Visual Slice of Life: On the Baseball Field

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

It’s youth baseball season again, and although only one of my three boys is playing ball, one is better than none (one of the three is at college and the other now is on the high school track team).

Duke and I enjoy sitting, watching, cheering.

Duke at field

Peace (around the bases),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Check Your Spelling, Chalkboy

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

I came stomping into the house, overstating my frustration.

“Hey,” I told him, and he looked up from playing Minecraft. “You know you live in a house with two educators?”

Silence. He was trying to figure out what I was getting at.

“Yeah?” he answered, rather reluctantly.

“Soooo,” I said, drawing out my word, “when we write with chalk on the driveway, you better check your spelling.”

Silence. Now he could see where this was going.

“And you have two spelling errors in what you wrote at the end of the driveway. Too and You’re. Common errors, for sure, but fixable.”

“OK.”

“Get out there and fix it!”

He looked up at me.

“You’re kidding me, right?”

My wife, who is much more of a stickler for public spelling errors than I am, joined in.

“Yes, you are going to fix it. That’s our driveway!”

“Why?”

“Because,” she said, “if you don’t, you will lose all screen time for the week.”

“This is ridiculous.”

She started to do the dreaded “countdown to doom.”

“One. Two. If I get to three …”

“OK. OK. Sheesh. I don’t even know if we have more chalk.”

I chimed in. “Let me help you find some, then,” and I did, and he and I walked out to what he wrote. We stared at the sentence for a bit.

If your reading this, it’s to late.

“You’re is a contraction. You and Are. To means also. Double o’s,” I pointed out.

He reached down and fixed the two words, with a big more dramatic chalking than was necessary.

“This is so ridiculous,” he muttered, and then wandered back into the house, tossing the chalk for good measure.

Chalk

Peace (spelled correctly),
Kevin

Slice of Life: When Fidgets go Viral

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

Every now and then, something comes along to remind you about the viral social nature of kids. This past month, it has been the Spinner Fidgets, which is a sort of three-pronged plastic object with a spinning fulcrum in the center.

One day, there was none.

The next day, they were all over the place.

It’s really strange. And then, inevitably, they become a distraction and a problem as opposed to being a stress fidget, and we have to remind our sixth graders about “toys” in school, and how some students can use fidgets but not everyone. At a staff meeting, other teachers in other grades also complained, so much that the principal promised to send a message out to the entire student population about toys and school.

We try to not give that speech to our sixth graders, for its seems a bit draconian.

We gave that speech this year, just before Spring Break.

Here’s what struck me as even odder, though. My son is a sixth grader, too, but in another school, another school district. We received an email home from his sixth grade teachers, saying they were dealing with toys in class, and they were asking us parents to remind our studeto keep those objects home, please.

Spinners? My son says, everyone has them.

What about small cans of modeling puddy clay? We saw a quick rise in those, too, and we had to talk to students about stretching and modeling clay during class-time. Sure, I support hands-on creativity but not when I am trying to get them to write.

Yep, my son said. Those little canisters are everywhere.

Then, we hosted a friend of my son who lives near the Boston area — about 3 hours away from us — and guess what? Fidgets and modeling clay are a problem there, too.

Oh, and earlier this year, it was all about flipping/spinning/juggling water bottles, trying to get them to land with perfect balance. We’re still dealing with that one, and have cleaned up more spills of water than any other year I can remember.

Kids are funny like that.

I suspect that YouTube is the cause of all of this, as funny viral videos inspire viewers into replication.

I wish there would be a catchy writing and reading video that went viral. Then, all kids everywhere would be wandering with piles of books in their arms and writer’s notebooks spilling out of their pockets. We’d let that viral moment go without a sound.

Peace (spinning)
Kevin

Slice of Life: 100 #NetNarr Comics (or more) over 100 Days

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

I’ve been part of the Networked Narratives “course” as an open learner (there is a real course happening at Keane University, with professors Mia Zamora and Alan Levine, and open folks like me are satellites), and each day, there is a daily digital prompt called The Daily Arganee. It’s built off the DS106 Daily Create (I do those, too) and I love the daily challenges.

When the Networked Narratives was in planning stages, and Mia and Alan were talking about creating alternative personas for online interactions, I decided to dust off two comic characters from a previous project: The Internet Kid and the Horse with No Name. I wasn’t sure how two characters from the Wild West would work, but I was happy to see them again, after nearly a year of quiet.

Daily Dda100

Every day, for 100 days, I put Kid and Horse into a comic riffing off the Daily Arganee idea, and it was a blast. But now that the NetNarr course is moving into new direction, with worldbuilding and game playing, I have decided that the Kid and Horse need a rest, so today’s comic is the final one (for now).

I had imagined I would be doing more storytelling, unfolding in comics over many days, but it turns out, I got caught up in the one-off comic from the daily inspiration. That’s not bad, but not quite what I had hoped. I did one stretch of comics as story, of the Kid and Horse rescuing the NetNarr World from the Digital Alchemist, releasing the comics slowly over a single Saturday, and have done other assorted Kid/Horse comics in the last few months.

Kid and Horse Tumblr view

I have not had all that much reaction to the comics — a few re-shares and hearts and reaction from a small circle of friends on Twitter, plus one cool imaginary cow friend from Australia — so I settled into the mindset of, I’m writing this comic for my own amusement. You know, that worked. I was amused.

Not every comic worked as humor every day, and more than a few rely on the context of the Digital Arganee prompt. They might be headscratchers out of context. I purposely did not spend much time on them — I read the prompt, opened up my comic app, went with whatever strange idea bubbled up in my mind, made the comic, send it to Twitter/Tumblr and moved on. Seriously, some days, that process took me all of 15 minutes.

I am sure the Internet Kid and the Horse with No Name will return for some future project. For now, after more than 100 comics, they have earned their rest, and apparently, Horse is booking a flight to Australia to see his friend, Jolt, another animal pal in the Networked Narrative atmosphere with a bit of attitude and enlightenment. Even imaginary characters can connect.

Some other day, I’ll be sharing out all of the comics I made during this part of the Networked Narratives course. Given the quantity, it might just be a Flickr Album or something simple. Last time around, I created an ebook as an archive.

You can also view the Tumblr site where I shared every day. It’s also archived with the original comics from Western106, where Kid and Horse were first born.

Peace (framed with friendship),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Social Media Illusion

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

My pre-teen son confided in me that he had gone back into his Musically app the other day, for the first time in a few weeks, only to find out to his surprise that he was Number One on their charts of users. Musically allows you to create short lip-sync videos with all sorts of filters. It’s fun, but I personally find it a bit too much. People heart you. It’s one of those sites.

“It sort of freaked me out,” he admitted, on seeing his username at the top of the chart. “I hadn’t even made anything (new video) in a long time. I don’t know how it happened. Did something go viral?”

He said he even double checked it was his (since he uses a fake name to protect his identity … good boy) and that led us into a whole discussion about the role of followers and why social media is built on this aspect of users needing more and more confirmation or hearts or likes or whatever from an unknown audience. And how shallow that entire system can be, even if it feels good at the time.

This led us to talk about places he knows online where you can “earn” new followers, too. I’m still not clear on this — do you buy followers somehow? What are you giving up? Your data? Your information? Your eyeballs for intrusive ads? Something, right?

“Maybe I should delete the app,” he wondered out loud.

We were in the car during all this, so I told him I would look at the app later. When I did, I realized that he had been duped by an April Fool’s joke by Musically, in which every user who checked the charts found themselves Number One.

Pretty clever, and also, pretty interesting for a social media app built on users and followers to play on the desire of its own users for more and more followers as a joke on those same users. There’s something strangely meta in that circle of thought.

My son was amused when I told him about Musically’s April Fools joke. He seemed a bit relieved, as if there had been a huge weight to bear when you suddenly realize you have become the top dog in a social media chart.

He was also a bit wistful that his day at the top of the charts was all just an illusion. But really, given the landscape of social media and teens, and what constitutes popularity in such fleeting ways, isn’t most of what we do in social media merely illusion, anyway?

Peace (thinking),
Kevin

PS — “Dad, a whole bunch of kids at school got pranked by the same joke, and thought they were number one. We all did. That’s funny.” — the boy.

On Reflection: Ten Years of Slicing into Life

Ten years is a long time to be doing anything.

I spent ten years, almost exactly, working as a newspaper journalist, covering politics, meetings, crime and education. Ten years seemed like forever when I finally left to become certified as a teacher (and take on role of caregiver with our boys at home in my stay-at-home dad chapter of life).

I am fifteen years into teaching now. That’s ten plus five. I remember the ten year mark as being important because it meant I had lasted and lasted longer than my previous profession as journalist. It was around then that I realized that, yes, I was a teacher.

My wife and I have been married nearly 2o years. Ten plus ten, with three kids. Those years have flown by. We still can’t believe it.

And it has been ten years in Slice of Life, too, as every March rolls around with the call from Stacey (and once, it was Ruth, too) and the team of too-many-to-count accomplices over at Two Writing Teachers. It’s a lot to ask of us, to write every single day about small moments that have larger implications. Yet so many did it — this March, the writers numbered in the hundreds at the start (more than 350 writers on the very first day) and still more than 240 at the end with the last posting on March 31.

Think on that. Hundreds of teachers who now see themselves as writers in digital spaces. And then there were the teachers who had their students writing Slices of Life, too. I hope they found an audience among other slicing students.

The mixed blessings to that kind of growth of anything online is obvious, too. There were so many people in the mix that I found commenting and connecting to be more like leaves blowing in the storm, at times. There was a less a sense of community. A bit disorienting. This is no fault of the organizers at Two Writing Teachers. It’s a natural part of online connections and a reminder of why many MOOCS (Massive Open Online Classes) falter over the long haul. The larger the crowd, the more the noise, and the less the signal. And when that happens, participants can feel as if their voice is lost in the wind. They drop out.

This chart shows some documentation of MOOCS, but it also translates well into how many online spaces flow:

The folks at Two Writing Teachers try to counter this by incorporating the “comment on other blogs” into their messaging on a regular basis. I continue to find that commenting as the first step into online conversation to be inadequate. I can’t easily trace my steps back to blogs where I have been, and then I feel guilty about not responding to every blogger who comments at my blog. And I wonder: how can I make a comment worth something and not just a few words on the bottom of a post? That would be a full-time job.

Meanwhile, you know, Life goes on. (And hopefully, it also provides more moments to write about later)

I did try to find new blogs to comment on this year, but I often found myself visiting the “early morning posting” crew, of which I am a member, and following bloggers I have come to know, either from the past or from the early days of this year.

I often felt a little lazy about doing that — of not reaching out more to. new folks as much as I could have. And I wondered if there were bloggers posting in the middle of the day who never got any comments on their posts because so many of us were either early morning-ers or late nighters. Those are the kinds of things that worry me, sometimes, and I am not even an organizer of Slice of Life. Sheesh. I guess when I participate in something, I feel a sense of responsibility.

March 2017 is now over, but the Slice of Life continues through the year on Tuesdays. The once-a-week gives a little breathing room, and you can write or not, read or not, comment or not. With no pressure, and only an invite to participate, the choice is yours.

I hope I see you there.

Peace (slicing it and sharing it),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 31): Celebrating Losing

(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 was Quidditch Tournament Day at our school, and my sixth grade classroom team — the valiant Blue Barbarians — just barely lost the 2017 championship. Just barely, by just a few points. That fact that it was so close, particularly given the athletic talent of the team that won, was cause of some celebration at the end of the long day of playing in our Quidditch Tournament. The last game — which featured our team versus the team that eventually won before an audience of a few hundred students, staff and family members — was right down to the wire. Every player was giving it their all with teamwork and hustle and positive energy.

What more could you ask for?

At night, we teachers came together as Pink Fury, and we played our sixth graders in our own Students vs. Teachers Quidditch match, and boy, I am tired and sore today. We didn’t win, either. In fact, the students beat us pretty thoroughly, but it was a great time, and fun to interact with them outside of the academic classroom.

The problem is that each year, we, the teaching staff, get a bit older — and slower, and more likely to tire out quickly — while our sixth graders each year stay the same age, like Peter Pan on the athletic gym floor. And with nearly 65 students signed up, they kept coming at us with fresh legs and arms. Eighty minutes of running, jumping, defending, throwing. You don’t realize how long 80 minutes is until you are in constant motion for nearly all of it.

It’s a long time.

Still, they won, fair and square, and we teachers then had our own little celebration at a nearby “establishment.”

Pink Fury Quidditch Team

Peace (in the air),
Kevin

PS — Our Quidditch game is now in its 18th year, and is played in our gym. We call it “literation in motion” and connect writing, reading, art, music and dance to our Quidditch season.

Slice of Life (Day 30): Making Quidditch Animations

(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.)

We do all sorts of celebrating for our school’s Quidditch season, which comes to a close TODAY with a day-long tournament for our sixth graders and then a students vs. teachers match this evening. I am tired just thinking about it. But it will be a lot of fun. Noisy fun. Exhausting fun. You get the idea.

Among the many classroom activities surrounding Quidditch, which includes various writing pieces such as diagramming plays and using expository writing to explain the plays, I show my students the basics of stopmotion animation using a site called ParaPara Animation (click the yellow wrench in the bottom right corner to get started). It’s simple to use, and a little quirky and a bit buggy, but the students love it. We had them making animations to celebrate Quidditch, and their teams.

Here are a few:













Peace (catch it),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 29): Let’s Hear it for the Kids

(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 am the teacher-advisor to our sixth grade Student Council, which is hosting a Spirit Week all this week at our school. Yesterday was Animal Appreciation Day, and the Student Council organized a “supply drive” for the regional animal shelter. By day’s end, the table in the back of my room was filled with supplies.

Shelter Drive

This picture is BEFORE three push-truck-loads of paper towels and other items arrived from the preschool through second grade wing of our school. The entire table is now overflowing. We have cat food, office supplies, paper towels and other items that the Dakin Humane Society has asked for help with. Some families also sent in checks and cash donations.

The sixth graders on the Student Council were so excited yesterday, as they went around collecting donations, and they have another project on tap today — a “mystery project” to have the entire school thank the non-teaching staff in our building for all they do. This includes bus drivers, custodians, nurses, cafeteria crew, and office staff. They wanted to show appreciation for folks who often are outside of the focus of thanks.

I love that.

Looking at the ever-growing pile of supplies for the animal shelter, I suddenly realized: I have at least one trip ahead of me to deliver the donations. And, I promised anyone who would listen (colleagues, wife, kids) that I WOULD not be coming home with a new dog or cat.

Promise.

Peace (please),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 28): Who Was Here

(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.)

We had a bunch of friends and neighbors over last night to celebrate what seems to be an overflowing group of March birthdays (including one of my sons, whose birthday is today). We had food, drink and lots of conversations.

Here’s who was here:

  • One college professor of political science
  • One chiropractor
  • One financial bookkeeper for a retail toy store
  • One school administrator
  • One teacher (me!)
  • Three students (two high school/one middle school)
  • One independent filmmaker and film editor

It was a pleasant gathering for a Monday night.

Peace (in talk and more),
Kevin