MP3 Player as Personal Narrative

Stephen Levy, of Newsweek, writes:

“Surfing someone’s iPod is not merely a revelation of character but a means to a rich personal narrative, navigated by click wheel.” (Newsweek, October 23, 2006) — an excerpt from Levy’s book called The Perfect Thing.

I don’t have an iPod (I have a thing against Digital Rights Management locks) but I do have an MP3 player that has made long flights bearable and walks around the neighborhood enjoyable. So, what is playing in my mind? I click on my player and here are the first 20 or so songs that come up in shuffle mode:

  • James Hunter “Until Your Fool Comes Home”
  • The Subdudes “Save Me”
  • Dave Mathews “Ants Marching”
  • Jason Mraz “Mr. Curiosity”
  • John Mellencamp “Worn Out Nervous Condition”
  • Matthew Sweet “You Don’t Love Me”
  • Shelby Lynne “I’m Alive”
  • Brian Setzer “Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache”
  • Tiny Town “Little Child”
  • The Cure “Boys Don’t Cry”
  • Rolling Stones “Happy”
  • Bruce Springsteen “Into the Fire”
  • Indigo Girls “Virginia Woolf”
  • Ben Harper “Where Could I Go”
  • GooGoo Dolls “Strange Love”
  • BoDeans “Say about Love”
  • Ryan Adams “Political Scientist”
  • Average White Band “Pick up the Pieces”
  • Marc Cohn “Walk on Water”
  • Beastie Boys “Ask for Janice”
  • Steve Earle “Copperhead Road”
  • Joan Osborne “One of Us”

One thing I notice: not too many female artists on that list and I realize that I don’t have too many on my player, although I have quite a few rocking women groups and solo artists in my collection.

Peace Posters: A Student Audiocast

This was originally posted to a new project I am starting called Youth Radio that seeks to connect upper elementary/middle school students via audiocasts.

The Peace Poster Project: Celebrating Peace in the World
Listen to the Audiocast


Students in Southampton, Massachusetts, have been working on creating Peace Posters. The project is supported by the local Lion’s Club as a way to foster understanding of peace in the world through artistic expression.
Sixth Grader Kathryn takes you on an audio tour of the art classroom, asking these young people to explain the themes and symbols in their posters. Listen in as the students think about the meaning of a peaceful world.

Peace (really),

The Digital World

Wesley Fryer (one of those folks whose Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog should be securely fastened into everyone’s RSS Aggregator) just posted a great article that builds upon the concept of digital natives/digital immigrants (as put forth by Marc Prensky).

His idea is that there are more than two layers of people and their comfort level with technology. Fryer suggests that the world might be split into Natives (young people fully immersed from birth into tech); Immigrants (those who are finding their way into tech possibilities); Refugees (those who see tech and don’t want to touch the start button); Bridges (the sort-of undecided about whether tech is good or bad, but keep a toe in the door); and the Undecided (really perplexed about tech).
Here is his concept map to help explain these ideas in a very cute way:

Our Digital Landscape



More Six Word Stories

The NWP Six Word Story Wiki site is gaining momentum in the last few days.

Here are the latest entries:

I can’t wait to see what comes next …


NEATE Teaching Award

I just learned that I have been awarded the Exellence in Teaching Award from the New England Association of Teachers of English and I could not be happier. I have presented at a few NEATE conferences (blogging, digital claymation, etc) and written a few stories and articles for NEATE publications.

The letter I received gave me some kudos and for me, the award really supports the idea of an intergrated, creative/critical-thinking based writing program for sixth graders, and so I am deeply appreciative.

“Kevin, your teaching is a testament to your passion for innovation and engagement with your profession. Not only do you hold a highly professional ehtic but also you round your teaching to reach and affect students and colleagues alike. The breadth of your skill, knowledge and mastery of your profession is impressive.” — David O., NEATE Award Chairman, in his letter to me.

Wow! Those are very inspiring words to a teacher in the classroom and makes me all the more dedicated to my students and to others around me.


