Sharing Songs: Beacon in the Night

This is the second song I am sharing here (see Katrina Blows In) from a home video session my friend and I did the other night as we prep for possible open mic nights.

This song is called Beacon in the Night and we wrote it together for our old band, The Sofa Kings. John wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics. The song is about someone seeking out their loved on in the midst of uncertainty and how even as the world puts up barriers, you need to keep looking and keep the light on for them. You need to become their beacon in the night.

Peace (with a light),

Sharing Songs: Katrina Blows In

Here is the first of three songs that my friend, John, and I have been practicing for a local open mic night. This one — called Katrina Blows In — was written in the aftermath of the hurricane and I performed it at huge fundraising concert that my school put on to support survivors. I was trying to get at a first-person narrative of someone stuck up on the roof.

I’ll share the other two videos in the coming days.

Peace (in songs),

Distilling a Belief about Writing

A personal goal this summer is to create a friendly website for parents and families and students to provide an overview and an insight into my writing/reading/technology classroom. I have had handouts and I even have an html document that I link off our classroom blog. But it was so darn ugly and just text that I could barely look at it.

So, I am in the process of creating a website that will provide links to handouts and showcase student examples from the past. It’s pretty cool. I’ll write more about how I am doing it at another time and my thoughts on trying to keep a design in mind as I do it.

On the homepage, I want to provide a philosophical rationale for writing and what I believe. I am trying to distill it away from jargon. Here is my first draft and any comments on editing, deleting or adding to it is most appreciated.

Mr. Hodgson believes:

  • Writing is an important and critical way for students to learn by processing their ideas into coherent form;
  • Writing should be done across various curriculum areas and not taught in isolation;
  • Students should write for various audiences, including just for themselves, just for the classroom and sometimes, for the world;
  • Technology can be a useful tool for composing various forms of writing and media;
  • Writing should be authentic and have meaning for students so that they can make connections between school and the world outside of school;
  • Group projects not only draw on the strengths of all students but also allow students to learn to work cooperatively;
  • Art elements and the concept of design play a role in the way that young people compose writing and other media;
  • Reading quality books  and storiesof various genres provide an insight into the writing process and allow students to reflect, connect and utilize critical thinking skills;
  • All students can succeed and improve as writers if they are willing to put in the time, creativity and effort.

Peace (in the sharing),


iGoogling Comics

I know I am a Google fan and I know I say that with a critical eye because I worry that at any moment, Google could turn from being my techno friend to my techno enemy. For now, though, I like Google. Here is an example: I love to create my own iGoogle homepage and change it all the time with new widgets and new themes.

I need change to keep me happy. A new friend in my Twitter network who also integrates comics into his classsroom noted something about new themes for iGoogle using Comics. Well … now you are talking my language and there are a load of new themes for the homepage. Just click and you have recreated your homepage with new artwork. Amazingly simple.

I chose a new comic book that my four year and I just love — Robot Dreams — and made that the theme of my homepage. I can’t wait for him to see it!

Peace (with robots),

Using Concepts from “Here Comes Everybody” for building a network

I just finished reading Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky (I know, I am about a year late to the conversation — the same thing happened with me and The World is Flat) and my reading of the book comes as I am working with my friend, Bonnie, to create a social network for members of the National Writing Project in the New England and New York region.

We are using a closed Ning social networking site and we hope to model it on a very successful networking venture that the National Writing Project oversees each summer called the eAnthology, which is open only for the summer months. We’re calling our smaller network the iAnthology. It’s experimental and we’re not sure how it will go. But we’re hopeful that we can grow the space into a supportive environment for teachers in our NWP sites to write, share and reflect.

So, as I am reading Here Comes Everybody, some of the concepts that Shirky so clearly articulates begins to resonate off my thinking of how to create the framework of a site that the users can take ownership of and see as their own. It’s clear to me that providing the structure is critical. If users of a network feel affinity with the group, and feel safe in that group, then the network becomes viable. If not — if the network is alien to the interests of the individual — then the network fails.

Here are some ideas that came to mind when reading the book:

  • Shirky explains the concept of the Power Law Distribution of networks. It’s a big term which shows how in any large group, there is not an even dispersion of activity. Instead, a large number of a group or network participate only once so often. A much smaller group is active every now and then, depending on their own interests. And a very small group is regularly active. While the network’s survival relies on the large numbers to remain vibrant, it is the small group of leaders who must remain engaged by guiding discussions, presenting new information and encouraging the others to keep connected. In our iAnthology, we have a group of “moderators” whose role will be that of encouragers and overseeing feedback for writing in a supportive way.
  • The idea of Small World Connectors is another interesting element to networks, in that people in a network have some natural things that connect them to each other. In our case, it is the National Writing Project and the experience of our summer program called the Summer Institute. We hope folks already self-identify with NWP and view our space as a mirror of sorts of the environment created by NWP in its programs. Also, given that we are limiting the NWP sites involved, we hope that members of our network will know, or know of, folks in the network. These personal connections (think Six Degrees of Separation) will provide a tighter framework for trust and support, or so we hope.
  • Shirky notes how small clusters of conversations work more powerfully that large conversations. People feel less invested if they are part of a group of 100 people talking than if it is a group of 10 people. Their opinion matters more because it is less dispersed. In our site, we are setting up “groups” where people can post their writing based on certain umbrella ideas: personal writing, such as poetry or short stories; professional writing, for journals or book projects; sharing classroom practices and lesson plans; and finding ways to connect with other teachers and classrooms within the network itself.

I’m sure there is more here, but these elements seemed important for us to keep in mind as we move forward.

Peace (in the networks),

Things Your Kids (and mine) May Never Know

This is an interesting post by Wired Magazine about things that modern kids may never know or experience. The full list is here:

But these pop out at me from their list:

  • Playing music on a audio tape using a personal stereo
  • The scream of a modem connecting
  • Wondering if you can afford to buy a RAM upgrade
  • Recording a song in a studio
  • Newspapers and magazines made from dead trees
  • Typewriters
  • Getting lost – with GPS coming to more and more phones, your location is only a click away
  • Not knowing who was calling you on the phone
  • Writing a check
  • A physical dictionary (either or spelling or definitions)

Peace (in the changing world),