My friend across many social spaces, Daniel Bassill of Tutor/Mentor Connections, put out a request recently, asking if anyone might be interested in making a comic version of any of his many resources at his site, which encourages partnerships to improve the lives of urban youths.
I’ve done many versions of this prompt – Why I Write — over the years of the National Day on Writing (which is today! Why do YOU write?). I decided to think about memory and remembering, and used the Lumen5 tool to make a short digital poem.
One of the activities I like to do with my students during our Digital Life unit is to have them explore and think deep on the notions of passwords for their many apps and accounts with technology. We use a site that tests the strength of passwords, and I have them use password creation strategies to invent password suggestions for their four main teachers.
It then becomes a classroom challenge, where groups of students share the password that they have for me, their ELA teacher; share and agree on a single suggestion from the group; and then we pit each one against each other to see how strong it is. Each of these images is a slide from each of my four classroom’s challenge. One rule is that I would have to be able to memorize the password, and that is must contain different elements of password strategies (mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols).
Most of these contain clues and elements of what they know about me — from my teaching to my family life to my interests. During the activity, I was actively interviewed about favorite foods, favorite numbers, music I like to listen to, etc.
They like the game element of it, but as I remind them, what this lesson is all really about is reflecting on the kinds of passwords they use in their lives and how to make them stronger.
I know I have hit a nerve when students start asking, “Can you show me how to change my Google password?”
My latest column over at Middleweb is an interview with Jennifer Casa-Todd, whose new book — Social LEADia — closely examines ways in which technology and social media can help empower young people in the larger world on issues that matter to them. The book has many short profiles of young people doing pretty amazing things, and Casa-Todd helps explain how teachers can help foster those shifts.
I was grateful to have about 25 people in my virtual session last night for the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing as I shared some of my experiences with the concept of “emergence” in open networks, and how to make the ground fertile for ideas. Or, a bit more catchy: How to Expect the Unexpected.
An invitation to doodle flowers met folks as they entered the Blackboard room, and it was lovely to see the flowers slowly blooming on the page. I then went into my presentation (a version of it is here, but the full presentation was recorded for eventual archive at the 4T site).
Here are the links that I shared during the presentation:
And I ended with both an invitation to keep an eye out for a Pop Up Make Cycle on the horizon for November on the theme of “maps” as well as a link to collaborate on a poem, using some of the words from the presentation as an acrostic invitation.
The annual National Day on Writing, hosted by NCTE and other organizations like the National Writing Project, is coming again this week. On Friday, Ocober 20, the National Day on Writing — with the theme of Why I Write — will again take to the social media airwaves. Join the mix. Add your voice, your words, your images, your videos. Whatever.
Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project held its annual fall conference yesterday — Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing — with many workshops from teachers, for teachers, and a powerful keynote address by Sydney Chaffee, a Massachusetts teacher who is the National Teacher of the Year.
The conference really embodies the notion of “teachers teaching teachers” and workshops ranged from writing in the content areas, technology-infused writing concepts, student journaling, and more.
The video is a little teaser of some of the writing, learning, sharing going on all throughout the day at the University of Massachusetts.
I’ve been spending more and more time, writing and making new connections in Mastodon, a federated social media space not run by some corporation intent on selling our data and invading our privacy for stockholders. It’s run and overseen by people. I donate to the Mastodon effort through Patreon. I’m appreciating the many connection points there, from music collaborations to daily writing to remix efforts. I am also greatly appreciating this new eMagazine that is designed in and of the Mastodon space.
It’s called Kintsugi. Here’s what its editor and Mastodon friend, Erdal O. writes about that word, Kintsugi, and the intent of the magazine:
Kintsugi borrows its name from the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery to give it a new lease of life. The philosophy behind this has its roots in the Wabi-Sabi tradition, which sees existence as imperfect, incomplete and impermanent; instilling a sense of appreciation, acceptance and harmony in the way we live and interact with nature and people.
Kintsugi is a project organised and put together through social media, mainly the Mastodon network. The contributors have not met in person or face to face. Our aim here was to show that people can do good and put together something unique and different. We wanted to encourage others to come forward and do the same.
Here, we celebrate the diversity of people and ideas. The Kintsugi magazine covers a diverse set of themes and ideas. We celebrate the value of goodness and and the broken lines in each one of us, akin to repaired pottery.
I was so intrigued by the first edition (now available in different format at Internet Archives) that I submitted a piece about “small writing” and added a few comics to the mix for the second edition. (My friend, Terry E., meanwhile, had some poems posted in the same edition.) I also sent in another piece for the third edition, whenever that comes out.
I love the open nature of this kind of publication — the way Erdal puts the call out via the open network and invites a variety of voices into the mix — and the range of articles and media in the magazine is a lovely experience. All for free. All in the open.
I led/am leading the WMWP end of things — facilitating all of the professional development and guiding the development of the summer program for middle school students. The teachers — two of whom are co-presenting with us — are from a social justice magnet school in Springfield, our main urban center. The Springfield Armory is an often-forgotten piece of local history. The project connects the school to the Armory (and continues into the school year … we just had another meeting this week, planning out activities.)
In our presentation at the WMWP conference, we aim to share strategies for engaging students in writing with primary sources and historical perspectives (and we aim to get folks writing as well). The Minds Made for Stories title, which is what we called our project, refers to Thomas Newkirk’s book of the same name, in which he argues that everything is story.
Another objective here, along with sharing our story, is to give our Springfield teachers a chance to be in the spotlight and to present in a conference setting, in front of other educators. They seem a little nervous, but we’re all here to help them.
As a bonus, we have the National Teacher of the Year — Sydney Chaffee — as our keynote speaker for lunch, and the title of her talk is “Composing Change: Equity and Civic Engagement Across Content Areas.” That should be interesting.