PS — This award falls on the heels of two NWP colleagues getting recognized for their work, too. Maria Angala of Washington DC won an award for her work for weblogging and Dave Boardman of Maine just won a co-technology teacher of the year award for the state of Maine. So I feel as if I am good company.

Time: More Google Products

You might notice I read through a lot of magazines …

In the recent Time magazine, there is a very funny back-section feature by Evan Eisenberg that pokes fun at the idea of a Google-Universe (it all started with the Big Search) by offering up possible future Google products.

Here are a few that made me giggle:

  • Ex-Search — Find out if they are seeing anyone
  • Oogle — Stare for hours without seeming rude
  • Beagle — Find your lost dog
  • Fruedgle — Search your unconscious mind
  • Gray Matter — Map the death of your brain cells in real time
  • Blobber — Impose your consciousness on the rest of humanity — it’s easy, fast and free!
  • Garble — Translate ordinary speech into legalese, adspeak, Bushspeak and dozens more
  • Walkie — Use your mobile phone in real time to decide which foot to move next

You can access the real article here.


Six Word Stories

Wired Magazine had a nice little feature in which it asked writers, filmakers and others to compose a Science Fiction Story in just six words. This is in the model of Hemmingway’s very famous story: “For Sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”

Then I got to thinking, the technology liaisons in the National Writing Project are writers by nature and, although pressed for time, they might be able to pull together six words and create a short story.

So I launched a Wiki, sent out e-invites, added a video welcome, and began mapping (with CommunityWalk) where the writers live in the world. And I am urging them to record an audio version of their six word stories, either as an MP3 or through Vaestro. It’s been very interesting.

Here are a few responses:

I recorded and posted an audio version of my first story.

microphoneListen to my story


PS — here is our map:CommunityWalk Map – SixWordStories Mapping

Old Radio Shows

I was moving through some links provided by a friend, Glen B., from Oregon (who is developing some great online lessons around digital storytelling, podcasting and other Read/Write applications) and one of his links took me to a great site that archives some old radio programs from the Golden Days of Radio.

It reminded me of one of the very first vinyl records I ever received — a copy of a Flash Gordon radio show and I used to listen to the hiss of the show in the darkness of my room, transported to the planets which Flash is exploring.


What was wonderful is that it gave me an opportunity to have my young sons listen to the Abbott and Costello skit about Who’s On First — they had heard of it but never heard the actual bit.

Abbott and Costello and Who’s On First radio broadcast

Want to find all the old archives? Remember Buck Rogers? Flash Gordon? Well, I really don’t but I like to listen to some of the old voices.

Go to RadioLovers for all the info


Malcolm is at it again

One reading pleasure that I get is when I open up the New Yorker magazine and there, in the table of contents, I see the byline: Malcolm Gladwell. The author of Blink and Tipping Point (both of which were built from articles in the magazine, I believe) writes with such clarity and insight about a wide variety of issues, it becomes like a little journey of the mind to follow where he is leading you.

In last week’s New Yorker, Malcolm is on the trail of software that can be used to predict the success or failure of movies. It all has to do with indentifying attributes, categorizing them in certain ways and then letting the computer analyze the structure of movies. Some movie companies are now channeling movie scripts through the computer program and pressuring for changes before the actors are even hired. There is something sterile about that process, I think, but that is another post.

What I was interested in was almost an aside in the article: the use of software to help musicians and producers analyze music, using mathematical formulas based upon beat, harmony, pitch, chord progression and cadence. The software called “Platinum Blue” can pick “whether a song is likely to become a hit with eighty-percent accuracy,” according to Malcolm. The creator of the software is not interested in the songs, per se. “He cared only about a song’s underlying mathematical structure,” according to Malcolm.

This is all very interesting but then the creator of the software comments: “We think we’ve figured out how the brain works regarding musical taste.” I wonder how that can be? And if true, does this mean that we are moving towards some uniform musical taste analysis? Interesting.

The program did predict that the song Crazy by Gnarls Barkely would be a hit. I wonder if they have put Beck into their machine? (Which reminds me of a Sesame Street skit in which Bert creates a sound machine for the letter “P” and Ernie makes it explode by feeding to many letters into it — that’s what I think Beck would do to the software — cause it to implode.)