As an introductory activity to our Canadian Geography unit in Social Studies 10, the TALONS are digging into our Flickr archives today and applying some new skills of photo-editing to add a sample of their own reflection to a picture they think defines an essential British Columbia.
For my image, I chose this moonrise shot from the first Adventure Trip I had the pleasure to teach, when we found ourselves camped in the forest above Long Beach, in Tofino, where John Vaillant‘s description of the Northwest Coast from the opening chapter of the Golden Spruce, and the interplay between forest and sea comes into clear focus.
They had come from Burnaby, had the MacDonalds that came to reside on Garcia Court, and beyond the neighbouring suburb were from points across the breadth of Canada and back into Europe. Both branches of the family we knew reached the old countries of England and Scotland eventually, but had each traced vastly different routes across Canada to the coast.
Mr. MacDonald’s family had splintered out of a line of Joneses in Ontario and settled in southeastern British Columbia near the American border where towering mountains are ringed by lingering smog of a half-century’s smeltering. Mr. MacDonald’s father had worked in that smelter, and he and three siblings were raised in a narrow two-story house near their elementary school. The family lived above the gouge of the Columbia River and knew well the hoards of river moths that owned the dusks and dawns of summer with a singular and biblical tenacity.
It has struck me each time I’ve heard it told that Mr. MacDonald never passes over the subject of his hometown in conversation without mentioning these moths. His eyes sharpen and he pointedly engages each person within eye and earshot in his narration; there is no mistaking the onus he places on the regular emergence of the hovering pests.
“You have to drive with your windshield wipers on,” I have seen him marvel. “And the town hides itself indoors, sure to seal every window and door – even though you could at best keep only ninety percent of them out!”
Listeners cringe at this image, and Mr. MacDonald relishes their discomfort. “Oh yeah!” He often repeats important details for effect, stalling and indulging brief cul de sacs and dead ends before continuing with the story. These productions never seemed scripted until I began to hear these various narratives told and retold by Mr. MacDonald, and then also by others on the street, word for word.
This particular story of the onslaught of minuscule beasts wobbling as they rise from the Columbia River Valley inevitably meanders to the recounting of the childhood of Mr. MacDonald’s youngest brother, David. (No one fails to mention, in this telling, that Brandon bore such a resemblance to his father’s brother that once Brandon had reached the age of fourteen, they were christened “DavidBrandon” for the duration of several family gatherings that spanned almost a decade.)
It is told that as a child David never harboured the town’s apprehension for the river moths, and would await their nightly coming tide at the crest of the bluffs above the river. Standing bare-chested toward the setting sun, he would watch the air thicken above the flat pools on the Columbia and hear the million hatchlings popping onto air. The hum would drive in a cloud toward him on the hill and his heart reportedly raced as the million moths reached and engulfed him before sweeping over the bluffs like a humming wave. They would fly through his hair and glue their wings to the sweat of his arms and legs, and he would let the ones that could land and begin to crawl, trekking his skin and covering him from head to toe. Only once the night’s flight had subsided would he walk the steep grade of the hillside and descend slowly into the freezing depths of the river. The moths that resisted at the surface of the water would come unstuck once submerged, and David would rise from the water clean, washed with the first boilings of the next night’s hatch.
I heard this story for the first time at a cul de sac barbeque at the end of my driveway. Mr. MacDonald had put his silver beer down to do the telling, and as many as fifteen of us looked on as he reached the dramatic finish, painting his brother as a shining martyr of these moths. Perceiving that I was perhaps the only one present who had yet to hear this tale, he nodded to me for what I assumed was my appraisal of the tale.
I said meekly, “Didn’t anyone ever go out there with him?”
Mr. MacDonald laughed and said, “DavidBrandon always wanted to know the same thing.”
Though it’s not a newspaper (as the original #Ds106 assignment prescribes), I had the idea this afternoon while my teaching parnter was teaching the Arthur C. Clarke short story, “I forget thee, Earth” to give the front page of our handout the blackout poetry treatment.
The text of the new work, Art Clark’s “I forget Earth…” is below, should anyone want to give the piece a Tom Woodward “snowball” and turn the text into something else: song, dialogue, a rock opera…
Ten years old, his father
took up Administration and
Power, the uppermost and
swiftly growing Farmlands.
Great, slender plants
creeping towards the sun,
Down the domes to meet
the smell of life.
inexpressive in his heart
Breathing dry cool air,
residential levels, purged
of smells but ozone.
Here, little father, onwards.
Reach to the observatory.
Never visit, but sense rising
One goal: life, outside, surface wide,
and pressurized. Servicing scout car['s]
Tense expectancy, settled down in
As this part of the ds106 class comes to a close (sort of) I have repeatedly pondered the role audio for me plays in my life and that we have done great things in this class expanding the community properties of sound and I am so thankful for that. Sound has so many wonderful uses, and I think in this class we have wandered into some fantastic places with it. I want to sit with all of you and make art.
Agreeing with Todd entirely, I synthesized some of my teacher feedback from the few-months old This I Believeessay project into a 20′ radio show that sewed different elements of the class’ recorded writings into my larger essay about what we learned we believed. Still a few steps away from offering a weekly radio show, or media share of the collective lessons learned in the Talons classroom, but one closer. Enjoy!
A character, even if it is based off of oneself, is not real. His or her experiences don’t have to follow the way of the rules of the world. The character is given a blank page every five hundred or so words, a new chance to create his or herself, a new chance at being somebody, a new chance at redemption, a new chance at life. So embrace your inner character. After all, everyday is a new page that we should not be afraid to write.
Sometimes, it can feel as though the objective of a lesson – so often a shared synthesis of ideas that comes from everyone pulling in the same direction, as we say in Talons – is elusive to even the instructor, or facilitator, whose job it is to bring about and make meaning – data – for the concerned parties (learner, teacher, parent), until each group’s unique questions can be asked, and looking ahead at the next few days and a wrapping up of the unit on Canadian rebellion, I struggled to answer a few of the ‘regular’ questions:
How might this unit / project connect to the group’s collective and individual self?
In this case, I was trying to make the study of history connect with the class’ consistent call to actualize ourselves in the learning environment, and personal lives as students and citizens, and in some small way perhaps echoing Jim Groom’s call to:
...make open education in praxis fun, accessible, and basically rock!! DS106 is the beginning of this movement, and it isn’t about me, just look around ds106. I mean people all over the world are doing Colleen‘s Playlist Poetry assignment, she is shaping this class not only by her willingness to create and participate, but by our ability to connect that urge with many, many others who share her desire. That is the beginning of a new dynamic that is not simply transactional. The idea of creative teaching hopefully re-imagines that locus—and I need to spend some more time framing this out more because I know it’s right. I feel it deeply in my heart of heart’s, and as Gardner notes in the discussion above, it is time to reinvest our hearts in the process of teaching and learning—I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment and I want to make it so.
I wanted the Talons to take their reading and evolving understanding of our national, and current, history, and give it voice in whatever way they might see. But it can be difficult to generate this type of inspiration without a concrete goal, or set of instructions. My vision, though complex and potentially multi-faceted as the personalities and perspectives in the class, and across the world, was simple at its heart: I wanted the class to tell the story of Louis Riel, and the Red River Rebellion, and in doing so tell the story of our class, each of us, in encountering our history, and one another, at this moment in our shared development.
What else is there in life, really?
I was inspired and enthralled in this idea, as well, by my recent drive-time listening to the Radiolab podcast episode, “Who am I?” delving into engrossing scientific radio journalism in support its episode’s thesis: “The self is a story the brain tells itself.”
RadioLab.org – “The Story of Me”
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And somewhere in there, in reflecting on the recent action research of the class’ blogging community, and the developing narrative of the class’ collective, and individual successes and struggles, I thought that the best outline I could offer the lesson and upcoming group project was the simple challenge of the brief essay I had written the night before. It is – to date – the strangest introductory material I have given to a history class.
the will of humans to be free.
We are taught the nature of history,
and government, communication
storytelling in the name of
a pursuit of knowledge,
of ourselves, and the breadth of our nature
to be capable of making something,
and living the best life we can.
If each person who was given
the opportunity to express their perspective
in life did so, with the tools at their disposal
to record and publish their thinking
across distance and time
we might know some fraction
of the truth in a world inhabited by a people
whose singular defining characteristic
is to staunchly resist the very changes
which contribute to our progress.
But these struggles each represent a powerful
theme in and of themselves about the truth
of humanity’s story:
that an indominable human will inevitably overcome
a beaurocratic means of suprressing it;
that new ideologies can shatter the expectations
and realities of the old; and that an age committed
fervently to its ideals is rife with the opportunity
to be exposed by people few and brave.
And we well these people’s stories,
and attempt to in some way understand them
and the moment they ineherited, and chose
to stand up, and not submit to the expectations
and realities of their day, so that we might recognize,
in our own selves, and our own times, those things
for which we need to stand up.
Throughout history, we read of continuous examples
of peoples who have through violence and ignorance
have had their rights supressed by regimes
both tyranical and democratic.
When people have acted in haste or fits of passion,
incorrectly, this has resulted in many deaths.
Our present moment asks that we stand and be counted
as lives lived to the best of our honest knowledge
about what our actions mean.
We study the lives and times of men like Louis Riel
to know what others
have been willing to stand for,
when doing so has not been easy.
Because it never it easy,
and surely will not be when it is our turn,
whether we are standing for our lives,
our minds,or own opinion
in a world where everyone’s
from New Orleans’ orphans
to the Kings of Spain,
is exactly equal.
I know teachers tend to throw out mixed messages, “Be open, share. Be careful, be scared.” This could be an authentic real world experience to create something beautiful with a larger group of people than those within our immediate community. (I invite other teachers to share this Flickr setand this post to see where it can go. Ask your class to leave poems, stories, haikus, comments anything. Maybe we can write a book, record an album…)
There are many things we can do with the images, the words, the connection. I hope that at least a few of you will share a few ideas in the comments below. I don’t know who will respond, but that is the beauty of sharing in whim 1, if you throw enough out there, occasionally something beautiful will come floating back.
The above photos were shared on Jabiz Raisdana’s blog with an invitation to Zach Chase‘s students to join into the fun with the proposition that if enough comments, poems, phrases and inspiration and were left on the photos, Jabiz would write them into a song that he would share for future mashup, remixes, or…?
What will you do with it? Download it. Remix it. Add your voice to it. Set it to images. Create a video. Rap it. This version is only a draft and is not even close to being “done.” Tear it up!Stones by intrepidflame
And while I mightn’t have “tore it up,” or reinvented any of what had previously been created or recorded, I sat at my kitchen counter after work on Friday, donned a set of headphones, and spent the better part of an hour adding my own voice to a project spanning both North American coasts that had gained its initial motivation and impetus from an unmet friend in Jakarta, Indonesia. In kind I offer my own addition to the project in the hopes that it inspires others to lend their own creativity, perspective, and voice to collaborative expression that would have unthinkable even five years ago (to me, anyway), but is today the sort of thing that can be accomplished on a Friday afternoon, between work and dinner.
We’ve been talking about the benefits – personal and collective – that come with sharing a lot this week in the Talons class. Seeking an elusive objectivity in media and student reflections on the recent tumult in Egypt and across the Middle East, the class has moved past a definition of the (capital ‘T’) Truth which linearly separates Right & Wrong, or Truth & Lie, to an understanding that we can only know what we might collectively deign in shared exploration, conversation and reflection, and that this process must be ongoing.
Yesterday we distilled some of the more potent aspects of these expressions in a Typewith.me page that we hope to continue to shape, sculpt and share in the coming weeks, as a first experiment in working with the web as not only a research and publishing platform, but collaborative space wherein there are few, if any, limits.
Share, and be vulnerable: it may just be what we’re here for.
To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love ourselves with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee; to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this, just to be able to stop and instead of catastophizing what might happen just to say, ‘I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable is to feel alive?’”
If it is true, what Liam wrote yesterday, that, “Collective will is the most powerful force in the universe,” then we are truly onto something here. Let’s keep it going.
Today, Zach Chase writes, looking back on what a week it’s been, is the day you jump in and create something.
Bryan’s note: this is so the title of the book / album / movie. ↩
In response to Chris Kennedy‘s recent post of British Columbian edu-bloggers, and in the spirit of referring my fellow bloggers (and blog-readers) to the people that I read, I thought of putting together a short list of a few noteworthy local student-bloggers. I hope that their blogs can further become hubs of communication around their evolving educations, and that their voices might be lent to the rest of ours in a larger conversation about the future of education.
At the risk of highlighting the myriad astonishing aspects of the entire TALONS class set of blogs, I highlight these three student blogs as diverse examples of young learners continually creating the blogging medium in their own image. Arranged from oldest-to-youngest.
As I said, these are but three examples of young bloggers I have had the good fortune to meet and work with, and who challenge me to be a more prolific, progressive, and productive blogger with each new post. I’ve seen posts recently by Dean Shareski andWill Richardson asking about student bloggers pro-actively creating their own online brand, above and beyond what their class and student-blogs might ask of them, and heard Andrew B. Watt ask much this same question sometime last spring.
But I haven’t been referred to too many sources of student-blogging leadership (outside the international Student Blogging Challenge, and Comments4Kids program, which both tend toward the elementary, or middle school grades), and would appreciate (as would the Talons class, I assume) any leads and links you might be able to leave as a comment to this post.
Sometime Thursday evening, my phone buzzed with an email from Jonathan telling me that I should check Veronica’s blog, as “it look[ed] like John Vaillant commented on her chapter three post.”
Veronica’s interpretation of Grant Hadwin’s close friend (and backwoods competitor) Paul Bernier outlined him as the by-now-traditional character of a sidekick:
All classic heroes have sidekicks, so naturally, Grant Hadwin should have one too – in the form of Paul Bernier. Bernier strikes me as kind of an underdog to Grant Hadwin. Maybe it’s just how the story is told in The Golden Spruce, but the author makes Bernier seem inferior to Hadwin. I think that this is maybe to more thoroughly develop the character of Grant Hadwin. Anyways, from the quote “We’d run in the bush; we’d race each other. He didn’t like to lose.”, I assume that Bernier probably lost most of the time, so most the glory was taken by Grant.
Hi Veronica;I think your interpretation is a good one, based on the limited info you’ve got to work with. when I interviewed Bernier, I got the same impression you reflect above, and I think he’d probably agree. But, in the long run, Bernier may have been the stronger, more together person, able to manage the conflicts that the logging industry can present to a person.Very best regards,John V.
By the time I arrived at school the following morning, our newest commenting benefactor had apparently visited Meghan’s post about Loggers and Depression:
Loggers are talked about as replaceable and expendable. “Accidents were so common in the early days that if a man was killed on the job his body would simply be laid to the side and work would continue until quitting time, when a boat, plane or runner might be sent to notify the police.” Imagine seeing the man you shared breakfast with stabbed through the stomach by a massive branch, and then just having to move him to the side only to late have to drag him back to camp like a sack of flour.
Hi Meghan;thank you for posting this thoughtful (and well-supported) opinion. Personally, I think you are right on the money, but as you can imagine, not a lot of loggers go into therapy and it’s not a job, or a culture, that lends itself to introspection! Though there are some notable exceptions. It would be interesting to see what doctors and clergy in logging communities would have to say about this.
Best regards,John V.
Doubtlessly a busy man with a new book out, it would be great to be able to verify if the comments were indeed the work of our author.
Sitting down to recast an updated listing of the RSS feeds, Twitter favourites, and podcasts I make a habit of perusing on a daily weekly monthly basis, I would be remiss to not isolate one of these sources of infotainment above the others — the unparallelled public radio institution that in all honesty, I cannot praise highly enough: This American Life.
My love for public radio goes back to a few consecutive summers I spent living in the woods at the Gus Blass Scout Reservation in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Outside our tents on Saturday afternoons, furiously packing our things for a weekly twenty-hour furlough into neighbouring Conway, or Little Rock, the Saturday broadcasts of NPR would accompany us into cars and down the dusty road leading back to civilization and the comforts of home.
Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion, All Things Considered and Morning Becomes Eclectic quickly became a part of my weekend routines. Doing laundry, drying moulding sleeping bags and pillows, and catching up on massive debts of sleep accrued in the sweltering wilds of Camp Rockefeller, I was kept ample company by the likes of Diane Rehm, Robert Siegal, Mr. Keillor, and others. And even now I am never far from a host of disembodied voices that accompany me (in podcasts) on road trips, insomniac nights in bed, runs around the inlet trail in Port Moody, in headphones, car speakers, and the tiny drone of my iPhone’s audio output.
These days, there is an unequivocal champion in garnering my listening attention. His name is Ira Glass, and he hosts a little show called This American Life. Part gonzo journalism, part contemporary American fiction, part living history, This American Life is many things to many people, and difficult to describe. The long and the short of it, as Mr. Glass prefaces every episode, is that “Every week we choose a theme and then bring you a number of stories on that theme.” Where each show goes from there, well…
We view the show as an experiment. We try things. There was the show where we taped for 24 hours in an all-night restaurant. And the show where we put a band together from musicians’ classified ads. And the show where we followed a group of swing voters for months, recording their reactions to everything that happened in the campaign, right up through their final decision. And the show where we had a story for each of the Ten Commmandments. Or the one where our producers all collected stories for a weekend at the same rest stop. We also occasionally do our own versions of stories that are in the news, including award winning economics coveragePlanet Money. that spawned another entire program called
We think of the show as journalism. One of the people who helped start the program, Paul Tough, says that what we’re doing is applying the tools of journalism to everyday lives, personal lives. Which is true. It’s also true that the journalism we do tends to use a lot of the techniques of fiction: scenes and characters and narrative threads.Meanwhile, the fiction we have on the show functions like journalism: it’s fiction that describes what it’s like to be here, now, in America. What we like are stories that are both funny and sad. Personal and sort of epic at the same time.We sometimes think of our program as a documentary show for people who normally hate documentaries. A public radio show for people who don’t necessarily care for public radio.
To get started, or to even see if This American Life might provide an introduction or addition to your podcast, or talk-radio listening, subscribe through iTunes, or check out the website’s Favourites Page. You can also browse through more than ten years of the award-winning program in their archives (which is handy, as downloading old episodes on iTunes costs 99 cents). It is honestly difficult to find an episode not worth your time.
Some of my recent favourites:
Notes on Camp – Fittingly, this episode tells the “Stories of summer camp. People who love camp say that non-camp people simply don’t understand what’s so amazing about camp. In this program, we attempt to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between camp people and non-camp people.”
The Georgia Rambler – The This American Life team heads to Georgia to retrace the steps of 1970s “reporter Charles Salter [who] wrote a column for the Atlanta Journal called “Georgia Rambler.” He’d get into his car, head out to some small town, and ask around until he found a story. This week, nine of us go to Georgia to try it out for ourselves, in small towns all over the state.”
Origin Story – An eclectic collection of “little-known and surprising stories of how all sorts of institutions—from a controversial legal precedent to a Hollywood teen dance flick—began. In one story, a man tries to set the record straight about his life’s achievements, which he says include inventing thumb wrestling and popularizing the eating of shrimp in the New York area. And the story of a seven-year-old old boy trying to figure out where he comes from.”
And if I’ve yet to see you thus far, even the Simpsons know how cool Ira Glass and his little program are (though I would probably skip the Condiments episode):