176 Podcasts (including poetry) in Two Days


I know it’s not a numbers game, but I was pretty surprised the other day when I noticed that in two days of using our iPod Touch devices (and one Blue Snowball microphone for our Poems for Two Voices project) for podcasting with Cinch, my students had posted 176 podcasts.

I have 80 students, so the numbers do make sense, but for me, the sheer volume shows the ease of use with the device, and the app, and the desire to make their voices heard in the world.

Here are some of the Poems for Two Voices — I grabbed them off of our Cinch site and put them into my Box site for easier grouping, sharing and embedding.

But you can also wander through our Cinch Podcasts at the Cinchcast site, too.

Peace (in the poems and podcasts),
Kevin

Responding to Because Digital Writing Matters

We had a very rich discussion about the book Because Digital Writing Matters at our National Writing Project iAnthology networking site in recent weeks, and I decided that too many of the thoughts were too good to just remain static. So, I grabbed comments from various folks and created this video montage of their ideas around various chapters in the book as our discussions unfolded:

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

My 2,000th Blog Post

I find it hard to believe, but technology never lies, right? According to my blog dashboard, this post is my 2,000th post that I have written and published here at Kevin’s Meandering Mind. Oh sure, I write in other places, too, but this is my digital home — the place where I see the most of own online identity. The screen for my voice.

2,000.

Good Lord.

That’s a lot of writing, and while I notice the trend of many other bloggers stepping back from their blogs with the advent of Facebook and Twitter, I still find blogging a useful venue for reflection and sharing my thinking about teaching, writing, music, books and more. I still find it useful to have folks out there in RSS land who read what I write (you’re a bunch of saints, my friends, and there are close to 4,000 comments approved here) and I give thanks to those colleagues and acquaintances of mine who periodically add their own thoughts to the conversation.

I began this blog after a week-long technology retreat with the National Writing Project back in 2006 (I think), thanks to the encouragement of my friend, Maria, from DC, who knew I was blogging with my students and asked why I wasn’t blogging as a teacher. Why not, indeed? I jumped in, and never really stopped writing and blogging since. I’ve since added podcasting, and video production, and more experiments than you can shake a virtual stick at. Even with the uncertain future of the NWP, I still have many of those NWP folks in mind whenever I sit down to write. What sharing can I bring to the table? What ideas can I garner from them? That reciprocal nature is how I envisioned this blog, even if a lot of days it is just me typing for myself.

Thanks for hanging out with me. I appreciate your company.

Peace (in the posts),
Kevin

PS — it was just by chance that I peeked at my Dashboard this morning. Otherwise, the celebration post would have come and gone with no notice from me.

“Meet the Book Characters” with iPod Podcasting


Yesterday, I pulled out our suitcase of iPod touches for the first time in my class (although it is not the first time they have used them — they did an interesting science project on cell mitosis with the touches) But I wanted to see if we could do some podcasting with the devices, using Cinch as our app. (It’s free!)

I have to say — it mostly worked like a charm. Even though I had to first “talk” through what they needed to do, since I could not connect the device to my board, they were on the app in minutes and podcasting around the room with ease. And the only glitch, which I realized later, is that some kids turned off the iPod before Cinch had a chance to finish its upload of files online, and it seems like a few of the files may be gone now (I had hoped they would sit in “pending mode” on the device until it powered up again but I guess not.)

I had them use an entry from their independent reading journals, in which they introduced a character from their book to me. Here, though, the audience changed — from me, to the world. They changed the introduction to “Dear Listener” and adapted the writing to fit the podcast of their piece.

We now have an “album” of character sketches at our class Cinch Page, and I have downloaded some of the podcasts into my Box account for easier sharing as a folder. I am pretty impressed by the audio quality, and by the confidence of my students to jump right into the technology.

The activity yesterday was to prepare them for tomorrow, when we will be doing more podcasting of their Poems for Two Voices with a partner which they have been working on in class. It’s going to be a bit tricky because I was hoping to find a way to connect two headphone/microphone sets to one iPod, but that didn’t work. So, we will have them huddle around a single microphone and go from there. They are surprisingly resilient when it comes to Mr. H’s Workaround Magic.

Peace (on the device),
Kevin

Where Music is (maybe) Going

Bud Hunt shared this on Twitter and I am trying to  think about the possibilities here. In a nutshell: a band out of Washington DC is putting out new music as an album, but the album is not vinyl, disc or even an iTunes music download. It’s a location-aware App that works only in the vicinity of the Mall on DC. As you wander the Mall, the music changes based on where the piece was composed.

