Wednesday, March 31, 2010

DiigoNotes - State Leaders on Open Source

      • State Leaders Weigh In on Open Source Assessment

    • Open source assessments have great potential for cost savings, collaboration, and standards adoption, but there are also some perception barriers that stand in the way of wider adoption
    • From among the 43 state leaders interviewed, the company divided respondents into three usage categories: those from states with widespread online administration of annual accountability assessments; those from states that have experimented with online testing, with limited participation; and those from states with limited or no experience yet with online testing. The 38 organization leaders were categorized by the organizations they represented: associations, coalitions, and foundations; state and national policy organizations; businesses and nonprofits active in education issues; and universities and research organizations.
      • Perceived benefits of open source assessment:

        • Potential cost savings based on absence of licensing fees;
        • Common formatting, data standards, and development standards improve/would improve adaptability and, subsequently, efficiency; and
        • Collaboration benefits, including shared resources, ideas, testing standards, and even risks.
      • Concerns about open source assessment:

        • Possible hidden costs, including maintenance, technical support (sometimes a cost when using an open source product), product development necessary to make modifications, and ongoing professional development for educators using original and modified versions;
        • Perception of security risks to both source code and content; and
        • The potential downsides to collaboration, including lack of leadership, lack of alignment in thinking among those recognized as experts for the purposes of development and modifications, and both inherent and unforeseeable inefficiencies.
    • The greater a state's current investment in open source technology and its education leaders' and educators' awareness of what it offers, the greater the prevailing interest in increasing its use, in advancing its quality, and in becoming better educated about the technology and the content it propagates and has the potential to offer;
    • Education leaders need to be better educated about both the benefits and risks of open source technology and its related issues;
    • Quality, security, ease of use, and access to effective support are of far greater concern than cost savings to users and potential users of the technology;
    • Because effective evaluation of students' comprehension, progress, and potential requires more complex and in-depth assessment, in order for the education community to embrace the technology for the long term, it must evolve to include more than multiple-choice and short answer options
    • Many of the prevailing issues surrounding the use of open source technology for assessment can be addressed with strong leadership, reliable structure, and a well organized approach.
    • The complete report...can be found here.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

TCEA Adopts GoogleApps for Education

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More districts and organizations are embracing GoogleApps for Education for use by students and staff alike. Earlier today, I was thrilled to learn of the Texas Computer Education Association's (TCEA) adoption of GoogleApps for Education. Published Frequently Asked Question (FAQs) documents are well worth reviewing:

In a short email exchange today, Lori Gracey (Executive Director, TCEA) shared the following:
We were running Microsoft Exchange 2003 on an outdated server and had started having problems with our email system hanging up every two or three days. So we knew that some change would have to be made. Matt investigated the options available to us, which pretty much boiled down, after some discussion, to upgrading the server and software to run the newest version of Exchange or going to Google. While we were very familiar and comfortable with Exchange here and found that it worked well for us in the office, it was not a great solution for the board members. 
Plus there was the major expense of a new 64-bit server and the software licensing, along with installation and upkeep time. When Matt found out that we could, as a non-profit educational entity, use the education version of Google at no charge and with very little effort on our end to make the switch, it was obvious what we needed to do. Scott Floyd [White Oak ISD] also talked with Matt about what his district had done with Google, and that was the icing on the cake. So, to bottom line this rather long paragraph, our reasons for going to Google were:

  • Cost (free vs. approximately $10,100 for a new server and software)

  • Ease of switch-over (Google did almost everything for us and had it up and running in no time at all)

  • Ease of continued use (no support or maintenance required on our end)

  • Ability to access the resources anywhere we go

  • Collaboration tools for the board and staff
Coincidentally, Henry Thiele (Maine) shared some resources that are definitely worth reviewing:

Henry Thiele's (Maine) Examples on the Use of GoogleApps for Education:
Questions and Responses (click View):

Pretty nifty. If you're interested in GoogleApps for Education for your District, drop by the TCEA TEC-SIG Spring Meeting taking place April 22, 2010. That way, you can ask YOUR questions about why to adopt GoogleApps for Education for your organization of a panel.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Kevin Honeycutt in Texas

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TEC SIG Spring 2010 Meeting

With Featured Speaker Kevin Honeycutt

April 22 and 23



Registration Fee $50

Register online through April 19



Hilton Austin

500 E. 4th Street

Austin, TX 78701


The Hilton Austin is offering a discounted room rate of $129 for participants through April 1.


Make reservations online at the following link and use group code TEC.


Reservations can also be made by phone (512) 482-8000; use group code TEC.


