Printing, Posting, Publishing, and Personal Learning Plans

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I’ve been thinking.  Should we, as literacy teachers, be coaching and teaching our students to be publishers rather than simply readers and writers?

With the wide range of integrated projects in play across the curriculum, students are creating content and media ranging from musical compositions to complex narratives in video format.  In between, our students are also editing, revising, critiquing, reviewing the work of others, commenting, filming, game play, and demonstrating their understanding of the world through many varieties of visual rhetoric.

In combination with the level of technological sophistication and hardware accessible in the classroom, students have extended opportunities to demonstrate their technological and literary skill-sets. Furthermore, our curriculum can be more richly developed with the inclusion of materials and assessments that reflect the wide range of learning material easily available on the internet.

This raises several questions.  First, should our literary standards and exercises reflect the increasingly wide-range of content made possible through technology?  Second, are the skills needed for production of multimedia content really that different from “old-school” instruction in reading and writing instruction? If not, how can we demonstrate for students the transferability of these skills from traditional literacy to the new, 21st century platforms? Finally, does this present educators with an opportunity to transform their curriculum while increasing student motivation?

As students continue working on their Personalized Learning Plans and integrate art, video, informational graphics, and writing onto the websites, it is apparent that the “publishing” model may very well be an appropriate one to utilize when targeting the skills most needed for student success.

A last note on publishing — the word origin and definition are rather interesting — related to vocabulary.

First, the definition (from Google Search):

  • Publishing is the process of production and dissemination of literature, music, or information — the activity of making information available to the general public.

Second, the word origin and trend in usage:

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.31.49 AM

With the root “public”, and the idea that publishing is the act of making our work public, it becomes essential that as students begin developing a digital footprint that is both positive, professional, and most importantly, follows basic tenets of digital citizenship.

As we move forward with the Personalized Learning Plans, we will begin investigating the deep connections between 21st century media, publishing, and being a good digital citizen.

“Google.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2014. <;

Power Poses and Body Language

Cortisol.  It’s come up quite frequently in a number of books (see previous posts)  that I’ve been reading and now, in all places, a TED Talk about body language. Why cortisol? In my basic understanding, cortisol is a stress hormone.  High levels of cortisol can lead to damaging outcomes (to say the least).  Here is a brief summary article from the Mayo Clinic.

My recent interest in the subject of cortisol comes from a myriad of resources that indicate children who have high levels of stress, and thus, cortisol, can have an extremely difficult time in school. Children responding to stressful situations, and who maintain a heightened sense of stress, are often incapable of dealing with the expectations set forth by the educational environment.

To be fair, I haven’t read thoroughly enough on the topic to offer a definitive conclusion.  I can say that this appears to be a trending topic and one to which educators should be paying attention.

After following a reference to a New York Times article regarding body language, I once again crossed cortisol’s path. Turns out, combatting the ill effects of cortisol has been underway for quite some time.  The solutions — or some of the results, are fascinating.  Think mindset as you watch this TED Talk and see what you think!

Visual Rhetoric and Student Learning

It would seem obvious in this digital age that utilizing the vast array of computer generated mapping, Google Earth, and satellite imagery in the teaching of geography would be a relatively simple task.  Despite the proliferation of these digital formats, it’s not as easy as one might imagine.  However, when used properly, digital imagery and historical photography can be a potent learning tool.  Kids really do like to figure out the puzzles.

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NASA Earth Observatory photo of the Nile River delta at night.

For the past few days we have been working on basic concepts of geography: movement, interaction, physical and human features, and how geography can help define the local culture.  More broadly, we have also been looking at landforms to discuss how they influence culture and civilization.

Take this picture of the Nile Delta at night.  Not only does it demonstrate the  populations living alongside the river, it also illustrates how the physical features of an area can influence populations, movement, and the development of cities, towns, and civilizations. An interesting article on urbanization can be found here.

