Even though …

my wife is a Boston Red Sox fan, I still love her (we have a bit of a Yankees-Red Sox rivalry here in our house, in case that is not obvious.) I forgive her because she is such a wonderful mother and friend and wife. Plus, it helps that the Yankees are kicking some Red Sox butt this year.

Peace (in the comic world),

Kevin

Me, My Sax and Rev.Ives: Wonderful World

In the 1990s, I was a newspaper reporter in Western Massachusetts and for about five years, I covered the small city of Northampton. While my main “beat” was education, I also became the secondary city reporter for some events. It was during my time there that I kept running into the Rev. Peter Ives, of the First Churches. When there were issues of domestic violence, he was there to talk through and push for changes. When there were racial issues, he was one of the voices calling for restraint, even in the midst of protest. He opened up the church sanctuary for all kinds of community events, although many were of the social justice nature. I came to respect and admire Rev.  Ives, and his wife, over the years for their outspoken nature balanced with true compassion.

Flash forward a few years, and my wife and I are having our second son. My wife, who grew up in a church-going household, was seeking a religious home, and she chose the First Churches for our family. I was reconnected with Peter Ives and his wife, Jenny, on another level, and again, I was amazed at how open and supportive they were/are to everyone, no matter their religious, race, sexuality, whatever. Although I am not religious, I attend church periodically, and I am always blown away by Peter’s sermons — they are poetic, touching and full of meaning. He takes gospel, weaves it in with world events and makes the issues personal. Peter has always connected with my children, too, on a personal and spiritual level, and they respect him. It helps that he organizes three fun family football games a year, too.

Well, Peter is retiring from the ministry, and yesterday, the church service centered on Peter’s years as a teaching minister, and how he has helped guide 30 people over 30 years into religious leadership. As part of that celebration, I was honored to be asked to join our little church jazz band and choir for a jazzy rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” which seems appropriate for Peter and Jenny, as they seek to make the world a better place.

Peace (in the world),
Kevin

Computers in their Pockets

At my school, if we see a cell phone, we are supposed to take it away. Then, we give it to the principal, who has to call the parents come in for it. I have to admit, I have never taken a cell phone or mobile device from a student, but I have had discussions with students about keeping it out of my view and do not use it during school.

Isn’t that odd? Here I am, trying to show a path into technology and composing for my students, and I don’t allow them to use the single most important piece of technology many of them carry around with them all day long.

The graph above comes from a report just out from the Pew Internet & Family Life Project (these folks needs a huge round of applause for their work in making data available) around teens and their cell phones, particularly around text messaging.

Some of the findings in the report, which is entitled Teens and Mobile Phones:

  • Half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month, and one in three send more than 100 texts a day, or more than 3,000 texts a month.
  • 15% of teens who are texters send more than 200 texts a day, or more than 6,000 texts a month.
  • Boys typically send and receive 30 texts a day; girls typically send and receive 80 messages per day.
  • Teen texters ages 12-13 typically send and receive 20 texts a day.
  • 14-17 year-old texters typically send and receive 60 text messages a day.
  • Older girls who text are the most active, with 14-17 year-old girls typically sending 100 or more messages a day or more than 3,000 texts a month.
  • However, while many teens are avid texters, a substantial minority are not. One-fifth of teen texters (22%) send and receive just 1-10 texts a day or 30-300 a month.

But I am fascinated by how schools are dealing with cell phones and mobile devices. Most, like mine, have antiquated notions of the “disruptions” that can be caused by the devices. Few see the mobile devices as possible tools for learning.

And that has included me, to some degree. I don’t have much experience with cell phones (mine is an old version that barely functions as a phone) but I know there is something there “there” that we should figure out. I realize there are impediments — different phones have different services and Apps; the equity and access issues; parental permissions; and more.

Still, when we think about young people writing, the cell phone has certainly become a natural slate for ideas. How do we tap that?

Peace (in the Pew),
Kevin

Writing about Glogster


An article that I wrote about using Glogster and other online postering projects (Digital posters: Composing with an Online Canvas) was published yesterday at the Learnnc website (and also, at its companion site, Instructify). I tried to show the possibilities and also, the rationale for using an online postering site.

I hope folks find it useful.

The Glog above is part of an environmental unit that we did around the reading of the novel, Flush by Carl Hiassan.

Peace (on the posters),
Kevin

More Poems with Budtheteacher

Lightning; My First Try
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kuzeytac

Bud Hunt, aka Bud the Teacher (and Bud the Poet, and Bud the Daddy, and Bud the Bowler) has been posting some pretty interesting photographs at his blog site this month, and asking that folks be inspired and write poetry. I get up in the morning, wondering what he will have posted today, and somehow, I find a poem in the morning darkness. I like that kind of inspired writing. Some of my poems are disposable, but others could be worked on in the future. You’ll notice that I am using Vocaroo to podcast my poems, so if you want to hear me reading my writing, you can follow those links at the end of each poem.

