Make Your Political Voice Heard: Annotation Nation

Annotation Nation

Here is another example of the “long arm of the CLMOOC” — Terry Elliott and Joe Dillon are launching an impromptu Pop-Up Make Cycle this week that invites everyone and anyone to join in the annotation of political pieces about the volatile and unpredictable American presidential race. Joe and Terry are selecting some articles to mark up, but you and I can share out our own pieces, too, and invite others to annotate along with us.

For example, I have been tinkering with this one about the role of Independent voters, via Medium. This link will bring you to the annotation overlay.

How will the crowd-annotation work? Many of us have been playing with the Hypothesis add-on tool for some time, and we find it has a lot of value for crowd-sourced annotation (along with some drawbacks around visibility). It allows you to layer on comments and media into the margins of the article. Whole conversations can unfold as another layer on the web.

But there are other ways to annotate — you could write a blog post about something you have read and share the link; you could use the Diigo bookmarking site, which also allows you to crowd-annotate articles within the Diigo environment and kicks out a shared link; or you might just want to remix articles in your own fashion. If you know anything about CLMOOC, you know you do what speaks to your own interests.

Here is one example of Hypothesis and a shared annotated text.

Annotate This

Or, if folks use the “CLMOOC” tag in Hypothesis, we can view all of our shared annotations together in one stream. Check out what I mean.

We are all part of the Annotation Nation now. Come join Terry and Joe and the rest of us. Make your voice heard, even if it is in the margins. You can use the #CLMOOC hashtag on Twitter or share in the CLMOOC G+ Community. Make a video. Create meme or GIF. Do what you want. Take part in the Make with Me live session on Google Hangout that Terry and Joe are planning for Tuesday night (tomorrow) at 7 p.m. EST.

Margins come alive

Peace (so we can make change),
Kevin

Just Let Me Wander


flickr photo shared by pdinnen under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I’ve been working behind the scenes to test-drive something related to student writing. It’s been an interesting experience in which the designers have done a solid job, but I have (perhaps wrongly) sensed some tension about how a developer wants to introduce their work to someone like myself, who wants to jump right in.

I am, admittedly, a diver.

I would rather know nearly nothing about a tool or technology before jumping in. Let me figure it out on my own terms. Allow me my disorientation. Let me push up against what you think a user might do. Let me discover workarounds when I find a wall. Let me get frustrated, if I need to. Let me ask for help, if necessary.

Let me explore and wander.


flickr photo shared by @artnabart under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Now, I am not a software designer, so I can only imagine the other side of this coin. Imagine spending countless hours, creating an experience, and no doubt, you’d want to share what you have put into play. You’d want outside voices to validate the work and you’d probably want want to point the visitor to places where you know there might be issues. You’d always want to demonstrate what works.

A designer probably desires so much to be a tour guide, showcasing and highlighting the wonders of discovery. They want to share their expertise and experience, and let a new user see the unknown through their eyes.

But more often than not, I don’t need that kind of guide and prefer to be without one. Just give me a map with some faint outlines, and some murky unknown terrain. Maybe a compass. Some snacks. If the design is done right, I should not need a guide at all. I’ll send back messages in a bottle.

There be dragons here … but just let me wander anyway.


flickr photo shared by thornet_ under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

And this story, while based in some real experiences, of mine is really me, thinking about the learners in our classrooms, right? If I give my students the entire tour, showing all the nooks and crannies of the learning experience, have they really learned the experience? Have they experienced the experience? As teachers, we are designers, too. Set the path in motion and let them wander. Even, let them get lost once in a while.

Peace (in the midst of it),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Sitting Down with Mike

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16My friend, Michael Silverstone, has started up a monthly podcast series in which he is interviewing folks along a wide range of ideas … with creativity at the center. Michael is a teacher, musician, songwriter, published writer, and a colleague in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. He asked if I would join him for a conversation for his First Saturday Podcast series, and we talked about writing, teaching, technology, kids and more.

These kinds of conversations, where someone asks you questions, give you an opportunity to evaluate our thinking, to reflect in the moment and peruse your view of the world, out loud. I did not know what questions Michael would be asking before I joined him, although I had some ideas given our similar paths, but I enjoyed the flow of the discussion as we sat in his living room.

The podcast (30 minutes long, just so you know) went live this weekend and I just got to listen to to it yesterday as I was getting my classroom ready for the school day. It’s an odd experience, to hear yourself like that, but I think we did a nice job of moving through important ground, even with my numerous “uhs” that peppered my thinking out loud.

Thank you, Michael, for inviting me into your podcast.

Peace (in the reflection),
Kevin

 

Checking the Cynical Me at the Door: Digital Learning Day

Equity 2

Today is Digital Learning Day. I have some mixed feelings about the whole endeavor to push digital learning into the national conversation with a single day of intense focus (sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education). Something about the way it all gets presented makes me …. uncomfortable.  I can’t quite name it, which seems unfair to the organizers. And the more I look into what I am feeling this year, and the deeper I explore why I am feeling that way, the less certain I am about my stance.

Am I just put off because it seems so slick and professional? That just seems rather silly, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

Here is some strands of what I have been thinking …

First of all, this year’s Digital Learning Day coincides with our winter break, so I am not even with my students (although maybe I could have set something in motion in advance as a remote activity but I didn’t plan for that). In the past, I have tried to do digital learning activities on Digital Learning Day, if only to bring my students into the national conversation about learning in the age of technology. We even had Fox News visit our classroom one year for Digital Learning Day, which was an odd experience.

Second of all, I can’t shake the feeling of a top-down influence on the event. I know that seems cynical, but the guest lists of events seem to have more than a fair share of government-connected officials, school administrators and paid educational speakers. It can feel as if it is government influencing our views of how to reform education. The mission statement about digital learning reads like a passage of the Common Core. Still, there is an entire page of video tours of various schools who are sparking change with digital learning opportunities for students. And I do see some classroom teachers will be part of the webinars. That’s good, part one.

Third, there’s also the worry about corporate influence on the Digital Learning Day agenda. In the past, this seemed more pronounced than this year. It’s not that the site itself feels overrun with commercial interests — it is not — but the Twitter stream sort of is (and I know that is outside the purview of the organizers …anyone can post into a Twitter stream and why wouldn’t a company with ed tech do that? It’s an audience they dream about, right?) And yet, when I investigated the site, it seems like there is a whole lot less funding by corporations this year than in other years past. And I don’t see a Pearson in the mix. So, that’s good, part two.

And the theme of this year’s Digital Learning Day of access and equity … those are key important themes that all of us should be keeping in mind, so I applaud the theme and the sessions that are being built around those ideas. If we want a brighter future for all of our students, regardless of gender and socioeconomics, then we have to be having these discussions, and here, the folks at Digital Learning Day have given over the stage to it. And let’s face it — these folks are connected to the power players in DC. That means the issue should be on the agenda of those discussions. That’s good, part three.

Equity1

What all this means is that perhaps I should just put my cynical self aside for the day, and try to pop into some of the conversations when I can (or check out the archives later). The organizers have laid some interesting groundwork to discuss digital access, and the plan to have webinars throughout the day shift from location to location — from school to school — is a solid idea.

In the end, the focus on the central themes of digital access and digital equity has me feeling more a bit more positive about Digital Learning Day than in prior years.

What about you?

Peace (beyond the cynical me),

Kevin

 

A Story West of Here: The Elk of the Stars

The Elk of the Stars

I’ve been thinking of Tall Tales with the #Western106 open course, and have even pitched the idea to everyone to collaboratively write and record a Tall Tale radio program. We’ll see how that goes. (Hey, of course YOU are invited, too. Invent a persona. Add to the script. Venture out West with us. It is loosely labeled Smoke Signals.)

I went into Storybird, a picture book story-making site with an interesting art/writing twist, thinking I was going to start writing an original Tall Tale. Instead, I came away with this story that is definitely not a Tall Tale. I went with the Muse. This one is informed by my reading, listening and watching of Western narratives — of the incursion of White Settlers on traditional American Indian lands, and the great and devastating Changes that would happen. That did happen. That are still happening.

What came out was this story entitled  The Elk of the Stars.

I suspect my story has stereotypes and pillars of the Western genre, but I hope it comes across as a heartfelt ode to remembering the power of Stories to heal and to help the Earth. I know Stories are not enough. But they are something.

Storybird is a site that allows you to write stories, by using professional illustrators’ work. It’s an interesting process because you call up art based on keywords or artists, and then build a story around the images you have available (not the other way around … traditionally, you would write a story and then make images to go with the narrative). So, I took time to absorb the artwork before beginning the story after searching “West” as my keyword. I like how it came out, so much so that I paid a few bucks to get a download of the picture book to save (and share).

I later moved the PDF over to a Flipbook creator for better sharing but you really have to use full-screen mode to get the flavor. Or you can read it over at Storybird.

Peace (in this tale),
Kevin

At Middleweb: Nurturing Writing Skills with Video Game Design

My latest blog post for Middleweb is a reflection on the various kinds of writing activities we do in our video game design unit. I know this kind of sharing is important for teachers wondering about the potential for video game design but still juggling how to meet their curriculum goals.

Read Infusing Writing Standards into Video Game Design at Middleweb

These ideas were part of a presentation done this past week at a technology conference, and I am revamping the presentation a bit for the Web, so I will share that out another day.

Peace (in the learning),
Kevin

Quotes from a Tech Conference (What I Heard)

I co-presented on our science-based video game project and attended a technology in education conference yesterday. This morning, I was looking over my notes, and I decided to pull out some of the quotes that I heard.

antero

Antero Garcia kicked off the conference with an intriguing youth-centered Keynote Address that reminded us to pay attention to cultural values, students as writers in the larger world outside our classrooms, and the role that educators have in broadening the views of our students.

eric

Eric Braun, a college professor, talked about a digital storytelling app that he and others developed for the Apple Store. I can’t say I was all that ‘wow’-ed by the app itself — it didn’t do anything that free apps can’t do — but the centering of discussion around stories always pulls me in. I had hoped to have a deeper discussion about how digital stories are different media experiences from both the viewer and composer standpoint than print stories (brought to recognition by a question from a participant about printing out the stories made on the app.)

gaby

Gaby Richard-Harrington‘s session on reading and writing in the digital age could have used another hour. It’s a huge topic, as readers of my blog know. And Richard-Harrington’s focus on how we can use technology to improve opportunities for literacy growth for students with learning needs, in particular, was important, and needs much more work done in PD sessions. I loved that she cited the work on Connected Reading ideas of two of my good friends — Troy Hicks and Franki Sibberson — in her presentation. She had to rush through some of the apps that she uses in her teaching life at the end, and I wish we had had more time to play.

peter

And Peter Billman-Golemme got my attention with a session around leaving audio comments on student work right in Google Docs. He showed us the app Kaizena, which seems to have potential but I worry about the complicated set-up (I had issues in setting it up and that sets off red flags for me when thinking of my students … but then, when we had it working, and commenting on writing from others in the session, I could see the idea in action). He shared some research around the power of teacher voice to help students make revisions on text, but admitted that he is still figuring out its impact. I am going to be tinkering more with this app, too, and looking for others that provide the same audio commenting experience (I can see students reflecting on their own writing this way, right?), but with lower entry hurdles (leave comment if you have suggestion, please).

Peace (in the listen),
Kevin

 

 

 

 

 

The Signal From Inside the Annotation Flash Mob Noise

Annotate

That was interesting. Last night, I followed an invitation of my friends, Terry and Joe, and took part in an online annotation Flash Mob experience, where a bunch of folks mostly used the tool Hypothesis (a browser add-on) to close read and annotate a New York Times article … about annotation.

The article is worth reading, just for the read. (if you have the Hypothesis add-on, you can also read all of the annotations on the article, and add your own)

But the act of annotating an online article together, as a crowd, is always an interesting experience. There are a lot of tools out there to do this, from the comment feature in Google Docs to Genius to Diigo and more. Hypothesis is a nice tool, clean to view, and if the tool is activated, when you come to a page that someone else has annotated, it allows you to view and comment and add to other people’s annotations. You can also add images, video and animated GIFs. It saves your annotation into your own “home” stream.

Annotate Flashmob Hangout

The way the Annotation Flash Mob worked was a bunch of us hung out in a Google Hangout, talked about annotation, and then got to work — all the while talking through the annotation process and screen-sharing what we were doing. Well, I found I could not really talk and listen closely, while also reading closely and annotating, so I sort of found myself in my own little cloud of thoughts for a big chunk of time. There was a bit too much “noise” for my brain to handle, but I did the best I could to listen, read and write.

For me, the best part was the end, when we stopped annotating and starting talking reflectively about the implications of this kind of online annotations for learning in the classroom.

  • Ian talked about having students in his college courses annotate the syllabus with suggestions and comments.
  • Joe talked about the power of the crowd, coming together on a single document (apparently, that is going on tonight with the State of the Union speech) as an example of social networking.
  • Jeremy (of Hypothesis) talked about (or wrote about) how teachers can keep track of student work, and the article references how this might fold into student learning portfolios.
  • Terry noticed Karen working all through the hour, and talked about how one might video-capture with reflection the act of annotation as a way to show your learning and thinking.
  • Remi noted how this kind of active annotation might have more value than Twitter chats and other social gathering activities, where too much affirmation and cordiality might soften some deeper learning and sharing of insights.

Many of us, including me, wondered, as voiced by Terry, So now that you have all this “noise” of annotation, how do you find the signal? How do you curate your annotations, and your crowd’s annotations, into something useful that moves beyond that single moment of time?

We did not have a solid answer, except to note that teaching the art of curation is getting relatively short-thrift in a lot of our classrooms. Ian noted that by not teaching curating, we are missing an opportunity and important skills in the information-rich Digital Age.

I agree. This blog post is one way that I am doing for myself. I am trying to make sense of our Flash Mob activity, but to be frank, the idea of now going back through more than 50 annotations on the page from last night seems rather daunting …

Peace (in the signal),
Kevin

 

Short Poems for Shortened Days (Twitter Haiku)

For just about every day in December, as the days got shorter and shorter, I joined a group of friends in writing poetry, mostly haiku, and sharing out via Twitter each morning. Some others wrote at their blogs and then shared the links on Twitter. I decided that I would just use Twitter, and then half-way through the month, I realized something: I was losing track of the poems. They were disappearing into the media stream.

So I set up a Storify project and began backtracking in time, gathering the poems together, and then each day afterwards, I made sure to add the new poem into the collection. Phew.

What’s interesting *and a bit frustrating* is that the haiku lining formatting gets flattened in this kind of sharing. I guess you will have envision the 5/7/5 syllables. Still, in this way, the tweets seem like another form of poetry, with words flowing across the character confines.

Thank you Mary Lee, Carol, Steve, Leigh, and Carol.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin