Sarah Spelunks CLMOOC

Clmooc by Sarah

I’ve been interested over the past few years to hear/read/follow bits and pieces of the academic research that my friend, Sarah Honeychurch, has been doing for her Phd work in Connected Learning and the CLMOOC community, and she has just shared some of her draft both at her blog and with an open invite to annotate her work via Hypothesis.

As she notes:

CLMOOC is a highly connected, non-hierarchical community of lifelong learners with an ethos of social justice who support each other and learn through creative play.

I made the word cloud above by gathering the words of her thesis statement. And played with the cloud, too.

More words in a cloud

I am intrigued by Sarah’s gathering of ideas around these elements of CLMOOC (Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration — which was envisioned and launched by the National Writing Project, and then supported by Educator Innovator, and which now continues to move along with members leading the way).

  • Connected Community
  • Communicative Conversations
  • Creative Collaborations

Lots of C’s!

But those phrases capture what I consider the spirit and essence, and underpinning, of the CLMOOC gathering spaces. See the new CLMOOC Planet for a gathering of RSS feeds to get a feel for the flow of CLMOOC. And look at the CLMOOC Muses page to see how many active people are still loosely connected with each other.

I’m diving into her post via community/collaborative annotations. See you there?

Peace (in shared words),


Classroom Comics and the Visiting Graphic Novelist

Scenes from Novels: In Comic Format

Thanks to funding support from our PTO, the school librarian, Pati M, and I (along with support by our art teacher, Leslie M) are bringing in the very talented Jarrett Krosoczka this coming Friday to share his work as a graphic novelist and maker of comics. Krosoczka’s most recent book — Hey, Kiddo! — is an amazing autobiographical examination of his childhood, with loss and love and art as the underpinning of his story.

Jarrett Krosoczka Display at the Eric Carle Museum

Jarrett Krosoczka Display at the Eric Carle Museum

I regularly use comics in my writing classroom (and did more when we had access to Bitstrips for webcomics but still use Make Beliefs Comix now and then) but I’ve been stepping it up a bit knowing that Krosoczka is coming to our school. And our art teacher has been focused on comics in art class, too, as our sixth graders work on graphic stories that are inspired by Krosoczka’s popular Lunch Lady series. Our students are celebrating non-teaching staff in our building by making them into superheroes, in comic format.

Meanwhile, I’ve had my sixth graders turning important scenes from the novels we are reading — Flush and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg — into comic strip format, and it has been wonderful to see the creativity flourish this way. We also did Onomatopoeia sound effect comics a few weeks back.

Comic Sound Collage

More about Krosoczka via his TED talks:


Peace (in frames),

More Play in the World of Words: Tinkering with Text Animation Apps

Playing with Words: Animation Apps(Created in the Plays app)

I am still tinkering around with different apps that animate words. This week, I explored the apps Plays, MOTT and then came back to Legend (re-found in the Google Play store after it disappeared but not found anymore in the Apple App store). None of these fit exactly what I am looking for but some come close enough to have fun with. Some of these examples here are riffs off others work (Terry, in particular) and others are just isolated word play or riffs off my own poems. I explored some others in an earlier post.

Playing with Words: Animation Apps(Created in the MOTT app)

(Created in the Legend app)

Playing with Words: Animation Apps(Created in the MOTT app)

Playing with Words: Animation Apps(Created in the Plays app)

Playing with Words: Animation Apps(Created in the Plays app)

(Created in Legend app)

Peace (in the movement),

Words, Image, Texts and Google’s Generation of ePoetry

“You are invited to donate a single word.”

This is how it begins. An invitation to write. It knows my weakness.

“Your word will be instantly incorporated into an original two line poem generated by an algorithm trained on over 20 million words of 19th century poetry.”

Call me intrigued.

I arrive at this Google experiment (privacy hackles, dutifully raised) in poetry via Terry entitled Poem Portraits, and so I dig in, and learn that it is a collaborative poetry that is “ever evolving” as people add words and Google’s AI system culls through a myriad of texts it has in its data banks. They call it “An experiment at the boundaries of AI and human collaboration.”

As you add a word (my donated word: Harmonize), it uses your contribution to generate new lines of text, adding to an ever-expanding ongoing poem collaboration between human and machine. The AI asks for a selfie (but you don’t need to do one to add a word), and this is where I paused but then decided to do it and go further.

I had seen Terry’s, and then Sarah’s, and then Charlene’s, and then Sheri’s, and the fact is, I was still intrigued by the mix of poetry, text, words and collaboration.

