Thrashing Towards the Digital Classroom
Rocks, Blocks, and Friction

Using Project Organizers and Multi-Media to Support Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

...the sin quo non of education is whether teachers know how to make complex subjects accessible to diverse learners...
The Right to Learn - by Linda-Darling Hammond ~ ~

Web-Based Project Organizers provide a one-to-one workspace for students to access and respond to teacher developed units of study and two-way communication between student and teacher.
Project organizers support whole-class instruction, small group instruction, collaborative learning, and individual learning both within the classroom and from any location which has a computer and internet access.

Project Organizers may be developed to present: a single concept, a mini-lesson, a multi-week unit of study on a major topic.  Organizers can be developed for any grade-level.

Organizers may include multiple media: text, images, audio, video, web-based games, activities, and website links etc. – as appropriate to reach and engage students of all levels and learning styles. Teachers can create their own media and/or access media which is available via subscription and on the web

Teachers have web-based access to project organizer student responses – which allows them to review student work, write individualized comments, answer student questions, and share and develop instructional mini-lessons based on student work.

Project organizers support classroom instruction to ensure success for all students.

Examples of Student Links to POs

Mrs. Greenbaum's Class
(Sophia & Joshua)

Mrs. Watkins' Class

Teacher Interface to POs
Teacher View & Notes

2008-09 Newsletters
Parent Response


S, O, N, D, J, F, M, A, M

S, O, N, J, F, M, A
N, J, F, M, A, M-J


Curious George

Process Vodcast

Ladybug Research

Process Vodcast
Grandview Newspaper Video

Process Vodcast

I Like It When

Process Vodcast

Mrs. Pehush's Class

Readers Theater Help

Mr. Teddy Script

Steven Kellogg ~ Author Visit

Thank You Card
(Show Process Big Book)

Panda Research

Show Mini-Books


Project Organizer

Captured with Camtasia

Shirley Temple Bio

Walt Disney Bio


Summer Suitcase Journal

Summer Suitcase 2007
Summer Suitcase 2008

Polar Bear Research

Drama ~ K Class

GV Students
Drawing With Jan Brett

Octopus Research

Research Project Organizer

Economics Research Project

Project Organizer

Process Video

Group Read

Calendar "Journal"

Johana View Only

Brian View Only

The Wild Things

Library Mouse

Project Organizer
Bulletin Board
Show Big Book

Presidential Election

Process Video

Show & Tell Lion

Mrs. Brelesky


From 1980 to 2004, Sarah Chauncey worked as a business strategist, system’s analyst, computer consultant, and web developer implementing high-profile applications for major corporations including Morgan Guaranty, First Boston, Citicorp, Equitable Life, Newsweek and for several small businesses.

As a technical instructor, she wrote and presented technical training courses to companies in the Northeast.

Between 1989 to1993, as Vice President and co-owner of StarTech Software Systems, Inc., she co-developed and marketed a report management and distribution system which was used by companies in the United States, Europe, and Mexico. 


BA ~ English and Education (Summa cum laude),
MLS ~ Syracuse University's School of Information Studies (Summa cum laude)
MBA ~ NYU Stern School of Business / Minor Computers & Systems (Magna cum laude)

A Career Change Memoir...

In 2004, I made a major career decision. I decided to combine my technical and business expertise with my commitment to public education and continue the next phase of my career as a library media specialist. I created an online portfolio and sent the link with a cover letter to school districts in Rockland County.  By the end of August, I was offered the position of School Library Media Specialist at Grandview Elementary School (K-3) in the East Ramapo School District. 

