My screentime sabbatical

This past weekend (starting at 9pm EST on Friday) and ending today (Tuesday at 8am PST) I took a break.

I did not tweet
I did not post to Facebook
I did not generate email
I did not open my laptop

Let me tell you what I did do –

I occasionally read Facebook posts
I occasionally skimmed Twitter
I responded to two emails.
Here’s why I responded – and this is something I struggle with when it comes to the email/screetime breaks.  As the coordinator and advisor to all of the students in our program I take pride in making sure our program is responsive to our population.  The majority (about 60%) of our students are online students.  Online students are generally working full time, have families, coach sports, etc and enjoy the flexibility of our program because they can make it fit into their schedule.

Thus, when as student emails with a time-sensitive question, one that s/he could have spent the whole weekend worrying about – I justified breaking the “spell” to craft a quick response.  The 30 seconds that is took to write back saved a whole weekend of someone worrying that they wouldn’t graduate on time.  As an online teacher, this is something I wrestle with — I have a 24-hour email turn around policy – that puts a lot of stress on a professor, but, to me it’s justified.

Back to the social media break.  I thought about when and what I wanted to tweet.  “Ooh, that was a great meal” or “Wow, i just did x,y,z” — really, nothing of paramount importance to the balance of the twitterverse.  I did not have twinges of pain or remorse that I was not participating in the conversation.  The great thing about Twitter and Facebook is that it’s always there – I can hop back in and join in the stream.

It was nice – I’m glad I gave myself a break and I’m ready to hop back on the horse and ride out the rest of Spring 2011 :)

Attention all current & former CEP 820 students!

I would like to alert you to an excellent opportunity (below, or a pdf with more information here.) The MI Learns portal is actively seeking submissions of teacher-created materials for their portal.  It is an excellent way to share the work you did (or are doing) in CEP 820 (and get a small stipend for doing so!)

If you have any questions about the project, please let me know or feel free to contact Mike Souden directly!

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Mike Souden <>

I am Mike Souden, Project Manager for the REMC Michigan Learns Online
Portal project (  The purpose of the portal is
to address the need to expand online instruction throughout the State
of Michigan specifically online courses and professional development
for teachers and administrators that focus on online learning.  The
portal currently contains a broad set of resources except that it does
not have sufficient numbers of teacher generated and used online
learning lessons, units or courses.

Andy Mann suggested that I contact you to see if you have any teachers
in your Masters Level online learning classes that may have something
that they can contribute.  There is also the possibility that they
could receive a modest stipend for their contribution.  Teachers can
currently contribute to the MI Learns Online Portal by zipping the
lesson, unit or course that they are currently using and sending with
a completed form to  If the teacher would
like to get reimbursed, they need be certain that the material is
aligned to the Michigan Common Core, GLCS or HSCS and follows a rubric
to assess the quality of the online learning experience.

With this note is a brochure explaining the project in more detail.  I
would appreciate it if you would share the brochure with teachers in
your classes and have them contact me for more information.


Mike S

Mike Souden

ECOO 2010 Power of Play presentation

A few months ago, I was accepted to present at the 2010 ECOO Conference. We attended last year and it was a fabulous conference – full of energy and amazing educators.  Unfortunately, we had to do some last minute switching on team MAET and I am on my way to Denver for the National Council for Social Studies Conference. (Literally, I’m on the plane right now!)

I was hoping I could livestream my presentation to ECOO, but, I’m on a plane and I wasn’t sure my neighbor would appreciate the chatter (though, I would be one heck of an edtech rockstar for presenting from 30,000 feet up!)

So, in place of a presentation, I offer this blog post with a recap of the session I was going to run.  Please feel free to email, tweet or comment below if you have questions!

This past March – Andrea Zellner and I presented at MACUL. Our presentation was called “The Power of Play: Infusing Fun into Professional Development” – Andrea’s recap of the session can be found here

Essentially, we surprise participants by setting up the room in a circle and having them tag each other with sticky notes.  Everyone is under the assumption that the activity is an ice breaker (we don’t tell them why they are tagging each other.) The twist comes after we debrief and the participants find out they were actually in a real life simulation of the social bookmarking site delicious.

We break down how technology PD can work and be successful when you take the tech layer out (or if you don’t have access to the tech) and participants understand the core underlying philosophies of the technology (rather than clicking through menus or tutorials.)  If you take a look at her extensive notes, you will see an outline of activities if you would like to run the activity on your own.

Last week, I was invited to speak at the ISACS Annual meeting in Chicago and I did another variation of the “Power of Play” presentation.  I ran the session twice, once on Thursday and once on Friday.  But…there seemed to be something missing on Friday – a co-facilitator!  Alison Keller joined me on Friday and the session ran so much better (just as it had when Andrea and I worked together at MACUL.) If you run this session with your staff, I highly suggest having a partner in crime – it just makes the whole thing run much more smoothly and you can play off each other to get the crowd engaged.

Several participants in the ISACS session asked “our staff all knows each other, how could we do this with them?” I suggested repurposing the activity as a launching point for curriculum committees, task forces, etc.  If you’re having problems stretching it – shoot me an email or comment – I can help come up with a way to make it work!

After the delicious simulation – we discussed the idea of Quickfire Challenges and how they also create a playful environment to facilitate technology PD (or any type of PD for that matter!) To learn more about Quickfire challenges, check out this post (and yes, it was inspired by Top Chef!)

Thanks for listening! I hope to see you twitter and next year at ECOO 11!!

