Our Collective Year (2008) in a Sentence

By now, some of us may be tiring of looking back on 2008 and reflecting on what we learned. Others may be just beginning that process. Here at Day in a Sentence, we shifted gears and expanded our scope, and participants worked to boil down their past year into a single sentence. Not easy, and not everyone kept it to within a sentence. That’s OK. This project is not about the rules, but about the connections.

I want to say that there were more than 40 submissions for Year in a Sentence. Wow. I am deeply honored to be part of this journey with all of you.

I will start with my own sentence. Like so many others, I was struck by how much my networks have expanded outward and how supportive these environments have become. There is a sense of welcoming in the digital world of educators that is heartening to experience. You can listen to my sentence as a podcast.

The reach of my digital world has continued to expand outward as new tools were uncovered, new friends and colleagues discovered, and I pushed myself as a writer into different directions.

Ben D. had a real milestone this year … the birth of a child. I imagine that has kept him a bit busy in 2008. So, he provides us with some visual evidence (and the evidence is cute as pie)

It has been the most amazing year of my life.
I watched my son go



Ben was not alone in the Birth of a Child Department. Nancy, too, has been experiencing the wonders of parenthood. She knows that the center of her universe right now is that little soul. As it should be.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, my year can be summed up like this: “baby baby baby.” LOL

Tracy is coming to accept that change is part of life. I know change was the Presidential Campaign buzzword (isn’t it always when it comes to political contests?) but many of us are hoping the changes ahead are powerful in good ways.

Change is sweet and, though I fight against it with all my might, when I accept it I become more of myself.

Cheryl O. notes the many connections she has in life, thanks to technology. I love the last bit of her sentence about closing out the day while others are beginning.

A look back to what 2008 has meant: twitter begins my day with a myriad of articles to read, shoutouts to virtual friends near and far, experimenting with new tools; animoto, flip video, keynoting k12online, webcasting SEEDLINGS, and twitter closes my day saying goodnight to some and good morning to others.

My friend, Gail P., has immersed herself into the journey of discovery this year and is doing some amazing things with her young students. She’s like a sponge, soaking up experiences and thinking about the possibilities.

The past year reminds me of a ride at a theme park.

We get some momentum going and enjoy the little surprise experiences along the way, some exciting, others no so much, and in the end we may clap with delight but can only remember snippets of the experience.

Now if I could just remember half of what I’ve experienced, tried on, explored, I would be in great shape. It would be a good idea to record every bit of technology I mess around with so I can call upon it again in the future and not just scratch my head in wonderment. We have a google doc along those lines at school that I could drop stuff into. Never in this life will I be able to manage the task anything like Larry Ferlazzo does.

All in all, Delaine had a good year, even as headlines shook the world. May 2009 continue in the same vein for her and for all of us.

Although a year of financial disaster for so many, we were blessed with good fortune, good fun, and good friends in 2008.

Anne M. experienced the “power of the blog” on many levels. It sounds like a scary horror movie — The Blog! — but it’s not. It’s about forging in new directions.

What started as a ‘backyard’ blog, grew into teacher, class, student and a school blog(s), sharing and connecting with the globe, working on collaborative projects with many countries and experiencing powerful learning outcomes for me, the students, staff and even parents.

Janice gave my new Day in a Sentence theme song some kudos, and it reminded her of an elementary teacher who used to bring in a guitar and play with the class from time to time. I had fun writing the new theme song and found it useful to approach the network from a musical stance. Thanks for your comment, Janice. She writes this week about a fork in the road that she came up again and what she did (no, she didn’t pick the fork up).

A decision, which turned out horrifically wrong, led to a second much scarier decision, which resulted in an unexpectedly wonderful experience, and convinced me that taking a chance, and hanging everything on hope and luck, can sometimes work.

Lynn J. hopes 2009 trumps 2008.

Hmmm, 2008 was not my favorite year…it was probably just a setup for the fabulous one that began today.

Perhaps Elona is of the same mind as Lynn. She notes that she is inspired by Dickens.

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

David noted he was bopping to the Day in a Sentence theme song (cool) and then shares this magical sentence that has a real poetic beauty to it.

I found between the bells ringing in each year, a silence that is also language, a shared language.

Drew used the opportunity to look ahead more than look behind and his wish for the year is one that I can relate to. And I imagine, so can you.

My year will be one in which I show more appreciation for what is around me: people, places, things and *myself* and I’ll be sharing what I can at every opportunity.

Mary F. noted that the national stage (and international stage?) was filled with too many idiots looking out for only themselves and not for the unfortunate in the world. (I used ‘idiot,’ not Mary). Luckily, Mary could fall back on a loving and strong family to support her.

My 2008 was filled with grace from my family, friends and fellow travelers as we plodded together through the mire of deceit, cruelty, and greed from our so-called leaders to find a spark of honor and hope as we begin a new journey with eyes open wide.

Mary Lee admitted to some intimidation to the task of reflecting within the confines of a single sentence. Her words remind us that the unknown is with us on so many levels. But the optimism for the future flows out from her sentence, too.

This is the year that put cancer ten years behind me.

Ken wrote me some thoughts on the theme song, saying it sound a bit like The Ventures or the Get Smart theme song. I can live with that. 🙂 He also composed an epic sentence. Try reading it out loud without taking a breath. And then chuckle at Ken’s wonderful way with words.

Well, I must say, it’s been a year with a difference, this year has, what with blogging, which I enjoyed, and my daughter finishing high school, which I celebrated and she’s really bright, not to mention winning the prize for sculpture, which I’ve just done, and going to uni this year to study sculpture, and I won’t bore you with all the great things she can do but she takes after her father, and me walking again and being restructured at work and surviving it – the unbelievable-hope-it-never-happens-again-stuff-like-you-wouldn’t-want-to-know-stuff-and-that’s-life-as-a-school-teacher-stuff, and who would have it any other way, but a school teacher who’s stupid enough to start blogging when he’s two gold watches short of retirement and even at his age and experience has a hard time writing about it all in one sentence, because – for goodness sake – he’s to pack a whole year of experiences, that is successes, celebrations, achievements, failures and disappointments, deaths births and marriages, not to mention advancing old age, all between a capital letter and a full stop.

Bonnie is still finding new adventures for herself, pushing the boundaries in many directions. I know she is looking forward to the Obama transition and the idea of change (or at least, of sweeping Bush out of office before he does more damage).

A fresh new year! I just read a post on Bud Hunt’s blog about 365/2009,(http://flickr.com/groups/366photos/) a Flickr group that shares a new photo every day. I just sent one over.

I have high hopes for 2009: A new president in the White House and a promise of fresh web challenges here.

Connie notes how literature allows her to reflect and make note of what is important in life.

It all came together for me at year’s end when I read E.B. White, T.S. Eliot, and Stanley Kunitz on the same day; they reminded me of the earthen groundedness of life, and how life is spun up with time.

Aram is on an adventure, with many miles traveled and many more to go …

I traveled over 10,000 miles this year, the best part being Paris and London with the family, and — especially if you include my hyperspace travels — I’d say I’m learning at a rate of about one new idea a mile.

The downs and ups of life for Cyndi has clearly presented a fair share of difficult hurdles and yet, she ends her thoughts on an optimistic note. The future, after all, is always ahead and peppered with possibilities.

2008-Turned 55, husband passed away afet 10 year battle with kidney cancer, daughter graduated from college and moved to New York City, Son got married and moved to Kansas City, took a new position at Kansas State University, went for 50 students a semester to 150, so moved to Manhattan, Kansas, bought a new house, made some new friends and started a new life adventure.

So, it has been a bit of a chaotic year for Michaele, too. And like so may of us, she hold out hope for 2009.

2008, you were full of relocations, packing, unpacking, unemployment, employment, heat, wind, dirt, sandstorms, new and old friends and routines, rainstorms, hail, laughter, stress, family, and self discovery…hopefully 2009 will see a drop-off in the relocations, stress and sandstorms, not that I’m picky!

Liza has found her stride as a teacher and that feels good.

When you are a new teacher, going through an induction program, you are told quite a bit that what you are experiencing is normal, typical, even and that information is both comforting and irritating, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I am both comfortably and irritatingly finding this year to be the one in which I am reaching my stride . . . finishing my induction year, heading for tenure, achieving better work/life balance, and actually able to raise my head and take a look around me as I’m getting it all done.

Julia notes the movement into leadership this past year. For many of us, that is a huge leap that can pay great dividends (not usually the financial kind, alas, but the other kind).

From different dimensions and aspects of life, health, educational networks, leadership, and service, this year, for me, has been about moving from the sidelines to participating in the “game” of life.

Amy K. knows that 2008 was a challenge. But how she has grown as a result of those challenges is the heart of her reflection.

2008 was year for increased challenges and demands professionally and personally, but I seem to have come through unscathed (hopefully I have grown but who really knows?)

sara‘s sentence reads like a living list. Cue Bob Dylan and read it fast.

slush, dizziness, silly nicknames, turning 29, snow days, budgeting, administrators from hell, robins, cuddling, watermelon italian ice, organic nursery, end of school!, sunshine, jogging, slip ‘n slide party, biking, teaching just writing : ), poetry, h.s. football, hoodies, diner mac ‘n cheese, great teaching team, mike’s surgery, master’s, stress, women’s tackle football, christmas, tropical new year’s party… and it’s 2009! whew.

Short and sweet. That is Lisa C. for this one.

What? Another year over?

That is how I feel about this year: Too fast!

The doorways are central to Kate‘s reflections. May they open wide for you, Kate.

Challenge, inspiration and delight from new and old ways, faces, places – doors closing and opening near and far.

Harold not only shares out some thinking about last year but also adds in a few thoughts for this new year, too. Keep running, Harold, and stay healthy.

One word would summarize it nicely – Change.

I started the year as a special education teacher and half-way through became an AmeriCorps Grants program officer, which was a definite change of focus and an injury that didn’t heal until recently, so I got fatter.

Goal for next year in one sentence:

Run 20 miles a week by August, keep learning requirements of new job, write more comments on people’s blogs and spend quality time with family.

Marg sees the connections everywhere. And that is good.

2008 was a sensational year of virtual travel, growing social networks and meeting some inspiring cyberspace friends.

Lynn C. brings a little math into the equation. And the numbers all point towards optimism, right? (let me hear y’all say, Yeah!)

Formula for 2009 from a non-math person: Crisis seems >but is actually < human creativity which may = sustainable solutions! And a much hoped for Happy New Year!

Larry comes clean. I can relate. Mistakes, yes, and then a few more. But all of it we learn from (if we are lucky).

To paraphrase an old community organizing adage, I made a lot of mistakes, learned from them, and then went out and made bigger ones :)

Gail D. continues to move into new directions, but she remains grounded in working with teachers and students on important issues.

In a year constantly overshadowed by economic uncertainty, I treasure the bright spots, such as shared moments and walks with NWP colleagues (e.g., Holocaust Memorial Library Summer Institute), opportunities to work directly with teachers and students ( e.g., EETT grant group), and family and friends to share the New Year with.

Amy gets off the ride. I hope she isn’t too dizzy.

A roller coaster year is completed!

Phil remains open to what others have to offer.

This old dog learned a few new tricks with a little bit of help from his friends.

One small step took Kerry into an ever-building network that she now uses for support and information and ideas.

I started off looking for more effective ways to consume information and ended up with a network of friends, colleagues and field researchers.

There is a mix of emotions for Justine. Finding the balance is the hard part, right?

Extremely challenging personally; professionally exciting and exhilarating.

Mr. Woody is in a celebratory mood for the year that has passed. May 2009 bring him and you and all of us more reasons to shout: Huzzah!

A great year of super happenings – many thanks to all my friends, loved ones, colleagues and passing acquaintances of the positive variety


The roller coaster theme also emerged (with a scream?) from Sue W., who noted that 2008 was full of the unexpected.

Amazing roller coaster which took me on an unimaginable adventure leading to an interesting change in direction by the end of 2008!

TDawg (love her nickname) hopes to bring some California warmth to New England. Hey, friend, pack it up and send it my way.

Ending the year with a family visit to California infused me with enough love, hope, and sunlight to endure another endless New England winter.

