Yet another shift from Manila to Edublogs

I think my transformation from the old Manila blog platform to Edublogs (wordpress) is complete now that I have set up a classroom blog for my incoming sixth graders. I even added a cute little fishbowl widget to the site. In my annual letter of welcome, I have encouraged my students to post a quick hello message to our writing community (and asked parents to visit, too), and this morning, I moderated the first three student posts.

It’s nice to have everything on one platform and I continue to love Edublogs for all of its options and security and simplicity. I have written before about my move away from Manila for all of our sites at the Western Mass Writing Project, but I still had my classroom site out there. This makes the transformation complete.

Peace (with new platforms),
Kevin

Writing Retreat — getting my chapter up and running

I have written before about a book I am co-editing that profiles teachers from k-college as they begin to study, think about and explain how technology is slowly changing the way they teach writing and the way their students are writing. We are focusing in on how teachers are assessing such tech-flavored writing in light of state and national standards, too.

And I need to write my chapter on the digital science book project that my students worked on this past spring, so this weekend — thanks to Western Mass Writing Project and National Writing Project — I am heading to the beaches of Connecticut for a writing retreat for other teachers in our network who want to write for professional publication and I hope to get much of my chapter written. Ambitious? Yes, but much of the chapter is unfolding in my head during the days when I am not writing. I just need to capture it.

I am looking forward to a Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon writing-and-nothing-but-writing (except for some walks along the beach and a few beers at night) getaway.

On a related note, I was rummaging through my computer and stumbled upon this old PP show that I did in my Summer Institute for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project about the uses of picture books in the upper elementary classroom. This was a research question that I pursued that summer and then presented to the rest of the SI folks. Some of the information is still helpful as I think about my chapter.

So I uploaded it to Slideshare for more sharing.

[slideshare id=61693&doc=the-power-of-picture-books2418&w=425]

Peace (in pictures),
Kevin

The Future of the Book: Sixth Graders

Towards the end of the year — as part of my digital book project — I had my sixth grade students take a final survey and one of my questions: What do you think books will look like in the future?

Here are some of their answers:

  • I think books in the future will have people popping out of the pages and talking like a mini-play. In the future, you will not even have to read the books, just listen to them.
  • I think they will be little squares that will be digital and project visual images
  • Books will be holographic.
  • Books will be high-tech and cool, and a printed out copy will have special effects.
  • I think books will still be on paper but they will have videos and sounds in them. They will be more high-tech. They will have clear, beautiful pictures and videos of what is actually happening at that moment. And they will have the feelings that people have (example: If the book says, she felt the cold wind on her face, then a chilly wind would come out of the book).
  • In the future, you will read books from the computer. I think this because it would save paper and would add cool effects to the stories to make you want to read them.
  • I think that in the future, there will still be paper but many books will be digital. I think that the digital book will be very interactive and voice-activated, with movie clips, sound effects, movement and even hyperlinks to different endings.
  • In the future, I think books will become automatic. They will have a special speaker inside that will tell you the story.

What strikes me is that so many of these comments suggest a passive reader, and I would hope that a push towards technology integration would allow the reader a larger role into the storytelling (for example: rearrange the story, or add a character, or find a way to alter the shape of the story arc).

Peace (in pages of the book),
Kevin

Four Days in Summer: An overview of Animation Camp

 

Last week marked the first of two claymation-animation summer camp programs that I am teaching (next week, with my wife) and I decided I needed to write down and record what I was doing each day for future reference. I will need to go back later and do some more details but I am sharing my overall plan for four days of working with middle school students.

Here is the summer camp plan

I created this document with Google Page Creator — a not-so-fancy but easy-to-use part of the Google Suite of Internet Dominance.

Peace (with clay),

Kevi

 

Summer Camp — part one

I have been running a claymation animation summer camp this week for middle school students (mostly fifth and sixth graders) as a new experiment (and more next week). Kids have been using Pivot Stickman, MovieMaker, Stop-Motion Animator and other tools to create mini-movies. I am working on writing up my curriculum (for myself and for anyone else who is interested) and will share that later.

I have a blog up and running so that parents can view some of the daily work (the blog is at http://masswp.org/claycamp/)  and the final movies (with a sci-fi theme) are being worked on right now and we are inviting parents in tomorrow to view the showcase premieres.

Also, I have used TeacherTube for sharing videos because it is quite easy to use and seems to be a safe way to share video without any qualms about kids wandering around to different, inappropriate links.

But here are a few of the creations so far:

Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

Peace (in the hot classroom),
Kevin

My Collaborator and Friend: Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

June brought some really wonderful news to our school. My good friend and collaborator on claymation/movie projects — Mike Flynn — was awarded the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year designation for 2007. Mike is a wonderful second grade teacher whose emphasis on hands-on learning, project-based explorations and embedded mathematics certainly puts him in a top tier of teachers I know.

Mike2For the past three years, his second graders and my sixth graders have worked together on claymation movies and it has been a pleasure to develop the project with Mike. He is insightful, flexible and moves towards recognition of the abilities of all the children in his room. Last year, Mike also joined me in presenting a workshop on moviemaking in the classroom at our Technology, Teaching and Writing Conference at UMass (sponsored in part by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project).

He is also a talented musician and he and I have played together as part of an old band of his and he has brought his talents to the stage at our school when I have helped our Student Council organize concerts for Katrina victims and the Asian tsunami disaster. Like me, he finds creative refuge in writing songs.

Mike deserves all of the accolades and is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year (where do I cram the ballot boxes?).

Peace (in celebration),
Kevin

And finally … Stick Figure Movies

The last days of school for my sixth graders were spent working with a stick figure animation program and here are some of the movies they created:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=1158941878118862160" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=4626591408186972447" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in frame),
Kevin

Claymation Collaborations, part three

This is the final installment of the short clay movies from my classroom — all student-created and edited and produced.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=193355201421657936" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

The movies here are:

  • Attack of the Evil Worm
  • A Day at the Beach
  • Bob and Super Cheetah in Invasion of the Mole People

Peace (in slowwwww mo),
Kevin

Claymation Collaborations, part two

This is the second of three short claymation movies created by my sixth graders (in collaboration with second graders). I have one more movie to go, later this week. This first movie — The Haunted House — features some cool animation techniques (disappearing girl!).

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=1312872253261619570" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

The stories are:

  • The Haunted House
  • Bowser’s Race Track

Peace (with monsters and cars),
Kevin

Claymation Collaborations, part one

Some of our collaborative claymation groups finished up with their mini-movies this week (see movie down below) and five more groups are still working. This is the first year we have tried true animation (as opposed to still images) and it has been tricky. Not because of the software but because we just can’t seem to scrap together long enough blocks of time. We have tried to juggle the schedule of second graders with my sixth graders, and it isn’t easy. But, as in the past, except for some mini-lessons, I place the onus of the entire script writing, clay creation, recording/video, and editing on the students and only help when needed. I really want them to “own” the final product for themselves.

So here are the first four movies:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-8605309725608707121" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

The episodes here are:

  • The Lost Diamond
  • The Paper Shredder of DOOM
  • Island Gone Bad
  • The Walking Fish

As we finish up (next week is our last full week, so we are under the gun), I am trying to reflect a bit on what has worked and what has not worked, as my wife and I are running a claymation animation camp for middle school students next month.

Here are some thoughts:

  • Some kids have the patience, and some don’t. It takes patience to do animation and the more patience they demonstrate, the better the animation. It seems like a simple equation to me, but not always to 8 and 12 year olds.
  • The software and webcams have worked fine (although one seemed to have gone out of focus – even though the students didn’t tell me and I could have easily fixed it), although we should have done more to ensure they were all speaking loudly into the microphones. The audio is up and down.
  • We needed more mini-lessons about how to take a photo of a video image, and use that as a still image to stretch the movie to keep in sync with dialogue. This has been the greatest challenge for the kids — having the movie work with the audio.
  • The students have loved using the tech for this project, even when frustrated (which happens). They have been so engaged every step of the way and are always asking, “Are we doing claymation today?” (And to which I reply, “We also have other things we need to be doing, you know,” and then a sigh from their direction)
  • I wish I could have discovered the Pivot Stickman Animation program before this began because it is such a great intro to stop-motion animation. Oh well.
  • We need more than 45-minute blocks of time — at least an hour, or more, would have been helpful as momentum always seemed to be stalled at the end of a session. This project began in April (yes, April!) and we aren’t done yet. Phew.

Peace (with animation),
Kevin