greatly appreciative of the online community and its continued presence in improving my professional knowledge.

Keep blogging and learning during the upcoming school year. Let's have a great one!


Catching Up

23 August 2008

It's been a very busy first week at my new job. As with all fresh starts, it takes awhile to settle in. Most of my time has been spent studying up on various programs and initiatives, meeting people, and dealing with logistics (workspace set-up, meeting people, learning some "how to's"). The other major part of my day is my commute. By the time I get home in the evening, I have very little energy left, especially for blogging. My hope is to put some posts in the queue over the weekend so I can freshen things up around here.

I've been valiantly trying to keep up with my Google Reader feeds, a task made more difficult by Google. As you might know, they have a bit of the Amazon.com approach of "If you like this...you might like this one, too." I end up adding at least a couple of blogs each week, and I don't remove very many from my list. My recent discoveries include Secrets of a Middle School Secretary (about darned time we heard from their ranks, don't you think?) and two math teachers: f(t) and Teaching Statistics. Ms. Frizzle has re-emerged and is now blogging at Gotham Schools with another editor.

The edusphere theme of the week has seemed to be "Back to School." There are lots of posts on the horrifying ritual of meetings to start the year and pretty pictures of classrooms all ready for students. My favourite reads, however, have been those posts from new-to-the profession teachers. This is the first year I have seen them. Student teacher bloggers have finally graduated into the ranks of the profession...bringing their blogs with them. I admire the trailblazing they're doing, but I also like the documentation of the transition they are providing. Blog on, Full of Bees! and Not Quite Grown Up.

As for me, I'm still working on getting my sea legs in terms of my job and other changes. I hope to do a lot of catching up over the weekend.

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05 August 2008

I recently read about the need for certain edubloggers to step outside the echo chambers they were in. The idea being that if you're an ed tech person (for example) and you only read and comment upon other ed tech blogs, then whatever message you feel is most important likely isn't going to be effective: You're always preaching to the choir. And yet, we can be a rather cliquish bunch at times.

It seems like summers are a time when I try to step outside my traditional feeds a bit more. Last year, I delved into the edtech world. This year, spurred on by experience working in an elementary last spring, I've enjoyed looking for blogs that document life in the primary (and pre-school) classroom. What I am loving about these is that it gives a glimpse of the kind of social learning that we don't see at secondary---as sad of a statement as that is.

For example, here is a recent post from Organized Chaos:
a little one leaned over as i was reading him the riot act and placed his fingers on my forehead. slowly he traced my furrowed brow and asked what was happening to my head.

ah, to have just turned 5 and live in a me-centered world where you have not yet learned to read others' emotions on their faces. welcome to school. next time my forehead gets like this you'll know what it means. this time though, let me make myself very, very clear while you're in the thinking-spot.
While I can easily picture this entire scene, I have to say that it isn't something I've ever experienced at the high school level. I don't have to teach kids how to stand in line or put their things away or worry about someone pooping during group work. We do talk about developing the social order of the classroom, but I admit that our conversations don't go quite like this one as documented by Kindergarten Chaos:
My kiddos came up with these rules for our classroom, with a bit of guidance of course. Without the guidance of many combining rules into one, we would have a list 100 feet long*.
  1. Listen to our teachers.
  2. Always use our brains.
  3. Be careful with our stuff.
  4. Always take good care of each other.
If everyone lived by these rules, the world would be a happier place, don't you think?

*some gems that were combined under a broader idea:
  1. Don't poke people and make them bleed
  2. Don't push someone down and make them bleed. (Sense a theme?)
  3. Don't bump people.
  4. Don't kick people on the carpet.
  5. Don't spit on people.
You get the drift...
I look at the posts from Mrs. Sommerville on setting up her classroom and I can't help but think how much fun it would be to see children learning there. Even if these teachers experience the same kinds of frustrations that we all do, their view of learning is unusual (at least for me). I am truly enjoying having them in my Google Reader feeds---and more will certainly start showing up in my blogroll.

If you haven't had a look at these blogs, I highly recommend them---even if you aren't interested in working with primary students, the questions they provoke are just as relevant for every teacher.
Have you stepped outside the echo chamber recently? Any good finds?

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Musings for a Summer's Day

17 July 2008

Some small thoughts generated from my wanderings through digital environs as of late...

