The Power of MultiModalities (4TDW)

MultiModality: 4TDW Session

I’m wishing I had sat in on this discussion session in last week’s 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing (a free series of workshops and discussions that take place each Sunday through October .. I am a keynote on the last Sunday of the conference, exploring the nature of Digital Writing), but I am also grateful the sessions are being archived.

This week, I have wandered through Jeremy Hyler’s presentation on Grammar and Digital Writing (and moving from one audience to another with code-switching); and through Jianna Taylor’s talk on moving towards Digital Writing Notebooks; and through Lindsay Stoetzel’s work on Design Thinking in the Digital Writing Classroom. I am hopeful my friend, Anna Smith, will have her slides up there soon, as her work around Learning with New Media is a topic of interest to me.

But it is the panel discussion entitled MultiModal Moments and Making Composition(s) Move —  with Cassie Brownell, Matthew Hall, Rohit Mehta and Jon Wargo —  that got most of my attention. I was intrigued by the humanist approach and the social justice element of the presentation — of how students using multimedia to make their voices heard in the world have a chance to effect change in the world. Tapping into the elements of different modalities (image, video, text, audio, etc) empowers young writers, and engages them in the act of composition for a purpose.

As educators, understanding the different media attributes, and unveiling the forms and potential of each to our students, seems to be a critical way of giving our students not just permission, but authority, to move beyond traditional writing. Making videos and sharing images … this is what young people do in the world outside of our schools. Tapping into that interest may open up engagement on a whole new level. Connecting those interests to the larger world? That often is more powerful that one can imagine, until you try it. (See Connected Learning ideas)

A whole bunch of interesting presentations are on tap again this coming Sunday, including using online sources for crafting argument, weaving digital writing into the elementary classroom, and various looks at the power of blogging. I’ll be digging in. How about you?

Peace (not just digital),
Kevin

Inclusionary Practices in Open Learning Networks


flickr photo shared by levork under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I am very fortunate in having connected with so many educators around the globe for the ways their thinking keeps my thinking moving forward. Here’s the perfect example. Last November, I co-facilitated Digital Writing Month with Sarah Honeychurch (Scotland) and Maya Bali (Egypt).

Not too long ago, Sarah presented at the AltC Conference on the nature on the facilitation of open learning networks, turning her attention to Digital Writing Month, Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC) and various Rhizomatic Learning activities. (See her presentation slides here). Maha and I added some ideas to the presentation, but Sarah presented.

Sarah’s slides about Inclusion and Exclusion (who gets invited and who gets left out), often articulated beautifully when working with Maha, remains one of those tricky topics that we must keep asking ourselves about. This is also Connected Educator Month (in the US) — this issue of equity and access has to always be front and center. Not just for students (which is always a critical conversation) but also about educators.

We had this kind of conversation this summer, during CLMOOC, when a Twitter Chat conversation suddenly turned on that question of “Who is Here and Who is Not Here,” and my friend Daniel, who works with youth in urban Chicago and often notices the disparity of access, reminds us again and again about reaching out, making deeper connections, offering up invitations.

Avoid the echo chamber. This slide is from Sarah’s presentation:

Inclusion/Exclusion in open learning

Often, this is easier said than done, I think. It’s easier to reach out to your existing networks, which may grow … but only incrementally, for the most part. And often, they grow with like-minded people. You speak the same “language” and articulate similar views. There is research that shows that many people remain in their social networking comfort zone.

Maha Bali, who is insightful in her observations of the US-dominated connected education conversations, wisely guided the activities in the invitations for Digital Writing Month. Sarah and I helped Maha to reach out to writers and educators from various places in the world and cultures and backgrounds. What I didn’t realize at the time is that for every invite that fell into the traditional invite (white, male, American, etc.), Maha and Sarah reached out even further for someone else, to balance out the community.

