How Media Works … A Synopsis

When using real social network media for education in the K-5 environment, this is how real the learning can feel, if we understand how to communicate it’s impact effectively.

We’re just starting to understand.

A 2nd grade class starts a wiki on animals.  They write, post pictures, insert videos.  They go home and show their parents, online.  They show their brother, their sister, their friends.  They review every other wiki page done by every other student in the classroom.  They come in the next day and say, “I’ve got some ideas on how I can make my lion page better, will we be working on the wiki today?”   This is a true story.  In fact on the first day of spring break, one second grader added a video to her wiki page.

Imagine this happening with math worksheets.  A child takes home their math work sheet.  They show it to their parents, their brother, their sister, their friends.  They review every other student’s math worksheet in the class, and come in the next day asking …

I don’t think so.


We’ve been working in this environment for four years, earnestly.  Our teaching staff has come a long way in understanding how the technologies work, how they can be employed safely in  a K-5 environment and all the ancillary issues.

In broad strokes it goes like this:

First one needs a knowledge of media.  Then one needs a knowledge of kids’ perception of the use of media.

In the lower grades some of the kids’ perception of the media comes from their teachers, some from the media itself, but most comes from their peers.

Only then can impactful learning projects using media be developed.

After a teacher gets that far (and most of our teachers have gotten this far or are using ideas created by teachers at this school who have gotten there), only then does one have the pieces needed to position the projects in the kids’ minds.  This is the next step for us.  Only then would a teacher have the knowledge to communicate the impact on reality outside their student’s online projects effectively.  Only then would a teacher have the knowledge to manage the social memes (even if only at the classroom or grade-level) which might flow out of such work as a reference/touchstone/review of content.

And when a teacher can do all that, students work on their projects in a vested, emotional and earnest way.  Every moment of creation (writing, recording, reflecting, collaboration) becomes a moment in history seen, over time, repeatedly, by anyone.  Everything becomes real.

We’re just starting to scratch the surface of the motivating aspects of social media as a tool for learning.

Finding the key to this (using online social global media to make students feel like the world cup players in the video) is one important goal I’m currently exploring with the folks at my school.

How To Build A Meeting

150 or so technology teachers gather once a month for a meeting … an old fashioned, analog, meeting.

Announcers announce announcements (which were sent out in email beforehand). Managers manage.  Specialists present their specialities.  Pointers point at points with pointers. Counterpoints are made.  Facsimiles of discussions are had.

Askers ask questions.  But in the active engagement of an analog meeting, many times no answers are available. “That’s a great question, and I’ll look into it, and get back to you.”

Days later, a singular answer is delivered to a singular asker. But we all did get to hear the question posed, and that is certainly something. But what? I don’t know, I’ll have to look into it and get back to you.

One of my cohorts, a jocular and intelligent fellow, posed the idea of USING the technology we are teaching to somehow facilitate the meeting. “It has to be better than sitting around a table while people shamelessly check their email and rudely interrupt the presenter?” he said.

Heresy you say? Perhaps. But if one believes less in a religion that worships the gods, than in one that feels sorry for them. (I mean, they created all this, and can’t possibly feel good about it.) One might venture to noodle on such a concept.


A little like ‘build a bear’ shops found in malls across the country, there should be some structure (or the children wouldn’t be able to start), but enough freedom (so when they are done they feel like a creator).

Here’s one way, using a wiki.

(For those technology teachers among us worried about new technology, see a multitude of wikis done by 2nd graders on

1) Create an “Agenda Page” (a central directory page) for the upcoming meeting (perhaps months in advance).

2) Create “Issue Pages” for each item on the agenda. (Hyper-link from the Agenda item to it’s corresponding Issue Page and back to the Agenda page)

3) Anyone involved in the meeting could create an agenda topic and corresponding issue page prior to the meeting.

4) Anyone could add their questions, thoughts, ideas, solutions to issue pages.

The value of this would be as follows. The meeting would be about things of interest to the people attending the meeting. They came up with them. Most of the hard questions and issues would have been hashed out, discussed, answers researched and delivered, all before getting together at the meeting.

The meeting itself would be shorter, more on point, more poignant to the participants.


Pros: You already know how to use this technology.

Cons: Information is not collected, not key-word search-able, information does not get compiled into a group edited document, it is more like confetti–scraps of errant information floating without structure and no good way to search it. Heck even Microsoft is talking about getting rid of this Outlook public folder technology in the next few years.

Solution: Put an RSS feed on the wiki so all changes are sent via email to the outlook public folder at which everyone is used to looking. Remove write privileges for everyone so the only way to “post” in public folders is to add or alter the wiki. Eventually, everyone will start using an RSS reader and the Outlook Public Folders will have no use and go away.

Life After Wiki: Then, all the information collected in the dialog will truly be collected and key-word-search-able available ongoing in a quickly reference-able format for when one needs the information sometime in the future, or not.

This would be using the technology we are trying to get teachers to use in the way we are trying to get them to use it.

Online Work-Flow For School Newspaper Defined

futuregethandsdirtyThe Challenge:
Our 4th and 5th grades (12 classrooms, 230+ some students and 17+ teachers and specialists) want to start a single school newspaper.  They are requesting an online work-flow allowing students to write but not publish, teachers to approve and publish.  The look and feel should be of a newspaper, not a blog.  They at first want to print the paper to distribute to students and families, rather than it being an online publication.

Draft Solution:
We can use the work flow process provided by the blogging software WordPress. Students would be given the role of “contributors” and 20 teachers and specialists “editors” or “administrators.” We could use a newspaper looking theme (14 different options can be perused here.) The newspaper could be viewed online or printed out and distributed.

To Publish Online or Not Online:
The 5th grade does a long-form research and publishing project each year which employs all sorts of social and publishing mediums such as blogs and wikis.

We have an Internet Security Protocol which has three components:

1)Don’t provide any personal details (name, school, county, state, country).
2)Don’t allow any incoming communication channels (no comments or text surveys) the only exception being radio button surveys.
3)And we tell students, “Never meet anyone in real life you only met online.”

Thus having students work in a “live” online environment is not a stretch.  Research two years ago found a majority of 4th grade students were actively publishing online (Facebook, MySpace) on their non-school time and equipment.

However, most of the teachers engaged in this project are viewing this as a traditional printed newspaper.  They seek to print the document and distribute a printed version.  This provides another layer of security because nothing will go out unless it is printed and copied multiple times.

Solution Pro/Con Considerations
Blackboard Pros Blackboard is relatively un-hackable from outside the school system, could be used to assemble newspaper for printing, available via home both for student editorial work and family viewing, it is completely backed up.
Blackboard Cons Blackboard provides no workflow for assembling such a large newspaper publishing venture, it is cumbersome and clunky to use, most families have a hard time navigating into blackboard, multimedia and publishing features limited.  Blogging and Wiki features disabled for family viewing.
WordPress Inside Firewall Pros WordPress provides solid online work-flow for supporting large newspaper publishing venture. Behind the firewall it would not be viewable to anyone allowing students to write freely using their names, school name and other identifying information.
WordPress Inside Firewall Cons WordPress behind the firewall, students could NOT access from home to add items, if in the future the requirements change this installation would never be able to be seen outside the firewall, backups would be dodgy.  Initial investment would include a high-end desktop and backup system.
WordPress Outside the Firewall Pros The service would be fully redundant and backed up on a nightly basis, it would provide robust work-flow and be accessible online for student editing and family viewing. Newspaper could be both printed and seen online.  No setup or ongoing maintenance costs.
WordPress Outside the Firewall Cons The online newspaper would be viewable to everyone requiring use of Internet Safety publishing protocol like the 5th grade uses for other publishing.

1)Blackboard is difficult to use and has none of the work-flow needed for this large-scale project.  Blackboard forces students to have their name or student id number on everything they publish (which in violation of our safety practices).  The blog and wiki elements of Blackboard are not viewable by families.