More #maet questions answered: Weebly & Choosing a CMS

Here are two excellent questions – one from an MAET Alumna and the other from a current MAET code warrior:

Ms. C’s Question –
Quick Weebly question – I am wondering how I can create a link to a page that is currently a word document. I want to put the link to the course syllabus and other things at the bottom of my page without having to put that title in the main menu.

Weebly has gone through some UX (user experience) changes recently and I had to look it up myself! Before googling, I checked the Weebly help. It’s really well done and love the organization! Here’s the answer to your question

2.12. How To Upload Files –

Several days ago, Mr. H asked:

Right now I’m looking for a content management system (CMS) to migrate our website to so it would be easier to edit the content by more people other than the web master (me). Maybe you have a good one that you know of.

My response:
Great question – as a former web master I know what a challenge this can be! I finally had time to post this question to Twitter today and the multi-talented Ben Rimes (@techsavvyed) and I tweeted back and forth discussing the issue:

@gravesle – WordPress, Googlesites, or Wikispaces work well for multiple authors. I’ve heard Joomla is nice, but you have to be techie for it

I know that Mr. H is a code-warrior so I tweeted back:

@techsavvyed I’ll pass on the suggestions-he is techy-so joomla may work well – it’s for a school site, something “robust” is preferred thx!

Ben responded:

@gravesle Yeah, then Joomla or even Drupal might work

If it were me, I would probably go with WordPress – just because it’s in my comfort zone and the open-source community around the tool is so strong.  I did some googling and found this really nice report comparing Joomla, Drupal and WordPress:

Though it is (admittedly) outdated (all of the softwares have updates, check the author footnote for updates) the document gives you great ideas for what to look for in each of the content management systems and what to consider when choosing what works best for you.

When students are choosing their CMS for the MAET CEP 820 Teaching K12 Students Online course, we have them look at the following sites as they are making their decisions:

The great thing about these three tools is that they give you an idea of the infinite number of choices you have (CMS Matrix), the ability to choose features that are important to you to consider your options (edutools), then the ability to try them out from an admin and user perspective (opensourcecms) without having to install!

Hope this helps in your search – keep us updated on what you decide to use!!

Green Tomato Bread

Green Tomato Bread

This afternoon we decided to clean up and clear out the garden for the fall.  Our tomatoes did very well this year and we still had quite a few green tomatoes sitting on the vine.  I thought about making green tomato pie, but then started googling to see if I could find anything else to do with the tomatoes.  I found this recipe on the Cooking with Michele blog and made a few adaptations:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 ounces plain nonfat greek yogurt + 2 oz creme fresh
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups green tomatoes, pureed, juice drained and discarded
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream sugar and butter.  Add eggs, then yogurt and tomatoes.  Add dry ingredients and walnuts.  Mix until just combined. Pour into prepared pans – mini loaves take about 40 minutes, regular loaf takes about 50 minutes.

Makes one loaf + 8 mini loaves.

They turned out pretty well, and very moist! It tastes quite a bit like zucchini bread.
I still have a lot of green tomato puree left over, so I may be making some chili or salsa or dal with the leftovers! Paula Deen’s Green Tomato Cake looks tasty too!

Abstraction Quickfire

Abstraction Quickfire

The challenge>

Mama always told me not to look into the eye’s of the sun
But mama, that’s where the fun is

Object: LCD projector

Idea: Though we may initially be blinded by a technology (physically, in the case of this projector, or metaphorically by learning a new technology) if you work through the glare and the pain, that’s where the fun is.

Remix Reuse Recycle – A Creative Commons Assignment

I was inspired by Alec Couros‘s tweet this afternoon to share my Remix, Reuse, Recycle project we have been doing for the past few years in the MAET overseas program.

(click the image to see the commercial)

This video reminded me of an assignment called “Remix, Reuse, Recycle” that we have been tweaking for the past few years in our overseas summer graduate program. (And I’m super excited to have this Nokia video to include in the future iterations of the project!) Below, you will find:

  • an example of student work
  • the assignment (in its original form from 2007)
  • rubric

Please feel free to Remix, Reuse and Recycle the assignment for yourself! (And let me know if you do!)



(Kerry Clark, MAET Overseas graduating class of 2007)


Remix culture is a term employed by Lawrence Lessig to describe a society which allows and encourages derivative works. Such a culture would be, by default, permissive of efforts to improve upon, change, integrate, or otherwise remix the work of copyright holders. Lessig presents this as a desirable ideal and argues, among other things, that the health, progress, and wealth creation of a culture is fundamentally tied to this participatory remix process. (via wikipedia)

A remix may also refer to a non-linear re-interpretation of a given work or media other than audio. Such as a hybridizing process combining fragments of various works. The process of combining and re-contextualizing will often produce unique results independent of the intentions and vision of the original designer/artist. Thus the concept of a remix can be applied to visual or video arts, and even things farther afield. (via wikipedia)

In this activity, you will each be given a common set of Creative Commons video clips and music and will be asked to remix these clips. You will be randomly assigned a theme. Do your best to keep your theme secret!!

• Video must not exceed 2 minutes
• You may include your own text into the mix, but you may not use any additional video or audio clips.

Clips must be edited using
Adobe Premiere Elements
Windows Movie Maker

Video Clips –

– the Librarian –
– film research and learning –
– choosing and educational film –
– basic typing –
– facts about projection –
– education for excellence –
– sharp calculator –
– it happens every noon –

Audio Clips –

associated readings –
free culture – lessig –
Exploring the Right to Share, Mix and Burn – new york times –
remix planet – wired –

Example Topics–
Situated learning
Experiential learning
Authentic learning
Active learning
Passive learning
Affordances of technology
Constraints of technology


Assignment Rubric (pdf)