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

 

Webmaker: Making Stopmotion Movies

Webmaker Stopmotion

A project resource that I was working on with the National Writing Project and the Mozilla Foundation has been released, and it is a tutorial and hackable activity around creating stopmotion movies. This is part of a larger partnership to create resources for folks as part of the Summer of Making and Learning.I wanted to try to find ways to teach people how to use stopmotion tools for creative expression. There are a few pages to the resources, each of which can be “remixed” thanks to the Mozilla Thimble website tool. And two activities use Popcorn Maker as a way to experiment with video design.

Check it out and give it a try. Make a movie! This connects nicely with both the Teach the Web MOOC and the Making Learning Connected MOOC.

Visit the Stopmotion Movie Webmaker Resource Page

And the resources within the main project:

I made this quick sample with the free Jellycam tool:

 

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

 

 

Inspired by Teach the Web: The Collaborative Poem Expands Outward

Over at the iAnthology (a network of hundreds of teacher-writers via the National Writing Project), I posted a collaborative document and started a few lines from a poem … and then asked my friends in the iAnthology to hack the poem, remix it, add to it/delete lines, and make it into something alive via collaboration. We were using a tool from Mozilla called HTMLpad that I learned about via the Teach the Web MOOC, and the results were amazing to watch (in fact, the poem continues to grow). It only made sense to capture the unfolding of the poem (one of the features in HTMLpad is that you can watch everyone’s add via a timeline) with me reading the poem as a podcast, and so I used another Mozilla tool – Popcorn Maker — to layer in the podcast on top of the screencast.

The results? Pretty interesting (see the published poem, for now anyway .. every time I look, a few new words spring up), and a fascinating example of how writers can become collaborators on a single poem. I’m honored that others dove in to collaborate and hack my words.

Or see the Popcorn project here: http://popcorn.webmadecontent.org/14y1
Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

 

 

The Educator Innovator Movement

innovation

This is very exciting. The National Writing Project, in partnership with a number of other organizations, has officially launched its Educator Innovator website and activities. I am involved in one piece of the larger puzzle — I am a facilitator with the upcoming Making Learning Connected MOOC — but there are a lot of neat things unfold through the Educator Innovator network, including grant opportunities, partnerships, and more.

As the site says:

“Educator Innovator provides an online “meet up”  for educators who are re-imagining learning. Educator Innovator is both a blog and a growing community of educators, partners, and supporters. If we want to educate a generation of young people to be innovators — to create, build, design, and use their talents to improve their world — we need to value the creative capacity in the mentors and teachers who support them.”

I’m in with that. You?

If so, you can sign up to receive a newsletter and explore some of the activities. Did I mention our MOOC? It might be a great place to get started as you align yourself with as an Educator Innovator (although I bet you already are — still, here’s a chance to connect with others.)

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

 

Supporting Youths in Youth Voices this Summer

Youth Voices Summer Program (5/10/13) from Karen Fasimpaur on Vimeo.

Youth Voices is an amazing network and community for young writers that has been nurtured over the years by a number of educators, but none so much as Paul Allison. Paul’s work in his classroom, with Teachers Teaching Teachers webcasts, with the National Writing Project, Youth Voices and more have really put many of his ideas around learning in the digital age into action in meaningful ways.

This summer, Paul and others are tapping into the crowdsourcing funding movement to sponsor a summer program for youths in new York to engage in learning with Youth Voices. They are using a new site called InciteED, which is sort of like a Kickstarter for educational projects. Your contributions will make the summer program more accessible to high school students in New York City as they spend part of the summer writing, exploring and connecting.

Check out the Youth Voices Summer Program on IncitED.

I contributed and I would ask that you consider, too.

If it helps to hear how Paul thinks, check out this screencast about his views on Youth Voices.

Peace (in the support),
Kevin

 

Climbing the Architecture of a Website

One of the wonderful things about being part of a community in the midst of exploration is that folks share out all sorts of cool ideas, and then those ideas spark other ideas. The other day, I wrote about how Michelle in the Teach the Web MOOC explained how to use a view setting in Firefox to see a 3D image image of websites. My friend, Chad, then used a screenshot and added some art to the image:

He also suggested we think of ways to make art with the 3D modeling, which led to me think about making an animated video with Pivot Stickfigure, in which the character “climbs” up the architecture of a website. Instead of my own blog, I used the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site.

I’d love to see what other people might do. Is that a challenge? Sort of.

Peace (along the mountains of data),
Kevin

 

 

Week Two at #Teachtheweb MOOC: Remixing Others

Our task this week at the Teach the Web MOOC is to check out other people’s work from the first week of introductions and do a remix of their work. Interesting. I selected a profile page by Lou Buran because of some connections we have via the National Writing Project (it turns out, we have met, a few years ago, but I had forgotten that when I was working on his remix). I took a screenshot of his profile page from his Thimble page and then used Popcorn Maker to add some layers of pop-ups with notes to Lou about our connections.
Lou Remix1

Check out my Remix of Lou’s Profile Page

After I had posted it in the Teach the Web Google Community, some folks suggested that others take my remix, and remix it again. Which is what Lou did. He took my piece, which was based on his piece, and added a third iteration to it. So now we have this remixing conversation going back and forth (which is when Lou reminded me that we briefly met one summer while working on the NWP Digital Is website). I am hoping someone else takes his remix and does it again. I wonder how the work will change as more hands get to work on it?
Lou Remix2

Check out Lou’s Remix Response

Pretty neat, and it all has me thinking of why we are doing this kind of activity and exploration within the MOOC. Certainly, my remixing of Lou brought me closer to him as a friend and colleague, and I was interested to see how he would take my remix and make it his own. I don’t suppose Lou minded what I had done but all this remixing and hacking work does bring up the issue of ownership, right? And I never asked Lou’s permission. I just did it.

Those of us in this MOOC probably are OK with others taking our digital stuff and doing what they want with it. But how about most people? Would folks outside of the MOOC be OK to know that a bunch of folks are taking something original, remixing it with new content and then publishing it to the world? I don’t know. What do we unwittingly give up when we post to a digital space?

I do know these are the conversations that we need to be having with students.

We hammer home copyright infringements, and how to use other people’s work with respect, and then we tell them: go hack this page and publish it? Let me say, I am OK with that. I think the goals here are to move more agency into hands of the viewer/reader and the Mozilla suite of tools does that in many interesting ways. Kids need to have skills to not just remix the web, but also to be critical of what they read and how they are targeted by the web, and having tools to remake that experience is powerful.

Still, I wonder about the conversations …

Peace (in the MOOC),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Teachers Who Made a Difference (in my life)

This is for Slice of Life, although the idea began over at our National Writing Project iAnthology site, we’ve been writing about teachers who made a difference in our lives. I created the following comic to remember three teachers whose philosophies and styles linger with me.

Influential Teachers

Peace (in the past),
Kevin