To be honest, it took a lot of time and a lot of effort on the part of us, the facilitators, to make that happen. I’m not sure we were completely successful, but we were successful enough for me to appreciate Maha’s and Sarah’s insistence on the task. The new voices and the new ideas, and the new perspectives and lens on the world, enriched the experience.

I’m not sure we do that enough with CLMOOC, particularly this year when it was a crowdsourced affair. When National Writing Project folks were overseeing CLMOOC, there was more planned intention, I think. This summer, as a crowd of us sought to run CLMOOC, there was probably not enough purposeful invite.

We didn’t do demographic studies, but a casual observation would be that we are mostly white, middle-class, American educators. This is not bad, but it doesn’t reflect the kind of diverse thinking that one would hope for (or at least, what I would hope for) in an open learning environment. We think of open learning as open doors, but some doors remain shut to people for all sorts of reasons.

In the open learning networks that I am part of, none of this exclusion is ever intentional, as far as I can tell. If it was, I would push back or leave. That doesn’t mean the exclusion doesn’t happen, however. It does. And if we want the places where we learn together, and explore ideas together and collaboratively, to be truly “open,” then the issue of inclusion/exclusion has to be on the minds of any facilitator planning such a space.

Inclusion/Exclusion 2

Efforts must be made.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

 

 

 

#DigiLitSunday #IMMOOC: Using Voice for Revising Writing

Sound Stories under construction

“Read the sentence out loud. Speak it to your dog or cat. Or find a corner and read it to yourself. Your ear will hear if something is not quite right. Your eyes might miss it.”

That was me, talking to my sixth grade students about some writing last week, during a vocabulary lesson. The lesson has to do with different forms of words in context of a piece of writing and many students struggle with this task because they can’t “hear” the sentence as they “read” the sentence.  They only insert the root form, not past/present/future versions. I keep urging them to get the words into the air — their ears will help.

This coming November/December, I aim to do Sound Stories with my sixth graders again. It was so successful last year, during Digital Writing Month, as it allowed me to teach the interconnections of writing, voice, sound and media editing, as well as publishing. We don’t do enough with voice in the classroom.

This week, for #DigiLitSunday and as part of thinking of innovative teaching practice for the #IMMOOC (Innovator’s Mindset), I am exploring the notion of “audio voice” for revision because I think having students use their own voice recordings in order to revise their written draft work may be a powerful tool for them to use as young writers. Just to make clear: there is another concept we call “voice” when it comes to writing – that of the writer’s voice and tone as surfaced in the writing through vocabulary choice and other techniques — but I am thinking very literal here.

I’ve been kicking this idea of voice for revision around for years, thanks to some work done long ago by a Western Mass Writing Project colleague, who used little voice recorders to help her students revise their writing. I always thought she was onto something interesting and powerful.

Which is not to say we don’t tap into the audio for writing in my classroom …

I’ve introduced Voice Typing with my students (via Google Docs) and we’ve done some podcasting throughout the year. We’ve had students use Dragon Naturally Speaking so that they dictate and it types for them when they are struggling writers. And the Sound Stories  project– where students have to use Garageband and list of sound effects to write and record a story — has been another way for voice to come into the mix.

But I haven’t yet fully explored how a student writer, during the editing process itself, records themselves reading the rough draft text, and then uses that audio of their own reading to deeply analyze the text itself on a second read. They are their first reader. This seems obvious, but it is not. Many students don’t read through, with close reading eyes, their own writing.

Some guiding questions I see surfacing from this audio-revision concept:

  • Where does the audio reading veer from the text reading because you (writer/reader) automatically made it better in the moment of the live read?
  • What sounds “wrong” to the ear on second listen and how can you fix it?
  • What do we notice about our writing when the text becomes audio?
  • How does your physical voice play a role in what you read?
  • Where in the text can we now revise to make it better and clearer and smoother for the reader?

There’s so much learning, and teaching, swirling around in those questions.

The problem, as always, is time to do it, but I need to make time if I think this might improve the editing and proofreading skills of my students, right? I need to give them as many strategies for improving their ideas and writing. They need an entire toolbox. Their voice might be another tool in that box. (We won’t get into the discomfort many have about hearing their voice .. but it is something that will come up in the classroom setting.)

Certainly, there is no shortage of ways to record voice. Audacity. Garageband. Vocaroo. Soundcloud. There are tons of apps and programs for recording voice. What I want is simplicity — the fewest bells and whistles possible, so that students focus only the sound of their own voice and the words on the page, where the two converge and where the two diverge.

I am inspired by the work of Dawn Reed, who has been writing about the use of podcasting and This I Believe audio essays in her high school classroom for some time. At the National Writing Project Digital Is site, Dawn shared out this observation that connects with my thinking on this issue. Here, Dawn writes of the moment when one of her students made this connection between his voice and the writing on the page, and how one can influence the other:

When we started this podcasting project, however, Jonathan told me he was amazed by how the recording of his speech made an impact on the way he viewed his voice. He also told me that he had never read his work aloud before, and he was impressed with the role it had on his revision. Without the step of the actual recording of his voice, Jonathan skipped the reading aloud of his work. It wasn’t until he needed to record that he saw the value in reading his work aloud, and he additionally listened to his voice, which gave him insight on his writing and revision strategies. In this way, digital literacies have become a revision tool for Jonathan. It was when he heard his voice being played in the recording that he noticed himself not sounding real or genuine and that’s when he went back to revise the piece in the print and spoken text in order to have his writing and speaking show his voice. Through this process, Jonathan affirmed the role of his unique voice in his print and spoken essay. — from Digital Is, via Dawn Reed

That’s what I want from my students, too.

Peace (it sounds like peace),
Kevin

 

Defining Digital Writing (A Modest Proposal)

Digital Writing, in the margins

It’s quite possible this is impossible. I am trying to narrow in on the affordances of what we mean by the phrase “Digital Writing.” I may even veer way off track here, and perhaps it is best for all of us just to drop the “digital” once and for all, and just call it .. writing. Although, I, for one, still prefer the word “composing.”

Still … I am on this merry path of thinking because I am giving an ending Keynote to the (free!) 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing, which takes place on Sundays in October and because I have been engaged in an intriguing margin annotation activity with my CLMOOC friend, Karen LaBonte, who wrote a “field report” blog post that shared some critique of the phrase “Digital Writing” by close family members.

That had me thinking: OK, so WHAT do we mean? What affordances does the digital bring to writing? How is it different from what we think of as (regular) writing (ie, paper, pen/cil, etc.) And, why do we need to differentiate?

Here is a rough list of affordances, in my view, of how Digital Writing is different from, eh, Analog Writing. (Boy, that phrase looks odd, right?)

Digital Writing …

  • is more than just words typed on a screen. A simple blog post is not really digital writing;
  • potentially crosses mediums, so that words might mix with sound might mix with video might mix with other media;
  • narrows the gap between writer and reader by giving more agency to the reader than traditional relationships, and so, the writer must plan for that changed relationship;
  • can have deeper associative properties, particularly when thinking of how hyperlinks embedded within the text might connect one text to another, providing options and trails that move away from the main text itself;
  • may or may not harness the possibilities of the underlying yet mostly hidden “writing” — the computer code of the page that we read that has been represented as text but is actually not text;
  • provides for possible collaborations beyond the writer, and sometimes without their permission or notice, such as the margin annotations on a website page or a remix of media.

The criticism, including my own, may be be that most of what I just wrote in this list is not necessarily “writing.” It is more technology — tinkering with the way we represent writing in the larger world. But I still think if “composing” is the word we use when it comes to “digital writing,” we are more apt to be open to the use of various media, of hyperlinks like paths on a literacy map, of reader involvement in the original text, of the sort of planning that “digital writer” has to do to create a “digital text.” It is all composition.

