Thursday, June 9, 2011

Music for Ms. Casey
Happy Retirement, Genie Casey!
We will miss you so much at LES. In your honor, I have created three songs for you on Garageband, each in a different genre:  Latin, Reggae, and Rock.
Enjoy the silly music (featuring the vocal talents of yours truly. my wife:  the lovely and musically gifted Sarah Dolven, and our delightful children).
Have a marvelous retirement with Brian! We were all inspired by your trip to New Zealand and your Blog!
All our best,

The three songs go with a slideshow of the 2011 Invention Fair, which was a hallmark of Ms. Casey's 4th grade class experience.  There is a brief gallery of old friends dressed as explorers from long ago.

Friday, April 8, 2011


My riddle of the day:

My first is not out
My second’s for air
My third is when someone can’t play:
it’s not fair!
Together we’re new
Alone or a few
Our Mother is need
Inspiration’s the seed.

Some great videos on Invention!  The first few are by an artist/inventor named Arthur Ganson. Wow!

The next is a video about a man in Holland who creates sand beasts:

The last is a great site for kids to try playing with virtual machine parts, care of Wallace and Gromit:

Fun times!

Answer to the riddle?  N-O-I-T-N-E-V-N-I
(Backwardize it to see the answer, of course!  And forgive the shun/tion play on sound.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Writing Web

Here is a link to a graphic organizer on Prezi I created.  It is a writing web I created to the prompt: "What I like to do in my free time..." (taken from an MCAS long composition writing prompt): 

Monday, March 28, 2011


Funding for the National Writing Project has been cut this year, and funding for next year looks bleak.
I attended the summer institute in 1995, just prior to coming to teach in Leverett. The Western Mass Writing Project, based at the University of Massachusetts, is a fabulous resource for writers and writing teachers. The summer institute is a phenomenal place to hone the craft of teaching writing and to be a writer: to relearn the craft through writing and giving and receiving feedback on writing. The third component on the summer institute is to research best practices in writing and share those practices with other teachers, both in the summer institute and, later, throughout the academic year with colleagues and in other schools as teacher- trainers and mentors.
Writing is communication and communication is essential to our democracy.  The power of the written word has sparked revolutions across the Middle East and overthrown despots and dictators.  As we strive to race for the top in Education in the U.S., we must not give short shrift to Writing in a push to promote Science and Math.

The National Writing Project has a new web site with some great links, tools, prompts, and ideas:

A letter from Anne Herrington of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project follows:

As you may or may not know, funding for the National Writing Project has
been cut from this year's federal budget and likely also from the following
year's budget.  While WMWP will be able to continue most programs for next
year, after that, we will have to seriously curtail most everything,
including Summer Institute and other summer courses.  This is very serious.

Please lend your voice, your words, to advocate to Congress to restore
funding for NWP. 

How? Blog or email our Congressmen.  Click on the following link at
Cooperative Catalyst

and then click on the link to #blog4nwp for a fuller explanation.  It's
important to act as soon as possible.  The more blogs, the better.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spring has sprung

Simple machines: hammering nails outside, building ramps, levers, pulleys, block and tackles, lifting cars with the screw of a jack, wedging things up, open, and in, exploring the impact of wheels on friction and force, gearing up for inventing and the invention fair: that's spring in grade 4!
Mnemonic:  I Want Popcorn When Sam Leaves
Inclined Plane, Wheel and Axle, Pulley, Screw,Wedge, Lever (and Gear?!? or is a gear just a wheel and axle with little levers on it?)

How many simple machines on a tricycle anyway?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Technology in the classroom

I have recently watched two fascinating documentaries about technology in schools and in our lives. The first was an episode of Frontline that suggested we are becoming far less able to reflect and think deeply about anything as we multitask more and more. It followed researchers at Stanford testing people who were very skilled at multitasking as they tried to do well on discreet tasks-- and failed miserably compared with people who focused on that one task. It also interviewed students from MIT and other schools who wrote brilliant sections of papers, excellent paragraphs, and choppy, disjointed whole papers.  Last, it interviewed students, including English majors, who did not read books, ever.  Even if they read chunks of assigned text, they did not take the time to read a book in their lives.
The second documentary was about Quest to Learn, a school in NYC that uses gaming and computer games to teach. The students also design their own games, and the school's philosophy is that gaming is learning:  you tackle problems, gain knowledge, and use it to achieve measurable levels.  That is an excellent model for learning, with built in assessment!  The students work collaboratively on building games, and most of their subject matter is incorporated into technology platforms in some way.  Fascinating ideas.
Technology, from before the time of Mary Shelley till now, was and is both a boon and a curse.  We respond and adapt as a species to these changes, and they shape who and what we are.  Revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, and Iran (and perhaps Cuba): driven by the communication and organization made possible by social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Makes me want to join.
The end of the era of reflection, reading, and contemplation?  Makes me want to retreat and withdraw from the technological age.
Time will march on with or without me, of course.  The middle path:  contemplative use of technology; technological assistance with shared reflection and joint action.  These are perhaps where the future must lie.

Friday, January 14, 2011

From Richard Byrne's site

This looks intriguing!

Nabber - Learn Languages with Others

Nabber is a new service for learning a new language with the help of others online. Think of Nabber as part vocabulary studying tool, part social network.

Here's how Nabber works; you can browse for vocabulary words and phrases translated by other members of the Nabber network. Likewise you can contribute your own translations to the network. Nabber provides space to not only give a translation, but also to provide an explanation of the translation. If you come across a Nabber member who is making a lot of good contributions, you can follow that person to keep up with all of the translations they contribute.

Pandora plus

Just  set up a Pandora account. I have used iTunes before and downloaded a podcast or two.  UC Berkley has all their lectures available on iTunesU.  Pretty cool idea.  I listened to a philosophy lecture that was fascinating at first, then way too esoteric for me, especially since I had not done the reading.(!)
Ack! I was listening to Pandora in a fine mood when an ad for Netflix popped up and shattered the mood.  How do I keep Pandora running in class with ads hitting the kids' ears?  I am vehemently and rabidly opposed to advertisements that target children.
Not good.  I guess I could just monitor the songs and pay attention to when they end so I can stop ads in mid-flight, but what a pain.