Changes Afoot for YouTube (What Kids Can and Cannot See)

If you are a teacher or school that oversees its own YouTube channel (like I do), you need to know that changes are coming for how YouTube deals with videos and children. This comes after YouTube and Google were at the center of legal action around children’s access to videos, and I think the changes will be helpful.

Read more – Jeff Bradbury does a good job of explaining these changes for educators (thanks to Sheri, for sharing Jeff’s post)

There’s been a bunch of pushback by YouTube content creators — those who make their money off advertising inside videos — about the changes, which are part of COPPA (the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requirements, but I am all for deeper protections for those viewers under the age of 13. If that’s going to be your main audience, then you better be doing your job on protecting those viewers.

The Federal Trade Commission has released some information about what kind of material is “made for kids” or not.

Peace (what we see is what we do),
Kevin

The Good Fight’s Animated Shorts (like Schoolhouse Rock for Adults)

My wife and I are watching the third season of The Good Fight television show (the solid spin-off from The Good Wife) and they’ve added a feature called The Good Fight Short, which are animated video interludes by Jonathan Coulton and Head Gear Animation inserted unexpectedly into the storyline. The videos are hilarious and informative. They’re like Schoolhouse Rock for adults in the modern age (with a clear progressive bent).

Check a few out:

and

and

and

We love the quirky nature of these and looking forward to more as we move deeper into the season.

Peace (learning it),
Kevin

NYTimes: The 1619 Project

We subscribe to the Sunday edition of The New York Times for features just like this. The 1619 Project is the entire special focus of yesterday’s NYT Magazine, and it is an amazing example of reporting, commentary, writing and exploration of a difficult topic. The premise of the entire project is that the roots of America are not traced back to 1776 and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but instead reaches back to 1619 — the year the first African slave ship hit the shores of this country and so began the horrible and disgraceful act of using people as chattel and goods.

And if 1619 represents the true start of America’s origins, the newspaper project argues, then slavery has become the key and elemental engine of all that is both bad and good in the country, as the magazine makes clear through an entire collection of essays, reporting, poetry, stories, art — all tracking the impact that slavery and African-Americans have had on culture, politics, freedom and more. Topics include Democracy, patriotism, health care, redlining housing districts, and more.

I’m not far enough along yet with my own reading to give a full review but the scope of the project is breathtaking. A collection of prominent African American writers are here, taking moments from timelines and then building off the events in creative, insightful pieces. And apparently, the newspaper will be continuing the 1619 Project into the year with more pieces unfolding.

You can access the project online and the New York Times has worked with the Pulitzer Center to create an entire website devoted to teaching and learning resources, with lessons and guiding questions and more. For example, this document has quotes from the pieces, with references and vocabulary, and inquiry questions, with an invitation for students to write their own commentary or poetry or create art.

Peace (reading it deep),
Kevin

 

Why The End Is So Important (or, sitting through the movie credits with kids)

The last few years, I’ve noticed a clear trend with my sons when we go to watch movies, on the big screen in the theater or even on video. There’s a heightened interest in the post-credit video teasers. I’ve sat through more endless credit texts than ever (which, I suppose, is a good thing, to acknowledge how many people are working on so many aspects of a movie) just to see 30 seconds or so of video.

The other night, my son and I watched the Wolverine movie, Logan, and he was determined to see if there was a post-scene video on the disc, and then searched online afterwards, even though the movie is a few years old now and any post-credit scene would have already unfolded and long been outdated (perhaps this is what intrigued him most .. making the connections between what is teased and what really unfolds).

It was the Marvel universe who ramped up this phenomenon (see this listing of post-credit scenes in Marvel Universe), but now, I notice that my sons and my students often expect something on the screen, after the story has ended and the credits are rolling. They chat among themselves — in person and on social media — more about those small videos than about the larger movie, sometimes. There’s even a full website devoted to this concept (well, of course there is … probably many of them).

Which had me wondering about the draw of this.

First of all, from a movie production standpoint, this trend has to be viewed as a success. The movie companies get us to sit through the credits, and they get to promo some upcoming movie. Of course, they have to it with style and inference, and that “What?” quality to pique the interest.

From a viewer/fan standpoint, the viewing of the post-credit videos gives some cultural cache (I stayed to watch, did you?) and has some of the Easter Egg qualities that are dug deep into the modern digital media world (I found it, did you?).

It used to be that my boys (who have made their own films) and students all wanted to make bloopers whenever we made videos — in fact, they wanted to elevate the blooper to the forefront, right from the start, scripting blooper moments instead of capturing mistakes as they happened. Now, these post-credit scenes seems to have mostly replaced the blooper reel.

I guess what I find intriguing about all of this is the elevation of these scenes to equal status of the movie itself. Perhaps it speaks more to our attention spans (the videos are short, although you do need to sit for some time to get to them) than anything else, and feeds nicely into the YouTube viewing habits.

Peace (following the credits),
Kevin

Taking a Digital Pause

Purposeful Pause

For July, I’m going to be taking a pause/break/rest from much of my digital writing and some of the connecting with others (but not a clean break — I’ll still be doing some CLMOOC stuff). I try to do this every year, step back as a way to recharge. I’ll be reading books, writing music, hanging with family, doing other activities. I won’t be completely quiet in all the spaces. Just mostly quiet.

But first, before I go, a Back Yard Feldgang for CLMOOC, to complement yesterday’s Front Yard Feldgang.

Backyard Feldgang

Peace (in restful respite),
Kevin

Thoughts about Bruce on Broadway

(I guess I never posted this … it’s been in my bin for some time. New Bruce music coming out had me thinking of this viewing again. — Kevin)

I have a friend who has long been a diehard Bruce Springsteen fan, who watched the Netflix special “Bruce on Broadway” (and even tried to score tickets during Bruce’s run in New York City) who dislikes the Springsteen he sees up on that stage. My friend thinks Springsteen comes across as too pompous and unapproachable and, well, fake.

Which I find interesting, since Bruce begins the show by telling us, his audience, that he is indeed a fake, a magician who invented his hard-scrabble persona for the stage of rock and roll by emulating his father, the one who showed little love during Bruce’s childhood but whose country-wide unexpected travel to see Bruce in California before his first child was born is one of the emotional touchstones of this concert. He never worked in a factory. He never worked as a car mechanic. His sole job has been making music.

I appreciate Springsteen as a songwriter (although I find the Born in the USA album years of over-produced pop a terrible turn for him, even though I know it was made him into a star) and I was impressed with how well he commands the stage when I saw him and the E Street Band years ago. He had us at the first power chord.

I find it sadly ironic that while he uses his stage to advocate for racial tolerance and economic equity, and weaves those messages into his songwriting, his longtime core audience of blue-collar listeners is likely the same ones who voted Trump into office. You can tell he thinks about this, too.

Unlike my friend, I watched this special, knowing what it was: a performance on the stage and not just another acoustic concert.  Bruce spent a year or so working on these stories, the flow and the pacing, night after night. He framed his songs as stories of his life, and as a songwriter, I am always fascinated to hear a musician peel the paint back on where songs come from. Bruce does that, although sometimes he reaches a bit too much for a grandiose approach (this is what bothers my friend).

A few things that stood out for me after watching Bruce on Broadway (you can stream/listen to the whole album on YouTube if you have 2 1/2 hours to kill):

  • The ghost of Clarence Clemons looms large in the show, and the section where Bruce remembers meeting the saxophonist and his huge personality, and the way the E Street Band coalesced around the two of them — characters in a story on the stage — is pretty fascinating. Bruce nearly tears up on the memories, and then launches into Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, about Clarence and the band during the New York blackout.
  • Bruce is a fine piano player. I guess I didn’t quite know that. He has a soft touch and I was pretty impressed with how he finds his way around the keys, as he alternates with acoustic guitars on songs.
  • The story of his father underlies everything, and the aforementioned tale of the day before Bruce’s child is born, when his dad arrives unannounced to tell Bruce that he wishes he had been a better father, is riveting. It’s not an act of forgiveness as much as an act of understanding. The song about his father he then plays is like a call to the past.
  • Bruce uses his position on the lighted stage to push back against anti-immigration policies, and for cultural awareness and understanding, before playing The Ghost of Tom Joad, and I wondered how this audience — paying top dollar on Broadway — differs from his other audience, the one that saw themselves in The River and other songs.
  • A revamping of Born in the USA as a swamp blues song shoutout was good, and necessary, pulling the song back from political hoorah of America to the story of how America has long left its war veterans with marginal support.
  • Bruce has a lot of guitars. Jealous.

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

Book Review: The Writer’s Map (An Atlas of Imaginary Lands)

Can I fall in love with a book? My wife is a librarian, so she will understand. I am smitten with The Writer’s Map, an oversized book edited by Huw Lewis-Jones that does what it says: it explores the world of writing and reading through sharing of stories by writers, readers, and cartographers of maps with literary landscapes. It’s subtitle, too, is perfect: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands.

This book is just beautiful to hold and to read (no digital version, please), and the wide assortment of maps will make your head spin with wonder.  The sections span from Make Believe, to Writing Maps, to Creating Maps and more, and in each section, novelists and poets and more share stories of how maps informed their work and sparked their imagination.

There are replicas of ancient maps and newer ones, and the oversized nature of the book itself allows the maps to be large for viewing (as is often necessary, for many maps have small print).

If this book doesn’t take you on your own journey of wondering what is just beyond your own maps, I don’t know what will. The Writer’s Map is a powerful argument of how wondering about the world — real and imagined — help us create and appreciate art.

I have this book on loan from the library and intend to keep it right to the last day, if I can.

Peace (mapped beyond what we see),
Kevin

Slice of Life: My Other March Madness

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

Yes, I did my NCAA bracket (actually, I did two this year — one where I went with my gut on a few possible upsets and the other, I used a computer model to set the grids, just to see what happens). But yesterday, I was deep into another kind of charting system for another event that takes place this time of year, at least for us at my school.

Quidditch.

I won’t go into all our rules of our game (which differ quite a bit from the college game, as we play inside the gym — here is a video, if you are curious) but my role as coach is both to cheer and encourage team play AND determine who plays what position for each squad in a balanced and fair way. We don’t let our athletes get all the playing time and we don’t let our wallflowers watch from the sidelines. Everyone plays, equal amounts of time.

Coordinating positions and playing time is tricky business, and this is what my dining room table looked like last night as I worked on three different tournament games, each with seven squads, and each squad with six main positions and four supporting positions.

Quidditch March Madness (making squads)

I think I finally got something approaching successful. We’ll see. Tomorrow is our all-day Quidditch Tournament. This is the 20th year of our tournament for sixth graders, a unique (and loud) experience that they will long remember, no matter who wins the Quidditch Cup tomorrow.

Peace (in the game),
Kevin

 

A Week Away …

Places in London, visitedWe spent a whirlwind week in London, where my eldest son is at school this semester, and we took advantage of the time (and the beautiful weather) to see as much of the city and beyond as we could. We did tons of walking, wandering through old buildings (like the church prison tower in Oxford that was built in 1040) and new buildings (like the Shard, which gives you panoramic views of all of London) and more. We headed out of the city on two different days (Oxford, one day; and Kew and Windsor, another). We rode the Underground all over the place.

I kept a travel journal, as I often do for special visits, and notice how I resort to doodling in the margins, too, as a way to remember the visuals of the experiences. No one else can read much of my handwriting and the sketches need context for anyone else, but this is for me, anyway. I’ll remember.

Travel Journal page excerpt

Peace (back home),
Kevin