Speaking of weather, here is Cynthia (if you listen closely, you can hear her wonderfully melodic southern United States accent — says the guy from New England).

There is a saying in Mississippi; if you don’t like our weather, just hang around; it won’t be long before it changes, so as I reflect on 2008, I realize my year was just like the weather in Mississippi–changeable: hot and humid, rainy, chilly, hot and humid, “Gustav” windy and rainy (that’s putting it mildly :) ), chilly, frosty, hot and humid, snowy (for one whole day!), warm, and just plain hot and humid.

Happy New Year! Kevin, you constantly raise the envelope and push me to try new venues. Thanks.

Art has a reflection that hopefully will point to progress for the months ahead. L’et’s hope the air gets cleared and he moves on to some understanding.

Some unpleasant revelations led to issues being aired and problems getting worked on.

And Nina tried to find balance amidst the ups and downs the year (another roller coaster ride, I suppose).

2008 was for me a combination of thrilling (Democrats sweeping the elections, our first multiracial president) and very sad (deaths of six relatives and friends).

Thank you for being on this journey with me. I appreciate your words and thoughts and I hope, if you are new to Day in a Sentence, that you continue with us from time to time and connect with the network of folks who reflect and connect.

And I leave you with one last image — I put all of our Year in a Sentence contributions into Wordle (one of my favorite applications of last year) and created this collage (I love how friends and new and year are all out in front):

Peace (in sharing),

PS — if you still want to add your sentence, please use the comment link on this post and share away. It’s not too late.

A View from Above: Making a Movie

This holiday break, my sons and I did some stop-motion moviemaking of our own. My oldest made a movie called Shovel Trouble that we burned onto DVD and then he presented it as gift to all of our family members. It was very cute. He wants to set up his own movie website, so I will hold off on sharing it for now. But, what we did was set up a webcam above a workspace, and then he draw and cut out characters, moving them one frame at time. It was a little tricky getting it set up (I had to use an old music stand to hold the camera), but once we got it in place, it worked like a charm.

Here is what our setup looked like (and if you go to the Flickr site, you can see my notes as overlays on the photo itself — more details about what we were doing).

At one point, as my son was doing some drawing, I started to make the webcam take frames — like a time-lapse camera. It was very cool. And then my youngest decided that he wanted to do the same thing, so he made a snowman. Here is a very quick documentary.


Peace (in movies),

Negroponte, TED and the XO

This is an interesting video from the TED conference network on the XO Computer initiative. Nicholas Negroponte is very engaging in explaining how the XO laptops can be integrated into developing communities in ways that bring children into the spotlight.
I was playing around with my XO again yesterday because I set up a wireless system in my house (finally) and wanted to get it connected. It took a bit of figuring out, but when I was up and running, I did my first cross-country chat with another XO person (Mark) on the west coast. It was so easy and simple.

Peace (in the world),

Making StopMotion, the easy way

Thanks to Matt, I found a great resource for Stop-Motion movie creation. Included in the site was a link to this video, which shows how you can use MovieMaker (part of the Windows operating system) to create stop-motion movies (with just a digital camera).

Why am I sharing this? Well, George Mayo and I have been developing the Longfellow 10 site for stop-motion movies for students and we really would love to have some other schools involved. Are you interested? Do you need a mentor? George and I can help (drop me an email at dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com if you want). There are great learning opportunities for your students when they plan, film, edit and produce their own movies.

This short video walks you through the steps for a basic movie process:

And this link brings you to a more advanced tutorial that is well worth the watching. Finally, this is the original link that Matt sent me, which has 50 stop motion movies that will boggle yer mind.

Peace (in frames),

Year in a Sentence, plus a new Theme Song!

So now it is 2009. Welcome to the new year, everyone.

This week’s Day in a Sentence is being transformed into Year in a Sentence. As always, I hope the barriers are low but the depth of reflection, high. I would like you to think about the year that just went by (flew by?) and try to narrow down some element or elements of your year into a single, reflective sentence.

Then, use the comment link on this post to submit your comment. I will gather them all up (including my own, which I have not yet written) and publish them early next week. I may extend the gathering of sentences a bit longer than usual, knowing that folks may be away or busy.

