As part of a reflective ‘digital audit’ for CLMOOC’s Pop-Up Make Cycle this month, I am taking a break from daily blogging. Instead of writing posts here, I am going to be writing postcards to CLMOOC friends as part of our ongoing postcard exchange. In place of daily writing, I have scheduled a series of comics that I made, and shared on Twitter, about digital detox, with the Doc.
My good friend, Anna Smith, helped launch a Pop-Up Make Cycle in CLMOOC this month that is perfectly in tune with the idea of the new year. Anna, inspired in part by a resource shared in December by Wendy Taleo in the CLMOOC ecosystem, asks us all to pause and think a bit about our digital traces and relationships with technology.
Call it: Conducting a Digital Audit.
Over at her blog, Anna has posted some of her questions for herself, and shared a ThingLink with various links to activities that anyone can do to audit how we are being tracked by apps and sites, how our use of technology impacts our life off-line, and more.
I’ve been spending time on this topic by delving into some online reading (and in making comics — I’ll share those here another day) in order to remind myself about the positive nature of my relationship with technology, social media and the digital platforms I use. Even with the many negatives — privacy intrusions, advertising targeting, hacking possibilities, etc. — I still find plenty of positives — from connected learning, collaborative projects, writing in spaces with others, exploring art in many forms and fashions, learning together, etc.
Here are some of the articles and blog posts I have been perusing and thinking about this week:
A piece by Bryan Alexander, shared in Terry Elliott’s newsletter, brought to mind the way that technology is changing the places of our learning, and in particular, our libraries. Alexander rightly praised librarians for being on the vanguard of understand and adapting to these shifts, all in the nature of helping adults and children make their own transitions into the digital world (while holding true to the values that our libraries have long represented around access and community public spaces).
Jim Groom wrote recently about the act of archiving, of curating what we are creating in online spaces. He notes the difficulty, due to the complexity of how we share with the world, but suggests the effort to archive is worth it, as it preserves a sense of who we are now, in this moment, as well as who we were, in the moments past. Digital tools allow us to do this in ways we could not otherwise, although it takes thought and planning and an active effort. The flip side is to lose yourself in the maelstrom of media. We’re always better at finding ourself, than losing ourself.
Do you watch Black Mirror? I’ve only seen a few episodes of this rather dystopian view of how technology changes us, mostly for the worse. It’s anchored on our insecurities about technology, and the ways our digital lives will overshadow our real lives, and the impact that shift will have on society and relationships. Black Mirror freaks me out a bit, so I only watch it now and then. It’s vision is so extreme that I lose my faith in the possibilities.
A piece from some time back by Kate Bowles reminds us not to be drawn in by technology, particularly when it comes to educators who hold the door open for young people. She notes that many companies are pulling out the stops for a chance to market to our students, and schools and universities have an obligation as digital gatekeeper to keep the wolves at bay, as much as possible, while still harnessing the potential of technology for learning. This is often a difficult balancing job.
An article by Andrew Sullivan caught my attention this week, as if by chance. I am reading Best American Non-Required Reading 2017 (which is a collection of pieces selected by high school students) and came upon Sullivan’s piece as I was thinking of Anna’s post. Sullivan explores his own efforts to disengage from his work as a digital writer, and how he had to re-learn to find the quiet and solitude of life again. He turned down the noise, and found some music again, and I think his lesson about reminding us to be human in all of our interactions — interpersonal as well as inner-personal — is valuable. It’s a powerful piece, well worth your time.
I appreciated a piece by Alan Levine, who wrote about his reaction to so much worry and concern being written these days about the media landscape. Yes, some of it is real and of real concern. But Levine notes that much of the best of technology, and the web, is still in those strange and creative places where people come together to spark imagination, make change for a better world, and imagine a future that works for us. Levine is not being naive in his assessment. He understands the pitfalls as well as anyone else. What he holds on to, and what I hold on to, too — and what I hope you do, too — is the potential of technology to enrich our experiences, as creative artists in whatever media you dabble and as people of these places, virtual or not.
Last, I’ll leave you with a video interpretation of a post by Laura Ritchie from a few weeks ago. Her piece explores musical harmony, with fingers stretched into how we learn and how we teach, and she weaves those ideas together in an enriching way. Laura’s piece reminds me again of the possibilities of being in balance with our technology and our agency in using that technology.
