Consider TeachENG.us

Ben, over at the Esoterium, had been wondering why there were not more collaborative teaching blogs where many voices from the teaching of English and writing can come together to share knowledge and interact. There are some models of this out there (including Lifehacks, which is how Ben got inspired to think about this idea) in other fields.

Well, Ben is now launching a site called TeachENG.us and he is looking for a wide range of English teacher-bloggers who may want to get involved.

If you are interested, Ben asks that you drop him an email at ben(at)esoterium(dot)com.

Peace (in further collaboration),
Kevin

My Day as a Video

Bonnie has released this week’s Day in a Sentence to the world. I tried something a little different this week — taking my podcast and putting it together with some file photos for a video Day in a Sentence.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/zeo2abfS4t8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

It was only after I started looking at and playing with new acoustic guitars that I realized how much of a faithful companion my old guitar has been in the 20 years that I have had it and how many hundreds (yep, hundreds) of songs I have composed on its tender strings.

I am hosting again this week and then it is off to Ben B. for a co-hosting venture the following week (right, Ben?).

Peace (with guitars),
Kevin

Survey says …. YouTube Educational Videos

(This has been in the back seat of my blog for a month or so)

Curt Bonk is part of a group doing a research project on YouTube and they are looking for folks to take a survey. You can find more information about their work at Curt’s site (one incentive for folks who take the survey is to get 90-day trial of a survey machine called SurveyShare, which I have not heard of).

They have different categories, but here are the educational videos they have provided as part of their research analysis of why people create, share and comment on the web-based video systems:

. Did You know; Shift Happens – Globalization; Information Age
http://youtube.com/watch?v=ljbI-363A2Q

2. Did You Know 2.0
http://youtube.com/watch?v=pMcfrLYDm2U

3. Voices from the New American Schoolhouse (trailer)
http://youtube.com/watch?v=rgpuSo-GSfw

4. A Fair(y) Use Tale
http://youtube.com/watch?v=CJn_jC4FNDo

5. Pay Attention
http://youtube.com/watch?v=aEFKfXiCbLw

6. Wikis in Plain English
http://youtube.com/watch?v=-dnL00TdmLY

7. Video: RSS in Plain English
http://youtube.com/watch?v=0klgLsSxGsU

8. Education in Second Life: Explore the Possibilities
http://youtube.com/watch?v=TMGR9q43dag&mode=related&search

9. The Wire: Education
http://youtube.com/watch?v=XDg4U2jYXgw

(I have to include this one — The Wire is on the way out, but not in the DVD world)

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/XDg4U2jYXgw" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

(But if you want to see a troublesome virtual conversation, follow the comment links to this video on YouTube — this is why schools ban YouTube — racist remarks, profanity and lack of respect for other people)

10. Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005
http://youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA

Peace (in viral videos),
Kevin

Two Million Minutes in the Flat World

The Flat World is on my mind these days, as I just finished the book by Tom Friedman, and then I came across this trailer for a documentary about the emergence of math and science in China and India and, the concern about lack of these skills in the US, and the future for our children. Friedman makes the same point although he remains optimistic that our creativity and ingenuity will give us a competitive edge. He does warn that the increase in funds and government interest in technology-related fields in India and China, along with a lack of support here, could forebode some shifting of global power in the future.

Friedman calls on the next president to galvanize the country to invest in the future, through technology. We’ll see, won’t we?

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/niU1E3SSTAM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Education Week also profiled the documentary, which you can order as a DVD from the creators of Two Million Minutes (I did, because this idea of the world getting smaller and more competitive as technology comes into play both excited and worries me as a teacher and a parent).

And then there was the Frontline special this week — Growing Up Online — which I missed but found online via another blogger, Kate — and I have only watched the segment on education and technology/social networking in school environment. It was interesting and seemed fairly balanced between teachers and the pros and cons of using technology as a means of engagement of students. It was kind of depressing that one teacher feels she that is “outmoded” because she does not embrace technology and is not ready to give up the traditional classroom — discussions, reflection, writing.

It is disheartening when one boy says he never reads books anymore and uses only online activity as his “reading,” zipping through sites with summaries (such as Sparknotes). Then, in a moment of reflection, he admits that he is cheating himself (and blames lack of time). Also, the aspect of”collecting friends” in places such as MySpace and Facebook bubbles up and shows it for what is: just another social status tool and not what it should be: creating a sense of interconnected communities.