To help inspire you, I crafted a new Day in a Sentence Theme Song. Actually, it a mash-up of a song I wrote and recorded with an old band (you can hear me on sax and keyboards on the track). I’ll pull this theme song out now and then.

Dance to the Day in a Sentence Theme Song

And, this week, I was tinkering with a text-to-movie site called Xtranormal, which is kind of interesting, and I made this little video as another way to put the call out for Year in a Sentence sentences. I do hope you find time to join us. You are invited!

Peace (to all of you)

What the Heck Happened …

A little 2008 retrospective and belly-button gazing here …

2008 was my year of comics and graphic novels, I guess. Not only did I start writing reviews for The Graphic Classroom (thanks, Chris!) and began getting a boatload of incredibly interesting graphic books to read and think about, but I plunged my way into a new genre: comics. It occurred so suddenly over the summer. I realized that I wanted to make a webcomic about kids, teaching and technology. The result has been Boolean Squared, which runs twice a week on the website of our large daily newspaper and then I collect them for a website that I created. I don’t know if I will keep the comic running beyond the end of this school year. Is one year enough? Meanwhile, I also took part in the 24 Hour Comic Event, with my son, and created a graphic story about my relationship with my brother, followed up by another graphic story about my own political leanings over the years. I wish my artistic skills were better but I am intrigued by the concept of the graphic novel, to be sure. (see my Comic site and my Boolean Squared site)

I was honored to be a presenter at a number of conferences this year, mostly through the National Writing Project. I gave a keynote address out in Missouri on Writing in an Online World, and then worked with my good friend, Mary, on a presentation around digital books and stories for a writing assessment conference, and then presented on the writing process of digital storytelling with another NWP colleague at the NWP Annual Conference. In my role with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, I even helped organize a Technology Across the Curriculum Conference at my school. I still find it hard to believe that people want to hear me talk. But I find that giving a presentation allows me to reflect a bit deeper on my own practices. (See my workshop website). Meanwhile, the collaborations within those networks continues, as Bonnie and I have some grand plans for the coming year (crossing fingers on a possible grant) that will help keep teachers connected and engaged as writers and as professionals.

My band, The Sofa Kings, continues to survive, but we are feeling a bit directionless right now. I wrote a faire number of songs this year for the band and for myself, and that part of my life — the creative process — remains very important to me. There is something special about writing a song for me — sometimes the threads just come together and it feels …. right. I was honored to have a song that I wrote become part of our church pageant, and even more honored when some folks there said they would like to use my song each Christmas Eve as part of the service where we all come together to light candles and hold hands and become a community. That is the power of song. I had hoped that this would be the year that The Sofa Kings would release our CD that we recorded last year, but that didn’t happen due to a number of reasons and those tracks (many of which I wrote or co-wrote) now sit in the digital dustbin, collecting … digital dust. I won’t forget them, however. But what to do with them remains a conundrum.

I found Twitter this year and it has been … interesting. The quick writing suits me fine. I like to collect and shout in short bursts, I guess. But just as important, Twitter has tied me to many wonderful educators and others who share resources, connect with others and find ways to expand the concept of the learning networks that inform our teaching.

The Day in a Sentence keeps on chugging along and I had much help this year — including much of the summer, when a host of folks took it over for me — in keeping it alive. There are now more than 100 folks on my Day in a Sentence email list, which amazes me, and I am always thankful for people who spend a moment to reflect and share out. (warning: a call for Year in a Sentence will be forthcoming). I often feel as if the Day in a Sentence has tentacles that reach out and connect people in different ways. I guess that is why they call it the Web, right?

I moved into the visuals, too, with Bonnie’s very cool PhotoFridays adventure, which is a group on Flickr where folks are sharing photos and comments and elements that work in tandem with writing. I find myself thinking of the world in more visual terms as a result. Photography was never my strong suit, but digital cameras make many things possible as I explore angles and points of view. One of my projects is capturing a tree in our school playground through the seasons. So simple, and yet, I am finding it very powerful. And interesting.

In the classroom, I keep moving forward with merging technology with writing in hopes that my students will become more engaged in what they are doing. This has included the Many Voices for Darfur Project, Youth Radio, the Longfellow Ten movie site, our own Electronic Pencil weblog and the exploration of tools that might allow them to move forward and in new directions. (See my posts about using Google Maps in conjunction with reading The Odyssey. Or go to the Heroic Journey site that we created).

More than anything, I am grateful for all those folks whom I have trapped inside my RSS reader for their wisdom, explorations, reflections and connections.  I learn so much from them. (And I even got an article published about my RSS habits via the National Writing Project.)

To all of you who stop here and read and comment — I thank you and I want to wish you: Happy New Year.

Peace (in 2009),

Slice of Life on Ice

Slice of Life Story Challenge
(Note: it has been a long time since I have done a Slice of Life, which is a wonderful writing activity sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. But I felt the end of the year deserved a story of some sort, just to remind myself of the connection with that wonderful community of bloggers and writers. — Kevin)

Earlier this year, during the 24 Hour Comic event, I created a graphic novel about falling into an icy river and being saved by my brother (which I also wrote about for Memoir Mondays at one time). This week, as temperatures rose a bit, my sons and I have been taking a visiting dog (Bella, whose name was also that of our old dog) down to the river. There, I have watched as the older ones have discovered icebergs in the shallow parts of the water and it was as if I were seeing myself as a kid (without the near-death experience).

They kicked, prodded, threw rocks, used sticks as wedges — anything to break the ice free. They imagined they could board the ice and float down the river. One mentioned the waterfall downstream.  The sound was roaring off in the distance. “We’ll jump off the icebergs before we get to the waterfall,” the older one said, and that was that. No thoughts about the freezing temperatures of the water or the difficulty of swimming with winter clothes on. I could tell that they knew that these bits of ice would never hold their weight to begin with anyway. It was all about the imagination.

One the other side of the river, away from the ice, my youngest son and I stood, watching.

“When I get older, can I make icebergs?” he asked, as his brothers slipped around. I nodded my head “yes” and together, we both tossed large stones in the water, aiming to break up the ice chunks that had been set free by the older brothers.

Peace (in stories),

NEAToday and The Amazing Adventures of Super-Teacher

I opened up the latest edition of NEA Today magazine to find a two-page article about the use of comics and graphic novels in the classroom. I like how, more and more, these types of articles are appearing in mainstream educational magazines. The article here is layed out as a comic strip, with the character of Super-Teacher (ie, Jeff Miller from Stevensville Middle School in Maryland) showing how comics and graphic novels may help motivate young people into more reading, and thus, sharpening their skills.

The article  by Mary Ellen Flannery cites such works as Maus by Art Spiegelman and Two-fisted Science: Stories about Scientists by Jim Ottaviani as good resources. Also, they reference a site that I had not heard of before called No Flying No Tights, which may be worth a visit (leave your flying tights at home, though).

I write reviews for The Graphic Classroom, where Chris Wilson explores and understands the appeal of comics and the power of the visual with writing to connect with students. For myself, I also try to think about how graphic novel formats might make sense for young writers, too. For some of my students, when you add an artistic element to an assignment, it opens them up to creative paths that they might not otherwise venture down.

The article in NEA is not yet available online (they seem to run a month behind) but I hope you got a copy in your mailbox, too.

Peace (in frames of learning),

PS — speaking of comics, my latest Boolean Squared ran and it is poking fun at digital immigrants/natives. See the comic.

The Poem in your Head: Animated Movie

I am experimenting with a site called Xtranormal to see what it is all about. It’s a movie-making site in which you choose a character, type the dialogue and then have some controls over the movie screen, including the scenery, music and movements of characters. Essentially, though, the site takes your words and puts them into the mouth of one or two avatars that you choose.
It’s a bit disorientating, to be honest, but neat fun. You can then export the movie into YouTube or keep it at the site. It seems like it is all free for now, but there are hints that they will move to a pay-per-movie model at some point, so I am not sure if it is viable for the classroom.

I am working on one for the call for Year in a Sentence, just for something different.

Here is a short movie I made this afternoon called “The Poem in your Head.”

Peace (by putting words into the mouths of others),