Day in a Sentence: Happy Holidays

It’s started out as another slow week here at the Day in a Sentence front office. I was thinking the writers were on strike, just like in Hollywood, or maybe they were just taking a well-deserved break from the action. Then, the words came pouring in and my bin was overflowing with treats. In any event, I want to wish everyone a peaceful holiday (if you are on one) and a wonderful New Year.

Here are the entries for this week:

First up is my friend, Joe, who has just joined me and some others in the Youth Radio network and he posted some of his students’ personal narratives this weekend. Joe had a bit of a pleasant surprise this week: “Contemporary medicine said it wasn’t possible, but mother nature proved them wrong: my wife is expecting.” (Big huge congrats to you and your wife, Joe).

The Mindful Teacher is ready to relax. “Survival is my goal this week of parties and pinatas and 2nd Grade buddies and holiday crafts and parties and . . . thank God it’s Friday and we all get a break!

Eric reminds us that family is most important and also (speaking as a father of three little boys, including one with an ear infection) that putting out fires comes day and night. “I have not left the house so far this week except to shovel snow for an hour, go to the pediatrician and a short refuge of yoga, due to the illness competition between my two girls, which is clearly being dominated at night by the older (7) and by day by the younger (3).”

Matt (who will be our first guest host for Day in a Sentence in the 2008) has a laundry list of things he hopes to do, although I notice that laundry is not on the list — but a new computer is (lucky man). “Vacation is a chance for teachers to catch up with old friends, play tennis, play the guitar, fix the car, visit the doctor, clean up the house, reflect on the year behind and the one ahead, read a book, straighten the virtual desktop, and buy a new 24-inch iMac.

Mary had many challenges before her this week (including writing her sentence, she notes) but I think she passed them all with flying colors. At the very least, she fine-tuned her sentence to capture her week. “Brevity was the key word for this week, and although trying to be more concise has been a challenge, it has allowed me to connect with others in new ways: I struggled with Twitter and its character limit of 140; revised my ‘Week in a Sentence’ contribution multiple times; and finally passed the challenge to my EFL students who wrote story pyramids (instead of more lengthy and detailed paragraphs) about their favorite graded readers, movies, and Japanese folk tales.

Alice may be exhausted but she is also rejuvenated by the efforts of the students. Maybe that is a sentence that can sum up the various weeks for most of us. Thanks to Alice for sharing. “As the week progresses (and I find myself recovering from short sleep, migraines, etc.) I start the day focusing on survival, but I am amazed by the amount of writing, and the effort my ELD students are continuing to put into their work–it’s made my week.”

Bonnie‘s love for the movies comes through in her sentence, as does her compassion for others. “I am filled with movies at the moment, seeing them, writing about them on my blog and planning how I can fit more in and last night Charlie Wilson’s War was outstanding, and in the midst of everything movies, I made time for contributing to charities, so it’s not just about my pleasure.

Karen thought she missed my deadline but I will always try to flex any deadlines for her. She just posted some very cool information about digital portfolios at her site. “The semester is over, my house is clean, and my children are home for the holidays so I am ready to start the one week of the year when I do little work; instead I pay close attention to my life, savor it, and give thanks for it.

Nancy is moving on (maybe to my neck of the woods? She was considering it at one time and even did some scouting of Western Massachusetts) and I hope she stays connected and doesn’t have too many “misadventures” out there. “It’s been a wild ride but on January 29th, it all comes to an end as I hang up my teacher hat and seek new misadventures.

Larry must have spent much of Saturday scouring his resources because he came up with some fantastic Top Ten lists that all of us could bookmark for future references. Thanks, Larry, for doing the work for us. I particularly like the ELL sites and they are something I will be sharing through my teaching networks. “It’s been fun, and helpful for my own planning, compiling lists of the year’s best websites of the year in various categories — Best Online Learning Games, Best Web 2.0 Applications, Best Internet Sites for English Language Learners.

Gail got caught reading (good for her) and then did some writing (good for her, too). “Started reading Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and couldn’t put it down – not to worry, there’s still one more day to finish Christmas shopping.”

Christina had food on her mind and invites us into a virtual festive feast.”My sister and I had a phone conversation about how our Christmas plans have changed now that our kids are grown and we don’t have to jump through hoops: she’s making French toast with sausage ‘n gravy and watching videos, and I’m having a Marie Callender’s turkey dinner and working on my website with YouTube music videos playing in the background!

And Mr. Murphy continues to find faith in his student’s ability to learn and demonstrate learning. “Don’t know how long it’ll be till I return to blogging, but what I’ve found via my new online class is that students can churn out some impressive work — one of whom weaved a magical web tying Ayn Rand’s anthem to an analysis of our culture — and that they’re happy to show up for class.

Cynthia longs for her family at this time of year (and I had the pleasure of meeting her son last month in NYC). “The trauma of giving and grading exams and the glory of the school-wide Christmas program were all mixed up the last week of school before at school Christmas vacation, but the best part of my week happened on Wednesday and Thursday when Adair, Tommy, and Tommy LaRue and Win arrived home for a long visit; family at home is what my week was all about.”

Cheryl is knee-deep in technology, helping others find a path from one platform to another. “My last week of work for the year 2007 found me reflecting on the monumental changes that have occurred in my district, namely 170 moodle pages were developed since August 2007, 50 HS teachers migrated to using Macbooks from PC without too many tears and this brings me to say have a great winter holiday break, see you in 2008.”

And Lynn sums up everything with one word: “Peace.”

Happy Holidays everyone!!!

Peace (in partnerships),
Kevin

The XO Arrival

A few months ago, I decided to parlay some workshop stipends into supporting the One Laptop Per Child movement by buying one of their new XO laptops (and then they send the second one that comes as part of the purchase to a child in a developing country). Part of it was wanting to support the effort and part of it was wondering what these machines were like, as they surely are the first step towards cheap and durable computers for children around the world.

One of their missions statements that I like:

We want the child to interact with the laptop on as deep a level as he or she desires. Children program the machine, not the other way around

Yesterday, the XO arrived in a small package and in about five minutes, my three year old son and I were taking pictures of ourselves, videos of us being goofy and audio of us singing. There are no instructions (I have to go online to get some more details about using the laptop) but it seemed pretty easy to use.

The drawback is that it is slow (not much RAM, I guess) and the keyboard and screen are small. I’ll have to delve in a bit more over holiday break. Over at the OLPC wiki site, you can see how many programs come with the machine and how many are being developed for the future. Very cool.

Peace (in little green machines),
Kevin

PS — here is a cool little video from the perspective of a child explaining the XO.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/McgheKrupxc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Day in a Sentence: December 19

Larry did an outstanding job with the Day in the Sentence feature last week and I want to invite you all to join the growing community of contributors. And thanks to Cheryl for the mention at the TechLearning site, too. Day in Sentence Icon

It is simple:

  • Boil down your week or a day into a single sentence
  • Use the comment feature here to share your sentence (comments are moderated so be alarmed if they don’t show up)
  • Please leave your blog address so that we can link to you and expand our community of Web-based contacts
  • I encourage you to podcast your sentence — either provide a link to your own podcast hosting site or you can email your mp3 file to me at dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com if you want.
  • I will compile all of the writing all for release on Sunday

Here is my sentence (and you can listen as a podcast, too):

I entered the delicate art of negotiations with 11 year olds this week as I tried to make them understand that a puppet play for little kids should probably not have references to Brittany Spears coming out of rehab nor should the play have characters being sent off to a “special needs facility” as some kind of punishment nor should we celebrate the life of “gangsters,” and I once again realized how much my students are caught up in the collision of pop culture and media overload.

Peace (in collaboration),
Kevin

A Podcasting Gift to Students

I normally don’t give out class presents. I figure that my presence and energy each and every day is enough (hopefully) of a gift to my students. They work hard, and I work hard, and we all have fun. This year, however, as I was sharing some of my podcast work with the sixth graders at this blog, a friend suggested that I burn the audio files onto a CD for families who might not have access to the classroom blog where the podcasts are shared.

What a great idea, and so I went ahead, and burned each of my homeroom students (20 of ’em) a copy of their voices, with a quick intro and outro from me, and then used some new CD package software to create CD covers for them.

It didn’t take much time and I believe it will be most appreciated by the parents and students.

Peace (in sharing voices),
Kevin

Students 2.0

A group of students — reflective, opinionated and resourceful — have started up a wonderful site to give voice to those minds in our classrooms who feel frustrated and confined by much of the educational practice of our world.

The site is called Students 2.o and you can sense the exploration and learning and leadership that is being developed there by these students from across the world, as they use a blog for a platform for their views. They are advocates for change, and they are articulating the need for that change in new ways.

I hope teachers are listening (or it is another case of the teachers who are reading Students 2.0 already believe and the ones these students need to reach don’t even know how to find such a blog? I know the answer to my question, don’t you?)

Here is the first part of the Students 2.0 mission statement:

For decades, students have been stuck in classrooms, behind desks, being told how and what to learn. For a time, when students were expected to become widgets for the vast machine of industry, this model of education was highly effective. However, we have now entered a new age: an age where thinking is more important than knowing, where thoughts out-do the facts. Borders are melting away; project teams collaborate across the globe and intelligence is being continually redefined. The world’s information is at our fingertips and anybody can publish their thoughts for virtually no cost.

Peace (in empowering students),
Kevin

The Puppets! The Puppets!

Each December is puppet creation and theater writing for my sixth graders, and it is always a flurry of panic (we perform for younger kids this week!!) as time runs out, scripts are completed and puppets are constructed. I usually try to film the puppet shows for the web (and will try this week) but until then, I created this little video so that parents can get a glimpse of what we are doing.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-2300864688933673392" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

(I taught a group of my students how to use my Super Dooper Music Looper software and then I asked them to create the soundtrack for the video)

You can also access a few of the scripts as PDF files (all plays revolve around an invented holiday):

Peace (in puppets),
Kevin

Day in a Sentence: New Voices

Larry Ferlazzo took the reins of Day in a Sentence this week (head to Larry’s site) and as a result, there were many new and wonderful voices as part of the mix, including some of Larry’s own students (which is an interesting concept). I like that Larry’s connections brought in people from other parts of the world and I hope they continue to contribute to the feature.

I am going to host the feature again this coming week (be on the lookout for the typical midweek announcement) and then we may take a week off for holiday vacation, and then return with Matt Needleman at the helm as guest host.

Peace (in collaboration),
Kevin

A Poem for Bella

We put our family dog, Bella, down to sleep yesterday and so it was a very sad time for all of us here, as our three young boys have known her as a friend and protector, and she was the first dog that I ever owned.

We also had a snowstorm here in New England during her final days and the pure whiteness of the snow, and its temporary nature, reminded me of her white coat of fur and those thoughts and the sadness of making the decision to end her life to spare her suffering sparked this poem in her memory.

All One of the Same (for Bella)
Listen to the Poem

I covet the unblemished snow —
the blanket of white replenished in this candlelight’s flickering glow —
knowing all the while how temporary this is
and how this earth will surely rise up to reclaim it
for another time;
another place.
It is all one of the same.
This flurry of contemplation brings on such a sudden sadness of loss,
so I reach out my fingers to gather up every flake falling
in order to watch the world disappear.
I hold tight to the memory of the moment
so that it
— all of it: the snow, the whiteness, the love —
may live on inside of me forever.

Peace (in dog heaven),
Kevin

Radio Lab

This site crossed my Bloglines from Brian Lamb’s site and I listened to it with headphones and was blown away. (It kind of reminded me of Pink Floyd, but as a podcast and around the topic of science, if that makes any sense at all).

It’s called Radio Lab and it a radio show from NYC that is also a podcast. It’s worth your time to take a listen. Notice how they effectively use audio editing and the concept of the Internet connections and Web 2.0 in their shows.

radio_lab_logo_lg.jpg

Here is one of the shows that could be called Sound is Touch at a Distance in which the creators of the show talk about what sound is and how it can be used to tell a story. I particularly like the “telling” of what sound waves look like and what that means to us as listeners and scientists (heck, we are all scientists, if you think about it, charting new discoveries every day).

Peace (in podcasts),
Kevin

Happy Birthday to Blogs

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What has blogging meant for you as a teacher and writer?
Wikipedia marks December 17 as the official Birthday of the Weblog and some folks — including Steve, the creator of Classroom 2.0 — have created a site (via a blog, of course) to celebrate its impact. The site is called Celebrating Educational Blogging and the VoiceThread above is from that blog and it asks you to post some reflections on what impact blogging has had for you. (You can also leave comments right at the celebration blog site).

I love this intro from the site:

Some of us believe that blogging, as one of the great entry points into the “read/write” web (or “Web 2.0”), is having a transformative impact on education and learning, and that we are at the start of a new renaissance that will be defined by the participatory, contributive, and collaborative nature of the Web.

What? You haven’t tried VoiceThread yet? Here is a wonderful chance. Just sign up and click your microphone and start threading your thoughts.

Peace (in blogs),
Kevin