DIGITAL the poem

I don’t think we are at a point where all writing is digital writing, and therefore, we don’t need a separate designation on it. I don’t know if digital writing is the right term, though. But it does seem to me that we need some way to show that technology is changes the way we compose our texts in the world, if only so we can talk about it (and maybe debate it).

What do you think?

Peace (write it into the world),
Kevin

A Day Late to a Twitter Chat (but not a dollar short)

Margaret Simon, who helps facilitate a weekly discussion around digital literacies with the #DigiLitSunday hashtag, organized a Twitter Chat on Sunday that I could not attend. So, I played Monday Morning Quarterback with her Storify curation, adding comments as a way to engage in the conversation (after it had already ended). And days later, I am now sharing.

The theme of the chat was about essay writing, and centered on a book by Katherin Bomer, entitled The Journey Is Everything Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them. Margaret gives more info at her blog.

Here are my comments, strung together.

 

Peace (write it from the heart),
Kevin

Workshopping in the Digital Age: A Close Reading of Franki and Troy

Students as Writers and Composers

I finally got around to coming back to an interview with two of my favorite people — Franki Sibberson and Troy Hicks — as they sat down for an interview for Language Arts to talk about Digital Writing Workshop. (You can access the article as a PDF at the National Writing Project site).

There are a lot of great insights and honesty in their conversation, and as I sought to reach closer, I started to grab some quotes from the text in order to pull them out for further thinking.

I was nodding my head here, because, like Franki, I hope I stay in tune with my students and their interests when it comes to thinking of ways that technology and digital platforms might push their own writing and compositional strategies further along. I’d also add that, along with listening, we teachers need be doing the technology, too. Snapchat, Pokemon Go, and others are unknown terrain unless you try them yourself. You might decide, this does not have application for my classroom (for now). At least, you will know from the experience.

I like Troy’s point here, that the technology should have a rationale or basis for use in composing. He uses a heuristic called MAPS (mode (genre), media, audience, purpose, situation), which is very helpful in this regard, as it allows teachers to consider such things as audience and intent. The technology is not just an engagement factor — it’s an intentional design of the classroom experience to help students explore writing in different angles, with different strategies, for different reasons.

Here, Troy is talking about how to expand the notions of Mentor Texts by drawing from the world outside the classroom, from Pop Culture and beyond. Like Franki, Troy notes the importance of “listening” to students, to figure out where interest lies and then tap into that for learning.

This is so true, and I have written at times about this, too. Some days, when we are moving into something new, things go awry, and the room is full of noise and seemingly chaos. I say, seemingly, because, as Franki notes, often amidst the chaos is some interesting reflections going on. Part of our role as teachers to find focus on the reflection (the process is more important than the product, most of the time) and draw that out, highlight it, make it the learning of the day. And keep calm.

That same theme of analyzing process points is what Troy is discussing here, when the question of “How Do We Assess Digital Writing?” comes up. He notes how technology has the potential to uncover compositional strategies, and make a digital piece more accessible for comments and review and revision. If we can take our eyes off the final product and keep them attuned to all that goes into that work, we can assess learning in a more strategic way.

Thanks to Troy and Franki for sharing their ideas. I found it useful and helpful, and I hope some of their words inspire you, too.

Peace (sharing it out),
Kevin

 

Curiosity Conversations: Two Zeegas Walk Into a Bar and So Does Terry


flickr photo shared by *s@lly* under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I’ve been exploring the notions of Curiosity Conversations, inspired by Scott Glass in Make Cycle 3 of the CLMOOC. This interaction unfolded before Scott shared out his idea for CLMOOC, but fits perfectly with the concept.

Sometimes, the best part of writing digitally is trying to process the intent of the composition. But, I often don’t do much of that (or not enough for my own liking). Here, Terry Elliott and I took some purposeful time to interact with each other via a Hackpad to have “a conversation” about digital composition.

