Monthly Archives: August 2013

Making Sandcastles

Yesterday’s post focused on my sandcastle collection, digital documentation of sandcastles I have found during my walks on the beach over the last week or so.  As I wrote the post I realized that I was collecting other people’s sandcastles–but hadn’t taken the time to build one of my own in a very long time.

Today was the perfect day for a beach walk.  The marine layer cleared early, the sun made an appearance, the water temperature was reported to be at 70 degrees (that’s warm for ocean water here!) and…low tide was perfectly timed at midday.  As Geoff and I headed out for a walk, we grabbed some tools and decided we would make a sandcastle and enjoy a bit of playing in the sand.


We walked up the beach and picked a place near the edge of the water and away from the crowds of people to get started with our castle.


Once we had a base to work from, the fun really began!  We pushed and patted the sand into shape, used the bucket as a mold to create the castle spires, and our castle began to take shape.


Gathering water in the bucket and mixing in sand allowed us to drizzle sand to create more texture and detail.  We scoured the nearby area for small rocks, shell bits and pieces of kelp for detail.  A small sand crab moved in (although his camouflage abilities made him impossible to catch in a photo).


We had such fun building this castle today!  It was a bit tricky keeping my phone handy and away from the sand.  My shorts became my towel for wiping ocean-cleaned hands.  Here I am with the final product!


After finishing our sandcastle, we continued our walk leaving our castle for others to enjoy. The tide was still going down so we knew the surf would leave the castle for a while…and we visited it again on our way back from the walk.  And I added some other sandcastles to my collection too!  (There were some master castle builders out today!)

I’m reminded that taking the time to make and play are essential.  Geoff and I had so much fun and the process of making for myself gives me new understandings and appreciation for the sandcastles I will continue to collect.  When was the last time you made a sandcastle?

Collecting Sandcastles

I started a sandcastle collection.  On my beach walks this summer, I have stopped to take photos of sandcastles abandoned by their builders, left for passers-by to admire and the surf to eventually reclaim.  Here’s a few of my treasures.





Yesterday I also caught a few sand mounds that seem to be a variation on the castle theme.  They weren’t fancy or decorated, but each included a canal from the top down to the bottom extending some distance away from the mound toward the water’s edge.



I’ve seen people of all ages building sandcastles.  Kids build them in groups, teenagers build them with their friends, and adults build them–with or without their kids helping out.  Some people use elaborate equipment: shovels and pails and molds.  Some decorate their castles with shells and rocks and driftwood pieces.  Some use the dribble effect, others are smooth leaving the imprint of the buckets packed with sand.

The picture I didn’t capture was the one of the three or four year old, outfitted in his tiny life vest and swim trunks, picking up handfuls of squishy sand and dribbling it onto a castle already substantially built.  He was the image of #carefree…totally immersed in his world of sandcastle building.

This has been a summer of digital making for me–photographs and blogging and all the art and craft that goes into building, editing, and posting them.  But I haven’t taken the time to build a sandcastle of my own.  Maybe I will on my next trip to the beach…and I’ll take a few pictures to collect that one too!

Some Thoughts on Digital Learning: #Leadership Day 2013

Scott McLeod over at Dangerously ! Irrelevant is celebrating the 7th anniversary of his blog today and inviting educators to share views on effective school technology leadership on what he calls Leadership Day 2013.

In lots of way I have been fortunate in my district with technology–our administrators employ a person to provide tech support to troubleshoot problems, send me to trainings if I ask to go, and trust me to figure out what is best for my students.  But I would say that those conditions are not enough to ensure participation of teachers who feel less confident with digital literacy and need more direction and support to implement robust technology use in their classrooms.

But instead of saying just how to support these teachers, in this post I will talk about the pieces of technology leadership that I feel are most often overlooked.  They are two very different but very important aspects of digital literacy:

  • Consideration of the impact of technology on student learning
  • Leadership by example by being a user of digital tools

Consideration of the Impact of Technology on Student Learning

There seems to be lots of attention to hardware decisions in education–Macs or PCs, tablets or chrome books, smart boards, document cameras…  The list goes on.  And there’s lots of attention to software and applications and how technology supports teachers–ease of grading, presentation tools, record keeping…  What is missing for me are meaningful conversations about the ways technology and digital literacy impact student learning.  Instead of asking each other what apps to use on classroom iPads, I think we need to ask how digital tools support student learning.  How can students transform information in ways that make it relevant and meaningful–and accessible in novel situations?  Instead of deciding between Evernote and Notability, we need to have conversations about how and why students will use this type of application–and it probably doesn’t matter which you choose if you have reasons that support student learning.

Leadership by Example by Being a User of Digital Tools

What I notice from my own Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter is that educators who are thinking about the ways digital tools impact student learning are also actively using digital tools for their own learning.  They are blogging about their professional learning, tweeting articles and links about research and thinking about digital tools, they are experimenting with new ways to represent their own learning with video, digital photography, infographics, and other digital tools, and they are actively learning with and from other educators trying similar tools.   I do see a few administrators and district leaders joining in this effort–and it seems that those who do have a bigger impact on the implementation of technology in their districts. The more district leaders use digital tools themselves, the better positioned they are to understand the benefits and challenges of them–and the potential implementation possibilities for use with students.

Our students will be using digital tools–they are pervasive in our lives.  Our question as educators is how do we use these tools to support our students’ learning…and help our students (and ourselves) see and use these technologies in ways that make us all more thoughtful, efficient, and productive?  Leadership is essential to successful implementation.  I hope my suggestions give some food for thought for those in leadership positions for the implementation of technology in education.

Poster Poems, Found Poetry: Remixed

One of my fellow #clmooc-ers, Vanessa Vaile, posted this invitation in the G+ community to remix, hack, create found poetry…and it’s been sitting in the back of my mind, waiting for the opportunity to find its place on my blog.

This morning the twittersphere handed my this poem and it has stayed with me all day, begging me to think about ways to remix and recreate and combine it with my photography.

The World Is in Pencil


—not pen. It’s got
that same silken
dust about it, doesn’t it,
that same sense of
having been roughed
onto paper even
as it was planned.
It had to be a labor
of love. It must’ve
taken its author some
time, some shove.
I’ll bet it felt good
in the hand—the o

of the ocean, and

the and and the and

of the land.

Source: Poetry (November 2011).

And so, here is my remixed version:
The World Is in Pencil: Remixed
Pencil in the ocean
and the land
Authored with labor
roughed by silken dust.
Love it
shove it
take time
to feel, to handle
Until you can see
as if it was planned
the world 
inked on paper.
A map of your life.
This photo was also remixed.  Taking a photo I took earlier this week,
I wanted to create a sense of pencil and sketch, roughed and labored.
I used the app Sketch on my iPhone to create this effect.
Here is the original:
Try your hand at found poetry…I invite you to remix mine or find
something that speaks to you.  How might you remix a photo or
other image to go with it?  Be sure to share!

One Shot, Two Ways…Revision, Photo Style

One of the benefits of blogging is that other people like and follow my blog…and when they do that I often take a glimpse at what they are blogging about–it’s a lot like my experience with the CLMOOC.  Yesterday liked my blog post and I spent some time perusing the photos he posts…all shot with his iPhone (like me!).  One of his posts was titled One Shot, Two Ways and is part of a challenge posted here.  The challenge invites photographers to take two photos of the same shot–one with a vertical orientation and one with a horizontal orientation and to post them side by side.

Inspired by those ideas (and looking at a few photos) I decided to try a variation on that theme and show two views of the same photo–one original and one with some editing and filters applied.  In some ways the editing process I apply to my photos feels a lot like revision in the writing process.  It’s the part of the process where I zoom in (or out), crop out distracting details, brighten up the setting, or change the mood.  In many cases, revision in writing and editing in photography transforms the end product and helps the reader/viewer see it differently.

Here’s are a couple from my beach walk on Sunday:



And here’s a couple from yesterday’s excursion to the Living Coast Discovery Center:



There are times when I post my photos without editing, but I like experimenting with how to take a photo and work with it to convey the message I have in mind–or one that emerges as I play with it.

What do you think?  How does the editing change the way you see the photo?  How does it change the message of the image?  How does this relate to writing and writing instruction?  I’d love to know your thoughts!

A #Macro View of San Diego Natives

I’m lucky to live in a beautiful city–a place where I don’t even have to say the name of my state for people to know where I’m from.  Many people I meet have either visited or know someone (often a relative) who lives here.  But despite that familiarity, there are many misconceptions about San Diego.  So many people expect it to be tropical–like Hawaii or Tahiti–and are surprised when they come in contact with our pervasive marine layer, moderate temperatures (low 60’s in the winter to mid 70’s in the summer with occasional higher and lower temps), and low humidity (we average about 10 inches of rain annually).

San Diego skyline from the Coronado Bay Bridge

San Diego skyline from the Coronado Bay Bridge

Our beautiful skyline and beaches are often framed with tall swaying palms (not native) and colorful hibiscus flowers (also not native).  Many species of plants grow well here–especially when supported by providing extra water.  Today I vacationed in my own city, taking a trip to Chula Vista to visit the Living Coast Discovery Center (formerly the Chula Vista Nature Center). Located in the wetlands along the San Diego Bay, the center boasts a rich history.  Once the domain of the local Kumeyaay people, around the turn of the century this location became a kelp processing plant run by the Hercules Powder Company extracting potash and acetone from the kelp to make cordite–an explosive used for fuses during World War I.  After the war, abandoned buildings were taken over by the San Diego Oil Products Corporation and became the largest cottonseed warehouse in the United States.  Later it became farmland and after that a site of illegal dumping.  In 1980’s the city of Chula Vista helped develop the site into the Chula Vista Nature Center.

