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),
I sat around, tinkering on my guitar last night when this song emerged. It’s a rough demo and it might never go anywhere other than here. I also wanted to try out recording directly into the Garageband App, and the quality is pretty darn good, I have to say. (You can hear my boys out in the backyard playing whiffle ball if you listen closely).
This song is definitely not biographical, and I can’t quite figure out if the narrator has had his lover leave him, or if she has passed away. What’s left are memories and words, and poems, and this song that has a hint of hopefulness amidst the loss.
Peace (in the muse),
This week, at the Making Learning Connected MOOC, we explored image. If you think about it, mobile devices have changed the way we think and talk about images (which Instagram recognized and exploited early on as a business model). It’s never been easier to document our lives with our devices, and while that can be a good thing (more images to choose from and more possibilities for capturing special moments), it also leads to a glut of visual imagery in our lives.
How do we make sense of it all? This thread of conversation, sparked by Terry, stayed in my mind all week, as he first shared out this powerful piece on Tapestry. Terry wondered how to get us all to slow down and go deeper than the quick retweet or “plus one” designation, to find a way to catch our breath and understand a piece of media before complimenting it or rejecting it. Be within the world. Don’t just skim it.
This piece really brings to the surface the need to be in charge of our world, and not be led by the media-infused culture that we find ourselves in (and, to be frank, which I often enjoy being part of) drive us. We need to drive it. We have to have a handle on the media because that’s what keeps us sane and human and in charge of our own agency. Or so we hope. It’s not easy, and if it is a struggle for us, as adults with a lifetime of experience, imagine our children and our students struggling with this idea of media flow.
I thought an intriguing arc of discussion this week in the CLMOOC involved the processes that some of us use to create stories with images. Does the picture come first, evoking the story? Or does the story come first, and the image supports the idea? There’s no wrong answer here. We all approach storytelling from different angles, for sure, and the given moment can change everything. This is the beauty of being open for stories: they can come unexpectedly from any angle. We just need to be ready and alert.
That said, I struggled a bit with how to use only images to tell a story, particularly if there was no text. One other thread of discussion was “context” and how the reader/viewer must work, hard sometimes, to seek the context for five images that may or may not obviously have a narrative thread. This is not a bad thing. It harkens to the idea of going deep. But it can lead to loss of story, too, if the context is never found. This, too, is composing at its most elemental level.
As the composer of a few image stories, I found myself thinking about those threads on another level altogether from when I am a writer of words. Limited to soundless images, there’s so much inference one must consider and work into the story, so many gaps inside the story itself that can’t be too wide or too short, that we need to be careful in how we convey meaning. It is an art in and of itself.
Helping our young people make these steps towards observations, visual literacy, storytelling, deeper reading and finding balance in the flow of information has to be our own narrative thread throughout our year, even as content-area curriculum drives our instruction.
I transitioned mid-week from five image story to six image memoir, in hopes that I might find a way to make the visual storytelling more personal. I first used Adobe Voice, making a story with infographic representing personality characteristics, but found that too obvious. I then moved into PowToon to create a visual representation of a Six Word Memoir that I use often: Music is always on my mind.
Peace (in the bits and bytes),
PS — the quotes were all drawn from our Google Plus conversations this week, and I used a free site called Quotes Cover to give the words some imagery and artistic feel. Thanks to all of the writers who shared their words with me.
Even if you are just watching the Making Learning Connected MOOC from afar (and maybe scratching your head about it), the one place you really should spend some time is in the CLMOOC Make Bank. This idea, started last year with the guidance of Karen and inspired by the work by Alan over at DS106, is built on the concept of collecting shared knowledge, and creating a legacy project that extends far beyond the six-week CLMOOC experience.
The Make Bank is a place where we have been sharing our expertise around projects, giving insights into how to create and recreate projects, in hopes that people in the CLMOOC will have something to return to when they are back in their own classrooms and educational spaces, and for those outside of the CLMOOC who are looking for inspirational projects that will get their students making and learning within the framework of the Connected Learning principles that underly the CLMOOC.
As I wandered through the Make Bank this morning, this is a just a glimpse of what I discovered by using the “choose one randomly” in each of the main categories:
- Connecting Text Through Paper Circuit Symbolism
- Make a Simple Book with One Piece of Paper
- Make a Map
- Hack Your Writing
- Create an Animated Avatar
- How to Make a Web Booklet
- How to Create a Game out of Survey Software
- How to Introduce Infographics
- How to Curate and Annotate Your Learning
- How to Use Raspberry Pi for a Selfie Station
- How to Dye Your Hair with Kool-Aid
Look at that list and tell me that isn’t a wild range of projects? And really, this is just the tip of the Make Bank iceberg. I find myself cruising around, following links to projects and tutorials, and am always amazed at the wonderful sharing that happens. And you can add yours, too. You don’t need to be active in the CLMOOC to add to the Make Bank.
Share your knowledge with the world. Leave a legacy. Add an idea to the Make Bank, and we all get a bit richer with the experience.
Peace (in the sharing),
I invite you to follow me into our woods, near our bike path, where a neighbor and his grandson’s work to create natural sculptures has inspired the entire neighborhood to make art, and the results are just a stunning display of creativity. I used Storehouse App to collect and annotate the images.
I keep getting drawn in by the animal faces …
Peace (in the art),
During some discussions over at the Making Learning Connected MOOC about this week’s Make Cycle of a Five Image Story, I wondered aloud about whether another variation might be a Six Image Memoir, inspired by the Six Word Memoir idea.
I decided to give it a try, using Adobe Voice to create a digital story. I am happy enough with how it came out, but I don’t think it came out as a story — it was more of a list of personality traits and roles I have in life, so I am still wondering how this might work better to tell a narrative of a memoir. I mulled over whether I needed to have any text, and I decided, it needed it for context (another discussion point going on this week with using images to tell a story.)
You will also notice that I used info-art, not real images, and that was a purposeful choice in that I wanted consistency of tone and composition across the six images. Maybe I will do a variation where I find images to represent the six traits.
What about you? What would your six images be?
Peace (in the memoir),
I wrote about my 9 year old son being part of Apple Movie Camp last week, and here is his final short movie about fruit and a blender called Fruit Horror. I helped only with the filming (holding the video camera for him, and using the big knife). He made the soundtrack, did the editing, etc, and I had to resist the urge to do too much with him.
On the last day of the free(!) camp, we watched about three dozen short movies (true!) made during the week by kids, and most had no or little narrative structure. Some seemed to go on forever about nothing and others were just video taken of self. I am not being critical of the kids, who were making movies after all instead of watching them so that is good, nor of the Apple camp, which only ran three days for 90 minutes each day and that’s not enough time to do much (did I mention it was free?).
But the Showcase Viewing that we experienced does point to the need for us educators to still teach story and narrative and pacing, even in video production (storyboards help), and to have young people consider audience and all of the elements of storytelling that we have always taught for print media. It still have value in the digital age. It brings to mind how we can’t assume young people know what they are doing when we put them in front of a screen, or put a video camera in their hands, or a microphone, or whatever.
We still need to teach the skills that underly how they compose for the world.
Peace (in the blender),
I’ve had the Storehouse digital storytelling app on my iPad for some time now — it was touted as the next wave of digital storytelling, from a design standpoint — and I am just now getting into figuring it out, thanks to the Make Cycle for the Making Learning Connected MOOC that has us telling a story in five images. My story is about a toy truck that I picked up at a tag sale for my oldest son (now 16) when he was three years old. It had its days as the main truck for all three boys, but now sits in rusty retirement behind our fire pit.
I can’t seem to find a reason to get rid of it. The truck comes freighted with memories.
So, for my five image story, I decided to try to pan out (with a panoramic app) to capture the entire back yard (macro), and then slowly zoom in (micro) to the truck in its hiding spot. I resisted adding text to the project, although I feel as if it probably needs it for context.
But I will let it stand as it is, and say that more playing with Storehouse has yielded a very powerful story that I will share tomorrow. You’ll be pretty amazed at it, I think.
I also added the five images into flickr. I like the Storehouse version better.
Speaking of story, I missed the entire online discussion yesterday with CLMOOC folks about the nature of storytelling and the question of “what is a story?” that has framed inquiry in the community lately, but I did create this little Tapestry to make a point about collective storytelling.
Peace (in five),