Four Days in Summer: An overview of Animation Camp


Last week marked the first of two claymation-animation summer camp programs that I am teaching (next week, with my wife) and I decided I needed to write down and record what I was doing each day for future reference. I will need to go back later and do some more details but I am sharing my overall plan for four days of working with middle school students.

Here is the summer camp plan

I created this document with Google Page Creator — a not-so-fancy but easy-to-use part of the Google Suite of Internet Dominance.

Peace (with clay),



VoiceThread Experiment

James shows us how to use VoiceThread on Edublogs (I should have asked how to do this weeks ago) and other flash-based programs, so I am giving it a try. (here is the tutorial, by the way)

And you can try something too – add your voice to my thread (you will need to register for voicethread to do so, however). This was an experiment that I posted via Classroom 2.0.

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Did it work?

Peace (with flash),

Summer Camp — part one

I have been running a claymation animation summer camp this week for middle school students (mostly fifth and sixth graders) as a new experiment (and more next week). Kids have been using Pivot Stickman, MovieMaker, Stop-Motion Animator and other tools to create mini-movies. I am working on writing up my curriculum (for myself and for anyone else who is interested) and will share that later.

I have a blog up and running so that parents can view some of the daily work (the blog is at  and the final movies (with a sci-fi theme) are being worked on right now and we are inviting parents in tomorrow to view the showcase premieres.

Also, I have used TeacherTube for sharing videos because it is quite easy to use and seems to be a safe way to share video without any qualms about kids wandering around to different, inappropriate links.

But here are a few of the creations so far:

Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at

Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at

Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at

Peace (in the hot classroom),

OnPoEvMo: A Quick Burst of Fire, July 2007

I was reading through an article about the anniversary (no celebration) of the Hindenburg Tragedy and wrote this poem. The line from the article that stuck out with me was the refrain running through the poem: Those who stayed, survived. Those who jumped, died.

This is part of my OnPoEvMo Project, an ongoing personal saga of writing, podcasting and publishing poems through the course of the year.


A Quick Burst of Fire

(considering the Hindenburg tragedy)
July 2007

Listen to the poem

Those who stayed, survived;
Those who jumped, died;

and isn’t it simply tragic that these are the facts that remain with us
seventy years after the giant envelope caught fire
in the skies above Jersey
while families and friends and reporters waited for the miracle,
only to be shown a tragedy in full view, unfolding frame by terrifying frame
above their heads.

Those who stayed, survived.
And yet to stay put with an inferno raging around you
and with fellow passengers descending like bullets towards the ground below —
that must have been like madness in and of itself,
a choice between some distant layers of Dante’s own Hell.

Those who jumped, died.
And yet how could you remain, stationary and collected,
with the heat curling up against your skin
and the smell of panic in your brain
and not take action to live.

Of course, I would jump.
Wouldn’t you?

But when the time came, I didn’t jump.
I stayed
and I survived,
standing so agonizingly close to the flames
— even today, I am always at the edge of this abyss —
that I am the one who still burns with anger at the fire-starter
— the friendly fiend with sulfur on his breath —
and I ignite at my own inability to react to the danger before
it was far too late —
to leap to the ground through the quick burst of fire
and be rid of this scar tissue forever.

Peace (on the ground),

The Ning Thing

I have been trying to understand social networking a bit more these past few weeks, as I think this is the direction I want to take our Making Connections project that creates an online shared writing space for middle school students in our Western Massachusetts area (this past year, we had about 200 students writing and responding).

My dilemma has been, what platform? I know others are using Elgg and it seems interesting but a bit complicated for teachers in my group who are not tech savvy and need to be able to troubleshoot and help students basically on their own. There are aspects of Elgg that I really like, including the automatic tag-links created via profile writing. Elgg

And then, there is Ning. A few months ago, I became part of the Classroom 2.0 community over at Ning and it has been quite a wonderful experience. Created by Steve H., Classroom 2.0 has grown leaps and bounds since I came on board. And this network has shown the power of the collective voice, as teachers are sharing resources, strategies and questions, and probing deeper into the Web 2.0 tools, and questioning such things as assessment in the connected world.

I also wanted to try my hand at administering a Ning network, so I created an informal one for technology liaisons within the National Writing Project. It was easy to set up my own Ning network — incredibly easy, and we now have 23 members (I am hoping for many more but don’t want to push too hard). I like the ease of administration and the use of widgets that allow such easy access to load and share videos, audio, and anything else you can think of.


