An Audio Remix: Making Learning Relevant


I’ve been exploring the Making Learning Relevant project from the Connected Learning Alliance and decided to tap into Popcorn Maker to create a remix of some of the podcasts and images they have been collecting. (Popcorn Maker by Webmaker is fun to use with different media but it is not yet a seamless experience in the editing process for me. They’ve made some nice changes lately — adding a media search component and the automatic citation element – and it does work smoother than it used to. Lots of potential for Popcorn Maker.)
Feel free to remix what I did, too.

Check out An Audio Remix: Making Learning Relevant

 

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

 

Picture Book Review: A Home Run for Bunny

A Home Run For Bunny

In our house, it is baseball all the time these days. All three boys play ball, and the Red Sox are always on the radio (even during the dark stretches of the losing streak that finally ended yesterday). My youngest son’s book club is reading A Home Run for Bunny, by Richard Anderson.

This story, set in 1934, tells the tale of Bunny Taliaferro, an African-American athletic standout from nearby Springfield, whose American Legion team went south to play in a national tournament, only to be confronted head-on by racism. Bunny was the only black athlete on the Springfield team, and in the tournament, and his presence sparked confrontations everywhere, from the hotel that did not want him to sleep on their beds, to the practice field where people threw garbage at him, and more.

In the end, the entire team decided to go home rather than play in the tournament, after Bunny was told he would be not be allowed on the field with the white teams. It’s a powerful moment when Bunny’s teammates, although confident they could win this tournament and move to the next level, take a stand and pack up to leave in order to support their black teammate rather than play without him.

A statue of Bunny Taliaferro now stands in one of Springfield’s parks, and the governor honored him and his teammates in a recent ceremony, noting the racism that Bunny endured during this time as an athlete and the sacrifice that his team made in choosing friendship over winning. The story is written in a removed first-person narrative, allowing the reader to see the story unfold from one of the teammates, and this is effective.

Times may have changed, even if racism is still an issue, but it is important for us to remember that even before Jackie Robinson and other pioneers who broke the race barrier, there were people like Bunny Taliaferro suffering the sting and scorn of a country still driven by hatred of skin and culture. By focusing on the team’s response to such racism, writer Richard Anderson reminds us of the goodness of people, too.

Peace (please),
Kevin

 

App Review: Adobe Voice for Digital Stories

I have to admit: the new digital storytelling app from Adobe, called Voice, is such a breeze to use that I wonder why other apps are not set up. With a clean design, clear steps and access to Creative Commons images and infographic symbols and my own pictures, Adobe Voice really raises the bar for how you can tell a story on a mobile device. I’ve been toying around with it for a few days.

Here, for example, is a book trailer that I did yesterday as my son and I finished reading Scat:

Here is one from the other day, as a promo for Making Learning Connected MOOC:

Both stories took me about 10 minutes each to make and to publish. I did not hit a single hurdle in either story. Clear commands on what to do — record your voice, add an image, choose a theme, pick a song — are easily accessible. You have to have an Adobe account to publish your story to the Web. And the story, as far as I can tell, can’t be saved natively to your mobile device, nor shared directly into YouTube or other video sharing sites. That’s too bad, but I suspect Adobe made this app free (yep, free) so that people would have to come under the Adobe umbrella.

If you are interested in Digital Storytelling, I suggest you check out Adobe Voice. For ease and design, I have not yet come across anything similar, and I can live with the drawbacks that I listed above if the trade-off is in design.

Peace (in the voice),
Kevin

Webmaker Teaching Kit: Paper Circuitry Poetry

Paper Circuitry Webmaker Activity

I’ve been meaning to try my hand at another Teaching Kit via Mozilla’s Webmaker community, and a call for kits from Teach the Web this weekend finally got me going. After mulling over some possibilities, I decided that developing a kit around paper circuitry would keep the ideas and experiences from a pilot program flowing. I am leading a workshop at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project this summer on this topic (part of a Hack the Notebook Day in July), so I want to keep what I did with my students in the front of my mind as much as possible for when I work with other teachers at our writing project.

Check out the Illuminating Poetry with Paper Circuitry kit that I created this morning. Remix as needed.

Peace (in the flow of ideas),
Kevin

Connected Learning Alliance: Art and Audio

Connected Learning Alliance
This is an intriguing ‘campaign’ that the Connected Learning Alliance has up and running. Combining podcast interviews with graphics and art capturing the spirit and ideas of Connected Learning, this project by the alliance is a nice way to dive into ideas.

Check out the Making Learning Relevant project.

I’m taking some pieces for a remix. I’ll share that out tomorrow, perhaps.

Peace (in the make),
Kevin

Using Adobe Voice: Another #CLMOOC Digital Invitation

I’ve been playing around the new app from Adobe called Voice. It’s very nifty and simple to use, with a clean design. This is how it works: you talk, you choose a visual, you publish. Bam! You’ve created a digital story. You can tinker with theme and music, if you want. Or not. Basically, it seems to have all the things I like about digital storytelling tools. Plus, it has a huge library of icons and images to draw from.
Check out the digital story invitation I made in about 10 minutes (it may have been less):

Here’s another invite to you to join the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration (eh, the CLMOOC) this summer. Sign ups are open now, and the Making and Playing begins in June (but one should always make playful things all the time, right?)

Peace (in the story),
Kevin

A Boatload of Journalistic Excellence

It’s not that there are not excellent pieces of journalism floating around the Internet. It’s that finding them can be difficult, unless that kind of task is your full-time job. So, it is always a pleasure when someone else, like Conor Friedersdorf in Atlantic, does it for you. He has collected “slightly more than 100″ examples of excellent journalism, and I could spend a few hours moving through them, I suspect.

Friedersdorf also curates a Best of Journalism email newsletter. I haven’t yet subscribed but having someone with his lens on the world of quality news and quality writing might be worth the cost attached to getting his newsletter on  regular basis, particularly if this collection at Atlantic is an indication of how he works.

Check out Slightly More Than 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism

Peace (in the news),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: Escape to Gold Mountain

(Note from Kevin: A few years ago, I was a reviewer for The Graphic Classroom. I really enjoyed the way we look at graphic novels with a lens towards the classroom. The site got taken over by another site, and then … I guess the owner of The Graphic Classroom stopped doing what he was doing. Which is fine. But I still had some reviews “sitting in the can” so I am finally digging them out to share out here.)

http://www.arsenalpulp.com/titleimages/book%20covers/9781551524764_Escape.jpg

Story Summary: After reading ESCAPE TO GOLD MOUNTAIN, David H. T. Wong’s account of 100 years of Chinese immigration to North America, I came away from the story feeling disgusted with so many things. First and foremost, I was struck by the level of discrimination and racism that the Chinese have encountered over the years as they left their home to try to build a better life, only to encounter violent racism and political hurdles in the United States and Canada. This is the rhetorical argument that Wong makes in ESCAPE TO GOLD MOUNTAIN as he traces a family’s descendants over the years as the lure of Gold Mountain (which is what the Chinese families called North America) looms large for poor families in China. However, I was also unsettled by the way Wong demonizes just about every white person we meet in the story, except for the periodic politician calling unsuccessfully for compassion in the face of stiff immigration policies aimed at the Chinese. Still, from the building of railroads through the labor of Chinese workers suffering under horrible conditions to the creation of Chinatown slums to the outright violence in some places against defenseless Chinese families, the story told here should ignite indignation in all of us. ESCAPE TO GOLD MOUNTAIN ends with a note of apology, from the governments of both America and Canada for the ways that Chinese immigrants were treated in the 1800s and early 1900s. Wong’s graphic story of the Chinese coming to North America opens a page in the history books that all too often gets forgotten because it puts countries in a bad light. Wong’s story reminds all of us that we need to learn from this history, and find a way to create a better future free from discrimination and racism that lines so much of the past.

Art Review: I can’t say I am a big fan of the art here in this book. The simple line drawings lack the kind of complexity and uniqueness in art that would really bring the stories of the family alive to the reader. All too often, the drawings lack depth and clarity, which unfortunately takes away from the reader’s connection to the characters that Wong is highlighting. In graphic stories like this one, the art is what first grabs a students’ attention, almost always, and I’m not quite sure how this book accomplishes that. Which is not to say that Wong is not an artist of talent. It’s just that, in my opinion, too many of the pages here don’t have the kind of vitality and detail that will keep the attention of a young reader.

More Information:

• Reading level: Ages 12 and up
• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press (October 30, 2012)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1551524767
• ISBN-13: 978-1551524764

In the Classroom: Certainly, for any unit around immigration and racism (particularly institutional racism and government policies around immigration), ESCAPE TO GOLD MOUNTAIN has a lot of potential value and would add nicely to textbook stories about the Chinese coming to North America for a better life and about immigration itself. As I was reading the book, I could not help but draw some parallels between what I know about other immigration waves from other countries in other time periods, including the more modern immigration debates that seem to center on Hispanic immigrants. History repeats itself, in some ways. But the Chinese endured more overt violence and hurdles than one can even fathom, and still they remain central to the American Dream of a better life. Wong’s story is an important one that needs to be remembered, and not repeated.

My Recommendation: I would recommend ESCAPE TO GOLD MOUNTAIN for an upper level high school or university class as a companion text for studies around immigration and racism. There are scenes of violence, and death, in this graphic novel, as Wong does not hold back his punches in telling the story.

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

 

Dear Ysabelle, Who Hacked the Hallways

(In order to understand why I am writing this letter to Ysabelle, you need to read Paul Bogush’s post over at Medium. It’s a powerful reminder of how students react to the stifling nature of our educational system by pushing at the boundaries of rules.)

