Some Comic(al) News

I just found out that the big regional newspaper will be running my comic — Boolean Squared — as a webcomic on its site.  More info to come later on all that as I talk it through with them, but I am pretty excited to be on the path to becoming a published comic strip creator. Neat.

And I decided to keep the name, Boolean Squared, as the title of the comic. Thank to everyone who took my little poll (there was even the kind suggestion of renaming it The Adventures of Binary Boy, which is quite catchy, I admit). Here are the survey results:

(note: there were sixteen responses and the numbers here reflect percentages, not raw numbers. Not sure why that didn’t come out in my graph.)

And, some of you also suggested some ideas for my characters. Here are a few:

  • the school bought a new copier but didn’t have an electrical outlet to plug it into;
  • something about adults not knowing how facebook or myspace work;
  • some digital-age variations on “the dog ate my homework”;
  • teachers having a life outside of school;
  • dress down Fridays;
  • server down or computer overheating;
  • shared laptops;
  • reading buddies showing alter egos of older kids;
  • something about how a language teacher ends up stumping his class on a book report because he assigns a book SO OLD that there is NO reference to it digitally. So when the kids try to find a summary or anything, they can’t because the book is pre-digital age and is now out of print.
  • and a few others.

Thanks for the ideas. Some of them mirror my own and comics that I have already created (I have a year’s worth already done at this point).

See ya on the funny pages!

Peace (in frames),

Writing With My Students

As much as possible, I try to write with my students, and share out what I am doing — talking through my writing process and asking them for feedback. This week, we brainstormed a long list of possible short story titles that we will draw upon in the weeks ahead for writing prompts. It was quite a creative adventure and the list has already provided some nice inspiration for students.

Here are a few:

  • The Day Cows Drove Cars
  • My Homework Ate My Dog
  • Personalities
  • Never Put 200 Pounds of Salt in Your Locker
  • A Demon Named MCAS
  • The Greatest Robot Ever
  • Magic Window
  • CRASH: A Journey into the TV
  • Alien Friend, Where Are You?
  • I Wish I Could …
  • Holy Monkey Muffins
  • Lord of the Springs

(The MCAS one is funny. The MCAS is our state test.)

Meanwhile, I took one of their titles and wrote this story over four periods of writing classes during one day (I teach four sessions). The title was one of my student’s ideas and it just intrigued me.

The Eye in the Hourglass

Who knew the genie would be so cruel? And would bring such bad luck? Surely, three wishes would change my life for the better. But, it turned out that I found a bad genie, a wicked genie, and he twisted my words around like a tornado until the meaning of what I really wanted disappeared into a storm of unfortunate events. My first two wishes should have given me some clues. First, I asked for a bag of gold. What he gave me was bag of stones, with one flint of gold at the bottom.
“It has gold, does it not?” the genie sneered.
My second wish was for a new house. I was thinking of the shack where my father and sisters lived. A new home would be a perfect for my family — a chance to start anew. So what did the genie provide? What was the answer to my wish? A house that fit in the palm of hand. No bigger than a pencil, really.
“Very nice structure,” the genie laughed as I gasped in astonishment.
I should have quit there, but I didn’t.
Instead, I wished for the one thing I always wished I could control: time. I wanted to be able to stop the hands of time and hold off the disease that was raging through my father’s bones. I wanted to hold back time so that I could find a cure for him.
“Done,” said the genie, and before I knew it, he had blinked his eyes, muttered a few words and — boom — I found myself trapped inside some glass compartment. It was curved, with the top being wide and the lower end being narrow. A hole was right in the middle of the floor and there was sand all around me, pouring past me, down the hole into a chamber below me. I realized with a gasp that I was inside an hourglass. I looked up at the genie, who was done with my wishes now. His huge eyeball was pressed near the hourglass, making me feel tiny and powerless.
“So, boy, stop time,” he thundered.
“What?” I asked, confused. “Get me out of here!”
“Oh no. I can’t do that. This is your wish, come true, boy. Stop time. Put your foot in that hole and hold back the Sands of Time. All of time will come to a halt if the sand stops. Your wish has been granted.”
The genie started to laugh again. I stared down at the hold, watching the sand drop. This was my wish? Stuck in an hourglass? I bent down and glanced through the hole to the chamber below. Something else was down there, I realized. Something buried in the sand. It moved and I jumped back. But I could not resist. I bent over again. The movement continued, as if something were shaking off the dust of time. I gasped. There, beneath me, was an eye. An enormous eyeball. And it was staring up at me. I was not alone.
In a panic, I looked for the genie. Surely, he would get me out of here. But he had left the room, apparently, so I scooted a little closer to the hole to get a better look at the eye below me. The sand kept on pouring past me. It formed a powerful current, like a the undertow the ocean, and I must have stepped too close because I suddenly felt myself being caught up in the motion. I started to slip and before I knew it, my foot had become lodged right in the opening itself. I felt another wave of panic and then noticed that the sand was rising up at my foot. I knew I was in serious trouble.
“Genie! Genie!” I yelled. “Get me out of here!”

