December 5, 2014

Awe lighting

Filed under: about me,creativity,musing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:04 am

Any adult over age 40 (yup, I admit it) has moments of professional pondering, musing about what  other career they might choose if they were 18 years old in today’s world.  Among many other diversions, I muse about whether I would have applied my creativity to the world of code. I wonder what it would be like to “make” a screen do what I want it to do. I imagine generating images, sounds, and experiences by describing what exists in my imagination through a special language called “code.” I am very good at the language of words, and the idea of another way of speaking and describing is intriguing.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 3.56.26 PMTeachersFirst recently featured Google’s Made with Code, and you can learn a lot about code from simply poking around that site. I especially enjoy the Projects area. Just in time for the holidays, they have a way to use code to “program” a set of virtual Christmas lights. They hooked me, for sure.

December 8-14 is the annual celebration of the Hour of Code.  If you have even ten minutes, you can make a tree dance with lights. Who knows what you could do in an hour? The fact that Google has the power to make it real by “publishing” your tree in lights on one of the state trees on the National Mall is — well, simply breath-taking.  Forget tree lighting at Rockefeller Center. This is tree lighting in our minds! Yes, Google says the project is for girls and for kids, but how will they know our age or gender?

Some things about creative coding writing that lure me:

The role of play and experimentation. Scientists talk about it all the time. Code lets you do it, especially when people like Google make easy access “code toys.”

Accomplishing a mission. Yes, it seems trivial, but making that light actually do what your imagination says it should do is a real rush.

Making it perfect. If you are like me, before you finish one mission, you have already thought of a way to make it better… and better… and perfect! In the process, you learn some more. Isn’t the iterative process of creating/testing/improving what we want all kids to experience, whether they are writing, drawing, code-writing, or presenting ideas about an event in the lab or in history?

Tolerating things that break. Seeing “oops” as a challenge, not a failure, is the resilience we all aspire to.

Serendipity. I never understood what that word meant until I experienced it and someone gave me the name for that experience. I was so happy to have a name for how I felt! Code gives us serendipity if we are willing to play.

A language we can speak without words. In school, I always saw math is a language, a funny way to say things quantitative. Code is a way to speak step-by-step and logically to describe an experience or on-screen event.

The role of awe. The word itself is simple, short … worthy of silence on either side.


When code works. It evokes awe. Little bits of letters and symbols can make THIS?

While it lasts, especially during the week of code, inspire your own awe. Muse visually with Google’s Light Project. If it is gone into Internet heaven before you read this post, you can always try one of the other Made with Code projects. You might even find that being a grownup is still fun. And maybe you will wonder what you would do if you were 18 again.

August 15, 2014

Ain’t Misbehavin': What teachers really do during inservice

Filed under: about me,musing,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:10 am

doodleI recently ran across both a post and an article that made me think about how teachers act during inservice sessions. I have decided that in many cases, what you see us doing ain’t misbehavin’ even though it often looks like it.  Mark Anderson’s ICTEvangelist  blog shares a guest post from Rachel Jones on the 10 Things all teachers do – even though they might not admit it. I enjoyed reading the UK equivalents of education jargon [see translations in brackets] and laughed out loud knowingly at item 4:


4 – All teachers – all of them – exhibit signs of what would be called behaviour management issues in very long INSET [translation for US teachers] days. I have seen some teachers looking very official taking ‘notes’ with their iPads when in fact they were tinkering on Pinterest or playing Minecraft. I like the irony that you can see everyone from PGCE  [translation for US teachers] students to SLT [speech and language therapists?] exhibiting signs that some would find ‘inadequate’ yet as professionals they are listening. Teachers can multitask. Fact.

Yup. Been there, done that. Until fairly recently, I was one of those “exhibiting signs that some would find ‘inadequate.'” Usually I was guilty of doing meaningful team planning with colleagues from other buildings while listening with one ear to the latest and greatest in behavior management plans or some other paperwork wonder. Did I master the paperwork? Sure. Was I misbehaving? Yes. Did I accomplish two tasks in one inservice session? You betcha. Even worse, I doodled.

