Posted in Creativity, Exploration, Making Stuff, Technology

Favorite Digital Tools

One of my favorite digital tools and also most frustrating is Favorite because it enriches and uses imagery and media to create an interactive experience; frustrating because I’ve haven’t seem attract many students to its wonders. I am not sure why. Before our building closed, things and digital instructional methods that I was “going to do” came to an abrupt halt.

I’ve determined a few things: for the next seven weeks of school, I’m going to ask only one essential question a week, but leave the last week for a wrap-up.

Six Questions

Each question will have one to two short texts to read, a short film, and a discussion question. My goal today is to curate the short film for each question. For the first one regarding beauty was a simple and clear choice:

Descendants from Goro Fujita on Vimeo.

I’ve been enjoying Google Sites, and learning more about how to use Google Docs, etc., for instruction. Screencast-O-Matic has updated its features and is wonderful, and I am going to dig back into VideoScribe and Prezi, too.

But with all of these gorgeous digital tools, ready and kindly waiting for me to create, one thing that has reached all but one of my students: letters sent in the mail.

I am facing the hard truth that these next seven weeks may be filled with me yelling down the wishing well, and getting few echoes back. I’ll have created six mini units with no clear knowledge if my students used them, learned from them, or helped them. I’m not concerned about their grades–that’s the last thing we’re worried about. I only want them and their families to stay healthy, and bluntly: alive.

Seattle Times

While I sit motionless, working from a keyboard and pen to continue to reach out to students, working on these mini units keeps me busy. I will provide my content curation over this next week. If you have something you think would be appropriate for my units, please pass it along.

I am glad you’re here.

Posted in Summer Series: Toys in the Attic

Summer Series of Saves: Toys in the Attic. (I)


Other educators in my ELL Endorsement made this: I really like the arrow/target connection. One more image I’ll keep in my bulging sacks of digital content.

Part of transitioning to a new job includes cleaning up my digital life. One might think the virtual files would weigh much less than the physical boxes of books and paperclips, but one would be wrong. At last count, I have over four cloud servers: Google, OneDrive (work) OneDrive (personal), Dropbox, and iCloud. I have found some gems in the stash, however, and definitely, some items that required brutal, blunt-force deletion. All the cloud servers require some attention, as well as my YouTube channel,  which needs some polish and sparkle.

One thing I found in the folders within a folder was this.* It’s not that special, and needs to be redone; however, I keep it to be reminded that I know what I’m doing. After a few interviews here and there (I’ll get to that), I realized I kind of stink at interviews.

Here’s the deal: I was offered an amazing position in the district, but something wasn’t sitting right. My dream jobs opened up at other schools, three, in fact, all high school ELA. Everyone who knows me, including my sons, see me as a high school teacher. But apparently, I didn’t convince the interview teams. Since two were in my district, and they’re all begging for highly qualified teachers, I thought at least I’d have a chance. But nope. Turned down. And of course I’m second guessing myself at every flashback: did someone not give me a good recommendation? Was it my silly summer hair? Did I not carry myself like “a high school English teacher?” (whatever that means), did I not thoroughly express my ability and expertise in planning thematic units? I mean, at what saturation point does a teacher get a chance? How many PDs, book studies, practice, collaboration, accreditations, accolades, and demonstration of knowledge of some of the greatest minds in and out of my surrounding district do I need to know or do in order to prove myself? In a district that is bleeding high-quality teachers, what did I do wrong? (I thought back to the interview in my 20s when I thought I was confident and self-assured only to be told I came off as ‘flip and irreverent.”)

And then: they messed with my money.

It’s fine now, but long story short, there was mishandling of the National Boards stipend money or a misreporting, and my stipend was potentially going to be cut in half this summer, and we are counting on that money.

I saw this image in front of my eyes: DAVE THE BAD BOYFRIEND.

Many of us share this experience with a bad boy/girlfriend. This is the relationship that is marked by lack of trust, ill-fitted expectations, and out and out lies. After dating DTBB for many years, pinning my hopes and dreams on this young man, and giving second, third, and twentieth chances, finally, one evening, I must have caught him in a vulnerable mood, because I asked him, “Are you ever going to marry me?” and he simply said, without hesitation, “No.” And that was that. One clear moment of honesty, for himself and for me. I heard it loud and clear.

I thought I was okay until I was talking with a colleague from one of the high schools, and she was so sad for me. She had worked with me at the middle school and thinks I’m an awesome ELA teacher and was visibly disappointed her school didn’t sign me on.