Either he couldn’t hear me, or he was ignoring me. In either case, the genie was not going to help. That much was clear. I struggled again, trying to free my foot. I turned and twisted, with no luck. That’s when I felt it. At first, it was just a nudge. Almost gentle. And I sense some movement of the hourglass. A ripple, almost. Then, there was a sudden and powerful thud against the bottom of my foot. Then, another. Something was pushing up into me. Something strong. I realized what it was: the eye.
I was frantic now and feeling every more helpless. The eye kept pushing upward. Amazingly, I felt my foot starting to get free of the hole. There was now a bit space, just enough for me take advantage and wrench my body backwards, falling into a pile of sand. My foot was free. And then sand now continued its journey downward. I could now hear the grains of sand hitting something with a thwacking noise.
It must be the eye, I thought. It was getting pummeled by the falling sand. By helping me get free, the eye had put itself into danger. I ran to the hole and looked down. The eye was looking up, sort of sad and mournful, if that was possible. I realized that it had saved my life. And now I was watching it die.
“Hold on,” I screamed. “I’ll try to save you!”
I began digging fiercely to keep the sand from heading into the hole. It was fruitless. Time was running out.
That’s when I noticed the genie. He bent down his head until his eye was just outside the glass window.
“Having fun?” he asked, in a cruel voice.
I was just about to yell at him and demand he free me and the eye from this prison when he reached out, grabbed the hourglass and turned it upside down. My entire world spun around and I bounced from side to side, banging my head and getting sand all in my mouth. Suddenly, the hourglass was reversed. Sand was now pouring down on top of my head. And I could just make out the eye from above, looking down at me just as I had been looking down at it minutes before.
I opened my mouth to scream but sand came in and choked me. Yes, I realized with the cruelest of ironies: Time was most certainly coming to a stop.

As I was writing this, it occurred to me that this would make a great graphic novel story and maybe it is something I will try (someday). Short, sweet but creepy.

Peace (in short fiction),

Gathering Student Voices

We did some podcasting in my classroom yesterday with a portable voice recorder. Their first writing project for the year was a Biopoem and I had them take a line or two from their poems and read them out loud, creating a classroom collective audio Biopoem as they were sharing their words with the class. They were very excited about podcasting and I will play the files for them today in class (and remind them they can go to our classroom site – The Electronic Pencil – to hear all of them, and I will direct parents there, too).

Here is my homeroom class:

A Collective Class BioPoem

Peace (in voice),

Your Days, Words and Thoughts

I was pleasantly surprised to see the rush of words come after I put out my first call for Days in a Sentence in about seven or eight weeks. The break was nice for me and I wondered if Days in a Sentence would still be on people’s radar screens. It surely was. And boy, folks can pack a lot of punch into just a few words.

