Remote Teaching

From time to time I get asked about remote teaching- that is, teaching when I’m not in the room. I talk about how I’ve Google Video Chatted into my classroom to teach when I’m not physically there, and people are often… skeptical.

Just yesterday, however, an former student of mine sent me a video they’d shot from the first time I’d ever taught remotely- my kids had kept me home sick, and I felt some obligation to help my students with Midyear reviewing. It’s a short video, but it’ll give you an idea what it looks like.


iCon 2013

It’s that time of year again.

The organizing team that brought you the New England 1:1 Summit, the nation’s first large scale 1:1 conference, is excited to announce iCon 2013. iCon 2013 is a conference that focuses on conversations around how new and current technologies are affecting learning opportunities for our students, not just one device. This is not an iPad conference or a Chromebook conference, but a collection of educators coming together to share their ideas and thoughts on designing and creating innovative learning spaces.

The conference is free for all attendees and we welcome anyone involved in the education world as well as students. The BHS student help desk team will be on hand to answer any technical questions and present their experiences working and learning in Burlington Public Schools.

This year we changed our format to accommodate for school visits at Burlington High School and Marshall Simonds Middle School. Both schools boast 1:1 iPad environments and will open their doors for attendees to observe the iPad in action. This will take place on Friday, March 22 from 9am – 1pm. Saturday, March 23 will be a full day conference at the newly renovated Marshall Simonds Middle School in Burlington, MA followed by a networking social.

Registration for iCon will launch later this week, but we are opening the call for session proposals. You can fill out the form below.

Please stay tuned to this website for more information on the event. Or follow us on twitter@i_Con2013

Updates on my studio.

I got asked the other day what I meant by my studio. My studio’s kind of a hybrid workspace: I use it for music work, for idea development, and for varois hobbies I have. I put some pictures of it here, but they’re already posted over on my Flickr account. It’s a space that is moved with me through several iterations. I had one of my previous residence, and I’ve had two different ones at this house.

I think it’s important to have a working space in your house. I think it needs to be separate from your day to day life space, and needs to be designed specifically to foster creativity. I written before about the idea of the Vegas cube. In as many ways as is practical, I like to use some of those ideas in my studio spaces. That means I don’t keep a clock there. I don’t allow in natural lighting. It is, in as many ways as I can, isolated from the outside world. While that I solution isn’t always practical, it does help with the creative process. Nowadays with my kids, I have to be careful with how isolated I let myself get.

I’m in the midst of contemplating some larger changes to the studio. As those get made, I’ll try to keep this site updated in my Setup section. I’m spending less time on my music, and more time working on idea creation for education. This change of priorities has to be recognizing the physical layout of my studio.

Strangely, one of things that I’m walking in my studio is wall space. I’m looking at some options that allow me to have movable wall space. I’m still unsure about the budget I want to commit, and materials that I want to use for such an application.

A potential Hack

I’m using “Hack” in the oldest sense of the word- as a positive descriptive noun for something clever and elegant.

So two companies I enjoy products from, Evernote and Moleskine, have teamed up to produce a physical notebook. That sounds odd, I realize, but it has a number of features that allow Evernote to digitize it’s contents more easily. One of these is a particular style of dotten lines on the pages that help the scan with error correction. That’s neat, but not what really caught my eye.

The notebook comes with a few sheets of stickers with tags on them- and the optical scanning in Evernote is keyed to see those stickers and automatically apply the tags you wish to those scans. That means I can sketch/write/draw ideas related to a project, slap a sticker on the page, and when I take a picture of that note into Evernote, it’ll automatically apply my tags to that note. That’s awesome.

The notebooks are a small premium in price above the already-premium-priced Moleskines. That’s understandable; they’re a more complicated book, and made in smaller numbers. That said, I have plenty of existing notebooks, almost all of which are Moleskine anyway. So I don’t really need another.

