NWP Reflection: Making Bots; Talking Writing


At one of the sessions I attended at the National Writing Project meeting, with the theme of expanding the contexts of composition, I sat at a table and made a brush bot. We ripped apart a cheap electric toothbrush, yanked out the motor, connected a battery with a soldering gun, and then used various arts materials to decorate our bots.

We then set them loose on the table. Meanwhile, we talked about the connections that this kind of Maker Faire work might have on the classroom, with connections to science (via circuits) and writing (via either fictional narratives of the bots or the expository texts that could go along with creating something like a bot — a “how to” do this text).

Mostly, it was fun, and frustrating, and with that frustration (why didn’t this work?), there was the exhilarating sense of success when it did work, and the bot ran around the table. Or scooted in circles. Same thing. We had lots of laughter and lots of helping each other out, and it reminded me the power of making things out of other things, and how I need to do more of that in my classroom.

Peace (in the share out),
Kevin

Where Arts and Science Intersect

I reviewed Walter Isaacson’s book, The Innovators, the other day. But his last few lines still resonate with me, particularly as I participate in the Digital Writing Month activities.

InnovatorsQuote

THIS is what I think about all the time as I write with technology. It is not the technology or the tool, or the subject area in which I am writing in or writing about, it is the ways in which the digital tools allow me to dance across all of those lines and make art.

You?

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

Slice of Life: She Makes Worlds

(This post is part of the regular Slice of Life series over at Two Writing Teachers.)
kait game collage

Yesterday, my sixth graders all set up and started using their new accounts in Gamestar Mechanic as we gear up for a Video Game Design unit in which they will be designing, building and publishing video games to show knowledge of cellular structure. I’ll write about that another day …

But as I was getting ready to invite this year’s sixth graders into our “classroom” on Gamestar, I began weeding some former students out. I let them stay in the premium space until I need their slots for my classroom account, and then I boot them out. They all know this, so it won’t be a surprise, and they don’t lose their work. They just lose their premium status (unless they want to pay Gamestar). As I was removing students, I noticed something that caught my eye.

One of my students had not only created 61 video games, she had also reviewed 1,140 games of other players and left 2,120 comments on other people’s games. Now, that’s a lot, and I wondered what was going on with her since she left our school last June. I know she loved the site, and that she is very social by nature, but even for her, this amount of activity seemed excessive.

So, I trolled her account a bit, checking out her games, and it turns out, she was up to something very interesting. Throughout the summer, she had been constructing an informal network of other gaming kids to create a series of game design challenges, using the comment box/review box features for the games to organize the network of other kids. They would plan “meet” times in Gamestar, and then leave a thread of comments as they planned out the next activity, and then go through a voting system, and then announce the winners with a published game. They “followed” each other to keep track of the activity.

On one hand, this is the most inefficient system to do this kind of community building. The site is just not built for this. On the other hand, I am so proud of her for hacking the system to make it work for her, to some degree, and for constructing this whole framework of young gamers in Gamestar Mechanic. Reading through just some of the comment threads (there is no way I can get through 2,000 of them), I can see these kids navigating what it means to write in online spaces and using media to create things together and to find common ground among interests.

All of this … on their own, completely outside of the radar of any adults, as far as I know. I only stumbled upon it accidentally. Needless to say, I did NOT bump HER from my classroom account. I’m going to give her the room she needs to do what she’s doing, and see where it takes her.

Peace (in the game),
Kevin

Where the Conversation Takes Us (Bits and Pieces)

My friend, Simon, and I have been having a “conversation” or a written dialogue that has touched on us as writers and our work in various networked spaces and online communities. We’re moving in a lot of directions, often at once. This conversation began with a post of his that included some dialogue that I remixed, and then … well … that act of remix sparked something that got us writing together.

I’ve taken bits and pieces of that discussion and created this digital journal, or scrapbook, or maybe it is just the jetsam and flotsam of two people writing through what it means to write these days. Words become music become image become poem.

Bits and Pieces

 

Peace (in thanks to Simon),
Kevin

Hacker Feminist Barbie: Pushing Back at Gender Stereotypes

So, this is interesting … coming out of a controversy in which Mattel pulled a book from its Barbie collection in which Barbie is cast in a role as a computer engineer, but the story is framed as Barbie being someone who needs help from the boys to get things done, like the actual coding and programming. Lots of push back, as there should be, and then a few folks set up this site that allows you to hack and remix the Barbie book with your own writing.