AGENDA: (Draft as of 3/22/10)

THURSDAY General Session & Keynote: SALON C
  • 8:00 Breakfast and Networking
  • 8:30 Welcome and General Info
  • 9:00  Intro of Keynote Speaker: Kevin Honeycutt
  • 10:30-11:45 Breakout 1: Four Concurrent Sessions
  • 11:45 Lunch & Voting for New Officers: Salon C
  • 12:45 - 2:00 Breakout 2: Four Concurrent Sessions
  • 2:15 - 3:30 Breakout 3: Four Concurrent Sessions
  • 3:30 SALON C:  Closing
  • 8:00 Breakfast and Networking
  • 8:30 Welcome
    • Announcement of new officers
  • 9:00-12:00 TEA UPDATE

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DiigoNotes - Data Shows Lack of Technology in K-12 Classrooms

    • National Speak Up Study Released on Capitol Hill: Data Shows Lack of Technology in K-12 Classrooms Limits Access to Educational Resources & Discourages Student Engagement
    • A national survey of more than 368,000 K-12 students, parents, teachers and administrators documents the increasingly significant digital disconnect between the values and aspirations of students about how technology can improve the learning process and student outcomes, and the practices of teachers and administrators who are less comfortable with using technology in the classroom.  The findings of the 2009 Speak Up Survey, conducted by Project Tomorrow
    • In response to this digital disconnect, according to the report, “K-12 students are increasingly taking responsibility for their own learning, defining their own education path through alternative sources, and feeling not just a right but a responsibility for creating personalized learning experiences.”
    • Significant findings illustrated within the research report include:
      • Schools place constraints on students’ use of social collaboration tools within the schools, and students are not waiting for schools to provide the tools for their use.
      • While students are actively developing social-based learning skills outside of school, many schools are not taking advantage of either the tools or the students’ knowledge about how to effectively use these tools within the classroom.
      • Students are leveraging a wide range of technology-enabled communications and collaboration tools to build a personalized network of experts to create a more relevant learning environment for themselves.
      • Only 20% of parents correlate social collaborative tools to student achievement; however 60% of parents value the districts’ websites as their top choice for driving student achievement.
    • “As a result of the acceptance by parents of the value of the school website, these portals have a significant potential to be the forum for enhanced home-to-school communications and collaborations with the inclusion of some of the Web 2.0 tools already used by the students and parents,” according to the report.
    • “If we are serious – and we are – about getting many more kids over a much higher bar, we have to transform our schools and empower teachers and students with the best possible technology of the day,” said Cator. “Learning from districts about how they are using technology at the school and classroom levels is incredibly important – as we see technology offering unique opportunities to invigorate and inspire teachers and students.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

DiigoNotes - Interesting Book on Teaching Writing

This is a book I need to read! I find the idea of frames instead of writing process intriguing. Unfortunately, I couldn't download the podcast so will have to make time to play it online...I tried last week and fell asleep, but it was late at night after a long day! (smile)

Looking forward to it!

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

DiigoNotes - NWP in Central Texas

It's amazing what's going on around one and still remaining clueless...sigh. Fascinating stuff.
    • Every summer, across the nation, teachers assemble on college campuses to learn the best ways to teach writing. These summer institutes are part of the National Writing Project, a professional development network of kindergarten through college teachers. For four weeks, these teachers demonstrate their classroom practices, stretch their own writing skills, and above all, learn from each other.
    • “We all believe in the model of teachers teaching teachers,” says Dr. Liz Stephens, director of the Central Texas Writing Project on the Texas State campus, one of 12 writing project sites statewide and 200 nationwide. All are on college and university campuses and are funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
    • When Stephens started the Central Texas Writing Project, there were only four National Writing Project sites in Texas. Directors of those four met at Texas State in 2002 to talk about how to expand the program in the state. “We had a map of Texas on the wall,” Stephens says, “and said, ‘Here are our four. Where else do we need sites?’ We picked out several colleges and universities, and we now have sites at just about all of them.”
    • Writing is evolving, Stephens says, especially among those she calls digital natives. “Take text language,” she says. “Is it a valid form of our vernacular or not? Is it something we should accept in colleges or not? It’s a form of speedwriting that has emerged from instant messaging and text messaging by the digital natives, young people who are very comfortable and savvy with technology. So now they’re growing up and going to college and they are using text language in their freshman comp classes and in their essays. New Zealand even accepts it in their high school exit exams.
    • “Faculty have mixed feelings,” she continues. “Some people think text language is outrageous and ridiculous. Others embrace it and think it’s just a shift in the way our language works.”
    • “Each teacher presents a virtual visit to his or her classroom,” Stephens says. “The teacher brings the lesson, and the rest of us write like the kids in that classroom would write. We’ll be writing as kindergarteners one day and seventh-graders the next day. Some of the high school teachers roll their eyes when they think about writing like a kindergartner and listening to a kindergarten teacher explain what happens in her classroom. But they are blown away by the end of the presentation. They’ll say things like ‘I didn’t know that you had to put two fingers between two words within a sentence to teach them that this is one word and this is another.’”
    • After completing the institute, participants become consultants for the National Writing Project. “They become teacher leaders,” Stephens says. “They do professional development workshops, mentoring, study groups, whatever a school district needs. They also teach young writers camps in the summer.”
    • “What I call the magic of it is that they become writers,” she says, “They’re already writers, of course, but they become aware of themselves as writers. So they’re as much writers as they are teachers and as much teachers as they are writers. I can’t tell you how many times a teacher has told me, ‘This changed my life.’ Teachers teaching teachers is empowering.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

