How I will Assess…I mean Contribute to a Community of Writers #OpenBadges

There will be no rubrics. Just feedback.

There will be no numbers just criteria and evidence.

The Academic Blogger Pathway

Students accomplish the pathway by earning badges. Students must provide  evidence of their growing capacity as a writer. There are nine badges to earn before a student can earn the academic blogger credential.

New Blogger

A “Hello World” credential with critical importance. It takes quite some time to onboard the entire class and teach them how to share a url to a post. About 50% will share a link to their WordPress profile.

Ideas and Content

This badge I want to get at the organization of thought and the the presenting of thinking. I will award to students as I see their work grow. When students begin to blog I may get one short paragraph and then a few post later one long paragraph. I am okay with this. Focus on the on boarding early. Overtime I will reword this badge when I see greater cohesion of work. Students can nominate each other for this badge,

Providing Attribution

I could care less if you get your commas write in APA. Attribution is the way of writing and not simply an academic task. This badge will be self-nominated.

Finding Voice

I promise to be absolutely subjective in awarding this badge. It is for growth in a writer’s voice. The emergence of a somewhat stable identity. Students can nominate peers for this badge.

Revising for Content

This class fils a Writing Intensive requirement. Therefore revision (as ifit isn’t always important) is critical to your success. This is a self nominated badge after a student makes three substantial revisions.

Writing Conventions

Fix your misteaks. Earn a badge.

Using Blog Affordances

This is a self or peer nominated badge. I am looking for headers, images and video. Keep your paragraphs frequent and short.

Community Commenter

You can’t teach writing without community. I will give this badge out (with scarcity) to those who contribute to meaningful conversation through commenting. This can be on a person’s blog or a class stream.

How Will You Apply?

I want the burden of proving excellence on my students. They should be nominating each other and them selves. The credentialing platform I use doesn’t allow for submissions just the issuing of badges. So in the next few days I will create a Google to nominate people.



The Last Children’s Literature Book I Read

“The classics.”

I get this definition the most when first asking students to define children’s literature. We all have that one book. THE story. Often we share this passion in a multi-generational gestalt. /That’s the essence of children’s literature. Each of us gets to define what counts as “literature” in the children’s book genre, and because of this no one has the right to define it for someone else. Yet through this chaos a consensus forms and we come to recognize the art of storytelling. Some stories will endure, most will be lost to time. Voices are amplified, and social practices are reinforced. Other voices are also lost to time. The canon that emerges from consensus reflects our society, good and bad.

That’s Children’s Literature

The last new book I read that fits my definition of children’s literature (and I read a lot of kids’ book) occurred at the SparkLab at the National Museum of American History. At the table they had a turn table, a mixing board with a few simple fades, and audio inputs for your own device.

Sitting there on the table. Overlooking the Deejay booth stood a copy of When the Beat Was Born.


The book tells the tale of DJ Kool Herc and the history of hip hop. The biography begins with Clive Campbell’s journey from Jamaica to the rise of hip hop in the Bronx. Laban Carrick Hill recreates history through vivid language. The images drawn by Theodore Taylor III bring the book to life while also capturing the Black Aesthetic.

The book was a lot better than the beats my kids dropped but the whole experience reminded me of how children’s literature should be taught: interest driven, production based, with a lot of awesome books standing by, pointing the way.


How to Search for Images and Use the Flickr CC Attribution Tool

Many of us rely on the generosity of others as we search the web for all of the images  used on our blogs, keynotes, and slide decks. Passionate artists and makers often share their work using a Creative Commons license that allows us to openly use and remix the work of others. As committed people supporting the open web we must provide recognition to these folks if we want to defend the Commons.

A community of photographers have blossomed on Flickr who share our mission and now millions of photos, openly licensed for re-use, exist for us to search. Luckily Alan Levine created the flickr cc attribution tool. Using this powerful bookmarklet tool you can search Flickr for Creative Commons images and then get the proper code (mark up) to embed images on the web. You also get a text based attribution when using the images in slide decks or for when you give image credits at the bottom of a web page.

How to Install the flickr cc attribution tool

  1. Go to
  2. Choose the width of your desired images (I like using 640px for my blog and slides)
  3. Choose your variation. You can choose html, wordpress shortcode,or markdown (I keep a WordPress and an HTML bookmarkelt installed)
  4. Drag the bookmarklet into the Chrome of your browser.

