In the next decade a billion more people will come online. I am happy to work within the Mozilla Learning Networks to  ensure these newly connected Web citizens will have a future online (click here to learn more about my journey).

Recently these efforts have taken me  across the globe without leaving Connecticut. A group of volunteers in Southern India reached out to me  and  thank me for my work. From there a partnership has blossomed and I now learn with CoderDojoErode.

CoderDojoErode is a group of volunteers helping to ensure the next billion people who come online can not only use but also build the Open Web. Erode is a district in the state of Tamilnadu located in southern part of India.

Six men from the same village came together after elders in the community placed personal data risk.  Arun ShanmugamGauthamraj ElangoGovindasamy RathinasamyMahendran PalanisamyPrabu Kalaiselvan, and Udhayakumar Sathiyamoorthy were childhood friends who wanted to ensure the kids of Erode had opportunities in high tech classrooms.

The started a CoderDojo which is a volunteer open source network designed to teach coding. CoderDojo works closely with the Mozilla Learning Networks.

CoderDojoErode first worked with the Mozilla Learning Networks to test curriculum being designed for Mozilla Web Clubs. The Goal is to start 500 other volunteer clubs around the globe in 2015.

I helped the club set up their own learning network by donating Server Space. Now I offer technical support and explore ways to localise curriculum and celebrate local traditions. Mainly I just learn from the team. They have taught me so much.

This post was adapted from and originally appeared on the SCSU Education Department blog.

Lessons Learned. Sure

Creative Commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Mike Licht,

I guess I am an educational psychologist. At least that’s what my fancy diploma says. I consider myself a teacher and literacy researcher. Does that make me a learning scientist?

This question has perplexed me since watching Bill Puenell and reading about the grammar of Design Based Research. Bill set up the article as a dichotomy between educational psychologists and learning scientists.

This debate, while alluded to in the article, traces back to the cognitivists and situativists. The article set up an almost either or situation (as a side note manyof the words on the Wikipedia Article on Situated Cognition are still mine ours).

Can I be a Deweyian Pragmatist about this? Can I draw from both traditions based on my line of inquiry and more probably from the funding sources I chase?

Then I joined Chris Hoadley, Rafi Santo, and Dixie Ching to discuss Design Based Research in the field.

I really liked Chris description of DBIR and the routes to iteration. My big question came about as post-reflective data analysis. This impacts #walkmyworld. We have been doing this project for two years and we iterate. We are not explicity DBR, maybe. We collected all of out planning documents, archived the emails, hosted reflective video conferences. The data is there.

What Chris taught me was to not just look between iterations but across all the iterations. I have some background with DBR. I trained with Dave Reinking on his ideas of Formative Design. I need to hash out the difference between Formative Design and DBR but I am seeing Formative Design synonomous with DBIR.

Then Rafi and Dixie shared their work from the Hive Research Lab. There methodology for tracking growth and development across different domains is mind blowing. I am going to steal it. One of my first joys was discovering Rafi’s work with Hive. I knew him from Twitter and XMCA listserv but had no idea he was involved in Hive. I have a long term dream of elevating New Haven to a Hive City

Deserted hive
Creative Commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by fdecomite


My History with DBR


At the same time we were using Formative Design to develop Internet Reciprocal Teaching the tension between educational pyschologist and learning scientists boild over in my every day. Don Leu, my advisor, studied under Jean Chall. You can’t get more edpsychy than Dr. Chall’s work in reading.

This created a tension in the project that was a microcosm on the field. Plus many iterations in the porject had nothing to do with design or learning but with political power. As an IES grant there were strict rules as to what counts as research. We handled this by building in Formative Design in Year Two and empirical testing in year three.

Yet we were in local contexts. You can’t control the noise. You have to embrace it.


Creative Commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by Marcus Ramberg

My Future with DBR

I am currently engaged in a DBR project. Well I might have given up. Not really. Just put the iterations on hold.

