Slice of Life: The Start of Something Interesting

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

Midway through the very first  #TeachWriting Twitter chat last night, I finally chimed in. I had other things going on and so I didn’t get home until the halfway point of the chat, a bi-monthly chat on Tuesday nights centered around the teaching of writing. The brainchild of Lisa Hughes and Ben Kuhlman (maybe others? not sure), #TeachWriting is another way for teachers to share with and learn from each other, in the fast-flowing realm of Twitter chat.

A few months ago, Troy Hicks and I offered up some feedback to Lisa and Ben as they were planning because Troy and I have done these kinds of chats before (including one together, via NCTE for Digital Learning Day.) Really, though, Ben and Lisa did fine on their own. But when Ben shouted out earlier in the week that he hoped to see me at the chat, I knew I had a conflict and might miss it.

I’m glad I caught the second half, as the flow of discussion was amazing, rich and expansive, and there were many people in the Twitter Chat that I had never run across before (an ancillary gift from #TeachWriting). It’s heartening to know that so many folks care so deeply about writing, and want to know how best to get their students to care about writing, too. I was a little worried that Lisa and Ben might only have a few folks, but … not a worry! Dozens of people seemed to be involved, sharing ideas and asking questions, and making connections across disciplines and time zones. It was the perfect example of the power of a Twitter Chat.

So, how do you get involved?

Every other Tuesday night (the next one will be April 11, I believe, with Beth Holland and Shaelynn Farnsworth), jump onto Twitter and find the #TeachWriting hashtag. More information is at the website: http://teachwritingchat.org/ and sign up for the newsletter. Also, follow the chat’s twitter account at @teachwriting2

One word of advice, if you have never joined in a chat: consider using a Twitter Chat client of some sort. I use TweetChat but there are others that allow you to focus on specific hashtags.

See you on the Interwebz!

Peace (in the chat),
Kevin

The Office Time Machine Project: Cultural References Remix

Wow.

To prove culture is not only everywhere, but that certain references to films, songs, and works of art are critical for our collective understanding of comedy and to the importance of relating to content, I found every cultural, real-life reference from every episode of The Office. – Joe Sabia

This Office Time Machine remix project by Joe Sabia to use The Office and cultural references to show how copyright pushes up against creativity is pretty amazing, insightful, entertaining and just … fun. Sabia pulled all of the cultural references from the American-version of The Office and mixed them into video formats.

He explains that the year-by-year season project (which took him a year and half to do) was designed to see the prism of culture that gets reflected everywhere and how copyright laws “fall flat” in the modern age of digital media and borrowing/remixing of ideas.

Sabia ends his project’s website with some suggestions for where folks can go from here, after being entertained by his video endeavors with The Office and cultural references (he found 1,300, by the way).

Sign up for Fightforthefuture.org. And check out these sites:

Transformative Works, EFF, and Creative Commons
Everything is a Remix by Kirby Ferguson,
Supercut. by Andy Baio.
And for further study, read Lawrence Lessig, and John Tehranian

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin

Six Years of Writing: When I Began to Tweet and Why

Twitter has done something interesting for its 8th birthday: it is allowing folks to find their very first tweet. I couldn’t resist — mainly because I couldn’t remember how long ago that was nor could I even vaguely remember what I wrote for my very first tweet?
first tweet feb2008

 

Oh.

How creative! (snark)

But 31,000 tweet later as @dogtrax (I know? What the heck do I write about? I don’t know), I am still wondering how to push the boundaries of the 140 characters. I write 25 word stories, tinker with hashtags, collaborate across the world, make memes, take part in Twitter chats, share with others and steal from others (and remix what others are stealing from others). My professional development will never be the same. It’s an odd thing, this Twitter.

I started to use Twitter in 2008 a few months after a National Writing Project gathering in Amherst, where Bud Hunt (aka @budtheteacher) chatted over dinner one night about this thing called Twitter, and he wasn’t quite sure of all the possibilities and potentials for writers, but he was pretty confident it was not a flash-in-the-pan kind of technology. He grappled to explain it to us, and we grappled to understand. 140 characters? A stream of tweets? What the heck is he talking about?

As usual, Bud pointed us in the right direction. I started tweeting and haven’t stopped (see this post from 2008 that collects my first few tweets.) It’s true that not everyone cares or should care about what I post, but every now and then, something clicks and connects — some ideas that suddenly transforms your view of the world or your view of teaching or your kids, or technology — and in that moment, the power of Twitter is suddenly exposed. You do have to get through a lot of LOL Cats to get there but …. you know … it’s worth it.

Not long after I started on Twitter, I composed this poem:

I Dream in Twitter
Listen to the podcast

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters
that cut off my thoughts before they are complete
and then I wonder, why 140?
Ten more letters would serve me right
as I write about what I am doing at that moment
in time,
connecting across the world with so many others
shackled by 140 characters, too,
and I remain amazed at how deep the brevity can be.

I find it unsettling to eavesdrop on conversations
between two
when you can only read one
and it startles me to think that someone else out there
has put their ear to my words
and wondered the same about me.
Whose eyes are watching?

Twitter is both an expanding universe
of tentacles and hyperlinks that draw you in
with knowledge and experience
and a shrinking neighborhood of similar voices,
echoing out your name
in comfortable silence.

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters,
and that is what I am doing
right
at
this
moment.

Then later, I wrote and recorded this song:

Twitter This

I get up in the morning and I twitter all my dreams
140 characters is just enough for me
Then, each moment of the day becomes a Twitter storm
until the world is at my doorstep and everyone belongs
to

This Twitter space
inside this Twitter place
I’ve got a little bit of smile
on my Twitter face
Take me as a friend
or shut me out cold
I’m gonna keep on Twittering
until the platform gets old

I’m reading all my friends — the ones I haven’t met
from all across the globe, it’s a safety net
We’re putting pressure on Iran — let the China wall fall
let the information flow so we can all crawl
inside

This Twitter space
inside this Twitter place
I’ve got a little bit of smile
on my Twitter face
Take me as a friend
or shut me out cold
I’m gonna keep on Twittering
until the platform runs cold

 

Peace (in the tweet),
Kevin

From A to B and Back Again: Flowchart Poetry

I found myself diving down one of those writing rabbit holes yesterday morning as I began exploring some of the “add-ons” that are now available in Google Drive. One of the free programs — WebSequenceDiagrams — creates flowcharts, with a little sequential coding.

I wondered if there was a way to write a poem in a flowchart format? Could the ideas of the poem be represented visually and with connections back and forth? So, I gave it a go.

From A to B and Back Again: A Flowchart of a Poem

This verse emerged
as I went in reverse …

flowchart poem code

from ideas
to words
to poems
to publishing
to comments
to collaboration
to poems
to words
to ideas

Flowchart Poem

all the way back to where I first started,
opening the door here
for you.

Interesting, eh? But does it work as a poem? I’m not sure the diagram flows exactly as I had it in mind, and that might be limited by the free version of the add-on, as much as my own lack of understanding flow charts. Still … intriguing possibilities.

Peace (in the visual),
Kevin

Curation Collection: Where I Walked in #Walkmyworld

One of our final tasks for the #walkmyworld project is to curate our work, using Storify. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would, but having it all in one place makes a lot of sense. Here is a bit of where I walked. I decided to curate around themes, not around time (taking a cue from Luke’s Storify for Digital Learning Day).

You can go directly to my Storify

Or view it as embedded here:

Peace (in the walk),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Paper Circuitry, Illuminated Ideas

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

I had the good fortune to be able to sit in both a lunch gathering and a workshop on the topic of paper circuitry yesterday at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Boston (I also co-presented about the Making Learning Connected MOOC but I will write about that tomorrow in a regular post). Paper circuitry is the idea of using sticker circuit boards inside a notebook, to illuminate ideas and to bring an “inventor’s/scientist’s notebook” of thinking to the writer’s notebook. Someone once said it is part of the movement to “reclaim” the notebook.

The project here is still in development, but presenters Paul Oh (of the National Writing Project), Jie Qi (a researcher through MIT), and David Cole and Jennifer Dick (of NexMap) not only gave us a presentation showing the possibilities of adding circuits to stories (and I still have Jennifer’s comment about the “storytelling comes first” in my head followed by Jie’s of developing “new tools to tell stories through circuits.”) but then they gave us circuit stickers and walked us through creating a simple illuminated page in a notebook.

We then got our Make on.

Of course, I didn’t have a notebook. Doh. So I stitched one together with some paper. The task of creating a page of sticker circuits reminded me a bit of creating with e-textiles, but this was a whole lot easier (no sewing!). I started to think of a story involving musical notes, where the embedded light would be part of the face. I used the pun (“See the light” for the C note. Get it?)

illuminated notebook

I’d have to think more of the application for my own classroom. I’d love to pilot this concept with some students, though, and if a paper circuit project could be another bridge from literacy to science and/or math class (which it could, as planning involves not just the story, but also the knowledge of circuit routes and representational information). I think the rough draft planning stage would be critical. In our workshop, we just sort of jumped in, given the time constraints. We’d really want kids to work out what they think would happen, then iterate during design, and troubleshoot along the way.

Interesting and intriguing? You bet.

Check out these two videos about paper circuits. The first is an overview and the second is an example of Jie’s idea in motion, literally. It’s beautiful.

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

Interactive Light Painting: Pu Gong Ying Tu (Dandelion Painting) from Jie Qi on Vimeo.

 

Peace (in the light),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: My Immersion Learning Map

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

This morning, after I blog, I am heading out for the drive into Boston, for the Digital Media and Learning Conference. I am co-presenting a session around open learning, with the focus on last summer’s Making Learning Connected MOOC (CLMOOC), and how the philosophies and ethos of the National Writing Project and Connected Learning Principles helped us create and facilitate learning opportunities. I was one of the facilitators, and enjoyed every minute of it as we engaged hundreds of teachers in making, creative fun and inquiry.

I’ll share more in the coming days, no doubt, but one of the activities in our session is a Mini-Make, in which we are going to be asking folks to make a learning map. What they choose to illustrate in their map is up to them, but the idea is to chart out and probe deep about aspects of learning, and represent it in a map format of some kind.

I decided to do my own, using Coggle, an online mind-mapping tool. It worked great (and I think I owe Ian a shout-out for using it this summer and sharing the tool with CLMOOC). This map shows “my immersion” into open learning and networks over the past year or so, and some of the offshoots that have occurred as a result. It’s not a perfect representation, but it does capture a lot of footholds of my learning life.
My Immersion Map

What would be on your learning map? How would you design it?

Peace (in the mapping),
Kevin

Ongoing Thoughts: It’s Complicated (the social lives of networked teens)

I am reading danah boyd’s excellent new book, It’s Complicated, and making notes as I go via Goodreads as a sort of comment trail of my thinking of her ideas. So far, it is a great read, with lots of her insights drawn from extensive research around teenagers over multiple years time. She really has a critical eye for what kids are doing, and how adults perceive what kids are doing (often through the wrong lens).

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked TeensIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd

I am going to check in here now and then as I read this book by the fabulous researcher, danah boyd. Her extensive research and background in social media and the lives of teenagers should make for an interesting read. As a father, and a teacher, and someone who tries to harness technology for storytelling and writing and composing, I am always intrigued by what kids are doing, or not doing, or doing without thinking of what they are doing. I am hopeful that boyd’s work will shed some light for me and for others.

View all my comments on It’s Complicated

Peace (in the reflections),
Kevin

Re-Envisioning the Failed Digital Composition

All hail the fail. So said my friend Terry the other day as part of his response to my post about a digital composition that I attempted that just did not work for me. But part of failing can also perseverance (a theme which we did a whole lesson around in the classroom the other day) and as I took in Terry’s comments via Vialogues (see below) and then read some reactions from another friend, Molly, I began to rethink how the piece might yet come together.

Here’s Terry’s comments on the composition and some of my responses:

Here is Molly’s tweet:

It was a combination of both of their voices, plus my own doubts, that stuck with me, and as I was out shoveling last night (for the fifth time that day), it dawned on me how I could maybe “fix” the failure, and it required moving away from the video app that had inspired the composition to begin with. I realized that the PicPlayPost app was one of my problems. It was Molly’s comment about finding a way to cut and connect that made me realize that I could use Popcorn Maker, perhaps, to re-engineer the video sequences, and cut out the Tellegami ads at the end of the videos, too. (which Terry agreed gave the composition a very halting effect).

So, here it is.

What’s interesting is that my original intention was to try to avoid a sequential left-to-right kind of video message and that is what I went back to. But with Popcorn, I could add another layer of music, and the project is now remixable by anyone who wants to give it a whirl. That was something that Molly could not do with PicPlayPost, although that was her first instinct (which I applauded). Popcorn can still act quirky at times, and is periodically laggy. But, if not completely at ease with how it came out, at least it better matches my vision.

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin

Warts and All: This Digital Composition Failed


This past weekend, I had this concept in my head about trying to make a statement about how the technology we use hems us in as much as it broadens our possibilities. I could see the pieces unfolding, as a series of videos told in a combination of contained tech-generated pieces that slowly move into a video piece with just me speaking in my own voice.

It looked great in my head.

I went into Tellegami and used the text option to create the first videos. I wanted that computerized voice to speak the lines about constraints (although this is no reflection on Tellegami, which I enjoy). Then, as the third piece unfolded, I would add my real voice to the mix, ending on the fourth video without Tellegami.

It doesn’t look so great on the screen.

In fact, I almost killed the whole thing after I published it because the effect for me is a big “yawn.” Instead, I figured might be valuable to figure out why it didn’t work. I’m so used to only sharing the pieces that I like and the ones that came together, but just like in the classroom where there should be a “warts and all” reality around solid writing (it doesn’t appear magically), I figured it might make sense to think about where this digital piece went off the rails for me.

First of all, I admit: I winged the writing. Normally, I would have spent more time writing what I wanted to say. Oh, I knew the “Message” of the piece but I forgot a crucial element: the rhythm of words as a whole piece so that each part is like a stanza of the poem so that each piece works off the other in a rather organic way. I was sort of rushed for time and decided to forgo writing down the “script” and the playing with words, as I so often do. So, instead, with each segment, I was inventing the lines in my head on the spot and each time I recorded (I had to do each a few times), it came out a little different. The result is something less than cohesive to me, to my ear. It doesn’t sound right. The words are not complementary to the whole.

Second, while I do like Tellegami, I was struck by some of the automated voice limitations and by the limitations of what the character looks like (I know, this is ironic, given the theme of the piece). I struggled to keep perspective on how these limitations could help the message, but I never bought it on the creative side. This push/pull nature of creating with digital tools can make for the frustrating experience of “settling for the results” as opposed to making it work the way your creative mind wants it to work. This is the tension around agency.

Third, I didn’t realize until later (or rather, I forgot) that Tellegami adds a little Tellegami tag at the end of each video. That’s what you get with a free app. Normally, it’s not a big deal. But here, where the piece is built around a hand-off of ideas from one video segment to another, that delay for advertising is jolting. Any cohesion immediately gets lost as we wait around for the ad to finish. That drives me crazy.

Finally, I used my latest favorite app (PicPlayPost) to pull the videos together into one media collage but tinkering with settings and playing with the layout never got me to where I wanted to be. I can’t explain what I was aiming for, really, except to say that the way the video “looks” is not how I “saw” it in my head, and that disconnect with the vision of the piece is why the entire composition fails for me. (And the audio levels drive me nutty, too, even though I did some tweaking with it. That has to do with my iPad, which is an older version and has some microphone difficulties).

I’d love to know what you, the outside observer, think about the piece. Be critical. I can take it.

:)

Peace (in the piece),
Kevin