What I really want are the stickers- and I’m interested in either

a. Buying them, or

b. Having them made.

Any ideas about either of those two options?

What have I done?

I’ve mentioned here before that my school self-publishes our senior year ELA textbook as well as our junior year ELA textbook. Not to go into too much depth, but for the last six years we’ve written and curated and had printed our own physical books. We use Adobe InDesign for the layout, and use the excellent Lulu for printing. It’s wildly cheaper than comercial textbooks. It’s so cheap that we can print and GIVE to students new books every year, and it still costs less than buying one set of hardbacks that we’d keep for TEN years.

I was heavily involved in getting this off the ground- I did the layout work for a few years, and early on was so keen on the idea that I paid for parts of it out of my own pocket. I still feel passionately about it, though I don’t have a ton to do with the project these days.

Or “didn’t,” I should say. Because I’ve gone and done something rash.

I’m taking all the existing files for the senior year book and I’m going to turn them into a decent digital version.

It exists already, as a matter of need (to upload to Lulu) as a PDF, but PDF’s are not an acceptable format for the distribution of a file like this. I’m going to be doing either (and maybe both?) an ePub and an iBooks Author file. Either will allow much of the hands-on work with the text that those teachers have come to expect from students- and either will be a. Cheaper, b. Not confined to the limits of a printed page and c. physically weigh nothing. All of which, as far as I’m concerned, are good things.

It’ll be some work. But maybe me doing this will be what it takes to get my department completely onboard.


God help me.

The list of projects grows. Uncontrollably, it seems. I’ve bumped a few off (tonsillectomy, etc…), but more loom than I ever imagined. Here’s what I’m up to:

1. Started working on a handbook for my media production class for next year based on some of the concepts from Tom Sach’s handbook for employees of his studio. His video is here, and is a good watch if you’re a dork like me. Nearly, nearly done.

2. In the midst of uploading near-as-makes-no-difference 11,000 songs to Google Play. I’ll be able to rock out anywhere from the cloud! Too bad the upload has taken three full days so far- and will almost certainly take another two. Done. Now just need to use it.

3. Building a new fly rod for myself- a fiberglass switch rod created out of the unholy union of some existing rods. It’ll be cheap, dirty, and wildly unattractive, but fun. How often do you get to use a hacksaw while building a rod?

4. Breaking in this new computer. MacBook Air 11″ Done, mostly. Still missing some software, but that’s just a matter of time.

5. Pushing towards no local storage use. Combo of GDrive and Dropbox right now. More specifics in an upcoming post on Setup.

6. Overhauling the backyard. I get to mount a brush blade on my gas line trimmer. Woooo!

7. Tonsillectomy. Today, actually. Done. Ugly, ugly.

8. Still waiting on Apple to release their school profile of BHS- and hoping to see a little of my shining visage in it.

9. Migrating (again) my large(ish) collection of digital photos. Not looking forward to this.

10. Tons of new art to hang at the house. Frames, as always, slowing that down. Have a literal stack of pieces to deal with.

11. Pre-production of several new Tangential episodes. These will be delayed in shooting until I heal from #7. Camera in hand, now have no time. Typical.

12. Roll out of 250 new iPad2′s at the High School. Prepped!

13. Prep for mid-year distribution of ~1000 iPad2′s for Middle School.

14. Prep for 500 person 3 day district PD (#bpscon) to kick off the year. Schedule done, next to do: logistics. Also: photos.

15. Prep for huge Google Conference in November @BHS

16. MASSIVE project (#iCon2013) coming in April 2013. Multi-day, massive. Massive.

17. Migration of our Junior and Senior year textbooks from hard-copy to digital version. ~300 pages each.

18. Fim/edit clips for BPSCON 2012

19. Fim new English Department Intro video

20. Handbook for our HelpDesk class.

21. Finish new layout of new classroom.

22. Install FCPX on new lab computers

23. Build new class blog for me.

24. Photography for new custom iOS app for our district.

25. Start prep work on two student run conferences: One internal, one external.

26. Install/finish middle school library setup. Includes putting books on shelves.

27. New AV setup for new classroom.

28. Promo material for #iCon2013 picked and ordered.

29. Assemble render farm for FCP (post FCPX arriving)


I think that about does it. As it were.


