What my tagline means ….

Long ago, when I first started this blog, I added a tagline quote from Charlie Parker. I thought carefully about that tagline and wanted it to capture the concept that this would be a place where I would explore the intersections of writing and technology myself so that I could consider the implications for my students in the classroom.

Thus: “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”

Yesterday, I was asked by my friend Christina to explain what that tagline means. It is going to be used for a book by the National Writing Project on the topic of digital writing in the classroom (exciting!) and it only took me a few minutes to write out my response. The response came quick because I think about this idea all time when I am tinkering and connecting and doing my odds and ends on this blog.

Here is what I wrote to her:

This quote means a lot to me because it captures the concept that you have live the world in order to understand it. As teachers, we don’t often spend enough time exploring technology and writing ourselves before bringing it into the classroom. But I would argue that this kind of exploration is the key to understanding the possibilities of learning and critical thinking of our students.

I am also a saxophone player and as a kid, Charlie Parker was a musician that I idolized (not for his drug use, which I learned about later). His focus on his own vision of music and his creativity and imagination, and the way he brought the world into his music and his music into the world, touched something in me in a way that has remained with me until this day. My friends had pictures of athletes and rock and rollers on their walls; I had Bird.

A few years ago, at the Hudson Valley Writing Project, I sat in on a session where folks were using Photostory to create visual poems. I drove home that day with my own poem for Charlie Parker in my head and when I got home, I created this:

Peace (in what it all means),

Jim Henson and the Muppets on Display

I love the creativity of the late Jim Henson. His work transformed entertainment for young people (and their parents) in ways that still affect us today. He knew you didn’t need to talk to down to kids. You needed to reach them in meaningful ways using powerful characters, sense of humor and lessons that did not hit you over the head (unless you were being chased by the Swedish Chef). Puppets provided the outlet for Henson and his crew, and that energy is something I try to bring to my classroom of young writers and performers when we do our own puppet unit each year (see the Puppet Website from this year).
I found this neat video that I needed to share:

Peace (without strings),

The New Dog, Duke

We got ourselves a new dog. Some of you may remember that we put down our old dog, Bella, about 18 months ago and we have pined for a new one since then. So, we “rescued” this lab/hound mix and he is such a sweetheart. His name is “Duke” and he is about 9 months old. The boys just love him and he is loving them right back.

Peace (in dogs),

PS — this is my submission to the Photofridays project for this week. Come join us!

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),


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),

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),

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),

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),