One Board at a Time

"Good fences make good neighbors," goes the old proverb and line out of Robert Frost's poem. I've never understood it.  Does it mean the privacy afforded by the fence enables neighbors to keep to their own devices, free from scrutiny? I've never found THAT to be true. My neighbors seem to know what's going on in my yard, as much as I know about their's, fence or no fence. Does it means that the act of rebuilding the fence builds for greater camraderie? Hmm...I don't care for my neighbor on the other side of the fence above. The family is too large, and there were roosters crowing one year until the Omniscient, Omnipotent Homeowner's Association swooped down like a chicken hawk.

My fence--pictured above--needs mending and if I had the money, I'd have the powers that be tear it down and put up a new one, perhaps twice as tall to keep those nosy neighbors and their 4 legged critters out of my yard. But, I suspect that replacing a fence that's been up for 8+ years may be expensive, and instead, I'm stuck doing the spot repairs, a fact my wife delights in. You know, the humor that comes from contemplating computer geeks doing repair work of any kind.

It's now 7:32 PM on a Sunday evening, the sun is still shining and I've replaced the rotted cross-beam with a new one. Taking a fresh look at my fence, it's showing its age. Replacing the rest of the beams, all rotting away as well, doesn't seem as difficult as I'd imagined it. My dad's hammer and saw clasped in my ten year old son's hands, it may be that I spend next Saturday replacing all of them.

If only transforming education was as easy.

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Writing Workshop Videos

A few interesting videos on facilitating writing workshop...they are all from YouTube so be warned you may not have access to them if you're at work. I've included a complete list of video URLs, though, in case you need to go through one of the many youtube video grabbers (be aware of copyright).

Writing Workshop Videos URLs:
  • Creating Stamina -
  • How To Teach a Writing Workshop -
  • How to Start a Writing Class -
  • Classroom Blogging as Writing Instruction -

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DiigoNotes - Exploring Inquiry as a Teaching Stance in the Writing Workshop

The following notes are made from an article--Exploring Inquiry as a Teaching Stance in the Writing Workshop authored by Katie Wood Ray--shared with me today by Angie Zapata at the Heart of Texas Writing Project Spring Conference. Ms. Zapata provided copies of the article to the folks present.

My notes on Ms. Ray's article:

  1. Preparing to launch a study of op-ed writing in a fifth-grade writing workshop, a teacher goes through newspapers looking for op-ed pieces by columnists who explore topics she thought might interest her students.
  2. Instructional Frame for inquiry about writing:
    1. Gather Texts - Teachers and students pull together writing students will do.
    2. Set the Stage - Students are told they will be expected to finish a piece of writing that shows the influence of the study.
    3. Immersion - Teacher/students spend time reading and getting to know the texts they'll study, making notes of what they notice about how the texts are written, and reflecting about the process writers use to craft texts like the ones they are studying.
    4. Close Study - The students--as a class--revisit the text, framing talk with the question: "What did we notice about how these texts are written?" Teacher and students work together to use specific language to say what they know about writing from this close study, developing curriculum as they go.
    5. Writing under the Influence: Studnts (and often the teacher) finish pieces of writing that show the influence of the study in specific ways.
  3. Focus work around an instructional frame for whole-class inquiry that would allow studying of a wide variety of genres along with writing issues other than genre, such as punctuation, and how to make illustrations work well with written texts.
  4. Framing instruction in this way represents an essential stance to teaching and learning, an inquiry stance, characterized by the repositioning curriculum as the outcome of instruction rather than as the starting point.
  5. Writing is used as a tool for learning and as a means to communicate that learning...inquiry stance is used to uncover curriculum about writing itself.
  6. Reading Like Writers...when teachers immerse students in reading and studying the kind of writing they want them to do, they are actually teaching at two levels. They teach students about the particular genre or writing issue that is the focus of the study, but they also teach students to use a habit of mind that experience writers engage in...they teach them to read like writers.
  7. This means noticing as an insider how things are written, learning to look at texts the way a mechanic looks at use the particular knowledge system of a writer.
  8. When teachers teach writing without any writing attached to it, they end up teaching things that just aren't true or at least they aren't true all the time. Edgar Schuster calls these things "mythrules."
  9. Anyone who has moved from a delivery stance to an inquiry stance has stories to tell about having to reconsider the content of his or her teaching.
  10. Writers...often purposefully exploit usage at so many turns as a way of creating voice in their texts.
  11. When teachers give students a simple way to write something, not only are they not true to the product, they aren't true to the process either.
  12. Inquiry does not narrow our perspective; it gives us more understandings, questions, and possibilities than when we started.
  13. In an inquiry stance, teachers help children explore these different alternatives for how to write something and then they let them do what writers really have to do--make decisions about how their pieces will go.
  14. While students are getting that experience, they are grounded in the realities of real-world writing, both product and process.
  15. Taking the inquiry out of the teaching would diminish students' need to read and think like writers, and would most likely diminish their understanding as well.
  16. "If students are to understand what is known, they need to simulate or recreate some of the inquiry by which the knowledge was created" (Wiggins and McTighe, 2001).
  17. Before Revision, Vision. Writers write well, often even in first drafts, when tey have a clear vision for the kind of writing they will do.
  18. When teachers work from an inquiry stance, they have decided that the model for the writing will come from the stack of gathered texts.
  19. Students who are prepared to meet the demands of writing in a constantly-changing world...know writing is not static...they've learned how to learn about writing.
Great article and definitely worth reading in its entirety. These are the points that jumped out at me.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Moodle Mayhem Podcast #1 - About #Moodle