Enter the best article I have read about thinking, focus, and memory in a long time. When I look at the notebooks I have from grad school, the notes I have from VERY meaningful and useful collaboration meetings, or even phone calls with my boss (whom I respect and love working for), I see doodles. One of the things I miss when I use Evernote is doodling in the margins (maybe they’d consider that for an upcoming version?). Doodling IS thinking, sorting, and connecting thoughts. It ain’t misbehavin’ ! The Wall Street Journal says so! Research says so!

Maybe we should have an inservice on Doodling. It’s a thought.


July 17, 2014

Do you think better barefoot?

Filed under: about me,creativity,deep thoughts,iste14,musing,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:30 am

There is a moment during July when the teaching idea valve reopens. To me it seems to be barefeettriggered by something totally innocent: the feel of cool tile on bare feet, the rush beneath the surface of the water as I push off the pool wall, the sound of a favorite song playing as I sing along in a convertible, the lightning bugs after the fireworks end. At first the valve seems a bit creaky, crying out for WD40 on the brain, but soon enough it lets ideas flow freely again.

As the school year drew to a close, the valve had pretty much seized up. Stuck. I was stuck. Even eight years after leaving the annual school year cycle and moving to a year-round, continuous job, my brain still thinks like a teacher. I talk and “live” among teachers every day, and I need the annual renewal of July. It isn’t so much taking a “vacation.” It is allowing myself to go barefoot in my brain. It is letting myself play with ideas instead of packaging them.

No amount of effort I make can force that moment to come. A fabulous experience like the ISTE conference is so manic it overwhelms. I have learned to “save up” everything I gather at ISTE like pretty shells from the beach. I know I must wait to sort them all out and organize them later… and THEN decide what to DO with them.

I note the feel of cool tile under my bare feet as I write this, and I wonder whether we ever give students a chance to notice what makes their ideas flow. Sadly, many of us don’t figure it out until we are decades beyond school age. I wonder what would happen if each if us spent just one class  period per year talking with our kids about things like the Creative Routines of accomplished writers, artists, and thinkers. What if we asked them to pay attention to what makes their ideas flow… and to ask questions like, “Do I think better barefoot?”



June 12, 2014

ISTE: To plan or not to plan, that is the question.

Filed under: edtech,iste14,musing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 2:35 pm

will-ISTEISTE fair, so overwhelmed am I
And wond’ring as Atlanta draws us nigh…

To plan or not to plan, that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the ISTE world to suffer
The slings and elbows of filled BYOD’s and Spotlights
Or to link arms against a sea on escalators
And by ignoring, defy them. To wander, to plan
No more–and thus by wand’ring seek ideas
Anew, and feel the thousand techie sparks
That ISTE’s known to light. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To learn, to steep–
To tweet–perchance to blog: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that steeping, plan-less blog what loss may be?
Could I have shuffled off and thus erased
My purpose in this techie learned place?
So I must pause. There’s the respect
That makes me yearn for sages of edtech.
For who would snap the fears and thorns of few,
As well as ISTE’s gurus — perhaps you?
The pangs of program app I must delay,
For insolence of tasks yet due TODAY.
That patient merit of unplanned bliss,
Shall en route to ISTE overwhelm
This mere munchkin in face of such uncertainty.
To grunt and sweat and plan again,
For that the dread of something I could miss,
The session skipped, and by whose words
This traveller returns, erased by will,
And makes me rather bear those things I plan
Than fly to others that I know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Wins o’er the lure of serendipity.
I’ll plan and fav’ with iPad armed with app
And Evernote the sessions all the days
And steer the course of action. — Soft you now,
Oh fair edtechers! — in thy Twitter catchers
May all our ISTE be remember-ed.

For now, the plan is void, the app eschewed.
But in Atlanta, I will be prepared!

If you didn’t figure it out, this is adapted from the text at

My apologies, Will.


Photo Credit: tonynetone via Compfight cc

December 19, 2013

Twelve Days of EdTech Coach Christmas

Filed under: edtech,musing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:30 am

12dayxmasEvery teacher dreams of Christmas gifts, and it’s not just sugarplums that dance in our heads. As edtech coaches, we often play the role of “gift givers,” especially during major rollouts. Of course, our “gifts” come with expectations and enticements — anything to leverage meaningful learning, emboldened and empowered by the tools of technology. So this Christmas season I thought it appropriate to imagine a tech-willing teacher’s Twelve Days of Edtech Coach Christmas:

On the first day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: an iPad just for me.

