Sharing Student Work: Vegetarianism Essay and Remix Video

(This is another student sample of an essay project that ended our school year. Students wrote a persuasive essay on a science-based topic and then created a multimedia companion piece to along with the writing. In this case, this student really wanted to write and explore the idea of being a vegetarian, so I let her go with that choice.– Kevin)

For her media project, she wanted to learn how to use iMovie to remix some of her own work — a video game that she created and a Google Search Story, and then mash it together with some elements of her essay. I got her started and she did the rest for this youtube media project.

Peace (in the sharing),

Book Review: The Mongoliad (book one)

I have to admit: I wasn’t sure if seven writers writing one adventure novel would hold together strong enough to keep me interesting. But The Mongoliad, which was apparently originally conceived as a collaborative serial novel for e-readers and such, clearly came under the eye of an editor of some merit. The book mostly stands up to the talents of the seven writers (including one of my favorites, Neal Stephenson, which shows you the power of a name —  I would have probably just passed this one by without Stephenson’s involvement).

I have the paper-bound version of the book (which is the first in a series) because I was completely unaware of the online/app development of the story itself as an experiment with writing novel. After I was done reading the book, I was touring through the website home of the novel, and I came to realize just how vast the media elements were for the story as it unfolded — with videos, and maps, and chapters, and more. (Of course, you need to pay for premium service to gain access to all of the good stuff. And it costs a pretty penny.)

The story itself is about the reign of the Mongols over parts of Europe following the death of Ghengis Khan in the 1200s, and how various orders of the Christian brotherhoods came together to defend Christianity from the invasion. These brotherhoods were small groups of knights, and a plot is hatched to cut the head off the snake, so to speak. There are a few story lines underway in this first book, but I thought the character development was pretty well done. There’s more to the knights than just fighting (although these guys clearly love the intricacies of the fighting sequences), and some of the major characters are just outside the periphery of action, so we get a bird’s eye view of the story, too.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for the second installment of the book. Maybe I should do that online, though, and experience the book as an app.

Peace (in the book),




Sharing Student Work: Discarded Electronics Essay and Video Game

(This is another student sample of an essay project that ended our school year. Students wrote a persuasive essay on a science-based topic and then created a multimedia companion piece to along with the writing.– Kevin)

And his video game called Recycling:

Peace (in the sharing),

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

I’ve learned something important over the past few months: always trust my friends with The Nerdy Book Club. I read so many tweets about The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate that I finally decided, I gotta get that book. And I did. And it is wonderful. Told in the voice of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives in an animal exhibit in a strip mall, the novel deftly brings us into the mind of an intelligent creature seeking do the right thing for a young elephant, Ruby, who arrives in captivity, too. Ivan has made a promise, and he intends to keep it. I won’t give the story away, except to say that the writing here will touch your spirit and the story will remind you of the importance of family, in whatever shape it comes.

The afterward is also interesting, as Applegate notes that her book was inspired by a true story of a captive gorilla in a mall “zoo” operation, but as she wrote, the story became something more. The One and Only Ivan is a keeper, and Ivan’s voice will linger with you for days, as it has done with me.

Peace (out of captivity),


Sharing Student Work: Pollution Essay with Video Game

(This is the first student sample of an essay project that ended our school year. Students wrote a persuasive essay on a science-based topic and then created a multimedia companion piece to along with the writing.– Kevin)

And his video game component: Learning about Pollution

Peace (in the sharing),

Static Interference: a poem about writing interruptus

(I wrote this for Teachers Write, a virtual summer writing camp for teachers run by the author Kate Messner. I’ll write more about the program in the coming days.)

Static Interference

the story’s started …
the plot’s been launched …
the character set in motion
but somehow, in all of this commotion of daily living,
I have left him there, all alone with his narrative,
while I was off doing these other things.

I wonder what he does when I am not around,
and what he thinks about — this character I created —
and whether some wrinkle in my planning goes awry
every time I turn my back on him
to live life outside of the story for a little bit …

He doesn’t have that option –
trapped inside the words that I created from an idea not yet fully formed
and what I don’t want is for my story to become a jail cell –
I want my words to become the key
that breaks him out of all that static interference of uncertainty…

So, forgive me, my friend,
for leaving you there so long without a word to keep you company.
You were never really far from my thoughts.
No, you’ve been here,
sitting on the edge of my ear all week,
whispering secret plans that no one else can hear,
colluding together on the next chapter of story.

– listen to the podcast version of the poem:

Peace (in the poem),

Video Games: Friend or Foe

My friend, George Mayo, does amazing video work with his students. This spring, he asked if some of his students could interview me and one of my own students for a piece they were doing around video games and education. So, we hooked up on Skype one day, and his reporters chatted us up about our own video game project. The other week, they finally published the piece, and it is pretty neat (although Skype delayed our voices.) Check it out (and check out the other great videos that George’s kids did, too, at their Watch Out! site).

Video Games: Friends or Enemies from mrmayo on Vimeo.

Our work around video games can be viewed at our site: Gaming4School.
Peace (in the movie),

When Sports Stars Show the Way (by Reading)

I know there is always a dispute in the athletic world about whether or not sports stars are role models for kids. They are. Those stars may not like it but in this culture of youtube-d power plays, ESPN highlight reels, and documentaries of the lives of popular culture figures, athletes are still looked to by kids for the ways to act, to play, to live. So, I was happy to see a piece in The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post about the ways that LeBron James uses his downtime to read books.

Check out this short television piece about James’ interest in reading. (His team, the Miami Heat, just won the NBA championship last night).

Peace (in the book),

Book Review and Visual Poem: Einstein’s Dreams

I don’t know about you, but I have some favorite books that I return to from time to time, reconnecting with the experience of that first read. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman is one of those books. This small collection of creative vignettes that explores the concepts of time, as envisioned through the mind of Albert Einstein, is just a pitch-perfect example of how narrative and science can come together in an entertaining and educational way. Each chapter unfolds along one of the lines of Einstein’s thinking about time, and then Lightman creates a vision of what the world would look like.

And so, in one world, time runs backwards. In another, time runs concurrently with other time. In another, time is local, so that one minute in one city might be ten years in a neighboring town. In another, time is finite and always a ticking clock about to expire. In another, time is a memory, and then it is not. It’s hard to explain how Lightman accomplishes what he does here, but I always find my head racing around the concepts of time when I pick this one up to read (again).

The other day, I noticed that a friend — Steve Moore — had posted three digital responses to a book he was reading, showing how different apps from his cell phone could be used to approach a single topic from different angles. I was intrigued by that idea, so I decided to create a visual poem inspired by Einstein’s Dreams, as a sort of reader response to the book and also an extension of inspiration.

See what you think:


Peace (in time),