In my last post about my Science Alive wiki, I mentioned that our Renaissance Fair Project was starting, (here is the assignment). I also mentioned that with our lousy computer lab, I wouldn’t be blogging again as I did last year.

Well, I decided to go ahead anyway! I can’t use our useless communal teacher lab, but I got to spend the 2nd half of the first class in the library using the computers there, and the next 2 days in our Computer Teacher’s lab. Although I won’t be able to use any lab again until next Wednesday, my students (who all have computers at home) have all started blogging.

In fact, it is 12:15am and a peek at my Meebo chat box I put on the site tells me that there are at least 2 students on the site right now!

Here is a very interesting dialogue that has started on one of my student’s blog posts:


Christina K

Mona Lisa?

here are two pictures.

One of a guy named John (i’m not sure who he is though)

And the other of the Mona Lisa

I was reading something on a website and it was talking about how they look alike. I noticed this too.

So I’m wondering whether they are brother and sister, or if they are the same person.

Here is the website address.

Take a look at it.

Posted by Christina K


  1. They have similar noses, forehead, similar bone structure, similar smile or smirk and if you look closely they have similar eyes. I’m not sure if they are siblings, but they might be the same person.

    ChristinaL on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 02:22 BST # |Split post here

  2. Wow, their facial features look almost identical! I researched about the painting on the left and found out that it’s called the “John Gesture” and is a portrait of John the Baptist. As for why he’s raising his index finger, many historians think that it’s because Jesus was always shown raising two fingers while he blessed people. Therefore, John wanted to show people that he was superior to Jesus as one comes before two. I don’t really see any connection between John and Mona Lisa but I guess Da Vinci must have had some reason for placing these two paintings within sight beside his deathbed before he died.Viola C on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 02:47 BST # |Split post here
  3. But why would Da Vinci make John the Baptist look like Mona Lisa? Da Vinci couldn’t have actually seen John the Baptist…

    ChristinaL on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 03:19 BST # |Split post here

  4. They really do look identical. So if one was John the Baptist, and the other the Mona Lisa…what’s the connection that could possibly relate to the two paintings being of the same person in a different form? Was John the Baptist in a different time than Da Vinci? If he was then that’s just crazy that these two people look identical. Again the two ideas were that they could be siblings or they could be the same person. I just don’t understand why they would be the same person..

    Christina K on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 04:52 BST # |Split post here

  5. I can’t believe how John the Baptist and Mona Lisa, two people from totally different worlds, could look identical. I think it’s more than a coincidence that Da Vinci painted them so similar. I guess it’s just one more secret that Da Vinci didn’t want to share with the world.

    Viola C on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 05:29 BST # |Split post here

  6. Well, this is what I think. As a humanist, he opposed the church in telling how other people should live their life. Could it be that he wanted to show his dislike for the church secretly through many little things he did. Could it be that by drawing John the Baptist with similar facial features as Mona Lisa, he is showing that he may have seen John, therefore completly going against what the church and the Bible says. But then again, my ideas are crazy….

    Jessica N on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 08:03 BST # |Split post here

  7. Da Vinci was a very mysterious man, so it’s not very surprising that he made Mona Lisa and the John the Baptist look the same. No one would understand his geinus mind and like Viola said, this would be one more secret that Da Vinci wouldn’t share with us and the world.

    ChristinaL on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 21:17 BST # |Split post here

  8. Take a look at Mona Lisa’s shoulders, compared to to other picture. They are practically the same in every way! Mona Lisa’s shoulders are large and manly (no offence Mona Lisa). Now look at the other picture. Can you spot a dramatic difference?

    Sara on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 21:18 BST # |Split post here

  9. Woah thats pretty interesting Christina!The picture of the guy, is probably another painting byDaVinci. He probably didn’t want to show it to others, and hid it somewhere

    where he thought no one would find it.

    It also can be a painting of him when he was younger!

