Slice of Life: Wicked Short Stories

(This is a Slice of Life post, in which we share out the events of the day. It runs through March and then every Tuesday throughout the year, and is facilitated by the folks atTwo Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

I’m not sure why, but I got into a real groove yesterday morning with short form fiction, as part of the #25wordstory hashtag on Twitter. It’s an activity I do every now and then, and I am often inspired when others write their own #25wordstory. So, when I saw a bunch of stories by my National Writing Project friend, Brian Fay, I found myself writing a few of my own.

I used Storify to collect them, and now, to share them out for Slice of Life. If the act of writing isn’t a slice of life, then what is, right? I can’t believe we are almost at the end of March. How’d that happen?

Peace (in the small story),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Books Read/Books Begun

(This is a Slice of Life post, in which we share out the events of the day. It runs through March and then every Tuesday throughout the year, and is facilitated by the folks atTwo Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Yesterday was one of those literary convergence days, where a bunch of books I had been reading all came to an end, and then … I started a whole new bunch of books.

READ ALOUD

Book Read: I finished up a wonderful novel by Tony Abbott called The Postcard. It is a mystery story with a few layers of story going on, as a young boy discovers a postcard that opens up the truth about the mysterious past of his grandmother and his great-grandfather, with hidden stories uncovered by clues in found postcards. The Florida setting really helped tell the story here, and the intertwining narratives of the protagonist and that of the chapters of a short story that he finds weave together nicely.

Book Begun: I’ve been wanting to read A Wrinkle in Time with my son for some years but I know it might not interest him in the way it grabbed me as a kid. But a graphic novel version? That worked, and after reading a bit last night, he took the book to bed with him to read it alone. I guess I am all right with that. Not really. I wanted to read it with him, and remember why I fell in love with the story of Meg and Charles Wallace and the adventures through strange time and space. I guess this one may move into the “pleasure reading” category soon enough. By the way, the graphic novel version is well done.

PLEASURE BOOK

Book Read: I pick up John Grisham novels now and then, just for the power reading of story and the mechanisms of a legal thriller. I won’t say his writing blows me away, but Gray Mountain does have a deep theme to mine, with a New York lawyer volunteering in a small Southern town, and launching into a fight against the coal companies whose greed and corruption impacts the poor people of the communities where the operations take place. Grisham uses his novel to make a point about the destruction of mountain with clear cutting, mineral stripping operations that have ripped the tops of mountains off and left the majestic beauty of some places forever harmed.

Book Begun: This is my second time around for Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt, which is a historical novel built on the premise of an alternative past — what if most of Europe was decimated by the Plague, and Islam became the dominant culture of the continent, as the Mongolians and Arabians moved westward and northward as the most powerful forces on the planet? It’s a thoughtful, wide-canvas of a novel, and I remember being captivated by it years ago (way before 9/11 and way before the modern politics and wars and revolt of the Middle East … I wonder how my views of the story might be different now?)

PROFESSIONAL BOOK

Book Read: I’ve been reading Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor with a group of reading teachers in my school district. It’s part of a PLC that takes place during professional development days. I really like McGregor’s style of writing and of teaching, where she uses a lot of props and objects to spark understanding of concepts like inference, schema and synthesis with students. This was a good choice for our PLC gatherings, which continue this coming Tuesday.

Book Begun: If you read this blog, you know I am always interested in the concept of gaming and game design for learning. Greg Toppo’s The Game Believes in You: How Games Can Make Our Kids Smarter is a deft account of how game elements can engage students on a different level. While Toppo so far seems to be exploring the gamification idea, I am hopeful he shifts into putting the tools of design into the hands of students, which is my primary focus.

What are you reading?

Peace (in the pages),
Kevin

 

 

Slice of Life: Pictures of the Band

(This is a Slice of Life post, in which we share out the events of the day. It runs through March and then every Tuesday throughout the year, and is facilitated by the folks at Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Kevin with Duke Rushmore March2015

Our bass player is also a videographer and at our last gig, he invited a friend to shoot video of our gig in order to make some cool videos. He’s still working on the editing and mixing of it all, but he shared out some snippets that sound and look cool.

I grabbed a few screenshots of myself (selfie alert) to make this collage. I play saxophone and do back-up singing (and write songs for the band, too). It’s a blast.

The band is Duke Rushmore. And I am happy to say that we are more than bandmates — we are very good friends. This is us, off the stage, chatting about life and music.

Duke Rushmore relaxin'

Peace (in the pic),
Kevin

Slice of Life: I Was a Paid Food Tester

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Ice cream blues

I never thought I would ever say this but I hate ice cream right now. I suspect that strong emotion will soon pass. Not yet, though. Right now, my stomach is still aching from being part of a market-research, paid-taste-testing group last night for a regional family restaurant chain (I don’t know if I should name them … I didn’t sign any confidentiality agreements … let’s just say they were very, eh, friendly to us tasters … if you live in the Northeast, you can figure it out.)

My wife signed us both up for the session, as parents of children (their target audience) which we joked was our way to have a date for free and leave the kids behind. But we could not sit near each other nor talk to each other during the 90 minutes of food and ice cream tasting. So, not much of a date night ambiance. But they paid us in the cold hard cash, so the real date will come later …

We began with half-sized portions off the dinner menu, with a turkey burger (yum), a salad (yum), and some bbq steak sandwich (not yum). We used ipods to give our impressions, and then the leader of the market session led a discussion.

When we got to the ice cream part of the night, we were all giddy and ready … I mean, free ice cream? … but after the fifth cup of ice cream (small portions, true, but they were all sundaes), I was ready to retire from the ice cream business. But then a sixth cup came. And then a seventh. Ten cups of ice cream to be consumed after a long day at school, and the adults around the room were all in a bit of a sugar rush. There were some good cups to taste (anything with peanut butter is OK with me) and some not-so-good ones (one blue ice cream had cake bits in it, with sprinkles and other gooey things and it was if someone dumped a cup of sugar down my throat … gross).

It was definitely an interesting experience to be a Professional Taste Tester for a night but I am going Ice Cream Cold Turkey for a stretch. I’ll probably change my mind when the warm weather finally arrives. When is that, exactly?

Peace (on the taste buds),
Kevin

 

A #Walkmyworld Denoument/Digital Portfolio

Walk My World Curated Links

For the past several weeks, I have been intermittently involved with the Walk My World project, which is a series of learning events designed around reflective practice on the themes of identity, composing with digital media and connected learning. It’s been a blast, and I appreciate the work and support that Ian and Greg (in particular) do to invite people in and keep them active in the Walk My World spaces. I’ve mostly tinkered around in the #walkmyworld hashtag.

And now, as we near the end, we are asked to consider pulling together our various “makes” and reflections into a single digital portfolio. Some folks are using Storify, which I used last year, but I wanted to keep trying out the Diigo Outliner tool and dig into something new. It’s merely an online collection of links and notes, organized in an outline format, which can be shared out.

Check out my Walk My World digital portfolio, organized by Learning Events and assorted categories.

On one hand, I like the organization of this Diigo tool. On the other hand, it seems rather bland as an experience. I’m feeling mixed about it, particularly when you consider how best to share a range of digital media projects. In many ways, if I were doing this right, I would create a website, linking and embedding media right into the experience of the reader (that would be you). With this tool, you need to follow my links out, moving into different spaces to experience what I made.

That’s not good design.

But it’s what I have for now.

Peace (in the walk),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Testing Meerkat to Stream a Corner Concert

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Corner concert

I have been curious about the live-streaming video app called Meerkat. It’s pretty simple to use. Download the app. Hit the play and you are live on Twitter and the Web. I guess Twitter itself is nearing a launch of its own app — Periscope, I think it is called — but I wanted to try out Meerkat myself.

So, I figured, maybe I will play and live-stream a song. I have this idea for “corner concerts” — short, one-song streams of playing live for a few minutes, maybe on a regular schedule, and see if anyone cares to listen.

I set up my iPad yesterday, grabbed my guitar and hit the play button and … well … played a song of mine, called Ease Your Mind. It was interesting because for the first part of the song, no one was watching. Little icons pop up in the corner when folks have opened your live-stream video. Then, I started to see a few visitors (in the video, you can can see me look at the screen and smile a bit), so I extended the song an extra verse and chorus before signing off.

Meerkat saves the video to your device, so I uploaded it into YouTube easily enough. I’ll keep tinkering and playing around, and thinking about the possibilities of your mobile device being a live-stream possibility (good for conferences, maybe?).

Thanks for reading. And if you were one of the icons in my stream, much thanks.

Peace (in the stream),
Kevin

 

Playing with the ParaPara Animation Tool

Check this out:

I stumbled into an open source, online animation tool that is simple to use and pretty nifty way to teach animation to kids. ParaPara is a Japanese animation tool that allows for simple animation (and apparently, there is a way to collaborate with others … looking into that feature …) Mozilla’s Webmaker hosts a tutorial on how to use it, with links to the ParaPara site.

Once you make your animation, it kicks out a link and then an embed code, so that you can embed like I did with my Happy Friend animation that I created in just a few minutes.

What are you waiting for? Get making!

Making Animation with ParaPara

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

PS –

Slice of Life: Mix and Remix (and Remix again?)

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Write, Share, Give

Sometimes, opportunity presents itself. Yesterday morning, I was checking out the Twitter hasthag for #walkmyworld (a series of media-centric activities around the theme of identity and creation — see more here) when I noticed that Shawna had posted a digital poem. Of course, I was curious. And she was looking for feedback. I went there, at her blog site, to see what she had been up to.

It was a lovely rendition of a Georgia Heard poem about school and conformity and “straight lines” that we expect our students to fall into when they come into school, instead of the crazy zig-zag of life outside of school. I’m not philosophically opposed to imposing order on the day – and plenty of kids need that consistency, given the chaos of their lives at home. But Shawna did such a nice job.

Take a look.

I left her a comment (including a request to share out the “how she did it” at her blog) and then decided to go one step further — I decided to honor her poem by remixing it, via Webmaker Popcorn Maker. If you have not used Popcorn, it allows you to layer in various media and do other interesting things with online video. The remix does not affect the original. It only borrows it. Remix is a way to honor the original, and in this case, I was hoping to add a layer of my own art to Shawn’s art.

Check it out.

And of course, one of the beauties of Popcorn is the ability to remix the remix. So, why not give it a try? You can either click on the “remix” button at the top right of my Popcorn Project, or you can just click here and get started (no account needed to play around with the remix.)

See what you can make. And then maybe write about it.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Without Hot Water

(Each day in March, a whole bunch of educators are writing Slices of Life — capturing the small moments. It is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. You write, too.)

Write, Share, Give

Some things we take for granted in life. Like, hot water.

Yesterday morning, we heard a loud noise in the basement as we took showers. “Just a cold pipe or something,” we told ourselves. “It will go away.”

It didn’t.

By night, when my wife was using some hot water and the noise seemed like some monster living in our basement, I finally grabbed a flashlight to get a closer look. The water heater was banging away on the wall and a small drip of water was coming off one of the hoses. The floor was wet. There was a faint smell of something electrical in the air.

Uh oh.

We unplugged the whole shebang, called the plumber (who promptly returned our call at 8 p.m. and is coming over today — we love our plumber!), and began to fret over the fix-it bill. This morning, I did a cold shave with freezing water — it reminded me of my time in the military, out in training in the woods, where the only water for shaving and cleaning was cold canteen water.

We’re roughing it this morning and hope the hot water is back by this evening …

Peace (and warmth),
Kevin

Transformed into a Robot

My youngest son has a sketchbook where he is creating a whole menagerie of robot designs. He showed he this one recently: The Daddy-o-Tron. I feel honored to have been made robotic. Notice how he gave me a side-kick robot — the Book-o-Tron.

Daddy-o-Tron Robot

Peace (with them ears),
Kevin