First Days

I will never forget the day I was escorted to the library at Grandview. The room felt heavy, gray, and cluttered.  I remember thinking – boy does this place need Feng Shui. I wandered around and took a couple of books from the shelves – they were worn and not grade-appropriate.  There was a large desk in the middle of the room blocking shelves which held picture books by authors U-Z.  There was no technology.  I sat behind the desk and thought, “What have I gotten myself into?”  I began opening drawers – surely I’d find some clues to my question, "What do librarians do these days?”  I opened a file box that held index cards with little checkmarks indicating that magazines had arrived successfully in September, October…  I thought, “Every month has a checkmark – all magazines, for more than one year, made it to the library.”  I made an executive decision -- don’t worry about the magazines – the magazines will make it – and what’s the worse thing that could happen if a magazine doesn't show up one month?  I chucked the index cards into the trash can.  With that one act, I felt empowered to set a new course, lay out some goals, and get started.  I decided to view this job as one of those consulting challenges – figure out what’s working, what isn't working, and get things on track.  But I knew I couldn't work on “school time”, I had to work at a pace that made me feel comfortable – fast.  

The first thing I did was get rid of the desk – it was removed the third day. Then I wrote out goals for the year which were, in a nutshell: clean, weed, develop, and automate the book collection; ask for an interactive white board and at least four computers; use my own notebook computer until I could purchase one; build a library website as my communications and management center; and find out how I could support and collaborate with classroom teachers.  

Week one came to a close.  I knew what I’d gotten myself into – and it was good.

Presenting the Plan

I presented a special story and my goals to principal, Dr. McCarthy.  I had written the story, “Reading and Children” years ago. The story helped me to communicate the importance of sharing stories with children. After listening, she asked that I meet with each grade level to share what I’d presented to her.  On the third day, the teachers trooped in one grade at a time.  We sat around a table and I shared the “Reading and Children” story and my goals for the year. While technology would play a big part in the library program, everything was about literacy, not technology.  Technology was easy for me – putting technology to use to promote literacy would be the focus and challenge.

One teacher did ask me if I was serious about accomplishing those goals in one year.  She reminded me that this was a school system – not the business world.  The warning was a good one – I’d probably have to invest more than time to kick-start the effort – the goals would be accomplished.



Fall 2004

  1. Macromedia Studio – Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash
  2. Microsoft Publisher
  3. Inspiration
  4. MS Office – Access, Powerpoint, Excel
  5. Visual Basic (VB.Net / ASP.Net)
  6. SQL Server
  7. Website to support library program –
  8. Voxproxy – 3D animated characters for Powerpoint
  9. MP3 conversion software – used to convert output of mini-digital recorders
  10. Windows Movie Maker

Spring 2005


  1. Visual Communicator (Serious Magic) – Video & Audio Creation - (my purchase) 

Spring 2006

  1. Audacity  – another version of podcast creation software

Fall 2006

  1. Programming for Web-Based Project Organizers

Summer 2006

  1. Adobe Premiere – Video, Audio, high end editor

Spring/Summer 2006

  1. Under Development -
  2. Web-Based Project Organizers - upgraded to support multiple schools / teachers / classes
  3. Digital Journal under development

Fall 2007

  1. Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 - Video, Audio


Fall 2004

  1. 2 Sony mini-digital audio recorders - (my purchase)
  2. Headphone/Microphone combo – pc – (my purchase)
  3. Castblaster – Podcast creation software – (my purchase)
  4. Notebook Computer - (my own)
  5. Digital Camera - (my own)
  6. Sound Stage Sound System with four microphones (my purchase)
  7. Interactive White Board Installed
  8. 4 Desktop Computers
  9. 2 Scanners – (1 my own)

Spring 2005

  1. 2nd Notebook Computer – (purchased via a raffle)
  2. Logitech Webcam with built in microphone - (my purchase) 

Summer 2005

  1. Library Automation Completed –Workstation/Scanner Installed
  2. Digital Video Camera

Summer 2006

  1. Grandview Library awarded 2 grants totaling $9,500
    ~ from Johnson Controls & Senator Thomas Morahan
    • 3 Smart Boards will be put in classrooms – 64” (One in each: K, 1, 2)
    • A second Smart Board in Library – 77”
    • Mini-Digital Recorders
    • Elmo TT02 Document Viewer
  2. US Department of Education Awards $290,350
    ~ to 5 Primary School Libraries in East Ramapo to invigorate our libraries with
    new books and technology.
  3. Cataloged Teacher Professional Collection - PDF Searchable Web-Based access

