Slice of Life: It’s a Dog’s Life

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

 

Duke at Dog Show 2014

42 wags. 20 seconds.

That’s what our dog, Duke, did to garner first prize — a blue ribbon, no less — in the category of “tail wagger” at a Dog Show fundraiser for our city schools. He may not be the smartest dog in the crate. In fact, he is not that bright. But he sure is full of love and happiness, and plenty of tail wagging, so he gets his blue ribbon, a whole lot of treats from a lot of strangers, and plenty of praise from the kids, who adore him.

I’d give that an extra wag of the tail for Duke.

Peace (and the dog),
Kevin

PS – He tried out for “softest ears,” too, which we thought he’d be a “contenda” but apparently not. We still love his soft, droopy ears.

Strangely Captcha

Today’s Daily Create asks us to create with captcha — the anti-spam words that you rewrite on blogs. The whole notion of captcha is fascinating, I think, as it relates to books and words and crowdsourcing and more. Anyway, I decided to do a search of other Meandering Minds in the blogosphere (we are quite a few, actually) and settled in on Meandering Mind, using Courtney’s blog for generating captcha. I left her a comment, too, to let her know I was borrowing her captcha and connecting our meandering minds together.

I went a bit further than the Daily Create, generating a bunch of captchas and then trying to create a short visual poem.

Captcha Poem

Peace (in the text),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The WayBack View

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

I was curious as the 2014 Slice of Life Challenge starts today to remember when it was that I first began writing Slice of Life posts. OK. I admit. I couldn’t remember. Luckily, my blog did (thanks, Meandering Mind! I owe ya a beer!), and so I dove into my blog dashboard to see what I could see.

Here’s what I found.

First of all, I have written 238 Slice of Posts over the years (well, now we’re at 239 with this one). That includes the March challenges each year as well as the periodic Tuesday Slice of Life pieces. I wasn’t always a regular writer for the Tuesday challenges. I wrote when the fancy hit or I had a small moment with larger reverberations in mind. I always appreciate the audience, though, and the Slice of Life community is one of the warmest, most supportive group of teacher-writers you can find (this side of the National Writing Project).

So what I realized? I’ve done a whole lot of slicing over the years.

The first piece I did was on March 1, 2008. That’s right. 2008. You can read it here, if you want.

This was the Slice of Life icon back then.

Back then, I was writing about reading The Lorax to my sons. That was a favorite book of ours (still is, I guess). Reading that slice again brought me right back to that moment. Isn’t that interesting? Our writing has power over time, and here is where Slice of Life is most interesting for me: not only does it force me to notice and document the moments of our days, it forces me to keep a record of those days.

I’m now culling through 238 posts because I am interested in doing a sort of auto-ethnography of myself to see what I was writing about. I know there are themes each year. If you read me, you know that Quidditch is about to start, as ell as baseball season. Some things recur in different forms each year in our lives. We just don’t always take note of the patterns.

My aim for the next day or two is to create an infographic of sorts (to be shared out as a slice, of course) But for now, I am going into my 7th year of Slice of Life with open eyes and an ear for the world.

How about you? Come join the Slice of Life challenge. Write every day. Share what you write (use the #sol14 hashtag on Twitter). Invite others into your world. Make your way into the world of others. Make connections.

Peace (in the slice),
Kevin

This might be helpful:

http://twowritingteachers.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/solsc-getting-started-1.jpg

The CLMOOC Reverberations

More Education Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with NWP radio on BlogTalkRadio

Last night, I took part in a National Writing Project radio show about our summer’s Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration. With my friend Paul Oh at the helm, the hour-long discussion was less about how the MOOC came to be (although NWP Program Leader Christina Cantrill and I did that) and more about how the CLMOOC experience has come to impact teachers and writing project leaders.

I did my part and then listened as Jenn Cook, of the Rhode Island Writing Project, and Michael Weller, of the Los Angeles Writing Project, and Rosie Slentz, of the Redwood Writing Project chatted about how their experiences over the summer have come to inform their teaching and their work with other teachers.

As one of the facilitators, it was not just gratifying to hear these stories on the radio broadcast; it was touching in a way that I can’t quite express here. We spent many hours planning the CLMOOC and many, many more hours helping to facilitate it. With hundreds of teachers involved, we knew folks were engaged in our Make Cycles. And I suppose we assumed that there would be some residual benefits after the summer ended.

But here, Jenn and Michael and Rosie brought to light stories of those experiences, and with Paul’s masterful questions, we come to see how CLMOOC continues to live on in spirit. Not that it wasn’t an interesting enough experiment, but hearing personal stories really does bring the whole adventure of the MOOC back to life, and — not to get too sappy — warmed my heart as I listened. I suspect my co-facilitators would say the same thing. The MOOC had an impact. We sort of knew it but to hear it makes that observation real.

And of course, we want others to remake and remix our MOOC.

Peace (in the appreciation),
Kevin

 

DLMOOC: Academic Mindsets and Open Connections

I’m working to get back into the mix of the Deeper Learning MOOC, after having a slight detour away from it, and the topic has shifted to Academic Mindsets. The chart above from DLMOOC shows a bit of the thinking in relation to what the term means around how we view ourselves and our work within the academic sphere.

I’m all for stepping back and thinking of how we teach and what and where we teach through these lens although (and here I will use the old teacher complaint) the reality is that most of us struggle with the time to actually do that and see this kind of inquiry as a luxury at odds with the typical day. With lesson planning, communicating with parents, navigating shifting curriculum standards, enrichment/intervention, interactions with administration, and more, taking a breath to think through academic mindsets often feels like something easily put to the side in the “now” of the teaching moment that require immediate attention. I appreciate the DLMOOC has not quite forced me, but given me an opportunity, to mull the concept of academic mindsets over. I’m not done thinking yet, either. Consider this post just a marker for now.

