Archive for December, 2014

So, I’ve been thinking about paper circuitry recently.

A colleague shared a post from Instructables called”Conductive Poetry”.

I adapted the idea to poetry with my circuit scribe. I wanted to be able to pull out words and change the poem–to play with the language. I started with Billy Collins’ poem Introduction to Poetry which I always read with my class. Personally, I find that it makes for a good starting poem, takes a not too serious attitude, and has some great imagery. Plus, it then gives me a reason to show some of the short films that were made of some other Billy Collins poems. Three videos are in his TED talk. Really great stuff in my opinion.

Back to my take on conductive poetry. First I wrote a number of lines, but that was too much for the current to get around. I settled on a line or so with interchangeable nouns. I made a little cover for the lights with images on them, just like the Instructables example. Here’s a prototype.

keep a poem light

This line is keep a poem in your pocket from the poem of the same name by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers. I changed it to keep a lightbulb in your toolbox. I have some other examples, but this gives you the idea.

I thought this would be a fun way to play with language. Physically moving the words in and out of the sentences and phrases appeals to me, and I think helps make poetry seem less like a rarified persuit and more like a building trade. This might not be completely accurate, but it is interesting to consider, plus is fits nicely with Billy Collins’ poem.

I have yet to do anything with this in class, but I’m planning. Since we will be working on some poetry when winter break is over, I’ve got time to let the idea roll around in my head. I think it’s got some potential. Having a few light colors for options and being able to draw different images for the words injects a little visual literacy into the situation without getting as involved as movie making. When you are the poet laureate you get movies made of your work. When you are a random English teacher and Ed Tech coach you make your own little circuits and feel pretty pleased with yourself.

Another reason this visual connection is at the front of my brain at the moment is that the 12/1/14 #EngChat was on the topic of visual literacy (archive here). I have some other plans for incorporating visual analysis as a bridge to literary analysis also, but no electronics there. All of these idea are really coming together nicely, yes?

Finally, I’ve been obsessed with Chibitronics, Hack Your Notebook, and related projects lately. I made this little notebook with a light up cover.

I really had no idea for this relates to poetry or English class, but maybe I will make this little notebook a place for great phrases and sentences that we find as we read poetry in class. Although I am often in favor of a digital storage space for collaborative collections, I think there is something to having a special place for special work or words. I am thinking this out as I type and wondering about having a shared, digital collection place to start off with and then using my little light up notebook as a final tangible “best of” collection.



So, I’ve been thinking about the gathering I hosted on Friday.

At the encouragement of a colleague I invited all my teaching colleagues to a 1:1 What’s Working gathering on Friday after school. I know it sounds like a terrible time, but students get out early on Friday and we (faculty) aren’t really supposed to leave right away. I sent out an invite of sorts and promised food. I got a handful of acceptances right away. Then on the morning of the gathering I sent out this picture of the cake I made for the event. I got some more people with that.


So, I think what’s working is cake. This chocolate sour cream bunt cake from Cook’s Illustrated (January,2004) never disappoints.

I expected folks to stay 30 minutes, maybe 45 minutes at most. A number of people came and went as they needed to. Totally fine. I didn’t want this to be some serious meeting with an agenda. I took notes so that people could just listen and talk. But then, it turned out people stayed. And stayed longer. At the hour and a half marked we had to call it an afternoon.

What was exciting was having people come together to share the positives. I get plenty of complaints from people. I don’t think I’m in danger of not hearing the negative stuff. Hearing about all different things that are working for particular classrooms and courses was so interesting. It’s always so great to hear the excitement and enthusiasm people have for what they are doing. I can’t help but be excited too.

So, what did people share? Here’s a quick link to my notes. Feel free to read through, take what you need, ask any questions in the comments, suggest your own favorite classroom tech use, share a recipe.

I am curious about how other schools and tech coaches engage their colleagues generally. Our Middle School Tech Coach, @Betny802, has been hosting weekly Tea and Tech gatherings for a number of weeks. She sends out a note with the menu (1 beverage, 1 food item, 1 tech thing) in advance and has been getting a few people at each tea. She’s building momentum. Our Lower School Technology Coach, the very connected @TeacherDebra, sends out regular digests of ideas with shout outs to particular teachers. She is also in and out of classrooms all the time. In high school I don’t think that teachers expect or would take well to me wandering in and out of rooms during class. We have a mid-day break time that is a possibility, but I have not had any luck with that as a gathering time, except to trouble shoot, hence the Friday option.

