My Word: Make


I’ve seen a lot of friends on Twitter using the “one word” idea. It’s a simple but powerful way to focus in on a theme for the new year. Or maybe not so simple. I’ve struggled with a single word that is large enough to encompass how I want to approach the year and not so intangible as to be meaningless. I’ve settled in on the word “Make” for a few reasons.

First of all, I really got involved in learning more about the Maker’s Movement this year, through work with the National Writing Project. Our CLMOOC was focused on the “make.” I am intrigued by how helping students learn through doing, and creating things/ideas is coming back around again.

Second, I am not a physical maker. I bumble my way through any project you hand me. When I fixed the toilet in our house one day, you should have heard the cheers and seen the high fives we gave each other. I mean, I had fixed the toilet, for goodness sake. That was a breakthrough.

So, this idea of focusing on “make” is always a way to slowly get me out of my own comfort zone. I know I have students who struggle with writing a story but could take apart a car engine, and even put it back to together again. I know I have students who can make an engaging video, publish it on YouTube, and yet, they can’t quite write a paragraph with deep meaning.

I can’t say right now how this word “make” will make its way into my daily life. But I do have a wide definition in my head of what it means to “make” and I’ll keep mulling this one over. It’s digital, physical and internal, and I am going to “make” 2014 a year of diving in as deep as I can.

In that vein, one of the things I have been doing is pulling together a Flipboard magazine around the connections of making and learning, and Connected Learning. It’s a start, and I am making the magazine happen. (meta-make?)

Peace (in the word),
Kevin

Video Games They Play and Where They Play Them

As we went into the break, my students were finishing up a video game review project (while underway with their own video game design project). As I read through the reviews over vacation, I began jotting down the variety of video games they chose to review, and on what platform they play them.

So, here is the wide range of games:

And here is a small infographic on the breakdown of the platforms:

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin
PS — I used a new ipad app called iVisual to make the second infographic that Richard Byrne put up on his site. It’s pretty nifty but limited (there is a paid version, which I didn’t want to pay for … yet).

Hello 2014

My son and I used the Aurasma app to color in the new year. Happy New Year to you and thank you for stopping by.

Peace (every day, all year),
Kevin

Slice of Life Humor: A Retirement Letter from #Slice2013

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This is for Slice of Life. (You can view it differently here.)

<Here is a letter received from #slice2013 this morning. Please take it under advisement.>

Dear Twitter,

I’ve decided to retire. I know, I know, I’ve been a faithful bit of byte every Tuesday, as I dutifully connect the Slice of Life community together with their writing. You might even say that my role has been to be a thread, stitching together stories across platforms — from blogs to that other social network some people still use to places that I haven’t even heard of before this year. Who knew that my time would come so soon? But here it is, the waning days of 2013, and I realize that my identity as #slice2013 is at the very end of the road.

As per our original agreement, I am expecting some perks for my work all year, Twitter. First of all, that vacation house on the Gulf Coast of Florida is ready, is it not? I plan to pack up my tweets and kick back in the sun and surf, with a bottle of Mezcal by my side. Surely, I’ve earned it. Second, I expect to be called out of retirement for training of the new hashtag. Oh, don’t try to play coy with me, Twitter. I know you have something brewing because … and this is important, so listen closely … the Slice of Life community really needs a hashtag.

Let me give you some suggestions on hashtags for the next year:

  • #slice2014 (the obvious choice)
  • #slicingbreadandwords2014 (too long)
  • #sol14 (too short and obscure)
  • #Lifeinslices (reversed)
  • #justletuswrite (nice but not connected to Slice of Life)

As you have entrusted me with the delicate decision, I have to go with the first hashtag — #slice2014 — as my top choice, reflecting as it does my own personality with a slight change in numbers to reflect the new year. Please bring my recommendation to the Slice of Life Hashtag Authorization Committee as soon as possible. If you act too slow, someone else might come along and grab the hashtag. The last thing we want is a legal battle over a hashtag. The Slice of Life Defense Fun Kickstarter Campaign is going poorly, as you know.

Now, you must let me go, as I have this last and final Tuesday of the year to oversee. You should see some of the writing and reflecting that is going on. It is amazing. The Mezcal can wait! I’m trending on Twitter, and it’s a mad rush.

Your friend in letters,

#slice2013

Peace (as submitted by),
Kevin

Reflecting on 2013: Life’s a Blur — Make a List


I don’t know about you, but the end of December rolls around and I realize that another year has skipped past me. If I don’t take time to reflect a bit, it’s all gone right out the window. Of course, one of the reasons I blog is to remember, to archive the thinking and reflection and experimentation that I dive into. This blog is a like a huge USB Memory Drive plugged into my head and heart. Ok. Enough sappy metaphors.

