What It Looks Like When We Hack Chess

hack chess collage 2013
My sixth graders have been working in collaborative groups to hack the game of chess, with new pieces and new rules on how to play. I’ll share more later as part of a larger collaborative DS106 radio project but this collage nicely captures some of the work they are doing to invent new board games out of traditional ideas.

Peace (in the hack),
Kevin

 

The Shaping of a Song/ The Shaping of Connections

I write songs for my band, Duke Rushmore, every now and then. Some songs work for the band. Some don’t. Last Monday, I had about an hour to myself and pulled out the guitar, and wrote a new one. The next night, I was sharing it with the band, and last night, we worked on it for about 45 minutes (minus our lead singer.) It’s interesting how some songs come quick and work great, while others take forever to write and then fall apart. I’m not sure what leads a song to go one way or another (I suppose if I did, I’d be making my millions selling songs to Katy Perry).

Here’s where this particular song started out, with me doing a quick demo for the band before I forgot the melody. The words have been updated here and there over the last week as the song filters through my head.

And here is what we were doing last night (again, without a lead singer, so that’s me singing for now).

What is magical about this process is how an idea conceived alone, in a room with only a guitar (and sometimes a dog as an audience) becomes something else when you bring collaborators into the mix. Sure, the main ideas are still there. But the song is different now and one thing I have learned over the years is that you have to give up part of the song to make it work with a group. You have to be willing to let others take a piece of ownership. So, our discussions are very interesting, as someone suggests this different chord, or a stop/break here, or where to insert the solo sections, or what kind of melody line should run here.

I work hard to avoid saying, No, that’s now how I hear it. Instead, I try to hold true to the spirit of what I was writing and remain flexible with other parts.

This is just like collaborating with other teachers (see my point?) when we connect with others. We share the best of what we know and brainstorm with the best intent, and then we need to listen to what others are saying, think about how to find that balance between our own established opinions and those of others around us. Eventually, what I have found — in my band, in my writing, in my professional circles — is that the energy of the larger group often trumps the vision of the individual. Not always, but mostly. And we continue into this Connected Educator Month, that is something to hold on: we are in this together and I rely on you as much you may be learning from me.

Maybe we need to write a song about that …

Peace (in the connections),
Kevin

 

Visual and Audio Autumn Haiku

One of this week’s Daily Create assignments for DS106 was to write a haiku about Autumn. Well, Autumn has kicked into full gear here in New England, and the day I wrote this one was the blustery kind of day that even Pooh and Piglet would recognize.

Winds begin to kick -
I crouch and dart between rain
drops from the dark sky

I decided to take the haiku and add a visual element to it, as part of the exploration around design. I have an app on my iPad called Visual Poetry, which I like for short poems. It gets too busy for longer ones and may even be a bit busy for this one. You decide. But I like how the words and phrases wrap around the poem itself.
Autumn haiku for Daily Create

And of course, poetry should be heard, too.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Did You Approve My Comic?

sols_turq

(This is for Slice of Life)

She was barely in the door, when she asked: “Did you approve my comic?” When I answered, yes, she jumped and shouted out, “Yes!” and high-fived her friend. Talk about getting excited about publishing. We’ve been using an online webcomic space and it’s interesting how the act of sharing out work to an audience of peers within the closed webcomic community of just a classroom can really bring forth a certain amount of excitement and motivation.

Honestly, I liked her comic because of the musical theme, and girl empowerment. She’ll be happy to know that I am sharing her comic here, too, I suspect.

My_Band_2

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

 

Blogging at MiddleWeb

KevinH-logo-intro-post-240

I’ve been writing book reviews for the wonderful MiddleWeb site for about a year now (maybe more?) and I have enjoyed the focus of the middle school grades at the site, although much of the knowledge shared there is applicable above and below those middle school years, too. I had been asked by John Norton, of MiddleWeb, to contribute to their growing blogging space as an ELA teacher from sixth grade. I sort of hemmed and hawed, because I see this blog as my main stomping ground. And to be honest, I kept thinking: seriously, what do I have to offer other teachers who read MiddleWeb that they can’t get elsewhere. It was one of those “I’m comfortable here, thank you very much” kind of thoughts.

Still … John eventually convinced me that my voice is valued and that I do have ideas worth sharing to a larger audience.

So I have taken the plunge with a blog in MiddleWeb called Working Draft that I will contribute to bimonthly, giving me a chance to share and hopefully, spark some conversations about what it means to be teaching literacy in this digital age. It won’t all be about technology, of course. You can read more about what my aims are in my first post that went live yesterday.

I am calling the blog “Working Draft” because I see teaching and learning as ideas always in motion, always under revision. I think that title captures my ideas for that space as much as “Kevin’s Meandering Mind” continues to capture my view of this space as a place to explore and think through writing and literacy.

I hope you can join me over at Working Draft from time to time.

Peace (in the draft),
Kevin

 

Life is Beautiful: A Tapestry Story

Tapestry is a lovely site for making digital stories. When we talk about the power of minimal design, what I like about Tapestry is the simplicity of the storytelling, for both the writer and for the reader. The ability to set up “taps” creates a certain rhythm of the story. The simple fonts and background options at first seem limiting but then you realize how powerful that can be not to worry about bells and whistles, and instead, focus on the story itself. I am taking part in a storytelling contest Tapestry is launching, with stories on the theme of “Life is Beautiful.”
Here is what I created:

What makes life beautiful for you?
Peace (in reflection),
Kevin

By the way, I could not find a space on Tapestry for citing where the images came from, so I will do that here. All images are part of Flickr’s Creative Commons library:

Thanks to all of them for creating such great images.

Spoof Documentary Intro: The Connected Country

Connected Country Spoof
(Created with Mozilla’s XRay Goggles)
Yesterday’s Daily Create for DS106 asked us to “Write an intro for a documentary on culture and traditions of a fictional country.” Since we are kneedeep into Connected Educator Month, I thought I would amuse myself (at least) with a spoof intro for a fake documentary about The Connected Country, and the search for the Most Connected Person in the World.

Here is what I wrote:

In this geographically distant yet technologically connected land, people find themselves drawn to each other by shared interests and expertise. Perhaps it is the hyperlink tattoos that adorn their foreheads or the hashtags each inhabitant wears on their left and right cheeks, but this land is a wondrous place of connections. Here, friends lend a hand or share an idea with strangers. Neighbors offer refuge to the confused who wander in from the outlands of the greater world. Everyone is looked after. There is trust here in this Connected Country. There is a sense that all of the residents here are in this life together, learning as they go along and sharing their learning without trepidation. Notice how each inhabitant wears a sharp-looking vest with multiple pockets. Each pocket contains a different mobile device, tuned to a different interest channel. At night, when the specially-designed lights of the Connected Country are turned on, one can literally visualize the threads that connect each person to the others. The colored webs are another indication of the tapestry of their lives. It is here that we begin our journey to find the Most Connected Person in the World. Come join us as we venture into the Connected Country.

And here is the podcast I created for it:

 

Peace (in the land),
Kevin

 

What My Writing Looks Like When I Freewrite

Freewrite with Students Oct2013
I am going to use this image for another post in another space, but I thought it gives a pretty good view of what a page of my writing notebook looks like when I am freewriting over the course of a day, which is what I was doing with my students the other day.  There is a poem in the middle, some funny notes making fun of myself along the edge, and then the sketch when I got lost and didn’t know what to write. You should have heard the gasps and laughter when I shared this page with students. They expect that I write perfect, every time, but no … my writing is often a mess and a stew of ideas that sometimes coil around a theme.

Not always, but sometimes ….

Peace (from the writer to reader),
Kevin

 

Remix this Tube: Where I’m At

Where I'm At Tube Map
During the summer in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, Sara Green posted a “tube map” style illustration of some of her learning. It was very cool. Then, in the spirit of the CLMOOC, Chad Sansing took Sara’s concept and built a remixable Thimble page for anyone to use. I sort of forgot about it (sorry, Chad and Sara) until this week, when my friend Paul Oh shared this over at the New York Times Learning Network post about Connected Educator Month:

I participated in and helped design a MOOC this summer called “Making Learning Connected,” sponsored by my organization, the National Writing Project.

More than a thousand educators signed up to participate, and among them was Sara Green, from the U.K. At one point, she created her life’s learning journey as a London Tube map. One of the MOOC faciliators, Chad Sansing, an amazing educator in his own right, then took that idea and created a Thimble template so anyone with a computer and Internet connection could create their own learning pathway London Tube map. (Thimble is a free tool developed by the Mozilla Foundation that allows you to create remixable open content for the Web while learning about the building blocks of the Web itself.)

Chad’s template, called Tube Map Me, is freely available to use. In fact, a number of people have already remixed Chad’s project to create their own learning pathway London Tube maps. Consider making your own map and connecting with Chad and Sara and the CLMOOC and Mozilla Webmaker communities.

- Paul Oh, from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/01/what-connected-education-looks-like-28-examples-from-teachers-all-over/?_r=0

This week, I dove back into Chad’s Tube Map Me and started to think about how to map out the connections that I have a writer and teacher. (If you have never used Thimble, Chad has helpfully done most of the work and annotated his code with notes about where you write. It takes a few minutes to get orientated to the set-up – code on the left, preview on the right — but Thimble is a great teaching tool and makes the building of a webpage more visible to the user, and remixer).

The activity was intriguing and enjoyable, although I found at a certain point that there were too many stations for ideas, so you notice a bunch of repeated station stops. I suppose that’s OK since writing, learning and collaboration are frequent themes to the various online networks where I call home. Or virtual home, anyway. I realize now, too, that I could have been a bit more thoughtful and purposeful in where the tube lines connect with each other. Oh well.

Check out my tube map, which I call Where I’m At (and if you hear Beck singing “I got two turntables and a microphone” when you read that title, then you and I are sharing a soundtrack.)

So, now it’s your turn. Go to Chad’s Thimble and remix it for your own connections.  Or heck, remix mine. (See that Remix button on the top of every Thimble page? Click it, and start making.)

Chad Tube Thimble

Where does the tube lead you?

Peace (along the connected lines),
Kevin