Slice of Life, Chapter Seven

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

Not more than four years ago, I could barely turn on a computer and use anything other than MS Word. Today, my home seems littered with technological debris. It’s amazing how quickly the Revolution takes place.

This was brought to my mind last night as our older sons pitted my wife and I against each other in some tangled version of “Are you smarter than your spouse.” The boys were asking us trivia questions and my wife and I were expected to shout out the answer — the quickest answer got the point. My wife is much smarter than I am and quick on the draw, too, so I was down in the points column for some time (ie, forgot that the capital of Illinois is Springfield and I shouted out Thomas Edison for discovery of electricity — doh — too much pressure, I tell ya).

At one point, we were all unclear about a question and answer, and my wife told the boys to get a dictionary and look it up. Now, we have dictionaries all over the place (when both of your parents are educators, that will happen). But they looked at us as if we were some oddities from another planet.

“Let’s just Google it,” the older one said.

“No, get a dictionary,” my wife insisted.

They went into the other room and ostensibly came back with the dictionary, but later, I found my computer screen on Google, with information to the answer we were seeking. I guess they could not resist. The technology is there, so why not use it? (I imagine they thought if it this way and, well, why not?)

That’s when I glanced around my house and thought about all of the technology that we have and the world they are growing up in. What are we exposing them to?

So here is my Household Technology Inventory:

  • One Dell desktop computer (about 5 years old now but still running smooth)
  • One Dell laptop (mostly used for movie editing and for workshop presentations)
  • One XO laptop (my little green machine)
  • One Canon digital videocam
  • One Pure Digital flash video camera (the pocket-sized one)
  • Two digital cameras
  • Four MP3 Players (don’t ask)
  • One digital voice recorder
  • An assortment of flash drives
  • Plus, the usual array of microphones and speakers, etc

What about you?

Peace (in too much cool stuff),
Kevin

PS — I made a strong comeback in the trivia game, correctly getting the capital of Puerto Rico and the years that Franklin Pierce was president (pure guess). We celebrated by having the boys put away laundry. Mom and Dad were both winners!

Slice of Life, Chapter Six

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

It’s pothole season and I feel it in my teeth. Here is my dilemma: there is long way to get to school that is boring and non-descipt and there is a short way to school that is quite a lovely road. I, of course, want to go the short way, and not just for the time saved. It wanders through the open fields and pastures of some local farms, moving through quiet residential neighborhoods. At one point, the road opens up onto the top of the hill with a fantastic view of a local mountain and a sloping farm with horses. I get some comfort saying a silent hello to Mr. Ed out in the fields.

So, you say, what’s the problem? Take the short scenic route.

The problem is that this time of year, after all of the snow and ice and rainfall, the entire road comes alive with car-killing potholes. Due to ts relative quiet, the road is barely on the local public works map. Driving to school becomes a death sport, swerving to avoid the holes that were not there the say before and cringing at every dip in the road. If if were safe to close your eyes, you would do it.

And so, my teeth hurt from every bump and bang in the road that jars the car into submission. It’s already at the point where I am considering the long way to school, if only to avoid a costly trip to the local garage for an alignment. Remember? It was me wishing for Spring? Yeah. I just don’t remember putting in an order for the potholes that come along with. I guess I had a classic case of New England Amnesia.

Peace (in dips and holes),
Kevin

My Darfur-ian Day: blogs, podcasting, social action

My students were so excited to be part of the Many Voices for Darfur project. They were writing and then blogging and then podcasting and then reading the blog posts of other students and we even attempted a Skype call with the students from The Blurb (didn’t quite work out but excitement generated was worth the attempt)

At last count, I saw more than 450 comments on the Many Voices for Darfur blog. Wow.

One of my students really wanted to make a slideshow about Darfur:

christdarfur

briDarfur

briDarfur (5)

christdarfur (1)

christdarfur (2)

christdarfur (3)

And here are the class podcasts (they are a bit long):

The kids are now talking about ways to raise some money to help the Darfur relief agencies and we are bouncing around some ideas. I love that the writing and blogging is moving into social action.

Peace (in the world),
Kevin

Twitter — explained

Wanna know about Twitter?
The folks at Common Craft have done it again.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/ddO9idmax0o" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

@Peace (in the twitterverse),
Kevin

Darfur Project: An overview and a launch

The Many Voices for Darfur was the focus of a recent Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast in which students and teachers talk about the blogging social action project that launches today and tomorrow to gather many posts from young people around the world.

Listen to the TTT episode.

If you want to learn more, or if you want to get your students involved, you can head to the Many Voices for Darfur Project.

Peace (with students taking action),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Chapter Six

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

Sigh. Today’s slice of life is all about frustration.

At my school, I am one of the two technology coordinators, which really means that if your printer goes down or your email doesn’t work, we hack into your computer and tell you the words you most want to hear: “I have no idea what’s wrong. Sorry.” And then we call in the real technology support from the school district. You can imagine, though, how busy I look while I sit at your computer and how much tech jargon can fall from my mouth when I want it too.

No, it’s not like that. Not really. We do kind of know what we are doing, some of the time.

Anyway, one of my tasks is to keep one of our carts of laptops up and running, which I don’t mind doing since having the cart housed in my room makes it SO much easier for my students to use them. But, from time to time, I do have to say goodbye and watch the rolling house of computers go out of my room to another classroom. That is good. That means more kids are using technology.

But …. I wish other teachers would take better care of the equipment. It’s bad enough reminding kids to be careful. “That costs $1,000 — if you drop it, your parents buy us a new one!” I also have to come down hard on my teaching friends and colleagues, who just don’t seem to get it. And here is one reason why there is often a great divide between teachers and technology coordinators. At our school, teachers have ripped power cords from the wall (luckily averting a power surge into the cart of laptops), lost crucial connecting wires for our video cameras (Did you know a power cord for a video camera costs almost as much as the camera itself?), dropped digital cameras, misplaced microphones and headphones, and let kids do all sorts of stuff unattended on the computers.

Yesterday morning, I opened up the computer cart — my students are part of the Many Voices for Darfur social action project — and I completely flipped out. All of the power cords from the laptops were jumbled up in a rat’s nets of wires. It was an incredible tangle that was jammed so tight together that I could barely get the laptops out of the cart. It was like trying to do a complex piece of origami with the shakes. I was furious and had to spend 15 minutes of my own precious time working all of the wires free and tucking them back in, and then I discovered that a handful of the laptops had not even been plugged in to the cart the night before and so, they were never charged up. Ahhhhh.

Luckily, there were no kids in earshot as I swore my head off, cursing and muttering to myself. I was much cooler later in the day when I confronted one of the teachers who had used the cart. She expressed ignorance and said she had seen the wires but did not know if it had been her students or if it had been like that before she got the cart from another teacher. What? I had to resist the urge to berate her (since that is very unprofessional) so I diplomatically used my words (just like we teach our kids) to let her know that SHE NEEDS TO A BETTER JOB OF TAKING CARE OF THE COMPUTERS!!!

Sigh.

Peace (in untangling the mess of life),
Kevin

Day in a Sentence (as couplet)

Day in Sentence IconHow is your day going? Your week?

I invite you to join our community of short-prose writers in the Day in a Sentence and boil down your week and share. (see archives) This week’s twist comes via a suggestion from one of our regulars, who asked that we try a couplet.

I am always up for poetry so let’s give it a shot. Here is how it works:

  • Think about a day of your week, or your entire week
  • Boil it down to the essence (add some spice and simmer)
  • Write a couplet (two lines that rhyme is general enough of a definition for this effort)
  • Use the comment feature on this post and submit your couplet
  • I will collect all of the writing and release them on Sunday
  • If you want to podcast your couplet, even better. You can either provide a link in your post or you can email me your audio file and I will host for you. Send the audio to dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com.
  • Be part of the writing community! Everyone is welcome!

Here is my couplet and podcast for the week:

How many times can I shout: stay focused on your work!
before the kids begin to whisper, Mr. H has gone berserk.

Peace (in rhyme),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Chapter Five

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

Remember Interplanet Janet (she’s the galaxy girl)?

Janet is the name of the newest member of my rock and roll band (The Sofa Kings) as last night at practice in the third floor attic where we play, she sang out her heart and won the praise of all of us. This has been a tough couple of months for us as a band. We had spent much of 2007 working on a CD project (now completed) and then the lead singer/keyboard player decided that he wanted to pursue his own projects. This was a bit of a shock to the rest of us, needless to say, and now the CD is on the way back-burner (did I mention it was done and ready for release?) as we have been trying to regroup and figure out a way forward. I am the main songwriter, saxophonist, sometimes-rhythm guitarist and periodic vocalist.

I’ve been playing with a core group of friends for about 12 years now, and we have had any number of people come and go (and we have gone through a few names, too). The addition of someone new always changes the sound and the energy. Therefore, it is a bit stressful. In the past few months, we have auditioned a handful of folks, including one computer science engineer who sang baritone as if he were a karaoke machine. We had someone who has been in the news as a suspected child molester want to audition (he forgot to mention that fact but someone in the band figured it out). We had keyboardist who also played trumpet, saxophone and who knew what the heck he was going to pull out of his Magic Bag next. I was waiting for the kazoo. (He needed a band that was playing out a few nights a week – that ain’t us).

Then we met Janet, who is a singer and, get ready for it (drum roll, please) … an English teacher (two big pluses in my book). She was game for anything we threw at her, including having her sing lead on a couple of original songs. She didn’t complain. She wanted to rock. We wanted her in, even though it means that along with my saxophone and guitar, I now have to dust off my keyboard for a few songs in an attempt to fill in some of the gaps of sound. It’s hard to bounce around on the stage behind a keyboard.

It’s a new chapter for the band and I hope we can find a way to get our CD out into the world (did I mention it was all set to go?)

Peace (in rock and roll),
Kevin

Slice of Life, Chapter Four

(This is part of the Slice of Life Project)

My wife and I have pretty tight reins when it comes to television (only now and then, usually for movies) and Internet (check out NBA/MLB/NFL scores or game site) for our children and I suppose it is not so much being prudish as it is wanting them to be adept at coming up with games and entertainment, and reading books, on their own. This is a skill that is clearly lacking in many of the students I teach: the ability to use free time to construct imaginative play.

When our kids are on the Internet, we also have some rules, including no YouTubing it without a parent being present. (Imagine my surprise to learn that one of my son’s classroom teacher lets them surf YouTube freely during snack break — yikes. I love YouTube and think it has great value but a quick search for anything remotely inappropriate pulls up some strange stuff that is prob not appropriate for a 7 and 10 year olds eyes). For the most part, the boys adhere to the rules. But, well, kids are kids.

I was reading a magazine in the living room when I heard music coming from the sun room where our computer is. It didn’t sound like the familiar electronic theme sounds from a game. It had a groove to it. Hmm, I wondered. I walked in, and there the two of them are, dancing. On the computer, the screen is open to YouTube. They were watching a music video. They thought I was upstairs and out of earshot, the rascals.

Pause for a second.

I am about to berate them for going onto YouTube without my permission but my attention is first drawn to the video (and them, dancing). The video is … The Backstreet Boys! Now I am doubly angry. First, because of YouTube and second because, well, it’s the Backstreet Boys. If it had been Green Day or the Pogues or even Matchbox 20, I might have danced along with them for a moment before putting on my Dad Hat. But no, it has to be The Backstreet Boys in all of their producer-made, plastic-pop glory. And it wasn’t even a good song!

I shook my head and turned off the machine in mid-dance step.

“Awwww,” said the 7 year old. “We were dancing.”

“Not to the Backstreet Boys, you aren’t,” I commanded with as much authority as I could muster (stifling a laugh), as they looked at me with great confusion before the “Dad Talks About YouTube” lecture began. I wonder if there is a Boy Band filter on this thing ….

Peace (in childhood rebellion — get a soundtrack!),
Kevin

The Revised Darfur Video

My students were singing today, helping with a revised version of my Darfur protest song entitled “I’m Still Waiting (for the world to get it right)” and they (and I) had a blast with it all day long. I have four different writing classes and all listened to the song, and then practiced it, and then we recorded it.

I used Audacity and then mixed all 80 student voices together as backing vocals. Tomorrow, I show them the video and get to work on writing their persuasive writing projects as part of the Many Voices for Darfur project.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=7768949726610095025" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

But you can also download the MP3 version of the song by using THIS HYPERLINK or you can just listen in.

Peace (in the world),
Kevin