Here, then, are this week’s Days in a Sentence, Six-Word-Style:

  • My colleague, Gail P. (whom I ran into on the beach in Maine while we were both on vacation) teaches kindergarten at my school. Her year got off to a good start. It’s all working according to plan.
  • Connie continues to innovate with energy and enthusiasm, with positive results. Successful with class redesign, I’m exhausted.
  • Delaine also moves into new territory and then crops out the things she doesn’t want. If only life were like that. Surprise! I am effectively teaching PhotoShop.
  • Liza is another one who found that some thoughtful planning is paying off. Routines are making a difference — Hurray!
  • David‘s six words remind of a day in my class this week, when my sixth graders came in talking about the new supercollider, and asking if the world were soon to blow up. So I talked science with them and also talked Media Exposure, too. David writes: Hadrons, hadrons, hadrons: subsidized, overhyped, uncollided.
  • Sara made the rounds, checking in with students and making connections. conferring with every kid is hard!
  • This was great. My Writing Project friend and colleague, Tina (who ran a claymation camp with me this summer) already has some students tinkering with tech. Moviemaker and microphones made students ebullient.
  • Stacey was thinking of country, perhaps as part of the 9-11 ceremonies. I’m proud to be an American.
  • Ben is no longer on the same pins and needles, thanks to longevity and experience. Open house feels different when tenured.
  • I wonder if Janice feels like she’s on the narrow end of a time funnel? Three weeks work, crammed into one!
  • Bonnie had Barack on her Brain. Barack is back, and me too.
  • Ken, the wonderfully creative Ken, gave us a six word poem:
    • Full sky, beckoning spring,promising rainbows.
  • Sheryl has some sort of construction going on. I hope her foundation is strong. Technology helped me communicate with contractor.
  • Jeff had the tables turned on him, with students becoming the teachers (although I wonder what words he learned?). Students taught me some Portuguese slang.
  • OK. I admit I had to look up the last word of Lynn‘s submission. And then it made sense. My mind is overflowing with ephemera.
  • Larry has both words and important lesson for all of us. First, his words: Raised my voice & a student cried. And now, his lesson that he wanted to share, too:
    Kevin, along with my six (sort of seven) words, I’d like to add a quote from Marvin Marshall, an extraordinary writer on classroom management, who wrote that before we act, we should always ask ourselves this question: “Will what I am about to do or say bring me closer or will it push me away farther from the person with whom I am communicating?” Needless to say, I didn’t do that in this instance.
  • Anne continues to push into new terrain. Established new friends for online projects.
  • Nancy experienced that frenzy of the week where it is gone before you know it. What did I do this week?
  • From the mouths of the little ones comes this gem from Eric: Kindergartner asks me,
    Where are we?
  • Amy K. had success by digging into the news. Literally. Newspaper number hunt messy and FUN!
  • Cynthia is fighting off the Lovebugs (not Herbie!). Darn it! Lovebugs also survived Gustav. She explains: Those of us who live in the Gulf Coast states are cursed each September by an invasion of lovebugs, small black insects whose only purpose in life, as far as I can tell, is to procreate. They are nasty, disgusting, smelly, and invasive. They are supposed to be attracted to white houses. Someone forgot to point out to them that my log cabin is not white because I spent all Saturday morning vacuuming up these disgusting insects, but they just keep coming in.
  • Gail W. is bringing some students into a meaningful project between the National Writing Project and Google regarding Letters to the President as the election in America gears up. Started 90 seniors on Google/NWP project:-)
  • Nina is a decade old. Sort of. I’m celebrating the webheads’ tenth anniversary.

I could not resist taking our words and pushing them into Wordle and create this collaborative image:

Thanks to everyone who participated.

Peace (in brevity),

Six Words — One Reflection


The Day in a Sentence returns here this week with a request that you consider boiling down your busy lives — either as a day or the week — into a single reflective thought. This week, I am returning to the concept of minimalization: the Six Word Sentence.

Here’s how it goes:

  • Consider your week or a day in your week
  • Reflect on it
  • Write a sentence that captures the spirit of the week or a day
  • But use ONLY SIX WORDS
  • Post your sentence here by using the comment button on this post (note: comments are kept in my moderation bin)
  • I will gather all of the sentence and release them to the world over the weekend
  • You will get great virtual applause. 🙂

Everyone is invited (yes, even you) so please consider joining us.

Here is my sentence:

I defended technology before reluctant mom.

Peace (in words),

PS — Thanks to the folks who hosted Day in a Sentence over the past few weeks, including:

My Tech Song

A number of weeks ago, Scott McLeod (over at Dangerously Irrelevant) put out a call for a contest for poems and songs about technology. I rehashed an old song and updated the lyrics, recorded it quickly and then sent it along to Scott. It turns out he chose my song as runner up. Neat. (Here is his post, with the winners).

Here it is — composed as I was thinking of the overload I was feeling at the time.

Digging Out of the Digital World
(listen to the song as MP3)

Take your Macs and mainframes and toss them into the sea
There’s no PC compatible with the likes of me
I’m living up in the clouds — I surf a data storm
When the world goes wireless — nobody’s at home

I’m a cell phone connection and a blackberry man
I’m on call 24/7 — I’m always on demand
I need voice recognition to lighten up my days
so you can take all my power cords and toss ’em all away

Microsoft, Apple, chip, bit, byte, ram
I’m digging in the information highway, I hope it ain’t a scam
You can find me on Twitter, My Tumbler is alive and well,
I’m moving out of MySpace into the Second Life hotel

Somewhere out on the horizon – something new comes along
Something strange that will change the way we think we belong
Information to the left of me – Innovation to the right
I’m so connected now — I can’t tell day from night

Microsoft, Apple, chip, bit, byte, ram
I’m digging in the information highway, I hope it ain’t just a scam
You can find me on Twitter, My Tumbler is alive and well,
I’m moving out of MySpace into the Second Life hotel

Peace (in song),

Collecting Their Dreams

I wanted to share the Dream Scenes that my students have been creating in the first days of school this year, using PhotoStory and MS Paint to capture their voice and vision for themselves. (They have loved this project, much more than when we did the paper version — they have been so fully engaged in what they are doing).

I used the new Edublogs TV as host of the video, since it now integrates pretty nicely with regular Edublogs and has not advertising or outside questionable links.

Here is the video:

This text will be replaced

Oh, you can see my dream at the very end of the video.

Peace (in dreams),

First Days … Wordle

I experimented with a Google Docs Survey Form this week with my students. It allowed me to gather some interesting information, although I am still struggling with how to look at it in a meaningful way. One thing I did was take all of the student responses from a question on things they are looking forward to this year in sixth grade and popped them into Wordle.

Here is what came out:

We play a game of Quidditch at our school, which is very popular, and I like that writing is pretty big, too.

Peace (in word games),

And so, the year begins

Our school year began today and although I had a fitful night of sleep (which included a middle-of-the-night inspiration for an opening day activity with tech), I have to say: I have a wonderful class of sixth graders. Wow. They seem wonderful in so many ways that I figure I am a lucky duck.

So, what was my inspiration?

As with most teachers, I try to do opening activities in which students identify their goals and dreams for their lives and then think about why those dreams are important and how they might be achieved. These activities give remarkable insight into our students. In years past, I had my students create a Dream Scene —  an illustration of levels that lays out elements of their dreams for themselves.

But, what, I wondered, if we could do it on the computer. What would it look like? And how hard would it be to introduce? My insight was this: have kids illustrate a picture of their dream, or a symbol, in MS Paint with at least three complete sentences explaining what the dream is, why it is important and how they will achieve it.

After completing the illustration, students could move that picture into PhotoStory 3 and narrate their picture as a video, with some “sweeping” across the illustration. I could then bundle them together and share out at our classroom blog.

And it worked. My kids LOVED working with technology on Day One of the school year and many are already moving into PhotoStory. They were helping each other with the programs, and giving advice on using Paint, and showing each other how to use PhotoStory. I walked around, but let all of this unfold around me, quite pleased with my idea.

Here is an illustration for a movie that I made as a sample (which is too small to upload in either YouTube or Edublog TV or Flickr, I guess). But I wrote about my dream of playing with my band on the stage of the local music hall.

Peace (with breaking the silence),

PS — This week’s Day in a Sentence is over at Deb’s Blog. Come on over and participate. We know you have deep thoughts to share.