Dancing with Wendy in the Intermezzo

My CLMOOC friend, Wendy, shared a blog post yesterday about her explorations of Affinity Spaces, networks, poetry and music, and in doing so, she left a piece of music manuscript. I could not resist the urge to see if I could turn her musical notes into something musical (and I suspect she is doing the same).

Read her whole post to see the entire thread of what she was doing and thinking, for it is a fascinating example of how an idea is built with the help of others, creating a conversion about creativity and connection.

I hope my small musical piece — done rather quickly and with less finesse than I would have liked and crafted with some liberties of repeating some musical phrases in her original manuscript — is another angle from which to see/hear how Affinity Networks like CLMOOC can be powerful in how they inspire others to think, to learn, to make.

Read Wendy’s Blog Post: Entr’actes and Other Ways to Fill the Silence

Peace (and thanks),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: The Fortnite Effect

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

One family told the story of their child, our student, breaking their bedroom television and then suggesting to the parents that they not replace it. Another said they had curtailed time spent on it after listening in to conversations. Another said they were going home right after our meeting, to delete the program. Another admitted they did not know much about what their child was doing in it but they witnessed a change in personality that worried them.

The video game of Fortnite unexpectedly became a theme of conversations across meetings with families last night for our spring conferences, each time brought up by the parents and not by us teachers. Clearly, for many families, the Fortnite phenomenon is causing concern over the emotional health of their children and the impact on school.

I am usually one of those who argues that there are some virtues in many gaming platforms, and I have constructed an entire teaching unit around video game design as a way to help my students see gaming as a possible way to compose in a media storytelling mode, to shift them from player to builder.

Of course, I’ve watched as Fortnite became the “go to” game for many, girls and boys, over the last year or so. I even wrote a few times about the noticing the emergence of Fortnite.

There are some positives to Fortnite worth knowing. It is a communal experience, where players often work in teams to help each other survive. The violence of the dying, while baked into the game, is not often explicit, unlike some games where the blood and gore of killing and dying can be alarming. There are easy entry points into the game, and it is cross-platform.

But … it has become clear that the social aspect of the game — particularly the chat function of social interaction — can also be its worst feature, as gamers use the physical distance from each other, and the possibility of unaccountability for language and words, to create a negative element to an addictive environment (Fortnite developers are brilliant in leveraging the many psychological ways to keep players, playing, for hours.). All the things one may worry about — bullying, peer pressure, profanity, etc. — now seem to play out in the Fortnite battlefields, and sometimes spill over into the school day.

In a few cases, teachers and parents could delineate either a decline in work quality (child started using Fortnite) or an increase in quality and happiness (child stopped using Fortnite) so clearly that it was rather startling, to be honest. It’s a small sample pool, to be honest, but still … something to mull over.

I’ve noticed the trend of playful remarks about Fortnite shifting this year into more negative, cutting remarks about playing ability and skins and more. It may just be this particular cohort of students — and there are one or two students who clearly are the leaders, admired by others for their Fortnite prowess yet more negative than positive to others, using their social cache in the game platform in all the wrong ways. When a handful of parents all bring the game up in a school conference, it suddenly feels as if we as teachers should find a way to address it.

I intend to gather more resources about screen use and game effect on growing minds and on Fortnite, in particular, in hopes of making a resource for parents who may be struggling with this issue and need a way to have a conversation at home. And I will be thinking of how I might use our upcoming Argumentative Writing unit to tackle Fortnite.

If you have ideas or know of resources, please leave them in the comment bin. Thank you.

Peace (turn off to turn on),
Kevin

 

 

Slice of Life: Making Music (again)

Sold Out band practice(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

It’s about two weeks until the first gig for my newest band — Sold Out! — and our practices are mostly running the set list front to back with few, if any, stops. (Our first gig is on April 13 as part of a Band Jam fundraiser for a local animal shelter. We go on at 7 p.m., if you are around. More details here)

Last night, everything was really coming together in practice. We’ve played together long enough — and worked on the set list thoroughly — to understand the flow, and spaces, and the way each of us has our part in each song. Our parts make the sound of our band.

I’m getting excited to play out live again after quite a hiatus with forming the band.

Sold Out! band icon

Peace (in rock and roll),
Kevin

PS — we’re trying to drum up a base of support via our FB page so that bars and local festivals see we are legit (it can be tricky for new bands to get started playing out), so if you feel so inclined, give us a like at our new FB page for Sold Out. And if you live in Western Massachusetts, see you on the dance floor!

 

Slice of Life: One Test Too Many

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

There are days when there is nothing worse than the knowledge of an upcoming meeting. It sometimes means making sub plans, traveling, disrupting the flow of the day, harboring doubt about the reality of something tangible happening.

Yesterday, I am pleased to report, was not one of those days, as a group of elementary reading specialists and a few sixth grade classroom teachers (like myself) gathered with colleagues from our regional middle school to find some common ground on reading data that will help them to better understand incoming students (the ones we have in our classrooms right now).

The idea of the meeting began with our middle school colleagues asking that we administer a new reading assessment two times before the end of the year with our sixth graders, so they could collate data as they think about classes and programs and interventions. The challenge is that each of our elementary schools already does reading assessments, but not all the same ones. For example, we do both Benchmark Reading and have started using Fastbridge aReading. Others do others, although Benchmark is a common thread among some of us.

The school principal expertly running the meeting pushed back a bit on the idea of adding yet another reading assessment, urging the middle school colleagues to consider using what we already have. As the cordial discussion ensued, I found myself thinking: we need more meeting like this in our sprawling school district (five Prek-6 sending schools across a large geographic area, and one massive 7-12 regional middle/high school).

More meetings? What am I? Crazy?

But the conversations were insightful and the solutions were collaborative. We began to map out an action plan forward that will give our colleagues what they need for better understanding incoming students without burdening us, and more important, without adding yet another reading assessment to our students’ lives. An email update from the principal in my bin this morning pulled all of the ideas together into a thoughtful analysis.

When a gathering like yesterday’s is productive, and the focus remains on what is best for our students — all of our students — it’s hard not to walk away without thinking: this is how we make progress — together, in collaboration.

Peace (meet, the act),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Head in the Door

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

He stuck his head in the door. A colleague from another grade. We don’t see each other all that often because his classroom is in another wing of the building, up a set of stairs.

“I wanted to tell you,” he said, “that for a paper for my class (for administrator licensing), we had to write about digital learning in our building where we teach. I focused on the EPencil.”

The Electronic Pencil is our sixth grade home base for digital literacy learning and sharing.

“You’re doing some great things with the kids,” he said, “and I wish more of us were, too. Sometimes, we do things that we think no one ever sees. We still do them, anyway. I appreciate what you are doing with our students. Thank you. Great work.”

And then he was gone, but I sat there for a few minutes at my desk, pausing in my pile of papers that were helping me with the approaching report card deadline, and glowed a bit in appreciation for his gesture as one colleague to another.

The noticing is a powerful thing. It only took a few seconds but those few seconds set the tone for the rest of my day. I need to remember to do more of that, too.

Peace (sharing it),
Kevin

BookSnaps: Getting Close to the Text

BookSnaps Collage 2019Last year, I tried out this close-reading technology activity called BookSnaps — an idea shared by Tara Martin — in which students use an image “snapped” from their independent reading books as a way to reflect on what they are reading. They layer “stickers” on the image that connect to the story and use text “call-outs” to put their own ideas/reflections in there.

The other day, I had my sixth graders work on BookSnaps (we use Google Draw, through Google Classroom) and my readers were quite engaged in the activity, identifying snippets of text and asking questions, making predictions, discussing characters. There were a lot of helping hands, as most needed help holding the books while snapping the picture.

While the BookSnaps themselves don’t allow for deep literary analysis, they do provide an visual and engaging means to discuss the books they are reading, and just as important, they spark interest in other readers, as a sort of BookSnap/BookShare concept.

This was the one I did as a sample for them to see — I was reading The Stars Beneath Their Feet.

Mr H BookSnap SampleHere is a video collection of the BookSnaps that were finished by students during our class period:

Peace (snap it into place),
Kevin

PS — Tara Martin did a talk on this concept, which is when I first heard about it and wanted to try it out

Book Review: Art Matters (Because Your Imagination Can Change the World)

It is no surprise that I devoured this visual interpretation of Neil Gaiman pieces by illustrator Chris Riddell, nor that days after I read Art Matters that the words and images still float in my mind. With a title subheader like Because Your Imagination Can Change the World, you know this small book has grand designs to connect the way we make art with the way we see the world.

The book gathers four writing pieces that Gaiman has published elsewhere — Credo, Make Good Art, Making a Chair and On Libraries — and Riddell uses his own talents to bring visuals to the words, both through his illustrations and through the use of font design. I loved how Riddell tied the four pieces together like this, with the act of making art and noticing art as a public good for change as a unifying thread.

I guess Riddell has been illustrating Gaiman for some time, sharing pieces on social media, but I hadn’t come across them, so this was first time viewing, and the partnership is inspiring.

Whether you make art now, or want to make art tomorrow, or made art yesterday, keep on keeping on. Need daily inspiration? Come follow and participate in the DS106 Daily Create. Or find your own inspiration in the world around you.

Peace (in ink and paper),
Kevin

PS:

 

CLMOOC Book Club: Annotation of Chapter 5 with NowComment

NowComment Affinity Online

Thanks to Terry for popping the last full chapter in the book Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning, being read by CLMOOC as a month-long book study, for some crowd annotation into NowComment. Like Hypothesis, NowComment allows for many people to be reading and commenting and engaging in conversations on a single text.

This chapter — entitled Moving Forward — has the researchers bringing the strands of earlier chapters together in a helpful narrative. You can join us even if you haven’t read the book. There are many pathways into the text, too, which we have outlined at the CLMOOC website.

But you are invited ….

Head to NowComment (accounts are free and NowComment is now facilitated by our CLMOOC friend, Paul Allison, so you know it is designed for engaging learning practices)

I am going to try the embed version here, too.

Peace (in the text),
Kevin

Conversations in the Margins: NetArt with NetNarr

NetNarr NetArt

Networked Narratives held another of its regular Studio Visits earlier this week as the theme of the online course with an open invitation (allowing me and others to join in) shifts from the darkness of the web and technology to the light and the possible. Things are going from negative to positive.

Here, Alex Saum is the guest, and she has been exploring the world of NetArt, or the leveraging of technology platforms to explore the notions of art. This topic is something I have long been interested in (see Blink Blink Blink as an early experiment), so I popped the video into Vialogues so I can slow-watch and think out loud in the margins.

You are invited to join me, too. I hope you do.

Come to the Vialogues

Peace (making it experimental),
Kevin

PS — here is an overview at NetNarr which has tons of examples that are worth perusing

PSS — here is a project from Alex

PSSS — I took her video, grabbed a gif, and tinkered with making art from her net art project