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job description

I’m just going to dub myself a poor man’s version of Cult of Pedagogy.


The question came my way today from the High School ELA site concerning what electives go well with English/Language Arts. Some of the ‘same ol’ felt tired, such as Creative Writing or Speech/Debate.

Well, let’s see.

This year I’m developing the Computer Technology Essentials curriculum for 7th and 8th-grade classes, which is also under the auspices of Career and Technology Education. Whatever it is, it’s under the Business codes in the grade book. It’s something I can do, and do well, but not my first love. /shrug Love is overrated.

Trying to reconstruct my work process is oddly difficult. “Back in the day”, I created a Traffic/Project Manager position for myself at a small marketing company. I had folders and two-hole punches and a beautiful signature/sign-off system as I planned and passed around projects, meeting deadlines. These years, I sit and create plans and mind maps, and then fill in with details.

We’re adjusting as we go, of course, with the help of four integral colleagues: two teach the course and two help me problem solve for students and staff alike. I wish everyone could have the professional collaborators I know. It makes a world of difference.

Here is one calendar sketch I created:

And it is now a hot mess.

There were approximately 9-11 units of study: Basics, Documents, Curating Content, Presentation Power, Creating Content, Critical Thinking Skills, Movies/Multimedia Production, and Global Connections.

My principal’s intent allows me to support all the content area teachers; since my knowledge is first and foremost in ELA/SS, helping those content area teachers use the technology to create powerful lessons with the tools is my first order.


I asked the teachers in the building to give me some idea of their scope/sequence at the beginning of the year.


It was too much at the beginning of the year without further support from administration (they have enough on their plates), so I found my allies and we’ve been meeting weekly and coming up with what I dubbed “TechTip Tuesdays” a few years ago, and providing just-in-time information to the staff.


Not being an ELA teacher this year I’m out of the loop for many of the current curriculum. (No one has time to meet, so there is a work-around.)


Talking with folks one to one helps me support them. For example, one teacher wanted a way to use Actively Learn better, and I made this quick tutorial:

Some teachers offer driven students the chance to post to the Reading Road Trips blog.

All of our CTE students are posting to the Digital Dogs blog.

Next steps:

  • Adjust the curriculum: where did students get genuinely confused? What lessons did they have the most questions about, and which ones engaged them the most?
  • Create a central location for staff to find those ‘just in time’ resources.
  • Have students create more of the instructional how-to media; when we go into the second semester there will be a higher level of tech acuity so perhaps we can make this adjustment.

Some resources:

Computer literacy is heavily explanatory text based thinking: currently, we’re working with our students to closely read instructions.

This ties in with mind or story mapping tools:

I made this for a colleague:

Postscript: What do I really do? Nag district into getting cool software. Canvas trainings. Scream at the poor user interface and UX design of most apps and software. Complain to my husband about my log-in and sign up fatigue. Make new passwords. Help students remember their passwords. Try to find multiple language apps. Get bored. Get excited. Look at the new shiny. Wonder where the time has gone. Worry that I’ll lose my ELA chops while I’m doing this other thing. Feel insecure. Feel confident. Feel overly confident and then slightly insecure again. Help someone. Laugh at Gerry Brooks videos. Save a ton of links and ideas. Answer 3,241 questions a day about something. Rage at my bad cables that make my Smartnotebook pink. Drink a Fresca once in a while. That’s about it.

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syllabus of silliness

This young man chose to story map The Landlady by Roald Dahl. Classic old lady and poisoned tea!

Ah, on my to-do list: an updated syllabus for the Computer Technology Essentials course. I put one together this summer with the foresight that it would need to be modified. As with all things new, what we expect doesn’t always materialize, and what we get is sometimes far greater than we hoped.

The current unit of study is “Documents.” I had hoped to get all the students into Google apps, but alas, because of the age restrictions I’m taking a step back and asking parents to sign their children up with accounts since many of them aren’t 13 yet. I know the method of adding them in edublogs with the +name method, but that’s not enough, and time-consuming for a single semester course.

This week we focused on mind mapping/story mapping. Of all the software and apps I looked at, everything requires potential money, were too dry, boring, and tediously requiring logins. I have login fatigue: only imagine what this generation will feel. They’ll welcome the biometrics with open arms and eyeballs, surrendering more data to the Borg.

My district, thankfully, is in the process of obtaining new software, but we can’t wait for POs and checks. I did what any smart teacher would: went low-tech. Paper, pencils, colored pencils, highlighters. And modeling.

The criteria:

  • The map had to be for a class: math, science, language arts, social studies, pe/health
    • character sketches
    • story maps
    • scientific process
    • claim, evidence and reasoning charts
    • claim, evidence, and reasoning questions
    • math processes and equations
  • It would have a central idea/topic/question and a minimum of nine other connections
  • Choose something that’s currently challenging or difficult to help make sense of it OR
  • Choose something that’s currently interesting/easy to show what you know

I asked the teachers in the building what they were working on this week, and received so much support. The students loved that I helped them make connections to CTE and their other classes. (Not to mention the mad teacher ninja skills we possess.)

After they spent a class sketching on rough paper, they drew a more finished copy on blank paper (it was tough to give up my own paper supply, but worth it). The next day I walked them through Word features: shapes, inserting Youtube videos, pictures, online pictures, etc. to recreate their sketches digitally. With writing, the process is key on the path to publication.

Some examples:

There may be hundreds of apps and software companies trying to get a piece of the ed-tech dollars. I would ask that perhaps you talk to teachers in the classroom about the hurdles we help our students jump over to use your products. Ask yourselves the same questions my students ask: What is the point of this product? Is it helping me or getting in my way?

I’m not sure how to phrase that on a syllabus, those nuances and subtleties of creating.

Never be afraid to slow it down, stop, look up, and then move forward.

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Click like. Or not.

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia’

One conflicting, nagging thought is that as a Computer Technology Essentials teacher this year I’m doing actual harm. This current notion about how coding saving students from poverty, and the egalitarianism in technology makes us all equals.

Tech companies can exploit such vulnerabilities to keep people hooked; manipulating, for example, when people receive “likes” for their posts, ensuring they arrive when an individual is likely to feel vulnerable, or in need of approval, or maybe just bored. And the very same techniques can be sold to the highest bidder. “There’s no ethics,” he says. A company paying Facebook to use its levers of persuasion could be a car business targeting tailored advertisements to different types of users who want a new vehicle. Or it could be a Moscow-based troll farm seeking to turn voters in a swing county in Wisconsin.

When students ask me about how many YouTube followers I have, they’re asking if I matter based on algorithms.

“The techniques these companies use are not always generic: they can be algorithmically tailored to each person. An internal Facebook report leaked this year, for example, revealed that the company can identify when teens feel “insecure”, “worthless” and “need a confidence boost”. Such granular information, Harris adds, is “a perfect model of what buttons you can push in a particular person”.

The thing is, I rarely get comments, re-blogs, or shared discussion from these posts. I send them into a deep, dark well, hear a splash, gurgle, and never anything more.

Come on, guys! It’s not about the clicks and likes: it’s about do we connect with one another.

Oh well.

Maybe Mila has the right idea:

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Mind the Map.

Here is the teaching point/issue:

How do we concurrently 1. teach students how stories work (or how anything works for that matter) 2. use technology to best demonstrate concepts 3. have students practice and grow their own knowledge?

One idea: mind mapping.

There are multiple available apps, etc. for this technique. We had Inspiration in our district, but not sure if we renewed the license or not. No matter.  I know we have other similar apps on our PCs for work. Mind mapping is simply brainstorming, sketching ideas in a hierarchal visual mode, and revisable in real time. For anyone who’s done a cocktail napkin sketch, written a grocery list, or planned an essay, you’ve done a form of mind mapping. It’s finding your way, setting a course, and looking at the big picture.


There are some exquisite examples of mind maps.

Cool examples:

I looked through this file and added MindMap:


Mind Map

How to Mind Map

All mind maps begin with a main concept or idea that the rest of the map revolves around, so choosing that idea or topic is the first step. Begin by creating an image or writing a word that represents that first main idea.

From that main idea, create branches (as many as needed), that each represent a single word that relates to the main topic. It’s helpful to use different colors and images to differentiate the branches and sub-topics.

Then, create sub-branches that stem from the main branches to further expand on ideas and concepts. These sub-branches will also contain words that elaborate on the topic of the branch it stems from. This helps develop and elaborate on the overall theme of the mind map. Including images and sketches can also be helpful in brainstorming and creating the sub-branch topics.

Mind maps can be created on paper but are more easily and fluidly created on a computer with mind mapping software such as Inspiration Software®’s Inspiration® 9.

via GIPHY I got a safety message when I tried to go to this site.


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