Doling out the Dollars for Days in a Sentence

Thank you to everyone who contributed their Six Word Day in a Sentence this week. They were wonderful to read. A number of you took my challenge to use alliteration and as promised, I am presenting those folks with the first virtual printing of Day in the Sentence Dollars. I don’t recommend you use it for holiday shopping but please let us know if eBay or Amazon accepts them.

And so, without further ado, here are your six word collectives:

  • local diner mac’n’cheese – oh so delicious!Sara
  • Christmas is coming, no more illnesses? Amy
  • Lavishing Lots of Love on Liam.Jane
  • sunshine sensuous Scottsdale sansstudents sanswork seriously Lynn C.
  • Grades done, snow falling, Christmas begins.Troy
  • Countdown to vacation; three, two, one!Liza
  • Ice and snow assault our senses.Gail P.
  • ill, work, havoc, innovate, tiptoe, holiday!Joe
  • Twitter, Twitter, Twitter, work, sleep, TwitterDavid
  • Summer floods the fast folding year.Ken
  • The sun always shines on wwwShaun
  • snow
    lots more snow
  • Mission Failed: No Chanukah Wrap AroundStacey (who created a wordle of her words)
  • (A) Weekend Winter Wallop Wrecks (A) Chanukah CelebrationBonnie
  • Winter wonderland enchants Alice, and us.Nancy
  • Pushy parents pervasively prevent positive perceptions.Tdawg
  • Holiday break brings rest, relaxation, rejuvenationKaren
  • Tired teacher seeks comfort food fast. Lynn J.
  • It’s wonderful to be on vacation! :-)))))Nina
  • Exhausted, satisfied, excited….. holidays are here. Anne M.
  • Soft snow slowly secludes someone seeking serenity.Mary F.
  • And Gail D. added: Note to Self: This is the last year I head off the post office to mail gifts only days before Christmas – totally cuts into my time to wax poetic with alliterations;-)

Thanks to everyone who added their sentences this week. What the heck … you all get Day in a Sentence Dollars … I am feeling generous and infused with the holiday spirit.

NOTE: I AM GIVING DAY IN A SENTENCE THE WEEK OFF THIS COMING WEEK, but be ready for a Year in a Sentence (our annual feature) as we close out 2008. Happy holidays to all of you and your family and friends.

Peace (with sincerity),

    Traveling in Imaginary Lands

    My students recently finished up a project around expository writing in which they create travel brochures for imaginary lands. The criteria includes: a brief history of the place, three distinct descriptions that make the land so special and a map. I love the creativity that comes through in this project and the connection between art, writing and informational text is important.

    See some of the work for yourself:

    (if you are having trouble viewing this video, you most likely need to upgrade your Shockwave software. You can do that by going here.)

    Peace (in other worlds as well as here),

    Cell Phone Novelist

    This week, I was skimming through my New Yorker magazine and came across an intriguing article about the rise of cell phone novelists in Japan. Mostly composed by young women who are writing for publication for the first time in their lives, this phenomenon has not yet crossed the world but is gaining some traction outside of Japan. The novels are written line by line on cell phones, in episodes, then put up on websites, and then some (the irony here) are published into best-selling books.

    The article by Dana Goodyear (read an excerpt of it here) gets at both the views of the writers but also the criticism the cell phone novels are getting from literary circles. People argue against calling these pieces “novels” and scoff at their importance, while others see the popularity as a signal that literacy, even in the wired world, is not quite yet dead, even if the depth of the stories remains fairly simplistic. Perhaps this is just the start of something bigger?

    Anyway, the article got me thinking and inspired this poem, about a cell phone novelist who feels under the cultural gun for publishing stories in this new-fangled way.

    The Plight of the Pajama Novelist
    (listen to the podcast of the poem)

    I stand accused of being nothing more than
    a pajama novelist
    padding about in bare feet
    with fingers twitching on my cell phone
    as I unleash yet another sentence, word by word by word,
    into this text-ural world.

    My accusers use their diplomas for prosecution
    as if a piece of paper
    might yield some artifact from the past
    to determine the present state of affairs
    when words are so cheap that anyone is a poet;
    anyone, a novelist;
    anyone, a composer.

    Locked into the ribbon of their old punch-key typewriters,
    they don’t imagine that writing can ever be different than it was,
    that it might change with the pulse of the times
    and become stories scribbled out on the thumbpads
    during the afternoon commute back home.