Fall 2006

  1. 24 Laptop-Cart
  2. Elmo TT02u Document Viewer placed in a 2nd grade classroom

Spring 2007

  1. Interlink GoSpeak!- Ultra-Portable Amplification System
  2. Keyboard & Instruments for 24 students - For Music & Literacy - Kickoff Fall 2007

Fall 2007

  1. 10 Reading Pens from Nasco - to support struggling readers.
  2. 2-3 SmartBoards to placed in 3rd Grade Classrooms
  3. Elmo TT02u available to another "Smart Classroom" (to be assigned)


Recipient of the Distinguished Technology Leader-Teacher

April 21st 2006
Lower Hudson Regional Information Center
13th Annual 2006 Pioneer Award


November 19 2008
“What Was I Thinking ”
Response to Governor Patterson School & Library Cuts
Schools, libraries face state cuts: What are we thinking?

College of Information at Florida State University

  • April 2007 ~ Graduate Student Ruth Elder ~ Research Project looks at Grandview Library
    The project looks in depth at podcasting in an elementary school library. Podcasting is explained and its potential value for learners is addressed. The Grandview Elementary School Library in Monsey, NY is described in the case study section. Grandview contains grades K-3 and its library program involves students in podcasting. Students use podcasting in many ways to enhance their learning. The Grandview Newspaper includes podcasts voiced by students who are sharing book reviews, movie reviews, podcasting tips and much more.

Scholastic Magazine

Rockland County Times Article

School Library Journal

School Library Media Specialists of Southeastern New York

March 31st  2006
Workshop: 0 to Digital in 18 Months

Syracuse University School of Information Studies

May 26th 2006
Presentation of Grandview Library Program
Master and Doctoral Level Students
Presentation at Syracuse_University

St Thomas Aquinas - Literacy Extravaganza Presentation

October 21st 2006
Improving Literacy Using Web Based Project Organizer
~ Convergence Blips in a Parallel Universe
Literacy Extravaganza

Rockland Journal News

May 31st  2006
“Invasion of the iPod Kids”
Grandview Elementary School highlighted in this article on Podcasting
Journal News Invasion Of The IPOD Kids

Arkansas Association of Instructional Media

Summer 2007
“Invasion of the Podcasters”, Anita Fletcher
Support from Grandview Library Highlighted
Arkansas Association of Instructional Media - Summer 2007

Received from Anita Fletcher on November 5, 2007
Here are two links to a newspaper article and a tv video
Thanks again.  I’ll remember you when I get to Hollywood.

St Thomas Aquinas - Literacy Extravaganza Presentation

October 21st 2007
Thrashing Towards the Digital Classroom

Westchester-Putnam Librarians Spend a Day

November 2, 2007 ~ Workshop at Grandview
Westchester-Putnam BOCES

School Library Blogs

December 2, 2007
Grandview Library - A Must Visit Site

St. Thomas Aquinas & North Rockland Technology Expo

February 28 & March 14, 2008
Thrashing Towards the Digital Classroom

Rockland Journal News

April 16,  2008
“Library a hub for East Ramapo's Grandview Elementary School”
Journal News Grandview Library










Bill Moyers sits down with Mark Johnson, the producer of a remarkable documentary about the simple but transformative power of music: PLAYING FOR CHANGE: PEACE THROUGH MUSIC. The film brings together musicians from around the world — blues singers in a waterlogged New Orleans, chamber groups in Moscow, a South African choir — to collaborate on songs familiar and new, in the effort to foster a new, greater understanding of our commonality.



