More NWP Annual Meeting: Circuits, Systems, Coding, Remix

While at the second day of the National Writing Project meeting, I spent the morning in a session around Scratch and coding for storytelling, and then the afternoon in a session around e-textiles and puppetry, and how to use circuits for storytelling. This collage shows a few photos from the day:
NWPAM13 Collage
There was a definite Makers Ethos to the NWP sessions this year, beginning with a plenary talk about the value of remixing Moby Dick and other works of literature. And speaking of remixing Moby Dick, a cool thread of iteration happened over the course of the day, as my friends Chad and Andrea launched a Twitter activity called #Twitcatastrophe, in which folks made suggestions for strange things happening and Chad and/or Andrea would illustrate it and tweet it out.
I suggested a literal close reading in which the book snaps shut on the reader’s nose.
First, Chad drew this:
closereading1
Then, in our Scratch session, Andrea created this:

I went in and remixed her project, adding the element of the reader itself:

And Christina came over and shot a Vine of Andrea and the game:

It was a blast, and reminded all of us how iteration and inspiration and creativity are at the heart of the remix culture. Each step — from creating the twitter game to the reader/artist response to the gameplay and remixing of the game — are different points on the compositional spectrum that we need to nurture and value.
Peace (in the make),
Kevin

Mapping Out Identities in Boston for #nwpam13

As part of our session around the Making Learning Connected MOOC, co-presenter Joe Dillon and I had participants “represent” themselves with clay and wikistix, and then they pinned themselves on the giant map we brought. This was a way for us to talk about Connected Learning principles and some of the creative “makes” that took place during the MOOC. (It also was a live version of the virtual map we did in the MOOC, which now has almost 5,000 views)

Thanks to Chris and Tricia for tweeting out pictures of the map.
clmooc live map1

clmooc live map2

And here is a funny video I took of me wrestling with the map at home before heading to Boston.

Peace (on the grid),
Kevin

At NWP/NCTE Annual Meeting

I am going to be in Boston next week for the annual meetings of the National Writing Project and National Council of Teachers of English, and I am presenting a few times over a four day period. I created this little teaser video:

But more specifically:

  • Thursday, Joe Dillon and I are going to be in a session to talk about the Making Learning Connected MOOC experience from the Summer of Making and Learning. You can bet we’re going to making some stuff.  That session starts at 3:30 p.m. in the Hynes Convention Center as part of the NWP “c” sessions.
  • Saturday, I am joining a bunch of other teachers to talk about nurturing teacher voice, particularly through writing and publication. I am going to share out about our Western Massachusetts Writing Project partnership with our local newspaper to feature WMWP teachers as columnists. That session — called Writing to the Community — is an early one, starting at 8 a.m. at the Sheraton.
  • Sunday, I am giving an Ignite Talk as part of a collection of Ignites around the theme of Minding the Gaps. My talk is about video game design in the classroom. That is an early one, too, starting at 8:30 a.m. in the Sheraton.
  • Finally, I have been asked by NCTE President (and friend) Sandy Hayes to share a vignette from my classroom as part of her President’s Address to NCTE on Sunday (following the Ignite sessions). I am honored to be asked by Sandy, and look forward to being part of a group of teachers telling stories of learning. That takes place at 10 a.m.

What I’ve Been Writing: Stories, Poems and Kinetic Text

A glimpse at some writing I did this weekend in between baseball games, Halloween parties, assessing student writing, and being a father.

The Daily Create at DS106 yesterday asked us to begin a story about the “sky never being the same” and I had this idea of our perceptions of the solar system being upended. This is what I wrote:

