App Review: Hyperlapse

It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of Facebook and Instragram, mostly due to Zuckerberg and company’s shifting feet on privacy issues. But a new video creation app put out last week under the Instagram umbrella (but it is its own app) called Hyperlapse is pretty nifty. (and it does not seem to have any place for privacy invasions, other than what you might film as video).

The free app allows you to easily shoot a scene that then gets converted into a timelapse video. The controls are simple to use and you have a few options when you are done around speeding it up or slowing it down, and then saving it to your device or sharing it to, eh, Instragram or Facebook. Projects don’t save in the app, as far as I can tell, so when you are done, you are done. It sort of feels like a neat cousin to Vine (but don’t tell Twitter I said that).

(don’t blink … it’s over before you know it)

I’m still thinking about how to use Hyperlapse more, but here, I composed a shot of a ceiling fan, from below, and I think it looks pretty artistic. I’m wondering if I can get a shot of my son playing baseball …

Peace (in the app),


Time to Unplug for August (my blog vacation)

It’s that time of year when I need to pull back from blogging and some other virtual writing, so this space will be nice and quiet for the rest of August. Along with some much-anticipated family vacation time, I will be doing some prep work for professional development I am facilitating and finally getting a chance to think about my keynote for the K12 Online Conference. Basically, it’s a breather.

See you in a few weeks!

Peace (in the silence),

In the News: Me, the teacher/writer

MassLive Article
The regional newspaper (for which I once worked as a journalist in my life before teaching) did a feature story on my role as a contributing writer for the collection, Teaching with Heart. I tried to raise the role of teacher advocacy in the interview, as best as I could, and I hope the message may resonate. The collection, by the way, is fantastic, with short essays by dozens of educators writing about poems that are important to them.

Read the article and check out the book (be sure to use the discount code at the bottom of the article)

Peace (on the page),

Children of the Screen: Reading Offline vs Online

Offline vs Online Reading Skills
A conversation with some friends had me sharing out an old piece I had written about online reading comprehension. Much of what I learned about how kids read with screens comes from the folks at the New Literacies Institute (some of whom are still in my orbit — Ian and Greg). In that article, I had created this chart with help of other folks through some crowdsourcing, and mostly, the chart still holds up.

You can read the piece over at the Learn NC site.

I’d also be remiss not to share out a few of my webcomics that I had done around this theme of “children of the screen” when I was writing Boolean Squared. (It’s a bit dated, as you can tell from the reference to Apple still developing an ereader, which became the iPad. Was it really that long ago that I was writing this BS?)

Peace (on the screen),

Where ‘Dogtrax’ Came From

(my first dog, Bella)Bella headshot

The other day, a friend on Twitter posed the question of where my moniker, Dogtrax, came from. Actually, Maha Bali was riffing on the fact that Alan Levine, whose work with #ds106 is crazy fun, and I both have dog-related nicknames (he is Cogdog and I am Dogtrax). She wondered if we had some connections to each other (we don’t, other than #ds106) and what the story was.

I played it for humor, as if I were trying not to give away some grand secret. But then Alan shared out one of his very first blog posts, in which he explained where Cogdog came from. That made me feel as if my diversions to Maha’s questions weren’t warranted, so I told her I would search my blog for a post in which I explain my name.

I guess I never wrote it, so here it is.

Where Dogtrax Came From

The nickname Dogtrax is a variation of a nickname I had a child. I grew up in an apartment complex with lots of kids, and we would gather to play sports most afternoons and most weekends in the grassy field near the side of the apartment building. Baseball in spring; soccer in the fall; and football (American football) right into the cold months of winter. We had a whole range of ages, so little kids would be in the huddle with older ones, and usually, someone went home hurt during the games. It was just the way of the world.

A good friend of mine was a star athlete and he excelled in neighborhood football. Me? Not so much. But I was big for my age, so I could block whenever my quarterback friend wanted to run down the field. I should mention here that I have/had red hair (“had” being the fact of life of getting older), and there is a football play called Red Dog, which my friend liked to call when he wanted to run for a touchdown with me blocking in front of him.

Thus, my nickname for a long stretch of time as a kid in our neighborhood was Red Dog. Interestingly, nobody outside of our block called me that. It was a real name connection to where I lived at the time.

Cut to college, where my drinking buddies and I were talking about childhood memories and nicknames, and I told the story above of the football field, so my friends in college began to call me Red Dog again, and then they later dropped the Red to leave just the Dog (a word which later became pop culture slang for friend, as in Dawg. We take no credit for that. Just saying.)

