If It’s Not on the Web, Does a School Exist?

I’ve had the oddest experience lately with my sons’ school district (where I live but don’t teach). The other day, I was trying to find some information about one of my boys’ teachers, and I could not remember their email. So I went to search for the school district website.

Nothing came up.

I thought for sure it must be me, using the wrong search queries. So I tinkered with words to modify the search. I went very specific with my terms. I even waited a few days and tried again.

Nothing came up.

It was as if the school district had been yanked off the Web. I went to our city website and searched for a link to the School Department.

Nothing.

I scratched my head. Later in the week, my wife came downstairs, clearly frustrated, because she was trying to email my high school son’s guidance counselor to talk about his junior year. She had been searching and searching and searching for the high school website for 30 minutes.

Nothing came up.

I’m baffled on a few levels. First, I suspect that the school must have done some upgrade to its web presence that has completely taken it off the grid (maybe a new Google “Right to Be Left Alone” experiment?) at a time when schools need to do more to reach out to parents. But where is the site? And, second, ¬†I find it interesting that, as a parent, I really do expect our community schools to have at least some sort of presence on the web so that information is available. I want information, now.

I’m assuming this disappearance is only temporary. The school is still there (or so my son tells me …) and my wife cobbled together an email address from some older email archives. But still, it should not be this difficult to find a school, right?

Peace (on the web),
Kevin

What They Will Make: A Media Project

What Will You Make media project
We’re in the last week and a half of the school year, but we’re still making and creating in my classroom. Students are finishing up a short story project (theme: a person from history is stuck inside a game and the narrator has to go into the game and get them out). Part of the project is to make a media component to the story, and what they make is wide open. I offer some suggestions (make a video game, create a story/movie trailer, compose a comic, etc.) but leave it to them to decide what they want to do.

This chart is just another way of representing some options, and my classroom has been abuzz the last few days as students are working on the media projects and their short stories, with time running out on us.

The chart connects nicely to the launch of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, too, as the ethos of the collaboration is all about choice, making things of interest and sharing within a community.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

What Are You Doing? Diving into the #CLMOOC

Summer of Make, Play, and Connect banner
Working on a new comic to start the first official day of the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration.
Monday marks the very first Make Cycle, in which folks are invited to make cool things and share out. This weekend, it’s time to say hello and get situated in the various spaces that make up an open learning space. You come, too. Sign up and jump in when you can. No pressures on making. Lurking is welcome.
CLMOOC Banner
Me?
I made a comic.
Getting Ready for Summer
Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

Going Meme Crazy for the #CLMOOC


Tomorrow (Friday) marks the official starting point for the second summer of the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration. That’s a mouthful that we narrow down to #clmooc. (If you have signed up yet, no worries. You can sign up in less than a minute.) The doors open tomorrow but the first Make Cycles won’t unfold until Monday morning.
I’ve been meme-ing the mooc for the past few days, releasing a meme a day on Twitter to spark interest and get folks interested. Here are a few of the memes:
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme

I hope you come along for the ride, too. We aim to have some fun this summer.
Peace (in the CLMOOC),
Kevin

Remixing Judy: How a Poem Inspires a Poem

MakeImaginationHappenaremixedpoem
The theme this week with a MOOC (sort of) around the five elements of creativity is “the remix” and as I thought about it, I kept coming back to a poem that Judi Moreillon left a comment at my blog post over at MiddleWeb the other day. Judy’s poem captured the end of the year, which was the theme of my post, and so, I decided to try to honor Judy by remixing her poem a bit, adding some ideas not just of the end of the year but the inevitable look (already) at the start of the new school year in September.

The image is my remixed poem, but you can also read it at Notegraphy. It’s possible my remixing is not yet done, as I am thinking of ways to push the poem into other media. (no promises on that one).

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin

Mentor Media Text: A Short Story Trailer

Here is an example of a “movie trailer” media project for a short story project my students are working on to end the year. The premise is that someone famous is stuck inside a game (board game, video game, whatever) and the narrator of the story has to get that person out. Students will be creating “media companion” pieces to the short stories, and they have choice on what they want to do.

One option is a “movie trailer” for the story, using digital storytelling. So, I created this one for my own story about rescuing King Arthur, who is stuck inside the game of Risk.

I used a free app called Adobe Voice on my iPad to create a trailer for my story, Risking It All for the King. We don’t have iPads in our classroom, so some may use iMovie, or work on other things.

You can read my story, too, if you are interested.

Peace (in the trailer),
Kevin

A Page from a Student Comic

Homer Figg comic
I’m writing more about a project in which my class constructed a graphic novel version of a novel we are just finishing reading. This page really blew me away with the sense of artwork. So, I am sharing it out, with little context. (More to come later …)

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

PS — Bonus points if you can figure out the book …

There Are No Digital Natives

Here is yet another canon shot against that Native/Immigrant divide that we sometimes refer to … which does not exist with such clarity as one might be believe, so how about we stop using these terms? Agreed?

My friend, Bill Ferriter, wrote a post about this, too, focusing on how teachers are often called Digital Immigrants, as if they can’t find the power button on a computer or something.
Reading Bill’s post led to me make these two comics:
Not a Digital Native
Take that, Native Boy

Peace (in the shift),
Kevin

Cultural Contexts: The Strangeness of Slender Man

You know how, every now and then, you realize that kids have been talking about something you think you know about — usually from making some assumptions of context of their speech– and then a kernel of information floats by, and you realize, Oh, THAT’s what they are talking about!

This week, I learned about Slender Man. But it turns out, references to Slender Man have been in the air all year, particularly when my sixth graders have used our BitStrip Webcomic site. A few students have created faceless characters, called them some version of Slender Man, and I just assumed they were tinkering with the avatar creator’s advanced tools, and that the name described the characters they had created (no eyes, long face, long thin body). One student even wrote his expository writing piece around how to make a Slender Man in Bitstrips, and demonstrated how to create the character in front of the class.

I thought it was odd, but I honestly didn’t think much more of it.

What I didn’t realize is that Slender Man is one of those cultural touchstones of youth — a meme gone viral whose origins are a bit murky but whose presence in fan fiction and app games and other elements of social media. ¬†Slender Man is a mysterious figure that spooks and stalks children. Me? I was clueless about Slender Man, until I opened up my New York Times yesterday and read a piece about two girls who killed another as a way to prove themselves worth to a Slender Man they imagined was real and lurking in the shadows of their lives. Or something like that.

So, realizing the connection to the expository piece from a few days earlier, I turned to my 13 year old son, and asked, “Who’s Slender Man?” and got a full overview of Slender Man’s origins that matched pretty closely to some research I did online later on in the night. Know Your Meme has a good overview of the Slender Man story. When he asked why I was asking, and I told him about the story of the girls, he shook his head, and said,” That’s tragically stupid.”

Uncovering Slender Man is another reminder that cultural information often flows beneath the surface of our lives, as teachers and as parents. You don’t know what you don’t know until you find out what you didn’t know. Now I know Slender Man, but what else don’t I know?

Peace (in the information),
Kevin

Making Pokemon Cards

My youngest son has suddenly sparked an interest in Pokemon cards. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of Pokemon cards and games, and worlds, and accept that this Pokemon universe is a kid’s world of knowledge. I’m Ok with that.

But I would love to steer him to make his own cards, and I remembered a site that Chad Sansing had shared with me a long time ago that allows you to do just that: make your own cards, online. The site was shared by someone else on Twitter this week, and I suddenly remembered Chad’s idea from last summer.

Check it out

So, I’ve been tinkering with the site, and it works OK. The trickiest part has been getting the image the right size so that it isn’t completely smooshed and flattened in the card. I’m still working on that. But my son (he’s away this weekend) will be thrilled by this activity. You can download the cards as image files, or share/publish them at the site.

Here’s one I made, using an art app on the Ipad. I was going for a saxophone-themed creature.
Saxophonius Pokemon

Here’s another I made for my friend, Terry, using Bitstrips to create an avatar of him as Captain Zeega.
captain zeega card
Pretty nifty, even if I have no idea of the different powers and rules of the Pokemon universe.

Peace (in the cards),
Kevin