Saturday, April 08, 2017

Using Blog Tools Since 2006

Recently I asked my graduate students to share their experience with digital portfolios. I would have to say that my experience started in the late 90's when we first learned how to publish on the web using HTML and FTP, but in 2006 when I discovered blogging tools I quickly knew that a new digital portfolio platform had been born.
My  love for blogging tools as a digital platform started back in 1999 when my students started exploring digital tools to keep track of their learning using tools like Live Journal and Xanga.  We (my students and I) loved exploring  new tools.  We had been using web design tools to document our learning and create web sites about our community for a few years.  I remember one student claiming that she could FTP in her sleep!  

With the introduction of blog platform tools like Live Journal and Xanga came an ease of use for adding chronological entries and publishing them on line   that lent itself to journaling. While my students were finding ways to use these tools for their personal journals using LIVEJOURNAL.  I immediately thought of the various ways this could support learning.   
We used Xanga to document our progress on group projects and set goals for each day.  I must admit that I had to ‘nag’ a bit to get them to  close up shop 5 minutes before the end of the class to update their progress on our project blog.  It was more of a project management tool at first.  

Then in 2001, I took on a teaching assignment that took me off campus for a year to work on professional development as a lead teacher.  The teacher who took over my job was new to teaching and a little unsure how to handle the independent study classes that my advanced students were scheduled for.  I offered to mentor their independent projects from the road.  The blog platform and the routines we had for using them made this possible.  The relationship we had built over the years also helped!  We also scheduled some synchronous chat times.  

CC Wikipedia
It was during one of those early morning chat times (around 9 a.m.) that the phone rang. I answered the phone to learn that the a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. I turned to my computer and entered  the following into the open chat window .. “Turn on the classroom TV”.  
(Each classroom had a TV with Cable News available).  While someone turned on the TV in the classroom, others were looking for news online.  One website after another stopped responding from overload. Eventually some web masters figured out that if they shut off pictures they could better serve the demands on their sites and keep providing updates. My students and I would update each other via chat as we discovered updates on those sites… soon the chat window went quiet.  I looked at the time and realized the bell had rung and they were off to their next class.

That night each of their blogs contained so much more than progress reports. They contained reflections!  It was  early in the school year and I had not taught them how to add images yet (which actually required some technical skills back then) -- that day ONE young lady’s blog was filled with pictures she found online  and one line  “Words Cannot Describe”.  She was not one of my most tech savvy students,  but that day she was motivated to figure out how to reflect in a way that was important to her.

I really do believe that blog platforms create new ways of doing things that were previously not possible.  Ruben Putendera would call that TRANSFORMATIVE on the SAMR Scale.

As more and more people started using BLOGS to express opinions,  I started to think of a Blog Platform as much more than a rant or opinion easily published online.  In 2005, I did my first Inquiry Action Project taking a look at the roles of blogging in education.   That year I presented  a session on blogging at VermontFest - our state ed tech conference.  I didn’t use PowerPoint as my platform-- I used a blog, of course.

In January 2006,  I decided it was time to transition my portfolio/web site to a blog format.

I remember noticing the blog tool - TYPEPAD after I saw Guy Kawaski pick TypePad to enter the world of blogging.

So instead of picking the free options available, I shelled out a few bucks and decided to get serious when transitioning my portfolio to a blog format.  

 I’ve been shelling out 4.95 a month for over 10 years to Typepad for my Learning With Lucie space and it feels like I can’t just stop with fear of losing years worth of reflection and documentation.

That same year I was even invited to join some amazing educators to contribute to a group blog called The Infinite Thinking Machine sponsored by Google and West-Ed.  
That experience transitioned me from using a blog platform for various educational purposed to actually writing regularly as a BLOGGER using BLOGGER!  It was a dream come true -- really it was.   Blogging made it possible for me to express myself to an authentic audience (the way I had dreamed about in high school when I wanted to write magazine articles for a living.)  

Fast forward over 10 years..  I still think that blogs are one of the most versatile tools around...  

and currently I’ve used Blogger as a  free tool for over 100 projects ranging from my own professional reflections to student mock portfolios. This post is the beginning of a short series that will share a few of my favorite tips for using Blogger as a digital portfolio. In the next post, I'll share how to use tags effectively to categorize post and to create additional pages on your blogs. In a few post we'll even learn how to change the landing page for blogger and to automatically sort all your post so they appear on individual pages on your digital portfolio. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Embracing Change

This week I am leading a dozen members of my Educational Technology Leadership class into a new venture for most -- participating in a Global Conversation about Innovation through the second #IMMOOC around George Couros' book Innovator Mindset. 

Since I've never lead anyone into anything I was not willing to do myself, I, too, will be participating as a member of the second #immooc.

This week we were given several prompts to consider in our weekly blog post;  I immediately gravitated towards this one -- 
“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”  
How are you embracing change to spur innovation in your own context?
The problem was not what to write-- but how to narrow down what I would write about!

Let me start by describing my "own context"!

Four years ago I gave up my apartment and moved into a 1983 Blue Bird Bus.
Sometimes I blog about our journey at

I knew that I could not leave my lifelong career as a K12 educator, my community,  my friends and family, and my home all at once, so I decided to leave my job ‘inside k12 education’ a year earlier and become a free-lance educator where I would continue to work with K12 from a different context.

It was scary!

But since that day, I have spent more time in more schools having more impact than I could have possibly imagined.

Every once in a while I ask myself -- What am I doing?
Every once in a while I have to explain to someone who thinks I’m retired and wonders why I’m spending so much time ‘working’.

And honestly I’m still on a personal inquiry asking
“How can I as a  sole practitioner leverage my ability to be nimble and  partner with others who have more resources and position to make collective impact?”

Along with teaching a graduate course (sometimes two) each semester at University of Vermont and Marlboro College on various  educational technology topics, I am constantly looking around for projects that fuel my passion.   I borrowed the word ‘freelance’  from my two sons who are freelance musicians.  I learned from them that freelance creatives do some things for free and some things for free.  The challenge is to find the right balance!  And the reward is that you get to choose how you use your time to make a difference in the world!

At a time when some schools are trying to figure out how to include Passion Projects in their classrooms for one hour a week based on a similar practice in business called 20% Time --   I am fortunate enough to have found a 100% Time career as a free lance educator.

For example  this month I’ve decided that I would challenge myself to a personal 30 day blogging challenge  than I’m calling March is for Making - where for the next 30 days I will post a blog post that inspires educators to try maker-centered learning.

Another example happened two summers ago when I I asked myself

What if rural communities had a chance to discover materials, tools, and processes for including creating and making in their own schools or in their community?

Within two months  I traded in my Honda Fitt for  E.M.M.A. - a mobile studio for creating and making to do just that.

Probably the hardest thing for me is to answer the question "so what is it exactly you do?"

Because honestly,  sometimes I have trouble remembering which projects I’ve got going on, and it’s always changing!   I try to keep an RSS feed live on the right side of this blog and try to post regular updates on a blog for each of my projects.

...and hopefully at least one of those projects is doing something amazing for someone somewhere!

“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”
      ~ George Couros

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Writing to each students and to each other! Relationship, Resiliency, Recognition!

This morning I read Bill Ferriter's post challenging his readers to start every faculty meeting writing to students .  In his post  Bill suggest

....starting every faculty meeting with the same agenda item:  Writing positive notes to two kids that are hand delivered the next morning. ....
Imagine a room full of teachers spending a few minutes together reflecting on the strengths of individual students.  Imagine a building where written expressions of gratitude became a norm instead of an exception to the rule.  Imagine the positive message sent about priorities when writing to kids was the first thing done whenever teachers gathered together.  And imagine the frame of mind teachers would be in for the rest of the faculty meeting or professional development session after thinking about the kids that they serve. 
And THEN imagine the joy that would ripple through your building on the morning after a faculty meeting or professional development session.   
Have 30 staff members?  Sixty students are going to start the next day with a tangible reminder that they ARE successful learners and that their teachers DO believe in them.  Wouldn’t that make your school a more joyful place?  Isn’t that what we mean when we talk about building a community of learners?  Aren’t kids more likely to respond to hand-written notes from the important adults in their lives than to the PBIS points and trinkets that you are currently giving to encourage positive behaviors in your school?1
Check out the rest of Bill’s post  for some great ideas of how to put this ‘intent’ into action!

This post started me down memory lane about a few similar ideas I’ve seen implemented by colleagues or participated in myself.

Write to your students!  Build relationship with students!

I remember my colleague Paul Pollard.  He use to print out two sets of mailing labels with the addresses of each of his students at the beginning of the year and keep them tucked in his plan book.  He also kept some postcards size cards handy and he would  write out a few cards at a time throughout the semester  and mail them out until until the labels were all gone.  That way he knew that each of his students got a personal postcard from him with some positive thoughts every semester.

Write to your colleagues! Build resiliency!

Another similar memory I had was the year that our principal Marge desGrosselier handed everyone orange index cards.  She held up a blue index card and 10 orange index cards at the beginning of the faculty meeting.  After sharing research that suggested that it takes 10 positive statements (orange cards)  to offset the feeling of 1 negative comment (blue cards).  She challenged us to fill each other’s mailboxes that year with orange cards.  It was super awesome all year to get an appreciative comment from a fellow staff member in my mailbox at unexpected times during the school year!  I believe that the theme for the school kickoff that year was resiliency - and the orange cards were a tangible ways for staff to help each other become more resilient.

Encourage students to write, too! Help them show appreciation and recognition.

Finally, I reminisced  about one of my favorite learning activities, each May.  Every time National Teacher Day approached, I took the opportunity to review letter writing formats and asked each student to write an appreciation letter to a teacher that had a positive impact on their lives. This was one assignment I loved correcting! Basically students revised it until it was mailable.  

Sometimes the letters were to someone in the same district and the letters went out via interoffice mail. Sometimes the letters were to someone the students had as teachers a decade ago or more.  I would do my best to help track the teacher down and mailed out every letter I could.  There were so many ‘wins’  to this activity from academic to socio-emotional.  And quite often I would have a student share in delight that they got a letter back!

Thanks Bill for a walk down memory lane!