It’s a Good Day to Slow Down: Ok Go’s The One Moment

Take time today to slow down and savor your friends and family on this holiday (in America).

Check out this new video from the band OK GO that does just that. It also connected to a campaign called Walk Her Walk, sponsored by the Morton Salt company, which seeks to make a difference in the world through support of advocacy and community-based work. Well. OK. Sort of odd to have band connected to that but the five groups the company is already supporting seems to be doing good work in the world.

And the video is awfully cool.

And the band writes about the song, which is the soundtrack to the company campaign:

The song “The One Moment” is a celebration of (and a prayer for) those moments in life when we are most alive. Humans are not equipped to understand our own temporariness; It will never stop being deeply beautiful, deeply confusing, and deeply sad that our lives and our world are so fleeting. We have only these few moments.”

And here are the notes on making the video, which I always enjoy reading about.

Peace (in slowmo),
Kevin

Inspired to Spoof: My Son’s Video Project

My son often makes videos. He has written and shot three longer movies with a group of neighborhood friends (all by the age of 11), had one of the movies showcased in our city’s Youth Film Festival and has done a variety of smaller films, too. Long ago, I showed him what I knew about iMovie (and he took part in a free Apple camp at the Apple Store to learn about video), and turned him loose.

He recently finished this short video (he is now 12). My only role was to hold the camera so that he and his friend could be the actors in it. They first researched the ideas from a site called Dude Perfect, which I was only vaguely aware of. But they loved some video that spoofed baseball players, so they, eh, remixed the Dude Perfect ideas into their own spoof video of baseball players (both kids are baseball nuts).

What struck me is this.

Rally Cap Kids

They sat down, together, with a pad of paper and pencils, and watched Dude Perfect videos, and made detailed notes about different “stereotypes of baseball players,” knowing they were going to riff off those movies for their video. They brought the notes to the baseball field, and talked through each scene, before instructing me to shoot the video. I tried to keep as quiet as I could. I was only the camera man.

I love seeing the development of a craft here, and I hope he keeps doing it. When he does a longer movie, it takes a lot longer to shoot and edit. These smaller projects are more manageable, and I think he has a talent (says his dad) in making videos. I know he has fun with being creative this way.

Peace (frame it, capture it),
Kevin

Musical Interlude: Hopeful Me/Angry Me

Hope Remains song lyrics

(Note: This post is a convergence of a couple of ideas, including DigiLitSunday, where the theme this week is “purpose.” I am sharing out and reflecting on that theme as I contemplate making music as a protest moment.)

I often respond to the world by turning to songwriting. Admittedly, my first attempts at writing songs always seem to slant negative, and then I often have to wrestle the words back towards something more positive and productive (well, sometimes a song just needs a downcast view of the world to be truthful and honest).

As I continue to go through my stages of What the @#&% over this election, I have been turning to music to vent. My purpose here, in both the writing and then the decisions I make with the production of my music, is to find a creative path into grieving and, then moving into action. It’s meaningful for me to write — it’s how I process — and my guitar has always been a companion during difficult times. I find comfort there.

This weekend, two songs emerged. One song is hopeful, if a bit mournful; and the other, a remix project, is angry and resentful.  My friend, Terry Elliott, wrote a post with poems and a hackable text that he called “Flip the Coin.” Each of these songs belongs on the same coin. How you feel in a given moment is how you might flip the coin.

The more optimistic song – called Hope Remains — is my attempt to remind myself, and maybe you, that we have each other in dark times, and that even in the darkness of the world, there is light. It can be hard to see. We sometimes need to search long and hard for it. We often stumble. But it is there. I wrote this one for me. I wrote it for my friends. I wrote it for you. Hope remains.

This song came together rather quickly. I knew I did not want to reference the election directly. That’s not what it was about. I started negative, and turned positive. In less than an hour, the lyrics and chord changes were done, and I had recorded the demo on my iPad. My original purpose in recording was to keep the song raw. No production – no reverb or compression or anything. The next day, though, I knew it needed something more, something lingering off the edges of the guitar and my singing. I then layered in the bass/cello on the bottom end and did a slight mix of the guitar/flute on the higher end.

