Michael's Musings

Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud

This TED talk by Sugata Mitra has had me thinking all weekend:

It asks a lot of the big questions I’ve asked myself about schools…though I have my doubts about some of his argument. Is knowing obsolete? Hmm — I think that’s an overstatement. For example, I’d rather be operated on by a surgeon who just knows what to do and doesn’t need Google to take out my appendix. The “English Granny” concept is interesting to me — I like the idea of Teacher as Facilitator of Discussion — but at the same time, I think there’s a difference between recitation of facts and understanding.

Still, I was fascinated by Dr. Mitra’s talk. Teacher friends? Thoughts?

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Oh, Brother! A New (Ad)Venture

“So, what have you been up to?”

I’m glad you asked. (That was you, wasn’t it?)

Lately, I’ve been pretty thoroughly wrapped up in a handful of projects. I’m slowly, slowly chipping away at the new YA novel, tentatively titled Bird With Paper Wings; I’m heading up a team that is developing curriculum for high school English; I’m finishing up with my school visits for the year; I’m practicing my photography when time and weather allow; and lastly, I’m having a ball in my home recording studio, making lots of silly voices.

It tires me out just to list it all! That last item has been a real time investment, but also the most fun. I’m doing all this voice work for a new iOS app on which I’ve been invited to collaborate.

No, it’s not a new Midlandia Press app. In fact (and there are a lot of reasons for this), it’s looking like Be a Buddy, Not a Bully will be the last of my Tales of Midlandia stories to make the leap to iPad. It saddens me, no doubt — especially as our apps continue to get great reviews from places like USA Today, Education.com, and Common Sense Media — but as that chapter ends, another one begins.

Here’s the deal: the team that developed the apps for Midlandia Press is working on a new venture. They’re developing an app-daptation (to coin a phrase) of a syndicated comic strip called Oh, Brother! It will consist of three volumes, with about 81 strips in each. It will also have a lot of creative content, where users can build their own strips in a variety of ways.

So…knowing that a) I have a bit of experience in sound recording; b) I am a pretty good reader; and c) I enjoy doing silly things with my voice, the development team asked me to spearhead all the audio recording for the app. I’m also playing the titular “Brother,” Bud.

Even though it’s not my own creative work, I figured, “Why not?” I do have all this recording equipment; I have the software; and I’m always eager for a new challenge. At times, it’s intimidating, bringing another writer’s work to life. Even when I was making films, I was always using my own source material. But this Oh, Brother! project is great mental exercise. And I’m having a blast doing it — even if the high-pitched voice of Bud requires me to pop throat lozenges like they were Reese’s Pieces. I will definitely be keeping folks posted as launch approaches.


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Three Simple Words

There is so much I’ve felt like writing lately. I’ve just returned from a rejuvenating, soul-moving trip out west; the anniversary of my previous (and to date best-selling) novel, Postcards from Pismo, draws near; and today is my 30th birthday.

And yet, with all that went on this week, I haven’t been able to find words. I wanted to write something about the wonderful city of Boston, about what happened out there — I didn’t want to be trite, or redundant. I just didn’t know what to put down. It kept slipping out of my grasp.

Today, though, I came across the right words. Words that expressed exactly what I want to share, what I want to see around me. I found them at a local artist’s market not far from my house. They’re not mine; but I feel no shame in borrowing something when it’s just right. It’s just three simple words:

Artwork by StrawberryLuna, purchased 4/20/2013.

That’s all there is to it.

(PS: The print above was created by strawberryluna. Check ’em out; get something for yourself at their online store.)

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Happy book birthday to me!

To those who might have been waiting for an update — I apologize for my lateness. March has contained a quick succession of several sad events, and they’ve sort of derailed me from my typical posting habits.

But I couldn’t skip posting today! Because today is a wonderful day. Today is the birthday of my new novel, Latasha and the Kidd on Keys.

To celebrate, I’ll (finally) give a quick recap of the time I spent on the road in my new book’s honor at the end of February and in early March. In no particular order, here are some images from my grueling, gratifying, electrifying, fantastical Latasha launch!

Everywhere I went, I got the Rockstar Treatment. I was greeted with signs…

Minges Brook Elementary

Door artwork…

Door Artwork!

Wall decorations…

Wall decorations!

And by tons of excited kids!!

Strike a pose!

More school visit fun!

Questions abound!

And here I am doing my world-class Randy Savage impression. (Maybe? Probably not.)

All in all, it was a great trip to the Midwest and back. I drove a couple thousand miles, a spoke with a couple thousand kids, and managed to stop at a Burger King in every single state I visited. (That last part was unplanned.)

Now this is the way to launch a book. Thanks to all my new friends in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for letting me bend your ear about reading and writing!

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