A #Tomereaders Story of Quotes

I am reading Teaching Naked  (about how best to use technology at the university level while maintaining strong in-class connections with students) with some other folks in and out of social media spaces, and while I will be missing Twitter Chats and face-to-face gatherings, I still feel connected in my own way.

This week, I saw and shared this post about Summer Reading Challenges for students at Educator Innovator, and sent the link forward. I haven’t perused all of the projects that harness video for understanding literature, and making cool stuff.

But I thought it might be intriguing to do a digital story with quotes from Teaching Naked that I have been sticky-noting (is that a word? No red squiggle there) as I have been reading, as my version is a borrowed library copy of the book. I turned to the easiest app (and it is free) I know to make digital stories: Adobe Voice.

But I am not done yet. It occurred to me that my own voice is missing, so I am going to work on layering in some commentary in a second version of this project later this week. I’ll see how it goes. The idea is to push technology in a different way.

Peace (in the quote parade),

Thoughts From the Periphery (or Tossing Balls Against the Wall)

Whenever I went to see if I might glimpse at what was going on in the Facebook group for the Rhizomatic Learning adventure, this is what I would see:

Facebook Gate


The wall. The gate. The closed door.

It’s been intriguing being a complete outsider to the Facebook experience for both Rhizo14 and Rhizo15. I have a personal aversion to Facebook that I won’t get into here, other than my belief that Zuckerberg and company are privacy pirates not fit to own my media, and so, I knew both times (Rhizo14 and Rhizo15) that many conversations were unfolding in a space I was not in, and sometimes wondered:

What are they talking about over there?

When we consider open learning experiences, we are told (as participants) and we tell others (as facilitators) to “use the space you are in” and branch out from there. But I wonder if, even with a blog hub like Dave’s posts for each learning cycle and all the efforts to pull the disparate parts together to re-align the thinking, we aren’t being exclusive at the same time of being inclusive. Can we be both? I don’t know. I think so.

Imprecise graphing

I am intrigued by the notion of being an active insider in at least two spaces (Twitter and GPlus) but a complete outsider in a third space (Facebook). Reading the comments of some folks who have bveen writing in a collaborative document about how positive Facebook has been to their Rhizomatic Learning experiences, I realize only now, later, how rich those conversations must have been. And what people did I miss entirely? Are there whole swarms of folks who engaged in Facebook but nowhere else whose ideas could have informed my understanding? I suspect, the answer is yes.

I find myself reading echoes of the past, trying to connect the dots from these reflections to my own experiences, and noticing the gaps, too late. Or not. My own experiences were rich with content and connections, too.

While the Rhizomatic Learning Facebook group was open, it was only open if you were in Facebook, and unless I became a member (and thus, had to join Facebook … not happening … see above), I could not view the conversations unfolding there in FB from the outside.

The “Log into Facebook” screen that greeted me when I followed a link was like a locked door, and I did not have the key, and was unwilling to pay the price to be let in. I find it an interesting and intriguing dilemma of open learning: the social media place where the most people are in is the very social media place that keeps the most people out.

Don’t you?

Peace (tossing balls against the wall of Facebook),

At Middleweb: Writing Poems, Digitally


My latest post over at Middleweb is about a poetry project in which my students not only write digital poems, but learned about the use of image and citation, and the underlying structure of the Internet itself: the hyperlink.

Check out some of my students’ poems and the way I shaped the lessons around technology and writing

Speaking of technology and writing, spend a few minutes watching this video. Brad Wilson gave a short Ignite talk at MRA (Michigan Reading Association) on how to shift away from talking about technology itself and instead, to talk about writing. He lays the blame for students not fully engaging in writing in a digital age to teachers, and then shows a potential path forward.


Peace (in the share),

Writing A Poem, Making Some Music

Wendy showed me this neat site (MusicFont) that turns words into manuscript music, and then generates a MIDI file of the music (then, you probably need to convert the MIDI track into MP3). I could not resist taking a poem I wrote for Terry the other day, transforming the poem into sheet music, and then generating an audio file. The result is rather fascinating, as you can “hear” a musical interpretation of the words of the poem.

