If this collection of Copper webcomics/comics from Kazu Kibuishi had only contained comics, it would have been enough. More than enough, in fact, as these short graphic stories, told in single page comics, for the most part, of a boy (Copper) and his dog (Fred), are so well done and so entertaining, that Copper rises up to one of my favorite comics.
But Kibuishi, the writer/artist behind the incredible ongoing Amulet graphic novel series (another review of the latest in that series is coming soon), goes the extra mile, providing about 10 pages at the end of the book to discussing his process for creating graphic art, complete with looks at his studio space and a “comic in process” as he shares how an idea makes its way to the page. This kind of insight from an artist of Kibuishi’s caliber is incredible.
As for the Copper collection itself, the book is a treasure trove of imagination as Copper and Fred go off on all sorts of adventures, have deep discussions and ponder life in many ways (sometimes in the most unusual situations, such as inside a ship they build together or jumping across a valley of mushrooms or inside a cave).
Upper elementary and middle school students would eat Copper up, I think, particularly if they are hooked on the Amulet series. I see now that you can access many of the webcomics online at his site, for free. So, what are you waiting for? Get reading!
Peace (in the frames),
So, even though I wrote a post yesterday that said I was gonna lurk, you can see how I easily get pulled into the mix. Just writing the post itself, as Howard noted in a comment, meant that I was no longer lurking with the Connected Courses, and the whole shebang hasn’t even started yet.
One of the ideas that we really talked about and worked hard to value during the facilitation of the Making Learning Connected MOOC was how to best recognize and include those who were not ready to jump into the fray, but who either only wanted to watch or needed time to process before considering entry into the CLMOOC. As you might imagine, this stance of inclusion is made trickier by the invisible threads that connect participants to an online project. You just don’t know who is there, watching, if they never comment or participate. And if it is not a credit course where posting is required (the CLMOOC was not that), then it becomes even more of a challenge to understand the nature of participation.
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, learning along with everyone.
We found that out in the time between our first year of CLMOOC and the second, when we heard later stories of folks who lurked, brought ideas to the classroom or professional spaces, and then came back strong in the second year as active participants, grateful for the ongoing message of valuing those who lurk to learn. Others were a bit wary of the technology hurdles and needed time to process, to tinker on their own. And others just had little bits of time, so they popped in and out to see what was going on, but never participated. Not everyone is comfortable with learning in open spaces.
This sort of goes against the grain of basic teaching philosophy, right? No child left behind? We assume everyone needs to be learning and we need to gauge that the learning is being done. In online spaces, we often do that by tracking comments and blog posts and Twitter feeds. You can’t look across the room and see that someone is not participating and tell yourself and/or them, I’m going to call on you next, kid, so be ready with some ideas.
We don’t allow lurkers in our classrooms, do we?
Yet, lurkers are the invisible army in just about every online space there is, and they are the folks we don’t often value enough. There’s no cultural cache for the quiet, is there? That doesn’t mean they aren’t important. With CLMOOC, we made sure every newsletter had references to how we valued those who were just watching and learning. Posts in our online communities were purposefully welcoming to all comers, even those who were only passing through. This message (hats off to Joe Dillon for his work on this issue) became part of the ethos of the CLMOOC, even though at times it felt as if we were writing to no one (Most lurkers don’t respond when you write to them, as is the nature of lurking.)
But they are there, and they are important to the network, and they need to be part of the conversation, even if the conversation can often feels one-sided. And sometimes, they party on. Thus, my comic.
Peace (in the outer worlds),
Our new principal shared this classic TED ED talk, which I have seen many times and shared in PD sessions. Watch this talk and get inspired.
Peace (in the talk),
So, I am interested in the emerging Connected Courses that is slated to begin very soon, with a bunch of folks that are always worth hanging around with in the virtual interwebz (Jim Groom, Alan Levine, Howard Reingold kick things off and then others like Mimi Ito! Laura Hilliger! Mike Wesch! take the baton). It seems, from the outside anyway, like a nice continuation of ideas and thinking from this summer’s Making Connected Learning adventure and from the various DS106 parties. Plus, it part of the Digital Media & Learning Research Hub (DML), so that’s always worth a gander (old fashioned word, repurposed for the digital age)
But I suspect I may be more of a lurker in the #ccourses this fall for a few reasons. The theme of the course seems to be university level (higher ed is right in the title). I know I will be swamped at the start of my school year with my sixth graders, and a new principal. And I am trying to figure out what the heck I doing for my K12 Online Conference Keynote presentation.
Still, I want to be tapped in, watching things unfold. So, I am putting on my lurker hat and swimming around the edges of this Connected Courses concept, hoping to steal some ideas and engaging in conversations when I can.
Peace (in the lurk),
While I was away from my blog, I had some pieces published in other spaces that I wanted to share with you.
First, my MiddleWeb column as we end summer is about reflecting on my digital sites and doing a bit of housekeeping as school is about to start. It’s a nice time to reflect on what we project to our families and students before they come into the classroom for a year of writing and learning.
Second, I wrote a piece for the National Writing Project’s 40for40 blog, as NWP celebrated its 40 years with 40 posts from NWP teacher/writers. My piece reflected on a time when I traveled to Chico, California, to take part in a week-long technology retreat, where the people I met continue to be partners in online endeavors across the Internet. The piece is entitled “That Week in Chico” and it was a great way for me to ground myself in a time when so many doors opened up for me.
Finally, I took a break from blogging but still dabbled in Twitter while on break and found myself working on a regular diet of #25wordstory stories, which I then collected and shared out for Slice of Life via Storify. I love these stories for brevity and inference and revision, although it can be a struggle to find just the right words and leave just the right amount of story “out” of the story. You decide if it worked or not.
Peace (in the writing mode),
I’ve been away on a sort of blogging vacation, toning down some online work to re-center some gravity (which I do every August). But I’ve been reading a boatload of books, and instead of a review for every book, I figured I would just create six word reviews (making it challenging for me but perhaps easier on you).
Read Aloud Books with my Son
Literally, magical adventure on every page.
Creepy tale. No one is safe.
Friendship and perseverance conquers bad magic.
Playing with language makes fun story.
My Own Reading
Fast-moving, engaging history of cultural soundtracks.
Deeply reflective, but light on humor.
Book I Abandoned
Too much of nothing going on.
I realize none of these reviews do fair justice to the books. I would highly recommend The Night Gardener for its writing and depth (and expect it to see in some book award lists), and The Emerald Atlas for its action and adventure (we are now reading the second book in the series). Yeah Yeah Yeah! is a phenomenal look at pop music over time but the book is huge and reads at a quick pace, and I need to revisit it in the future to keep absorbing pop culture in waves. The Magician did nothing for me, even though I enjoy the writer in other venues and I know the series is getting high marks (so it must be me). I wanted to like it but could not.
Peace (in the pages),
It’s that time of year when I need to pull back from blogging and some other virtual writing, so this space will be nice and quiet for the rest of August. Along with some much-anticipated family vacation time, I will be doing some prep work for professional development I am facilitating and finally getting a chance to think about my keynote for the K12 Online Conference. Basically, it’s a breather.
See you in a few weeks!
Peace (in the silence),
I am not sure if this works, but I took a new version of a new song that I shared out last week (which Terry, and Scott, and Simon all remixed into Zeega media productions) and went into Popcorn Maker to make my own media version. I wanted to move away from distinct, concrete images, and instead, shift into something a little more quirky and visual. You may notice (now that I am telling you) that each section of the song has a visual theme, and believe me, that took a while to sync up!
I recorded the song’s music in Garageband app, and then the vocals were layered in via Audacity, and I think it sounds best with headphones, since you can hear some funky stuff going on in the background where I added piano and some vocal layers.
Peace (in the song),
You know a book has some lasting power when you get to the very last page of reading it aloud, and you and your listener (ie., my son) both have the same thought: I sure hope she is writing a sequel. Such was the case with The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson. The story is set in a place similar in some ways to Earth (or some version of Earth) where odd objects fall from the sky, some people (or versions of people) have special powers, two kingdoms are on the brink of war and exploration, and our hero, Piper, is a Scrapper trying to bring the lost Anna back home.
Of course, as in any good story, there is more to it than that, but I don’t want to give it away. The Mark of the Dragonfly hooks you quickly, immersing you into its world, and then pulling you into the action and motivations of Piper and the people she meets along the way of her journey.
Kudos go out to Johnson for creating a strong female protagonist in Piper, and in her companion, Anna, and for putting as much attention to character development as she did, without taking away from the action and adventure that moves the plot along. While my son and I had plenty of questions about the world where the story is set that Johnson hasn’t answered (yet?), we bought the premise of the land of Solace easily enough, and then raced through the second half of the book with every reading moment we had available.
It seems as if Johnson has set the stage for a sequel, but who knows? The book’s main plot does sort of resolve itself, and we remain fixed on Piper’s choices about where she goes now. And who can argue with a huge train, and all that it represents, as a significant setting for the novel. Plus, Piper’s own special powers, which I won’t reveal, open the door to some very interesting possibilities.
Peace (in the book),
I suspect that the Guardians of the Galaxy movie will not be for everyone. In fact, I know that, because I took my sons with another family this weekend to see the flick and my female friend and her daughter were not all that impressed. There may be some gender lines being drawn due to the violence and action of the Guardians … I thought the movie was entertaining enough while my sons think it is Best of the Year material. Yeah. I don’t think so.
Still, I liked the banter, and the action, and the visual effects, and the use of music to connect with memories and personal history. The story revolves around part of the comic universe that I don’t remember reading as a kid, so there were plenty of surprises for me.
What has stuck out for me, however, is the character of Groot, as played by Vin Diesel. With just one line for most of the film — “I am Groot” — the nuance of how the words are spoken and the facial features says a lot about language, even from a walking tree like Groot. But there is a moment, when Groot is about to save the crew by doing something only he has the power to do, when he turns to his companions, who beg him not to make the sacrifice, and says wisely, “WE are Groot.”
That line — WE are Groot — has stuck with me as the Making Learning Connected MOOC has been winding down. That little bit of dialogue captures the collective connections that we have to each other. Not to get over-analytical about it, or too sappy, either, but there’s a real power of the way a community/network like CLMOOC can come together to support each other. We weren’t in any life-threatening danger, of course, but I like to think that our worlds became a little more connected this summer, and that WE are CLMOOC. We’ll be here, and will still be here, if we need one another. Count on that!
Peace (in the connection),
(Note from Kevin: A few years ago, I was a reviewer for The Graphic Classroom. I really enjoyed the way we look at graphic novels with a lens towards the classroom. The site got taken over by another site, and then … I guess the owner of The Graphic Classroom stopped doing what he was doing. Which is fine. But I still had some reviews “sitting in the can” so I hav dug them out to share out here. This is the last one.)
Story Summary: It is often said that the sea holds many stories. So, too, do rivers, and Mark Siegal expertly explores this watery storytelling terrain in his graphic novel, SAILOR TWAIN, which comes with the subtitle of “The Mermaid in the Hudson.” Weaving history, literature, and the lore of mermaids and sirens into a complex story of a riverboat captain named Elijan Twain, Siegel brings the reader below the surface into a beguiling mystery of magic that centers on the saving of a mermaid’s life by Captain Twain and all of the ramifications that eminate from that event. (Yes, Twain is a purposeful and overt nod to Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens is also referenced here, too). The powerful Hudson River, in the 1800s, is the setting for this book, and echoes of Greek myths resonate, too. Siegel sets up expectations one way, only to turn the story another way, and the reader is rewarded with an original graphic novel that fully uses the graphic format to tell its story.
Art Review: Siegel, the writer, also is the artist here and his black-white charcoal sketch drawings are detailed, and full of mystery, too. Close-ups of eyes, in particular, tell much about the souls and thinking of his characters. We’re brought into their actions by the looks on characters’ faces, which is a testament to Siegel’s skills as an illustrator.
• Hardcover: 400 pages
• Publisher: First Second (October 2, 2012)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1596436360
• ISBN-13: 978-1596436367
Siegel has created and nurtured a pretty lively website about the book that is worth examining. See the site at http://sailortwain.com/
For the Classroom: Let me just say upfront that I believe this book is not appropriate for most K-12 classrooms. Not for the story content, but for the images of the half-naked mermaid and for the sexual escapades of one of the main characters (who believes having seven loves will cure him of the mermaid’s siren song that lures him beneath the water). While these elements certainly fit nicely into the story, it may not fit so nicely into the K-12 classroom. Which is unfortunate, since the story’s focus on the mythology of river lore and magic would be of high interest to many students. Still, for the university, this book might be a good example of how graphic novel storytelling can unfold along complex lines and stand up with a lot modern literature.
My Recommendation: I highly recommend this book, but with significant reservations about the nudity and sexual themes of a storyline. Therefore, I would not recommend this for young children. A teacher might want to consider it for a high school classroom setting, if they were to preview the book first. At the college level, however, I see it a solid example of graphic storytelling on many levels.
Peace (with references),
The regional newspaper (for which I once worked as a journalist in my life before teaching) did a feature story on my role as a contributing writer for the collection, Teaching with Heart. I tried to raise the role of teacher advocacy in the interview, as best as I could, and I hope the message may resonate. The collection, by the way, is fantastic, with short essays by dozens of educators writing about poems that are important to them.
Peace (on the page),
Peter Kittle started up a crowdsourcing activity early on in the Making Learning Connected MOOC — asking people to add tools and technology resources they were using as they were “making” projects this summer. I took that list and grouped things as best as I could, and share it here with you. A list like this can be useful to a limited degree — in the end, what you compose and make comes from your own ideas, not the tools themselves. Still ….
Peace (beyond the tools),
If you have been following me this summer, you probably figured out that I was a facilitator with the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration. It was a blast, and I was part of an amazing team of people who worked tirelessly to engaged participants and Make Cycle teams from late May right through, well, today (the official end of the CLMOOC).
As part of my work around making comics for CLMOOC, I made a few as thank you notes to my fellow facilitators:
For Karen, whose work at organizing Twitter chats and whose push for the CLMOOC Make Bank has been inspiring …
For Joe, whose role as a coach for teams of folks leading the Make Cycles this year made all the difference in the world, so much so that you probably didn’t even realize how many moving parts there were …
For Anna, whose research lens has us all reflecting and hopefully, documenting our learning for ourselves and for others …
For Christina and Mallory, who really were the threads behind the scenes on the CLMOOC, making sure everything was organized and on time and in some thematic order ….
For Jordan, who worked all of last year and at the start of this year to make the launch of the CLMOOC smooth and seamless …
For Paul and Chad, who were busy with other things this summer but whose work last year and earlier this year informed the way we made the CLMOOC what it was this year …
For Terry, my pirate-in-arms across many media divides this summer …
And most of all, for Terry, Michael, Sheri and Rosie — who were all part the Support Team that I had the pleasure of facilitating this summer as we worked to support each and every person on their journeys.
Did I forget anyone? I hope not.
Thank you to all of you (and to everyone who dipped their toes into the CLMOOC waters and who might still do so in the days to come). I had a blast and I learned so much.
Peace (in the framing of the learning),
Since before the start of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, I have been creating and publishing comics each Make Cycle, partly as reflection points and partly to make fun of myself. The main character become a sort of alter-ego. The comics were created in an app called Rosie Comics, although Rosie herself barely appears.
Before the CLMOOC actually started, I was already making comics:
Then, the first Make Cycle was launched, with folks sharing their expertise during a How To project…
In the next Make Cycle, there were memes everywhere ..
… which led into games for the next Make Cycle …
… and Hacking your Writing as a Make …
… which led to considering “light” as a theme for stories …
… and then, it was all about images as narrative …
… which has brought us to reflection ..
… and nearly the end of the CLMOOC (for now) …
Tomorrow, I will share out my “thank you” comics for all my fellow facilitators in the CLMOOC.
Peace (in the frame),
I took two of my sons, and a friend, for a hike up a local mountain. A beautiful public building sits on top, open again after two years of renovations, and on the railing, you can see … forever … or at least as forever seems in our valley area of Western Massachusetts. I used a panoramic lens app on my iPad to stitch together this view on this perfect day, with puffy clouds overhead.
Peace (in the picture),
Just mulling over a few things I wanted to get to this summer with the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and never did.
Five Things I Didn’t Do In The CLMOOC – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires
Peace (in the leftovers),
One of the goals of the final reflective week of the Making Learning Connected MOOC is that participants might look anew at all of their projects and use the Connected Learning framework as a guide to do so. While the CLMOOC itself is designed with the Connected Learning principles in mind, we have purposely avoided being too explicit. Instead, we hopes the making and connecting would flow from a shared experience, instead of an academically-removed stance.
I suspect I am no different from others. I struggle with this part of the experience. I am good at diving in, making, sharing, collaborating, and less apt to wonder where everything connects. But I know it is important, and in the interest of helping others think about a frame, I went into Padlet and categorized some of the projects I did this summer under the Connected Learning framework.
It’s not perfect. Far from it. I see a lot of places where overlaps could be shown, and Padlet is limited for this kind of activity. In fact, I struggled mightily with the best way to present this reflection: flowchart? Prezi? Hyperlinked document? Nothing felt right, and that may be another way of understanding that the interconnected nature of how we learn is complicated and not easily put down on a single piece of paper, or represented in a single screen.
With that said, here we go — My CLMOOC:
Peace (in the connection),
Yesterday, I shared out a song that I written and recorded rather quickly on Sunday night. The song is called Your Words Still Hang Around. I like it well enough but don’t see it as something that fits well with my rock band, Duke Rushmore.
After I shared the demo of the song, I asked my friend, Terry Elliott, if he might consider using the audio file in Soundcloud to create a Zeega digital story version of the song. Zeega allows you to layer in images, animated GIF files, and text, and the viewer decides on the pace of the digital viewing. On Twitter, Scott Glass (a fellow musician and traveler in the CLMOOC) said he might give the song a try in Zeega, too.
Both did, and I nearly cried watching both of their projects that used my demo song at the center. They hit the tone of the song just right, I thought, and it brought to mind the power of juxtaposition of image with sound. I find it so powerful when done right. And it’s not the individual media. Not the song itself. Not the images. Not the words on the screen. It’s the way those various parts come together to make the whole.
If I had been the one constructing a digital story from my song, I think my role as the writer would have gotten in the way of the composition. I had the narrator (not me, by the way) in my head. I had the story I wanted tell, even as the song unfolded. I could see it as I sang it. Scott and Terry came at the song from another angle – tilted by our shared experiences in the Making Learning Connected MOOC which is now nearing its final reflective stage for the summer — and you get the sense that the song of loss and hope became more of a symbol of where we have been this summer with the CLMOOC and beyond, and the light of possibilities that still remain with all of our connections.
Or maybe I am “reading” too much into what they have done. I don’t think so, though. It brings back the idea of why “context” can matter in the partnership between reader/viewer and composer, although sometimes it is interesting to play with context. You, for example, might not have known about the CLMOOC connections here without me raising it to the surface. (Maybe I just ruined it for you. Sorry)
Anyway, I am so grateful for both of them to take on this project and get it done and shared out in a single day. I’m listening again this morning, and I’m watching, and I’m learning more about the song than when I wrote and recorded it. I’m considering this song in a new light.
Peace (in the song),