Category Archives: Student Work

I’m Not OK

It was a tough day.

I learned about the song, “comethru” from a senior for an assignment last semester. I like incorporating music into my lessons. It allows me to see a different aspect of my students. This song was shared during our study of the book, Night. In chapter 6, Juliek plays a last “concert” for the prisoners with his violin. The students had to share a song that lifts their spirits when life gets rough.

Life is rough right now.

This morning the students were allowed into the school to get their stuff and talk to teachers about how their classes would be handled online. They were allowed in by grade every hour. At one point I had about 20 seniors in my class. They were laughing, enjoying the chance to be together… maybe for the last time as seniors.

“Five More Minutes” by Scotty McCreery was a song submitted as a poetic song for our poetry unit.

A classroom, a school, is an intense snapshot of life. Everyday is filled with the full spectrum of emotions. Of victories and heartbreak. Personal growth and steps backwards. Each student has their own journey, yet it is shared with everyone in the classroom. Some of the fears are the same for every student as they walk the path to graduation. But right now, we are all sharing the same fear and anxiety of the present moment.

For a few moments, I felt OK this morning. After everyone left, a senior came back in, hand out toward me. “I need one more,” he said. And we did our handshake that we do everyday in class…

I’m not OK now… But again, I should listen to my students… Another song submitted for an assignment.


Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Life, Student Work

Student Assignment

One of the reasons I love teaching is when a student connects the class work to their life. When an assignment becomes more than just a grade. For my English Composition course the students end the year with a research based persuasive essay. I have all kinds of assignments built around helping the students produce that final essay. One of those assignments is to write a letter to an authority connected to their topic. Throughout the last 18 years those “letters” have actually been used by students to make a difference in their schools or communities. This year one student tackled a serious issue, binge drinking.

Now, Anthony is a non-traditional student. He is a father and is working a career change. And his letter to an authority was an honest letter. After you read it, you’ll understand why I wanted to share his work.

18 November 2016 

Dear Parent,  

 This may go without saying, but I’m asking you to stay very involved in your child’s life as they go through college and into life beyond. Please make sure they are not falling prey to an issue many young people face today. There is a problem that is not only prevalent in this area, but all across the nation. This problem is binge drinking in our student body. As I write this, college students across the nation are gearing up for a fun Friday night. Going to the liquor store for the first eighteen pack of the weekend, maybe a bottle or two of fireball. There is a game tomorrow, so surely the booze will be flowing at tailgate parties. That’s tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night to drink as much alcohol as one can.  

Binge drinking is defined as more than five drinks in a two-hour period for men. For women, it’s more than four drinks in the same period of time. According to the C.D.C. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), almost 90% of alcohol consumed by binge drinkers in the U.S. today is by people under 21 years old. Those who admitted to binge drinking are fourteen times more likely to get behind the wheel and drive while impaired.  

As a student myself attending college I have seen this first hand. Not only in the student body but in myself. I have been in the shoes of the hung over youth. The boy who wakes up not knowing where he is or how he got there. Trying to make sense of the night or day before. Only guessing at whether I hurt anyone or just what happened. All of these situations seem to be the social norm. Usually talk during the week consists of how much was drank or just how drunk they got. Blacking out seems to be the goal. This is activity is very dangerous.  

Drinking and college go together like a hand and glove. It has been a cultural rite of passage for American youth for generations. It may be impossible to completely stop drinking for a good time or to relieve stress, but discouraging underage drinking and binge drinking could lead to better grades, increased overall health, and decreased chances of alcoholism. All while diminishing accidents or fatalities associated with alcohol.   

I’m asking you to let your children know that you care. Your influence may mean more to them than you think. Just talk to them about the dangers of overindulging. Education, love, understanding and communication are the best tools to reach them. Misery is not required for one to be happy. 




Thank you, Anthony, for letting share such an honest and powerful letter.


Filed under Student Work

Class Research

The TECHS students did a simple Google Presentation on future technology. Each student, across four class periods, were assigned to find something cool happening in the world of technology.

