Animated Acrostic: Minaret

For today’s Wonder Poem about the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Turkey, I chose an animated acrostic, using a Mozilla Thimble template designed by some National Writing Project friends that makes kinetic text poems. I was looking for a way for text to drop out, leaving only the main word in the margins. I think it worked out OK.

Here is the original poem:

Many people believe
In sacred towers, reaching skyward -
Never truly fallen,
And always put back by the faithful;
Rest assured the same will happen with us
Even though actions and words may be driven by anger
There is always the chance to start over again.

Here is a screenshot of my kinetic text poem (but you will need to follow the link to get there):
minaret

And here is the code of the poem itself:
minaret code

What’s nice about Thimble is you can remix the code yourself, too. At the Thimble file, click “remix” and get started (you will need a Mozilla Webmaker account, I believe, but I highly recommend it for all the cool stuff Mozilla is putting together around web design and web composition).

Peace (in the falling words),
Kevin

DigiLit Sunday: Tapestry

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

My friend, Margaret, hosts a Sunday DigiLit sharing at her blog. She asks us to write about digital writing techniques and tools, so today, I thought I would share out an app that I really like for its simplicity as much as the way a piece of writing can unfold.

It’s called Tapestry, and there is an App and a website. I find myself mostly using the website but I need to explore the App again (as it recently got an upgrade and I am curious). Tapestry works sort of like a series of slides, but you can format text to unfold when a person taps or clicks the screen. So, you hide words and phrases, and let the reader discover the text on their own.

You can add images, too, but I personally like the clean design elements and often keep images to a minimum. Check out Tapestry and let me know how it goes and what you think.

Here is an example that I shared the other day, as I collected haikus from teachers who write with me in the National Writing Project iAnthology space every week:

Peace (in the tap),
Kevin

Infographic: Online Activities of Kids

I’m working on a presentation to a group of mothers in the town where I teach about digital citizenship, and found this infographic by ebuyer that is handy, with useful information about technology use by kids.
digital generation infographic
Peace (in the sharing),.
Kevin

Into the Catacombs of Time: A MultiMedia Poem

This is part of poetry inspired by the Wonders of the World. Today, Mary Lee has us thinking about the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa in Egypt. I wrote a poem, and then decided to use Popcorn Maker to add the visual and audio elements to the poetry.

I descend into the past
down stone steps
past ancient corners
through the rough artistry
of slaves bent on freedom
one floor
two floor
three floors deep
running my fingernails across the wall
as I walk slowly into history flanked by falcons
and the power of the sun into the hearts of men
until I reach the three coffins of rock
in this mound of shards,
wondering all the while whose bones
sleep amid all of this silent chaos.

Peace (in the deep),
Kevin

Staying Closed in the Age of Open

ianthology
I’ve been having an interesting conversation among some friends about a networking space for National Writing Project teachers that has been active and nurtured for, gosh, at least five or six years now. My friend, Bonnie Kaplan, and I conceived and launched the iAnthology (with initial grant funding and support from NWP) during a time when there was palpable anxiety about writing and sharing online, and so, we built it as a closed community, of sorts. (It was designed to emulate a summer networking site for NWP called the eAnthology, which some of you NWP folks might remember.)

The iAnthology is a Ning site for NWP-affiliated teachers, so we have opened up the homepage but everything else under the hood — all of the participants’ writing and commenting and sharing — is not viewable by the general public. We even made a promise to our participants at the start — this space would be a closed community. Many early participants expressed gratitude that this would be the case, and some noted that they would not have joined otherwise. It was a sign of the times.

In fact, I remember setting up a blog for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute one summer, and somehow, a few of the photos from the private site got archived by Google search (some tech glitch that I never quite figured out), and a teacher whose headshot could now be found on Google was irate and angry, demanding that we call Google and demand that her headshot get removed from any search queries. I was patient with her, and did some research and filed a request, but even then, I knew she was in a hopeless battle against the flow of information. I did feel guilty as the tech person who set up a site that allowed this to happen, though. We had promised privacy and the public had creeped in. It felt like a betrayal of sorts, even though I thought the reaction did not quite merit the offense, but there could have been some underlying story about protecting her identity that I did not know about.

But times have changed, haven’t they? The anxiety among us is not what it used to be. People share everywhere now — on Facebook, on Twitter, with Instagram and Flickr, with YouTube. We’ve since added a Twitter connection to our iAnthology site, and there is a companion Facebook page. We’ve had a group on Flickr, etc. The flow of connections continues to extend outward.

Check out this chart I made about Open Learning a few weeks ago:

 

Or take part in the Online Learning site, which fosters the idea of wide open spaces for self-directed inquiry. Open learning is everywhere, and changing the face of how we write, connect, share and construct networked communities. It’s become a fabric of our times.

So, our conversations this past week among a few site leaders have revolved around the prospect of opening up more of the iAnthology to public viewing, perhaps, in hopes that we might get more participation. We are also noticing how the seamless connection between platforms (ie, I write here, and share there and there, so that invisible threads connect what I am doing in one space to another space, and you connect with me).