Back in the land of the living…

Holy Smokes.

Having your tonsils out at my age is (as everyone told me…) no joke. It’s been over a week and I’m just getting back to feeling like I’m alive again.

In the meantime, I’ve gotten a good start on my handbook/course expectations for my media production course this year. I’m doing it in iBooks Author because I want a) It to look glossy and nice and b) Because I want/need more practice with it as a publishing platform. It’s looking good thus far- heavily influenced by the Tom Sachs “10 Bullets” video I posted a couple of months ago. Next step with it is graphics work. Content is (mostly) there.

I’m headed back to work (I think…) tomorrow, for the rest of the summer. That’s right, kids: my year starts tomorrow. Long list of things to do there- see my last post for details. I’m sort-of looking forward to it, but I’ll miss the time with family.


Pretty excited for my new classroom. I’m going to spend some serious time working on it’s layout and configuration, and I’ve been doing some reading on the nature of creativity and creative spaces- that is to say, spaces that have been optimized to stimulate creativity- and I’m eager to apply them to my classroom.



How long is it ok to be a sage for?

So I have this quandry:

I’ve made a few Tangential videos thus far, and have met some (limited) success in the response to them. I worry, though, that despite the frenetic editing and my high-speed delivery, they’re really just a video version of sage-on-a-stage. Which is, to some degree, needed here. There’s information to be disseminated, and me talking to you is a efficient way of doing that. Also, given the nature of video, it allows students to watch multiple times to catch anything they might have missed. So that’s good. And, to be fair (to myself?) I keep the length of Tangential videos pretty short- usually around 5 minutes or so. That’s not much sage-ing, and I really intend them to be a jumping off point for class activities, discussions, projects and whatnot. Plenty of whatnot.

I had known about (but really, never watched) Hank and John Green’s YouTube channel CrashCourse, in which Hank teaches biology and John teaches World History. They are, it seems, better at it than I am. Which I am, for the moment, ok with. But these videos are clocking in at 15 minutes (plus or minus 5). Which seems like a lot of sage-ing. But maybe it’s not- and I’m not sure what that threshold should be. Thoughts?

BTW, here’s an early video from John:


Sit Rep!

It’s the very start of the summer, and here’s where I’m at with projects:

1. The Massachusetts Digital Publication Collaborative is happening tomorrow, and I’m pretty excited. We’re over 600 people registered- making it one of the larger one-day education conferences in the northeast. I’m leading one session the first day, and I’m leading four sessions (including a keynote) the second day. Busy busy busy. Exciting stuff, though.

2. I’ve had to put the fifth episode of Tangential on hold for a minute.  Between the end-of-the-year, exams, moving my classroom, #madpc, and getting ready for some genuine vacation time, there’s not been any time to shoot or edit an episode. The subject and script are both ready, I’ve just not been able to crank it out. Keep calm: I’ll be doing it this summer. Earlier- but likely not for about two weeks. Likely. As it stands right now, the entire Tangential series is less than twenty minutes long- but don’t underestimate how densely packed that twenty minutes is. That’s wall to wall, foot to the floor delivery- and boy, being a Boston kid, can I talk fast.

3. I’ve had a bit of a transformative moment after watching this video put out by Tom Sach’s studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s effected me so much- but it’s been creeping into my life ever since. I’ve been knolling my cutting board in the kitchen while making our meals. No, really. Anyway, I think some of the concepts will form the basis of my new Media Production classroom for next year. The idea of “sacred space” and “the code” are pretty compelling. So compelling that I’m writing my own handbook for success.

That’s it, for now.