The project, #QuestionTheWeb was designed to create a learning space to build the critical evaluation of websites and argumentative writing.

Long term I want to create something like this. Short term I just needed to develop the reading activities and pilot test biased think-alouds.

Once again real life impeded design. By the time I got the learning environment built and the Institutional Review Board approval I bumped into Smarter Balanced Testing. Every computer in most Connecticut tools is no longer available for learning they have to be used for testing.

So here is where I need your help. If anyone wants to give me feedback, do some cognitive labs, on the the Think Alouds I am open to it.

Knitting together

Creative Commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by Kalexanderson

Our Future with DBR

I learned that DBR can’t be done alone. This isn’t unique to me. I am a researcher at a teaching university. This means no doctoral students, no centers, no senior faculty to bounce ideas off of or study under. Everything I do I am often alone.

Then there is the whole 4/4 load. (I am lucky here as I have release time for Gear Up and this semester I was given 9 credits for research). The University gives me the space to work. What I need now is the community. We did start a STEM center (who hasn’t), and our new Provost wants to elevate research. Our new Dean is also focused on external funding. Capacity is developing on campus but I want to look outside.

I think the future of DBR has to be distributed. We open scholars need to network and develop our projects outside of the usual channels. We need to play and hack together.

I believe the problems we face and investigate are to big for one person and to complex for one discipline. You need developers, instructional designers, ethnographers, learning scientists, and someone to do the all the paperwork.

We need to design the future together.


Creative Commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by raindog

I am a believer in open annotation. Recently John Udell asked me to join the advisory team. Simply means I get to complain a little louder. I joke of course. I believe in annotation and I also think educators need to support developers who live in and protect the Open Web.

One of my first contributions was annotating John’s blog post on how two different users can annotate the same PDF even if one file is on the Web and the other file is opened as a local file (a really cool feature).

Dan Whaley joined the party first. What I quickly realized, and my apologies to John for using his work, was educators can use as a editing and revising tool. Teachers can in fact host Asynchronous Peer Conferences within the annotations tools.

How to Edit and Revise in

Leave comments as advice

Annotating for revising is different than annotating for close reading. You are talking to the author and critiquing their work in public. Recognize this fact first. You may choose to make the annotations public or private in

Understand the difference between revision and editing. I revise with a hacksaw and edit with a scalpel. One focuses on ideas and the other on grammar.

In this example you can see the three of us suggesting that John may have missed a targeted audience.

Use Tags

This is not something we did on John’s post. The annotations are self-explanatory. Teachers though can use tags to track student  knowledge growth. So for example in the last annotation I could have added a tag “audience awareness.” Then my teacher could assess my understanding of audience by not just looking at what I write but examining the feedback I leave for other authors.

Track Revisions

I just discovered a great feature of You can see how the original author revised their posts. As long as the section was previously annotated you can examine the changes.

For example I questioned John’s original writing about not including a screencast and disappointing the audience.

Then John updated the blog post

As teachers this can be an invaluable tool. You  see the dialogical relationship between author and annotator. Development That Can Improve Functionality

The embedding needs to be better. When you click share you just get a url. Currently I have to use an iframe and fool around with the width percentage and the height to get the display correct. Parent annotations are not included. So I have to add in each separate annotation.

If I click share I should either get an iframe (yes security issues) or a script that I can embed. All nested replies should be included.

I have not played around with the private and public annotation. A nice feature would be visible only to author (if of course the author is a registered user) and to the teacher. This would require some kind of Teacher Dashboard (already talking to Jeremy Dean about hacking this together using the Stream…that is the next post).


Creative Commons licensed ( BY-ND ) flickr photo shared by iTux

I steal from Alan Levine quite often.

I am most proud of hauling away a backstage blog from an open course he co-facilitated as part of #YouShow15. Then yesterday during #tjc15 folks started asking me about the role of having a back stage blog.





So I wanted to show an example.

