The Lost/Found Generation Video

Stay with this one, as the narrative first moves forward with one message, and then backwards with the real message. It is simple in production, and yet the simplicity of it makes it powerful. Just voice and words.

But think of the writing that went into this — knowing that it would have multiple meanings when read forward and then backward. Very cool.

Peace (in the found generation)

Kevin

And now … crazy warnings

Language is a funny thing.

Just check out these warnings found on products. Is it just because we, as humans, are generally stupid? Or is it fear of litigation? Or maybe something got lost in the translation from the place where things were made to the place where things are sold.

In any event, have a laugh on me and the folks over at Crazy Warnings.

Disposable razor:
Do not use this product during an earthquake.

And:

Furniture Wipes
Do not use for a baby wipe.

Stickers to put on the seat of a potty training toilet
This is not a toy. Stickers require adult supervision.

Lawnmower
Warning: When Motor Is Running – The Blade Is Turning

Instructions on the bottom of a grocery store pizza
Do not turn upside down.

Bottom of a Coca-Cola bottle
Do not open here.

Oh, there is plenty more at the Crazy Warnings site, too.

Peace (in instructions),
Kevin

Auditing My Blog Atmosphere

I am bit behind with Comment Challenge tasks (isn’t everyone?), but the last query had us thinking about how welcoming our blog is to visitors and how inviting it is for people to comment at our blog. I decided to go the video route again, using Seesmic, and talk through my reflective stance.
Meanwhile, the next task is to develop a comment policy for visitors. Michele Martin provides a pretty comprehensive piece for her blog. I don’t feel the need to go into such depth, although it was interesting to read hers.Here is a draft of what my Comment Policy might look like:

Welcome to my meandering mind!

This blog is a place where I explore writing and teaching and technology. But I don’t like to go on such a journey by myself and I want you to come along as a companion. Although I am doing the writing of posts, I am hoping you will feel comfortable enough to join the conversation and enrich my experience. Teaching can be an isolating experience, but it does not have to be.

If you feel the urge to join the discussions, you should search for the comment link at the bottom of each post. If you are the first, you will see the words: “no comments.” That means I’ve been waiting for you! (If others have posted comments, the link will indicate how many comments are there). This comment link will bring you to a comment box, where you will be asked to fill out some basic information (unless you are logged in as part of the Edublog Community and, therefore, are already known by my blog).

I do have the comment moderation switched on at this point. It is not intended to muffle your voice. Instead, it is intended to keep out unwanted Spam. But I am rethinking the use of moderation, so that may change in the future. For now, though, you should know that your comment will appear only after I approve it. A little note should indicate that your comment is being moderated when you submit it. Rest assured that I do check my blog regularly, so it won’t be a long wait.

I do not edit comments nor change comments. Your thoughts are your own and I respect that. And the voice of dissenters are as welcome as those in agreement, as long as we are all civil in our discussions.
Thank you for visiting and I hope you join the digital dialogue with me.

— Kevin

How does that sound? Any thoughts?

Peace (in policy),
Kevin

Seeing Your Days in Different Ways

I was interested in exploring some different ways of showcasing this week’s Days in a Sentence other than through the regular posting (which works fine, of course).

Here are snapshots of all of our blogs as remixed in Animoto (with a song called “Days” by the group, Bears).


Here is a Flickr Slideshow of our blogs.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

I wonder if these format detract or enhance the experience. What do you think? I would love to have your feedback. I have my own ideas but I will add them to what others are thinking.

Peace (in different angles),

Kevin

Days in a Sentence Get Released

This week, we returned to the traditional format of Day in a Sentence and again, my comment box overflowed with your words. Some were celebratory. Some were full of sadness. All of them were heartfelt and I thank you for being part of this reflective community. This month, I have been part of the Comment Challenge and it occurs to me that our Day in the Sentence project (now a few years old) is one way that we are using blogs and comments to connect with each other.

In the spirit of the Comment Challenge, which seeks to encourage more thoughtful interaction among bloggers, might I suggest that you follow the links to one of the other writers here and post a comment on their blog? It would be a nice way for us to connect outside of the Day in a Sentence community.

Here, then, are your sentences:

Jo had the great pleasure of watching learning happening naturally as her students took charge with words and worked together.

At my desk cutting out stacks of freshly laminated writing-prompt pictures (printed for free as a site’s treat for Teacher Appreciation week), I had to force myself not to stare agape, not to gush, as my tenth-graders helped each other discover through snaps and claps and finger pointing the actual ease of blank verse (”no, listen, ’success’ is two syllables: ’suck’ ‘cess’”); those moments of realization, of lights being switched on (or even perhaps undimmed a bit), are some of the sweetest morsels at the teaching table.

Elona had a difficult week in which her doctor’s orders took a wrong turn. Luckily, it was only temporary, and we are glad that she is back to feeling better.

Oh my goodness, I’m glad the week is almost over because I had a bad reaction to some medication I was taking and ended up in bed for a couple of days, although thankfully I’m fine now. )

Anne M. is reminded, and reminds us, that although our circles of bloggers may be immersed in the realm of Web 2.0, there are more teachers in the world who are not aware of it than teachers who are.

Reflections on 10 months of my personal and classroom use of web2.0 tools, enabled me to put together a presentation for our regional teachers, on “where I would start with web2.0″ at a local conference, instigating an awareness that many teachers had not even heard of web2.0, including podcasting. So, where do we start?

Cynthia (she is probably not alone) was happy to have Day in a Sentence back in its traditional format. In a note to me, she calls herself the “prodigal child” who is returning. Hey, Cynthia! You never left! But it is great to have your voice here again, and you’re given some freedom to extend your sentence as long as you need it to be.

Friday I got up at 5:30, saw Larry off to work, Adair and her family to Dallas, before going to school where we worked on our Oral Interp mask poem presentations; then it was off to Baccalaureate practice for an hour and back to school for English II–but not before two students brought me limeades from Sonic; thank goodness I was really thirsty–finished Julius Caesar, took up Macbeth projects, said goodbye to the seniors, played Murder Mystery with the eighth graders, after which it was on to the Catholic Church for a wedding rehearsal and to Natchez for the rehearsal supper; finally, around 9:30 I was home again just in time to fall into the bed so I could wake up and start all over again.

I have had the great pleasure of conversing with Diane in the Comment Challenge and I was so happy to see her submit a sentence as part of this week’s Day in a Sentence. She is a bit cryptic in her sentence, which is very cool.

Putting the puzzle pieces together – the picture underneath starts to emerge.

The prospect of the weekend was looking awfully nice for Delaine. I hope it was fun and rejuvenating, because Monday is staring right down at us.

As we get closer to the summit, the climb gets harder, and I am thankful for the restcamp of the weekend.

Alice seems to have some conflicts going on and determined that bringing things out in the open is always the best way to deal. Keep quiet and the tension and frustration only grows. Bring it out into the open and maybe something gets resolved.

Although this week had it’s ups and downs, it was an improvement over last week, as the conflicts were in the open, and not festering in our minds and souls.

Nina decided against her own sentence and instead, found a great sentence from one of her favorite authors, John McPhee, who writes in the book Uncommon Carriers: “He became the editor-in-chief of Screw Machine Engineering, a magazine whose name a hyphen would have improved.” (p. 25)

She then asks us: “How could I do better than that?” Well, why even try? That sentence carries the day, in my opinion.

Bonnie found light this week and a reminder of the passion that some teachers have for their students, even when their own life interferes.

I enjoyed visiting a middle school this week, watching my student teacher work with a very pregnant, passionate teacher who is only leaving because her doctor demanded it, and this is a district with it diversity challenges. Makes you feel optimistic.”

The number referenced here by Cheryl just boggled my mind, as her district moves on with standardized testing. We do the same next week (it’s Math Time, baby).

This week was week one for our NWEA online testing. We uploaded over 1200 completed tests this week. One day of glitches, problem solved finally! We still have 2 weeks to go. Students take this seriously and try and do a great job.

Larry could use a field trip to recover from the field trip. If he does plan one, can we come along? Hey, I drove down that crooked street once, many years ago. But a video game museum? Interesting. Do you have a link?

Another insane field trip with 100 students to San Francisco — submarine tour, chocolate factory, video game museum, the crookedest street in the world (among other things) — and a day (or two) to recover.

Stacey, who has helped guide some of my writing with her own Slice of Life and Poetry challenges, noted that, on the day she submitted her words, the day had barely begun. I hope it got better and not worse.

My great-aunt, the matriarch of our family, is ill and I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen next.

Spring fever hits Sara P. hard. Does that mean summer is around the bend? Uh Oh. Lots to do and not much time to do it.

I call firsties – first to point out how quickly the end of the school year is approaching (just 21 days for me!), first to admit early summer-ish weather shouldn’t be followed by late winter-ish weather (55 degrees and torrential rain – are you kidding me?!), and first to notice i no longer need to hassle my kids about wearing hoodies and hats into class (though i’ve just switched to the new line “no, if you don’t put leggings under your mini-skirt, you *can’t* wear it.”) – Ah, May!

Ben B. writes about another way in which he is not afraid to stand by his beliefs.

Bloom’s Taxonomy, although convenient, has lately faced pretty strong scrutiny in my world and yet I still stand by it.

Google, Google, Google for Janelle, as she sets off on a Big Explore.

The downpour of rain is not the only thing that pounds down on my head as I mull over mounds of TELPAS files and experiment with Google Apps & Google Sites—forecast is clear for the weekend!

Matt mourned an emotional loss of someone close and dear to him, and I believe I speak for everyone when I say that our thoughts are with you, Matt (who wrote a powerful eulogy at his blog this week).

After 97 years and a couple of appearances in my previous sentences, my grandmother died this week. My heart is heavy but I know that I have learned from her and am a better person for having had her as a part of my life.”

Liza, like Cheryl and myself, is in the storm of testing, and it is clear she does not like the feeling.

Recovering from state mandated testing leaves me feeling unfocused and at loose ends.

And Sue, who is one of the organizers of the Comment Challenge and a wonderful resource for all bloggers, had her battles this week with Technorati as she tried to make sure bloggers in the challenge were connected via their tags. She found hurdles, but not dead roadblocks. And no doubt her optimism kept her going. (yeah for Sue!)

Technorati mocked me, drove me crazy but I defeated it for now.

Please visit each other and tell them that Kevin sent ya on a mission. Leave a comment. Say hello. Make a connection.

And it is not too late to leave your own sentence either. Just use the comment link on this post and your words will be added in. You are invited!

Peace (in our community),
Kevin

Creating with Clay: I give it a try

This afternoon, as my three year old watched and tried to stick his fingers in the mix, I created a build-it-from-a-blob claymation figure. This is the assignment I had given my students yesterday and I should have tried it myself first (one of my mantras).

I could have used some more patience, too, but my excited audience of one made that a bit difficult. You can see it in the change of lighting, as he leans over to get a closer look at my little man. The NWP reference at the end is the National Writing Project, of which I am a technology liaison and an avid supporter.

Here is my strange little man coming to life:
The music is my own, created using the JamStudio music site.Peace (in stopmotion),
Kevin

Creating with Clay

Yesterday, my sixth graders began making clay characters for an upcoming claymation animation project. I had a brainstorm in the morning that it would be very cool to have them use the software and webcams to capture the creation of their characters — from blob of clay to full characters. This would give them more practice with the software program (which is pretty easy to use but I want to expose them to it as many times as possible).

This collection of their videos is the result of that work:
They worked in small groups and some listened to directions more closely than others (the Friday afternoon syndrome). I had visions of these cool videos that begin with a hunk of clay and then slowly, something is formed in front of our eyes. If I had time, I would have done an example myself to show them. I still might.

There is an interesting mix of strange creatures, that’s for sure. A few of my students clearly have an artistic gift.

One lesson that I continue to learn is that I need to push the concept of patience, patience, patience, and more patience. The slower they can move their character and capture those movements as frames, the more lifelike it looks on the video. Some of them still want to leap ahead with movement and the video then looks all jerky. For 11 and 12 year olds, that concept of patience is a hard lesson to learn, but I am hoping that they will see the results of that patience in the quality of their movies.

Another variation in this project is that this year, I am allowing the students to build a character first, and then work on the story (around climate change) second. Usually, it is the other way around — the story informs the characters. This year, the characters may inspire the story. I am not sure if this approach is better or not, so I will have to see how it goes. I do know they were incredibly engaged in what they were doing for the entire 40 minutes of stop-motion and clay creation yesterday. So many came up and told me how much they love doing the stop-motion and they wanted to know when we can do it again.

More to come as the weeks progress …

Peace (in clay),
Kevin

Comment Challenge: Where to comment?

Comment_challenge_logo_2There are daily prompts/tasks as part of the 31-Day Comment Challenge and I am enjoying the various directions these hints have taken me. Yesterday, the task was to move outside the comfortable sphere of the educational blogging community and that allowed me to find some local blogs in my own city and begin some discussions with others. (Of course, one of those discussions veered into the topic of education — in particular, the state of our city’s school budget)

Today, the question for the Comment Challenge centers on the idea of where people should actually comment when inspired by a blog post. Some folks like to comment directly on a blog post via the comment function. Others, however, like to create their own blog post in response to something they have read and create what is known as a trackback — linking their post to the one they read. Over at the Bamboo Project, Michele has provided an interesting article that talks about why some bloggers disable comments altogether on their posts.

In an effort to keep experimenting here, I used Seesmic to reflect on which avenue seems most engaging for me. (Seesmic is a webcam capture site that some people are using for posting video blog comments) What do you think?

If you do a video response, please provide a link (I don’t have the Seesmic plugin here at my blog).

Peace (in comments),
Kevin

Inside Kaleidoscope Dreams: A hypertextual collection

Since November, I have been working on Quickfiction stories and sharing them out here at the blog. It has been a really enjoyable writing experience for me and interesting experience, too. But I have been struck about what to do with the stories after they have been posted on the blog. I considered self-publishing via LULU, and then thought about creating a website.

Recently, though, I have been fooling around with Hypertextopia and it occurred to me that the platform might make sense for gathering all of the short fiction stories together under one roof, so to speak.

The result is something I am calling Inside Kaleidoscope Dreams — which is a collection of the stories gathered together under themes and also by narrative device. I have included audio readings of the stories, plus some photographs for illustrations. And I also wrote up a short author reflection about the project.

Head to Inside Kaleidoscope Dreams

(Note: The illustration above shows the concept map that I created, with links to various stories. It shows the connections of stories in a visual way. The readable version, however, is brought together in a more cohesive structure.)

I am interested to get feedback from people about the use of this hypertextual platform. Does it make the reading of the stories more interesting? Or just confusing? Do you have any suggestions for improving the design of the book?

Later, I will share out some of the nifty things that you can do with your writing in Hypertextopia, including re-arranging words, ideas and stories.

Peace (in linklinklinklinked text),
Kevin

Quickfiction: chapter 5

This is a continuation of my forays into Quickfiction writing. I am also completing an entire collection of my quick stories over at Hypertextopia and I hope to share that project and reflection out tomorrow. It has been another interesting adventure, to be sure.

Here are the latest stories (click on the little arrow to hear the podcast of the stories):

Ghost

It was on his walk to work one morning that Jack noticed the white ghost bike propped up against the tree. A long thin chain held it against the aging Elm that looked bent from the weight of its mission. As if it might just topple right over. A rusty padlock dangled from one kink in the chain. Jack was sure the bike had not been there the previous morning. Sometime in the night, someone had placed the bike here. It spooked the hell out of Jack, this ghost bike. It was Tiff all over again. A little placard was attached to the handlebars. This was not just a bike, he realized. This was a memorial. He didn’t dare get any closer. Fear kept him back, although he was aching to know what the little sign said. Would it be a memory of some stranger he did not know, nor ever would. A tribute, perhaps? Or would it be another reminder of the past life he had tried so desperately to leave behind so many years ago. Tiff, and her bike, and how he had followed her everywhere, falling in love so many times over as he watched her legs in motion. Everything back then seemed to be in motion. He could still see Tiff, in the white athletic suit that she always wore on outings, as if riding a cloud in the midst of civilization.She was pristine perfection. Back then, he would follow her anywhere. Even to the end of the world. Or so he thought, but when the time came to stand at the brink, he had hesitated, and she had disappeared from sight. Tiff had never glanced back, never even acknowledged that he had stopped. She just kept right on pedaling. Then, she was gone. To think of this now brought on the pain all over again. Jack shuffled past the white ghost of his past and, again, he tried to not to remember.

Smog

It’s true. I went to Big Sur for answers. I had gone to Lowell, too, and felt lost among the brick facades of the old mills that had become nothing more than monuments to the past. Everything seemed abandoned and set to rust. I even sat on the edge of the river that snaked through the worn-out downtown, listening for the prose that had long since been extinguished by time. I wanted to hear echoes. All I heard was silence. So it was on to Big Sur. My car complained the entire time, the muffler spoiling any sense of silence and contemplation I might have otherwise had or wanted. There was no Dean to keep me company. No bottles of booze littered on the seats. No scroll of endless white paper on which to scribble my dreams. My America was not Their America. My America was shopping malls, neon lights, and long stretches of conformity. Route 66 had become just a long stretch of traffic lights. You could not gain momentum or traction anymore. Still, Big Sur beckoned and I answered. It became yet another false promise, however, and in the forests and isolation of the California coast, I found little of anything of value. Nothing other than my own preconceptions of him in this place, writing with abandon. I, on the other hand, am always too careful. Too precise. Instead of gaining illumination, I left Big Sur with a deep-seated impression that my own writing days were over. So it felt strangely comfortable to finally leave Jack behind and descend into the smog of Los Angeles and begin my life anew.

ER

The wait is endless. Yet you can’t help but notice that the stream of people continues unabated, hour upon hour upon hour. Is there this much suffering, you wonder? You shift in your seat. The movement does little to ease either your pain or your boredom. Your head still hurts. Next to you, the man in the brown jacket nurses a finger, wrapping and unwrapping a bloody bandage. From time to time, he, too, shifts and bumps into you. This makes you uncomfortable — like the crowded feeling of the middle seat on an airplane — yet there are no other seats to move to. If you get up, you know you will lose the seat. All eyes covet the row of chairs. People are sitting on floors, leaning against walls, pacing the floor. The nurse just stares straight ahead. She seems to have perfected the art of never focusing on anyone. Her glassy, sleepy eyes just move forward in time. You feel another jolt to your temples. The force of it almost knocks you out of your seat. Your fingers clench the armrests to hold on. They all thought it was nothing. They all laughed. You can tell. You remember the accusatory looks they gave you, questioning your intentions. If only that were the case. You know the truth: your brain is in a state of severe disfunction. The little girl, in her mother’s lap, moans again. You watch the mother pull the girl’s head closer to her chest and she whispers some soothing words into the little girl’s ear. You wish that were you, that the words were for you. You wish someone would hold you and absorb the pain. All eyes look up as a doctor enters through the double doors. He beckons for the little girl and her mother. Brown jacket man swears under his breath and re-adjusts the bandage again. Another jolt hits your head. Stronger this time. The world that was once nothing but light is now darkening, and still you wait.

Elevator

He knew the time would come when he would die in an elevator. How many closes calls had there been? Too many to count. The most dramatic had been the time when he and his sister had gotten stuck in-between floors in their aunt’s low-rise. He had not meant to leave his toy truck in the gap. And he had been horrified to watch how the fireman, after dragging both of them up through the emergency exit in the ceiling, had presented their father with the mangled red fire truck and suggested that elevators did not make good play zones for children. There was the false alarm, too, in the office building and the scrambled rush to cram into the elevator to get to safety. He knew that had been dumb — no one rides an elevator in a fire — and it was that very stupidity that scared him. He did not trust himself to make the right decision in these situations and it was only a matter of time that the end would come in a vertical death machine. His sister had feared escalators. But at least on a moving stair, you can jump. You can’t jump to freedom from an elevator. He read books that reassured him that elevators were safer than cars. That engineers designed them to use counterweights. That it was rare than anyone might die in an elevator, as long as they stayed calm and were smart about it. That, of course, was what worried him. Panic made him stupid. And so, when the job he had dreamed about for years finally came his way, he was disappointed to learn that he would have to travel 45 floors up and down every day, in a so-called “smart elevator,” and after a nail-biting trip up to the interview and a harrowing trip back down, he decided he could not handle this. This tension was too much. The time might come when an elevator ended his life, but he would be damned if he would be a willing accomplice to the crime. His world was flat and level and he intended it to stay that way.

Peace (in stories),
Kevin