When my oldest son, now graduating high school, was young, he wanted to learn how to make movies. It turns out, I was teaching myself how to make stopmotion movies at the time, thinking I would bring that kind of moviemaking into my classroom (which I did for a few years). So, my son and I made movies, together. It was a blast.
Then, he began to venture on his own, planning more complicated and longer films, and using a little flash video camera for shooting and MovieMaker software on our old PC. Sometimes, he would ask me to help or to be in the movie. Sometimes, not.
Then, he began to go deep with the idea of making movies and explored various editing tricks. He would storyboard, just like I showed him, and once he had a YouTube account, he’d post some of his short films online.
For his senior year Capstone Project, he spent months making this documentary of his friends’ rock band, and as I watch his work from behind the camera and in the editing “room,” I see how far he has come and how much he has learned on his own.
I still remember with fondness those early years, though. And the videos bring me back …
We were nearing the end of a two-hour hike in the woods. Three 11 year old boys. The dog. Me. The sun was shining, keeping the bite of Spring at bay. No bugs were bothering us. The boys had crossed a small river twice, scaling their way over fallen trees, calling out encouragement to each other. One even took off his shoes and walked through the cold water, balancing on mossy rocks. They had played Manhunt, hiding among the rocks and trees.
It was a Grand Adventure.
“Well, this has a been a Timewaster,” one of the kids told me. I don’t think he was jonesing to get back to his video games or anything. He was the one who took off his shoes to dip toes into the water. But I don’t think he is used to such lengthy unstructured “wanderings,” either.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
“Spending two hours out here” — and I pointed around me at the beauty of the woods — “is never a Timewaster,” I told him. The dog looked up at my voice and then the trees, as if noticing the woods for the first time, too.
“Nope,” I added. “Time in these woods is never, ever wasted time.”
The boy (not my own, by the way) looked at me in an interested way, sort of nodded, and kept on walking. I followed. The dog was happy to keep moving, too. We all were.
How will the crowd-annotation work? Many of us have been playing with the Hypothesis add-on tool for some time, and we find it has a lot of value for crowd-sourced annotation (along with some drawbacks around visibility). It allows you to layer on comments and media into the margins of the article. Whole conversations can unfold as another layer on the web.
But there are other ways to annotate — you could write a blog post about something you have read and share the link; you could use the Diigo bookmarking site, which also allows you to crowd-annotate articles within the Diigo environment and kicks out a shared link; or you might just want to remix articles in your own fashion. If you know anything about CLMOOC, you know you do what speaks to your own interests.
Or, if folks use the “CLMOOC” tag in Hypothesis, we can view all of our shared annotations together in one stream. Check out what I mean.
We are all part of the Annotation Nation now. Come join Terry and Joe and the rest of us. Make your voice heard, even if it is in the margins. You can use the #CLMOOC hashtag on Twitter or share in the CLMOOC G+ Community. Make a video. Create meme or GIF. Do what you want. Take part in the Make with Me live session on Google Hangout that Terry and Joe are planning for Tuesday night (tomorrow) at 7 p.m. EST.
(This is for Slice of Life, a weekly writing adventure hosted by Two Writing Teachers.)
This past weekend, my son finished filming the third of a trilogy of home movies that began about four years ago. I have been on board as videographer and advisor, but the script was written by him (with help of friends now and then) and the acting direction is mostly his, and all I can say is: I am proud of him for making three movies but also glad to be done with the third movie, too.
He is now working on the editing in iMovie. I’ll give him some technical advice, but mostly, I let him do it. I want him to have as much ownership as possible.
My only parting advice to him as we finished three hours of shooting video for a movie that will be under 10 minutes long — next time, go for comedy and leave the action/adventure genre behind. (It felt as if each movie’s story was the same story, told over and over. Or maybe that was me.)
Over at another writing space, I shared out this project by Slate to document a Year of Good Things. It’s a nice way to balance out the front pages of the newspaper (if you still read newspapers) or television news (if you still watch television) or even sharing in your social media stream (You use that, right?).
My writing prompt for folks is to find your birthday or some important date from 2015, and read the Good News from that day, and then write a short poem or reflective piece about it. Keep the good news rolling.
On my birthday, a rookie batter for the Twins stepped up to the plate and cranked a homeroom on his very first pitch in the Big Leagues. His family, in the stands, went wild.
I had the strange experience recently of deeply misunderstanding a situation because the interaction was online, where I misread nuances of words, and was not face-to-face, where I would have been more in tune with things. I don’t want to get into the situation itself, since it has passed and I am fine with it. In the end, I am glad that I was misunderstanding the whole thing, though.
But in my misunderstanding, I started to wonder about the act of remembering in the digital age, and how often, our worlds and daily writing become so ephemeral. Words here. Images there. Videos here. Sounds there. I’ve written along these strands before, I think, but I keep circling back around on it.
It must be important.
How do we remember where we were (and how do our loved ones find us) when what we write and share are scattered in so many online places? Maybe this is why so many people like Facebook — it’s the one-stop social space where. We trade privacy and information ownership for the known anchor point of social media.
I guess I must have been sort of on a morbid path the other day, but I realized: my wife would not likely be able to find much of what I am writing and sharing, if I were suddenly gone. Do I make a list of sites and passwords for her? Honey, here is where all of my songs are … here are my poems … these are my games …. here are my book reviews …. my videos are here and here and here …
Or my sons. They know only a bit of what I do when I am pounding away on the keyboards here. My world as teacher and artists and writer in this space intersects with my world as father at home, of course, but only at times.
Sometimes, I have this vision of my sons, years from now, deep into the future, uncovering the things I have made and created over the years, and realizing: that’s what he was doing: writing songs, writing poems, writing posts, making connections. I remember once finding a vinyl record that my father (a drummer) cut with a band, and it was a sort of powerful magic of listening to him as a musician.
What if that never happens to me and my sons? What if they never find it? What if what we create, just disappears?
We are scattered, and in danger of being lost, forever.
I don’t curate myself nearly enough. Do you?
This thinking, sparked by the misunderstanding, led me to this melody that I found myself writing when thinking of this act of “remembering” the past week. I am not much of a guitar player, as a solo guitarist, and this is where my muse took me. The haiku is part of a daily poetry that I am doing on Twitter.
Will I ever find this poem and this song again? I need to remember …
It’s hard to resist gathering snapshots of the work going around my room during the science-based video game design project. I like how these students have their storyboards right next to them, using them as guides for the design.
In a recent discussion before the launch of Digital Writing Month, the idea of writing comments in the margins of collaborative documents as an act of shared composition became a topic of conversation for an edition of HybridPod. We were talking Google Docs, in particular, and it occurred to us (Chris Friend, Maha Bali, Sarah Honeychurch and me) that students probably need some explicit teaching of how to write in the margins of documents, particularly shared writing pieces.
This is fairly new to the teaching of writing, right? How many of us design a lesson around writing in the margins of books or stories and what that means to write? Mostly, this is because we traditionally all had only one story or one book or one text, and it was ours to write upon, highlight in pretty colors, mark up with Sharpies or crayons or whatever. It’s readability was only dependent on whether the writer could read it and make sense of it.
One text. One writer. One reader.
Collaborative writing in a digital space turns that on its head a bit. Now, it might be one text, but it might be multiple writers crowding into the margins, and it might be multiple layers of readers — the ones doing the writing, together, and maybe even an outside audience of readers.
One text. Many writers. Multiple readers.
Interestingly, I noticed this idea of “conversations about the writing” unfolding in my own classroom after a lesson on using Google Docs for peer review for short stories. My lesson had each student connecting digitally with another student, but once they knew how to share and get comments, they were sharing and asking for feedback from all sorts of friends … even students who were in our school district but not in our school.
I had to quickly give an impromptu lesson about the role of commenting, and the word “resolve” in Google Docs. Actually, that word become an anchor point in the discussion that Chris, Sarah, Maha and I had: what does it mean to “resolve” a comment? And who makes that decision? How do we un-resolve a comment? Does “resolve” mean I agree with you or does it mean I don’t want to see your comment anymore?
In a recent professional development workshop with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, I had a group of teachers annotating an article together by Victoria Alessi, to show the power of collaborative writing in a “close reading” activity. I actively encouraged “conversations in the margins” about the text, and told them that I would be sharing the annotated document back to the writer, who is part of the Long Island Writing Project.
The results were interesting and fascinating, as this room of educators, who did not really know each other, began to unfold a conversation about teaching writing. In the margins, sharing and understanding were taking place in a room of clicking keys, which then led to a wonderful conversation about teaching and writing and teaching writing.
Peace (off the sides and everywhere possible),
We huddled our kids outside last night, just after 9 p.m. It was clear skies, beautiful clarity, here in New England, and the Super Blood Moon Eclipse was underway.
I don’t know what my kids were expecting, but the slow-mo effect — which my wife and I found fascinating — was a bit too slo in the mo for them, particularly the youngest child.
“This is so boring!” he moaned, from his spot on the pavement, sitting there in his pajamas. Another of our boys was running up and down the street with our dog, teasing the creature with a banana peel. “Why are we out here?”
He knew why, because not only had I explained an eclipse (“Imagine you are the moon, and I am Earth, and that light is the sun …”) but I had also mentioned he would be in his 30s when this kind of natural event would occur again. However, unlike the apps and games he likes to play, this event unfolded slowly, and required patience.
A little quiet would have helped, too.
“Why are we out here?” he asked again, but I did notice he kept his eyes up on the moon, which by now was being taken over by the expanding black sliver to its left, a section disappearing even as we were talking. Ten minutes later or so, the partial eclipse was clearly underway.
I mentioned the need to read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which led to a discussion about Mark Twain, and scientific knowledge. The moon and the Earth and the sun kept working. More of the moon was now in shadow.
Finally, after hearing more than our share of groaning about the pace of the event, we sent the kids inside. They had seen enough. They had experienced the eclipse, at least. And we had heard enough. In the house, they went, leaving the movie to unspool by itself.
Upstairs, getting ready for bed, my wife and I raised the curtains on our window, and gazed up at the sky. The window framed the moon, perfectly. The eclipse continued.
“Why did we even go outside with the kids?” my wife joked, as we watched the magic of the skies in the peaceful, warm house. She started to hum “If Moon Were Cookie” from days of listening to Sesame Street songs on the van.
“We could just show them the time-lapse video in the morning,” I joked back. We both know that being “in the moment” of the natural beauty of the world is what was important and that even with the complaints, it was worth it.
Interestingly, the theme of our church service that morning was all about connecting and reconnecting back to the Earth and the environment. The guest speaker talked about the firebrand preacher, Jonathan Edwards (whose home church was our very own church), and his writing about seeing wonder in the world around him. The guest speaker connected Edwards’ writing to the Pope’s visit and the recent papal environmental report on Climate Change.
Earth, and its future, was on our minds for much of the day. The skies, too.
In the middle of the night, I woke up, thinking someone was turning on the lights in the house. But it was just the moon, coming back from darkness, filling the skies with a brilliant glow, as if announcing, Here I am.