December 19, 2014

A Gift to You: My All-time Favs

Filed under: about me,creativity,TeachersFirst,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:05 am

giftsAs I approach the end of the year and the end of my time as lead “Thinking Teacher,” I am using my gift-giving powers to share my all time favorite TeachersFirst resources as the “Featured Sites” for December 21/28 and January 4 (my last week to select the Features).  I don’t want to ruin all the surprises, but will open a few  presents a little early.  You will have to watch the Featured Sites or TeachersFirst Update for the rest. (New Featured Sites appear every Sunday, except when we leave them online for two weeks during the holidays.)

I had no stated criteria when I selected The List, just holistic, “gut” reactions.  With over 16,000 resources from which to choose, I knew some that were destined for The List  before I even started.  Only after The List was complete did I stop to analyze why I choose certain resources as all time favs. Three reasons:

  1. Some resources inhale me through imagery, color, and a powerfully visual interface. I am a very visual person and love a visual experience of learning, wondering, and creating.
  2. A resource that allows me (and all users) to be creative, not just witness someone else’s creative musings. If it is both, even better: a creative product that entices me to try my own.
  3. Intellectual intrigue. If it makes me ponder something I never thought about — and I can imagine using it to pass along a feeling of intellectual intrigue to my students — it is a candidate for The List.

There are other, less important criteria, but the really good ones have all of the above. Secondary factors include open-endedness,  tools or resources that are not “schooly,” places where the process of writing is a celebration and not a chore, places where history becomes real, tools so versatile they will never wear out, etc.

Bookemon made The List before I started. They may be selling printed books, but you never have to buy one. Anyone can make and share an online, interactive book. They added the EdCenter for teachers early on in their development, and they seem to be economically stable. Teachers need tools worth investing time in products without fear of “losing them.” I have made many books using Bookemon for both personal and professional use, and it is my go-to choice.

Inklewriter is a lesser known tool, but it has such potential for writing and creativity. I forgive them for not being more visual.  Inklewriter is a challenge to any digital writer: planning for branches and the logic of how readers will experience what you write.  I would have loved using this with gifted kiddos. Yes, you could create branched writing using other tools, but the inherent structure of Inklewriter tool helps you build a branching piece of writing and be sure you do not leave any “loose ends.” (Note I do not say it makes a branching “story” because it could make ANY type of branched writing.)

Lino is my go-to sticky note tool. Yes, many people know Padlet (once Wallwisher), but Lino had an app version earlier on, something I needed when I first bought an iPad.  Visual, collecting, color coding… enough said. I have been using it to prep new web content, brainstorm, plan for ISTE presentations, etc. for a long time.

Murally is Lino on steroids. I haven’t used it personally, but I’d like to. Collect and collaborate live with all types of media. What a great way to grab stuff, sort it, and decide what to do with it, all as a group. Now if these tools would just automatically add a field for CREDITS attached to the things we grab from all around the web, we’d be modelling good digital citizenship, too.

Others on The List for Dec 21/28 include more writing/word tools and three amazing map-related resources. I will not tell you about January 4. I can’t spoil all the surprises that will be online soon.

It’s been a great run. I will miss crafting weekly posts for you. Pay it forward.

As you start your New Year with the TeachersFirst Featured Sites, I hope you will resolve to model creativity, consider a visual approach, and inspire intellectual intrigue.  Thinking Teachers… Teaching Thinkers.

December 12, 2014

New flight plan

Filed under: about me,TeachersFirst — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:55 am

Take off. Soar. Land. Do it again. Such is the pattern of a teacher as we travel through each school year. Somewhere in the middle of each school year, the rest of the world celebrates the official “New Year” with resolutions, etc. We teachers — and our students — go right on with our flights into learning.

This holiday season, however, the New Year brings an entirely new flight plan for this teacher. My professional career as a longtime teacher and as Director of K-12 Initiatives at The Source for Learning will be making its last landing. I have filed a new flight plan for 2015. I am both excited and a little nervous to announce that I will be retiring as of January 1 to pursue the many creative endeavors that have always been pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. 36848050

I look forward to creative aerobatics in a wide open “sky.”  I expect a little turbulence, and I know my flight will involve much personal learning. I will miss more than I can say here. In my mind, I will always see the contrails from decades of terrific colleagues and amazing kids.

