Beyond This Moment in Time: A Digital Poem

I was reading through the National Writing Project’s Elyse Eidman-Aadahl’s comments about digital writing over at the DML Central Blog. As usual, she has some interesting things to say about where we are, and where things may be going, and the increasingly important role that teachers have in these transitions.

Read the interview

I found myself stopping at some points in the piece, mulling over phrases and ideas,, and so in the spirit of remixing someone else’s content to create something new (I hope), here is a found poem from the article (with apologies to Elyse). I began it as a traditional words-on-paper poem, and then added it as a podcast, but then found myself trying it as a digital poem, with some powerpoint and a screencasting program. (In my old PC days, I had a nifty software program that would convert a PP with all transitions and animations into a video format for me. But alas, I have found no equivalent for the Mac.)


Peace (in the poem),


Slice of Life: A Bit of Woodsheddin’ with the Band

My rock and roll band — Duke Rushmore — has its first official “gig” coming up on Friday at a local brewpup. It’s a short gig, only two hours long, and so we are working to tighten up our two sets of music. We want to make a good impression, and we have invited the owner of another establishment to come watch us play, in hopes he will hire us, too.

Yesterday afternoon, we spent about three hours working on the songs. I have to say, I think we are as tight as we have ever been. The sets flow nicely, although we continue to make some adjustments, and there is nothing like a performance in front of a live audience to help a band find some focus.

Duke Rushmore Logo

I am the saxophone player, and a back-up singer, and we are playing one of my songs to end the night. We’re most a cover band right now, but I keep pushing for more original material. For now, we are just establishing ourselves as a rock and roll, danceable band, and I think we fit that bill pretty nicely.

Our gig is the night before St. Patrick’s Day in Holyoke, which has a huge concentration of Irish and pseudo-Irish people, and one of the largest St. Paddy Day Parades in New England. We suspect the brew pub might be packed by people flocking home for the parade (and needing a respite from being home with their family), and we have included a few mandolin songs and even renamed our original song from “Champagne, Whiskey and the Rhythm and Blues Tonight” to “Irish Whiskey and the Rhythm and Blues Tonight.” Have you ever seen that Blues Brothers scene where the band goes into a country bar and tries to play the blues? Yeah, we don’t want that to happen to us.


We have one more practice tomorrow night, and then we are rarin’ to go!

Peace (in the rock and in the roll),

PS — if you are in Holyoke, Massachusetts, on Friday night, come on down to the Paper City Brewery from 6-8 p.m. The admission at the door gets you free beer and some rock and roll. And be kind to the band!


Cyberbullying: The Webcomics

My students are still working on finishing up our larger Digital Life Poster projects on Glogster, but as they finish, I am having them return to our webcomic site and finish up their webcomic assignment around cyberbullying. The comic follows some discussions, videos and activities around the issue of using technology to target someone, and strategies to deal with it.

Here are a few comics:

Peace (in the learning),

Slice of Life: The Solar Panel Dilemma

A few years ago, when we were replacing our aging and faulty heating system in our home, we decided to spend a bit more for a heating unit that was more efficient than others but it is also one that could “easily” be connected to solar panels, should we decide to that route. For the past six months, the “solar panel energy collection” idea has been percolating on our minds. We’ve been consulting with one regional organization that provides a “neighbor to neighbor” co-operative element — folks help folks with their projects, and then the cost of installation gets reduced. It’s a great concept.

But we have come to be a little wary of the group. They have blown off meetings, leaving us hanging around waiting for hours. The quotes we received were not for the kind of system we wanted. When we chat on the phone, we are not even confident they have our files in front of them. A friend with some inside knowledge of their work on one particular site questioned the quality of the installation and the claims they had made to the homeowner. We also are not all that confident that the payback over time is what they promise.

So, we tried another route.

Yesterday, we chatted with a plumber we’ve worked with over the years, and he also does solar installations. (He also installed our heating system, so he knows it inside and out). He was surprisingly and refreshingly frank about the situation, telling us that it makes no sense right now to use solar for the home heating system but it might make sense to consider the hot water system, with a lot of caveats about savings and water use and more. He’s going to draw up some estimates for us, but … we seem to be leaning away from solar right now. It’s not often you get a plumber being so honest, and risking losing a job. I respect that in him.

To be blunt: while we want to do our part as a family to cut down on energy consumption, we want to do things primarily to save money.

We don’t have the kind of disposable income (three kids, the oldest moving into high school, college costs around the corner) to invest in things that don’t have a tangible cost savings, no matter how good it would make our “green” side feel. We feel sort of sad about this latest direction of the solar idea, though, since we did have this vision of our house with solar panels and being more self-sufficient. Maybe more tax breaks and incentives down the road will make such a project doable. Maybe not.

For now, our energies are going into more traditional upgrades of the home. The solar panels can wait.

Peace (in the sun),



The Meta-Slice about Slice of Life


(This video is me, as I was writing this morning’s Slice of Life. I used a stopmotion capture, in time-lapse mode. My eyes move a lot! I guess it must be all that thinking! It would be funny to have the camera trained on my fingers one of these days. You’d see a lot of fixin’ and backspacin’ going on. – Kevin)

We’re into the 10th day of the Slice of Life challenge over at Two Writing Teachers, and the sheer number of teachers who are writing with Ruth and Stacey and others this year is … startling.

I have been participating in the Slice of Life for the past four or five years (It’s a blur), taking small moments from our days and writing about them in a reflective way. The first year, we had about eight to 10 regular writers. Each year, it got a little bigger as the challenge took hold. But this year, it has exploded (thanks in part to the influence and impact that Ruth and Stacey have brought to the table as teachers of writing and their book, Day by Day). On any given day, there are more than 100 posts by Slicers, and some days that number has pushed up beyond 150 posts.

That’s a whole lot of teachers writing, and blogging.

I’ve been trying to carve out time to read some of the posts and add comments, just as I have appreciated that many of my fellow Slicers come here, and read and add a few thoughts to my posts. There is a real sense of a connected writing community, and audience is never more real than this kind of writing challenge.

I do get the sense that the intimacy of a smaller community has gotten lost this year, I think. In other years, I would visit a handful of bloggers whom I knew through their writing, and I had some history with them. Their stories resonated because I knew a bit about the back-stories. We created a sort of history together over the month of March. Sometimes, those stories would unfold in different ways the following year, allowing us to notice patterns in our lives.

This year, it’s different.

There are just so many writers that I am meeting someone new just about every day. I am purposely trying to read slices from bloggers that I don’t quite know. Is that a good shift? In some ways, yes. The more we widen our circles, the more we get exposed to different thinking, different teaching strategies, different writing styles. That’s a good thing.

But I do feel more like a boat on the ocean this year, rather than a raft on a lake, you know? I wonder if Ruth and Stacey feel that way, too. In the past, they have worked hard to ensure that every blogger in Slice of Life received a comment. No dead space. No writing into a voic. Someone out there was reading and reacting. I can’t imagine they can pull that off this year. They would have to take a leave of absence from work and family to do all that reading and writing.

In the end, it is heartening for me to see so many teachers exploring with blogging, though, and a few are using Slice of Life as a writing activity in the classroom. My hope is that as teachers use digital tools for writing, they are reflecting on the possibilities for their students in the classrooms. I know, I am. You, too?

Peace (in the meta-slice),


Slice of Life: The Wedding Ring

I can probably count the times on one hand when, sometime over the last 14 years, my ring finger has been empty. I just almost never remove my wedding ring. I do remember the first week after our wedding when we were wearing our rings for the first time, and it felt like I had a little golden spider on my finger, and I would catch glimpses of it from time to time out of the corner of my eye. Now, it’s just part of me, a  symbol of how far my wonderful wife and I have come over the years on this journey we are on (along with our three sons).

Last night, I was keeping the score book for my middle son’s basketball tournament game (they won!) and then I helped break down the equipment and put it into storage for today’s tournament game. As my boys and I were walking down the hallway to go out to the van, I reached into my pocket for my keys. Something felt odd. The keys were there, but normally, my wedding ring scrapes across the pocket of my pants (something I don’t ever remember noticing before except now it was a clue that something was amiss). My hand went a bit too smoothly into my pocket. I pulled out my left hand, puzzled.

The ring finger was empty. I stopped dead in my tracks. My sons, who were chatting about the game, stared at me.

“What?” one asked.

“My ring. My wedding ring.” I held up my empty hand. “I don’t have it.”

My brain rushed to remember: when did I last see it on my finger? I could have sworn it was there earlier in the day. That means it might still be in the gym. Great. We rushed back to the basketball court and began scouring the floor with our eyes. I was thinking, a gold ring on a wooden floor … like a needle in a haystack. I went into the equipment room, and opened up some of the boxes with wires for the scoring machine.

“There it is!” my son, who has followed me, shouted. And there it was. My ring had come off when I was wrapping up wires, I guess, and fallen into the box. Phew.

At home, as my wife and I were getting ready for bed, I told her about losing the ring. She got this panic look on her face.

“I took mine off, too,” she said, and now began scrambling around her bedside table. She couldn’t find it. I went downstairs to the “shelf” where she takes it off when she does baking or cooking. She doesn’t want to lose it in the pizza dough, you know? Nothing. Then, “I found it!” The ring had fallen off her bedside table and rolled under the bed, I guess.

For a second there, I was wondering about bad omens and such. But the night ended with two ringed fingers, held together by years of marriage. Disaster was averted!

Peace (in the ring),


Slice of Life: Quidditch Comes Around Again

Fellow Slice of Lifers from the past know that March and April mean Quidditch at our elementary school. In about three or four weeks, we hold an entire day of Quidditch for the four sixth grade classes, using rules first invented by a student and refined over the years by other students and teachers.

My homeroom class color is blue, and the names that the class comes up with usually is associated with blue and/or cold. Yesterday afternoon, we launched into the collaborative discussion around names. They brainstormed as many cool names for our team as they could, and then we went through an entire election process — sort of like a presidential primary but without the negative ads. And no Super Pacs either. As far I know, no money was pushed under the table.

In about 30 minutes of fun and heated discussions, and after three rounds of voting, the majority arrived at this year’s team name.

Our Name is Permafrost!

A few were wondering just what permafrost is, even though they liked the sound of the name. I guess a little science lesson is in order, eh? The photo here shows the way voting took place, and how we ended up with our consensus. Next step? Coming up with an icon for our class team that represents Permafrost.
permafrost quidditch
And so we’re off into Quidditch season …

Peace (and magic),
PS – and this is how we play our version of Quidditch!

Celebrating International Women’s Day w/Women in Science


I know every day should be a day of recognition for women in all fields. But it is nice to have today designated as International Women’s Day around the world. I try to do my part in my classroom by countering the gender biases that my sixth grade boys are already beginning to develop (just the other day, this happened when we were using a Time for Kids magazine that featured women pioneers) and to remind my students of the inequities of history, where women were often forgotten or shunted aside.

Google has a cool Google Doodle today.

And I wanted to share out (again) a video game that I made for my students about Women in Science.

Peace (in the recognition),


Slice of Life: A Little Jabberwocky

Yesterday was Read Aloud Day. How could I pass up an opportunity to take part in that? So, I dusted off Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll and we spent part of our classes reading and discussing poem as part of our explorations of poetry. The kids had fun with the made-up words, and we had some deeper discussions about the story underneath the nonsense.

It was interesting how quite a few know of the Jabberwock (the creature) but not the poem because it was featured so heavily in the Alice in Wonderland movie a few years ago. (It also meant they had an image in their mind before we read the poem, which is too bad). Two of my students said their older siblings were memorizing the poem (I had the siblings, too! Can I take credit?) for fun.

We ended our discussion on a note of craziness — watching The Muppet Show version of the poem.

Peace (beneath the TumTum Tree),