Talk Back to Video: Encouraging Dialogue

Terry introduced me to Vialogues long ago and I still return to it as an easy-entry way to interact with videos. Here, I took Dave Cormier’s video for the second week of Rhizomatic Learning, and invite others to join me in “talking back to Dave” this week. You are invited, too.
Here is the direct link (the embed is looking funky right now … HalfDave or something)

Peace (in the talk),

Muse (the poem); Inspired by The Crossover

I just finished The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, which is a verse novel that won the Newberry Award this year for young adult fiction. It’s good, and I can see how the appeal of the poem/story (a teenage boy and his twin brother, both basketball stars, and their father, a fading sports star) will resonate with kids, particular those athletes with an eye on the game, and maybe show them some potential of poetry as a freeing way to tell a story.

Alexander’s book inspired me to try my own poem this morning about a song I have not been able to write because something keeps eluding me:

Muse (a poem)

Peace (in the shape of the story),

Pew: Teens, Social Media and Implications for Learning

The Pew Research Center just released another one of its surveys of young people, seeking to gather data on how young people are using technology. As always, it is fascinating to examine the data analysis of the Pew researchers, and think about considerations for schools, particularly the often disconnect that happens between the writing/composing they do in school and the writing/composing they do outside of school.

Look at this chart:

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat Top Social Media Platforms for Teens
So many kids in so many spaces, with Facebook still at the top of the heap (despite reports that young people are leaving Facebook in a flurry). The number that jumps out at me is shown in the report before this: 92 percent of teenagers report going online at least once every single day. And 24 percent report being “constant” users of online sites during the day. As much as I am advocate for digital literacies, that number alarms me on some basic level, sparking the concerns about how online spaces are shaping social norms and social interactions.

Frequency of Internet Use by TeensAs educators, we need to consider this as both an opportunity for teaching skills around reading and writing and collaboration, and wonder about the time spent in social media spaces. I don’t have an answer to the question: is this good or bad? It just is. Even though my students are younger than this scale, I know I need to keep this kind of awareness of online presence in mind when I think about how best to engage my students as writers and thinkers. To turn a blind eye would be counter-productive to learning.

You need to read the whole Pew report, or the summaries, but the writers of the report do a nice job of showing the growing digital divide, too, where socio-economics play a role in access and use of technology. I suspect this issue needs to be teased out even more, particularly when it comes to school policies and priorities.

It will come as no surprise that I was interested in the results around gaming and gender. I can’t say the results were surprising, with boys dominating the graphs as players. I do wonder if the kinds/genres of games would reveal different results or tease out some interesting elements of how gaming is part of the life of teenagers. I’ll be digging deeper into the report to see. (The social media chart is part of the game chart, and it, too, is interesting to examine along gender lines)Girls Dominate Visually-Oriented Social Media Platforms













For my students, I find that there is more equity in the numbers of boys and girls playing games on mobile devices, and more boys playing console games. In our classroom work, it is clear that girls play different kinds of games than boys, too, and when we work on our video game design unit, girls design games differently than boys, too (speaking generally here). The data here is another piece of information to inform my teaching.

Pew explains how they did the survey:

Data for this report was collected for Pew Research Center. The survey was administered online by the GfK Group using its KnowledgePanel, in English and Spanish, to a nationally representative sample of over 1,060 teens ages 13 to 17 and a parent or guardian from September 25 to October 9, 2014 and February 10 to March 16, 2015. In the fall, 1016 parent-teen pairs were interviewed. The survey was re-opened in the spring and 44 pairs were added to the sample.

Peace (in the data),

Playing with Animation

My students have had some fun this week (in the time after standardized testing) to make some neat stopmotion animation with  a Mozilla-hosted site called Para Para Animation. It’s simple to use, with none of the bells and whistles of more advanced animation programs. (so, that is both good and limiting).

Check out a few of their creations:


Our Quidditch Team Name

Tiger, Jumping

Soccer Goal

Peace (in the frame),

Digital Poetry: What Happened Here?


It’s quite likely I won’t do justice to my thinking but if we consider blogs as a space for reflective practice, then bear with me … I am going to try to think aloud as a writer about my latest project to take a place-based poem about walking to an isolated beach in Maine from here:

Poem draft 1

to here:


and then beyond, to here:


And also into all the strange spaces in-between … and more importantly, I want think about what we mean when we say Digital Poetry or Digital Composition, and what do digital opportunities do to the ways we compose. This is not a throw-away question. Our students are writing all the time, and doing so in interesting ways outside of school. We don’t often think of it as “writing” because it falls outside our traditional, constrained definitions of what writing is.

But they are composing with video. They are composing with video games. They are composing with mixtapes, with memes, with image altering apps. They are composing with online comics, with remixing, with screencasting. They are pushing writing beyond the paper and pen.

If our students are pushing up against the edges of composition, we should be pushing edges, too. Or at least, that’s my view. If we want to be their guide into the way people compose, we need to be writing in different spaces ourselves, experimenting with writing, and discovering the learning possibilities. This is one of those experiences you really can’t view from afar, and judge the merits of. You have to dig in and do it. You need to write digitally.

This comes with a boatload of questions that orbit around a single idea: What is digital writing? I don’t quite know, and I’ve been thinking and tinkering with it for years. There was a question early on in my poetry project in which I shared two visual versions of a draft, and someone asked (quite rightly and quite politely), Why is THAT digital writing? I made a weak argument (as I now think of it) that the two images actually framed the same words in a different light, bringing to the surface a new way to look at written words of the page. Yeah. Maybe. I don’t know.

It was only when I got past my rough draft stage (that first image above) and final draft stage (that second image above) that I began to delve deeper into digital poetry and its possibilities. Here in this stage, I argue, the digital aspects “transformed” the poem in new ways. By using the same poem as my anchor text, the use of various digital tools and apps and spaces allowed me to make something new — with echoes of the original always intact — and provide another road into understanding what writing is and is becoming.

This inquiry is goes to the heart of digital writing. It’s not just taking something and keeping it the same with bells and whistles so that it “looks” shiny and new. Digital writing should alter our perceptions of the text, both as the reader AND as the writer. This two-sided coin is important, as we want to think of how our writing changes just as much as the reading experience changes.

So, for me, when I created a Soundscape story with no words at all in the file, yet words imposed as floating comments; or made a digital story, juxtaposing text and narration with image and music; or when I reframed the words of the poem as art; or when I found a new poem inside the old poem and asked the reader to click the button that dropped words out of sight — these were all decisions that I made to make something new (or at least, attempt to do so).

If you buy my argument (and you may not), then what are the implications for the classroom?

For me, this kind of experimenting — of taking a poem for a walk — allows me to experience possibilities for my students as writers/composers. I am my own guinea pig. I can see that the remixing with Thimble would take time and lessons around coding. I can see that the digital story app would be great to use (if we had iPads). I can see that the site that allowed me to twist words into a shape … we can do that. Using Notegraphy app for a polished-looking final copy? Yep. Introducing soundstories and podcasting? We’ll be there soon enough.

And here, I have my own mentor text to show students (who saw me writing the first draft with them and who have seen the final version that I shared the following day but have not yet been shown the extended remixes). Digital writing not only transforms my own writing process, but it also has the potential to transform my teaching practice as well. The hope is that it may transform my young writers, too.

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey of poetry and reflection. I’d love to know your thoughts on what digital writing is, and isn’t. It’s a term still very much in flux.

Peace (in the poem),

Digital Poetry: An Ocean of Words

This is the final iteration on a theme — the final riff on a single poem over almost 10 days time. I’ll do some reflecting later (and I have been curating my poem’s development) … but for this last sharing out of my poem about a walk through the woods to get to the ocean in Maine, I used a few word cloud-ish techniques.

The first two, via apps on my iPad, become merely word clusters. Interesting to look at and certainly pretty to see, I guess, but not much agency in the creative element. I tried to add an invisible ocean wave to the second one (see it?) but it didn’t work the way I had hoped.

This one uses an app called CloudArt, sort of like Wordle for the mobile device.

Walk to the beach

and this one uses an app called Visual Poetry.

Walk to the beach

The second project, which uses an online program called Visual Poetry (not to be confused with the app of the same name) is a bit different, as it allows you to drag words into shapes across the screen, and so I decided that a winding path leading towards the ocean made sense. It’s very visual. The colors looked more vibrant at the site and sort of got flattened when I created the image file. Interesting.


Peace (in the words),


Digital Poetry becomes Digital Story

My iteration or riffing on a single poem continues as I took my poem and created a digital story with it via Adobe’s Voice app, which continues to impress me with its simplicity of use. The images all came from Voice’s internal/external search function. I toyed with the idea of not including text of the poem, but then decided to keep it in as a visual cue. I’m still not sure if that was the best decision for a digital story, driven by voice (pun not intended but appreciated).

Peace (in the poem),

Digital Poetry: A Soundscape Poem


If you have been reading what I have been up to the last few days, I have been working out a poem, from draft to beyond, and this morning, I want to share a “soundscape” version of my poem. I used Freesound Music to gather up sounds of a walk to a beach, and then used Audacity to stitch them all together.

Take a listen:

Now, if you go directly to Soundcloud, you can see a little better how I layered the words of the poem into the audio file, so that as you listen, the poem comes forth as a comment overlay to the soundscape. Here is a push into digital poetry, where words and audio move into each other, making the poetic experience for both the reader/listener and the writer/composer something a bit different.

I hope you enjoy the poem as soundscape …

Peace (listen),

A #Walkmyworld Denoument/Digital Portfolio

Walk My World Curated Links

For the past several weeks, I have been intermittently involved with the Walk My World project, which is a series of learning events designed around reflective practice on the themes of identity, composing with digital media and connected learning. It’s been a blast, and I appreciate the work and support that Ian and Greg (in particular) do to invite people in and keep them active in the Walk My World spaces. I’ve mostly tinkered around in the #walkmyworld hashtag.

And now, as we near the end, we are asked to consider pulling together our various “makes” and reflections into a single digital portfolio. Some folks are using Storify, which I used last year, but I wanted to keep trying out the Diigo Outliner tool and dig into something new. It’s merely an online collection of links and notes, organized in an outline format, which can be shared out.

Check out my Walk My World digital portfolio, organized by Learning Events and assorted categories.

On one hand, I like the organization of this Diigo tool. On the other hand, it seems rather bland as an experience. I’m feeling mixed about it, particularly when you consider how best to share a range of digital media projects. In many ways, if I were doing this right, I would create a website, linking and embedding media right into the experience of the reader (that would be you). With this tool, you need to follow my links out, moving into different spaces to experience what I made.

That’s not good design.

But it’s what I have for now.

Peace (in the walk),