NCTE Asks: How has teaching changed?

I’m seeing lots of opportunities lately, to connect my learning network(s), offline and on.  Here’s one – a request from NCTE.  Write away, whether you’re an NCTE member or not:

We’re interested in how your teaching has changed�in how you have altered, adjusted, or shifted your habits and expectations�since the time you began teaching. For example, what has changed in your approaches to reading? Writing? Evaluation of students? Use of technology? Confidence level? Rapport with parents? Balance of personal and professional life?

Whether you are a 30-year classroom veteran or a new teacher, you have a story, and we’d like to hear it!  Email us 150 words or less describing changes you have made in your teaching and your teaching life. Please include your full name, school name, years of teaching, and a preferred email address or phone number in case we need to contact you. Send stories to

We’ll consider stories for a future issue of The Council Chronicle, and will inform you and send you a complimentary copy if your story is published.

I‘d love for you to leave your blurb here in the comments, too.  Would be fun to read them.


Cover It Live Just Got Better

I’ve been a fan of CoveritLive since I discovered it during Educon.  I’ve used it successfully a couple of times, and intend to use it in the future when it makes sense to.  But I wanted a few more options – like multiple authors and the ability to get my data out of their system.

Turns out, so did others. They’ve added multiple author support, automatic moderation of comments, and some other snappy options. It’s a very, very useful tool for capturing events as they happen, both for me and for an audience. (Turns out I learn better, and take better notes, when I’m doing so for someone else.) I find the linear nature of the notes and archive, too, make for a very useful and re-readable dataset. Handy for a backchannel, too.I’m a big fan of what they’re up to, and yes, I probably would pay to use the service, if they get to that. It’s just that good.
(Oh – and I did try the data export – simple embed code. Easy.)


Get Your Hands (or Eyeballs) On It

This collection of articles, published as Threshold Magazine – New Directions Spring 2008 by Cable in the Classroom and the KnowledgeWorks Foundation is one of the finest “think bombs” related to education and coming changes that I’ve seen printed on paper. I received a copy by accident, as my predecessor was on just the right mailing list.

There’s a great think piece on open textbooks, and Stephen Downes has a piece in the issue, too, on educational choices and virtual options. Also included is a handy copy of the Future Forces Affecting Education map by KnowledgeWorks. Might be worth getting some extra hard copies to share with your favorite administrator, teacher, school board member, etc. (Here’s the reprint inquiry info. I’ll be calling on Monday.)


Thinking ’bout Linking

It was about a year ago that I wrote a piece for English Journal on teaching “blogging” vs. “writing with blogs” that was pretty much a re-hash of some blog posts that I thought were saying something. The trouble is, I wasn’t sure what they were saying. I’ve been fumbling at this one for a while.

I’ve always found something particularly special about writing online, or at least I’ve learned that there’re more options, more possibilities, and plenty of challenges that make writing online much more complicated than cutting and pasting a Word file into a text box and hitting “submit.”

But most folks that I see beginning to use digital writing spaces aren’t treating them any differently. And I can’t quite figure out why. I also can’t quite figure out how to articulate the differences, even though I think I get some, if not several, of them. And if I can’t articulate them, perhaps I can’t teach them. (Not sure about that, actually – but work with me.)

I think one good way to articulate some of the differences is to tell you a story. Here goes.

Tonight, I’m sitting in
a local cafe, enjoying a cup of wicked sweet coffee and some tunes. As I wrote that last sentence, and added the links in, I wondered how you would read it. Are you someone who clicks on any link you see in a blog post? Or are you more like me? I use a browser that shows me the URL of the link I’m pointing to, saving me the trouble of traveling here if, after reading the URL, I see that I don’t need to follow the link, perhaps because I already know the site, or I don’t want to go to the site, because I’m worried about pop-ups, or a virus, or something that I don’t actually want to see. I love that browser, except when it leaks memory.

I could continue, but I think (hope) I’m making my point. I could have written that paragraph without the links – but I would’ve need an awful lot more details to tell you as much as I did with the links. And you each will have worked your way through that paragraph differently. Some of you read and clicked and fiddled. Others of you read differently. (Oh – and here’s a minor nit – but how many of you, in that last sentence, read, ahem, “read” in the past tense? Present tense? Language is hard. But anyway.)

I don’t know what my students do/did when they see blocks of text with links. And I’m 98 percent sure that there wasn’t another teacher in my school who was thinking about how to explain that to students, much less about how they read that text themselves.