Once again stole from cogdog. He posted a final report from #YouShow15. I loved the work, even if it is a horrible slideshow article aka BleacherReport. What I loved the most, Alan’s work was 95% derivative and 100% original. He told a story using the words of others.

I wanted to try my own. So for the final event of #walkmyworld I attempted to make my own. It is a work in progress and you can read about it on my backstage blog.

Why a Backstage Blog?

Digital scholarship doesn’t count at most institutions, including mine. This is our fault. We need to tell our story. I also want to document the digital writing process. I try to document the evolution of my makes from pre-writing through the constant revision.

I also like having a place for quick thoughts Incoherent babble, overuse of alliteration, unfinshed and unrefined ideas.

If we want to be open and digital scholars we need to think out loud.

Metric mania
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Josep Ma. Rosell

I spent some time over the weekend really digging into Adam Lofting’s work with the metrics around #teachtheweb looking for insights into Marc Surman’s call for a Mozilla Academy by the year 2017.

You know family is town if you would rather spend the holiday looking at analytics rather than aunties. Still the numbers, and the KPI’s that came out of Portland shine a light on why a global movement is needed if webmaker….sorry….Mozilla Learning Networks is to be successful.

I am not a click counter by trade so I apologize in advance for my ignorance.


The problem, unlike relatives, users of webmaker tools leave pretty quickly.

The legacy webmaker tools, empowered users to read, write, and participate on the open web. Yet the conversion and retention rates are awful. After sixty days just over a half of one percent are still active and after 90 days the number might as well be zero.

Empowering tools means nothing without community.

People of #TeachTheWeb

The primary goal of the Mozilla Academy has to be connecting people. This will be done through both the Learning Networks and the Products.

The number of people within the Learning Networks is growing. The club data is still blank as that is a new initiative and the click counters are still debating what constitutes and club and a city.

In many ways I am trying to understand the vision and role of the Learning Networks. I kind of see a hierarchy of involvement. Maker Party evolves to club, club morphs into Hives, Hives become relatively independent and self sustaining.

All four of these levels fit under Mozilla Academy. Yet where should we put our efforts when discussing this global classroom?

Maker Party, due to this new vision, and a shift in funding, now are year round affairs. I am seeing this being conflated with the Mozilla Web Clubs. I disagree. Year round Maker Parties should be more flash events, that can be done with limited support.

Club First Strategy

Mozilla Academy is a lofty goal but when I look at the metrics that matter I think it becomes clear that building club capacity has to come first. Marc talked about the literacy, skill, and craft involved in the Learning Networks but these are simply metaphors to how enculturated one is in the discourses of the Open Web.

In a people first strategy you recognize that social capital, especially when you rely on volunteer contributors such as myself, is your greatest asset. We need to have a feeder system to move folks from skill to craft. We need people to use and evangelize the webmaker products and the Manifesto Values if we want to reach the KPI’s. More importantly you need people living on the Open Web.

Community Centered Design

The first goal of the Learning Networks should be the cultivation of community. The success of the Mozilla Foundation in the last few years has been nothing short of amazing (the fundraising especially). This growth rate  has required massive investments of time and treasure and has centralized much of the effort.

What I do not see is an uptick in social media impressions and sustained involvement as well. I think the metrics team needs to build (they probably do but its not in the public dashboard) and pay attention to the social media metrics as much as the tool use.

When you look at the #teachtheweb hashtag, the #mozacademy hashtag,, the IRC chat, and Google+ you see few interactions or the cultivation of relationships.  Engagement is notoriously impossible to measure but I know when I see silence in Web spaces.

I have seen new clubs from India start telling their story on Twitter. There has been an uptick of individuals on Google+ seeking entrepreneurial help (microbusinesses and the Academy..hmmm?), but it is quiet.