Here are  few poems from this week that I wrote that have some potential:

My walls are crawling with sound;
echoes of the past seeping in
through the pores
of the duct tape repairs hastily made to photographs
falling to the floor as a result of the pounding
of small feet, up and down the stairs,
as if the treadmill here never ends and is always in motion.

We’ve placed our lives on top of the others who were here before us,
layering our laughter and sadness and kindness and cruelty
on top of their own: a symphony of living.

In early mornings, when no one is awake but the cat and I,
I clandestinely peel back the wood paneling to get a glimpse
of those who were here before us,
as if some secret to a long life is hidden there behind the facade —
a Chinese fortune inside the cookie shell —
yet all I ever find are uneven walls, unused nail hooks, paint splatters
and a few tattered remains of paper scratched with small indecipherable scribbles,
which I suppose is what we mostly leave behind anyway,
for those who will come after us.

http://vocaroo.com/?media=vP2WU3VIxbyL13JXZ

Dear computer,
Oh, how you have served me well these long mornings
as I have tapped away in near silence to the musings
of my mind.
I forgive you the re-starts, the pauses, the endless rebooting and even the lost files:
everyone has their difficulties and my fingers often run too fast
even for me.
You did not panic when the little green XO came into the house,
nor did you bat an eyelash when the laptop arrived like some long-distant cousin.
The open source Netbook did not scare you
and you were silent as a star as I breathed out excitement
about the Macbook at school.
The iTouch no doubt sent a quiver down your motherboard,
but it, too, has its place, in another room,
docked and loaded with music and games and almost out of sight,
out of mind.
Here, with you, I still come to write.
Here, with you, I still navigate the world.
Here with you, I remain.
But I wonder …. will you still be here another year
or are you soon to be gone,
replaced with what the hipsters and hypersters all say will change the world?
I sense panic in your font, old friend, and can only say that we all adapt
when the price is low enough and the interest, great enough.
I remain, still stationary yours,
Me.

http://vocaroo.com/?media=vS2Cv1e3T4sMkxijK

your movements
bewitch me:

the way you shift on your toes
when you walk down the hallway
makes me feel as if the entire world
has tilted on its axis

the way you hold your pen
as your write your notes
in swirling, romantic lines as if being played
to rhythmic salsa

the way you bend down to talk
to him with eyes wide open and full of interest
in all things Star Wars, Ninja Turtles and the distance
between Earth and Sun

the way you can sit so quietly
and just think

while my mind rumbles with love
over these small moments
that make up the day.

http://vocaroo.com/?media=vjQT0e98dEv205F5b

Why is it that every time you whisper,
I see lightning
flashing across the horizon
with sharp lines snapping and crackling;
but whenever I hear myself talk,
I only hear thunder
rumbling deep inside
on inaudible frequencies that shimmer and fade.

http://vocaroo.com/?media=vPjPUhNgYa8CGl6vn

Come join us for writing poems over at Bud’s blog. Come on. You can do it, too.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin

Video: Kids Talk About Bullying

Our local newspaper — The Daily Hampshire Gazette — ran an outstanding piece this morning (and another one coming on Monday) in which they convened a cross-section of kids to talk about bullying. This comes in the wake of the local high school girl who killed herself after being bullied and the district attorney pressing criminal charges against some of the kids who bullied her. (You may have heard about it on every tv news station in the world). The students in the article here are thoughtful, articulate and need to be heard by every adult.

One message that I heard loud and clear in the article is that kids feel that teachers often wait too long to address issues, acting only when the bullying has gotten big and not stopping it when it starts small. These things can snowball easily within social circles, the students note, and they feel frustrated and abandoned when teachers don’t act right away on complaints.

The newspaper shared a video of the interview session, which is worth sharing.

Peace (in the hallways),
Kevin

Tech Access in Public Libraries

A new report out (funded by the Gates Foundation) tries to quantify the impact that our library system in our country has on providing access to technology to its patrons, including those who live at or below the poverty line. If you think about it, for many, the library remains a vital spot not just for books, but also for use of computers.

The report is called “Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries” and the summary of the findings are available as a PDF online. The researchers combined phone calls, on-site interviews and web-based questions to gather their data.

Here are some of the things they found:

  • There are about 77 million users of computers and technology in public libraries, or about 45 percent of the library patron population.
  • About 44 percent of people and families living near the poverty line regularly use the library as a space for technology. (This is an important piece of information, I think, as we worry about people being left behind by the advancements in technology. Libraries may be their own access to computers.)
  • About one-fourth (25 percent) of library patrons who use the computers there are between the ages of 14 and 24, which is a huge number to consider, I think.
  • More than 32 million patrons used their library to further their education or to support educational projects with technology (homework, projects, online courses, etc.)

The report also offers up some recommendations:

  • State and local governments must push for more broadband access;
  • Businesses should work closer with libraries for job education programs;
  • Municipal libraries should forge stronger bonds with local school districts to allow more seamless flow of resources for students.

And the report notes:

Over the years, libraries have made significant investments to keep pace with digital developments, but surging demand quickly wears out equipment, taps available bandwidth, and strains library resources. As resources and services increasingly migrate online and devour greater bandwidth, more patrons will need access to fully participate in the digital age. That means libraries will require more resources, not less, to meet this growing need.

So, let’s hear it for our libraries (and librarians), whose budgets keep getting slashed and whose hours keep getting dwindled in a time when they are probably needed the most if we are to address the problems of the Digital Divide among the haves and the have-nots in this world.

Peace (in the stacks),
Kevin

Bullying and the aftermath

It’s been hard to make sense of what happened in our neighboring South Hadley where it appears now (after our district attorney levied criminal charges) that a group of popular high school kids targeted a girl from Ireland to the point where she took her own life a few months ago.

It’s sad all around, really. Sad that the girl had no concept of where to turn to for help. Sad that any kids could act that way towards another (verbal, emotional, physical abuse). Sad that this went on too long in a school where teachers should have seen the signs (I’ll withhold judgment since we really don’t know that whole story). Sad that online sites like Facebook and others were used as part of the bullying. Just sad all around.

The headlines on our local paper were blaring about the criminal charges against the high school bullies whose actions led to the death of a classmate. The charges include some counts of rape. It’s one of the only days that I consciously hid the front page of the newspaper from my own children. We’ve talked about the situation in that neighboring town, and we’ve talked about bullying (we’ve had our share of both sides of that coin here), and we’ve talked about an appropriate response. I am not putting my head in the sand, but I am not ready to talk about rape charges, either.

I noticed on Twitter that Kathy Schrock had started to compile some resources for dealing with bullying and cyberbullying issues, and I appreciated that and I wanted to share it out, too. I do talk to my students about this issue and we have some pretty far-ranging talks about how words have power, for good or bad.

This resource by Kathy comes as our state is moving towards enacting a law against bullying which is far-reaching in scope. (Kathy works on the other side of the state). I’m not sure if the law will be effective. The way to stop such action is at the moment it happens, but it may spur administrators to be more pro-active in education around the issues of bullying. Certainly the death of this girl has opened up a lot of eyes.

Cyberbulling Resources from Kathy Schrock

I hope I never see headlines like the ones I have been seeing, ever again.

Peace (please),
Kevin

The Reflective Principal

I don’t often give enough credit to my principal for allowing me a lot of freedom for many of the projects that I do with my students, but I should. Over the years, as I have had my students blog about the Darfur Crisis, or podcast with other students from around the world, or publish stopmotion movies, or use wikis, or Glogster, or whatever, he has been totally supportive.

This topic came up in a conversation the other day with some folks who are planning an inquiry research project around technology and media in the classroom, and we were talking about the constraints that many teachers have in integrating technology. I noted that I have been lucky in this regard, in that I have a principal who supports technology.

He “gets” that technology and multimedia is part of the changing landscape of learning, but he also knows that much of our staff is not quite there yet (example: our website is full of completely blank pages for teachers, even though there are volunteers willing and ready to post things for teachers, if they just give the volunteers a newsletter or note or whatever.)

We all (including him) like to joke that his use of Survey Monkey for gathering data from us is close to an addiction, but I like that he trying to use the technology himself and not just talking about it.

This morning, we received an email from the principal, in which he explains that he is going through his own reflective process as an administrator, and it occurred to him that he should gather input from us, the staff. Of course, he turned to Survey Monkey, but I think the very act of asking the staff — even if he is not required to do so — for an evaluation of his performance as our principal is admirable.

He ended his note with this: “I  will use the results to reflect and improve my
practice.”

How many of us teachers ask our students to do the same kind of evaluation for us? And what would that show, do you suppose?

Peace (in the support),
Kevin

Losing the Jabberwock

Yesterday, I took my older kids to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D, and while I continue to be impressed by the vision of Tim Burton, I wondered about the concept of using the poem “Jabberwocky” as the main narrative device for this retelling of Alice.

This is a spoiler alert, by the way. I won’t tell too much, but still, if you have not seen the movie, you may want to skip me right now.

Each year, I read Jabberwocky out loud to my sixth graders and we have a very interesting discussion about what is going on and what the bandersnatch might be and just who is the hero and why are they after the jabberwock, and how gross or cool is it to come home with the head of your foe (this usually comes down to gender).

Normally, my reading of the poem by Lewis Carroll is the first time they have encountered it, although it surely will not be the last. No more. Now, they will have Alice in their heads and come to the discussion with Tim Burton’s ideas of the poems dancing around, and I am sort of frustrated about that. It’s one last bit of imagination drained away by mass media.

I know that the poem was originally part of the Alice books, so I guess it makes some sense.

It just seems strange to have the Alice movie (by the way, I was smitten by the actress playing Alice — Mia Wasikowska) center around her discovering the vorpal sword, befriending the bandersnatch, and then slaying the jabberwock to save the white queen on what is known as Frabjous Day. I’m all for girls being the heroes, and understand Burton’s desire to make the story fresh and new, but this seemed odd to me.

Maybe I am just too critical and want to keep the possibilities of discovery of the poem to myself and my students.

Peace (in the poems),
Kevin