General Interest

This place is for posts that don’t fall under any specific category.

The Common Core, in a Small Meaningful Way

December 8, 2012

This is Not a Homework Check
“Going over homework” in Jennifer Mabe’s class is far more than a right/wrong self-check. Mabe asks her students, as any teacher might, to announce their answers to questions from the previous night. She follows, not with correction or confirmation, and not with her own demonstration of the correct process for arriving at the best answer, but with an opportunity for other students to challenge the first response with their own. The most important part happens when Mabe asks students to justify why an incorrect answer is incorrect, and why a correct one is correct. Mabe’s students are able to identify where negatives were neglected, order of operations not followed, and concepts misconstrued.

Small as this homework check detail might seem, its value is substantial for two reasons. First, it promotes two of the eight mathematical practices:
3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
6. Attend to precision.
While teaching them algebra, Mabe is also teaching cross curricular habits of mind (reasoning, precision) that will serve them well as life-long learners. She’s teaching them to think math, and teaching them to think.

Beyond training her students to think math, Mabe requires her students to talk math. To explain why an answer is incorrect, they must, to some extent, use the language of mathematics. Math talk in the mouth of the teacher is fine; it’s like listening to a native speaker. In the mouths of learners, however, talking math develops ownership and mathematical fluency, the same way speaking Spanish helps develop fluency in that language.

Sharks Aren’t Like Dolphins
Clinton Todd wants his students to develop biology fluency as they learn to classify animals. In a recent bell ringer, students decided which animal (turtle, wolf, or shark) the dolphin most resembles, biologically speaking. After a few minutes of independent processing, the first student to respond answered, “shark.” When Todd prodded the student to justify his response, the student offered a detailed comparison of the physical similarities between dolphins and sharks. Todd then opened discussion. What other answers did anyone choose? Why not the shark? Why did you choose the wolf? (The correct answer is the wolf, which, like the dolphin, is a mammal, the biggest hint being the dolphins blow hole and lungs, as opposed to gills. Only one student selected the turtle.)

Todd’s line of questioning, and his response to correct and incorrect responses made this bell ringer effective. The nature of his response remained even and inquisitive, whether the answer was correct or incorrect. What he valued, it appeared, were the reasoning and the thought process the student used to draw a conclusion.

Todd’s activity worked much the way Mabe’s did. His students engaged in science talk, using the language of biology themselves, instead of merely hearing it from the teacher, and they engaged in the thought processes of a biologist, observing, classifying species, and, just as Mabe’s students did, verbally justifying their responses with reasoned explanations.

Common to the Core
These strategies are not new, not by any stretch of the imagination, and they aren’t spectacular. The thing is, they don’t have to be. Nothing about Common Core has to be spectacular, flashy, or funky. What CC does have to do is place the challenge of critical thinking and of developing content-specific literacy on the student. It’s simple enough to see how all this fits into your own discipline, but here are a few questions that might guide you:

  • Are your students solving a problem, instead of mimicking, copying or regurgitating?
  • Have you asked/required/expected/taught your students to justify their solutions/answers?
  • Do you value the students’ reasoning process?
  • How many times during the course of a period does every student use the language of the course?

I would like to make another point about the Common Core standards. They are common. They are the expectations of all students. All students, that is, must be expected to demonstrate these thinking skills in the various courses they take. The two classes described above were not AP or honors courses. Todd’s was a typical standard biology class. Mabe’s was a year-long (euphemistically read, not mathematically inclined) Math I class. Mabe and Todd expected these thinking skills from all students, and by this point in the school year, they can see the results.

Computers or iPads?

December 3, 2012

Our school has gone from 0 to 60, and fast. Ok, it’s actually 0 to 11: from 0 mobile labs to 10 mobile computer labs (8 of them dedicated to a single classroom) + 1 iPad cart. The challenge now is to figure out what to do with them. As this is our school’s first foray into student iPads, I thought I would share some thoughts on when to choose iPads and when to choose computers.

Ye Goode Olde Computre
Let’s start with the familiar: computers. Computers are still our best bet for so many purposes. They are great for conducting research and for producing documents, which should account for the majority of the work we do on computers. They remain an excellent choice for accessing online learning tools like Study Island, Edmodo, Elements, and for using specialty programs, like the Photoshop. Computers also give students access to web-based programs like SAS, Xtranormal, and Voice Threads. The short of it, for now anyway, is that computers remain your best, and most versatile, bet for tech.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The iPad
So why are we even talking about iPads? They aren’t great for producing documents, though I admit that I am typing this blog on my iPad. And they don’t support Flash, which means you can’t run web apps like SAS Curriculum Pathways, on them.

So what makes the iPad awesome for the classroom? Apps: apps for learning (Khan Academy, Nova Elements, Economist World Figures), and apps for assessment (Educreations, ShowMe, Penultimate). Apps are specialized, generally self-contained programs that allow the user to focus, typically, on a single, specific task. An app like World Figures, which provides an abundance of international statistical data, puts students directly in touch with the information they need.

The iPad also allows student mobility, which means students can collaborate easily, teachers can organize jigsaw activities, or groups can use the device’s photo and video capabilities to record their work. Computers, not so much. The other benefit of the iPad, and it is easy to understate this feature, is that it forces cloud thinking. You can’t just drop files on a flash drive, and you can’t just open My Documents. Instead, students must get use to cloud-based (think Google Docs and Dropbox) storage and transmission, which will be the standard for file management before they finish college.

A Guide to Help You Decide

Use the iPad if… Use the computer if… Use either if…
you want students to move around and engage each other off screen students can be stationary and interaction is solely digital you don’t care how they interactact
you have a specific iPad app that you want students to use in class. you have a specific program not available on the iPads that you want students to use. the program/app you want students to use has both web and iPad versions (Voice Threads)
you want students to create videos or annotated recordings (Educreations) or images (Penultimate) you want students to create documents (Word, Google) or presentations (Prezi, PowerPoint) 
you want students to gather information/ideas from specific sources best accessed through an app (Oyez Today, Nova Elements) you want students to both conduct research and produce substantial written text about their findings you want students to research information widely available on the web
you want to engage students with interactive apps like Sketch Explorer or Tap Quiz Maps you want to use Flash-based programs like SAS Curriculum Pathways, which are not available for the iPad you want students to share in a common, digital space (Edmodo, Twitter)

 The fact is, these two options are growing closer and closer to each other in terms of their possibilities and usefulness. The question is not necessarily which device to use, but how to use the device at your disposal to accomplish your desired goal. Chances are your colleagues, your media coordinators or your IC can help you find a solution to whatever tech challenges you might have.


Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Post them to Comments (see link above) or e-mail 

Techno-Performance Task Assessments

November 30, 2012

This post is the second in a series of three about implementing performance task assessments, an important part of the Common Core/Essential Standard shift.

The Challenge
Creating and administering common assessments is seldom easy work, and sometimes it is incredibly challenging. Take, for example, the challenge of assessing reading, writing, speaking and listening in world languages. Spanish teachers must assess student development in these four areas in intervals throughout the semester. Of course, their daily work, through workbooks, projects, quizzes, tests, and general instruction, provides them a picture of students achievement in particular skills, but that big, 4-strand picture is tough to assess.

Most difficult of all are the speaking and listening strand, as they require either one-on-one assessments (imagine having to test 30 individual students fairly as they explain why it will take two trains, one traveling east, the other west, four hours, thirteen minutes to meet in St. Louis). The Spanish I teachers figured it out.

Assessing Listening
To assess a students’ abilities to comprehend spoken Spanish, the Ms. Haynes, Ms. Dunham, and Ms. Watson created a video of six native Spanish speakers (plus one Japanese student, just for kicks) telling about themselves and their preferences. For the assessment, students watched the video and charted details about any four of the speakers. This assessment told the teachers which students were able to listen to Spanish and extract information from the speaker as they might need to in an actual conversation.

Assessing Speaking
My wife likes to tell the story of how her friend Crystal got entire class out of a speaking test in Spanish II. When it was Kerri’s turn to take the test–there was only one cassette machine for playing and recording–she pushed play, and all she heard was Crystal’s deep drawl, saying, “Hellllloooooo. I don’t hear anythang. Heeellllllooooooo.”

The Spanish teachers came up with a great solution to the challenge, and they were able to eliminate what I will call the Crystal effect. They created Google Voice accounts. Google voice provides you a phone number, and can direct calls to all of your phones, so you never miss a call. The key with this Spanish assessment, however, was to miss the call. Google voice redirects to voice mail and record messages as MP3s.

The teachers had their students call their Google Voice numbers all at once and answer two questions provided by the teacher in their best Spanish. To assess students’ performances on the task, the teachers opened their Google Voice accounts, clicked on the files, and listened to them. SInce the files are MP3, the teachers can easily move them into students’ digital linguafolios, so they can track student development throughout the year, or even as they progress through multiple levels of Spanish.

So What?
So what? Are you kidding me? That’s awesome, and not just because it’s a cool use of technology that averted the Crystal effect. What’s really awesome is this. The assessments tell teachers whether their classes as a whole are on track with reading, writing, speaking and listening, and it helps them identify which students are not progressing in each of the four strands. By delivering a common assessment with a common rubric and collaborating on the evaluation, they cannot help but see their own strengths and weaknesses. It is inevitable, for example, that a teacher whose students’ listening skills fall noticeably below the average will seek to improve that area with the assistance of colleagues. The process ferrets out shortcomings and begs us to respond.

Taking Risks
The Spanish teachers will tell you this process was not without flaw. The sort of risk they took in creating, delivering, and evaluating the assessment was huge and uncomfortable. It is that kind of risk that inspires growth, and growing is a darn good thing.

Leave your comments if you wish, or contact me directly at to collaborate with your PLC or to discuss assessment, instruction, or technology.

Responding to Performance Task Assessments in Your PLC

November 27, 2012

On October 26, PLCs created culminating performance task assessments. The results were fantastic. My next few blog posts will describe examples. I hope you will take from these examples some ideas for your own PLC, along with the motivation to continue and increase this work on your own. The challenge is great, and time is precious, but the work seems well worth the outcome.

PTA in the C&E PLC (OMG)
It took several hours, but the Civics and Economics PLC produced a clever and, more importantly, a meaningful performance task assessment on our 10/26 PD day. Their purpose was to assess students’ understanding of the US Constitution, Supreme Court precedents, and the ways these documents shape legal decisions. In doing so, they assessed students’ recall of information as well as their ability to apply that knowledge and think critically about legal systems. Check out the C&E PTA.

In short, their assessment asked students to take a legal position either for or against Michael, a male student attempting to enroll in an all-women’s college, and defend that position using amendments and SCOTUS cases. It clearly works on multiple levels of Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy and provides the PLC with an abundance of information about their students attainment of Common Core and NC Essential Standards.

After a collaborative assessment effort, here’s what they found:
1. Motivated responses. Almost every student, even those who rarely participate in class activities, participated in this written assessment, and many wrote more than the teacher expected.

2. Comprehension: Many students performed better than teachers expected. The underlying assumption seemed to be that students who struggle (or don’t bother to struggle) to memorize the information they are taught would have no chance of applying knowledge to a complex problem. Frequently, students were able to apply knowledge to demonstrate some depth of understanding about a topic, like the First Amendment or Plessy v. Ferguson.

3. Areas of need: The purpose of assessment is to shape future instruction, whether it be remediation, review, or forward progress. C&E teachers could tell which topics, like the First Amendment, their students could recall and understand, and which they could not. They also discovered a specific conceptual shortcoming in most responses. Students applied Plessy v. Ferguson appropriately, except that they failed to understand that the Brown v. Board decision upended Plessy. This information showed the teachers the need to review the Brown case and to clarify, perhaps in another context, what happens when a more recent SCOTUS decision eliminates or modifies an older one. When we talk about depth of understanding, as opposed to breadth of knowledge, this example is exactly what we’re talking about.

4. More of it: The C&E teachers agreed that, though time to work together is painfully rare, they would like to continue with this sort of assessment by creating a PTA for their economics unit. Ultimately, this sort of assessment has tremendous potential. It focuses on depth and works at multiple levels of the taxonomy. When we assess in this way, we will also teach in this way, seeking a depth of understanding and pushing students to apply, analyze, evaluate and create, not just remember. It’s a goal worthy of our pursuit.

Share your own experiences with PLCs and performance task assessments by clicking the comments option above.

Dealing with Data in Your PLC

October 15, 2012

Much has been said about PLCs and their use of data to inform instruction. What I discovered early in the process of working with PLCs on common assessments was that too much data is detrimental, as is data that is too detailed. I want to advocate a strategy for reporting proficiency that is easy to analyze and easy to respond to. It consists of two basic steps.

1. Identify general categories (solving equations, lab safety, brake systems)

You don’t want to know how every student did on every question. You really don’t even want to know what the class as a whole did on every question. What you do care about is student proficiency in broad categories. Does Jakeem know the process for changing an oil filter? Can he change break pads? Keep the topics broad by basing them on your essential standards or on topics designated by the PLC as targets for the grading period.

2. Reduce proficiency data to YES/NO

The grade book generally requires definite grades, but in the process of determining how to respond to an assessment, whether formative or summative, you can make your life easier by reducing those numbers to mere YES or NO. Is Jakeem proficient in lab safety or not? Does he understand food chains or not?

So you end up with something that looks like this Proficiency Table.

This report tells the teacher to deliver a whole new lesson, and perhaps a new approach or just a lot of practice, on subject-verb agreement. For pronouns, however, only four students require intervention, while the others might focus on other topics.

I hope this strategy will help your PLC become more efficient and more effective, as you attempt to improve student learning by respond to data. As always, let me know how I can help.

A Model PLC

October 10, 2012

The math department has always supported each of its teachers and has long attempted to align, if not instruction, then at least outcomes from one class to the next. Their history has made the transition to developing PLCs relatively natural, as they have essentially worked in PLCs for so long. Their weekly PLC meetings this year, if not perfect, are a genuine model of what PLCs should do to make instruction work for students.

How Math I Began The Year
All Math I teachers began the school year giving the same pretest. That test provided data about several mathematical skills–requisite skills for success in Math I–about every student enrolled in the course. The data was terrifying. It showed just how ill-prepared this new crop of students would be for the course they had just begun. The important part, however, was not the data itself. It was the response to the data. The PLC found itself immediately revising curriculum, figuring out where they really needed to begin instruction, where they needed to plug holes, and what they could do to help students succeed in Math I.

The process of creating this assessment, implementing it, processing its data, and responding to that data through curriculum design and instructional strategy–that’s what PLCs do. And that’s what is going to help those students, no matter which teacher stands at the front of the class, learn all they can.

Six Weeks In
It’s that time, and it snuck up quickly. The geometry PLC took to heart the command to implement six weeks assessments. They designed several very short, topical quizzes. Without warning, review or preparation beyond the instruction that has taken place over the past six weeks, they implemented those quizzes. One might show that an entire class comprehends parallel and perpendicular lines. Another might show that 48% of students don’t understand right triangles.

The first tells the teacher to keep moving. The second says review, reteach, intervene. And it even tells them who needs that intervention and who does not. Again, the assessments, and I promise you they are simple but well crafted, provide the data that shapes instruction. Perhaps more importantly, the need to respond prompts important conversations. A teacher will not sit with a PLC, reflect on unsatisfactory data, and come to the conclusion to keep moving forward, regardless. At the very least, that teacher will pursue solutions to the problem. And four great teachers tackling one problem is sure to produce a better response, and a response that impacts not just the 34 or 68 or 112 students fortunate enough to have a certain teacher, but every student supported by that PLC.

It Ain’t Easy
Talking to math teachers, I don’t hear tales of glory. I don’t hear the teachers praising the measurable benefits of the PLC. I hear grit. I hear labor. But I also hear a unified effort to identify and overcome the challenges of everyday life in the mathematics classroom. It’s not pretty, but it makes a difference.

PLCs on September 20

September 19, 2012

Today is our first early release day, and I hope that taking the time to work with your PLC will be productive. We want to start by making sure people are clear about a few common questions regarding the Common Core and Essential Standards.

Read this Common Core FAQ if you have questions about Common Core.

PLCs are going to be extremely important during the next few years in terms of facilitating the transition from the old standards and assessments to the new ES, CCSS, EOCs and MSLs. If you want to see today’s presentation again, click here.


If you haven’t completed your proposal in My Learning Plan, take care of that now. This video should help you if you need it:


If that didn’t help, contact Mike Flinchbaugh.


Now for the real work of the PLC, which should grow from and be based on student learning. Here’s a little reminder of What PLCs Do and What Your PLC Might Do Today. And one last thing: resources. There’s a ton of stuff out there for us to use but never enough time to sift through it. The PCS core area curriculum specialists are doing their best to sift through materials and post them to the PCS Core Website.

Getting Started in Your PLC

September 11, 2012

Meeting with your PLC
At the beginning of the year, which now seems so far away, we talked about PLCs meeting regularly. Specifically, we identified the second Wednesday of each month (knowing that you might choose to meet more frequently or at different times), early release days, and teacher work days as times for PLCs to meet, collaborate, and produce. Tomorrow is the second Wednesday in September, so PLCs, unless you have identified a different time, should be meeting this week.

Remember that you should participate in a PLC for every course you teach that is taught by another teacher on campus. Each course, and not each course area, should work as a PLC. Those who are involved in PLCs with teachers in other schools, esp. CTE and arts, meet according to Ms. Trueblood’s or Ms. Behan’s instructions.

Goal Setting
PLCs should be actively and collaboratively engaged in pursuit of a limited number of SMART goals, focused on student performance.

S = specific
M = measurable
A = attainable
R = relevant
T = time bound

If you haven’t set goals for student performance, take care of that this week. You will also want to enter your goals into My Learning Plan. I made a Jing video to show you how to do that. Here’s the link: PLC Proposal. Call me if you need any help, or invite me to attend your PLC meeting, so I can work with the group the process. It’s pretty simple, and it should help you keep an eye on the goals you want to achieve and your tools for measuring that achievement.

Where we’re going with this...
Our end goal is to make sure every student learns what they need to learn in our classes, no matter who the teacher is, no matter what the class is. Ideally, a common set of goals and collaboration toward the accomplishment of those goals, will teachers succeed with every student. Our tools for doing this: 1) some form of common assessment, 2) data from those assessments, 3) analysis of and response to that data.

So, for example, every biology teacher gives a common assessment at the end of week five. That assessment shows which students can explain how cells reproduce, can make safe decisions about lab work, and can explain how plants make food. They chart the data, reteach the kids who weren’t proficient on any of the established goals, modify instructional strategies, adapt, improvise, overcome…or something like that. The idea is that the data guides that collaboration because it shows PLCs and individual teachers the gaps that exist in the development of students’ learning.

This semester–in fact very soon–PLCs should be developing assessment tools to measure whether students can do what they need to do. These tools–call them benchmarks or common assessments–should tie in directly to the goals set by the PLC, and will, most likely, focus on the five essential skills you identified at the beginning of the year. For now, take one step at a time. Meet. Set your goals. Discuss the pursuit of those goals.

The Math of Khan (Academy, and Other Subjects)

June 4, 2012

You might have heard of Khan Academy on 60 minutes. Or CNN. Or from your cool teacher friend. And you might have said, “Eh.” But if you said, “Eh,” then you probably haven’t actually looked at the website. Do it now. Yes, now: I know it’s exam time, but do it anyway, and consider some of the many ways you might incorporate Khan into your instruction next year. I offer several suggestions at the end of this blog.

Before I can tell you that story, I have to tell you this story,
Khan Academy started with one dude, Salman Khan (seen here on, creating a mini tutorial on his computer for his cousin, who was having difficulty in her math class. Not everyone has a cool uncle who can create computer tutorials, so Khan’s little videos became popular, and then good old Bill Gates wrote him a check and said, “Make  7 billion video tutorials so all the world can learn stuff for free.” He didn’t really say that, but the site hosts a lot of videos, and they are all free.

You can see the result on the website. Endless videos in math: pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, statistics, trigonometry, calculus. But Khan has branched out into the sciences: physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy, computer science. And social studies: civics, economics, finance, banking. It has lessons for SAT, art history, and health care. It even explains the Geithner Plan!

The brilliance of these lessons is that they are short, simple, and amazingly clear. And they are FREE (have I mentioned that?) and accessible online or by iPhone app. I know you are irreplaceable; I promise to punch anyone in the nose who claims otherwise. I also know that Khan Academy is a useful tool that many of us can, and should, make available to our students. Here are some ideas:

Post links to your Website/Edmodo Page
Wouldn’t it be nice to know that kids could receive nightly tutoring on their homework assignments? Try posting to your website or Edmodo page a link to a Khan Academy tutorial that matches the day’s instruction. That way, if students get stuck, they can watch an explanation until they get it.

I Learn from an iPod
Khan Academy apps can be downloaded to iPads, iPods and iPhones. It is a good tool for the students to put on their phones, but we can also add the app to the class set of iPods available in the library. That way, students can watch lessons independently in your class. More on this idea below.

A Substitute for the Substitute
It is difficult to find a substitute who can teach about home equity loans or plate tectonics when you are stuck at home with a feverish child. Try having your substitute teacher play a Khan Academy video off the computer in your absence.

Heal the Sick (and Suspended)
Ok, so you won’t actually heal them, but you can try to keep them from falling behind. Khan can’t replace your explanation of absolute value equations or Punnett squares, but it’s the next best thing. Try referring students to a specific Khan Academy video to make up what they miss.

Differentiate Lessons for Depth
Every teacher struggles with pacing when some students are ready to move forward after 30 minutes of instruction and practice, while others need to hear the same lesson 17 more times. Khan Academy provides so many videos, especially in math, that it might just become a useful tool for differentiating instruction. While you provide a group of students extra attention on a basic concept, those who have already mastered it might explore the topic in greater depth by watching a Khan video on a computer. Or, while the you push the rest of the class deeper, those requiring remediation might watch Khan videos on iPods. That way your class can stay on the same topic while each student maximizes growth.

Respond to Benchmarks
Benchmark assessments frequently reveal that students have different weaknesses. Some might struggle with the branches of government while others fail to grasp supply and demand. Teachers don’t have time to re-teach evertudent every topic, but we can become more efficient by differentiating review lessons according to students’ weaknesses. As students begin to review for tests or exams, or after benchmarks reveal their needs, try assigning each student a sequence of Khan videos, along with a simple assessment to check for understanding.

Practice Makes…
Click on the Practice tab on and explore the web of practice choices. Each one presents questions, offers hints, and links to videos that might help. They become self-guided and self-paced opportunities to learn, and they might just be a useful way to help students advance at their own pace. Could it be classwork? Could it be homework? I think so.

Khan for You
I’m not too proud to borrow from a colleague. Khan’s explanations are lucid enough, that, were I to teach a lesson on sp3 Hybridized Orbital and Sigma Bonds, I might just watch the video as I prepare my own lesson. And some of the lessons are interesting just for the sake of watching. Try this one on the Fibonacci Sequence.

As we head dreamily toward summer break, I wish I could offer you a vacation to Hawaii or French Guiana instead of a website. Forgive me.


Sacred Places

May 25, 2012
“I made a frickin’ logo!” So says an excited student in a video he posted in a class project concocted by Robert Puckett. The Sacred Places project brings together the work of over 50 students in a Google Map that can be shared and viewed by anyone. Look, I’ll share it with you:

The idea is to get students to think about themselves through the lens of place, and consider how they might represent themselves through visual and written texts. Their ideas manifested in several components of the larger project:


Sacred Places Essays
I had the opportunity to co-teach this portion of the project with Puckett. After brainstorming topics using and drawing maps, students wrote narratives about places that are important to them. The essays were written in Google Docs, which allowed them to collaborate with teachers and student partners during the composing process. It also made them easy to link to the Google Map.

Students used the text of their essays to create Wordles, which make art out of words.

Self Portraits
Many of these are still in the works, but students learned a process for integrating the text of their essays with photographs of themselves. The resulting images look like grayscale portraits of the students, but they are made up entirely of twisted, darkened, repeated words.

Early in this process, students were asked to think about themselves metaphorically. Puckett had them visualize themselves as animals, which then became the inspirations for logos the students designed to represent themselves.These logos then became the students’ pins, which mark their “sacred places” on the Google map.

Reflection Videos
Students recorded videos of themselves reflecting on the project and the work they completed. It is their chance to pull their thoughts and their learning together and reflect on what they gained from it.

How It All Comes Together
When you look at the Google Map initially, all you see is the world cluttered with overlapping icons. Zoom in and you begin to discover that each icon is pinned to an exact location–the same location the student wrote about in his Sacred Places essay. Click on the icon to open a window with a photograph of the student and links to wordles, essays, portraits and videos. In a way, the map allows students to say, “HERE I am.”

Why It Works
One student stopped me in the cafeteria yesterday to ask if I had looked at the Google Map. He was excited about sharing his work through this digital tool; I was equally excited about the effect digital publishing had on his writing. He said that when he went back to his essay, he realized it didn’t quite make sense–not for a public audience. So? So he rewrote it. Publishing motivated the process of reflection and revision. It prompted critical thinking and genuine effort.

In part this project is just cool; however, it goes beyond cool. It allows Puckett to teach his graphics curriculum and draw the best he can out of his students. At the same time, his students learn web tools–specifically Google Docs and Google Maps–and writing skills. It’s 21st century. It’s WAC. It’s Common Core. It’s everything it should be.

It’s also wonderfully imperfect. You won’t see cookie cutter essays. You won’t see many perfectly edited essays. You won’t see flawless icons. What you will see are a series of works that show where students are in their own learning. And that’s a pretty sacred place, too.