On the second day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: two creative colleagues and an iPad just for me.

On the third day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.

On the fourth day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: four helpful screencasts, three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.

On the fifth day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: five student geeks, four helpful screencasts, three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.

On the sixth day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: six kmz files, five student geeks, four helpful screencasts, three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.

On the seventh day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: seven YouTube channels, six kmz files, five student geeks, four helpful screencasts, three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.

On the eighth day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: eight Gigs cloud storage, seven YouTube channels, six kmz files, five student geeks, four helpful screencasts, three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.

On the ninth day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: nine PLN hashtags, eight Gigs cloud storage, seven YouTube channels, six kmz files, five student geeks, four helpful screencasts, three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.

On the tenth day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: ten Gmail subaccounts, nine PLN hashtags, eight Gigs cloud storage, seven YouTube channels, six kmz files, five student geeks, four helpful screencasts, three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: eleven Flipboard feeds, ten Gmail subaccounts, nine PLN hashtags, eight Gigs cloud storage, seven YouTube channels, six kmz files, five student geeks, four helpful screencasts, three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my tech coach gave to me: twelve new twitter followers, eleven Flipboard feeds, ten Gmail subaccounts, nine PLN hashtags, eight Gigs cloud storage, seven YouTube channels, six kmz files, five student geeks, four helpful screencasts, three freebie apps, two creative colleagues, and an iPad just for me.


(See you after the holidays)


October 4, 2013

Planning for OOPS with student double-agents

Filed under: edtech,musing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 4:56 pm

Teachers deal with the unexpected every day in every class. Somebody throws up, the fire alarm goes off, or the Internet goes down. If not something that obvious, perhaps half the students did not understand yesterday’s lesson or the copy machine broke down before you could run off the quiz. (Hope you aren’t using paper if you have 1:1 or BYOD computer access…) Maybe the entire cheerleading squad is released from class for pictures, and seven of them are in this class… so why start something new?

Broken coffee cup with spilled coffee on floor.Those of us who work with teachers as edtech coaches deal with the unexpected compounded by glitchiness, personalities, and — in some cases — fear.  So whether we are planning for a rollout of new technology or collaborating on a lesson idea, we must plan for OOPS. As an edtech coach, we should plan for different kinds of OOPS:

1. Teacher changes mind about priorities, objective, or date of tech event we plan to support (possibly due to aforementioned fire alarm the day before).

2. Students show up without devices or without their materials to do the tech project you and the teacher so carefully planned.

3. Kids outsmart the school-supplied device and prevent it from functioning as expected.

4. Teacher gets nervous or backs down because he/she has not fully “mastered” tech tool/device.

5. Tech support forgets to unblock the web tool you requested 6 weeks ago for access from student log-ins.

6. Principal announces this is his/her day to observe, and teacher drops back to a traditional, safer lesson plan.

…and the list goes on. Generally speaking, the larger the project and the higher the stakes, the greater the chance of OOPS. Take the case of Los Angeles roll out of iPads for every student. Kids see a new device as a challenge to their intelligence and deviousness. More than any academic benchmark or inspirational teacher, a new device is  motivation to really think through the possibilities and to problem solve until you can break it and take control over that which the authorities have tried to block from your control.

A savvy tech coach or planner will therefore start with two essential test cases: a very savvy kid and a very skeptical teacher. Ask them to describe and simulate the worst possible case of OOPS with the project you have planned. What could break? Can you beat this? Then ask BOTH of them to tell you how they would prevent that scenario from happening. What can the student suggest to defeat his/her clever peers? What can that same student suggest to the teacher to avoid his/her feared pitfall? Think of the POWER that student will feel while actually aiding the “other side.” It’s like using a double agent to defeat the OOPS. Having taught the gifted kids, I can picture the pleasure they would take as double agents.  Maybe you can start an OOPS Team of student double agents dedicated to creating and defeating scenarios in a team-like competition. Make it a new student club?

It’s worth a shot. What’s the worst that can happen? Another OOPS?