From this single image, a week’s worth of geographic concepts can be considered. Introducing this photograph made me realize, again, how much background information is required for students to begin making the connections between geography and disparate themes of social studies including migration, resource utilization, and the adaptation of populations to various environments.  Still, the possibilities for introducing, and hooking kids into geography through these incredible images are intriguing.

In addition to utilizing digital and satellite imagery to enhance geography instruction, analyzing historic photos can help students understand change over time.  A particularly good local website is the University of Vermont’s Landscape Change.  Users can search photographs listed by location, town, or county.

Here is a photograph that students exScreen Shot 2014-09-17 at 6.04.03 PMamined to try and determine how Montpelier has changed. Note the Green Mount Cemetery, Winooski and Dog Rivers, and the open expanse of territory to the west, southwest of Montpelier High School.  We had a very interesting conversation about the location, changes, and physical features of the landscape in the photograph.


Crew, Expedition 25. “Nile River Delta at Night : Image of the Day.” Nile River Delta at Night : Image of the Day. International Space Station Program, 28 Oct. 2010. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <;.

Mann, Elizabeth S. Aerial Image of Interchange. 2004. UVM Landscape Change, Burlington. Landscape Change Program. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. < php?ls=06751&sequence=000&set_seq=74&imageSet=1410882131-54185a535283a&AddRel=0

Minecraft and Geography

The trimester is getting cranked up in earnest and Team Summit is working hard to set the pace.  Last week we had our first Minecraft session and after creating a server charter/constitution, students were set free in the Minecraft world.  They had two goals: 1) create a landmark to help with navigation and 2) to begin building a shelter using the local resources.  Both of these themes fit nicely with our introduction to the themes of geography — particularly place and interaction. 

Additionally, students are required this to write about their gaming experience on a weekly basis.  This week, we are asking that students incorporate the themes of geography into their paragraphs.  The hope is that students will connect their study of geography with the gaming experience.

The news that Microsoft was purchasing Minecraft caused some consternation as can be noted here: Players Wary of Microsoft.  There is some concern that the free flow of information and “mods” might not survive the buy-out but we will see.

Last week students also finished their initial work on their Personalized Learning Plans.  7th graders created their site and write a short biography while 8th graders completed an evaluation of their Phase 1 work.  After conferencing with the 8th graders, I’m fairly convinced that the PLP can be a great tool for learning.

That’s it for now; we’ll try to get a post in mid-week to update our progress.

Posting By Email

First, thanks to all the parents, students, and community members who attended Open House last night. It was great to see everybody and it is always a good way to get the school year headed in the right direction.

Team Summit spent a lot of time discussing our integrated curriculum and how we are attempting to structure that around a framework of sustainability, technology, standards, and academic dispositions that we believe help kids to achieve success. Among the resources discussed were Carol Dweck’s Mindset and Paul Tough’s work How Children Succeed. (Remember to buy at your local bookstore if possible.)

Time permitting, valuable resources will be passed along to the Team Summit community. Let us know if you have any you’d like to share!

Speaking of resources, did you know that Team Summit’s Lending Library has a Pinterest page? Check it out here: Team Summit Library.

Thanks, and see you soon.

New Blog Format: Word Press

One of my goals for this year is to keep our Team Summit blog updated on a regular basis. That said, at the end of a long day in the classroom, it’s hard to be creative/innovative with the posts.

We are launching three of our key initiatives this week.  First, in language arts we introduced the Personal Learning Plans or PLPs.  Mandated by the state of Vermont, these flexible learning plans will allow students to create, curate, analyze, and reflect on their work and development as learners.

Team Summit’s PLP plan is set up to be a process, not a final product.  Entering students work their way through Phase 1 with guided assistance from class activities.  Gradually, as students move through the phase, they become more independent.

Phase 2, hypothetically, begins in the 8th grade year.  Students are given more opportunity to explore academic and career opportunities as well as exploring and reflecting on topics of interest.  More information, and the phase progression can be found here: Team Summit Personalized Learning Plans.

Later in the week we will be hosting our first Minecraft session and introducing our Green Team committees for the year.  I’ll be posting more about those later in the week.