Slice of Life: It’s All So Dang Quiet

(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.)

The first thing I noticed as we began our first day back in the school building since March with students (half of them, anyway) was the quietness of the building. The hallways, shining from cleaning and new lighting; the cafeteria, set up for one student per table for lunches; our classrooms, with desks spaced apart; everywhere.

So quiet.

And the students, on their first day back to our school but not their first day of school, were subdued. Maybe it was the masks. Maybe it was learning the protocols of how to move through the building and how to clean desks and when we can go outside to get fresh air. Maybe it was all just very overwhelming. Just as important is the class sizes, of no more than 10 students per classroom at this point (the other half of the classes are home, doing independent learning and come to school on Thursday and Friday).

I asked people about the quiet, which was so noticeable in a building often filled with loud students and raucous energy. They all noticed but whether they liked it or not was rather mixed. Same with my students, as some said they like the quietness of the classrooms, and hope to get more schoolwork done. Others admitted they missed the noise of friends, even as they were happy to be back.

Outside, under a tent, for a mask break, the students could chat with each other, although a few pairs of friends had to be reminded about social distancing more times than once.

“How long will we have to do this?” one boy asked, exasperated, after being told to move a few more feet away from a friend he had not seen in person since March.

“For as long as we need to stay safe,” I replied, sympathetically.

Another student chimed in, “Until the virus is gone.”

A fourth noted, rather sadly, “And who knows when that will be.”

We all went quiet at that.

Peace (back in the building),
Kevin

Taking a Blogging Break

I am going away for a few days with friends and I could use a little blogging downtime anyway, so I won’t be doing any writing here for most of July.  I’ll probably be poking around the Interwebz here and there (mostly doing the Daily Creates with DS106). Thanks for visiting.

Peace (and rest and rejuvenation),
Kevin

Still Blogging: What If No One’s Reading?

Blog Stats Users 2019

I’ve been pretty steadfast in my view that this blog is mostly a place for me to think out loud and curate my teaching, reading, music and making experiences. I can’t tell you how valuable the search engine widget on my blog is to me.

Still, my blog is open and public, which makes me periodically curious about whether anyone else bothers to read what I am writing. I don’t have empirical proof (no raw numbers) but it does seem as if the reading of blogs, and commenting on blogs, has been on a trending decline for the last five years or so (probably right around the time Google pulled the plug on its popular RSS reader and Facebook emerged as the place to share, unless you’re me.) Or perhaps I am just losing traction with readers.

The other day, I went into the back end of who comes here and does what while they are here for the past year. It’s a curious inquiry to dive into the numbers, which reduces the humanity of interactions to data analysis.

So, if you are a human who comes here to spend a few minutes with my words, thank you. I appreciate it. And if you are someone who spends a couple of extra minutes leaving a note, comment or observation, thank you. I write for myself but I appreciate the company.

Blog Stats Activity 2019

Here are some observations:

  • I had 11,000 or so people visit my blog during the year. That’s a nice crowd of peeps to wander through my space
  • The average time spent for each person was only 40 seconds. Not sure what you can read beyond the header in 40 seconds
  • The top users are also repeat visitors. Probably my friends in CLMOOC and other connected spaces. We visit our spaces and interact regularly — a reminder that small is good and large might just mean getting lost in the mix
  • Most visitors only go the landing page and leave — the number of folks who go layered deep is pretty small in comparison to the larger visiting numbers
  • Only one post with the most page views of the entire year of 2019 was written and posted in 2019 — the rest of the top ten list were all from other years. I guess that’s an argument for having a curated space. It also is an argument that I am not writing much interesting stuff anymore. 🙂

None of this will change the way I write and blog my days. But I do find it intriguing to see how the space is being used by others.

Peace (and thanks for spending more than 40 seconds today with me),
Kevin

 

Changes Afoot for YouTube (What Kids Can and Cannot See)

If you are a teacher or school that oversees its own YouTube channel (like I do), you need to know that changes are coming for how YouTube deals with videos and children. This comes after YouTube and Google were at the center of legal action around children’s access to videos, and I think the changes will be helpful.

Read more – Jeff Bradbury does a good job of explaining these changes for educators (thanks to Sheri, for sharing Jeff’s post)

There’s been a bunch of pushback by YouTube content creators — those who make their money off advertising inside videos — about the changes, which are part of COPPA (the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requirements, but I am all for deeper protections for those viewers under the age of 13. If that’s going to be your main audience, then you better be doing your job on protecting those viewers.

The Federal Trade Commission has released some information about what kind of material is “made for kids” or not.

Peace (what we see is what we do),
Kevin

The Good Fight’s Animated Shorts (like Schoolhouse Rock for Adults)

My wife and I are watching the third season of The Good Fight television show (the solid spin-off from The Good Wife) and they’ve added a feature called The Good Fight Short, which are animated video interludes by Jonathan Coulton and Head Gear Animation inserted unexpectedly into the storyline. The videos are hilarious and informative. They’re like Schoolhouse Rock for adults in the modern age (with a clear progressive bent).

Check a few out:

and

and

and

We love the quirky nature of these and looking forward to more as we move deeper into the season.

Peace (learning it),
Kevin

NYTimes: The 1619 Project

We subscribe to the Sunday edition of The New York Times for features just like this. The 1619 Project is the entire special focus of yesterday’s NYT Magazine, and it is an amazing example of reporting, commentary, writing and exploration of a difficult topic. The premise of the entire project is that the roots of America are not traced back to 1776 and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but instead reaches back to 1619 — the year the first African slave ship hit the shores of this country and so began the horrible and disgraceful act of using people as chattel and goods.

And if 1619 represents the true start of America’s origins, the newspaper project argues, then slavery has become the key and elemental engine of all that is both bad and good in the country, as the magazine makes clear through an entire collection of essays, reporting, poetry, stories, art — all tracking the impact that slavery and African-Americans have had on culture, politics, freedom and more. Topics include Democracy, patriotism, health care, redlining housing districts, and more.

I’m not far enough along yet with my own reading to give a full review but the scope of the project is breathtaking. A collection of prominent African American writers are here, taking moments from timelines and then building off the events in creative, insightful pieces. And apparently, the newspaper will be continuing the 1619 Project into the year with more pieces unfolding.

You can access the project online and the New York Times has worked with the Pulitzer Center to create an entire website devoted to teaching and learning resources, with lessons and guiding questions and more. For example, this document has quotes from the pieces, with references and vocabulary, and inquiry questions, with an invitation for students to write their own commentary or poetry or create art.

Peace (reading it deep),
Kevin

 

Why The End Is So Important (or, sitting through the movie credits with kids)

The last few years, I’ve noticed a clear trend with my sons when we go to watch movies, on the big screen in the theater or even on video. There’s a heightened interest in the post-credit video teasers. I’ve sat through more endless credit texts than ever (which, I suppose, is a good thing, to acknowledge how many people are working on so many aspects of a movie) just to see 30 seconds or so of video.

The other night, my son and I watched the Wolverine movie, Logan, and he was determined to see if there was a post-scene video on the disc, and then searched online afterwards, even though the movie is a few years old now and any post-credit scene would have already unfolded and long been outdated (perhaps this is what intrigued him most .. making the connections between what is teased and what really unfolds).

It was the Marvel universe who ramped up this phenomenon (see this listing of post-credit scenes in Marvel Universe), but now, I notice that my sons and my students often expect something on the screen, after the story has ended and the credits are rolling. They chat among themselves — in person and on social media — more about those small videos than about the larger movie, sometimes. There’s even a full website devoted to this concept (well, of course there is … probably many of them).

Which had me wondering about the draw of this.

First of all, from a movie production standpoint, this trend has to be viewed as a success. The movie companies get us to sit through the credits, and they get to promo some upcoming movie. Of course, they have to it with style and inference, and that “What?” quality to pique the interest.

From a viewer/fan standpoint, the viewing of the post-credit videos gives some cultural cache (I stayed to watch, did you?) and has some of the Easter Egg qualities that are dug deep into the modern digital media world (I found it, did you?).

It used to be that my boys (who have made their own films) and students all wanted to make bloopers whenever we made videos — in fact, they wanted to elevate the blooper to the forefront, right from the start, scripting blooper moments instead of capturing mistakes as they happened. Now, these post-credit scenes seems to have mostly replaced the blooper reel.

I guess what I find intriguing about all of this is the elevation of these scenes to equal status of the movie itself. Perhaps it speaks more to our attention spans (the videos are short, although you do need to sit for some time to get to them) than anything else, and feeds nicely into the YouTube viewing habits.

Peace (following the credits),
Kevin