The second song — called Welcome to the Boardroom — was my attempt to use Trump’s words against him, crafting a dangerous-sounding remix with his own voice as the underlying track. My purpose? Channel anger into song and use his own words against him. I put his voice through all sorts of effects, and gave the tune a driving beat, with an underlying distortion field of instruments. Listen in headphones to get the full effect. I also added in strange sounds, to aurally show how off-center and off-kilter I feel right about now. I felt a lot better afterwards. The cathartic effect, I guess.

Peace (we have each other),
Kevin

 

Fight The Despair/Hold On To Hope

Don't Despare: David Remnick

There’s still too much swirling around my head, and my world, about the election to make sense of what I am thinking. I know that I am worried about this man being charge of the most powerful country of the world. I am angry when I read about people saying “wait for the real Trump to now appear.” As if.  I am confused with the knowledge that what I thought was my country … may not be “my country” after all. Or it may not be the country that holds the same ideals that I believe in.

I’m turning to writing because I have always believed that we write to understand the world. I am hoping my words will give me anchor again.

And I won’t despair.

Peace Posters 2016

I understand why people voted the way they did. I’ve been around to enough parts and regions of our country (visiting as presenters or participants of events, traveling for other reasons, and spending six years as an infantry soldier in the National Guard certainly opened my eyes to the different viewpoints that exist in our country) to know that my corner of the Northeast is not how everyone views the world. I have plenty of friends who are right of center on the political map, living on the edge of the middle class and angry at the “system.”

They hated Clinton with a passion and venom that always surprised me (but, of course, shouldn’t, now that we see demographics of the election). They hate Washington DC with even more passion for leaving them behind and for being ineffectual (although, it is the Tea Party that has ground progress to a halt). Government, to my friends, is the problem, not the solution.  (You can imagine the very heated discussion my friends and I have all year long). Of course, some of those same friends benefit from government support programs, like the VA and health care. I won’t get into the sad irony of voters who may have just sealed their own economic decline in order to “send a message” by electing a racist, misogynistic, and more than slightly addled leader to the White House. When even commentator Glen Beck calls Trump “unhinged,” you have to take notice.

I also know there is resentment against the so-called elite and educated. And, I know plenty of families continue to struggle economically, even in the face of positive news across all sectors (Bill Clinton (D) left the country in solid economic shape; Bush (R) burned the economy to the ground on his way out the door with his trickle down illusions; Obama (D) built it back up … see a political pattern here?). I believe that economic concern for the present and the future was/is at the core of this election, more than race and gender.

Peace Posters 2016

I won’t despair. But I won’t turn my back, either.

How this man governs will set the stage for the world my own children will grow up in, live in, becomes citizens of. I don’t think he sees anything beyond his own personal gain (and won’t be surprised if the absolute power corrupts him even further). My only faith is that the rest of the government will be the ballast (although I fear the Republicans holding Congress will see the election as a means for the Tea Party to ascend even further.) I am hoping my own senator, Elizabeth Warren, remains the powerful voice she needs to be, and that Chuck Schumer is the right leader of a minority party at the right time in history. I don’t even know what to say about the Supreme Court, which is the one thing that I have the most worry about. Again, this is my children’s world we are talking about. 

Peace Posters 2016

No. No despair. Not quite hope, either. Not today, anyway. Maybe tomorrow. My friend, Ron, sent a message to my other friend, Simon, and me, about some of our tweets back and forth. Ron reminded us about love.

I believe in that notion of love and understanding, too. It’s why I teach. It’s why I write. It’s why I connect. It’s why I love my own children so dearly. This election has rattled me but not shaken me to the point where I lose faith in what I believe in — which is the potential goodness of people coming together to make the world a better place. One man elected leader can’t rob me of that. One election can’t change me. I am stronger than that.

You are, too.

Peace Posters 2016

Note: These Peace Posters were made in art class by my sixth grade students. I found comfort in wandering the hallways yesterday, taking in their notions of peace. It gave me a sense of hope that was in short supply.