The overall thread was a poem that Jennifer N. wrote for CLMOOC a few weeks back, which then slowly transformed into a larger collaborative audio project. I wanted to take it a step further – using a tool called Zeega to make a visual piece. It turns out Terry was doing the same — making his own Zeega with the same audio and same poem.

Thus, our conversation unfolded … We asked each other questions, released some threads of ideas, wondered out loud about what it means to compose digitally. We don’t have any real answers. Just more questions.

First, watch each of our digital pieces.

First, there is mine:

And there is Terry’s Zeega interpretation:

And then, there is the messy Hackpad itself. You can add to the conversation, too. It’s an open document. Consider yourself invited. Join the conversation. Be curious.

Peace (in the mix),
Kevin

Tending the Gardens of the Margins


flickr photo shared by Kirt Edblom under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Terry Elliott used the sharing of photos and the #silentsunday tag the other day to write in the margins of his blog (with the Hypothesis annotation tool) about a flower left standing in the weed patch and invited readers into the margins, too. I went in, wondering, and planted a few poems along the way around his use of the One, Two, Three, Four.

A sample of one of my poems, built around the word “Three”:

I remember the juggler
with Three balls in the air
His eyes like flashlights,
blowing beams into the sky
Ignoring us watching him
Three ideas held simultaneously in motion

Terry then posted a second post at his blog, in which he sought to differentiate “the signal from the noise,” this time providing a space in the collaborative Hackpad for folks to add to the writing from the margins. It was as if he had clipped a few buds, and put them in a vase, and invited the world to add some more flowers.

So, I did. This time, I focused on the element of the story of his wife, saving the flower that became the image he shared for #silentsunday that kicked off the whole shebang.

Margins

What I like about this playfulness is the give and take, and the way Terry hid his writing away from the image, and that by stumbling into his story of the flower in the margins of the text, I was inspired to write, too. Not just inspired; Invited. And the notion of taking the writing from the margins, and pulling it back into a post, open to the world, is the sort of connecting spirit that I seek out as a writer.

We’re all jugglers, using words as props. Or gardners, seeking flowers amid the weeds. Use your own metaphor. And write.

Peace (as flowers amid weeds),
Kevin

In October: Teachers Teaching Teachers about Technology

Big image

I am so honored to have been asked to be a keynote speaker for the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing coming in October — a virtual conference on digital writing and learning that is free. Yep, free.

4T Virtual Conference Bio

My keynote session is entitled “A Day in the Life of a Digital Writer.” I aim to explore how writing is at the heart of the digital, from my own perspective and from the lives of my students. There are other many fine presenters, too, all worth checking out.

And there are a bunch of National Writing Project connections, and a push into Digital Writing Month.  You can view the flier here, and register here. The entire conference is online, but made to be as interactive as possible.

Here’s a promo:

Peace (write it digitally),
Kevin

 

Continued Reverberations of Online Connections


flickr photo shared by priyaswtc under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Three posts recently had me thinking again about the reverberations of online networks or communities or whatever term it is you wish to use to indicate projects that never quite end.

First, there was this tweet from my Making Learning Connected MOOC friend, Allie:

My answer to Allie was: Truthfully, I don’t know.

It may be that the CLMOOC has run its official course and that some variations of it may continue into the summer. I’ve been a facilitator in the past, and enjoyed it immensely, but I am not in charge of the official decision of whether another six week CLMOOC will happen this summer. I don’t think National Writing Project, which has hosted CLMOOC, envisioned supporting CLMOOC forever, and I know a focus right now by NWP is on Educator Innovator projects such as Letters to the President.

So, I don’t know.

I think I can safely say this. The #CLMOOC Twitter hashtag isn’t going anywhere, and until Google pulls the plug on Google Plus Communities, there is still a home there, too, and people are still sharing links, resources, ideas and a weekly #SilentSunday image share. And we have had some “pop up” Make Cycles this spring, thanks to Joe Dillon and Terry Elliott and others. I know I am planning to use the CLMOOC Make Cycles for a graduate class I am teaching through the University of Massachusetts and our Western Mass Writing Project this summer.

