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),

Showing the Work of Showing Your Work

Show Yer Work #walkmyworld
The other day, Terry left a comment here about the need for more of us to show our work when creating digital compositions. It not only provides reflection points but creates a path forward for others to also make things and learn from others.

That led me to create the comic there (I guess Terry is the giraffe), using an interesting view tool in Firefox that allows you to access a 3D version of a website, and then twist and turn it.

In the interest of showing your work, here is how to use Firefox (I think it only works with Firefox browser) to explore the architecture of a site and its connections beyond.

First, with Firefox open on a site, right-click mouse on your screen. Select “Inspect Element.”
Explore Web Architecture1

Second, there is a little 3D box in the lower corner of the screen. Click that to access 3D view mode.
Explore Web Architecture2

Now, use your mouse or cursor and drag the screen. The perspective will shift and spin, giving you a view of links and media, and even a true behind-the-scenes views of a website.
Explore Web Architecture3

Have fun!

Peace (in the share),

Gathering Resources on PARCC (via Diigo Outliner)

Parcc Outline in Diigo
I am working with a team as consultants to an urban STEM middle school, where PARCC is on the horizon and administrators and teachers are starting to get nervous.  They work in a large school district, where data and test numbers matter in what one could only say is out of proportion to the work being done by these teachers. I don’t blame them for getting nervous about PARCC. There are shifts coming and the sense in the school is that students are not quite ready for the expectations of the writing. Maybe not the teachers, either.

So, as much to help them as to help me and my colleagues (PARCC is coming for us, too, but not this year) think about this testing, I tinkered around with a new tool in Diigo called Outliner, which allows you to outline bookmarks with notes. It seemed to work pretty well for me.

See what you think, and feel free to use any of the resources. Notice my first two resources and also my last category .. keeping teaching and learning in perspective as best as we can, you know?

Check out my PARCC Outliner Resource

Peace (yep, PARCC),

When a Shared Link Becomes a Kinetic Poem

Yesterday morning, Terry Elliott shared out a link to a site/app called Patatap, which allows you to make music of a sort by using the keyboard of your computer (or the screen of your mobile device, I guess … I didn’t try that yet). Playing around with the keyboard had me thinking: what if the keys I pressed were not random at all, but were words? What if I made music to say something?

That led to this, as I type in Dogtrax three times. (I used Snagit to do a video capture).

Later, as Terry gave it a try, too, and then Susan and others, I thought: what if we could take a small poem (Susan suggested a haiku) and superimpose the words with the keyboard-music, and maybe add some text? What would that look like as a video?

This is what it looked like, and sounded like …

It was a nifty bit of playing with poetry. How did I do it?

  • Wrote the poem (duh) and purposely made it short. I decided that it needed some sort of music theme or tie-in, thus the “meshing of melody” ending.
  • Opened up Patatap, and Snagit.
  • Began recording, and as I spoke the words of the poem, I typed the words of the poem in Patatap. I think the narration is a bit stilted, as I was trying to find some rhythm to the words and still keep the rhythm of the tapping.
  • Saved the video file. Uploaded video to Youtube.
  • I then used YouTube video editor to add in “annotations” and that allowed me to layer in the text. I tried not to use every word in the poem. Instead, I was going for ideas, letting the narration move the poem along.
  • Finally, I shared it out.
  • You try it?

Peace (in the poem),