One one hand, I agree with a shift towards “open” and in my heart, I see the merits on many levels. On the other hand, I remember the promise that we built the site upon — the prospect of closed walls — and I think about the stories and writing and images that hundreds of people have shared over the years in a space they assumed was and would be closed, and what it would mean to change the “terms of agreement.”

It feels like Facebook’s dance with privacy, and its claim that open is always better, and that unsettles me. Of course, with Facebook, the “open is better” means “more inroads for advertisements and profits.” We make no money off our writing community, and in fact, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has funded the Ning for the past few years as a way to support and nurture teachers-as-writers.

And so, my impulse is to keep the site closed and private, although I suspect that if Bonnie and I were to build a writing community today, I would advocate for an open space with many nodes of entry and sharing in a heartbeat. Times have changed. Yet promises are important and trust in one’s word is one of the anchors of any writing community. So I think we will probably remain closed in the age of open.

Peace (in reflection),
Kevin

PS — Are you a NWP teacher or a teacher who has some connection to NWP? Come join us at the iAnthology. We have weekly writing prompts, a Photo Fridays feature, and a shifting variety of activities.

 

Slice of Life: A Little Scratch

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

In my push to experience a variety of open education programs (MOOCs and such), I signed up for the Learning Connected Learning 2 through the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten project (and via the Educator Innovator network). I’m feeling a bit lost with it, though, and I can’t tell if it my own fault (I haven’t been paying attention?) or the way the course is set up (it isn’t drawing me in as it should?).

I’m paying attention to this feeling of not quite being “there” because this coming summer, as with last summer, I am going to help to lead the Making Learning Connected MOOC for teachers (I hope you come, too!) We had a blast last summer — playing, making, connecting, reflecting — and we hope to replicate the experience and expand it this summer, too. Without pointing fingers at the LCL2 folks, who no doubt have worked hard to create a space for exploration, something seems to be lacking for me. I don’t feel connected into the experience. But it might be me, and I might need to buckle down and dive deeper in.

So, yesterday morning, I tried one of the activities: introduce yourself via Scratch. If you don’t know what Scratch is, it’s a programming tools out of MIT that allows you to do simple coding and animation. I’ve never been a huge fan of Scratch — when I have used it with students, they lose interest quickly — but I like the concept of visual programming, and you can see the influence of Scratch’s innovative ideas in many apps and programs that teach students how to program and code. Apparently, though, thousands of kids are regularly using it, and the Scratch Community is huge and very active. So, it might be the way I taught Scratch, and not the platform itself. (There’s a theme of doubt coursing this post, I realize).

Here’s what I created as a short introduction to myself in Scratch:

This is a screenshot of the editor area:
me on scratch
Peace (in the play),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Start of Something Interesting

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

Midway through the very first  #TeachWriting Twitter chat last night, I finally chimed in. I had other things going on and so I didn’t get home until the halfway point of the chat, a bi-monthly chat on Tuesday nights centered around the teaching of writing. The brainchild of Lisa Hughes and Ben Kuhlman (maybe others? not sure), #TeachWriting is another way for teachers to share with and learn from each other, in the fast-flowing realm of Twitter chat.

A few months ago, Troy Hicks and I offered up some feedback to Lisa and Ben as they were planning because Troy and I have done these kinds of chats before (including one together, via NCTE for Digital Learning Day.) Really, though, Ben and Lisa did fine on their own. But when Ben shouted out earlier in the week that he hoped to see me at the chat, I knew I had a conflict and might miss it.

I’m glad I caught the second half, as the flow of discussion was amazing, rich and expansive, and there were many people in the Twitter Chat that I had never run across before (an ancillary gift from #TeachWriting). It’s heartening to know that so many folks care so deeply about writing, and want to know how best to get their students to care about writing, too. I was a little worried that Lisa and Ben might only have a few folks, but … not a worry! Dozens of people seemed to be involved, sharing ideas and asking questions, and making connections across disciplines and time zones. It was the perfect example of the power of a Twitter Chat.

So, how do you get involved?

Every other Tuesday night (the next one will be April 11, I believe, with Beth Holland and Shaelynn Farnsworth), jump onto Twitter and find the #TeachWriting hashtag. More information is at the website: http://teachwritingchat.org/ and sign up for the newsletter. Also, follow the chat’s twitter account at @teachwriting2

One word of advice, if you have never joined in a chat: consider using a Twitter Chat client of some sort. I use TweetChat but there are others that allow you to focus on specific hashtags.

See you on the Interwebz!

Peace (in the chat),
Kevin

The Office Time Machine Project: Cultural References Remix

Wow.

To prove culture is not only everywhere, but that certain references to films, songs, and works of art are critical for our collective understanding of comedy and to the importance of relating to content, I found every cultural, real-life reference from every episode of The Office. – Joe Sabia

This Office Time Machine remix project by Joe Sabia to use The Office and cultural references to show how copyright pushes up against creativity is pretty amazing, insightful, entertaining and just … fun. Sabia pulled all of the cultural references from the American-version of The Office and mixed them into video formats.

He explains that the year-by-year season project (which took him a year and half to do) was designed to see the prism of culture that gets reflected everywhere and how copyright laws “fall flat” in the modern age of digital media and borrowing/remixing of ideas.

Sabia ends his project’s website with some suggestions for where folks can go from here, after being entertained by his video endeavors with The Office and cultural references (he found 1,300, by the way).

Sign up for Fightforthefuture.org. And check out these sites:

Transformative Works, EFF, and Creative Commons
Everything is a Remix by Kirby Ferguson,
Supercut. by Andy Baio.
And for further study, read Lawrence Lessig, and John Tehranian

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin

Six Years of Writing: When I Began to Tweet and Why

Twitter has done something interesting for its 8th birthday: it is allowing folks to find their very first tweet. I couldn’t resist — mainly because I couldn’t remember how long ago that was nor could I even vaguely remember what I wrote for my very first tweet?
first tweet feb2008

 

Oh.

How creative! (snark)

But 31,000 tweet later as @dogtrax (I know? What the heck do I write about? I don’t know), I am still wondering how to push the boundaries of the 140 characters. I write 25 word stories, tinker with hashtags, collaborate across the world, make memes, take part in Twitter chats, share with others and steal from others (and remix what others are stealing from others). My professional development will never be the same. It’s an odd thing, this Twitter.

I started to use Twitter in 2008 a few months after a National Writing Project gathering in Amherst, where Bud Hunt (aka @budtheteacher) chatted over dinner one night about this thing called Twitter, and he wasn’t quite sure of all the possibilities and potentials for writers, but he was pretty confident it was not a flash-in-the-pan kind of technology. He grappled to explain it to us, and we grappled to understand. 140 characters? A stream of tweets? What the heck is he talking about?

As usual, Bud pointed us in the right direction. I started tweeting and haven’t stopped (see this post from 2008 that collects my first few tweets.) It’s true that not everyone cares or should care about what I post, but every now and then, something clicks and connects — some ideas that suddenly transforms your view of the world or your view of teaching or your kids, or technology — and in that moment, the power of Twitter is suddenly exposed. You do have to get through a lot of LOL Cats to get there but …. you know … it’s worth it.

Not long after I started on Twitter, I composed this poem:

I Dream in Twitter
Listen to the podcast

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters
that cut off my thoughts before they are complete
and then I wonder, why 140?
Ten more letters would serve me right
as I write about what I am doing at that moment
in time,
connecting across the world with so many others
shackled by 140 characters, too,
and I remain amazed at how deep the brevity can be.

I find it unsettling to eavesdrop on conversations
between two
when you can only read one
and it startles me to think that someone else out there
has put their ear to my words
and wondered the same about me.
Whose eyes are watching?

Twitter is both an expanding universe
of tentacles and hyperlinks that draw you in
with knowledge and experience
and a shrinking neighborhood of similar voices,
echoing out your name
in comfortable silence.

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters,
and that is what I am doing
right
at
this
moment.

Then later, I wrote and recorded this song:

Twitter This

I get up in the morning and I twitter all my dreams
140 characters is just enough for me
Then, each moment of the day becomes a Twitter storm
until the world is at my doorstep and everyone belongs
to

This Twitter space
inside this Twitter place
I’ve got a little bit of smile
on my Twitter face
Take me as a friend
or shut me out cold
I’m gonna keep on Twittering
until the platform gets old

I’m reading all my friends — the ones I haven’t met
from all across the globe, it’s a safety net
We’re putting pressure on Iran — let the China wall fall
let the information flow so we can all crawl
inside

This Twitter space
inside this Twitter place
I’ve got a little bit of smile
on my Twitter face
Take me as a friend
or shut me out cold
I’m gonna keep on Twittering
until the platform runs cold

 

Peace (in the tweet),
Kevin

From A to B and Back Again: Flowchart Poetry

I found myself diving down one of those writing rabbit holes yesterday morning as I began exploring some of the “add-ons” that are now available in Google Drive. One of the free programs — WebSequenceDiagrams — creates flowcharts, with a little sequential coding.

I wondered if there was a way to write a poem in a flowchart format? Could the ideas of the poem be represented visually and with connections back and forth? So, I gave it a go.

From A to B and Back Again: A Flowchart of a Poem

This verse emerged
as I went in reverse …

flowchart poem code

from ideas
to words
to poems
to publishing
to comments
to collaboration
to poems
to words
to ideas

Flowchart Poem

all the way back to where I first started,
opening the door here
for you.

Interesting, eh? But does it work as a poem? I’m not sure the diagram flows exactly as I had it in mind, and that might be limited by the free version of the add-on, as much as my own lack of understanding flow charts. Still … intriguing possibilities.

Peace (in the visual),
Kevin