So, moving forward, I want to continue our gatherings. I plan to stick with the Friday time for right now. Here are my questions:

  • Every week seems too frequent, but once a month might not be enough. Every other week?
  • Do I try to sneak in a little something in particular, or just let the sharing take its course?
  • Maybe on alternate Fridays have a learning session that comes out of ideas that were shared the week before? Too much?

I’d love some thoughts.


So, I’ve been thinking about Google Classroom. Since we already use Moodle and I had set up folders in Google drive for my students, I have to admit I was skeptical as to just how useful it would be.

Oh, it is useful.

My Google Classroom homepage

My Google Classroom homepage

As a school, we use Moodle, and Classroom is not a replacement for all things Moodle. Yet. There’s a lot I use Moodle to do, and I don’t use it to its full potential, but it’s just not attractive in any way. Classroom lists assignments in a stream. Each assignment can have documents associated with it. These documents can be viewable to students, editable by students, or, and this is the big one, copied and distributed to students. Or, students can create and upload their own documents. So classroom manages document collection and distribution. When it creates a copy of a document for students, it names it with a standard naming convention. I know Doctopus made this possible too, but with Classroom there is no extra script and the students see the assignments listed and organized in the stream, like Edmodo. I see the documents organized by assignment. In addition, it also lets me manage editing rights on the various assignments very easily. There are plenty of videos out there explaining how to set up and use Classroom. I won’t reinvent that wheel.

I found it interesting that several folks in #1to1techat on 11/19/14 were dismissive of Classroom. The complaint being that it is not a tool that fundamentally changes education for students. Fair enough. It is a very structured, teacher driven tool.  And, it’s very useful for organizing document distribution and collection. For teachers in the classroom, in many classrooms, with many students, a tool that is well designed, easy to use, and does something useful is a win. It is not high up on the SAMR model for sure. What it is doing is helping teachers manage practical tasks. It’s a facilitator.

As a teach coach, I’m supposed to be a facilitator too. I want to help both kinds of people in the classroom: students and teachers. Very few teachers’ class size is getting smaller, hence facilitating organization can go a long way. Very few kids are coming to class more organized than they used to, they’ve got so much going on, another chance to facilitate organization.

Sharing something that is useful and easy to learn means I will be able to share it widely. I also can feel confident that teachers will have some early success. Quick success with a tech tool that proved useful for the teacher means that next time I can come in with something that is much more disruptive to status quo education for students. One of my main tasks as a tech coach is to support teachers in their personal path towards more substantial and authentic tech integration. So my first step is to get a teacher thinking positively about the potential of integrating technology. No one is moving up the SAMR model if he or she technology integration is going to destroy education. Unless a teacher has a growth mindset, I can suggest or offer to help all I want. It’s just me beating my head against the wall. Besides the ugly bruises, it gets demoralizing.

Clasrroom gets even better. My friend @TeacherDebra shared this video by @MsMagiera with me. The video demonstrates how to integrate Classroom with Doctopus and Goobric for a truly amazing workflow situation. Again, I will not reinvent the wheel. Just watch the video. It’s worth the 10 minutes and then some.

Did you watch? Seriously, if you didn’t, watch it. And, the spreadsheet with the links to all the documents gets even better. The program adds another sheet with all the names listed and the scores by rubric category and comments. Any tool that is going to organize student work, student data, and not make me sweat about it, that’s a tool I’m going to use again and again. I have shared this video with a number of teachers and the response has been universally positive. Just yesterday I showed the very tech savvy @inveterategeek this combo and in moments, she knew with how she could use it in her very student driven, differentiated, standards based grading physics class.

Now, I’m thinking what else should Classroom do for me? Here’s my idea. I am already thinking about snow days. I love them. And, we had so many last year that it was a problem. What I want is for classroom and Google Hangouts on Air to snuggle up together. They’re family already. I would like to be able to set up a hangout in classroom which would automatically invite all the students as participants not just viewers. Then, once the hangout is over, the link to the recording would be in the stream in classroom for anyone to view. Seriously how hard would that be? If a googler would get on that, I’d be appreciative.

Good idea, yes?

Anyone else using Classroom and have ideas for what it should do next or want to debate Classroom as a useful tool?