We laugh now to remember the ways in which the world made fun of Galileo for presuming that the Sun was the center of our solar system, not the Earth itself. So long, Copernicus! Who among us hadn’t gazed up at the sky and wondered at the Sun, and how that large glowing orb was keeping us all together, as if the planets were a system of yo-yos set off on an elliptical path?
We laugh now, but not comfortably, because now we all feel like Copernicus, don’t we? We who believed Galileo. We who took it for granted that the largest object in the sky must be the most powerful, the center of the action. No doubt the discovery by Charniegi will forever haunt our imaginations.
How did he see it when no one else did? What was the first spark of doubt that Galileo was wrong?
Charniegi refuses to explain, and only his diagrams are his story, and so we peruse them carefully, wondering how we missed what Charniegi saw. We translate them, talk about them, share them in all of our communication spaces.
There are always those faint lines of history where in hindsight, you realize that you made assumptions and inferences based on incomplete facts. Charniegi did not. He dove in and discovered. He inadvertently made us all look like the fools we were, believing in Galileo.
Now, we look towards Pluto — that misaligned former planet dangling on the outskirts of the solar system — in order to see more clearly. Pluto. The smallest of us really are the most powerful. The sky will never be the same again, will it?
Charniegi made sure of that.

 

I was also working on some poetry this weekend.

The first piece was inspired by a prose poem by my friend Brian Fay. Brian had this line “Another crease becomes a tear here” that really jumped out at me, so I crafted a poem around that idea.
Poem1

The second poem was inspired by a group of us on Twitter who seem to get up early in the mornings to write and connect and share. I tossed out the idea of the Sunrise Writing Club, and that name sort of got lodged in my mind a bit. The poem that came out captured the idea of finding things to write about left over from the night.
poem2

The third poem was very different, indeed. I have some friends who were over in England for the Mozilla Foundation MozFest, working on ideas for the ever-growing Webmaker space. One friend (Peter) shared out a collaborative document with a Thimble project for kinetic/animated text. I was really intrigued by it, and worked on a poem in the space. Later, another friend (Christina) told me of an update and invited us to go back and rework the poems in the new Thimble.

I just started over new and created Improvise with Me.

What I found fascinating is that I did a bit of reverse-engineering writing. Instead of bringing a poem idea to the Thimble, and animating with the original text in mind, I went into the space with the animation in mind, and built the poem around the kinetic movements built into the Thimble page. This is not ideal for writing, but I still had fun with it, writing about the playing of jazz. (You should follow this link to the get to the kinetic text poem, and then, heck, make your own by remixing mine.)
poem3

Peace (as writers),
Kevin

 

Digital Is: Technology as Learning in PD

seedgrant digitalis

Over at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is, I posted a new resource this week that looks at a six month professional development program in which we incorporated digital learning into many facets of the work, trying to make the technology invisible and a natural part of the learning for teachers (with hopes they will turn around, and do the same with their own students).

Take a look at SEED Grant Partnership: Technology as Learning

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

The Start of the Year Video Game

Our weekly writing prompt over at the iAnthology had us thinking recently of telling the story of teaching via game theory. I went in another direction and created this video game to share over there, and here.

Peace (in the game),
Kevin

Hanging with the Cool CLMOOC Facilitator Crowd

CLMOOC_Facilitators_in_Seattle

I am fortunate to be hanging out with some wicked smart people, yo, as many of us facilitators in the Making Learning Connected MOOC begin thinking about all that has gone on in the various spaces that make up the MOOC, how we might help others learn from our experiences, and just plain ol’ making sense of what has been happening. (I know, good luck with that, right?)

We’re here at an online learning retreat with other National Writing Project groups also moving into developing online learning spaces, although I am confident in saying that the MOOC is a completely different collaborative animal than any other project represented here.

And we’re lucky to be in Seattle, which has a beautiful waterfront and fish market area with Mt. Rainier rising up above the horizon like some magical mountain. It’s a stunning view. Last night, we took a group shot before dinner, but since we were missing two important companions — Chad and Anna — I added them in as webcomic avatars. I suspect they won’t mind.

Peace (in the reflection),
Kevin

 

Heading to Seattle for NWP Retreat

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: being part of the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration this summer has been a thrilling and invigorating ride. But one component that I have missed is hanging out with other folks in person. Yes, using Google Hangouts is pretty nifty. Twitter chats are a mad ride. Blogs are fun to read. Shared images give us another perspective. And the Google Plus space has become a fantastic community network of sharing and collaborating.

But there’s still something to be said about being in the same room, or hanging out in the same bar, with people you know in online spaces, and this lack of more personal connections is one of the knocks against MOOCS. That lack of very personal connections that can forge something stronger than online partnerships.

In this, I am lucky.

I get to join a bunch of facilitators from our MOOC and others in various National Writing Project online projects this weekend in Seattle for a retreat where I suspect we will be sharing, writing, reflecting and playing around with online spaces in mind. (Our MOOC is just one part of a Summer of Making and Learning that is sponsored by NWP, and if you have not yet checked out that site, you should. Stay involved in the making.)

Just so you know, Seattle is a long way from where I am right now on the east coast, so much of my day will be spent on airplanes, reading books and listening to music and getting impatient. And sitting. Lots of sitting, and thinking. But I suspect it will be worth it, knowing the folks who will be at the retreat – most from online interactions but also NWP colleagues I’ve know for years. I’m pretty excited about the weekend in Seattle and I am sure we will be sharing out some of what we are doing as we go along (that’s what we do with the #clmooc, right? Share, reflect, connect, repeat).

Wish you were there, too. (Or maybe you will be. If so, see you tonight).

Peace (in the flight),
Kevin

 

Book Review: Crafting Digital Writing

Image from Heinemann

Note from Kevin: I need to add a few disclaimers here before I start my review of Crafting Digital Writing by Troy Hicks. First of all, I know Troy and have presented with Troy and consider him a friend and colleague through the National Writing Project and beyond. Second, he sent me this book for free because one of my students and her work is featured in a chapter. I am also mentioned as her teacher. Third, I am a huge fan of Troy Hicks as a writer and thinker, and I appreciate his views on the world of digital writing. Personally, I would scoop up anything he has to say.

There.

So, this is not an unbiased review.

Like his last book — Digital Writing Workshop — Troy Hicks puts a deep lens on what it means to be writing in the digital age, and what it means to be teaching students who write in a digital age. Where his last book drew parallels between our traditional sense of the Writing Workshop format and writing practices with digital tools, Crafting Digital Writing focuses on the art and craft of using technology and media to communicate, to tell stories across various media and to present information to an audience, local and global. The subtitle “Composing Texts Across Media and Genre” gives a nice teaser to what is inside this book.

I appreciated how Hicks opens up the book with a look at what we mean by writers’ craft, and then urges teachers and their students to start small and slow down in order to really notice and make visible the elements of digital writing that goes beyond just copying and pasting text and putting it onto the Web. That, he argues (and I agree), is not what we mean by digital writing. He also wisely charts out the various narrative, informational and argumentative texts that one might use, drawing connections to the Common Core in a meaningful way.

“Craft is key to good writing, whether that writing is word on a page or involves additional media.” — Troy Hicks (16)

The format of the chapters of this book involve sharing mentor texts from students, with Hicks using a heuristic model known as MAPS, in which the reader is invited to consider mode, media, audience, purpose and situation. Hicks returns to this theme again and again, giving us helpful reminders of what we need to thinking about in terms of craft and teaching and expectations around digital media texts. MAPS provides a lens from which to think about digital writing.

The chapters here range from topics such as creating web texts, to presentation design, to using audio for voice, to composing text as video, and even a chapter around social media. In each, Hicks is a thoughtful tour guide, being honest in the limitations of the technology and student use of that technology as well as holding out possibilities for pushing the way young people write in new directions. He’s honest in his view of student work, too, noticing the weak points as much as the strong. There’s a heavy dose of realism in this book as well as much inspiration for teachers.

All in all, Crafting Digital Writing is a worthy read. It provides more than examples; it provides a path forward for teachers who see their students writing in all sort of formats not necessarily valued by educational systems. Hicks situates those kinds of writing within the framework of learning and creativity, urging us to think about how we can engage our students in meaningful, thoughtful, and exemplary writing. He asks us to expand our notions of writing and then develop ways to teach it.

“We need to ask our digital writers to work with intention. This requires that we keep thinking, taking risks, learning from our mistakes, and working each day to model and mentor them in the craft of digital writing.” — Hicks (177)

As in most of his ventures, Hicks has set up online spaces for sharing resources and student work featured in the book and for sparking discussions in a Google Plus Community. (You can even preview the book at the publisher’s site)

Peace (in agreement),
Kevin