Monthly Archives: March 2010

A Walk Down Memory Lane With Google Street View


I came across a post by @dougpete entitled “My Childhood Community”.  He used Google Street View to take a virtual walk down memory lane.  My head started spinning because I saw a student assignment in this.  After just finishing an immigration unit as well as a project called “What’s Your Story”, I was thinking that this was the perfect opportunity to tap into some 21st Century skills while connecting with adults.  I imagined my students sitting in front of a laptop with a parent or grandparent and asking them about where they grew up.  The child would then show them using Google Street View the places they were speaking of.  As the conversation developed, the tool would be used as a virtual treasure hunt where the two generations would be exploring, sparking memories, and learning from each other.  They will be able to talk about changes in childhood, buildings, and technology. What a recipe for a meaningful conversation!

I have not started this with my students yet, but have created directions for the project here. Even if  I don’t have time to fit this in for this current year, I have learned how to use Google in a way that I’ve never thought of before. Digital storytelling has become an integral part of my language arts curriculum, and this is just another extension to it.

This past week, I sat with my mom as we talked about my childhood. I showed her what I was doing on Google Street View and she was amazed at the technology!  We spent about an hour reminiscing and exploring our little town and the surrounding areas.  It truly was a great conversation and walk down memory lane.  I see her every day, but don’t always have the opportunity to connect in the way we did this week. Here we are just before my first birthday…I was just beginning to walk…

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Below are the examples that I made from that discussion with my mom:

Thanks to @dougpete for sharing your experience, and a special thanks to my mom that walked with me through my childhood, and continues to walk with me every day.


The Quest for Muchness


This past week, I took my kids to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  I was blown away by the beauty of the film along with its ability to make me (an audience member) believe that I was in Wonderland…or Underland that is.  Beyond the drama, costumes, and special effects, a quote that was derived from Carroll’s original text, Through the Looking Glass, resonated most with me: You used to be much more…muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.

I immediately came home and tweeted the quote along with a question: Can we teach muchness? I had two amazing conversations about this with @averyteach and @jeffwolfsberg. If you saw the movie, you know that Alice found her muchness and was able to slay the Jabberwocky with the Vorpal Sword.  But, what was that muchness that Alice found? Was it her passion? Was it the strength to discover who she really is?


After thinking about these questions, I knew why this quote had become an earworm in my head: Isn’t it our job as teachers to help students find their muchness? Shouldn’t we be giving them the skills and tools to help discover their strengths and passions?

I’m reminded of a TED talk that Temple Grandin gave recently about helping spectrum kids find their passion using mentors.  As a mom to an aspie kiddo, I know the importance of using that child’s passion to help them relate to the world and learn about academic areas through that passion…that muchness.  But this shouldn’t be a special needs thing…this should be just good teaching and learning for all students. Every student should learn about their muchness…about their passions…and if they don’t know what it is, we should help them to discover it.  We need to look beyond our four walls to connect students to mentors in their area of interest…we are no longer the gatekeepers to learning in our rooms, and it is time to explore and embrace that fact.

Yes, this is another *thing* that we need to add to our already packed days.  It is not easy. It takes a lot of work, time, and dedication to help each child develop their muchness. Do we want to create good little test takers or do we want to create a community of learners that is engaged, innovative & creative, connected, and has the ability to communicate and collaborate? Aren’t these the 21st century skills that we have been hearing about? Is muchness the key to teaching and learning in the 21st century? I believe if you ask any employer today, they would say unanimously, “YES!”  So let’s prepare them by tapping into their passions, breaking down the barriers of our four walls, and encouraging teachers to tap into their own muchness.

But…that’s another story…that I’ll answer with a question: What happens when teachers have lost their muchness? Can’t my original earworm quote apply to teachers as well? You used to be much more…muchier. You’ve lost your muchness. Let’s continue the quest for muchness for our students as well as for ourselves.

Replace One, Guide One


While watching the ASCD conference streamed live last week, I was eagerly anticipating Heidi Hayes Jacobs talk about Curriculum 21.  I had just finished the innovative book recently and have been telling every edu-type that I know to read it.  During the talk, there were some amazing nuggets of advice, awesome quotes like, “Lamination is the mummification of curriculum”, and a challenge to have every teacher replace one dated assignment or assessment with one that is current and highlights 21st century skills.

This past week, Heidi started a new ning for Curriculum 21.  Her first post was this:

Upgrading:  One Assessment at a Time

Each teacher in a school can make a commitment to REPLACE a dated assessment type with a modern one. For example, instead of doing an “oral report” with notecards, students can create a video podcast. IDEAS?

This immediately caught my interest, so I responded with a story of replacement that happened recently:

Hi Heidi.
I just wanted to share a wonderful experience with a middle school math colleague of mine with “replacement” practices. She came to me and wanted to figure out a way that she could make her mathematician reports that she has done for years more “current”. She wanted the basics of the assignment to be the same, but wanted to use 21st century skills in a meaningful, purposeful way.

I teach the same students that she does, so I know they are highly skilled in using technology, but I didn’t want to overwhelm her. So I taught her how to create a wiki and how to set the parameters for the students. She went and worked on her wiki diligently, and returned for some follow up one or two times.

Within 2 weeks, she had learned to use a wiki, created a wiki, was comfortable enough to use it with students, and had the students successfully complete the project!

Not only did she replace a dated assessment, but she also changed how she grading it by using a rubric. We had another session where I taught her how to use rubistar to create a rubric and roobrix to calculate the grade. In the end, she changed two things about the project, but the content met her original goal from years ago!

Here is the final wiki created by the students. She is so thrilled with the final results that she came to me two days ago to help her plan the next “replacement” assessment! She loved that the students were engaged, interested, and learning in a way that she hasn’t seen before. She also loved that she did this paperlessly!

Hopefully, this “replacement” practice will start to spread with this little seed. Thank you Heidi, for continuing to have the vision.
🙂 Megan

I would like to continue to support Heidi’s challenge to “replace one“, but I’d also like to add “guide one” to those of us that have the skills and resources to help those who would like to “replace one” but don’t even know where to begin.  If we begin to internalize this practice of replacing and guiding, we are creating a community of learners amongst ourselves that will continue to grow exponentially as each “seed” is planted.

So, what do you believe?

On January 25th, I began the process of teaching 8th graders how to write a “This I Believe” essay in 350-500 words.  It seemed like a simple task until I realized the magnitude of what I was asking them to discover about themselves, in addition to being able to share that information with me.  Although I can’t share the essays with you, I have created a video with true belief statements extracted from the original pieces. I hope this will inspire you to ask yourself what you believe in…go ahead…ask your students, too!

These are the original slides that we created the video from:

Teaching the Holocaust using 21st Century Skills

Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be trained in Holocaust Education through Facing History and Ourselves.  At the time, I had no idea how that program would change so much of my program.  If you ever get a chance to be involved with the organization, it is an amazing experience!

Since then, I’ve created a year-long 8th grade research project, make.a.difference, in which students choose a person or organization that has made a positive difference in the world.  Facing History uses the Holocaust as a catalyst for teaching tolerance as well as choosing to participate in order to make the world a better place.

In 7th grade, I’ve created a rich Holocaust Education experience involving film, literature, short stories, poems, and graphic novels.  I challenged my 7th graders to research a survivor or upstander from the Holocaust to remember.  They used imovie and photostory to create a digital story about their person.  The end result was powerful, meaningful, and moving.  Click here to view all of their amazing creations!

My diigo list of Holocaust resources.