Exploration of Public Space: Chapel Falls

The facilitators of this week’s Make Cycle of Making Learning Connected MOOC are encouraging folks to use digital storytelling to capture and document the public spaces around them. I’d encourage the use of the free Adobe Voice app, which has to be one the most simple-to-use digital story apps I have come across.

Here, I took my boys (and our dog) to Chapel Falls, a remote series of waterfalls perfect for swimming and the returned home to document our fun day.

Chapel Falls

Peace (in the outdoors),

PS — this kind of Make will also be perfect for next week’s Make Cycle (hint)

Feeding the Dawg: A Contraption Maker Contraption

Dang. This is fun. I learned about Contraption Maker from a friend, Melvina, in the Making Learning Connected MOOC when I was sharing out a Rube Goldberg contraption the other day as part of systems thinking (the train of ideas just keeps on rolling), and decided to give Contraption Maker a try.

Am I ever glad I did!

making the dawg

First of all, it solves my own puzzle around teaching Rube Goldberg contraptions: how to move from the visual literacy component of systems thinking and design to having students construct a contraption without spending weeks on a project? And how to move even more science, and Next Generation Standards, into our writing class in an engaging way?

Second of all, Contraption Maker folks reached out immediately to an email I sent them via the educator section of their website. Seriously, Deborah, their helpful educational outreach person, was responding not long after I sent a query with helpful advice on how to get started. And they gave me a free license. Listen: I’m not that special. They apparently are giving free licenses to teachers … and licenses for all classroom computers for students!

Say that again? Free for schools? Yes. I guess they make money when kids get hooked and want it at home, which is where a family would have to purchase a license. I’m fine with that model.

Third, I was pleasantly surprised that you can record a video of your contraption in real time and export it to YouTube for sharing out (see above). It was a great motivator for me as I was tinkering. There is also multiplayer mode.

Now, the Contraption Maker program is a software download, so keep that mind, but there is a teacher dashboard for keeping track of student progress and work, and plenty of video tutorials, and it has play modes and design modes (my focus) as well ways to go even deeper into the code design (I think … still going over it all).

Overall, thumbs up for Contraption Maker.  I found it to be a perfect way to play with systems thinking in the CLMOOC this week, too, and can’t wait to show it to students. Go ahead. Give it a try.

Go, Dawg, Go.

Peace (in the engine room),

Considering Curation: Google Collections

Google Collections Remediated Poem

One of the more important questions of digital literacy, if you ask me, is how do we curate what we make into something manageable and something reflective. I have yet to come upon the perfect tool. I use Diigo’s Outliner at times. I keep a few magazines on Flipboard. Storify works for some things, and not for others. I could go on and on.

I noticed that Google recently unveiled a part of Google Plus called Collections. The Google folks suggest it is a way to gather up posts and images and more from Google Plus into something more manageable and shareable. (It’s also part of their push to give more preference to Google Photos and move away from Google Communities, I think.)

Last week, as I was working on a poem through various media in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, as part of the reMEDIAtion effort, I decided to give Collections a try, to see if it would help with curation of the work I was doing.

The result?

I don’t know. It’s OK. Just OK.

I was able share links, and add some reflections to put the piece into context. But I didn’t like I could not tinker with the order of posts, nor that I can’t seem to share the Collection outside of Google Plus (no doubt, part of Google’s plan to keep us inside the Google walls.) Try this link. Tell me if it brings you to my collection. Thanks.

But “Just OK” is not really all that good enough, right? Still searching for the perfect curation tool of the digital age. I am open to suggestions.

Peace (in the cure-ate),


The CLMOOC Word Map

No reason for doing this other than I wondered how it would come out …

I used Word Map, which is a pretty nifty tech tool, if you use a real word. Hashtags are just confusing for the voices.

Peace (on the map),


Getting All Glitchy With It

It’s always exciting when the first Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC kicks off, and yesterday, it finally did.  The faciliators — two colleagues from the Tar River Writing Project — of the Make Cycle want to do a little twist on how we go about introducing ourselves, by bringing a sort of media mediation into the mix.

They write:

The theme this week is Unmaking Introductions. Let’s consider the ways we name, present, and represent ourselves and the boundaries or memberships those introductions create.

Among the suggestions to explore is to slice up and glitch some media. I see the use of intentional glitch as a way to upend our expectations of media, to turn the expected into the unexpected, and maybe find something new in the mix. It’s interesting because we often think of a “glitch” as something broken (like in the clip above, where her glitch is later what saves the day). But mistakes and miscues, and the unexpected are what makes life interesting.

So for this activity, I turned to a few apps to help me out, including one called Fragment that does what it sounds like — it takes apart images and reconstructs them back into unusual images. (It was free when I got it.)

I began with a photo of me and my dog. I use the handle/moniker Dogtrax in a lot of social media spaces. It has nothing to do with dogs, although I often make canine-inspired jokes. You can read more about my nickname here, if that interests you. Hey, I do love dogs. (Cats are cool, too, so no hate comments, please). And my dog, Duke .. he is pretty cool. He puts up with a lot from our family. (We feed him, so that helps).

So I took this photo of Duke and I in repose. He seems like he is thinking: Sigh, here we go again:

With dog

and made this with Fragment. I was really trying to find a ways to layer our faces in different ways and I love that Duke’s nose just hangs out on the edge of the frame on the right:

Dogtrax and his dog

and then this collage with another app. The bottom right image was done in another app, and it was another image where my eyes look up. That simple movement changes the flow of the collage, don’t you think?

Dogtrax and dog

and then I used an online site called Image Glitch Experiment suggested by Make Cycle facilitators for creating “glitch” images to make this version. The small bands of color seem to me as if there is a television set going, and the lower half of the screen — all dark — changes the composition of the image, too, giving contrast to the light.


I’ll keep exploring how media impacts identity. It’s an intriguing topic.

Peace (in the glitch),


A #Tomereaders Story of Quotes

I am reading Teaching Naked  (about how best to use technology at the university level while maintaining strong in-class connections with students) with some other folks in and out of social media spaces, and while I will be missing Twitter Chats and face-to-face gatherings, I still feel connected in my own way.

This week, I saw and shared this post about Summer Reading Challenges for students at Educator Innovator, and sent the link forward. I haven’t perused all of the projects that harness video for understanding literature, and making cool stuff.

But I thought it might be intriguing to do a digital story with quotes from Teaching Naked that I have been sticky-noting (is that a word? No red squiggle there) as I have been reading, as my version is a borrowed library copy of the book. I turned to the easiest app (and it is free) I know to make digital stories: Adobe Voice.

But I am not done yet. It occurred to me that my own voice is missing, so I am going to work on layering in some commentary in a second version of this project later this week. I’ll see how it goes. The idea is to push technology in a different way.

Peace (in the quote parade),

Thoughts From the Periphery (or Tossing Balls Against the Wall)

Whenever I went to see if I might glimpse at what was going on in the Facebook group for the Rhizomatic Learning adventure, this is what I would see:

Facebook Gate


The wall. The gate. The closed door.

It’s been intriguing being a complete outsider to the Facebook experience for both Rhizo14 and Rhizo15. I have a personal aversion to Facebook that I won’t get into here, other than my belief that Zuckerberg and company are privacy pirates not fit to own my media, and so, I knew both times (Rhizo14 and Rhizo15) that many conversations were unfolding in a space I was not in, and sometimes wondered:

What are they talking about over there?

When we consider open learning experiences, we are told (as participants) and we tell others (as facilitators) to “use the space you are in” and branch out from there. But I wonder if, even with a blog hub like Dave’s posts for each learning cycle and all the efforts to pull the disparate parts together to re-align the thinking, we aren’t being exclusive at the same time of being inclusive. Can we be both? I don’t know. I think so.

Imprecise graphing

I am intrigued by the notion of being an active insider in at least two spaces (Twitter and GPlus) but a complete outsider in a third space (Facebook). Reading the comments of some folks who have bveen writing in a collaborative document about how positive Facebook has been to their Rhizomatic Learning experiences, I realize only now, later, how rich those conversations must have been. And what people did I miss entirely? Are there whole swarms of folks who engaged in Facebook but nowhere else whose ideas could have informed my understanding? I suspect, the answer is yes.

I find myself reading echoes of the past, trying to connect the dots from these reflections to my own experiences, and noticing the gaps, too late. Or not. My own experiences were rich with content and connections, too.

While the Rhizomatic Learning Facebook group was open, it was only open if you were in Facebook, and unless I became a member (and thus, had to join Facebook … not happening … see above), I could not view the conversations unfolding there in FB from the outside.

The “Log into Facebook” screen that greeted me when I followed a link was like a locked door, and I did not have the key, and was unwilling to pay the price to be let in. I find it an interesting and intriguing dilemma of open learning: the social media place where the most people are in is the very social media place that keeps the most people out.

Don’t you?

Peace (tossing balls against the wall of Facebook),

At Middleweb: Writing Poems, Digitally


My latest post over at Middleweb is about a poetry project in which my students not only write digital poems, but learned about the use of image and citation, and the underlying structure of the Internet itself: the hyperlink.

Check out some of my students’ poems and the way I shaped the lessons around technology and writing

Speaking of technology and writing, spend a few minutes watching this video. Brad Wilson gave a short Ignite talk at MRA (Michigan Reading Association) on how to shift away from talking about technology itself and instead, to talk about writing. He lays the blame for students not fully engaging in writing in a digital age to teachers, and then shows a potential path forward.


Peace (in the share),

Writing A Poem, Making Some Music

Wendy showed me this neat site (MusicFont) that turns words into manuscript music, and then generates a MIDI file of the music (then, you probably need to convert the MIDI track into MP3). I could not resist taking a poem I wrote for Terry the other day, transforming the poem into sheet music, and then generating an audio file. The result is rather fascinating, as you can “hear” a musical interpretation of the words of the poem.

This is the poem:

Poem about the Rain

I love how technology has the potential to transform our writing into something slightly askew, allowing us to experience composition from its many angles. Here, you may only hear the music (and it a bit odd, sort of new age classical, as if the rules if composing were being a bit bent) and think, what’s so special about that?


I read the musical notes on the manuscript page, and think about the correlation to the poem, and then hear the music as a sensory companion to the words that I wrote, the rain coming, which were words first inspired by a poem that my friend Terry Elliott wrote.

That’s a pretty cool journey for a poem ….

Peace (in the sound of words),


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),