2)Wordpress is a solid solution from a work-flow standpoint and allows teacher and different groups of students to have different roles in the editorial process.

3)Installing WordPress inside the firewall will make it more secure in the short-term to make sure nothing is published without being scrutinized by a teacher.  It gives teachers, especially those with no blogging experience, more comfort to know nothing will go out that is not printed first.

4)However WordPress inside the firewall is not future proof.  It doesn’t allow for a change of heart which would allow for the paper to be published online.  This option of online publishing is one all real newspapers are now engaged.  The backup of data on an internally running installation of WordPress would be dodgy.

5)Wordpress outside the firewall has all the benefits of WordPress inside the firewall and allows for future proofing in several ways:

a)It allows students to access the newspaper’s editorial features from anywhere.

b)It allows the published items to be viewed by anyone anywhere.

c)It requires students adhere to online safety publishing guidelines listed above.  Students could use pen names and the school’s nickname could be used in lieu of the school name.  Everything else could be open.

We will be thinking on this over the next few weeks with the teams in question.

Title One Heaven: When Technology and Teaching Take Off

Here’s yet another brag on our school.   Our school is what Title One should be modeled upon. We are like a Charter Title One school in many ways, because we take the money the government provides for low income learners and run with it past what many are doing in schools in more well-to-do areas.

A Title One Heaven.

DateLine:  At a small school in Virginia …

A 1st grade teacher here at Title One Heaven shows her class Mo Willems books.  She participates in an internet interview of Mo Willems her class watches.

The students decide (with our Librarian) to write a pigeon book in the style of Mo Willems.

After writing it with the Librarian, the 1st Grade teacher creates a voicethread (inserted below) of the book written, illustrated and voiced by the students.

But then she goes one step further, and goes social. She sends the voicethread to Mo Willems website and it is posted.

That’s what I’m talking about!!! Reading, Writing, Art and Technology fueled by social media.

Title One Heaven.

21 Things That Will Be Obsolete in 2020? Try 2010.


21 Things That Will Become Obsolete in Education by 2020 is a post in Teach Paperless, a blog by Shelly Blake-Plock.  It’s a great blog about teaching.  I love how this guy thinks.

I’m reading this post in teachpaperless and I’m thinking, “Why write about it, just do it.” (I know, to share, to share …)

Here’s the list from Teachpaperless of 21 things that will be obsolete over the next 10 years, and what we (at a Title One elementary school outside Washington, D.C.) are doing about them today.

I’ve put the items teach paperless stated would be obsolete in bold.  I agree with all of them, save two (numbers 8 & 9).

The following is not bragging, I’m just stating the facts about the school at which I’m lucky enough to work:

1. Desks: A 5th grade teacher here removed all desks from her room two years ago.  She did a research project to track data on student performance.  She has not asked for the furniture back.

2. Language Labs: Hah! Forget ESOL, try finding an ETMT student (English as Their Mother Tongue).  This whole school is a language lab, and if the demographers are correct so will be most U.S. schools in the future.  We don’t have a separate language lab as a result.

3. Computers: The majority of our computers are laptops, and going forward we are trying the netbooks and the next step.  School-system finances and classroom real estate both being at a premium, small and mobile is where everything is going, not just computing.

4. Homework: We’re going 24/7 using Blackboard (2 & 3) in the lower grades and wordpress/blogspot & wikispaces in the upper grades (3, 4 & 5).  Students are doing work at home without being asked.  That’s the real power of social media.  A 5th grade teacher is currently doing educational research on best practices for homework, which is NOT the way it used to be done, more along the line of teachpaperless.

5. Standardized Tests: This is a hot topic, the details of which I will cover in an upcoming post.  But we are very much moving toward portfolios as a large percentage of our students (compared with other schools) do a portfolio replacement test for the standardized tests.

6. Differentiated Instruction as Unique: We’re already far beyond this and our teachers differentiate due to language, learning styles and/or special needs.  We have an inclusive model which requires real and meaningful differentiation as a fundamental baseline to everything happening in a classroom or other part of the school, rather than an afterthought or “something the special ed teacher do” (which unfortunately is what many teachers around the world think).

7. Fear of Wikipedia: We use it as a method to teach critical reading skills. And by “critical” we mean “with a discerning eye.”

*8. Paperbacks: Here is the one thing with which I don’t agree.  Radio was to be the end of newspapers, and radio theater the end of paperbacks.  Television was to be the end of Radio, and Computers the end of everything that came before.  People will consume information in a way that is most useful and although the percentage of market share changes we have a ways to go before books go the way of papyrus scrolls.

*9. Attendance Offices: Bio scans are great, but there will still be a frazzled office person handing out tardy slips and calling home to confirm children’s whereabouts.

10. Lockers: Well, didn’t need them anyway.

11. IT Departments: According to TeachPaperless, IT Departments will have more time to innovate as they give up control and budget-line to shared-open solutions.  A lovely sentiment, and clear-headed if one remembers fondly how there didn’t really seem to be anyone in charge of IT on the Star Ship Enterprise.  But the thought of the obsessive, slightly asburger-y engineers (the norm in most IT departments) being “innovative”, well, let’s not be silly now.

12. Centralized Institutions: He’s right on the mark.  He’s talking about school buildings being like a factory where students show up for a shift.  I would also include decentralizing central offices.  “Employees who do not spend at least 10 hours a week with student should be sacked,” is a budget solution suggested by one of the teachers at my school.  All “central office” types should be housed in schools. That way they might accidentally run into a student every now and then.  At our school we house central office types, and it helps them understand the school and students, and helps us by having them more accessible.

13. Organization of Educational Service by Grade: We’re already doing this by necessity, because when one successfully differentiates, it’s done.

14. Education School Classes that Fail to Integrate Social Technology: I agree, but would reword this to say the following will be obsolete in two years, “Education School Classes that Can Successfully Continue to Keep Social Technology Out.” (I mean MiFi kind of screws up all the “firewall technology” on which we are currently spending money.)

15. Paid/Outsourced Professional Development: Our school has a specific model which is co-teaching, coaching and inclusive.  One can walk into any room at any time and nobody bats an eyelash.  The kids and teachers are used to constant traffic.  This raises the bar, because no one can go into their room, shut the door and come out in June.  Professional accountability which includes an AP coming in twice a year is ridiculous.  Constant feedback on everything at all times is what professional development is now and going forward.  Implementing it is the hard part.  We have.  There’s still a place for Paid/Outsourced PD, but the guts of our PD is inhouse PLC, and it works.

16. Current Curricular Norms: We’re doing this, but it is easier in a K-5 environment.  Differentiation demands it.

17. Parent-Teacher Conference Night: More and more classroom blogs are cropping up at my school. These keep the parents in the loop in an ongoing way.  One instance (not at this school) is an individual blog being used for a special needs student instead of a journal they take from home to school and back.  The dialog is deep and meaningful and discrete.  A reality to which I think Blake-Plock is alluding.

18.Typical Cafeteria Food: We’ve made no great inroads here, but one can only hope.

19. Outsourced Graphic Design and Webmastering: Here again is a tension between the creative flow in a school and the need of many DIT departments to assert control claiming “Internet Security” as the cover.  In the future, with social media becoming a utility, and technology becoming ubiquitous, “Internet Security” emanating from within a technology department as a firewall or other technology will not be possible.  “Internet Security” will principally be achieved through behavior management by education of students from Kindergarten forward.  Our 3rd and 4th graders are doing MySpace and Facebook pages at home already.  They are doing google pages, blogspot and wordpress at school.  Given the tools, they could do what Blake-Plock is suggesting next week, but current technology setup of our formal graphic design and webmastering prevents this.

20. High School Algebra I: OK, well, N/A for this K-5 school.

21. Paper: In the last three years, we have moved from a deskjet at every teacher’s desk to a small set of networked centralized printers.  Paper use (and toner) has declined exponentially.

Thanks to Blake-Plock and for everything they are doing to support the mission.

Inserting The Editorial Process into Clairvoy

Teachers trading strategy and the writing process.
Where We Came From:

Clairvoy (now Traditional Clairvoy) started out as a blog with five teachers giving advise to other teachers who submitted questions.  We still get messages from teachers all over the world. We’ve grown to a site with blogs, wikis, forums, articles and file sharing.  More than 1000 pages of different content and nearly 800 registered users.  We have a new site for teacher research called Education Study Group.  However, most of our visitors don’t sign in. People just read.

On commercial sites like YouTube and Wikipedia, less than 3% of users post content.  A much larger percentage (but much smaller number, of course) of our users contribute content.

For instance, as I write this 75 people are visiting Clairvoy (much the same as any time of day-even at 3am!). I can’t see who you are or what you’re doing (which drives me crazy) because most folks don’t login. Most just read.  But you all seem to be getting some benefit, and that’s great.

We’ve been focused from day one on the content, “Teachers Trading Strategy in Bite Sized Pieces” and that’s not changing.  But since we started (at a time when “what?” was the only response we ever got to a sentence containing the words ‘blog’ or ‘wiki’) we also functioned by default as a “sandbox” mashup of all the available technologies for teachers to learn how to use these new web2.0 thingamajigs.  Things have grown up around us.  With the right safety training, Wikispaces is great for teachers and students as are Google Sites, Blogger, and  You all know more today than you did just a few years ago.  Even Twitter is now a household word.

Where We Are Going:

We are staying focused on trading educational strategy, The “what we do” and “our values” pages will not change.  Our strategy is to better harness contributions of our users and create more meaningful and useful content. As a result, we have made some improvements to Clairvoy which will be steps toward the goal of better serving your needs:

One: The first step is an improvement to the search function with Advanced Clairvoy Search.  It’s up in the right hand corner.  It’s simply Google’s engine focused and targeting Clairvoy’s sites, blogs and features. (I’ve never said we’re creating a new wheel here folks.)  There’s an even more advanced targeted and detailed search available on the main menu under “Search.”

Two: The second step is a stronger editorial process on the wiki.  Everyone will still be able to contribute. This feature has been implemented.  The details of how that works are below.

Three: The third step is we have introduced an “Articles” feature for documents and reviews of scholarly articles. These differ from wiki pages in that they will not be changing.  It is a process for educators to provide peer reviewed information in longer format. As well as to collect reviews of scholarly papers which could help educators. This feature has been implemented.

Four: The forth step will be making the Clairvoy Blogs more robust.  We have recently employed the same technology used by  Over the coming months we will be adding all the features and functionality available.

The Editorial Process:

I wrote recently about the Writing Process and Open Collaborative Internet Tools.

MOZILLA, the folks behind Firefox browsers, use the same open source technology Clairvoy uses for their wiki: see  Mozilla developed an easy to use editorial system which we are going to employ.  Any wiki page created or edited is not displayed to the public until it is looked over first.  The original page remains viewable until the updated version is approved and it is replaced.

If you login, you can see all the “sausage being made” with all the immediacy as always but with better labeling.  If you are not logged-in, you only see the finished product.  This simply will make a “drafting” area (for those logged-in) where contributions are welcome, but at the same time have the “published” knowledge base (for those not logged-in) that is extremely stable.  The difference being a day or two and, we hope, greater quality and better organized content.

We’re going to give it a try.  It means the pages you contribute to our wiki will be delayed for users not logged-in.

This new editorial process is just for wiki pages, not individual Clairvoy Blogs which have secondary logins for their owners to control more of the features within their own blogs.

Our values will not change and contributors who are unsure of the technology but have something to say will be helped through the process – not flamed.  That has been the case and will not change.

Contact Us:

The “Contact Us” function works now if you logged-in or not. We’ll try and be responsive to you (our readers and contributors) as we try to grow what we are doing to best serve you.  Let us know what  you think.