Turn This Thing Up: A Fake Twitter Post

Twitter Twister Spoor Rickenbacker

Here is a potentially fun site. Twister (part of the Classtools.net suite of interesting activities) is a Twitter spoof site, in which you find someone from history and “create” a fake Twitter site and tweet. I did this one for Adolf Rickenbacker, one of the founders of the electric guitar. The Twister site gives you a few boxes for information (username, real name, tweet and date) and then creates a single page that looks like this one.

There is even a bank of exemplars, and I wonder if this might be a nice extensive activity for students doing research on a historical figure. I didn’t think it would so well with fictional characters but then I tried one with Percy Jackson, and it seemed to work just fine.
Percy J Twitter

What’s interesting is coming up with a Twitter username (here, you might teach theme) and what kind of short text/tweet they might send out to the world. It shouldn’t be just random and yet it shouldn’t sound like a historic document either, so you are crafting a page that has personality. That’s an intriguing project for a student, don’t you think?

Peace (in the twist),


Almost a Rescue: A Story in Sound Effects

This is another element of the work being done around audio with DS106. The suggestion is to try to tell a story with only audio effects, which is more difficult than it seems. I decided to only use the sounds in Garageband, and what I quickly realized is how limiting that can be. But I stuck with it, and did not go into the project with a story idea. Instead, I let the sounds tell me the story, which soon became a rescue story following some apocalyptic event, a night waiting for help and then … the end stinger sound (it ain’t over yet, bud).

I suspect my story was inspired by bringing my son to see The World’s End yesterday.


So be it … I’m OK with how the story — Almost a Rescue — came out, and hope your imagination gets fueled by sound.

Peace (in the sounds),


Working on a Song

I mentioned yesterday that my goal this weekend is to write a song — a power pop song. Yesterday, I had the lyrics down and the chords down and began to work on a demo for my band – Duke Rushmore — with Garageband (the drum track was created in the App, which I then moved onto my computer). I took a Vine as I was working:

I have most of the demo done, except the voice, and my voice is not so great, so it may end up being … a rough demo. I realize now that the key is a little high for me, but would not be for the singer in our band. I’ll keep ya posted!

Peace (in the songwriting),


Watching Green Day Create

I am a huge fan of Green Day, and I love to crank their last three albums (put out in a row) and now realize that their documentary of the making of Uno! Dos! Tre! (the documentary is called Cuatro!) is almost out. These teaser clips are interesting because I am always fascinated with the behind-the-scenes experiences, whether it is making an album, making a movie, or making a book. Seeing the creative spirit in action is inspiring.

I’m going to write a power pop song this weekend. That’s my goal. Seriously.

Peace (in the power chords),


Remix: Boolean and the Squares

Boolean and the Squares

My friend, Chad Sansing, created this very neat hackable, remixable Thimble page with Mozilla Webmaker that allows you to create a page for band. Preferrably, a fake band. It’s called the Fake Band Wiki, and so I dabbled with Chad’s code to create this homage to a fake band for a fake comic character from my old comic, Boolean Squared. It’s been a few years now since I have done anything with Boolean and so it was a kick to get him back in my head and imagine that he had a band that was ripping up the music scene.

Check out Boolean and the Squares

What’s interesting to me is that Chad got inspired on this  Webmaker theme from a DS106 project, and so I feel a bit of full circle here, as my friendship with Chad precedes my diving into DS106, and yet I am working on a DS106-inspired project created by Chad. Add in the Teach the Web MOOC from the summer, where we were Thimbling all the place (not to mention the National Writing Project) and …. well … I love all of those connections come together, you know?

And, as with all Webmaker activities, we invite you to remix the web.

Head to Chad’s project, or remix mine, and make your own Fake Band Wiki. When you remix the project (upper right corner of the page, click “remix”), all of Chad’s notes and instructions will be there for you to follow and learn from. It’s fun and engaging, and you create something to share with the world. What more do you want?


Peace (in the remix),

So Long, National Gallery of Writing

National Gallery of Writing
I suppose this was inevitable and not at all unexpected. But the National Council of Teachers of English is closing the virtual doors on the National Gallery of Writing. This online repository of writing (to date, there are more than 33,000 pieces of writing) was established for the first National Day on Writing back in 2009 (seems like a long time ago now). Each year, participants in the National Day of Writing have been encouraged to write and publish in the Gallery as a way to honor the richness of writing. I have writing in there, and networks that I have been part of (including the National Writing Project) have hosted “galleries” in the site over the years. (see my Log of Daily Writing from a few years ago)

But to be frank (and I was part of a small committee at one time thinking of how to re-energize the Gallery), the site was not really built for the times. What I mean by that is that the architecture of the site — from submission to search — was always clunky and difficult/complex to use, and one of the biggest drawbacks was that readers could not leave comments or contribute to writing that was in the Gallery.

Writing became static there. And that is in conflict with all the ways that technology enhances writing. We, the reader, expect to be able to add our thoughts. We anticipate the possibility of the remix. We hope that embedded media works in tandem with the written words. We expect writing to be alive. The Gallery tried to do that but then got stuck in time, I suspect, and NCTE did not have the funds (or did not want to allocate the funds) to upgrade the entire system.

Which is not to say the Gallery of Writing did not have value. It did. It was part of a push by NCTE and companion organizations to honor writing and to show how complex and amazing the writing is that we do. The Gallery may be going silent (I believe it closes down at the end of this month, so if you have writing in there you want to keep, I’d go get it) but the National Day on Writing continues.

On October 21, you can celebrate the National Day on Writing. This year’s theme is “connected writing,” as far as I can determine, which makes a lot of sense, right? I’ll be thinking about how to connect my students as writers this year. What about you?

Peace (in the times gone past),

Dreaming of School Themes

Schools of Their Choice
We had just finished up an interesting article about schools that are developed along themes and so, that led to an activity in which they did some thinking and writing about the school they would want to establish and attend along a certain theme. There were interesting choices, beyond the popular sports motif. Can I say I was happy that Engineering and Math, along with culinary and agriculture, were on the list? I have a student body with broad interests, that’s for sure.

Peace (in the school),

More Connections and Sharing in the World

Skype with Virginia collage

We connected with another class of sixth graders — with Michelle Haseltine’s class in Virginia — to talk about similar projects that our students worked on to start the year around dreams, aspirations and goals. The video feed didn’t quite work on their end, but we still chatted and shared for about 20 minutes, and we are planning more talks in the future.

One topic that emerged from the students in Virginia was the question of how to stay focused when writing. If you could have seen the virtual high five I gave Michelle, you would know that this is the kind of question that a teacher lives for, particularly when it is asked with no adult prompting. And my students did a fine job of talking about strategies and techniques that they use to remain focused on a piece of writing. I was so proud of them for stepping up and articulating those ideas.

For our part, my kids were jealous that Michelle’s class is piloting a laptop program, allowing them to use technology in all of their classes through the course of the day, as needed. It was a nice connection to start the year (and my class’s second outreach to another school) as I try to continue my goal of connecting my students to the world.

Peace (in the talk),

The Loudest Pencil in the World

We’ve been working on a short story project for the past few days, and I have been so amazed at the quiet focus of my sixth graders on this project. You can hear a pin drop for 45 minutes at a time as they work on their stories. Then, yesterday, in one of my classes, all you could hear was this one kid’s pencil in the back of the room. It was incredibly noisy. It might have been his grip, or his intensity, or the table surface … who knows.

But as they wrote, I composed this poem:

The Loudest Pencil in the World

I just heard
the loudest pencil in the world;

Some kid in the back of the room
with a Kung Fu grip
and words tumbling out of him like an avalanche —
He’s racing to keep up,
pushing lead to stay ahead of his ideas,
else all might be lost …

And, boy, I know that feeling – all too well —
yet I write quiet,
so as to not cause a riot in my foolish head
as every sliver of sound has the potential
to get me lost
on some byway of my own way of thinking.

His pencil?
It shouts;
It hollers;
It sings;
It’s the loudest pencil in the world.
He’s scratching out a symphony in the back of the room
and the sounds have us all wondering —
I can see the heads of other students popping up
like prairie dogs now and then —
what is he writing,
and will his writing stay in tune

And I wrote it to be read and listened to, paying attention to internal rhymes. So, here is the podcast:

Peace (in the poem),

Sound Effects Poem: A Life in Draft

Draft Poem: A Life in Draft
Let me begin by saying, I had a vision. I had this vision of an assignment over at DS106 around recording and using audio sound effects in which I write a poem about writing and use the sound effects of writing in the poem. At first blush, that seems perfectly do-able, right? I set about recording a pencil writing on paper, an eraser erasing on paper and my fingers dancing over the keyboards. I put my Snowball microphone right next to the paper and the keyboard, and used Audacity to record the sounds. (Note: I used the compression feature in Audacity to broaden out the sound effects)

I wrote the poem (see draft above and final below) and began to record it, interspersing the sounds of the pencil and the eraser and the keyboard into the poem. It worked but I am not happy with it. I don’t know — it seems as if the pencil and eraser are the same damn sound, which opens up an entire conversation around the act of writing and rewriting — and I should have left more gaps in the poem audio. Maybe a distant soundtrack would have helped.

Take a listen:


Something is lacking.

However, I also think: the poem is about writing and life always in draft stage, so maybe this audio is in draft stage, too, and I need some distance to think about on it further. I will say that working to add an audio component to an otherwise straight-ahead poetry podcast is interesting, and requires deeper planning than at first blush. Collecting sounds, making sure they sound right (I recorded and re-recorded that darn pencil nine times before I got it where I could live with it), and then seeing the entire project as package of ideas … that’s a lot of thinking going on right there.

I included the image of my draft poem because I felt like it meshed nicely with the theme of the poem itself – of writing and wrestling with ideas. Here is the final:

A Life in Draft

Lines connected by swoop connected by ideas –
Words taking shape here in the rough.
I tough it out to the point
where vague echoes of old words
form the canvas on which
I write.

Pencil marks leaves traces –

The words removed by erasers –
The keyboard; next to nothing,
just pitch-perfect thoughts
read under the illusion of flow

We writers know better, though …

Eraser marks;
Back-key strokes;
Smudged frustrations;
Highlight and replace:

We write, wrestling with the tools.

Even this poem results from the war
of my head and heart
with the inside editor who finds fault,
no matter what I write,
or where,
or with what.

Peace (in the sound of the poem),