“Despite Thomas Jefferson’s famous “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” in America, and in public schools, any rebellion now and then is a little rebellion too much. People who do rebel are seen as outsiders, as weirdos, as the crazy ones. Most kids who rebel are seen by teachers as being kids who do not have the qualities to be successful, yet they possess the very qualities that we would include when we list the attributes of heroes, role models, and leaders.” — Paul Bogush, Legacy at Medium

So, I found myself writing to this student that Paul featured in his post. This letter to Ysabelle goes like this:

Dear Ysabelle,

This morning, I read Mr. Bogush’s piece in Medium about your thought-provoking project to hang signs encouraging creativity and independent thought throughout the hallways of your school. I appreciated that you took the time to wrote a letter to Mr. Bogush about the rationale for what you did and why. I want you to know that I, a teacher too, applaud you, and so much of what Mr. Bogush writes in his piece, inspired by your act, is what I believe in, too.

Ysabelle, your response seemed reasoned, passionate and a powerful call to action for your fellow students. Your “hacking the hallway”, which is how I think of what you did, sent forth a strong message that no one is in this world is alone but that doesn’t mean we have to think and act like everyone else, either. The world changes for the better not because we shun those who think different and have a tilted lens on things, but because we embrace the crazy ideas that have the potential to become innovative ones.

I know enough about Mr. Bogush to know that he admires what you did, and so do I. Although I spend the school year with my sixth graders working to engage them as independent thinkers, so many students have already fallen into the comfortable role of following rules so closely they don’t know where to begin when given a task with no directions or specific outcomes. This is not their fault. It’s society’s fault. It’s us as parents who micromanage their days, and it is us as teachers who have clear expectations that narrow the possibilities of learning, and it is the world at large that casts a sneer at anyone with an original thought that falls outside of expectations … until that thought becomes something that alters the way we engage with the world (prime evidence: the admiration crowd surrounding the myth of Steve Jobs).

Your project reminded me of a Hackathon that I joined during a convention of teachers in Las Vegas a few years ago. Like you, we decided to “hack the hallways” by posting sticky notes on the artwork that was hanging throughout the convention center. Yes, even teachers like to be creative and break the rules. The task was to spark thinking in our fellow teachers in the convention, and to use the public artwork on the walls as a space for art. It was a blast, and even more importantly, there were a lot of teachers who asked what we were doing and who stopped to read our satirical notes. We hope we made a difference, just as you do. The convention center staff was not pleased, however, and some followed a few minutes behind us, ripping down our hacked signs as if we had used Sharpies and not sticky notes. It didn’t matter. The point had been made. Pictures had been snapped of the hacked art and the hacked notes were shared in online spaces, becoming a viral part of the conference. Our mark had been left behind.

The same goes for you, Ysabelle. Sure, your signs were probably taken down at some point. But the signs were only temporary outposts to your thinking, and yes, you have “accomplished more than just helping a few people…I have hopefully made every reader of this article’s day better,” as you write in your letter to Mr. Bogush. You did with me, Ysabelle.

If you ever find yourself in Western Massachusetts, Ysabelle, I invite you to come hack my classroom. Hang posters up all over the place. Spark my students to think creatively and independently. Take what you’ve done there at your school and pay it forward. In some ways, your poster brigade is a small act with small ripples. But ripples can become waves, and waves can change the world.

Thank you, and thank you to Mr. Bogush for sharing your story.

Sincerely,

Mr. Hodgson
Sixth Grade Teacher
Southampton, MA

Peace (in the response),
Kevin

 

A Return to Blink Blink Blink

blink blink blink
There’s no easy way to describe this old project (which can now be found housed on a Webmaker Thimble Page). It is  my first real venture into multimodal composition. I had just bought a Flip Camera, which no one had ever seen before, and had this idea for a poem that used three different videos, merging into one experience, so I asked some NWP friends at a Tech Matters retreat in Chico to blink into my camera and repeat the words “blink blink blink” for me. They no doubt thought I was crazy and could not figure out what I was doing, and I could not explain it, either. I taught myself some basic html coding and worked to bring it together.

I’ve hosted the poem itself in a few places over the years, often stifled and frustrated by the limitation of web hosting spaces that would not allow three videos to run simultaneously, as is required with this poem. The idea is that you click “play” on all three videos, and then center your own eyes on the nose. This allows you to experience ‘the face’ of the poem. (I know, it still sounds crazy). I included the text of the poem and also recorded a reflection on the process of writing and making the poem (which was interesting to listen to this morning … eight years later).

If you click on the screenshot above, it will bring you to the poem itself. (The sound quality sucks because it was a first generation Flip and the microphone must have been little more than a tin cup with a string.)

Confused? That’s OK. It was an experiment. I still find it intriguing and came back on it this morning for a blog post I am writing for the National Writing Project. It then occurred to me that Thimble might be the right place to host the poem, and it worked!  I did a little cheer.

I’m still tinkering a bit with the html code but not too much. I like the idea of preserving it as much its original form as possible.

Check out Blink Blink Blink

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin