Book Review: Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab

http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1376508502l/17345277.jpg

Check out the cover, right? It’s pretty cool. This book — Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab — is co-written by a science teacher (‘Science Bob’ Pflugfelder) who brings the ethos of Making, Learning and Exploring right into an unfolding mystery story with the two siblings — 11 year-olds Nick and Tesla — tinkering in their role of childhood detective. The story involves the two kids coming to live with a nutty uncle for the summer, only to discover something odd going on in a nearby house.

Curiosity, and a desire to recover a failed rocket, drive the story forward. And while the plot is fairly predictable for this kind of novel, there’s plenty of humor and action to keep the reader engaged. What makes this book particularly cool is not just the way that science and experimentation and engineering are brought into the story (the kids build things to help them solve the mystery) but that the step-by-step schematic plans and drawings for all of the experiments and devices are written right into the book itself. (Note to self: my son wants to build his own electromagnet now).

I think this book would fit in nicely with a shift towards Maker Spaces in our schools, connecting stories to engineering, and back again. There’s even a good site for teachers and parents, with some downloads and videos (and I see another book is being¬† published, too.)

 

Peace (in the tinkering plotline),
Kevin

Shaken, Stirred and Remixed: A Poem on Tap

This is the poem that I remixed the other day, with Terry. I turned to Tapestry for merging our poems together because I think it allows for interesting movement of text on the page. Plus, I love the clean design and feel to Tapestry. For the most part, the left side of the screen is Terry and the right side is me, and the middle is where lines merge, converge and become one. I hope you enjoy it.

Peace (in the tap),
Kevin

Combined Voices: Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams

Untitled
My good friend, Terry, released a poem into the wild yesterday, and he asked that we remix it. I am not one to pass up a remix invite, and so I requested that he podcast his poem and share the file with me. What he didn’t know was that I was recrafting his words as a poem for two voices. In Audacity, I cut up his audio file, adding my own, and used sounds from his farm and from my own saxophone as the soundtrack.
The result is this collaboration known as Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams:

This is what my page of writing looks like, with Terry’s words on the left and my word on the right, with arrows showing how I imagined I would lay out the audio files. Yeah, it’s a mess. But it was a plan, a map, a poem all of itself.
Poem with Terry: Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams
One of the things I found interesting and difficult was how to connect the themes together in some way that made some semblance of truth. While he was writing metaphorically (I think) about life on his farm in winter, I shifted into music in the midst of winter. His “honey memory” became my “blues memory.” There are also a few places where I had our voices overlap. It didn’t work exactly as I imagined, and the quality of sound from his to mind is a sort of jolting shift (which I had to accept and move on with.)

But, I am pleased with how it came out and love that I could give a remix to a friend, particularly Terry, who spent the summer with me in the CLMOOC making crazy things together, including memories.
Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

Embracing OLW: Making a Robot

The other day, I mentioned that my “one little word” for 2014 is MAKE, and so, here is a robot that I made with my son. The parts came in a kit and we worked on it together. He then set it up to threaten the Lego dudes. They took the attack in style, as only headless Lego peeps can do. We used Vine to capture it.

Peace (in the make),
Kevin

My Word: Make


I’ve seen a lot of friends on Twitter using the “one word” idea. It’s a simple but powerful way to focus in on a theme for the new year. Or maybe not so simple. I’ve struggled with a single word that is large enough to encompass how I want to approach the year and not so intangible as to be meaningless. I’ve settled in on the word “Make” for a few reasons.

First of all, I really got involved in learning more about the Maker’s Movement this year, through work with the National Writing Project. Our CLMOOC was focused on the “make.” I am intrigued by how helping students learn through doing, and creating things/ideas is coming back around again.

Second, I am not a physical maker. I bumble my way through any project you hand me. When I fixed the toilet in our house one day, you should have heard the cheers and seen the high fives we gave each other. I mean, I had fixed the toilet, for goodness sake. That was a breakthrough.

