Tag Archives: Power of Web 2.0


Sometimes it’s the simplest stories that have the most meaningful impact. I outlined the fledging collaborative project that has begun with some SLA students in Zach Chase’s class in Philadelphia in the letter I wrote them.  A look at the comments could prove useful for context of this post. As promised, I have taken the nuggets of poetry from their comments on my Flickr Set and set them to song.

Here you go SLA, my song to you. What will you do with it? Download it. Remix it. Add your voice to it. Set it to images. Create a video. Rap it. This version is only a draft and is not even close to being “done.” Tear it up!

Stones by intrepidflame

Here is another version by a teacher in Canada:

Stones by Bryanjack

Looks like NoiseProfessor in California has added his take to the mix. Take a listen here.

The nature of art in the twenty first century is that it never ends and doesn’t belong to any one artist. We are in this together…your move!


sometimes I wonder how many stones
there are in the world.
i found a light in your simple “Hello”
like the way grass dances in the breeze
Choosing between clashing vibrancies
she sings ohh how she sings

i can erase what i choose to forget
we fear the pen because it leaves a stain
like the lives of rocks and flower,
that tell the story of the world.

These are the years in which life is beautiful.
Each and every day a miracle.
A tiny person in a large world
filled with intrigue and wonder.

a warm orange flower rests against my skin
sweet serenity full and wide
I grab the spoon of your smile and dig
in these moments we forget ourselves
we breathe the ecstasy of golden silence
heaven has not been that far off after all
we just had to open our eyes
we just had to be open

These are the years in which life is beautiful.
Each and every day a miracle.
A tiny person in a large world
filled with intrigue and wonder.

I don’t watch television much anymore
but whenever I do I can feel it on my hands
the dusty residue
from carrying fistfuls of stones.

lonely I lay flat
Among dull gray stones
I want to go home

I want to go home

lonely I lay flat
Among dull gray stones
I want to go home


Last Child On The Web

I love ongoing online stories that chart a series of connecting events and people. On September 24, I wrote a blog post called Singing Hearts, in which I highlighted a photo essay created by my three-year-old daughter Kaia and the reaction it elicited from @wmchamberlain’s class in Missouri.

I am happy to report that  the story has continued in a dramatic way. After reading the story or becoming familiar with it through @wmchamberlain, Dr. John Strange, @drjohnhadley, a Professor of Professional Studies at The University of South Alabama, decided to make my daughter’s blog and experience an assignment for his students.

Shortly after, I began to see a deluge of comments come pouring into Kaia’ blog, which led me to google the term: Kaia Edm 310. I was pleasantly shocked to see over 50 blog posts written about our work.  I also set up a Google Alert to try and filter all of the blog posts that were still being written.

Unfortunately I haven’t the time to comment on each individual blog, so I have chosen to write one comment to be shared collectively with the students in EDM: 310

Dear Students,

It was such a pleasure for me to see your reaction to Kaia’s and my experience. I never would have thought that our simple afternoon activity would elicit so much attention. It just goes to show that people are looking for ways to connect. We so often here people comparing “real” life and “virtual” life as if there is really a difference. When in fact we are all simply living our lives and hoping to share them in whatever meaningful ways we can.

That was the real aim of posting Kai’s pictures online- I was hoping that someone somewhere would find our experience relevant, engaging, human. And by the range of responses it is clear that our story was all of those things.

As we share the daily minutia of our lives, we are able to see how small the world really is, and how similar our experience can be, when we stop and look at what we are all doing. People often criticize social media as a vain and narcissistic way to flood the world with the meaningless details of our lives, but I refuse to follow that route. It is in these very details where we are most human and open for connections.

I think Kaia’s blog is a great example; what started off as a simple way to share pictures with family, has blossom into a portal where students in Missouri are connecting with students in Alabama.

I think this episode demonstrates that using technology should not be some kind of administrative mandate. We can all use technology in various ways. Another misconception of technology is that its user are only interested in various ways we can be digitized. Where as I only see these tools as methods of sharing and documenting my non-digital life. I use these tools to help my daughter understand how a camera works. We speak to our pictures to begin learning about story telling and metaphor. I am simply using these tools to slowly teach her to be aware of her world. We would have gone outside and taken photos with or without social media, but social media has allowed us to connect with you.