Between that and the feeling that I was being ‘put out to pasture’ didn’t sit right with me–and the money. Let’s not forget that. I still have a family and husband to support, (we support one another). And to read the discussion board about how many teachers are leaving the district: my (now former) district has spent thousands of dollars investing in me, and to be so willing to let me go…

…and I guess I just need to say thank you for the honesty, so I could let go.

We, teachers, are getting a lot of mixed messages now: there is a teacher shortage, but it’s highly competitive. We want experienced teachers, but not too expensive. You can have a career path of your choosing, but not if it doesn’t fit within our mold. We want young teachers but don’t want to appear ageist. I wonder how many teachers were put on plans of support or had to call the union in because an admin team used the evaluation system to push them out of the district prior or during the district’s financial crisis? That would be interesting data to see. But we have to be quiet, stay low, under the radar, shut the door, and not challenge or question.

What makes sense? I know I would have liked to have seen more clear choice about career paths in my district that wasn’t grounded in favoritism or obscurity. Every year instead of just answering a building admin’s survey we could answer a survey online that would keep and curate our choices. But yeah, this isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Everything is going to be fine for me, and to stretch this metaphor, this corner of my mental attic is swept out. I’m looking forward to next year, and next week, and even right here, today. It’s July 1, and that gives me a whole month to try NaNoWriMo— I always feel that November is too crowded, but this month should be just right. Now to pull a few more story boxes out of storage, and get writing!

PS I have no idea what Dave is up to now. I know I found the best man in the world for me, and we’ve been married almost 26 years. The heck with you, bad boyfriend.

*This is the document: (What I love about it is a place for some mentor teacher’s documents I’ve used)


Posted in Argumentative Reading and Writing, Being a better teacher, Best Practices, Big Questions, Critical Thinking, Media and Mischief, Metacognition, Research, Rhetoric

Saving Summer: Googling.

Recently a post on social media got to me to thinking: (well, overthinking? *shrug*)

After a thread and reflection, I am trying to answer some questions:

  1. Does context play a role in teaching (anymore)?
  2. Just about “everything” can be “Googled” – how do we navigate and help students find the correct information?
  3. What is the nature of teaching with abundant access to information and misinformation?

A post from the New York Times, “In an Era of Fake News, Teaching Students to Parse Fact from Fiction” discusses the challenges of teaching context.

One can, indeed, Google context about a topic. How deep down the rabbit hole should we go?

I get the statement: it’s intended to be for Depth of Knowledge Level One Yes/No kinds of questions, Costas’ level one knowledge, bottom rung of Bloom’s. However — these days the strata of misinformation abounds, and even yes/no questions can result in horrific results. And these days, it is life and death.

I needed my help from my friend Sharon to help ME get some context for this post, and she came to the rescue:

I tried a little experiment, suggested by my husband. I Googled “What are vaccines?”  and “Are vaccines good for you?” both level one questions that should result in facts or a yes/no.

Here is what I got with this first search statement:

(Note: most results are sound.)


Here is with search terms my husband tried:

This is when we start going to CrazyTown.

Questions, even with yes or no answers, can be inherently biased. People seek the answers their cognitive dissonance and biases want. “Google” Benghazi, Alex Jones, Pizzagate, etc. Heck, look up “president handshakes.” No, never mind. Don’t.

Google does its best to filter and promote factual information with its complicated algorithms and data. But Fake News is a violent, dangerous issue. I wish we could go back a decade at least when we could, with reasonable critical thinking skills, discern fact from opinion/fiction.

Here is something Sharon and I can fix, so look for a Part II. In the meantime

  1. Use DOK questions first to create an understanding and close reading of Google results. That way, when students are told to “Google it,” they must come away with a minimum of three credible sources.
    • Close Reading:
      1. Look at top searches
      2. Look at the date published
      3. Look at the publisher and media format: is it a credible news source? Blog? Credible Youtube channel or ‘just some dude?’
      4. Look at links and pingbacks
    • Know how search engines work
  2. Tap into the best Social Studies teachers you know — make sure any lesson on search engines include conversations about primary, secondary, and tertiary documentation and artifacts.
  3. Call upon the best ELA teachers you know to discuss point of view, perspective, fact, opinion, and truth
  4. Call upon the best Science teachers you know to help promote scientific research and how bias creeps in.
  5. Call upon your best Math teachers to discuss proving factual knowledge and a variety of algorithmic paths.
  6. Oh, and never forget Electives, PE & Health to talk about false and factual information that spreads on the internet. The arts and the curated effect of beautiful and lasting resources on the Internet for one and all.

So yes, don’t spend a lot of time teaching if it can be Googled. But teaching how Google works is teaching time well spent.

Oh, and I found this, and of course, can find its origins:

But don’t stop the nerd love: