(My piece was the lead-off in this education newsletter, which is pretty neat)
I wrote my latest column at MiddleWeb about our science-based research project, in which I tried to balance an openness for students to choose topics while digging into elements of research itself. I think the results from students were pretty strong in terms of writing and researching. Plus, they did media projects as extension activities.
This post wraps up The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid, a daily webcomic that I started in January as part of the #Ds106 offshoot known as #Western106 and 40-plus comics later, I am bringing the adventures to an end (for now). I decided to make this FlipBook of all of the comics in the series, and you can find the collection at The Kid’s tumblr site, too.
Thanks for reading. I hope it made you smile here and there, and maybe got you to think about genres and stereotypes (of Westerns and of Technology), now and then. I had a blast writing them. See you on the open trails!
PS — Wondering how I made the Internet Kid flipbook? I created a Keynote slideshow (powerpoint or slides would work), imported all of the comic images, and then saved the whole thing as a PDF. That allowed me to use the Fliphtml5 site (which requires PDF uploads) to convert it into the flippable book. Easy. But I like how all of the comics look like they are in a book format.
Today is Digital Learning Day. I have some mixed feelings about the whole endeavor to push digital learning into the national conversation with a single day of intense focus (sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education). Something about the way it all gets presented makes me …. uncomfortable. I can’t quite name it, which seems unfair to the organizers. And the more I look into what I am feeling this year, and the deeper I explore why I am feeling that way, the less certain I am about my stance.
Am I just put off because it seems so slick and professional? That just seems rather silly, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
Here is some strands of what I have been thinking …
First of all, this year’s Digital Learning Day coincides with our winter break, so I am not even with my students (although maybe I could have set something in motion in advance as a remote activity but I didn’t plan for that). In the past, I have tried to do digital learning activities on Digital Learning Day, if only to bring my students into the national conversation about learning in the age of technology. We even had Fox News visit our classroom one year for Digital Learning Day, which was an odd experience.
Third, there’s also the worry about corporate influence on the Digital Learning Day agenda. In the past, this seemed more pronounced than this year. It’s not that the site itself feels overrun with commercial interests — it is not — but the Twitter stream sort of is (and I know that is outside the purview of the organizers …anyone can post into a Twitter stream and why wouldn’t a company with ed tech do that? It’s an audience they dream about, right?) And yet, when I investigated the site, it seems like there is a whole lot less funding by corporations this year than in other years past. And I don’t see a Pearson in the mix. So, that’s good, part two.
And the theme of this year’s Digital Learning Day of access and equity … those are key important themes that all of us should be keeping in mind, so I applaud the theme and the sessions that are being built around those ideas. If we want a brighter future for all of our students, regardless of gender and socioeconomics, then we have to be having these discussions, and here, the folks at Digital Learning Day have given over the stage to it. And let’s face it — these folks are connected to the power players in DC. That means the issue should be on the agenda of those discussions. That’s good, part three.
What all this means is that perhaps I should just put my cynical self aside for the day, and try to pop into some of the conversations when I can (or check out the archives later). The organizers have laid some interesting groundwork to discuss digital access, and the plan to have webinars throughout the day shift from location to location — from school to school — is a solid idea.
In the end, the focus on the central themes of digital access and digital equity has me feeling more a bit more positive about Digital Learning Day than in prior years.
Yesterday, when I woke up to walk the dog and do my early day writing, the temperature outside was negative ten degrees. That’s -10. The day before, at same time, it was negative 14. That’s -14. The wind chill factor made Sunday feel like negative 30. That’s … well, you get the picture. Cold. Wicked cold.
This morning, at the same time, it is 25 degrees and rising. Later today, it could reach 50 degrees. That’s about a 60 degree swing towards warm from yesterday morning that might happen. Mother Nature is going bonkers on us here in New England, and the evidence is not just the temperature but also the coat of ice on top of an inch of snow on the driveway. Shoveling will not be fun.
Good thing we are on our winter break right now. I sure hope Mother Nature settles down into Spring soon. Right? Right?
I’m always intrigued by sound. Either with the emotional power of music — listening and writing — or with using soundscapes for telling stories. There’s something oddly cool with how we can use audio to capture our world. This past fall, I even did Sound Stories with my sixth graders. So I was interested in the launch of a project called Hear My Home, and I have been dipping in a bit at the start.
(By the way, the icon above is not the official project one. It is one I made for myself.)
The HearMyHome project is a research endeavor of sorts, as it run through a graduate program, but it is also an invitation to experience and share our worlds through sounds. This is taken from the homepage of the project:
Examining everyday people produced soundscapes, #hearmyhome inquires how hearing difference and listening to communities may re-educate the senses and attune us towards cultural difference. Ultimately developing materials that hear, recognize, and sustain community literacies and cultural rhetorics, #hearmyhome asks us to take heed of the frequencies and rhythms of culture as we architect, design, and teach towards more equitable landscapes for learning.
I’ve done four “sounds” so far and shared them out in the Twitter stream (with the #hearmyhome hashtag).
First, I took my dog out for a walk in the neighborhood.
Fourth, I was working on some guitar chords with a new app. Just playing around.
None of it is really special, and that’s the point. Capturing the sounds of everyday life, and then adding those sounds to a expanding mix of other everyday lives, has the potential to gather together an aural experience of our world.
Take a listen. And then maybe join in? There is a sign up for newsletters, but you can bounce in anytime with the #HearMyHome hashtag. There’s probably a Facebook page, too. I don’t know.
Peace (in the ear as reader, voice as writer),
I recently wrote a song — Everybody on the Dance Floor — for the band in hopes of having a female lead singer. We had someone coming to audition, and I thought I would write something for down the road. Well, she pulled out of the audition, and we may or may not keep the song. It is inspired by an article I read of this woman DJ who does not have the “look” but who kicks out the jams. She does one party and then disappears to the next party. I had her in my mind, or some version of her, as I wrote this one.
I wrote the basic chord structure of Everybody on the Dance Floor on the guitar but recorded all of the music on the Garageband App (it’s pretty astonishing what you can do with that app). The vocals I added later in Soundtrap. I think it has a catchy element to it. See what you think. I think it plays best in headphones.
The other song is an old one, but the news out of the field of science about Gravitational Waves had me remembering this song called Gravitational Pull, and my band at the time did do a recording of it in the studio. That’s me singing, which is all I played on this recording. I co-wrote it with my guitar player, John. He wrote the music. I wrote the words.
Yesterday, our school celebrated Backwards Day as part of a Spirit Week event planned by our Student Council (of which I am the advisor). Lots of kids had clothes on backwards but I struggled myself on how to demonstrate Backwards Day.
My co-teacher came to the rescue with a brilliant idea: “Let’s do palindromes today.”
Only one or two students in my four classes knew what a palindrome even was, so it was a fun lesson but also gave them some other ways to think about playful language (and comes right after our unit on Word Origins ends).
To show palindromes, we shared this Weird Al video, called Bob, which is full of palindromes in a fun way that only Weird Al can pull off, and as with most of his videos, it is also an homage to music.
In this case, the video references almost completely the famous Bob Dylan video for Subterranean Homesick Blues from the early 1960s. There were even fewer hands in the room when I asked, who knows who Bob Dylan is? So, I gave them a Dose of Bob, with this video and some discussion of his impact on music as a songwriter/poet/lyricist, and talked, too, about the Remix Culture, of riffing off the original to make something new and entertaining.
Then, they illustrated a bunch of palindromes (Taco Cat remained a fan favorite) and tried their hand at coming up with their own (a very difficult task for many). So, they got some writing, some music history, some remix concepts and had fun. All in the name of being backwards.
This is the final poem that I wrote to remember the “lost women of the west” whose stories often get forgotten alongside male notables like Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, and others. I have been aiming to celebrate the women, but not necessarily the lifestyles they led. Some robbed and hurt others, just like some of the men did. The difference is that the men often were celebrated in stories and in history books, while the women were forgotten.
Today’s poem is about Queen Anne Bassett, who was a cattle rancher and who was associated with the Butch Cassidy gang. Bassett, and her sister, resisted the push by larger cattlemen associations to sell off her family land and she became a de facto leader of resistance to small ranch farmers as more and more consolidation happened. (There is also a strong suggestion that Bassett and Etta Place, another woman I wrote about, may have been the same person, with different identities. It is not clear if this is true or not.)
I am nearing the end of this two-month run of making comics for The Wild West Adventures of the Internet Kid. This has been an ancillary project for the Course with No Course — a Western-themed offshoot of DS106. It has been a ton of fun to make these comics, but I don’t know how daily cartoonist do it, to be frank. The stress of new ideas … ack …. good thing I don’t do my own art or I would have gone mad weeks ago.
Today’s comic begins the last storyline, which will stretch out over a few days and invite you to take part in the story, too. It features The Kid and a Video Game Vortex coming to town.
You can view the Internet Kid Tumblr site, where I have been posting the comics every day (as well as on Twitter, with the #Western106 hashtag). You can also use the “random” option with Tumblr, so that when you click the link below, it will take you to a random comic at the site.
While this is the last storyline, I suspect that this pause in making daily comics is only for now, and not forever. It’s hard to give up a character like The Internet Kid and The Horse with No Name and Anarchist Annie and Question Mark and others after living with them for seven weeks or so. They’re in my head, and in my heart.