From the news article:

Washington, D.C.-based band Bluebrain’s new album drops Friday, but not in the way one might think. It will be available on iTunes, but not in MP3 form — rather as a location-aware app that only works within the stretch of park in downtown D.C. called the Mall … The disc will not be available for standard download as a musical piece, since it will only work when one is standing in the Mall … The music constantly changes as you wander around the park, Holladay tells us. Ascending the hill toward the Washington Monument, you’ll hear only a cello, then, gradually, violins, a choir, clapping, fireworks and drumbeats will come into the mix as you get closer to the obelisk. — from Mashable

It’s pretty fascinating how indie artists are always pushing boundaries and I love that music is one of those things that can become the cornerstone of re-imagining art. This particular idea not completely revolutionary — museums have been handing out mobile devices for some time, right? You wander with the device and learn about the art.

But here, the listener makes the path, and the music is shaped by the path you take. What you hear is what the composer and musician saw when they were in the act of creating the music. I love that connection. I know nothing about the band, and given that I live nowhere near the Mall, I may never listen to this album.

But it fascinated me just the same.

Peace (in the location),
Kevin

The National Mall by BLUEBRAIN. The First Location-Aware Album from BLUEBRAIN on Vimeo.

Poem for 2 Voices: The Writer and the Mathematician

My class is working on Poems for Two Voices this week, and our plan is to use our school’s iPod iTouches for podcasting. I’ve gone around and around on the best way to go about this, and decided that I would set up a classroom account on Cinch and have us podcast and post on there. I’ve already had to think of some workarounds, mostly because our iTouches are not the latest generation and we need to use a headphone/microphone unit for recording.

In my head, I had this great vision of two students, each with headphones, connected by a jack splitter to the iTouch, recording. Well, reality hit. The touches have an odd jack input, and my splitter that I usually use for connecting headphones won’t work. So, we are going to have sit the headphone w/microphone in front of each pair, and record like that. We’ll live with the background noise, I guess. On Tuesday, I am going to let them podcast a few of their own poems, individually, so they can get the experience of working the headphones.

To make sure the idea would work (always a good thing), I wrote a poem myself about writing and math, and asked my math teaching colleague to record it with me. He took the writing part and I took the math part, just to flip our normal roles. It sounds OK, actually.

TheWriter and the Mathematician- A Poem for 2 Voices

Peace (in the voices),
Kevin

Using SugarSync to Collaborate with Myself

sugarsync-main

I was stuck the other day (again) with a file on my home computer — dutifully  in my “school work folder” — and for the last time, I realized that I needed to figure out a better system for sharing work with myself. As it happened, that afternoon, a technology magazine that I subscribe to did a whole spread comparing Dropbox (which I know many people use) and SugarSync (which I had never heard of before).

The magazine review came clearly down on the side of SugarSync on a range of variables, including size of free account (5 gig), using multiple media files, and backing up revisions of work.They also liked the “magic briefcase” where you can store a file and edit and revise, and it will be save the revisions on whatever computer it originates from. (Here is another comparison between the two services; again, it recommends SugarSync)

What the heck? I installed it, and wow, it is nice now to be connected to my files here at home and there at school. I know this is no revolutionary idea for many of you and it reminds me how so often things like Dropbox are on my radar for months and months, but I just need the opportunity, need and time to put it to use.

I thought I might try out the “public sharing” with SugarSync. Here is an old file from my school computer (I am at home right now). It’s an MP3 of an old Poem for Two Voices (which we are working on right now in class)

Listen to the Poem

What kind of syncing program do you use?

Peace (in the sync),
Kevin

Using iPod Touch for Cell Mitosis Project

I won’t take credit for this, other than I helped figure out how to bring all of the student projects together with LiveBinders. But my science teacher colleague has been one of a group of teachers piloting the use of our new iPod Touches, and she learned how to use an app called “Storykit” so that our sixth graders could collaborate on a story about cell mitosis. She has traditionally done these on poster papers, but moved to the mobile devices this year.

I like that you can add images and audio with Storykit, and that it publishes the story online with a link. I don’t like that you can’t embed the story from the Storykit site and the layout is sort of boring (but it is much more interesting on the Touch itself — more fluid and interesting). The kids didn’t care, though. And the use of the Livebinder brings them all under one “roof” to share with families and with the other classes.

And the world.
mitosis book pic

Peace (in the touch),
Kevin

Digital Storytelling, ELL Students, and Voice

I sat with some teachers in an English Language Learners graduate class yesterday afternoon to introduce the concept of digital storytelling and emphasizing how using technology to tell a story can honor and celebrate student voices. The instructor is part of our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, and she sat in on a claymation animation camp I ran a few years ago.
I was lucky to have a supportive network in the National Writing Project to send along some samples of student work to use (Thanks to Bonnie, Cliff and Michelle). I took them through the use of Photostory 3, and most were excited to think about the possibilities for their classrooms. Here is my presentation:

Peace (in the value of voice),
Kevin
PS — I have added this resource to my Digital Storytelling website.