Peace (in the sharing),
Maybe this is your story, too.
The other day, one of my sixth graders came into school and said, “We have to show this video to the class.” Now, my policy is that I am open to suggestions for videos, but I need time to check it out and make sure it is appropriate. I don’t ever just cold-show a video. She insisted this video about the fox was hilarious. I had no idea what she was talking about and then, promptly forgot about it. She never followed up with me again (she probably thought I had nixed it, not forgotten it).
Then the other day, we were on our whitewater rafting field trip, waiting on the bus, and one of the guides stood up and asked the bus of students, “What does the fox say?” and the kids all start singing, ding ding ding. I had no idea what was going on but I had a inkling yet another viral pop cultural train had pulled into the station and left before I even knew it was there.
And I have three kids at home, too. You’d think I would have known about the video “What the Fox Says” by the band Ylvis. I see the video has 116 million views. Yes, 116 MILLION.
But somehow, consistently, I find myself weeks behind the loop around viral pop culture. It may be due to my refusal to join Facebook. It may be I have my teacher head in the sand. But it is an odd, disjointed feeling to sit on a bus with kids you know and nurture each day, and feel completely left out of the picture of what is holding their interest at any given moment. It made me feel old. And it made me realize just how fast and furious pop culture is these days, and how surprising the memes and viral videos can be, taking root quickly and fading fast.
And it once again reminded me that we need to value the digital lives of our kids outside of school. How to do that, in a meaningful way, is what is still difficult to navigate. Of course, once your teacher thinks something is cool, that means it is no longer cool. Such is the dichotomy of being the adult in a land of connected kids.
Peace (ding ding),
(Created with Mozilla’s XRay Goggles)
Yesterday’s Daily Create for DS106 asked us to “Write an intro for a documentary on culture and traditions of a fictional country.” Since we are kneedeep into Connected Educator Month, I thought I would amuse myself (at least) with a spoof intro for a fake documentary about The Connected Country, and the search for the Most Connected Person in the World.
Here is what I wrote:
In this geographically distant yet technologically connected land, people find themselves drawn to each other by shared interests and expertise. Perhaps it is the hyperlink tattoos that adorn their foreheads or the hashtags each inhabitant wears on their left and right cheeks, but this land is a wondrous place of connections. Here, friends lend a hand or share an idea with strangers. Neighbors offer refuge to the confused who wander in from the outlands of the greater world. Everyone is looked after. There is trust here in this Connected Country. There is a sense that all of the residents here are in this life together, learning as they go along and sharing their learning without trepidation. Notice how each inhabitant wears a sharp-looking vest with multiple pockets. Each pocket contains a different mobile device, tuned to a different interest channel. At night, when the specially-designed lights of the Connected Country are turned on, one can literally visualize the threads that connect each person to the others. The colored webs are another indication of the tapestry of their lives. It is here that we begin our journey to find the Most Connected Person in the World. Come join us as we venture into the Connected Country.
And here is the podcast I created for it:
Peace (in the land),
Over at our National Writing Project iAnthology writing space this week, our writing prompt host (Jeanne) asked us to consider Commencement Addresses, and she urged us to write what we would say if we were chosen. Well, I decided to spoof the concept, with an address to the younger set: preschoolers.
I know you are jumping over the seats and crawling under chairs, but if you could just take a moment to listen, I’d appreciate it, because I have important things to say, and you won’t get to the snack table until I am done. Thank you. Parents! That goes for you, too.
Preschoolers, I am honored to be here tonight, dressed up as Big Bird, in order to give you some advice on your journey into kindergarten. No doubt you have had a delightful year here. You’ve had snack times, nap times, read aloud times, play time, and plenty of time to build towers, knock them down, just like David did a few minutes ago — we all saw you, kid — and build them up again. This rebuilding of your ideas is going to be important in the long run. You’re going to fail a lot. It’s OK. You don’t need to cry about it. Instead, see the crumpled blocks as potential for building something even better.
I understand you used a lot of crayons this year. That’s good. Your vision for the future is going to be important. In fact, your parents and teachers and I all expect you to save the world. I know, it’s a lot to ask of a four year old. But we have faith in what you will be able to do. Those crayons make you visionaries, and I urge you to move beyond the colors of the rainbow when you create the world. Don’t be afraid of the names you can’t pronounce. Sometimes, the most unimaginable ideas are the most wonderful. So, grab that Maize and Raw Umber and draw, draw, draw!
Now, I know, you’re thinking: why is Big Bird here, talking to us? One reason is that we wanted to get your undivided attention during this Commencement Address. But, also, can you find a more gentler, kinder soul than Big Bird? I don’t think so, unless you happen to catch re-runs of Mister Rogers on YouTube. Which brings me to another point, preschoolers. Don’t spend all of your time staring at a screen. Oh sure, your parents’ iPads and iPhones and other devices make nifty sounds and have interesting animation. And what your little fingers can do — other than smudging the screen with crumbs from snacktime – is pretty amazing.
But you need to live life first, in the moment. Preschoolers, the one thing I can give you is this: imagination. Invent new worlds. Imagine new places. Create invisible friends and head off on adventures. Talk to yourself. Don’t be afraid of taking chances, because just like that tower we built earlier that David kicked over, there are always ways to improve upon what we’ve done, and sometimes, it takes a setback to move forward.
Now, I know you are all a little antsy, so I will end by saying this. Believe in yourself and find strength in your family. And leave at least one brownie for me, will you? Thanks, and good luck in Kindergarten.
Peace (in the Big Speech to Little People),
This week, my friend Janet is host to our weekly writing prompt at our iAnthology writing space (where National Writing Project teachers hang out and write). She suggested we create fake acceptance speeches for awards. I decided to go the funny route, using Voki to accept an award for most blog posts in a single day (I do write a lot, I know).
Thanks, Janet, for the great prompt. And while I am not a big fan of Voki, it worked for what I wanted for this prompt.
Peace (in the words),
Have you heard about Cleverbot? It’s a computer program that answers questions and has a pretty advanced algorithm (for a machine). Sort of like Siri’s cousin but with more of an attitude. Filmmaker Chris Wilson used Cleverbot to create a script for a short movie, and then created this amazing (and funny) video.
Peace (in the share),
Over at our National Writing Project iAnthology space, this week’s writing prompt (we write every week there) asks us to consider what we would say if we were giving a commencement speech. I decided to add a little humor, and cultural references, to mine even as I thought seriously about what I would say in that situation.
You can listen to my podcast of what I wrote, too.
First of all, thank you for letting my holographic image speak to you today. I was busy elsewhere, and I figured, if Tupac could do it, so could I, right? You all know what I’m talking about. Your parents? Probably not. I suspect you learned about it from a friend on Twitter, or on Facebook, or through a txt msg telling you to chk ths lnk. If you don’t mind, I’d like you all to take out your cell phones right now and tweet a few lines from my speech. Use the hashtag “hesstilltalkingtous” so I can check it right now from home as my holographic self talks to you. Heck, I may even retweet you even as I am talking to you.
I was thinking about what kind of metaphor I could use for today’s speech. But the more I Googled “Commencement Speech,” the more I realized that all the good metaphors have been used up by the real famous people. I later had to go on eBay to bid on a few left-over metaphors, and this is what I got:
You’re all hyperlinks now.
I know that sounds odd, but think about it for a second. You’re moving into a world that is full of connections, whether it be global or local, and the more the Internet and wired world develops, the more it is apparent that the infrastructure of the Internet — the backbone of it all — is the hyperlink. One thought connected to another thought; one person connected to another person.
If it hadn’t already been taken, I might even pull out the quilt metaphor at this point. But, let’s face it: quilts are the past. Fiber optics is the now. The future? Who’s to say? But if we cast our lives in the role of a hyperlink, of ways to find similarities and differences between us in a cohesive package of intelligent links, then maybe understanding, compassion and development of ideas will be nurtured in us all.
Just think of what the Web would be without links. It would be a land of dead ends. It would be static pages that lead to nowhere, and would be difficult to find. It would be ideas set only in isolation. It would be horrible, don’t you think? So, I think we all need to give a little shout-out to Tim Berners-Lee, the main (but not only) visionary who understood in the early days of the Internet that linking ideas together would be a powerful way to use information.
So, what does it mean to be a hyperlink? It means you have an obligation to the world and it means you have a support system and it means that your ability to grow and prosper is unlimited. Still, don’t be hemmed in by my metaphors or my definitions. Break free of tradition as you see fit. The world is always a better place for the innovators, visionaries and those brave folks who saw something as it is and decided they would rather see something as it should be.
I see my holographic is shimmering a bit, so I want to wrap up by saying, it was a pleasure not being here today. If you lost track of my ideas because you were too busy playing Angry Birds beneath your gown, it’s OK. I’ll be sending you my link later.
Have a good life.
Peace (in the talktalktalk),