A Poem, A Puzzle, An Act of Playfulness

So, I had this idea … what if I wrote a poem and delivered bits and pieces of it (let’s call them stanzas, shall we?) to a few friends in online spaces and asked them to piece the poem together over social media? What would that look like? How would you even pull it off? And this began an adventure this weekend with three of my friends — Charlene, Sheri and Terry — as I launched a poem like a balloon and watched it wander off.

My goal as a writer in digital spaces was to try to figure out how to make this kind of playfulness meaningful and to extend out the poem’s life beyond me writing it and me publishing it. It helped that I know Terry, Sheri and Charlene are game for the oddness of play, as we all were deeply involved in the Making Learning Connected MOOC experience over the last two summers.

In the end, what I decided to do was make the poem a puzzle. The embedded Thinglink here is an annotated version of a flowchart that I created (first, on scrap paper, and then later, with an app) to try to show what happened to the poem and the puzzle over the weekend. The challenge for them was to find their way to the website where the entire poem was published — all four stanzas (they only each received a single stanza, in isolation).

I put the poem a link beyond a password-protected website that I set up, and their task was to coordinate together to find the code word that would unlock the website that would lead them to the poem. Along the way, they made their own poems and pictures and websites, and used a hashtag on Twitter to share (and for me to give out clues).

It was fun to watch unfold — using writing and social media as “game” for reading, listening and collaborating, and trying to coordinate it from afar took some doing. But I think a variation of this kind of activity could be used as a model for how to think of literacy in the context of social media and social gathering.

It become the poem I let loose like a balloon to the sky …

Charlene later asked, how could this translate into a classroom experience? Good question and one I am still mulling over. I suspect you could replicate it in offline space by using stanzas of poems as clues to some larger mystery that students have to collaboratively solve. Or have students create the poems that become the clues … there are possibilities.


Peace (in the poem),

Audio Poem: Before Dawn/Walking Home

SeeSound Audio Recorder

The image above is a visual wave-file representation of an audio poem I wrote for the learning cycle of Walk My World — where the focus is on the dawn. And it turns out, the YouShow theme recently has been audio, too. The audio recording here was done in a very nifty online tool called SeeSound, which I found thanks to two Maker/CLMOOC friends — Stephanie and Rob. I love the audio-becomes-visual element, and I wish I could download the live view as video (I guess I could take it as screencast).

I wrote this poem in the hours before dawn, when I am up before the world is up (mostly) and writing every morning. It’s just the dog and I, in the snowstorm this morning, and he goes back to sleep after our walk through the neighborhood while I pound on the keys here. I am often awake before I am awake. If I am working on an idea, I wake up, knowing my head was working out phrases and concepts during the night. If I don’t wrote, I lose it.

So I write before the sun comes up, just about every single day. (Like, right now).

Before Dawn poem

Here, then is my poem: Before Dawn. What I did was record it via SeeSound, downloaded the audio file, and then used the “reverse” switch to make the audio file go backwards (take that, Led Zep!), and tacked it on to the end of the forward file with Audacity, so that the poem is me moving forward and backwards. The poem then is hosted at Soundcloud.

Peace (in the visual poem),

How Not to Explain the Internet (in Comic Form)

The other day, my friend Ian O’Byrne referenced this great piece by Doug Belshaw about how to explain the Web to kids. Ian is now inviting a bunch of people to think about how to do this, to extend out Doug’s piece. I thought I would try my hand at comics, and quickly found I didn’t know how to put my explanation into simple, understandable language.


Words like “nodes” and “data packets” and “graphic interface” — those won’t work on younger kids. And it occurred to me that while Doug was referencing the “Web,” I was referencing the “Internet” and while connected, these are slightly different concepts. Unfortunately, I only thought that thought right now as I am writing these words. I think of the Internet as that invisible stream of information shared among many computers while the Web is how we interact with that information.


Anyhow, here are my attempts to explain the Internet. The three comics are from three different apps on my iPad: Make Beliefs (free), and then Rosie Comics and Comics Head (free version available). I don’t really think you can learn what the Internet is from my comics, but if it makes you chuckle, then I have done my job.

Explaining the Internet (sort of)

Explaining the Internet (sort of)

Explaining the Internet (sort of)

How would you explain the Internet/Web to a child?

Peace (in the think),

Tweets Transformed into Poems (sort of)

My friend, Janet, shared this interesting tool called Poetweet the other day. It takes your Twitter stream and based on your decision of the style you want (three choices), it creates a poem of sorts. What’s interesting is that the site also annotates the phrases with links back to the original tweet.
PoetTweet my Twitter
(Check out the live link to the poem here)

Now I wish I had more wittier things in my Twitter stream … but that opening line — To Brady Bunch and Clone Wars … that’s a classic! And then reference towards the end to “found poetic lines”- that’s me, all right.

Peace (in the poem),

Connected Poem: The End of the Internet

Anybody else read the fascinating article in The New Yorker about the work by the Internet Archives to make a database of the entire Internet? I know about the Internet Archives and its Wayback Machine, but the piece by Jill Lepore  — called The Cobweb — was intriguing in many ways. (See my own blog in the archives).

The article had me thinking and that thinking led me to a poem, in which I used Hypothesis annotation tool as a sort of connector between my poem and Lepore’s article — with comments in the annotations as the sort of glue that holds it together.

A Glimpse of The End of the Internet
A Connected Poem
Kevin Hodgson

This morning, just after dawn,
with the blue lights flashing like shooting stars,
we bid farewell to the archived Internet —
all twenty six thousands pounds of it packed tight
inside a shipping container —
and we began again.

Some of us worry about the loss of memory
while others of us wonder about the possibility
of reinvention of the world,
now that we know how to build what we built
before we knew what we were building,
and how all those little scraps of words and images
and sounds and videos had become a scattered
collection of us.

Someone popped the cork off the champagne,
passed the bottle around, as the ship sailed off,
and someone else raised up a glass in a toast
to the potential of finally living in
the moment.

What none of us saw or imagined was the debris
of the Internet left behind in all the far
corners of the world,
in places where no amount of scrubbing
ever made the place clean.
Here, there were echoes of the past, imbuing us with
false knowledge of false starts, so that what we are building
becomes is built on the bones
of what we already built, for some things are beyond
our understanding.

One hundred days later, we all forgot anyway.

Works cited (if only temporarily and with little value as to the permanence of this piece):

Lepore, Jill. “The Cobweb.” The Cobweb. The New Yorker, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Jan. 2015. Funny how I was able to access this before the publication date, as if I stepped back in time to gather the article about archiving the past ….


Peace (in the poem),

Going Nutty on a Flag


Alan Levine shared out this very cool suite of text/photo editors the other day called Picture to People, and this morning, after making a flag as part of the YouShow’s “The Daily” — a fun “make” activity each day on Twitter — I decided to see what I could do to my flag by putting it through a few of the image generators.

Unknown Country Flag Collage

Peace (in the tinker),


When Connected …

Joining in Nile Conference

I was able to join in a conversation taking place in Egypt yesterday, hosted by two friends named Maha. It was a conference called NileTESOL  and the session by Maha B. and Maha A. was about using online resources in the teaching of English. I participated in a Twitter chat for a bit and then jumped into a Google Hangout for a spell. (TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

Think about that for a second: from my home in Massachusetts, USA, I was engaged in a discussion about teaching at a conference taking place simultaneously in the Middle East, chatting with folks in a hangout from South America (I think that’s where one of them was from) and listening to a student in France talk about how he uses digital media in the classroom (with my friend, Simon).

When we talk about the connected world and how it can open up new avenues for sharing, that’s the power of the connection.

Peace (across the world),

Using MapStack: Water and Parks as Art

Mapping Water and Parks in Northampton
The other day, I wrote a review about The Best American Infographics of 2014, and noted the reference to a free data mapping tool called MapStack. I gave it a try and it was interesting. The image above is a map of where I live, with waterways and parks referenced in a watercolor overlay. It looks very artistic, doesn’t it?

Want to make your own? Here is a quick tutorial video, but I just went in and played around to make mine. I wish there were more data points to use, but I still found the site intriguing as a map representation of a geographic area.

Map Stack Tutorial from Stamen on Vimeo.

Peace (in the map),