AI poem-portrait

The result is your word, and the words of your part of the poem, projected and mapped on your face, so that you become part of the poem. (Who knows where all those selfies go .. I suspect it becomes part of Google’s facial recognition data base. I’m sure I am already in there, but I would not likely bring students to this kind of poetry experiment).

I wanted to do more with the photo that gets generated. When you get to this step of your poem on your face, you can also read the larger, collaborative, AI-generated (with your word now added) unfolding on the page (You can access the scrolling poem without participating if you stop before adding a word).

So, I relocated my poem-selfie into the mobile app Fused, and began to layer in some visual static, working to deliberatively create a sort of fuzzy overlay of the selfie poem, as a means to represent some discomfort with how I willingly gave my image to Google.

Then, I wrote a short piece of music in Thumbjam, keeping the idea of my word — Harmonize — in mind, and working to layer three different musical sounds that work in harmony, and a bit of disharmony, too.

Finally, I took all of those pieces into iMovie and wove the media together, with a vocal reading of the text that filters across my face as part of my stanza of the poem.

The result of my playing is the video above … which starts as AI machine but ends with me, the pesky human, taking control of the image and poem again. (Or so I imagine).

Peace (in poems),

PS — this is how Terry played with his results, calling it his “ghost”


Upon Reflection: A Month of Unexpected Poems

Random Access Poetry

During April, every day, I woke up, not knowing what I was going to write. As part of my Random Access Poetry activity, my goal was to use a few different tools and sites to find an unexpected image that could spark a poem for the day. So, for 30 mornings, that’s what I would do — grab a cup of coffee, go to one of my image-finding spaces, land on an image and write small poems.

Here are some of the places I went to for random photo inspiration:

  • John Johnston’s Flickr Promptr (which he set up after I asked if anyone had anything that would generate a random image for poetry, and I so deeply appreciate that he took that idea and built something in Github)
  • John Johnston’s Flickr Stampr — which is as Creative Commons search engine
  • John Johnston’s (he’s great, right!) Flickr Blendr site, which randomly grabs two images and blends them together
  • Alan Levine’s Don’t Look At My Photos — designed to surface photographers in Flickr — a new photographer every hour (although I noticed some repeats and not all of the photos were Creative Commons designated — this is not Alan’s fault. By the way, I regularly use Alan’s Flickr Creative Commons attribution tool)
  • Internet Archives Book Images collection on Flickr — I follow a bot of this site, that sends out random images, and I often found neat things to inspire writing
  • Bud Hunt’s mostly-daily posting of images for poetry during April. Bud has been doing this for years, and I appreciate that he takes the time. Sometimes, I feel like he is doing it just for me, since I am often the only poet posting there
  • Big Huge Labs Random Photo Browser — not all of the images are Creative Commons, but there is a good variety and a search engine tool

Looking back over the 30 poems from April, there were some decent writing days, more than a few mediocre days and a couple of blah days with the poems. Some poems just worked and some poems just didn’t. Some poems seemed to write themselves — I would start and the lines would flow, and I’d try to figure out where the poem was going as it was being written. That’s an awfully strange and interesting experience. Other days, I’d get stuck mid-way into the piece, force myself to plow through and get to a good-enough stopping place.

What I found, as I was about to start writing each morning by calling up a photo with one of the tools above, is that I was searching for a hook in the visual image — something that grabbed my attention, a spark of a hidden story, or a character on the edges, or a small moment, or an emotion. I didn’t know what I was looking for as I was looking but I was fairly confident I might find it if I looked close enough with my writing eyes. Only once or twice did I not use the very first image I found and reset the process. Mostly, I let the random nature of my search become the inspiration, and just went with it.

The thing about poems is that they are designed to evoke, and photos can do the same. Evocation is also a tricky business for a writer in a rush — I wrote poems in a short span of time — and that’s why they don’t always work in this format. There was often a tension between what I saw, what I wrote, and what I aimed to accomplish. But I often left the writing with a phrase or line or stanza on the screen that I found worthy of the page, and for that, I was always inspired and confident as a poet.

If you bothered to read any of the poems, thank you. I hope you were writing, too.

Peace (in poems and more),

Novel-in-Verse Review: Siege (How General Washington Kicked the British Out of Boston and Launched a Revolution)

It’s possible this book wins the award for longest title in my reading activities this year. Siege (How General Washington Kicked the British Out of Boston and Launched a Revolution) by Roxanne Orgill is a free verse narrative of … well … what the title tells us — the historical time in Boston just before the full onslaught of the American Revolution unfolded and tensions were running high in Boston.

