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),

When Obama Met Spidey

I write reviews of graphic novels and comics for The Graphic Classroom on a regular basis as I continue to explore the ways in which image and words can come together for our young readers and emerging writers (I am considering teaching a summer camp on graphic novels and comics — what do you think? Would kids come?).

This week, I grabbed a copy of the most recent Spider-man comic because it has new President Obama on the cover, and the review just got posted over at the Graphic Classroom. The comic is flying off the shelves at comic book stores — a signal of both the allure of Obama-mania and the desire to learn more about the man (and maybe the continued popularity of Spider-man, too)

Head over and read the review of what happens when pop culture meets the comic book world.

Peace (in comics),

Picturing Obama’s Words

I watched the Inauguration Ceremonies with my sixth graders (on as new interactive board in a colleague’s room — great big screen experience) and the discussion we had afterwards was quite interesting, as they picked up on Obama’s messages of sacrifice, willingness to lead into the future and tying the present and future to our past. A number of them also “heard” Obama directly criticizing former (wow) President Bush for his policies, although we talked about how Obama did such criticism indirectly, thus — a discussion about the power of language and persuasion.

I came across this image via Frank’s blog and it is a wonderful artistic expression of the themes of Obama’s speech. It comes from Brandy Agerbeck’s site. You can download a PDF from her site of this image (as I have done) to share with students.

And, of course, someone over at Readwriteweb popped Obama’s speech into Wordle and came out with this cloud:


Perhaps this is also a good time to re-share a song that I wrote for Obama when it was clear he was going to garner enough votes for president. It is about our expectations of him and my worry that he might succumb to Washington inertia and disappoint me.

Listen to Don’t You Go Disappointing Me

I’ve lived a long life
Oh, the stories I could tell
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

The path is paved
with empty words that they will sell
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Four years ahead of us — The future’s in our eyes
My baby’s getting old — and the world is compromised

They’d tell you anything
to fill your heart with fear
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

I’d like to take you
for a walk around my town
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Just stop and listen
to the people all around
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Four years ahead of us — The future’s in our eyes
My baby’s getting old — I hear it in his cries

You’ve got the power
to change the world that we know
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Peace (in words),


Guest Blogging at Learn Me Good

(Note: I tried posting this yesterday and something strange happened and it went out blank. So, here I go again. Kevin)
I have never tried guest blogging before. This is when someone else opens up their blog to readers, who then move from the one making the comments or doing the reading to the one who is doing the main writing on a blog. But when John Pearson, who runs the blog Learn Me Good, put out the call for guest bloggers a few weeks ago, I put my name into the mix. John wrote a fictional book called Learn Me Good about teaching and it is a funny tale.
Yesterday, John ran my guest post, which is all about the realization that I had that some students whose experience with technology were far beyond me, the so-called expert in the classroom. I came to understand the techno-lives of some of my students is richer than I had thought. The post is called “Who’s the Expert, Anyway?” and it also notes how the story later helped me think about my webcomic, Boolean Squared.
John goes by the handle, Mr. Teacher, and now I wonder if his book wasn’t in the back of my head as I created the character of Mr. Teach. Hmmm. (Shhh. Don’t tell John.)
Peace (in the guest house),
PS — John also writes a column called Mr. Teacher for Education.Com that is worth a read.

Postrank says …

Last week, I jumped over to a site called PostRank, which puts the most “clicked” posts from a blog in order. The method is supposed to identify which posts on a blog are getting read and used the most. Here is what popped out when I plugged in my blog:

A few of the posts are from the start of this school year but I note that my song about Obama not disappointing us is there in the mix, too.

Peace (in a hierarchy of clicks),

Snow … in six words

Sometimes, you stumble upon interesting things in the networked world. A few days ago, I noticed on Twitter that @roswellgirl was seeking collaborators from her various wired networks for a collaborative Google Presentations project on the concept of snow. Using a photograph, participants added a slide to her presentation, write a six word narrative about snow, and passed the show on to the next person.

How could I resist?

On this day, with sleet and freezing rain descending upon us, I decided to open up the screen of our window in the dining room and take a shot of an old and decaying snowman (featured on PhotoFridays a few weeks ago), and then added six words about the fate of snowmen when the freezing rain arrives.

I believe that the project is still open for contributors (email Martha at t56linc(at)gmail(dot)com to get invited into the Google Docs presentation).

Here is a direct link to the presentation (I had trouble embedding the presentation here — it kept doing strange things to my blog). Here is my picture:

And my sentence was: Sloppy snowfall means death to snowmen

Peace (in pictures),

Dave Eggers says … Get Engaged

Here is another great video from the TED conference. It is a talk by Dave Eggers, whose writing both inspires me and sometimes frustrates me, but I am always willing to dive in with Eggers and see where he will take me as a reader (and if you have not read What is the What, you should … one of the best books about the Lost Boys of Sudan I have ever read).

In this talk, Eggers discusses his project for young writers, called 826 Valencia that is spreading into many cities in the country. I also want to push the Non-Required Reading collection that Eggers and a group of high school students pull together and publish every year. I am always anxious for the collection to come out — knowing that treasures that will be within — and then I am told by my wife to wait until the holidays and not buy it EARLY (thus, thwarting the elves).

I love this quote about Eggers’ work in Time Magazine:

“Many writers, having written a first best-seller, might see it as a nice way to start a career. He started a movement instead.” — Time

In thinking of ways to engage young people in the art of creativity, Eggers’ talk here is both humorous and also insightful as he meets them on their own level (I mean, a storefront that is a pirate booty store … how can one resist?). And his website — Once Upon a School — is another way to engage adults in helping to improve schools in their community.

Peace (in inspiration),

What the Heck Happened …

A little 2008 retrospective and belly-button gazing here …

2008 was my year of comics and graphic novels, I guess. Not only did I start writing reviews for The Graphic Classroom (thanks, Chris!) and began getting a boatload of incredibly interesting graphic books to read and think about, but I plunged my way into a new genre: comics. It occurred so suddenly over the summer. I realized that I wanted to make a webcomic about kids, teaching and technology. The result has been Boolean Squared, which runs twice a week on the website of our large daily newspaper and then I collect them for a website that I created. I don’t know if I will keep the comic running beyond the end of this school year. Is one year enough? Meanwhile, I also took part in the 24 Hour Comic Event, with my son, and created a graphic story about my relationship with my brother, followed up by another graphic story about my own political leanings over the years. I wish my artistic skills were better but I am intrigued by the concept of the graphic novel, to be sure. (see my Comic site and my Boolean Squared site)

I was honored to be a presenter at a number of conferences this year, mostly through the National Writing Project. I gave a keynote address out in Missouri on Writing in an Online World, and then worked with my good friend, Mary, on a presentation around digital books and stories for a writing assessment conference, and then presented on the writing process of digital storytelling with another NWP colleague at the NWP Annual Conference. In my role with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, I even helped organize a Technology Across the Curriculum Conference at my school. I still find it hard to believe that people want to hear me talk. But I find that giving a presentation allows me to reflect a bit deeper on my own practices. (See my workshop website). Meanwhile, the collaborations within those networks continues, as Bonnie and I have some grand plans for the coming year (crossing fingers on a possible grant) that will help keep teachers connected and engaged as writers and as professionals.

My band, The Sofa Kings, continues to survive, but we are feeling a bit directionless right now. I wrote a faire number of songs this year for the band and for myself, and that part of my life — the creative process — remains very important to me. There is something special about writing a song for me — sometimes the threads just come together and it feels …. right. I was honored to have a song that I wrote become part of our church pageant, and even more honored when some folks there said they would like to use my song each Christmas Eve as part of the service where we all come together to light candles and hold hands and become a community. That is the power of song. I had hoped that this would be the year that The Sofa Kings would release our CD that we recorded last year, but that didn’t happen due to a number of reasons and those tracks (many of which I wrote or co-wrote) now sit in the digital dustbin, collecting … digital dust. I won’t forget them, however. But what to do with them remains a conundrum.

I found Twitter this year and it has been … interesting. The quick writing suits me fine. I like to collect and shout in short bursts, I guess. But just as important, Twitter has tied me to many wonderful educators and others who share resources, connect with others and find ways to expand the concept of the learning networks that inform our teaching.

The Day in a Sentence keeps on chugging along and I had much help this year — including much of the summer, when a host of folks took it over for me — in keeping it alive. There are now more than 100 folks on my Day in a Sentence email list, which amazes me, and I am always thankful for people who spend a moment to reflect and share out. (warning: a call for Year in a Sentence will be forthcoming). I often feel as if the Day in a Sentence has tentacles that reach out and connect people in different ways. I guess that is why they call it the Web, right?

I moved into the visuals, too, with Bonnie’s very cool PhotoFridays adventure, which is a group on Flickr where folks are sharing photos and comments and elements that work in tandem with writing. I find myself thinking of the world in more visual terms as a result. Photography was never my strong suit, but digital cameras make many things possible as I explore angles and points of view. One of my projects is capturing a tree in our school playground through the seasons. So simple, and yet, I am finding it very powerful. And interesting.

In the classroom, I keep moving forward with merging technology with writing in hopes that my students will become more engaged in what they are doing. This has included the Many Voices for Darfur Project, Youth Radio, the Longfellow Ten movie site, our own Electronic Pencil weblog and the exploration of tools that might allow them to move forward and in new directions. (See my posts about using Google Maps in conjunction with reading The Odyssey. Or go to the Heroic Journey site that we created).

More than anything, I am grateful for all those folks whom I have trapped inside my RSS reader for their wisdom, explorations, reflections and connections.  I learn so much from them. (And I even got an article published about my RSS habits via the National Writing Project.)

To all of you who stop here and read and comment — I thank you and I want to wish you: Happy New Year.

Peace (in 2009),