Cory & Cory

Isn’t it great when one of your heroes turns out to be a simply wonderful human being?

By now everyone who reads this blog must have heard my pleas about voting for Cory & The Tigermen who are semi-finalists in the SchoolJamUSA competition sponsored by NAMM. I’m very hopeful she’ll make it to the finals, but that depends on votes from all the good folks out there – every day for the month of November. It’s a pretty tall order for a 15-year-old to galvanize that kind of support, but she sure is trying!

And anyone who has visited Cory’s website knows that her next album (due out in December) is titled Reading in the Dark – every song was inspired by a book. As a parent (and shameless promoter), I am thrilled that she has undertaken such a creative challenge. As an educator, I am even more thrilled that she has chosen to build on her experiences reading literature ranging from Shakespeare sonnets to young adult novels that deal with issues of struggling identity.

One of the novels Cory read last year is Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Sharing the same name is certainly a hook, but beyond that, the story is just dynamite and engaged my daughter Cory immediately. She also had the privilege of hearing him read from the book at a Philadelphia Free Library event – and she went home that night to write a song, she was so inspired.

Cory Doctorow published Little Brother under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can download and read the book for free, and even use it to some extent. My Cory got very excited about that, and decided to use language from the book in a song. All her other songs have been written in her own words, drawing on inspiration after reading the authors’ works. In her Little Brother song, however, Cory Hite was able to use Cory Doctorow’s text in her lyrics. Due to some restrictions on the Creative Commons license, Cory contacted the author for explicit permission. It’s no surprise that he immediately granted her permission and wrote a very encouraging response.

It’s just so gratifying when one of your idols becomes a “real” person after you have some contact with them – and they turn out to be supportive, generous, and just plain nice. What an inspiration for a teenager struggling to find her own creative voice as a songwriter! Do yourself a favor and check out Little Brother, as well as Cory Doctorow’s other books. Yes, you can download them for free – but if you’re like us, you’ll love the books so much that you’ll be buying multiple copies to give as gifts.

And visit Cory’s website to hear the Little Brother song in its entirety; however, it will be much more meaningful if you’ve read the book.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote!


Wow! Cory Hite (with her band the Tigermen) is a semi-finalist in the SchoolJamsUSA national battle of the bands:

SchoolJam USA is based on the SchoolJam program developed and initiated by MusikMedia LLC in Germany. The program was created to promote the use of popular music in the traditional school setting.

NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants, brought the initiative to the United States in 2007 as a pilot program called SchoolJam Texas. The program was so successful in Texas that in 2009/2010 we launched the first national SchoolJam USA battle of the bands.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE … go to the SchoolJam voting site and register by filling out some information (don’t worry – they keep all info private, no spam) and vote …



Vote every day for the month of November!

(For more info about Cory’s music, visit

Shirky’s Rant about Women

Okay, so I’m vacillating between “Duh” and “Hmmmm” regarding Clay Shirky‘s recent blog post “A Rant About Women” … but I think there’s enough in there that educators should at least ponder …

Some of the most important opportunities we have are in two-sided markets: education and employment, contracts and loans, grants and prizes. And the institutions that offer these opportunities operate in an environment where accurate information is hard to come by. One of their main sources of judgment is asking the candidate directly: Tell us why we should admit you. Tell us why we should hire you. Tell us why we should give you a grant. Tell us why we should promote you.

In these circumstances, people who don’t raise their hands don’t get called on, and people who raise their hands timidly get called on less. Some of this is because assertive people get noticed more easily, but some of it is because raising your hand is itself a high-cost signal that you are willing to risk public failure in order to try something.

So we need to encourage women to raise their hands and put themselves out there – even if it’s not in their nature. But, then Shirky states:

That in turn correlates with many of the skills the candidate will need to actually do the work — to recruit colleagues and raise money, to motivate participants and convince skeptics, to persevere in the face of both obstacles and ridicule. Institutions assessing the fitness of candidates, in other words, often select self-promoters because self-promotion is tied to other characteristics needed for success.

So if it’s not in their nature – simply “behaving” in an aggressive manner might get them the job, but will they be successful in the work? My daughter is a young musician and artist … and incredibly reluctant to self-promote fearing that she’ll be seen as pompous or bragging. How can her teachers and mentors coach her to balance that line between humility and overblown self-aggrandizement?

(Of course, as her mother, I am completely at liberty to engage in shameless bragging:

People are natural hackers – just out of practice …

I got to meet Cory Doctorow a few weeks ago. He was meeting with high school students and I’m fortunate enough to have one around the house, so she was my ticket to meet him. I’ve read his book Little Brother (one of the best young adult novels you’ll ever read) and I’ve followed his thinking on Boing Boing for years. Fortunately, it turns out he’s even cooler in person than on paper or screen. He spoke passionately about writing, following your instincts, and of course, intellectual freedom.

I took the opportunity to buy his new novel Makers (for adults) and promptly sat down to read it cover-to cover. Cory has written an optimistic view of the near future in which American ingenuity and creativity combine with venture capital to foster the creation of a new economy in which new ideas and skills flourish, albeit in counter intuitive ways. It’s not always an attractive vision (creativity is often messy), but it’s extremely hopeful, in that integrity and intelligence hold sway over corporate greed. Although technically science fiction – this book is accessible and engaging the way so much sci fi is not. Makers is about people you come to care about, and a future that might just be worth visiting.

At its heart, Makers encourages us to end disposable thinking (both in terms of things and people) in favor of re-use and re-purpose (both in terms of things and people). So then I stumbled across sugru … and all I could think about was the world of Makers and how the characters tinkered and made new stuff from old. Watch the video and then think about all the things we don’t have to throw away … of course, the first 1000 packs of sugru sold out in 6 hours, so I’m not the only one who thinks it’s pretty cool.

And by the way, Cory Doctorow also has!

$150 bucks to see the world …

Youth and ingenuity trump traditional approaches …

… two students (from MIT, of course) put together a low-budget rig to fly a camera high enough to photograph the curvature of the Earth. Instead of rockets, boosters and expensive control systems, they filled a weather balloon with helium and hung a styrofoam beer cooler underneath to carry a cheap Canon A470 compact camera. Instant hand warmers kept things from freezing up and made sure the batteries stayed warm enough to work.

Of course, all this would be pointless if the guys couldn’t find the rig when it landed, so they dropped a prepaid GPS-equipped cellphone inside the box for tracking. Total cost, including duct tape? $148.

Rest of the article here.

This picture was shot from approximately 93,000 feet, almost 18 miles high.

This picture was shot from approximately 93,000 feet, almost 18 miles high.

New Literacy … writing is alive and well

Clive Thompson writes about the Stanford Study of Writing – one of the first research-based arguments that student writing is in actual fact, alive, well, and thriving in the digital age:

… young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes. Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.

Read the rest of the Wired article here.