Resources: Gaming Reflection 3

I continue to share out some thinking about gaming for the classroom (or in my case, for a summer camp program). You can view part one and part two, if you want. Here, I chat about some of the resources I will be using to think about gaming possibilities and to bring into the camp for the kids to experience. My hope is to bring them away from the games from time to time to remind them of the bigger picture and larger possibilities of gaming as a media experience.

Gaming Reflection 3: Resources from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

Peace (in the games),
Kevin

Check out ‘The Bully Project’

I stumbled on this at Vimeo, and was completely shaken by the stories starting to unfold in this upcoming documentary. You know, bullying took on a lot of weight this year in our schools — more than usual, thanks to a new state law mandating reporting and intervention — and I feel at times that the students began tuning it out because the concept was so prevalent. But what does impact them are personal stories of kids, and adults reacting, and I think this video documentary might have some good potential for making a difference.

Check out the trailer:

The Bully Project: a year in the life of America’s bullying crisis

The Bully Project Promo from Lee Hirsch on Vimeo.

Please visit our website at:
thebullyproject.com

This year, over 18 million American kids will be bullied, making it the most common form of violence young people in the U.S. experience.

Directed by Sundance- and Emmy-award winning filmmaker, Lee Hirsch, The Bully Project is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary—at its heart are those with the most at stake and whose stories each represent a different facet of this bullying crisis.

Following five kids and families over the course of a school year, the film confronts bullying’s most tragic outcomes, including the stories of two families who’ve lost children to suicide and a mother who waits to learn the fate of her 14 –year-old daughter, incarcerated after bringing a gun on her school bus. With rare access to the Sioux City Community School District, the film also gives an intimate glimpse into school busses, classrooms, cafeterias and even principles offices, offering insight into the often-cruel world of children, as teachers, administrators and parents struggle to find answers.

While the stories examine the dire consequences of bullying, they also give testimony to the courage and strength of the victims of bullying and seek to inspire real changes in the way we deal with bullying as parents, teachers, children, and in society as a whole. Through the power of these stories, The Bully Project aims to be a catalyst for change and to turn the tide on an epidemic of violence that has touched every community in the United States—and far beyond.

Peace (please),
Kevin

Getting Ready for Gaming: video reflection 1

As I gear up for leading a gaming summer camp, I am reflecting on the activities I hope to bring into the camp for middle school kids. I am lucky to have my friend, Tina, along for the ride again this summer. Here, I started to tinker with Gamestar Mechanic, which we will be using as our main website for game playing and development:

Gaming Camp, Pre-Camp Reflection 1 from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

Peace (in the game),
Kevin

Book Reviews: Ship Breaker and The Wind-up Girl

Novelist Paulo Bacigalupi sees chaos in the future, with the seeds of that chaos planted in the decisions we are making — or rather, not making — around environmental issues right now. Two of Bacigalupi’s books that I have recently read — Ship Breaker and The Wind-up Girl — swirl around a future in which the world has been altered forever in a dystopian way by environmental neglect and powerful climate change. Both books have you wondering anew about what kind of world our grandchildren will inhabit, and if not a world as bleak as Bacigalupi lays out, will it be anything close?

Of the two books, I found Ship Breaker to be much more engaging in both character and story. The book is also for young adult readers, so I was reading it in class this spring. The story set in the future revolves around a boy named Nailer trying to survive in a world where oil rigs and ships lay scattered along the Gulf Coast as a result of a failed energy policy of the past (or, rather, our present), and ship breakers are teams who scavenge the hulls for precious metals and other re-useable parts. Honor and betrayal are part of life. Huge storms come in with very little notice. The work environmental is brutal. And a distinct class system has set in. I liked the pacing of the narrative, and also the development of the main character, who is dealing with a violent father while still laying out some hope for a future that will have Nailer sailing on the massive Clipper Ships he sees in the distance.  When opportunity arises, Nailor jumps into the unknown, and sets things in motion that ultimately pay off for him. (See Amazon video of Bacigalupi talking about the story development)

The Wind-Up Girl is for adults (with violence and sex), and is slightly different in its narrative tone. Here, the future is shaped by geopolitical events that have decimated many of the countries of the world, leaving only a few to survive on wits and science and the hoarding of environmental know-how. Bacigalupi weaves in the narratives of a handful of characters as a tightly-knit and controlled society of Thailand that slowly careens apart, and comes completely undone. One of the main prizes being sought is a seed bank, a massive archive of pure genetic seeds for food that won’t be riven with disease. The wind-up girl in the title of this novel is a robotic humanoid whose desire for freedom, after becoming the source for depravity by the powerful elite, becomes an all-consuming thing. Her quest for a better life, however, leads her into violence that unwittingly dismantles the entire society, and shakes the world at its foundation. Morality, technology, politics, revenge and the environment are all at the heart of this story.

Both books certainly make you ponder the future of our planet, and the stories did have me thinking of how much we take for granted that the government knows what it is doing. We place a lot of trust in those who are power to be foresighted in what they are doing. But sometimes, the most innocuous decisions are the ones that have the most far-reaching impact. (Inaction on climate change?) You just don’t always know it at the time. Bacigalupi takes that premise and runs with it, creating stark picture of the possible future to come. His writing is crisp, his characters are interesting and his settings are eerily familiar scenes of what-might-come.

Peace (in a better world than this),
Kevin

Waving Goodbye on the Last Day of School

Goodbye Envelope 2011
We all stood at our bus loop yesterday, watching our students board the yellow buses for the last time this school year. They hung their heads out of the open windows, shouting out to teachers. Some hung back in their seats, dabbing their eyes with tissue. Someone put small bubble bottles in our mailboxes, so a few of us were blowing bubbles into the air. The buses then took off with a loud cacophony of honking and shouting and cheering, then doubled back through the loop for a second time (as is our custom on the last day of school), as all of us teachers waved and shouted out some final encouraging words as summer came into full view.
And then they were gone, and we shuffled back into our school — which now seemed a bit too quiet. Sure, we were happy to see the year end but already, I could feel some pangs of what tomorrow would bring when I would wake up and not be planning for a day of activities with my sixth graders, whom are now off to the larger regional school for middle school.

I’m going to miss those kids.

Before my homeroom class left — before we hugged or high-five or gave handshakes — they presented me with a HUGE oversized greeting card that two girls have been making in the far corner of the classroom for about three weeks now. I had purposely avoided the girls hard at work — I had some idea — but the card and the envelope were so wonderful, so touching, that after the school had emptied out, I stood there, staring at them on the chalkboard in the back of the room.

I’m going to miss these kids.
Goodbye Letter 2011

Peace (in the remembering),
Kevin

Watching Twilight Zone with my Son

The past three nights, my wife and older son were out town, meaning the other two boys I were on our own. When the younger dude went off to bed at night, my 11 year old and I pulled out a DVD box set of The Twilight Zone that I had received at Christmas but never really watched. In fact, the only time I had watched an episode was with him, and it was not a very good one — it had no dialogue and the pacing was glacial. I was afraid that would turn him off to the series, which I love and want him to at least respect for its storytelling, but he was game to give it another try.

We had a long discussion first about what is the Twilight Zone — he had this idea that it was a place, or a setting, and not a frame of mind. I think he understands it now. Not sure. Then, he asked about how the episodes had twists in the narrative — those little turns at the end of a show that make you go “hmmmm” when it is over. He asked about Rod Serling, and then as we watched the dates of when the episodes aired, we thought about how old my father (his grandfather) was. I think this helped give him some sense of how long ago this show was on the air, and maybe some sense of how revolutionary it was for its time.

We started on Friday with Time Enough At Last about the desire for our own space and what happens when our dreams come true.

And then went into Saturday with The Monsters are Due on Maple Street about how mobs are formed and then how fear turns us on ourselves.

And finished up last night with Steel about machines taking the place of men, and then men taking the place of machines.
(ACK — no video available)
I wanted to show him the classic — To Serve Man — but it is not in my DVD set. What’s up with that? However, thanks again to our trusty friend, the Internet, the episode is right here to be watched.

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It was interesting, because the last one we watched — Steel — was towards the end of the Zone run, where Serling was no longer the writer or producer. The footage was clearer, the pacing was faster, and the acting was slicker. But the story did not hold up to the earlier ones. And my son, when the show was over, turned to me and asked: What’s the twist? There was none, and we were both disappointed.

Peace (in the Zone),
Kevin

A Poem for my Father for Father’s Day

I wrote this one a few years ago and it helped win me an award at the New England Association of Teachers of English conference. In honor of my dad on Father’s Day, I dug it back up from my old harddrive. I would not be a musician if I had heard him playing his music all of my life. Thanks, Dad.

Listen to the Poem

FOLLOWING MY FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS

The sound of drums beating out hours of the day
from the basement workshop he’d go
disappearing for hours
with sticks and mallets and cymbals crashing
music slipping into my ear and out again and then sounds down low
fading into the soft splash of sunlight
the gentle rhythm of Life

On weekends when rain fell from dark skies
and threatened to turn newsprint into soft clay of words
he’d crawl from his bed, bidden, sleepy, smiling, smelling of coffee
driving wordless down empty streets
as I made deliveries of the world from his metal umbrella
not always saying thanks but thankful just the same.

The sound of baseballs thrown in the air, hitting a glove
and the thwack, thwack, thwack of the ball hitting back
returns again in a familiar arc across the backyard lawn.
The crack of a wooden bat — nothing less than the sound of youth
reaching out for dreams of glory before the crowds go home.
“That’s it,” he’d say as I swung hard, and I could touch a star
and wrap myself in the light of his words.

We’d stand by forgotten bends of rivers
swatting at bugs and casting our lines
urging for some action but ready for silent peaceful thoughts.
I’d watch him wade into water
powerful against the currents, careful in his deliberations
and then, a hit, a tug, and a smile towards me as he reeled inward.

Father, Papa, a man of grace and wisdom
he has given me precious gifts: Love, Affection, Encouragement.
I follow his footsteps now as a father,
leaving a trail behind for little footsteps that echo all around us.
I tell them, listen for the rumble of drums.
Listen for the joyful crash of cymbals.
Listen to the music of your heart.

From Digital Ethnography: A Video Collage

You need to check this project out from Prof. Wesch and his students as they continue to explore the impact of technology on students. (Did one student say that 75 percent of what he knows he learned from Youtube?)

Here is what Prof. Wesch says at their blog:

Today the Digital Ethnography Research Team of 2011 is proud to announce the release of the Visions of Students Today: a “video collage” about student life created by students themselves and presented using the wonders of HTML5, allowing us to “cite” books and videos that are being presented in the remix as they are being shown.

Since the call for submissions went out in January we have received hundreds of submissions. The remix in the middle of the screen is in many ways a video of my own experience viewing these videos, shot from my own point of view. You see me sifting through videos, putting them in piles, checking resources, reading and re-reading the lines that have informed and inspired me. It took me 3 months to sift through these materials; you get to race through them in 5 minutes.

But just as important, check out all of the other various strands that come alive with this project, as students take the videos and ideas in different directions. You will have to read the blog post there to get a better sense of what I am talking about, or click inside the video collage itself to follow other strands (wow — html5 does open up some new possibilities, doesn’t it?).

What comes through loud and clear is a growing transformation of the daily lives of young people, and the question of whether traditional education is meeting their needs for learning, exploring and making a difference on the world. And we get to hear that story directly from the students.

Peace (in the collage),
Kevin

Stopmotion Movies from the Classroom

Here are some of the stopmotion movies my students created this week. There was a mad rush yesterday to get as much done as possible. The one movie that did impress me, and would have been better with more time, is the remake of King Kong, using the black and white effect, and flashlights, and the scale of the figures. These boys had a vision, and I wish I could have given them more time. But, now that they know how to do it, I bet they will be doing stopmotion at home this summer.

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin