Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


One It has been a bit but my cousin Nigel Pickard published his first novel titled One. This is not a shameless plug, and I have not been asked to publicize his book at all!

“One is the story of Sol and Kate Roberts, and their struggle to come to terms with their son’s autism. A love story, a coming-of-age novel and an exploration of the austic condition, this is a moving, thought-provoking and sometimes very funny debut novel.” I invite you to get a copy as it is excellent reading.

Candle Our power was off for several hours this evening and it was a pleasant experience. We had children sitting at the dining room table doing homework by candle light, I told stories about the olden days when I was a cowboy, and we were together because it was dark. There were no computers on nor television; yes, iPods were charged and available but no one thought to use them. The technology we used was mostly paper, pencils, and books. These forms of technology have served their purpose well for many years, and I have a feeling they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon because, you know, the power could go out at any moment.

Will Richardson Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts,… Today I finished Will Richardson’s book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. I have always appreciated Will’s viewpoints on his blog, and I like the straightforward, easy to understand approach he presents in his book. Having used many of these tools in my classroom for over a year now, I was familiar with much of what Will shares, but I had many “I should have tried that moments!!!” Now, I am in a new position (district level educational technology specialist) with a new audience (educators) and the book proved valuable in giving me ideas and ways that I can share these tools with teachers.

Teachers themselves will benefit from reading this book (Get it ASAP!), and I believe it would serve as an excellent textbook for in-service training and for use in teacher preparation programs. Even a seasoned Web 2.0 teacher (Can there be such a thing in such a short period of time!?! 🙂 will pick up new ideas or ways of using these tools that they hadn’t thought of before! As with any text that concerns the web the reader will encounter shared links that have since moved on in such a short time since the book was published; nevertheless, I could easily search the name of a particular person or topic mentioned and find the new location of the information on the web. (Maybe Will could add a page to his blog with updates or create a wiki page where readers could help update links.)

The book, to me, is written for the now, and it is intended to jump start educators and students into using the many Web 2.0 tools that exist today. I know Will has much more to say concerning these tools and the future of integrating technology to facilitate collaboration, critical thinking, and self-directed learning, and I feel his blog serves as a continuation and expansion of the text. One of Will’s main points in his book is to recognize the “teachers” that are and information that is out there, on the web, ready to fill your RSS feed reader! His text is really a staging area for the journey that he invites the reader to take in using these powerful web tools in the classroom, and I think it is a good place to start and to take ownership of your own learning.

Read Write Think is a repository of language arts/humanities resources sponsored in part by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.

“ReadWriteThink, established in April of 2002, is a partnership between the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the Verizon Foundation.

NCTE and IRA are working together to provide educators and students with access to the highest quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction through free, Internet-based content.”

Some particular resources that I found engaging include:

100 Best Books for Kids

Clickable Poems

Guys Read

National Writing Project

The National Archives on Google Video 

I came across today and found their K-6 activities quite engaging.  The “tutorials” are divided by grade level and subject area, and I was able to do all the activities I tried without registering.  Give it a go to see if it is something that can be used with content and students in your classroom.

BibMe I thought BibMe was an interesting resource. I haven’t tried it, but I think it could be helpful especially teaching how to cite sources. The BibMe site states:

“Welcome to BibMe! The fully automatic bibliography maker that auto-fills. It’s the quickest way to build a works cited page. And it’s free.
1. Search for a book, article, website, or film from our database, or enter the information yourself.
2. Add it to your bibliography.
3. Download your bibliography in either the MLA, APA, or Chicago formats and include it in your paper.”

Try it and let us know if it works for you!

UPDATE 2010!!!

(4/13/2010):  McBride:  Don’t Count PAWS

(3/24/2010):  Local Teacher finds Snafu in PAWS Testing

(3/25/2010):  It has been almost 3 years since I posted this information.  The saga continues – “PAWS Problems Persist.”

The ongoing saga of state testing continues in Wyoming as you can read in the article below. I have touched on this issue before, and I know it is simply a requirement to meet the “standards” of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The unfortunate part of this entire process is that children are being “tossed around,” manipulated, experimented on, and deceived by the powers that be. My own children have been in the middle of this mess in which no one seems to care about how it influences students. Many students consider this testing a joke, something to toy with, and that it has no meaning or bearing on their lives. I suppose they are right.

The state has spent the better part of a decade trying to figure out how to implement a statewide test. I have been part of that problem/solution. My family and I are moving on, and we may face the same challenges in our new home, but the mismanagement and indecision that has existed in Wyoming is not good or fair for my children, my neighbor’s children, and the students that have graced my classrooms for the past ten years. Good luck trying to figure out what you are going to do Wyoming, but I am no longer going to help or wait for you to figure it out. My children are precious and don’t have the time for you to find out what you are doing!

Wyoming overhauls PAWS test

Star-Tribune staff writer

“Wyoming’s student proficiency test will have fewer questions and only one official testing window next year following an overhaul of the program, which stemmed from problems schools had this year with the current test.

State officials and Texas-based Harcourt Assessment announced the revisions to the Proficiency Assessment for Wyoming Students during a press conference Friday, saying they have a solid partnership and a new plan that addresses all the problems.

This year, schools encountered late and incomplete test results, which made it difficult for teachers to determine if their students should take the second test. Plus, some schools reported problems logging onto the system.

“We’ve developed a good working relationship with Harcourt,” said Jim McBride, state superintendent of public instruction. “We believe that they can and will perform to address the best needs of our students.”

For the 2007-2008 school year, only one official test will be given. In 2008-2009, a series of informative tests will be given to students before the official test so that teachers can determine what areas need to be worked on, McBride said. The year wait for the informative test will give Harcourt the chance to develop it.

“The idea will be that they will have the information available immediately to them to help them guide instruction,” McBride said of the informative tests. “That’s what it was about in the beginning. It was about improving achievement for our students.”

The state also is expected to save a significant amount of money with the changes because it will renegotiate its $13.9 million contract with Harcourt, McBride said.

Although the districts received the results late during this testing cycle, McBride defended his decision not to impose fines, saying it would destroy the working relationship between Harcourt and the state.

“If we start down the fine path now then we’re in an environment of litigation,” McBride said. “Then every single phone call, every e-mail and every piece of correspondence is filtered through the lawyers.”

Instead, McBride and Harcourt wanted to establish a cooperative environment where everyone works together to resolve the problems. They did that by meeting in Texas recently to discuss the problems. Plus, the state has put together a task force where members defined the problems and brought them back to McBride.

Michael Hansen, chief executive officer for Harcourt, said the company is committed to working with the state.

“We believe the best way to serve the state of Wyoming is to be in a partnership with the state of Wyoming, with the children, the districts,” he said. “We believe we have a good plan moving forward.”

School districts around Wyoming complained that the computerized testing was extremely slow at times.

“What we have experienced in the recent administration was a slowdown of the mainframe server that the test was on and we needed to stop and reboot the server that caused the slowdown,” Hansen said. “The students could still take the test but it took them longer.”

The PAWS test is how Wyoming school districts measure whether students are proficient on state education standards. The federal government uses the test results to determine if Wyoming schools are meeting required progress under the No Child Left Behind law. Students are not required to pass the PAWS to graduate high school or to earn good grades.

District officials anticipate the changes will be beneficial as long as they’re made and teachers can get the results of the informative tests immediately.

Larry Heslep, associate superintendent for instruction for Campbell County School District No. 1, said he’s heard from many teachers in his district who said they wished they didn’t have their students take the first PAWS test in January because of the late results.

He said he’s in favor of the test time being reduced considering other college entrance exams take about two and a half hours to complete rather than a total of eight to 20 hours.

“I think we can decide if a student is proficient in less than 20 hours,” he said.

Mike Flicek, research assessment director for the Natrona County School District, said the overhaul will be beneficial because it will give back instruction time for the faculty. Plus, having one official test will keep the scores consistent and easier to track, Flicek said.”

OWL Purdue University There are many online writing labs (OWLs) out there, and the one I have used myself and with my students is the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. I am guiding you to the “General Writing Concerns” section of the “old” site that, as they state, includes:

“In this section of our site, we offer you handouts and exercises on starting to write, effective writing, revising, editing, and proofreading, and types and genres of writing. If you are interested in a more extensive tutorial on research papers, check out our research paper workshop. We also have a research report workshop on writing scientific and technical reports. Finally, there are also some PowerPoint presentations related to general writing concerns.

We now have printer friendly versions and Adobe PDF versions of all of these handouts available. Visit our printer-friendly general writing concerns index to download and print any of these handouts. You can also get a printer friendly web page or PDF version of each handout by clicking the links on each page.”

This is an excellent resource to guide students in the writing process. Another OWL site I have used is the Bowling Green State University Writing Center. Please share other OWLs you have found useful!