Envisioning a Digital Writing Resource and other creative ventures

I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging because I have been working on a few different projects that have me otherwise engaged. All of them are pretty exciting, I think, although for different reasons. And I continue to blog small poems/podcasts every day over at Bud’s blog site, where he is posting daily pictures as inspiration for poetry. It’s been a lot of fun and challenging, too. The poems are pretty rough but I am enjoying the ideas running through them and it is fascinating to think about photos as inspiration for writing.

This past weekend, I joined a group of other teachers in the National Writing Project to begin planning a future online space to showcase ways in which technology and writing are coming together in meaningful ways for students. This is not going to be a “how to” site, but a “why do it” and “what does it all mean” site for sharing and reflecting. The philosophy behind the concept is to design a portal and insight into projects, with reflections. The conceit is that we are “beyond the moment” of technology making an impact on learning and now we need to understand what is going on with it. The NWP is a partner with the MacArthur Foundation on this venture, so there are many exciting connections to be made with other MacArthur partners in the future.

I am working on a prototype of a resource around last year’s Many Voices for Darfur project, in which my students joined others to use technology (podcasting, images, videos, etc.) for social action. As I go back to that time, I realize now just how powerful it was for my students as they joined hundreds of others from around the world to advocate for peace in the Sudan.

Meanwhile, on a personal musical note, a friend and I are in the midst of developing an entire “song cycle” story that is a bit hard to explain, but it is a big project that tells the life of a man through the use of poetry, with songs as part of it all, as he struggles to connect with the world, falls in and out of love, and then comes to terms with life. It stretches from childhood to the end of his life. We are thinking of this as a multimedia production, although what that will look like we can’t quite say yet. It’s been a great source of inspiration to be writing the poems of this story and also, the songs. In the past two weeks, I have composed about eight new songs for this project and I can “see” the whole thing before us, even if I can’t quite articulate it yet.

So, how about you? What have you been up to?

Peace (in sharing),

Kevin

Home Movies: The Squop

I blogged a few weeks about the movie that my son was making. Well, I helped him finish it this weekend and it is a hoot. It is all about an imaginary creature called The Squop that first allegedly eats our cat and then our youngest son. He even wrote lyrics to a song based on We Three Kings for his cast of animated Pea Detectives that we all sang.

Meanwhile, we decided to set up a blog for him to showcase the movies he has been making. Check out Crazy Cartoonz.

Peace (on video),
Kevin

Teaching the New Writing (book project)

It’s been a long, long road but the book collection on writing with technology, and assessment, is about to be put out by Teachers College Press. I am a co-editor with two esteemed colleagues — both well-respected college professors (one now retired) in the field of literacy — and also I am a writer of one of the chapters (on digital picture books).

The book collection, due out in May but now advertised in TCP materials, is called Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom.

It was about 2 1/2 years ago that they approached me about the idea of the book collection and that began an interesting adventure of seeking contributors, weeding through submissions, editing and proofreading, and writing, of course. Our hope is that the book provides some focus for how to not only institute technology into a writing curriculum, but also, how one can balance the creativity of student work with state assessments (not easily, we conclude).

Cynthia Selfe provided us with this nice quote:

“One of the beauties of this collection is that it explores multimodal composition and assessment across levels of schooling, demonstrating that elementary, secondary, and collegiate teachers work best when they share understandings. Perhaps most importantly, this book reasserts a value on innovation and creativity within composition classrooms.”
Cynthia L. Selfe, Humanities Distinguished Professor, Ohio State University

I’ll write more when the publishing date is upon us.

Peace (in publication),
Kevin

Newspapers, past-present-future

This clip from CBS is an interesting piece that looks at the history of newspapers, and the advent of blogs, and wonders whether blogs are someday to follow the downward path of newspapers. The video is well worth a quick view if you have any interest in the media (old and new).


Watch CBS Videos Online
Peace (in the press),
Kevin

Slice of Life and Day in a Sentence, convergence

I am participating in Slice of Life over at Two Writing Teachers, and more than a few of those folks have wandered over here for Day in a Sentence, and perhaps some of our Day in a Sentence folks have wandered over there. It’s like a cross-pollination of writers, minus the allergic reactions.

