Slice of Life (Day 20): CodeBreaker StoryTeller

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

This one will be a bit difficult to explain to an outside audience, but as part of the Networked Narratives course (I am an open participant, which means I can come and go as I choose – the course is about digital storytelling – there are folks in a real Graduate Level course at Kean University, too), there has been hints of secret codes, hidden within video frames and inside course messages. For a long time, weeks actually, I figured, I’ll let someone else crack the secret codes.

Code break doodle

No one did.

And then, this sort of gently taunting tweet came along the other day from two mysterious recurring Twittery characters (who are part of the larger story of the course being “hacked” by outsiders), and I decided, OK, time to get cracking.

I had to stop and start the online video Youtube conversation with instructors Mia Zamora and Alan Levine a number of times, and use a screenshot grab to get the secret code embedded in the video. I stared at it for a long time, and then began to see a pattern, and worked from there.

This was the code:

Code2

The result? Well, I made this audio version of the message (which, again, will sound strange out of context of the NetNarr community, but which indicates the start of a push towards the second half of the course, which I think is about world-building and civic imagination.)

I tackled this simple code by hand, determining it was based on an alphabetic shift of letters, but later realized there are plenty of online sites that will do it for you, too. Still, I was glad my initial foray was on paper. There was a certain level of satisfaction that I did not require technology to crack the code.

Now, there are all sorts of other strange codes coming into the NetNarr stream, too, with numbers and letters and I have no idea how to even begin to figure those out … any ideas?

Peace (coded for the world),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 19): A Boy A Dog A Sled A Hill

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

It might have been one of the last sledding days of Winter. A few days after the blizzard, and with rain coming, and with Spring just around the corner, my son readily agreed to an invitation yesterday to join a group of friends at the hill at his middle school for sledding (and King of the Mountain, and snowball fights, and all the things you can expect a group of adolescent boys to do with snow).

Boy and Duke on hill

We arrived on time, but no one else was around yet (everyone else was late to the sledding party), so my son began the walk up the hill, and I let our dog, Duke, go free from his leash so that he could join him on the journey. As my son zoomed down the hill, Duke ran alongside him, tail wagging hard, as they both barreled down the steep slope, joy on both of their faces.

Peace (in snow, melting),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 18): Making a Mess

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Yesterday, our normal Friday schedule was all messed up. We had a visit from the guidance counselor at the regional middle school, where nearly all of my sixth graders will go next year, and along with getting information, they filled out some paperwork. It’s a sign that the end of the year is on the horizon (well, in a few months). The other sign was that we gave out report cards for our second trimester yesterday, too.

We are now in the last trimester of the school year. How’d that happen?

Since the day was already broken up, we decided to allocate a stretch of time for students to begin making posters for the Quidditch teams. Each team (each sixth grade class) has to have five huge posters for our upcoming Quidditch Tournament — three run-through posters and two posters to hang on the wall to decorate the gym. So they did sketching in the morning and then some painting in the afternoon.

Making posters

Oh boy. These kids are messy with paint, particularly when you have 70 kids painting in the same space — the cafeteria. The teachers were wandering around with paper towels and wipes, reminding kids to clean up any drips and dribbles. At one point, a student hopped all the way across the cafeteria floor to me, asking for a wipe. He pointed to his shoe.

“I stepped on a glop of paint,” he chuckled, and indeed, the entire bottom of his show was now coated in black paint. Sigh. I handed him some wipes and watched him one-foot hop his way all the way across the cafeteria floor.

Clean-up was crazy and chaotic, and the end of the day was a mess of motion — moving posters to classrooms to dry, washing paint brushes, wiping the floor, handing out report cards, keeping track of everyone. I was happy for the quiet of the empty classroom.

Still, the posters are looking pretty darned good.

Making posters

Peace (it’s here),
Kevin

St Paddy Day Tie

Slice of Life (Day 17): When Memes Creep into the Classroom

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

There’s a single line in the short Quidditch video that I shared with my sixth grade students yesterday that sparked an interesting reaction in all four classes that I teach. I was sharing a clip from the first Harry Potter movie, where Oliver Wood explains the game of Quidditch to a very young Harry.

The video, as well as one showing how they play Quidditch at the college level, is part of our work around our game of Quidditch, played for more than 12 years at my school and the 2017 Quidditch Championship is coming up in two weeks. (Video below is how we play our game)

The two videos set the stage for an activity in which students design and explain in writing how to play the play. It’s a lesson around different kinds of literacy — how a sports play diagram can be “read” and “written” — as well as reinforcing expository writing.

Anyway … in the movie video clip, Harry looks down at a box of Quidditch supplies.

“What are those?” Harry asks (at the 34 second mark, in case you are curious), pointing to a bludger bustling to burst out of the box.

What are those … students in every class echoed together as soon as they heard Harry speak the lines. What are those … What are those …

I had heard this phrase before, but not recently, and I never followed up with any research as to where it had gone viral, and why. Of course, yesterday afternoon, intrigued, I did some research, going to Know Your Meme site (bookmark that site, teachers) to find out what is up with what are those … I knew it had to do with shoes and a sweeping hand movement towards the feet. I had seen students doing that, and crowd giggling.

According to Know Your Meme:

On October 2nd, 2011, Urban Dictionary[4] user JOHNxRYAN95 created an entry for “What Are Those?”, defining it as a question yelled at someone wearing unkempt or off-brand footwear. On June 14th, 2015, Instagram user Brandon Moore (a.k.a. Young Busco) uploaded a video in which he confronts a police officer by loudly asking “What are those?” before panning to his black shoes (shown below). Within three weeks, the video gained over 2,300 likes and 1,200 comments.

And the What Are Those? meme became a hit on Vine, I guess, and I suspect this is where my students found the meme.

It looks like the meme peaked about a year ago (according to Google Trends graph) but I guess some viral sayings just stick with you.

What are those

What are those?

Peace (that’s what they are),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life (Day 16): An Audience of Interactive Readers

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

As my students were finishing up their Interactive Fiction stories, they were curious to know what others had been writing, too. Of course, I told them to feel free to share their Make Your Own Ending Google Slide stories with others, in view or comment mode, but I also know that narrows the audience.

Reading Interactive Fiction Stories

So, we set up laptops around the room, pulled up Interactive Fiction stories, and I worked like a carnival barker, moving readers from one story to the next with chaotic efficiency. “Over here,” I’d yell, pointing to an empty computer. “Who hasn’t read this one yet? Step right up!”

Reading Interactive Fiction Stories

The result was a fun 20 minutes or so of just reading. This time, I didn’t have them keep reflection documents or any other element, other than an open mind and reader’s eyes. They loved it, moving from one story to the next, calling out encouragement to each other — “Hey, great story” and “I love that ending with the twist” and “Way to add humor to your story.”

Reading Interactive Fiction Stories

Wait. You want to read a story or two, too? Of course. Just follow the hyperlinks …. and I suggest you use the Full Screen mode, too.

Peace (every which way),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life (Day 15): The Odds and Ends of a Blizzardy Day

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Since it was a day of the Blizzard of 2017, I figured a slice of many pieces might be a better indication of the day behind us now.

Blizzard Window

First, the snow arrived, and came down hard, and we were out shoveling quite a bit. Yes, I was not happy to see snow in March. But sitting by the window with my book during a respite of shoveling, I could not help but notice how beautiful the snowflakes were, stuck to our large window. On a plus side, we never lost our power, which was a worry all day long.

Earlier in the morning, I had spent some time finishing up a collaborative project for Networked Narratives with my friend, Wendy, using an app. We had invited three other collaborative friends, but the complexity of the app, and the strange barriers to collaboration in collaboration mode (or so it seemed to us) had us throwing our hands up, and finishing the piece on our own. It would have been more powerful with more voices, though. What we were trying for was a piece of quilted parts, told as a network of folks, in a single screen, so that all of our parts would be woven together. The app didn’t quite live up to the vision.

Doodled clmooc

Have any of you been doing the DoodleaDay Challenge? It’s, well, a doodle shared every day, via Twitter with the #doodleaday hashtag. I’ve been popping in and out of it, but the prompt yesterday was to use images to make letters, and I could not resist a CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) icon.

As I mentioned, I spent part of the day, reading. The book I had started and finished was the new one by Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology. Like most Gaiman, it is excellent. Although it is strange to have both Gaiman and Rick Riordan exploring the same mythological terrain (Riordan with the Magnus Chase series), it was also an intriguing companion piece. And well, Norse mythology has some pretty wacky and strange stuff going on, and that is right up Gaiman’s alley.

Brackets

Finally, the day off from school gave the boys and I, and our dog, a chance to fill out our NCAA men’s brackets. Our dog’s (Duke is his name) bracket gets filled out by pushing his nose into one hand or the other of our son, who hides kibble and asks “this team” or “that team”? It’s pretty amusing. He chose Florida to win it all. It might happen. You never know.

This morning, my back aches a bit, but I know I have at least one more shoveling job to do before the sun comes out, and makes ice from the snow in the Blizzard ’17 aftermath.

Peace (and warmth),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life (Day 14): Confused Flower Buds

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

So much for the optimism of Spring. These little green tiger lily buds were pushing themselves up through the soil and leaves, no doubt hoping for a change in the weather.

Green Buds of Winter

It ain’t coming.

What’s coming is a blizzard, bearing down on us today with high winds, possible 4 inches falling per hour, and up to two feet of snow, not to mention worries of power outages. In fact, I just walked the dog and the storm has started.

Tomorrow’s slice is no doubt going to be about shoveling …

Peace (when it falls, it accumulates),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 13): This Dictionary Endures

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I was doing some cleaning through boxes of “stuff” and came across an old Mini-Disc. The label told us that it was our youngest son’s first birthday celebration — 11 1/2 years ago! Of course, we popped the disc into our DVD player, and wondered if it would play a Mini-Disc (they look like shrunk-down versions of DVDs).

After a few minutes of the player deciding just what the heck this thing was, it did start to play.

Boy, what fun it was to watch with him as his younger self, with his younger older brothers hovering around him, devoured brownies and ice cream, and then played with the wrapping paper on gifts, instead of the gifts themselves, as our old dog, Bella, paced around him and the other two boys in protective mode.

“Hey,” he shouted, pointing at the screen. “That dictionary. We still have that dictionary!”

Dictionary

We froze the screen and looked. Sure enough, the very same dictionary — a DK kids edition with a blue cover that has been everything from a source for looking up words to stages for Lego play to ramps for Hot Wheels — was sitting on the floor, just as it was in the video from more than a decade ago.

We all laughed. It’s not that the dictionary gets all that much use these days, but that little book of words and definitions seems to have remained in our family’s orbit for all that time (and maybe even longer, as I think it was given to our older son when he was a toddler).

So yes, the dictionary endures. At least, this one does.

Peace (more than words),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 12): Putting Postcards in the Mail

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I finally got some time to write up some postcards for the CLMOOC Community, which has been engaged in a Dear Data-style project in 2017, where every month there is a new theme and we collect data that we put onto postcards and mail out to others on the list.

Yep. It’s cool and challenging.

The theme for March is music, and how people collect and share their data about music is completely up to them. I decided to track a single day of listening, as best as I could, and then using a chart in the form of a record player to represent the clock of the day. I don’t want to share it because that will ruin the surprise of folks getting it. I have about 12 postcards to go out, including a few for my overseas friends (who are musicians, so perfect fit).

Duke and I and Postcards

Duke and I Gear Up for Walk to Post Office

I’ve written about this postcard project before, so I will just reiterate: the personal connection of using the mail to send off postcards to people I’ve met in online communities is such a beautiful, human reverse of how we envision virtual friendships. I cheat a bit with my data postcards, making copies for multiple postcards … I am lazy and messy in my writing.

But I figure this allows me to send more postcards.

Duke and I braved some very frigid winter air, and cold gusting winds, on a walk to the Post Office yesterday for some International Postcard Stamps. Meanwhile, this following song was a collaboration with a bunch of people in the CLMOOC Postcard Project (you can read about the song here).

Peace (in the post),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 11): Quidditch Comes Early

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Regular readers here (Thank you) will know that our school plays our version of the game of Quidditch, and we have a Quidditch Tournament Day every year in which all four sixth grade classes compete for a full day. It’s very fun and very crazy, and it’s a unique experience for our students. They may someday play Quidditch in college, but the college way is not our way, not by a long shot (and we think our rules and our game is much better than what is played on the college club circuit).

Quidditch Tshirts 2017

Quidditch comes early this year because of shifts in the standardized testing season, and with the tournament coming during the school day on March 30 (and at night, we teachers play the kids — our team name is Pink Fury), there is a lot to do with creating posters and, as they were doing yesterday, making t-shirts to wear on Tournament Day.

Quidditch Tshirts 2017

My class came up with the team name of Blue Barbarians, which is not a name our class (with main color, blue) has had before. We’re often a cold or ice name.

We made this video a few years ago to show other schools how we play our game. We’re OK if others “borrow” the rules and adapt for their own situations.

Given that our Quidditch season at school coincides with Slice of Life here at the blog, you can probably expect more updates through the month. We connect writing, art, and physical education. We work on teamwork and collaboration as a class community, and we talk about winning and losing and other social skills, and more … all connected to the notion of Literature in Motion that drives our Quidditch season.

Peace (in snitches and quaffles),
Kevin