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),