Virtual Backyard

July 22, 2008

So, yesterday I told you a little about my own physical backyard. Today, I’ll take you into my virtual backyard. I suppose you could try to explore this on your own by strolling through my blogroll; however, I’m not sure that would tell you the true story. Many of us have blogrolls and bloglines that go on forever, but what are the five sites or blogs that you consider to be the backbone of your online life or learning. Here’s mine.

National Writing Project website As as National Writing Project teacher and leader, and the professional development coordinator for my local writing project site, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project I visit both of these site pretty much on a daily basis for communicating with colleagues, finding resources and building new programs aimed at building teacher learning and leadership to improve learning in our nation’s classrooms.

Kevin’s Meandering Mind [email protected] Kevin is a colleague of mind who remains one of my best online mentors. I go to Kevin’s blog to learn about new technologies, the ways technology can be used in the classroom, neat tools, interesting educational reflections and conversations, and inspiration from his writing, poetry and music. And Kevin is who brought me into the blogging world. A huge resource for me.

Author! Author! When I’m looking to learn about the writing and publishing world (which I always am) I go to the no nonsense blog of Anne Mini. So, if it is information and guidance about agents, manuscripts, queries, or the synopsis your looking for, here’s my number one resource. She’s helped me write a great query and synopsis–or say the agents! Still waiting for the same response to the writing in my novel!

Planet Esme is the place I go to learn about new books for my reading world.  Since I write for children, I spend a lot of time reading children’s books, especially middle grade novels.  But this great resource also points me in the direction of great resources to share with the hundreds of teachers I work with.  Check out her Book a Day blog  And don’t forget about The Fire Escape by author Mitali Perkins, a great resource and exploration of children’s multi-cultural literature.

CISA (Communities Involved in Sustainable Agriculture) is my online resource for buying local, for food festivals in my area, and for linking to my own CSA farm Simple Gifts where my purchased share brings local, organic food right to my table every week during the late spring, all summer long and right into the fall.  Be a hero, buy local.

So, there it is, my online backyard that supports and sustains my online world.



July 16, 2008

I’ve been struggling with my ability to blog lately. Mostly, this is due to the fact that I don’t consider true blogging just writing posts on my blog, but visiting other blogs, commenting and learning from a community of learners. My problem, is I start visiting other blogs and they bring me to new places and before I know it two hours have passed. I’ve sunk into the broad and deep world of bloggers and that leaves me less time to learn from the people directly and physically in front of me. So, here’s my new experiment: speedblogging. I’ll post for 5 minutes a day, visit one blog and comment and be done. Will it work? I’m fairly forgiving of myself, so even it this gets me back here once a week, I’ll be happy.

Blog Promotion

October 12, 2007

I do a lot of thinking about marketing in my field of education, so I love this stance on blogs. Interested in learning more about how to promote your blog? Go on over to Motherread and read the suggestions she made in a recent presentation at the Kidlitosphere Conference. As I continue to explore blogging, here’s one of her suggestions I’m working on:
A Particular Niche: Children’s literature is already a tight topic area, but you’ll stand out if you have a niche. Think about what unique perspective you have to bring to the table.

Blogs for Books

October 12, 2007

Check this great resource compiled by Esme Raji Codell over at Planet Esme! A list of blogs about books and reading put together after her attendance at THE KIDLITOSPHERE CONFERENCE which was an opportunity for book-loving cyberspace folks to come together and figure ways to best share information on the art of book-sharing online through blogs, podcasts and more. More about this event over at Planet Esme.
Mother Reader

Big A Little A

Just One More Book

Jen Robinson’s Book Page

What Adrienne Thinks About That

A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

Book Buds

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Wizards Wireless

A Year of Reading

The Edge of the Forest



The Miss Rumphius Effect

A Fuse #8 Production

Jacket Flap

Three Silly Chicks

Chicken Spaghetti

Purled Pouches and Things Unstrung

The PlanetEsme Plan

Happy Reading and commenting!

A new look!

September 11, 2007

I’m trying out a new look here at my blog!  I’ve spent more time than one can imagine exploring the different presentation options.  There always seems to be a choice to be made between format and function.

Blog Day

August 31, 2007

What better day than today–Blog Day–to return to blogging after my summer hiatus. I really did as I hoped by pulling my nose out of the computer this summer. I dug my hands into some dirt, spent time in personal reflection with some good old fashion pen to paper journaling and reconnected with friends by writing real letters. I love the power of blogging–collaborative learning and reflective writing, but I needed this break.

Blog Day asks that we visit 5 new blogs and post comments especially seeking out those bloggers with different view points, attitudes and cultures. So, the adventure begins . . .