Thanks to co-host Diana Benner, you can now find the Moodle Mayhem web site's first podcast online.


Have a listen and be sure to visit the web site at

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Flights of Fantasy - Heart of Texas Writing Project

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Today, I had the opportunity to listen to 3 presentations at the Heart of Texas Writing Project. Below are my notes for one of them entitled "Flights of Fantasy," excellently facilitated by Angie Zapata, a graduate student and 3rd grade bilingual teacher in her 13th year.

Angie's session was intriguing to me because it focused on a genre of writing that I often select from book store and library shelves for my own pleasure reading. Given the choice between reading fantasy or almost any other genre--with the exception of books about writing--I select fantasy. In fact, after returning to "home neighborhood" I made my way to the library and grabbed a few fantasy books off the shelf for reading!

Beginning the session with self reflection on the "What does Fantasy mean to you?" Angie certainly had me thinking about the elements of my favorite genre. The discussion moved on to a discussion of keywords like "Quest," "Setting," "Imagination," and phrases like "Supernatural powers," "characters." I found the definition of a quest--offered by a session participant--particularly apt--A journey with a purpose. Angie shared an image similar to the following one:
There are various quests, including the salvation quest, the transportive quest, the object quest, and the transformational quest.

Angie, and fellow researchers, admitted their ignorance of fantasy, a genre they thought they understood and knew well. The stated goal of her agenda for the session was as follows:

  • Explaining inquiry as a teaching stance in genre study.
  • Examining one student's use of writing to learn to read and write within genre.
"Is Fantasy," Angie asked us, "worth studying?" That's a question others had apparently raised. She went on to point out that in setting out to teach themselves about fantasy, they opened a Pandora's Box of various fantasy types. They sought to build a collection of books that would meet the needs of children, adding a more realistic edge to our fantasy writing. I found this last point humorous but appreciated the "realistic edge" that must be present in any kind of writing. She also mentioned the importance of living within the genre...literally surrounding oneself with analysis and examples of fantasy.

Through this discussion, Angie regaled us with images of students, a video of a conversation between a teacher and the class discussing aspects of fantasy, a scattering of charts with language pertinent to fantasy. Even more fun was a student crouched on the floor, a spill of books--Angie characterized it as a "book flood"--flowing from a bookshelf made to look like the wardrobe out of C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe."

As I viewed Angie's excellent presentation, I found myself nodding my head--not in sleep but excitement--at the wonderful possibilities available to these students in the third grade class. I mourned silently for the wasted opportunity my child had in third grade, filling out worksheet after worksheet in a large urban district.

Angie highlighted the importance of writing genres--before, during and after reading them--to keep the conversation is importance. Writers were able to take advantage of public spaces--large paper charts--to document what was shared during the conversations. More interesting, the students began to use the language on the appeared that they internalized it and the words began to emerge in their conversations.

During analysis, students can ask themselves:
  1. What do you notice?
  2. What features of fantasy does the young writer take up?
  3. How might you respond to the writing during a conference?
There were other excellent points and I'm sure Ms. Zapata could have gone on for quite some time...and we would all have listened happily on.

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Poetry Pass - Heart of Texas Writing Project

Today, I had the opportunity to listen to 3 presentations at the Heart of Texas Writing Project. Below are my notes for one of them entitled "Poetry Pass: Exploring Poetic Style," facilitated by Lynn Masterson (University of Texas at Austin) and Julia Haug (McNeil High School, Roundrock, Tx).

Since teaching poetry is fun, especially for early writers and English as a second language learners, I always would make sure to work it in early on, building up to longer narrative pieces over time. In the presentation I had the good fortune to attend today, Lynn and Julia introduced me to Amy Buckner's Notebook KnowHow: Strategies for the Writers Notebook.