How to Search flickr for Creative Commons Images

  1. Go to
  2. Enter in your search term
  3. Then in the drop down menu select creative commons images
  4. Choose your image

How to use the flickr cc Attribution Helper

  1. Once you have your image click on the bookmarklet
  2. Copy the code to embed on a webpage or
  3. Copy the attribution text and download the image.


New Stream Brings Dream of Decentralized LMS Closer

I am excited for the newly redesigned Stream launched by I now have a major piece in my jigsaw of trying to remix a decentralized Learning Management System (LMS).

In the years I have spent researching literacies and literacy acquisition I have come across a pattern no matter the mode a reader uses. When reading print, video, web, or one of the myriad of flavors in between good readers mark up texts. Annotation is the OG augmented reality we have layered upon existing texts for centuries.

The web is no different. I try to remember this as I teach future teachers of future reader and writers.

In my course design I try to empower students as creators and writers. Yet  I  also strive to include annotations and build a class practice around social annotations. Time and time again studies of good readers and writers highlight the importance of annotation.

Using a tool called  I get to watch thought unfold and then transform into long form writing. I am teaching in a text rather than about a text.

screenshot-2016-12-12-10-04-37 is an open source web annotation tool. Users can install a plug-in or use a special web address to annotate any text or website. PDF annotations work well. You can link to videos and pictures, use markdown (if thats your thing), and reply to other annotations. has always been a great learning and teaching tool. Yet tracking contributions and navigational pathways was clunky. Documents could get messy (in a good way) quickly, So when looking at individual contributions you basically had a chronological stream.  Recent features of the newly launched Stream have addressed most of my concerns.

More importantly the Stream maybe the teaching dashboard a decentralized LMS needs.

The Decentralized LMS

In my course design, based on the Domain’s Of Own One’s Project, I try to empower my students to shape their emerging teaching identities on the web. Every student creates their own blog.  All of our work gets syndicated through RSS. The students also share to a class stream where they get to decide to share the post just with the class or with the public at large. At the end of the class students get to choose whether to unpublish their blog or hopefully keep it under development.

Keeping track of data, surfacing patterns, and focusing feedback was always difficult. When your class is a bunch of “small pieces loosely joined” some morsels may fall in the cracks. This is where the new stream comes in. I now have the teacher dashboard the decentralized LMS needed.

The New Dashboard

The team of designers, thinkers, and engineers have just unveiled the new Stream. I provided early user feedback on different drafts of the wire frames and got to beta test the new features. As an instructor, when using  the group feature in your class, you now have some powerful metrics and navigational tools to increase the efficiency and efficacy of teaching with



The Stream

The new stream is broken into a two column view. In the larger left hand column annotations are arranged first chronologically and then by source. You can collapse all the annotations in that source or access the url of the annotated document.


One the right column You get a list of tags and group members. As a teacher tags are very important to teaching the practice of annotation. People stink at tagging. They often forget. Yet I also use tags as a pedagogical tool. For example when we annotated the Common Core State Standards students had to annotate and tag the foundational skills. Specifically they had to identify the knowledge and skills students needed at the end of each grade.

In #questiontheweb, the leaners developed a codebook to help annotate website credibility. We developed a series of tags that would serve as our “codes” such as perspective, authority, institutional authority, etc.

In the newly launched Stream you also get a list of all members in your group and a frequency count of their number of annotations. While this number doesn’t represent a qualitative judgement it does provide a teacher with a quick check of activity levels. The list of members in the Stream also provides for quick navigation when customizing feedback.

One Step Closer

I am excited to use the new Stream. The navigational pathways just created the teacher dashboard my version of the decentralized LMS will need.

Laura Gibbs: A Designer of the Decentralized LMS

Since I began exploring boundaries outside of the traditional LMS I have followed the work of Laura Gibbs. Laura is an online instructor at the University of Oklahoma and uses Inoreader to build an awesome interface for her students.


Laura also includes a stream of all the comments across both her classes and links to final thoughts.


I love this approach and keep meaning to set it up. I have used Known more as a class stream and have students share their posts but I like what Laura does better. I just want an annotation, chat, and bunch of bots that we haven’t thought about layered on top.

To learn how Laura sets up her classes check out these posts.


Glimpses at the Possibilities of a Decentralized LMS

I checked out the #helloweb website:

It is a vision of the decentralized LMS I want. The website is part of the #Helloweb campaign,  a Mozilla project to teach web literacy across rural India.

I like the site. It is actually  super easy to do, but looks good. Just the grid view of embedded Twitter timeline. A stream that is pleasing to the eye. Pretty is important.

When I see it and think about other recent efforts I feel like I am getting close to the decentralized LMS I want.

