Capturing Claymation Activity

We spent a lot of time working on Claymation Movies yesterday and, with a couple of exceptions, the students were really focused. Much of the work was just capturing the raw video, which requires patience and teamwork and a vision of how the stories might unfold. The theme this year is Climate Change, and I am going about the movie making process a little different than in years past (I will reflect later).

But as I was helping the groups, I took a couple of pictures of them at work, and made this collage.

I love their little creatures!
Peace (in multicolored clay),

Branding Thyself and Other Comment Challenge Ideas

(Playing catch-up today)

1. The other day, the task before folks in the 31 Day Comment Challenge was to consider how to best brand ourselves as part of our blog. I mulled this over, ignored it, then mulled it again, and then realized that I was having reservations about this topic. I wrote a comment over at Michele’s blog, where the tasks are being released each day, about my thoughts.

Here is what I wrote:

Hi there, Michele,
You know, I saw this task and ignored it, and then I went back and tried to figure out why I did not want to write about “branding.” I think it has to do with the perception that a brand is a commercial endeavor — the selling of self and ideas for some sort of profit (maybe not money, but recognition?).
And that rubs me the wrong way, although I know that some folks are making their blogging into their business. And a brand makes that easier.
I did read the post by Dauwd, which did explain the topic but I felt unconvinced by it all.
This issue of branding must touch some strain in me, so I am opting to pass on the branding questions for now.
Thanks, however, for giving me a platform here to express some thoughts. I expect others will disagree with me on this one, which if fine.

take care

What do you think? Was I misreading the whole “branding” idea? I would love to know if folks see the idea of a brand as important to you as a blogger and visitor to other sites. For me, I am looking for reflection, insight and personality — but maybe that is the “brand” that Michele is writing about.

The one thing that Dauwd wrote in the article reference in this task is that he realized at one point that he had multiple user names and nicknames floating all around the blogosphere and he made an effort to bring all of those personas under one “roof,” to speak. He hopes that people who see his name in comments and in article and on blogs will connect with him, and him alone.

2. I may just be cranky, but the next task was to consider how you use commenting to keep building the brand of your blog. Michele pointed us to an article that was interesting but the one fact that kept point out to me: the blogger uses the concept of comments in order to bring people back to her own blog. That seems disingenuous to me. I know it is a common reason for many to blog. But not me. I comment because I want to have a voice, and I want to engage in conversation, and not that I want people to follow me back home to my blog. The blogger did have some other interesting points — mostly from a business standpoint, it seemed to me — and it occurred to me that there is some sort of invisible line here among those who blog just for the sake of writing and sharing, and those who do the same but then use blogs as a way to create a professional presence for business interests (such as consulting, workshops, etc.) Interesting insight for me, anyway.

Let me know if you have thoughts on this topic.

Peace (in words),

Your Day in a Comic

(click on picture to get bigger image)
Yes, in a comic. But not if you don’t want to. In recent workshops with teachers, and with my own students, we have used this very easy-to-use site called Make Beliefs Comics. It has limits, but ease of use is key.
So, for this week’s Day in a Sentence, I ask you to consider creating a Day in a Comic. You can use any format you want. If you do use Make Beliefs Comics, however, be sure to email your comic to me (dogtrax-at-gmail-dot-com) so I can collect them.
As a matter of fact, you can email me any of your comics, whatever the format. Or post a link to them here, if you can upload them yourself. I hope to collect and post them all together, in some format (any ideas?)
And if the idea of creating a comic is not quite your thing, feel free to just submit your day as a sentence in the traditional way via the comment feature on this post.
Peace (in days),

Gail Updates Her Edublogs Manual

Whenever I have given a workshop on Edublogs for teachers interested in blogging for themselves or their classrooms, I have always turned to the manual put together by my friend, Gail Desler, who is part of the Area 3 Writing Project and who is the “blogwalker” (I love that name). Her clear and concise steps and explanations, and her willingness to share, are greatly appreciated. So when Edublogs did a major make-over this past week (and it looks fantastic to me), Gail was just about to finish up a revision to her old manual. She quickly went back to work and came up with a revised, revised Edublogs Manual.

Thanks, Gail, for sharing your work with us.

Head to Gail’s Introductory Manual to Edublogs 3.0

Peace (in sharing),

The Comment Challenge as Sketchcast

The 31 Day Comment Challenge is nearing its end, and the task before us today (or was it yesterday?) was to explore some different kind of medium. I turned to Sketchcast, which is a neat little platform that allows you to sketch and embed as a video file into blogs. It’s a bit difficult to talk and draw (for me anyway) but I thought I would reflect quickly on how the Comment Challenge is bringing me outside of my traditional blogging circles in interesting ways. I then tried to capture that in my crude drawing.

Sketchcast is probably not the best for commenting, but it does offer the chance to reflect in a different way other than just writing. And for the artistically talented among us (not me), it might give an inroad to a different slant of creative expression. There is a place for people to comment right at the sketch itself at Sketchcast, however.

Why not give the sketching of your brain a try and provide me with a link? I will check it out and comment for you. (If you want to see the original sketchcast, here is the link)

Peace (in sketches),

Slice of Life, Weekly Challenge: Chapter 9

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

Remember Spy Vs. Spy?

In Mad Magazine, the two nutty spies would try to outdo each other each episode, but you always got the sense they were just two sides of the same character.

This week, I have been thinking of Bella Vs. Bella. As some of my regular readers know, we had to put our old dog, Bella, down at the end of last year. She was my very first dog, and good dog for the most part, and that is her picture that you see as my avatar (in case you ever wondered why I have a dog head for my avatar — plus, my nickname is Dog before ‘Dawg’ was slang). I figured the use of her image would be a nice way for me to remember her.

Bella has been on my brain because we have been dog-sitting a friend’s dog this long Memorial Dat weekend whose name, get ready, is … Bella. And so, I take this Slice to compare and contrast the two Bellas in a fun exercise of reflection and rememberance.

Here is my old Bella:

Bella headshot

Here is the visiting Bella:

As part of Slice of Life, I give you Bella Vs. Bella (the breakdown)

  • Fur Color: Our Bella (white) and Visiting Bella (black, with some white and brown markings)
  • Breed: Our Bella (German Shepard/Husky mix) and Visiting Bella (Bernese Mountain)
  • Size: Our Bella (medium) and Visiting Bella (large and growing)
  • Demeanor: Our Bella (energetic) and Visiting Bella (goofy)
  • Intelligence: Our Bella (extremely smart) and Visiting Bella (kind of dimwitted)
  • Child-friendliness: Our Bella (protective) and Visiting Bella (loving)
  • Guarding the House: Our Bella (always vigilant) and Visiting Bella (a welcome wag for anyone – friend or foe)
  • Other dogs: Our Bella (mortal enemies) and Visiting Bella (potential friend)
  • Cuddle Factor: Our Bella (great) and Visiting Bella (great)

There are no winners in this game, except for us. We loved having the visiting Bella here, although her large size and goofiness put her right in our path wherever we went. We could barely get in the house when we came back home as her big body just filled the doorway.

Peace (in dogs),

The Rainbow Hue of Our Days in a Sentence

Anne M. creatively decided to use PowerPoint as the coloured backdrop (notice I used the non-American spelling there) of PowerPoint to cast our words against the colours of our days. I took that powerpoint and made them into pictures so I could share here. (you can also view it as a Flickr slideshow here)

Come on back later this week and join us for another round of Day in a Sentence!
Peace (in words),

Memoir Mondays: KISS it goodbye

(this is part of Memoir Mondays over at Two Writing Teachers)

I grew up on KISS.
Not just the ones from Mom and Dad but the over-the-top rock and roll band, KISS.
For a long stretch of my adolescent childhood, my entire neighborhood was enamored with this glam band as it hit the world stage with their dramatics (fire-breathing bass players, unnaturally-extended tongues, animal-inspired painted faces, the whole shebang). I even collected KISS comic books. Remember them? Rock and rollers transformed as superheroes.
At our bus stop before school in the mornings, we all used to take on characters of the band, and pretend that a fallen tree stump was the stage. We’d use the light from the rising sun on our hiking boots to create over-sized shadow images on the pavement as a way to replicate the patented KISS boots (a sort of stiletto heel, but huge, almost like teeth coming out of the foot). We’d listen to the songs on the albums (oh god) for hours at a time, singing out loud to the chorus: I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night and Party Every DAY!!! (emphasis on Day, since we were kids and nighttime partying was a great unknown …. for now)
We followed the drama of KISS as the band considered removing their make-up and what it might mean to the band. We also were curious what they really looked like underneath the layers of disguise. (It later turned out they looked pretty ugly and should have kept the paint on)

So, imagine the looks I got one day when I went and traded my sacred KISS Alive II double vinyl album for an older Earth, Wind and Fire disc. I still don’t know why I did it. Perhaps I was having KISS fatigue. Perhaps, as a saxophone player, I was searching for something with horns. Maybe I needed some groove. I could have been muscled into it by my older brother’s friend (I was very susceptible to peer pressure by the older kids in the neighborhood), but I don’t think so.

Earth, Wind and Fire were not unknown to me. My dad has a pretty eclectic taste and I heard all sorts of music as I was growing up, including Maurice White and company. I thought it was lame, until I started to actually listen.
The first time I put that Earth, Wind and Fire album on, though, my needle exploded with the sound of “Shining Star” and I was never quite the same. With the chorus of “Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be,” I was hooked. “September” still has me dancing, even though the sound is, well, so 70’s.
Oh, sure, I had still had my Foghat albums. And Led Zep still has a certain place in my heart. Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and others never left my collection until I grew up and weeded out the vinyl memories of my youth (I still have a Zep CD, though).
But with that Earth, Wind and Fire album, I realized that there was a whole other world of music out there to explore and I couldn’t spend all of my time listening to KISS. Plus, the ballad “Beth” was getting sappy to my ears.
Earth, Wind and Fire kick-started my heart and I never turned back.

What music informed your childhood?

Peace (in notes between the ages),

Comment Challenge and the Googlish Rosetta Stone

Today’s task for the 31 Day Comment Challenge was to find a blog in another language, translate it and then post a comment on that blog in the language of the owner. Intriguing. But interesting, and certainly it was something I had not yet ever done before. I keep to the English language, which seems so parochial these days, doesn’t it?

I should have known that Google would come to the rescue, though. I tapped into Google Translater and then translated the key words “elementary education” into spanish, and then used Google Blog Search to find some Spanish blogs. I toggled back and forth with Google Translator, trying to find a blog that interested me. So many were pure political blogs, talking about revolution and insurrection. Perhaps that is a glimpse of the underground world where blogs are the main platform for activism against governments.

Anyway, I found Fermin Tellez, a blogger from Monterrey, Mexico.

This file has been created and published by FireShot

Fermin was writing about a historical figure from his community (Michael Martinez). Martinez was an educator, but also a musician, artist and writer. That is a combination of talents that interests me. So I was curious about the place Martinez has in Fermin’s community. I went into Google Translater and created this comment:


Please forgive my language here, as I am using the Google Translater to go from English to Spanish. I am visiting your blog as part of a project called the 31 Day Comment Challenge, and one of the tasks is to visit a blog from another language than our own.
I teach 11 and 12 year olds in Western Massachusetts, United States. I am their writing teacher.

I was interested in the blog post you created because I am intrigued by music and education, and the place that musicians have in society. It seems clear that Michael F. Martinez was important figure in your community. Senor Martinez clearly had many skills (musician, artist, politician, educator).

Did you create this blog post to remember him?

Thank you

Kevin Hodgson


SaludosPor favor, perdone mi idioma aquí, como estoy utilizando el traductor de Google para ir de Inglés a Español. Estoy visitando su blog como parte de un proyecto denominado el Día 31 Comentario Challenge, y una de las tareas es la de visitar un blog de otra lengua que la nuestra.
Enseño 11 y 12 años de edad en el oeste de Massachusetts, Estados Unidos. Estoy escribiendo su maestro.

Yo estaba interesado en el blog que ha creado porque estoy intrigado por la música y la educación, y el lugar que los músicos tienen en la sociedad. Parece claro que Michael F. Martínez fue figura importante en su comunidad. Señor Martínez claramente había muchas habilidades (músico, artista, político, educador).

¿Te ha crear este blog para recordar él?


Kevin Hodgson

Of course, I wonder if Google Translator did a good job with my words. And I wish that Fermin had an About Me page at his site, so I could have learned more about him. Then, I thought, do I have an About Me here at my site? Need to check. I used to but I think it is gone now.
Have you gone off to any non-native language blogs today?
La Paz (en una gira mundial),

More Comment Challenges

The 31 Day Comment Challenge is still going strong and two of the tasks from this week were to highlight a comment on our blog that seemed to resonate with us and also, to reflect on what we think makes for a good comment. So, I spent some time moving back in time through the comment bin (and getting used to the nice new upgrade to WP2 in Edublogs). There are quite a few comments in there (thanks to everyone).

The comment I am going to choose is from Carla, who was responding to a post I wrote earlier this week about a virtual mentoring that I had done this year with a high school student learning about claymation animation. Carla wrote:

Dear Bryan and Kevin,

Your partnership has proven to be a fantastic way for a wonderful visual result! Great, Bryan. Your claymation shows how hard you worked. It would be great to hear the stages to make it, the behind the scenes, so others could profit from your own journey.

I chose Carla’s comment because it was clear that she had read my post, watched the video and offered some reflective insight. Carla’s words connected with me here. There were other folks who wrote nice things, too. I liked how Carla was speaking both to me and the student with encouragement. And, she seems to truly want to know more. Thank you, Carla!

Now, what do I think makes for a good comment?

  • The comment adds some insight into the discussion and moves it forward;
  • The comment values the original writer and builds on those thoughts;
  • The comment is constructive and not destructive;
  • The comment may pose a question or thought-provoking angle on the issue;
  • The comment serves as a building block for community.
  • (And as we are learning with this challenge) The comment may generate healthy debate in order to bring the commenter back later for further discussion.

What do you think makes for a good comment on a blog?

Peace (in words),