The Literacies of the Digital Dream Scene Project

During an upcoming keynote address for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, I am going to be sharing out our Dream Scene digital storytelling project as an example of bringing media and technology into the classroom in a meaningful and powerful way, with writing still at the heart of what students are doing. I’ve been working on a visual depiction of the process that students go through as they develop their Dream Scene project.

See what you think:
Dream Scene Project

And here is our collection of published dreams (so far):

 

Peace (in the dream),
Kevin

 

Walking the Web: Internet Explorer and Bill Gates

I admire Bill Gates for his push into philanthropy (but not so much his push into education). The boys in my comic meet Gates right at the moment when Microsoft realized, a bit too late, that the Web was the place to be, not the desktop. Oh well.
Walking the Web Comic 12

Walking the Web Comic 13a

Walking the Web Comic 13

Peace (in the strip),
Kevin

MiddleWeb’s Professional Book Review Collection

A book review that I did for the MiddleWeb site (aimed primarily at middle school teachers but has a lot to offer to teachers of all levels) is part of the site’s Fall Book Review Festival. There are some interesting books on the list and all the reviews were done by educators, so you can mostly trust the lens. The book I reviewed — How to Teach Critical Thinking Skills Within the Common Core — was just OK. I wouldn’t rush out to buy it, but if it were on our teacher resource shelf, I’d pull it down to peruse.

Read my review

And, of course, I could not resist a comic element.

http://www.middleweb.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/KevinH-Thinkingskillscomic.png

Peace (in the review),
Kevin

 

Walking the Web: Marc Andreessen and The Mosaic Browser

Before folks launch into me here, I know that Marc Andreessen has done other things since he and his partner, Eric Bina, created the Mosaic browser (which became the basis for Netscape). Ning is just one of Andreessen’s many ventures. But the boys in my comic, Walking the Web, only see his role in history as helping to develop and release Mosaic because, in historical terms, that is his one great achievement, and all done while still very young and living on pizza and cookies and milk (according to various bios).
Walking the Web Comic 10

Walking the Web Comic 11

Peace (in the browser),
Kevin

 

Research and Writing and the Web

I’ve been asked to give a 50 minute literacy-based workshop to my upper elementary colleagues today (sort of a last minute request) and since my professional goal this year is to really dive into developing research skills with my sixth graders, I am going to share out some strategies for using technology to help students conduct research. As luck would have it, this week, I got a book that I had ordered about research and am already loving it, sharing it and will be using part of it today.

The book is by Christopher Lehman and is called Energize Research Reading and Writing. (Lehman is a colleague of Lucy Calkins and collaborated with her on the Pathways to the Common Core book that I have also shared.) This book outlines the rationale behind the push for more research-based reading and writing in the new standards, but also offers up a lot of practical advice. I will do a more formal review when I dive deeper into Lehman’s book.

Here is my agenda for the session today. Understand that while this handout succinctly focuses in on tools and standards, our discussions and activities are all framed around student research and writing. Our state standards call for research in the earlier grades, ramping up over time until sixth grade (which I teach) when suddenly the research component expands greatly. I’ve been revamping my curriculum to shift basic research skills early in the year so that my students have some knowledge about search queries, citation of sources, and more.
Research and Writing and the Web

Peace (in the search),
Kevin

 

Focusing on Literacy, not Technology

norris tech checkin survey

Yesterday, we began an after-school inquiry group with teachers around literacy instruction and technology. There is a small group of us planning various sessions and I was up first. So, I brought up the Draw a Stickman site (episode two) on my interactive board and asked the teachers to help make the story, referring periodically to the ways in which I use the site with my students early in the year to talk about the main literacy concepts we will touch upon: protagonist/antagonist, setting, foreshadowing, conflict/resolution, etc.

I offered up the view that we need our students with the interactive pens in hand, not the teachers. And here is a perfect site with an engaging activity with many points for discussion about literacy, and even the opportunity afterwards for students to retell or write the story of the hero stickman.

What this allowed us to do with the 15 or so teachers who stayed after school, on their own time, to do is to think in terms of literacy, not technology. In fact, we are working to frame the inquiry group around the ideas of teaching literacies in all of its varied forms through the lends of using technology to engage students. The point is that the focus is not the technology. That’s no small thing, I would argue, and we often fall into the trap of the tool shaping instruction as opposed to the instruction using the tool.

After our interactive story activity, which broke the ice nicely, we shifted into using Edmodo for an inquiry space that I had set up for us as teachers. Our challenge is that we have teachers from kindergarten right through sixth grade, and that is a wide span. But we are all teachers and learners, and one of our goals is to create a community of learners that is built on sharing, reflection and exploration. You can see from the survey results above that we all have a mixed group in terms of their own perceptions of technical savvy (and also, that they want to focus on writing instruction in our sessions). So we went slow and methodical, and Edmodo worked well for our goals (easy set-up, easy to use, familiar format to many), and in very little time at all, we were all busy writing and sharing and replying, and building the connections.

Their writing task was to create a Technology Autobiography, where they were to write about their first brush with technology that made them step back and say “wow.” The responses were fantastic, from one who wrote about remembering an earlier career in programming (who knew?) to another remembering an early version of Logo programming (the Lego-styled system that Scratch is built on), to others whose first brush with Skype opened up a range of possibilities.

And they were writing, which is the literacy connection. The technology — Edmodo — allowed us to connect as writers but we all agreed that, as best as time would allow, we would return to our writing space to share resources. I know that is easier to promise than it is to do, and there are ghost towns of online spaces all over the place. But we facilitators will see what we can do to encourage us to keep coming together as writers and learners (and one colleague reminded us that our new teacher evaluations require some reflective writing, and so, why not our Edmodo space?)

Peace (in the inquiry),
Kevin

 

Walking the Web: Tim Berners-Lee

While I am sure the boys in my Walking the Web comic are excited to meet folks who were key to development of the World Wide Web, you have to imagine that they might get bored every now and then. This is not a knock against Tim Berners-Lee or anything, but I wanted to have one of the characters dream of their favorite snack, Ding Dongs.
Walking the Web Comic 7

Walking the Web Comic 8

Peace (in the snacks),
Kevin

The Animated (GIF) History of Music

1999.  Napster is launched.  Vast amounts of music had never been closer to peoples’ fingertips.  Also it had never been free-er.  This made many bands very angry, especially Metallica, who filed a lawsuit against Napster.
The lawsuit ultimately succeeded, and Napster declared bankruptcy.  But it was too late.  The music industry would never be the same.

I am loving this site. Music History in GIFs, in which a musician tracks the development of pop music through animated GIFs that resemble old 8-bit gaming systems, is fun and informative, and just cool to check out when his updates come through my RSS feed. Yesterday, he posted an image about Napster and music file sharing, and how it upended and continues to upend the music business.

But this other one from last week, about Prince, was pretty nifty, too, and a nice use of animated art.

1993.  Prince changes his name to an unpronounceable symbol later dubbed Love Symbol #2.  At first everybody laughs, but then they remember he’s Prince and he can pretty much do whatever he wants anyways.
Also, Prince’s label had to mail out a bunch of floppy disks with the custom image on it.  That fact makes me laugh.
And a little DEVO anyone?
1978.  Devo releases their debut album, Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!.  Their stage antics are full of wacky dancing, sci-fi outfits, and just all around amazingness.
Also their songs are so, so good.
 Check out Music History in GIFs and get rocked.
Peace (in the music),
Kevin

Walking the Web: Jobs and Woz

In this next installment of my new webcomic, Walking the Web, the boys meet up with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak as they develop the hypercard for the first Macs, which opened the door to advanced programming and visual information possibilities. Of course, they stole the visual interface ideas from IBM ….
Walking the Web Comic 4

Walking the Web Comic 5

Walking the Web Comic 6
Peace (in the apple),
Kevin