Tool for Digital Storytelling-Little Bird Tales

I found Little Bird Tales and it is cool! This would go with K-5  instruction with ELA Common Core Writing.  Awesome!

Little Bird Tales: Capture the Voice of Childhood. We offer a fun, unique way to create, record and share stories online. Kids can make drawings, upload photos or artwork and record their voice online, creating a slideshow format book, then share it with family and friends as gifts or a keepsake. Environmentally friendly and great for schools, too.

The New Writing Pedagogy

The next revision of writing pedagogy—one that emphasizes digital spaces, multimedia texts, global audiences, and linked conversations among passionate readers—may be upon us. The new change to writing is the availability of an audience.

“The shape of writing has changed,” agrees Troy Hicks, author of the recently released book The Digital Writing Workshop and assistant professor of English and director of the Chippewa River Writing Project at Central Michigan University. “Kids are now writing for real audiences and for real purposes, not just other kids in the class or the refrigerator door. And they are composing on computers and on phones in text and multimedia. These are substantial changes.” (The New Writing Pedagogy)

I believe we are only seeing this in isolated situations in schools around our country. I visit schools of the 20th century daily where writing decorates our hallways and the new writing pedagogy is a foreign word for school; however, I see strong evidence that a small majority of these learners are aware of what exists outside the school walls. It baffles me how, when or if this will change.

“That is a big fear for me—that we are inadequately preparing our youth for the future,” Chris Sloan, an English teacher and media adviser at Judge Memorial Catholic High School, a college prep school in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, says. “I think that the kind of research, learning and jobs of the very near future will increasingly require people to collaborate from a distance” (The New Writing Pedagogy).

I fear that our country will be inadequate compared to other nations around the world. The meaning global economy seems to have not resonated well among political leaders and educational leaders that could make a difference. Clearly our kids are not being prepared for the new world that exists around us.

Facebook and My Space allows participants to have instant audiences. Advertiser and networkers have taken notice. It is the new order of business. Social Audiences can change the learners. Let’s find ways to let in resonate to our schools and classrooms. Let’s create passionate learners.

Read the complete article at

Writing in the Digital Classroom

Today I received a bit of good news! Beginning January 9, I will be teaching “Writing in the Digital Classroom.” The course has finally come together and has officially been approved by Coastal Carolina University. As the Technology Liaison for the Coastal Area Writing Project, I have been working with the high school ELA coordinator for the Horry County School District in South Carolina for the last three months. I am really excited and it should be a fun course. For the most part, it will be a fun exploratory classroom with time to play with lots of Web 2.0 tools and use those tools to create a digital writing portfolio. Through hands-on exploring and writing digitally, the teacher will have time to see the benefits of using these tools in their classroom. I am strong believer that the teacher must be user of these tools first in order to understand the benefits to the learner. I look forward to taking a a group on a fun journey of learning.  However, beyond the journey of the fun digital tools, they will discover something more powerful as they live a life of a blogger.  We will learn the impact of the new literacies in the classroom. Stay tune and watch how the journey unfolds at

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One Year Anniversary

On year ago today, I posted my first blog post ever. It was the birth of Blogging on the Bay named after the school and the area of the county where I teach. No, I am not on a real bay of water, but hundreds a years ago, the area was part of “Carolina Bay” Area. A year ago I had just returned from the South Carolina Educational Technology Conference. That was the day I met Jeff McCoy, Greenville County School District, whose presentation on Web 2.0 tools led me to my almost daily pulpit. Over a hundred posts later, Blogging on the Bay is now a year old. My purpose of my blog has changed. My intention was to be a blog to share ideas with teachers I work with in my building, but has turned out to be my learning arena as I write about the things I am doing, learning, and observing.

“Blogging is a way of collecting links to WebPages and sharing thoughts and ideas with people online. Blogs (or Weblogs) are basically online journals or diaries which are great for sharing information and ideas. “A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-newsy outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world.” As well as text, blogs often contain audio, music, images and video. They’re also really easy to make, so you can have one even if you aren’t very technical. Anything can be posted instantly to a blog.” From my first blog post on November 8, 2008

I find my blog to be all the things I said above but more. It is my space to share my ideas, thoughts, and my understanding of things that relate to instructional technology. My blog is more than this. It is about advocating change and those thoughts and ideas are deeply woven into my posts. I don’t know what the future holds for the blog. I know one day I will wake up and leave it behind. I don’t know when that will happen.

It has been a challenge at times to generate a blog post and most often the post come unexpected. Sometimes I am surprised at what come from within. I keep wondering how my blog and my thinking may grow in the second year. I appreciate the many supporters especially Pat Hensley in Greenville who follows me faithfully and always seems to take the time to write a comment. I have found the community I have slowly to be kind, caring, and passionate about what they are learning and writing. I hope I can come close to mirroring the same. The community I follow including Cathy Nelson, David Warlick, Patrick Higgins, Will Richardson, Wesley Fryer, Shirley Smith, Pat Hensley, Jeff Utech, Kim Coffino, Karl Fisch, and the many others too numerous to list.

In year two I hope to keep writing and sharing my thoughts.

Podcasting Workshop

Yesterday I did my third Web 2.0 Wednesday workshop and the focus was on Podcasting in the classroom. I had two teachers to show up for this workshop. I am not about numbers, but the poor folks I work with are under a lot of pressure trying to make the Teacher Advancement Program work. In yesterday’s workshop, I had one teacher from my school and a teacher from an elementary school to attend. However, it was a great workshop. I learned a lot by having to teach podcasting to these two adult learners. We spend about an hour and half listening to a podcast, downloading Audacity, the LAME encoder, learning Audacity, mixing music, recording a podcast with music and exporting it to an MP3 file. The two teachers had a lot of fun and asked really good questions. I like it when the adult learner asks questions. Questioning help keep me focused and made sure I stayed the course. The questions made me think as questions came about mixing visuals with the podcast. I know how it is done, but I don’t know if there is free software in the Internet that will allow one to do the mix. The workshop was great and my PPT is above and the handout can be found by clicking here.

Teaching with the Brain in Mind

I taught sixth grade language arts and social studies from 1989 to 1996 in a middle school in my district. From 1996-1998 I worked at the same school as a reading specialist.  For the last four years at this school, I was the chairperson of the language arts department. During that tenure, I remember a discussion with teachers about teaching writing and the writing process. I distinctly remember one teacher explaining to me that a child could write a complete sentence until they had mastered the art of distinguishing the difference between noun, verbs, adjective, adverbs, subjects, predicates and much more.  Her efforts as middle school ELA teacher was to make sure they could have these distinctions before should could expect her students to write a sentence or even begin to write a paragraph.

I too was guilty of this methodology in my classroom. I remember trying so hard to teach sixth graders how to identify subjects and verbs. I think I spent two weeks and still less than half I felt mastered the concept. It was not until I read Nancy Atwell’s book In the Middle did I understand the how to teach reading.  It is the year 2008 and I am amazed how so little progress we have made. We continue to immerse students into small chunks of learning with fear of letting them take the big plunge.

Today we know more than we did in the early 90’s about how students learn.  Cognitive science helps us understand how the brain functions and how people learn. The scientific approach have indicated that everyone learns, but schools do not always understand how best to approach each student (Solumon & Schrum, 2007)  Geoffrey Caine and Renate Nummela Caine described 12 core principles of brain based learning:

1.     The brain is a complex adaptive system.

2.     The brain is a social brain.

3.     The search for meaning is innate.

4.     The search for meaning occurs through patterning.

5.     Emotions are critical to patterning.

6.     Every brain simultaneously perceives and creates parts and wholes.

7.     Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral attention.

8.     Learning always involves conscious and unconscious processes.

9.     We have at least two ways of organizing memory.

10. Learning is developmental.

11.Complex learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.