FLYP Issue 17 (Archive)

FLYP is about what moves America and Americans, covering everything from politics to lifestyles; social issues to cultural developments; war to peace; music to movies. Our goal is to connect the dots in ways that both inform and entertain.FLYP combines video, text, animation, high-quality design and interactivity in a new kind of storytelling that blends the best from the world of print with the latest from the Web.Digital Media International, LLC creates FLYP biweekly.

(They also have a blog.)

How it works...

First Edition of Briefing 2.0


I first started working with computers in the days of mainframes. Mainframes were massive in size and expensive. A 5 million dollar mainframe could have less than 32 meg of physical memory (Today we think in Gigs - my computer has 4 Gig of memory or 4096 MB). As computer programs became more complex and memory hungry, and the need to run multiple programs or jobs "concurrently" became a necessity -- virtual memory -- an area on a computer's hard drive -- was used as an extension of physical memory. Instructions sat in their own areas of virtual memory until they were needed -- then they were read into physical memory.If the number or tasks (processes), or a single task, did not have enough physical memory, the computer would spend all of its time loading instructions and data from virtual memory into physical memory -- thrashing -- and not doing meaningful work (computing). So what's the point ... I think we're thrashing ... and we have been for quite a while -- both in the "what" and the "how" of executing our work as educators. I think we all have our ways of dealing with the thrashing -- and I believe some ways are better than others.... and that's where this story begins.

click image to view

click image to view


The story goes that a speaker was addressing his audience at a conference. He pulled a large glass jar from under the podium, placed it on a table and proceeded to fill the jar with rocks. He looked at the jar, then looked at the audience and asked, "Is the jar full?" Everyone responded, "Yes." He pulled out a bag of pebbles and emptied the pebbles into the jar. They settled amongst the crannies between the rocks. When he couldn't fit another pebble into the jar, he asked, "Is the jar full?" The audience was not as quick to respond, but most answered, "Yes, now it's full." He pulled out a bag of sand. He poured the sand into the jar. The sand filled the spaces between the pebbles. He asked, "Is the jar full?" By this time, the audience wasn't sure what would happen next, but finally responded, "Yes, now the jar is full." The speaker paused, looked at the jar, and said, "If I hadn't placed the rocks in the jar first, I wouldn't be able to put even one rock in that jar." Think of a rock as a goal which leads to a significant accomplishment.




Learning to use any technology takes time. What I consider a clean, intuitive interface may seem like a convoluted maze of menus from your point of view. After browsing through a product's technical manual, you estimate that it will take a lifetime to learn how to edit a single digital photo -- that's if you figure out how to get it from your camera into the computer. Producing a video clip might happen in your next life. The Unschooled Mind Takes Over! That kind of thinking is just one of the blocks you'll have to deal with. The other blocks might be: getting your district to purchase software and install that software on your computer; convincing the powers that be that learning to use this technology will give you a new toolset to produce content which engages students; finding time to train your students to use the same technology so they'll have new tools to share what they learn. (Come to think of it, they may be training you.)


Finally, you'll have to eliminate the friction. Friction is anything that comes between you and your rock. Put your digital camera on your desk, wear it around your neck if necessary -- but don't put it in the zippered black case in your classroom closet. The camera is your friend. Start taking pictures of children reading, talking, writing etc. Do the same with your video camera. Mount it on a tripod and keep it charged. Put it as close to the action as possible and turn it on. I use a standard digital camera and a mini-digital camera (FlipVideo Ultra). Let the children take pictures and shoot video when you go on field trips. Use the footage to inspire a writing assignment which is podcasted and combined with the video -- share it with the entire school community. Keep your Digital Recorder in your pocket -- or hang it around your neck -- you will use it. Collect the images, audio and video -- the raw materials you will need to present your next lesson or to share student work. At first, you may do this spontaneously in response to some part of your teaching OR to help children share their work. In time, it will feel natural to pre-plan the use of technology within your lessons and units of study. Once you are comfortable, you will invite students to become your production assistants -- why should you have all the fun? ~ ~ ~