Why Do YOU Write? (The National Day on Writing)

Today, my sixth graders will be writing to the prompt of “Why I Write” — which is the theme of this year’s National Day on Writing. I aim to show them Garageband for the first time this year, and get some of them podcasting their voices as a class. We will then share out via our class Soundcloud account, and on our class website, and be “part of the conversation” of the world.

The other day, I wrote about why I write digitally.

Why I Write Digitally 2016

I also found and revised a poem I had written before on the theme of why I write.

Why I Write poem 2016

And I found this podcast mentor text from a past year when Why I Write was a theme of the National Day on Writing. I’ll be sharing it out with students today.

Why do you write?

Peace (celebrate it in writing),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Cool Collaboration

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing feature hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about moments. You write, too.)

I wish I could embed the media piece I want to write about today, but you will have to go to Mariana’s blog to see and hear it. Then, come on back!

<… we pause here for a blog break … musical interlude … >

Are you back?

Isn’t that nifty and cool?

Mariana shared out the final version of this impromptu collaboration yesterday and I was so excited about it for a many reasons. This all began in the DS106/Daily Create ecosystem, as Mariana and Vivian are both regulars in my DS106 Twitter stream.

The other day, for a Daily Create assignment to create an animated gif, I took that saxophone player image and layered an animation of notes on top of it.

Mariana saw it, and wondered if she could take it a step further. She wanted to split the original image and tie them back together in a gif format called Stereogram. I had included Viv in a tweet back to Mariana because I know Viv is also a saxophone player. Viv suggested adding a layer of saxophone music to the gif.

Viv recorded her part and then put it on Soundcloud. I grabbed the file off Soundcloud, pulled it into Soundtrap and then realized that my tenor saxophone was at my bandmate’s house,. So I dusted off my soprano sax, and proceeded to riff off the top of Viv’s part, as best as I could.

That file was soon up in Soundcloud so that Mariana could grab it and layer it on her gif … and that’s what she shared out yesterday. It was very cool.

So, a few things to reflect upon: collaborative creativity like this always gets me curious and energized. I know Mariana and Viv via social media circles (mostly DS106) but the passing around of media was rather seamless. We created together, collaboratively.  We shared, downloaded, added, uploaded, shared again. We live in different parts of the world but that didn’t matter. We were working together.

Second, Viv and I have periodically thought: we should figure out a way to accompany ourselves on saxophone. I don’t know many other sax players in my online circles. Viv is one of the few. So, finally getting a chance to “jam” with her was great. The gif was a perfect opportunity.

Third, this was all fun. Thanks, Mariana. Thanks, Viv.

Peace (sounds like music),
Kevin

Writing Short: Flash Fiction in 140 Characters

One of the hashtags I keep open in my Tweetdeck is #25wordstory, which was first introduced to me by Brian Fay, and I try to contribute now and then. The small stories, confined by 140 characters, are interesting to write. While some believe the stories have to be 25 words, exact, I am more of the mind that it has to fit inside a tweet.

With flash fiction like this, you need to leave gaps for the reader. You can only hint at the larger story. They are interesting to write, and intriguing to read.

In the past week or so, I have written a handful for the hashtag and in the interest of curating, I ported the stories out of Twitter and into Pablo in order to marry the words with images. Then, the stories all got pulled into Animoto for a video collage hosted on YouTube. (Note: I am trying to make clear my paths of composition these days.)

Writing these very short, short stories reminds me of a presentation I once did for an NCTE Ignite session called Writing, in Short.

Peace (expand it),
Kevin

#DigiLitSunday: #WhyIWrite Digitally

(This is a post for DigiLitSunday, a regular look with other educators at digital literacies. This week’s theme is connected to the upcoming National Day on Writing, which takes place on Thursday with the theme of Why I Write.)

I write digitally to find the grooves between the spaces. Digital writing does not replace the other ways I write. It accompanies it. It harmonizes with it. I have notebooks brimming with lyrics, poems and stories. Sticky notes dot our fridge.  I am always an arms length away from a pencil. Pens of all colors take up residence in the pockets of my jacket. But digital writing gives me another venue to consider the intersections of media and words, and how they might mesh or even collide together into something new. I have yet to find the perfect moment — that ‘aha’ spark when it all works just as I envisioned —  but knowing that moment might yet be possible gives me hope and inspiration to keep moving forward. I write with images as words and words as image, sound as image and image as sound, and video as platform for alternative paths to break down the wall between reader and writer. My ideas for digital writing collapse as often as they work. Beneath all that I write digitally, I seek to keep my words and language and stories as the foundation. Words still matter, no matter how glossed up they look and how interesting they sound. I’m still finding myself as a digital writer, and still helping my students find themselves as digital writers. I write digitally because the possibilities hint at something just on the horizon, and I can’t wait to write it into realization.

So, for example:

Peace (in theory),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: Arab of the Future 2

 

It’s so difficult to read Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East by Riad Sattouf without the prism of the modern day tragedy unfolding in Syria. In fact, it’s nearly impossible. Maybe that’s the point.

Sattouf’s continued insightful exploration of his childhood in Syria, which is the focus of this second autobiographical graphic novel, provides context and insights into the underlying tensions that may now be ripping apart of the fabric of that country. Sattouf is telling his own story, and his family’s story, through the eyes of himself, as a child in the Middle East. Yet, his story has larger implications.

Sattouf’s first book (years 1978-1984) bounced the family back and forth between the Middle East and Europe. This second book (years 1984-1985) mostly is confined to his childhood in Syria (with one vacation jaunt to France, which provides a stark contrast to Syria), and through Sattouf’s young eyes, we start to see the tensions of politics; of moral, religious, and ethical fault lines; and of the Assad’s family’s looming presence over everyday life as the regime strengthens its grip on society.

The power of a graphic novel autobiography like this one is that it humanizes the experiences of everyday Syrians. Sattouf uses humor and insight, and compassion, even as he casts an honest eye at his own family’s struggle to fit in (he, for example, has a French mother, and he has blond hair … not stereotypical Arab) and survive within the confines of everyday life in Syria in the mid-1980s. The scenes of the school day are enlightening and horrifying, yet are tempered by the innocent eyes of his younger self.

Sattouf’s books — and I hope he keeps going with his story — have given me a deeper understanding of Arab life in the Middle East, and allowed me to see the world beyond the newspaper headlines. By providing us the perspective of child in a country, and an entire region, about to enter a period of immense change, Sattouf shared with us the gift of perspective and understanding.

What more can you ask for of any book?

Peace (in Syria and beyond),
Kevin

The Power of MultiModalities (4TDW)

MultiModality: 4TDW Session

I’m wishing I had sat in on this discussion session in last week’s 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing (a free series of workshops and discussions that take place each Sunday through October .. I am a keynote on the last Sunday of the conference, exploring the nature of Digital Writing), but I am also grateful the sessions are being archived.

This week, I have wandered through Jeremy Hyler’s presentation on Grammar and Digital Writing (and moving from one audience to another with code-switching); and through Jianna Taylor’s talk on moving towards Digital Writing Notebooks; and through Lindsay Stoetzel’s work on Design Thinking in the Digital Writing Classroom. I am hopeful my friend, Anna Smith, will have her slides up there soon, as her work around Learning with New Media is a topic of interest to me.

But it is the panel discussion entitled MultiModal Moments and Making Composition(s) Move —  with Cassie Brownell, Matthew Hall, Rohit Mehta and Jon Wargo —  that got most of my attention. I was intrigued by the humanist approach and the social justice element of the presentation — of how students using multimedia to make their voices heard in the world have a chance to effect change in the world. Tapping into the elements of different modalities (image, video, text, audio, etc) empowers young writers, and engages them in the act of composition for a purpose.

As educators, understanding the different media attributes, and unveiling the forms and potential of each to our students, seems to be a critical way of giving our students not just permission, but authority, to move beyond traditional writing. Making videos and sharing images … this is what young people do in the world outside of our schools. Tapping into that interest may open up engagement on a whole new level. Connecting those interests to the larger world? That often is more powerful that one can imagine, until you try it. (See Connected Learning ideas)

A whole bunch of interesting presentations are on tap again this coming Sunday, including using online sources for crafting argument, weaving digital writing into the elementary classroom, and various looks at the power of blogging. I’ll be digging in. How about you?

Peace (not just digital),
Kevin

Once Every Four Years (But Not Like This)


flickr photo shared by dmaleus under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

As a teacher and parent, I appreciated the first question from the “audience” during the second United States Presidential Debate, where the question talked about decorum and how to explain the presidential race to children. It was a question I have been asking myself ever since Friday’s release of the Trump video, and the responses to it. (Too bad Trump ignored the question almost completely and Clinton skirted over it, although she did come back to the question a few times, at least).

I think we educators have to both tread lightly here, depending on the age of our students, and address some of the important issues that seem to get sidelined by the personalities, and conflicts, in the race. This is a delicate act. But we can do it. We have to do it. This is their world, even if they don’t have a vote.


flickr photo shared by Ryan Bretag under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Yesterday, during the second half of a Professional Development day, my social studies colleague and I were given time to plan out an entire unit on teaching the presidential campaign. Over the course of about 2 1/2 hours, we debated between ourselves about how to best approach it and then got down to the planning of lessons that will weave in and out of my English Language Arts/Technology class and his Social Studies/Civics class. I’m appreciative that we were given the time and space to work on it, and I am pretty satisfied we have a solid plan in place that will give our students information, and a voice, in the 2016 Presidential Campaign.

A rough sequence of activities/lessons/projects include:

  • An overview of the electoral college/election system that counters the narrative of the popular vote that most young people seem to think is the way presidents are elected;
  • Highlighting main topics of concern for the nation;
  • Lessons on conducting focused research projects, with citations from sources;
  • A “Letter to the Next President” project (modeled on the Letters to the Next President site, open only to students 13 and up) that will be backed up with some research queries;
  • Possible entry into the Youth Voices network, for authentic audience for the Letters to the President (and maybe podcasting);
  • A political cartoon lesson and project;
  • A mock election for grades three through six at our school.

Our goal as teachers is to be neutral and balanced in our own political views, which is a necessity for our community, while trying to keep the focus on the issues themselves more than on the candidates. Who knows where this campaign will go in the next four weeks?


flickr photo shared by NedraI under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

We may yet be dodging and weaving issues yet to appear on the front pages while digging down into the important issues that the candidates should be spending more time talking about. If they won’t, we will.

Peace (vote for it),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: #IMMOOC Quotes of Note

(This is for Slice of Life, a weekly writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

path of idea

We’re somewhere in the middle of the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC, but I am not sure where things are because I keep forgetting to pay attention to what chapter I am on. I am pretty sure I have read ahead in George Couros’ book — The Innovator’s Mindset. I don’t think it matters. It’s a MOOC, after all.

From Innovator's Mindset

Yesterday, I followed a digital path from the Kindle app on iPad (where I am reading The Innovator’s Mindset book) … to the Amazon Kindle website where my highlighted annotations are housed on the Web … to the Pablo visual quote-making site so that I could “visualize” some of the highlights … to Flickr to host the quote images and then … back here to share the quotes. I’ll be hitting the “share” button one more time, pushing the post into my social media networks with a mouse-click.

From Innovator's MindsetThat’s quite a path across platforms just to share a few words I didn’t even write, and yet, it did seem rather seamless. It’s true that while one BIG APP would be helpful for accomplishing all that (read-highlight-quote-share), we adapt to what is available to us and use it as we need. And I have been walking this path of sharing from one platform to another for some time.

From Innovator's Mindset

The quotes sprinkled here in this post center on ideas that I want to hold on to, as best as I can. And if you look closely at the quotes I am sharing, you will see the message in them (exploration, reflection, possibilities) dovetails quite nicely with the message I am writing here for Slice of Life.

From Innovator's Mindset

Peace (make it work for you),
Kevin