We should not want our students to learn to blog, use wikis or go on Facebook for sole purpose of using tools. We must teach them to look critically at reality and find ways to share what they see with others so as to have a better understanding of the human experience. I see the Internet as the new novel, except that we are all authors and we are all constantly writing the chapters one blog post, one tweet, one Facebook update at a time.

So what did you write today? How will you teach your students to be open and brave and connected? How will you help them see that their lives are worth sharing?


Jabiz Raisdana

In closing, I would like to add that one of the students from Alabama sent me this great clip of her daughter reading Kaia a book.

Here is our response.


Group Brain Activate!

The school where I work is currently only a Primary School this year, but like most schools in Qatar, we are rapidly growing. Next year we will expand to offer lower level Secondary classes as well. Seeing that I will be teaching Year 7, 8, and 9 (read Grade 6,7,8 in the American system) English, I have been given the “opportunity” or is it “task” of creating a curriculum based on the National Strategies from the UK. Perhaps, curriculum is not the exact word, I need help finding content and material to supplement and help teach my curriculum.

While creating an absolute brand new curriculum and finding resources to make it successful from scratch has its appeal, it is a monstrous task for one person. That is why I am recruiting you to help me. I am hoping that the group brain, the network, or communal learning environment I am a part of will help where they can by: suggesting texts, readers, schemes, resources, and any other ideas that may prove to be useful.

I have created this wiki in hopes of making this a very simple process for the people who can help and  spare some time. If the wiki proves difficult you can just leave me a comment on this post, email me, or send me a Tweet. I am sure everyone is beyond busy this time of year, despite this time crunch, however, I was hoping that you could take ten minutes to look over my document and fill in what you can.

Here are some sample questions:

  • Which novels do you teach in 6th grade?
  • What is the best writing program you have seen?
  • Do you use an anthology or a grammar book? Why or why not? Which one?

You get the point. Any help will be greatly appreciated. If you are reading this post and you are not an English teacher, I would appreciate it if you could share the link with anyone in the English department of your school.

Thanks in advance Learning Network; let’s see what you got! If Web 2.0 is truly what we hype it up to be, let’s see how she runs when put to the test!

After reading many of the comments on this post, I have realized that I was only looking for content and not really thinking about curriculum, so I have begun thinking about essential questions and narrowing things down a bit on this page. Feel free to contribute in either space.


Parrots on the Sill

Just a quick post adding more fuel to the fire of my Flickr “ID-This” fever! I wrote at length a few posts ago, about how Flickr helped me identify a caterpillar for my daughter; well today Flickr was at it again! When the weather cools in Doha, Qatar, we sometimes see flocks of wild parrots throughout town. Today, I saw three on my windowsill. I quickly snapped a few shots, posted them on Flickr with this message, “Can anyone help me identify them?” and sat back to wait. Within minutes I had my species: Psittacula krameri [Scopoli 1769]

I learned that these birds are most likely from West Africa in Guinea, Senegal and Southern Mauritania East to Western Uganda and Southern Sudan. Knowing this information makes me happy.

Just thought I would share. My brain is now reeling about how to use this in the classroom; I will share when I have a clearer picture. Please post any ideas!


Collective Learning and a Caterpillar

Educators often talk about inquiry-based learning. We are always trying to inspire students to ask essential questions and find ways to answer their inquiries themselves, using innovative methods and new digital technologies. Find and build networks we tell them. Use the power of the new Web is our mantra.

Readers of this blog may have noted that I am at times overly critical of the very technologies I promote, but I want to reassure you that I am a strong proponent of inquiry based learning, and I believe that network learning is the right direction for anyone who is obsessed with investigation, and at the end of the day isn’t the search for truth the very fabric of education. Let me share a few intersecting stories about a little girl, her dad, and a moth caterpillar that may shed some light in this topic.

The story begins in Shanghai at a technology conference of all places. I was sitting in a session led by Alan Levine on photography and the power of Flickr. Alan was talking about the different things he does with Flickr in regards to tags, when he mentioned that you can post a photo of almost anything: a plant, animal, or insect and tag it is as unidentified or unknown and people will identify it for you. At the time the idea seemed quaint, and it immediately fell into the “pretty cool” category, but I didn’t give it much more thought.

Fast forward to a few days ago. I live in Doha, Qatar, and I recently planted a few trees on my roof top garden. My daughter and I were on the roof tending to our young tress when she noticed several caterpillars. She was fascinated with our hairy little friends.

I remember being enthralled with the whole process of metamorphosis as a child and wanted to introduce this transformation to my daughter.  Sure she is only two-and-a-half, but such a magical event can be appreciated at any age. Right? We took one of the caterpillars, some leaves, a branch and put it all in a jar, hoping that we could watch the entire metamorphosis over a span of a few weeks.

The little guy is doing okay. He is eating the leaves, growing, and dropping a massive amount of poops, which are coming in handy for our other project- potty training. “See the caterpillar goes poo-poo too.”

What does any of this have to do with inquiry based learning and Alan Levine? Never a fan of jargon, I am a bit embarrassed to use the term life-long learner, but I did entere education because I have an insatiable curiosity. I wanted to know what kind of caterpillar I was dealing with, so maybe I could take care of it better and make sure it made it to butterflyhood. Let the search begin!

Let me walk you through how networked learning is helping me on my quest. My first step, and I am sure the first step of most K-12 students is that I Googled Qatari caterpillars, only to find a series of websites about the famous tractor company. I can just see the blank expressions on the faces of most 5th graders at this stage of their research, “but that is not what I want.”

What happens next? I had no clue as to where to start. How does one begin an investigation without a starting point? I wished I could just post a picture of it on the Internet and have someone tell me what it was.  I remembered Alan’s session from Learning 2.008, which in and of itself is the first step of network learning. I didn’t remember exactly what to do, so I sent Alan a Tweet and within minutes he had sent me a response giving me instructions:

I ran upstairs took a photo of the caterpillar and added it to Flickr. I did some other research on my own, as any good academic should, and found there are also groups on Flickr that help you identify insects. I sent out a few Tweets hoping that with the combined power of my network and Flickr I would have some answers.

This is really a remarkable thing. We are now able to just post a picture of almost anythinf on the Internet and have someone tell us what it is! Think of the power that gives your students. Think of the way they must learn to interact with others in order to use this power most effectively. I think it is truly amazing.

Within twelve hours I had my first comment on Flickr. At this point in the story I would love to say that someone had correctly identified my caterpillar end of story, but that is not the case. I think often times our students are just looking for the “right” answers as well. Whether they find it on Google, Wikipedia, or someone tells them the “right” answer, the end, and an easy one at that is their objective. While I admit I was a little disappointed when I cut and pasted the answer the guy from Flickr gave me into google and the caterpillar that came up for: Prominents (Notodontidae) looked nothing like the bug in my jar, I realized that learning and research are like many things in life- processes not products.

Posting to Flickr and waiting for a response from a network of people was not the end result, but one step in the process of my learning. When I started I had no idea where to look to even find a starting point for identifying this caterpillar. I was looking at tractors for goodness sake! But with the tips from one person, I had a lead. I was on the hunt.

I cut and pasted words like Prominents, Notodontidae, and Clostera. I got closer and closer. At this point, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Alan was still supporting me with this Tweet:

Now his vast network of experts was on the hunt too. I posted my findings on the Flickr Page in hopes that they will help narrow down the search:

Realistically there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of species of caterpillars. I may never find the exact match I am looking for, but that is not the point.  The point is that I am not satisfied merely punching random terms into google expecting answers and giving up when I don’t find them.

I am interacting with people and hoping they will help me on my journey toward the answer. This process is powerful. This collective, communal learning is what learning looks like. My daughter is only two-and-a-half, and most of what I have said is way over her head, but already she is asking me to watch caterpillars on daddy’s computer. She knows that Youtube is a powerful tool to help visualize and make real so many concepts that are new to her. We watched a Monarch butterfly hatch from its cocoon, hopefully soon we will be able to post our caterpillar hatching on youtube as well in hopes of helping others on their journey. I hope to be able to add the name of the species.

If you have any information regarding this caterpillar please leave it here.

About two hours after writing this post, I received a Flickr Mail from Bob Barker, the guy who had made the first comment,leading me to this page. We will wait and see what the moth looks like, but it looks like we have a Gastropacha (Stenophylloides) populifolia in our jar.