Julia pointed out that it included real world application of how you make the transition from notebook writing to drafting to publication. The session facilitators were quick to point out that while colleagues have an idea about, or are in awe of, poetry, few know how to teach it. For struggling readers, writers working with poetry, you don't have to deal with too much at once. Writing poetry allows you to focus on one feeling or image...we need to help people get away from the "scary poetry" idea (which I hadn't encountered, but I could imagine that some would rather not explore poetry).

Part of the strategy, or activity, as Lynn pointed out, focused on a process of discussing a poet's work who has always been loved by young readers--the work of e.e. cummings. The process below comes out of Notebook KnowHow, at least as I understood the gist of the presentation today at the Heart of Texas Writing Project Spring Conference.

Process for Working with Poems:

  1. Enjoy the text. After every student has received a copy of a set of poems by the author, put their name at the top of the page, the workshop facilitator read the poem to the students. The instructions for the students are to "Listen and enjoy the text."
  2. Map the text. Now that students have heard the poems read to them, read it aloud to them again, this time with the students circling words that are "pulling, speaking to" them, that draw their eye or attention. "Write questions out" that you have.
  3. Share text mapping. Now that students have had a chance to write on their sheet of paper with the poems printed on them, pass the sheet to someone else in the group (we were seated four to a table). Encourage others to write their observations on the poem.
  4. Share text mapping again. Students pass the poem sheets again and discuss the pairing of the poems....
  5. Reflect on comments. Papers are returned to their owners.Students are asked to reflect on the comments written on their own pieces of paper, left there by the others in the group. 
  6. Debrief with the teacher. The teacher makes two columns on the chalkboard, identifying in the first column, the author and in the second, the Author's Style. The Author Style Chart is something that can be put in the back of a student's writing notebook and added to as students read different authors. Students can also emulate different author's styles and develop a greater repertoire of styles to use in their own writing.
Reflections on the Session:
As I wrote quickly to keep up with the main points, I found that this approach would be helpful in a class of teaching poetry. One observation I have to share is that I was given 3 poems of cummings on one page. I quickly mixed the first two poems as being "together," even though one was in the top left of the page, the other mid-way down on the far right, and the last being in the bottom left corner. I managed to make comments--funny enough--that connected the two poems together.

While having 3 poems on one page was helpful when doing style analysis, I didn't have a clear understanding of what we were setting out to do. I'm sure this was my fault as a writing teacher gone from the classroom too long. Yet, I can't help but wonder if a middle school learner is going to know that we're doing style analysis and that's why all 3 poems are on one page, or try to match the disparate poems together in his head, as I did. Of course, MS students are smarter than me these days! (Smile)

Thanks to Julia and Lynn for sharing their wisdom in regards to teaching poetry!

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Subversive in Our Midst

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There are days I wake up and wonder, "What if...." What if I had not been tapped on the shoulder to take the lead in campus, district and regional professional development opportunities in the use of technology in K-16 schools? What if, instead of using technology as a tool to transform teaching, learning and leading, I had chosen to pursue a career as a simple teacher of reading and writing in 5th grade and 6th grade classrooms?

In the last year, I have often reflected on my early choices and what to do as an educator. Today, I sat next to a young gentleman, perhaps a score of years younger than me, who was garnering ideas for teaching poetry in his 7th grade classroom. And, having taught poetry in middle school, I shared with him the wonder of Kenneth Koch's Wishes, Lies and Dreams as well as Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? He was grateful, but I more so. This old dog, I said to myself, still knows some tricks about teaching writing.

Like a Rip Van Winkle, awakening from a long sleep--although I'd prefer to alter the story, changing a magical mead induced nap to a long sojourn among a country of technology wizards--I decided to investigate what other writers are doing. To accomplish that, I've signed up for the renamed New Jersey Writing Project now known as Abydos, agreed to collaborate on writing and technology workshop later this Spring, and decided to attend writing conferences I probably would have considered beneath notice.

Beneath notice because, like Rip Van Winkle, these writing conferences have changed little. Teachers still focus on writing with paper and pencil, making books with students that are filled with handwritten tales, and doing everything I would have considered cutting-edge in the teaching of writing years ago. 

A sprinkling of dust coats it all. Whether that coating is the besmirched lens of age, a patina of cynicism over my mind's eye, or the sad reality of writing instruction today, it's clear that the medium and the message are not in harmony. As the medium has advanced, the message remains the same. And, with regret, the joyful interaction of the two is a stolid, slow dance which lacks the beauty and enthusiasm that it once enjoyed.