    Yeah thats all. Good Job! 🙂

    Tijana M on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 21:20 BST # |Split post here

  10. also if you look in the picture of the last supper
    there is a man holding up one finger like
    the picture of John the Baptist 

    JessicaT on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 21:26 BST # |Split post here

  11. I was just looking at the picture of Mona Lisa. observed her close up at 200% and I noticed a really weird line going across her forehead… the line seemed really out of place. From my discovery I looked a her hair on the left side and I noticed that there was a veil type thing, maybe she was getting married, or she was getting married to John the baptist Any other Ideas?

    Katie Z on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 21:32 BST # |Split post here

  12. This is amazing. If I was to first see these pictures I’d think they were twins. There smile is identical. Also there noses look exactly the same. Only if there hair was the same I would think that it was the same person.

    Amrit C. on Thursday, 17 May 2007, 21:33 BST # |

There are some great observations here. My emphasis in the class is on Da Vinci the inventor and scientist, but look at the student generated interest in his artwork! Would this kind of [off topic?] interaction happen in a classroom? Would it happen if this was a paper assignment


Now here is the challenge for me… LET THE ‘CONVERSATION’ HAPPEN!

When I read, “…maybe she was getting married, or she was getting married to John the baptist…” I really wanted to post a little timeline. Earlier I actually started typing a comment suggesting that perhaps Da Vinci used the same model for both paintings, then erased it rather than posting it… I forced myself to ‘bite my tongue’.

The fact is that I am not used to letting students take ownership of their learning in this way. I want to ‘teach’ them… isn’t that my job?

But if I had put that “perhaps Da Vinci used the same model” post in after the 5th or 6th comment, would the other comments have followed?

If I chose now to comment on the century-and-a-half millennium-and-a-half chasm in time preventing John the Baptist from marrying Mona Lisa, then who will I be taking this away from? Whose voice will I be stealing? Who will I prevent from asking ‘Exactly who is John the Baptist?’ Who will I be stopping from researching and answering that question?

Would JessicaT have been inspired to write this post?

In Christina K’s blog is the picture of John the Baptist and how he
is pointing his finger, I did some research and in the picture of the
Last Supper, there is one of the 12 deciples on the right side to Jesus
is pointing one of his fingers out. Also in another picture by Da Vinci
two versions. One was rejected by nuns, and one wasn’t (the picture
above was the rejected one)

Posted by JessicaT


Interesting research you have done! Thanks for putting all these together to compare! Are you going to look into the meaning behind the ‘pointing finger’?

Mr. Truss on Friday, 18 May 2007, 04:54 BST #

As you can see, I did comment here. Perhaps when the conversation lulls on Christina’s blog, I may ask ‘who was John the Baptist?’


I am hoping to promote inquiry.

It is the classic ‘guide on the side’ rather than ‘sage on the stage’ issue. However, it isn’t easy to stand back and let all this learning happen without me. But, in a web2.0 world, where students are meaningfully engaging in Learning Conversations, we really must bite our [digital] tongues.

Originally posted: May 18th, 2007

Reflection upon re-reading and re-posting:

Konrad’s post, Learning to be Myself, mentioned in comment #9 below, is well worth the read!

My thoughts on this post are very scattered and commenting on them would detract from what this post is about. This quote from the post puts a lot into perspective:

The fact is that I am not used to letting students take ownership of their learning in this way. I want to ‘teach’ them… isn’t that my job?

While reposting this Chris Lehmann announced his newest post on Twitter… it is Brilliant!

What I want to talk about

It gets to the heart of what our real job is… challenging our own practice and doing what’s best for our students!

Comments from the original post:

  1. Lots of things accomplished by biting your tongue:
    Your students thought, guessed, were amazed, asked questions, made up stories, drew conclusions, doubted, did research, were surprised, connected things, made deductions, analysed, observed…

    And all this about Da Vinci’s work!

    Have you considered falling in love with your lousy computer lab?

