Writing with Light: I Fear I Left the Poem Behind

I fear I left the poem behind

I was reading the Sunday newspaper, when I came upon an interview with a writer who has published a new book about the history of computer Word Processors. The writer is Mathew Kirschenbaum and his book is Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing.

The conversation was interesting (including one point where he found historical references to writing on the screen as “writing with light” — that stuck with me and became ‘refolding these pockets of light’ in the poem), as it centered on the ways early Word Processing programs changed the way some people write (or at least, the perceptions of the writing process).

The interview references a famous quote by Joan Didion about how writing is a bit like sculpture, and a writer chips away to create form. Didion was referring to creative non-fiction writing from the strands of inquiry and research, I am sure, but I starting thinking of poetry in context to her insight, and how space and inference play a part in writing poetry. What you leave out is as important as what you leave in.

Writing nonfiction is more like sculpture, a matter of shaping the research into the finished thing. - Joan Didion

I’ve seen the Didion quote before but something about it, in context to the discussion about digital writing, stuck with me for the day, and that led to the poem above, called I Fear I Left the Poem Behind.

Peace (with hammers and chisels),

At Middleweb: Digital Portfolios (teacher edition)


Kevin professional digital portfolio

In my latest blog post at Middleweb, I explore the potential of digital portfolios for teachers. (My follow-up in a few weeks will focus on how my students are creating their own digital writing portfolios as the school year comes to a close). Here, I explore my own shift towards a digital teaching portfolio as home for evidence and reflection for my educator evaluation process.

Check out: Exploring the Potential of Digital Portfolios

Peace (port it),

Blackout Poems: Name Recognition

(I am using the New York Times interactive Blackout Poetry site for a few days to create Blackout poems. They give you some articles to choose from. You create poems of no more than 15 words. The interactive does the blacking out around your chosen words. It’s pretty cool. You can also read other poems built around the same articles. Give it a try.)

Blackout Poetry1

Process Note: This poem is created from an article about model Kate Upton and her attempt to move into acting. It’s also about what beauty is in the age of viral images. In this poem, I tried to keep my attention on the recognition of name in pop culture, and the transient nature of likes and thumbs-ups and more. That “no more than a cameo” is a good line. I also liked the floating off the page concept.

Peace (in what’s unsaid),

Immersed in the Music: Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan and You


This is a pretty amazing use of video technology by the team that continues to share out the late Jeff Buckley’s music. They have used Buckley’s cover of a Dylan song (Just Like a Woman), and made an interactive watching/listening experience for the viewer/listener — transforming the song and interpretation by Buckley into something magical. Not to mention with sexdecillion combinations (according to the producers .. I didn’t count).

They say:

All together there are over 16,000 different music combinations that can be created. The video contains 73 different animated cells that can be clicked or tapped to alter the story, adding up to a staggering number of possible visual and story combinations: approximately 1 sexdecillion. That’s a 1 followed by 51 zeros.

Throughout the song, you can click on small images which change the ‘story’ of the song, as Buckley’s amazing voice and single guitar guide you through, and then a few minutes in, they start sprinkling remix options, where choosing various paths add new layers to the track you are listening to at that moment. Strings get added or removed. A guitar run comes into play. Keyboards move up in the mix.


I found myself deep inside Buckley’s voice here. I worried that the immersion in the video might distract me from the song and the singing. Maybe it is because I already know the song. Maybe it is because I already know Buckley’s voice. But the combination of listening and exploring combined for me into a satisfying experience all around.


And now the question that comes to my mind? How did they do it? I want to see a “behind the scenes” video of how this all came to be created? I want to learn about the process and wonder about how one might even venture forward this way? I wonder how this might be viewed and taught as ‘writing’ in the digital age.

Peace (in the Muse),

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),

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),


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),


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.


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),