As the ladies presenting the conference approached me today, I realized that my request of being able to podcast their session might not be well received. After asking the question, "May I podcast your session?" I could see the fear in their eyes and I realized that perhaps, I'd forgotten some simple courtesies. "In my circles," I tried to share, "podcasting is better known." But for them, I was suddenly an unknown quantity, a subversive with an audio recording device, a blogger who might take a lesson they'd hoped to share with a small classroom of writing devotees and broaden their reach to thousands. Simply, it was too much. "Does our Director know you are here?" As if I'd suddenly become a member of the Press, that group of venerated but sometimes hated individuals who can raise you up like the wheel of Fate, then cast you down into the cracks of the classroom floor.

The fault is mine, I know. I should have borne a Star of David on my t-shirt, a symbol of my outcast status..."Yes, I'm a blogger who is going to podcast your sessions today, not some subversive adversary who seeks to harass you. Your message will reach thousands, not just the few people in this room."

I should have carried a card with me that stated who I was, where I would post the podcast, write the blog entry. I should have asked them to sign a release form, obtained clearance from the Director and the University hosting the event.

I should have done many things...instead, I sat in their workshop, a snake coiled, ready for the strike...waiting for the moment of attack. At least, that was how might have perceived me. The reality may be other than that. We didn't talk and in those moments, I decided I would not explain.

"Nevermind," I said to the workshop facilitator. "I'll just take notes on your session. Thank you." She chided me, "If only you'd let us know sooner." As she stepped away, there was no handout left in front of me. I was invisible, singled out for careful treatment.

Am I complaining too much? Yes, of course I am. Next time we meet, I'll be ready. I'll have my "blogger press pass" ready, a card with my web site, and a smile ready to my lips. But I wonder still, is the journey back in time worth it? Isn't it better to realize that you can't go back, and just move forward, leaving those lost in yesterday, doing what was innovative yesterday, and leave them to inch forward? Colossal arrogance on the part of a subversive.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Digitizing the Writing Workshop

A short time ago, I took notes on Troy Hicks' Digital Tools book. However, reflecting on my own experiences today with writing workshop, colleague Diana Benner and I came up with a few thoughts about digitizing the writing workshop.

On April 10th, we'll be sharing our ruminations with the Heart of Texas Writing Conference participants--which, by the way, has its first part tomorrow in Austin, Tx.

Some of the ideas that came up in the conversation, and my apologies for poor handwriting and poorly designed images:

This image below is my way of getting at the difference between digital tools and how they are used by teachers/facilitators to manage the writing workshop vs how they are used by students/writers.

The following is a description of my understanding of a matrix of tools and how they fit into the 4 main components of writing workshop, for example, using a digital audio recorder as the tech tool.

We're also working on an article on the subject and the outline is here. Has anyone else done this work?

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Moodle Mayhem Session at TxDLA 2010

Today, I had the opportunity to share inflict some Moodle Mayhem on folks from around Texas! While you can find all the neat stuff we--including Patricia Holub, Diana Benner, Tonya Mills, Molly Valdez and I-- shared online, I thought I'd immortalize the positive feedback!! Thanks to all the TxDLA 2010 Moodle Mayhem workshop participants!!

Title: Moodle Mayhem - Expanding Learning Opportunities in Urban Districts
The following questions were rated on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being 'Strongly Agree' and 1 being 'Strongly Disagree'.
The session was very useful: 5
Content was relevant and applicable to my needs: 5
The examples provided were sufficent.: 5
Appropriate media was used to illustrate the topic: 5
The program description for this session was accurate: 5
Speaker(s) was(were) knowledgeable about the topic: 5
Time was used efficiently: 5
Relevant supplemental materials were used: 5
Questions were answered appropriately: 5
This was an excellent session: 5

Sessions Strengths:
Good session, install, how to use, and learning concepts to deliver courses

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Converting SWF on Mac

Image Source: Evom,

Converting SWFs on a Macintosh has usually been difficult. The need to do so is made clear by applications like JingProject that, in their free version, only allow one to generate a Flash SWF file, unlike the MP4 file for the $15 annual recurring fee.

While SWFs are easy to post, sometimes your favorite presentation program--Keynote, Powerpoint, OpenOffice--won't provide support for them. As a result, it's important to have some way to convert them. Thanks to a tweet from Wes Fryer regarding HIS favorite list of Mac software, I learned about Evom. Evom is described in this way:
Evom makes archiving your favourite internet videos as easy as pressing a bookmark.
While allowing you to download YouTube videos does seem like an important feature, I thought I'd drop an SWF file on top of Evom and see what it did with that (I was hoping to embed my SWF video of a teacher bragging on how Moodle transformed his life and students, too) and was pleasantly surprised.  It converted the SWF to FLV without any problem!

But will it work with a Jing generated SWF? Here goes [trying it out now]....

Nope! Unfortunately, the conversion from a Jing-generated SWF to FLV on Mac using Evom did not work. However, it did work on other SWF files I tried it on. What the differences are, I'm not sure. Perhaps it will meet your needs....