Siege spins the story through a multitude of voices — and this use of voice in free verse is its most effective trait. While I do enjoy free verse books, the poems where never quite captured my fancy, for some reason. I was intrigued, though, by how the poems represented both the powerful (on both sides of the military standoff) and the common people caught in the middle of escalating violence.

Washington is the reluctant general, in some ways (as history has shown) and he railed against the restraints he was given as he sought to build up a military force to face the British. Food was scarce as disease was not. Gunpowder, the key to winning any battle, was in low supply.

The most intriguing storyline here, for me, was Washington begging his former secretary — Joseph Reed — who had returned to Philadelphia after his stint with Washington ended, only to be on the receiving end of many letters from Washington himself, giving full account of the chaos of turning regular rebels into an army, and calling on Reed to leave his family and return to Boston. There is something in the humanity of the two men that comes alive in the poems in the book.

Siege would be a solid entry into a middle or high school shelf, and of particular interest to those history geeks who love to learn more of the minute and human aspects of the time before the start of the American Revolution.

Peace (on the hill),

Making Music Letters (An Illustrated Alphabet)

Musical ABC CollageI’m not sure I knew what I was getting into when I saw some artistic friends doing an activity called Illuminated Alphabet in early April — where many people were doing daily “letters” on a theme through art (I found out later that it was part of some contest) — and decided to give it a try.

Mostly, I jumped in out of curiosity, using the theme of music, and then kept going, and at some point, I was too far along with the letters not to keep going. And some CLMOOC friends — like Algot and Ron and others — were in the mix at times, too. So, there’s that kind of collaborative inspiration.

Some days were definitely challenging to keep the theme of music flowing into letters (and some letters require a leap of faith that they somehow directly connect to music .. so, you know, trust me on my thinking on those ones). But, I had fun with making the simply-designed art (I used the Paper App to make mine, often working rather quickly once I had an idea) and seeing them all in a single collage is pretty cool.

Also, during the month, keeping an eye on the IlluminatedAlphabet hashtag on Twitter was one of the neatest things I did as the flow of letters and art was just magical and inspirational, and the mix of amateur artists (me) and professional artists made for some intriguing artwork and letters.

Peace (go on and play it),


Random Access Poetry: Day Thirty

Silky – Soyeux flickr photo by monteregina shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Random Access Poetry: Day Thirty

Some words just drift
upon air, a cluster
of potential
from a translucent
flower seeking soil for
root, all with hope
that a new poem
might yet emerge
from where another
nurtured —

one idea seeds

(NOTE: OK, so the letters of “another” as the last line of the poem are meant to be scattered across the page but the blog keeps formatting it to flush left and I have given up making it work. Imagine those letters scattering to the wind …)

Peace (in the flowering),

PS — this is the last poem for this month’s poetry adventure I called Random Access Poetry, in which I used different paths to find images to inspire poems each morning. Thanks to Alan Levine, John Johnston, Bud Hunt, Sheri Edwards, Terry Elliott, Kim Douillard, Raymond Maxwell, Algot Runeman, Margaret Simon, and others for all of the places I have used to write poems and leave poems. Some of those pieces ended up here, as daily poems, and some just drifted into the comment bins of blog posts. Thanks, too, to all the photographers whose images helped inspire me. I tried to leave notes of appreciation where I could.

Random Access Poetry: Day Twenty Nine

Photo via Bud Hunt

Random Access Poetry: Day Twenty Nine

Where X might be you
and Y might be me;
Where the equation
comes apart, the decision
tree of these numbers equals
the sum of all of us,
plotted in pencil upon a cartesian
graph; each single data point,
an inverse universe, arcing
skyward, ever up, ever up,
to a place where we take
the time to laugh at our language
to play with these poems

Peace (in people, not numbers),

PS — the image for inspiration comes from Bud at his blog, where he regularly has been posting images for poetic inspiration this month.

Remix Poem with a Remix Message

My friend, Bryan, asked at his blog about views on remix. Bryan fuses remix into his Remixer Machine site, which is fun to use (and something I support via Patron). The poem above came after thinking about how to respond to him. I guess maybe it resonated with folks, since it has nearly 8,000 views on Twitter, where I first shared it. Huh.

Peace (remix it and make it better),