Here are the sentences this week:

  • My stomach was growling after Pilates, so I took a detour to Angelo’s Civita Farnese on the way home from work where I devoured a delicous meatball grinder with cheese.” — Stacey, of Two Writing Teachers.
  • Just two words: Spring Break. (edited to add: AHHHhhhh….)” — Mary Lee
  • Our incredible Archive Project with the Library of Congress was rejected by the newspaper because they only do one story a year on any one classroom…grrrrrrr…..” — Paul B.
  • High School Exit Exam schedule gave me 7 hours of extra class time with my senior marketing class to perfect their business plan presentations.” — Delaine
  • Can’t wait ’til this hectic week is over and the parade steps off in Holyoke.” — Gail P.
  • i am a burnt out teacher, ready to focus more on my husband and less on school; one gives me so much, the other drains me dry.” — sara
  • Spring break has recharged me.” — Ben D.
  • I’m still waiting for Spring. Did I miss it?” — Bonnie
  • My thoughts are with the thousands of teachers receiving pink slips in my district and wondering where I’ll be next year even though I didn’t get one.” – Matt N.
  • It’s good to be out
    of the-stocks-of-no-PC,
    and network again.
    ” — Ken
  • Experienced a very enjoyable day today, in Melbourne, meeting educationalists who have just been awarded a Department of Education and Early Childhood, monetary grant, in order to experiment with using “games in education”, including wiis, secondlife, gamemaker etc.” — Anne M.
  • I spent the day motivating my students to write reflections on Stixy.com only to have them lose my whole classes learning in one heart tearing rip, don’t use Stixy is my reflection.” — Shaun
  • It’s March Break and a week away from school, and I’ve hardly spent any time at all in the Web 2.0 world. I’ve been making lots of pots of green tea, getting caught up on my reading and finishing off several knitting projects. It feels good!” — Elona
  • I must say, that this assignment/request/challenge–that of writing a Slice in one sentence–reminds me of a term at grad school, when the professor (an amazing poet of some reknown) declared that we would write poems, and not the usual free verse we’d been used to as undergrads, but rather would attempt (her words, not mine) to write them in a certain form that only she, as the professor, would choose because after all, we were there to learn, weren’t we, and at this we all nodded and took to writing in villanelles, sonnets, blank verse, Shakespeare’s favorite of iambic pentameter; we slaved over these forms, willing ourselves to be swept up! taken up! transformed by the sheer rigor of form, rather than letting our messy selves be untidy and unkempt–for form championed all, and it gave a structure for which to tackle the difficult, as did Browning in his romantic and oft-quoted sonnets–and in our puny lives we figured our difficulties would move us to write transcendent pantoums, ballads and sestinas and so eagerly did we attend to our task that we were completely surprised, that final week of class, to learn that our assignment now was to lay aside the form and write from the heart, not being restrained by either ancient or modern verbal shackles, as she felt that we had learned our lessons and now would write better for having tried, we would write better for attempting the difficult, that we would write (so she hoped–and so did we) . . . better. ~or~

    The scent of orange blossoms fills the air, competing with freesias and wisteria for my attention.” — Elizabeth

  • My week was short, but the days were long and filled with so many different types of moments: stressful, fun, contemplative, productive, counter-productive, and even a few teaching moments (when I really FELT like a teacher).” – Karen McM.
  • Spring has arrived at last with daffodils on the desk and daffy kids dancing in the halls.” — Mary F.
  • Grandbaby leaving, cousin dying in her sleep, playing for her funeral, reuniting with family from across the country=a week full of ups and downs.” — Cynthia
  • One week of vacation is never enough.” — Lisa
  • Spring Break lies ahead with nine days, all under my control, for reading, napping, writing, gardening, creating, cleaning, visiting, and whatever I choose.” — Becky
  • Nothing but angst, nothing but hunger, an english lesson and then more nothing but a headache. =]”Gary
  • My week was a thrilling blur of student teachers; 2 and a half days of literacy PD; the usual welfare issues and hormonal teenagers (not mine). Wouldn’t change a thing.” — Marg
  • Shooting video left and right (Quidditch, Webcomic Convention, Slice of Life) has me seeing the world through a viewfinder — small and focused.” — Kevin

Peace (in sharing),
Kevin

Slice of Life: remembering my great-grandmother

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)

Next week, in our final lessons around paragraph writing, my students are going to be creating short digital stories around narrative paragraph writing. Their aim is to find a physical object, and write about the strong memories attached with that object. It could be a souvenir from a vacation, something handed down from a family member, a trophy or medal from a competition, etc.

Yesterday, I began by reading Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partidge by Mem Fox, a wonderful picture book about a little child who helps an eldery friend “find” her memories by giving her a series of objects. OK, the book is for younger kids, but mine were quiet and interested and attentive as I read this one aloud to them, and talked about our own relatives who have lost their memories over time.

This led to me sharing my own narrative paragraph story about a tea cup that used to be my great-grandmother’s. It reminds me still of her, many years later.  This was first a podcast from last year, but I merged that old audio with some pictures. My students loved it and I hope it moves them to create their own wonderful narratives.

Next week, we move into Photostory for creation. This week, they find their objects, and their memories.

Here is my story:

Peace (in memories),
Kevin

Newspapers: R.I.P.?

I am a newspaper man at heart, spending 10 years as a reporter for the largest newspaper here in Western Massachusetts. I immersed myself fully in that world of journalism for so long that even now, as a teacher, it is hard to shake off. When I visit a city, my eyes always scan for local newspapers — checking out layout design, headlines, and quality. I remember the days when newspapers were pulling in profits of 10 to 20 percent and riding a wave of cash.

Those days are long gone and I have mixed feelings.

I often feel as if large newspapers abused their roles in the communities — pushing through the personal agendas of publishers (as happened regularly with our newspaper, it seemed) — and ignoring all of the tell-tale signs that the digital revolution could spell the end of their role as arbiter of the news. It’s obvious that almost every publishing company ignored those signs, as every day brings more news of a newspaper on the brink of collapse or is gone forever. Just this morning, I read and heard about the plight of the paper in San Fransciso, and yesterday, it was about the fall of a newspaper down in Bridgeport, Connecticut. And our own regional newspaper, the one where I worked, is but a skeleton of itself — decimated by staffing cuts. Even today, I buy the more local newspaper and avoid the one where I worked. I just can’t stomach it.

But I don’t want to see newspapers fail.

So I read with interest the recent cover story by Walter Isaacson in Time Magazine, where he advocates a new model for web-based newspaper content. First, he notes that the push to offer free content on the web by newspapers was wrong and short-sighted, and established in the minds of readers that all news should always be free. If there is no pay, then newspapers can’t hire investigative reporters and other quality journalists. There is room for blogging journalists in the world, but we also need full-time dogged reporters and we can’t expect them to work for no pay.

Second, Isaacson said newspapers should move towards the micro-payment model for their web-based content — charging a few cents per page for readers, which then gives people the choice to pick and choose what they want to read. And those cents, if the news is good enough, will add up, he argues. This seems to make sense to me, but I wonder if such a model will ever be adapted and, if so, will it be adapted fast enough to save newspapers.

Communities are built around connections, and local newspapers have an important role in their communities. They connect us on many different levels. I would hate to see them all disappear. Even as someone who believes in the digital world, there is still a place in my heart for the walk down to the mailbox in the morning, the scratchy feel of the paper, and the chance go find something unexpected inside the fold that starts my day, thinking.

Read Isaacson’s essay here.

Peace (in the paper),
Kevin

Current Events … as rap

This is an interesting site … The Week in Rap takes the current events and creates a video, with a rap song whose lyrics explain the news of the day. They do a pretty decent job, too, and I bet kids would be engaged to listen and watch and then think about the importance. And, of course, perhaps then they could make their own Current Events Rap song.

Here is the video about the inauguration:


The Week in Rap – Obama’s Inauguration from Week in Rap on Vimeo.

Peace (in bustin’ rhymes of the times),
Kevin