  • Hugh wrote about his decision to blog under his own name and how that may have influenced some self-censorship on his part. I applaud his decision, but it made me wonder about why so many men in the edusphere are "out" and why so many women use pseudonyms. Of the education related blogs on my sidebar, only five (out of 20) are women who use their own names. For men, 10 out of 12 put themselves out there. If I broadened my look to all of my RSS feeds, the relative percentages play out, too. Does this difference say something about edublogging? About education? About our culture? I think it might, but I'm not entirely sure what that message is. Is this gender bias something that women perceive from the real world---or is there something hidden in the on-line world which makes us feel safer to mask our voices? Why is there a greater need to separate the real self from the digital one? What message is that sending to young teachers reading here and there?
  • I check my school e-mail about once a week during the summer. I know I should completely disconnect, but one never knows what sorts of offers will show up. The admin in the building recently sent out an e-mail to all staff suggesting that they pray for a student who was injured while hiking. Can state funded e-mail be used to promote a religious goal? It was not comfortable to have this in the inbox, knowing that there will be several offended people on the staff.
  • Does anyone know what's become of the Education Wonks or Mike from Education in Texas? They've been MIA for some time. And while it's not unusual for bloggers to hang up their keyboards, there is usually some indication about imminent retirement.
Speaking of MIA, I'll be away from the blog for a couple of days while I try to focus on some other work. Not to worry, I have posts in the queue; but, your comments might not appear for a day or two. I hope you're getting out to enjoy your summer, too!


Raise Your Voice

29 June 2008

Many edubloggers are in San Antonio this week attending the NECC conference. Perhaps next year I'll make my way to the extravaganza in D.C., but this year, I'm going to content myself with watching the discussion on Twitter and participating in a fringe way. First up is Blocked Blogs Week. It begins today and runs through Saturday, July 5.

If you're reading this, count yourself lucky. In many school districts, blogs and other web 2.0 tools are blocked. It doesn't take much time looking around the edusphere to gauge the continual frustration teachers have.

The purpose of Blocked Blogs week is "To promote awareness of the need for more informed filtering of the Read/Write Web for all learners. We recognize that some material on the internet is not appropriate and in some cases is harmful to children and adolescents. However, we are opposed to blanket bans on all Read/Write Web resources such as blogs, wikis, and some social networking tools. Read/Write Web resources provide valuable and necessary experience with 21st Century communication and collaboration tools, and we believe that it is in the best interests of our learners if we take the time to TEACH them how to use these tools appropriately, safely, effectively, and efficiently rather than just block their use altogether."

Does this describe you? Do you believe that information literacy is important to our children? Do you find the ignorant use of filters in your district to be over the top---especially knowing that other schools and districts are better serving the children in their classrooms? Post your thoughts this week. I would especially encourage you to participate in the leadership call-out scheduled for July 4 and headed up by Scott McLeod.

Want a button for your blog? You can find them on the wiki for Blocked Blogs Week or you might use another graphic from Adrian Bruce like the one at the right.

In a recent comment on this blog, someone mentioned that we don't merely warn our children about the dangers of street traffic and then send them out to cross a highway. We hold their hands. We walk with them. We show them how to be safe. The same should be true for internet traffic.

You might have seen a recent study about the Educational Benefits of Social Networking Sites:
"What we found was that students using social networking sites are actually practicing the kinds of 21st century skills we want them to develop to be successful today," said Christine Greenhow, a learning technologies researcher in the university's College of Education and Human Development and principal investigator of the study. "Students are developing a positive attitude towards using technology systems, editing and customizing content and thinking about online design and layout. They're also sharing creative original work like poetry and film and practicing safe and responsible use of information and technology. The Web sites offer tremendous educational potential."
Isn't this what we should want for our classrooms? The NEA and AFT recently worked on identifying the gaps and gains in educational technology. Their findings revealed "that although all educators and students in public schools have some access to computers and the Internet, we have few assurances that they are able to use technology effectively for teaching and learning." The use of filtering software is creating serious issues of equity for students across the United States. Have a look at these examples of Classroom 2.0 in practice? Can you do these things with your students in your classrooms? I can't. Which of our kids are going to be better prepared for the working world in a few years? When will purposeful reflection by teachers be seen as professional and not scandalous?

