Refresh and #C4C15



Refreshing this blog after stumbling on the fact that one of my PLN friends, Matthew Brewer, is a Teacher of the Year for Washington State! That’s awesome!  But what’s more important is what that means: it means he has important things to share about teaching and learning.  Please read his blog here: Learning by the Lake.

In Customers or Products, he reminds us that education is about the student — and the passions and talents that are their potentials for our futures as well as theirs.

Schools exist as a means to give students the opportunity to experience a myriad of different opinions and points of view as they discover their own natural passions and abilities.

Think about that. I know those in my PLN who live this — their #geniushour programs promote it.

And how about this idea from the same post:

…build a generation of careful and critical thinkers who have tried and failed just enough to know what they can and cannot do and aren’t afraid to push their mental and physical limits. We need students who can identify in themselves their own passions and convictions and can pursue those passions and voice their convictions with energy and enthusiasm.”

I agree completely, and hope that in our work together, that my students find their interests and strengths, passions and talents. I offer choice and team projects based on focus statements that allow students to ask their own questions.

And this idea is something I’m working on

Education is individualized as much as possible

and assessment is a conversation,

not a spreadsheet.

It is the conversations that encourage students to improve, when our class work is valuable enough that students want to improve.

Our Google Apps allow that conversation to continue online through peer and teacher comments on student work, offering feedback on what is done well and suggestions for what could be better. The focus is on the work, not a grade. I’ve also changed my rubric, which I’ve blogged about here [ Ideas for Rubrics: Feedback ].  I think of above and meeting standards as an “I see” comment and below standards as “I suggest” comments. From the comments and conversations, students understand exactly how to improve and revise. My assessment is conversation, not spreadsheets, and my students learn by doing, not “getting done.” My students and their learning is not finding facts, but is finding focus. And it is through that focus that students discover not just a “how to,” but also “how I believe.”


Congratulations, again, Matthew, on your work and the recognition of that work as “Teacher of the Year.” I’m thankful to be inspired by you.


This post is part of

Ben Wilkoff‘s #C4C15 Comments for Community Project

Join us and Extend the Conversation – Jump In!

"Extend the Conversation... Have you joined twitter? Are you lurking on the sidelines to learn from others? Are you retweeting?

Have you started blogging? Are you participating in the Connected Educator’s Month Blogging Challenge? Between tweeting and blogging, I know have many new friends and colleagues all over the world, including Denice Krebs, and my life has been energized ever since.

Denise and I have collaborated with our classrooms and students. Whether it’s blogging or Google Docs, our students have been connected, and we as teachers have reflected on how access to the Internet and technology has improved both our professional and our students’ lives.

We have created and curated a Flickr TFotoFri group … but there’s so much more to share about our stories:

How do you become a connected educator — and why?

That’s our next project: sharing our story of connection — and how you, too, can become a digital learner, a connected educator.Thanks to Karen Fasimpaur at P2PU for encouraging and sponsoring us.  Join us this Saturday, August 18th at 10:00 AM Pacific and 1:00 PM Eastern for Connected Educator’s Month to learn how you can Extend the Conversation. Denise share’s a bit here: Join Us! and here are two trailers to pique your interest:

Will you join us?

Cross-posted at NSD21

Five Questions About What Else–

Question A Blog


1. Why did you start this blog?

I teach writing, and what better way to teach writing than to write for others — for real, and not just for “teacher.”

With the world moving into online openness, I also realized my responsibility as an educator was to guide my students into this world so they could traverse these trails with dignity and respect — of, by, and for them. Words by themselves can be misinterpreted, so thinking carefully about the message is important. We stress that in our “Net Etiquette.”

2. Your first blog was August, 2007. What challenges have you faced to “kick start” your blog?

Time and Habit: At that time I was a complete newbie, leery to jump into something without being an “expert.” it took encouragement and many discussions through webinars, twitter, and email with a growing Professional Learning Network to convince me to just start the habit.

