How might technology provide a scaffold into poetry?

I am such a sucker for anything that even slightly tickles the visual and verbal parts of my brain simultaneously. To start, I love this lesson plan that deals with defining poetry. I would love to take part in a discussion like this… shoot… any discussion like this. I need my fix of a good, solid social science or literature debate. Anyone feel like inviting me in for one?

In fact, a nice little set of lesson plans concerning poetry are found on the site. As you look through, you will see that the self-label of “advanced” might just fit. But I think many of these are more than feasible in our school. We have students at Benton who are more than capable of learning from this.

The main website is called “PicLits.” The tagline for PicLits is “inspired picture writing.” To me, this is an interesting little site that appears to be a weird mashup: part visual literacy, part refrigerator poetry, part… fun. The main site itself, doesn’t come across as allowing much heavy-lifting relating to typical communication arts instruction. However, it isn’t the site, but what you do with it that counts. Right? To me, this site is about greasing the wheels of inspiration. I can almost guarantee that an approach like this would have gone a long way toward allowing me to feel empowered to connect to poetic verse at a younger age. I was too cool for this in high school. In college, I became enthralled. Don’t you ever wonder what would have happened if you had learned something really amazing… but a year or two earlier?

Perhaps I connected to this site because it reminds me of some of the goofy things I used to do with Photoshop years ago. To me, so many of my photos just begged for words. I had fun slapping them onto images from time to time.

Perhaps this is a fun little site that would work (as Michael Gier mentioned in a discussion here) in a CA classroom to enhance a lesson that ends with “time to spare.”

Just trolling through the site a bit, I found an image that stood out to me as interesting. It seemed to beg for a poetic caption. There are two ways in which this text can be added. There is a link to add words to the image via “drag & drop” (the refrigerator poetry way), or via the “freestyle” method, which simply allows you to type onto the image as you wish.

My little sixty-second creation is here:

PicLit from
See the full PicLit at

Click to go to the site and check it out, and hey… feedback is powerful. Throw in a comment. Make me feel like a poet. If I like the experience, perhaps I will be inspired to publish again in perhaps even another way. Get it? If you do get it, then you are already beginning the feel the power of the interactive web. Feels good, doesn’t it?

***Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I had to make just one more before getting on with the four other things I am currently juggling:

PicLit from
See the full PicLit at

Anyone else feel like playing along?

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Get Your “Daily Dose” of Literature in 5 to 20 Minutes

How do you get your daily dose of literature? Life is hectic in 2008. Is it during your installations of “eyes past print w/voice support?” If you answered “yes” to that, what if I could show you a new and very cool way to deliver that little instructional gem? is really… well, I just don’t know about this one as of yet, but I am interested.

Don’t you honestly find yourself busier and busier all the time? Does it seem that you rarely have more than 5 to 20 minutes to read something you want to… and much of this is even taken up by e-mail, etc?

I have found this to be a problem personally. One solution I have found is to simply buy the Audiobook. Yes, I even try to find books that I must purchase for a grad class online if possible. This way, I can be reading one while the other sits in the memory of my iPod (which is directly connected to my car’s stereo). Now, when I am driving to one appointment or from another errand, I get 5 to 20 minutes of the book I am exploring.

While this is different enough to be frustrating at times -and I wouldn’t recommend it for just any genre- I am becoming a huge fan. Why? It is simple, really. I find that quite often that the ten-minute dose of wisdom I get from the book (right now: a re-read of “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell) is more than enough to inspire pretty deep thought and reflection throughout the day. It usually seems to hold me over until the next on-the-fly listening session.

Now don’t rush to label my multitasking, “continuous partial attention.” Don’t imagine a world where I am unable to sit and engage text and think deeply for long periods of time. Please do not think that these behaviors have rendered me unfit for a long Sunday afternoon read. Right now, I just do not have the luxury of much uninterrupted time. The only time I am allowed that kind of focus on one text… is usually when I am team-reading titles such as this one with my darling little girl.

So how does “” fit in here? As a very new user, I am betting this is a similar affair. The way it works is that you get a daily dose (referred to as an installment) of any book you are signed up for, but by e-mail! (public domain books are free, btw) Apparently, if you find yourself with more time to read than the one installment provides at that time, you can click on a continue button to deliver the very next text in sequence.

When you sign up for the book, you see how many installments the book contains, and then you get to choose how often you want those e-mails delivered to your inbox. You can choose the exact time the installments are to be delivered as well as whether you would like them daily, on weekdays only, weekends only, etc. My personal test of the service was to sign up for Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. This sizable volume will come direct to my inbox in a total of 423 installments. A shot of my first installment is here:

screenshot of e-mail from \

Upon receiving my first daily dose, I returned to the settings area of my account to adjust the “advanced” level of my subscription. I asked for “longer” installments and hit “resend” for a new version of my first dose. That instantly cut the total number of e-mails I will receive for Leaves of Grass to just over 210.

Leaves of Grass \

Apparently, (for the tech savvy) you can also choose to receive your updates via RSS to read within your aggregator instead of e-mail. Think about other possibilities… now that your book has been converted to text, it would be a just a few clicks to drop it into a few PowerPoint slides for use during EPP at the beginning of each class period. In fact, I thought I would try just that today.

This would likely save some serious paper volume here at Benton. Of course that strategy wouldn’t allow text markup like a paper copy would, but it is an option. Teachers create varying worlds within their classrooms and this is a tool that seems powerful enough to work with nearly all of them in some way.

