Monthly Archives: September 2009

September 27

crossThis is the second most difficult post I have ever had to write. The first was September 27, 2008, the day my mother passed away. That very day changed my life forever. My family is still reeling from losing such a caring, giving mother. The people that attended her funeral shared how wonderfully caring and generous my mother was with them in so many ways. It was incredibly touching to hear the many lives that Mom touched on a daily basis and changed forever.

So on this difficult anniverary I will be offline much of the day. I still have not gottenImage30 over losing Mom and not quite sure that I ever will. I know we all grieve differently but I find it strange that my siblings handle the grief of losing Mom much, much better than I have although I am the oldest by four years. Mom struggled financially much of her life providing for my siblings and I so wanted to help provide an easier life for her in her retirement. She was two years away from retiring and was looking forward to spending that time with us and her grandchildren. Time that will never be.

September 26 K12Online Conference LAN Party


Please join us on September 26, 2009
for the first live event of the
K12Online Conference

On September 26, 2009, the K12Online Conference in partnership with EdTechTalk will host a worldwide, sychronous “LAN party” (free web meet-up) from 2:00PM EDT (6:00PM GMT) to 5:00PM EDT (9:00PM GMT). Organizers encourage educators around the world to get together with colleagues and engage in lively, online discussions during this time using links provided by EdTechTalk. Past presentations will be shown, and participants are invited to engage in live conversations about the presentations with the featured presenters during and following each session. A K12Online Conference overview is scheduled at the EdTechTalk ( website 30 minutes prior to the LAN party.

This event provides an opportunity to try out the synchronous EdTechTalk environment and platform, which we will be using for the 2009 K-12 Online Conference in December. For more background about LAN parties, see Jeff Utech’s post from Sept 2006 and the K12Online08 Shanghai LAN Party wiki. The Shanghai LAN parties are models we hope educators around the world will emulate in 2009. You do NOT have to gather face-to-face with other educators to participate in this Saturday’s live LAN party events, but F2F connections are encouraged! Here’s the schedule. (Times below are EDT. Start time for the first presentation is 6:00PM GMT. Use this WorldTimeServer link to convert this time for your local time zone.)***copied from Wes Fryer’s blog, “Speed of Creativity“.

mathew2:00 – 2:45 Film School
Mathew Needleman, Apple Distinguished Educator, has been integrating video in the classroom for seven years as a teacher of kindergarten, first, and second grade. Make better classroom movies with simple tips that will help elevate your vodcast to the next level in terms of artistic and technical merit. Learn how to storyboard like a pro, choose shots that support the telling of your story, and capture better lighting and sound.

AlecCouros2:453:30 Open, Social, Connected
Dr. Alec Couros is a professor of educational technology and media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. This presentation unravels a recent open graduate course offering titled “Open, Connected, Social” that was offered at the University of Regina, Winter 2008. The presentation describes the theories influencing the course, types of open practice, reflections and outcomes, and goes on to describe the emergence of “open teaching”.

Markwagner3:30 4:15 Wiki While You Work (Basic)
A former high school English teacher, Mark Wagner has since served as an educational technology coordinator at Estancia High School, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, and the Orange County Department of Education.  His session briefly introduces participants to the Read/Write Web, and to wikis in particular. A live demonstration of and will illustrate that…, “If you can use a word processor, you can use a wiki.”

kathycassidy4:15 5:00 We Like Our Blogging Buddies: The Write Stuff With Blogging Mentors
Kathy Cassidy is a grade one teacher at Westmount School in Moose Jaw, SK, Canada.  In the winter of 2008, Patrick Lewis’s university class of pre-service teachers were blogging mentors for Kathy’s grade one students. This presentation talks about that collaboration and the results of the research that was conducted about the effect this mentorship had on the students’ writing.


Student Engagement Microgrant Opportunity

ISE-Announce-V2We Are is having another opportunity to submit a microgrant proposal to possibly win $200 and Flip cam.

WeAreTeachers’ partner Quantum Learning Technologies is excited to announce their sponsorship of the new microgrant to promote student engagement.

There are definite elements to promote student engagement: playing, interacting, communicating, dreaming, questioning, and so on. Tell us about a project or idea to engage your students more fully and get the opportunity to receive $200 and a Flip Video camera. The application takes less than 10 minutes to complete. The deadline is September 25th.

Voting will open on September 28th at 8am CST. After voting opens, you, your friends and our teacher community vote for their favorite project. The 10 teachers who receive the most votes will be awarded $200 and a Flip Video camera. To apply visit the WeAreTeachers Community page.

After the microgrant program, the projects will continue to be posted as a resource for other teachers to be inspired with new ideas for their classroom and students.

Don’t miss this opportunity to submit your microgrant proposal to fund your student engagement activities!

Back to School Presidential Webcast for Students

Source: White

Source: White

In an effort to welcome students back to school after Labor Day and the summer vacation, President Obama has scheduled a webcast to speak to students about educational goals, to stay in school and take personal responsibility for their education ventures.

Although there has been huge controversy over whether or not teachers should have their students participate in this webcast, the White House has developed some classroom materials to support the viewing of the webcast.

Steve Hargadon has setup an Elluminate room to continue participation in this historic webcast with students.

President Obama is planning to speak to schoolchildren on 9/8/09 at 12:00pm Eastern Daylight Time (see  I’ve set up an Elluminate session to run concurrently for those who want to share through the chat feature during his address, and then use the fuller Elluminate functionality for a post-address discussion.  Register at to see the event in the calendar there or access the Elluminate session directly at https//

If you’d like to connect with other classrooms and have students responding to each other–which I think might be a fun experience–feel free to leave a comment here and once you have found a “partner” classroom or classrooms I can set you up with a similar Elluminate room. To do this you’ll want to have some familiarity with Elluminate or be working with someone who does. You’re also able, through the vRoom capability you automatically get at LearnCentral, to do this entirely on your own.