This is the poem:

Poem about the Rain

I love how technology has the potential to transform our writing into something slightly askew, allowing us to experience composition from its many angles. Here, you may only hear the music (and it a bit odd, sort of new age classical, as if the rules if composing were being a bit bent) and think, what’s so special about that?


I read the musical notes on the manuscript page, and think about the correlation to the poem, and then hear the music as a sensory companion to the words that I wrote, the rain coming, which were words first inspired by a poem that my friend Terry Elliott wrote.

That’s a pretty cool journey for a poem ….

Peace (in the sound of words),


Talk Back to Video: Encouraging Dialogue

Terry introduced me to Vialogues long ago and I still return to it as an easy-entry way to interact with videos. Here, I took Dave Cormier’s video for the second week of Rhizomatic Learning, and invite others to join me in “talking back to Dave” this week. You are invited, too.
Here is the direct link (the embed is looking funky right now … HalfDave or something)

Peace (in the talk),

Muse (the poem); Inspired by The Crossover

I just finished The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, which is a verse novel that won the Newberry Award this year for young adult fiction. It’s good, and I can see how the appeal of the poem/story (a teenage boy and his twin brother, both basketball stars, and their father, a fading sports star) will resonate with kids, particular those athletes with an eye on the game, and maybe show them some potential of poetry as a freeing way to tell a story.

Alexander’s book inspired me to try my own poem this morning about a song I have not been able to write because something keeps eluding me:

Muse (a poem)

Peace (in the shape of the story),

Pew: Teens, Social Media and Implications for Learning

The Pew Research Center just released another one of its surveys of young people, seeking to gather data on how young people are using technology. As always, it is fascinating to examine the data analysis of the Pew researchers, and think about considerations for schools, particularly the often disconnect that happens between the writing/composing they do in school and the writing/composing they do outside of school.

Look at this chart:

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat Top Social Media Platforms for Teens
So many kids in so many spaces, with Facebook still at the top of the heap (despite reports that young people are leaving Facebook in a flurry). The number that jumps out at me is shown in the report before this: 92 percent of teenagers report going online at least once every single day. And 24 percent report being “constant” users of online sites during the day. As much as I am advocate for digital literacies, that number alarms me on some basic level, sparking the concerns about how online spaces are shaping social norms and social interactions.

Frequency of Internet Use by TeensAs educators, we need to consider this as both an opportunity for teaching skills around reading and writing and collaboration, and wonder about the time spent in social media spaces. I don’t have an answer to the question: is this good or bad? It just is. Even though my students are younger than this scale, I know I need to keep this kind of awareness of online presence in mind when I think about how best to engage my students as writers and thinkers. To turn a blind eye would be counter-productive to learning.

You need to read the whole Pew report, or the summaries, but the writers of the report do a nice job of showing the growing digital divide, too, where socio-economics play a role in access and use of technology. I suspect this issue needs to be teased out even more, particularly when it comes to school policies and priorities.

It will come as no surprise that I was interested in the results around gaming and gender. I can’t say the results were surprising, with boys dominating the graphs as players. I do wonder if the kinds/genres of games would reveal different results or tease out some interesting elements of how gaming is part of the life of teenagers. I’ll be digging deeper into the report to see. (The social media chart is part of the game chart, and it, too, is interesting to examine along gender lines)Girls Dominate Visually-Oriented Social Media Platforms













For my students, I find that there is more equity in the numbers of boys and girls playing games on mobile devices, and more boys playing console games. In our classroom work, it is clear that girls play different kinds of games than boys, too, and when we work on our video game design unit, girls design games differently than boys, too (speaking generally here). The data here is another piece of information to inform my teaching.

Pew explains how they did the survey:

Data for this report was collected for Pew Research Center. The survey was administered online by the GfK Group using its KnowledgePanel, in English and Spanish, to a nationally representative sample of over 1,060 teens ages 13 to 17 and a parent or guardian from September 25 to October 9, 2014 and February 10 to March 16, 2015. In the fall, 1016 parent-teen pairs were interviewed. The survey was re-opened in the spring and 44 pairs were added to the sample.

Peace (in the data),

Playing with Animation

My students have had some fun this week (in the time after standardized testing) to make some neat stopmotion animation with  a Mozilla-hosted site called Para Para Animation. It’s simple to use, with none of the bells and whistles of more advanced animation programs. (so, that is both good and limiting).

Check out a few of their creations:


Our Quidditch Team Name

Tiger, Jumping

Soccer Goal

Peace (in the frame),

Digital Poetry: What Happened Here?


It’s quite likely I won’t do justice to my thinking but if we consider blogs as a space for reflective practice, then bear with me … I am going to try to think aloud as a writer about my latest project to take a place-based poem about walking to an isolated beach in Maine from here:

Poem draft 1

to here:


and then beyond, to here:


And also into all the strange spaces in-between … and more importantly, I want think about what we mean when we say Digital Poetry or Digital Composition, and what do digital opportunities do to the ways we compose. This is not a throw-away question. Our students are writing all the time, and doing so in interesting ways outside of school. We don’t often think of it as “writing” because it falls outside our traditional, constrained definitions of what writing is.

But they are composing with video. They are composing with video games. They are composing with mixtapes, with memes, with image altering apps. They are composing with online comics, with remixing, with screencasting. They are pushing writing beyond the paper and pen.

If our students are pushing up against the edges of composition, we should be pushing edges, too. Or at least, that’s my view. If we want to be their guide into the way people compose, we need to be writing in different spaces ourselves, experimenting with writing, and discovering the learning possibilities. This is one of those experiences you really can’t view from afar, and judge the merits of. You have to dig in and do it. You need to write digitally.

This comes with a boatload of questions that orbit around a single idea: What is digital writing? I don’t quite know, and I’ve been thinking and tinkering with it for years. There was a question early on in my poetry project in which I shared two visual versions of a draft, and someone asked (quite rightly and quite politely), Why is THAT digital writing? I made a weak argument (as I now think of it) that the two images actually framed the same words in a different light, bringing to the surface a new way to look at written words of the page. Yeah. Maybe. I don’t know.

It was only when I got past my rough draft stage (that first image above) and final draft stage (that second image above) that I began to delve deeper into digital poetry and its possibilities. Here in this stage, I argue, the digital aspects “transformed” the poem in new ways. By using the same poem as my anchor text, the use of various digital tools and apps and spaces allowed me to make something new — with echoes of the original always intact — and provide another road into understanding what writing is and is becoming.

This inquiry is goes to the heart of digital writing. It’s not just taking something and keeping it the same with bells and whistles so that it “looks” shiny and new. Digital writing should alter our perceptions of the text, both as the reader AND as the writer. This two-sided coin is important, as we want to think of how our writing changes just as much as the reading experience changes.

So, for me, when I created a Soundscape story with no words at all in the file, yet words imposed as floating comments; or made a digital story, juxtaposing text and narration with image and music; or when I reframed the words of the poem as art; or when I found a new poem inside the old poem and asked the reader to click the button that dropped words out of sight — these were all decisions that I made to make something new (or at least, attempt to do so).

If you buy my argument (and you may not), then what are the implications for the classroom?

For me, this kind of experimenting — of taking a poem for a walk — allows me to experience possibilities for my students as writers/composers. I am my own guinea pig. I can see that the remixing with Thimble would take time and lessons around coding. I can see that the digital story app would be great to use (if we had iPads). I can see that the site that allowed me to twist words into a shape … we can do that. Using Notegraphy app for a polished-looking final copy? Yep. Introducing soundstories and podcasting? We’ll be there soon enough.

And here, I have my own mentor text to show students (who saw me writing the first draft with them and who have seen the final version that I shared the following day but have not yet been shown the extended remixes). Digital writing not only transforms my own writing process, but it also has the potential to transform my teaching practice as well. The hope is that it may transform my young writers, too.

Thanks for coming along with me on this journey of poetry and reflection. I’d love to know your thoughts on what digital writing is, and isn’t. It’s a term still very much in flux.

Peace (in the poem),