Check it out, it is free to register. Find me there. Download a book. Give it a try. Get your daily dose of literature- and then come back here and tell us all about how it went.

screetshot of \

Give Slideshare a Chance to Transform

What is Slideshare?
OK, allow me to say in advance: this tool has far more potential than you will even realize at first.
Give this one a chance:
Here is an example of what this can embed directly into your network, blog, wiki, etc…

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: symbiosis commensalism)

Ewwww…. he said PowerPoint
Slideshow software almost has an “evil” connotation in the world of K-12 education right now… not to mention within many communities just beginning a study of constructivism. However, this is certainly a perfect case of where the TOOL isn’t a bad thing… but sloppy or lazy USE of the tool is a bad thing.

For some, PowerPoint became an easy way to slap one’s yellowed overhead “notes” into a digital media and call it “progress.” Careful use of presentation software to enhance and inspire discussion, debate and visualization is impressive. I believe it is something worth studying in much more depth. If PPT is boring… then it is because it is being used for little more than to lay a ton of text on sitting children who are being expected to receive information from a talking head.

With slideshare, you can also allow full-size downloads of .ppt or .pdf slideshows, you can publish to the planet, restrict access to a certain contact list, or restrict usage of a presentation to only yourself. With slideshare, you could potentially not even drag a laptop to a remote presentation (though I cannot imagine no backup strategy).

Flipping the classroom
Check out this example (from The Fischbowl) of how archiving lectures allows these chemistry teachers to turn their daily in-class sessions into chemistry workshops. There is a sample screencast from an Arapahoe HS chemistry class embedded within this blog post as well.

Chemistry workshops. That idea won’t sound bad to any science teacher. It sounds… natural. It sort of rolls off the tongue. It also sounds scary, because it means shifting the focus of the classroom environment from you- the teacher, to your students- the learners.

But Fear is Fun
The ideas presented in this blog post are so exciting to me. Think about it- flip your use of slideshow technology. Post your lectures, screencasts, podcasts… assign those for homework. Allow class time for exploration, extension, remediation, and correction of misconception. Think about how much more you would have to figure out formative assessment strategies. Think about how much more dynamic your classroom could be. Take a baby step. Try it once. Tell us about it. I dare you.

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Bringing it all together: TPACK

Ok… those of you that read my second post on the NETS standards, might have noticed (if you look back) that I made mention of a future post on TPCK, or TPACK as it is now commonly referred to.

To cut to the chase and lay this out for you clean and neat, TPCK stands for “technological pedagogical content knowledge.” TPACK is what the acronym has evolved into. The reason for this is likely twofold. 1. It sounds better to actually say it with a vowel. and 2. => it now also alludes to the “Total PACKage” in education.

I had meant to really lay out the history of this entity for you to fall back on when it comes up… and it will. However, when I made the NETS post back in July, it was just on the edge of the new insanity of school year preparation. Therefore, I didn’t fulfill my initial goal in the time frame I had intended. Please allow me to severely abbreviate.

The reason I would like to abbreviate revolves around the simple fact that I have some images, etc. that I would like to share with you from the third floor at BHS. Jake Kelly (or Jacob if you choose to send an e-mail @ SJSD) is a new teacher in the science department. He teaches two different courses: Principles of Chemistry & Physics and Environmental Science. Last Friday, I was invited to observe an on-site field study of the urban creek that runs through Hyde Park. If I wasn’t an instructional coach… nor a science teacher… I would have still been interested. Click here for a set of images from that session as well as a video:

Now I know we are more than inundated with work on our “plan period” in 2008. But, one thing I would love to see happen at Benton, would be to have teachers of varying disciplines go along on such real-world endeavors. Can you imagine the buy-in we could score from students if they witnessed us engaging in fields of study outside of our “own?” Like I said- rarely does this opportunity present itself with progress reports looming, etc. However, if you ever get the chance, do it.

In 1986, Lee Shulman made popular the concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). This is that “thing” an outstanding educator possesses when they exhibit a strong interplay between rich content knowledge of their subject as well as a strong mastery of pedagogical (methods & practices of teaching) skills. What emerges in the overlap of these two entities is a deep awareness of the particular strategic practices that match well with each type of content. We would all agree that being an expert in a field of study doesn’t assure success as a teacher. Likewise, we would probably agree that possessing a gigantic pedagogical toolbox alone would not assure success in a field of study little known by the teacher.

However, when a content expert commits to learning which particular teaching practices work best to produce learning about a certain content goal… then great things happen.

If a high level of PCK produces good teaching, then strong TPACK really does produce the “total package.” TPACK is a framework that was brought to the forefront of technology integration in education by Dr. Matthew Koehler and Dr. Punya Mishra. This concept is illustrated in its simplest form by use of a three-circle Venn diagram:

According to Koehler & Mishra,

“True technology integration is understanding and negotiating the relationships between these three components of knowledge. A teacher capable of negotiating these relationships represents a form of expertise different from, and greater than, the knowledge of a disciplinary expert (say a mathematician or a historian), a technology expert (a computer scientist) and a pedagogical expert (an experienced educator). Effective technology integration for pedagogy around specific subject matter requires developing sensitivity to the dynamic, [transactional] relationship between all three components.”

TPACK is a framework well worth deeper consideration and discussion for our future at Benton. Let this brief post serve as yet another shot across the bow of our classrooms. If we can incorporate these ideals as we go along, it will serve as a solid guide for planning as well as reflection on our work.

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