I want to display Twitter cards, and Featured Images plus blog headlines through RSS. Maybe even annotations. Most importantly I want to empower learners to publish on their own site and control their privacy by deciding how to share. I want my students to own their data and learn on the open web.

The twitter timeline on #HelloWeb isn’t my only snapshot into possibilities.

Alan Levine is working on WordPress plug ins that will use Feedburner to suck up participants work:

I like what he did with

Alan built a site with imple navigation to activities. Plus an active stream of blogs, videos, and Twitter. I would want a link to the blog stream and the comment stream.

I can’t wait to see what Alan is working on.


I also need a good teacher dashboard. What (I am beta testing their new Stream) built is pretty to close to all I need. I blacked out my student names but I can click through and see all that they are doing.

I now have access to a dashboard of my students. The navigation in the group features make teaching easier. I am finding hanging out in texts is sometime better than talking about texts in comments.

The new Stream is almost everything I need to teach in a decentralized classroom. In fact if you built your decentralized LMS around LMS you would have everything you need.

A few more thing I would like to have would  be RSS driven. This would include include participants posts and comments.

The Future

I feel like what I envision as my perfect decentralized learning environment is here. I want the hub of any course to be dynamic but not a place that collects (beyond RSS) user data. People shouldn’t have to sign in.

I want them to own their own learning, or if they do not have a blog or website, be able to choose their own network to connect through.

However I do believe the chat stream to be an essential elemt to the modern LMS. Yet I do not want to dictate to people which river to choose. If your community is active on Twitter use that. If its Telegram or Facebook messenger that is fine too. Try Slack, Rocketchat, or gitter. Doesn’t matter.

I am intrigued about how AI and machine learning will interact with facilitators in course design. I do not fear these robots as my other educational technologists do. They will be able to surface cool patterns. Patterns that can be made into pretty graphs. people like pretty pictures.

What I still need:

I need to make the syndication of particiaptns blogs, websites and hashtags to be a one button push. For Twitter I use Martin Hawksey’s Twitter Archive for Google Sheets. Be cool to embed that.

For participant blogs I want a field to just enter in their url, (for the blog,  category, or tag for advanced bloggers) and have them added to the stream and the faciltator profile that tracks number of posts, comments.

I want to add their ID. Really I may just get away with using the new profile as the only teacher dashboard I need for now.

Creating Storytellers Through Agency as we #TeachTheWeb

This summer we hope to unleash a new wave of webmakers on the Elm City. For the first time our 11th grade Gear Up students will take college level credit bearing classes. We will start with EDU 106: New Literacies for Life Long Learning.


The hybrid class will focus on telling the story of us. I have a syllabus, but I am not a fan. I want our learning to unfold in real-time…to be user driven. In July we will have three days a week together for three and a half hours a day. The other two days students will attend college visits and arts based field trips. They will have to choose some digital documentation tools.

The Curriculum

I want to create and curate curriculum with the class. Last fall in our Gear Up Academy we focused on Beyonce and Formation. Students learned about the local history of the Black Panther Party in New Haven and wrote letters to the Miami Fraternal Order of Police who called for a boycott of Beyonce.

The readings will be based on what I have chosen but I hope to add , or better yet have the class upvote, a reading each module. I am toying with just picking something from Medium each week.

For the activities I am going to focus on the web literacy curriculum we created at Mozilla. Specificall, Web Literacy Basics II, and the new javascript storytelling curriculum.

I am most excited for storytelling and scripting as I have spent the last year upping my Javascript skills in order to teach these basic lessons.

I want to tell the story of us. More importantly I want our GearUp stories to share their story. Last year we worked on college essays for the common app. Each story was unique. A tail of trials and triumphs. Many shared stories of being first generation college students, or of trying to make it through high school while being the primary breadwinner and caregiver to their siblings. There were stories of surviving abuse and the horrors of growing up in the system.

Yet everyone endured. They have made it this far. They have taught me so much.

The WorkFlow

We will be using our new collaborative learning space at Southern. Our Dean Stephen Hegedus, came to campus and immediatley ripped out the computer lab. He replaced it with individual networked stations and a state of the art 360 camera system.

I also purchased a Tricaster mini and a few black magic cameras. Be awesome to get some podcasting going.

Every student will maintain a domain of their own. We have used Known as our basic platform. I think I will stick with the tool.

Elm City Webmakers

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Leveling up the digital skills of the youth in New Haven is a passion of mine. If diversity in tech is an HR problem it is already too late. We have been learning basic html/css skills for the past three years as a Mozilla Club.

I recognize not everyone is a maker, especially a webmaker (Students can also choose a music production class to fill the technology fluency component). So the tech doesn’t really matter. I want the web to be the paintbrush students can use to paint their world.

If anyone in tech in the Greater New Haven area would like to get involved please reach out. Urban education is not a school thing. It is not a parent thing. It belongs to the community. We must work to make the city our campus.


Celebrating the Young Women of #FemHack

The crowd beamed with pleasure as each team crossed the stage. One by one, cheering on each other, they took  the microphone to share their projects. Four teams of young women at  our first annual #femhack had two minutes to explain the problem they were trying to solve and how they would solve it.

How do we g


We had twelve participants from around Connecticut.


We began the day with an icebreaker. It was one I poached from the We Are LRNG conference. You basically ask people to draw their social media profile on a post it note. It works and can be fun. Plus you get a sly little name tag next to participants.

writing on post it

Only one of the teams had any previous coding experience.

A few of the young women attended our YouthZone sessions the previous day where we used Mozilla’s X-Ray Goggles to “hack” school websites and Mozilla’s Thimble to make memes. Students learned about different HTML tags as they remixed the the images, headings, and paragraphs on he pages. During Youth Zone one participant remixed an animal shelter website where her parents used to work. She made them the world’s best animal rescuers.

The other participants had never peaked behind the curtains before so we started Saturday  with Thimble and the Letters#2nextprez campaign. The participants all shared their ideas on how to get more women into tech.


They then had the rest of the day to work on their projects:




Diversity in tech will not happen at Google, Twitter, and Facebook. We will not solve this issue in Silicon Valley. The work must happen in our cities , schools, and community colleges. Our networks grown in churches and Girl Scouts. In programs like Gear Up. Once diversity is an HR issue its already too late.

We must remember that America NEVER scored the highest on any international assessments of learning. Expansion through genocide and centuries of slavery leaves long lasting scars…but the United States of America WAS  always the place the best and the brightest wanted to be. We must preserve this uniquely American advantage. Yet the xenophobia rhetoric in todays’ politics is a direct threat to our economic future.

Luckily the #femhack participants had awesome role models and mentors. Young men and women from around the globe teamed up, each assigned to a group…but it quickly became a network of mentors. If you needed web design help find UT, Javascript look for Nicole, etc. Mario, Omar, Sahir, Alec, and every member of the Computer Science Club all pitched in to make the day successful.


Most importantly they lit a path for the young women to see a future in tech where no voices are silenced or lost.

The Projects

Campaign Core- This team created a place for students who want to get involved in different social justice campaigns. It is a database of social media accounts . The goal is to connect users to topics that matter. There are also lessons on running effective social media campaigns for change.

EZCodeThis project is designed to teach kids basic HTML. There are flash cards that have questions one one side and directions on the other. There is also a directory of places you can learn to code.

RPGgeniuses- This was a role playing game that had kids learn HTML and CSS. Students were given a guide, completed scenarios where they learned lessons, and then would complete a quiz.

Danbury Girls Who Code– The Danbury Branch of “Girls Who Code” designed a website for their club to recruit members,




#WalkMyWorld: Where you have been, where you are, and where you are going.

I wonder, “Does where you are, and where you will you go all depend on where you begin?”

Beginning of life...

flickr photo shared by under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Another year of #WalkMyWorld and we have decided to push ourselves even further. This is always a special time for everyone involved. We push ourselves as writers and bend thoughts in ways many have never imagined. All meaning becomes malleable during #WalkMyWorld.

Two years ago we tried to document the ordinary through literary complexities. Lat year we explored how our identities shifted in the spaces we traveled and the modes we used. This year we will bring these two iterations together. We are going to explore the story of us. Mainly we ask you to share your “story of me.”

Each week a new learning event will drop on Sunday night. Each learning event will focus on some element of your past, present, or future. In the beginning we will also ask you to explicitly use a specific mode such as visual, audio, oral, etc. The learning event will ask you to share something. There will also be a shared text that you may choose to read with other in #WalkMyWorld.

Hewell Road, Barnt Green - sign - adult walking a child

flickr photo shared by ell brown under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Learning Event One

In learning event one, we are asked to consider “Where I Begin.” Participants will share a selfie representing their journey. This can be an image or icon. It does not have to be you. There are some awesome photo essay examples in the learning event. All you have to do is share your selfie on your blog and then tweet out a link to Twitter.

If you want to go for a deep dive in “Where I begin” join us as we read James Franco suggest that Walt Whitman was the original Kayne West.