Audio Letter 1: Dear Henry Jenkins

After finishing up Chapter 4 in Participatory Culture in a Networked Era as part of a slow-read with Digital Writing Month folks, I felt this impulse to respond in voice to the three writers as they talked through complex issues of learning and literacy.That led to the idea of three “audio letters” to the writers — Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito and danah boyd — and the first is here, to Henry.

henryquote

I took a quote from the chapter and built my response around the ideas in the quote. I’ll share out my audio letters to Mimi and danah in the next two days.

Peace (thinking),
Kevin

Book Review: Airborn

This book — Airborn by Kenneth Oppel —  has been kicking around my house and classroom for years now. Long ago, I had started it as a read-aloud for my oldest son (now a high school senior but then, in elementary school) and the vocabulary was too dense for him at the time, so we put it aside. My middle son later found it when he was in middle school, read it, and then devoured the next two books in the series.

He then proceeded to pressure my youngest son (now in fifth grade) to read Airborn this past summer. There was resistance (maybe due to brotherly recommendation), and I put Airborn on my “maybe to read aloud” pile of books. Well, let’s just say that my youngest son and I finally read this story with a steampunky theme  — airships replace airplanes as main modes of travel — and we were very quickly knee-deep in the adventures of protagonist Matt Cruse in a tale that involves air pirates, the beauty of airships, friendship across economic lines and a mysterious flying creature that lives in the clouds.

Oppel does a fantastic job with character, which means the story gets off on a sort of slow pace as he sets the stage for Matt Cruse and his friend, Kate, before kicking the plot into high gear with a pirate attack and an emergency landing on what seems to be a deserted island. Ingenuity, friendship, sacrifice … all the themes are here.

Peace (in the adventure),
Kevin

PS — Since the time I wrote this review, and let it sit in my blog bin (I seem to have a fair number of book reviews hanging around in there), we have read the two other books in the series — Skybreaker and Starclimber.  They were good, too, but not as good as Airborn, I don’t think.

Digital Access and Equity: What if THEY is all of US?

What if they is us?

I am in the midst of reading Participatory Culture in a Networked Era with the Digital Writing Month community and thoroughly enjoying the format (discussions among Ito, boyd and Jenkins) and the topics, which connect nicely to my own diving into Connected Learning.

Chapter Three of the book centers on access and equity issues (under the academic guise of “genres” — at least, in my mind) and as I was reading, this comic began to form in my mind. It’s a bit metaphorically simple: the locked door and no access to the inside from those on the outside.

But it was tagline that seemed most important to me: What if they is all of us?

What if we (us teachers, us adults, us) are the ones closing that door on different elements of our population? What if we are doing it inadvertently? What if we don’t even know the door has been closed? Who’s waiting out there, wondering?

And then, of course, the ancillary question: how do we break that door open wide so no one feels left out? Pass me that sledgehammer won’t you?

access issue

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

Book Review: Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer

It’s hard to escape the voice of Percy Jackson in the new series launched by Rick Riordan that moves away from Greek and Roman mythology and into Norse myths. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: the Sword of Summer is the kick-off point for some new adventures, and my sixth graders are all over this book right now. I read it aloud with my 11 year old son, and he loved it, too.

I liked it.

But Riordan’s style of writing and sense of voice with his main character, Magnus Chase, is so similar to Percy Jackson — with sarcasm and teenage humor and tenacity tinted with doubt — that I wondered aloud to my son if maybe Riordan isn’t pulling some sort of narrative trick on us — transforming Percy into Magnus in a new mythology. Heck, even Annabeth Chase — my absolute favorite character from Riordan’s growing archive — makes a visit, as she is Magnus’ cousin.

My son scoffed at me, as if I were crazy. But … we’ve been wondering about this ever since reading The Red Pyramid stories, too. How can Riordan NOT be pulling these stories together sometime in the future?

So, here’s what to like about Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: the Sword of Summer: the pace of the plot moves quickly; there is plenty of humor and references to past Riordan stories; we learn a whole bunch about a relatively unknown and untaught mythology (who knew a giant nutso squirrel protects the tree of the worlds?); and this one kicks the series into high gear in an engaging way.

You know what I had the most difficulty with? Reading aloud all of those Norse names for the Nine Worlds. My tongue got tied more than once.

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

 

Entry Points in the Interaction Universe

participatory culture mapping

There has not been a whole ton of interacting itself for our slow-read book talk on Participatory Culture in a Networked EraFolks are still getting the book, or recovering from the holidays, or just plain ol’ busy in their lives. But that hasn’t stopped Terry Elliott and myself (mostly Terry) from trying to encourage open participation along many different sites and technology platforms.

Mostly, this is because no single experience captures the kinds of participatory activity we envision for a book talk. But also, this is because exploration and dispersion of ideas is part of the experience itself. We don’t want ideas confined to one space.

The chart above is my attempt to keep track of it all, and I am sure I have missed bits of it. I know, and I hope, there are discussions unfolding outside our field of vision. There be dragons …

But there is the danger of too much dispersion of interaction, too, and the worry is that all will be lost in the haze of connections. Or, that someone entering now will think, I’ve missed it all and don’t know where to begin. We can say “there is no fixed beginning point” all we want, but we need to show that and keep the invitations open. Terry is working on a place where links to all of these discussions can be had for anyone just entering the discussions or interested in what’s going on.

What I realized as I was putting the chart together is that it is not easy to keep something like a slow-read book talk moving forward over weeks and months time. Momentum gets lost rather quickly. Maybe our aim to build a participatory culture experience around a book about participatory culture ideas won’t quite work. If all of the energy falls to the organizers, is it truly participatory? Don’t know. Prob not. What you get then is a small book group or conversation, not a participatory experience.

It’s worth trying, though. It’s always worth trying.

Me? I aim to keep reading and reflecting on it all, as best as I can. I am finding the book useful and the authors interesting, and I look forward to what others are noting and observing.

You’re invited, too. Of course, you are invited.

We’re on Twitter with the #digiwrimo hashtag. And in the Digital Writing Month Google Plus community. Folks are annotating with the Kindle app in Amazon. Goodreads is another place for notes and reactions (here are my notes). Blogs are another means of book talk writing. Heck, send notes as smoke signals. We’ll find a way to see them and connect.

Peace (in the chart),
Kevin

Book Talk: Youth Culture, Youth Practices


Participatory Culture slowread – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

The second chapter of Participatory Culture in a Networked Era is a fascinating discussion and inquiry in ways in which youths use technology and digital media on their own terms, and I appreciate that Ito, boyd and Jenkins tear into the notion of a Digital Immigrant/Digital Native divide. I hope we can all agree by now that such a dichotomy is too simplistic to be of any value.

I went back to my highlighted notes and pulled out some quotes that I like from the three researchers in their discussions, and put them into Haiku Deck for a visual tour of the chapter.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

 

Graphic Novel Review: The Arab of the Future

It’s hard not to connect the graphic story of growing up in the Middle East and Europe during the late 1970s and early 1980s by writer Riad Sattouf with events unfolding in the modern day. Syria. Libya. France. In The Arab of the Future: A Childhood of the Middle East, Sattouf explores the world of shifting political sands through the eyes of his own childhood and family.

The result of using a child’s lens on the world, as told through graphic storytelling (in a style reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi in Persepolis although I reluctantly make the reference because such echoes to the other famous Middle Eastern graphic novelist does not diminish Sattouf’s art and writing in the least) is that the privileged Western reader (ie, me) and the young Riad experience the unknown together. I am brought into his world with the same sense of the unknown and unbalance.

This is the true power of writing and graphic novels. We are brought visually into the time period and setting, and we experience it on a very visceral sense. Sattouf’s use of smells, which any young person is sure to remember over time, is a constant element here — the smell of perfumes, and of sweat of women and men, of the scent of rubbish on the streets and of the foods and spices. The young Riad navigates us through the transitions of his family from France to Libya (as Gaddafi is in full power) to Syria (where the elder Assad is in full power) and back to France again, with all of its historical connections to the Middle East.

I am grateful for the experience of a world both apart and of the same as my own, of growing up in another country in a similar time period (I am a little older). Reading and enjoying The Arab of the Future reminds me of how narrow our own childhood visions of the world become when all we see is what is around us, not beyond us. Graphic novels like the one that Sattouf has created here have the potential to stitch our world together, making common ground through understanding.

Peace (in the world),
Kevin

 

Found Poem: Toward a Collective Ownership of Stories

Defining participatory culture

We’re just launching our #DigiWriMo slow-read of the new book — Participatory Culture in a Networked Era — by eminent scholars Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito and danah boyd. Terry Elliott has set forth a few collaborative annotation options for people to feed into as a way to demonstrate participatory culture as a shared reading experience.

I hope we begin to examine how technology platforms promote and/or hinder participatory involvement.

After reading the first section — which is, as the rest of the book, mostly in the form of a transcribed/edited conversation between the boyd, Ito and Jenkins — I was struck by a number of phrases and ideas. My highlighter (I am reading paper copy of book) had been busy, and as I looked over my notes, I began to see a found poem taking shape.

The phrase “Toward a collective ownership of stories” keep ringing around in my mind. This phrase resonated with me and all of the collaborative projects that we undertake in places like #DigiWrimo or #CLMOOC or #Rhizo(add year) or whatever. While the platforms of technology open up possibilities, it is always the people that make the collaborations happen. We tell stories, together. I am making connections between that work/play and what the three writers here are talking about when it comes to participatory culture.

Those words in the text became the anchor point for a found poem. I had this vision of doing it as a podcast, and trying to get many people to read that line “Toward a collective ownership of stories” together, as a chorus. I might still try that, but I have been swamped and I know others are, too.

Found Poem from Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

You are invited to slow-read this book with us, too. This slow-reading idea means we are not in any rush. The discussions will probably unfold over a few weeks, right into and through the new year. People will get their books when they can. Semesters need to end. The holidays need to pass. We’re starting but there is no real starting point.

Come along with us.

Some of what we will do will be in our DigiWriMo Google Community. Some will be via the Twitter hashtag of #digiwrimo. Some will be at your blog. Or my blog. Some may unfold in Facebook. Some will take place who knows where. That’s good. That’s fine. We like that. Disperse your ideas in ways that help you move forward.

Peace (and participate),
Kevin

 

We’re Slow Reading “Participatory Culture in a Networked Era”

 

We would love to keep the conversations going with Digital Writing Month, even though the so-called “month” is over. So, we are inviting friends (and you are a friend, so you can join in, too, even if you did not take part in DigiWriMo) to read this new book by Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito and danah boyd: Participatory Culture in a Networked Era as a way to stay connected and explore a fascinating topic with some talented researchers/writers.

We’ll be starting some discussions over our existing DigiWriMo Google Plus space, but I suspect things will spill over into other platforms as we move along. In fact, I would hope so. I am only part of the way into the first chapter, and already, the three have made it clear that we should never talk about platforms being “participatory” — it is the culture of the community that can be considered participatory.

So we hope that members of the group will become leaders of the book talk as we move ahead. As such, we will likely platform jump through the book ….

Please, join us. We’d love to have you in the mix.

The DigiWriMo Google Plus Community Space is here.

Peace (in the book),
Kevin