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Below are my notes on Lamar Consolidated ISD's presentation on INTERACT - Integrating Technology Realistically Among Classroom Teachers
October Smith, Lamar Consolidated ISD, Tx

Equip teachers to provide an engaging learning environment through technology.

We start with group collaboration...(Activity: Discuss with your neighbor staff development in your school/district. What is your most memorable training? What trainings are most effective? Do you receive follow-up for trainings? How often? Who is the presenter at your trainings? Where do you find the resources for the trainings?)

The most effective trainings are the ones that are hands-on.

Located south of Houston in Richmond/Rosenberg
  • 21 elementary schools
  • 3 middle schools
  • 3 junior high schools
  • 3 high schools
  • 23,000+ students
  • 2000+ teachrs
How we got started:
Technology Director+Dell representative
Fall of 2007 - the superintendent put together a committee and INTERACT was born
No College classes

Academy Development:
The executive director of curriculum made sure we focused on researched based instructional strategies and not just the technology. We developed a week long academy that focuses on Marzano's Classroom Instruction that Works with technology integration.

Focus on cooperative learning - informal group.
Were explicit about the use of Marzano's strategies in the program

Activity: Take a moment and write a goal for staff development, either one that you will give or plan on attending.

We presented the idea to both Dell and Apple.
Dell agreed to provide us with the tools needed to put on the Academy if we purchased from them for the next 2 years.

INTERACT 2009 Application Form

  • They created a Google Form to receive applications for teachers to participate.
  • When a teacher submitted a form, principals were immediately contacted so that they could fill out a technology referral for them.
  • 130 applicants this year.
  • At the end of the week, each teacher got $10K for participating in the Academy [Wow!]. This money came out of the State Technology Allotment. Since teachers know what they need for the classroom, the Superintendent thought they should be the best ones to spend it.
  • $7000 was provided up front...make your wishlist.
  • $1000 was spent on the laptop
  • $2000 earned this by delivering professional development. The ones who were very shy, not tech-savvy...they were asked to just work with their team and show them activities. For the other ones, other training.
Purchasing Equipment
We use the majority of our tech allotment from the State to purchase the equipment. We know we are buying equal amounts of equipment for each campus THAT WILL BE USED. Teachers move their equipment with them if they change campuses--this is not the norm.

The Next Big Thing
All teachers are welcome to earn a laptop. You must attend the mini-camp and get your laptop before you are accepted into INTERACT. This has to be a classroom teacher.

After completing the Academy, participants have become leaders--even quiet ones--on their campus.

INTERACT is completely run through Moodle. Teachers have homework every night, participate and use the activities in the Moodle.

iPods are the number 1 item ordered. After that FLIP cameras...but the new iPod Nanos come with video camera. They are also buying interactive whiteboard ($3000 (unmounted) to $5000 (mounted)). Those are the main things. After that, it's Student Response Systems. [Hodge-podge of equipment is being purchased].

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Podcast - Implementing Moodle - Lessons Learned

From Left to Right: Yolanda Columbus and Amber Icke

At the TxDLA 2010 Conference, I had a chance to listen to Amber Icke and Yolanda Columbus (pictured above) from Texas A&M share some of their lessons learned regarding Moodle Implementation. While much of the presentation was spent sharing the growth of the Moodle initiative, and the challenges they faced, I really enjoyed some of the take-aways. While I encourage you to listen to the whole presentation, here are some of take-aways that I wrote down from their presentation:

  1. As a university, they decided to move from online lectures (narrated powerpoints) with exams offered in face to face settings to Moodle, although the transition wasn't so direct (they used an intermediate product, SiteForum).
  2. They tried to use Blackboard but switched back to Moodle.
  3. They began with about 14 academic courses years ago and ended up with about 32 academic course in Spring 2010.
  4. Challenge they faced was integrating Moodle into their existing projects
  5. Virtual servers for Moodle did not work well for them
  6. They had to more clearly define what constituted a site-wide emergency for Moodle implementation...if it wasn't site-wide and failed to affect multiple students, it did not constitute an emergency.
  7. Simultaneous Online exams on virtual servers (up to 180 plus logins) caused major problems until they switched to dedicated Moodle server running Red Hat Linux.
  8. Educating users involved helping them understand the different between a Help Request (where something isn't working and needs to be fixed) and a Project (a desire for a new feature that will be a project).
  9. 30 minute response time for users was essential for their Help Support staff in responding to students.
  10. Instead of Linking to content outside of the Moodle, it was important to place it as a Moodle Resource since it makes it easier to track resource usage when running reports.
  11. Use Labels in Moodle to organize content.
  12. Rather than use Single upload for documents, use advanced upload since you will always want to take advantage of multiple uploads.
  13. When setting up True/False questions, don't use the True/False question in Moodle. Instead, use Multiple Choice. Regrading is easier as multiple choice if you have to make an adjustment as to what is True/False
  14. Take advantage of Random questions with quizzes/exams
  15. Make sure to dedicate time for each employee on your Moodle support team to provide that support and work on Moodle.
Some of the impact for teaching:
  1. Student generated activity reports
  2. Allow for a variety of online assignments and activities
  3. Customization can occur (using Moodle) as compared to other Course Management Systems
  4. In-house college controlled rather than dependent on an outside vendor
  5. Moodle allows us to provide the unique experience I want my students to have.
  6. Course menus were customized for our use (using an existing Moodle module)
  7. Documentation of standards and procedures is important.
  8. Established advisory board
  9. Point person to communicate between instructors/students and technical team
Creative application of Moodle in use at Texas A&M:
  • Course management system usage
  • Document repository
  • Advising services
  • Training
  • easy web site
  • Grant tracking
  • Reservation system (e.g. rooms)

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Podcast - TxVSN It's All in the Details

Texas Virtual School Network staffers shared an update on the Texas Virtual School network. You can download a PDF of their presentation online. There is a lot of great information in this presentation, so I encourage you to listen to the preso, not just view the PDF of the slideshow.

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Podcast - The Teacher Network (

Panelists at TxDLA 2010 State Conference

This is a podcast I recorded--although it ends abruptly since I had to step out--at TxDLA about an exciting new resource available to us all for online professional development.

At the TxDLA 2010, I found out about what may very well be an unknown resource in K-12 online professional development! The Teacher Network--a repository of hundreds of hours for faculty and staff--is....

The Network is an innovative way to connect to free, online professional development resources for career and technical education faculty, counselors and administrators. Search easily through hundreds of topics and teaching modules. It's all in one free, easy to use site created by a partnership of community college professionals from across the state.

I encourage you to explore the web site, as it provides a rich collection of resources from around the world. While this resource is FREE TO USE, it was not free to create. However, we all get the benefit of what was created.

For example, consider the following SEARCH that I did--which the presenter modelled--sharing about Establishing and Managing Your Online Footprint.

When you click on the link, it takes you to the page (originating in Australia):

Note that you have access to the Slideshare preso, the audio of the file, and the transcript of the podcast! Great stuff to embed in your own Moodle or online course.

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Podcast - Parent411 with Jenny Yim #moodle

Howdy! Just a quick note to mention that a new podcast featuring Jenny Yim (Northside ISD, San Antonio, Tx) and her discussion of Parent411 is featured online at Moodle Mayhem!

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Podcast - Wikified Schools Author @ssandifer

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to chat with Stephanie Sandifer, author of Wikified Schools (view the wiki). It had been awhile since I saw Stephanie, as she is now a "new" mom and stay-at-home online instructor!! Stephanie shares some of her insights regarding wikis in schools.

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Neural Forest for Administrators - Moodle

Image Source:

Over at Intended Consequences, Tim Holt invites us all to craft 5-minute basic technology tutorials for administrators. While such an approach may tend to emphasize tools, I can see where Tim is headed (at least, I think I do).
I started a site called the Neural Forest for Administrators because I was noticing a distinct lack of knowledge by campus administrators on the basics of educational technology. The site is simply a series of blog entries that are designed to be very short, to the point, somewhere between Twitter and Blogs. 
 Here's what Tim writes by way of explaining the structure for the Neural Forest for Administrators:

Each entry has four parts:
1.  What it is--essentially giving an overview of the topic. 
  1. 2.  Why it is important--why do they need to know about it
  2. 3.  How they can use it--How can a campus administrator use this technology on their campus?
  3. 4.  Helpful links--links to further information, or the actual site. 
Each entry should be able to be read in less than 5 minutes or less.

So, here goes, just for fun:

What Is It?
If you want to establish an online presence for your school, one way of accomplish that is to use what is known as a course management system like "Moodle." Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a free Web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites.”

Why Is It Important?
Need to build an online community that enables dialogue with your parents? While there are many tools available, one such tool is Moodle. Moodle is one of several ways that you can facilitate learning activities, collect information, as well as facilitate online learning for K-12 or adult learners. 
Moodle, a course management system, can provide a solution that can be used to bridge the divide between school and home.

How Can You Use It?

Campus/district administrators also can use it as a way to direct book studies with their teacher teams or conduct electronic coffee meetings with parents and the community. Many school districts now use "parent portals" to facilitate access to grades, enable parents to pay their child's cafeteria bill online, and so on, but those are low-level engagements that don't get at the power of the story. 

One question we can ask is, How can teachers get out of the way and enable children to share their own stories and learn from each other? How about by using Moodle to facilitate learning conversations and online activities that are protected? Protected because students are behind a login and password.

Do you have any helpful links?
Below are a few links to get you thinking some more about using Moodle in your teaching, learning and leading situation:

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure