#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),

Letters to the Future: Breaking Glass

I have shared this out for the past few years around the holidays. It’s a story about our family tradition of writing scrolled notes to our future selves and then putting them in our glass ornaments. Sometimes (often), they fall, break and we read letters from our past. This year, we read a letter from our now-12-year son when he was just three years old, and another from my wife and I before we had kids (but one was ready to hatch).

Listen to the story:

Peace (in the tradition),
PS – I just saw how many times this podcast has been listened to since I first started sharing it. There have been 2,400 listens! Wow.



Fiction Contest Honorable Mention: Connecting the Dots

On a whim, I submitted this short story (if you can call it that) to the local newspaper’s annual Fiction Contest (which pulls in hundreds of stories from our valley, which is home to many writers and artists). I didn’t expect my piece to get very far. It is nontraditional in the sense that the story is buried inside of it, as the format it a series of biographical blurbs from the end of a book collection. I first shared it here on my blog and worked through some versions over at our iAnthology writing site. I liked the way it came out and figured I would give the contest a shot.  At the least, it would break up the reading of the reviewers, right? (Another story from two years ago got honorable mention, too, so I have a positive experience with the contest).

Yesterday, I opened up the newspaper to find that this story — Connecting the Dots: A Story of Contributors — received an Honorable Mention in the fiction contest. I am quite proud of this strange little story. You can give it a read, if you want.
Connect the Dots a Story of Contributors


Peace (in the sharing),


Working with iMovie: The Snowman

In a few weeks, I am going to be leading a workshop around digital storytelling at a school in our district, and they want to learn how to use their Macs and iMovie to create digital stories. I’m mostly a PC man, but I do have a Mac for my classroom and I have done some video editing with iMovie. But never a digital story, with still shots and narration and music. In the past, I have mostly used Photostory3, which works fine for the stories I have created. Yesterday, I worked through this short piece as a sample in iMovie and as a way to navigate the steps.

I do like iMovie, but I don’t like that you have to move photos into iPhoto first and move music into iTunes first (or am I missing something?). It seems to me that adds extra steps to the process, although there is something to be said for an integrated system of software.

Anyway, here is my digital story about a snowman that seemed to last forever in our back yard this winter.

Peace (in the stories),

Go Ahead: Write (National Day on Writing)

In honor of today’s celebration as the 2010 National Day on Writing, I decided to compose a poem.

Go Ahead: Write
(listen to the podcast)

Go ahead:
on this Day of Writing;
Find a scrap of paper
and let your ideas take flight,
compose your life
or just jot down some simple thoughts
so that letters become words become sentences
become stories,
let your tales be heard admist the noise
of the world.
The pounding of the keyboard
or the scribbling of the pen, again and again,
is what keeps it alive for those behind you.
Hide your cache beneath a rock,
your flock will find you;
To whisper it, is to lose it;
To write it, is to use it,
so plant your flag into the ground,
gather ’round and go ahead:

What will you do today to celebrate writing?

Peace (in the words that flow),

Me, My Sax and Rev.Ives: Wonderful World

In the 1990s, I was a newspaper reporter in Western Massachusetts and for about five years, I covered the small city of Northampton. While my main “beat” was education, I also became the secondary city reporter for some events. It was during my time there that I kept running into the Rev. Peter Ives, of the First Churches. When there were issues of domestic violence, he was there to talk through and push for changes. When there were racial issues, he was one of the voices calling for restraint, even in the midst of protest. He opened up the church sanctuary for all kinds of community events, although many were of the social justice nature. I came to respect and admire Rev.  Ives, and his wife, over the years for their outspoken nature balanced with true compassion.

Flash forward a few years, and my wife and I are having our second son. My wife, who grew up in a church-going household, was seeking a religious home, and she chose the First Churches for our family. I was reconnected with Peter Ives and his wife, Jenny, on another level, and again, I was amazed at how open and supportive they were/are to everyone, no matter their religious, race, sexuality, whatever. Although I am not religious, I attend church periodically, and I am always blown away by Peter’s sermons — they are poetic, touching and full of meaning. He takes gospel, weaves it in with world events and makes the issues personal. Peter has always connected with my children, too, on a personal and spiritual level, and they respect him. It helps that he organizes three fun family football games a year, too.

Well, Peter is retiring from the ministry, and yesterday, the church service centered on Peter’s years as a teaching minister, and how he has helped guide 30 people over 30 years into religious leadership. As part of that celebration, I was honored to be asked to join our little church jazz band and choir for a jazzy rendition of “What a Wonderful World,” which seems appropriate for Peter and Jenny, as they seek to make the world a better place.

Peace (in the world),

Six Sounds in Search of an Author

I saw a contest in my RSS called Six Sounds in Search of an Author and followed the link to the ISTE site and was intrigued.

The task: take the six sound clips and create a podcast story of some sort. The whole thing can’t be more than a minute long. Interesting, for sure. I began by looking at what the sounds were, and then listening, and then trying to make connections between them.

The story came to me quickly — a person trapped in a cave — and composed this story. I then recorded it in Audacity– mixing in the sound clips —  and sent it in. I like it.

Here is my audio story. I’m not asking you to vote, but if you do — thanks.

You should give the Six Sound story a try, too. Go to: http://www.iste.org/Content/NavigationMenu/ProfessionalDevelopment/Six_Sounds_Contest_1.htm and check it out.

I imagine you could easily bring this kind of contest into the classroom, given enough time.  The art of constructing a sound story is amazingly complex thinking — from planning, to writing, to production. And of course, this is the whole idea of the contest — trying out something yourself and thinking in terms of classroom practice.

Peace (in the cave),