12. Every brain is uniquely organized. (Where Did the “12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles” Come From? Caine and Caine)

Caine and Caine conclude that “Optimizing the use of the human brain means using the brain’s infinite capacity to make connections-and understanding what conditions maximize this process.” We are a world of images and I keep preaching to teachers the importance of using images in presenting content. Finding the images takes time and overtime it comes easier. The Internet makes it easy to find images and video. The old cookie cutter teacher was the idea of teaching skill until you were capable of being in the driver’s seat or capable of orchestrating the whole process since one had mastered all the skills.

Caine and Caine also indicate that three interactive elements are essential to this purpose.

1.     The teacher must orchestrated the immersion of the learner in multiple, complex, authentic experience. Solomon and Schrum use the example of immersing student in a foreign country to teach them a second language  (Solumon & Schrum, 2007) Another example is allowing students to solve a real world problem to learn multiple standards or moving learning to the creation stage in Bloom’s taxonomy. Students are able take ownership in learning when they are able to connect the learning to the real world.

2.     Students must have a personal meaningful challenge. Challenges stimulate our brains (Solumon & Schrum, 2007). The learning activity must be of low threat and high challenge (Where Did the “12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles” Come From?). Yesterday I told the group of seventh grades they were charged with making digital posters to give tips to other students how to deal with emotions.  What challenges can we offer when we ask students to write an essay on leadership, a former President, etc?

3.     There must be an active processing of the experience in order to make meaning from the learning. Students need to know that there are multiple ways of making meaning. The teacher must rethink and offer multiple ways to students to tackle an assignment or tackle presenting the content. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple Intelligences should be in the forethought in planning classroom curriculum.

We understand the fact that student learn in a variety of ways, mainly because our brains are different. We know students process and understand information differently because our brains are different and we each bring different life and cultural experiences to our classrooms. This should matter to the teachers, but the old school of thinking we are back to school and back to teaching and not to back to learning. Teachers too are a part of the learning process. With technology today it helps us target the right approaches for each student.  (Solumon & Schrum, 2007) We have a tool that helps students analyze, synthesize, and communicate information. Technology offers ways to apply new pedagogy to make target auditory, visual, and tactile kinesthetic learners. We must find ways to take advantage of these tools. We must find time in our professional lives to learn these tools.

We can use targeted teaching methods to help students analyze, synthesize, and communicate information.  We can combine this with Web 2.0 tools. We know so much more today and it seems we are so far away from facing the truths in education. Eric Jensen wrote a great book Teaching with the Brain in Mind that offers more insight with the design of curriculum and teaching with the cognitive science in the forefront of our thinking in transferring brain research to the classroom. Technology and all the tools encompass ways we can move our students forward to the twenty first century.


Solumon, G., & Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0 new tools, new schools. Eugene, Washington: ISTE.

Where Did the “12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles” Come From? (n.d.). Retrieved September 5, 2008, from Brain Connection:

Making Mind Maps/Graphic Organziers

If you don’t have access to software like Kidspiration or Inspiration that is designed to make mind maps, I have some options for free and limited use tools that you can use without buying anything extra or paying a fee for a service. Each of the tools listed below includes all the basics you need to create general mind maps:

  • Free Internet tool, supports collaborative mapping
  • Ekpenso: Free Internet tool with Google Gears and Adobe Air versions
  • FreeMind: Free open source tool, once installed does not require Internet access
  • Mindmeister: Free Internet version allows 6 maps, supports collaborative mapping
  • Wisdomap: Free Internet version allows 3 maps
  • Mindomo: Free Internet version allows only 7 private maps (unlimited public maps)

(Attributions go to NCTE InBox Blog at

The above tag cloud was created by Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

(Attributions go to NCTE Inbox at and

Blogging in the Third Grade!

I found this over at Always Learning with Kim Cofino a post called “Blog Pals: Adventures in Blogging with Third Grade” and “Learning to Blog: The Elementary Way.” These are two great reads for figuring out to start a blogging project in your classrooms.   Anne Davis has a fantastic WebQuest: Blogging: It’s Elementary! can be adapted in middle school as well.  I think it will be interesting to follow Kim’s story.