Peace (I mean it),
Kevin

 

What This (Discipline) Looks Likes In That (Discipline)

Curricular Connections

I recently co-facilitated a PD session with fourth, fifth and sixth grade colleagues, and my co-presenter and I chose the theme of Collaboration, as we are feeling more and more like we don’t have time to collaborate across the curriculum and across grade levels with other teachers anymore. (We used to have a PLC time but that got lost a few years ago).

Curricular Connections

We began with a Gallery Walk activity, in which we asked us all to think and notate ways one discipline (say, math) is visible in another discipline (say, social studies), and to notice as we did the activity which subject areas seem a more natural fit than others. It was a great discussion piece, that sparked the idea of how to be thoughtful about lesson planning.

It also laid the groundwork for discussions about collaboration, since each of the grades represented (4,5,6) are all departmentalized to some degree. I teach ELA and technology to all sixth graders, for example. I can’t say we were able to get plans in motion for everyone, as we had hoped. As usual, we ran out of time. But the conversations and activities sparked cross-grade and cross-discipline discussions, and that is always a good starting point.

Peace (here, there, everywhere),
Kevin

Going Behind the Scenes: ESPN Studios

A good friend of mine works at ESPN Studios and I took advantage of that to bring two of my sons, and my dad, on a tour of the huge media complex down in Bristol, Connecticut (about an hour away from where we live). My youngest son is interesting in video production, and my middle son is interested in sports. Our eldest, also interested in digital media, is off to his first year of college, so he could not come with us.

Saturday mornings are pretty quiet in the sports world, but that allowed us to go through the myriad of engineering rooms and editing booths and sound rooms and a handful of the massive recording studios that ESPN uses to deliver sports to the world. A “farm” of about 30 massive satellite dishes sit on top of a hill, sending out signals to the dozens of outlets for ESPN media.

You realize rather quickly how technical the entire operation is, and how studios use illusion to create reality — the fake grass, and the corners of tables that the cameras can pan to seem large on the small screen but are often just kitty-cornered against a wall in a room larger than a football field. Dozens of people work together to produce a 30 minute sports show that seems so slick and seamless on the screen. (My friend does technical support. Nothing is ever seamless for him. Things break down and don’t work.)

Our eyes can deceive us.

It’s a bit like Oz. You pull back the curtain to see the mechanics of the visual world that seem magical and you get a larger sense of how the magic works from the reality point of view. It doesn’t take away from the magic, per se, but it expands the notions of how the world comes together in the first place.

Peace (it’s not just a show),
Kevin

At This Camp, Movies Get Made

Making Movies at Camp

My youngest son attended a day camp all last week, writing and shooting and editing and producing short films over five days. on Friday, family members were invited in to watch the results, and the movies were not only entertaining, but pretty well done, given constraints (of locations and time and props). The camp, at a local Montessori School, borrowed high-quality video cameras from the local Cable Access Station (which will showcase the short films on its television channel and online sites). You can see the difference — the video is rich and professional grade quality.

The camp facilitators let the kids do all of the heavy lifting — writing the scripts, setting up the cameras, and editing with iMovie. My son has done most of these things before — he loves to make his own movies — but it was nice to have him in a group, working with other kids and being creative. I don’t think he wrote all that much, though, which is too bad.

There were three short narrative films (including one very intense one about a puppet and a cruel puppeteer that had the audience in silent wonder) and a few music videos, most using Green Screen effects. Later, the videos will be hosted online. I’ll share out when that happens, in case you are interested in what kids can do with cameras and iMovie and imagination.

Peace (from small screen to real life),
Kevin

We Need More Dandelions: Who Owns What in the Digital Age


flickr photo shared by opensourceway under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Call me naive but …

… I keep finding myself wandering back into the question of ‘who owns what’ in the Digital Age. It’s not just a question of a single item — say, a photograph, or a music file. Those kinds of issues — particularly when it comes to livelihood of an artist — are important and still being sorted out. I do think, and hope, that elements like Creative Commons licensing helps delineate lines for those of us who create (and may need to protect some of our art) and those of us how like to use art of others to create something new (and may need to learn better how to note where the original came from).