The DLMOOC Tweet of the Week asked us to share a thought about this and to give an example in our own professional lives of this concept. Here’s what I wrote:


I have also begun to watch some of the archived discussions on a tool called Zaption, which creates a “tour” of longer videos (so, curated video segments). I like the tool but wish I could add my own thoughts and comments, and felt like I was not part of the conversation. It’s funny how much I now expect that — that I can be part of the conversation. That’s part of my own mindset, I suppose, as a learner myself and as a teacher. I anticipate entry points and get disappointed when they are not available.

The video I have been watching is about Academic Mindsets and the Common Core, (with Camille Farrington, Eduardo Briceño, Carissa Romero, and Rob Riordan) and where those ideas might mesh (or not). The main element of the discussions was about assessment and competencies of students over time. The majority of the speakers here seem strongly supportive of the Common Core in connections to nurturing mindsets of students. I don’t know. I see some openings for deeper learning but wonder about how the standards are being integrated and how the standardized testing will assess it. We can talk again after PARCC and Smarter Balance have been rolled out and we see what’s in there.

I appreciate the discussions around writing, however, and the theme of “purpose” of learning for the individual student and away from the purpose of standardized testing data points. The last speaker in the video provided some realistic balance, for me, about how to frame learning in the Common Core era, as we move from the hypothetical learning space to the real classrooms.

What this discussion around Academic Mindsets comes down to for me is … does the place where I teach my sixth graders every day still enrich my academic mindset and is the environment such that it continues to challenge me as a professional? Are there structures and supports in place for that kind of growth? For the most part, I give a qualified “yes” on that question, but I also realize how much I turn to outside elements (the National Writing Project, online spaces, etc.) for those kinds of opportunities. I suspect that if I did not have those places to turn, I might think differently, and might view my teaching career differently, too.

Peace (in the set of mind),
Kevin

 

20 Steps Around the School


Yesterday’s Daily Create was to create a “20 Steps” video — in which you record your location, take 20 steps, record your location, take 20 steps …. 20 times. I walked around my school yesterday morning, using a shot of my feet as an anchor for my shots. As I noted on Twitter, this sort of video fits nicely with the #walkmyworld project, too.

Peace (in the documentation),
Kevin

Book Review: Fortunately, the Milk

Fortunately, the Milk is another amusingly, bizarre book by Neil Gaiman that was such the perfect read-aloud on our wintry day that we are tempted to read it again (although I think my son and wife might save it for their boys’ book club). A fast-paced, quirky adventure in which a dad goes out to get the milk and returns with a whopper of a story involving aliens, volcanoes, hot air balloons and time traveling nonsense that will have your head spinning. (in a good way).

Coupled with fun illustration, Fortunately, the Milk is a riot. Not very deep in terms of characters or plot, perhaps, but still a rollicking adventure. I also thought it interesting how Gaiman and the publisher used font sizes and styles to denote parts of the story as the narrative moves in and out of the present (kids talking to dad) to the past (the story that dad tells), and the ending reminded me a bit of that last scene in The Usual Suspects but that’s all I will say.

On a day when snow was falling and my son and I were cuddled up on the couch, we were fortunate to have Fortunately, the Milk handy and my admiration of Gaiman as a writer continues to grow.

Peace (in the tale),
Kevin

Wednesday is a Poem

I’m having some fun with a form of poetry shared by a friend (Ron) via Twitter. It’s an eleven word poem, so I created the #11poem hashtag and we have both been writing and sharing a poem for every day of the week (since Monday.) Here is what I wrote this morning:
Wed

The poem is in Notegraphy, which gives words a nice visual space in which to hang out.

The form of the #11poem is simple and according to Ron, it has roots in Dutch literary origins:

One word
Two words
Three words
Four words
One word

And we are both podcasting, too, in hopes that we will combine voices (with others, we hope) later on.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Slotting Quarters the Vintage Arcade

(This is for Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers. Come join us in writing a Slice of Life every day for the month of March. You will be part of a large and growing community of teachers-as-writers. We also use the #sol14 hashtag on Twitter. Plus, there are prizes for the Slice of Life challenge.)

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

A new place opened up not far from our house, a small restaurant that is packed to the gills with vintage arcade games of yore. Asteroids, Space Invaders, Lunar Command, Joust,  Centipede Burger Time, 1942 and more are all on display around the walls of this place. Ironically, though, there is no Pac Man or Donkey Kong. So, my sons and I broke into our piggy bank (yes, we have one), stuffed a bunch of quarters into our pockets, and made our way to the new place to check it out. It’s called … Quarters.

It’s a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, just as you might suspect. But it was mobbed, with parents (OK, mostly fathers) and kids, stuffing coins into slots and playing games with graphics that have to make you laugh. These are not your kids’ video games. These are old consoles, and yet, there is some nostalgic appeal to them. I remember hours in arcades during the summer, at the bowling alley or at my grandmother’s pool in New York City, playing many of these same machines.

My 13 year old son and I had a tournament of sorts with Asteroids, playing multiple games in order to get our name on the winner board. We succeeded (and I scored higher than he did — high five for the old man). These games are a lot harder to play than they seem, and you quickly understand some of the ingenuity that went into their creation with the limited computer power and graphics of the time.

As we were leaving, a few quarters lighter than when we arrived, he turned to me, and said, “I bet this is from a bunch of guys who just love video games and had these in their basements.”

He’s probably right.

Peace (in the play),
Kevin

PS — you can also play a lot of these games online now. Check out Classic Arcade Games. Or check out Microsoft’s site for Atari Arcade.