TeachersFirst will have a new “pilot,” and our team is ready. My successor has been chosen and is fulfilling her contract in her current school district. I know her well from shared activities within ISTE, and I know TeachersFirst will be in very good hands.

Thank you for making my nearly nine years as TeachersFirst’s lead Thinking Teacher a true joy. In my final blog post or two before I go, I plan to share a few “gifts” to keep you thinking!

November 7, 2014

Of birth dates and houseflies: Gaining a new teaching perspective

Filed under: deep thoughts,TeachersFirst — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:26 am

Every once in awhile, an experience slaps us in the face, screaming. “Take a look at the big picture! Get some perspective!”  It may be a reunion, a funeral, or even a web resource. Starting Sunday, TeachersFirst is featuring BBC’s Your Life on Earth, reviewed here. This clever interactive asks for your birthdate and some basic information (gender and height) in order to provide comparisons and measures of your life through the lens of our planet Earth.BBC EARTH

For some reason, I decided to try focusing on the lifetime of TeachersFirst, entering that TeachersFirst is female and of “average” height  for a teacher (5′ 6″). The results provide several metrics of what has gone on since TeachersFirst was “born” back in April, 1998: 

  • A house fly your age would have a family o6,135 generations by now.
    Interesting but not terribly meaningful to me. I am glad we have not seen that many generations of students. We teachers sometimes have trouble adjusting to the changes of just half a generation. 
  • Population has increased by1,268,481,846 since you were born.
    That’s a lot of new students for today’s teachers, all aged zero to 16!
  • The North American Plate has moved 2’7 (Actually, this is the measurement of the “seafloor spread in the Gulf of California, pushing the North American Plate in a southeasterly direction.”)
    I don’t think TeachersFirst can take any credit for this, though we do try to help teachers shift their thinking about how technology can fit into learning. 
  • The per capita global food supplies of bananas, apples, and eggs are way up.
    It would be nice to think that the students and teachers using TeachersFirst all have enough to eat, but I know they do not.
  • The renewable energy supply is up 50%, but 240.8 million acres of forest cover have been lost– in just 16 + years!
    So what will today’s kindergarteners see when they are 30?

TeachersFirst’s mission is to provide resources to support teaching and learning across all subjects K-12 and to help teachers envision and implement effective use of technology as a tool for learning. In a broader sense, as teachers we are all trying to empower kids to understand, sustain, and improve the world they live in  — and ultimately grow to lead.

I am grateful that people like the BBC occasionally remind Thinking Teachers of our mission. The questions and comparisons that grow out of a different perspective are something every teacher needs. Try entering the start date of your teaching career as a “birthdate” to see what has changed.

September 18, 2014

Hold the Gravy: An opportunity

Filed under: about me,SFL,TeachersFirst — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:15 am

Almost nine years ago, I allowed myself to consider the unthinkable. I allowed someone to “pitch” the idea of my taking a new job. I had left teaching once — years before when I moved across a state line and thought I would never go back. Within a few months, I was organizing all the kids’ activities at the neighborhood pool. It was silly not to get paid for what I was drawn to do. So I dove into another state’s bureaucracy and conquered the certification dragon. For nearly 20 years thereafter, I thrived, moving onto new and different teaching challenges every 8 years or so, but ALWAYS a teacher.

One of the things we teachers don’t do so well is to consider change as a real possibility. The cycles, routines, and pendulums of August to June, new kids to old kids, new school goals to forgotten buzzwords, and on and on hypnotizes us into gravy-like sameness. We pour on the gravy and never consider a whole new menu.

In 2006 I made a move that changed my life as a teacher. Yes, I am still a teacher, but I am also a teacher of teachers and a voice for many who never speak up. As the person who directs the Thinking Teachers of TeachersFirst, I advocate for what teachers need, listen to them, and most of all SHARE with them. I have met more people in the last eight and a half years than I ever imagined, many of them only virtually — but genuinely. I have grown, learned, learned, and grown. I learn something new EVERY day. I have been able to spread my creative teaching wings farther than the bald eagles who fly past my house each winter morning.

Now I share with you an opportunity to grow and learn. I hope you will read it, consider it carefully, and pass it on to every adventurous Thinking Teacher you know.



April 25, 2014

Make ’em laugh, make ’em listen?

Filed under: Ok2Ask,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:09 am

Forty five years ago, some educators complained that the people at CTW were ruining children’s brains by entertaining kids as they learned. The advent of Sesame Street and soon after, Electric Company, made skeptics question whether media and fun ruined attention spans and forced classroom teachers to become entertainers simply to be able to “compete” for kids’ attention.

Any middle school teacher will tell you that the best way to grab kids attention is to make ’em laugh. That started long before Sesame Street. If you want them to remember a grammar or editing concept, give examples that are funny:

Misplaced modifier: Throw me up the stairs a pillow.

Comma error? Misplaced adverb(?): I devoured my lunch, a sandwich with my boyfriend inside.

We all struggle to get kids to listen and pay true attention. The Southwest Airline flight attendant video that recently went viral is the perfect illustration of using humor to grab attention. Make ’em laugh, and you make ’em listen — at least for a couple of minutes.

Televsision was “bad” (read “change”) enough back in the day. Today we worry about what the Internet is doing to our brains and our students’ brains. Want to spend time doing many things and accomplishing nothing? There’s an app for that! Want to laugh while “watching” sobering stories on the news? Multitask! Write clever or meaningful tweets. Watch what’s “trending.” Text or message somebody. Scrape for laughs on top of laughs by sharing YouTube videos that make fun of your friends’ antics. Comment wittily. Comment acerbically. Did you forget what you were watching or thinking about? Exactly.

I worry about what multitasking is doing to my teaching colleagues’ brains. At TeachersFirst we offer OK2Ask® free online professional development sessions. We started OK2Ask over five years ago, and our audience includes many “frequent fliers” who come back, contribute, and learn. We also have many newbies  in every session. We are now discovering an increasingly disturbing trend.  Where teachers three to five years ago were extremely attentive simply figuring out how to chat or navigate a live, online “room,”  our attendees now fall into two groups: those grateful to interact in a live session and learn from other teachers and those who are obviously multitasking their way through the session time in hopes of collecting a professional development certificate. The frustrating irony is that if this latter group would listen at the start of the session or read the information and emails when they register, they would know what it takes to earn a certificate.
megaphoneDoes this sound like your classroom? If they would listen when you announce the homework, copy it down off the board (in the SAME place every day!), or even check the web site, they wouldn’t look at you the next day and declare, “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do.”

I want to say to the teachers who miss the 5+ reminders and explanations we give both visually and verbally: If you are going to multitask, do so wisely. You need to develop better situational awareness, the fighter pilot’s term for paying attention to what is going on around you (or placing yourself in grave danger).  If you don’t know to listen when listening matters, you are risking a certificate. More important, you are risking your own learning.

If we have to make teachers laugh to make them listen,  we’ll try that. But I worry that we have given in and that poorly attentive adults are the worst possible models for our kids. Online learning is an amazing opportunity to extend your learning reach, but it does require situational awareness and self-discipline. Should we make ’em laugh to make ’em listen? We will probably try it to see if we can avoid receiving emails three weeks later asking where their certificates are. But one part of me wants to scream, “IF YOU HAD BEEN LISTENING, you would know!”

In the meantime, if there are any budding comedy writers who would like to take a crack at a comedic presentation of our OK2Ask certificate procedures, comment here. I’d love to have your help.





January 24, 2014

R U an ETC? U R not alone, Part 2

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Ok2Ask,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:56 am

whistles2Last week I shared a list of ideas that came out of a recent collaborative  OK2Ask® session.  The participants, all edtech coaches or teachers who play a less formal “coach” type role with their peers,  chose the top  challenges from a longer list of possibilities and then shared ideas they have used or hope to use to meet those challenges. You can see  a recording of the full session  here (uses Adobe Connect). This post shares part 2 of their explanations and solutions, saving you the time of watching a recording. Like all of us, you probably value the  timesaving “executive summary.” Again, I offer only initials ( and state abbreviation the first time they contribute) to respect our participants’ privacy.

Challenge: Promoting tech for LEARNING, not tech for tech sake

CD (OR): you really have to model this for teachers.

DS (IN): With kids, you introduce technology and they FREELY explore. I help the teachers by having them watch me explore with their kids.

SR (NY): I want to ban the word tech and replace it with tools. We all use tools everyday in our lives, I want to be able to have all the teachers feel comfortable with these new tools.

RP (AZ): Ask them (teachers) “What are you going to do with that?”

NA (FL): I break down tech into teacher tools vs. student use for enhancing learning.

JZ (PA): I try to make sure what I do in computer class is connected to what they [students] are doing in some area of their curriculum, not just a “computer” assignment.

MB (UT): I get the kids hooked on the tools, then ask them how their teacher could use this tool.

JS (SC): Ask [teachers] why the “tool” is being used.

KB (PA): The pedagogy should drive the integration, not the technology. Eliminate the tool first approach.

LD (OR): It makes more sense to use tech within the subjects in the curriculum.

CD: I also think it is important that teachers are confident with the materials that they need to teach.  If they are trying to master their curriculum and use new tools, that can be just too much for them.

KB: Provide choices, selection.

MB: I used [a certain tool] with sixth graders last week, and they had a ton of ways they can use it in the classroom with their teacher. Luckily the teacher was listening :)

RP: Have follow up sessions where they [teachers] share how they used the new tools.

NA: Try teaching a tech elective [to students] using project based learning to showcase ways they can use technology in every core class they take.

JS: Spend several weeks of instruction on a tool — that gives teachers a better feeling about using the tool.

Challenge: Coaching during other major initiatives, such as implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

SR: This year has been very tough our teachers learning the common core.

Find ways to make technology help with that initiative so teachers can “kill two birds with one stone” as they adjust to the new initiative.

MH (PA): Digital writing is part of CCSS, so that helps.

Stephanie Ryall: Yes I think the common core will ultimately or already has created more use of the smartboards in our school because of the format the lesson are provided in NY. [helps teachers envision how they can be successful with both because the lesson plan shows them]

KB: Provide a pyramid approach for tools. One tool per year and it builds. In the intermediate/secondary grades the students have an arsenal to choose.

LG (MA):  Most teachers are apt to use what they know.

AQ (OR): Sometimes if a teacher can see the tool in action by observing another teacher use it in class or by having it modeled in their own class, they are more willing to give if a try.

CD: I think we also need to ask them what they would want to use if “it was easy”. Then you can backwards map it and teach them the skills they need.

Other CHALLENGES and ideas to motivate teachers

JZ: It is really important to be sure the technology works when teachers try to use it – a problem or 2 can turn teachers off from trying again.


MB: Modeling a lesson in the classroom first, then being there for back up when they are teaching.

Offer incentives and motivators:

CD: Teaching them all the ways to Google.  It blows their mind when they learn that all the information they want is there, if they know how to ask Google for it.

DS: A silly thing that I did was put a big smiley poster outside a teacher’s room that said “She did it”  after someone met one of my challenges.  Then, the kids would ask them why they got the smiley face.  The teacher usually beams as she tells her class.

KB: You could also use ClassDojo, a popular management app, to give  your teachers “tech” feedback. You can customize the behaviors. It sends emails, too.

SR: I have an idea for the teachers.  If they will Facetime with me I will answer their questions!!

Have competitions by hallway, department, or building. Who can have the greatest number of teachers implementing (insert teaching initiative here) using technology? Prizes? Food or release time or ??

MH: Funny how food works – lol

SR: chocolate

KB: You can buy chocolate computers or mouses online as fun tech gifts

What do ETCs WISH for?