The educational page on the White House site lists the following information related to the webcast and curriculum materials:


  • Tuesday, September 8th, at 12:00 PM (EDT)

How to Watch

  • The President’s message will be streamed live on, and broadcast live on C-Span
  • Downloadable video of the speech will be made available on this page later that day as it becomes available
  • For school districts hoping to access the satellite feed, it will be available beginning at 11:00 AM (EDT) using the following coordinates:
    * Galaxy 28/Transponder 17, Slot C (9 MHz)
    * Uplink Frequency 14344.5 Horizontal
    * Downlink Frequency 12044.5 Vertical

Classroom Engagement Resources

Additional Resources

Watch the PSA with NASCAR drivers below, and spread the word (find the direct link and the code to embed it in your website by clicking the triangle in the bottom right of the video):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you are participating in either of the above live events I am sure I will see you online somewhere in cyberspace next Tuesday. Enjoy!

Hullaballoo over Obama Webcast


President Barack Obama looks at cards and drawings that were given to him by 2nd graders at the Capital City Public Charter School in Washington during a visit in February. —Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images-File. Source:

Shortly after the announcement that President Obama would host a webcast with students on September 8, cries came from school district leaders and parents across the United States expressing criticism of this event.

I was impressed with the fact that this opportunity would be available where students could interact with the President and possibly ask him questions or talk with him about issues relevant to students throughout the United States. The last time a US President has interacted with students was in 1988 with President Reagan and in 1981 with President Bush. Personally, I believe this to be an enormous learning opportunity for students of all ages to engage in meaningful dialogue related to topics that are directly relevant to them regardless of where you stand politically. I had no idea the backlash that Obama would receive. Here in San Antonio, parents complained that if their child participated in the webcast they would pull their child out of school for fear that Obama would, ‘sneak in’ differing political views.



Many school district leaders are prohibiting teachers from showing the webcast to their students. Instead, districts are offering to post the event on their district website and parents can download and watch the recorded webcast. Two of the largest districts in San Antonio are planning to do just that and not because of bandwidth issues. In a different district here in town, parents were given  the option to of completing a form to opt-out and have their child not participate in the event in other districts in town should their teachers participate in the event but the two largest districts will not have their students participate during the live webcast at all. How sad it is that these students will miss this opportunity.

Word has gotten back to the White House and they are working to ensure that this event will not be a political affair and focus on educational goals instead.  Most of the criticism has come from Republican leaders like Governor Rick Perry of Texas (Republican) stating that Obama didn’t give them advance warning or a heads ups,  that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology as expressed by Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer or participation would a “worshipful, rather than critical approach” as shared by Tom Horne, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Arizona.

Source: White

Source: White

US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, states the webcast will,

“…challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their own learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”

Follow up materials for use in the classroom are sent to the participating teachers to use in the classroom with their students but according to Tom Horne, the materials are not acceptable and do not foster critical thinking. Tom Horne continues his comments regarding the questions on the classroom materials and materials in general,

“What inspired you the most?” and “How can you help the President?” are “not balanced” and “do not foster critical thinking.

“An important part of educating students is to teach them to read and listen critically. The White House materials call for a worshipful, rather than critical approach to this speech,” says Horne, “We like to encourage critical thinking of our students, seeing both sides of an issue, being able to argue both sides of an issue, being able to analyze. And instead what we have are materials that have phrases like how will he inspire us, what are the most inspiring things he said, write them in big letters on the black board, how can we help him, that kind of thing.”  Source: Huffington Post

Teaching Hope in your Classroom

teaching hopeTeaching Hope by Erin Gruwell was recently released on August 18 and I wanted to share with you a short video created to promote this fantastic teaching resource.

The following synopsis describes the book according to the Freedom Writers Foundation website:

About the book:

“There are lives lost in this book, and there are lives saved, too, if salvation means a young man or woman begins to feel deserving of a place on the planet. . . . What could be more soul-satisfying? These are the most influential professionals most of us will ever meet. The effects of their work will last forever.”  –from the foreword by Anna Quindlen

Now depicted in a bestselling book and a feature film, the Freedom Writers phenomenon came about in 1994, when Erin Gruwell stepped into Room 203 and began her first teaching job out of college. Long Beach, California, was still reeling from the deadly violence that erupted during the Rodney King riots, and the kids in Erin’s classroom reflected the anger, resentment, and hopelessness of their community. Undaunted, Erin fostered an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, tolerance, and communication, and in the process, she transformed her students’ lives, as well as her own.

Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers went on to establish the Freedom Writers Foundation to replicate the success of Room 203 and provide all students with hope and opportunities to realize their academic potential. Since then, the foundation has trained more than 150 teachers in the United States and Canada. Teaching Hope unites the voices of these Freedom Writer teachers, who share uplifting, devastating, and poignant stories from their classrooms, stories that provide insight into the struggles and triumphs of education in all of its forms.

Mirroring an academic year, these dispatches from the front lines of education take us from the anticipation of the first day to the disillusionment, challenges, and triumphs of the school year. These are the voices of teachers who persevere in the face of intolerance, rigid administration, and countless other challenges, and continue to reach out and teach those who are deemed unteachable. Their stories inspire everyone to make a difference in the world around them.

I am so excited this book has been released and know it will be a success! Below is the link to a video produced by Erin Gruwell promoting Teaching Hope. At the time of writing, the book is on sale from it’s regular price of $14.99 at Amazon* although you can purchase the book at most bookstores on and offline. Get your copy and further the efforts of Erin Gruwell, her students and the participating teachers are you teach hope in your classroom!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

*Disclosure: Link takes you to Amazon Affiliate Page