Last week, I joined an online conversation with folks through Teachers Teaching Teachers that explores the convergence of technology and teaching in its many varied forms. I have been curious about the concept of Elgg communities and jumped into the conversation with some questions (for my own benefit and for my wife, who is a high school teacher). As far as I can tell, Elgg offers the possibility of a safe online community that links members together through shared interested and through related “tags” that they create in their profile. It mirrors Facebook and MySpace, but without the advertising and mess of those sites. Dave Tosh provides a good overview of Elgg at his site.
You can listen to the podcast of that conference through the Teachers Teaching Teachers site. Or you can find that link here:
Listen to the podcast
Meanwhile, I notice that the authors of one of my favorite blog sites — Bud the Teacher — is posing his own inquiries into Elgg, so I hope to follow along that conversation, too. And I have joined a teacher Elgg, too, just to tour around and get familiar with the tools that are there.
The first writing project for my sixth grade this year is a BioPoem in which our young writers create an 11-line poem about themselves based on a series of prompts that explore emotions, fears and family.
To move beyond the personal and more towards a community of writers, we created Class Audio Biopoems in which each student contributed one line from their poem.
Take a listen:
Some days, you just stumble across a very neat idea and have to share it with other people, you know? Someone fed me this link to the Museum of Museums through a Delicious account and I was hooked.
This Museum of Museums collects links to the sites of any variety of museums from around the world, with the very ambitious idea of linking every single museum together for one mass site of collective knowledge. (It’s nice to have reasonable goals, I suppose). Art galleries, dinosaurs, music and any other topic that you can think of is someone’s museum obsession and can be found within the categories of this site. You can even view the Museum of Bad Art, if that is more to your taste.
And then, there are those virtual museums — the places that don’t exist in the real world and yet, are repositories of information. For example, there is a museum for toaster ovens, if that is your thing. And the Museum of Talking Boards (meaning: Ouiji) that can raise some goosebumps on people.
I can envision some neat virtual field trips from my classroom, with links and reactions and descriptions right from the class Weblog site.
The connections between writing and voice is an interesting one, particularly in this age of podcasts and audiocasts across distance and time, and I know that my NWP colleague Chris S. in Utah has been very much into capturing the voices of his students and researching the ways that voice can influence and enhance writing.
Last year, my students were part of a Cyberpal exchange with some students at Jefferson Junior High School in Washington DC (through another NWP partnership with Maria) and they shared some of their own personal narrative writing via an audiocast.
Students wrote a short personal narrative piece that focused on an object that represented some memories. Take a listen:
The National Writing Project received a wonderful feature in the National Staff Development Council’s publication (Summer 2006) which showcases the work being done by teachers in the NWP network.
“The National Writing Project is a leading example of how teachers, immersed in the practice of writing, are better able to both teach writing and lead peers to improve.” — By Mary Ann Smith
The article can be found PDF file from this link from the NSDC archives. Pass the link on to someone else who might be interested in the work of the National Writing Project and spread the good word.
(thanks to Troy for sending this along).
The emergence of technology as a source for user-generated writing, audio and video files is intriguing to me as an educator, but I still wonder about how everything will pan out in a few years. Will it all become a commercialized jumble of incoherence? (MySpace is an absolute mess that began with promise, I think). Or will we find a path to utilize these resources to generate critical learning and collaboration for our young student writers and creators?
Last semester, I took a course at UMass
and wrote a final paper about my thoughts on the integration of the Read-Write Web (also known as Web 2.0
in some circles) into classroom practice and so I share it here for anyone who might be interested in what I wrote. Will Richardson continues to explore the possibilities of these technologies in education in interesting ways and his Weblogged site
is always worth a gander. My own paper and inquiry remains a work in progress for me and a piece of writing I will return to at a later time for more reflection and work.
Read Kevin’s Seminar Paper
Today in my Sixth Grade Writing Workshop, students learned a bit about point of view narrative techniques in writing.
- First Person Narrative: stories told from the view of a character.
- Third Person Narrative: stories told from a perspective outside of a particular character
- Second Person Narrative: stories that insert the reader into the story.
Students then wrote in a First Person Narrative style that captured a leaf falling from a tree in Autumn. Some of those young writers, after sharing their writing with the class, agreed to help create this audiocast.
Since blogging is often a source of obsession as well as of information, I figured it was time to check out some sites dedicated to the windy world of the saxophone.
I used my Delicious account to track down some sites as opposed to Google because I was interested in meandering through some other folk’s networks and interests as I pursued my own. So here are some sites of interest to the saxophonists out there:
- First, there is the Wikipedia entry on the Saxophone. One interesting fact is that Adolph Sax, who created the instrument, designed over 14 different models of the musical invention in the 1800s.
- There is a neat timeline of patents related to the Saxophone at this site. The last patent (according to this site) was in the 1920s and had to do with a key that makes playing a few multiple notes a bit easier.
- Here is a photo gallery of all sorts of saxophones, spread out across the years and companies. Very nice pictures here. I liked the last few folders that shows rarities and odd assortments, such as the Slide Saxophone.
- Apparently, saxophone players are feeling underprivileged in the music world because there is a Saxophone Alliance. The group even has a constitution and bylaws. This is serious! Actually, it’s nice to know that all sorts of communities of interest can spring up on the ‘net.
- One fellow has designed a site to make fun of saxophone solos in pop songs over the years and it is quite funny. The site provides short audio clips of the solos and there are even grades for the solos there (example: the solo in Billy Joel’s Still Rock and Roll to Me garners a B while Huey Lewis and the News’ Back in Time gets a lowly D grade.
- Finally, check out this classic video clip from the one and only Sesame Street on how a saxophone is made in a factory. This is from YouTube, just so ya know, so I can’t vouch for copyright protection. (Ahh, go ahead and watch it — it’s very neat)
In the interests of more experimentation, I am posting a song that I composed on software called Scorewriter, which I first exported into a MIDI file, and then converted into an MP3 file (nothing is easy and everything takes a few steps but the process is a learning adventure). This particular song called The Door to Five-Four was written in 5/4 time, which is tricky to pull off (the most famous being Dave Brubeck/Paul Desmond’s jazz classic Take Five), and I am not quite satisfied with the voicings of the three parts (and the fact that Scorewriter’s internal voices are merely adequate — it is a tool for writing compositions more than listening to compositions).
I plan on doing a future Dogtrax Audiocast on my Scorewriter compositions.
Listen to The Door to Five-Four
I also realized that I could create a PDF file of the actual composition (in case you want to play it at home for yourself — laugh-laugh)
Here is the actual written musical composition
This is the the third in a series of audiocasts that I am experimenting with through this Weblog site, which has really become a mishmash of my thoughts on education, music, personal writing, and my work with the National Writing Project. I hope anyone who reads my site doesn’t feel the lack of focus is frustrating.
This audiocast features the archived music of a band that I was in during my college years at Eastern Connecticut State University in Connecticut. ECSU is in the shadow of the University of Connecticut, and is situated only a few miles away from UConn.
Our band, Rough Draft, was composed of myself and some close friends — Johnny D. on guitar and Alex D. on bass — and a drummer (Josh) who never watched the rest of the band when he played, but still did an OK job (it wasn’t easy to find a drummer in those days). We played parties, and some bars, and just got together to make a lot of noise and have fun.
The songs from this audiocast were from a short television show we did for the local cable company and are all songs that I wrote for the band.
Listen to Dogtrax Audiocast Episode Two: Rough Draft