The New York Giants!

Writing and teaching and parenting aren’t the only things on my mind these days. My football team — The New York Giants — slogged through to another victory last night and are on the way to the Superbowl to face the fearsome Patriots. Living here in New England, but growing up in Southern Connecticut, I am constantly in conflict with the fans around me (Yankees, UConn Huskies, Giants — the trifecta) and those fans include my own kids (Red Sox, UMass, Patriots).

The Superbowl matchup makes for an interesting home and classroom (many of my students are avid Pats fans) for the next two weeks and I just hope my team doesn’t leave me humiliated on the Day After.

My sons are in sports glory — the Red Sox won, the Patriots are on the verge of an incredible season with only the Giants in the way, and the Boston Celtics are steamrolling everyone, too. I try to tell them, in my grumpy dad voice, that a year like this for a region only comes once in a blue moon and they should enjoy it for what it is and be prepared for those pitiful down years. They just nod their heads and acknowledge my voice. Ha.

Peace (in close games),
Kevin

My Annual Report: 2007

There was a contest of sorts going on over Dy/Dan’s blog in which people are sharing information about their prior year in the form of an annual report. Interesting, and inspired (yet again) by Alice Mercer, I gave it a go (although it turns out I was one day late in submitting my report — oh well):

(I used Letter Pop — a Web 2.0 site — to create these reports in a newsletter format)

What would be in your report?

Peace (in sharing),
Kevin

The Story of Stuff

A few weeks ago, I came across this project called The Story of Stuff. I was intrigued. It was this minimalistic video that talks about how the consumer-driven world is impacting our planet, and moves from one aspect of creating “stuff” all the way to disposing “stuff” in landfills and incinerators. There are some political parts, of course, including a few swipes at President Bush (for urging us all to go shopping in the aftermath of 9/11) and Wal-Mart (for artificially keeping prices low by paying low wages and buying goods from developing countries)

I wanted to show it to my students and bought the DVD (10 bucks).

Yesterday, after an introduction and conversation about this disposable world that we live in, my students watched the movie and they were fascinated and a bit shocked by the message in the movie. It really sparked some interesting discussions and I made sure to end it all on a positive note: they are going to be leaders in our world and they have the opportunity to make a difference and this issue of sustainability is going to loom large in their lives as young adults.

Here is the last part of The Story of Stuffmovie as a Youtube version:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Zam9DZ43Cl0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]From a moviemaking perspective, I found the minimalistic approach fascinating and the kids were riveted by the combination of illustration and this woman just talking to us about these very deep concepts. It reminded a few of the students of the more recent UPS commercials (see? everything is commercial-driven) with the interactive whiteboard and I was reminded of the CommonCraft videos on blogging, wikis, etc.

At the Story of Stuff weblog, there is also a post about how educators can use the video and some other related links for kids.

Peace (in a world with less stuff but more compassion),
Kevin

The Merits of Blogging: A Research Study

Dr. Jeff Felix has posted a dissertation research study (the summary is here and the full report is here) that he did around the topic of blogging in the classroom, and it is a very thorough and deep look at the ways in which blogging can enhance the educational learning for students, and forge new connections between teachers and their students.

At one point, in the summary of the report, Felix writes:

This newfound excitement about the writing process may have also stimulated the student’s enthusiasm for school. The interviewees expressed strongly how the blogs motivated the students to learn, revealing how they were using the motivational power of blogging to motivate students to complete assignments, write more, think deeper thoughts, or post comments. The teachers also gave examples of how blogs promote deeper thought in assignments and in their postings.

And in the conclusion:

On one level, blogs may appear to be little more than personal diaries posted on the Internet for everyone to see. Yet, when used as a communication and instructional tool, they seem to provide a round-table for teachers to share ideas with other educators across the globe or simply talk about themselves and others in a local setting. Blogs become communication bridges with not only the child in the classroom, but also the Millennials who are entering the workplace as teachers. But it is possible that blogging is also an indicator of the teaching profession in transition– and without attempting to use or consider a tool such as blogging– the profession could have difficulty relating to the Digital Age student or teacher.

Thanks to Dr. Felix for undergoing this research and then for sharing it with the rest of us.

Peace (in the classroom),
Kevin

The Writer (in film)

This is a nice montage of writers in films.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/u4_twvj5HJg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Just for your entertainment. (I like the quote: “It must be wonderful to be a writer.” )

Kevin

Chalk — the school mockumentary

My wife and I invited a few teacher-friends over to our house last night to watch a DVD of the movie, Chalk, which has been sitting on our counter for about five weeks now. This low-budget flick is in the great tradition of Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and others that shine a humorous light on some aspect of society (rock band, theater group, dog shows, teachers) while also bringing to the surface some truths about those worlds.

The director, Mike Akel, was a teacher and gets inside the school in a way that you don’t see in many of the heart-breaking, heart-warming movies about education.

Chalk examines the lives of some young teachers at the start of their career in an urban city school as they stumble, mumble and groan, try to engage their students, plot their way to winning a teaching award, and just make it from day to day with their sanity intact. The main character — Mr. Lowrey — is a former computer geekwho took two aptitude tests that told him that teaching would be a good fit and here he is, losing complete control of his classroom. Other characters include the pushy PE teacher yearning for some personal life, a teacher-turned-administrator who now only interacts with the behavioral problem students and misses the classroom, and a third-year teacher who wants to be Teacher of the Year more than anything.

My friends and I were laughing through most of it as we saw ourselves, and our colleagues, in the characters and situations.

Chalk Poster

One sequence that we enjoyed was a twist on the Spelling Bee, called a Spelling Hornet, in which teachers took park in an event where they had to correctly spell various slang words used commonly by their students. The nerdy, nervous teacher wins, but only after getting some real education from his students. (And later, he kicks out a little rap rhyme for the class after being urged on by his kids).

Chalk is worth the rental and bring over a few teacher friends and have a party, and be glad that your first year of teaching is behind you.

Peace (in humor),
Kevin

PS — I just found the trailer for Chalk on YouTube (where else?) and so here it is:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/WwyLP6KKPKE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Students 2.0

A group of students — reflective, opinionated and resourceful — have started up a wonderful site to give voice to those minds in our classrooms who feel frustrated and confined by much of the educational practice of our world.

The site is called Students 2.o and you can sense the exploration and learning and leadership that is being developed there by these students from across the world, as they use a blog for a platform for their views. They are advocates for change, and they are articulating the need for that change in new ways.

I hope teachers are listening (or it is another case of the teachers who are reading Students 2.0 already believe and the ones these students need to reach don’t even know how to find such a blog? I know the answer to my question, don’t you?)

Here is the first part of the Students 2.0 mission statement:

For decades, students have been stuck in classrooms, behind desks, being told how and what to learn. For a time, when students were expected to become widgets for the vast machine of industry, this model of education was highly effective. However, we have now entered a new age: an age where thinking is more important than knowing, where thoughts out-do the facts. Borders are melting away; project teams collaborate across the globe and intelligence is being continually redefined. The world’s information is at our fingertips and anybody can publish their thoughts for virtually no cost.

Peace (in empowering students),
Kevin

Radio Lab

This site crossed my Bloglines from Brian Lamb’s site and I listened to it with headphones and was blown away. (It kind of reminded me of Pink Floyd, but as a podcast and around the topic of science, if that makes any sense at all).

It’s called Radio Lab and it a radio show from NYC that is also a podcast. It’s worth your time to take a listen. Notice how they effectively use audio editing and the concept of the Internet connections and Web 2.0 in their shows.

radio_lab_logo_lg.jpg

Here is one of the shows that could be called Sound is Touch at a Distance in which the creators of the show talk about what sound is and how it can be used to tell a story. I particularly like the “telling” of what sound waves look like and what that means to us as listeners and scientists (heck, we are all scientists, if you think about it, charting new discoveries every day).

Peace (in podcasts),
Kevin

Happy Birthday to Blogs

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What has blogging meant for you as a teacher and writer?
Wikipedia marks December 17 as the official Birthday of the Weblog and some folks — including Steve, the creator of Classroom 2.0 — have created a site (via a blog, of course) to celebrate its impact. The site is called Celebrating Educational Blogging and the VoiceThread above is from that blog and it asks you to post some reflections on what impact blogging has had for you. (You can also leave comments right at the celebration blog site).

I love this intro from the site:

Some of us believe that blogging, as one of the great entry points into the “read/write” web (or “Web 2.0”), is having a transformative impact on education and learning, and that we are at the start of a new renaissance that will be defined by the participatory, contributive, and collaborative nature of the Web.

What? You haven’t tried VoiceThread yet? Here is a wonderful chance. Just sign up and click your microphone and start threading your thoughts.

Peace (in blogs),
Kevin

Go Elf Yourself: viral marketing

Even though I know this is nothing more than a marketing ploy to get the words “OfficeMax” situated in my brain this holiday season, I could not resist using something called ElfYourself, which adds any headshot you feed it to an elf body and gets those bodies jiggying to some music. This is clearly a viral campaign by the company and, you know, it works. I am seeing references to ElfYourself all over my Bloglines. Our family was laughing and giggling as we watched our dog, Bella, and cat, Coltrane, dancing away.

I wanted to try to catch it as a video file but had little luck. I did use my new screencapture program — Camstasia (which is now a free download) — and it is really jerky. But I did make this photo as a screenshot from the site, and now it is our desktop photo. (Notice I removed the OfficeMax from the shot).

Peace (in Elfworld),

Kevin