So, this idea of focusing on “make” is always a way to slowly get me out of my own comfort zone. I know I have students who struggle with writing a story but could take apart a car engine, and even put it back to together again. I know I have students who can make an engaging video, publish it on YouTube, and yet, they can’t quite write a paragraph with deep meaning.

I can’t say right now how this word “make” will make its way into my daily life. But I do have a wide definition in my head of what it means to “make” and I’ll keep mulling this one over. It’s digital, physical and internal, and I am going to “make” 2014 a year of diving in as deep as I can.

In that vein, one of the things I have been doing is pulling together a Flipboard magazine around the connections of making and learning, and Connected Learning. It’s a start, and I am making the magazine happen. (meta-make?)

Peace (in the word),
Kevin

One of those foggy winter days …


We woke up to temperatures in the 50s and a thick foggy stew covering everything yesterday. It seemed a perfect time to do a little Learning Walk around the yard. It was a bit mushy, walking about, but the snow melting, the fog sitting there, and the warmth of the air gave the day a ghostly look, as if the Ghosts of Christmas Past were there in our midst.
I also began tinkering around with a photo lens app called Fragment. I can’t say I know what I am doing but the results are still interesting.

and

The thing about Learning Walks is that they provide you a chance to see the common everyday work from another view, or another lens. I’m still learning …

Peace (in the yard),
Kevin

A Light Covering — A Winter Learning Walk

Since the summer’s Making Learning Connected MOOC, I have been trying to periodically take my camera/iPad and wander around my yard on a Learning Walk as a way to slow down, focus in and pay attention. I keep getting inspired by my friend Kim, who has been regularly blogging about her use of photography to connect with writing and reflection. A Learning Walk is more than a walk, I’ve found.

The other morning, this is what I found:
Winter Learning Walk
Yes, we have snow here in New England already. Not much, though, but the white covering on everything gives it a real December theme, doesn’t i? I realized later that I should have found my push mower, and snapped a shot of it. I’ve used it for various Learning Walk images. Darn.

Of all these, I find I like the pumpkin the best. It’s been on our front porch since early October, and the squirrels have had a feast with the seeds and insides, leaving it all hollowed out. The snow covering gives the orange a pretty mix. If you are wondering about the smiley face on the door, my son used wikistix to write welcoming words to friends who were visiting. The words have fallen and the eyes and mouth is all that is left at this point. I like the use of the reflection, too, as the centerpiece of the collage here.

Peace (on the walk),
Kevin

shhhh …. Get Invent to Learn Kindle eBook for Free

I saw this notice in one of my many emails. Today (Friday) and then again on December 2, a Kindle version of the fantastic Invent to Learn by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager— which gives not only an overview of the Maker’s Movement in the classroom but also, practical advice on how to get students inventing and making — is FREE.¬† I did a positive review over at Middleweb. You really should get this book. And it’s FREE as a Kindle download. Just saying …

3d-invent-to-learn hodgson

Peace (in the make),
Kevin

Finishing up Loose Ends with Make/Hack/Play

MakeHackPlay badge
I just completed the last phase of the Make/Hack/Play mini-course facilitated by Karen Fasimpauer, and earned this nifty badge/certificate. The course had a few activities around making and remixing and reflecting, and I liked that the scale was small and doable. And fun. Karen will be running the course again in January, I believe. If you are curious about making and tinkering and remixing, this free mini-course is a great way to dip your toes into the water.

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

Mapping Out Identities in Boston for #nwpam13

As part of our session around the Making Learning Connected MOOC, co-presenter Joe Dillon and I had participants “represent” themselves with clay and wikistix, and then they pinned themselves on the giant map we brought. This was a way for us to talk about Connected Learning principles and some of the creative “makes” that took place during the MOOC. (It also was a live version of the virtual map we did in the MOOC, which now has almost 5,000 views)

Thanks to Chris and Tricia for tweeting out pictures of the map.
clmooc live map1

clmooc live map2

And here is a funny video I took of me wrestling with the map at home before heading to Boston.

Peace (on the grid),
Kevin