My Students and How They Use Technology: Survey Results

tech survey collage

Each year, for the past eight or nine years, I have given my sixth grade students a survey at the start of our Digital Life unit — as much to inform our discussions as to give me some insight into trends over time with an 11 year old audience.

This year, for example it’s a growing TikTok trend and a further devaluing of Facebook, with Instagram’s popularity also on the decline. Also, there are fewer reported negative experiences even as more students report adults talking to them about how best to use technology and digital media.

All this also helps me send forward resources to families and parents, as an encouragement to talk about and monitor technology use with their children.

This leads us to the first activity — The Internet Mapping Project by Kevin Kelly– and students are planning to share out today their artistic interpretations of how they envision their interaction with technology. I am always curious to see how they approach this prompt. Some go literal. Others, symbolic.

Internet Mapping Project template

Peace (becoming aware),
Kevin

The Good Fight’s Animated Shorts (like Schoolhouse Rock for Adults)

My wife and I are watching the third season of The Good Fight television show (the solid spin-off from The Good Wife) and they’ve added a feature called The Good Fight Short, which are animated video interludes by Jonathan Coulton and Head Gear Animation inserted unexpectedly into the storyline. The videos are hilarious and informative. They’re like Schoolhouse Rock for adults in the modern age (with a clear progressive bent).

Check a few out:

and

and

and

We love the quirky nature of these and looking forward to more as we move deeper into the season.

Peace (learning it),
Kevin

Peace Posters: Journeys to Peace

Peace Posters 2019

These works of wonderful art are hanging on the walls of our schools, created by our sixth graders for our art teacher’s annual Peace Poster project. The theme this year was Journey to Peace (this is all part of a Lions Club project). Students have to use only art and design, not writing, in their posters. I love the connection to art and peace and the larger world, and I help them in our writing class to write their Artist Statements which will get placed alongside each poster in the coming days.

 

Peace (the journey),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Looking Next Door For the Neighbor No Longer There

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

There was a time when every Veterans Day, I would keep a special eye out for my neighbor, who served in the Korean War and who volunteered for years to help other vets out at the nearby VA Hospital. Of course, we connected many other days of the year beyond Veterans Day, but on that day, I made sure I was looking for him.

I’d see him, go outside, and we’d chat, and I’d make sure he knew we were thinking of him and remembering others who served in war and came home to restart their lives. I’d tell him about the Veterans Day event at our school — the breakfast and ceremony and music and celebration. He knew I had been in the military, too, but even on Veterans Day, we spoke little of those connections.

He passed away earlier this year and yet I found myself yesterday looking towards the fence, to where his rake would often rest near mine as we chatted, the leaves fluttering around us in the Autumn wind.

Peace (remembering Sarge),
Kevin

Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid 14 (Wrecking Ball)

I asked my high school freshman son if he wanted to read the latest edition in The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I was surprised, to be frank, when he said yes, thinking he had might have grown out of hte series. I joked that he could probably read it in 20 minutes. I think he did. I did, too.

Why was I surprised in my son’s remaining interest? The series is now going on 14 years — nearly as long as he has been alive — and any series of stories that lasts that long eventually loses its luster. In my sixth grade classroom, as an indicator, only one student this year pre-ordered the Jeff Kinney book. At one time, there were a dozen or more kids eagerly awaiting the arrival of the books, peppering me with questions about when they would get it in their hands.

I read somewhere that Kinney first presented a huge, massive book for publication, only to be told to break it into smaller stories which have become the backbone of the entire series, and it amazes me that he had this all planned out, and each year, in November, another Wimpy Kid book comes out, like clockwork.

And I still read them, too.

This latest — Wrecking Ball — is solid and reliable Kinney. Sort of light on plot (Greg Heffley’s family is doing some home renovations, which lead to predictable disastrous moments) but full of funny scenes and interactions, and lots of visual jokes in the illustrations. Twenty minutes in and I was done, a smile on my face but nothing too much deeper than that.

I was fine. Not every book I read needs to be some deep spelunking of self or the world. Sometimes, what we need is something to make us laugh, to giggle, to connect to a familiar character.

Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series does all that, and the series, even as it might be fading, sparked a revolution of comics becoming more integrated into novels, which in turn brought a whole new generation of readers (including the key demographic: boys) into the world of books. If Kinney does nothing else, he’s done that.

Until next November …

Peace (drawn and read),
Kevin

Making Music and Noise in November


Noise flickr photo by AILAVIU. shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Sometimes, I will stumble upon something that sparks my interest and feeds my creative spirit, in small bursts. Many times it is writing or poetry. But for November, I saw a call for small pieces of music making over at Mastodon, and decided to dive into NoiseVember, creating small pieces of music across many different apps and platforms, and sharing each day in that federated networking site.

I view what I am doing with NoiseVember as merely experimental, and I am mostly determined to be spending about 15 minutes or less on each track. Many of short — less than a minute long. I keep the “noise” aspect in mind, but also seek to bury melody lines and maybe interesting angles and aspects to the compositions. Some of the tracks, as a result, come out better than others. Some are just plain odd.

Here are the first nine tracks I have done for NoiseVember. Another day, I’ll post more about the places where I am making the music that I am gathering and sharing out.

Peace (sounds like noise),
Kevin

Book Review: Eating the Sun (Small Musings on a Vast Universe)

Oh, this is a lovely little book, full of small essays/musings on science and wonder, often complimented with beautiful drawings. Yes, Eating the Sun (Small Musings on a Vast Universe) by Ella Frances Sanders covers some ground, and some familiar ground, but in such a quiet and poetic way that you are drawn in.

The small essays are often no longer than a page and half, maybe two, but the way she weaves in science — about stars, about electrons, about plants and trees, about human biology, and on and on — with her own poetic observations is just a lovely reading experience.

I took this small book outside, on a beautiful end-of-summer day, and just sat with it for quite a long stretch of time, pausing now and then to think on what she was observing, and then moving forward again into the book. It’s that kind of experience. It feels light, thanks to her writing style and voice, but it’s deep when you pause.

Peace (beyond science),
Kevin

 

Rediscovering ‘A Look At Leeds’ (made by the kid)

During Write Out, I had created a piece about wandering my neighborhood with a historical lens in mind (see below). While pulling that piece together, I rediscovered this video project that my youngest son had done about 8 years ago.

For some time, this was a featured video at our Civic Association site. I helped him with filming and some editing but even at that age, he was doing things on his own with video. (The sad part is watching an interview he did with our neighbors, as the gentleman — Mr. Leary or Sarge — has since passed away).

Here is the one that I did for Write Out:

Peace (around the block and back again),
Kevin

Design and Story: Mapping Interactive Fiction

Interactive Fiction Story Design Maps

My sixth graders are in the midst of building out Interactive Fiction stories via Google Slides, weaving in narrative design and hyperlinks choices for the reader to “play” the story with. The early stages of this project involve design mapping, of charting out all of the possibilities of the story and then using the map to build the story. The theme of our stories are mysterious archeological digs, or discovered civilizations (real or invented), and the stories are told in second person narrative point of view.

If you are curious about what these stories look like, this is a post at our class blog site with some projects from last year.

Here is one I made to share with students as my example:

Peace (this way and that),
Kevin