Knowing Someone from Afar

for Bonnie

It’s an interesting twist of the digital age — many of us are more connected with more people than ever before, but many of those connections are fragile, held together by words and media and posts and comments. A string of ideas becomes the centerpiece of connections, and our notions of whom we call a “friend” becomes a bit convoluted as a result, doesn’t it?

This morning, I was met with a headline that 1 billion people used Facebook yesterday. People connect. But how deep are the connections? A piece on Medium yesterday took an interesting stance on how people represent themselves in online spaces. We put our best foot forward, the author surmises.

I have been thinking of this concept of identity and connections and friendship the past few days as a very good friend, one I know beyond the wires of social media spaces and one whom I have worked with closely for many years on a variety of projects through the National Writing Project, has been in a difficult transition period, of losing her loved one and cherished life partner.

She has been powerfully articulate on her blog in capturing their lives together, documenting and archiving the love of the years. Many people, myself included, have been leaving her comments of support. No doubt the writing has been an avenue for her in dealing with loss, which moved in slow motion over the past few weeks.

This is what writers do. We write, in good times and in times of struggle. We write to understand the world.

And in her writing of the moments, she has brought us into her world with compassion and voice, and she has made us feel connected to her experiences in a very personal way.

The pieces she has been sharing also had me thinking is how much I feel as if I have known her partner, who just passed away, over the years from the many blog posts and videos and images and more that we have shared over time. I met her partner once in person, I think, and yet, his presence has been felt strongly over the years because my friend was always in the present with him. She represented her life as a partnership with him regularly, and I feel as if I knew him as well as her over the years of our friendship.

I realize there is a certain fallacy to this insight. I don’t really know the full person — who no doubt was much more complicated than I will ever know, as we all are to those outside our emotional circles —  and I am sad now that I never will. I think I knew of the person who loved my friend, and I think I saw a powerful love and partnership between them that made her happy and content. His constant presence in that picture in my mind — of them on beaches, in Israel every year, in concerts, at the breakfast table, reading books and the newspaper, traveling into the city … my mind has many moments of them together — is formed mostly by our digital connections.

And here’s the thing: in her sharing of her life with me, a friend, over the years, he will remain an active presence in the world, even in passing. In that, I will miss him, too, even if our connections were echoes in a digital world of connections. In my mind, at least, his presence will always remain a part of her, and I am thankful for the friendship and partnership that she and I have, and I am sad for her loss.

Here, though, the digital connections fall short. I can’t drive down the street to comfort her and sit with her. I can’t make her coffee, and play guitar with her. I can only send words. Writing is the way I am trying to help her through it. It’s what writers do. We write. I write this, then, for her, and for me.

Peace (for my friend),
Kevin

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Classroom Inquiry, CLMOOC and More

At the end of Teachers Teaching Teachers the other night, host Paul Allison asked for some final thoughts. I looked at my Google Hangout screen and saw Mia and Paul and Karen and Joel and Julie (she left when her phone died) and Michael and I could not help by say something about, “hanging around with some of my favorite people” is all I could muster for reflection.

As usual with TTT, we covered a lot of ground that began with classroom inquiry projects, moved into the ways that CLMOOC has informed our teaching, and shifted into other various topics.

Peace (and thanks to Paul and Karen for hosting TTT),
Kevin

NWP Radio: The Writing Thief MOOC

I was fortunate to be invited earlier this year to participate with folks from The Writing Thief MOOC project on NWP Radio, with host Paul Oh (my good friend). The Writing Thief MOOC emerged from the Making Learning Connected MOOC project from last summer and the summer before (and will soon kickstart into its third iteration next month – come join in), and in this radio snow, Kim Douillard and Janis Selby Jones of San Diego Writing Project give great context for why an online reading group/maker group made sense for professional development.

Check Out Education Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with NWP radio on BlogTalkRadio

I was just a participant in this MOOC, but as a facilitator of the CLMOOC the past two summers and as a Make Cycle leader this coming CLMOOC, I am excited to be part of the reverberations of that project in this project. When you run a collaboration like CLMOOC, you hope others will build off the experience, and they did, and it was fun and wonderful.

The Writing Thief refers to the common book we all read by Ruth Culham about mentor texts.

Peace (on the radio),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Of Readers, Writers and Citizens

It’s morning and I am sitting in Reagan National Airport, waiting for my plane to head home. It’s been a whirlwind weekend at the Teaching and Learning Conference in DC, with plenty of interesting sessions and keynotes, capped with a fantastic overview of a new National Parks Initiative unveiled with the help of filmmaker Ken Burns and NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis. (Did you the know the plan is to get every single fourth grader in America to visit a National Park in 2016? Wow.)

I was a co-presenter in two different sessions yesterday with the theme of “Readers, Writers, Citizens”, although both were on the theme of digital literacies and digital learning. My focus was on video game design as literacy practice, and both sessions went well, with plenty of sharing and discussions among educators in a very meaningful way. My colleagues were Troy Hicks, Janelle Bence, Gail Desler and Tanya Baker — all of the National Writing Project.

Kevin at TLearning

One of the participants shared this out via Twitter, which I appreciated (Thanks, Genevieve!). Here is our handout and more resources can be found at this Digital Is resource that Troy Hicks and I put together yesterday morning (Well, he created and I looked over his shoulder, offering suggestions).

Readers, Writers, Citizens: NWP at TL15 by KevinHodgson

I am now ready to get home and relax ….

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

Visual Slices of Life: Views from Conferences

Here are two photo collages from two conferences that I am in the midst of: our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Spring Symposium and the Teaching and Learning Conference (tied in with Digital Learning Day).

And the session I facilitated around remixing …

Lots to share and little time to do it …

Peace (in the whirlwind),
Kevin

PS — Here’s a bonus from a session on Scratch that I sat in on:

 

Slice of Life: The Teaching Conference Anxiety Rush

(This is a Slice of Life post, for a month-long writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments of our days. You write, too.)

Teaching and Learning Sessions

The next couple of days are just going to be nutty, and I am hoping I can still Slice. I’ll make time, of course, and I probably will share out what’s going on in the two conferences that I am attending in three days.

This weekend, I am flying down to Washington DC for the Teaching and Learning Conference. I was only vaguely aware of this conference, but I guess it is pretty huge, and the National Writing Project (facilitated by Tanya Baker) is sending me, Troy Hicks, Janelle Bence and Gail Desler (four of my favorite NWP people .. actually, that list is pretty long) to do two sessions on Saturday around digital learning. My own area will be talking about video game design as literacy practice.

I’ll be sharing out:

The conference also collides with Digital Learning Day this year. I’m not sure what to make of the conference, as the tone of the programming seems very different from the writing project-flavored conferences that I often attend. There are a lot of consultants and administrators/education officials on the program, and my very informal and very unscientific analysis of the presenter list a few weeks back indicated this:

WhoPresents

I’m not sure what to think of this analysis (will it be all EduSpeak all the time? Will teachers’ voice be front and center, or sidelined?) but I am going in with an open mind and see what I can see, learn what I can learn, and hang out with friends.

WMWP Invite to Spring Symposium

Meanwhile, tonight, I am helping to facilitate our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Spring Symposium, with the theme of Technology, Assessment and Justice for All. I am also co-presenting a session around the Remix Culture and learning, and our hope (crossing fingers here) is that we will get everyone making media with Webmaker Popcorn Maker. Our session is in a lab that I have not ever used … so, yeah … a little antsy about that unknown element. I am interested to hear our keynote speaker, and to learn more about the work he has done empowering urban students with media and social justice themes.

So, late night tonight for WMWP and then a very early flight to DC tomorrow for Teaching and Learning (plus, a visit with one of my best friends who lives in the DC area) …. lots going on!

Peace (in the whoosh),
Kevin

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Game On

This is a video I never got around to sharing, but I had joined Paul Allison, Chris Sloan and others at Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast a few months ago (!) to talk about gaming, game design and learning a few weeks ago. Here is the video of that discussion:

Peace (in the teach),
Kevin

Hey Terry, It’s Your Birthday

Nothing like some collaborative energy to celebrate a friend, and that’s what Maha, Simon and Susan and I have been up behind the scenes for our friend, Terry, whose birthday is today. We recorded a song, and then some thoughts — all via on online collaborative audio tool called Soundtrap (I’ll share out more about it later).

For now … Hey Terry, It’s Your Birthday!

And here is a bonus that I made for him, too. A comic series about our journey into the rabbit holes of technology.

Peace (in friendship),
Kevin

Argubot Academy: Using Games to Understand Argument

At the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in November (this post has been in my draft box for a bit of time), I attended a session by a representative of GlassLab Games, which has been working in a partnership with NWP folks to develop a video game app designed to teach elements of argument to middle school students.

The game is called Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy, and it is a free app from the Apple Store. Mat Frenz, of GlassLabs, was very knowledgeabout about game mechanics, and of why games are a natural way to pique the curiosity of students. He notes that good games can be an “engagement bridge” for students to learn difficult material, and the hope for Argubot Academy is that players “will master the mechanics of argument with the same passion as mastering the mechanics of Pokemon.” The game developers build some of the mechanics and look/feel/design of the game with echoes from the Pokemon universe.

Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy has a narrative of science, as the player is on a discovery mission and is forced to create “argubots” that are powered by the strands of strong argument claims and evidence. The player asks questions, explores the spaceship and then goes into “battle” against others with their argubots, seeing if their claims and evidence is strong enough to hold up to scrutiny. A teacher account allows you to track progress of students, and it charts out where strengths and weaknesses of the individual player/students are. That is all handy information.

I played the game a bit over the summer, when it was first released and promoted via NWP and Educator Innovator, and then again during the session, as Mat gave us an overview and tour of the game itself. I know a lot of teachers in the room were excited about. I have my slight reservations. First of all, my classroom does not have iPads, so for all practical purposes, the game is not in our future. I also found the game a bit too wordy, knowing my students as I do, although when I mentioned this is conversation with other teachers in the session, they disagreed with me. So, maybe it is my own perception. I am also not sure it would engage my students over multiple sessions, although Mat shared testimonials from teachers using the app, praising it as tool for engagement.

But, don’t listen to me. Give the app a try. It’s free, and a lot of thought has gone into the development. It might just work for you, particularly as we shift into higher gear away from persuasion and deep into argument. The game might be just the hook for your students.

Argubot Academy Overview from GlassLab on Vimeo.

Peace (in the app),
Kevin

 

 

Words Upon the Wall: A Gift of Song

For everyone who is in all of my various online networks and communities and adventures, I thank you. Here is a song, with some animated words, as my humble thanks for all the inspiration and support you give me throughout the year as I write and explore and learn.

Peace (with words on the wall),
Kevin