Visiting Artist: Learning About Life with Your Hands

Elton visits

“Remove the negative. Uncover and highlight the positive.” — Elton Braithwaite, speaking to my students about art and life.

We’re fortunate to have an acclaimed woodcarver — Elton Braithwaite — come to work our sixth graders (11 and 12 year olds) this coming week.

Elton has been a partner with our school for more than 15 years, and the collaborative projects created by sixth graders are everywhere in our school — from a table-game picnic table to a welcome sign to wood murals to a puppet theater. All show the artistic vision of Elton and about 70 students, and the coordination and dedication of our art teacher.

Elton visits

I appreciate the tactile learning experience that Elton provides, and also, his views on life and the spirit and creativity, and the desire many have to create new things out of the old.

This year’s project is a wood frame for an events calendar. I can’t wait to see how it comes out.

Peace (carved and polished),
Kevin

 

 

Interpreting, and Honoring, the Words of Others


Untitled flickr photo by kangster shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Thanks (again) to Terry Elliott for sharing a new possibility for close reading and digital interpretation. This time, it’s something called Lumen5, which allows you to use text from blog posts (or freewrite) to create a short video not unlike a digital story. I like the “pick and choose” element.

By close reading posts of others (or close reading yourself, too), you can point to textual elements and then add images and music. The site then kicks out a video.

I tried the process first with my friend, Karen LaBonte, who wrote of her move to Portland and what she is seeing in her new community in a very poignant piece of writing. She also shares how she hopes to make an impact there (of that, I am sure.)

The second was a piece by Maha Bali, as she continues to explore the terrain of “open learning” in a variety of ways. In the post I used, she uses the metaphor of the flower.

In both cases, I hoped to honor my friends with the choosing of words (and hoped the context would not be completely lost through my interpretation) and that the video versions might lead others on a path to their blogs and writing.

Karen writes All Hands on Deck

Maha writes Reflection Allowed

And you should, of course, read Terry who writes Impedagogy

Peace (extended outward),
Kevin

PS — I also could not resist making a version of my Western Massachusetts Mission Statement as a video.

If the Web is the City, Are Apps the Gated Suburbs?

I’ve recently read, with interest, a book by Virginia Heffernan entitled Magic and Loss: The Internet As Art, and it seems to mesh quite nicely with some of the exploration that had been done in the Networked Narratives experiment. As the title suggests, Heffernan proposes that we view the Internet itself as a huge canvas of realistic art, and then she dives into elements like design, text, images and more to explore these ideas through a networked lens.

In the chapter on Design, she notes that because the Web is both a commercial space and a collaborative space, it has become a messy sprawl of links, images, advertisements, and more. As a result, the experience of many users is far from ideal.

“The Web is haphazardly planned. Its public spaces are mobbed, and urban decay abounds in broken links, ghost town sites, and abandoned projects. Malware and spam have turned living conditions in many quarters unsafe and unsanitary. Bullies, hucksters and trolls roam the streets. An entrenched population of rowdy, polyglot rabble dominates major sites.” — Magic and Loss, page 45

Heffernan then goes on to develop the metaphorical supposition that this messy reality of the Internet gave rise to the closed and contained experience of Apps, which pulled us away from the Internet and created a sort of Gated Community. She talks about this as the “online equivalent of white flight.”

“The parallels between what happened to Chicago, Detroit, and new York in the twentieth century and what happened to the Internet since the introduction of the (Apple) App Store are striking.” — Magic and Loss, page 45

Is this true? Does the metaphor hold?

I guess I had never really considered the connections but she raises some intriguing points. So, as we talked about the nature of “civic imagination” in Networked Narratives and built our own “Arganee World,” we also considered what we meant by public spaces. A further point of discussion might have been how to “design elements” can play a larger role in the permanence of online spaces, and is connected directly to how much a user invests in the experience.

I guess one of the larger questions remains: What do we give up when we move into any gated community? What do we trade for our security? There is a certain beauty in the chaotic mess of the Internet — the expected discovery or connection — as well as some real ugliness — trolls and negative comments and attacks — and we cede some authority to app developers when we move into the app on our mobile device.

During one summer’s CLMOOC, we explored the idea of the Internet as Public Sphere. I wrote about it here and here and here.

