Vote for Blogs

If you want to find some good blogging, you can’t go wrong by checking out this list and casting your vote for some of the best educational blogs out there. This site is the home of the Edublog Awards for 2006 and, if you are anything like me, you’ll be stealing some ideas left and right. And I would like to put in a plug for Teachers Teaching Teachers, which is a wonderful venture to have teachers talking and podcasting and writing about their work in the classroom. It is a collaborative venture all around and well worth your attention.

Head to the Edublogs Award Site and cast your vote!

Peace,
Kevin

Innocent Boy

I recently discovered Photo Story software by Microsoft and have been tinkering with it as a real alternative to MovieMaker as a digital storytelling device. It seems simple to use, has some built-in music features and allows you to get the Ken Burns effect with relatively short learning curve.

As an experiment, I created two stories: One is about my childhood, using old pictures that I converted to digital by using my digital camera to take pictures of pictures and the other story is about my three young sons.

I also recorded a song I wrote about my kids called Innocent Boy ( I used Audacity, so the quality is OK but not great) and inserted that song into the digital story as background music. The results were pretty nice, I have to say, and I can see introducing Photo Story to my sixth graders later this year (they are already tinkering with MovieMaker).

You can listen to my song, Innocent Boy song

Peace (in pictures),
Kevin

Created in Darkness … lists from McSweeney

We all need to laugh … so here are some excerpts from the lists that end of the very funny collection of funny stuff from McSweeney’s Created in Darkness By Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney’s Humor Category:

Less Popular Board Games (by Neil Chamberlain)

  • Chute and Chute
  • Slumlord
  • Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Spouses
  • Tax Cheat
  • Cannibal Adventure
  • Pet Rock Divorce Court
  • Desperation

School Yard Games for Unpopular Children (by Gren Knauss)

  • Hide and Be Lonely
  • Teeter
  • Goose Goose Goose
  • Kick the Can, over and Over Again, Angrily
  • Very Easy Tag

Phrases That Have Never Been Uttered in Human History (by Marshall Sella)

  • Look out, God — behind you!
  • The New World has that New World smell
  • Yummy plague!
  • Let the ant-shaving begin!

Buy the book! It will have you chuckling for days! (or visit the List Website for new and exciting lists!)

Peace,
Kevin

Comics, again

I know I am on a Comic Strip kick lately and I can’t explain it, but the artist (Tim Rickard) who does the strip called Bewster Rocket: Space Guy (it makes fun of the whole sci-fi genre, along the lines of Futurama) is doing something very interesting with the storyline. The main character, a goofball Brewster, has been sent into a Third Dimension — the Comic Page.

The artist superimposes Brewster “outside” of the story narrative and comic boxes and the character is both observing the storyline and commenting on the comic characters that he “see” in the other comic strips around him. It is very funny, in a post-modern kind of way.

(from http://www.comicspage.com/brewster/brewster.html)

Peace (in the third dimension),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Boy Versus Jacket — Dec. 2006

This is another poem in my effort to write and publish at least one poem every month for an entire year. This particular poem was inspired by watching my youngest son struggle to get his jacket on one day (poor kid).

Boy Versus Jacket
December 2006

Anger
lights up his face
his arm struggling against the suffocating fabric
as the seamless entry shifts, disappears, shifts, reappears, shifts, disappears again,
so he turns on me
as if I were the one casting some invisible net all around him
– a sinister Spiderman of a sort–
confounding his efforts in an premeditated move
to listen to him scream.

If only he knew …

I watch helpless as he drops like a rock
prone horizontal to the ground,
legs kicking with a power all out of proportion to his age,
the wail of anguish suddenly pulsating up from his chest
out through his lips, and right into my brain.

Meanwhile, his sworn enemy – the winter jacket – waits on the ground
patiently – waiting for another round against the boy
and already silently declaring victory.

Listen to me read Boy Versus Jacket Boy Versus Jacket

You can also read and listen to the other poems in this series.

Peace (with poetry),
Kevin

The Genres of Superheroes and Playing Cards

My two older sons (eight years old and six years old) got into a superhero kick this weekend and they began making a ton of Superhero trading cards based on our family. What was interesting to me is how closely they figured out both the genre of superheroes (they all have a strength and a weakness, and an alias) and playing cards (complete with a picture on one side and some stats and info on the other). I wonder what kind of cards my students would make in writing class? (hmmm)

superdad

Here are some of our Superhero Family stats:

Name: SuperDad (who carried a guitar as a weapon)
Power: Playing anymusical instrument
Weakness: Having his instrument destroyed
Team: Band

Name: SuperMom (whose picture shows her having about 6 arms)
Power: To make 1,000,000 suppers at once
Weakness: A messy room

Name: SuperBella (our dog)
Power: To run faster than light
Weakness: Taking a bath

Name: SuperColtrane (our cat)
Power: To scratch
Weakness: Not being let in the house in the morning

Peace (through the use of superpowers),
Kevin

Traveling in our Town

This is a project my sixth graders did in collaboration with our school librarian and the Youth Radio project. My students reflected on what makes our town special for them and then they worked to profile local businesses and areas of interest for a travel brochure. I then handed off my MP3 player to a student and asked him to interview his classmates as podcast, and then we converted that into a videocast.

 

[youtube]StEhv0m0sYE[/youtube]

Peace,
Kevin

 

The Math Wars: Oh No!

An editorial column in Time Magazine by Claudia Wallis about the emerging Math Wars in this country resonated with me, as our school district is in the midst of this battle raging in the classrooms and in the minds of our students.

Walls notes that, in a move that eerily echoes the whole language-phonics debate of the 1980s, educators and administrators, and government officials, are beginning to toss out the idea of creative and critical mathematical thinking skills (what Wallis calls “fuzzy math”) in favor of more rote learning and memorization of facts. This confusion over direction of a national math curriculum has led textbook publishers to packing their books with tons and tons of learning objectives to be covered over the span of a year … with impossible results for both teachers and students.

In my school district, a group of teachers spent years meeting and discussing and formulating an approach that balanced creative thinking and basic math facts, only to have the central office do a top-down move that is shifting us towards textbook-centered classroom instruction (read this page, do these problems, take this quiz, move on). This shift has not been viewed as positive by many classroom teachers. But the administration is under significant pressure from our state to increase our standardized math scores and they see this as a way to solidify the curriculum across all of our schools.

Wallis urges school districts and teachers to look to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics for guidance. The NCTM has begun issuing some grade-level guidelines for math skills, and they are streamlining expectations so that one year builds upon the next.

“If the script follow the Reading Wars, what comes next will be dreary times-table recitats in unison, dull new text books that faily to inspire understanding, and drill, drill, drill much like the unhappy scenes in many of today’s ‘Reading First’ classrooms . And that would be just another kind of fiasco … Kids will learn their times tables for sure, but they will also learn to hate math.” — Wallis, Time Magazine, November 27, 2006.

Peace (in numbers and words) ,
Kevin