I just learned that I have been awarded the Exellence in Teaching Award from the New England Association of Teachers of English and I could not be happier. I have presented at a few NEATE conferences (blogging, digital claymation, etc) and written a few stories and articles for NEATE publications.
The letter I received gave me some kudos and for me, the award really supports the idea of an intergrated, creative/critical-thinking based writing program for sixth graders, and so I am deeply appreciative.
“Kevin, your teaching is a testament to your passion for innovation and engagement with your profession. Not only do you hold a highly professional ehtic but also you round your teaching to reach and affect students and colleagues alike. The breadth of your skill, knowledge and mastery of your profession is impressive.” — David O., NEATE Award Chairman, in his letter to me.
Wow! Those are very inspiring words to a teacher in the classroom and makes me all the more dedicated to my students and to others around me.
PS — This award falls on the heels of two NWP colleagues getting recognized for their work, too. Maria Angala of Washington DC won an award for her work for weblogging and Dave Boardman of Maine just won a co-technology teacher of the year award for the state of Maine. So I feel as if I am good company.
You might notice I read through a lot of magazines …
In the recent Time magazine, there is a very funny back-section feature by Evan Eisenberg that pokes fun at the idea of a Google-Universe (it all started with the Big Search) by offering up possible future Google products.
Here are a few that made me giggle:
- Ex-Search — Find out if they are seeing anyone
- Oogle — Stare for hours without seeming rude
- Beagle — Find your lost dog
- Fruedgle — Search your unconscious mind
- Gray Matter — Map the death of your brain cells in real time
- Blobber — Impose your consciousness on the rest of humanity — it’s easy, fast and free!
- Garble — Translate ordinary speech into legalese, adspeak, Bushspeak and dozens more
- Walkie — Use your mobile phone in real time to decide which foot to move next
You can access the real article here.
Wired Magazine had a nice little feature in which it asked writers, filmakers and others to compose a Science Fiction Story in just six words. This is in the model of Hemmingway’s very famous story: “For Sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”
Then I got to thinking, the technology liaisons in the National Writing Project are writers by nature and, although pressed for time, they might be able to pull together six words and create a short story.
So I launched a Wiki, sent out e-invites, added a video welcome, and began mapping (with CommunityWalk) where the writers live in the world. And I am urging them to record an audio version of their six word stories, either as an MP3 or through Vaestro. It’s been very interesting.
Here are a few responses:
- “Inkless pen composes poem. Human deactivated.” — Kevin, Western Massachusetts Writing Project,
- Sadly mistaken, key-we eaten with skin? – Barb, Appleseed Writing Project, Indiana
- “He scratched escaping his own flesh.”– Janelle, Texas Bluebonnet Writing Project
- “Car locked. Keys lost. Stuck. Help!”–Cynthia, Alcorn Writing Project, Mississippi
- Time machine invented. Needed it yesterday. — Sandy, Minnesota Writing Project
- Only God reads hopeful blogger’s meditations. — Scott, Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project
- Poison kisses feed furious, frenzied fantasies.—Lynne, UCLA Writing Project, California
- Picked his brain; there’s nothing left. – Karen, Marshall University Writing Project, West Virginia
- Watching him laugh made me cry. – Kelly, Texas Bluebonnet Writing Project. Texas
- CPM, IBM, email, www. RSS, next? – Donna, Lehigh Valley Writing Project, Pennsylvania
- Title: The End of the Affair (a short romance by Scott, KMWP) Listserv message. Lover hit “reply.” Ooops!
- Got the call. Broke my heart. – Scott, Texas Bluebonnet Writing Project, Texas
- Online avatar secures freedom, files lawsuit — Kevin, WMWP (listen to story)
I recorded and posted an audio version of my first story.
Listen to my story
PS — here is our map:CommunityWalk Map – SixWordStories Mapping
I was moving through some links provided by a friend, Glen B., from Oregon (who is developing some great online lessons around digital storytelling, podcasting and other Read/Write applications) and one of his links took me to a great site that archives some old radio programs from the Golden Days of Radio.
It reminded me of one of the very first vinyl records I ever received — a copy of a Flash Gordon radio show and I used to listen to the hiss of the show in the darkness of my room, transported to the planets which Flash is exploring.
What was wonderful is that it gave me an opportunity to have my young sons listen to the Abbott and Costello skit about Who’s On First — they had heard of it but never heard the actual bit.
Abbott and Costello and Who’s On First radio broadcast
Want to find all the old archives? Remember Buck Rogers? Flash Gordon? Well, I really don’t but I like to listen to some of the old voices.
Go to RadioLovers for all the info
One reading pleasure that I get is when I open up the New Yorker magazine and there, in the table of contents, I see the byline: Malcolm Gladwell. The author of Blink and Tipping Point (both of which were built from articles in the magazine, I believe) writes with such clarity and insight about a wide variety of issues, it becomes like a little journey of the mind to follow where he is leading you.
In last week’s New Yorker, Malcolm is on the trail of software that can be used to predict the success or failure of movies. It all has to do with indentifying attributes, categorizing them in certain ways and then letting the computer analyze the structure of movies. Some movie companies are now channeling movie scripts through the computer program and pressuring for changes before the actors are even hired. There is something sterile about that process, I think, but that is another post.
What I was interested in was almost an aside in the article: the use of software to help musicians and producers analyze music, using mathematical formulas based upon beat, harmony, pitch, chord progression and cadence. The software called “Platinum Blue” can pick “whether a song is likely to become a hit with eighty-percent accuracy,” according to Malcolm. The creator of the software is not interested in the songs, per se. “He cared only about a song’s underlying mathematical structure,” according to Malcolm.
This is all very interesting but then the creator of the software comments: “We think we’ve figured out how the brain works regarding musical taste.” I wonder how that can be? And if true, does this mean that we are moving towards some uniform musical taste analysis? Interesting.
The program did predict that the song Crazy by Gnarls Barkely would be a hit. I wonder if they have put Beck into their machine? (Which reminds me of a Sesame Street skit in which Bert creates a sound machine for the letter “P” and Ernie makes it explode by feeding to many letters into it — that’s what I think Beck would do to the software — cause it to implode.)
My sixth grade students just completed a short story project using the adventure story genre to put some characters through a typical plot arc (intro-risingaction-climax-fallingaction-resolution) and we pulled out the laptops the other day to create some illustration in Paint. I wanted them to get more comfortable with the program, as we will use it later this year. Then, I moved them to Flickr for a slideshow so that parents and family members at home could see what we were doing in class that day.
View the slideshow of illustrations
My good friend and cyberpal Maria Lourdes Angala, from the Washington DC Writing Project, just learned that she received an award from the TeacherFirst organization for her work with her various Weblogs, including some wonderful ones that feature the writing of her exceptional students. (Maria and I used a blog last year to connect our students through writing, podcasts and other multimedia).
Check out Maria’s site called Digital Anthology
Here is what the organization said of Maria:
“Ms. Angala’s class blog, A Digital Anthology, exemplifies highly effective use of technology in support of learning. Her responses and reflections about using a blog in the classroom and on integrating technology in general indicate that Ms. Angala is a true model for her peers. Her efforts to motivate and build writing skills in her exceptional students are truly exemplary.
Ms. Angala is being recognized for actively using a classroom blog with students to facilitate student understanding of curriculum, encourage writing as expression, and promote good writing skills. We understand that she has also been providing inservice training to her teaching peers at Jefferson Junior High. You and your staff are to be commended for your support of technology as a teaching tool. Blogging is one of the hottest and most successful new uses of technology in the classroom, as witnessed by its prevalence at the National Educational Computing Conference this past summer, and your teachers are definitely in the forefront. “
She also has a great personal site for teaching resources and articles about education.
Go ahead — zoom to her site.
John Hodgman, who is now one of the cast members of The Daily Show, published a funny and slightly bizarre book called The Areas of My Expertise, which is a fake almanac of such “facts” as the history of lobster racing, the emergence of new cons such as The Pajama Man, and interesting tidbits about each state in the US, including the moveable and intangible 51st state known as Ar. (Don’t ask).
Hodgman also spends quite a bit of time (and kills a few trees with the pages he uses) on the topic of hoboes, including a list of about 700 names of famous hoboes through time and some are just laugh-out loud funny.
Here are a few:
- Holden the Expert Dreamtwister
- Mr. Wilson Fancypants
- All-But-Dissertation Tucker Dummychuck
- “X” the anonymous man or woman
- MeepMeep, the Italian Tailor
- Freak Le Freak, the Freakster
- Patrick Galactic
- Achilles Snail-Hair, the Buddha
- Rubbery Dmitry, the Mad Monk
- Sung, the Land Pirate
- Franklin Ape and his Inner Ear Infection
- Rumpshaker Phil
- Blind Buck and “Woozy,” the invisible seeing eye dog
This weekend, I flew down to the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project site to take part in a series of exciting discussions about the work being done by various groups (such as the Western Massachusetts Writing Project) that are considered Technology Seed Sites. This means that we are pioneering some use of technology for professional development for our network of teachers. The NWP brought us all together to share the successes and challenges that we are facing in our work.
I talked about our Making Connections weblog project that is designed to reach out to urban and rural communities and help forge relationships with teachers in those districts, provide support for technology implementation, and get kids from very different communities “talking” to each other via weblogs. We are just about to entire Year Two of the project. You can view the report from Year One here.
In Kennesaw, however, I was able to get an inside look at what the other sites are doing and much of it is very interesting. For example:
- Third Coast Writing Project (in Michigan) has been conducting mini-institutes around the concept of digital storytelling (which seemed to be a common strand among some of the 8 Seed Sites). They have created a cadre of workshop presenters and a task force to think through technology.
- The Maine Writing Project has been moving away from the term Digital Storytelling and into the realm of Writing in Modern Media, which reflects a general shift towards reflection on how we are re-casting composition in our classrooms.
- The Prairie Lands Writing Project (in Missouri) has been focusing in on technology institutes for its teachers as well as professional learning communities where thoughtful educators come together to brainstorm the integration of technology with writing.
- The Oregon Writing Project has created a vibrant state network of technology leaders, with hopes of filtering knowledge down to the individual sites.
Meanwhile, Inverness Research has been gathering data from interviews with project leaders and they presented some initial findings to us, including:
- There are many challenges to using technology in the schools (access, equity, etc) but the work is exciting.
- Much work focuses on three areas: Writing with technology (genres, rhetorical context, etc); Teaching with technology; and professional development.
- There is very little research out there to help provide the framework for what we are doing — we are in “uncharted territory,” as they put it.
- Teacher-leaders involved in these ventures are becoming “hybrids” in that they are forging a connection between the disciplines, writing and technology in new ways.
- And more …
This summer, I discovered the joys of Writely — the online word publishing program run by Google — and quickly jumped into its collaborative nature. I have been using it to begin writing a Monograph Book for the National Writing Project and I have been planning out a book about technology and composition in the classroom with two colleagues. I have collaborated on songwriting and lyrics, and used Writely in a bunch of ways.
So, like others, I was surprised to wake up one morning this week and discover that Writely had been merged into the Google family completely, and reborn as Google Docs and Spreadsheets. I already use Google calendar and have a gmail account, so it does make sense to me on some level to have all my Googleness in one zone. I also know it is not much more than an interface change (all the old features still seem to be there) and I know I will quickly get used to the new design (which my friend Troy points out is not quite as warm and friendly as the old Writely design and poor Troy designed his blog banner by using the Writely interface as his design template).
Still, some warning would have been helpful, other than the little notice the night before that said they were going to be working on Writely. Maybe they were too busy closing the YouTube deal …