We created a Padlet wishlist  from this session, and it is open for further contributions by edtech coaches by ANY title:

Join the conversation

Please feel free to comment here with your own edtech coach challenge/solution. I also invite everyone to join the ISTE SIGETC for our “Last Tuesday” Twitter chats. Simpy set up a search for  the #SIGETC hashtag! The next one is coming up January 28 at 1 pm EST. See the full schedule and transcripts here. Everyone is welcome, whether you are an ISTE member or not.

October 25, 2013

A TechToy Story: Why tech geeks fail and edtech coaches succeed

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Ok2Ask,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:48 am

This is a fable — of sorts.

After sharing the joy of figuring out a new tech toy for online professional development sessions, the tech geek (TG) and the edtech coach (ETC) stopped for a quick chat.

TG: Looks perfectly simple. Shouldn’t be any problems.

ETC: I wonder if the iOS app version looks the same.

TG: I’m sure it’s close enough.

ETC: Did we test to be sure the links in chat were clickable? We do send teachers off to explore things then come back to share a lot during these sessions. That gets them involved as learners.

TG: Who can’t figure out how to use a link?

ETC: IF the links are clickable, that’s great.

TG: They can copy/paste, can’t they?

ETC: I’ll have to test to be sure that the iOS copy handles are available inside the app chat box.

TG: I don’t have time to load an app just to check that.

ETC: I’d rather check now than start a session with people saying things don’t work. Do you know if the Android app looks like the web interface? Or the iOS version?

TG: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

ETC: I know some people have trouble using the little text selection handles to copy in iOS. And that’s if  the copy tool works at all in this app.

TG: Just show them how when they get to the session.

ETC: We aren’t screensharing from a tablet…. Wait, do you know how they enter a session if they are on the app version?

TG: No idea. They’ll figure it out.

ETC: Yeah, except for the ones who need professional development the MOST. This gives them an excuse not to try.

TG: They’ll get some kid to help.

ETC: I hope so. But this is after school.

TG: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

ETC: I’ll check both apps and give the hesitant teachers a few screenshots on our wiki — or email to them.

TG: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

ETC: I can see why they get frustrated when they didn’t even have the tablets to play with until the first week of school. I wish they’d take one home… Maybe I can host an online play session one evening and give them prizes for coming.

TG:  You’ve gotta be kidding me. You coddle them.

ETC: No, I respect them. I expect them to learn, but I know where they’re coming from. And every one of them is different. Like the kids in their classrooms.

TG: Kids aren’t that different. They’ll figure it out.

ETC: Glad you weren’t my teacher.

TG: Be a teacher?  You’ve gotta be kidding me.


Moral: Effective edtech coaching means constantly imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes. 

August 23, 2013

Funky Boxes: Embed widgets for learning

Filed under: edtech,learning,TeachersFirst,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:33 am

Unpack those funky little boxes. Embed widgets are a very handy tool for teachers.

The What of widgets:

Widgets are clever little gadgets you can add to your class web site, blog, or wiki using funky looking gobbledeegook called embed code. They are little boxes that automatically fill with content provided by someone else from somewhere else on the web. This means that your site can show something new all the time without any time and effort by you. It automatically appears in the little box (widget) on your  page/blog/wiki.

embedWidgets are embedded content, an empty box on your site that fills itself with “stuff” from somewhere else. Some embedded content is simply that: a piece of “stuff” that appears in your empty box but really LIVES someplace else on the web. It might be an embedded version of a video that actually “lives” on YouTube, like the one in this post. It might be the Google Map on a restaurant web page.

Widgets are a special kind of  embedded content because the content DOES something. It changes and updates periodically and automatically. The Cluster Map widget on the right of this blog counts how many people have visited this blog lately. The LIVE Feed one tells where visitors come from and when. Some widgets let the site visitors do something (see the weather widget below), but the site owner doesn’t do anything to make them work. They are embedded widgets that load content provided by someone else.

