#CLMOOC Book Club: Identity, Representation and the Power of Writing


We’re reading Affinity Online: How Connections and Shared Interest Fuel Learning as a Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC) effort, and yesterday, I shared various ways you can read along with us, too, even if you don’t have the book.

I’m about halfway through the book at this point and I find I am most interested in the vignettes the researchers have pulled together about people who are members of different Affinity Networks. These stories — they call them Case Studies, as they are researched stories — bring to the surface the themes of the chapters, of course, but they also provide a window into the insider’s world of Affinity Networked Spaces.

  • So, we learn about the way fans of wrestling have come together to form an interesting collection of fan writing and fictional competitions told through writing by the fans, connecting a love wrestling and competition with story and character creation/development.
  • We see how a video game system — Star Craft II — had launched an entire universe of gamers and players who want more out of the game, and who have developed more, through strategic play and groupings, with writing at the heart of it all.
  • On Wattpad writing app/home, a group of fans of the One Direction band have invented an entire niche site of fan fiction of the band, writing stories and making connections. They give feedback. They connect stories. They publish to an audience.
  • Video, performance and culture are connecting points for Bollywood Dance, where the American children of immigrants remain connected to heritage through dance, and through shared dance routines and competitions. Making and sharing videos becomes a common compositional practice.

These are the first four Case Studies for the first two chapters, and what comes to the surface for many of these portraits is the importance of writing and identity, of how the use of an Affinity Network for expression depends upon representing yourself with words and media. This surfaces for me because, as a teacher, I often wonder where my intersection with students’ interest in Affinity Spaces might be.

And no surprise — it comes back to writing as a skill from school that translates quite well into non-school activities. Even when an Affinity Network begins to create its own lexicon and style, writing words and sharing stories and making comments/feedback still are central elements, and those are all things schools can offer, even if the student feels disconnected from the classroom experiences.

I’ll keep an eye out on other trends as I read deeper into the book and consider other Case Studies.

Peace (writing it),

#CLMOOC Book Club: All Entry Points Lead to Learning


In the past few days, thanks to the folks in the #clmooc book study and the authors of the book — Affinity Online: How Connections and Shared Interest Fuel Learning  — which we are reading to better understand networks of shared interests, there have emerged a number of different entry points for reading the book and engaging in conversation with us.

See you on the pages!

Peace (connected),

Interactive Fiction: Mapping All Possibilities

Greece Interactive Story Map

We’re in the middle of a small digital writing unit on Interactive Fiction, which is a “choose your own ending” sort of storytelling, using Google Slides and Hyperlinks as a way to publish a story.

Wolves Interactive Story Map

As much as I enjoy the final products — a story with choices for the reader, told in second person narrative — I truly love viewing the mapping by students of the possibilities. These maps lay bare the thinking, the possibilities of story. You can see an overview of the narrative arcs, the thinking behind the stories.

Dungeon Interactive Story Map

We get to this point of story mapping by first reading Interactive Stories and mapping out the journey into the story as a reader, noting where branches are and what paths we took. Then, they flip their role, making maps before writing the actual story for others to read.

Chamber Interactive Story Map

The theme of the project is a discovery of ancient ruins, and the reader is the traveler in the story, finding adventure and mystery as they move along through the story of choices.

Most of my students really enjoy this writing, as it is very different from traditional pieces we do, but a few do struggle with the unconventionality of it. That’s OK, too, for what I am trying to show them is that writing is not one form, but many forms and always adaptable.

That is a choice the writer has (although, not always in school, unfortunately)

Peace (take the path),

#CLMOOC Book Club: Making Doodles on the Pages

Doodle Margins of Affinity NetworkSince I splurged and bought Affinity Online, a book some of us are reading together in March in the Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC), I am free to mark the pages up as I see fit. Which I do, regularly. I use highlighters to mark text (and to find passages that I am sharing out) and doodles and drawings to represent my thinking.

Doodle Annotation

I was happy to see but not surprised to learn that my friend, Terry, has been doing something similar with his reading (although his process is a bit more complicated as he borrowed the book from the library and needed to photocopy the page). Terry is much more attuned to the colors — his mark-up is a piece of art. Mine is mere scribbles.

AFFINITIES INTRO 1You can’t easily do this kind of annotation with digital versions of the book, which is why I bought it as physical book as opposed to a Kindle version or something else in ebook format.

But, this also isolates the reader a bit to the single book/single page/single reader, and Daniel wondered on Twitter whether a digital version or excerpt of the book is online somewhere, so CLMOOC can use Hypothesis for crowd annotation, and well, I don’t know. But I’ll look around and see.

Peace (drawing it),




Slice of Life: A Moon of Possibilities

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

The moon this morning is barely there. Just a sliver, stuck on the horizon. Call its hue chrome, bronze, gold.

Its waning away, fading into the night sky, with trees covering its tracks. I get only a token glimpse now and then of this lost moon as I walk the dog.

If this were a storybook, a long thin thread of silk would dangle from its lower hook, and some creature would be making its way down or up. That’s the kind of moon it is this morning, a moon with possibilities.

Peace (in the skies),

Slice of Life: Unexpected Noise

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

Showing up to hear one thing, only to hear another completely different thing, is a bit disorientating. My wife had won tickets to what we thought was a jazz show.

We thought wrong.

Battle Trance is a saxophone noise quartet, an experimental group that explores all possibilities of the saxophone. They used group harmonics, keypads as percussion, the neck as voice amplifier, guttural chatter, the reed as whistle, and all sorts of acoustic dynamics.

A sax player, I was mesmerized by the performance, and the way they pushed the saxophone as an instrument as a group. My wife would have preferred a jazz show.

Here is a video of Battle Trance doing a piece they did last night (I think):

Peace (sounds like),

#CLMOOC Book Club: Affinity Online


I still remember the student who came back from a weekend trip to Boston, all hyped up about the cosplay convention, and how excited they were during our morning meeting that they had found others who were into what they were into. Their classmates looked on as they explained the concept of dressing up like comic characters and interacting with others as if they were crazy. The student showed us pictures, and we all were intrigued.

The classmates, though, didn’t understand. They were curious because it was different but they sort of shrugged it off as another of this student’s eccentricities. One of many. (Which is why I liked them so much).

What struck me most, though, is that this student was sharing this sliver of life with us not only because they had  taken part in the event gathering, but also because they had discovered an online space where they were now writing fan fiction stories and connecting with others in the cosplay community.

This memory came back to me as I began reading the new book that folks and friends in the Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC) has begun reading together for our March book club. The book — Affinity Online: How Connections and Shared Interest Fuel Learning — is a researched dive into the current field of how young people are finding more niche homes in online spaces where they connect with others through shared interests, and use writing and making and remixing to showcase their talents.

At CLMOOC, we will be sharing some guiding questions in online spaces over the month of March, sparking discussions. Even if you have not yet read the book, we hope you might have ideas to contribute. Write where you are, and share where you can. We’ve often defined CLMOOC as its own Affinity Space, but maybe that is an idea to grapple with, too.

The book contains overviews of different themes but also rich stories of young people and their affinity spaces — the first chapter, for example, gives us insight into a network of people who knit on the theme of Harry Potter in Ravelry; how writing fan fiction in a professional wrestling fan site opened the door for expression; and how a video game community of players expanded the sense of participation beyond the game itself.

I’m thinking, as I read, not only of this former student but of others, too, who shared their online creative lives with me, and those who never did share (perhaps the sharing would ruin the magic or perhaps the sharing would bring ridicule) but who are no doubt actively involved in some way or another in what interests them.

As a teacher, this brings all sorts of thinking to the surface, although the one main considering I always have when I think of Connected Learning in terms of my classroom is: Does the presence and knowledge of a teacher/adult ruin the experience for the young person engaged in an Affinity Space that resonates with them? In other words, by bringing these niche elements into the classroom and anchoring them as a learning experience, do we take all the magic out of it for them?

I suspect, yes, it alters the experience, but whether that is in a good way or bad way, I don’t quite know. I remain sensitive to this issue, particularly when a student shares such interest with me. I continue to search for the balance of encouragement as learning opportunity and respect for the spaces they inhabit as individuals.

Peace (may we all find that space),

When You Meet a Typewriter Atop a Mountain

from Towers and Type

This is so #writeout! I heard this story on NPR of a National Park ranger — Elyssa Shalla — in the Grand Canyon National Park who decided to set up a five dollar Goodwill typewriter in the mountains, with an invitation for hikers to write.

People did, including love letters (and a marriage proposal) and the story is a cool convergence of exploring the National Park in the great outdoors, coming unexpectedly upon an opportunity to write, and using old(ish) technology set up in a place where you least expect it.

Check out the NPR story

Check out the Towers & Type project that Shalla has been documenting, with words typed on paper in the mountains of the Grand Canyon

This project has me wondering about how to replicate the idea in other national park and historic places that are part of the Write Out project, particularly as it will dovetail with October’s National Day on Writing.

Peace (typed on the screen),

The Network Effect of Kindness

Kindness flickr photo by David Lee King shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

I was driving to school yesterday and I caught this piece on NPR about social media effect — but on how kindness can also spread. We focus so much on the dark side of the social networking effect on us in terms of negativity that it is good to remember that we also respond to the positives of our networks — that one person doing a kind thing for another has a ripple effect.

Take a listen

Read the transcript

I am apt to believe in this. You? Be kind out there today. It’ll come back to you.

Peace (in positivity),