I’m thinking more of ideas here, and who owns the idea. If I spark a discussion in online forums and along various hashtags, or if I launch a collaboration that others take part in, do I own that idea from now to forever? I think about the poems I have invited others to write into, and various media projects that I have opened the door to, and other projects that I have been involved in. The spark has always been collaboration, not ownership.

I know I may be unrealistic but ..

… once the idea is out there, I figure it’s no longer just mine to do what I want with. I’ve given it, as a “gift” of sorts, to the world (and in my case, the world might only be a few people), which may very well completely ignore the idea or it might remix the idea into something different entirely. It may even call my idea the same name I gave it. Or not. It may give me a heads up about its use of the original. Or not. But it’s not really all mine anymore. If I didn’t want that to happen or unfold that way, I probably should have kept the idea to myself or tried to sell it with licensing restrictions — a phrase that gives me pause even as I write it.

Information cover final web

In Corey Doctorow’s book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, he uses the metaphor of a dandelion and the release of seeds to explain in a way how ideas can take root from artists and others in this age of the Internet. The dandelion doesn’t care about where the seeds go, or even if the seeds become flowers. What the dandelion cares about is the spawning of new seeds and the release of those seeds to the wind. That’s where all of its energy is at. It puts faith in the notion of something will be planted somewhere, and the world will continue.


flickr photo shared by norio_nomura under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Doctorow uses this metaphor as part of his argument around on how small artists can emerge as successful, or at least surviving, artists in the digital age. Release seeds (or music tracks, or photo teasers, etc) and see where those ideas flourish. If your seeds find root, your audience will find you and support you.

In contrast, large organizations — such as record companies and movie companies and publishing companies — spend all of their time with their prodigy, like overprotective parents. If I remember, I think Doctorow continues the metaphor by noting how much alike large organizations are like mammals, with all of the energy in the system centered on ways to nurture and protect their progeny. We give our children our last names and then talk about “family” honor and hereditary lines. We celebrate this with family trees. I’m not saying that is necessarily wrong, but it feels at odds with the open promise of spawning ideas in the Digital Age that I believe in.

I like to think of the whole DS106 ecology as one fine example of how no one really owns the ideas. I don’t personally know Jim Groom or Martha Burtis, two folks I believe were at the start of DS106. There might be others. I’ve only walked virtual dogs with Alan Levine in online spaces like The Daily Create. Others who were part of the whole DS106 shebang from the start are people I don’t quite know or remember. No offense to them, but they aren’t all that important anymore to the DS106 environment … as it exists today.

The DS106 world — with its digital storytelling and creativity focus — is there for the picking. I believe you could start a DS106 course right now, today, and connect in and it would be fine. You could set up your own version of The Daily Create, and it would be fine. Heck, I think Alan Levine will even give you the WordPress Theme to do so. There are no legal documents to sign. There are no permissions to get. Just go on and do it. It’s an open invitation, set in motion years ago, to take the idea and run with it.


flickr photo shared by mikecogh under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Why isn’t there more of this? Why don’t more innovative ideas have huge REMIX THIS buttons? I’d love more dandelions in the digital fields of play.

To be upfront and honest, though, I still struggle with this concept as a classroom teacher. As I make slow but steady movement into Connected Learning ideas with my sixth graders each year, I try to find balance between needing a certain sense of control and providing opportunities for independence for my students. I wish I leaned more than I do towards the latter. But I am learning, and I am always open to possibilities. I have my ear to the ground, as much as I am able. I celebrate the Remix and wonder at the Creativity. I don’t quibble over who owns the ideas that began it all.

Peace (together),
Kevin

Choose Love

I so appreciated that John Spencer shared out this video message to his young son in the wake of the recent Orlando tragedy. It’s message of “love” should resonate with all of us. Should, but may not. I created this Distorted Graph, tilting us all towards love.

Distorted Graph Choose Love

Peace (everywhere),
Kevin