Will a series of posts about greater access to technology cause a tear down of filtering software akin to the Berlin Wall? Not likely. However, it's time to start raising general public awareness. It's time that business owners and corporations realized that one or two people in school districts are impeding skill development of future workers. It's time that parents and families realized that a Big Brother mentality is eroding the rights of our students to share their thoughts with authentic audiences. It's time to let politicians and policy makers know that their intents for equitable education are not being realized in all places due to uneven use of filtering software. It's time to get loud.

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Previews of Coming Attractions

03 May 2008

I have a couple more posts in the queue to publish, but in the meantime, I'm thinking ahead a bit. The week has been full of thoughts and treats to share. A few of the ideas below are only half-formed at this point. I hope to put some flesh on them and share them later in the week. Feel free to suggest accessories in the meantime.

As one of my schools begins its improvement planning for next year, we're working on some vision statements and doing some other foundation work. It is obvious from this that "not everything that can be counted counts...and not everything that counts can be counted," as Einstein suggested. In other words, what is often most important to teachers are things like healthy kids who love learning---not necessarily kids who do better on the WASL (or other measures). And yet, I can't think of a single School Improvement Plan (SIP) I've ever seen which included values other than test, attendance, or referral data. SIPs rely solely on quantitative measures. But what if we included something qualitative? Hmmm...

It's Teacher Appreciation Week at Barnes and Noble (and there was an awesome sale at Macy's where I got new dishes...Squee!), so I used my 25% off treat to pick up Here Comes Everybody, the book which is creating so much buzz at the moment. I am enjoying it, but am finding that it is a book that I can read only in small bites. There are some dense ideas to digest even though the writing is very accessible. I think it's a case of having the right book at the right time for me. The book is not education-related, but there are plenty of possible connections. I want to think more about the concept of self-organization for groups might be used to revolutionize the way we solve problems within schools. Will "mass amateurization" also change schools---making teaching less of a profession? I'm only 65 pages or so into this, so I expect a lot of post fodder. Go get your own copy. We'll have a "What It's Like on the Inside" book club for May!

And here are some treats you should have make time for:I've also been working on Ye Olde Blogroll. I've added a few edtech blogs (e.g. Look What I Found!), a new early childhood blog (Elbows, Knees, Dreams), and Motivation Matters from ASCD. Happy browsing!

P.S. If anyone cares, here are the new dishes (dinner plate, salad plate, bowl):

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The Faster I Go, The Behinder I Get

01 April 2008

Now that my grad school classes are out of the way...and I have a cooperating school district for my research...it's time to jump on some things for my dissertation. Since it's Spring Break, this is about my last chance for a chunk of time to revise my existing dissertation chapters, submit paperwork for Internal Review Board approval for my survey, and get a whole new batch of proposal paperwork to the new school district. Sure, it doesn't sound like the most attractive way to spend the second half of spring break, but it is not as bad as trying to do all this while simultaneously working for two school districts. :)

Oh---and did I mention that I have my first round of orals in two weeks? The more things I seem to finish...the more new things pop-up with deadlines.

So, dear Readers, I'm going to be offline for a couple of days while I tend to other business. But never fear, I have a stash of six posts in my queue (some of them have been sitting there awhile). I'll start getting them published momentarily so that I'm a bit ahead of the curve here. Ration your reading carefully and I'll be return by Saturday, just in time to whine about going back to work on Monday.

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Meeting in the Middle

27 March 2008

Wish me good fortune. I'm off to WERA this morning and the various worlds I move in will be in one place at the same time for the first time ever:

  • co-workers and friends from my morning school district
  • co-workers from my afternoon school district
  • Ryan from the Edusphere
  • and me, presenting my doctoral study and some classroom info
I'm sure it will all be a bit surreal. I feel like the missing link between all of the pieces. I'm hoping that we can meet somewhere in the middle and have a great conference.

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We Got Told

15 March 2008

Yesterday was an inservice day in one of my school districts and the principal had decided to bring in Jamie McKenzie to talk about...something. I'll get to that in a moment. His skills with presenting and facilitation were pretty good. He keeps a very quick pace going---no time to be daydreaming or off task. And he did well with letting a large group have short table discussions and then getting everyone refocused. If you've ever had to do this with adults, you know it isn't simple.

