Sketching from the Couch Day Three (Book Shelf)

Sketching from the Couch

I am doing some sketching this week to play with art (and take a vacation from writing), using my living room couch as my pivot point and drawing only what I can see from there. Today’s sketch is a small table/sitting piece that no one can ever sit on because it always stacked with my sons’ books. They are every which way, always about to fall. It’s a beautiful messy structure of stories.

Book Shelf

Peace (stacked),
Kevin

Visual Slice of Life: Outside from the Inside (Sketch Day 2)

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

It’s Day Two of my Sketchbook vacation, using my couch in the living room as the place where I am looking from and/or stationed at, and drawing at. Yesterday, I noticed the scene out of the front yard window, as my son was shooting baskets in the hoop near the street.

Outside From Inside

Peace (swish it),
Kevin

Sketching from the Couch, Day One (Abstract Dog)

Sketching from the Couch

I’ve decided to take a little break this week from words, and focus my brain instead on sketching. (I know. Here I am writing about doing less writing. Can’t help it).

Following the lead of my friend, Sheri, I am trying to view the world from the end of the (digital) crayon. Or paintbrush. Or, stylus. Sheri is part of #Sketch50 (which I think is just ending?). She gave me a bunch of hashtags to consider.

I am doing a week here with art as a sort of mental vacation.

Sketch Couch

I’ve decided to limit my view of the world to the view from a couch in my living room. Only what I see from my seat there is what I will draw. I will be using the Pencil App to do my drawings. I’m not suggesting I am a talented artist, but I want to try to stretch a bit.

Abstract Duke

My first drawing (other than the couch with its bow-tied feet) is of my dog Duke, but I wanted to go a little abstract. He was sitting by my feet, wondering why I was staring at him. He wagged his tail a few times. He’s always a happy dog.

Peace (coloring beyond the lines),
Kevin

If the Web is the City, Are Apps the Gated Suburbs?

I’ve recently read, with interest, a book by Virginia Heffernan entitled Magic and Loss: The Internet As Art, and it seems to mesh quite nicely with some of the exploration that had been done in the Networked Narratives experiment. As the title suggests, Heffernan proposes that we view the Internet itself as a huge canvas of realistic art, and then she dives into elements like design, text, images and more to explore these ideas through a networked lens.

In the chapter on Design, she notes that because the Web is both a commercial space and a collaborative space, it has become a messy sprawl of links, images, advertisements, and more. As a result, the experience of many users is far from ideal.

“The Web is haphazardly planned. Its public spaces are mobbed, and urban decay abounds in broken links, ghost town sites, and abandoned projects. Malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary. Bullies, hucksters and trolls roam the streets. An entrenched population of rowdy, polyglot rabble dominates major sites.” — Magic and Loss, page 45

Heffernan then goes on to develop the metaphorical supposition that this messy reality of the Internet gave rise to the closed and contained experience of Apps, which pulled us away from the Internet and created a sort of Gated Community. She talks about this as the “online equivalent of white flight.”

“The parallels between what happened to Chicago, Detroit, and new York in the twentieth century and what happened to the Internet since the introduction of the (Apple) App Store are striking.” — Magic and Loss, page 45

Is this true? Does the metaphor hold?

I guess I had never really considered the connections but she raises some intriguing points. So, as we talked about the nature of “civic imagination” in Networked Narratives and built our own “Arganee World,” we also considered what we meant by public spaces. A further point of discussion might have been how to “design elements” can play a larger role in the permanence of online spaces, and is connected directly to how much a user invests in the experience.

I guess one of the larger questions remains: What do we give up when we move into any gated community? What do we trade for our security? There is a certain beauty in the chaotic mess of the Internet — the expected discovery or connection — as well as some real ugliness — trolls and negative comments and attacks — and we cede some authority to app developers when we move into the app on our mobile device.

During one summer’s CLMOOC, we explored the idea of the Internet as Public Sphere. I wrote about it here and here and here.

Peace (in all spaces),
Kevin

 

Nerdwriter Explains Fidget Spinners (with appreciated parody)

I enjoy (and support via Patreon) Nerdwriter, who creates all sorts of interesting videos on a range of topics. His latest video release is one about Fidget Spinners, which our school has just banned as toys because we had kids throwing them on buses, spinning them into people’s faces, and selling them for profit in the hallways.

As usual, Nerdwriter incorporates parody with history for entertaining results.

You know … the arc of a fad.

Although he uses parody here, Nerdwriter makes an interesting aside: the emergence of devices with no buttons or tangible way to interact might pave the way for more tactile toys and devices, as people want their fingers and hands to be doing something. Or maybe not. Maybe we just have short attention spans and need something to divert our attention from full focus.

I had written about the spinners a few weeks back for Slice of Life, and since then, the spinners are all over the news with varying points of view on whether they are good or bad for students (despite the claims of the Fidget Defense League, I have yet to see any of my ADD/ ADHD students benefit from the use of a fidget spinner for focus and sustained attention. It mostly has been the reverse.)

Peace (the world spins),
Kevin

Using Comics to Interpret Poetry

Poetry Comics

I hope it’s no surprise that I like to give my sixth graders opportunities to make comics, and to use art as well as words in their writing and analysis. We’ve done visual notetaking and added art to many writing pieces, and used a basic comic model for a variety of writing activities.

Poetry Comics

Last week, as we were examining the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem — Paul Revere’s Ride or sometimes entitled The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere — I had them create a comic by pulling important lines from the poem and illustrating them to help tell the narrative story.

Poetry Comics

What I like is it allows me to see what grabbed their attention in a piece of poetry, and provides entry into analysis, and hopefully understanding, for those students who struggle with traditional writing but could use an artistic anchor into a text.

Poetry Comics

I should note that our conversation about the poem also dipped into what (and whose) stories are left out of the American Myth, thanks to the power and reach of Longfellow’s poem.

Peace (and all that history),
Kevin

Check out this Creativity (K12 Online Conference)

One of the strands of this year’s ongoing K12 Online Conference is Creativity. This video is a cool inside look at the ways teachers around the world are using music and technology to spark creativity with their students.

Check out more about K12 Online Conference. There’s always cool sharing and all the presentations are archived, so you can always peruse past presentations whenever you get the time.

Peace (sounds beautiful),
Kevin

This is (still) the Truth (Zeega Multimedia Version)

Five Voices in Search of a Poem

I’ve been wanting to take a poem for five voices that I wrote last month, and invited four friends to virtually perform with me, into Zeega for some multimedia interpretation, and finally found the time this week to do so. The poem is a response to both the media landscape and the political turmoil (made even more tumultuous yesterday by the firing of the lead investigator by the president being investigated).

First, here is just the audio, with help from Terry, Sheri, Melvina and Scott. We recorded it all remotely using a site called Soundtrap.

Now, here is the Zeega version (You might need to tell your browser in the url bar to allow it to play unsafe scripts, which comes as a result of Terry hosting Zeega at his own space, I believe). Also, it is best to view the Zeega in full screen, to get the entire effect of image layering and viewing. Here it is:

What’s always so interesting about this process is trying to match the visual experience, with limited text anchors, to the audio, even knowing that every viewer will process through the project at a different pace. With Zeega, the viewer/reader/listener chooses when to advance the visuals, even as the audio plays on.

I’m happy with how it came out. I hope you enjoy it.

Peace (in many voices),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Perfect Age for the Galaxy

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

One of the many wonders of having a son who is not yet a teen, but who is almost there, is that we get to see the world through his eyes. Sort of. This weekend, I took all three of my boys to see the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The first Guardians movie remains a favorite for my youngest son, who was not really old enough to be ready for that movie but I took him anyway, in XD no less, knowing it would make an impression.

Needless to say, it sure did (we have it on DVD and bought it via Apple TV when the DVD went missing, a mystery solved this winter when we found it among our Christmas movies in the basement). He claims to have watched it at least a dozen times. And needless to say, we’ve been waiting for the second movie for some time, hearing him explain the trailers and such.

Guardians 2 was a fun flick, full of humor and adventure and outer space, plus some heartwarming stories of fathers and sons, and the four of us had an interesting conversation afterwards about whether 2 stacks up to 1, and what happens next in the series (they know the whole entire Marvel Universe movie plans, it seems). We also talked about Easter Eggs in the movie.

Me? I was reminded of my first taste of Star Wars, and before that, adventures with Star Trek, and how the view of the universe opened up my eyes to imagination and storytelling in ways no other movies really had. I hope that happens to him, too.

Peace (in the great beyond),
Kevin

Book Review: Anatomy of a Song

Here’s a book that hit a number of buttons for me. It’s about music. It’s about songwriting. It’s an oral history project. It’s an inside look at how creative people are creative. Anatomy of a Song: The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits by Marc Meyers is apparently a riff off a Wall Street Journal column he wrote, diving deep into songwriting by interviewing the writers, producers, engineers and musicians behind some iconic music. (I didn’t know WSJ had a music column, did you?)

I really enjoyed Meyer’s approach here, as he brings the voices behind the scenes up in the mix, so to speak. I knew most of the songs, but not all, and he stops at REM’s Losing My Religion, arguing that 25 years have to go by before one really knows if a song reaches iconic status. I’m fine with that.

It’s intriguing to hear the stories behind the songs, of where the inspirational lines may have come from or where the melody or harmony originated, and the process that goes into the writing, recording and engineering of songs that become the soundtrack of our lives.

Anatomy of a Song covers quite a bit of ground — there are 45 chapters, sort of like a 45 spinning on your old record player — from Lawdy Miss Clawdy by Lloyd Price to You Really Got Me by the Kinks to The Harder They Come by Jimmy Cliff to Heart of Glass by Blondie to Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper and more. You might quibble with his selection, but I didn’t mind.

Peace (inside the songs of our lives),
Kevin