    Odysseus remains lost in the mire
    but Genji is alive and well,
    immersed in the politics of the palace
    of internal intrigue which we — the denizens of Keitai Shosetsu —
    pick and choose from of the remains of the skeletons
    of the past.

    Yet who am I to defend myself as I sit in anonymity,
    disguised as a woman of heartache
    whose lover is in chains;
    whose past remains broken;
    whose heart is in flames;
    with passions, spoken: all for public consumption
    as I sip my beer and imagine the possibilities.

    A million hits can’t be wrong — a million eyes on the screen —
    as they wait with eagerness
    while my accusers stew in their discordant certitude
    that this signal the End of the Novel.
    So yes, I plead guilty to charges
    and wait for the jury of my peers — one million strong —
    to come to my defense so we can write this new tale of ours:

    Peace (in new forms),

    A Holiday Animation for You

    Tinkering with some new software, I created this:

    Enjoy your families and friends this holiday season and remember to keep in the back of your minds the folks who are struggling.

    Peace (everywhere, all the time),

    A Gift of Giving from Students

    A group of students surprised me and the rest of my teaching team the other day by presenting a holiday gift that beats all the candies, candles and other assorted things that seem to make their way to my desk this time of year.

    This group of students banded together and went out to the main drag of the town where I teach (and where they live) and collected trash and garbage as a clean-up effort (and they adopted the slogan: Yes We Can, even making t-shirts with the slogan). They took pictures of their effort, and then they all wrote letters about why they were doing what they were doing, and pulled it all together into this beautiful scrapbook.

    They presented the scrapbook to us and let us know that they had done this deed — on their own — as a holiday gift to us, their teachers. Isn’t that so cool? And so thoughtful? And so meaningful? I am so proud of them and so honored that they have done this project with us in their minds and hearts.

    Peace (in the giving),

    The Advertising Shift in Edublogs

    I have long been a big fan of Edublogs for many reasons:

    • it provided me with my first free blogging platform,
    • the forums have been a great way to get help and resources,
    • James Farmer, who runs the network, has been incredibly responsive to any of my queries,
    • and the network of educators using blogs has continued to grow (the number hovers around 250,000 blogs on Edublogs).

    Those facts continue to be the case, but I knew the idea of a cost-free, ad-free network could not last forever. After all, we can’t expect James to keep investing his own money just to keep our blogs alive and free. There was bound to be a time when change was to come.

    So, the inevitable happened.

    Edublogs is still “free” but now it comes with advertisements — keyword links in posts that bring the viewer to an advertisement. In the Edublog forums and through various networks, this has been met with a lot of criticism and complaints, and I can understand both sides of the issue here. Teachers don’t want to expose students to advertisements … period. I know I avoid it at all costs. Our kids are bombarded with commercial messages everywhere they go — embedded in movies, in games, on television, on the Net — and I don’t want to be part of that.

    But James admits that he can’t afford to keep this blogging network afloat under the “free” model. It just doesn’t make sense. And he does offer a solution that costs a little bit of money.

    First, the linked advertisements only show up the first time a person visits a blog. If you bookmark a blog, the second time you go there, the ads will not appear in your browser. This is designed to minimize the impact of the ads.

    Second, if you become an Edublog Supporter (which I have been since it was first offered, as a token way to support the network), there are no ads in your blog at all, ever. The cost is $40 per year, up from the initial $25 per year. And, James has added the feature of allowing Supporters to create up to 30 blogs (say, for students) under one Supporter umbrella and you can turn off the ads on all of those blogs. (There is also the option of Edublog Campus, which allows you to create and run your own larger blogging network. We currently use this for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project).

    James explains the moves in a recent post:

    Is this ideal? Well, in a utopian world we’d like to give everyone, everything, entirely for free and without any ads! But that’d be a utopia… so, barring that, we hope to still provide great free blogs alongside an absolutely premium supporter service that is more than worth the price of a large coffee per month.

    To coax people to become a Supporter, James has also curtailed some of the things he used to provide for free, including plug-ins, more upload space, Twitter tools, etc, and expanded them for Supporters.

    Although I will continue with Edublogs, I think this change in the model for Edublogs will make me re-think how I do workshops with teachers who are trying to understand what blogging is all about. I have often used Edublog in sessions precisely because I could tell folks: this is free, this is ad-free, and it is simple to use. I can’t do that anymore, and that saddens me, to be honest. If you are a teacher looking to blog, you can become a Supporter with Edublogs, or you can explore other options, including running your own WordPress package on server space.  But, truly, how many teachers have that time and expertise to set up and host their own blogging network? There is also Blogger, also with ads, and other possibilities, too — many with limitations and drawbacks.

    I don’t plan to pack up and move from this place, and I will continue to run this blog, the Electronic Pencil and a homework site that my teaching team uses for parents and students to access information and assignments. I am a supporter, even though I wish that Edublogs had not had to turn the corner into advertising. Isn’t there someone with a boatload of cash who can support a network of teachers exploring the wired world? (if so, please leave name and number where you can be reached).

    Peace (brought to you by the makers of dogtrax),

    Day in Six Words (alliteration extra)

    Hello and welcome to the miminized version of Day in a Sentence, in which you are invited to boil down your week into a six word sentence. Adding alliteration this week to your six words gets you some bonus Day in a Sentence Points, but they are not worth much outside of this network of friends.

    Still … bonus points!

    Here is what you do (and everyone, everyone is invited to participate):

    • Reflect on your week or a day in your week
    • Boil it down to a six word sentence
    • Use the comment link on this post
    • Submit your sentence (it will go into moderation)
    • I will collect and publish all of the sentences over the weekend
    • Come on … give it a whirl!

    For me, I am experimenting with a flash animation program called Express Animator, which is awfully easy to use even as I have only scratched the surface of the program in a day or two. There is a free trial worth checking out.

    I experimented with my own sentence this week using the Express Animator program and made a little video of my sentence. I hope you enjoy it.

    (And since some folks said they had trouble viewing the Vimeo — I think it has to with upgrading your Shockwave player – I added it to my Flickr and share it here — also, I should at least write out my Six Words, right? Here it is: Coughing Kids Create Havoc At Night)

    Peace (brought to you by the makers of Dogtrax),

    The Octogon of the Internet? The Rhombus of Reality?

    Each morning, my class holds a morning meeting called Circle of Power and Respect, which gives everyone a chance to weigh in with some thoughts, take part in a community activity and get the day off on the right footing. (See Responsive Classroom for more ideas on morning meetings) By now, my students are the leaders of the morning and I am just a participant.

    The shape of the circle is important because it connects us all. But Boolean and Urth — in touch with their inner geekness — would rather have some other shapes for their meeting with Mr. Teach in my latest webcomic strip of Boolean Squared.

    See the comic; grab the rss.

    Peace (in frames),

    Asking Questions of the World

    I stumbled into the Ask500 Questions site this weekend and it has been fascinating. Here is the concept: you write a question, pose some possible answers and let visitors to the site cast some votes. Ask500 Questions then tracks the answers on a map and breaks down the results a bit. I guess if a question gets to 500 people (seems doubtful right now), then the question is retired.

    I posed a couple of questions, including whether or not technology helps someone become a better writer, whether teachers should encourage their students into social action projects, and (as you can also upload images) which Boolean Squared webcomic character is destined for something spectacular.

    Go ahead and vote yourself and add your own question.

    You can also embed the queries and results into a blog post, so let me give it a try:

    I was pondering whether this has any applications in the classroom. While I may not want my students freely roaming the questions — some may be on the line of appropriateness — it might be interesting to have them propose a question and possible answers, and then track what happens to the results as a class (after casting some predictions).
    Peace (in results),

    The Prospect of Participatory Culture

    I was one of a handful of guests recently on the wonderful Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast, where the discussion centered on a white paper put out by The New Media Literacies Center at MIT. The paper, by Henry Jenkins, focuses in on the concept of how students can move forward, navigate and thrive in the new world of media and technology. (Oh, TTT is also up for an Edublog Award this year)

    You can access the paper titled Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, by Henry Jenkins.

    Listen to the podcast at Teachers Teaching Teachers

    You can see a video put forth by the Project for New Media Literacies:

    This is one list of skills that the white paper talks about for our students:

    Play – the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving
    Performance – the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery
    Simulation – the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes
    Appropriation – the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content
    Multitasking – the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details
    Distributed Cognition – the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities
    Collective Intelligence – the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal
    Judgment – the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources
    Transmedia Navigation – the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities
    Networking – the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information
    Negotiation – the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms
    Visualization – the ability to interpret and create data representations for the purposes of expressing ideas, finding patterns, and identifying trends

    What do you think?
    Peace (in sharing),