What’s Your Community? The National Day on Writing

Paper Circuitry NDOW Collage4 2014
Today is the sixth annual National Day on Writing, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English and various partners (like the National Writing Project) and this year’s theme is Writing Your Community. I’ve been mulling over how best to do this, and decided that mapping out communities — either literally or metaphorically — made a lot of sense.

Check out this workshop that I led at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project this weekend, in which we played around with paper circuitry to illuminate nodes on maps of our communities. This workshop was part of our annual Best Practices conference, and the group of teachers were highly engaged in this hands-on activity around transforming notebooks with circuits and lights.

Peace (in the notebook),
Kevin

Lifting the Veil to Reveal the Code

Inside the code #CCourses

The other day, I had a chat with one of my sixth graders about websites. He’s interested in technology, mostly in terms of app development and mobile devices, but he was wondering about how the Web works. I pulled up the source code on our classroom website, and showed him what is really behind the magic of what we see.

He was transfixed. It was the first time anyone had ever shown him how to lift the veil of the Web and see the actual invisible infrastructure of the language that makes the Web run as we see it, as something we take for granted is a visual experience. I liken it to some magical experience. What we see is not necessarily what the reality is. It was this shift, via Netscape, into the graphic nature of the Internet that changed everything, right?

And someone, or more likely a collective somebody, has worked to make this experience of using the Web what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. There’s obviously a long line of innovative people — from Tim Berners-Lee, to Marc Andreesson, to countless others — who have radically changed the way we interact with information via the Internet. Seeing the source code of a website is an eye-opening experience for people, like me, who don’t often think or consider why this blog works the way it works. A look below the hood makes you appreciate the complexity of the code, even if it feels like a foreign language to most of us.

Give it a try. Check out your own source code (mostly, you can do that by right-clicking on a webpage and using the “source code” option). What do you notice about your site? We’re examining with the Web in Connected Courses, so this is a good time. Go deeper. What do you see?

Peace (behind the visual),
Kevin

A Game Design Keynote Teaser for K12Online

I am honored to be one of the keynote presenters for the 2014 K12Online Conference, which is set to launch tomorrow (Monday) with a week of presentations around gaming, game design and gamification. Here is the video teaser that I made, talking as I play a student video game.

The name of my keynote presentation, also set for release tomorrow (Monday), is Game On: How Design and Play Impact Learning. I even dance in the keynote. I know. I know. The things a presenter will do to get your attention …

My keynote has less to do with overall gamification ideas and more to do with game design elements can be learning elements in the classroom, with a focus on my own sixth graders’ Science-based Video Game Design project.

You can find the full schedule of the K12Online Conference here, and be sure to check out Wesley Fryer’s opening salvo, Igniting Innovation in Teaching and Learning.

Peace (in the learning along with you)
Kevin

 

Make the Web Visible, Literally

I’ve been too swamped to go deep into the recent push into the Web by the Connected Courses folks, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it. Ever since I took part in the Teach the Web MOOC, the idea of how to use the Web and its possibilities for my own reasons, and how to teach that agency to my students, has lingered in the back of my mind. I get frustrated when I hear of students in classrooms, playing games on websites developed by others (and no doubt getting bombarded by adds and tracked by cookies and who knows what else.)

We need to do a better job of helping young people move from consumers to creators, and there is a push in that direction coming from many angles. Webmaker, from Mozilla, is fantastic. More and more game and code sites, that invite people to make, are opening up new possibilities for understanding the technology in a way that moves beyond the surface.

I am a fan of visuals, and if you use Firefox browser, there is a real nifty tool built into the browser that let’s you see the web from an entirely different angle, showing the architecture of a site from all angles. The architecture is constructed around hyperlinks, and layered pages, and more.

Here is what one view of the Connected Courses site looks like, with the Firefox 3D tool:

ccourses 3d web

It’s a book, right?

Here is another view, from the blog hub page:
ccourses blog 3d

Links are lifted up while plain text stays flat. And look at the layers behind it. Interesting, right?

Want to know how to do it for your own blog? First, of all, you will need to using Firefox. On any page, right click and choose “page element.” If you are lucky, there will be a little source icon for the 3D that looks like a box or a Rubic’s Cube or something. Click on the box and then use your mouse to zoom around the site, changing the viewpoint perspectives. If the 3D box does not appear, you need to activate it.

Here is how:

how to do 3d view

Share out. What does this view say about the website? Does this change your view of the web?

Peace (in the element),
Kevin

Infographic: Screen Time

Hmm. I like this graphic in that it forces us to consider the consumer vs. creator concept when we put technology and digital media into the hands of our kids. This ran in the Boston Globe recently. While I like the visual, I am not sure I like the title on it so much. I don’t see it as a defense of screen time so much as the possibilities of digital media creation.

Peace (in the sectors),
Kevin

 

 

 

 

One Nugget: Naming Things

The facilitators at Connected Course ask us to find a “nugget” or idea from one of the many fine resources they are sharing for this push into thinking about the World Wide Web. I read through Jon Udall’s piece, Seven Ways to Think Like The Web, and I found this snipped about naming things pretty interesting.

The-webs-supply-of

 

When we think of the “tagging” and “categorizing” of information on the Web, we often think of the Wild West metaphor. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. There is an architecture of ideas, or content, that can be collected and gathered and shared through hashtags and category containers and how we name things to make them meaningful.

I noticed this the other day when I was searching within my own blog for an old post. Using a keyword that was a tag, I quickly and rather effortlessly found what I needed to find, and it reminded me of the importance of those few minutes when I add those elements to a post. I have this visual of my blog as an entire mapping system that lies hidden from my eyes, in the underlying code, but it still requires me to name it each time.

And beyond that, as Udall notes, my own personal invisible blogging map is connected the larger invisible blogging map of the Internet, so that my tags and my categories and my keywords become part of the larger dictionary of infrastructure. Sure, we might worry about that from time to time (what is that Webcrawler doing to me? Do I want my words to be part of this larger system?) But the architectural frame of the Internet, and the systems that are in place through some choice labeling, is a pretty amazing thing to think about.

Peace (in the thinking),
Kevin

How to Get Caught in the Web

I am excited about the next phase of the Connected Courses, as the topic is Web Literacies and Web Design and all things Webby (but not Spiderman, as far as I know). This comic idea was kicking around in my head. It’s a bit more negative, from the time-suck stance, than I feel about the work and learning we do when we are on the Web.

Ways to get caught in the Web #ccourses

But, hopefully, it gives a chuckle.

Peace (in getting unstuck),
Kevin

I am Mia (am not)

(This post is part of the Connected Courses Daily Connect in which we are asked to blog in the “voice” of another blogger. I have chosen my National Writing Project friend, Mia Zamora, to emulate for her energetic optimism that she exudes in her writing across many spaces. Forgive me, Mia, if I mangle your voice here.)

(This is Mia, my friend)

I am realizing very quickly just how much possibility there is in everything that is unfolding in the Connected Course networks as well as other Connected Learning networks. Nothing compares to the ideals of so many of us educators coming together for such a deep exploration of Connected Learning! It’s fantastic!

“When I am learning I FEEL ALIVE.” - Mia

I was thinking about this message of teaching the other day. I returned to the concept of “Why I Teach” and isn’t that such a central question to all that we do in our lives? The responses that people posted to that query were intriguing. I do believe we can change the world for the better. We can always be learning, too, even as we teach. We CAN stay in tune with the world.

“Connected Learning is about re-imaging the experience of education in the information age. It draws on the power of today’s technologies and embraces hands on production and open networks.” — Mia

We all have our own learning pathways to follow, and each path will take us on a slightly different journey. The wonder of it is that our journeys often coincide with others along the way. And it is at those intersections where we meet that we can help each other along the way.

“We all feel we are part of a movement that will ultimately be world changing.  We want to invite everyone along with us.” — Mia

Being in the midst of a project like Connected Courses, or even Making Learning Connected, is really being part of hubs of the giant wheel that is Connected Learning. Notice how all the pieces can fit together. If you take a step back, you can begin to see it all in motion. It’s that kind of viewpoint that makes being part of any venture all the more worthwhile.

“Magical things happen when we let ourselves unlearn the criterion of institutionalized conventions.” — Mia.

Peace (to Mia),
Kevin

PS — Process Notes: This “writing in the voice of another blogger” is hard to do! I read Mia on a regular basis, but I had to examine her syntax style and the underlying mood of her writing. I then was struck with the dilemma of, Am I writing as Me (Kevin) in the voice of Mia? Or writing as Mia on my blog, as if she were visiting here? I never quite resolved that question, I realize, and somehow settled into a precarious balance of her positive writing style with some of my own thinking. A blend, then, of sorts. I worried that she might be offended that I zeroed in on her positive message, leaving out how deep she gets with her thinking about learning. I decided to pull in some of her own writing in quotes, to further give Mia a real voice here. I’m not sure it worked.  Go to her blog to get the real Mia Zamora. The one I have borrowed here is only a replica.