Making Connections: the map

We had a very good all-day session yesterday around the upcoming launch of a project I oversee call Making Connections, which connects middle school (and now a few high school) students together in shared writing spaces via Weblogs as part of the National Writing Project’s Technology Initiative.

The Manila platform is confusing for many of the teachers, who are not technology savvy at all, and so I created this concept map for them to visualize how our various Weblogs in the project are connected together.

Here are some reflections from the day:

I am understanding the infrastructure of the blog better so the administration and navigation of the site will be better for teaching. I’m glad that we came up with some some “connecting” yet content oriented topics to be working on for this project.” — Michele

Several things happened today to solidify my focus on the project. Before arriving I was very unclear as to what I would be doing throughout this project. I made a decision to go with the science group. I couldn’t be happier about it. My students are going to love the experiment with skittles. I can see several connections to math with manipulating data, and of course, writing across the curriculum. I am really interested in the abstract writing. I wonder what I can do in the next month that will help my students get ready for the online writing. It’s exciting.” — Mary F.

Some concerns remain. How will the technology function when really put to the test with students who struggle with being absolutely accurate as well as precise about entering log-ins, passwords.” — Jack

I feel like we put together a good plan for how to proceed from here. The ELA group was probably overly ambitious but now we’ve got it under control. I’m excited and looking forward to getting started but still nervous about managing the technology.” — Mary D.

And here is part of my own reflection:

Today was tricky because it did require quite a bit of introduction of technology (managing member, etc) and I am constantly worrying about overwhelming everyone. I know that with practice, it will get easier, but we don’t always have the hours to practice. There were some great questions and I hope I had some instructive answers. I feel as if I am giving our Inquiry Question a short-thrift due to time crunch. Meanwhile, the planning process was wonderful. I really feel as if we have a solid plan almost all around for the different phases of the project.”

Peace (with planning),
Kevin

Podictionary: Cool Stuff

Here is a wonderful podcast — an audio dictionary called Podictionary.

I listen to it in my Bloglines aggregator account as an audio enclosure, but you can certainly listen from his site. And, this guy has my last name!! (not related, as far as I know).

Today, he was talking about Noah Webster and the word “webster” in our language. Like most days, Charles Hodgson weaves in meaning, history and anecdotes to create a very engaging look at the words of our English language.

Peace (with meaning),
Kevin

 

OnPoEvMo: Bush 2.0 January 2007

There has been a flurry of poems this month with my OnePoemEveryMonth project and I can barely keep up with the words (that’s a good thing until I lose some of the words in the time when I am not near a pen, paper or computer). Here is a poem I wrote after watching part of the State of the Union address (without sound).

Bush 2.0: State of the Union 2007 (January 2007)

Listen to the poem

The sound was turned off but not the screen
and I just wished I could turn him off, too,
but I couldn’t find the remote to the rhetoric
and anyway, my access was limited,
so I glued my eyes to his face
and wished for some miracle of metamorphosis on the podium
that never came
and marveled at the way his expression twitched and turned
and there was tension behind that presidential mask.
At least, there was that — the tension of the times.

On this stage, the new is the old
and the old is nothing more than
the origami of truth and facts twisted
and reformatted into convenience for the sake of simplicity
and I’m left feeling like a little child in the time-out corner of the nation,
not at all clear what I am doing here
and unable to claim responsibility.

All I want is openness.
All I get is incompetence
in this last gasp of a man
looking into the inkwell of historians
and seeing only the red ink of error after error
written permanently in the blood of our soldier-citizens.
Friends — family — farewell.

Click.

Peace (in peaceful times),
Kevin

Workshop Weekend

I have busy couple of days ahead of me.

On Friday, I am leading an all-day session for my Making Connections project, which is funded through the National Writing Project’s Technology Initiative program. Our Making Connections project is designed to use Weblogs to connect middle school students in our Western Massachusetts area from rural and urban, and now suburban, districts through technology and writing. This year, we have 15 teachers from six different school districts involved and we are intending to branch off into smaller curricular communities around Language Arts (poetry, specifically); Science (shared experiments) and math (a challenge blog).

I just filed a mid-year report to the NWP and you can read that report, if you would like.

And then, on Saturday, I am leading the first of a series of three workshops for fellows at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project on the use of Weblogs and podcasting for professional and/or personal use. In this first session, we have reached out specifically to leaders of WMWP projects in hopes that they can get comfortable with some aspects of technology that could help them in their own work. (This workshop series if funded by another NWP grant through its Technology Matters program that I attended last summer in California).

Here is the agenda for that day’s activities (which includes providing everyone with a free MP3/Voice recorder to create podcasts with).

I hope no one (including me) ends up like this guy:

external image frustration.gif

Peace (with professional development),

Kevin

Goodbye Michael Brecker

In my first year of college, I attended the University of Miami-Florida as an enrolled student in its vaunted music program. But I wasn’t even in the same league as many of the young musicians there and I left after a year. But it was during my time there that I was introduced to the music of tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, whose sound really defined much of the late 1980s and early 1990s sax solos in pop and jazz-funk fusion. He has a very distinct sound that so many people now emulate.

 

I just read a blurb in our newspaper that he succumbed to Leukemia cancer this past week and it makes me want to dig out my old vinyl records to listen to he and his brother, trumpetist David, play some of their classic songs. Man, he could solo!! Check this video out:
[youtube]UIGsSLCoIhM[/youtube]

 

I saw him in concert a few times and he just blew me away with his versatility and range each time, particularly as he branched off from his funk roots and moved more into mainstream jazz. (For a while, he was the main saxophone player as part of the Saturday Night Live band and he was always one of the close-up shots).

