App Review: Visual Poetry

Word cloud poem
I admit it: I am a sucker for word clouds. I have been since that first Wordle created so long ago. This app — Visual Poetry — is a cool twist on word clouds, turning short poems into visual images. Relatively simple to use (type in poem, choose cloud type, and generate), the app makes writing interesting to behold. The image above is a short poem that I wrote.

Lost amidst these words
I scramble for meanings

In this case, I actually think the word cloud is better than than original. Perhaps it is that “scramble” idea.

The app costs $1.99, which seems rather steep for what it does. But I paid, since I like what it does. There might be other ones out there that are free or cheaper.

Peace (in the poem),

PS – check out this Tumblr blog of visual poetry (not related to the app at all).:

Learning About IOS App Development

I’m going to be trying something new over the next few months. I am going to try to teach myself about IOS Apps and how to make them. I have no clear vision of how it will turn out, but my hope is that at least I get an understanding of how one goes about creating and publishing apps. I am going to document the journey with various reflections and, hopefully, some comics to poke fun at myself.

Here, I used an app called Telegami how appropriate) to set the stage:

I then used Vine to share the book I am using as my main resource:

And here is my longer video reflection:

But let’s not forget my comic, too, revisiting two former characters that I had created called The Tweets.
The Tweets: App Development1

Peace (in unexplored terrain),

Annotated Bookshelfie Photo Meme

Thanks to Anna, I found out about the #bookshelfie meme idea, which is to simply take a photo of yourself in front of your bookshelf and share it out. There is even a Tumblr site for easy sharing. It’s a twist on the “selfie” image idea. I took mine, and then realized that it might be neat to annotate some of the books on the shelf behind me. I used Thinglink to do it.

What books are on your shelf? Consider sharing.

Peace (on the shelf),


Summer Reading Book Reviews

This is a quick post reviewing three books that I read while on the beach. Lots of reading … that’s part of my down time. And not a professional book in the bunch.


First, A Conspiracy of Faith is the third book in the Department Q mystery series by writer Jussi Adler-Olsen and his Danish main detective, Carl Mørck, is back better than ever with his grumpy personality and keen insights into solving crimes. This book is more sprawling than the other two, but that is not a bad thing. Adler-Olsen weaves a rich tapestry of stories and characters, and while you know who is the antagonist, the thrill is in watching Carl Mørck solve what is going on. In this book, the mystery involves a serial killer who targets strict religious sects and Mørck is racing against time to save two children who have been kidnapped. This was a perfect summer read for me.

Second, Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield is one of those unexpected surprises. While I read Sheffield regularly in Rolling Stone magazine for his witty pop culture views, this is the first book of his that I have read. It’s lovely, really, telling the story of how he fell in love with his first wife, married her and then was suddenly adrift when she died of a brain clot in 1997. Lovely, as in sad but powerful, particularly as Sheffield weaves in their collective love of music and pop culture. And for anyone who ever made or received a mix tape in the 1990s (my hand is raised), Sheffield’s insights into why those collections mattered and what they said about us had me reconsidering music in new ways. Each chapter starts with song titles of a mix tape that Sheffield dissects in the glow of his wife, and then, the music is what finally helps him grapple with the loss and begin to take steps forward into life. I really loved this book, and now am on the hunt to get his latest.

Third, The Second Mouse by Archer Mayer is another mystery. Here is a book that I did not bring with me, but ran out of reading material (panic!) and scoured the bookshelf of the summer house we were renting to see if anything might pique my interest. I have read about Mayer before because he sets many of his stories in southern Vermont, not far from where I live. I gave this novel a try and liked it. Mayer’s main character, Joe Gunther, is another detective with gut instincts and here, while piecing together the death of a young woman, he uncovers a larger crime. Standard crime fiction, in many ways, but Gunther is a likeable lead character and Mayer does use setting to his advantage here. I was glad that it was the shelf, and returned it when I was done for someone else to enjoy.

Peace (in the review),


Still Got Beach Head

I’ll be back to the blogging about teaching and writing and learning and more soon enough, but my head is still on the beach with my family even though my body is back home. And in less than a week, I will be at school for PD, getting ready for this coming year’s students. I feel my brain getting full already, and have begun to have those middle-of-the-night-preparation-wake-up-moments when school starts creeping back into sleep.

You know what I mean?

For now, though, here are a few scenes from Maine. I used a panorama app on the iPad.
Maine 2013
Maine 2013
Maine 2013
Maine 2013

Peace (from the sea),


Book Review: Joyland

You never know how brutal and gory Stephen King might get (well, if you read him, you know), but I have to give Joyland a hearty thumbs up for an entertaining summer read. King’s paperback pulp-style (look at the cover) novel centers on a narrator just getting over having his heart broken for the first time who ends up joining an aging amusement park in North Carolina for the summer. The story spins around  Devon Jones (the narrator) coming to terms with life, a ghost story that leads to a murder investigation, and odd connections that Devin makes during the summer and beyond.

King is fairly restrained here, slowly building the suspense of a mystery underway, and it works. Joyland is a joy to read, and as part of a Hard Case Crime series of books, it is both a detective novel and a foray into the unknown (King territory) as one or two characters have the “gift” of vision beyond reality. These visions help Dev solve the case of a murdered girl, almost too late for his own good.

More importantly, King immerses the reader in the language and behind-the-scenes views of the carnival life, complete with the Talk (the ways in which carnies communicate with each other in a sort of code). That kind of attention to detail gives the story a real hook, and allows King to use his considerable writing talents to the benefit of character development and story.

Peace (in the carny world),

Getting A Story Gift on the Back of a Postcard

Kelly's 25wordstory postcard
I love this idea that my friend, Kelly, had about taking the idea of the #25wordstory format from Twitter and moving it into a postcard project. She offered to send anyone who asked a 25 word story on the back of a postcard from her vacation spot, and I eagerly took her up on the offer. A few days later, this fantastic story arrived in my mailbox. Just as 25 word stories are a perfect fit for Twitter, so too is it a perfect fit for the back of a postcard.

Way to go, Snail Mail!

Peace (in the story),


Graphic Novel Review: Louis Armstrong Jazz Legend

When I was a music major in college (yep, for one year), all roads in our jazz music history class rightly went through the life story of Satchmo, or Louis Armstrong. While there were many before him (Sidney Bechet, for example) who nurtured the concept of jazz before it became mainstream, it was Armstrong nearly alone who rode the wave of popularity of jazz and gave it both an inventive and popular culture twist — in concerts, on records, in movies.

And on street corners.

This graphic novel biography — Louis Armstrong: Jazz Legend — tells a condensed life story of the legendary Armstrong, from his roots in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New Orleans where some gun play lands him in a youth detention center where he first learns to play music, to his scramble to find enough coins to buy his first horn, to his band work with renowned leader Big Joe Oliver, to singing Hello Dolly as a surprise hit (he didn’t like the song all that much and sang it as a toss-away song) on the big screen. The narrative tone of this graphic novel (aimed at elementary students) is Armstrong’s own voice, told through a short history he wrote while recuperating in a hospital bed.

The pace of the book is quick, moving from one event to another like a riff, and as always with Capstone Press graphic books, there is a solid glossary at the back with musical terminology and a text version of Armstrong’s life, as well as some additional website links that readers can follow to learn more about Satchmo (called that because he had a large mouth and was nicknamed Satchel Mouth, before shortened to Satchmo) and his impact on popular music and jazz.

I wasn’t all that keen on the illustrations in this book, but I get that the artist was trying to capture the free jazz style of Armstrong in the drawings. I found them a bit too rudimentary, and green-washed, for my own liking.

Peace (in the story of jazz),


A Choose Your Own Path for Leadership Day 2013

Scott McLeod has been hosting a blogging Leadership Day at his Dangerously Irrelevant site for the past few years, encouraging bloggers to give advice to administrators. I’ve participated a number of times, with comics and blog posts and other various messages. (See some of the past posts of mine). Today is Leadership Day 2013, and Scott encourages you to write and share for administrators in the world of education. Go to his post and see how to go about doing that (basically, write and post and tag, and then put the link into his Google Doc survey to share)

This year, I am using Twine to create a “choose your path” story for an interim administrator. Although Scott has many possible prompts around technology and learning, I did not focus on that this year. Instead, I focused on leadership in general. We have an interim principal this coming year, and that must be a difficult job to come into, particularly when you are following in the heels of a longtime administrator who made his mark on our school. I wish our new interim principal well, and hope she is an active listener.  She has already reached out to me about technology and learning, so I will take that as a positive sign.

Here is my story: To An Interim Principal

This is what my story looks like “behind the curtain,” so to speak.
Peace (in the day),



Digital Literacies Workshop: Clickable Student Portfolios Page

One of the goals of our just-finished Digital Literacies Workshop for high school students was to create a final online portfolio of some of the work and learning they did during our five weeks together. For various reasons (which I will write about later), we ended up in Wikispaces as our home for portfolios. Seeking a better way to share out their portfolios, I created this ThingLink image with their avatars from Bitstrips. Just click on a student and it will take you to their portfolio, where they have done some writing, published a video game, a comic and more.

Peace (in the collection),