Tomorrow, on November 1, I am taking part in a regional fund-raising activity in which I pledge to try to compose 30 poems in 30 days. I have 13 people from my various online networks who have graciously agreed to “sponsor” me, which means they are going to donate a token amount of money for each poem that I compose and publish in November. I am very grateful and if all goes according to the plan, I should be able to raise close to $300 for an organization in our area that provides support, education and services for immigrant families.
Now I just need to write some poems …
I created this Google Map to show where all of my sponsors are located because I find it so interesting.
By the way, I still have plenty of room left on my list for more sponsors and I would love to have you. If you are interested, please head to this Google Form I created to collect information from folks. And if you do so, I will add you to the Map, of course! And I will be most appreciative of the support that you show me as a writer and for the families who are in need of services in Western Massachusetts.
As part of our unit around descriptive writing, we do something called the Monster Exchange. There are variations of this project all around (including some cool online sites) but we keep it non-techie because I have four classes with about 80 students. We have plenty of ways to exchange our creatures and writing.
Basically, students create a monster on paper and then write a one paragraph story with descriptive language. On the day of the Monster Exchange, I hang all of the monsters — and some decoys — around my room, and students get a story from another student from another class. Their job is to use the descriptive writing to find the monster on the wall. (I assign numbers to each piece of writing and a master list of monster names and numbers).
Then, they go back and write their own reflections on the experience (Questions: what words did the writer use that made it easy to find the monster, what made it difficult and what advice would they give to this writer …)
It turned out that we had our exchange yesterday, just before Halloween, and that was a nice way to end the week. After students found their first Monster and reflected on it, they rushed up to me to get another story, and another, and another. They were really jazzed up about it. I’ve done this project for a number of years, and it is a great way to talk about descriptive writing in a fun way, and it gets them up and moving around.
Plus, I re-use all of their monsters later on for a project around The Lightning Thief novel, where they create their own Heroic Journey using Google Maps. The creatures they encounter are … the Monsters from the Monster Exchange (now, I have a bank of two years’ worth of monster, which is even better.)
Check out this Animoto video of this year’s crop of strange creatures:
This is a follow-up to my post the other day about the regional Literacy Conference we are hosting at our school in November that had not one iota of a technology or media or New Literacies component to it. I finally bumped into my principal in the hallway, expressed my feelings about our school — which is innovative in its use of technology — hosting a conference without a single nod to the ways kids use literacy in their lives outside of our classrooms. I told him it felt like an “old school Literacy Conference.”
He was very receptive, and did what I knew he would do. He asked me to submit an idea for a break-out session. I told him that I wanted to be a participant, and not a presenter, but that felt false even to me. If I truly believe in this, then I need to be active, not passive.
It just so happened that this conversation took place on the day when I was filling out a bunch of paperwork for a conference that I have been invited to present at in February in Ohio. As I was describing my workshops for the Dublin Literacy Conference (Digital Picture Books, Using Webcomics in the Classroom and Stopmotion Movie Magic for families), I realized that if I am going to help folks in Ohio think about New Literacies, I owe it to my school and fellow teachers to do the same right here at home.
So, I am going to propose a session on using Webcomics as a Writing Tool Across the Curriculum. My hope is to set up a temporary ToonDooSpace (note to self: email ToonDoo folks) so that teachers can use a ToonDoo closed network site to experience the possibilities themselves.
I’ll let ya know if the school district approves my workshop offer.
Peace (in the discussions),
PS — Here a webcomic book sample from one of my students. I love how she envisioned the story across multiple frames. This was not an assignment, but merely something she did on her own time outside of school. In just three weeks, some students have made more than 50 comics on their own time and some have created multiple ebooks. Pretty neat to watch our ToonDoo site unfolding:
That’s a pretty cool number, so I decided to tour around a bit. There is some wonderful writing in those galleries, although navigation through the labyrinth isn’t so easy. How to set up browsing through the online gallery must have caused a mighty headache for the NCTE folks and they clearly did the best they could.
I came at it from my usual lens: are there digital compositions represented in the writing in these Galleries? I’m still not sure, since my search queries mostly turned up empty. I found one that I did (see below) and found a beautiful digital story that my friend Troy did about his family, but mostly, I found … nothing digital. There were plenty of pieces of writing that examined or focused on the world of digital media (I was intrigued by a short story written as Tweets, for example, and filed that away in my head).
Part of the problem was that the format for submission did not exactly lend itself to digital compositions. I set up a gallery for digital stories from my students around their Dream Scenes, but abandoned it when I realized that even though the videos were very small, the site would not allow me to upload them directly and embed right there. I would have to go through some hoops, and I didn’t have the time. How many others stopped at that hurdle, I wonder?
It seems to me that if NCTE is truly committed to the concept of multimedia composition (as evidence by the strong papers it has put out in the last year), it would have built a system into the framework of the National Day on Writing to allow for folks to easily share digital stories, podcasting, etc.
I am trying to bring Funk the Llama and Cylene the Cyborg into my webcomic a bit more. So, for this story arc, I imagine what these two must do all day. Just as background: Funk lives for soul music and Cylene was created out of discarded computer parts, with a soul music database inside of her. You can read more about Cylene and Funk at my home for Boolean Squared.
This is my last comic in the Waiting for Windows story. At school, we had a discussion the other day about vinyl records and record players (they are using them in Social Studies for modern archealogical digs and in a novel we are reading, the family buys a portable record player for the car). So, echoes of those conversations filter into the comic today.