Another Writing Adventure: The Graphic Classroom

Who am I to pass up another call for writers?

I’ve been following the blog The Graphic Classroom as a way to get some ideas and reviews about graphic novels and comics. Chris, who runs the site, is a great resource, as he breaks down his reviews of books into tangible ways, including the potential use for teachers in the classroom. He pays close attention to the appropriateness of language and violence, giving teachers a critical heads-up that I always appreciated.

Not long ago, he asked if anyone else wanted to review books with him. I figured that since I already read a lot of graphic novels and since I have begun using them in the classroom (but only in a minimal way so far), it might be a nice way to delve a bit deeper. I am hoping to go deeper with graphic novels next year but I haven’t quite figured out how. Maybe reading and analyzing more novels will be helpful.

And so, here I am:

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You can read my first review of a comic called The Dreamland Chronicles over at the Graphic Classroom (and another one all ready about Radio: An Illustrated Guide, which is a look inside the production of This American Life).

Chris is still looking for other writers. There is no pay involved but he can hook you up from time to time with books to review from the publishers. And you get to be part of a community of folks who are thinking of this popular genre for kids for classroom use.

As an aside: the city where I live was home to the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and they both lived here for many years during the high points of that comic and then television show and then movies, merchandise, etc. One of the men, Kevin Eastman, invested some money in our downtown and created the Words and Picture Museum. It was a fun place, with three floors dedicated to the art of the comic book. The museum only stayed open for two years, but I used to bring my little guys in there. The kids were too small to know what it was, but they liked the colors and the artwork, and the winding staircase. These days, my older son, in particular, is into comics of all genres and it would be nice to have the option of seeing comics in a museum. However, the museum is just online and it doesn’t seem to be much to talk about, in my opinion.

Peace (in art and words),

Leadership Day 2008

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Today, Scott McLeod launches the second annual Leadership Day as a way for teachers and educational bloggers to offer some advice to administrators — principals and superintendents and others who might be wondering where this Web 2.0 and technology fits in their school. McLead notes that many administrators don’t quite understand the scope of the digital world and that we, the teachers and others, have a responsibility to help administrators understand what is happening out here.

I have a few points of advice that I would make:

  • Break Down the Walls — All too often, the technology specialist is removed from the classroom experience. It’s true that schools need someone who can troubleshoot, but teachers need someone who can come in, work with them on technology integration into the curriculum and be a partner in engaging students. This idea of a wall between the tech and the teacher is a recurring theme in conversations with teachers that I work with.
  • Let Them Play — Give teachers time to play around with new tools. It’s not wasted time. It is during this exploration process that so many teachers not only come to understand how an application might be used, but also how it might be used in unintended ways. If you shove an application at someone without time to explore, you won’t get anywhere.
  • Ask the Students — Students have a pretty decent knowledge base about technology. They just don’t know how to use it for learning. If we can make students our partners, and let them become leaders of other students, then they not only advance forward with the curriculum but also with crucial life skills in leadership and discovery.
  • Don’t Block the World — I understand the need for filters. There is a lot of junk out there. But use some judgments. If a teacher can connect with students from around the world, then open up your filters for that kind of collaboration.

I am sure others have more ideas, but those are some thoughts off the top of my head. We depend on our administrators for leadership and that means having an open mind about possibilities that have not yet become reality.

I made this quick ToonDoo to lighten things up a bit:

And this comic I created a few weeks ago for Web 2.0 Wednesday that seems appropriate, too:

If you have advice, be sure to head over to Scott’s Blog (Dangerously Irrelevant) and post a comment, or create your own blog post on the topic.

Peace (in the schools),

Ants: An Angry Poem

Darn those pesky little ants. They’ve found our home. My only response was to write a poem about them.

Ants — A Tirade
(listen to the poem)

The ants invade
these days
in waves
and my brain is just crazed
with ways to contain them —
stop them
although, I’m afraid,
that that can of Raid is no longer part of
our chemical brigade
and while finger-crunching-kids may play
the role of the Giant,
it remains a fact that more and more ants
are coming in out of the shade
to stay
and our only hope
is to sweep the crumbs from the counter tops
Be gone, ants,
I’ll make you pay with another of my
terrible, awful, insubstantial

Peace (in little things),

Planting Some Day in a Sentence Technoseeds

The Day in a Sentence is on the move again. This time, we hope you will follow the bread crumbs over to Barb K.’s blog called TechnoSeeds. Barbara is part of the National Writing Project and she was also a participant in last year’s Collaborative ABC Movie Project. She is working with some teachers this week and we hope they will become interested in Day in a Sentence and join our growing community of writers.

Here is how it works:

  • Head over to Barb’s Technoseeds Blog
  • Boil down your day or your week into a single thoughtful sentence
  • Use the comment feature on Barb’s Blog to post your sentence
  • Consider sending a photo or a link to a photo to Barb (her optional twist this week)
  • Barb will compile and publish all of the submissions over the weekend
  • That’s about it

I was happy that so many people responded to my call for Guest Hosts of Day in a Sentence and so over the next few weeks, you will be shown some fine blogs and meet some fine people as part of this weekly venture. Feel free to explore the sites and engage in other conversations while you are there at the guest blog, too. I am sure they would love that.

Peace (in words),

Using YouTube Annotation: Beware of the Head!

I was messing around with claymation today on a laptop that we will be using for next week’s claymation camp (and have some glitches that have me stressed out) and I created this short little claymation movie, using clay and legos and other assorted toys.

But I was interested in using the new YouTube Annotation feature, which allows you to add to text to videos as overlays. It seems perfect for claymation movies where you don’t necessarily want to add an audio narration, and I didn’t. I created a quick soundtrack with my Super Dooper Music Looper software, uploaded and added the words right there in YouTube.

It’s pretty neat, I think.  I am embedding the claymation movie, but the embedded version won’t have the narration annotations. You need to go to the Beware of the Head video at YouTube to see the words on the video itself.

The whole process took me about an hour, but I have done enough stop-motion to get into the swing of things pretty quick. I like this little demented movie, though. The set looks cool, and the head — well, the head without a body is a horror story classic, don’t you think?

Peace (in stopmotion),

Slice of Life, Weekly Challenge, Chapter 14

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

You would think that the makers of a movie that has at its center the preservation of the Earth’s ecosystem would be more attuned to the concept of “junk.” But if you, like me, were one of the folks who saw Wall*E this opening weekend, you too probably got handed a plastic bag with a bunch of advertising crap (known as schwag in the industry) from the Disney/Pixar company.

A neighbor of ours warned me about this, and he may even write a letter to the newspaper editor about it, but I was still surprised to find myself with a throw-away watch with a blue plastic rubber band (sort of like Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong bracelets but without the meaning of giving and awareness), some tattoos and other little cards advertising yet another upcoming Disney movie about dogs.

The movie itself was fantastic and it was a nice summer outing with my three boys on a hot summer day. Much of the movie is without dialogue but the animation and action, and just pure scope of the screen, held us all in rapt attention as we watched the little robot single-handedly cleaning up the junkpile known as Earth falls in love with a robot probe looking for signs of life on the planet. There’s a real message here about taking care of the planet and about avoiding over-reliance on machines to run our lives. Plus, Wall*E is a cutie-pie.

So why did Disney pass out a handful of trash to everyone?

Clearly, the marketing department forgot to talk to the creative talent or never watched the movie previews. It would be offensive for any movie, in my mind, but to do this during a movie about saving the environment just seems so strange and reminds us that many (but not all) movies are not really about entertainment of the audience, but about money and marketing power of the corporations.

Peace (in the dark),

Memoir Mondays: Down at the Bog

This is part of a project at Two Writing Teachers

We used to have epic sports games in my neighborhood. We were lucky, I suppose, in that we had a critical mass of kids. It was not difficult at all to gather up a good eight to ten kids ready to hit the baseball, or grab a football, or toss a Frisbee at a moment’s notice, and the day would then be consumed with activity. A good game of Kick the Can could last two hours on a given evening after dinner.

The apartment complex was somewhat hidden off the main road and for a few years when I was little, we even had an in-ground swimming pool. I suppose the upkeep and maintenance was too much for the owners and the pool went to seed quickly, over a short period of time. Then it became just an odd place for us to hang out as a teenagers. We’d crouch down beneath the cracked walls just a few feet from the odd-smelling green slime of the water that collected at the bottom of the pool. I think we were all surprised that no one ever drowned in there or got some exotic disease from the murky liquid that would require us to go into medical quarantine.

When the weather turned cold, we would often head out to the bog, which was a swampy area a short hike away from our apartments, through some fallow farm fields and into a wooded area. Much of it was a true bog — with thick, rich black peat moss soil that would steal a sneaker or your entire foot, if you weren’t quick or smart enough when stepping through it. The mosquitoes were vicious in the summer, as it was always wet, and the bog was full of hollowed out tree stumps that were home to a wide variety of owls. Sometimes, we would see the owls sitting in the holes, looking out at us with bewildered eyes.

In the winter, the bog was particularly beautiful. The ice and snow would create little paths through the black-soiled area, and we would jump from vegetation clump to vegetation clump in a wild game of tag. If you fell, you were in trouble from the sticky organic muck.

When it got cold enough, the water would freeze solid and there was one spot that formed a little pond, surrounded by circle of little stumps of grass. This place would become our ice hockey rink for the season. The games were played with full of abandon designed with one thing in mind: score a goal. Checking was allowed, and fights often broke out, although never anything too serious, and everything was later resolved and friendships restored as we built huge bonfires on a little island just beyond the rink from the deadwood that lay all around the bog. (As an aside: this was a neighborhood of mostly boys but some girls did stray into the games)

It sounds worse than it was.

This is the time and place where I learned how to get along with others, whether I liked them or not. It was also a time when I realized that adults don’t necessarily make the rules of the world. There is a pecking order that develops when you gather a group of kids together with no adults around and it doesn’t always come out fair or end nicely, but there are still lessons to be learned: You need to be crafty. You need to be caring. You need to be resilient. You need to find yourself.

Years later, I learned that bulldozers came into the bogs and cleaned them out to make way for some new houses. I could not believe it and drove by there once on a visit back, just to see it for myself. Sure enough, there were houses right there where our hockey rink had once been. I learned from a friend that the homes that had been built in our old bog were full of problems, including sinking foundations and flooded basements.

Hmmmm. I wonder why?

And I wonder, too, what became of those owls.

Peace (in childhood memories),

Just One More Book Review

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I have another podcast review over at Just One More Book, which is a great site for learning about picture books and loving the genre. And they are welcoming to anyone submitting their own reviews of picture books. So, go ahead: give it a try — you can send them a written review, an MP3 review or even call their special phone number and leave your review on their answering machine.

This time (which I guess is now my fifth review there), I reviewed Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco — a book that deals with the idea of books and literacy in a very interesting way. I love the ending, in particular, as the children lead the way to literacy.

Go to Just One More Book to hear my review.

Peace (in podcasts),

Six Word Reflections of Our Days

In the span of the first day that I posted a call for Six Word Days in a Sentence, my blog was hit with 20 submissions. That says something about the power of the six words and the power of the Day in a Sentence format, doesn’t it? And the words kept coming the next day … and the next. By Saturday, I had more than 30 sentences in my blog bin.

Thank you to everyone who lent us your words this week. I have been very protective of them, but now, they can be released into the world. I won’t say much this week in terms of introductions, as the six words (give or take), capture what the writers were trying to say. My own words would just jumble up the experience.

What I did decide to do, however, is to group them according to some common themes that seemed to emerge (sorry if you don’t quite agree with my categories) and then it made sense to me to create a Bubble.Us concept map, color-coded along those themes.

Here you go:

The Teachers’ Life: School

  • Graduate school projects consume my time — Amy
  • Packing up is hard to do — Stacey
  • Graduation, celebration, culmination, year-end roll. — Lynn C.
  • Language immersion camp in full swing! — Amy K.
  • Students staff vacation packing for NECC. — Cheryl
  • Waiting irritably 4 school to be done. — Lisa
  • School ends, summer arrives, SI looms. — Bonnie
  • Our hard work recognized; Thanks NYSCATE! – Sue
  • My learning binge finds new fuel. — Connie
  • Holidays, time to reflect and regroup. — Jenny
  • Lunch with colleague lifts my spirits. — Susan C.

The Teacher’s Life: Kids

  • School’s out – twenty-two books still missing. — Janice
  • Kids creating music blows me away. — Anne B.
  • It was sad to say goodbye. — Paul
  • Discovered that Wii bribery helps math — Kathryn

The Home Life

  • Thunderstorms wreak havoc on family activities. — Kevin
  • Pool installers here–kids in frenzy. — Renee (for her kids)
  • Early starting, hard working, dogwalking. Sleep. – David
  • Moving this week, wish us luck! — Michaele
  • My vacation is taken over by life. — Liza
  • Trying to fill in my taxes. – Illya
  • muggy, humid; thunderstorms approaching rapidly – cool! — Sara
  • Smocking for grandson. Raccoons finally finished! — Cynthia

The Reflective Life

  • Tomorrow, I’ll have much better luck. — George (via Flickr)
  • Distractions win out over obligations (again). — Renee (for herself)
  • At 6,000 feet elevation, priorities shift. — Jo
  • Been there, done that – now vacation – Elona

The Odds and Ends of Words

  • Led North Webster parade as Santa — Rick
  • Painted tree nurtures young girl dreams — Jane
  • Forest fires cause smoky days. — Delaine
  • Relentlessly, the smoke fills our lungs — Lynn J.
  • Gleam, glean, lean, learn, earn, yarn. — Ken
  • The medical establishment is a turn-off. — Nancy

And here is the Bubble.Us Concept Map (and a direct link because the embed box is kind of small):

Peace (in words),

A PhotoFriday Tag Galaxy

I have no idea what practical use this application might have, but TagGalaxy allows you to use tags from Flickr to create an entire world of photos. I used the photos from our collective PhotoFridays project (launched by Bonnie to great success) and, although there are not quite enough photos there yet to cover the entire TagCloud world, it was still pretty neat.

I used screenshots to capture the PhotoFridays TagCloud because I can’t find the way you might embed the actual world into a blog. But you can do it yourself. Just go to TagGalaxy, write in the tag “photofridays” into the prompt and give the world a spin. I think it will be cool to come back and do it again later this summer, when the pool of pictures gets larger.

Peace (in pictures),