Making Puppets: Complete Creative Chaos

Puppet craftsWe make stick puppets for our school’s annual craft fair. I know I probably should be doing beautiful ornaments, or maybe holiday trinkets, or perhaps some kind of interesting project with a Maker Space mentality, like LED bracelets with binary code names or whatever.

But I still prefer the madness of hands-on puppet making with sticks, paper, glue and assorted stuff. I live with the chaos of feathers floating in my room for a week afterwards, and I tamp down the worries of hot glue guns in the hands and fingers of 11-year-olds, and I scramble to see if I have enough pink paper (who knew pigs were popular this year?) and more material that they suddenly need.

It’s complete creative chaos during our puppet making sessions. I just go with the flow, knowing they might not get another real chance to make puppets in their lives. The laughter and movement and helping each other (“I need a white pom pom. Anyone have a white pom pom?” “I have a white pom pom. Here you go!”) is worth the mess we make of the room.

Peace (on a stick),
Kevin

Messing Around with Identity Graphs

Identity Graph: Writing Days

For the E-Lit 3.0 course, Stephen Downes has us pondering identity and graphs, with a focus on Identity Graphs. These are used by marketers to fine-tune who we are, using our data trails, in order to push their products our way.

Stephen envisions a different way in the Web3 world, where data will be used in deeper, richer, and unknown ways. He is turning “quantified self” into “qualified self.”  A new EL30 post he is working on (he has shared his draft with the world) expands on this notion in interesting ways, particularly in the world of anonymity and biometrics and more.

The task for this particular activity was to create an Identity Graph but without identifying who we are, or naming us on the graph. This suggested cloak of identity invisibility led me to think of a Scatter Graph, and then I figured, what does writing look like in this kind of visual? That’s what the graph above is aiming for.

The comic below? It’s my initial response to thinking of Identity Graphs and marketing departments.

Don’t Graph Me

I remain concerned about how Identity Graphs are used and are developing with different technology (would an Augmented Reality Identity Graph be cool or creepy, or both?) , and how our ability to hide from commercial interests in digital spaces seems more and more difficult to maintain.

Stephen interviewed Maha Bali for this week’s theme.

If you want to engage with me in the margins of their conversation, come on over to Vialogues where I have set this up for discussions as a way to watch together.

Stephen and Maha in Vialogues

Peace (where data hides),
Kevin

Helping Students Navigate Online Bullying

 

We’re nearing the end of our Digital Life unit and yesterday’s topic was about the negative aspects of digital spaces — of how online spaces and apps can become a place of mean behavior and bullying, and how one can navigate through if it happens.

The presentation here is part of our discussions, with an emphasis on ways to handle bullying if it happens in digital spaces and making sure students hear the overarching message that we teachers care about all of our students, in and out of school, and that we are “trusted adults” they can turn to for help. Also, I emphasized the overall concept that different is good, cliques can sometimes be bad, and we all have an obligation to look out for each other.

Don’t adults bully other adults, too? — a student asking a question during our work on bullying.

It occurred to me later that I never really dove into Twitter Trolls and Facebook bots and other tools that adults misuse online spaces to attack others for reasons of political views, religious ideology, gender and other reasons. I may need to rethink and revamp this again for next year.

This song doesn’t run in the Prezi anymore but it is a powerful message that my students all appreciated.

Peace (sharing it),
Kevin

Writing Myself In a Corner: Write and Record a Song (in 24 hours)

song under construction

Sometimes, when I hit a bit of a creative wall, I challenge myself to just go on and do something. Write that poem. Start that story. Write a song. On Sunday afternoon, I decided I wanted to see if I could write and record a demo of a new song, all within 24 hours. With that impetus, I got to work, huddling over my guitar and notebook paper, scribbling and scratching out lines as a phrase “we forgot to dream” became the hook.

I knew the song would be inspired by the recent elections, but I didn’t want it to be an overt political song. More like a reminder that even when things take turns to the worst, there is always some hope for change. And that there have been difficult times before. We made our way forward then. We can do it, again. It won’t be easy. It never is. But we can do it. This was the theme I was working towards.

I do get a bit obsessive when writing a song. Sort of a hermit in the house, riffing the same chords over and over on guitar (my poor family) as I work on rhymes and meaning, and structure. I revamp and re-arrange words and phrases and verses and choruses, and then I walk away from the guitar and paper, silently singing lines in my head, remixing rhythms. I wander the house and the rest of the day like some madman, whispering poems to himself.

Late Sunday night, I went back to the work on the song and hit a wall. I found that I had forgotten the basic rhythm of the song from earlier in the day. In fact, I got so frustrated with myself (one, for forgetting what I had written, and two, for not doing a quick raw demo when I first started, which I often do, as a listening post) that I had to walk away and call the songwriting challenge quits.

By morning, my mind have found the threads again, though, and began weaving me back to the song. Thank you, sleep. When I picked up the guitar yesterday morning, the phrases all clicked into place again, as easy as you can imagine, as if I had never stepped away from the song at all. I can’t explain that process. It’s a strange and wonderful mystery.

So I set to work on recording what I had written. First, I began by finding a beat, and then I went about recording the guitar, and then, the vocals. Oh, these vocals. I don’t like the way I sing this song at all. It’s a bad key, or something. But I never really like my vocals. I worked to add effects, to give the voice a silo-like, garage effect. Bleh. Still, I kept moving forward with the recording, finishing the voice, and then adding percussion and then topping it off with some guitar power chords.

A little after 24 hours after I was done, the demo of the song, entitled “We Forgot to Dream” was done. For now.

Peace (sounds like power chords),
Kevin

Wrapping My Head Around Graphs and Networks and Stories

On GraphsI am reading and re-reading Stephen Downes’ piece on graphs for the EL30 (E-Learning 3.0) course, pondering the ways he thinks about the representation of social networks, stories and more. I am not even sure I follow it all. I’m fine with that, for it has me thinking in differen directions.

On GraphsWhat I am wondering about is how to re-envision graphs as something more than story, more than just a visualization of information, more than a way to read the world. Stephen asserts that the power of the graph is in its connector points, that the overall structure of a graph system — the way a graphing structure can underline a more powerful network — is more reliable than the narrative. Whether this is story or not, I don’t know. As a writer, I default to thinking of this in relationship to story. Stephen may not be doing that at all. He may be thinking more technical, more about network design and community interactions.

He explains:

The terms ‘graph’ and ‘network’, for example, essentially refer to the same thing, but with a difference in emphasis. I tend to use the word ‘graph’ when thinking of the formal properties of a network, and ‘network’ when thinking of the physical properties of a graph. – Stephen Downes

During the week, he asked us all to do a graph of some sort. I made this one, about when I spend my time thinking about the concepts of EL30. It is completely unreliable.

el30 graph

All this connects to what Stephen points to as Web3, the idea of where the Web structures might head to, as part of a more decentralized organization of social connections. Pondering the potential of where we are going, as opposed to becoming bogged down on what hasn’t worked for us in the past is beneficial.

As an aside, I gathered a graph shared by another EL30 participant — Matthias — and tried to remix it a bit, showing how I was reading his nodes, landing on the connector point of Conversations.

 

Peace (here, there, everywhere),
Kevin

 

 

Exploring the Federated PeerTube: Poems Made Visual

I’ve been on Mastodon (federated social networking space) long enough now to have a simple grasp of how federated networks work — a system of servers (incidents) that overlap and move data, with no one fixed home. I had been hearing about PeerTube as a federated alternative to YouTube. A federated place where videos could be shared.

I dove in months ago, even as I still am getting my mind around how it might work for me. (You can read more about PeerTube here) Here is my Digital Poems Channel, if you want to see all the poems I am sharing out.

The embedded poem above (hosted in PeerTube) was one I wrote with Bud Hunt a few month ago, as he shared images for inspiration. I took my small poem and used Lumen5 to make a visual interpretation, and then used PeerTube to host it.

This one is from this weekend, a smallpoem about the morning’s quiet time.

Here’s another poem made visual with Lumen5. This one is about writing haiku, or teaching the writing of haiku poetry by freezing the world into a moment of time.

I’m curious to see how well it embeds, and plays. It seems like there is periodic lag time. I chose to join a PeerTube instance (an instance is a hosting system, often set up around themes of interest) that has some connection to Mastodon, but the two spaces are not one and the same. (The name of the instance is the connector).

The benefits to such video hosting alternatives to YouTube include the important aspects of no-advertising, no-tracking, no-corporate-ownership of your creative materials. What you lose with this is a potentially wider audience (if eyeballs are your thing) and maybe some technical stability (which I suspect will be ironed out). I’m OK with that trade-off for these kinds of digital poetry projects.

Peace (tubing it),
Kevin

 

The Unseen Cloud and the Nature of Learning

The Cloud Changes Our Learning

Stephen Downes, of E-Learning 3.0,  consolidates his thinking on “the Cloud” with the lines above, which intrigue me as a writer, teacher, learner. I don’t have a clear sense of what it means for me yet so I am in the “mulling something profound” stage. (And I am already behind in this course, as Stephen keeps moving us forward at a rapid pace.)

This, too, from the same post:

It’s easy to think of the cloud simply resources as “someone else’s computer” where you run your applications online. But the technology that makes it possible to use the cloud has created a whole new class of resources, a class where resources are more than just text or multimedia, but resources that are in fact fully functioning computers. – Stephen Downes

Read Stephen’s piece, entitled “Cloud” and see what you think.

It’s a bit abstract for me at times, with technical language and concepts that I sort of understand but sort of don’t understand. Yet Stephen’s reflections are still worth perusing how technology innovation like what we call the Cloud is changing the ways we learn and maybe the ways we teach. I have this feeling that this course is just seeding my brain for some future thinking. (Rain from the cloud brings flowers in the Spring?)

Stephen suggests that we need to move beyond just seeing the Cloud Storage Idea as just some unseen box of stuff where we park our digital parts for later access, and that we — as educators and as learners, formally and informally — view the Cloud more as part of a larger systematic underpinning of conceptual learning frameworks whose potential has yet to be tapped.

And maybe in doing so, in viewing the Cloud in this different angle of moving parts and learning acquisition potential, we can begin changing the very nature of what it means to learn, and how we go about doing it.

Huh.

Cloud Control

Then, the other day, Greg made a comment about ‘containers’ in the frame of writing — of how we use “sections” in essays as containers for ideas, or how some story narratives (and I am have misread his intent but it got me thinking in this other direction, which is what learning is all about, right?) use the idea of “three” as a container (three little bears, three little pigs, the kids in Harry Potter, etc.) for narrative. This brings up a tension between archetypes that pen us in at times and freedom to explore beyond the boundaries (which is what Stephen is suggesting).

Huh.

Peace (grounded and clouded),
Kevin

Kindness Matters: Posters of Peace

Peace Posters 2018 Kindness Matters

Walking through the hallways of our school is an experience in artistic expression. The flat walls have become pop-up galleries of sixth grade artists, whose work on the theme of “Kindness Matters” for this year’s Peace Poster challenge is a beautiful reminder of what is in all of our hearts. Using only image and design, and no words, the young artists have to express kindness in the world through visuals. Viewing the art is a chance to breathe, to remember that beyond headlines of the madness and the violence of the world, so many of us only want peace. The art of children, the hearts of these students, show us a way forward.

This is a project of our wonderful art teacher, Leslie Marra, and is part of a Lion’s Club initiative. I work with students to create artistic statements, reflection points from the artists.

Peace (everywhere),
Kevin

Engaging From the Margins: A Fake News Studio Visit

Fake News studio visit

The folks at Equity Unbound explored the concept of Media Literacy and Fake News this week with a “studio visit” with two insightful participants — Mike Caulfield and Cheryl Brown. As it turns out, I am working with my sixth grade students this same week on this same topic of fake news and media literacy (through some cool symmetry of curriculum overlap), but I missed the hangout.

I popped the hangout into Vialogues (which allows for conversations about video), so I could engage with the discussion from the margins. You are invited, too.

Visit the Vialogues: Studio Visit on Fake News

And while thinking of Caulfield’s work around Digital Media Literacy, such as his Digital Polarization Project, I was pondering his conceptual framework of the Four Moves of determining the veracity of news, from his ebook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. Somehow, in my brain, I had this idea of the Four Moves of fact-checking for students being re-conceived as Dance Moves. I know, it’s strange.

Thus, a comic:

Dancing about the Four Moves (of media literacies)

Peace (moving forward),
Kevin