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),

Six Word Memoir: The Thimble/NWP Experiment

6words thimble

If you have been following my writing this month, you will notice that I am diving deep into six word memoirs for the Slice of Life challenge. (And thank you for reading them, too. I appreciate it.) As it turns out, the National Writing Project and the Mozilla Foundation have created a site with the webmaker tool, Thimble, on the Six Word Memoir theme.  (You can read more about the project at Digital Is.)

So, I gave it shot this weekend, and found it interesting. Since it designed both to create a six word memoir AND teach a bit about coding, the composition takes a bit longer than it would normally do. But I liked the site, and here is what I created:
6words Music

You can try, too. The Six Word Memoir Thimble site is open and accessible to all.

Peace (in the six words),


Remembering Composing My First Multimedia Poem

It was a fair number of years ago (back in 2006) now that I hopped on a plane and flew across the country to Chico, California, to take part in an Advanced Technology Institute with the National Writing Project. It was one of those weeks that forged connections that remain powerful and strong even today. And the work we did in exploring writing and reading, and digital spaces, moved my own ideas forward. I started this blog during that week, learned about stopmotion animation, and brought along a new device on the market: a Flip camera. While these little handheld video cameras are ubiquitous now, they were just a curiosity back then.

And I wanted to figure out how I could use my little white Flip for something that would push my thinking about digital composition. I ended up with a poem I called Blink, Blink, Blink. But not just a poem. It was a poem with a video component that became quite complicated as I dove into it. I conceived it as project in which three videos would be running together, at the same time, recreating the idea of a human face but with multiple people being part of the larger composition. Even today, it is difficult to explain what I was after.

What I did was ask the folks in the Advanced Institute if they would allow me to film them, but in an odd way. First, I filmed their eyes – left and right. Then, I filmed their mouths, saying the refrain of “blink, blink, blink.” I got more than a few strange looks when I asked to film their eyeballs. Luckily, this was a group of creative people, looking to the leading edge of digital writing. Everyone agreed, even though they could not get their heads around what I was after.

On the plane ride home, in the airport, I began to edit the videos, and when I got home, I worked with HTML to craft a webpage that closely captured my vision. For a while, I hosted it at my old band’s server space and the videos were in the old Google Video space. A few months ago, I noticed that Google had moved the videos over to YouTube (that must be odd, to stumble across the two eyeball videos without any context). Meanwhile, the server space for the webpage went dark, and all of my options for hosting the page in a way that would allow three videos to run simultaneously (which is critical to experiencing the poem) ran into walls. Most would only allow one video to run at a time (Glogster, Google Spaces, this blog, a wiki page, etc.)

Then, the other day, I saw this post that Google Drive now can host HTML as if they are webpages. Aha! I went through the steps and sure enough, it worked! The poem does not quite live up to my vision of it, but it marks a place in time for me and is still interesting to watch. If you run all three videos, and keep the “nose” centered on the screen, it really does seem like a human face reading the poem, but with the collective experience of many people. The audio is tinny, but that was the early Flip camera.

Experience Blink, Blink, Blink

Take a look and see what you think. I’d love to get feedback.

Peace (in the composing),

PS — here is a reflection I recorded as I was composing the poem.


The iAnthology Book Shelf

I led a writing prompt last week at our National Writing Project iAnthology space, asking folks what they were reading. I took cover images and created this as a gift back to those who were writing with me:

Peace (on the shelves),

Digital Writing: Jogging the Web with Anna

Jogweb Conversation Site
Anna Smith and I have been working on a digital dialogue about digital writing, and some friends and readers have asked for us to provide a more coherent “path” to those conversations. That makes sense. You should know our intention is to eventually create a larger curated resource at the National Writing Project Digital Is site, but for now — in the midst of our give and take — it is all just a series of blog posts at Digital Is. I created this Jog the Web as a way to create a sequential “path” so far, so if you are just jumping in to the discussions, you can track where we have been.

Jump to the Jog the Web project

As always, we invite you to join the conversations over at Digital Is.

Peace (in the sharing),


Responding to Anna: A Screencast Challenge

Anna Smith and I are in the midst of a “digital conversation” about digital writing. Most of this is taking place at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site, but I am also sharing my end of the activities here. We’re moving across platforms and strategies as part of our conversation, and adding a reflective piece to our role as writer/composer.

The other day, Anna shared a video screencast, and challenged me to do the same. Here it is:

And here is my reflection, which I am doing in comic form:
Reflection on Screencasting with Anna
Peace (in the writing),


The Art of Juggling Two Voices: Digital Is and Me

dual voices
Last week, I had the pleasure of taking part in an ongoing collaborative Twitter adventure with my National Writing Project friends at the Digital Is site. A handful of us have signed up to take on the “digital is” handle (@NWPDigital_is) on Twitter for a week at a time, sharing resources and encouraging discussions through the shared identity of Digital Is.

It was fun, but odd, too. I enjoyed diving into a few more resources at the Digital Is site (if you have not visited it, you really should — there is some amazing work being featured there on how digital media and technology are impacting the ways our students write and the way we are teaching writing) and sharing the work of NWP colleagues to a wider audience. I also kept my eye on news and articles that seemed to fit the parameter of what I imagined @NWPDigital_Is — if it were a person — would tweet and retweet about. (There’s part of my odd factor: imagining a website as a person, tweeting.)

Meanwhile, I was also tweeting with my @dogtrax identity throughout the week, and even added in a few items from my rock band’s identity (@dukerushmore), and what I realized was how strange it was to be shifting from one identity to the other, sometimes within minutes of each other, and periodically, the tweeting would overlap. Not always on purpose. In some other cases, postings of a single item by multiple accounts would happen by mistake — I’d want to tweet something specific for @NWPdigital_is and find that my @dogtrax was still in the “on” mode because it is my default, and both would get published. (I wondered, does anyone notice that I am both dogtrax and digital_is this week? No one said a thing. Then I thought, maybe they just think I am always behind both accounts. There’s this Wizard-of-Oz-feeling when you tweet out of your normal routine as a guest, I’ve come to realize.)

It reminds me of how identity is often in flux when we use digital tools, and while it is easy enough to create multiple accounts, it is not as easy to maintain individuality and voice when you have more than one “you” on the stage. Who I am in this moment of time, and who I want to be represented as to a larger audience, is a critical question. You need to experience it from time to time in order to better understand the implications for identity with your students, and then think about how to teach that skill. There’s value to being part of multiple voices (such as this @NWPDigital_Is venture. You can also see from my screenshot that I have access to our feed from Western Massachusetts Writing Project and my classroom) but in the midst of it, you can feel the pull and tug of those multiple voices, too, splintering your message in ways you don’t quite grasp until you find the time to reflect, and write.

In the vein of sharing Digital Is resources, this one by Peter Kittle — Inquiring into Distributed Identities — hits the points I am trying to make here in this post. Another — Teachers Tweeting Teachers: Building a Community of Practice through Tweeting — talks about the benefits of a shared tweeting experiment.

Peace (in the tweets),