Digital texts have the potential to make a big, juicy mess of a linear experience. Or to turn a so-so piece of writing into a masterful collection of references, linktributions, and pointers to other good stuff. My hunch, a rough one, but one I’ve held for a while, is that reading and writing that way makes you (ultimately) a better reader and writer. I just don’t really think I know how to teach that way yet, or at least, I don’t know how to teach other people to think about teaching that way.

Will Richardson asked me recently (well, it was two weeks ago – but that counts as recent if you forgive me the week I spent sick. And I do.) about connective writing, and what a course on it might look like. I blame him for the frustrated typing that I’m up to right now. And the posts that I suspect are forthcoming. (And I’m thankful, too. I needed a push.)

What would such a course look like? What would it cover? How would it differ from a “regular” (I know – bogus term.) 9th or 10th grade high school writing course? How would it be the same? (Why wait until high school? I’ve been thinking through blogs as science or inquiry notebooks at the elementary school level.) What happens when we add video(s)? Pictures? Embedded widgets? I’ve got to believe that some analysis of what links do and how they do it would be a necessary piece of any such course. So, too, would be copious quoting and linking to others, building a network of classroom texts that would be added to the greater networks of the world.

I’d kill to teach that class.

Perhaps I’ve stumbled across another thesis idea. Again. Nuts.

Postscript – I had thought that perhaps I’d dig into the research on hypertextual writing a bit before I started down this post. I know these ideas aren’t new. But I couldn’t help myself. I made it four pages into this fascinating article before I started writing. Worth a read, I think.


The Podcast: Conversation Stream


This podcast, recorded on my way home from Learning 2.0: A Colorado Conversation, is just a stream of consciousness reflection on the day.  I am humbled to be in community with so many wonderful , talented and devoted educators, both here in Colorado as well as around the world. 


Been Listening to . . .

    The runaway podcast of my summer and soon-to-be-fall is WNYC’s Radiolab.  The podcast, a fabulous collection of fun at an editing board mixed in with science and philosophy (or maybe it’s the other way around), has been a must listen whenever it appears in my aggregator.  I love how the show’s producers blend interview with narrative to make an enjoyable listen out of sometimes dry, but fascinating information.  There are digital storytelling lessons here, I think. 
   This week’s show should be downright required listening.  Here’s the description:

Forensics, archeology, genealogy, and genetics are devoted to figuring
out what really happened. In this hour, we hear surprising stories of
playing detective, and find that what really happened in the past is
not always what you’d expect. We start at a trash dump in Egypt, where
we find Jesus, Satan, sissies, and porn. Next, the mystery of how
hundreds of old letters written to the same woman were discovered on
the side of Route 101. And lastly, a blood sampling tour of Asia
reveals a prolific baby-maker and a potential world conqueror.

The old letters story, my favorite this week, involves a teacher, serendipity, and some intriguing creative writing.  What podcasts are you loving that I should know about? 


King on Rowling: The kids are alright

    This is a little less timely than I would have liked, but I’ve been working through quite a hefty "to read" pile.  (You can check out my online "toread" pile, if you’d like – if anything on there’s no good, let me know so I can save myself the trouble!)
    I’ve quite enjoyed reading and re-reading Stephen King’s piece "The last word on Harry Potter" from Entertainment Weekly, where he writes a regular column on pop culture.  In the piece, he speaks to the successes of J.K. Rowling’s series as well as her strengths as a writer.  (One big one, according to King, is she allowed her characters to get older.)  He also writes about how strong many kids’ reading habits actually seem to be, and closes beautifully:

But reading was never dead with the kids. Au contraire,
right now it’s probably healthier than the adult version, which has to
cope with what seems like at least 400 boring and pretentious
”literary novels” each year. While the bigheads have been predicting
(and bemoaning) the postliterate society, the kids have been
supplementing their Potter with the narratives of Lemony Snicket, the
adventures of teenage mastermind Artemis Fowl, Philip Pullman’s
challenging His Dark Materials trilogy, the Alex Rider
adventures, Peter Abrahams’ superb Ingrid Levin-Hill mysteries, the
stories of those amazing traveling blue jeans. And of course we must
not forget the unsinkable (if sometimes smelly) Captain Underpants.
Also, how about a tip of the old tiara to R.L. Stine, Jo Rowling’s
jovial John the Baptist?

I began by quoting Shakespeare; I’ll close with the Who: The kids
are alright. Just how long they stay that way sort of depends on
writers like J.K. Rowling, who know how to tell a good story
(important) and do it without talking down (more important) or
resorting to a lot of high-flown gibberish (vital). Because if the
field is left to a bunch of intellectual Muggles who believe the
traditional novel is dead, they’ll kill the damn thing.

Worth your time.