Second, I saw a blog post by Alan Levine, reflecting on the Western version of DS106 earlier this year, which he explains better than I can, but I want to note in that in his reflection he reacts to a comment about a sense of “fading” in DS106. I suspect that any online adventure has its time of high activity that slows down after time, even as it continues to persist in some fashion.

DS106 is an intriguing example because some university classes use it as a framework of classwork, connecting the physical classroom to online exploration. At times, there are “headless” DS106 courses that are not connected to a university — with only nominal direction. Come and go, as you please. Other times, a theme starts and ends, and echoes in the Daily Create. People keep making stuff. Cool stuff. Every day.

Alan writes:

I was talking to someone who’s been around the DS106 corral and it was this person’s contention that DS106 had “faded” suggesting in so many words it was past the top of a curve, and maybe it was missing a “charismatic leader”. Many people who got crazy bit with ds106 in 2011, 2012 are not much less or non-active. That’s not a problem, that’s a natural curve of evolution.

And DS106 does persist and it continues encourage continuous creativity, even if you never dipped a toe into any of its online course mutations. Just look at the DS106 Daily Create. It rolls on and on. People don’t just come and go; People come and go long after their first connection to DS106 ever took place.

And then the third post that caught my attention was by Dave Cormier, who has spearheaded Rhizomatic Learning communities since 2014, wrote a fascinating post that references an article he wrote two years ago, in which he responds to a question his young son asks as he is watching Rhizo14 unfold. (The question: Are you in charge? The answer: Not really.)

Dave begins:

… we are potentially radically redefining what it means to be an educator. We are very much at the beginning stages of our learning how to create the space required for community to develop and grow in an open course. These field notes speak to the my own journey in the design of ‘Rhizomatic Learning – the community is the curriculum’. They are, in effect, a journey towards planned obsolescence.

Interestingly, the Rhizomatic Learning connections seem sort of shackled by the hashtag. We began with #rhizo14 and then #rhizo15 and now #rhizo16, but adding a number hampers the ability of the community to last beyond the year, it seems to me. This sort of calls attention to the importance of early course design — how to design for something to never end in social media circles? (This is not a critique of Dave or any of us in Rhizo, by the way, but merely an interesting observation of how a time element stamp can lead to unexpected narrowing of community reverberations.)

How do these three strands/posts come together for me?

Well, I’m intrigued by Dave’s notion — made years ago but seemingly more and more relevant — about “planned obsolescence” of the architect of online experiences. Dave’s notion of “the community is the curriculum” is intriguing, as is Alan’s notion of the “natural curve of evolution” of an online experience.

We may not yet be there. Dave is launching a third iteration of Rhizo under the banner of Learning Resilience.  Maybe we still need someone behind the wheel. While the Rhizo community remains active and vibrant, I think we were waiting for Dave to kick off something for 2016. (I know I was but I didn’t realize it until I was writing this post.) I wonder if the person who wondered about DS106 “fading” was waiting, too, for someone like Alan to step up and lead the way. Did Allie think I was in charge of CLMOOC?

How do we encourage folks to take over and be the learning itself? Dave and Alan have certainly encouraged that every step of the way. Yet we still gravitate towards someone to get us started. (Maybe that’s not a bad thing. We all need a spark.) How does that decentralizing of learning translate into our classrooms? That’s the question of the longer journey many teachers are on in the Connected World, I suspect. I know I am. Maybe you are, too.

If someone comes looking for CLMOOC activities and exploration, perhaps the best answer is to encourage them to create and share Pop Up Make Cycles and invite others to join in. Do we need someone in charge to tell us that CLMOOC is taking place or not? Probably not.

We can make learning happen just by making it happen. The fact that Allie had a “serious remix moment” that reminded her of CLMOOC is incredibly exciting. I wonder what that moment was? Can I join in? Don’t you wonder, too?

Peace (in the make),
Kevin