Slice of Life: The Rat Invades the Classroom (via Tik Tok)

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I had just been reading a piece about how a crowd-sourced movement on Tik Tok was collaboratively producing a musical version of the animated movie Ratatouille (about the rat cooking in the kitchen) and thinking of the creative marvel of connections, of using small videos to sketch together something larger.

The New York Times writes:

The result is a virtual show unlike any on Broadway. There is no director, no choreographer, no stage crew. It has come together organically on TikTok, where users have only a minute to catch people’s attention.

The next day, Ratatouille was in my classroom.

I noticed it first during our Morning Meeting, where a student volunteered to lead our greeting, and the greeting had a rat/cheese theme along the lines of: Pass the Cheese, Rat.

Hmmm, I thought.

Then later, when another student was testing out Quicktime for video, a group of students immediately and rather spontaneously sprung into action, doing a little dance and singing the melody of a song from the movie for the video.

Huh.

I made a comment about the Tik Tok collaborative adventure, and one of the students, who had been watching friends dancing and singing (but wasn’t sure what they were doing), looked at me and said: “I can’t believe my teacher knows more about what’s happening on Tik Tok than I do!”

For a daily create for DS1o6 yesterday (a site for daily creative activities), the prompt was to use a Bart Simpson chalkboard, so I referenced, tongue in cheek, the moment of the kids all dancing and singing.

tiktokbart

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

Video Game Design Storyboarding: Environmental Theme

Environmental Video Game Storyboard

Two of my classes are going to start working on a video game project connected to the novel, Flush, and as usual, what I assign them, I do myself, too. I spent the other day working on a storyboard for my game, which involves battling pollution and saving the turtles (two themes of the novel).

I’m starting to build my game, and my sixth graders are going to begin storyboarding today. We have a few weeks left of Gamestar Mechanic, so I want to get a small project in before the end of the site (and the end of Flash).

Peace (building it out),
Kevin

The Closing Up of Gamestar Mechanic (with the End of Flash)

Gamestar Mechanic Lobby/WorkshopI’ve been rushing to get my current class of sixth graders in, and moving along, in Gamestar Mechanic because E-Line Media (parent of Gamestar) has announced that when the end of the site comes for Flash Player (end of the month), that’s the end of Gamestar Mechanic (at least, in the current version).

One group is working on a hero story (connected to reading The Lightning Thief) and the other is working on an environmental-themed game project (connected to read Flush).

Even knowing the end of was coming, I’m still sad about it. For (not sure how many years but more than I can remember), I have been using Gamestar every year to teach game design and alternative story-telling to my students, as well as bringing them into a game space where kids all around the world play and publish video games. I was introduced to Gamestar at a National Writing Project event, and I immediately saw all sorts of possibility, and once I got started, I never looked back.

I want to say, the people at ELine Media and Gamestar have been amazing to work with and communicate with over the years. I’ve had my students write letters to the developers about features they hoped to see, and we’ve had Gamestar Mechanic folks respond to my class in video visits. They have been responsive when I have reached out as a teacher. It’s been a pretty terrific experience.

We’ll squeeze in the one last small game design project (our Hybrid Learning Model makes this unit of instruction even more difficult) and I’ll keep an eye out for possible new developments on the Gamestar Mechanic front (they sent some news of a stand-alone browser-based app being developed, so I am going to keep my eyes on that news. It won’t be for Chromebooks, it seems. We use Macs.)

I completely understand why Gamestar could not invest in the move away from Flash to something else (like HTML5), for it is funded mostly by grants (I believe) and small subscriptions and probably has long been running on a shoe-string budget. I’ll write up my own final thoughts about Gamestar some other day.

For now, we’re just going to keep on designing, making, publishing and playing until the screen goes dark.

Peace (game on),
Kevin

Book Review: Switched On Pop (How Popular Music Works and Why It Matters)

Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding are music nerd friends who host an interesting podcast — Switched on Pop — that became the anchor for this book of the same name. In it, Sloan and Harding dive into pop music to figure out what makes songs and styles tick. In doing so, they brilliantly bring us deeper into tracks and showcase things you might intuit as a listener but not have the vocabulary or expertise to completely understand.