Peace (in smaller spaces),

Kevin

ebooks

I mentioned this ebook site (called WOWIO) the other day as part of my examination of the XO computer as an ereader and each day, the options for new books grows. It is still mostly second-tier books, but they are loaded with interesting graphic novels and comics, and that could appeal to kids (and me). The books are donated by various companies and are free to any US resident who signs up for the service. You get three free books every day and they are downloaded as PDF files.

Here is the book that I downloaded today that had me cracking up:

Yep — a graphic novel bio of The Beatles. I am waiting for the KISS one to come next (just kidding, I think, but I do remember KISS comics when I was a kid)

Peace (in graphic novel form),
Kevin

Flickr and the Library of Congress

Bain News Service, publisher. [1911] [Germany Schaefer, Washington AL (baseball)]

The Library of Congress has now put thousands of photos from its archives up on Flickr for viewing and use by us, the people. This is a treasure trove of materials and I am already thinking of ways to use them in the classroom.

What is interesting is that the folks at the Library of Congress folks (see their blog) are opening up the door in Flickr for comments and tags by people. And they are using the “no known copyright” designation, too, which allows for more use by students, I think. Somebody in that federal office clearly gets it — the photos are going to be viewed and used.

My boys are going to love this: A flickr slideshow of photos of old baseball players.

Peace (in picturing history as it was),
Kevin

Day in Sentence on the move: Bonnie’s House

This week’s Day in a Sentence is brought to you by the fine makers of BLK1, whose owner and caretaker — Bonnie — offers up rich conversation, a sense of community and a wealth of kind words for anyone who has ever wanted to feel connected.

Contribute today to Day in a Sentence and you will also receive this additional complimentary bonus: a nice introduction by Bonnie.

Day in Sentence Icon Yes, Bonnie is your host this week, so please follow this link to her blog site and post your sentence. She may also add a little creative twist as an option for us, too.

Peace (in truth/false advertising),
Kevin

Quickfiction: chapter 3

I am continuing to explore the world of Quickfiction, reducing down a narrative to its essentials and creating characters and motivations as concise as possible. It’s quite a challenge.

But here are my latest stories:

Disconnect
The week there was no email, Chantel almost killed herself. Later, she would joke about it and laugh about it with her colleagues. Susan, who worked in the cubicle next to her, was astounded. “Come on, Chantel, you wouldn’t really kill yourself just because no one emailed you for a week, would you? That’s just ridiculous.” Karen cultivated the social gossip at the water cooler every day and she offered, “I wish I could go a week without email. I hate weeding through that junk.” Another one, Sam, who fixes the copier when it breaks down, added, “What did you do before email?” There was no life before email. Although Chantel played along with them, and even made detrimental remarks on her own sanity in order to feed the laughter, inside her head, she was, indeed, quite serious. Her lifeline had somehow come to rely on short missives on her computer from family and acquaintances. Friends might be too strong a word. She didn’t really have friends, just acquaintances. An empty inbox was some sort of coded message: she wasn’t important. She wasn’t needed. It had come to the point where she was now finding herself reading Spam, just to convince herself that someone out there was trying to communicate with her, even if the garbled words did come from some computer farm somewhere in the world. And so the week with no email was traumatic and it was only later that Chantel even thought to look behind her computer. That was when she realized that an Ethernet wire had come undone — it just dangled there like a noose — and she had been physically disconnected from the world the whole time. She breathed a sigh of relief as a flood of messages entered into her inbox, giving her a sense of relief not felt in many days.

Cat
He watches me from just outside the window, nose pressed against glass. I stare back. He opens his mouth to make a sound and yet, I hear nothing. It’s not cold outside today, not if you are wrapped up in a fur coat as he is, and I know he is in no danger of freezing. I find myself entranced by this creature that depends so much upon me for survival that I wonder, if the tables were reversed, would he keep me on the outside looking in? I smile at imagined acts of feline revenge against me. The cold nights. An unreliable source of food. Long hours of disappearance. No respect for gifts on the doorstep. None of this is likely, though. If I were the pet, and sometimes I think this may be true anyway, he would no doubt rush to the door, let me in and curl up on my lap just to keep me warm. He would understand that I just don’t have the stomach or fortitude for the world of rodents and Mother Nature. He has a different kind of spirit than I do. Me? I just stare back through the glass and write a story about him looking in at me and do nothing more. I have a story to write. He’ll just have to wait.

