Collaborative Song Recording: Peace Garden

Peace Garden musical collaboration

I love the element of collaboration that digital writing spaces bring to the forefront. Soundtrap is yet another, and one I have used before, but essentially, it is a Garageband-like loop music site that allows for collaborative recording and mixing of songs.

Cool.

Last week, after the horrible attacks in Paris, I was searching for some way to connect with my many friends in the Digital Writing Month community. Something that would bring us together and signal the need for peace in the world. Something reflective and collaborative. It would be a small gesture, perhaps, but change begins with small gestures. So, I went into my guitar case (it’s my unofficial filing cabinet of lyrics) and pulled out an old song called Peace Garden.

The backstory to this particular song is that I wrote it in the aftermath of a terrible event in our small city, where one high school student stabbed another high school student on the streets of our city after an argument. The victim died. It was horrible and shocking, and when the high school where both attacker and victim were students created a Peace Garden to remember their classmate and to promote peaceful resolution to conflict, a small musical group I was in (The Millenium Bugs) was invited to attend and perform a song or two. I wrote Peace Garden for that event.

This past week, I pulled it out again, dusting it off, and recorded a version in Soundtrap and then, I put out the call to others to join me in adding layers to the song. And they did. They did. I had Ron, and Alan, and Bryan, and Sarah, and Maha, and a few others popped in, too. Some left sounds. Some just listened and tweaked the mix. Some are still adding to it.

I’m happy for the collaboration, and satisfied that this kind of activity brings my own world, at least, a little closer on the theme of peace. May we all plant flowers in the ground and join together in making the world a better place today, tomorrow, forever.

Peace (in the garden and beyond),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Sound Stories: What They (Students) Made

Sound Stories under constructionThis is my wrap-up post for series I have been doing about teaching my sixth graders how to create Sound Stories — writing and recording stories in Garageband with sound effects. Today, I want to share out some of the students’ work. (Note: I wrote more about this project at Middleweb.) This is connected to the exploration of audio in Digital Writing Month. Sound Stories under construction

Take a listen to just a few of the stories:

 

Peace (in the voice),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Sound Stories: A Garageband Tutorial

(I have been exploring sound with my students as part of Digital Writing Month. I also wrote a more expansive piece about these sound stories for my Middleweb monthly column this week.)

I was asked by a few visitors to my blog this week to create a tutorial for making “sound stories” with Garageband. I thought I might do a screencast, but then thought that screenshots with annotations might be better. (Note: You can do “Sound Stories” with other recording software, such as the free open-source Audacity. But you will need to find sounds to import for use. I have used Freesound before, and liked it. Garageband is helpful for students because it has more than 175 sound effects built into the system.)

Here is what I created to help you make a Sound Story (if it helps, click on the image to go to the actual image. A few seem to be getting clipped short by my blog):

SoundStory Tutorial1

SoundStory Tutorial2

SoundStory Tutorial3

SoundStory Tutorial4

SoundStory Tutorial5

I hope you make some cool sounds.

Peace (in the share)
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Sound Stories: The Ones We Made (Together)

Yesterday, I shared out a “mentor text” of a sound story that I created as I was introducing my sixth graders into the idea of composing and recording a story constructed with voice and sound effects. Today, I want to share the next step in the lesson plan: short class collaborative stories.

Here, I asked each of my sixth grade classes to work as a whole to help me write a short story that used a few animal sound effects. We used Voice Typing in Google Docs to build the story together, sentence by sentence, and then we recorded in Garageband, with students helping by using the Interactive Board to build out the sound file as I narrated it. (Ideally, I should have asked a student to come up and narrate, instead of me, but I was trying to keep the lesson moving along.)

The intent was to make visible the construction of a sound story, by doing it together. I was reminded of work done by a NWP friend, Glen Briere, who constructed entire radio programs with his class as collaborative writing experiences. I’m filing this smaller sound story project away in my mind for later consideration of how to use Glen’s idea for whole class writing experiences.

Each “story” is only a few sentences long, and the shared sound effects means there is a common thread. Notice how the stories all came to a point where all the animal sounds play together. My students enjoy cacophony. (And for me, it allowed me to show them how to layer multiple sound tracks to play at once.)

Most of my students are nearing up completion with their projects, and I will be sharing out their voices later this week.

Peace (in the sounds),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Sound Stories: The One I Made

Sound Laboratory 2

(flickr photo by Attila Hajdu http://flickr.com/photos/attilahajdu/5321511238 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license)

I’ve been moving “Sound Stories” into my writing classroom the past two weeks, teaching students how to write a story that incorporates sound effects/audio as part of storytelling, and then diving into Garageband to “compose” a piece with sounds embedded into the narration.

I am writing a longer piece about the teaching of “sound stories” in the classroom (an idea borrowed heavily from play with DS106, by the way) for Middleweb, but I want to share out bits as part of Digital Writing Month‘s exploration into audio.

This is the story I created to share with students as a mentor text of sorts. Tomorrow, I will share out some collaborative sound stories that we built together as classes, and then later this week, I will share out a collection of sound stories by students.

Peace (in the sounds of the world),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Thread Your Voice Through This Comic

UsingVoicethread

We’re taking a project from last week’s theme of “visual” in Digital Writing Month and moving it into this week’s theme of “audio” by inviting you to collaborate in a Voicethread project.

Here’s what we have done: We asked Mahmoud Shaltout if we could use his graphic story of Writer’s Block for an audio project. He graciously said “yes” and so we now have the panels of his story in a Voicethread project. This now opens up the comic to all of us, to comment or read through his narration, or add another layer to his work.

He has even transcribed his comic into text format, if that helps you.

You can either access to the Voicethread project here, with this link, or through the embedded version down below. You will need a free Voicethread account to add voice, or text, or drawings, or video. (Voicethread has many options for interaction.) Just click on the PLUS sign at the bottom of each page, choose the kind of comment you want to make, and get started.

Come join us. Add your voice. Let’s get collaborative with Mahmoud’s comic. You are invited.

Peace (beyond the frames),
Kevin

 

 

#DigiWriMo: Time to Make the Comics

(I had written this to be posted yesterday but the horrific events in Paris stopped me in my tracks. A post about comics did not seem appropriate. Forgive me if it still isn’t time. — Kevin)

I had to take a day off on Friday for a doctor’s appointment (my eyes are good) and as we wound down our theme of visual for Digital Writing Month with two posts about comics and graphic stories, I decided to use some of my time at home to try different platforms to make different comics in between working on some other projects. This comic making coincides with some of the work that Terry Elliott is doing for Digital Writing Month around composing with various media, and his focus on comics.

First, I used Dave’s Awesome Rage Maker Comic site to present a commentary on what happens when an administrator pops into a classroom, expecting traditional writing, only to find students engaged in making comics. Yes, this has happened to me.

comics from an adminstrators view

Second, I received a wonderful letter from my friend, Susan, as part of the CLMOOC and Beyond Postcard Project. She sent more than a note. She sent along three cool, crazy characters, and one had a speech bubble asking to be put into a comic. So …. I used my Comics Head app (I have the premium app but this is link to free one) to create this one.

Susan Sends Me Creatures

Third, I went into Stripgenerator to make this comic. I find myself thinking about characters in my comics thinking of me, the writer, and what they would think. I’ve done some variations on this before. But here, I was making fun of the fact that I can’t really draw and rely instead on prefab characters from platforms and apps.

existential comic angst

How about you? Wanna try your hand at a comic? Or how about just a caption for a comic? I’ve been sharing this comic across spaces this weekend and asking folks to come up with the caption, as a sort of riff off the back page of The New Yorker.

Caption This Comic

Add your caption to the comment bin here.

Peace (in the frame)
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Students Expressing Peace

Our art teacher does some amazing work with our sixth graders, and the annual Peace Poster project — in conjunction with the Lion’s Club — is a great example of how the visual can be used to create a message (which is a theme of Digital Writing Month this week). These posters are all over the walls of a hallway in our school, and each one reminds us of the power of peace. Collectively, they are a quilt of love to the world.

I worked with students on writing up artist statements, which will get attached to the posters. Again, the depth of student writing and reflection is wonderful to witness.

Peace Poster Artist Statements

Peace (beyond the posters),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Too Much Consuming, Not Enough Creating

Troy Hicks, whose books about digital writing and connected reading are must-reads for any teacher, has written a great post for Digital Writing Month about the role that Infographics are now playing in our reading and writing lives — and how the visual shaping of data has the potential to surface stories. I was thinking of Troy’s post when I came across the results of an extensive survey of pre-teens (tweens) and teenagers by CommonSense Media about the role of technology and digital media in their lives.

You can access the entire report and key findings at the CommonSense Media site. It makes for a fascinating read. The infographic at the side here breaks down the findings into more visual understandings.

What jumped out at me in the findings?

How about the balance between the ways in which students “consume media” versus the time they spend “creating media”?

Only three percent of their time is doing, making, creating? Let me write/say/shout that out again: ONLY THREE PERCENT OF TEENS REPORT CREATING THINGS WITH THEIR TECHNOLOGY. (Sorry. Didn’t mean to shout. But it is important.)

We need to change that. We all need to do a better job of putting tools of making and creating into the hands of students. We need to empower agency. We need to show students that being passive recipients of information (including targeted advertising based on technology habits) is not enough.

Consuming, Not Creating

When I am asked why I spend so much time with Making Learning Connected MOOC or Digital Writing Month, or any of the other online ventures that I find myself intrigued by, my answer to the question of why is direct:

I want to discover more ways to engage my students — those 11 year olds growing up in a world in the midst of significant change — as active creators.

So, we design video games. We produce sound stories. We make comics. We collaborate.

Much of this I learned from doing myself with other teachers, trying out new things and tinkering with technology. We need spaces for us to create and compose, too. I wonder what the results of this survey question would be if we asked teachers the same question?

Do you consume? Or do you create?

Speaking of creating, the activity with Troy’s post asks us to make an infographic. I did this one, about a typical writing morning (like right now, in fact)

My Writing Mornings

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Digging up the Past with Photographs

My own sixth grade

At Digital Writing Month, Michelle Pacansky-Brock wrote a wonderful post about the power of family and historical photographs that can tell our stories. Her piece had me digging through the top drawer of my clothes dresser — a pile of papers, bills, documents and a few photographs — to find my class picture from my sixth grade year.

I am now a sixth grade teacher, so these two photographs — one of the entire sixth grade, and one of my sixth grade class — are gentle reminders of what it is like to be that age. I decided to use these two photos for a digital story.

The app I used is the free Adobe Voice, which I continue to rave about for being a free, easy-to-use tool for making digital stories. Not a whole lot of bells and whistles, but when the heart of the composition is the story, what works best is simplicity.

I made this comic tutorial for another project:

Using Adobe Voice

Peace (in the years),
Kevin