27 November 2013

Genius and Vision

The discussion of the emergent remix culture both annoys and excites me.

On one hand, I feel that the elements of participation, connectivity, and the belief that everyone can and should contribute materially to our culture are churning a simmering pot of creativity and invention that is already having a positive impact by stimulating enthusiasm for authentic, interest driven learning.

On the other hand, I feel that elements of the remix/hack/mashup culture are having a negative impact, as well. In the following excerpt from Everything is a Remix , Kirby Ferguson reduces Star Wars to little more than a mashup of various preceding films.

24 November 2013

Autumn Leaves in Japan

On Saturday, my wife, son, and I went to the park. After arriving and eating a snack, we began wandering and playing. While chasing my two-year-old, I noticed the rich variety of autumn leaves blanketing the ground. It dawned on me that it might be my last chance to make good on a promise to my friend, Kevin Hodgson, to remix his Learning Walk Photo Blitz: The Autumn Leaves here in Japan.

19 November 2013

My beef with Facebook

When I joined Facebook, it was still just a reaction to MySpace, which had become overrun by troll accounts and spam. Facebook was refreshing because I could apply the privacy lessons I had learned (the hard way) on MySpace, and use it to keep in touch with family and friends to share news and photos, and it has such a friendly and neutral white and blue theme.

For years, it worked splendidly.

Then, news about privacy infringement began surfacing. Articles started appearing, like one I noticed on Reddit about a tricky setting for the iOS app that would steal your contacts' information if you clicked on an innocuous button labeled 'Find More Friends'.

17 November 2013

Make/Hack/Play Together 2

When Kevin Hodgson shared his song in the post, Making a Song, for the first 'make' of the Make/Hack/Play Together MOOC, I was immediately impressed by its mournful mood. I thought it would be appropriate for this week's 'digital make' to hack his song by arranging it for string quartet using MuseScore. Here's a link to my work-in-progress, Hacking a Song.

I've only spent a short time on it, but have found some bits I like and some that probably wouldn't make the final cut. Arranging is different that writing a song. It's rather scientific and requires taking into account many variables such as register, the mechanics of the instruments involved, acoustics, etc.

I even started to 'play' at the end, but it's getting late and I can't tell whether those ideas are worth staying up for...

The trickiest part, however, is capturing the mood. Since the mood of Kevin's song is what struck me, I tried to interpret that feeling for a different ensemble. It never works to copy it. It's more like a translation than anything else. The sounds, like words, may have the same meanings, but they don't say the same things.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading and listening to my little, albeit, incomplete piece.

12 November 2013

Elementary Blogging - Start a digital footprint with both feet

In the past two school years, I have blogged with my classes. It has been enlightening. There are countless benefits to blogging with students and getting started in elementary school as described in Kim Cofino's article, Blogging is Elementary!. To summarize, here are a few salient and immediate benefits:

- authentic, global audience
- engaging, relevant technology
- individual feedback and differentiation
- reading and writing with purpose

However, there is always a shadow lurking which I characterize as "YouTube Comments Syndrome". If you want to know what I'm referring to, find a popular video and start scrolling. If those comments aren't meaningless enough for you, try the downright offensive comments section on Ylvis' The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?). Luckily, I believe that most people ignore the stream of semiconciousness that hangs from our favorite videos.

CC-by-SA Tim Wayne

10 November 2013

Make/Hack/Play Together 1

During the past week, I participated in the Make/Hack/Play Together MOOC. Experience has taught me that every learner builds their understanding themselves, and very often literally. Thinking is not something that occurs 'in our heads'. Thinking is everywhere, visibly and tangibly. This MOOC is a fantastic opportunity to explore Constructionist pedagogy as a learner and teacher.

The first assignment was to build something physical. I didn't manage to find time to build anything myself, but I did with my son. He is two years old, and has had a set of wooden blocks for about a year. When he first started playing with them, they always represented objects. Sometimes they were spoons, sometimes trains, sometimes only he knows what.

In recent weeks, however, he has started building. Noticing his curiosity, I started building alongside him and describing my creative process. He enjoys watching and listening, and gets very excited as my creations grow. That is, before he obliterates them. He is definitely still in the 'destroyer' stage as a maker, but as his hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills improve, I'm sure he will finally start to make his imaginings concrete and visible.

My 'Garage Cathedral' moments before demolition.

07 November 2013

BYOT Field Trip

My sixth graders and I took a field trip to The Bandai Edison Museum yesterday and I thought it was an ideal chance for a Bring-Your-Own-Technology experiment. Our current inquiry focuses on personal histories and the primary objective of the field trip was to reflect on how the Thomas Edison Exhibition tells the story of his life.

The task was to choose three artifacts in the exhibit and deduce what invention led or might have led to it, and what inventions came after. Usually, iPads and other mobile digital devices are not allowed in school, but for the field trip, I said they can bring any technology they want to complete their assignment. I created a simple google form and posted it on our class blog for those with Internet access. Some students chose to write their reflections with paper and pencil, but a few brought their iPads, smartphones, and a couple DSs, and were excited to use them!

After completing their reflections, some students took photos or made videos of their favorite exhibits. It felt great to provide them with the autonomy to use their technological resources to inspire and motivate their inquiries. The enhanced engagement and enthusiasm to share their work was a clear benefit.

I plan to have a BYOT policy in place in the classroom when we start working in earnest on our culminating Exhibition, and the field trip experiment demonstrated to me that these technologies, coupled with independence, are remarkable learning multipliers.

In our reflective discussion, many students cited their digital products when describing Edison's place in history and the connections between inventions. I'm considering ways that this strategy could be expounded to transform field trips into "Connected Learning Expeditions" and would appreciate knowing your experiences and thoughts!

03 November 2013

No Sleep November

I hereby dub this month "No Sleep November" because there are so many fantastic learning opportunities for teachers and I don't want to miss any.

First, I'm participating in the COETAIL (Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy) program and working toward a Master's Degree. Course 1 was an enjoyable survey and blogscussion of Connectivist Learning Theory and Course 2 promises to address issues related to technology.

Next, the Deeper Learning MOOC preview. This is exactly the kind of exploration I've been looking forward to and will mercifully commence in January. The preview is this week, and will focus on Academic Mindsets.

To further inform and develop my Independent Inquiry project, a philosophy and framework for connecting learning in and out of school, I enrolled in the Make/Hack/Play Together MOOC. I'm planning to participate along with my students, so hopefully a good portion of the assignments will be completed during class time.

Finally, I'm hoping to catch up on everything I missed in the K-12 Online Conference. I made a note of this awesome event months ago and checked in on the last day only to be blown away by all that I had missed! 

Did I mention I'm writing a novel? I've put down about fifty-thousand words, although haven't worked on it for a few months. Thanks to the folks at Educator Innovator for reminding me that November is National Novel Writing Month! How convenient. I don't expect to finish mine this month, but I shouldn't let it slide for too long.

How can I possibly expect to do all of this? It can't be ignored that I have a rambunctious two-year-old son at home and a school-wide musical to organize, rehearse, and produce!

The solution, of course, is to forgo sleep. Rather than burning midnight oil, I'm considering a regimen of coffee-fueled early morning work sessions. Even just five hours per week should be enough to stay on top of these projects and lead to wrapping up 2013 with a thunderous bang.

Here's musical score for 'No Sleep November', my own composition for jazz orchestra, Insomnia.