Tears
No one noticed me. They never do. I was dressed impeccably in my best suit, hands in my lap, a mournful gaze on my face. I was respectful and in a funeral, no one questions those who are properly contained in the skin of emotional reserve. The body looked handsome, given the circumstances. How it is that they can prepare such things is beyond me. Perhaps we would be better off if this weren’t the case, if we had to look at the dead as they are and not as we imagine they should be. The mother was weeping in the corner, being held together by what looked like one of her other children. The father was in the back of the room, drinking coffee with other men. All of them removed from action. I nodded silently to a few other people in the seats near me. We were in this together, our collective nods seemed to say, acknowledging the loss. The service was short and to the point. Life lived. Too short. Grief. I waited for the tears and again, they didn’t come. They never come. Two years gone and still, I could not shed a tear for her. What was wrong with me? I made a slow route around the room, drawing in as much of their sadness as I could and silently offering to be the one to hold it all in for them, to feel the weight of loss for them, to give them a moment’s reprieve. Such sadness and yet, for me, nothing. I left as I had come, with stealth and beyond the field of vision of anyone in the room. The obit crunched as I fingered it in my pocket. There was another up the street. A woman, age 52, cancer. I was already dressed and ready and hopeful, truly hopeful, that I would find some tears where tears had not naturally come for me two years ago this very week.

Godzilla
A life in miniature. That was the answer Stephen would give when asked why he spent so much time with his trains. It’s true that by the age of 32, he should have outgrown them, placed them in a box for storage in the attic and be happy with the memories. Still, here he was, crouched down low with a piece of broken track in one hand and a blue engine in the other. Curtis looked on, almost antsy with anticipation but respecting his uncle’s request for both silence and stillness. Not easy for a seven year old. Spread out before them in the basement studio was the largest railroad track that Curtis had ever seen. It seemed to go on for miles and miles, twisting through tunnels and moving over mountains and careening around buildings, slicing off at various junctures to create two trails out of one and then one out of two. Stephen ignored the boy. He was angry at Karen for allowing his nephew to come down here. The boy had no business here. So Stephen kept at his task of restoring order through repair. A life in miniature and also, a world completely under his control. Curtis, though, could feel something rising inside of him. He kept it contained, whatever it was, and continued to eye the tracks. Everything seemed so perfect. Everything in its place. Curtis’ world was never this neat and ordered and despite his love for his uncle, the only thing Curtis could think about was ripping up this entire world and feeling the power of destruction. It would be like King Kong! Or Godzilla! Stephen remained patient with the track. A small screw was coming loose. “I need to get a screwdriver, Curtis. Upstairs. Don’t touch a thing.” Curtis nodded and watched his uncle go up the stairs. It was the moment. The moment when Godzilla came alive and wreaked vengeance on an unsuspecting world.

Peace (in stories),
Kevin

The New York Giants!

Writing and teaching and parenting aren’t the only things on my mind these days. My football team — The New York Giants — slogged through to another victory last night and are on the way to the Superbowl to face the fearsome Patriots. Living here in New England, but growing up in Southern Connecticut, I am constantly in conflict with the fans around me (Yankees, UConn Huskies, Giants — the trifecta) and those fans include my own kids (Red Sox, UMass, Patriots).

The Superbowl matchup makes for an interesting home and classroom (many of my students are avid Pats fans) for the next two weeks and I just hope my team doesn’t leave me humiliated on the Day After.

My sons are in sports glory — the Red Sox won, the Patriots are on the verge of an incredible season with only the Giants in the way, and the Boston Celtics are steamrolling everyone, too. I try to tell them, in my grumpy dad voice, that a year like this for a region only comes once in a blue moon and they should enjoy it for what it is and be prepared for those pitiful down years. They just nod their heads and acknowledge my voice. Ha.

Peace (in close games),
Kevin

Day in Sentence: Jan. 20

This was the week of creative brevity as I asked folks to boil down their days into six words. This is not so easy for the writer and leaves out a lot of context for the reader, but I hope that folks found it informative.