Without people the KPI’s are meaningless

Marc Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation, asked for us in the #teachtheweb community to think about Mozilla Learning. He described the efforts to take #teachtheweb and scale it across the all of the Foundation’s efforts. He wants to build the global classroom. Marc has spearheaded Mozilla’s efforts to not only help bring the next billion users online but to also ensure users of the Web have the necessary skills and competencies to read, write, and participate in our networked society.

We have made the most effort is focusing on the know-how. Under the leadership of Doug Belshaw, we pushed Version 1.5 of the Web Literacy Map.

Michelle Thorne, Laura Hillinger, Amira Dhalla, and Merideth Summs. have taught me so much about designing learning activities for informal and distributed learning spaces.

The Badge Alliance, work that I do not follow as closely, developed a system that will bring these two efforts together and allow us to recognize the accomplishments of webmakers regardless of age or location.

Watching the newly formed design team work has been nothing short of amazing. They hold each other to such a standard of excellence, work at a break neck pace, and quickly figured out how to play inter-office games on GitHub

Overall, in the three years that I have been involved, Mozilla have scaled up the efforts to #teachtheweb. Never before have I seen or felt the sense of urgency that Mozilla has created around this effort, especially in the last two quarters. Must have been something in the water in Portland. The growth of the #teachtheweb movement has been huge. The year over year results of every metric presented at the March board meeting are astronomical. To keep this movement going because the know-who matters just as much to the #MozAcademy as the know-how.

What was once envisioned as a loosely federated group of like minded people remixing and hacking together teaching kits has become a shiny soup to nuts pre-packaged curriculum.

Let’s not forget the importance of kn0w-who.

The LMS Creep

While I am proud of what we built I also a little scared. I worry that in our commitment to protecting the open web we may close off possibilities for learning. We may not = recognize how central  know-who is to #MozAcademy

The metrics presented at the board do not tell a story of engagement and connection. They are the stories of siloed events across the globe. #MozAcademy has to bring these stories together. We just do not talk, read, and write in social ways. A major push in the coming development needs to be not just increasing the frequency of engagement but also the quality of engagement.

For all those numbers there was very little interaction across the old webmaker properties. The #teachtheweb hashtag was active among fifty or so users. The discourse community, while still new, does not attract many activities.

Mozilla Learning seeks to bridge the need. To fill in the back stories of the impressing growth, and most importantly to turn active users into active community members.

I am seeing words such as modules, defined pathways, need for assessment. These are not necessarily bad but they are design constraints that can negatively impact a learning space.

I don’t hate the click counters of the world. Watching Adam Lofting and his team work has been inspiring. I have written frequently that analytics is the most important writing tool not taught in school. When ever I speak at business education groups about technology I make the point that no business student is college or career ready without an understanding of analytics.

Yet when it comes to #MozAcademy the pedagogical goal rather than some KPI must come first. The data must serve the learning, not the other way around. Let’s use data to see how our pedagogical goal is either enhanced or inhibited by the goals we make.

Martin Hawksey reminds us of Norman’s law of e-learning in that all tools used for learning become an LMS once a threshold of users is reached.

I disagree. I think we can build an openly networked #MozAcademy without becoming a stale MOOC. In fact in many ways Mozilla was a MOOC before that was even a thing. Does it make tracking things harder. Sure. Do decisions take longer? Yes. Are designs different. Yep. It is also better.

Leadership and Learning

If the #MozAcademy is going to succeed we need to focus on the Academy as a tool to recognize, hone, and utilize leadership.

Marc wrote:

I am sick of the tired meme in education that, “students know more than their teachers.” I am starting to question the idea of teachers as simply “co-learners.” If you find yourself in situations where you consistently know more than the teacher it time to find a nee teacher.

I might be biased about the role of leadership in learning. I grew up in Boy Scouts. The idea that we lead folks to new understanding is baked into my worldview.

People will matter in the #MozAcademy. One year ago I knew nothing of CSS. Today I can mess up webpages in ways I never thought possible. This is due mainly to anyonynmous folks on the web but when I get really stuck Atul Varma and Stefan Bohacek

We need to provide webmakers the tool to cast a wide net for help.

Community is the content of the Academy. That is the only way a curriculum on leadership and agency can be built. We need leaders who can curate community to get at learning that matters.

Towards a Better Way

Marc asked about the kind of learning we seek in the Academy.

Maybe its the English teacher in me trying to eliminate needless modifiers but I wonder if we what we are trying to get at is “learning.” Nothing special or creative, just plain old cognitive apprenticeships….I mean distributed apprenticeship,…I mean apprenticeship.

Yogurt, just plain, Yogurt.

I worry about the #MozAcademy being swallowed by the MOOC monster. We need to bake the social into Mozilla Learning.

I suggest stealing the model that the Digital Media Learning Hub is developing. They build a class on stories. It is a forkable push and syndication model rather than a pre-packaged learning pathway.

The instructional design is loosely based on Jim Groom’s #DS106. He, Tim Owens, and Alan Levine, are getting real close to building an RSS interface to use in education. If the three stooges can make it happen I am sure Mozilla can.

Let’s build this City on RSS

Check out connected courses for an earlier iteration and the current dmlcommons. Lets build #MozAcademy on the backbone of others stories. Lets let RSS be the skin pulling it all together.

Mozilla has some of the coolest developers I know working on this project. Lets make the Mozilla Academy look like Planet WebMaker. I could imagine being able to filter feeds by continents, Mozilla Web Clubs, or by topic. This of course requires tagging and humans suck at tagging, but it would be neat.

On Assessment

We need to count what matters. The Badges and the metadata that points bac to different webmakers needs to be the metric that matters. Carla and the digital literacies badge alliance have talked about a federated badging system but I think the Academy and Mozilla Web Club badges need to be the gold-standard.

Instead of collecting easy to use, but wildly uninformative likert data lets curate stories. Take the open and reflective question stems from the pre and post questionnaires in the curriculum and turn them into a multimodal writing prompt.


On the Tools

Watching the field reports and research coming out of Africa and India enlightens us all. After playing with the webmaker app and prototyping and early versions of Tiles, I began to realize that the webmaker app might make a great UI for the Academy. That can be the doorway to the Open Web.

I understand the legacy webmaker apps, x-ray goggles, thimble, and popcorn have issues. The Goggles update was a much needed refresh. I was glad to hear from Andrew that the transition away from the older tools, especially Thimble,will be gradual. They were are great. I would not be where I am today if it was not for Thimble. I am starting to play in more industry recognized spaces like jfiddle and codepend, but Thimble got me started. Even poor neglected Popcorn is still awesome (hint: resurrect a Zeega like experience for an upcoming prototype…Its Easter resurrection is on the mind).

Products and free tools have always defined Mozilla Learning. I realize that now, and see it as something we should embrace. Redesigning the tools for a mass-audience can differntiate Firefox on OS and build in the serendipitous learning Andrew wants.

After reading about the interplay between brand, product, and Mozilla Learning using the  new suite of webmaker tools might makes sense. I also think it fits with the long term version of Makerfox and the Foundation as a whole.

Your whole team needs to be proud of what has been accomplished in the last three years. Looking forward to 2017.

BTW in terms of naming I favor Webmaker Academy. Say it three times. It rolls nicely off the tongue.

Barriers do arise in schools. Many students live behind walls, both real and imagined, dictated by the needs that survival necessitates.

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Mike Kniec

Words and meaning have power,  and this makes learning a political act. School should never be done to students rather students should do their learning on to the world.

I truly believe we have education backwards. We strive for college and career readiness hoping to grow GDP with a flow of technical workers as means for civic contribution. Instead we should worry first about community and civic readiness. Then, and only then, will college and career follow for those who have been robbed of their agency and culture.

When students leave schools wanting to make communities a better place they engage in literacy practices steeped in academic discourse. When kids see how they can “get theres” by being an agent in the world many realize life requires learning beyond high school.

Community, as a thread, permeates Maisha Winn’s retrospective on her research. In Exploring the Literate Trajectories of Youth Across Time and Space Winn described a series of ethnographic studies that draw heavily on the socio-cultural work of Heath and the literacy as action found in the work of Cole, Gutierrez, Lunsford,  Smagorinsky, Street, and many more. Winn first described out of school spaces for learning and then either found similar spaces or  applied these lessons to more formal learning spaces.

African Diaspora Participatory Literacy Communities

Winn describes African Diaspora Participatory Literacy Communities to encapsulate the poet cafes and bookstores she studies:

ADPLCs, as literacy or literary-centered events outside of school and work communities that combined oral, aural, and written traditions through an exchange of words, sounds, and movements that privileged a Black aesthetic

She then describe many of the tenants of learning found in socio-cultural views of learning. Lately, and I think too often removed (or maybe all inclusiveO from their theoretical base, this framework has been labeled connected learning. It is interesting to see Winn draw on many of the same principles.

Winn’s  description of learning matches Gee’s adaptation of Community into Affinity Spaces.

Like other open mics, POSA, is an invitation to both novice and seasoned poets to share their writing in a space that promotes reading, writing, thinking, and activism, as well as collabo- ration among elders and children. V.S. Chochezi and Staajabu, the mother daughter poetry duo also known as Straight Out Scribes (SOS), begin with saying “hello,” in several languages punctuated with a decidedly urbanized “What’s up!”

She draws Gutierrez’s ( 2008 ):

concept of “sociocritical literacy”—that is a “historicizing literacy” that privileges the lived experiences and legacies of participants—provided the much needed space to analyze the activities of both classes against the backdrop of a history of Black poets and writers.

This notion of learning as a sense of community around a shared purpose was traced back to The Black Arts Movement which

unapologetically sought to incorporate a Black aesthetic into visual and performing arts along side the Black Power Movement, which advocated self-determination and self-definition among Black Americans

What is interesting is this Black aesthetic, as of all  American History greatly influences our cultures. You see this in the rise of hip hop culture. I actually stumbled into a similar space for learning in Cambridge, MA.

What made the ADPLC a space where learning thrived was community and a shared purpose.

Poppa Joe and Mamma C

Winn then described a few formal learning places that drew from the same history and values of the out of school places. Once again community came first.

When describing one classroom Winn wrote:

These student poets used the Power Writing circle to build community while reading original compositions aloud in an open mic format, much like the venues I observed in Northern California, and engaging in giving and receiving feedback. In the context of these literacy communities, Poppa Joe and his guest teachers taught by modeling.

Culturally responsive classrooms were also central to the Winn’s thesis. Yet she noted these were often hardest for classrooms. Winn and Latrise P. Johnson explored culturally relevant pedagogy. They describe how it means much more then reading a book with a black kid on the cover.In fact Winn notes that the most successful spaces drew on student lives:

used the material of students’ lived experiences, such as disproportionate contact with law enforcement and police brutality, as resources for rich dialogue and their struggle to translate the dialogue into writing

As Peter Samgorinsky pointed out recently on the XMCA listserv this work reflects recent scholarship by David Kirkland who detailed the many powerful ways black youth challenge dominant narratives.

Winn points out that it is the arts that are the dominant path to having students write their own story on to the world. She noted:

I also learned how theater arts builds community and supports marginalized youth as they build and sustain literate identities.

Learning from Winn

Literacy instruction is identity work. It is political. The question was posed on the XMCA listserv about recreating these experiences in the classroom.

Anna Aguilar noted a memory of a teacher creating a Zine. Smagorinsky stressed the role of coaches. I couldn’t agree more. We need to realign schools so that students are empowered by designing the community. I was intrigued by this idea in the listserv:

 For Ilyenkov, language is not the ideal, but its ‘objectified being’, its material form. The ideal does not exist in language for Ilyenkov, or in other material phenomena, but in forms of human activity.

In many ways writing instruction must be attached to a human activity. Technically it already is an activity but it is one students are forced into and motivated by exploring new identities in memes or engaging in coaching relationships such as in Soccer.

In fact Michael Cole posed these questions after reading Winn’s work:

[How do we] better understand how the special teachers, those who were involved in
local community literacy practices/values/histories, managed to include
them in their public high school classrooms with all of the rules,
regulations, standardized testing, etc. that is involved.

Does such boundary shattering require exceptional people?
or perhaps

What are the boundaries to such boundary shattering??

Community Matters

These efforts do take exceptional people. They also require us to challenge the boundaries, such as limited views of literacy.

Our fascination with accountability reform is at the heart of ripping away what Winn values. Kirkland, as Peter points out, notes how limited assessments of what counts help to dissuade youth as school is done to the them.

Winn wants learning done onto the world. As Michael Glassman (again on the XMCA listerv) noted Papa Joe and Mamma C did more than teach language arts. We must recognize community where ever it exists.

Another barrier arose around accountability based reform and that is the removal of the arts from schools. Content rich instruction and arts that allow students to do the identity work necessary to be civic and community ready.

Can these exceptional teachers exist. Yes. Are they rare. Yes, that is the definition of exceptional. Are they only found in school? No.

Gender representation on Flickr has always bothered me. Women, like in many fields are woefully underrepresented and often over sexualized.

I am not as worried at the blatant images of sexism I find, such as the one below when I used “hack” as as a search term. The bias is not that overt. It is more the unaware bias that reinforce the ideas of what it means to be a scientist or engineer.

And it is partly my fault.

Last night I needed an image for a post on design research. This methodology often draws on the metaphor of engineering. So I searched Flickr, filtering for creative commons only, and all I got were pictures of white men. I had to scroll down quite a distance for any reference to a female engineer.

So I decided to try all the letters in the STEM acronym. What I quickly discovered was I helped to create the gender bias. For when I signed out the results weren’t good, but they were better. Just by favoriting and following photographers I am reinforcing gender roles.

Here are the results:


This search result was not that bad before and after I signed out. Yet it did improve some once logged out. Women represented 6 out of 13 pictures of real life human scientists. All of the images celebrated science.

Some of the top results were posted by people I already follow (which is very few) as I saw the same picture.


The results for technologist were also more  gender neutral and some of the smartest voices in the field, many who happen to be women, showed up in the results. Given that “technologist” is a new term in the lexicon I decided to search for computer scientist as well. Still there are so many voices I respect in the field I do not see in the photo stram

A female was in the first picture, followed by screenshots, and then math valentines that, while humorous, could be construed as a method of sexualizing the efforts of women in the field. These are followed by a wonderful poster of Grace Hopper and a women studying in algorithm book poolside.


Engineer is by far the worst. There is a picture of a woman on a slide about engineering 2.0 but that is about it. You have to scroll far into the stream if you want images of female engineers. Really far if you want an image of a woman leading a team of engineers.


I am happy to say that mathematician presented a hopeful picture. Images of women far outnumbered those of men. The second picture was of Ada Lovelace and a woman name Mary Ellen, who seems to have many fans.

How to Help

We need more creative commons of images of women in STEM fields. Especially in Engineering. If you have a Flickr account and have images of women, females, girls, or those who don’t fit the gender dichotomy please share. Please license your work with a Creative Commons license that allow others to use this work.

Be weary of algorithms. I was unwittingly reinforcing bias in the people I chose to follow. Be deliberate in the spaces you curate.

Our goal should be to make it so anyone searching Flickr for images in the STEM fields should see real-life people, regardless of gender, doing real life work. This will require us to be deliberate in highlighting images of the underrepresented.

I look forward to not finishing the Digital Media Learning Commons course on design based research. In fact it might be my most favoritist unfinished thing since #ccourses.

Not because I won’t participate in all the activities. That’s a given. This course will never be finished because good design rarely is.

USA Science and Engineering Festival 2014 (201404250028HQ)
cc licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by NASA HQ PHOTO

Few tools or spaces ever reach perfection. So I kind of look at formative experiments as always trying to get better.

I hope to build both my know-how and my know-who in terms of design research (I stole this from the Informal Assessment article I have been reading…Spoiler: I think the three part model that Lemke, Lecusay, Cole, & Michalchik propose would be a great methods framework. Tip: Follow and play on the companion blog ).

I am in the very nascent phase of a design research project #Questiontheweb. My intention was to create the materials in the open, then provide PD and activities to teachers, have students network. More on how that’s gonna evolve later.

In fact the updates will come right after you folks help me figure out what to do.

I also want to think about formative design in terms of my work with Gear Up. Gear Up is the ultimate design research project. The goal is simple, change lives. The methods fluid and messy. I wasn’t around to write the last proposal. I will be in 2018.

Poetry, Mosaic Ceiling (Washington, DC)
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by takomabibelot

This is the third installment on “How to Teach Poetry with Images.” For the first installment click here and for the second click here. As a refresher my brother, a TESOL teacher in TX, asked about teaching figurative and connotative language. I suggested poetry.

In our last post we discussed authoring poetry using images. Let us now turn to responding to poetry. Using images to analyze the word choices authors use aligns well to the CCSS. It also moves beyond the peck and hunt of, “Find a poem that uses a simile, a metaphor, allegory, etc.”

How It’s Done

Sue and I use canonical poetry for this activity such as: Preacher, Don’t Send Me by Maya Angelou

Preacher, Don’t Send me
when I die
to some big ghetto
in the sky
where rats eat cats
of the leopard type
and Sunday brunch
is grits and tripe.

I’ve known those rats
I’ve seen them kill
and grits I’ve had
would make a hill,
or maybe a mountain,
so what I need
from you on Sunday
is a different creed.

Preacher, please don’t
promise me
streets of gold
and milk for free.
I stopped all milk
at four years old
and once I’m dead
I won’t need gold.

I’d call a place
pure paradise
where families are loyal
and strangers are nice,
where the music is jazz
and the season is fall.
Promise me that
or nothing at all.

  • Have students complete read the poem and complete a free response.
    • If you want to scaffold here are a few prompts:
    • What struck you forcibly?
    • What might be “clues” to meaning?
    • What puzzled you?
    • What words hold deep meaning?
  • Then have students circle words or phrases that affect the tone of the poem. Tone refers to the poet’s attitude toward the material and/or readers. Tone may be playful, formal, intimate, angry, serious, ironic, outraged, baffled, tender, serene, depressed, etc.
  • Have students circle 10-12 words or phrases you feel contribute to the tone of the poem.
  • Then have students list the words.
  • Here is an example from a student
1. when I die
2. ghetto
3. rats eat cats
4. grits and tripe
5. I’ve seen them kill
6. need
7. please don’t
8. promise me
9. streets of gold
10. milk for free
11. pure paradise
12. jazz
  • Then have students search for images of that poem either in a magazine or using the web.
  • Give every students an “image tableau.” (fancy way of saying construction paper).
  • Explain to students they are to arrange the images on the tableau based on the meaning of the poem and how the words affected tone.
  • Put students in small groups and have them explain their tableaus.
Student Example of Image Tableau
Student Example of Image Tableau

Using the tableaus creates a space for students to consider how word choice affects meaning.

We put the birch on the top, but we focused on being able to go only one way. There is a traveler… We picked the sigh thing because of the stanza of him sighing. We put the picture to the side because it is not important.-Student discussing A Road Not Taken

I noticed that certain words contribute to the point of the poems more. The images gave me a picture. The image tableau showed what was most important to the writer in the poem. Discussing with other people gives you a chance to hear others’ interpretations. -A Student