He also did the thing at the beginning where you suck up to your audience. You compliment them on their acumen in bringing you there, how it's so nice (and rare) to be in a school where blah-blah-blah. And then, things went a bit wrong. You see, one of the first things he talked about---and dissed---were blogs. He belittled them because they're not associated with any kind of critical thinking. (This from a man whose own on-line profile brags that he maintains 3 on-line "journals" and who claims to be into educational technology.) I can agree that there are posts or even whole blogs which are mind-numbing. But to issue a blanket statement would appear to show the lack of critical thinking you're railing against. Wake up, man.

Anyway, I did have a good laugh about how uncooperative our technology was for him---not that I didn't feel bad that he couldn't present things the way that he wanted to. It's just that when he Googles the word "China" in our district and gets less than 100 million pages listed...and says that when he's been in communist China gets over 1 billion, well, that tells you something about the filter we have. (However, just because you get all of those hits in China doesn't mean the pages themselves aren't blocked.) Meanwhile, since anything streaming and most java is also blocked by the filter, he couldn't even show the teachers some of the cool on-line tools, like the Visual Thesaurus (which was blogged about in this space a couple of weeks ago, thank you very much). Even though he had sent the list of sites to our Mordacs a few weeks ago, they weren't particularly cooperative. I had warned the principal about this earlier in the week and advised him to look through the discipline files for the school's very best hacker and pay the kid to be on call for yesterday. :)

Keep in mind that this district has to follow the same laws as the one I work for in the afternoon. Their technology (and student protections) must meet all of the same requirements...however, we don't have the kinds of filters there that my morning district does. Teachers can actually download and install software on their computers---or install things from CD. The tech-head said earlier this week that it would be a nightmare if his department had to do all of those things for teachers...and that it's unnecessary. Ugh.

Back to McKenzie, I didn't get the full meal deal, as I had to go to my other job. I'm not sure what his message was. He never told us what the goal of things was or even a title for his presentation. I'm unsure if that was a function of his own random thinking patterns or just part of his approach to thinking. Either way, thinking needs a peg to hang upon. Maybe he should get a blog?

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This Way to the Googles

11 February 2008

If you haven't seen the article and infographic on The Life Cycle of a Blog Post in Wired magazine, I'd encourage to click on over there and play with the graphic shown above. (You will be able to zoom in on various parts...unlike here.) The big blue fountain pen tip on the left is the blogger...and the white forms with paper heads on the right are the readers. In between, the internet is doing a lot of behind the scenes work to connect the two. Go have a look at the secret life of the www.


Template Update: The Outer Limits

29 January 2008

There is nothing wrong with your computer screen. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission...We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical...We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat, there is nothing wrong with your computer screen. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery that is What It's Like on the Inside.

Some of you are no doubt old enough to recognize parts of the opening of "The Outer Limits," which I've plagiarized for this post.

After nearly three years, this blog has some new togs. The ladybug may make a reappearance at some point in the future; but for now, I am very excited to have a new layout to use. Although events of fall and winter did their level best to prune me back, they have only succeeded in ensuring I will grow back better than ever. Much like the tendrils which now surround this blog, it's time to bloom where I'm planted.


Millennial Milestone

26 January 2008

One-thousand posts. Wow.

I wish I had something profound to share for this particular post. As I've seen its possibility creeping up, I wondered what I should do to mark the milestone. The number would appear to deserve some consideration, but the simple fact is that I'm a bit awed by it. I can't claim that the previous 999 posts contained fine literature or earth-shattering revelations---anymore than I know what lies ahead for the next 1000 or so. What I can say is that the record of my career that I've constructed here is one of the most meaningful experiences I've had as an educator. We talk a good talk in education about the need for reflecting on our work and constructing meaning, but most teachers don't get the time or opportunity to actually do this. Classroom work is a constant barrage of planning and evaluating and a million small decisions each day. Who has time to think about what happened today when tomorrow will be here with all new problems to deal with? Without my blog, I don't think that I would have grown the way I have as a professional in these last few years. It has made me look at my beliefs and practices as an educator with a depth I never made time for in previous years. In short, to steal from "As Good As It Gets," this experience has made me want to be a better teacher.

I wish I could say that I remember all of my posts. I don't. I have to go back and read through the archives now and then. Some things make me cringe while others bring smiles of remembrance. A few times, the intervening time period has brought some understanding or resolution to a problem I had. There are posts which are more popular with "teh Googles" than others---especially the ones with a double entendre in the header, While I'm certain that those readers were frustrated and disappointed with their choice in clicking a link to here, perhaps others have been able to find some quiet companionship or help in checking to see what's fresh (nearly) each day. My main goal is to write for myself, but my hope is that others can gain from these experiences, too.

I am neither the eldest nor the most prolific edublogger out here. I'm hardly unique in the sea of the edusphere---and I haven't a clue as to whether or not there will be a bigger, better thing than blogging for connecting with people 1000 posts on. I was on-line for the early days of bulletin boards and listservs on the internet and would not have imagined blogging 15 years ago. This form of communication may well be outdated a few years from now (if it isn't already), although I hope that the record will live on in some form or another.

In the meantime, I'll still be here. I'll still be writing and creating. I still plan to have many new experiences to share. I'm not dead yet, even if the number of posts is older than Methuselah. Stick around for the next millennial milestone, eh?

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Using the Googles

12 January 2008

My "to do" list and I are engaging in the ultimate battle of wills at the moment. It has far more items on it than is reasonable to expect accomplishment of within the weekend...and, it's the weekend, darnit. I'm not so excited about being a slave to my laptop. Again. So, I just spent a few minutes doing what any good procrastinator will do---doing something which wasn't on The List. Specifically, I've been perusing my Google Reader recommendations.

I resisted Google Reader for awhile. There was something very satisfying about working through the links on my sidebar and other bookmarks to see if anything new was posted---the possibility of surprise behind every URL. But as my interests have expanded and more and more blogs of interest were discovered, I needed something more efficient than opening a bunch of tabs in my browser. I have close to 100 different blogs in my Reader now, and I appreciate that it automatically updates. (Side note: For those of you wanting an RSS feed for this blog---that feature is now working!) I also like that it can be a repository for some blogs that haven't updated in ages, but I don't want to lose track of. I'll know if/when they resurrect themselves. Another benefit is being able to access all of my regular reads without having to bookmark a huge set of links on every computer. One other thing I like about using Reader is that every once in awhile, I get a list of recommendations based on what others subscribing to blogs on my list are reading. I would say that I run across more misses than hits, but that's what panning for gold is all about, right?

One very cool item I ran across was Simile: Timeline. Designed by MIT, this is a widget for creating timelines that work for the 4th dimension in the same way that Google Maps works for the other three. What a fantastic idea---the mind boggles with possibilities. I can see great potential for classroom applications, but also for reimagining one's calendar.

As you might imagine, I don't have just educational blogs among my feeds. Science and other items of personal interest mingle with all my favourite edubloggers. One of my new discoveries is The Superest. "The Superest is a continually running game of My Team, Your Team. The rules are simple: Player 1 draws a character with a power. Player 2 then draws a character whose power cancels the power of that previous character. Repeat." The imagination and skill which goes into the drawings delight and spark my own imagination.

Where else, but through blog feeds, might I have discovered a Dead Bug Funeral Kit? "The Dead Bug Funeral Kit comes with a 32-page Illustrated Buggy Book of Eulogies with Ribbon Bookmark, Casket, Grave Marker, White Clay Flower, Burial Scroll, and Pouch of Grass Seed. The Buggy Book of Eulogies contains 15 eulogies and 15 buggy illustrations for your Ant, Bee, Beetle, Butterfly, Caterpillar, Cockroach, Cricket, Doodlebug, Fly, Grasshopper, Ladybug, Lightning Bug, Praying Mantis, Spider, or Stickbug. The poems are eulogies told by children who have lost their pet bugs to fate. Each book is handmade one at a time. The Kits are assembled by hand as well. The Burial Scroll comes tied with a ribbon and deposited in the Casket. The Burial Scroll gives instructions for conducting burial ceremonies. Mourners may bury their loved ones outside in the garden or inside the tin box itself, filled with soil and planted with the grass seed provided." What a kick!

My only dislike about using Reader is the plainness of the delivery. So many blogs have wonderful templates and design, none of which is apparent when you look at things with a feed. However, if you've been reluctant to become a Google Reader, I still recommend giving it a try. You'll never know what you'll find in order to fend off your To Do List. :)


Beginnings and Endings

02 January 2008

It's the first Wednesday of 2008---and therefore the first Carnival of Education for the new year. "So you want to teach?" is hosting this 152nd edition. Go see what everyone else is thinking about for education in 2008.