Which leads us to Dogtrax. Its origins are in my very first email address I ever created — too many years ago to now even count — and a little music machine. Around the same time as I was discovering email (this must be the early 1990s), I was using a Tascam four-track recorder to record and produce some original music, and in the vein of feeling “professional,” if only for myself, I took to labeling my tapes (hand-delivered to friends) as being created by Dogtrax Productions (the trax being in reference to “tracks” of music. X sounded cool, but now it is overused, right?)

When I needed to create an email username, I went with Dogtrax@xxxx, and I have stuck with it ever since as I have moved email hosts and moved into Twitter, etc. I don’t really think about it much until someone like Maha asks me or someone at a conference says “Oh, you’re Dogtrax.” Actually, that makes me feel sort of foolish in the moment. “Eh, yes, but I am Kevin.”

Even as the world has shifted more towards open names in webspaces, I still fall back on my Dogtrax moniker, as sort of a touchstone of childhood and young adult memories, and a bit of a veil of identity, too (now completely gone as I write this). The name has guided my avatar creation over the years, too, to some degree (see an earlier post here about my shifting avatars). I realize, as I write this, that Dogtrax is my anchor in shifting spaces, an identity that has stayed constant over the years as my presence in different networks and communities has come and gone.

It’s interesting, too, that the Internet world is overrun with LOL Cats, and us dog-related identity folks (like Alan and I) often find humorous ways to push back against the feline presences in our feeds. When we wag our tails, it means we’re happy, by the way.

And that is the origin story of Dogtrax.

Duke(my current dog, Duke)
Peace (in history),

If It’s Not on the Web, Does a School Exist?

I’ve had the oddest experience lately with my sons’ school district (where I live but don’t teach). The other day, I was trying to find some information about one of my boys’ teachers, and I could not remember their email. So I went to search for the school district website.

Nothing came up.

I thought for sure it must be me, using the wrong search queries. So I tinkered with words to modify the search. I went very specific with my terms. I even waited a few days and tried again.

Nothing came up.

It was as if the school district had been yanked off the Web. I went to our city website and searched for a link to the School Department.


I scratched my head. Later in the week, my wife came downstairs, clearly frustrated, because she was trying to email my high school son’s guidance counselor to talk about his junior year. She had been searching and searching and searching for the high school website for 30 minutes.

Nothing came up.

I’m baffled on a few levels. First, I suspect that the school must have done some upgrade to its web presence that has completely taken it off the grid (maybe a new Google “Right to Be Left Alone” experiment?) at a time when schools need to do more to reach out to parents. But where is the site? And, second, ¬†I find it interesting that, as a parent, I really do expect our community schools to have at least some sort of presence on the web so that information is available. I want information, now.

I’m assuming this disappearance is only temporary. The school is still there (or so my son tells me …) and my wife cobbled together an email address from some older email archives. But still, it should not be this difficult to find a school, right?

Peace (on the web),

Cultural Contexts: The Strangeness of Slender Man

You know how, every now and then, you realize that kids have been talking about something you think you know about — usually from making some assumptions of context of their speech– and then a kernel of information floats by, and you realize, Oh, THAT’s what they are talking about!

This week, I learned about Slender Man. But it turns out, references to Slender Man have been in the air all year, particularly when my sixth graders have used our BitStrip Webcomic site. A few students have created faceless characters, called them some version of Slender Man, and I just assumed they were tinkering with the avatar creator’s advanced tools, and that the name described the characters they had created (no eyes, long face, long thin body). One student even wrote his expository writing piece around how to make a Slender Man in Bitstrips, and demonstrated how to create the character in front of the class.

I thought it was odd, but I honestly didn’t think much more of it.

What I didn’t realize is that Slender Man is one of those cultural touchstones of youth — a meme gone viral whose origins are a bit murky but whose presence in fan fiction and app games and other elements of social media. ¬†Slender Man is a mysterious figure that spooks and stalks children. Me? I was clueless about Slender Man, until I opened up my New York Times yesterday and read a piece about two girls who killed another as a way to prove themselves worth to a Slender Man they imagined was real and lurking in the shadows of their lives. Or something like that.

So, realizing the connection to the expository piece from a few days earlier, I turned to my 13 year old son, and asked, “Who’s Slender Man?” and got a full overview of Slender Man’s origins that matched pretty closely to some research I did online later on in the night. Know Your Meme has a good overview of the Slender Man story. When he asked why I was asking, and I told him about the story of the girls, he shook his head, and said,” That’s tragically stupid.”

Uncovering Slender Man is another reminder that cultural information often flows beneath the surface of our lives, as teachers and as parents. You don’t know what you don’t know until you find out what you didn’t know. Now I know Slender Man, but what else don’t I know?

Peace (in the information),