Purpose: Why should we blog? How should we blog? These questions I pondered for a year, and the resulting reflections with the help from people I listened to in Classroom 20 Live Eluminate sessions and Teachers Teaching Teachers provided encouragement and information, especially the work of Clay Burell, Paul Allison, and Sue Waters. From these, I organized the blog themes and pages and developed our guidelines and pedagogy.

Format: Do I have a class blog or individual student blogs? The answer to that question has evolved. First, I blogged. Next, older students occasionally blogged (book reviews and reflections and at Youth Voices). Finally, with an energetic group of fifth and sixth graders anxious to share with the world, we started class blogs at the end of the year ( Fifth Tween-Agers and Native Views ). As you can see, several platforms are available.

3. That sounds like quite a journey. What advice do you have for other teachers?

a. Just do it.

b. Start blogging with your students; no one is an expert.

c. Choose a starting point that fits your time and structure: i) class blog to which students only comment; ii) class blog with students also posting; iii) teacher blog and class blog for student posts; iv) individual blogs.

d. Think topics: current events — a great place for students  is tweentribuneStudent Journal

e. Lastly, but most importantly, give your students writing journals. Encourage their stories, poems, memoirs. Let them write every day at home and school. Let them decorate them. Celebrate what they write well  — a great verb, a powerful description, a clever phrase. Allow them time to “comment” on each other’s journal entries, just like a real blog. Powerful. Low tech moves to high tech.

4. On what topics do you blog?

Ok. That gets back to purpose. So:

Look inside our classroom — Seeing is believing

Look at our lessons and ideas — What Else 2 Learn

Look at my class reflections — Ask What Else

Consider teaching ideas — Pause2Play

So many reasons to write: which will you choose?

5. What about this challenge? Why did you choose this?

We have a challenge to improve scores at our school. Writing is key to thinking, so if students can think clearly in writing after reading on a topic from class or of their choice, students should improve both reading and writing.

After playing with many blogging platforms, I found that Edublogs provides this supportive environment — for students and teachers — by offering the platform and the techniques for implementation. This is where my students can flourish in a safe, supportive, positive venue. I just need that push for my consistency so I can guide their consistency. I’m ready to get them started, so this challenge, shared with my students, becomes a model of learning for them.

I think I’ll ask them to write, “Five Questions About My ___[title]__ Blog”  How about you?

And, thanks to Kevin Honeycutt, I know I need to learn:

I Need My Teachers To Learn and here.

Kick Start Your Blog Challenge 1

Power: Compelling Collaboration

BeadworkHow powerful is global collaboration?  Sue Waters asks this. Even small projects can prove beneficial in more than academic ways.
I’ve just blogged a reflection on an ongoing project between my fifth graders in Nespelem, Wa and Kim Trefz’s fifth grade in Memphis, Tennessee to share the goals and results of a serendipitous Web 2.0 meeting of minds.  I read an intro to a new edublog on twitter, which linked to her classroom blog, which included a voice thread. I commented and we emailed. Twenty hours later, Kim and I had Skyped and decided to collaborate. We’ve centered our work around a wiki idea: Living History.  To meet each of our schools’ requirements, we’ve adapted as the needs demanded. We skyped an exhibition of our Native American dancers (please read blog) and bookmarked historical text and videos about our bands.  They researched and wrote about Memphis in wiki and Mapskip entries.  We then highlighted main ideas and commented with Diigo, and revised the comment in Mapskip. Her students are commenting back. Her reflection is here.

We’ll be starting up wiki collaboration after our respective Spring Breaks. It’s been an opportunity for both our classes to build commonalities despite our differences, all through the power of writing and learning with Web 2.0.

My eighth grade students respond to a mentor, preservice teacher from the University of Regina in Regina, SK, Canada who is creating photography lessons for my students.  We annotating pictures to add to a project in Youth Voices, a youth blogging site.

My fifth grade students watched the inauguration of Barak Obama and heard his call for service.  Therefore, we started a VoiceThread for which two other schools have now added their voice for “Mr. Obama, we can serve by…”

The sixth graders just started a mentorship with another University of Regina preservice teacher on newsblogging.