Next week, I am going to take Anna up on some of her advice of the digital audit, and I am going to begin with Twitter. (I’ve already shut off all notifications from Facebook, where I have an account only because I administer the site for our local writing project. The amount of notifications from Facebook is staggering.) I aim to cut my follows and followers on Twitter by a substantial percentage, and try to keep true to those whose work inspires me. More may not be merrier.
Also, I will probably take a blogging vacation, spending the time I usually write for this space instead with some postcards in the CLMOOC project — handwriting notes and poems and whatever to individuals in the CLMOOC community, honing in on the personal connections that make the online connections so powerful and enriching.
The One Little Word project is a yearly endeavor to think about a guiding word for the year ahead. I’ve used words like reflect, and remembering, and pause, and last year: filter. I had trouble coming up with my word this year, but decided upon “compose” for a variety of reasons.
First, my One Little Word for 2018 — Compose — captures how I see the shift in the way people write with media. We’re back to the word “composition” in my mind, using video and images and audio and words as a sort of stew of ideas. We compose when we write on digital platforms.
Second, the word is a remember to me to keep my anger fueled by national politics, yet also to keep it under control. Don’t get all riled up by every headline and every act. Keep focused on the task at hand: removing the GOP from power and kicking Trump to the curb (while not handing the reins to Pence). Stay composed.
So, that’s my word for 2018. I usually put it on my desktop as a little file in the corner of the screen, as a reminder. Time to archive “filter” and add “compose.”
What began as a cool shared reading experience within the CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) transformed into a year-long project in which we added a themed data element to the CLMOOC Postcard Project in 2017. The book that inspired the themes was Dear Data, which captured a letter exchange between two women in the form of data observed around their lives. The book was fantastic and a wonderful exploration of observation. (You can read my review of Dear Data.)
In 2017, CLMOOC put forth a theme each month (and used postcards as connector points for a summer Make Cycle), and a handful of us from around the world worked on our postcard exchange through the lens of data. I did it every month, keeping true of data, and got a little tired of data by the end (and I sent only one single postcard out in December, to my friend Karen, whose partnership sparked this whole thing.)
The collage above captures each of the postcards. I did mine in a program called Simple Diagrams, so that I could make copies for multiple postcards. On average, I sent out about 12 postcards each month to different folks on the CLMOOC postcard exchange.
Every morning, all month long, I have been doodling on a theme with my friends in CLMOOC (Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration). My approach has been to keep it simple: I used a stack of very small sticky notes, and my doodles on a sticky note were often done in pencil. I purposefully kept myself to a short time limit — read the theme, get inspired, doodle and share.
As a result, some of my doodles … look like they were done by a toddler with a big pencil (which is not to disparage any toddler artists out there, or the use of big pencils). Drawing has always been a creative weakness of mine, but I liked the freedom of the daily inspiration and I was often very impressed by the doodling of others in the #DecDoodle Twitter stream and elsewhere.
I gathered up all of my 31 doodles and sorted them, with a time-lapse camera running, and then put them all into an Animoto video. I lost the small bits of color I ever used in the doodles in this video theme, but I could not resist the party elements.
Thanks, in particular, to Susan W. for inspiring the month of making art in CLMOOC!
My friend, Wendy, sent me a map from Australia. It is part of the CLMOOC Postcard Exchange, and last month, we were working on mapping as a theme in CLMOOC. Wendy’s map is a Soundscape — the drawn map connects to a playlist on Soundcloud that connects back to the map itself, all with an invitation from her to make a path on the map.
I was intrigued and wondered how best to honor her invitation. I put on my headphones, closed my eyes, and let my imagination wander around her soundscape. Her mix was a collection of her own recording, and then chosen songs from within Soundcloud.
I realized that the listening was giving me a way into her map, which was a sort of story. So I decided to jot down some ideas as I listened, and then found a poem emerging, which later became a sort of free-verse rap of sorts, with stanzas connected to different points on her map that connected to different music in her soundscape.
I decided she probably needed to “hear” my poem response, and so did a version (listen above) and shared it out, hopeful that Wendy knows her map has kept me traveling forward. The words in parentheses connect to her tracks and her points on the map.
A Snail’s Pace: Soundscape Response
I am here
inside the sounds
of this map
that a friend
has drawn true,
a snail’s wandering,
slow, ambling motion
into the unknown blue —
this space is here
and you —
I keep my pen
in its place…
… where echoes
of turtle shells,
the railroad track,
the path, it yells,
as it beckons me
… the sky’s filled with
fallen stars, of birds
from afar, their wings set
to the beat of
forever blue, forever
this line follows
magnetic north, true
… my feet are in motion,
dancing among the fallen
for gravity has me
off the ground,
I’m always almost
… I hear the noise,
of the Northeast arrow,
the corridor calling my
name, I’m game
for the adventure,
I follow the sparrow …
… of the Southeast
flow, something goes
in the direction of justice,
my heart into
bass lines and mad
a brave face
against these troubling times …
… I am disappearing again
into the fingers
of the keyboard, the V
of the geese of the sky
of the distant shore,
where the poems
always flowing …
… I’m going,
I’m still going,
you can’t stop me,
everyone is always knowing
this map is more
than the snail’s pace,
it’s the way we play to create
the world as a safe space and
you’ve drawn me out
and filled us
with your grace.
For the last six months or so, I have been writing in and exploring around Mastodon, a federated social networking space that is free from corporate structure. Federated means there is no one central server or space where people are located. Instead, there are “instances” where people connect to and write from (instances are hosted by individuals and most instances have a theme). All instances can share across the larger Mastodon network. I know that will sound confusing. Upshot for me: it’s becoming a neat, creative, connected space that is more than just an alternative to Twitter.
In late September, someone in the Mastodon timeline put out a call for musicians to collaborate together for an album project. They hoped to leverage the connected element of common interests into a music project. I took the plunge, and became part of what is now known as A Whale’s Lantern project — a collaboration of musicians who have made music through the Mastodon network.
While I didn’t know who I would be partnered with, as names were drawn randomly, it turns out I was paired with a friend from other connected spaces: Laura Ritchie. She’s a cellist and music teacher and wide-range thinker.
Yesterday, our “album” was released on Bandcamp. Laura and I worked on a song that I wrote called I Fall Apart (Like Stars in the Night) and the whole group of us, including some of who didn’t get time to finish their collaboration, are in the midst of writing up our reflections. Collaboratively, of course, and hopefully, it will be published in a Mastodon open journal called Kintsugi in the future.
I was facilitating a professional development session yesterday afternoon with my colleagues, and I wanted to find an engaging “write into the day” activity. The topic of the PD was using Google Classroom to help ease flow of information and assignments to and from teachers and students (currently, I am the only one using Google Classroom in our school).
I remembered all of our work this summer in CLMOOC with doodling and drawing (and this month has been DecDoodle via CLMOOC, so I have been doodling every morning on daily themes) and using illustration as a way to think on the page.
So, my prompt for colleagues at the very start of the session was “Doodle what Flow looks like in your classroom setting” and we septn about 15 minutes doodling and then sharing. A few looked at me at first like, you want me to doodle? Yes, indeedly do. Or yes, indeedly doodle.
The range of drawings and representations was pretty cool, and provided a nice frame for our discussions and exploration of Google Classroom from the standpoint of making the management of student work and assignments and interactions a little easier (as long as you understand Google’s impetus to build easy-to-use products to hook long-term users).
I was thinking of ways to use Google’s My Maps feature with my sixth grade students, as a way to get them to play with mapmaking in connection to literature, and decided to use the travels of a character from the book Regarding the Fountain. Florence Waters travels the world, sending postcards, telegrams and other notes to a classroom in the book, which is very non-traditional in format.
My students had to “pin” her locations around the world (there are more than a dozen places she travels), adding a quote from the book (with page number) and some sort of image to represent either gifts that Florence is mailing to the classroom in the novel, or a representation of the geographic place. (I saw a few students realize they could use animated gifs, which I should have shared out with everyone, giving the pins a little more life.)
Then, I had them calculate distance traveled throughout her entire journeys, using the line draw tool (which gives distance between points). I also showed them how to customize the pins, which many did to represent Florence in the world.
All in all, this was a very successful mapping project, and incorporated geography and math with literacy in a hands-in immersive way, and they were fully engaged in this work (which took longer than I expected to complete but well worth it.)
One change for the future: I should have had students estimate the total distance first, and then compare their calculations to the estimate. Why didn’t I think of that?
Peace (map it),
PS – if you use Google Apps for Ed, like we do at our school, you may need to have the technology folks turn on Google maps in the student accounts. My Maps is not part of the walls of the traditional Google suite. We sent a notice home to families about the use of maps.
I am immersing myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm. This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.