So ends another week with me musing — and being somewhat serious.

September 13, 2013

Wordplay: The Angry Birds of Language

Filed under: creativity,musing,writing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:55 am

Sometimes the simplest tools can be the most creative places to play and learn. The trick is approaching them with some curiosity and playfulness — making a game of it.


Try MoreWords. This very simple tool, apparently designed to help you cheat at crossword puzzles, word scrambles, and other word games, is also a lot of fun for finding new words and playing with letter combinations, prefixes, suffixes, and more. (You WILL have to ignore some annoying ads.) I tried entering crypto—— and found several new words all related to codes. What a great way for kids to get hooked on words. Try entering various numbers of blanks before a suffix or around a root. You could even make it a “gambling” challenge: I predict there will be seven words that have seven letters followed by the suffix proof. How many do you predict? Before we enter it, how many can you name?  OK, I was wrong in my prediction. How close were you?


Here’s another one: WordCount. It analyzes English statistically to tell us word frequencies. Sound like something Google would do, right? But imagine predicting or asking which word is used more frequently: wrestle (rank = 25905) or fight (rank = 1484) ?  (To enter a word and find its rank, click just to the right of  the tiny text “find Word” and type it in.) Think of other word pairs you might test. Ask students to choose one word in a draft they have written and suggest a lesser-used word to replace it. How do you know? Use WordCount.


Looking for more word fodder? Try Alan Cooper’s Homonym List. (What’s the difference from “homophones”? Click  Go to All About Homonyms to decide what to call them). This innocent looking, alphabetical list of homonyms begs us to write clever sayings, sentences, or tongue twisters. Can you figure out why some have red squares and some blue? This list could become a series of writing prompts. Choose a set of homonyms . Create a clever, visual way to show them in correct use in writing and show their differences, perhaps with images, comic characters, or even video.

If we gamify word choice and word study through wordplay, words can become as much fun as apps, and a LOT more productive. If all of us played with words as much as with Angry Birds, imagine how articulate the average American could become. Surely, there would be lasting benefit in that.



September 6, 2013

Speed dating: Meeting new tech tools

Filed under: edtech,musing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 11:30 am

24721077New tech tools appear at an astounding rate. (If TeachersFirst had a dollar for every flashcard maker, quiz maker, or memory jogger we have seen –and reviewed — in the past seven or eight years, we’d be taking the entire review team on a Mediterranean cruise this fall.) These days, many web tools are loss leaders to get us to buy the $2.99 app version — even when the web version is still free! Whether we meet up with new tools on old fashioned computers or on our tablets and mobile devices, these encounters feel more and more like speed dating. As teachers or edtech coaches, each of us has our own approach to our potential tech “dates.” Find your speed dating style here (or comment with another approach):

What do you do first when you see a new tool (or app)?

  • Look for and actually read the step by step directions
  • Watch the first 15 seconds of the intro video
  • Join, play, and defeat it
  • Try to use it in a way it was not intended
  • Try to break it
  • See how pretty it looks before proceeding
  • Wonder how they coded it
  • Name the seventeen others you know that are so similar it doesn’t matter
  • Flip its purpose on its head
  • Begin a sample called “test”
  • Make and send a funny sample project to a friend
  • Think of a lesson where you could use it
  • Add it to today’s lesson plans
  • Look to see how much “free”  is inside its “freemium”
  • Look for the teacher guide
  • Look for standards correlations (really?)
  • Look for Android/iOS app versions
  • Read the terms of service
  • Read the PRICING — first
  • Look at all the examples to see what it is used for
  • Check for obscene or inappropriate public examples and rule it out for school
  • Walk away when it asks for your email
  • Hypothesize how long it will last
  • Wonder how long it will be before Google buys it up (or stomps it out)

As in speed dating, we each bring different expectations and seek different kinds of enjoyment from the encounter. What do enjoy most about these first encounters? (Some of these have scary analogies with dating)

  • Figuring it out — and using it once
  • Showing a friend
  • Making someone laugh with it
  • Comparing/contrasting it with similar tools
  • Filing, bookmarking, or categorizing it
  • Tweeting about it
  • Laughing at the poorly translated English in the directions
  • Matching it to tasks you do or need to do
  • Adding it to your collection
  • “Pinning” it
  • Pondering whether it could be “the One” to change your life

Next time you face a new tool (probably sometime today), stop to think about your approach. Ask your students how they “meet up” with new tools. The conversations you may have about digital life could be pretty intriguing and branch into good discussions about digital citizenship and the role of technology in our lives.