This book — Switched On Pop: How Popular Music Works and Why It Matters —  is fantastic in this regard, and Sloan and Harding make a perfect set of tour guides, being both ecstatic about the songwriting and production moves they uncover as well as pointing out the tropes that have long been hallmarks of pop music culture, whatever the decade.

Starting with an analysis of Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe, to Outkast’s use of unusual rhythms in Hey Ya; to the use of voice and timbre by Sia in Chandelier to Justin Timberlake’s use of “text painting” in What Goes Around; to samples as collage by MIA in Paper Planes to a comparison of two song with the same titles — Made in America — the Toby Keith version side by side with the Jay Z/Kanye West/Frank Ocean version … the paths of this book are varied and deep.

They reference Swedish producer Max Martin numerous times — he is the one who has crafted songs over the last decade or more for Brittney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift and many more — and while the writers note how often Martin seems to fall into tropes, he also is adept at adapting to the changes of production and sound and song types, transforming the way pop music is made and heard. A brilliant essay here shows how Maps by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs was used by Martin to create Since You’ve Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson.

The book ends with a look at one of Paul McCartney’s strangest releases in recent years called Get Enough, which weaves Auto-tune and modern sounds with some old fashioned instruments and McCartney’s ability to craft another “silly love song” for the modern age.

If you are a songwriting (as I am) or love music (as I do), this book is well worth your time. I highly recommend it, if only to give you another way to “hear” the songs that make up the musical landscape of radio (remember that?) and YouTube and culture.

Peace (harmony and melody).
Kevin

Collections of Covers (Animated Book Covers)

Covers from Henning M. Lederer on Vimeo.

I just wanted to share these out because they intrigued me, for my love of books and my love of animation and my appreciation for any artist who remixes what’s already there into something new.

More Covers from Henning M. Lederer on Vimeo.

The animation is by Henning M. Lederer, who has so far created three videos of animated book covers.

Even More Covers from Henning M. Lederer on Vimeo.

And I wonder: how could I do a version of this? How about my students? Hmm.

Peace

 

Slice of Life: Here Come the Rains, Again

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

We looked out the window of the classroom. It was dark and getting darker and it was only just before lunch. The rain was pouring down in sheets, obscuring the world but giving us an interesting soundtrack with our windows slightly ajar.

I looked at my sixth graders. Most shook their heads, no, in frustration of the inclement weather. A few gave me a hopeful look, so I opened the metal green door and invited anyone who wanted, to run outside, gulp some fresh air on a rainy mask break, and come back inside, ready to write.

Perhaps this separated the adventurous among them, I thought, or maybe, the desperate, the ones for whom wearing a mask an entire day (except for snack and lunch) is wearing thin. I stood there, in the middle of the doorway, raindrops rolling down my neck. On a few faces, I saw the childhood joy of just standing in the rain, and then the quick jolt to get back inside the dry classroom.

Later, at home, thinking of this, I had my Trombone Shorty station on Pandora and a cover of the Eurythmics came on and it just seemed like perfect timing. I can’t find that Shorty cover at YouTube but here is an unplugged Eurythmics version.

Peace (raining upon us),
Kevin

Conversations Continue: The Power of Crowd Annotations

connect“connect” by katypang is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In January 2019, some of us in the CLMOOC Community decided to read the book Affinity Online by Mimi Ito and company to better understand how young people were engaging with each other and with media in online settings.

We had lots of reading and conversations, and one of the places where we gathered was in NowComment, to annotate Chapter 5 together (putting the ideas of the book into practice through shared learning in a shared space). The chapter annotation was spearheaded by Terry Elliott.

Nearly two years later, I am still getting email updates, inviting me back into new conversations in NowComment that are being built on the original ones. While I suspect these new annotators are probably in some graduate level class, I find it encouraging how annotations can live on and beyond (Hypothesis does the same thing — sending an email note when someone has commented on an annotation you have left). More than two dozen people have engaged in the chapter.

Now I am going back in, responding to new comments and perhaps engaging the conversation that started two years ago with my CLMOOC friends in new directions with others.

Come join in the conversation

Peace (sharing it),
Kevin