Peace (in all spaces),
Kevin

 

Check out this Creativity (K12 Online Conference)

One of the strands of this year’s ongoing K12 Online Conference is Creativity. This video is a cool inside look at the ways teachers around the world are using music and technology to spark creativity with their students.

Check out more about K12 Online Conference. There’s always cool sharing and all the presentations are archived, so you can always peruse past presentations whenever you get the time.

Peace (sounds beautiful),
Kevin

This is (still) the Truth (Zeega Multimedia Version)

Five Voices in Search of a Poem

I’ve been wanting to take a poem for five voices that I wrote last month, and invited four friends to virtually perform with me, into Zeega for some multimedia interpretation, and finally found the time this week to do so. The poem is a response to both the media landscape and the political turmoil (made even more tumultuous yesterday by the firing of the lead investigator by the president being investigated).

First, here is just the audio, with help from Terry, Sheri, Melvina and Scott. We recorded it all remotely using a site called Soundtrap.

Now, here is the Zeega version (You might need to tell your browser in the url bar to allow it to play unsafe scripts, which comes as a result of Terry hosting Zeega at his own space, I believe). Also, it is best to view the Zeega in full screen, to get the entire effect of image layering and viewing. Here it is:

What’s always so interesting about this process is trying to match the visual experience, with limited text anchors, to the audio, even knowing that every viewer will process through the project at a different pace. With Zeega, the viewer/reader/listener chooses when to advance the visuals, even as the audio plays on.

I’m happy with how it came out. I hope you enjoy it.

Peace (in many voices),
Kevin

Passing the Song Along (A little Dylan in the Day)

Dylan Words

A few weeks ago, my friend Laura put out a call for a project that she was doing that would feature the Bob Dylan song The Times Are a-Changing. When I first taught myself guitar, that was one of the songs I wanted to learn, and did. Laura was hoping to build a musical quilt of songs and voices and words, as part of a public performance.

I grabbed my guitar, re-learned the song a bit, and then choose the verse that I think has the most resonance for the times that we are in right now – the one where Dylan calls out politicians and writers to embrace change for a better world and be ready to defend the choices you make in the moments before you. I recorded the verse and sent it forth to Laura, to use as she saw fit.

A few weeks later, Laura shared out a video of the live performance of her Affirmation Quilt. As I watched and listened via YouTube, I was pleased to hear her cello layered in on top of my guitar and voice. She is a talented musician, and I was honored to hear her strings on top of my ragged singing voice. It was wonderful, particularly as she wove the music in with spoken words contributors by others, and other music pieces, too. She also performed the song, live. That was the quilt affect she was going after.

But this story doesn’t stop there.

Ron, another musician friend from another part of the world, watched Laura’s video, too, and he asked if she could share it on Soundcloud. He wanted a copy of the song. I figured he was up to something, and of course, he was. Ron, a talented keyboardist, took the duet of Laura and I, and made it into a trio (or more) by adding keyboards and other elements in Garageband, and then shared it back out again.

If you’re counting, that would be Song Iteration Three: me, then me and Laura, then me and Laura and Ron. (Well, Four, if you count Dylan, and you probably should.)

None of us (including Dylan, as far as I know) have ever met in person to jam. We only know each other through our networks, coming together for a shared purpose with shared interests. When collaboration comes together like that, it’s magical and powerful.

Thank you, Laura. Thank you, Ron.

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Five Voices in Search of a Poem: This is the Truth

This is the Truth in Soundtrap

Inspired by my friend, Sheri, and her Poem for Three Voices about a young writer that she, and I and Melvina recorded and shared last week, I wondered if I could expand that notion a bit and write a Poem for Five Voices, and get four other people from different geographic locations to use Soundtrap to record.

I did, and we did, and it sounds like this:

My aim in writing the poem was to offer up a critique of the media/news landscape, and try to discern some central point about the elusive nature of Truth. I am a former journalist, a writer of news, and an avid reader of news now. I am both disheartened by the declining State of Media, and heartened (in a very strange way) that Trump’s imperial presidency and Bannon-led attacks on Media have actually galvanized and strengthened the major news operations, and attracted readers.

