Dogtrax Audiocasts: A Musical Exploration


I have been writing songs on and off for the past 20 years with a variety of bands and throughout that time, I have often turned on a tape machine or recorder and tried to capture the songs in some fashion or another. The advent of easy-to-use coversion technology has allowed me to convert many of those analog files into mp3s and there they have sat, collecting dust in folders.
The idea of audiocasts has intrigued me for some time now and I figured this weblog was as good a space as any to begin creating a series of audiocasts that track some of my songs over the years. So when a friend of mine recently asked me to share some of the songs, I figured now was the time to give it a try. (It is possible they may retract that request upon listening to what I have to offer, but … too late now.)
And so, I begin my journey with this first audiocast, which is a bit embarrassing to release since it features some of the earliest songs I ever wrote and recorded. It was in 1985 and I had just picked up the guitar and didn’t know what I was doing. Not that this stopped me, however.
Thanks for listening (in advance)

microphone Listen to the Dogtrax Audiocast: The Wicked Early Years

Also, this is a running archive of the audiocasts I am creating (so far, only one other file is out there but more are on the way — next up: The Rough Draft Revolution):


Tech Grant Proposal

This summer, while in Chico, California, I attended Tech Matters 2006 through the National Writing Project and all members of the institute are encouraged to submit a grant proposal that supports technology at our local writing project site.

My proposal is designed to help connect the writing projects in our renewed state network and provide assistance to various project leaders within our site, as well as other TCs, in using Weblogs, wikis and audiocasting.

Here is an overview of my grant proposal.


Tech Matters Minigrant Proposal

Weblogs, Wikis and Audiocasts: Integrating Emerging Technology into the Classroom

1.      Project Title and Summary

If site leaders and teacher consultants are to utilize the possibilities of web-based applications for publishing, collaborating, and communicating, then they will need to have time and space to learn and understand the technology. This project – called Weblogs, Wikis and Audiocasts – offers three separate workshops for teachers in our network, with an emphasis on project leaders, to create and use Weblogs, experiment with wikis and begin creating and posting audio files.  One goal of the initiative is to establish a local network of education-related Weblogs and resources for our region’s teaching corps.  Another facet of the project is designed to strengthen our NWP state network through the creation of a series of newsletter Weblogs as a way to disseminate information across the various sites but all linked together with a main site.  Finally, our WMWP site will use some of the grant money to establish our own content management system so that we can independently oversee an emerging Weblog network for teachers and project leaders.  This system will also be used for the state network.

2.      Description of Project Plan

Technology integration at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has been an ongoing initiative for the past decade as more and more of the site’s projects are using interactive media for communication, collaboration, and publication. This grant program aims at supporting those endeavors and encouraging our teachers and leaders in this direction as a way to maintain continuity of teachers interested in technology and support the capacity of the site by providing project leaders with practical knowledge of the possibilities of Web-based applications.  The grant project will be divided into two phases:

The first phase involves the site’s purchasing server space with the capacity to host a network of Weblogs and other future content management systems for both our local site and our Massachusetts state network of Writing Project sites.  Our intention is to establish a multi-year agreement with a hosting company that will allow the Weblog project to become stable, and then to integrate the costs of such hosting services right into the annual budget of the site/state network.  We include the state network in this phase because one vision of the newly-energized state network is to find ways to create an overall identity for the Writing Projects in Massachusetts.  We believe that Weblogs can provide interactive space for sharing news and information.  Each site will have its own Weblog-based newsletter that will then be funneled through a main state network site.  We intend as one of the goals of this grant to establish server space and create newsletter space for each site in our network.

The second phase will be a series of three separate workshops designed to provide WMWP project leaders and other teacher-consultants with a one-day hands-on experiences using Weblogs, wikis, and some Internet-based publishing of audio files so that they will be better informed on how to use these tools in the classrooms and within their WMWP projects.  All teachers will leave the sessions with WMWP-networked Weblogs to be used as appropriate for their situations, wiki accounts, and MP3 voice recorders for capturing and posting audio files.  The three workshops will be scattered across the 2006-2007calendar to provide as much flexibility for participation as possible.  We expect to limit each workshop to 10 participants to provide for authentic hands-on experiences.  There will be a nominal fee of $25 for participants as a way to buffer the costs of purchasing voice recorders and to exact a commitment to the workshop from the participants.  As our program leaders and teacher-consultants begin to create and use Weblogs, we will then establish a main trunk site connecting all of our Weblogs together.  This network will not only create an excellent forum for others in considering ways to use Weblogs in education, but also establish a community of educators using technology.

In term of site leadership, Technology Liaison Kevin Hodgson will also work during the first workshop session to identify a co-leader for the second and third sessions as a way to broaden technology leadership for the site.

3.      Criteria

One of the goals of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has been to use technology as a tool for keeping our teacher-consultants and program leaders connected with the work of the site. The integration of the technology liaison as a thinking partner into the site’s leadership team is one example of this direction. The active use of a Western Massachusetts Writing Project on-line newsletter is another.

The main question we are trying to address with this project is: How can we put more tools of the Read/Write Web into the hands of our project directors so that they can understand the possibilities and then use that technology to strengthen their own programs?  Our grant proposal addresses both continuity – teachers will continue to see our site as a leader in technology beyond the Summer Institute, and the network of Weblogs will create an interactive identity for our site as well – and capacity as our network of Weblogs becomes a model for other teachers.  There will be three workshops in the series and Technology Liaison Kevin Hodgson will also identify emerging leaders by asking a cohort from the first group to help co-lead the second and third workshops in the series.

A secondary question is: How can technology assist in the further strengthening of our state network?  The purchase of server space and Weblogs within that server space should allow the various sites in the network to interact and learn from each other, and perhaps, foster some collaborative projects in the future.  Susan Biggs, the WMWP Professional Development Coordinator and the director of the Massachusetts state network, will help facilitate the integration of Weblogs into the network.

The last question for our site is a practical one: How long will the National Writing Project provide free Weblog space, and how can we, as a site, become independent of the NWP Weblog initiative?  It has become clear that sometime in the future, the availability of free Weblogs from NWP may end, so we realize that we need to establish our own network for future planning.  This grant will help us establish server space for current and future needs of the site.

WMWP Technology Liaison Kevin Hodgson will be overseeing the grant program in partnership with Site Director Bruce Penniman.  This grant proposal has been created as a collaborative venture using the Web-based Writely application.  Kevin will also be consulting with the WMWP Technology Team, which was created as part of the NWP Technology Seed Sites Initiative, on ideas for the workshop series, state network of Weblogs and server space purchase.  The Technology Team is comprised of former site leaders, University of Massachusetts professors, and teacher-consultants.

We hope that the creation of a network of Weblogs at an individual NWP site can become a model for others to follow, and one aspect of the workshop series will be a reflective piece of writing for teachers and project leaders to consider the best applications for this technology.

4.      Timeline





Fall/Winter 2006

(completion date: December 31)

1.    Advertise the workshop series, with initial personal invitations to project leaders. Teacher-consultants will be alerted through e-mail, newsletters, and flyers/workshops at the WMWP fall conference.

2.    Purchase server space.

3.    Purchase voice recorders.

4.    Discuss the sequence of activities for the workshop series – what is most important for teachers/leaders to gain?

1.    Kevin Hodgson

2.    Kevin Hodgson, Bruce Penniman

3.    Bruce Penniman

4.    Kevin Hodgson, Technology Team

Spring 2007

(completion date: April 30)

1.    Offer first full-day workshop at UMass.

2.    Identify possible program co-leaders from this cohort for future workshop sessions.

3.    Begin working with Massachusetts State Network on use of Weblogs for newsletters.

1.    Kevin Hodgson

2.    Kevin Hodgson

3.    Kevin Hodgson, Susan Biggs

Summer 2007

(completion date: July 31)

1.    Offer second full-day workshop at UMass, with new co-leader.  Use examples from the first workshop to help advertise the project.

2.    Begin to establish a main site for newly-created teacher/project Weblogs.

3.    Explain and demonstrate the possibilities of Weblogs at the Summer Institute.

1.    Kevin Hodgson, co-leader TBA

2.    Kevin Hodgson

3.    Kevin Hodgson, SI co-leaders

Fall 2006

(completion date: October 31)

1.    Offer third full-day workshop at UMass.

2.    Create a main network of Weblogs for the Massachusetts state network system.

3.    Share results of workshop series with NWP network at Annual Meeting in New York City.

1.    Kevin Hodgson, co-leader TBA

2.    Kevin Hodgson, Susan Biggs

3.    Kevin Hodgson, co-leader TBA

Beyond Fall 2007

1.    Continue to purchase server space/content management system

2.    Plan for another series of workshops for the 2008-2009 school year

1.    Kevin Hodgson, Bruce Penniman

2.    Kevin Hodgson, Technology Team


5.  Dissemination Plan


·          Presentation of the use of Weblogs in the classroom at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project Best Practices Fall 2007 Conference.  Participants in the workshop series will be asked to present case studies to fellow teachers.  Technology Liaison Kevin Hodgson will facilitate the session.

·          Presentation of the workshop series and state network project at National Writing Project annual meeting in NYC in 2007.  Kevin Hodgson will be the main presenter, but the co-leader will also come along as a co-presenter.  Invitations will be made to participants as well.

·          Presentation of the state network design at the New England Writing Projects Annual Retreat in spring 2008, using the same plan as above.

NEA Magazine: technology in every classroom?

The latest edition of NEA Today (September 2006) contains an interesting question in its debate section. It asks, Should technology be used in every classroom?

Supporting this concept is a history teacher from Tennessee, who notes that, “In almost every field of work, some type of technology is used. Students must be prepared.” The teacher goes on to note:

BY using technology in the classroom, we’re speaking their language and teaching them in a way that they might learn. Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Estrada once said, ‘If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn’.” — Keith Parker

On the opposing end of the argument, a math teacher from Virginia says that technology can become a crutch for students more than an active tool for learning. He refers to reliance on calculators for basic computations and that “Some of my colleagues in the English Department atttribute their students’ writing skills, or lack thereof, to the heavy use of instant messaging and spell check.” He argues that there is more need than ever for direct instruction by educators.

Our generation learned how to read,write, and do arithmetic by learning from our teachers’ example — with pencils, paper and our minds … Yes, technology is an integral part of this process (learning), but that does not mean it is a required component of every classroom setting.” — Timothy Kubinak

It is an interesting debate and both teachers bring up vital points. Perhaps there is a middle ground here, too, which is that not every classroom should be forced to use technology. Too many teachers feel the pressure to do so and lack either the interest or training or understanding to do a rich integration of technology tools, and the students are the ones to suffer. But for those teachers who can envision a change in the classroom for the better — either through more motivated students or critical thinking — we need to find ways to support those efforts.

On the last page of the NEA Today, there is another very interesting column from Glen Bledsoe, who worries that the data being collected through technology for administrators to created a sort of remote controlled classroom.

You will start your computer upon arrival at school each morning and find your instructions for the day waiting for you. Like a good soldier, your part is not to question but to obey. You will be measurable. Technology at last will make teachers accountable.” — Glen Bledsoe

Glen reminds us that students are individuals and not blips of data, and it is the classroom teacher who is most acutely aware of this fact. It is a fallacy to rely on software analysis to attend to our students with a wide variety of needs.


Songs about Blogging/Podcasting

I recently found two different songs about the integration of technology in our lives. I love that people are taking their interests and making them into music, and then sharing that music with the rest of us.
The first is a song (shown to me by Paul A. of New York at Tech Matters) called “Heard it On a Podcast” written by band, Cruisebox.

And then there is this great video going around the world by David Lee King called “Are You Blogging This?” — which is just very funny to watch. It’s a combination of humor and rock and roll.
Thanks for creating some cool anthems for us out here in digi-land. I hope it inspires others to do the same thing.

And so it begins …

I always start off the school year by sending home a letter to all of my incoming students (whom I have already met last year) that welcomes them to my classroom and provides a quick overview of what is ahead for the coming year (excitement! fun! adventure!).

I also give them access to our writing class weblog (The Electronic Pencil) and instructions on how to log in and post some writing. I start them off with the basic “what did you do this summer” query in the days before school starts and then closely monitor what happens.

In the first few days, four students have already posted some initial writing and begun commenting on each other’s writing (all good) and then today, I get a post in which a student describes in some detail their dating habits this summer and the ups and downs of being a sixth grader. It was a good piece of writing (as writing goes) but not within bounds of our Weblog. So I had to delete their writing and insert a comment from me about the parameters of acceptable expression. And that made me feel awkward and I realized how artificial a classroom weblog becomes when this happens, and yet, as a teacher, I really didn’t have much choice. The post was too specific on too many topics.

I know I will have to pull this student aside on the first day and have a discussion. That’s a good thing (the discussion) but I still feel a tingle of uneasiness between what I hope the site can be used for and how I have to act as gatekeeper.

This student promised to write again tomorrow, so I look forward to reading the next post … 🙂


Other Meandering Minds and Sofa Kings

So I guess I am not alone as a Meandering Mind. I just happened to be doing that self-centered activity of googling my site and found a few other Meandering Minds way ahead of me in the search engine. It’s not that I thought I was being so original with my Weblog title, but still … brain

Here are a few other Meandering Minds blogs:

This reminds me of an experience I had recently when designing the website for my rock band, The Sofa Kings, and realizing just how many sofa king bands there out there in the wide world. Here are a few:

sofa kings logo

Another bit of experimenting

I’ve been trying to find the right source for uploading and sharing audio files. OurMedia was OK until I made an error with a password and cannot seem to retrieve any of my new information from the site, which is very frustrating. They seem to have zero email support there.
So I am trying this new site to see if it works as a place to link audio files for school and personal use.

microphone Listen to the greetings for students at my classroom Weblog

And here is a PDF file of a short story I wrote for my students at the end of last year. I wrote the story as they were writing, and shared pieces of it (and the writing process I was going through) as they were doing the same thing:

Risking it all for the King


Change On the Horizon

I use Bloglines as my RSS feeder and I have become convinced how valuable such an aggregator can be (for some reason, I wasn’t always that convinced of its value and thought it more a nuisance that I would have to work hard at, but that is not the case — it works hard for me). The RSS aggregator really allows me to “pull” the things that I am interested in right to me, instead of barreling through the world of links left and right, aimlessly hoping for some semblance of substance. It also leads me to other interesting areas of the wired world, sometimes unexpectedly.
Recently, a feed from Will Richardson’s Weblogged site led to me to a posting by Joyce Valenza, who charts out what the world was like for a librarian in the 1970s, how the world is different now, and what the implications are for all that for the future of education. The chart — entitled How My Life Has Changed/How My Life Will Change — is very interesting and covers a lot of ground. Although it deals with library science, the topics are valuable for any educator.
Here is an interesting observation from Joyce about what students need as researchers and the dangers of access issues:

Need to introduce a fuller information toolkit. Need to promote lesser known or used tools—subscription databases, alternate search tools, ebooks. Potential for an information underclass! Need to help students determine where to start. Need for high quality federated searching to cut through the noise? May need to promote the value of books for some projects.

And this, about the reconfigured use of the library space by teachers and students, seems very insightful, too:

Increasing need for group, creative production space—iMovie, podcasting, blogging. Library as group planning/collaborating space. Library as performance, presentation space. Library as event-central, telecommunications, remote author/expert visit space. Library continues as study/reading/gathering/cultural space.


Technology as a Tool for Learning

School is just around the bend and those frantic dreams have already begun for me (and for others, I notice, as I read some other Weblogs of teachers). So this is a perfect time to reflect a bit on last year and think about projects that were successful and projects that need a bit more thinking time. 🙂

For my sixth graders, learning how to use Powerpoint was an eye-opener. I know that PP is so overused in so many different ways, but it still a valuable tool for research dissemination for students. However, I wanted to use PP in another way in the writing classroom — as a template for creating picture books.

So, my sixth graders spent about six weeks (much longer than anticipated) writing stories for a younger audience with a theme of mathematics, and then using Powerpoint to create picture books. No clip art was allowed!

When they were finished, we invited younger grades to tour our classroom and watch the Powerpoint Picture Book Shows and ask questions about the stories, technology and production. I then arranged to have print copies made of the shows for both my students and for our school library. Finally, I uploaded all of the picture books to our Weblog site so that family members could also view the shows.

The results were wonderful — students very engaged in writing, integrating math into writing instruction, and the use of technology in a meaningful way.

You can view the Math Picture Books yourself, if you would like.

If you are a teacher, good luck at the start of the year!