A Return to Blink Blink Blink

blink blink blink
There’s no easy way to describe this old project (which can now be found housed on a Webmaker Thimble Page). It is  my first real venture into multimodal composition. I had just bought a Flip Camera, which no one had ever seen before, and had this idea for a poem that used three different videos, merging into one experience, so I asked some NWP friends at a Tech Matters retreat in Chico to blink into my camera and repeat the words “blink blink blink” for me. They no doubt thought I was crazy and could not figure out what I was doing, and I could not explain it, either. I taught myself some basic html coding and worked to bring it together.

I’ve hosted the poem itself in a few places over the years, often stifled and frustrated by the limitation of web hosting spaces that would not allow three videos to run simultaneously, as is required with this poem. The idea is that you click “play” on all three videos, and then center your own eyes on the nose. This allows you to experience ‘the face’ of the poem. (I know, it still sounds crazy). I included the text of the poem and also recorded a reflection on the process of writing and making the poem (which was interesting to listen to this morning … eight years later).

If you click on the screenshot above, it will bring you to the poem itself. (The sound quality sucks because it was a first generation Flip and the microphone must have been little more than a tin cup with a string.)

Confused? That’s OK. It was an experiment. I still find it intriguing and came back on it this morning for a blog post I am writing for the National Writing Project. It then occurred to me that Thimble might be the right place to host the poem, and it worked!  I did a little cheer.

I’m still tinkering a bit with the html code but not too much. I like the idea of preserving it as much its original form as possible.

Check out Blink Blink Blink

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

Life, in Seven Words

life in seven words
The Daily Create prompt yesterday was a “tell your life in seven words” kind of activity. It reminded me of Six Word memoirs, which reminded me of the Mozilla Thimble template created by the National Writing Project, so I dug it up and worked on it for my seven-word-life-story. I was trying to get at the idea that even when I am nowhere near a pen or keyboard, my brain is always working on writing something. I just need to remember later what it was that I was writing.

:)

Peace (Word!),
Kevin

PS — you can create your own seven word or six word memoir with Thimble, too. Either remix mine or remix the original.

Staying Closed in the Age of Open

ianthology
I’ve been having an interesting conversation among some friends about a networking space for National Writing Project teachers that has been active and nurtured for, gosh, at least five or six years now. My friend, Bonnie Kaplan, and I conceived and launched the iAnthology (with initial grant funding and support from NWP) during a time when there was palpable anxiety about writing and sharing online, and so, we built it as a closed community, of sorts. (It was designed to emulate a summer networking site for NWP called the eAnthology, which some of you NWP folks might remember.)

The iAnthology is a Ning site for NWP-affiliated teachers, so we have opened up the homepage but everything else under the hood — all of the participants’ writing and commenting and sharing — is not viewable by the general public. We even made a promise to our participants at the start — this space would be a closed community. Many early participants expressed gratitude that this would be the case, and some noted that they would not have joined otherwise. It was a sign of the times.

In fact, I remember setting up a blog for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute one summer, and somehow, a few of the photos from the private site got archived by Google search (some tech glitch that I never quite figured out), and a teacher whose headshot could now be found on Google was irate and angry, demanding that we call Google and demand that her headshot get removed from any search queries. I was patient with her, and did some research and filed a request, but even then, I knew she was in a hopeless battle against the flow of information. I did feel guilty as the tech person who set up a site that allowed this to happen, though. We had promised privacy and the public had creeped in. It felt like a betrayal of sorts, even though I thought the reaction did not quite merit the offense, but there could have been some underlying story about protecting her identity that I did not know about.

But times have changed, haven’t they? The anxiety among us is not what it used to be. People share everywhere now — on Facebook, on Twitter, with Instagram and Flickr, with YouTube. We’ve since added a Twitter connection to our iAnthology site, and there is a companion Facebook page. We’ve had a group on Flickr, etc. The flow of connections continues to extend outward.

Check out this chart I made about Open Learning a few weeks ago:

 

Or take part in the Online Learning site, which fosters the idea of wide open spaces for self-directed inquiry. Open learning is everywhere, and changing the face of how we write, connect, share and construct networked communities. It’s become a fabric of our times.

So, our conversations this past week among a few site leaders have revolved around the prospect of opening up more of the iAnthology to public viewing, perhaps, in hopes that we might get more participation. We are also noticing how the seamless connection between platforms (ie, I write here, and share there and there, so that invisible threads connect what I am doing in one space to another space, and you connect with me).

One one hand, I agree with a shift towards “open” and in my heart, I see the merits on many levels. On the other hand, I remember the promise that we built the site upon — the prospect of closed walls — and I think about the stories and writing and images that hundreds of people have shared over the years in a space they assumed was and would be closed, and what it would mean to change the “terms of agreement.”

It feels like Facebook’s dance with privacy, and its claim that open is always better, and that unsettles me. Of course, with Facebook, the “open is better” means “more inroads for advertisements and profits.” We make no money off our writing community, and in fact, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has funded the Ning for the past few years as a way to support and nurture teachers-as-writers.

And so, my impulse is to keep the site closed and private, although I suspect that if Bonnie and I were to build a writing community today, I would advocate for an open space with many nodes of entry and sharing in a heartbeat. Times have changed. Yet promises are important and trust in one’s word is one of the anchors of any writing community. So I think we will probably remain closed in the age of open.

Peace (in reflection),
Kevin

PS — Are you a NWP teacher or a teacher who has some connection to NWP? Come join us at the iAnthology. We have weekly writing prompts, a Photo Fridays feature, and a shifting variety of activities.

 

Six Years of Writing: When I Began to Tweet and Why

Twitter has done something interesting for its 8th birthday: it is allowing folks to find their very first tweet. I couldn’t resist — mainly because I couldn’t remember how long ago that was nor could I even vaguely remember what I wrote for my very first tweet?
first tweet feb2008

 

Oh.

How creative! (snark)

But 31,000 tweet later as @dogtrax (I know? What the heck do I write about? I don’t know), I am still wondering how to push the boundaries of the 140 characters. I write 25 word stories, tinker with hashtags, collaborate across the world, make memes, take part in Twitter chats, share with others and steal from others (and remix what others are stealing from others). My professional development will never be the same. It’s an odd thing, this Twitter.

I started to use Twitter in 2008 a few months after a National Writing Project gathering in Amherst, where Bud Hunt (aka @budtheteacher) chatted over dinner one night about this thing called Twitter, and he wasn’t quite sure of all the possibilities and potentials for writers, but he was pretty confident it was not a flash-in-the-pan kind of technology. He grappled to explain it to us, and we grappled to understand. 140 characters? A stream of tweets? What the heck is he talking about?

As usual, Bud pointed us in the right direction. I started tweeting and haven’t stopped (see this post from 2008 that collects my first few tweets.) It’s true that not everyone cares or should care about what I post, but every now and then, something clicks and connects — some ideas that suddenly transforms your view of the world or your view of teaching or your kids, or technology — and in that moment, the power of Twitter is suddenly exposed. You do have to get through a lot of LOL Cats to get there but …. you know … it’s worth it.

Not long after I started on Twitter, I composed this poem:

I Dream in Twitter
Listen to the podcast

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters
that cut off my thoughts before they are complete
and then I wonder, why 140?
Ten more letters would serve me right
as I write about what I am doing at that moment
in time,
connecting across the world with so many others
shackled by 140 characters, too,
and I remain amazed at how deep the brevity can be.

I find it unsettling to eavesdrop on conversations
between two
when you can only read one
and it startles me to think that someone else out there
has put their ear to my words
and wondered the same about me.
Whose eyes are watching?

Twitter is both an expanding universe
of tentacles and hyperlinks that draw you in
with knowledge and experience
and a shrinking neighborhood of similar voices,
echoing out your name
in comfortable silence.

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters,
and that is what I am doing
right
at
this
moment.

Then later, I wrote and recorded this song:

Twitter This

I get up in the morning and I twitter all my dreams
140 characters is just enough for me
Then, each moment of the day becomes a Twitter storm
until the world is at my doorstep and everyone belongs
to

This Twitter space
inside this Twitter place
I’ve got a little bit of smile
on my Twitter face
Take me as a friend
or shut me out cold
I’m gonna keep on Twittering
until the platform gets old

I’m reading all my friends — the ones I haven’t met
from all across the globe, it’s a safety net
We’re putting pressure on Iran — let the China wall fall
let the information flow so we can all crawl
inside

This Twitter space
inside this Twitter place
I’ve got a little bit of smile
on my Twitter face
Take me as a friend
or shut me out cold
I’m gonna keep on Twittering
until the platform runs cold

 

Peace (in the tweet),
Kevin

Slice of Life: With a Heavy Heart

 

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

I didn’t even know she was there, in the audience. It was only later, after she tweeted out some pictures of my band playing at the regional fair one hot summer day that I understood that she had, indeed, made the drive, paid the admission for the fair, watched us perform, and then left before I could come out and say hello.

 

Yesterday, I learned that my friend, Jenn Cook, the director of the Rhode Island Writing Project, had been killed in a terrible accident on Friday. It’s difficult to express the sadness, even though we only met in person a few times. Our online interactions over music and writing and technology and just plain humorous anecdotes made Jenn a person I looked for in my online spaces.
jenn

The loss hang heavy over me.

Yesterday, I went to her Twitter feed, as a way to move backwards in her timeline. You might think it sort of odd to do that but I found it comforting to be reading her lines and seeing her images, and feeling her presence. Her last posts were about taking care of her ailing father, but there were pictures of dogs and snow and making digital compositions, and teaching pre-service teachers. Not long ago, Jenn and I were fellow guests on a NWP Radio program about the Making Learning Connected MOOC, where Jenn was a participant who used the ethos of CLMOOC to transform her writing project’s work. As always, she was articulate and passionate and excited about learning.

How does one keep the presence of an online friend alive after they have gone? I don’t know. I’ve set up a Team in my Kiva site, to start funneling donations to needy projects in Jenn’s name. I invite you to join me with the ForJenn team, but I will be happy even if it a team of one (me), for each time donations go out, I will be reminded of Jenn. I will be looking for education and youth projects to support, and if there is a musical element, even better. She would have liked that.

And a prose poem, too. How else to deal with loss than with some words in verse?

forJenn
forJenn by Dogtrax
Peace (in the mourning),
Kevin

 

eBook Review: Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom

Let me disclose a few things:

  • I know a lot of these editors and writers through my connections in the National Writing Project;
  • I hung out with the editors in Seattle as they were working on their drafts (and I was working on some resources for the Making Learning Connected MOOC). I knew they were up to something cool, even as they worked in other rooms;
  • Last spring, I had only a vague idea of what Connected Learning was (other than I like having connections and I am a big fan of learning … thus, Connected Learning sounded like something I should know about);
  • And, finally, I stole a paper copy of this ebook from the table at the Digital Media and Learning Conference when NWP friend Christina Cantrill turned her back. (I am sure she didn’t mind).

All that said, I highly recommend a read of this important collection around teaching and learning.

Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom is in many ways a classic National Writing Project production through and through: Teachers sharing their classroom experiences (successes and trials) through the lens of inquiry and writing, all viewed through the overarching frame of Connected Learning principles. What are those principles? These ideas emerged from extensive research done by Mimi Ito and others on the ways that young people are learning in this digital age, and center on a few main concepts (better seen in this infographic).

Connected learning is:

  • interest-powered
  • peer-supported
  • academically-orientated
  • production-centered
  • openly-networked
  • shared purpose

Watch this video:

Which is all good  and everything but what does that mean for the classroom teacher (like me)? Editor Antero Garcia and the fabulous writers and curators here try to answer that question by focusing the lens on classrooms with stories from teachers grouped around those themes, with curation editors framing those specific stories in the light of inquiry.

“I believe connected learning principles can provide a vocabulary for teachers to reclaim agency over what and how we best meet the individual needs of students in our classroom,” Garcia writes in the introduction. “With learners as the focus, teachers can rely on connected learning as a way to pull back the curtain on how learning happens in schools and agitate the possibilities of classrooms today.”

And so as educator Christopher Working shares how his third graders took blogging to new levels, and how their writing flourished as a result, other teachers (such as Chuck Jurich, Gail Desler, and Danielle Filipiak) explore the dynamics of multimedia production and global audiences and collaboration for student work that goes above and beyond expectation.

“… I was able to see firsthand how centering production afforded opportunities for students to construct affirming identities, make authentic connections to classroom texts, and develop new and specialized technical skill sets,” writes Filipiak, of  projects undertaken by her students that merged media and culture together for a social justice message.

Still others are pushing boundaries, even if they are still grounded in literacy. Jason Sellers has his elementary students creating interactive fiction games and stories, mixing in the overarching lessons of programming with the lessons of writing stories. “The unforgiving nature of programming languages was a frustrating but valuable experience for some students, ” Sellars admits. “Small mistakes in a line of code often would render their games unplayable” and yet, lead to revision and iterative design.

One of the more fascinating projects here is the Interactive ‘Zine project, and Christian McKay’s insights into the merging writing, publication and fabrication/maker techniques to create bound collection of writing that has electronic elements built right into the design (with Makey Makey circuit boards and Scratch programming systems). “The Interactive ‘Zine provides opportunities for learners to consciously engage in the creation of their artifact for a public audience, ” writes McKay. “The public entity is developed through the written word that the students share — at a minimum, within the classroom, and more broadly, through public sharing of their Scratch projects at the Scratch website.”

There’s more, much more, that I could share here, but I think you’d be best to get your own copy. And you won’t need to pilfer it from the table off an unsuspecting friend, as I did. Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom is a free PDF and a relatively cheap ebook for Kindle right now.  It is published through the Digital Media and Learning Hub.

Oh, did I mention that just about every article here has a link to a media resource at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site? That alone is worth the free price of admission. Links are embedded right into the ebook itself, allowing you to see student samples and teacher resources and more, so what are you waiting for? Get connecting.

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

 

Making Maps, Making Meaning

map collage
We had folks in our workshop session at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Boston “making maps” as part of our presentation around the Making Learning Connected MOOC. It was so cool to see the different approaches to ideas and to representing pathways of discovery. Some folks created flowcharts of their conference learning. Others did mind maps of where they want to go next with some ideas. A few built three-dimensional representations of their online worlds and connections.

Since I had already done a learning map the other day, I went into another direction: representing my affiliation with bands that I have been in over the years. (that’s mine, on the right). This is my learning map:

My Immersion Map

The image on the left is the collection of maps from participants, as we lined them up together at the end, stitching together our learning into one larger map. The pattern on the rug helped …

I guess maps are having a moment, right now. In my RSS feed yesterday, I found two interesting links around mapmaking as learning. The first showed maps as an example of “digital empathy” and the other focused in on sharing of maps as the new meme.

Peace (along the lines),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Paper Circuitry, Illuminated Ideas

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

I had the good fortune to be able to sit in both a lunch gathering and a workshop on the topic of paper circuitry yesterday at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Boston (I also co-presented about the Making Learning Connected MOOC but I will write about that tomorrow in a regular post). Paper circuitry is the idea of using sticker circuit boards inside a notebook, to illuminate ideas and to bring an “inventor’s/scientist’s notebook” of thinking to the writer’s notebook. Someone once said it is part of the movement to “reclaim” the notebook.

The project here is still in development, but presenters Paul Oh (of the National Writing Project), Jie Qi (a researcher through MIT), and David Cole and Jennifer Dick (of NexMap) not only gave us a presentation showing the possibilities of adding circuits to stories (and I still have Jennifer’s comment about the “storytelling comes first” in my head followed by Jie’s of developing “new tools to tell stories through circuits.”) but then they gave us circuit stickers and walked us through creating a simple illuminated page in a notebook.

We then got our Make on.

Of course, I didn’t have a notebook. Doh. So I stitched one together with some paper. The task of creating a page of sticker circuits reminded me a bit of creating with e-textiles, but this was a whole lot easier (no sewing!). I started to think of a story involving musical notes, where the embedded light would be part of the face. I used the pun (“See the light” for the C note. Get it?)

illuminated notebook

I’d have to think more of the application for my own classroom. I’d love to pilot this concept with some students, though, and if a paper circuit project could be another bridge from literacy to science and/or math class (which it could, as planning involves not just the story, but also the knowledge of circuit routes and representational information). I think the rough draft planning stage would be critical. In our workshop, we just sort of jumped in, given the time constraints. We’d really want kids to work out what they think would happen, then iterate during design, and troubleshoot along the way.

Interesting and intriguing? You bet.

Check out these two videos about paper circuits. The first is an overview and the second is an example of Jie’s idea in motion, literally. It’s beautiful.

21st Century Notebooking with Inside/Out from NEXMAP on Vimeo.

Interactive Light Painting: Pu Gong Ying Tu (Dandelion Painting) from Jie Qi on Vimeo.

 

Peace (in the light),
Kevin