The use of multiple voices in the poem is designed to show all of us, together, sorting out what is real and what is not, and what is spin and what is not, and calling out media and political leaders to account for the information flow. Yes, we all have a responsibility. That doesn’t mean we can’t do this together, and find a way to make the world a better place for all. THAT is the truth, from my perspective.

You can view my poem here and feel free to remix it, use it or ignore it. This screenshot is the first of two pages.

This is the Truth poem

Process Notes: We used the online site, Soundtrap, as a way to coordinate our voices. It would have been a whole long easier if we had been in the same room, same space, with poem in front of us. That wasn’t physically possible.

So, what you hear is some vocal dissonance, as our phrasing weaves in and out of each other. Recording a poem like this is complicated, we quickly found, and I edited audio tracks to fit as best as I could. We began with Melvina doing a master track, which we then worked off individually, and then I edited to make it sound like a whole.

Notice the different sounds of voices. Quality of microphones becomes a potentially technical hurdle, and I used compression and other effects to try to align them as best as I could. In the end, maybe that flattening didn’t matter. Maybe, in fact, the different sound qualities are part of the composition — showing different views through sound. I might be stretching here.

I want to warmly thank Sheri, Scott, Melvina and Terry for patiently following me on this collaborative adventure. We organized ourselves on Twitter, and then had our voices meet in Soundtrap. It was a grand adventure.

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

Hashtags as Roots of Resilience

A hashtag home #CCourses

(Note: I wrote this piece quite some time ago, thinking it would be submitted to a new publishing site. That got stalled. This piece sort of floated in my Draft bin. Time to release it. — Kevin)

A funny thing happened on my way to the Rhizome sometimes last year … the hashtag got switched. Now, normally, this would not be a big issue. But I have come to realize more and more how much I rely on the columns of my Tweetdeck app (sorted by hashtags) as a place to keep connected to various projects. So, when someone switches a conversation from one hashtag (say, #rhizo16) to another (say, #resilience16), I suddenly feel disorientated. Lost.

And I depend on the kindness of strangers. A few rhizo folks had made some initial tweets with both hashtags (which is quite generous because together, they take up a good portion of the 140 characters to begin with, you know?). In the end, in an ironic twist, neither took hold, and there was no Rhizo16. To be fair, it had nothing to do with hashtags, as far as I can tell.

It’s happening again right now for me, with National Poetry Writing Month. Do I use the new hashtag #GloPoWriMo (for GLOBAL Poetry Writing Month? Or do I use the old one #NaPoWriMo?). I have been using the GloPoWriMo because I like the concept of the world as writers of poetry. But I often think, what’s going on with NaNoWriMo and who decided, let’s shift to something new?

Still, the experience had me thinking of the concept of common hashtags in terms of the theme of resilience anyway because I know this is how I stay connected to an online course, or mooc, or activity, or movement, or whatever it was over time. I’ve just added a second column for Networked Narratives, as an example, as that class moves into another project phase with a new hashtag.

All this shuffling and worrying about lost contact also reminds me of the importance of naming a hashtag at the start. Add a year designation and suddenly, the clock is ticking on its timelessness. Make the hashtag murky with lettering and it becomes a meaningless jumble of the alphabet. Make it too short or too common, and other problems crop up.

I’ve noticed, for example, the #NWP hashtag (for National Writing Project) sometimes gets accidentally intruded upon by some music sharing tag. So suddenly, there will be a wave of posts that veer away from teaching and writing and into something completely different. It’s disorientating, in an intriguing way. Maybe we are the intruders on their hashtag, not the other way around, right?

Or maybe the hashtag becomes an impromptu shared space.

Then, there are the hashtags-within-hashtags, which can take on a life of their own. For example, within the #CLMOOC hashtag, there is a #SilentSunday hashtag. #CLMOOC represents the echoes of the Making Learning Connected MOOC while #SilentSunday is an activity of sharing an image with not context each Sunday (although, it too, is shared with other people doing other kinds of Silent Sunday-ing). It began as an activity in the CLMOOC but now has its own orbit, living on long after the CLMOOC summer ended.

Interesting.


flickr photo shared by Théo La Photo under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

In Tweetdeck, I often struggle with the question: Do I delete this column with a particular hashtag? If I do, and activity suddenly kicks in, will I miss it all? Yes, probably. Maybe I’ll hear some activity around the edges of the hashtag. But once I delete it from my view, I am not likely to return it there. (So, if people from last year are still using #rhizo15, I have no idea what they are talking about.) A good example for me is the #ccourses (connected courses), which I sort of regret removing and may add back in. Although activity can be sparse at times, it often provides interesting resources. That’s what I call “Hashtag Regret.”

Many of my hashtags have had a long, fruitful life in my Tweetdeck. I toggle around areas of interest. Reading across the top row, I see (other than my own timeline):

Given the whole history of the hashtag, and how it was never a planned structural element of Twitter, it is such an intriguing design element that plants roots and seeds, and connects people together in interesting ways. (Rhizomatic thinking, there)

Of course, some people use fake/invented/momentary hashtags to make a joke or a point about something or to note sarcasm or take a political stance. #ImwithHer #techquity  The Trump Presidency has given rise to this witty art form, using hashtags as social commentary and political action. Trump, of course, invents his own.


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

And I had never thought too deeply until now about how hashtags are at the very core of our social interactions on Twitter, and now on other social networking platforms, too. Like “tags” in photos or blog posts, hashtags are connectors that make the Internet a social gathering space.

Without hashtags, we might as well be yelling into deep space. With hashtags, we have the possibility to connect.

#Peace (it’s tagged),
Kevin

Tinkering with Voices/Playing with Poems

Soundtrap Poetry Collab

The other day, my friend, Sheri, posted a blog piece that included a Poem for Three Voices about the struggle to start a piece of writing, from the viewpoint of a student writer.

I immediately thought: that poem should be recorded and heard, with three voices. Over the following days, Sheri recruited Melvina, and the three of us used Soundtrap, an online recording platform, to make a version of Sheri’s poem.

It was sort of a recording experiment, and I am now myself working on writing a Poem for Five Voices, with Sheri, Melvina and hopefully two others. Now that I know for certain that Soundtrap works well for this poetry collaboration (as I thought it might), it opens up some doors.

The difficulty with performing these multiple voice poems is the logistics, of leaving space in the tracks for other voices to fill. But Soundtrap at least solves one main and significant issue: we don’t have to be in the same room at the same time, and we don’t need to be sending audio files back and forth.

I’ve done these Poems for Multiple Voices in the classroom with students (last year, we did math poems), using Garageband and other recording platforms, and they really enjoyed the ways in which the voices come and go, and how words weave in and out of each other. It’s challenging to write and construct these poems, and they are challenging to read.

More to come in the days ahead …

Peace (like poems),
Kevin

PS — I once wrote this poem for my math colleague and I to read to the whole school over morning announcements. I still like it for the way it merges math and writing. We need to record it again, I think (our old version was at an old site that is now defunct).

TheWriter and the Mathematician- A Poem for 2 Voices by KevinHodgson on Scribd

#NetNarr: Writing with Sound(s)

Netnarr doodling

NetNarr Doodling for Doodleaday

This week, at Networked Narratives, the focus is on using sound for writing and writing for sound. There are a few suggested activities (including gathering sounds from your surroundings), but I figured I would dig back into some past posts where I did focus on sound, both as a writer and as a teacher encouraging my students to write with sound.

Here are some annotated links:

  • Sound Stories — for the past two years, during Digital Writing Month, I have been teaching my students how to use Garageband to create Sound Stories. Their task is to weave in sound effects into a short story, and then work on the recording and engineering and publishing of those stories. The results are always intriguing.
    Sound Stories under construction
  • The Rhizomatic Play — In DS106, a focus is often the creation and production of Radio Plays. We took that idea during a Rhizo online collaboration and created a very complex production, featuring participants (as writers and as voices) from all over the world.
  • No Words/Only Sounds: I also tinkered with a sound story, but tried to use no words at all, and let the sound effects tell the tale. It was an intriguing compositional process, let me tell you. But worth it.
  • Musical Conversations: In CLMOOC, a friend and I worked on converting language to music, and then creating a collaborative musical composition of our “conversation.” Another interesting use of sound.
  • Image Conversion into Sound: There is this program called AudioPaint (for PC only) that will take an image and convert the bitmap into audio. It’s strange and odd, and makes you think about the relationship of digital work across media. Here, I wrote a poem, which I made into an image, and then re-crafted it into sound.

What will you make with sound?

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin