Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wanted: Principals Blogging

My boss asked me to find powerful examples of blogs done by principals as a way not only to get announcements out to families, but also to provide a site for resources that families could use to assist their child, as well as ways to supplement the learning going on and build connections between home and school. What a wonderful use for the blog! How forward thinking and, dare I say LOGICAL. I was excited. That's an assignment that's right up my alley. I promised I'd find at least 5 good ones and report back to him on what made the blog so powerful and how it could be tweaked for our families.

My problem: I'm having a hard time finding what I'm looking for. HELP. If you have/know of an administrator that's doing a fabulous job of blogging for parents as their primary audience, please let me know. I found a lot of fabulous edtech blogs, but they're writing to other edtechs or other teachers. I'll keep looking, but here's some good ones that I found.

A GeekyMomma's Blog

by Lee Kolbert from Boca Raton, FL. Yes, she's a mom and a blogger and an educator as well as a techie. Not sure if she's an edtechie, but quite possibly. No, she's not an administrator, but I found her on the Support Blogging! wikispace under blogs on educational blogging and I liked the title. Note to SD - the title of your blog is very important.

  • great voice in her writing - easy to read, not too jargonish, humorous, pleasant
  • posts are interactive - a good way to bring audience in - "let's learn together" or "try this, and I will too, let's exchange mana'o"
  • clean design
  • intended readership is not the same
  • not an administrator
Birdʻs Eye View
Andrew Bird is the principal of Muritai School in Eastbourne in Wellington. The purpose of his blog is to help his readers keep up with daily events at school, some of their learning, some of his thoughts, his school achievements and key readings related to education.
  • He sticks to his mission for his blog
  • Easy to read
  • Technologies like TeacherTube are incorporated to share information in an interesting way
  • I would like to see more edtalk. Yes, too much turns parents off, but once a month shouldnʻt be too much
  • The posts are not updated enough (averages 2 a month)
  • The blogroll links should be more focused on useful sites for students and parents
The Principal and Interest
Dave Sherman moved his blog to Word Press so that he did not have to be attached to his schoolʻs website. This is not a site for parents. But Iʻm including this site because I think as a principal he has manaʻo on the kinds of things that other principals deal with. If you are feeling isolated as a principal and need to hear another principalʻs voice, this is the blog to try.

Almost Monday
Principal Glenn Malone's site is for his staff. Not quite what we're looking for, but I still think it's a good idea as a way to share links. Perhaps there could be several people posting to staff to make it easier: principal, vice principal, curriculum specialist, PTA reps, etc.

I didnʻt find the exact blog to fit my principal's needs, but I have no doubt that he can create one. What I did find after sorting through 25 blogs is this:
  • principals are really busy, so if they do find time to blog, they choose to talk to their colleagues rather than to parents (I think it depends on what the principals were before they were principals: curriculum specialists and technology teachers make the best bloggers)
  • if the principal blog is attached to the school web site, the most common use of the blog is as a way to post pictures of student outings and post announcements
  • many of the links I went to were either shut down or had not been updated in several years, which tells me that principals really need to be committed to blogging, because it's not easy to fit it in
The key to all new things is to just take baby steps. Everything doesn't have to be set up ahead of time in order to start. Just start and be willing to learn and take feedback. There will come a time when you feel like no one is reading you. Blog anyway, even if it's just a way to clarify your thoughts. There are silent readers and silent supporters out there (at least that's what I hope). See you in the blogosphere.

Friday, January 23, 2009

News and Twitter

I got to hear Will Rich speak at the Kukulu Kaiaulu ed tech conference in Honolulu this summer and he has so much to share on technology and education. This is one of his videos on the example of Twitter as a tool for the news.
The original video is shared from bliptv by WillRich45

FREE Webinar Series starts Jan. 28th

I got an email from Classroom 2.0(an educator's networking site)that announced that they're partnering with PBS to offer a series of free online web seminars (webinars) for teachers.

Webinars are a great way to do quick (usually one hour) online classes with an opportunity to participate in the running discussion as well as an opportunity to ask questions of the speakers. Another perk is that by signing up you are sent a link of the archive so that you can take your time to digest and synthesize the information outside of the timed parameters of participating live. P.S. For the Hawaii educators, the webinars are usually listed in Easter Standard time, so take off 5 hours and I'll meet you in the seminar room at 3 pm Hawaii Standard Time on the 28th.

Here's the webinar information from the email:
A message to all members of Classroom 2.0- PBS Teachers® and Classroom 2.0 are partnering on a series of free monthly webinars designed to help preK-12 educators learn new ways to integrate online instructional resources in the classroom and engage students in curriculum lessons. The webinar series features leading education experts, authors, and PBS producers who will discuss timely and relevant curriculum-related topics, and share their knowledge and ideas on using digital media to create rich learning experiences for students.

Our first event will be "Changing Views of History, Changing Views of Race" with speaker Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Wednesday, January 28th, at 8:00pm Eastern Time (US).
Dr. Gates will discuss how Americans’ understanding of President Lincoln and African American history and culture continues to evolve, and ways to approach this topic with students. Dr. Gates is the host of the documentary "Looking for Lincoln," which premieres in February. The program addresses the controversies surrounding Lincoln about race, equality, religion, politics, and depression by carefully interpreting the evidence from those who knew him and those who study him today.

To join the event and get the link to the Elluminate meeting room, go to All our events are "beginner-friendly," and there are instructions on this page for getting set up to attend. For those outside of the U.S. there is a link to a specific time-conversion page in my comments.

I hope you'll consider joining us!
Steve Hargadon
Founder, Classroom 2.0
Visit Classroom 2.0 at:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Resources for African American History Month

February is African American History Month so let me help with some resources.
The Underground Railroad: An Interactive History Adventure by Allison Lassieur
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Capstone Press; 1st edition (January 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1429611839
  • ISBN-13: 978-1429611831
Describes the people and events of the Underground Railroad in the 1850s after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed. The reader's choices reveal the historical details from the perspectives of a runaway slave, a slave catcher, and an abolitionist. It's $6.95 retail, but has it for $5.00 in their January TAB flyer (T50600).

Also from Scholastic, Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman
    • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 114 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823421953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823421954
In Freedman's clear prose, relive the protest that changed America. This book is packed with archival photos as well as personal stories and historical accounts.
The hardcover retails for $18.95, but at, the paperback is yours for $6.00.

Website activities:Link

Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
This site through the Library of Congress contains more than 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 black-and-white photographs of former slaves. Students are introduced to primary sources.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Using Media as a Classroom Resource

Today as I turned on the television at 5 am to watch the inauguration, I couldn't help but compare it to the other inaugurations I've seen (Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush). I woke my children up and we watched until we had to leave for school and on our way to school, we listened to Obama's speech on the AM radio. But what is so different about this inauguration is the way that everyday citizens like me, not professional journalists, but people like me who woke up and turned on the tv, or the radio, or the computer, can be directly involved in this historic day through Facebook or Twitter, or online comments, blogs, vlogs, etc.

What a wonderful day to be a teacher in America. With so many opportunities to bring the world into our classroom, to join in the voices of the nation and the world, it's a great day to be in education. It's a wonderful time to be in this profession, and more than any other time in history, the world really is at our fingertips.

For those that are overwhelmed with technology, who truly are digital immigrants trying to understand what seems like a foreign language called technology, start small, but like the immigrants of old, start. Baby steps. FRONTLINE examines the rich personal and political biography of America’s 44th president, offering insight into the key moments and experiences that have shaped him and formed his political vision. You can either buy the DVD, or more importantly, you can watch it online and either show it on your computer through your projector, or hook your computer up to a television. Another option is to break it up into chapters and create expert groups for each chapter to share out with the class (if you have multiple computers or you feel comfortable giving it for homework.

If you want to break up the 60 minute film, it's broken up into 6 chapters. Click on the link above to see the short synopses of each chapter.

From Frontline:
The story begins at the Democratic Convention in 2004 when Barack Obama, a little-known candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois, stepped forward to tell his personal story and to call for a move beyond partisan politics.

“All around were people with tears in their eyes,” Obama’s chief political adviser David Axelrod tells FRONTLINE. “And I realized at that moment that his life would never be the same.”

FRONTLINE reviews the critical life experiences that made Obama uniquely suited to launch his successful campaign to become the country’s first African American president: his community organizing days in Chicago, his presidency of the Harvard Law Review, and his rise to the top of Illinois politics, in the course of which he learned how to navigate America’s complicated racial and political divides.

“Barack has had to deal with dueling identities all of his life,” his longtime friend and current adviser Cassandra Butts tells FRONTLINE. “He [was] nurtured by a white family, identifying with that family, but at the same time, ... when he goes out he’s identified as something else. And he has had to make sense of that duality his entire life.”

As a young man recently out of college, Obama went to Chicago, a city some call the “capital of black America,” to work as a community organizer and try to sort out his dual identities. Colleagues say that after a few years he had found peace with who he was, but had become frustrated by his inability to change the larger structural problems behind the poverty he saw in Chicago’s South Side.

That frustration led him first to Harvard Law School, where amidst the heated racial disputes of that time he became the middleman -- a conciliator. He then returned to Chicago and quickly found himself in the the rough-and-tumble world of Illinois politics.

“I think the sort of iconlike image that Obama has attained in this country, sometimes blinds us to the fact that he wasn’t born onstage in 2004, but had to rise through the ranks of machine politics in Chicago to get where he is,” New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza tells FRONTLINE.

During those early years in Chicago, Obama put down roots in the black community: He joined Trinity Church and was influenced by its minister, Jeremiah Wright; he took on civil rights cases, led a voter registration drive, won a bitter battle for the state Senate; and, perhaps most importantly, he married a young woman from the predominantly black South Side, Michelle Robinson.

“Her roots in Chicago went deeper than his roots in Chicago,” says the Rev. Jesse Jackson. “She went to public school, and she and my daughter were classmates; they were friends. And so, she would know people he did not know in places he would not know.”

Obama modeled his earliest political efforts after those of Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington. “Washington had to be perceived as somebody who was prepared to be mayor of all of the people of Chicago, not just a mayor for the black community,” Alderman Toni Preckwinkle tells FRONTLINE.

Obama would follow Washington’s strategy and build his own coalition of progressive whites, African Americans and Latinos -- a coalition that would eventually carry him to the United States Senate. “Obama comes along with a message that says: ‘We’re going to look beyond red and blue. I am going to transcend many of these traditional divisions, not only ideological and partisan but also racial,’” says author Ron Brownstein. “And he embodies his message in a unique way, and I think that, to me, is the core of his political strength.”

The film details how, after his election to the U.S. Senate, Obama and his advisers implemented a carefully crafted two-year plan that built the freshman senator’s reputation and led to his announcement in early 2007 that he would run for president.

“Now, as he takes office facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, illuminating the central experiences that formed Barack Obama and led to his meteoric rise to the presidency can help us understand the man the country has chosen to lead it through these perilous times,”says FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Home Reading Support that Makes the Biggest Difference

In the December 2008 Review of Educational Research (Vol. 78, #4, pp. 880-907), researchers Monique Senechal and Laura Young report on their study of different ways for parents to support their K-3 children's reading development. The authors looked at 16 intervention studies involving 1,340 families, and found that overall, the effects of parent involvement were positive. They do, however, see a marked difference among three different approaches:
  • Parents reading to their children - First, remember that they don't say this is not a good thing. This is a good thing. However, the studies showed very little impact on children's reading achievement -- an effect size of 0.18.
  • Parents listening to their children read books - The impact of this had an effect size of 0.52. There does need to be some parent training on the basics of listening to children reading, like how to model thinking, making connections as they read, modeling word attack skills as they read. . .
  • Parents tutoring their children in specific literacy skills with activities - This was the most effective intervention, with an effect size of 1.15. However, this does involve very extensive parent training and the selection of the most effective activities. I'm working on building a resource site on Blackboard for middle school struggling readers, but I'm nowhere near completion.
I do, however, have some sites that are pretty accessible to parents. Please share if you have more. has a subscription rate of $40/year, however, you can access their extensive free printable pages and worksheets on a variety of subjects. More lower middle school and elementary.
RHL school also has a variety of worksheets for struggling readers, especially for middle school readers. I've used both sites as supplements for my struggling readers when I take them on Wednesdays and it's easy to get things at their level.

Please share if you have other sites that have worked for you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Google Reader as a PD tool

128px-feed-iconsvg.png Have you noticed this logo either next to your URL address or on a website like a blog or news site? This is the RSS logo (really simple syndication) that basically allows you to subscribe to a site (like this blog), and every time there is a new post on the site, the new post title shows up on your RSS reader, or aggregator. Your blog has an RSS logo too so I could "subscribe" to your blog and be notified when you have a new posting. You are not obligated to read every post unless the title of the post is something that you want to read about. The object here is to be in the know, not to be overwhelmed with information. One of the better RSS readers is Google Reader (although I personally use Flock, Flock is not for everyone).

To make Google Reader easier to use, Webware has just posted online videos and links to more that give tutorials on how to use Google Reader.

Using RSS is probably one of the first things those new to Web 2.0 will want to learn, and this video incorporates some of the recent changes to Google Reader.

Monday, January 05, 2009

"Off with their heads!"

This Sunday's Star Bulletin ran an article on Hawaii State superintendent of schools, Patricia Hamamoto's push for the legislature to give the DOE more power to replace teachers, principals and staff at some campuses that have been failing the No Child Left Behind law despite extra support to help them raise student achievement over the years.

The plan would allow Hamamoto to replace staff if the school was in restructuring for at least three years. The proposal would allow Hamamoto to replace workers at schools that have been under restructuring for three years or longer. It also could change membership of school community councils and control of the campus could be handed over to private companies.

Harsh? I thought so, but the most interesting thing about this topic is that the comments to this article are not really all that harsh. In fact, I was intrigued by the number of posts that think that this idea sounds pretty logical, and despite the all or nothing nature of this proposal, many people thought it might work to bring up scores.

According to the article,
"28 state schools, including one charter school, have been unable to exit restructuring in three or more years, prompting the Education Department to consider "reconstituting" those schools - a more aggressive aspect of restructuring aimed at changing a school's culture.

"What we are trying to do is work with those schools that are not making significant academic growth after three or more years," Assistant Superintendent Daniel Hamada said about the idea, noting schools have had "the opportunity to improve."
Hamada's saying that the 28 schools have had "the opportunity to improve" basically means that 5 million was given to these schools to implement the program of the day (like America's Choice), provide training to at least one overworked teacher leader that then becomes the one responsible for getting the rest of the hostile staff to buy into the program, as well as consultants that come in and check your bulletin boards. When one program is not working, they bring in the next program of the day.

The 28 schools they're looking at for possible replacement of staff (teachers and principals) are: Honolulu District: Central Middle, Dole Middle, Kalihi Kai; Central District: Wahiawa Elementary, Wahiawa Middle; Leeward District: Kamaile Elementary Public Charter School*, Maili Elementary, Nanaikapono Elementary, Nanakuli Elementary, Nanakuli High and Intermediate, Waianae Intermediate, Waipahu Elementary, Waipahu Intermediate; Windward District: Kahaluu Elementary, Parker Elementary Hawaii District: Hilo Intermediate, Kalanianaole Elementary and Intermediate, Kau High and Pahala Elementary, Keeau Middle, Kealakehe Elementary, Kealakehe Intermediate, Laupahoehoe High and Elementary, Naalehu Elementary and Intermediate, Pahoa High and Intermediate; Maui County: Hana High and Elementary, Kaunakakai Elementary, Molokai High, Molokai Middle

* The Education Department's proposal to the Legislature would allow Hamamoto to recommend that a charter school be reconstituted. (Source: Dept. of Education)

Here's what's pissing me off about this. I admit that I'm no longer in the "system" and in fact have been out of the system for 6 years now, but you know that thing with people that have lost weight -- when you see them every day, you don't notice, but for those people that are on the outside, who haven't seen this person every day, they notice when there's a change. . .well I have not been in the DOE system to see the changes every day, but I've been watching from the outside, and what I see breaks my heart. I listed the schools and it all looks very "dataish," but I know these schools. I've been on the campus of every single school that's listed from Hawaii District. I know some of these principals and teachers. I know what they bring to the table. What experiences they have, what training they've been through. What talents have been squashed and swallowed in these six years. I've been watching the disempowerment of these strong, talented teachers who know their students more than any consultant will ever know these students. They understand their communities more than any outside program will ever understand their communities. Yes, I am the coward who left. Who could not stomach the feeling of helplessness. I am the one who stood in front of my AP class at Hilo High and realized that there were no Hawaiian kids and decided to leave the system, follow the Hawaiian kids to what many believe is a "cushy" job at an independent school. But I've been watching and mourning for my colleagues who had the guts to stay, and the professionalism to try and make it work.

The state of California has 100 schools who have not met AYP in over six years, and yet only 10 of them opted to hand school management over. Even with that, there were very mixed results. ????

I think Hamamoto needs to talk directly to Lehua Veincent, principal of Keaukaha School, who brought his school out of restructuring by knowing his kids, knowing their strengths, bringing in the community to educate the children, and bringing in support staff who also knew these kids and were committed to helping them. While she's at it, come talk to Merle Yoshida (Kalanianaole School) and Cynthia Perry (Pahoa High and Intermediate). Give the power back to the teachers who know these kids, are committed to seeing them succeed, and are committed to these communities where they live and work. I mourn because our teachers, my friends, must work in a hostile environment where their voices are not valued, their experience is not treasured, their cries for help fall on deaf ears. You can replace these teachers and their 20 years of experience, but there's no one out there who will love these kids and love this community as much. Look closely at these teachers, especially our outer island teachers. They are not sending their kids to private school. They are born and raised in these communities. Why would they stay so long in a profession that does not treat them as professionals if not for the kids that they cannot leave behind? They ho'omau (persevere) because they must.

They DESERVE more power. They DESERVE to be heard. We need to LISTEN with our mind open and our mouth closed.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

English Teacher's Companion Ning

If one of your new year's resolutions is to be a more reflective and FABULOUS English teacher, then join the English Companion ning right now. This ning (social website with a specific focus) was started by Jim Burke, prolific author (English Teacher's Companion, The Teacher's Daybook, Reading Reminders, Writing Reminders, Tools for Thought: Graphic Organizers in the Classroom, etc.) webmaster, and guru for secondary English teachers. English teachers can join groups, start discussions, participate in discussions, blog and meet other English teachers from around the country and around the world. Within less than one month of starting this ning, there are already 600+ educators learning from each other.
I think I joined two weeks ago, and everyday that I go on and read the discussions, join in, and hear mana'o from other educators, I learn and am inspired again. The passion for teaching is contagious. People have great forum topics and it is as beneficial for the newbies as for the veteran teachers. Take advantage of this free opportunity to get high quality professional development.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Signing OFF

Now that we have our family website up and running, I've decided that this is a good time to sign off on this blog and recreate it into something else. There's no need for two personal blogs, so I'm going to take the rest of this week to recreate this one into its own niche.

Blogging is about writing about your passion and finding your niche so that you can hook up with like minded people and learn and share, so I've got to really hone in on what passion I want to explore for this manao blog. Some passions on the family blog: food, family, fun, books. That's already there and mom can still share her mana'o and memories on that blog for all of us to savor.

My other passion is my work. I love being an English teacher, a literacy resource teacher and an advocate of using local culture and local literature to raise the educational bar for local students. My passion is to use technology to enhance literacy. Really, it still comes down to a simple formula that's not new at all: good literacy instruction + (web tools) + real world assessment = intrinsically motivated, authentic, differentiated learning.

I want this blog to be a resource, not just for my colleagues at school (that's what my school blog is for), but a resource for teachers who don't have the time or the school funds to engage in PD. I want this to be a resource for teachers who are teaching local, Hawaii kids (not just Hawaiian kids). I want to be an advocate for the unique needs of our local students who don't learn in the same way and don't need to have prescribed programs in order to succeed on standardized tests.

A lot of teachers I've worked with are local teachers with plantation roots. We are a colonized people teaching minority students. There are certain cultural practices ingrained in us that keeps us from speaking up, speaking out, raising our voices, and sharing our mana'o. I want to change these through this humble little blog, even if it's just tapping into the collective knowledge of my friends (teachers, authors, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons).

I'm hoping to be set up by the time this Chinese new year of the ox rolls around. I know some very prominent oxes in my life, so it's a good time. People born in the year of the ox are patient, speak little and inspire confidence in others. That's a good way to begin. This year will also be in the Chinese year of the earth element, which means that like the earth, this blog will be firmly rooted in morals, ethics and responsibilities.

Thanks for reading. A hui hou.