    Gabriela on Friday, 18 May 2007, 20:15 CEST 

  2. Thanks for the great post.  This is a prime example of the role that we as teachers need to remember to play as we move our students into classrooms of the 21st century.  Whatever we call it-coach, mentor, “guide-on-the-side”-it represents a shift from the role of teacher as purveyor of knowledge, a skill you describe above.I am teaching a class about blogging this summer, and I would love to use this post as an example of the interaction between students on blogs.  Would you be opposed?

    Patrick Higgins on Saturday, 19 May 2007, 22:46 CEST 

  3. What a wonderful conversation that is taking place. It demonstrates what can happen when students begin to converse about topics and take them beyond what would ever happen in class. Now, one thing you might suggest to the person who is blogging is to look at a timeline to see when things are happening and hopefully the student might make some connections with that and the comments. Given the person you are studying, what is part of his art could indeed be part of the science – a study in body/facial similarities that turns into Mona Lisa and John the Baptist. Very interesting stuff.

    Kelly Christopherson on Monday, 21 May 2007, 07:17 CEST 

  4. Thanks for the great comments! Gabriela, a working lab would actually make things better, but the forced adversity has not hindered my enthusiasm, (or the students’ and that is wonderful to see)! The good news it that the lab is one of the next in line in the district to be replaced… this summer.

    Patrick, no need to ask, go right ahead and use it. I am working on a ‘presentation’, (one of the tools on this blog), to put together a ‘My Web2.0’ presentation… It is a work in progress and may look very different from day to day until I figure out how best to use it, but it has links to all my wiki and blogging experiences as well as on-line resources that you are welcome to tap into. [Link removed due to spam issues, this will be rebuilt on soon.]

    Kelly, you are always so encouraging, and insightful. Connecting Art to Science is a mini-lesson that I give during this course, (Arte/Scienza – The development of the balance between science, art, logic and imagination. “Whole-brain” thinking- remind you of some reading we have done recently?), and I will be sure to make the connection to the highlighted post- thanks!

    I cross-posted this on Classroom2.0 and got some interesting comments there…

    – – – – –

    Diane Hammond said…Very interesting! As hard as it is to let silence reign long enough to push thinking in this online environment, it’s still do-able. I find it much harder in a f2f class situation to stop long enough for processing time. In f2f the silence feels uncomfortable, like the point at which you lose control. I know I’m guilty of too quickly supplying the “answer” or pushing the next step. Excellent interaction here!

    Skip Zilla said…Diane got at the heart of the matter of inquiry. It suspends time which is usually clocked by classroom structure; it contemplates connections in what is observed which is suppressed in the give and take of predetermined answers. Seven students engaged in a timeless conversation. –Skip

    Carolyn Foote said…I do think when we give students opportunities to teach one another, they will come forward and have conversations like these! Kudos to you for giving them that space!We tried a research project where students shared topics across class periods and used a wiki to collect their information. In addition to being a great learning experience, it was a fascinating social experiment to see how some students emerged more as guides, some as the comics, some as the organizers, some as the designers…but it was nice because they could all play to their own strengths.Again, kudos for creating a space for students to guide one another!

    – – – – –

    It never occurred to me before that the reason it was so hard to ‘bite my tongue’ is that this is actually harder to do face-to-face, and that asynchronous contributions by students permits and promotes more meaningful dialogue than what would be forced within the limited time-frame of a classroom.

    Thanks to all of you for your great contributions!

    David Truss on Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 08:01 CEST 

  5. how is this wonderful or good learning? their speculations are inane and so completely off course, yet they are trying to “solidify” these concepts into some sort of working model. These are college students? Have they lived in remote caves their whole lives? I would think by their age they would at least have a cursory idea of history and religion, if for no other reason than being aware of the world around them.Oh, and nice call, teach, on the “century and a half” discrepancy. I rather hope you meant millenium and a half…

    Dave Thomas on Monday, 20 August 2007, 02:24 CEST 

  6. To Dave Thomas,These are 13-14 year old Grade 8 students. After I asked the question in class, “Who was John the Baptist and why is he famous?”… my young students’ answers (the next day) helped them to clarify a small aspect of their ‘working knowledge’ in both history and religion.

    My gut instinct was to return your cheeky tone here, but you were commenting to someone who allows ‘inane’ and ‘off course’ conversations to happen in his college class. It is my belief that your assumption of the age of my students led to that line of thinking. My students were making assumptions too… however these assumptions led to learning opportunities far beyond what they learn from day-to-day in many classes (including my own). I cannot apologize for their lack of knowledge, and will not apologize for allowing this online ‘conversation’ to happen. I think our adherence to the Prescribed Learning Outcomes can, all too often, do a disservice to our students’ child-like inquiry, and can squash Socratic questioning/thinking. Is it not conversations such as this that allow us to provide students with the opportunity to develop more than just a ‘cursory idea of history and religion’?

    Oh, and as for the “century and a half” error – thanks for pointing it out! I should have realized my error before submitting my post. The correction is now duly noted (above). Thanks again!

    David Truss on Monday, 20 August 2007, 08:52 CEST 

  7. Dave Thomas,
    I hope you took the time to read Mr. Truss’ response to your comment. For from error comes learning and without error there would be no need for learning. I take solace in the fact that you took the time to read the comments made by the students and furthermore you took the time to comment on them. I hope that his students will read your critiques and find a lesson in them.
    As a principal, I covet teachers who help students to delve into domains that are new to them. These students had never used digital conversations before and regardless of what was being said, they were taking risks using a new communication medium. I say good on Mr. Truss and way to go Teach!
    And as a bonus, his retort to your comment modeled self-effacing class. Something all grade 8 students need to see.

    Dave MacLean on Thursday, 30 August 2007, 07:25 CEST 

  8. David,This is a fascinating post. I agree that biting our tongue is a challenge. I’ve been struggling with this ever since I started building blogging communities with my students. On one hand, I want to be part of their conversations and direct them. On the other hand, I want to see what happens when I remove myself from these interactions. I find that once the students see themselves as bloggers, once they start commenting on the work of their peers, it is very difficult (and not always wise) to enter the conversation by using my teacherly voice. That’s whhy I’ve been writing about the process of losing my teacherly voice on my blog. Recently, however, I’ve discovered that, in my class blogging community, I am present in two different modes – as a subject expert and as an individual learner. Both, I believe are important. Here’s a more detailed explanation (a response to your comment on my blog) and another comment on Leigh Blackall’s blog.

    I really enjoyed reading this and I hope that you will continue to address this on your blog.

    Konrad Glogowski on Sunday, 28 October 2007, 02:05 CET # | Delete

  9. Hi Dave,On the “John Gesture” your students might enjoy an interesting art history alternative:

    “The intellectual influence of Renaissance Hermeticism on art, rather than a depiction of Mary Magdalene at the Last Supper, is the basis for A Different da Vinci Code. This is an alternative explanation of Leonardo’s symbolism, which proposes the typical use of transgender figures in various artworks of the period as a veiled reference to the alchemical androgyne (cf. Sophia/Baphomet), representing the keenly anticipated rebirth of classical knowledge and culture. Similarly, Leonardo’s use of the up-pointed finger of Mercury/Hermes, also referred to as the John Gesture, is proposed to denote the universal Hermetic motto, “As above; so below.”

    There’s more here, with illustrations:

    Fred on Saturday, 10 November 2007, 01:07 CET

4 comments on “Blogging with students requires biting your [digital] tongue

  1. Thanks for re-visiting this post – I remember it from last year. It’s important that we all share these “stories” of the changing practices in our classrooms. We are still “teaching” but our pedagogical model must change if we are to engage this generation of students.

  2. Thankyou for the benefit of your experience. I hadn’t anticipated having to ‘bite my digital tongue’ when dealing with my students’ blogs. The example you provided really drives home the point that sometimes we really are doing the right thing by postponing a comment.

Comments are closed.