Graphic Novel Review: Stargazing

Stargazing by Jen Wang is a lovely exploration of friendship and adolescent, of creative spirit and illness. Told with heartfelt humor and a tender touch, the graphic novel centers on Christine, and her new neighbor, Moon, as they forge a friendship.

Moon, in particular, is a complicated character, from a struggling Buddhist family (and Christine’s family is Chinese). Moon is never a follower, always unique and strong in her opinions, and her spirit of looking at everything from an angle shines throughout the story — including her tales to Christine about being certain she is a celestial being from the stars. All this by Wang draws us in, and then surprises us when Moon acts with unpredictable rage against another student at school.

Even Christine does not know what to think.

But it turns out, there is more to the story of Moon, and health issues have shaped the good (creative) and bad (anger) of her emerging personality. The second half of the graphic novel is about the two friends grappling with Moon’s diagnosis.

I want to note that the artwork here by Wang is perfectly attuned to the story of Moon and Christine, with the color shadings and hues contributing to the enjoyment of the story. This book would be good for upper elementary and middle school students.

Peace (in contradictions),
Kevin

Further Defining Digital Literacies: Interconnected, Dynamic, Malleable

Defining Digital Literacies NCTE introI’m slowly reading and digesting, and appreciating, the National Council of Teachers of English revised definition of Literacy in a Digital Age, and I am appreciating the depth of the inquiry.

Over the coming days (or weeks), I hope to explore some various aspects of their work, as digital literacy is a concept that I, too, have been pondering on for some time as a teacher and writer, and have struggled at times to put it all into words that seem large enough to encompass the changing literacy landscape and narrow enough to stay focused on literacy practice.

The words “interconnected, dynamic and malleable” stuck out for me in the opening introduction. Those three words say a lot about how we can look at literacy in the age of screens and Connected Learning practices and more.

  • Interconnections, as in the ways we can collaborate with others, find information across platforms, and write our way across platforms and online spaces
  • Dynamic, as in we can leverage multimedia to amplify our voice, our message, our connections (or we can choose not to, and write with quiet, too)
  • Malleable, as in we have flexibility for the ways in which we write, and share, depending upon situation and circumstance, and audience, and need

The NCTE researchers then dive deeper into how these elements play out across themes of literacies, access, social justice and more.

Active, successful participants in a global society must be able to

  • Participate effectively and critically in a networked world;
  • Explore and engage critically, thoughtfully, and across a wide variety of inclusive texts and tools/modalities;
  • Consume, curate, and create actively across contexts;
  • Advocate for equitable access to and accessibility of texts, tools, and information;
  • Build and sustain intentional global and cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Promote culturally sustaining communication and recognize the bias and privilege present in the interactions;
  • Examine the rights, responsibilities, and ethical implications of the use and creation of information;
  • Determine how and to what extent texts and tools amplify one’s own and others’ narratives as well as counter unproductive narratives;
  • Recognize and honor the multilingual literacy identities and culture experiences individuals bring to learning environments, and provide opportunities to promote, amplify, and encourage these differing variations of language (e.g., dialect, jargon, register).  — from NCTE

Peace (thinking on it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Musical Moment

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

My guitar has been sitting in the corner for a few weeks as I have been busy with school, family, etc. I picked it up and within 15 minutes, this entire demo song was done — lyrics, music, demo. Sometimes, the muse flows through with the Pen and Paper Blues.

Peace (singing it the best I can),
Kevin

Internet Mapping Project: 2019

Internet Mapping collage2

This is the third year I have brought Kevin Kelly’s Internet Mapping Project into my sixth grade classroom as part of the start of our Digital Life unit. I love how the artistic invitation — to capture yourself in relation to the Internet and technology — opens up a discussion about the intrusion of technology and the way it has woven into our lives.

Internet Mapping collage1

If you don’t know about Kelly’s project, it was an attempt to humanize our interactions with the Internet and to visualize the ways we see “home” in online spaces. I de-emphasize the “home” aspect a bit with my students, and focus on themselves as the central anchoring point.

The internet is vast. Bigger than a city, bigger than a country, maybe as big as the universe. It’s expanding by the second. No one has seen its borders.

And the internet is intangible, like spirits and angels. The web is an immense ghost land of disembodied places. Who knows if you are even there, there.

Yet everyday we navigate through this ethereal realm for hours on end and return alive. We must have some map in our head.

I’ve become very curious about the maps people have in their minds when they enter the internet. So I’ve been asking people to draw me a map of the internet as they see it. That’s all.  — Kevin Kelly

Peace (webbed),
Kevin

Book Review: Because Internet (Understanding the New Rules of Language)

Sometimes, when you come across a linguist — even if you love words and language — the insider-speech gets a little too much to bear. Not so with Gretchen McCulloch, whose book Because Internet (Understanding the New Rules of Language) is infused with focused curiosity, a sense of fun and academic research. Yes, it’s possible.

And what she is looking at is our fascinating times of what seems to be our ever expanding elastic language — where the immersive and social qualities of technology seem to be altering the ways in which we write and speak and communicate in different ways. As teachers, many of us know this just by listening and reading our students.

McCulloch notes a few times in her book that her examination here is merely a snapshot of the present, not a prediction of where language is going.

To the people who make internet language. You are the territory, this is merely a map. — from the dedication page, by Gretchen McCulloch

Still, it’s a fascinating dip into rippling waters.

What interested me the most was her look at the explosion of informal writing — particularly as she notes how social media and technology connections is tearing down the rules of formal writing, for informal communications (while formal rules still apply for formal writing) — and what she calls “typographical tone of voice” — a term that I love for its poetry.

In this section, McCulloch explores the expanded use of punctuation for meaning making, the use of font styles (no caps/all caps, etc), repeating letters for emotive resonance, abbreviations to connote kindness, the echoes of coding into our writing, the use of space between words and passages, and ways we project emotions and feeling into our writing when confronted with limited means.

I mean, wow. That’s a lot of intriguing lens on writing, and McCulloch navigates them all with a personable voice, a linguist’s ear for language, and a sense of both celebration and skepticism about what might or might not be happening with our language.

Later, she also explores memes and emoticons, and the way visual language is complementing written language, often in complementary and complicated ways. This book covers a lot of ground, but McCulloch is an able tour guide, pointing out the funny quirks as well as the emerging patterns.

Peace (written out),
Kevin

My Students and How They Use Technology: Survey Results

tech survey collage

Each year, for the past eight or nine years, I have given my sixth grade students a survey at the start of our Digital Life unit — as much to inform our discussions as to give me some insight into trends over time with an 11 year old audience.

This year, for example it’s a growing TikTok trend and a further devaluing of Facebook, with Instagram’s popularity also on the decline. Also, there are fewer reported negative experiences even as more students report adults talking to them about how best to use technology and digital media.

All this also helps me send forward resources to families and parents, as an encouragement to talk about and monitor technology use with their children.

This leads us to the first activity — The Internet Mapping Project by Kevin Kelly– and students are planning to share out today their artistic interpretations of how they envision their interaction with technology. I am always curious to see how they approach this prompt. Some go literal. Others, symbolic.

Internet Mapping Project template

Peace (becoming aware),
Kevin

The Good Fight’s Animated Shorts (like Schoolhouse Rock for Adults)

My wife and I are watching the third season of The Good Fight television show (the solid spin-off from The Good Wife) and they’ve added a feature called The Good Fight Short, which are animated video interludes by Jonathan Coulton and Head Gear Animation inserted unexpectedly into the storyline. The videos are hilarious and informative. They’re like Schoolhouse Rock for adults in the modern age (with a clear progressive bent).

Check a few out:

and

and

and

We love the quirky nature of these and looking forward to more as we move deeper into the season.

Peace (learning it),
Kevin

Peace Posters: Journeys to Peace

Peace Posters 2019

These works of wonderful art are hanging on the walls of our schools, created by our sixth graders for our art teacher’s annual Peace Poster project. The theme this year was Journey to Peace (this is all part of a Lions Club project). Students have to use only art and design, not writing, in their posters. I love the connection to art and peace and the larger world, and I help them in our writing class to write their Artist Statements which will get placed alongside each poster in the coming days.

 

Peace (the journey),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Looking Next Door For the Neighbor No Longer There

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

There was a time when every Veterans Day, I would keep a special eye out for my neighbor, who served in the Korean War and who volunteered for years to help other vets out at the nearby VA Hospital. Of course, we connected many other days of the year beyond Veterans Day, but on that day, I made sure I was looking for him.

I’d see him, go outside, and we’d chat, and I’d make sure he knew we were thinking of him and remembering others who served in war and came home to restart their lives. I’d tell him about the Veterans Day event at our school — the breakfast and ceremony and music and celebration. He knew I had been in the military, too, but even on Veterans Day, we spoke little of those connections.

He passed away earlier this year and yet I found myself yesterday looking towards the fence, to where his rake would often rest near mine as we chatted, the leaves fluttering around us in the Autumn wind.

Peace (remembering Sarge),
Kevin