And again, this is just another tool for creating a sense of community, so I enjoy “seeing” some old friends and some new friends in the Ning space. And that is a big part of the social networking experience, I think.

Peace (with networks),

Social Networking Videos

I came across two wonderful videos about social networking this past week that I have shared elsewhere but want to keep on sharing, since I do believe that this wave of technology is still on the way up and is gaining more footholds every day.

Here is one in general about social networking from Common Craft folks:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

And here is one made by Chris Sloan, a Writing Project friend and fellow musician from Utah, about using Elgg networks in the classroom:

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I’ll write more this week about my own forays into social networking (as a participant and as a creator).

Peace (with you, and you, and you …),

What We Do Online

This graph comes from a report in BusinessWeek and is kind of interesting to think about, particularly in terms of generational divides, but also in terms of the amount of time people are using to create their own content online.

(You will have to follow the link to see the actual graph — this one came out too small to read unless you wear microscopes for glasses)

Here is a link to the article itself.

Peace (in ever growing numbers),


Back on the Grid

I’m crossing my fingers here but I believe I have finally regained access to my Edublogs. It’s a long story that has to do with technical stuff that I don’t even understand but it seems to have been resolved (although now I see that James is doing more maintenance this weekend so I will hold my tongue).

Anyway, last week, I received my latest issue of Wired Magazine and, there, on the cover, was … me.

Back in February, the magazine had said it would personalize the July covers for the first 5,000 readers who sent in a photo. So, I did it, and then forgot all about it until it came in the mail last week. My sons were quite impressed and thought I was famous, although they could not figured out what Wired meant and why anyone would use that word for the name of a magazine.

It’s great to be back blogging again.

Peace (with consistency),

Radio Silence

It’s been days since I have been able to blog and even now, I had to move from my desktop to my laptop and tap into a neighbor’s wireless network. The updates to Edublogs by James, combined with some lack of updating the cache system through my Internet provider, has left me staring at error messages at my blog sites for the last week. I am still trying to get my provider to help me out and I hope for progress today. Ahhhh.

But it is strange — this desire to want to write and blog and share, and being unable to do so in a way that has become second nature and comfortable for me — via this blog site, and I miss it terribly. I don’t know why, but I do. I guess the daily act of writing and sharing and thinking has become part of my world in a very natural way, and so the disruption of technology in that process is a bit jarring for me.

So what have I been doing?

I’ve been touring through the Ning network a bit deeper, writing some poetry, and starting a self-publishing venture through Lulu — Later this week, I get a proof copy of a novella of a story called The Note Who Got Lost in the Masterpiece and a book of poems inspired by a vacation trip to the coast of Maine in 2004 that I published yesterday on Lulu. I don’t expect to get rich off this venture but at the very least, I want to have bound copies of my writing for my sons to have and be able to read, and think: my dad is a writer.

Plus, I need to start thinking of my claymation camp that starts next week. I began a blog for that camp to share the kids’ work ( with family and our network of teachers in the Western Mass Writing Project. Which reminds me — I need clay! And markers! and other materials!

Oh, and I began to use concept mapping tool to conceptualize how the new blogs in our Massachusetts Writing Project network are interconnected. Here is my Map of the Blogs.

And finally — we are off to see the Boston Red Sox play ball on July 4 in Beantown on a mini-vacation (says the Yankees fan in a family of Red Sox lovers!)

Peace (with patience),

My Collaborator and Friend: Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

June brought some really wonderful news to our school. My good friend and collaborator on claymation/movie projects — Mike Flynn — was awarded the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year designation for 2007. Mike is a wonderful second grade teacher whose emphasis on hands-on learning, project-based explorations and embedded mathematics certainly puts him in a top tier of teachers I know.

Mike2For the past three years, his second graders and my sixth graders have worked together on claymation movies and it has been a pleasure to develop the project with Mike. He is insightful, flexible and moves towards recognition of the abilities of all the children in his room. Last year, Mike also joined me in presenting a workshop on moviemaking in the classroom at our Technology, Teaching and Writing Conference at UMass (sponsored in part by the Western Massachusetts Writing Project).

He is also a talented musician and he and I have played together as part of an old band of his and he has brought his talents to the stage at our school when I have helped our Student Council organize concerts for Katrina victims and the Asian tsunami disaster. Like me, he finds creative refuge in writing songs.

Mike deserves all of the accolades and is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year (where do I cram the ballot boxes?).

Peace (in celebration),