Today is my last day of winter break. Yes, we have a 2-day work week this week, beginning bright and early tomorrow morning. Between end of semester activities and the 14-page to do list for my grad class, I'm going to be one busy little Goddess this month. It's a good thing the weather is unpleasant so I won't be tempted by my gardening. :)

Speaking of new and old, the blogrolls have been updated. I know I should do this more often. I am always adding new feeds to my Google Reader, but don't always remember to place them here, too. Also, a few edubloggers have now gone MIA. I miss them, and if they return to the edusphere, I'll be happy to add them once again to my blogroll.

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Remember When?

20 December 2007

Just before the school year started, I posted this picture along with a reminder to teachers to take care of themselves. As much as I hate to say it, if a teacher doesn't look out for himself or herself, it's not likely anyone else will step up. We need to nurture ourselves as much as we work to do so with children.

Or maybe you remember this graph about the phases of first year teaching experience---which isn't necessarily limited to beginning teachers?
You'll notice that this time of year is characterized by "disillusionment," but is followed thereafter by "rejuvenation." I bring this up only because as I have read various posts by edubloggers in the last couple of weeks, I see lots of people worrying that they're being too negative and whiny...or talking about how frustrated they are...and so on. Hey---don't be so hard on yourselves. You can't always be the life of the party and you can't always escape the need to vent. It's been a long hard fall semester, but you've made it to winter break. Kick back for awhile and congratulate yourself for all of your time and effort. We have a ways to go until summer vacation, I know, but there is so much to look forward to with the spring.

Happy holidays to you---whatever you celebrate or believe. Enjoy the time to think about and do the things you've wanted to, but haven't because you were looking after the kids in your classroom. Remember what it's like to have a bit of "me" time and indulge yourself.

Blogging may be a bit sporadic here over the next two weeks. I plan to take my own advice and just focus on various things. I have a stack of books I want to read...new movies to watch...some things around the house I want to do...and more. I hope that you enjoy your time just as much.


12/10; 3; 960; 115,550...

10 December 2007

Numbers and data are a fact of life for nearly everyone---not just teachers...and certainly not just bloggers. December 10 marks the day when this blog was rebirthed with an educational focus. There have been three trips around the sun in the interim and we're about to embark upon the fourth. (Isn't it nice to know that we are all astronauts?)

Over the past three years, there have been 960 posts (including this one). This means that I post on approximately 90% of the calendar days. There are times, like now, when I have some posts sitting in "saved" queue because I have more things on my mind than will coherently fit into a single post...and other times (like the summer or winter break) when there is a dearth of ideas to talk about. Although this blog has an education focus, my personal label makes up the greatest number of posts (132), with assessment (4) and gender (7) the least.

I have no simple means for determining the total number of published comments, but there have been about 115,550 visitors to ye olde blog, with readership more than doubling over the last year. It has been wonderful to see this small piece of the edusphere grow over time.

When I started this project, I didn't know how long it would last or how it would progress. At the time, I was just a baby Curriculum Specialist and had no interest in taking more coursework. Now, I continue to have more and more opportunities to have a voice in the educational landscape and am a year away from being able to write the letters EdD after my name. Will I still be blogging next year? In three years? In ten? I haven't a clue. What I do know is that I have come to discover that the edusphere is a vital and necessary community in the landscape of education. I believe to my core that the voices which are found here are among the most important and valuable to me in terms of continuing to refine my professional work. Life is changing for me, but this blog is a constant---and I don't anticipate leaving the edusphere anytime soon.

I tried finding a "Third Blogiversary" graphic to steal add to the post today...but most graphics are for one-year old blogs. Perhaps not that many of us make it to be three. Maybe this one has a certain evolutionary fitness...maybe it is built for endurance. In the meantime, we can celebrate with some flowers.

To my readers, a heartfelt "Thank you!" for your presence and comments. You are far more than just numbers to me. If you weren't here, I would likely still write, but just feel discouraged about it. :) It's good to be able to share and learn with you. I hope you will continue along with me on this journey as there is so much more to reveal in the coming years. Let us look forward to adding to our numbers...and toasting a fourth anniversary next year on this spot.

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Sprucing Up the Joint

18 August 2007

I've been making some minor changes to my blogroll. Both Mr. Chips and Ogretmen are taking some time off from blogging, so I've temporarily (I hope) deleted them, but I have added some others. The edusphere is an ever changing place---and even if some of these blogs aren't new, they are new-to-me. There are a couple of other blogs out there which are "wait and see" for me. I like blogs that have new posts at least once a week---and preferably more. Even if the quality of the writing is grand, one piece every few weeks just isn't motivating enough to add it to my sidebar. I like my blogs a bit on the provocative side, so if you've seen one recently that pushes your buttons, let me know. I might like to check it out.

I've also been thinking about getting a new template design. I've had this one for two years and I think I'm ready to freshen things up a bit. Any comments on the one shown below?

We're coming up on the last week of summer holiday here, which means that I'm down to my last opportunities to spruce up the old homestead, too. It's time for me to do some paint touch-up, prioritize the last few projects, and see what I can accomplish as the summer winds down. Well, after I take a nap. :)

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Tuesday Randomness

07 August 2007

I'm waiting for the paint to dry on my front door---it's a nice rich red. Perhaps people will mistake me for kin to Elizabeth Arden. Or maybe they'll just think I'm superstitious and painted my door for that colour for good luck. The fact is, the red makes a great contrast with the green the house was painted and makes the entry stand out. (I'll leave the symbolism to others.)

In the meantime, I was thinking that I might share a few thoughts on using FTP to publish a blog. I switched over a couple of months ago. Having a site outside of blogger was something I had thought about for some time, mainly because I wanted the capability to share files, not just links. I have not done much of that yet, but once the school year kicks off, I hope to make the tools I use in my work available here for others. The biggest lesson I've learned is that FTP publishing is not for the faint of heart. I can't tell you the number of times I've felt a bit panicky because blogger and my FTP server weren't playing well together---I couldn't get a post to publish. There are all manner of terrible thoughts that run through one's head at those times, most importantly "What if I can't ever publish to my blog again?!" Even now, every time I hit the "publish post" button I feel like it's a crapshoot. Blogger tech support is notoriously poor. If you can't figure things out on your own, well, it sucks to be you.

My particular style of blogging is just to do my posts as "quick writes." I have my idea, I try to capture it in a post, and I publish. There is not much in the way of the revision process involved; however, I do occasionally find typos, grammar errors, or poor wording that I want to go in and tweak afterwards. FTP isn't as friendly for this because of the reasons above.

I have also learned that up until the "new" blogger platform was in place, once you started publishing via FTP, you could never go back to just having your blog show up at a blogspot address. You can now, but it's still fussy. "whatitslikeontheinside.blogspot.com" was automatically redirected by Google to my new URL home...but "www.whatitslikeontheinside.blogspot.com" was not. According to Blogger, the "www" shouldn't matter, but the fact is that it does. If I ever decide not to publish via FTP, the second blogspot URL will still be hosting my posts. In the meantime, I have installed some javascript code (another learning curve) to take care of all redirects. This has the unfortunate side effect of endlessly redirecting (and reloading the page) if I don't temporarily remove the code every time I publish a comment or post. It's a bit of a pain.

I don't regret my choice to change my publishing format, in spite of the problems I've encountered over the summer. There's a certain freedom and security in having planted my own flag on an unclaimed spot in cyberspace. It feels like the next logical step in my blogging. Not only can I continue to reflect and write about the things I see in my professional life, but I can also have a way to share more of the documentation and expand the conversation. I also like being able to have my own "favicon," which is the little red book you see (depending upon your browser version) beside my URL.

Yesterday, I mentioned some nostalgia about high school and my upcoming reunion. I picked up another piece of nostalgia today: the Flash Gordon Saviour of the Universe DVD. I remember going to see this movie on a Friday night with my parents...the teen girls in the audience howling and whistling every time Sam Jones made an appearance on the screen.

My current grad class is winding down. I finish it a week from Sunday and pick up with the next one Labour Day weekend. I revised my paper for the class today. I feel like it's the best paper I've ever done for my degree program, although it remains to be seen what the prof thinks about it. I need to get back to writing up my dissertation proposal and things organized for my study this year. I picked up the information from the district about conducting research, so at least I know and understand the hoops that lay ahead. I hope to jump them early.

It's back to the paint can for now. Who knows? After another coat, perhaps I'll come back and add on to this bit of randomness. If FTP publishing allows me, that is.

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