I am Mia (am not)

(This post is part of the Connected Courses Daily Connect in which we are asked to blog in the “voice” of another blogger. I have chosen my National Writing Project friend, Mia Zamora, to emulate for her energetic optimism that she exudes in her writing across many spaces. Forgive me, Mia, if I mangle your voice here.)

(This is Mia, my friend)

I am realizing very quickly just how much possibility there is in everything that is unfolding in the Connected Course networks as well as other Connected Learning networks. Nothing compares to the ideals of so many of us educators coming together for such a deep exploration of Connected Learning! It’s fantastic!

“When I am learning I FEEL ALIVE.” – Mia

I was thinking about this message of teaching the other day. I returned to the concept of “Why I Teach” and isn’t that such a central question to all that we do in our lives? The responses that people posted to that query were intriguing. I do believe we can change the world for the better. We can always be learning, too, even as we teach. We CAN stay in tune with the world.

“Connected Learning is about re-imaging the experience of education in the information age. It draws on the power of today’s technologies and embraces hands on production and open networks.” — Mia

We all have our own learning pathways to follow, and each path will take us on a slightly different journey. The wonder of it is that our journeys often coincide with others along the way. And it is at those intersections where we meet that we can help each other along the way.

“We all feel we are part of a movement that will ultimately be world changing.  We want to invite everyone along with us.” — Mia

Being in the midst of a project like Connected Courses, or even Making Learning Connected, is really being part of hubs of the giant wheel that is Connected Learning. Notice how all the pieces can fit together. If you take a step back, you can begin to see it all in motion. It’s that kind of viewpoint that makes being part of any venture all the more worthwhile.

“Magical things happen when we let ourselves unlearn the criterion of institutionalized conventions.” — Mia.

Peace (to Mia),
Kevin

PS — Process Notes: This “writing in the voice of another blogger” is hard to do! I read Mia on a regular basis, but I had to examine her syntax style and the underlying mood of her writing. I then was struck with the dilemma of, Am I writing as Me (Kevin) in the voice of Mia? Or writing as Mia on my blog, as if she were visiting here? I never quite resolved that question, I realize, and somehow settled into a precarious balance of her positive writing style with some of my own thinking. A blend, then, of sorts. I worried that she might be offended that I zeroed in on her positive message, leaving out how deep she gets with her thinking about learning. I decided to pull in some of her own writing in quotes, to further give Mia a real voice here. I’m not sure it worked.  Go to her blog to get the real Mia Zamora. The one I have borrowed here is only a replica.

Short Video Vignettes from WMWP for #OurNWP

As part of an effort to create an archive of the National Writing Project for its 40th year anniversary (called OurNWP), I went into our Western Massachusetts Writing Project video archives and pulled out a few short pieces that we have done in the past few years, usually around the National Day on Writing. I love how our voices come together as teacher, writers, colleagues.

I also donated to the cause, as the effort to create the archive is slated to require about $100,000 to complete and NWP is halfway there. I gave a donation in honor of a past WMWP Director, Charlie Moran, whose work in the field of writing, and with our writing project (as a founding member), paved the way for many a great idea, and whose thinking has always pushed me forward, particularly around the ideas of digital literacy.

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

Where I’ve Been Writing (or at least, published)

While I was away from my blog, I had some pieces published in other spaces that I wanted to share with you.

Working_Draft3-240X300-broom

First, my MiddleWeb column as we end summer is about reflecting on my digital sites and doing a bit of housekeeping as school is about to start. It’s a nice time to reflect on what we project to our families and students before they come into the classroom for a year of writing and learning.

Second, I wrote a piece for the National Writing Project’s 40for40 blog, as NWP celebrated its 40 years with 40 posts from NWP teacher/writers. My piece reflected on a time when I traveled to Chico, California, to take part in a week-long technology retreat, where the people I met continue to be partners in online endeavors across the Internet. The piece is entitled “That Week in Chico” and it was a great way for me to ground myself in a time when so many doors opened up for me.

Finally, I took a break from blogging but still dabbled in Twitter while on break and found myself working on a regular diet of #25wordstory stories, which I then collected and shared out for Slice of Life via Storify. I love these stories for brevity and inference and revision, although it can be a struggle to find just the right words and leave just the right amount of story “out” of the story. You decide if it worked or not.

 

Peace (in the writing mode),
Kevin

Gearing up to Hack our Notebooks

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

This morning, I head off to the Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute to lead a session for Hack Your Notebook Day, using paper circuitry to show the educators a bit about the move to reclaim our notebooks as a space for thinking, exploring and tinkering. Hack Your Notebook Day is a national event, and you can even watch some live webinars during the day as various groups work on hacking notebooks, via Educator Innovator and NexMap. (Check out these resources)

Our WMWP site is participating, as we purchased an entire paper circuitry kit so that we can dive right into the topic. I’m a little nervous, because although I have done this activity with my students (see my post over at Middleweb), I have not yet had the chance to meet the Summer Institute folks, nor have I had a chance to see the entire package of materials in front of me.

KevinH-Student Poems Collage

 

(Scenes from my classroom)

But here is my plan for the day of hacking notebooks with teachers:

  • Start off with a blind question: draw a simple and parallel circuit on a notecard. We’re activating knowledge here about circuit design.
  • Give an overview of Hack Your Notebook Day, and how it fits into the Educator Innovator Summer to Make, Play and Connect;
  • Explain why paper circuitry is something to be considered, showing connections to writing and science, and critical thinking, and design, and more – all of which are now part of our state standards, and which will connect even more when the Next Gen Science Standards get adopted by our state in the next year or so;
  • Show some examples — mine and my students — and walk through the process ideas of creating a circuit layer underneath some writing, in order to light up elements of the writing (with an eye towards the possibility of more complex circuitry later on);
  • Writing assignment: write a poem or short piece of prose with the theme of “light” and then illustrate the writing, leaving spaces where you want to the lights to shine through;
  • Step by Step instructions on how to create the paper circuit (this will take the longest and is the trickiest);
  • Showcase what has been created;
  • Reflect: What have you learned? What are applications for the classroom?

I’ll be doing some sharing of how things went.

I want to point out two more resources, these from Chad, that connect with what we will be doing. These are shared over at Mozilla Webmaker:

Peace (in the circuit flow),
Kevin

 

On NWP Blogtalk Radio: My Wife and Others talk Leadership

My wife is an educator and administrator at a vocational high school, and a leader at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. Here, she took part of a discussion around leadership and professional development work during a National Writing Project’s BlogTalk Radio program. The talk centers around nurturing and supporting teachers as leaders. She joined Bruce Penniman, one of my own mentors in the WMWP, in this discussion, along with other folks.

New Education Podcasts with NWP radio on BlogTalkRadio

Take a listen:

Peace (in the talk),
Kevin

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.