Technology allows any of us to collaborate with ease.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Student Work, Technology



Coursebook is a personal video textbook.  Coursebook features videos from Ted, Khan Academy, Stanford eCorner, Yale, Railscasts and other educational sources.  You can also connect your Facebook and Linkedin accounts to see what your friends are studying with Coursebook.


Why I like it:

Coursebook is a simple idea, but designed so well that it is easy to get lost in learning.  The idea is to build your own learning path by selecting videos to watch.  Coursebook then keeps track of what you have watched, which ones you have tagged to watch later, and even which videos you have started to watch. The app then gives you recommendations based off your course work.  You can share your videos through Facebook and Linkedin; also you can share with the Coursebook community.

You can access your course work on their website, too.

 Use in the classroom:

This app is perfect for flipping your classroom or enhancing your curriculum.  At the moment Coursebook is just over two years old and you can’t just type in any keyword and get video results.  But I see great potential in what they are developing, and it can release the ownership of learning to the student.

For example lets use the study of cells in a high school class.  How can Coursebook be used in this situation?

First, I did a keyword search with “cells” and Coursebook provided 11 results.  The top three videos are “Using nature to grow batteries,” “Transplant cells, not organs,” and “Printing a human kidney.”  What an interesting way to enhance information about the importance of cells in our life!  What if there was a day or a project in the science class that allowed the students to connect the classroom lesson with a video of their choice?

OK, now let’s expand that science class to the whole year.  The student can build a coursebook with videos of their choice for the whole year.  If there were videos you wanted to use in your class, you make sure all students add it to their playlist.  This is the power of the flipped classroom idea.  It’s not about just watching a video, but about watching something that sparks the students’ imagination and you, the teacher, providing them the freedom and time to work with their ideas and questions.  With Coursebook the videos can be watched anytime and anywhere, the classroom is where you take that spark and ignite their learning.

Share your ideas with me via Twitter (jdog90).

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Student Work, Technology



Snapguide is designed for users to create visual based how-to guides.  That’s it.  Sounds simple. It is and that is what makes it great.  The guides are built around teaching how to do something through pictures and videos.  Adding text is a part of the process, but you are limited to 200 characters a page.  Once your guide is finished you publish it to Snapguide’s site, then you can share it through other social media sites. Guides can also be viewed on their website, but can only be created through the app.

Why I like it:

It is easy and fun to make a guide with your mobile device.  One night I decided to make a Snapguide about one of my family’s favorite dinners, Pizza Sandwiches (click to see the Snapguide). So, I grabbed my iPad to take the pictures as I cooked, then designed the guide later that night.

Another bonus to the app is the Snapguide community.  You can investigate other guides, or follow someone who makes guides covering subjects your are interested in.  Be prepared to interact through the comment option with people who like your guides.

Use in the classroom:

I have a Process essay unit for my writing class.  I showed the students Snapquide as an option to create a “visual how-to” assignment (the students had a number of options).  Three students used Snapguide.  Below are their guides.

How to French Twist Hair

How to Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies

How to Make Ramen Noodles in the Microwave

Each guide was viewed at least 500 times.  Each had at least 50 loves.  And each got at least one comment.  This is the power of creating work that connects beyond the classroom.

The other side of Snapguide is finding guides to enhance what you are doing in class.  There are guides that could be used in art class, industrial arts, or music. Just browsing through the categories will spark ideas for you.

Snapguide’s focus is to allow users to make and find great step-by-step guides.  It is a great example of how we can share our knowledge with people who also enjoy our interest.  Using Snapguide is a great way to enhance any lesson that is centered on how to do something. Share your guides with me via Twitter (jdog90).

Series Note: I decided to use Tagwhat in the upcoming website series that I will be doing in December.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Student Work, Technology

Pic Collage


Pic Collage is a fun, easy, and powerful app to create collages. It allows you to access photos from your camera roll, the web, Facebook, or take a picture from the app.  The app comes with a standard set of stickers, with the option to buy more sets.  You can add text, colored borders, and even crop your photos by tracing around the section you want. You can even send your collage as a postcard for $1.99.