In the interest of using technology to share, I created a visual of the ten events that I want to remember from 2013 (I used a software program called Simple Diagrams) and then put the image on Flickr, and then moved it over to ThingLink, so that each image has a short bit of text with a link to the sites mentioned.

Peace (in the year),
Kevin

 

Open Up the Heartstrings — Considering Music

Three events have me thinking deeper about music this week. Though separate, they all connect.

First, I finished reading Rob Sheffield’s Turn Around Bright Eyes, which is a wonderful rumination on the power of music (and in Sheffield’s case, Karaoke) to create meaning in the phases of our lives. Second, I have been culling together a bunch of old recordings for a site I am creating at Bandcamp to share out some of my music. Finally, my friends Luke and Joel were musing on tracks this week as Luke wrote about ballads and Joel responded with a look at Smashing Pumpkins.

Sheffield’s book is the second of his that I have read in the past six months (the other is Love is a Mix Tape — another keeper). I read Sheffield all the time in Rolling Stone magazine, but I wasn’t sure if he could sustain a book. He can (at least three books, even), and I am grateful for the way he brings his pop culture lens and thinking about music to how he views life. You’ll have to read Sheffield’s book to get the whole story, but he married young, had tragedy and found love again when he thought it would never happen. Through it all, Sheffield uses his love of music as the lens to see life, and even when he is talking about bands that I don’t know, I am right with him, nodding my head and knowing what he is talking about. Music is one of those things that connects us to the past, he notes, but also connects us to the present moment while still guiding us into the future.

The past is what has been present in my head this past week as I have been culling through tracks recorded with two previous bands over the last 10 years. I’ve been pulling aside songs that I wrote or co-wrote in hopes of bringing a little light on them. A few of them I consider to be gems, captured nicely in the recording studio. A few had been gems that got lost and muddled in the studio. A few surprisingly became gems in the studio. But listening to the tracks is like walking down the path to where I was in time. I’m still writing songs for my current band, and maybe some day we will venture into the studio (although both of the former bands broke up as soon as we were done with recording — so the few of us still left from those previous bands are a little studio-shy, to say the least). But putting on headphones and listening to music I wrote, performed with bands from another time, has been a reminder of how music is, and was, a fabric in my life, weaving the stories of who I am together over time. Sometimes, I forget that and have to be reminded.

Finally, Luke blogged the other day about ballads as a sort of emotional anchor, and then he shared out the tracks he was writing about, too. I am always interested in what songs are other people’s lists, and I was surprised to see Radiohead right at the top. I’d quibble with a few of Luke’s choices (Not a huge fan of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, for some reason, although I could listen to Flea any day) and love that a few are new to me. It’s interesting that Luke’s lens here is ballads, which tug at our heart in ways that stories and words don’t do.

And it occurred to me … what ballads would be on my list? Here are a few, although I am not sure they all fall under the “ballad” banner (see above for the video playlist of most of the songs here. Some are different versions than I remember but still capture the gist of the song):

  • Marc Cohn: True Companion (from his debut album). Years later, I can still listen to this track and the way the piano deepens with those low notes and the opening voice, and then how the strings swell in. And Cohn sings about finding that person who seems to make your life complete. I hear this song and my own heart beats a little faster.
  • Scott Hamilton — The Very Thought of You (from The Beginning) — Jazz saxophonist Scott Hamilton plays with such an easy and swerve of sound that he often becomes the background when I am cooking or writing. Background is not the right word, though, since his sentiment floats up and out. This track is a favorite because Hamilton floats over the sparse rhythm track.
  • Indigo Girls — You and Me of the 10,000 Wars (from Nomads, Indians, Saints) — There was a time … when I was deep into the Indigo Girls, particularly around a period of relationship breakups that seemed to be more 0f a norm than I would have liked. I sank into Emily Salier’s lyrics and voice to get me through, and even today, I can’t hear some of those songs without remembering …
  • Seal — Prayer for the Dying (from Seal) — I was stunned when I finally found this album, in one of those “where has this sound been all my life?” kind of moments. His voice and the production (sometimes, over the top, but mostly, just along that edge) gives a feel here that still has me stop in my tracks when the song and album come on. I need to listen. I don’t think Seal ever reached these heights again.
  • Chris Isaac – Wicked Game (from Heart Shaped World). One on hand, the slide guitar gives it a feel of too much country (or maybe that is my wife talking in my head). But we play this one my band, and I only do a little back up vocals. Listening to the lead singer belt this one out while I am in the room can give goose pimples because he mostly nails it (it’s hard to hit Isaak’s vocal range). This song, and the video, is forever etched on my mind from the first time I heard/saw it. It’s definitely one where the feel of the video (so sultry and sexy) matched perfectly with the feel of the song.
  • Jakob Dylan — This End of the Telescope (from Seeing Things) — I seem to be one of the only people I know who has enjoyed Jakob Dylan’s solo efforts over the years. This track muses on our place on this planet, and how perspectives shift over time. It reminds me of times of confusion and trying to find focus, and how powerful friendships can be during the times of personal turmoil.
  • Joan Armitrading — Everyday Boy (from What’s Inside) — I have no idea how I got my hands on a Joan Armitrading disc during a certain time period where I was deep inside myself, but this song and the lyrics stuck with me over time. Then, I sort of let it go. Joan had done her job for me. So, here, listening again as I write this post brings up a lot of the past, and that brings us back to how music does something for our hearts and minds that few other kinds of composing and performance do (Sheffield’s point).
  • And finally, every track on The Swell Seasons album, Strict Joy. I guess they have broken up (figures) but this collection of songs, sung with heart-breaking harmony is an amazing headphone experience. It’s not the same when I play it out on speakers — the richness of the language and the depth of the singing get lost in the air. But put this one with headphones, and you transported deep into the heart.

What songs hit your heart?

Peace (in the muse),
Kevin

 

Stopmotion Fun — Making Facez

The last day of school before vacation, I handed out wikistix and said, “Make something.” Most kids made animals at their seats but one girl got up and pinned the wikistix to our closet door. It stood there all day, greeting students. So, I decided to make a stopmotion animation with it, and posted it to our classroom blog for that student. I hope she sees it (I am sure she will.)

Peace (in the facez),
Kevin

Curating Flipboard: Interesting Education and Game Design/Learning


I’ve long used the Flipboard “magazine” app on the iPad to read article collections, around news, sports, music, humor and even some teaching.  I love the visual feel of the app, and how images, videos and words come together so nicely. It’s a great reading experience.

But this week, I remembered that anyone in Flipboard can also create and share their own flippable visual magazines. So I am diving in, with two magazines: Interesting Education (where I will curate articles about learning and technology that seem interesting .. to me, anyway) and Game Design and Learning (which is where we can learn more about how game design engages students as tinkerers, writers, and engineers and more). More magazines might come later …

My aim is to keep the magazines as fresh as I can, but I am still learning about the various ways to keep adding in new content, so if you subscribe to my magazines — thank you and be patient with me. I’m no Tina Brown or David Remnick.

Curation in the 21st Century World is an interesting thing. We bring in articles and media through our own lens of understanding, and yet we are limited too by the media we have at hand. Unless you are lucky, curating our content is not a full-time job, so going deep is not always an option. This is going to be an issue for me, as I read and save a lot of cool ideas via RSS (yes, I am still reading RSS feeds) but have not yet figured out the best way to bring those articles into Flipboard. I suspect there is a way. I just haven’t found it yet (if you have, please let me know). For now, it seems that my Flipboard content will come from within other Flipboard magazines, which is fine as long as it doesn’t become an echo chamber or rehashing of ideas.

I am also working to frame the articles and pieces better, adding some ideas to center the media in the magazines. This part of curation — the voice of the curator making the decisions — is something I am often weak at. I zip through, see something cool, add it and move on. I don’t think I am alone with that, either. I’ll be doing more diving into Flipboard to see where I can add my own personality to my magazines.

I invite you to subscribe and come along on my journey, too. You can view Flipboards on the web but it’s not the same reading experience as with the free app. Just so you know. And when you subscribe, it puts the magazine right into your Flipboard dashboard, which makes the content easily accessible.

I’d also love to try at my hand at a collaborative magazine, where more than one person is curating and collecting and share. But choosing a solid and interesting theme is the key part. I might just be inviting YOU to join ME in creating a new magazine. You ready?

Peace (in the mag),
Kevin

So You Want To Bring Game Design to Your Classroom?

If this helps anyone think more clearly about how to integrate video game design into the classroom (with a science angle), then feel free to borrow, adapt, hack and remix as needed. This is the basics of my sixth grade video game design unit.

Geological Game Design Project by KevinHodgson


There’s a lot more information about our game design project, including videos of students talking about their work, at our free website resource: http://gaming4schools.yolasite.com/
Peace (in the game),
Kevin