I’ll begin by visiting Editorial Anonymous which isn’t completely a different view point for me, but if I start searching randomly for a blog I’ll be on the computer all day. This summer I’ve been trying to secure an agent for my middle grade nove, so anything to do with the business side of writing is of interest to me right now. What caught my eye here is the conversation going on about what a publisher’s marketing of a book really looks like.

From here I followed a link from this blog to Book by It’s Cover. This blog highlights all the books the blogger notices and collects. The design of the blog is beautiful. I especially enjoyed looking at the Moleskin pages under the heading of Handmade books. I’ve run into these out there in the blogging world before; artists post their moleskin pages of art up on Flikr. I love the opportunity to peek inside notebooks whether they be filled with words, doodles or art!

Off to a new realm by following a link on Book by It’s Cover, I ventured into Cartoon Brew. I mean, who wouldn’t follow that link?! Here I was introduced to Dutch animator and illustrator Fons Schiedon and his fascinating animated short called Teen Facts–Hormones which implements a great split screen technology. Check it out! Just yesterday, my son came home from his first day of high school at the school I used to teach at and showed me how he had the same book as Andy Cahill, one of my former students. My kids have seen his animated shorts, which as a high school student were amazing and I’ve always predicted that he’ll be winning awards someday. He used to write about his process and come up with ideas in his open journal for my english class. No website yet. Hmmm.

Off to Animation Podcast where it was fascinating to read in Notes about the animation creation process and think about its connections to the writing process. The podcasts here are really fascinating as well and extremely well done. Anyone interested in learning through modeling about podcasts should think about visiting this blog. Great podcast voice, as well.

And finally because I have friends and colleagues exploring more ways to use stopmotion and claymation with kids in their classrooms, I take you to AnimateClay which highlights lots of films and was the only place I could get to easily from this blog. And there’s no place to post a comment. Since I’m 2 hours into this project (see, I’m a slow navigator and get pulled into the blogger muck and can’t get out!) I’ll bring you to the folks over at TechStories. Check out their ABC Project in Digital Storytelling. I hadn’t seen “O is for Oliphaunt” yet by Peter Kittle and I enjoyed following his own learning, reading and creation process through this story.  Enjoy!

And I’m done!  Off to my real job.


April 30, 2007

My National Writing Project colleagues are engaging in a shared digital storytelling venture. They’ve divided up the alphabet and are creating digital stories based on these letters. You can hear Kevin explain this joint venture, The ABC Collaborative Movie Project, on Voice Threads. And check out Kevin’s contribution to the project on the letter “Z.”

While exploring these creations on the Tech Stories blog, I ran into this video of Ira Glass talking about storytelling. Kevin suggested that it might help them as they create their Alphabet Stories. It’s actually quite interesting to listen to because he talks about how telling a story for radio or TV is quite different than what we were all taught telling a story was in our H.S. English classes.

He suggests, there are two basics–the anecdote (a sequence of actions) and a reflection. I couldn’t help thinking that there are some similarities there to blogging. Blogging quite often is a sequence of thoughts, that build on each other, often spurred from another’s thinking on their blog or (like this blog entry, my thinking spurred on by listening to Ira Glass’s thinking that I stumbled upon through Kevin’s thinking) with reflection. I’d like to suggest that the best blogging entries include both as well! A good story, built on a sequence of thoughts, followed by reflection. Not just the thinking. Not just the reflection.

I’m ready to go out and buy a mini portable video camera and jump into this exciting world of digital storytelling. Although, as you’ll notice when you view some of the other Letter movies, digital storytelling can be done with still pictures as well. These folks have links to some great tutorials. So, come along! And check out these links and kid digital stories at Lakeland Schools, WOW! My favorite is The Phone Call on the Streetside Stories link. Now, that’s some kinda voice!



April 28, 2007

I’m here at the Planning Your Site’s Web Presence: A Working Retreat and I’m showing Pat how to write a post to my blog.  She should really read Kevin’s blog if she wants to see some really great thinking.

Happy blogging!

Thinking horizontally and vertically

April 24, 2007

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.I’m reading Will Richardson’s book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms which my colleague Kevin brought back from the National Writing Project’s Tech Matters Summer Institute. And, it’s compelling me to writing down the thinking I’ve been doing as I wade through my own personal learning process as a blogger.

When I first heard about blogging, I thought it was simply a tool to allow people to journal online. I had no interest in sharing my own journal writing with a public audience. After all, isn’t that what makes journaling its own specific genre? It is writing for yourself. My next understanding of blogging came when I began to see that a blog could be used as a website that allowed for easier editing and updating. That, however, seems to be a use of the format of “a blog” which is quite different than the actual act of “blogging.”

But, now that I’ve been reading educators’ blogs and blogging myself, I am realizing the full potential of this new form of writing genre. Blogging offers the opportunity to engage in shared inquiry and learning. I realize that I am constantly thinking of my audience and purpose as I blog.

  • Is there something for me to learn as I put my words out there?
  • Does it invite others to enter into this learning process with me?

However, it is more than just the content that I put out there. The form is essential. I am constantly asking myself:

  • How can I write this so that it connects with the people who can most inform my own thinking and learning?
  • How can I write this so that it brings me to new spaces for this thinking and learning?

And not just new spaces—as in new understandings—but new physical spaces, as in other people’s blogs, research, articles, websites that can further inform my thinking and learning. Hyperlinking to these spaces and attracting them to me (through tagging and rss feeds—which I’m still trying to completely figure out) seem to be essential qualities of this genre. In fact, Will addresses this in his book when he explains,

“Throughout this process, bloggers are constantly making editorial decisions, and these decisions are more complex than those made when writing for limited audience. Because students are regularly selecting content to include or link to, they learn to find and identify accurate and trustworthy sources of information” (31).

The exciting thing for me is that blogging constantly engages my mind in both horizontal and vertical thinking at the same time! Ah! If only my teachers had introduced me to blogging (okay it didn’t even exist back then) then we all would have been a lot less frustrated throughout my more formal education years. My mind naturally works simultaneously in both these directions. I’m not claiming to have absolute control over this process; in fact, it can be quite frustrating for others to work with me—whether it is in a strategic thinking meeting or collaborative writing process. Orally, it can be quite a challenge to follow my thinking pattern—even for me.

Here’s my theory: Blogging could potentially help train my brain. This genre of writing could help me gain more control over organizing my thinking. Ah, but you say, any new process takes practice. And I’ll be the first to admit—okay it is quite public—how little I’ve been actually blogging since I began this practice. However, what I’ve discovered is that since I’ve started blogging, my mind is constantly thinking in this genre. In other words, my mind seems to more often slip into reflective thinking with a public audience in mind in a hypertext format. Even when I’m not blogging, I’m blogging. This is not that different from what I used to tell my students who claim to be able to sit down and write a final draft in one sitting—you’re writing even when you’re not writing: in the shower, while your driving, on that morning run.

What blogging has also helped me do is to take more chances. I am more willing to put my thinking out there when I’m orally engaging with others—thinking that is in raw form, ideas I’m still trying to understand, theories that are still just sparks. Why? Because I realize that by putting them out there, I’m inviting others to comment, to question, to connect their thinking and experience with mine and therefore take my thinking further or perhaps even into new realms I couldn’t have entered on my own. So question my thinking. Challenge my ideas. Let’s get learning!

For more from Will Richardson’s thinking, read this interview at Steve’s blog.


Technology Autobiography

March 24, 2007

I’m in a workshop called ”Blogging and Podcasting” with Kevin, our technology liaison at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project.  And although I’ve already started blogging, I know I have a lot to learn!  Kevin has asked us to write our Technology Autobiography.  So, here it goes!  You can listen to an audiocast of my Technology Autobiography by clicking on the tech at the end of this post.

During graduate school, my job in Harvard’s African American Studies Department  brought me in contact with my first computer.  Thank goodness!  I can’t tell you how many late nights I snuck into my office to use the computer to transcribe all the interviews I was conducting and write all my thesis papers.  It quickly became hard to imagine all those undergraduate English papers I wrote on the typewriter–talk about a hindrance to revision! 

Over the next ten years, it seemed like every new teaching job brought with it a new wave of technology in computers.  Sounds like a great thing, and it was in many ways, but it also meant that all the teacher files I had created over the years were no longer accessible–stuck on floppy disks (real floppy) or on software that could not be transferred to the newest and latest technology.  Frustrating!  I still have all those old files on floppy disks and I wonder what they say?  One set even contains half of a book I started to write one summer.

While teaching in Seattle, I remember getting a computer from the school!  And it was portable, if you call stuffing a Mac into a 2 x 3 foot suit case (without wheels), throwing it over your shoulder and toting it back and forth to work, portable.  Of course, this was before laptops!  It certainly did help free me from those late nights and Saturdays holed up in my classroom.

Taking the next few years off from teaching proved to be a lifetime in the world of technological advances.  When I returned to Massachusetts from Washington and New Mexico, I returned to a world of email and internet.  Wow, did I have a lot of catching up to do.  I’m a pokey learner–but I’m learning.  Having adolescent children helps!  But my most important mentor in the world of technology is the National Writing Project.  Look at me now I’m blogging!  What next?!