The Beginning and the Ending: An Image

Start of fall, end of summer
Kim had us thinking of how to capture the start of something or the end of something via an image, as part of our Photo Fridays adventure. (Actually, she is gathering folks to do an image a day for September. I don’t think I can do it, but you might want to try. At least, follow along with her ideas for photos as literacy.)

I live in New England, and already, the trees are beginning to change. We know it’s coming, this thing we call Autumn, but to see it happening in a few select trees (the same trees, changing first every year, and those are the trees we think of the dreaded Harbinger of Winter on the Horizon.)

I found this leaf on a walk and it seemed to perfectly illustrate the start of something (Autumn) and the end of something (Summer) with its color pattern. The deep green, run through with golden brown. It is as if the leaf was resisting. Resistance is futile.

Autumn is coming … maybe it is here.

Peace (in the air),


Getting All Glitchy With It

It’s always exciting when the first Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC kicks off, and yesterday, it finally did.  The faciliators — two colleagues from the Tar River Writing Project — of the Make Cycle want to do a little twist on how we go about introducing ourselves, by bringing a sort of media mediation into the mix.

They write:

The theme this week is Unmaking Introductions. Let’s consider the ways we name, present, and represent ourselves and the boundaries or memberships those introductions create.

Among the suggestions to explore is to slice up and glitch some media. I see the use of intentional glitch as a way to upend our expectations of media, to turn the expected into the unexpected, and maybe find something new in the mix. It’s interesting because we often think of a “glitch” as something broken (like in the clip above, where her glitch is later what saves the day). But mistakes and miscues, and the unexpected are what makes life interesting.

So for this activity, I turned to a few apps to help me out, including one called Fragment that does what it sounds like — it takes apart images and reconstructs them back into unusual images. (It was free when I got it.)

I began with a photo of me and my dog. I use the handle/moniker Dogtrax in a lot of social media spaces. It has nothing to do with dogs, although I often make canine-inspired jokes. You can read more about my nickname here, if that interests you. Hey, I do love dogs. (Cats are cool, too, so no hate comments, please). And my dog, Duke .. he is pretty cool. He puts up with a lot from our family. (We feed him, so that helps).

So I took this photo of Duke and I in repose. He seems like he is thinking: Sigh, here we go again:

With dog

and made this with Fragment. I was really trying to find a ways to layer our faces in different ways and I love that Duke’s nose just hangs out on the edge of the frame on the right:

Dogtrax and his dog

and then this collage with another app. The bottom right image was done in another app, and it was another image where my eyes look up. That simple movement changes the flow of the collage, don’t you think?

Dogtrax and dog

and then I used an online site called Image Glitch Experiment suggested by Make Cycle facilitators for creating “glitch” images to make this version. The small bands of color seem to me as if there is a television set going, and the lower half of the screen — all dark — changes the composition of the image, too, giving contrast to the light.


I’ll keep exploring how media impacts identity. It’s an intriguing topic.

Peace (in the glitch),


Slice of Life: I Wore My Sticker (Less Testing/More Learning)


(This is a post for Slice of Life, a weekly writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers in which bloggers examine the small moments of life for larger reflection.)

less testing

Yesterday, many teachers in our state of Massachusetts wore the sticker I am showing here in the picture. It’s part of a larger week-long effort by the Massachusetts Teachers Association to push back on the demands of standardized testing. The slogan of “Less Testing/More Learning” is an indication of the push, as our MCAS and now PARCC testing takes up more and more of classroom learning time — both in preparing students and in the actual taking of the tests.

I had a lot of students ask me about it, although one of my colleagues noted that our audience of students and teachers for the stickers we were wearing was rather insular — the schools in which we teach where exasperation with high-stakes testing already runs high.

But still, it was the notion of pulling together as a teaching community with a single message about caring for our students as learners in this age of data collection. And here I am, writing about it to an even larger audience.

Peace (and making it stick),


Slice of Life: That Confounded Bridge

I love the small village in which I live. It’s part of a larger, small city, but our village has a real small-town feel to it. One of its central features is an old bridge that stretches out over the main river, connecting one neighborhood and conservation area to the main road (such as it is).

But, alas, our Hotel Bridge is closed down to even pedestrian traffic. It’s age and lack of maintenance has been an issue for the Hotel Bridge for years, and now there are worries of safety. I can remember being able to drive my car over it, and I biked over it more times than I can count. When my boys were little and sitting in the plastic child’s back seat of my bike — little legs sticking out and little fingers poking me in the back — I would often stop on the bridge, and we would gaze down at the water, searching for fish and turtles.

(photo by Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber)

There is now an effort to save the Hotel Bridge, and last night, we gathered in a community meeting to hear from an Iowa firm called Workin’ Bridges, which seeks to save and restore old bridges. The cost for our bridge runs from $1.6 million to more than $500,000 — depending on the use for the bridge. It’s a lot of money that our city does not have right now, but I am heartened by the energy of the village and the public-private partnerships that we have in our area.

It’s so interesting to think of how a bridge holds the historical fabric of a community together. This one certainly does. Not just mine, as a dad on a bike, but also, the ghosts of a hotel that once sat on one side of the river, and the mill buildings upriver in viewshot, and the dam downriver, where teenagers still swim. The bridge is a visual fixture and anchor to the community. Saving it is saving more than a structure; it’s saving a part of who we are here, here in our village, for generations to come, and who we were. I hope we can find a way to do it.

Leeds Hotel Bridge (Northampton, Massachusetts)

Peace (across the span),

A Rhizomatic Quote Parade

I spent a part of my day yesterday (when the family was out of the house) reading through blog posts from the Rhizomatic Learning community. What smart peeps! I saw so many quotes and lines that I started to grab the words and format them. I was sharing them out on Twitter when I realized I should pull them together into a single file, so I used Animoto and the soundtrack to the Quote Parade video is one that Ron and I worked on collaboratively earlier in the #rhizo15.

What’s intriguing about quote pulling is that the words are out of context, and yet, if one right, they can stand on their own. I think they do here, and I am grateful to be running around with such insightful writers and thinkers and educators.

Peace (in the “words”),


Slice of Life: It’s Not the End of the World (and I Feel Fine)

(This is a Slice of Life post, in which we share out the events of the day. It has through March and but also is open for words and slices every Tuesday throughout the year, and it is facilitated by the folks atTwo Writing Teachers. You write, too, if not today, then how about next Tuesday?)

Slice of Life Writing Block

Here’s a comic I never had to use during this month of daily Slice of Life writing. I had even another comic sitting on my iPad, a Seinfeldian comic about writing nothing … just in case that day came and I had nothing to write about.

But you know, I always found something to write about, and so did dozens of other educators and writers participating in the Slice of Life. I had no interest in the various prizes for commenting and posting, but if it kept folks involved, I’m OK with that. For me, the gift was that of connections, and writing.

In a final nod to Slice of Life 2015, I went around yesterday morning and did some more of my “line lifting” — stealing lines from blog posts and then constructing short poems around them, as comments to the original bloggers. My aim, as always, was to honor the writing through some literary theft.

You can read all of the poems I made yesterday morning here.

Line Lifting Slice of Life

You know, each March, I think … maybe not this year. Maybe I won’t take part in Slice of Life. Then, I do, and I can’t even remember why I was thinking of bailing out on it. There’s something in the collective power of teachers writing, sharing and connecting … expressing the good and the bad and the serious and the funny and the moments of our lives that reverberate across time and space. The writing exposes the human nature of who we are, and so many posts move us beyond our role of teachers.

If you were a Slicer, or if you came here to comment at all, I thank you from the deep parts of my heart. If I never got to your blog to comment, I am sorry. I’m an early bird writer, so the blogs listed at Two Writing Teachers before school got my attention. Morning is my quiet writing time.

Remember: We’ve still got Tuesdays. See you on the Interwebz.

Peace (in the month gone by),


Slice of Life: Wicked Short Stories

(This is a Slice of Life post, in which we share out the events of the day. It runs through March and then every Tuesday throughout the year, and is facilitated by the folks atTwo Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

I’m not sure why, but I got into a real groove yesterday morning with short form fiction, as part of the #25wordstory hashtag on Twitter. It’s an activity I do every now and then, and I am often inspired when others write their own #25wordstory. So, when I saw a bunch of stories by my National Writing Project friend, Brian Fay, I found myself writing a few of my own.

I used Storify to collect them, and now, to share them out for Slice of Life. If the act of writing isn’t a slice of life, then what is, right? I can’t believe we are almost at the end of March. How’d that happen?

Peace (in the small story),

Slice of Life: Books Read/Books Begun

(This is a Slice of Life post, in which we share out the events of the day. It runs through March and then every Tuesday throughout the year, and is facilitated by the folks atTwo Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Yesterday was one of those literary convergence days, where a bunch of books I had been reading all came to an end, and then … I started a whole new bunch of books.


Book Read: I finished up a wonderful novel by Tony Abbott called The Postcard. It is a mystery story with a few layers of story going on, as a young boy discovers a postcard that opens up the truth about the mysterious past of his grandmother and his great-grandfather, with hidden stories uncovered by clues in found postcards. The Florida setting really helped tell the story here, and the intertwining narratives of the protagonist and that of the chapters of a short story that he finds weave together nicely.

Book Begun: I’ve been wanting to read A Wrinkle in Time with my son for some years but I know it might not interest him in the way it grabbed me as a kid. But a graphic novel version? That worked, and after reading a bit last night, he took the book to bed with him to read it alone. I guess I am all right with that. Not really. I wanted to read it with him, and remember why I fell in love with the story of Meg and Charles Wallace and the adventures through strange time and space. I guess this one may move into the “pleasure reading” category soon enough. By the way, the graphic novel version is well done.


Book Read: I pick up John Grisham novels now and then, just for the power reading of story and the mechanisms of a legal thriller. I won’t say his writing blows me away, but Gray Mountain does have a deep theme to mine, with a New York lawyer volunteering in a small Southern town, and launching into a fight against the coal companies whose greed and corruption impacts the poor people of the communities where the operations take place. Grisham uses his novel to make a point about the destruction of mountain with clear cutting, mineral stripping operations that have ripped the tops of mountains off and left the majestic beauty of some places forever harmed.

Book Begun: This is my second time around for Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, which is a historical novel built on the premise of an alternative past — what if most of Europe was decimated by the Plague, and Islam became the dominant culture of the continent, as the Mongolians and Arabians moved westward and northward as the most powerful forces on the planet? It’s a thoughtful, wide-canvas of a novel, and I remember being captivated by it years ago (way before 9/11 and way before the modern politics and wars and revolt of the Middle East … I wonder how my views of the story might be different now?)


Book Read: I’ve been reading Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor with a group of reading teachers in my school district. It’s part of a PLC that takes place during professional development days. I really like McGregor’s style of writing and of teaching, where she uses a lot of props and objects to spark understanding of concepts like inference, schema and synthesis with students. This was a good choice for our PLC gatherings, which continue this coming Tuesday.

Book Begun: If you read this blog, you know I am always interested in the concept of gaming and game design for learning. Greg Toppo’s The Game Believes in You: How Games Can Make Our Kids Smarter is a deft account of how game elements can engage students on a different level. While Toppo so far seems to be exploring the gamification idea, I am hopeful he shifts into putting the tools of design into the hands of students, which is my primary focus.

What are you reading?

Peace (in the pages),



Slice of Life: Pictures of the Band

(This is a Slice of Life post, in which we share out the events of the day. It runs through March and then every Tuesday throughout the year, and is facilitated by the folks at Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Kevin with Duke Rushmore March2015

Our bass player is also a videographer and at our last gig, he invited a friend to shoot video of our gig in order to make some cool videos. He’s still working on the editing and mixing of it all, but he shared out some snippets that sound and look cool.

I grabbed a few screenshots of myself (selfie alert) to make this collage. I play saxophone and do back-up singing (and write songs for the band, too). It’s a blast.

The band is Duke Rushmore. And I am happy to say that we are more than bandmates — we are very good friends. This is us, off the stage, chatting about life and music.

Duke Rushmore relaxin'

Peace (in the pic),

Slice of Life: I Was a Paid Food Tester

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Ice cream blues

I never thought I would ever say this but I hate ice cream right now. I suspect that strong emotion will soon pass. Not yet, though. Right now, my stomach is still aching from being part of a market-research, paid-taste-testing group last night for a regional family restaurant chain (I don’t know if I should name them … I didn’t sign any confidentiality agreements … let’s just say they were very, eh, friendly to us tasters … if you live in the Northeast, you can figure it out.)

My wife signed us both up for the session, as parents of children (their target audience) which we joked was our way to have a date for free and leave the kids behind. But we could not sit near each other nor talk to each other during the 90 minutes of food and ice cream tasting. So, not much of a date night ambiance. But they paid us in the cold hard cash, so the real date will come later …

We began with half-sized portions off the dinner menu, with a turkey burger (yum), a salad (yum), and some bbq steak sandwich (not yum). We used ipods to give our impressions, and then the leader of the market session led a discussion.

When we got to the ice cream part of the night, we were all giddy and ready … I mean, free ice cream? … but after the fifth cup of ice cream (small portions, true, but they were all sundaes), I was ready to retire from the ice cream business. But then a sixth cup came. And then a seventh. Ten cups of ice cream to be consumed after a long day at school, and the adults around the room were all in a bit of a sugar rush. There were some good cups to taste (anything with peanut butter is OK with me) and some not-so-good ones (one blue ice cream had cake bits in it, with sprinkles and other gooey things and it was if someone dumped a cup of sugar down my throat … gross).

It was definitely an interesting experience to be a Professional Taste Tester for a night but I am going Ice Cream Cold Turkey for a stretch. I’ll probably change my mind when the warm weather finally arrives. When is that, exactly?

Peace (on the taste buds),