The finished collage can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.  You can also save it to your photos or send it in an email.  Pic Collage now has an account option that allows you to share your collages on Pic Collage’s site.

Why I like it:

Designing the collage is easy.  Rotating, resizing, arranging, and even trimming the photos are gesture based.  In no time you can create a nice looking collage. The ability to access images from the web makes the app a creative tool for the classroom.

Created by Kaylee, English Comp student.

Use in the classroom:

I have used the app as a poster alternative.  The example above is a poster of a student’s persuasive topic.  I think Pic Collage can be used for any class or grade level.  Being able to access images from the web enables students to research and show their understanding of any topic in a new and inviting form.

Whether it is for the classroom, or a collection of photos from Thanksgiving, I think you will enjoy Pic Collage.  Share your collages with me via Twitter (jdog90).

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Student Work, Technology

The American Scholar Today?

I have been thinking about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s speech “The American Scholar” lately.  The speech is a part of the American Literature course I teach in the spring semester, and it is one of my favorite pieces of literature.  I agree with so many of the points he expresses about true scholarship.

I wonder what he would think about the state of education today?   At the beginning of the speech Emerson reveals the three main influences in a scholar’s education. The first is Nature.  Simply stated, being outside.  Emerson goes much deeper in his speech, but the idea is that scholars spend time with Nature, spend time reflecting, as he states, “And, in fine, the ancient precept, ‘Know thyself,’ and the modern precept, ‘Study nature,’ become at last one maxim.”

I have been trying to conduct my DL classes as if I was in my own classroom, and so my CCC writing course went outside to write.  I instructed that they could take pictures, too.  As students will do, they had some fun:

Burwell Students

Then this morning 1011 News reported about Kearney public school’s “Outdoor Days.”  Don’t get me wrong; I think this is a really good idea.  But what does it say about the norm of our education, that having kids outside learning is news? Emerson states this is the first thing that influences scholars. Yet, we set up learning to be done inside, during the best time of the day and in rows.

The second influence is the “mind of the past” that at his time was best reflected in reading books.  We know that today that influence is even greater. I won’t spend time on this point because my thoughts have been on the fist influence, Nature, and the last influence…

Created at

Emerson makes a strong argument that true learning is done in living, “Of course, he who has put forth his total strength in fit actions, has the richest return of wisdom.”  He states that we can only truly understand that which we live, that true scholarship is produced through our lives.  Emerson states, “Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think.”

I show this clip of Neil Gaiman at the beginning of the CCC writing course, listen to what his first piece of advice is for writers.

In my position I am immersed in technology, but I also see our students immersed in technology to the point that I do wonder if they understand the beauty and heartache of living.  Or are they just skimming the surface of life one statues update at a time?  I believe technology and especially mobile devices can enrich our lives deeply.  But that has to be the focus for the use of technology. It should be a tool we use in living. Living is our greatest teacher, “Time shall teach him, that the scholar loses no hour which the man lives” (Emerson).

I have been thinking about Emerson’s speech, “The American Scholar,” lately. I wonder what he would think about the state of our educational system?

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Life, Student Work, Technology

Mobile 2012 Reflections

As the weekend winds down and I get some time to reflect on the Mobile Learning Experience, a couple of things come to mind right away.

Point One: The energy from the conference was intense.  The conference was big enough to meet a new person at every breakout session, yet intimate enough to make real connections with people.  Even the schedule worked into this with the meals.  I was able to sit with my colleagues, yet have new people to meet at every meal.  The keynotes were also an integral part of the energy.  Each message was connected to the conference, but unique to each keynote.  I walked away with different ideas because of each speaker.

