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

Halfway into the #Nerdlution: A Tappable Poem

If my math is right, then we are just past the halfway mark for the #nerdlution (doing something over 50 days). That calls for something, right?. Right. So, I created this tappable poem for all of us (tap to read the poem):


And then I made this little cheerleading diagram.

Peace (and inspiration),
Kevin

Comic Review: Unearthed Comic


Tell me that comic didn’t give you a chuckle? Of course it did. Sara Zimmerman‘s science-based funnies are hilarious and her collection of comics is available in her latest volume, Unearthed Comics: Unearthing Science. Zimmerman brings a lot of wit and wisdom, and science, to her comics and that makes the classroom a perfect place for a collection like this, although you might want to scan the content first. I wouldn’t say there is anything over-the-top but that might depend on your own values.

Like anything, read it yourself first to determine appropriateness for your students. Plus, that way, you get the chuckles before they do.

I downloaded her collection into my iPad and every now and then, I open it up in the Kindle app, read a few pages, and get back to work with a smile on my face. If that isn’t the role of a good comic strip, I don’t know what is. Sara’s comic is worth your time, and she shares out her strips at her website and in an email newsletter format (and via Twitter). I am now going to get her first collection of comics ….

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

CodeBits Forking for the #Nerdlution

The other day, I noticed something new over at the CodeAcademy site. Called CodeBits, it is series of small projects that bring to mind the work being done with the Mozilla Foundation with Thimble and other coding projects. With Codebits, you can tinker with code and create/adapt small projects. I took a postcard and revamped it (CodeAcademy calls it “forking,” which is a term used for various programming projects. I think…) for the Nerdlution effort of friends in the midst of our 50 days of some resolution, and I shared out the link on Twitter.

Check out my postcard

The screenshot above shows how the coding is laid out (again, reminds me of Mozilla’s Thimble).

Then, I saw another project that can be forked. While it’s original was a countdown to the New Year, I changed the programming so that it keeps track of the 50 days of the #nerdlution.

Check it out and again, feel free to fork it for yourself.

Peace (in the snow code),
Kevin

A Visual Poem for the #Nerdlution

Thanks to all of my #nerdlution friends and those beyond, and in the all of the various corners of world, for being part of my community. Whatever your religion or beliefs, I hope you find peace in your days.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin