Enter the Twitter vs. Zombies Game (if you dare)

tvsz
Today marks the first day of another round of Twitter-based Twitter vs. Zombies. It’s a crazy game of hashtags and 140-character moves and, well, it’s a bit difficult to explain but that’s no reason you should not come into the game, too (Me? Not a huge Zombie fan. But I find this game of TvsZ fascinating).

This is a good overview, particularly if you think of it as a “giant game of tag.”

And, a few years ago, during a round of TvsZ, my son and I made this movie:

Finally, read through this great piece about why TvsZ matters when it comes to digital literacies and multi-platform, collaborative writing. I still struggle with: How can I design a version of this for my students?

Peace (in hiding until it is too late),
Kevin

 

Surveying Students: The High And Lows of the Year

I try to give a final writing prompt for my students, asking them to rate the various projects we have undertaken, and books we have read, and offer them a place to grade me (if they want) and to offer suggestions for improving what I teach and how. This year, I decided to use the Adobe Voice app to make a short digital story of some of the data I collected. I decided not to add my own narration and just let the slides speak for themselves. It seemed more effective that way, like a silent movie.

Peace (in the reflection),
Kevin

How To … Diagrams from Student Writing


It really is by chance that one of my students’ last writing assignments (but not the very last — they are finishing up a short story projerct) was an expository piece, or a How To Do Something paragraph. I say “by chance” because the first Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC is all about creating a How To Do Something project.

Along with the writing, my students had to diagram out the sequence of the steps of whatever it was that they were showing us how to do. The results were pretty interesting (and came on the heels of doing some fun work with Rube Goldberg Machine drawings).

I grabbed a bunch of diagrams and popped them into Animoto.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

 

Graphic Novel Review: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

I’ve written warm words about Ben Hatke’s series of books about Zita the Spacegirl before, and I am going to keep on writing those kind of positive words until he proves he me otherwise with stories of his heroine, Zita, the young Earth girl with a heart of gold and more savvy, pluck and courage than most of those adult characters you find in these kind of science fiction stories. In fact, it’s her heart and compassion for others that makes Zita a hero to cheer for, and a fine girl role model for young readers of graphic novels. (My nine year old son practically ripped this book out my hands when I opened the package with it, and then proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes reading it through, with a huge Thumbs Up review)

In the last part of a trilogy – The Return of Zita the Spacegirl — Zita is in deep, deep trouble — captured as part of a scheme to destroy the Earth, and it is up to all the friends and aliens who have populated the first two books of the series to come to Zita’s rescue, returning the favors they owe her for all that she has done to save them in other parts of the galaxy. Watch the stars float off in an attempt to spread the news of her capture, and you will understand. Listen, the story here itself is not all that original (hero gets captures, Earth in trouble, rescue mission ensues), but the graphic novels are driven by Hatke’s ability to conceive interesting characters and move the plot along. And his wonderful inviting artwork.

It’s been a few years since I read the very first book, so I was pleasantly being pulled back into old story lines and characters. You don’t need to have read the first two books, but it makes it easier to know why the leviathan that powers the planet needs to be saved, and why there is a giant mouse in a cage that needs to be saved, and where the boy came from and what he is up to. Add in a cat, a few pirates, and a talking skeleton who teams up with a living pile of rags to escape a dungeon (and a rock with eyeballs) and you get a little taste of the odd adventures of Zita.

As an aside, I really enjoyed Hatke’s insights at the book on where Zita’s story and character originated from (Hatke’s girlfriend-now-wife, it turns out) and how the story emerged over time into this series of graphic novels. Oh, and what book has sat on the top of the New York Times best-seller list? You got it! The Return of Zita the Spacegirl.

Peace (in the adventure),
Kevin

 

How to Get On Your Boogie Shoes and Get People to Dance

Here is another project for this week’s Make Cycle for the Making Learning Connected MOOC. We don’t expect folks to do more than one, but it is neat if they can. I had this idea for a How To .. for music-related things, and this Haiku Deck is about how to rock the house and get people to dance.

How To Rock A Show And Get People To Dance – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Can you tell my band — Duke Rushmore — has a gig coming up? It’s next Friday, at a local brewery, where they open up the main floor, hire a band, give out free “samples,” send patrons home with free beer, and let the party rock for two hours before the whole thing shuts down. It’s an odd gig, but hey, it’s a gig!

Hey, if you live in Western Massachusetts, come on down to the Paper City Brewery next Friday night. If you don’t live in Western Massachusetts … CLMOOC Road Trip!

Peace (in the boogie),
Kevin

#CLMOOC Make: How To Make a Snarky Flowchart

Making a Snarky Flowchart
I admit. I’m partial to flowcharts that explore odd ideas, and inflect humor into the choices. Some of the best ones that I come across these days are on the back page of Wired Magazine, and if appropriate (which is not always), I put those flowcharts up on a closet door in my classroom so that my students can read them. You should see them gather around, following the paths of decision-making.

There are all sorts of things going on when you compose/write a flowchart. You have to imagine a “conversation” with the “reader” who needs to make choices about which way to go. But you also realize that every reader will ultimately follow all of the paths, too, if only to figure out where things might have gone. The questions have to be written in an engaging way. You want to draw the reader in.

So, I decided that for the first Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, in which the them of the cycle is to create a “how to do something” project, I would create a flowchart that would explain how to create a snarky flowchart. Snark is hip on the Interwebz, and another difficult writing activity. If you go to far with snark, you lose the reader (no one wants to be made fun of) because you insult their intelligence. If you don’t go far enough, the snark loses its … snarkiness, and thus, the appeal. I’m not sure I found the middle here, but I tried.

This is how I went about making this flowchart (in the CLMOOC, we try to lay bare the process of making as part of our reflection):

  • I began with a simple sketch on paper, knowing that my topic would be How to Make a Snarky Flowchart. I worked on some basic questions only, knowing more would come as I created the real chart;
  • I opened up the Draw.io app in Google Docs (it’s one of those add ons you can know install). This app is designed for flowchart creating, although the artwork is very simple and rather boring;
  • I dragged boxes, arrows and text into my flowchart project, trying to keep it to one page for easier viewing. Flowcharts work best when it is all in front of you, the whole crazy map of choices;
  • Readability is key, so you don’t want too many lines zig zagging all over the place, and it helps if a few of the “loser” choices point together towards a single box. Working on the right text for that shared box took the most writing time, it turns out. It needs to be generic enough for multiple arrows and yet, still have a message;
  • I then exported the flowchart from Draw.io (the file is now in my Google Docs, by the way) as a jpeg file and uploaded it into Flickr;
  • Then, I wrote this post which I am writing right now and added the image and my bulleted points that I am writing this very moment in this very blog post, so I guess I better stop typing …. now … right now … stopping

What would you explain how to do? Come join the CLMOOC. It’s never ever too late to jump on in.

Peace (in the flow),
Kevin

Where ‘Dogtrax’ Came From

(my first dog, Bella)Bella headshot

The other day, a friend on Twitter posed the question of where my moniker, Dogtrax, came from. Actually, Maha Bali was riffing on the fact that Alan Levine, whose work with #ds106 is crazy fun, and I both have dog-related nicknames (he is Cogdog and I am Dogtrax). She wondered if we had some connections to each other (we don’t, other than #ds106) and what the story was.

I played it for humor, as if I were trying not to give away some grand secret. But then Alan shared out one of his very first blog posts, in which he explained where Cogdog came from. That made me feel as if my diversions to Maha’s questions weren’t warranted, so I told her I would search my blog for a post in which I explain my name.

I guess I never wrote it, so here it is.

Where Dogtrax Came From

The nickname Dogtrax is a variation of a nickname I had a child. I grew up in an apartment complex with lots of kids, and we would gather to play sports most afternoons and most weekends in the grassy field near the side of the apartment building. Baseball in spring; soccer in the fall; and football (American football) right into the cold months of winter. We had a whole range of ages, so little kids would be in the huddle with older ones, and usually, someone went home hurt during the games. It was just the way of the world.

A good friend of mine was a star athlete and he excelled in neighborhood football. Me? Not so much. But I was big for my age, so I could block whenever my quarterback friend wanted to run down the field. I should mention here that I have/had red hair (“had” being the fact of life of getting older), and there is a football play called Red Dog, which my friend liked to call when he wanted to run for a touchdown with me blocking in front of him.

Thus, my nickname for a long stretch of time as a kid in our neighborhood was Red Dog. Interestingly, nobody outside of our block called me that. It was a real name connection to where I lived at the time.

Cut to college, where my drinking buddies and I were talking about childhood memories and nicknames, and I told the story above of the football field, so my friends in college began to call me Red Dog again, and then they later dropped the Red to leave just the Dog (a word which later became pop culture slang for friend, as in Dawg. We take no credit for that. Just saying.)

Which leads us to Dogtrax. Its origins are in my very first email address I ever created — too many years ago to now even count — and a little music machine. Around the same time as I was discovering email (this must be the early 1990s), I was using a Tascam four-track recorder to record and produce some original music, and in the vein of feeling “professional,” if only for myself, I took to labeling my tapes (hand-delivered to friends) as being created by Dogtrax Productions (the trax being in reference to “tracks” of music. X sounded cool, but now it is overused, right?)

When I needed to create an email username, I went with Dogtrax@xxxx, and I have stuck with it ever since as I have moved email hosts and moved into Twitter, etc. I don’t really think about it much until someone like Maha asks me or someone at a conference says “Oh, you’re Dogtrax.” Actually, that makes me feel sort of foolish in the moment. “Eh, yes, but I am Kevin.”

Even as the world has shifted more towards open names in webspaces, I still fall back on my Dogtrax moniker, as sort of a touchstone of childhood and young adult memories, and a bit of a veil of identity, too (now completely gone as I write this). The name has guided my avatar creation over the years, too, to some degree (see an earlier post here about my shifting avatars). I realize, as I write this, that Dogtrax is my anchor in shifting spaces, an identity that has stayed constant over the years as my presence in different networks and communities has come and gone.

It’s interesting, too, that the Internet world is overrun with LOL Cats, and us dog-related identity folks (like Alan and I) often find humorous ways to push back against the feline presences in our feeds. When we wag our tails, it means we’re happy, by the way.

And that is the origin story of Dogtrax.

Duke(my current dog, Duke)
Peace (in history),
Kevin

Understanding the Make Cycle Concept in the #CLMOOC

The Making Learning Connected MOOC (CLMOOC) is anchored on the idea of Make Cycles, which are activities sponsored by a handful of writing project sites and affiliated groups. The very first Make Cycle will launch later today (look for it as a newsletter in your email box) and there will be descriptions of what the Make Cycle looks like. There is a solid overview at the CLMOOC website worth reading.

Here is my own webcomic explanation of what that means, as told in comic form (modified a bit from last year):
The Arc of a Make Cycle in #CLMOOC
As with everything CLMOOC-connected, what you make of any particular Make Cycle will be completely up to you, but we hope you dive in and make some cool things happen this summer.

Peace (in the Make),
Kevin