When ‘Present You’ Reads What ‘Past You’ Wrote to ‘Future You’

FutureMe

The other day, I received an email that I first thought was some sort of spam that got through the filter. I almost deleted with the spam button. Then I realized, no, wait, it’s an email from “past me” to “future me” which is now “present me.” Ignore the space-time continuum for a second. It will all make sense.

The email was one I wrote to myself exactly a year ago, using a site called FutureMe, which archives emails and then ships them out at a given time. The catch is that it has to be at least one year into the future. The site allows you to designate the emails as private or public, so you can read what some people write (I have kept mine private).

This is the third time that I have done it (I realized this only after doing a search through my emails although the first time in 2011 was a very short one), and as soon as I finish writing this blog post, I am going to do it all over again, sending some words forward to myself in 2018.

Why?

Well, as I was reading through the email I wrote to myself, I realized both how much my world is the same and how much has changed, and how reading myself writing to myself was a sort of comfort. In the email, I am checking in myself and the family, and wondering how things have turned out. Oldest son off to college? Check. Writing songs? Check. Making comics in connected spaces? Check.

I even shared out my One Little Word from 2016 — “Remember” — and reminded me to keep that word in mind, and asked, what’s this year’s word? (It’s “Filter”)

We’ve used FutureMe as a Daily Connector activity with CLMOOC  (“Connect with Yourself!”) and Connected Courses but I don’t know how many folks have actually done it. You should consider it. A year from now (or further into the future), when you are reading what you wrote to yourself, you’ll be thanking me.

Peace (in the past and into the future),
Kevin

Looking Ahead: What Obama Said

Barack Obama words

Last night, outgoing President Barack Obama gave his farewell address, showing once again a rhetorical fluency and call for seeing the larger picture, even as the immediate field seems to be cluttered with potential chaos and ethical dilemmas.

I know these very characteristics of his public persona in times like this are sometimes the very reasons why people don’t like him and didn’t like or trust Clinton, but I do.

Sure, he did not do all that I wished he would do during his two terms in office, and I worry about how the new administration will boomerang the important policies of the last eight years. I’m doubling my support for my senator, Elizabeth Warren, to be the critic I know she can be, and the voice for the middle class and struggling Americans. But Obama’s words about the larger ideas of America … I needed that.

When Obama first was elected, I wrote and recorded this song as a way to think about the promise of the years ahead. I’m not sure we got there.

Tomorrow’s Never Gone

Peace (in these words and more),
Kevin

Charting My Open Learning

A few weeks ago, Greg McVerry interviewed me for some research he and Sarah Honeychurch are doing about literacy and leadership in open learning spaces. Before our conversation, Greg asked me to construct a diagram of the open learning projects I have been involved with, and gave me the ‘cartesian coordinate’ labels (involvement/learning) to consider playing with.

The diagram above is the best I could do .. I am sure I am probably leaving things out (Slice of Life? Is that open learning?) and I know that some should stretch more across time but it made the design of the graph ugly to do so as a visual. My ideas didn’t quite fit the grid. But it works for what it is, I think, which is a reflection point for myself

What I found interesting is my perceptions about what I learned in various networks, over time, and the corollary discovery which the graph shows me is pretty simple and expected, if you know me at all, and that has to do with the connection between agency and learning.

What the chart shows is that the open learning spaces that invited me to create knowledge, with freedom to explore (Rhizo, CLMOOC, etc), are the ones where I came away with a lot to think about, mainly because of the interactions with others (or it was where I was a facilitator with ideas on opening up the space to the emergent unknowns). The projects where it felt more like a structured class or course (Deeper Learning MOOC, IMOOC) were less “sticky” for me, in terms of learning. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have value. But the value was less fundamental to me as a writer/teacher than places where I had more agency to pursue my own interests in the company of others.

Peace (on the edge of the platform),
Kevin

Talking in the Open: Conversations with Howard, Ian and Greg


flickr photo shared by *Robert* under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

In the past six weeks or so, I have found myself being interviewed by three different people I respect greatly: Howard Rheingold, Greg McVerry and Ian Guest.

All had different reasons for reaching out — Howard has been doing a series of video interviews for Connected Learning; Greg and Sarah Honeychurch are exploring an open research project about literacy and leadership; and Ian is interviewing educators for his own research on how Twitter might impact professional growth of teachers.

Kevin Hodgson on Connected Learning from Connected Learning Alliance on Vimeo.

I was honored and humbled to be on the other side of the screen with these people. Howard, of course, is a towering figure of the Internet Age, whose thinking about the ways we interact and write and create community on the Web stretches back to some of the Web’s origins. Greg is someone I have known from when I took part in the Massachusetts New Literacies Institute (while Sarah has been a long friend through many projects, including the most recent CLMOOC), and he and I (and a few others) have remained connected, through projects like Walk My World. And Ian is someone I know from online activities like Rhizomatic Learning.

The Internet, and the possibilities of connections and sharing, is pretty amazing, with lots of potential and lots of barriers. I hope I was articulate enough in answering their questions. As a former journalist, I think I am more comfortable on the other side of the microphone. But I appreciated that all three wanted to share their interviews out in the open.

I know that the discussions swirled in my head even after we had turned off Skype or Google Hangout, so their questions about learning, technology, digital literacies, leadership and more continue to be part of my reflection.

Ian Guest interviews me

Here is the link to the podcast interview with Ian.

 

Peace (shining a light),
Kevin

 

 

It’s a Good Day to Slow Down: Ok Go’s The One Moment

Take time today to slow down and savor your friends and family on this holiday (in America).

Check out this new video from the band OK GO that does just that. It also connected to a campaign called Walk Her Walk, sponsored by the Morton Salt company, which seeks to make a difference in the world through support of advocacy and community-based work. Well. OK. Sort of odd to have band connected to that but the five groups the company is already supporting seems to be doing good work in the world.

And the video is awfully cool.

And the band writes about the song, which is the soundtrack to the company campaign:

The song “The One Moment” is a celebration of (and a prayer for) those moments in life when we are most alive. Humans are not equipped to understand our own temporariness; It will never stop being deeply beautiful, deeply confusing, and deeply sad that our lives and our world are so fleeting. We have only these few moments.”

And here are the notes on making the video, which I always enjoy reading about.

Peace (in slowmo),
Kevin

Inspired to Spoof: My Son’s Video Project

My son often makes videos. He has written and shot three longer movies with a group of neighborhood friends (all by the age of 11), had one of the movies showcased in our city’s Youth Film Festival and has done a variety of smaller films, too. Long ago, I showed him what I knew about iMovie (and he took part in a free Apple camp at the Apple Store to learn about video), and turned him loose.

He recently finished this short video (he is now 12). My only role was to hold the camera so that he and his friend could be the actors in it. They first researched the ideas from a site called Dude Perfect, which I was only vaguely aware of. But they loved some video that spoofed baseball players, so they, eh, remixed the Dude Perfect ideas into their own spoof video of baseball players (both kids are baseball nuts).

What struck me is this.

Rally Cap Kids

They sat down, together, with a pad of paper and pencils, and watched Dude Perfect videos, and made detailed notes about different “stereotypes of baseball players,” knowing they were going to riff off those movies for their video. They brought the notes to the baseball field, and talked through each scene, before instructing me to shoot the video. I tried to keep as quiet as I could. I was only the camera man.

I love seeing the development of a craft here, and I hope he keeps doing it. When he does a longer movie, it takes a lot longer to shoot and edit. These smaller projects are more manageable, and I think he has a talent (says his dad) in making videos. I know he has fun with being creative this way.

Peace (frame it, capture it),
Kevin

Musical Interlude: Hopeful Me/Angry Me

Hope Remains song lyrics

(Note: This post is a convergence of a couple of ideas, including DigiLitSunday, where the theme this week is “purpose.” I am sharing out and reflecting on that theme as I contemplate making music as a protest moment.)

I often respond to the world by turning to songwriting. Admittedly, my first attempts at writing songs always seem to slant negative, and then I often have to wrestle the words back towards something more positive and productive (well, sometimes a song just needs a downcast view of the world to be truthful and honest).

As I continue to go through my stages of What the @#&% over this election, I have been turning to music to vent. My purpose here, in both the writing and then the decisions I make with the production of my music, is to find a creative path into grieving and, then moving into action. It’s meaningful for me to write — it’s how I process — and my guitar has always been a companion during difficult times. I find comfort there.

This weekend, two songs emerged. One song is hopeful, if a bit mournful; and the other, a remix project, is angry and resentful.  My friend, Terry Elliott, wrote a post with poems and a hackable text that he called “Flip the Coin.” Each of these songs belongs on the same coin. How you feel in a given moment is how you might flip the coin.

The more optimistic song – called Hope Remains — is my attempt to remind myself, and maybe you, that we have each other in dark times, and that even in the darkness of the world, there is light. It can be hard to see. We sometimes need to search long and hard for it. We often stumble. But it is there. I wrote this one for me. I wrote it for my friends. I wrote it for you. Hope remains.

This song came together rather quickly. I knew I did not want to reference the election directly. That’s not what it was about. I started negative, and turned positive. In less than an hour, the lyrics and chord changes were done, and I had recorded the demo on my iPad. My original purpose in recording was to keep the song raw. No production – no reverb or compression or anything. The next day, though, I knew it needed something more, something lingering off the edges of the guitar and my singing. I then layered in the bass/cello on the bottom end and did a slight mix of the guitar/flute on the higher end.

The second song — called Welcome to the Boardroom — was my attempt to use Trump’s words against him, crafting a dangerous-sounding remix with his own voice as the underlying track. My purpose? Channel anger into song and use his own words against him. I put his voice through all sorts of effects, and gave the tune a driving beat, with an underlying distortion field of instruments. Listen in headphones to get the full effect. I also added in strange sounds, to aurally show how off-center and off-kilter I feel right about now. I felt a lot better afterwards. The cathartic effect, I guess.

Peace (we have each other),
Kevin

 

Fight The Despair/Hold On To Hope

Don't Despare: David Remnick

There’s still too much swirling around my head, and my world, about the election to make sense of what I am thinking. I know that I am worried about this man being charge of the most powerful country of the world. I am angry when I read about people saying “wait for the real Trump to now appear.” As if.  I am confused with the knowledge that what I thought was my country … may not be “my country” after all. Or it may not be the country that holds the same ideals that I believe in.

I’m turning to writing because I have always believed that we write to understand the world. I am hoping my words will give me anchor again.

And I won’t despair.

Peace Posters 2016

I understand why people voted the way they did. I’ve been around to enough parts and regions of our country (visiting as presenters or participants of events, traveling for other reasons, and spending six years as an infantry soldier in the National Guard certainly opened my eyes to the different viewpoints that exist in our country) to know that my corner of the Northeast is not how everyone views the world. I have plenty of friends who are right of center on the political map, living on the edge of the middle class and angry at the “system.”

They hated Clinton with a passion and venom that always surprised me (but, of course, shouldn’t, now that we see demographics of the election). They hate Washington DC with even more passion for leaving them behind and for being ineffectual (although, it is the Tea Party that has ground progress to a halt). Government, to my friends, is the problem, not the solution.  (You can imagine the very heated discussion my friends and I have all year long). Of course, some of those same friends benefit from government support programs, like the VA and health care. I won’t get into the sad irony of voters who may have just sealed their own economic decline in order to “send a message” by electing a racist, misogynistic, and more than slightly addled leader to the White House. When even commentator Glen Beck calls Trump “unhinged,” you have to take notice.

I also know there is resentment against the so-called elite and educated. And, I know plenty of families continue to struggle economically, even in the face of positive news across all sectors (Bill Clinton (D) left the country in solid economic shape; Bush (R) burned the economy to the ground on his way out the door with his trickle down illusions; Obama (D) built it back up … see a political pattern here?). I believe that economic concern for the present and the future was/is at the core of this election, more than race and gender.

Peace Posters 2016

I won’t despair. But I won’t turn my back, either.

How this man governs will set the stage for the world my own children will grow up in, live in, becomes citizens of. I don’t think he sees anything beyond his own personal gain (and won’t be surprised if the absolute power corrupts him even further). My only faith is that the rest of the government will be the ballast (although I fear the Republicans holding Congress will see the election as a means for the Tea Party to ascend even further.) I am hoping my own senator, Elizabeth Warren, remains the powerful voice she needs to be, and that Chuck Schumer is the right leader of a minority party at the right time in history. I don’t even know what to say about the Supreme Court, which is the one thing that I have the most worry about. Again, this is my children’s world we are talking about. 

Peace Posters 2016

No. No despair. Not quite hope, either. Not today, anyway. Maybe tomorrow. My friend, Ron, sent a message to my other friend, Simon, and me, about some of our tweets back and forth. Ron reminded us about love.

I believe in that notion of love and understanding, too. It’s why I teach. It’s why I write. It’s why I connect. It’s why I love my own children so dearly. This election has rattled me but not shaken me to the point where I lose faith in what I believe in — which is the potential goodness of people coming together to make the world a better place. One man elected leader can’t rob me of that. One election can’t change me. I am stronger than that.

You are, too.

Peace Posters 2016

Note: These Peace Posters were made in art class by my sixth grade students. I found comfort in wandering the hallways yesterday, taking in their notions of peace. It gave me a sense of hope that was in short supply.

Peace (I mean it),
Kevin