I became involved because students love the computer, and writing class is a natural place for being IN web 2.0 responsibly with its fullest capacity: text, images, video, design.

My students are more engaged in learning through the empowerment of a digital footprint with others so far away who have similar goals (writing to publish, service) but come from different backgrounds and experiences.  Because we live in a very rural area, now my students begin to understand similarities in a world of multiple perspectives; they think, care, and produce as responsible, digital citizens. These projects help meet our school mission: “to enable a child to become a thinking, caring, productive person using high academic standards in a positive learning environment.”

Flexibility is key to such projects, especially in the beginning, so that participants can engage while learning the schools’ required objectives. Dive in is the next key. Kim had not skyped before, but signed up that night, emailed me her name, and I skyped her to test it out the next morning, not knowing it was her staff meeting time. She introduced the Mapskip aspect to us.  It was an exciting adventure that just blossomed for all of us. Focus on the global: our overarching goal became sharing living cultures even though our vehicle is writing.

I recently sent this tweet to Kim, which represents the heartfelt side of these projects:

“ktrefz picture this: two of my boys -arms around each others’ shoulders – reading your kids Mapskip comments [back to them]; smiles; joy in their lives; thank you”

This is the joy of leading the change we wish to see in the world.  Powerful, isn’t it?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Gandhi


Much bolder projects others in which others have succeeded can be found at the Flat Classroom Project:

Find other projects at:

Teachers Connecting:

Online Projects 4 Teachers:

Commenting to our new friends

Better Letters

Congratulations Students!  You did it!

You worked well on your Letters to the President, researching issues important to you to find supporting evidence.  Not all of you researched in depth; some only summarized.  Even so, the work engaged you to draft, revise (several times), and edit well.  You met the deadline, and published.

Google Docs is amazing — great spell-check, ease of collaboration, and security.  I could see in your eyes and actions how you completed real work in a real world, real life situation. You accepted the role of concerned youth seriously.  This is what education should be: collaborative application of continuous learning

We wrote better letters than hand-written drafts because of the collaboration in a job-like setting.  It was — and continues to be — a wonderful experience.  I hope you agree (you can comment below 🙂

Links to our directions:

Links to our letters:

What else will we do? Our next projects: A Team/Partner effort to combine facts/text/media about YOU. Just in time for elections and a continuation of issues important to you.
I can hardly wait to read your new efforts.  You always surpass expectations — keep writing?

Tech Beginnings 1

The set up of our class wiki ( has begun and is ongoing. I created the project as part of PBWiki Summer Camp to promote the use of wikis in the classroom as a collaborative writing format. As a result, I am now a PB Wiki Educator 🙂 so if teachers or principals have questions/concerns/suggestions, please contact me. I’d be glad to hear your ideas or offer suggestions about wiki implementation.

PBWiki Certified Educator

One project for eighth grade will be “Letters to the President” sponsored by Google Docs and the National Writing Project. The goal is for students to investigate and discuss issues and concerns they would like the future president to address. Students will collaborate in Google Docs and write letters in Google Docs to be transferred to a website of participant’s letters. It’s a fantastic opportunity for students to express themselves responsibly and sincerely to possibly effect change in the future.

As the year started and students filtered in, the eager faces mingled with those students who are less concerned with education and more concerned with being center stage with inappropriate language and actions. I thought about the implications the work of often contrary students could bring to the project; would they continue their negative, distorted views? In the next instant, though, I knew that it is precisely these students who need the opportunity to participate. Their immediate issues and concerns can be transcended as the the whole class deals with and discusses issues of the community. How else will all the students become engaged responsibly if we (I) don’t invite all students? Our purpose and my stated goal is to facilitate student civic responsibility; I believe the students, all of them, will want their voices heard, and they can only be heard if they learn the protocol for responsible sharing. I share these feelings and concerns I have so my students know how carefully and thoughtfully I plan for their successful education and hope for their future.

So, students, what do you think? Are you willing to join students across the nation in “writing the future” by learning how to address concerns to a public persona with thorough discussion, research, and writing?