Here are the sentences:

Bonnie was off on a trip, although our virtual connections remained very much intact — another indication of the flat world. She even emailed me her sentence as a podcast (you can do that too!) so we could hear her voice. “Tucson, western romance, we arrive Tuesday.”

Amy usually tries to podcast through PodcastPeople but has been running into some slowdown on their network. That’s OK. We love getting her words even without her voice, particularly she is having such a good teaching week. “Introduced writing project, students are excited!

I’m happy to report that four of my colleagues from the Western Massachusetts Writing Project contributed sentences this week (see what some timely placed emails will do?). Mary is part of our new Tech Team and she is doing fantastic, thoughtful things in her classroom. She writes, “New faces emerge as ideas grow.

Another WMWP colleague is Anne, who is also our site director, a co-editor on a book we are developing on technology and assessment in the classroom (k-college), and one of my former professors. Anne shares this regional New England thought: “In frigid Northeast, I welcome sun.

Cynthia is thinking of drawing people together. Food helps is one meaning I get from her six words, but I may be wrong. “Retreat bound; roast in Crockpot; enjoy!

Delaine has business on the mind and the continuing education of people. “A week with adults studying entrepreneurship

Jo used to post her sentences over at our old friend, The Reflective Teacher, from whom I took this Day in a Sentence mantle. I’m glad that the breadcrumbs left behind led her to my site and our feature, even though her sentence surely gives all of us pause: “A threatening e-mail arrives amid exams.” (She notes that the email came from a student.)

Ben B. has politics in his head, and not all good, apparently. Does this have to do with Mitt? “I’ve lost faith in Michigan Republicans.

And then there is Ben D. who puts his passion very succinctly and with literary references. “Gatsby loves like I teach grammar.”

I wish Elona did have to write this sentence. But I am glad she feels comfortable enough with us, as a community, to share her thoughts both in writing and as a podcast (she sent me her file and I am hosting for her — did I mention you can do that too?). “Death- a celebration of Angie’s life.” Elona reads her sentence.

Yeah, Liza! I am sending some virtual flowers your way. “Principal observation survived; I did well.

Susan, another friend from WMWP, hopes these words will carry her through some tough days of dealing with administrators (she is our innovative and resourceful professional development coordinator). “Honoring teachers’ own learning–nothing less.

Connie keeps seeing new potential in networking, on many levels, and asks this question: “Networking is an art form, yes?” (Kevin answers: Yes, and one that requires patience and support and careful nurturing).

Matt, who has an amazing site for considering video in the classroom, captures the flux of time in eight (I hereby grant him two extra words in my role as blog-o-sentence-master) words: “Bills, books, time gone, going back to school.

Michaela came to the rescue (but let’s hope she doesn’t need rescuing herself). She writes, “Household flu transformed me: Florence Nightingale.

A friend from the Dakota Writing Project took a trip and brought the winter with them. (I hope it passed through luggage check). “Dakota snow followed me to Atlanta.

Larry has been running into walls, apparently, even as he continues his incredible journey to document and share some of the more amazing Web 2.0 tools, particularly those with applications for ESL students. But, “I’m frustrated with District content filters.” Who isn’t?

Testing in Texas with the TAKS makes for nice alliteration but a whole heap of stress, I bet. Joyce tries to explain in the limited number of words I have given her: “Worries, packets, bubbles: TAKS-time in Texas!

 Gail used more than her six words (which is fine) to relate the highs and lows of her week: “The low point of my week was the TV version of Comanche Moon, and the high point was starting a new project with a middle school English teacher from my district, who will connect with an English teacher in Northern Italy, to share their writing, especially poetry – and whose writing does not sound better when translated and read in Italian?!?” (Gail, who is a friend, hopefully won’t mind that I translate this into six words: “TV show, bad; Flat world, good.“)

And Tina (added late here), also of the WMWP and a new member of the Tech Team, reports a week of mixed blessings, I suppose: “Snow day. Sick day. Field trip.”

Bonnie will be hosting the feature next week so be on the look-out for a post and email notification. We are always encouraging folks to do some hosting of the feature, so let me know if you are interested.

Peace (in short sentences but deep thoughts),
Kevin