As you can see appreciation of our local habitats has not always been a given, even among the local population.  We love our beaches and our mild climate, but haven’t always taken the time to understand how to best care for or learn about them.  Today, with the help of my macro lens on my iPhone, I spent time looking closely at some of the native plants of San Diego.

The coastal sage scrub community, which grows around our wetlands near the coast, is filled with hearty, drought resistant plants.  In the summer many of them look dry and brown.  Some might even conclude that they are dead…but just wait until some rain falls…

I noticed today that some of the most beautiful blooms are tiny…often unnoticed unless you take the time to bend down and really look closely.  Here’s some of the beauties I uncovered today, all taken with my iPhone and macro lens with no filters applied.

I wish I knew the names of all of these plants.  I admire the resilience and adaptations of these hearty natives and know that I will continue to learn about them.  It’s so easy to overlook these plants and be mesmerized by the exotic beauty of other more colorful species.  I hope you’ll see what I saw when I took the time to look closely–that there is much to appreciate about these natives, you just have to come close and notice what is right in front of you!  (Yet another lesson for my classroom…look for the talents and expertise that are not immediately obvious, but there nevertheless!)

Beach Curves: A Photo Essay

Summers are always busy for me…but this summer has been busy in extreme!  Between Geoff’s schedule and mine, we haven’t found time for a traditional, go someplace, kind of vacation.  Instead, we have had to grab vacation time wherever we could find it.  Today was one of those kinds of days…and we squeezed in a fun and relaxing one-hour vacation at the beach.

It was sunny and warm today…and the ocean water was on the warm side too…perfect conditions for a summer beach walk.  The marine layer stayed off the coast and we got there early enough that parking was easy!  We had just had a lovely breakfast at one of our favorite local haunts and were ready to walk and talk (or not)…and as always is true of me these days, take a few photos along the way.  This week’s #sdawpphotovoices theme has been curves, so I was on the lookout for curves on the beach.

When we parked, the very first thing I noticed was this giant pipe on the street and immediately headed over to take a picture.  I got Geoff to stand at the other end so its size would be noticeable–and I love the way the curve also becomes a frame for the portrait.


As we headed down to the shoreline, the tide was approaching high.  This can be a limiting factor for how far we can go, so today we headed north.  The waves were small, but the surfers and boogie boarders seemed to be having great success catching the curves and enjoying their rides.


Curves seemed to be everywhere.  Erosion is a major issue along our local shoreline.  The northern walk takes us below expensive homes that seem precariously perched above the beach.  One section was still barricaded with yellow caution tape…and the crack we had seen a month ago seemed more pronounced today as it curves along the layers of sediment that make up the sea cliffs.


Giant kelp, which my students know by it’s scientific name Macrocystis Pyrifera, is a constant on our local beaches.  Piles are evident as it washes up along the shore.  Holdfasts, the rootlike structure that hold onto rocks in the water, are home to many fascinating sea creatures and we often see locals rummaging in these wet piles and finding brittle stars and tiny sea urchins hiding within and enjoying a close look before returning them to their wet and salty homes. The long stipes frequently form tangled webs although this one reached out in a gentle curve away from the rest of the pile on the sand.


Sand castle makers have been hard at work this summer.  I passed this creation and just had to stop and get close for a photo.


I love this turtle version of a sand castle with its curved head, shell and limbs…and the extra touch of bucket-molded sand on the top.  Ocean washed rocks became eyes and the proximity of the kelp seems like a perfect touch!

I was surprised to find this coconut laying in the surf.  It had clearly spent some time being washed and worn by the sea, not quite round but definitely curved.  Had me thinking of Tom Hanks in Cast Away.


There were quite a few holes dug with curved banks that began to hold pools of seawater as the tide continued to rise.  I took a few pictures of the water in the holes and then stopped to wait to see if I could capture the waves coming over the bank to fill the hole.  I love the sense of movement this still photo captured.


And then before finishing my walk, I came across another yet another sand castle.  This one in more classic style with a moat, some bridges and curved turrets, and stones and shells for decoration.


I love the way #sdawpphotovoices themes focuses my attention and helps me see familiar places in new ways.  My one-hour vacation was relaxing and exotic!  The photos represent only a fraction of the curves I saw at the beach…and yet give a glimpse at the variety of curves along the shore.  Tomorrow begins angles…I can only imagine what I will find as I look at the world through that lens.