His wife has left a letter to the general public, asking for more support for Stem Cell research to possibly combat such diseases as leukemia, and you can read her letter here.
Bye-bye, Michael Brecker — I hope they let you take your saxophone with ya. Here is a nice solo video:
[youtube]FNPrO9N2UeY[/youtube]

Peace (with clicking keys),
Kevin

Two New Songs: Demos

I’ve been working a few new songs, perhaps for my band The Sofa Kings or perhaps for a side project with a friend of mine. Here is a song called Gotta Find Faith, with photos from Creative Commons via Flickr. I recorded it all myself with Audacity and a little microphone. The video was composed using PhotoStory 3.

[youtube]LtlpdqqkxIA[/youtube]

And the second one is a bit more upbeat and is called Little Too Far:

[youtube]nWqo0yJB7Yc[/youtube]

Peace (through music),
Kevin

Dangerously Irrelevant Survey Results

Scott, over at Dangerously Irrelevant, released the data from a survey he conducted of teachers who blog. He has graciously provided a powerpoint and some excel files with the answers submitted by the 160 bloggers who participated (which is an impressive number, don’t you think?)

Among the findings is that most bloggers would NOT quit their jobs if they were offered a chance to blog full-time. I think this demonstrates that blogging is a reflective and connective tool, and not really just a place to write. Some of the other findings also seem to indicate this. I have grabbed one of Scott’s graphs because it succinctly shows the answers to an important question: why do you blog?

Notice how Learning and Community are near the top responses. Interesting.

One final note: Scott asked about RSS feeds and found that while one person had more than 500 feeds in their aggregator, the average was 89 feeds. That shows the power of collecting many voices and sifting through the information for valuable tools and ideas, which is something I do on a regular basis.

Thanks, Scott, for conducting this survey. The findings are, umm, relevant. 🙂
Peace (with graphs),
Kevin

Emoticon Challenge: Mix n’ Match

In a recent edition of Time Magazine, the essay section at the back was dedicated to potentially “new” emoticons for 2007 (very tongue and cheek) and so, in the spirit of fun and games, I have grabbed a few emoticons and the descriptions and I am challenging you to figure out which belongs with which.

Here are your emoticons:

Now here are the descriptions:

  • (A) I am disoriented by the act of blogging about the act of blogging
  • (B) I am filming a poorly shot YouTube video in response to your poorly shot YouTube video
  • (C) I am thinking about auditioning for a reality show that will give me an ephemeral and humiliating taste of celebrity
  • (D) I am mortified at having discovered my grandparents’ MySpace profile
  • (E) I am seeking help for my addiction to organizing my Netflix queue.

(Give up? Go to answer page)As an additional challenge, can you come up with a good description for this funny emoticon from the Time list? Use the comment feature to leave your answer.

Peace (with funnies),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Like Birds in Flight, January 2007

Some of the writing for my OnePoemPerMonthForaYear project have come easily and some are still in the midst of revision and stuck with me as I try to understand just what I am trying to get at with my words and phrases and voice.

This poem, called Birds in Flight, is a prime example of this internal struggle. It is inspired by some conversations with my students about their own experiences living in a very insular and safe community, primarily white, and how our preconceptions shape our understanding of people who look, talk and act different than we do. My students’ experiences are very similar to mine as I was growing up and I tried to capture in this poem some of my conflicted feelings that took place when I first forged some close friendships with people of other color during my time as an infantry soldier in the Army National Guard.

I came to realize how racist some of my impressions were and how long it took for me to see them just as people, and not as different people because their skin was different from mine. This is something that no one taught me. I had to learn with experience.

Like Birds in Flight (January 2007)

Listen to the poem

I can’t crawl inside your skin
I’m claustrophobic with the fingers of history wrapped around my neck
and, besides, your black doesn’t fit with my white.
We clash.

Or so I have been told, not in so many words, of course, but in so many looks.
Which leaves us both here with this sense of intense misunderstanding
and missed opportunities that come from rage at the ways of this world.
No one ever told me that you were always the same as me,
with the same dreams,
the same heart,
and you, with your ancestors on an timeline that intersects with mine only in pain and infinite sadness,
you look so different from me — on the outside.
Your black doesn’t fit with my white.

I often wonder how it would be if we had a covering of feathers instead of skin
and you were to become haloed in a rainbow
with hues casting deep shadows that I could just swallow up like worms on a summer day after the storms have cleared away,
filling me whole with experience and reality,
and then maybe — maybe — I could finally feel your light, your strength, your sense of being you.

Just you and nothing more.
Your black would fit with my white.

We would no longer feel tethered by this solid Earth
and instead, as one, we would rise to the clouds on the upward draft of hope
and avoid the fears that keeps us rooted so firmly in our own minds.
I look at you.
I don’t see you.
Instead, I only see skin.

Peace (with understanding),
Kevin

NWP in T.H.E. Journal

The National Writing Project is featured in the recent edition of T.H.E. Journal magazine as one organization that sees the potential and benefits of technology in the classroom. The article notes that blogging has a strong foothold in the NWP network (we know this ourselves). The article also mentions the Technology Initiative, which my Western Massachusetts Writing Project is part of through our Making Connections project (more on that to come soon as we are almost set to launch our second year).

From the article in THE Journal:

“Whether the digital vehicle is e-mail, blogs, or podcasts isn’t significant; what matters is that these are all tools that involve students in writing and bring them into the company of distant audiences, which supports the learning that comes when writers see what readers make of their work.” — from http://www.thejournal.com/articles/19919_3

Peace (with the Writing Project),
Kevin