Slice of Life: Blowing the Dust off the XO Netbook

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

I was going going through my classroom closet the other day. You might have a space like that, too, where years of curriculum and resources get shoved. I can’t seem to throw much of it away, or give it away, but I also don’t use it anymore because of shifts in my teaching and curriculum and standards. So, in the closet it goes in hopes that it might still have some use some day.

Yesterday, I was digging around for a Dr. Seuss book (following up on our World Read Aloud Day activity of using The Butter Battle Book for a lesson on allegory) when I saw a flash of green in the way back. I reached in and pulled out … my old XO computer. Do you remember these? This little green machines launched the netbook push, although it was an experiment to build affordable computers for use in education around the world by the One Laptop Per Child organization (which wanted to build $100 computers). I paid for two XOs at the time, and received one for myself. The other XO was part of a shipment to some corner of the world, hopefully finding its way into the hands of students.

The XO was always quirky, particularly this first-generation model. So I didn’t know if it would even boot up for me. It did, and I was again interested in the design of the software interface (it uses an open source platform called Sugar) and how child-friendly it is.
ReDiscovering the XO

That’s when I realized that I could use the XO for the day’s Daily Create assignment, which had to do with creating a video in ventriloquist theme, promoting DS106 (an open online digital storytelling movement). There is a program that allows you to type in words and it says them in a voice back to you (when I opened the app, it called out “Welcome Kevin” as if it and I were best of friends and I had only gone out for a cup of coffee, not unplugged it for about three years).

I made this:

You never know what you will find in the back of a classroom closet, do you?

Peace (in Xs and Os)
Kevin

Slice of Life: Of Gutters, Frames, Bubbles and Comics

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

Yesterday was the first of three days of parent-teacher conferences. I probably should write about that. But I’m not. Instead, during some down times during the day, I created a few webcomics about Slice of Life (as I am apt to do, if you know me at all), as part of a way to have fun with the idea of slicing your day into reflections and in part as a way to encourage others in my various writing communities to get writing!

These two characters are recurring dudes in my comics about various writing projects that I am engaged in (they began in a series called The Tweets and continue as a sort of ego/id stand-in for my brain)

And so …
Slice of Life Muse Comic

Slice of Life Quilt Comic

Slice of Life topic comic

Peace (in the comics),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Line Thief

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

Yesterday morning, I did my daily “tour” of other folks engaged in the Slice of Life. Part of the month-long adventure is not just sharing, but also connecting through comments. But I decided to go at it a bit differently yesterday. Instead of leaving prose, I stole lines from people’s posts and built poetry out of those stolen lines, and then left the poems as comments for my fellow Slicers.

I didn’t think too much or too deep about it. Instead, I read the post, tried to find that “center of gravity” and then used those words as the basis for a free-form poem, moving around the perimeter of the theme. It was interesting, reading and writing, and then moving on. Later in the day, I noticed that a few folks mentioned on Twitter how fun it was to find my poems, like little wordy surprises sprinkled around our Slice of Life community.


Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app

I took the poems that I had left (I remembered to make notes of where I had been so I didn’t get lost) and created this collection in Prezi. Thank you to the bloggers who unknowingly inspired me to write my poems, and I hope the comments as poetry were a nice little surprise for you.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

When #walkmyworld met #sol14 (poetry ensues)

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

 

Yesterday, I found my writing brain toggling between a new poetry writing event with the #walkmyworld project and thinking about Slice of Life, so just like that famous commercial where my peanut butter met your chocolate, I realize that today’s post is bit about both.

For #walkmyworld, the latest event idea is to write and share a Twitter-friendly poem about place. Greg and Ian suggest Haiku as one form whose brevity fits in nicely. Before school, as I was sitting on the couch with my youngest son, reading, we looked out the window. A little bird flew in and on the single branch of a bush right outside our window, it just balanced there, looking in as we were looking out.

That’s a haiku moment, if ever there was one, and I wrote it on the drive into school (repeating it over and over in hopes I would not forget the rhythm). I then used Vocaroo to record a quick podcast and then shared the poem on Twitter with the #walkmyworld hashtag. Then, later in the day, I saw someone was using Haiku Deck for sharing out some poems, and I thought: of course.


Voice Recorder >>

This morning, I moved the poem into Haiku Deck to make the piece more visual.


Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app

Last night, I started to think of another poem, and how to visually represent it. Night was falling and the white snow was fading away. The stars were already coming out, and yes, it is bitterly cold here in New England (although, thankfully, we were spared the latest storm in my neck of the woods). The poem that emerged tried to capture that, and then I used an app that I have to create this visual poetic collage:
Dim the stars

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Collecting Voices, Stitching Together Poems

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

Yesterday, I was collecting voices from across the world. Collecting and collating voices. It was all part of an impromptu digital adventure that emerged from a P2PU Course called Rhizomatic Learning. The course ended but our inquiry has not, and so when one of the participants began to write a style of poem that has 11 words on Twitter based on days of the week, I had this idea: what if each day, more and more people wrote and podcasted and shared poems from the week? And what if we pulled them all together?

11poem_Pyramid

That was my job, and so yesterday, I was using Audacity to string together more than 30 audio files of podcasts from folks from all geographical spaces around the globe but whose footprints are all over my #11poem Twitter hashtag feed: Ron, Marianna, Tanya, Nick, Simon, Terry and Estelle. They generously lent me their words and their voices, and I stitched us together into this single podcast.

Listen to it. Every time I do, I am amazed at how it blends and flows, and how the digital composing transforms each of our single poems into something larger and incredibly amazing. The shortness of the poetic style, the common themes, and the use of voice … even after listening to it many times as I was editing it together, I still find it amazing to hear.

I’m still thinking about where we go from here. It feels as if there is something else that needs to happen with the collective podcast of poems, but I am not sure yet what that is. I’ll share out some of our resources tomorrow, and there will be an invite for you to remix us. For now, I invite you to listen to the voices.

And write your own poem. You’re invited.

Here is a visual collection of my poems from the week:

MonSunday Collage

Peace (in the poetry),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: It’s a Dog’s Life

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

 

Duke at Dog Show 2014

42 wags. 20 seconds.

That’s what our dog, Duke, did to garner first prize — a blue ribbon, no less — in the category of “tail wagger” at a Dog Show fundraiser for our city schools. He may not be the smartest dog in the crate. In fact, he is not that bright. But he sure is full of love and happiness, and plenty of tail wagging, so he gets his blue ribbon, a whole lot of treats from a lot of strangers, and plenty of praise from the kids, who adore him.

I’d give that an extra wag of the tail for Duke.

Peace (and the dog),
Kevin

PS – He tried out for “softest ears,” too, which we thought he’d be a “contenda” but apparently not. We still love his soft, droopy ears.

Slice of Life: The WayBack View

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

I was curious as the 2014 Slice of Life Challenge starts today to remember when it was that I first began writing Slice of Life posts. OK. I admit. I couldn’t remember. Luckily, my blog did (thanks, Meandering Mind! I owe ya a beer!), and so I dove into my blog dashboard to see what I could see.

Here’s what I found.

First of all, I have written 238 Slice of Posts over the years (well, now we’re at 239 with this one). That includes the March challenges each year as well as the periodic Tuesday Slice of Life pieces. I wasn’t always a regular writer for the Tuesday challenges. I wrote when the fancy hit or I had a small moment with larger reverberations in mind. I always appreciate the audience, though, and the Slice of Life community is one of the warmest, most supportive group of teacher-writers you can find (this side of the National Writing Project).

So what I realized? I’ve done a whole lot of slicing over the years.

The first piece I did was on March 1, 2008. That’s right. 2008. You can read it here, if you want.

This was the Slice of Life icon back then.

Back then, I was writing about reading The Lorax to my sons. That was a favorite book of ours (still is, I guess). Reading that slice again brought me right back to that moment. Isn’t that interesting? Our writing has power over time, and here is where Slice of Life is most interesting for me: not only does it force me to notice and document the moments of our days, it forces me to keep a record of those days.

I’m now culling through 238 posts because I am interested in doing a sort of auto-ethnography of myself to see what I was writing about. I know there are themes each year. If you read me, you know that Quidditch is about to start, as ell as baseball season. Some things recur in different forms each year in our lives. We just don’t always take note of the patterns.

My aim for the next day or two is to create an infographic of sorts (to be shared out as a slice, of course) But for now, I am going into my 7th year of Slice of Life with open eyes and an ear for the world.

How about you? Come join the Slice of Life challenge. Write every day. Share what you write (use the #sol14 hashtag on Twitter). Invite others into your world. Make your way into the world of others. Make connections.

Peace (in the slice),
Kevin

This might be helpful:

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Slice of Life: Slotting Quarters the Vintage Arcade

(This is for Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers. Come join us in writing a Slice of Life every day for the month of March. You will be part of a large and growing community of teachers-as-writers. We also use the #sol14 hashtag on Twitter. Plus, there are prizes for the Slice of Life challenge.)

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A new place opened up not far from our house, a small restaurant that is packed to the gills with vintage arcade games of yore. Asteroids, Space Invaders, Lunar Command, Joust,  Centipede Burger Time, 1942 and more are all on display around the walls of this place. Ironically, though, there is no Pac Man or Donkey Kong. So, my sons and I broke into our piggy bank (yes, we have one), stuffed a bunch of quarters into our pockets, and made our way to the new place to check it out. It’s called … Quarters.

It’s a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, just as you might suspect. But it was mobbed, with parents (OK, mostly fathers) and kids, stuffing coins into slots and playing games with graphics that have to make you laugh. These are not your kids’ video games. These are old consoles, and yet, there is some nostalgic appeal to them. I remember hours in arcades during the summer, at the bowling alley or at my grandmother’s pool in New York City, playing many of these same machines.

My 13 year old son and I had a tournament of sorts with Asteroids, playing multiple games in order to get our name on the winner board. We succeeded (and I scored higher than he did — high five for the old man). These games are a lot harder to play than they seem, and you quickly understand some of the ingenuity that went into their creation with the limited computer power and graphics of the time.

As we were leaving, a few quarters lighter than when we arrived, he turned to me, and said, “I bet this is from a bunch of guys who just love video games and had these in their basements.”

He’s probably right.

Peace (in the play),
Kevin

PS — you can also play a lot of these games online now. Check out Classic Arcade Games. Or check out Microsoft’s site for Atari Arcade.

Slice of Life: Inside My Mind

(This is for the Slice of Life feature at Two Writing Teachers)

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Each day, I receive an email notification from The Daily Create (an offshoot of  DS106) about an activity to get the brain and thinking mind moving in new directions. It’s really such a great idea, these short assignments that push boundaries with humor and creative passion, and every day is something interesting or odd to consider. I don’t mind odd. In fact, I embrace oddity when it comes to digital composition because I think that diving into the odd will push boundaries. Yesterday, the Daily Create assignment was to sketch out an imaginary map of your mind.

This one hung with me all day, as I took my son sledding and as I set up the ping-pong table for some ferocious paddling, and as I read my books, read aloud to my son, checked my email, wrote a few tweets and began the first day of our February vacation (not technically our first day, since we had two snow days to end last week, extending our time away from school). All day, I kept thinking: map my head, map of my head, map it out.

If you know anything about me, you know I can’t draw worth a darn. Which is why I so often turn to digital tools to help me, and finally, as I watched my son and his friend barrel down the huge hill on sleds, screaming the entire way, it dawned on me how I could do this assignment. As a comic. And I would do it in the style of Mad Magazine’s Sergio Aragones, who makes all of those little comics in the margins of the pages, with little characters doing funny things in small spaces.

My Meandering Mind and Me

By the way, today’s Daily Create is to make a video of you or someone unboxing something. Anything. Make it dramatic. Share it out. Odd, right? See what I mean? The Daily Create rocks.

Peace (inside),
Kevin