August 1, 2013

Digital Immersion: A legacy of learning

Filed under: creativity,edtech,learning,musing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 2:28 pm

Our classrooms face the same engagement challenges that the Wall Street Journal describes at historic sites across the U.S. More and more, consumers enter school doors with digital devices glued in their hands or tethered to their brains. BYOD/BYOT (Bring your own device/technology) is here. Even if the devices are NOT officially allowed, they are here, hidden under desks or behind books.

Historic sites have responded more quickly than most schools. You can play a texting game in Williamsburg, scan QR codes to learn more at almost every museum these days, or load an app to let you interact while physically standing at historic sites. Curators and education staff worry about the invasive juxtaposition of technology in a Shaker barn and the constant need to update their apps to avoid appearing “outdated.” Teachers face the same concerns managing new technologies. If they believe they must “stay ahead.” they are doomed to fail. We will never “stay ahead” of  what enters the school in students’ pockets.

Historic sites must woo consumers to perpetuate their income stream. They face a digital challenge: “How do we continue to appeal to consumers armed with — and distracted by– devices? What activities and apps can we make that will engage them via those devices?” But schools are more or less guaranteed  our “consumers” for longer periods of time. We therefore have a chance to flip the digital challenge around, asking ourselves, “How can we make students active participants in making the ‘school’ experience one where we not only participate, but create,  leaving a legacy for future learners?” Historic sites have little chance for participant legacy beyond good reviews on TripAdvisor. The difference between a historic site “visitor” and our “learners” is the legacy our learners can leave for those to come.

As I read about the digital experiences at Williamsburg, I wonder if we could gradually make school a digital immersion. Imagine a classroom filled with QR codes — that the teacher does not have to make. The learners make them. Imagine texting games or QR treasure hunts that kids embed in the physical space of a classroom.  Image simple apps, games,  and interactive maps created by kids. As current technologies age, they could be replaced by later student projects. Instead of “turning in” student projects for a grade, we could “turn on” student projects for future audiences of learners. In many classrooms, teachers already have students creating digital projects. The missing step is making them part of a perpetual learning place called school.  Imagine how much harder kids would work for such a vast audience. It would be interesting to find out whether a seventh grader would continue to monitor responses that come in to his fifth grade game about Explorers or would monitor the number of times her QR Treasure hunt was accessed. I am not sure, but I’d sure love to find out. If I were in charge of a physical learning space today, I’d be one of the learners alongside my students, plastering it with digital experiences for any learning consumer who walks in.

March 29, 2013

Break: A marvelous word

Filed under: creativity,learning,musing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 12:19 pm

verb. to smash, split, or divide into parts violently; reduce to pieces or fragments
noun. a brief rest, as from work [Break definitions from]breakkey


Maker Dad tells of the strategies he and his son used in building a complex 3D printer, a task that spanned over 30 hours. I thoroughly enjoyed his account of persistence and challenge, tackled together with his 12 year old son. Why? Because he celebrates the importance of breaks. Breaks are time for incubation, refreshment, regeneration, reflection. Planned breaks are also times to savor the anticipation of returning to the successful portions. Breaks punctuate and act as expansion joints, flexing with the stresses of the task, while allowing it to fit together.

The marvelous irony/oxymoron of the word break is that it also means to smash, split, and essentially wreck things. Sometimes when we build something, we gain most from that kind of break: the moment when the Legos snap into pieces or the experiment doesn’t work.  Making things, even successful lessons or hands-on learning opportunities, requires that we savor the things that do not work, drawing from our failures to rise to better successes.

As we approach (or conclude) spring break, I hope that our breaks will be both opportunities to re-create  something new from broken pieces and opportunities to gain a brief rest, reflection, or incubation time for what is to come.

Spend some time looking at the definitions of break. It really is a marvelous word to hold so many contrasts in just five letters. Will your spring break make or break you?