I returned home from Nashville yesterday afternoon from the annual meeting of the National Writing Project armed and ready with new ideas and full of questions about which direction our Western Massachusetts Writing Project site and my classroom should be going, given the influx of new tools and ideas that are out there.
I will be podcasting some of my audio postcard that I created this past week at Nashville for our WMWP Newsletter site but until then, here are some insights:
- Once again: What an amazing group of teachers we have in the NWP network and it is at all levels. I am most closely connected with the Tech Liaisons but this annual meeting really drives home the passion and energy of teachers who view writing as central to the learning process. I am not alone in the woods! 🙂
- I took part in three workshops, including one about writing in the digital age. I presented a case study about digital picture books but other presenters showed a virtual museum, video storytelling, audio and writing connections and the change in audience, and others. I am not convinced writing has changed in these studies but it was fascinating and inspiring work.
- With the launch of the second year of our large Weblog project called Making Connections (using technology to connect students in rural and urban districts), I suddenly became aware of how the Manila blog platform just isn’t what we need and now I am scrambling to find a better platform (Elgg is one under consideration). It’s a bit scary to change, considering we have intended to launch Year Two in the next six to eight weeks. But the NWP network will do that to you — inspire you to reach out in new directions. And, I figure, if the goal of our project is to build community among writers and the Manila just isn’t cutting it, then let’s be bold and find the right platform to accomplish our goals.
- Finally, it was great to connect with fellow technology powerhouses from both Tech Matters (this past summer) and to connect faces and voices to blogs on my aggregator (Bud the Teacher, etc).
More to come later …. until then, peace.
I continue with my expedition into the world of audiobooks with a second chapter in my story called Lost Songs of Paradise: Tales from Mac’s Music Shack.
Listen to the second installment called The Saxophonist’s Tale Sax
You can also read along and see some video introductions to the story at the main Story Page. And Bella will read once again (good dog).
As I have been listening to some audiobooks with my children lately, I have been wondering how it would be to create an audiobook of my own via podcasting. So, as with other ventures on this Weblog site, I figured I might as well try it.
So here goes: This is the first installment of my book called Lost Songs of Paradise: Tales from Mac’s Music Shack. The story revolves around music (a common theme of my writing) and uses classic English Literature as the organizing structure behind the stories. I’ll post a reflection on the experience of creating this audiobook at another time.
Meanwhile, my dog Bella will serve as the virtual narrator of this book. (woof)
Listen to the Introductory chapter of Lost Songs of Paradise or you can read along with my audio by using the Story file I have started here. Introduction
As I go through this project, I am keeping in the back of my mind that this is something I want my sixth grade writers to experience. Thus, it is more than personal here, although self-publishing this way is certainly a motivation for me, too.
My students have just completed a big art project around the theme of Celebrating Peace and their work is now hanging all around the hallways of my school. We also have them writing about why peace should be important to young people and to explain the symbolism of their art. It is very interesting to see sixth-graders tussle with the idea of a peaceful world in a time of war.
I thought I would capture some of that work through video and so I am sharing that video with parents at another Weblog site but I figured it would be nice to share it here, too.
Peace (in every way possible),
I took part in a skypecast this week with Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim on the Teachers Teaching Teachers network (which is a wonderful and insightful weekly program) and they just put the link up on their site. We talked about podcasting and the Youth Radio project that I am helping to lead with upper elementary students from my own school in Massachusetts and other schools across the country.
Take a listen to the podcast Teachers Teaching Teachers
This is the second installment of a poem for my OnPoEvMo Poetry Project.
There’s a poem buried in my backyard:
something left behind by someone else
who used to live here —
someone whose coffee cups are now just broken shards forced to the Earth’s surface
every spring by the frost heaves,
along with discarded bones from some old dog or wayward cat
or maybe a perfectly good person whose time just ran out.
I wouldn’t exactly call it treasure – these ceramic, organic tokens from the past —
except for the poem:
the poem that remains buried there in the fertile soil
– I can hear its Siren call late at night when my mind races
and my pen only writes in the ink of invisibility and forgetfulness —
I have the map but the shovel?
The shovel is nowhere to be found.
Listen to me read the poem Buried
(This is the first installment of my One Poem Every Month for One Year project)
Talking Billy Collins Blues
I called on Billy Collins last night
And he asked me outright if I was disturbed
To which I replied,
Yes, slightly, sorry for the intrusion
but how do you write a poem every month for a year
And where do I look for lost words — the ones I have misplaced with time?
Billy slipped me a piece of paper when we were done talking
leaving me alone with nothing much but that paper.
I could just make out some red ink scribbles and a few doodles
when I held that thin skin of a tree up to the light
and let the paper become a translucent buffer between me
and the muse.
I held Billy Collins in my hand for hours,
nursing him like the last drink of the night when daylight is looming,
afraid to even look
because if it did hold the key then my search would be over
and why write poems after that?
So I crumpled Billy up and tossed him into the street bin
(apologizing profusely for being so impolite)
and I chased my own shadow all the way back home
in the darkness of memories.
And that’s when I really began to write.
Listen to me read my poem Talking Billy Collins Blues
I was reading through a profile of playwright Suzan-Lori Parks in The New Yorker (Oct. 30 2006) last week, intrigued by the wit and intelligence and liveliness of her as a writer and observer of the human condition. (Parks once went to college in my part of Western Massachusetts, so I seem drawn to her name when she wins awards or takes on new projects).
At one point, she decided she would write one play every single day for a year.
“Sometimes, I would write in the security line at the airport, you know? …. A lot of them were written in hotels … I didn’t limit the time. I sat down and did it and then kind of went on with the day.” — Parks.
Now Parks is collaborating with some other folks to produce her plays on one day in different venues in the country. Wow!
It reminded me of another project I heard about, called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in which participants are invited to write an entire novel from start to finish during the month of November. I can’t possibly take that on right now but next year … I hope so.
BUT — what if I tried to write One Poem Every Month for One Year? (And call it OnPoEvMo? I kind of like that).
So that is what I am going to try to do, using this blog as my publishing platform for this very personal project. And it may be more than one poem … who knows? Plus, I intend to podcast my reading of the poems, and maybe a video here and there. I am going to try to dig at my life through poetry — as a teacher, as a parent, as a writer, as a musician — whatever the inspiration.
Now, let’s get started.
The other day, my eight-year-old son drew a picture with portaits of everyone in our immediate family: himself, his two younger brothers, his mom, our dog and cat, and, of course, me. The details are quite good (even if the video here is grainy), although we all wonder why some of us look mad or sad. He won’t say. 🙂
Plus, I want to test out embedding Google Video.
In a few weeksl, I am heading to Nashville for the National Writing Project Annual Meeting and I am taking part in a workshop about writing in the digital age. (Here is my slide presentation using SlideShare — a new favorite) I will discuss a Digital Math Picture Book Project that I did with my sixth graders last year that used Powerpoint as the platform.
But the question is: Why use the computers to compose a picture book? Why not just stick to paper and pen?
Here are my thoughts:
One guiding question that I went into this math picture book project with was, how will the composing process change for my sixth graders as they create picture books using technology (Powerpoint) as opposed to previous years when it was all paper and pen? They had to write a story that taught a math theme to an audience of younger students.
First of all, the planning did not change much at all. We still did all of the brainstorming work and storyboarding on paper before the computers were even turned on. But early in the process, some students began to think about the various aspects of PP (images that can move in and off the screen and transitions and the integration of audio) as possible ideas for complementing their writing. (They had been introduced to PP earlier in the year). They also had to integrate their own art into the picture books — they could scan in images they drew or they could use Paint and then import. (Most of them used Paint, although that was a struggle for some).
The result was an interesting combination of old and new for my students.
Some composed “shows” that allowed the reader to listen for clues to math problems embedded within the story. Once the reader has some ideas of an answer to the question, they could use the mouse click to “remove” a picture and reveal the answer. Sometimes, the audio file was merely a word of encouragement and sometimes the audio was a narration of the story. We invited younger grades (mostly k-3) to our classrooms and set up computer stations. My students then not only shared their work but they also explained to the younger ones how they made their books on the computer and how the tricks were accomplished (such as moving images). Some made changes to the books after getting a reaction from one round of readers. Unlike paper, they could make changes immediately and in a few minutes time.
We did not go into hyperlinking to other pages in the book or outside of the books but that is something that might provide an even more powerful platform for extending their knowledge base (and the reader’s base of understanding) from the local (their book) to the global (the world).
The final step was publication. We actually printed out two paper copies of every book (one for the student and one for the school) and then I converted the books to PDF and posted to our Weblog site for families to view. (There were too many and they were just too large to post as PP shows but that would be have been ideal). What happened, of course, is that I had to flatten everything out to two-dimensional space, which meant that the audio files were deleted and any hidden answers had to be revealed or else they would be missing from the printed page, which led to an interesting discussion about the differences between composition on paper and composition on powerpoint. Many of the writers were disappointed but I encouraged them to bring in a blank disc or flashdrive to save their shows as originals, and some did just that.