Primary Preoccupation

A grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom

Primary Preoccupation - A grade one teacher inviting the world into  her classroom

102 New, Free Books About Teaching and Learning

Apple has just released an exciting collection on iBooks called One Best Thing. Each of these books was written by an Apple Distinguished Educator about one thing they do well using—you guessed it—Apple products.  The useful thing about this collection is that not only are the Multi-Touch books written about the ways educators are transforming their classroom, but each of the 102 books (today I counted 83 available so far) are offered free.

I am thrilled to be one of these authors.

One Best Thing

Student Authored Portfolios: Archiving Learning with iPad

My book is Student Authored Portfolios: Archiving Learning with iPad.  As the title suggests, the book shows how my students use their iPads, a few apps and their blog to archive their learning and to create a digital portfolio.

Although these books are written about Apple products, the few I have read so far are more about transformative teaching than individual products.  Yes, my classroom is 1:1 with iPads, but as I mention near the end of my book, it is not necessary to have access to iPads to create digital portfolios with students or students of any age. We used a similar process for many years before we were fortunate enough to get our iPads.

Check out the entire collection.  Or in iBooks, visit the Education category and find the One Best Thing collection tile.  Happy reading!

Ten Things You Should Know About Writing a Book

One year ago this month, my first book, an eBook about the way I connect my classroom with the world, was published. Writing a book was never on my bucket list.  In fact, I didn’t even think I could write. It wasn’t until I was at a presentation led by Angela Maiers at the Building Learning Communities Conference that I even considered such a thing. She convinced me that I could be a writer.

Once she had me persuaded, it didn’t seem like big steps when John Norton, the editor of the Voices blog for Powerful Learning Practice, asked me to start writing blog posts, and then later suggested that I should write a book.

I have a feeling that there are lots of people out there who are like me. Maybe you are. Maybe you think you can’t write, or maybe you just need someone like Angela to convince you that you can.  I’ve learned a lot over the past year, about writing and about myself.  For you, and anyone like you, who wonders about writing a book, here are the things that I now know that you may not.

  1. You CAN write a book. Yes, you.
  2. Writing a book is work. Hard work. Sometimes ideas flow smoothly, but mostly they don’t. If you want to finish, you have to force yourself to write most of the time. The whole process is more about endurance than inspiration.
  3. Writing a book is not so much about writing as editing and having a good editor. I’m a details oriented person. I dot my i’s and cross my t’s. When I sent my first draft to my editor, I knew it still needed work, but I didn’t expect it would be sent back to me four times.  And then twice more to deal with formatting issues. The book got better with each succeeding version. A good editor (like John Norton) is worth his weight in gold.
  4. Writing a book did not change my tax bracket. I’m sure that best-selling authors are able to make a great living from their writing, but for me, despite the generous profit sharing approach of PLPress and a growing number of university classes and school campuses that have purchased my book to read and to learn together, publishing a book did not change any retirement plans I might decide to make.
  5. Further to number four above, some personality types are better suited to promoting their book than others.  I am not naturally one of those well suited to this. Promotion has been a huge learning curve for me personally.
  6. Writing a book changes some people’s opinion of you. Some people equate writing a book with expertise, and to them, you suddenly have credibility.  But mostly people are unimpressed.
  7. Writing a book teaches you a lot about yourself, about what you value and perhaps surprisingly, about who values you.
  8. Writing a book about your own experience exposes you in a new and vulnerable way.  It is somehow different than writing any number of blog posts in which you show only a small part of yourself at a time. I feel a strange sense of intimacy with anyone who has purchased my book.
  9. Although everyone’s experience with this will be different, I have found it fascinating to have a glimpse inside the world of publishing—a world that I knew nothing about only months ago. Considerations of paper vs. digital versions, marketing, copyright, profit sharing and permissions—the learning curve has been steep and intriguing as I ventured out of my classroom comfort zone.
  10. There is something very satisfying about having finished such a big project.  It is a bit like finishing a university degree. All of a sudden, all of the months or years of hard work have resulted in completing something.  Or it’s like having a baby. When you see the finished product, you forget the months discomfort and the final pain and wouldn’t change things for the world.

If you are considering writing a book, I say, “Go for it!” Yes, it is an incredible amount of work but the feeling of fulfillment when you finally see your finished product is well worth all of your effort and time.

I’m channeling Angela Maiers here… YOU are a writer. You CAN write a book. Yes, you.

The Power of Hashtags For Me AND For My Students

I have had a classroom Twitter account for several years. We have used it to share what is happening in our classroom, to find out what is happening in other classrooms and to have conversations with those other classrooms. Parents and others have followed us to watch what we are doing and  to be part of our learning. We have never been a “tweet every day” class, but went in fits and starts, much like my own Twitter use has sometimes been. Using and following hash tags has made a big difference to my own Twitter experience, and as always, if something works well for me, I think about the educational implications it might have. As I thought last summer about the things I wanted to explore with my grade one/two class this year, making better use of Twitter hash tags was one of them.

The first time we used hash tags this past fall, we were learning about the writing trait of ideas.  We explored many sources of ideas ourselves, and then asked the people who followed us on Twitter to tell us where they got their ideas,  using the hash tag #ideasforwriting. Classes and individuals responded, giving my students many more great sources for “what should I write about?”

On this, as on every other occasion, the giving nature of others on Twitter continues to astound me.  My students were thrilled that people they had never met would help them with their writing and we eagerly added their suggestions to our classroom list of where writers get their ideas.
It was getting closer to Christmas by the time we revisited hash tags, and this time we were working on the writing trait of voice.  After reading the story The Gingerbread Man, the students took pictures of their gingerbread men around the school and then tweeted about what the Gingerbread man might say using the hash tag #SaystheGBMan. A couple of other classes joined us, and the students laughed and joked as they set up their pictures, created their own tweets and read tweets created by others. Interestingly, during the process, the phrase “GBMan” became a saying in our classroom and the students now use it instead of saying “gingerbread man” in most of their speech. Along the way, all of the students showed me that they could meet the curricular outcome of writing using a different voice.


The week before the Christmas holidays, several classes from #1stchat were tweeting about Santa’s secrets–that is, things people generally do not know about the jolly old man. This was the brainchild of Karen Lirenman, who has done a paper version of this with her class for many years.    What fun to make up humorous anecdotes about Santa and  to see what ideas others had! Again, my students were fascinated to be part of a group of students who were all composing and creating tweets with their own ideas. (And meeting yet another curricular outcome at the same time!)

As with every form of technology, it is not the technology itself that improves the learning, it is the way that the technology is used. Harnessing the power of hash tags has really revolutionized my ability to learn on Twitter professionally, and now I know it can do the same for my students.

A New Idea in Publishing

I have long admired the work that Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Will Richardson are doing with PLP (Powerful Learning Practice).  PLP mentors, supports and pushes teachers to shift their teaching into the 21st century.  Whatever teachers need to make that shift, PLP makes happen.

Today, PLP has launched PLPress.  PLPress is a chance for teachers who are shifting the way they do things in their classroom to write for a publisher that is more teacher/writer-centered than traditional publishers.  From the PLPress website, here is their take on how they are different.

Check out their website (download their first e-book–it’s free!) and think about the possibilities.  I’m writing a book for PLPress. I know other teachers who should also be thinking about this opportunity.  Are you?


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