Point Two: The power of mobile devices. The first aspect is from Graham Brown-Martin’s keynote, which is we are still not tapping into the power of mobile technology.  We are using a technology designed to be mobile in an immobile environment. Now, what educators and schools are doing with them is awesome!  I’m pushing the idea farther, as I was thinking during Graham’s keynote and tweeted the idea that teachers use Mondays as a “Keynote” day, then, let the students go the rest of the week.

I understand that wouldn’t work all the time, but it brings up the second aspect of the mobile devices and technology: options.  There is a time for lectures (think about how powerful the keynotes and breakout sessions were), a time for worksheets, a time for tests even.  A buzzword right now is differentiation.  Simply put, options.  Mobile devices equip both students and teachers with that.  As an example, I will use simple story structure as a lesson.  In class we might read, listen, or even watch a YouTube video of the story.  I would have some vocab, which I could have a stack of flashcards for them to study, or even have them design their own.  Then, allow the students to show they understand story structure by writing a story, filming a story, or creating a cartoon.  All of which can be done on a mobile device.

Which moves me to the third point: the Teacher – Student relationship.  I started an interesting discussion about app development for teachers between breakout sessions, but I didn’t get the opportunity to finish.  Understand this discussion had the chance to be one of those incredibly deep pedagogy challenging discussions, but I never had the chance to bring it up again.  At the beginning, my inquiry was on the idea of equipping teachers to be able to build apps that would help students in their study of a lesson.  The opposite side was that the students should build them.  I don’t disagree with that, but one aspect I see of technology is the empowering of teachers to be what they went into this profession for, to teach.  Teachers can be the experts again of their field.  If fostered correctly, teachers should be the experts of the curriculum, not the textbook or a website.  The “options” available to connect to the content pushes teachers to raise their game.  And that, as a professional, is exciting.  Our jobs are changing.  Our challenge is to actually design a learning experience that gives students the tools and motivation to live by the highest expression of their talents.

Mobile 2012 was an incredible opportunity for me as a teacher.  I cannot wait to hopefully be a part of Mobile 2013.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Student Work, Technology

Student Work

The following slide show is a collection of pictures from students revealing a look at the father – son theme in The Natural.

The following is a student presentation. (Click on presentation to advance)

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Student Work

Student Essay

I wanted to showcase some of my students’ work over the next couple of weeks. The first is Brooke, an American Literature student.  She is usually quiet in class, but she has a tremendous talent with the written word.  Here is her essay over the book The Street. If you get the chance, please leave her some feed back on her essay.  Thank you.

Money: The Downfall of Mankind

Throughout life we are constantly moving. Shoving our way through crowds stomping on dreams already left shattered on the pavement. Regressing, sliding backwards until we stumble over sidewalk cracks or other people passing. No matter which direction we move in we experience those moments that completely turn everything around. Moments of impact where we finally collide with all that we are and what we will become when it’s all over. These collisions shape us. They are the moments when everything falls together and the lesson to be learned is directly in front of us. Some learn to appreciate these moments while others flee from them. On the streets of Harlem people are always avoiding these moments of impact for fear that any realization will send the walls they’ve built crumbling around them. None of them have the strength left to pick through the rubble to rebuild. They’ve already suffered too much. The source of their suffering: a fragile paper dollar.

This fragile piece of paper distorts reality, lifts and slays hope, and defeats the downtrodden. Lutie Johnson and her son Bub are subject to the supremacy of the dollar along with everyone they cross paths with. Every aspect of their life relies on whether or not they can afford to live. Lutie’s first trial began with her husband Jim. Employment is difficult for black men to find and the only work offered is demeaning. They find themselves drifting along surrounded by their own inferiority. Strong, courageous men shrink in the face of money, for it taunts them constantly reminding them of their inadequacies. Jim had said, “Don’t they know if I knew how I’d change the color of my skin?” (Petry 30). As Jim sat back, his pride crushed, Lutie found a job far from home in America. Ignoring the warnings of Mrs. Pizzini who believed, “It’s best that the man work when the babies are young. And when the man is young. Not good for the women to work when she’s young. Not good for the man” (Petry 33). Unfortunately money made the decision for this family before they had any clue what they were heading for. Money is a necessity in this life, aware of its own authority it curls around the fate of families who can’t make ends meet.

In the Chandler household Lutie becomes aware of the American Dream. The Chandlers have paper stacked in every item in their home. It struts around in their clothes, furniture, and conversation. Revealing its crucial importance and persuading all that it’s truly invincible. Conversation in the Chandler home revolved around, “Richest damn country in the world—Always be new markets. If not here in South America, Africa, India—Everywhere and anywhere—Hell make it while you’re young. Anyone can do it—Outsmart the next guy. Think up something before anyone else does. Retire at forty” (Petry 43). The reality of this is not everyone can make money, and this is made obvious in the statement that follows. It’s extremely contradictory to say that anyone can make money, but outsmarting others is necessary to do so. White people made sure colored people were easy to outsmart by allowing them absolutely nothing. Paper constructs this complex competition where only the strong can survive and unfortunately the definition of strong is white men who oppress others to quench their own thirst.

The result of this dream sparkles in the minds of rich white folk, but for all left out of that category it barricades desires leaving only a minute, dull lifestyle. A lifestyle that caused Mrs. Hedges to transform her home into a whore house after being burned and spat out by the world she was circumstantially born into converting her into the piercing, snake lady; a lifestyle that turned Mr. Jones, the super, into a tall, solemn, devilish creature; one that turned Pop into a lonely alcoholic; turned Min into a shapeless, meek woman; Junto into a greasy, squat man; Boots Smith into a numb, angry, womanizing cat man filled with stealthy manipulative tendencies; and all the other faceless creatures of the street into dark shadows sliding along with resigned expressions. Money has kept all these people fearful and imprisoned. Lutie had said, “I don’t like mountains, I get the feeling they’re closing in on me” (Petry 160). The environment Lutie inhabits is always pressing in on her shoving out any sunlight, making her feel small, incompetent. She cannot escape this prison money has locked her in. All she can ever hope for is limited space and consuming darkness. This consuming darkness forces Bub to sleep with the light on in the lonely apartment, and grown men to stand outside Juntos bar staring into the light that warms the building leaving it secure and full of life. They stand staring into the lives they wish they could have, into the dreams they’ll never have the chance to fulfill. The kinds of jobs colored people receive cannot pay, or even come close to paying for anything more than the rent of a broken, dim apartment and measly quantities of food and clothing. All these people are merely just dark, shadowy figures “silhouetted against the light” (Petry 186).

People who weren’t worth anything to the rest of the world were shoved into crowded streets with decomposing buildings, and darkness creeping around the corners seeping into lonely apartments. No one living in these horrid environments could stand a chance against them; eventually the walls would press in to crush what’s left of their hopes. Money forced them to work petty, self-loathing jobs with long hours in order to scrape in just enough cash to pay rent. It kept them from building relationships or self-confidence. Everyone on the street is fighting for themselves alone in hopes of escape; the only relationships that exist are social contracts. The only goal is survival and these people will stoop to any level to make it out with their lives. Money turned Lutie Johnson, a caring mother and confident strong woman, into a wicked murder who deserted her son and ran from the law. It turned a young, happy Bub Johnson into an insecure, greedy, and dishonest boy. How can anyone possibly escape the street, when all it does is pull you back to remind you it is exactly where you belong?

Throughout life we are constantly moving. No matter which direction we move in we experience those moments of impact where we finally collide with all that we are and what we will become. They are the moments when everything falls together and the lesson to be learned is directly in front of us. Some learn to appreciate these moments while others flee from them. On the streets of Harlem people are always avoiding these moments, for none of them have the strength left to pick through the rubble. They’ve already suffered too much. The source: a fragile paper dollar.  Money produces two kinds of people those who have it and those who don’t. The ones who have it become greedy and unappreciative stealing what they can by repressing the weak; those who don’t have it cannot afford to live period. If our lives are weighing heavy on a fragile paper dollar, what happens when the paper tears?

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Student Work