The Why of widgets (Why go through all this geeky stuff?):

You might be tempted simply because your students will say, “COOL!” That’s certainly OK. but move beyond cool to meaningful by embedding widgets that connect to your curriculum (weather, news from the country you are studying, phases of the moon, news about congress, quote of the day, reading tips, etc.).

The HOW:

HOW you embed a widget depends on both the widget embed code and the site/blog/wiki where you want to put it. For starters, try this blog post on how to embed almost anything. Often the site offering the embed code for the widget will give you tips and directions. But the place where you are going to PUT the code may need to help a bit. If you are using a school web site, try clicking help and searching for “embed.” If you use Wikispaces, they offer help when you click the little icon that looks like a TV set: Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 3.31.48 PM It even says “embed code” when you roll your mouse over it.

The general rule is that you need to COPY a chunk of code filled with  marks like <> / etc. and paste it into a place on your site that accepts CODE. On this blog, I have to click the text editing view instead of the visual editing view. An important skill for copy/paste is knowing how to select a block of stuff, COPY by pressing Control+C, (Command+C on a Mac), then PASTE in you desired location by pressing Control+V (Command+ V on a Mac).

Widget wisdom: Be careful who you trust.

One potentially dangerous thing about widgets is that you do not control what shows up inside that box. Make sure your widget is a trusted source. TeachersFirst recently introduced a Featured SItes widget for teachers to put on class, school, media center, or other educator web pages.  Those who know TeachersFirst know that our reviewed resources are vetted thoroughly by a team of experienced teacher leaders. In short, we will not embarrass you by sharing anything bad. We will enhance your web page with new, useful content every week, and you don’t have to do anything. See an example of our widget below, and get one for yourself here.

Want more ideas? Here are search results for the term widget on TeachersFirst. This barely scratches the surface of the widgets available out there.  These are a few reviewed sites that offer widgets. Add an embedded Google Map to your class web page showing the country you are studying or the route that a certain explorer followed. Here’s how.

As you get to like any site, watch for widgets they might offer.  Watch for cool widgets on other teachers’ site and click “get this widget,” usually offered below the widget. As your students learn new creative tools, watch for the ability to share their products using embed code— not a widget as much as simply embedded content, but it is YOURstudents’ creative work, pulled into your web page or wiki. You can gather tproducst from many places into ONE class web page or wiki using embed codes. The ability to share products using embed code is one of the Edge Features mentioned at the end of TeachersFirst reviews.

Just to get your brain going, here are some examples of embedded widgets:

Weather widget for world language teachers or classrooms studying geography, weather, or temperature conversions:


Here is the TeachersFirst Featured Sites widget looks, available here:

And here is a helpful Reading Rockets widget for parent tips, from among several options on this page:

Are you ready to widget yet?

August 16, 2013

A chosen few: A practical plan for personal PD BINGO

Filed under: edtech,learning,Ok2Ask,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:25 am

As the new school year begins, teachers attending OK2Ask® sessions are noticeably more stressed and overwhelmed. During these sessions, we share many, many resources and teaching ideas. We pack the sessions with choices: so many tools, so many interactives, so many strategies for organizing lessons that put technology tools to work for learners. Those of us who prepare and teach these sessions are steeped in the stuff. We can name (or at least retrieve) dozens of creative tools and strategies for any learning need : tools to make multimedia presentations, tools to comment and interact with peers, tools to learn about vocabulary and word choice, ways to improve digital citizenship. Honestly, even we are overwhelmed as we narrow down our offerings to fit 75 or 90 minute OK2Ask sessions with eager teachers from all over the world. Practically speaking, none of us can do it all. It is time to give yourself permission to limit your attention to a chosen few.

No, I don’t mean a few students or a few curriculum concepts. I mean give yourself permission to master a chosen few new tools and lesson strategies. Choose one– and only one –of each:

tool for collaborative writing

tool for graphic organizers

tool for sharing images and adding text to images

tool for “collecting” things like web links, pieces of text, images, drawings

tool for creating or clipping video

Is this enough? A handful is plenty. If you are in a BYOD school, you might want to find DATs (device agnostic tools) to do each of these so every kid can use the same tool and collaborate across devices. Or you can assign your students to find and learn one of each type that they can use on their own device. If you are using school machines and network, be sure your chosen few all work inside your web filter.

Then what? Make your choices meaningful by focusing on the learning instead of the tool. Challenge yourself to complete a chosen few “bingo” board that has five tools by five learning strategies that students will do (the possibilities are endless — I just chose 5):

Collaborate to create a group product

Prioritize/choose and justify choices

Practice and teach a skill

Publish, then respond to others’ reactions

Discover new information and organize it in an intentional, understandable way

Make a bingo board for yourself and keep it handy on your desk (or computer desktop). Or use this freebie I am sharing on Google Docs. (Open it and SAVE A COPY for yourself so you can edit.) As you plan an activity this year where students use one of your chosen few tools in one of the learning strategies, put a brief description of the activity  and date in the square. Aim for Blackout Bingo by spring! Think of it as your personal professional development plan. Happy New Year!

 Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 10.14.35 AM

July 12, 2013

Awesome Foursome: Writing ideas with a twist

Filed under: creativity,gifted,Ok2Ask,teaching,writing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:10 am

I must share this awesome foursome of writing resources that grabbed my creative eye as I prepare for an online OK2Ask session  in August. twist2

Gone Google Story Builder (reviewed here). Layer writing on top of digital storytelling about writing using this tool that plays back the writing and editing process as a video. Here is a tongue in cheek (?) example. Imagine assigning students to write s story about writing, portraying two or more characters in the process. Suddenly, the writing matters because we are highlighting the actual process of writing. But the metalayer is that we can “see” the persona doing the writing. What a wonderful way to make students aware of narrative persona and of the thinking processes involved with writing. It would be great fun for a student to show an internal tug of war as he/she writes, such as the impulse to be wildly creative and the impulse to please admissions committees reading a college essay. To actually use this in class, you might have to start by simply brainstorming characters who could be writing and editing a piece together:  a parent and a teen, Jekyll and Hyde, a dog and a cat, Hemingway and Dickens, etc. It also might be easier to make this a partner project. Then ask students to jump back and describe the message of the writing “story” they have told. Layer on layer…

Five Sentences (reviewed here). This is simply a challenge to become more succinct and get to the point in emails. Email is a boring old people medium, but it is also a workplace (and adult) reality.  It is a very practical way to focus writing for a purpose. Students could start with examples of long emails they or their parents have received, rewriting them in five sentences.  Then they could write their own five sentence emails for a real purpose. [Five sentence end here…got the gist?] Many web sites have “contact us” boxes with limited text fields, so the five sentence limit is good practice. Brainstorm things teens might be asking for: a refund, a replacement for a defective product, information about something, etc. Then have them write the five sentences. Make a five sentence rule for emails to YOU as the teacher, and promise to respond in five sentences. Do you think parents would comply?

750 Words (reviewed here) Everybody needs a place to mind-dump. This private space is a good one to vent, collect pieces of writing you don’t know what to do with, lines from songs you like, or angry words you should never actually send via email or text. If your students have email accounts, they can have 750 words accounts. These personal spaces are great for daily write-to-think time, but they are even more likely to be used if students have permission to write off topic at last part of the time. Instead of having them write for you, have them write for themselves.  Keep a class 750 words account where students can enter simply the TOPIC they  wrote about with their own 750 Words today. That list will become inspiration for others.

Quest (reviewed here) Write a game. A long time ago on devices with small black and green screens, there was a game called Adventure. Players made choices about their moves based on text descriptions of where they were and what their options were. The writing must be very clear and consistent, but the option to use vivid description and clever plot twists makes text-based game-creation addictive. A science or history teacher could incorporate writing and gaming to reinforce concepts. For example, a game written by students could include accurate geologic formations or chemical reactions. A game set in a certain place and time in history could include encounters with actual historic figures. This seems a perfect collaborative task for a group of 2-3. Just realize that it could spin into weeks of game obsession. Got gifted? Toss this one at them as a way to use what they know and write their way much further.

I love summer for getting the creative juices flowing.