Re-Imagining Rosie for Today

Today is the last day of a summer camp project I am facilitating, which is connecting inner-city middle school students with the Springfield Armory, a National Park Historic Site. (The project is funded and supported by our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, Mass Humanities, The National Writing Project, the Springfield Armory, Veterans Education Project and the Springfield City Schools … it’s a complicated endeavor, to say the least).

The middle schoolers (who come from a Social Justice-themed school) are now hard at work on a research project, in which they have taken on the “persona” of someone from the Armory’s past (our focus has been women and immigration), and represent what they know through a multi-genre effort. One piece is writing, and another is more art-related.

To show students what we are thinking when it comes to multi-genre, another teacher and I both created some texts. She wrote, and performed, an amazing rap song (she used to work for Flocabulary, I found out) about women in the workforce during World War 2. Meanwhile, I decided to use what we learned about Rosie the Riveter in a presentation by a historic re-enactor to create two different projects about Rosie.

My premise was, what would a Rosie icon look like today?

First, I wrote a Poem for Two Voices, and had students come up and read it with me. In the poem, the two voices were Rosie 1.0 (the original icon) and a Rosie 2.0 (a modern day icon).

Rosie Poem for Two Voices preview

Second, I created a comic strip in which woman are auditioning for the job of Rosie 2.0, and what happened when a strong, active woman gets the part. (OK, so I didn’t reference the Trump administration, but I imagined them being the voices off in the wings).

Rosie Comic1

Rose Comic2

I am excited to see and hear what students are making today. We’re seeing board games, comics, rap songs, journals, stories, poems and more. It’s been fun and interesting, and educational (Shhhh. Don’t tell the kids. It’s summer camp, remember.)

Peace (listen to Rosie),

Summer Engagement: CLMOOC and the Pop Up Make Cycles

I just realized that CLMOOC and the Pop Up Make Cycles (the title of this post) sounds a bubblegum pop band from some 1960s cartoon show (shout out to Josie and the Pussycats). I’m thinking: That title needs to be a remixed album cover. I digress. I wanted to let you all know that a crowd-sourced CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) is again on the horizon of summer.

You know you’re moving into CLMOOC mode when you think about remix and word play at the drop of a hat.

As with last year, there is a whole bunch of people behind the scenes, gathering (in Slack, if you must know) and planning a few Pop Up Make Cycles. There is no formal structure to CLMOOC anymore. A Make Cycle in CLMOOC is merely a themed week(ish) amount of activities, with lots of invitation and support and welcoming. A “pop up” means it comes out of nowhere and disappears. It gives a certain informality to the whole shebang.

Play if you want to do. Don’t, if you don’t.

CLMOOC, which started five years ago through the work of the National Writing Project and Educator Innovator, remains a low-stress way to connect with other educators and explore “making” in all sorts of way. You can make with text. You can make with pen. You can make with the blowtorch you’ve been dying to try out. You can make with your imagination.

It’s important to know that CLMOOC is not one online space. Rather, it is a hub of activity, dispersed across social media spaces, and yet YOU are the center of CLMOOC. Always. No matter where your presence might be.

Interested? Awesome!

There is a 2017 signup form over at the CLMOOC website, and regular newsletters about Pop Up Make Cycles will filter out through July and into August. We’ve noticed an art theme this summer as the CLMOOC crowd began brainstorming together, but you can take any theme any place you see fit.

Come check out the CLMOOC website and considering signing up for newsletters and keep an eye out for the first activities in the next week or so. And have fun!

Peace (make it happen),

PS — The CLMOOC Make Bank is a host of creative ideas and examples. Feel free to explore and use and remix.


Another Collection of Comics

DigCiz Comic Collection Screenshot

I made more than 40 comics during the DigCiz conversation, as a way to close-read blogs posts and writing, and close-view some of the video discussions. As always, some of the comics work and some don’t, and some need context to make sense. Some may not make sense at all, no matter your context. The “slideshow” button at the top of the page is the best way to view them, I think.

See the collection

Peace (in frames),


Slice of Life: Playing Cards and Making Acquaintances

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

We sat in a small circle, three middle school boys and I, and talked through the rules. We were playing UNO on the first day of a summer camp I am helping to facilitate that connects writing and local history, and is a complex partnership between our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, an urban school with a social justice identity, the Springfield Armory, Veterans Education Project and Mass Humanities (which is funding the project).

I won’t go into all of the hurdles we have faced to make this camp actually happen. It’s happening. The kids from this school in the heart of Springfield were engaged and enjoying themselves. That’s enough to cite success.

But this after-lunch scene, with me playing UNO on the grass fields outside the Springfield Armory (and much of the grounds is now part of a technical college) sticks with me. It was so much fun, getting to know these three middle school boys as we navigated the rules, helped each other out, and just chatted away.

Armory Camp Day 1

Day Two starts in a few hours, and we have some cool activities planned — including an re-enactment actress who will give a dynamic presentation about women’s roles in the Armory during World War II — but I already know that one of the boys from the UNO game is determined to get a game of Apples to Apples going at recess today.

I’m in.

Peace (relax),

Better the World: Reflecting on #DigCiz Discussions

Person by person

As I mull over the last few weeks of conversations

I’ve been using Vialogues to “slow-watch” weekly video hangouts of folks in the #DigCiz conversation. This “writing in the margins” has helped me slowly think about the topics — to push back, at times, and to agree at others. It often has taken me days to get through an hour-long discussion video. It has been worth it. You are invited, too, if interested.

Thanks to folks like Daniel, Terry, Sarah, Wendy and others who have added to the side conversations along with me. I still wish more of the hangout folks would have spilled into the margins, too, and extended the conversations (as Maha did). I appreciate, too, how Autumm and Sundi have worked to gather voices and perspectives together, and how they have nurtured the discussions in various places.

I have valued of all the points of view.

This whole four-week #DigCiz discussion has really raised important questions, particularly in the role of the individual in a larger data-driven system. Some lingering questions:

  • What rights and responsibilities do we have in that system or that platform?
  • What expectations should people have in those spaces, such as Facebook or Twitter or whatever?
  • Can we change those platforms if they don’t work for us?
  • Do we have agency?
  • How do we best teach young people ways to navigate the terrain with optimism and engagement?
  • Where do we go from here?

We’ve all done much chatting about these concerns, and more, and about how we address civics in the digital age. So, how do we take what we talked about and move it into action? Isn’t that always the conundrum? (See comic at the top for one way I tried to grapple with the question and found myself thinking of Annie Lamott’s Bird by Bird).

I am reminding myself, too, that we all need be more mindful that we can make a difference, one interaction at a time. I was asked by a friend about the following comic …

Think small
The point I was trying to make (and maybe fell into stereotype of academic folks, which is a bit unfair) is that we can all easily get bogged down in jargon and vocabulary and lose sight of the reason why were are engaged in conversations in the first place, which is to better connect with others and better understand points of view.

As a K12 teacher often in the midst of university folks through work with our writing project, it seems as if I am surrounded by vocabulary — you can almost hear some folks planning their next education journal writing or book project as they talk and interact — and I was seeking to remind myself that deeds and actions are important. Talking only gets you so far.

Words matter, of course. But where you take those words is a reflection on who are you and what you really want to see happen. Think small, but get it started. In the end, it has to do with being kind to each other and being open to differences, whether you are online or offline.

Perhaps I remain a bit naive about the possibilities of making the world a better place …

Peace (in the margins),

Visual Literacies and the Emergence of “Picting”

visualliteracy flickr photo by alisonkeller shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

The term “picting” is new to me but it makes sense. In a recent piece at The Journal by Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway entitled Picting, Not Wriing, is the Literacy of Today’s Youth, the question of whether the visual nature of literacy in the (literal) hands of youth — mostly via cameras on mobile devices — has overtaken the written literacies.

Maybe. I don’t know.

I look at my own teenage sons, and my own adolescent students, and I pay attention to the ways they use Snapchat and YouTube and who knows what other apps to document their world, but are they telling stories? It’s more like the visual elements of their mobile lives are connector points, or documentation hubs of their identity (or projected identities), than telling whatever we want to call a story. Read the comments at the article, and you’ll see a discussion about “story” unfolding along this query.

The authors cite research that does back up, however, how young people are more apt to “compose” with images  – and use writing only as secondary literacy points — than the other way around. Unless they are in school. Then, the equation flip flops. In school, writing is the key literacy skill and visuals are often add-ons.

I think that is generally true (that we value textual writing over visual composition), and while more of a balance would make sense, I still think the teaching of writing and of composition and of “composing” with media is a key anchor of learning in our schools. Whether young people are taking and sharing images with intentional design and composition strategies can probably be debated.

I believe that young people still need to learn and to use those more traditional skills (ie, writing with text) to inform the way they interact and write into the world, whether that writing be visual or not. Note the image I used at the top of the post. The elements of design are becoming more and more important for all of us, so teaching and learning visual literacy makes sense.

I was reminded of the work that Nick Sousanis is doing around the visual narrative. You can read his piece from Digital Writing Month, in which he explores elements of visual narrative with a unique insight.

from Nick Sousanis: Spin Weave and Cut


And I was reminded, too, of the way my friend Kim Douillard, a writing project colleague, sees the world through her camera, and shares out visual themes for others to try across many social media streams, every single week. Kim views what she sees through her camera as narrative points, and understands how a picture can be composed. I try to learn from her.

Image by Kim Douillard


Not everything we write is story, although a common definition of ‘story’ is often debated in writing and teaching circles. Still, the idea that narrative does run beneath all that writers do is an interesting concept, for sure. See Minds Made for Stories by Thomas Newkirk for more on this.

I wrote this as a comment response at The Journal’s piece:

Writing with text is important. So is visual literacy. Also, add in the ability to speak and listen. Explaining something with video? Yep. That, too. The best approach for us educators is always to find ways to fuse these elements together when working with young “composers” of media. We should teach students how each (writing, visual, audio) on its own transforms a message (if not tells a story) and how each can work in tandem with the other to make a more powerful statement on the world. It is intriguing how visual the world of young people has become and there are many ways to tap into that (graphic novels, comics, infographics, etc). I still maintain, along with others, that the art of writing is still at the center of all these literacies.

What do you think?

Peace (looks like),


Humans at the Center of Civic Action

Civic Tech by Lawrence G

A #DigCiz post by Meg Mulrooney, which is worth your time as it centers on helping people move from digital interaction into political action, led to me to a post by Lawrence Grodeska, which got me thinking about a concept that came up during Networked Narratives about Civic Imagination.

Empowered by Meg M

Grodeska uses the term “CivicTech” and I think there is a fair amount of overlap between “Civic Imagination” (the idea of imagining a better future and then taking steps to make it happen) and “CivicTech” (which is the idea of making sure we use digital tools wisely and with agency to affect change in the world.)

It’s the hardest thing to move from ideas to reality, from talk to action, and it takes time and planning and a shared vision. Our local writing project site has shifted into connecting Civics with writing, and with teacher leadership, and both of these blog posts may come in handy as educators ponder on their role in the mix of public discourse, and student engagement and leadership.

Someone else shared this video out in the #DigCiz stream, and I appreciated the bend towards “human concern” in a world seemingly overrun by corporate interests, and the way those corporations are influencing the political realm that is impact us as individuals. How to effectively counter that push is the question facing many of us as voters and constituents.

Peace (in the world),

Book Review: The Urban Sketchbook

I’m still trying to learn more about sketching. Recently, I took a break from writing for a week to do sketching from my couch, and I found it very enjoyable.

I am still not confident or comfortable with myself as a visual artist — I find myself falling back to words and text to understand and view the world — but I want to become better at sketching. I am interested in how different media forces you to have a different kind of perspective, and how different art changes the way we tell stories to each other (and ourselves).

So, of course, when I saw this book– The Urban Sketchbook — on the shelves of our public library, I had to grab it, take it home and peruse what was inside. If I had any doubts, the tagline on the cover had me before page one: Get Out. Walk. Observe. Draw. Lose Yourself. Create.

First of all, I didn’t even know that Urban Sketching was a thing. Of course, it’s a thing. Folks organize and gather together with sketchbooks in urban centers all over the globe and head out to the streets and city blocks to find scenes to sketch, some of which may be turned into more formal art. Most will not. Most of the art will remain in the books. There’s an informal warmth to sketching.

This book, a collection of ideas and resources by writer/illustrator Sergi Camara, is a fine introduction, touching on tools of the trade, the reasons why people sketch, the impact of social media on sketchbooks and collaboration, and more. There’s even an interesting introduction to the history of sketching.

I felt a bit like an outsider here, but the text and images and examples of sketching was very inviting, and I didn’t feel as intimidated by the art as I thought I might be.

I don’t live in an urban area. That didn’t matter. Carmara’s book gave me ideas on how one might view the world from different angles, with an eye for colors and lines and shapes and contours.

I’m still learning.

Peace (looks like that),


Amplifying the Work of Others

Ampen don't Dampen

Ampen. Don’t Dampen.

My friend, Terry, wrote this phrase elsewhere in a discussion about “hospitality” and his words stuck with me, for its spirit of generosity of others. I hope I do that with my close reading activities, with quote pulling, with comic making, and with the remixing stories of others and sharing back.

By amplifying the work of others, we amplify the thinking of ourselves, for when you choose what to focus on in the work of others, you share a bit of yourself, too. This approach is also a way to counter the selfie-centered heart of technology. Turn the lens on someone else, and make a connection.

Peace (amplified),

PS — Is ampen a word? I don’t think so. A quick search came up empty. Is it important? Nope. I still love invented language, and ampen to me signals a variation of amplify, but with softer and kinder tones.