Issue #119 - The Spaces in Between
I’m selecting a few photos to go in this week’s newsletter and notice that I have been in the city much more than usual, meeting people and socializing. I think after years of remote meetings and all those zoom calls, it’s so lovely to be sat with another human and have a chat. However, I might have overdone it a bit and probably stretched myself a bit too thinly jumping from one meeting to another. I can also slightly tell with some people that they now have in-person meeting fatigue, although they’re much too polite to say. It was a lovely week though, but I must moderate and be sensitive to others. I did have some smooth coffee, a tasty lunch in the Carnegie Museum and a few beers at the festival.
I can see the window closing on socializing, I’m afraid. Covid numbers, particularly infections from the BA.2 strain are rising, and at least one of my boys has chosen to wear a mask again in class. Perhaps it’s getting towards the end of the school year and also hayfever season, so we’ve all got snivelly noses, and taking tests, all of which have come back negative so far. Some of my neighbors are unwell, it does feel as if Covid is closing in…
Teaching & Learning
The first week of teaching has gone well, I think, it’s going to be an interesting class. We had a good chat and got to know each other a little bit. Most of my students are still in the area, so despite what I just wrote, we will try and meet up in the room so that we can try a few experiences together.
I also made sure that there were Oculus Quests in the packs that we handed out, I can’t manage these remotely, students have their own logins but I can gift experiences, so I’ll do that. I have a little list of essential games and apps they might like to try out and I’m adding to these all the time.
I’m pleased that there are still a host of free apps for these headsets, and would say that meta does quite a good job of curation on their store, the standard is quite high and libraries aren’t plagued with second rate apps or dodgy knock-offs of popular games as the Apple store is increasing filling up with. There must be a name for these sorts of apps, which are full of ads or payment models that trap the user in lower levels. There are a few games that are essentially gambling apps disguised as platformers and designed to frustrate until you finally cave in and purchase coins etc.
In-app purchases are hated by gamers, nobody enjoys buying loot boxes or game packs but the pressure to have the latest skin, equipment, and weapon is enormous. As a parent, I make sure to ask what game my kids are playing and then check out commonsense.org or just do a search to see what comes up. It’s still the wild west out there. Sorry to divert a bit from the usual learning chat, but it seemed to be worth saying.
Spaces to Connect
I had a lovely Saturday afternoon volunteering at Pittonkatonk, although I had to get back in the early evening, just as the party was getting really started and people moved indoors for the finale, I had to head home. It was amazing though, such a lovely atmosphere, and met and hung out with excellent people, all enjoying the tremendous sound of a series of anarchic brass bands. There is such great energy to this festival, it is small but definitely packs a punch.
I collected donations, lugged some band equipment, and helped out where I could here and there. People were lovely and friendly, gave generously, and I enjoyed some lovely conversations throughout the day. There really isn’t this tradition in the UK of these sorts of bands, which have their origins in working-class communities, playing songs of revolutionary protest, romance, and celebration. There is music that has its origins in South American and Latino communities, and also influences from Eastern European, Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish cultures. There were local bands from Pittsburgh, one big one from Detroit, and others making a date to stop off on tour, from all over the world.
My ears were ringing by the end of it, my heart full and my head tipsy. It’s a regular date now for me, something I’ll always have when I think of Pittsburgh. Viva Pittonkatonk!
This week’s newsletter is named after one of the pieces that my kid played at his concert during the week, he was ace, inspired to pick up a trombone after last year’s visit to the festival.
Lost and Found
I don’t have a huge list for you, just a few things I saw.
Chrome now has automatic filming and audio recording shortcuts built into the browser. It is so easy to quickly make a video and upload it.
I wrote a piece for the DLF toolkit and you can read it by clicking the link below.
Students reflect on the past two years of coping with learning during the pandemic.
Frameworks for Ethical Learning Technology published by ALT.
Kids’ guide to NFTs is better than some of the articles aimed at grown-ups.
If the world is a dumpster fire, then I don’t know what message a garbage truck in flames on the Liberty Bridge is sending. As I drove home on Tuesday I could see great plumes of black smoke billowing out across the skyline, I’m so pleased I wasn’t downwind of it, I’m sure it would have smelled horribly. It was sort of apocalyptic looking. I took a few snaps and then detoured through an empty Warsash Tunnel.
People voted this week and I hope that they voted for positive, progressive change, because that’s what’s needed. I hope they didn’t vote for the politicians who inflamed the racism that led to the shooting in Buffalo, or for those that voted against measures to alleviate the shortages of Baby formula. Some GOP members even suggested the administration was prioritizing immigrants and sending them formula instead of “hard-working Americans”. I mean, politically there is no strategy on the right other than one owning the dems and keeping that dumpster fire burning. Any concession means they can’t blame the government when they need to, and their hypocrisy is laid bare, just like those Republicans who voted against the infrastructure bill but celebrated the millions they took back to their states. It’s the same for being pro-life but not supporting mothers with at this time of crisis, it is unfathomable.
I sort of resent not being able to vote and don’t know what justifies this really, I mean I live here, pay taxes and contribute as much as I can. I’m invested in a positive future, I help and support my community. It would take me at least another two election cycles before I would be able to cast a ballot. Convince me I’m wrong. Hey, what was hopeful though, was seeing thousands march in cities throughout America, coming together with some of the best signs, protesting peacefully.
I hope that you have a good week, can settle into your work, and feel like you’re getting ahead. I know some people aren’t feeling well and hope that you make a rapid recovery and take your time before you get back into it.
Speak to you next week, take care.