Music VR: Step Inside the Songs

Google and Sound Exploder (a cool podcast in which musicians dig deeper into their tracks) have created a pretty interesting new music experience called Inside Music. Only a few tracks are available right now, but the website brings you into an immersive 360 degree environment with all the tracks of the songs separated out, so you can isolate tracks and remix different elements of songs.

They have also put the code out for GitHub, as they invite other musicians and others to replicate the experience with their own songs and own tracks. I don’t know how to do that, but it would be fascinating to try it out with an original song some day.

Check out Inside Music

Note: in my Chrome browser on my laptop, the site didn’t launch right. It might be because of some of my ad blocking or maybe some other settings. I’m not sure. In Safari and Firefox, though, it all worked fine and was very cool. And I want to try it out on my phone, maybe with Google Cardboard.

Peace (sounding fine),
Kevin

Book Review: The Hate U Give

If this book doesn’t win a slew of awards this literary season, I don’t know what will. A debut novel by Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give is a powerhouse of a story, gut-wrenching in its emotion and evocative in its experience. While often marketed as a way to understand the anger and frustration of the Black Lives movement, this novel is so much more than that. It’s a window into the lives of young black lives whose stories are often forgotten in literature, and in those very same news stories.

The story here does seem all too familiar. A young black man is shot and killed by a police officer. The officer is defended in the media, an the dead man is labeled a thug and drug dealer. The protagonist of the novel — Starr — was not only at the scene at the time of the shooting, but she knew the victim since childhood. She’s a witness, determined to keep her friend’s humanity in focus.

What happens in the aftermath of a shooting of a young black man by a white police officer in an inner city neighborhood is what swirls around The Hate U Give (titled after a reference by rapper Tupac Shakur) but what really gives the story resonance is Starr herself, who struggles both with the aftermath of the shooting, the Grand Jury testimony that inflames the community, and the way she straddles two worlds that constantly tug at her identity. She lives in the urban neighborhood but goes to school in a suburban mostly-white school.

I appreciated Starr’s voice here, and lingered over the ways that she both struggles and rises to the occasion when needed, and how her family — despite all the violence around them — closes in with protective spirit when needed. Starr’s family does not give up on their neighborhood, even though the reality of their situation forces them to move.

The book is driven by the echoes of a violent act, yet the story is tinged with hope, too, as Starr rises from it all, a character we can believe in and root for in all of her complexities of a black young woman in America. A novel like this transports you beyond the headlines. It brings you into the lives of people living in the places where that violence, and injustice, is threaded into the fabric of daily living.

Peace (let it be),
Kevin

In Kintsugi: The Writer’s Voices in the Reader’s Head

In the latest edition of the Kintsugi magazine — an online publishing experience of gathering writers across the Mastodon network — I wrote a piece for the third editing, thinking about the experience of reading in online spaces, and how the voices of writers inhabit my reading experiences.

Mastodon Mag Comics (art for my articles)

My piece is at pages 16 and 17, but you should read some of the other pieces there, too. I’m enjoying this writing experience, and how being within a networked space allows words to tumble into other stories and insights. I appreciate Erdal as curator and editor and cheerleader for this publishing venture.

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Maps in the Mailbox

(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.)

In the Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC) this month, we’re centering on the theme of maps, in all sorts of ways. Geographical maps. Game maps. Learning maps. Systems maps. Imaginary maps. It’s all connected to the idea of #Mapvember, and the way we can visualize the known and unknown worlds.

As part of our monthly CLMOOC postcard project (where about 70 of us have signed up to send postcards to each other from time to time, either one postcard a month or season or year, or more, if you are so inspired), the theme is also mapping. I found these very cool postcards called Map of the Heavens, which are elaborate celestial maps from a museum collection that are just fascinating to look at.

Map Postcards for Mapvember

Yesterday, I popped a dozen postcards into the mailbox, sending my maps (and my text on the postcard was a compass map of my writing life) to places in the United States and way beyond (Scotland, Australia, Canada, etc.)

I love this way of connecting throughout the year, beyond the traditional CLMOOC Summers.

Peace (find your way),
Kevin

Games, Learning, Literacy: Week Two (Digital Identity)

James Paul Gee Quote4

I’m off on a new reading adventure, diving into James Paul Gee’s book — What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy — with discussion prompts by my friend, Keegan. This reflection is centered on Chapter Three in the book.

The topic of digital identity and digital persona and how we project both who we are and who want to be (or at least, want to be seen as) is an intriguing topic made relevant by the ease of identity flux in online spaces and video game environments.

Gee’s critical look at how video game players use identity to bridge the span between real life (who I am in the real world) with gaming (who I am in this immersive world) to a third aspect (how decisions I make in this immersive world pushes against my real world identity) is pretty interesting. I am particularly attuned as a teacher to that third piece — of how one world overlaps with the other — in what he calls “projective identity.”

James Paul Gee Quote5

I appreciated how Gee brings this look at video games back to how it might have importance in the classroom. He uses a science classroom as an example, showing how we want our learners to imagine themselves as scientists when learning about science. They take on the identity of a scientist, and that overlap between what they know of science and what they think a scientist may know (and how that is made visible) is a key element of learning through hands-on work and playfulness.

I think this does happen in many areas, such as history (read like a historian for multiple perspectives) and math (explain your answer in terms someone else might understand) and Language Arts (write a story from a perspective of the character, paying attention to voice). But Gee notes that we don’t always make this visible to students, even though many already do this in the games they play outside of school.

James Paul Gee Quote6

As always, Gee gives us a lot to chew on.

James Paul Gee Quote7

Peace (across identities),
Kevin

 

At Middleweb: Disrupting Thinking (book review)

My latest book review at Middleweb is a look at Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst, who explore ways to counter the shrinking interest in reading by our students.

Disrupting Thinking Doodle Collage

I’ve written smaller pieces about this book since reading it this summer (and even did some chapter visualizing as I was reading the book as part of our doodle theme in CLMOOC), but here is my “official” review.

Head to Middleweb to read the review of Disrupting Thinking

Peace (learning),
Kevin

On the Cartographer’s Map (A Digital Poem)

We’re diving into maps and mapping in CLMOOC this month for a Pop-Up Make Cycle, and I was remembering a poem I had written about mapping. I had to dig around for it, and then read my own reflections that I had written the poem after taking care of my son who was sick with fever, and watching him push and pull at his blankets. The blanket was a map, I had imagined, and this poem came from there. To be honest, I now have trouble connecting the poem to that memory. But I think the poem stands on its own, particularly in this digital format, with images and text and music.

Peace (beyond the lines),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: Japanese Notebooks (A Journey to the Empire of Signs)

What a lovely discovery. Japanese Notebooks is hard to describe, as writer/illustrator/graphic novelist/manga creator Igort shares his fascination with Japanese culture and Japanese art through a dream-like book that mixes illustrations, art and photographs.

Igort’s artistic vision is stunning and beautiful, capturing his life as a European immerses himself in Japan’s world of manga and animation. The book unfolds with all sort of threads, and Igort warns the reader early on that this is how he intends to tell his story. Even with the strange narrative lens, where linear sequence is less important than the heart of his stories, Japanese Notebooks is sure to capture your attention.

“This book is the story of chasing a dream, and surrendering upon finding that dreams cannot be grasped.” – Japanese Notebooks, Igort, page 7

At its core, it tells of a graphic novelist exploring his inner world of creativity through the lens of a culture that has long fascinated him. Through Igort’s passion, we learn of Japanese poets, artists, writers, animators and more. He found much success, starting with his manga series Yuri.

This book would be challenging in content and construction for students, and some adult themes emerge later in the book.

Peace (through our lens),
Kevin

 

 

Mapping the Internet: The Digital World Made Visual

Internet Mapping Students

As part of our Digital Lives unit, I tapped into a project by Kevin Kelly to have my sixth graders visualize and map out their relationship and understanding of the Internet and technology. Kelly’s Internet Mapping Project, started years ago, offers an interesting glimpse into how we see the wired world around us, and where we situate ourselves. Part of the visual prompt is find your home.

This also dovetails with the theme of mapping in the #CLMOOC Mapvember Pop-Up Make Cycle theme now underway. Come make maps with us!

My students were no different. What was just as interesting was getting them to write a reflection on their Map of the Internet, digging into the ways that technology both expands and contracts their experiences as adolescents.

Kelly still invites folks to make their Maps, although I am not sure if he is adding new ones to the collection. You don’t need Kelly to do this. Use that Internet you’ll be conceptualizing and mapping to share out with us. You can download the PDF and also view the gallery of Maps.

Peace (mapped and charted),
Kevin