I like that kind of push-back. You should give this a try, too. I am thinking of how to bring this into the classroom during the Hour of Code, perhaps. Maybe …

Here are two of the pages that I hacked …

Hacker Barbie

Hacker Barbie2

Peace (in breaking the stereotypes),
Kevin

 

A Story in Icons

Story in Icons
Telling a story of a day in only visuals is tricky business. Today’s Daily Create suggested we use the new icon library that Google put together, and so I tried here to represent my morning as I continue an interesting dialogue with my friend, Simon, about writing and stories and all sorts of interesting odds and ends.

You can find the Google Icon library preview here: http://google.github.io/material-design-icons/ I just copied what I needed (coffee) and tried to represent my ideas as best as I could.

What story could you tell?

Peace (in the icon),
Kevin

Book Review: The Innovators

Walter Isaacson covers familiar turf, for me anyway, on the history of the world of computing and technology, stretching back to the ground-breaking ideas of Charles Babbage and Lady Ada Byron Lovelace, to the present in his newest book, The Innovators. Knowing the stories here did not distract me from enjoying Isaacson’s book, however. His strong writing style and ability to put events and people into a perspective made for enlightening reading.

I particularly liked how Isaacson tried to draw out trends of the origins of innovation, building on recent ideas about how ideas often surface through collaboration, the “right cultural moment” and other factors more than individual genius and insights. Some innovations do get lost to the annals of time. Some get reborn. Some ideas are seeds to be planted and suddenly, bloom like crazy and change everything.

The thread of research and development investments by companies and the government run through the success stories here, as Isaacson notes it is often from these cauldrons of ideas that technology which transforms society emerge, although he does rightly point out that the modern start-up culture — with low overhead and quick adaptation to a changing market — is changing that paradigm of innovation, to some degree.

The Innovators is solid fast-moving tour guide of how we got to this moment, and Isaacson’s threads back to Lady Ada and her ideas on how machines might work in conjunction with people (and not to replace people)  is a masterful way of locating ideas on the timeline of history, even if ideas are not always ready for their own time.

Peace (compute),
Kevin

Playing with Light

Playing with Light

This weekend’s writing prompt for Digital Writing Month brought me right back to the Making Learning Connected MOOC Make Cycle, in which we were asked to play with light. So, too, is the call for this weekend’s digital exploration, so I went back to find a nifty online tool called Glow Doodle, which uses your webcam to create arcs of light.

In the pictures above, I used two different flashlights, playing around with the light trails that they made in the image. I’d like to experiment a bit more with it when I have time. It’s one of those “whoah” sites whose applications beyond the “cool factor” I am having trouble wrapping my head around.

Still, the “cool factor” is pretty strong. Give Glow Doodle a try and see what you think.

Peace (in the afterglow),
Kevin

A video:

 

Digital Writing as Making Music

(This old post was sitting in my draft bin and I figured now is a good time to share it, as part of Digital Writing Month.)

My friend, Jeremy, once asked us to define “digital literacy” as part of an online writing prompt. I worked with the app on the iPad called Telegami, sort of like Voki. The limited amount of time does not make for a very deep response but I was working to think of digital writing as music composition, in a way. It didn’t quite capture what I was going for (my fault, not the app’s fault).

Still, here is what I created:

Peace (in the voice),
Kevin

 

Emergent Ideas from the #CLMOOC

As part of a presentation on open learning at the National Writing Project annual meeting, a few us from the Making Learning Connected MOOC have been gathering up what we learned from the CLMOOC and sharing it with others. My role is to think about emergent learning from the CLMOOC, or “the things that happened that we did not expect to happen and cherished for that very reason.”
:)

First, this is an image that we created last year for the DML Conference, from the first summer of CLMOOC:
CLMOOC Emergent Branches

I then spent a lot of time, going through the CLMOOC archives for the second summer (last summer) to see what emergent ideas surfaced. I created this diagram/web to show what I noticed. It should be stated that there is probably a whole lot more that I either have forgotten or never noticed …

Emergent Ideas of CLMOOC

Finally, we wanted to think about CLMOOC as a connector point, and where other programs/collaborations feed into CLMOOC and how CLMOOC seeds some ideas into other collaborations. I used the Subway Map metaphor, and again, I have probably left out more than a few other nodes that could have been on the map.

CLMOOC Subway map2

Peace (in the share),
Kevin