A shift is underway in the #Walkmyworld Project towards using our documentation of our world as the kernal of digital poetry. I took a shot of footprints from our back yard and wrote a poem, and then decided to try my hand at kinetic poetry (where the words/type can move). These two screenshots show the “before” and the “after” of the poem as it is played.
To really experience the poem. you’ll have to go to the poem itself. I constructed it as a remix with Thimble, part of the Mozilla Webmaker suite of free tools. This kinetic text template was shared out a few months ago by some National Writing Project friends as part of MozFest in England. It allows you to really tinker with words and learn a bit about code, too. I was aiming to make words and phrases “do something” that connected to the flow of the meaning of the words and phrases. So, the word “fall” falls, and the “footsteps” grows and shrinks like a footstep walking and “shimmers” shimmers.
We’re in the middle of our Digital Life unit, and yesterday, our lessons were all about passwords. We talked through the importance of secure passwords, and watched a CommonCraft video about the topic, and then my students did a writing prompt in which they were “hired” to come up with secure passwords for their teachers.
They then had to “test” the hackability of those passwords with the How Secure is My Password site and use our class blog to submit their password recommendation for me. Students used a variety of methods, including mnemonic devices, things they know about me and other strategies. Even I am not sure exactly what the thinking is behind all of these passwords, but I find it fascinating to look at. (And I should note: the word cloud generator stripped out a few symbols here and there, and divided up a few suggestions that had symbols in the middle, so what may look like a basic word in this cloud is probably missing a few parts or was part of something larger).
More importantly, I hope they have a better grasp of how and why to create powerful passwords for the online spaces where they go and roam. There were more than a few eye-opening ideas that they had never thought about nor had anyone ever talked to them about passwords.
The Making Learning Connected MOOC ended many months ago, but the ideas behind the open learning project continue to resonate in some of the learning spaces I inhabit, including Make/Hack/Play and the Deeper Learning MOOC. Now, over at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site, the facilitators (I was one) have pulled together our thinking of what went on behind the scenes of the CLMOOC in hopes that others will take our ideas and remix the MOOC for their own projects.
You can go directly to the resource (expertly pulled together by Karen) or you can use this Thinglink clickable image that I created as a visual connection point to all the resources.
I love how Dave Cormier provokes folks in the Rhizomatic Learning course to reconsider where we stand. This week, he takes the idea of “Google makes us dumb” and turns it on its head with the question of “are books making us stupid?” Which, of course, requires a response (Dave is a genius). I took a gander at what Terry had done in a mixed media response, and decided to make my own media piece, too.
Here’s one of the better character names that I have come across in some time: Nickolas Flux. Isn’t that a cool name? He’s the young hero of a series of new graphic novels from Capstone Press that ties into history. Nickolas is a kid who has an odd ability to suddenly, and unexpectedly, get zapped into the past (it has to do with a science experiment gone awry), right at the juncture of major events in history. He also gets zapped back into the present before any danger happens to him. Convenient, right?
Defend Until Death tells the story of the Battle of the Alamo, and I want to give kudos to the writer and publisher for giving young readers both sides of the story. Nickolas (zapped from the stands of a high school football game) first finds himself in the ranks of the Mexican Army, with General Santa Anna, as they march into Texas to reclaim lands stolen from them. The start of the story is sympathetic to the march towards the Alamo.
At least, for a few pages.
Then, Nickolas is in the Alamo itself, hanging out with Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett, and the story’s perspective turns very pro-American, as the fort is overrun and the defenders perish as Santa Anna’s forces overwhelm the outnumbered Texans. Nickolas gets to back to his football game just as the fort falls and Bowie is about to die.
The story, aimed at elementary students, has a quick pace to it, and multiple historical perspectives, and there are small text boxes on the bottom of many pages that gives interesting historical tidbits about the scenes played out on the pages. Also, as with most of these Capstone books, a section at the end gives even more historical details about the theme of the story, so here, we learn more about the Alamo and the fate of the Mexican-Texas-United States dispute.
Each year, I present my sixth grade students with what we call the State of Technology and Digital Media Survey. The idea is to get a snapshop of their impressions and to get a glimpse of their use of technology, particularly outside of school. This year, for Digital Learning Day, I put the results into a Voicethread and narrate some of what I see.
I used these results for conversations this week around the idea of digital lives, digital footprints and digital citizenship as we launched into a new unit around technology. (By the way, if you want a copy of the survey, here is a template from my Google Docs. Feel free to steal it, remix it, use it as you need.)
But I invite you, too, to add questions and observations to the Voicethread. Make it a conversation. Do the results of my students resonate with what you know about your students? (Note: I teach sixth grade, so these are 11 year olds). Haven’t used Voicethread before? Now’s the time to give a new tool a try.
As part of Digital Learning Day (tomorrow), we have moved into our unit with sixth graders around Digital Lives. One thing we do is put together a letter/email for parents about Facebook and other social media sites, so that the conversations that start in school about privacy, identity and more can continue at home. Feel free to use this letter, or remix it, if it fits your needs.
There’s a been a lot of music happening in the past week, so here are three musical slices from my end of the world.
First, I recently dug up an old son that I had written back when my oldest sons were little, capturing that feeling that the world was pulling them away from my influence. This is natural, of course, but as a parent, it’s one of the most disconcerting things when you realize that peers and media and other elements are beginning to influence your children in ways you had not yet comprehended or understood, or planned for. This song — Innocent Boy — has been around in my guitar case for years, but I pulled it out recently and recorded it in Garageband if only to make sure I have it around as a legacy song for my three sons. <sap alert>
Second, two weekends ago, with my wife and kids out of town, I grabbed the guitar and wrote a quick song. After sharing it out a bit, I thought: I should send this to Luke and see if he has any interest in adding some trumpet to it. His #nerdlution resolution is get back to his horn. He agreed and wrote and recorded the horn track, and then sent the file back to me. I have not done much musical collaboration like that. We may keep working on the song together. We’ll see. But my bandmates in Duke Rushmore are interested, so this one may become a full band song soon.
Finally, speaking of Duke Rushmore, the other night, at practice, we began working on I’ve Got My Anchor in You, which was a song I wrote a few months back and used as a remixing and reflective activity for Make/Hack/Play. It’s one of the better songs that I have written in some time, and to listen to it come alive with my bandmates – with a real singer, and the coming together of many instruments — is quite a feeling. This video reflection from a few months ago of how I came to write the song is still powerful, I think. If the band records our version, I’ll get that out, too.
I finally got the time to watch The Watsons Go to Birmingham movie last week with the two classes who read the book earlier in the school year. The DVD had been sitting on my desk but finding the time was difficult. Still, I wanted to see what the folks at the Hallmark Movie Channel did with a book that I love reading and teaching, and students were eager to see the movie version, too. So, we did.
I could quibble with some of the changes made to the Christopher Paul Curtis story and some of the casting choices and other things, and we did quibble in our post-movie class discussions, but I understand a bit about the need to make changes to a novel to fit the screen. The one thing I was disappointed in but wasn’t surprised by was the removal of the vision the kids have of each other in times of danger, of each becoming the savior of the other in times of trouble. We talked a lot about that missing element in class. Oh well.
Overall, I enjoyed what they did with the story. Most of all, I was very much pleased with how the producers brought in archival footage from the news of the day (1964) in Alabama, as it really sets the tone and stage for the unfolding of the story as the Watsons visit the south. The scene of the famous church bombing is chaotic and emotional, and I found it hit the right notes for my students to feel compassion and fury, and to understand Kenny (the narrator) a bit more as he searches for his younger sister.
Also, I give high praise to the movie folks for making the Children’s March a secondary storyline, with the Watsons’ cousins telling how they are marching with other children in protest. The book never mentions the Children’s March. The movie uses that event in a way that gives the story a different emotional feel, particularly when Byron (the oldest brother, a troublemaker) sees it as an opportunity for him to make a difference and make his parents proud of his actions.
Overall, the movie fits in nicely with the teaching of this powerful story of growing up in the era of civil rights and racism, and how our families are the center that holds us together. The movie gets that right, time and again.
Peace (in the past),
PS — an interview with Christopher Paul Curtis about the adaptation of the book:
I haven’t been writing and blogging about it much but I continue to invent and publish a new word for my #Nerdlution effort to create a fake dictionary of made-up words. I’ve been using an app called Notegraphy for publishing because of its design elements, and I find my mind wandering in quiet times to new words. So far, so good. Today word — H — is named after my own name. The tricky part has been finding a balance between humor and insight.
This video collects the words from A through today’s letter of H so far ….