Considering Light and Stories

nightsky
The theme for this Make Cycle at the Making Learning Connected MOOC is all about “light” or rather, storytelling with light. It will be interesting to see which direction people will take this idea. The group facilitating the Make Cycle share examples of using Makey Makey, and Squishy Circuits, to make literal lights with stories. It might be the week I finally open up my Squishy Circuit box and see what’s inside. Ditto for Makey Makey.

But I have to admit, what came to mind for me was the idea of the night sky and constellation myths. So I am on the trail to figure out some way to create a collaborative star/constellation map that others in the CLMOOC can contribute to, so that we might collectively create an entirely new night sky full of stars and stories. Admittedly, I don’t know how to do that yet, but I am going to explore some options, and share out. (If you have an idea on how I can pull this off, please leave me a comment.)

This Make Cycle is being planted by a group out of Philly called Maker Jawn.

Maker Jawn experiments with creating replicable, scalable spaces and programs that prioritize the creativity, cultural heritage, and interests of diverse communities, embedded directly within the fabric of the library. We cheer-lead latent enthusiasts by providing resources, tools, and an encouraging space. Programming is geared towards for interest driven projects that develop skills, build persistence, and open up new trajectories. We currently offer daily youth Maker programming in ten libraries across Philadelphia.

Peace (in the light),
Kevin

We Don’t Have the Right Words for What We Do

hackcloud
(word cloud created from G+ discussion referenced below)

I suspect that if I told some of my computer programming friends about what the Making Learning Connected MOOC was up to this past Make Cycle with the “hack your writing” theme, they would get a chuckle, and tell me, “That’s not hacking.” Remixing poetry, shaping odds and ends of writing, moving words into image …. that’s just … writing, right? My computer friends would probably be more narrow in focus, with the act of hacking being working with the code of programs or the inside workings of a computer/network.

Hacking writing?

Check out this discussion that Terry started in our Google Plus community, in which many of us grappled with the terminology of “hacking” and what it is that we were doing. First of all, this kind of rich, thoughtful discussion is exactly why the CLMOOC is so important to us as teachers. Second of all, it surfaces the confusion that many of us teachers and writers and learners are feeling as the idea of composition is in the midst of a pretty sizable shift.

We don’t have the right words yet for what we are doing, and what we are doing when we compose in the digital age, so we reach out for the somewhat familiar. The idea of hacking? While it has come to have negative connotations (black hat hackers), the original concept (white hat hackers) was to tinker and play and make the system run better for everyone. The idea was that when problems arise (with computer networks), the community can solve the problem, collectively, and move the entire technology movement forward. (And of course, there are other meanings — to hack something violently is to chop it up, or the hack worker who does a crappy job at something, or the life hack to make your day run smoother, and more variations of the word than you can shake a dictionary at.)

In some ways, we are slowly returning to this idea of the positive hack (I think/I hope). Look at the Hack for Change movement. You may even have a chapter near you, where programmers, educators, social service agencies, and local government officials spend a weekend identifying problems that need addressing, and then working together as a team to solve them. We have a group in our area, and I have had members come talk to students about what they are doing — about using programming skills and computer know-how for the good of the larger world.

“Hacking” certainly has a cool cache with kids, too. When I tell my sixth graders that we are going to “hack” some websites with Mozilla Webmaker X-Ray Googles, there is a real excitement in the room. They imagine themselves going on some covert operation, dipping into the code of websites, and being a bit nefarious. Of course, I pop their bubble a bit, explaining that we will be hacking websites only through a layer of hack (X-Ray Goggles does not change the original) as a way to understanding some basic coding and to write from a different point of view (such as, revamp the front page of the New York Times and give stories a slanted view of the world – change the lens).

What concepts bubble up when you “hack writing”?

  • Agency of the writer/composer
  • Lens of the reader
  • Word choice/Image choice/Video choice
  • Ownership of content

So, this Make Cycle, I was on the look-out for collective hacks within CLMOOC — ideas that would draw the community into the shared experience, to tap into the groupthink knowledge. I even instigated a comic remix activity that was interesting to watch unfold. I wish there had been more ways to get us to write together, to remix together, to hack together … but I know, too, that being in the midst of the change (such as that which writing/composition is undergoing right now with the digital world)  is like holding on to an umbrella in the midst of the storm — sometimes, it takes all your strength to keep the umbrella from flying away … you don’t have time to offer a dry space to your neighbor.

I write all this inquiry in a positive light, and I am thankful for the facilitators (Mia and Erica) for all that they did to get this Make Cycle in motion and how they nurtured these discussions along the way, in forums and in the Make with Me hangout, Twitter chat and more. We won’t even be able to understand the change unless we get into it and play, and reflect on it. This is the heart of Connected Learning — both the act of trying something new and the connections with colleagues to understand a difficult topic, as well as following our own passions. We may not yet have the right words for what we are doing when we “hack writing” and remix our words, but it is through the “doing” that we can come to better understand the possibilities of what’s ahead of us.

The words will follow …

Sheri created this prezi exploration of “hack” that is worth ending with:

Peace (in the meander),
Kevin

 

Community Hacking: Variations on an Empty Comic

Inspired by all the remixing of Garfield comics, and the back page Caption Contest of the New Yorker magazine, I decided yesterday to remove the dialogue from one of my own webcomics for our Make Cycle around hacking writing for the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and open it up to people to add their own. Call it community hacking.

First, I used this comic, which is part of a series I am doing for the CLMOOC:
Hacking writing

Then, I edited a version in Flickr with the Aviary tool, removing all of the dialogue except for the last line, where the father thinks, “Hack writing?” It made sense to keep this as a sort of “punchline” that everyone could build the comic around.
Hacking writing remix opportunity

I then went into Google Forms (part of Google Drive) and created a very simple form that people could fill out, and added the blank comic as the image. I sent out the links to the form through our CLMOOC network, inviting people to hack my comic, and they did. As dialogue got submitted, I used Aviary again to layer in text and publish the comics, which I then shared out during the day.

Here is what I got (if text is small, you might need to click on image to get the comic larger):
Hacking writing remix 1

Hacking writing remix2

Hacking writing remix3

Hacking writing remix4

Hacking writing remix5

Hacking writing remix6

I’d be remiss not to mention that my friend, Terry, went a step further and created this very fun Dance Party remix with the comic. Love it.

How about you? You can add your own lines to my comic, and then I will publish it.

Peace (in the hack frame),
Kevin

 

Take One Comic. Hack It.

All summer, as part of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, I’ve been dabbling with an comic maker on my app called Rosie (although she has only appeared a few times … I’ve been using other minor characters). This week’s Make Cycle is all about hacking your writing, so I created this comic:
Hacking writing

But I wanted to hack the comic, too, to do something to make it different by laying meaning on top of it. It’s a bit too difficult (although not impossible) to hack the actual comic — I could have emptied out the dialogue boxes, I suppose (which is now sparking an idea for CLMOOC … sort of like that Garfield Minus Garfield site where they remove Garfield, leaving Jon, the man, looking like he is losing his mind. And it turns out there are other variations of the Garfield remix. And then there is the random Garfield generator. And look at this — Square Root Garfield, where people send in ideas to be created. What is with the Garfield remix focus?)

Anyway, I took my original comic and moved it into another comic maker, and added some snarky commenting from another set of comic characters (well, me, as in my avatar), giving it a sort of meta-comic look.

Hacking_Hacking_Writing_Comic

Does it work as a comic? I suppose. As a writing hack? Yeah, it does. I think.

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

 

At MiddleWeb: A Look at Thriving, Not Just Surviving

Thrive-coverMy latest post over at MiddleWeb focuses in on Meeno Rami’s new book, Thrive. Reading her book about finding ways to stay invigorated and connected to teaching young people, even in the face of difficult days and situations, reminded me of a book that I used to read every summer when I began teaching. Sometimes, we need touchstone texts. Rami’s book is one of those.

Read my piece at MiddleWeb

Peace (in the text),
Kevin

 

Having Fun Hacking Notebooks

WMWP Paper Circuitry

We had a blast yesterday as our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute took part in Hack Your Notebook Day. I was the facilitator of our WMWP session but the educators in our institute were the Makers, and Make they did. Using paper circuitry, they illuminated poems, short prose, scientific ideas and even more with LED sticker lights, conductive copper tape and a round watch battery to give their writing power.

At the end of the two hour session, I asked them to move into a reflective stage. How,  I wondered, might this kind of notebook hacking — with paper circuitry — be valuable in the classroom setting? While I had explained the concept of “taking back our notebooks” — where notebooks again become a place of invention and risk and creativity — there remains the question of, How could this translate into a learning experience connected to curriculum? (beyond the teaching of circuits)

Some of their thoughts (Note: the Summer Institute teachers represent a wide range of grades and content areas):

  • Use with English as Second Language students to engage them in the playful act of writing, as a means of self-discovery;
  • In history class, during a unit on the Industrial Revolution, add paper circuitry to traditional poster reports, perhaps even representing the shift from gas lights to electrical lights;
  • In science, use the lights to show the flow of (well, choose your topic here but we talked about) nerve pulses, and connect with poetry that explain the process;
  • Use for content-area vocabulary, where students are presented with specific words, and those words get “lit up” in the illustrated sentence that they write;
  • For advanced student writers, reflect afterwards on the ascetics of the writing when using paper circuitry, such as how does the use of circuits impact the writing itself (brevity, placement, use of specific words, etc.)
  • Many saw the possibilities of creating a timeline project, where the lights represent important elements of the timeline itself (there were questions about how to connect multiple timelines together);
  • Creating a cultural heritage map, where students’ family origins are “pinned” with light to the world map itself, giving a visual representation of cultures.

I like all those ideas, and it showed a thoughtful approach to the work we did yesterday, if you can call it work. It was more like play, and we had that moment where the very last piece lit up (after some minor repairs and reconfiguring) and knew we had achieved success on Hack Your Notebook Day.

Peace (in the hack),
Kevin

Gearing up to Hack our Notebooks

21st Century Notebooking with Inside/Out from NEXMAP on Vimeo.

This morning, I head off to the Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute to lead a session for Hack Your Notebook Day, using paper circuitry to show the educators a bit about the move to reclaim our notebooks as a space for thinking, exploring and tinkering. Hack Your Notebook Day is a national event, and you can even watch some live webinars during the day as various groups work on hacking notebooks, via Educator Innovator and NexMap. (Check out these resources)

Our WMWP site is participating, as we purchased an entire paper circuitry kit so that we can dive right into the topic. I’m a little nervous, because although I have done this activity with my students (see my post over at Middleweb), I have not yet had the chance to meet the Summer Institute folks, nor have I had a chance to see the entire package of materials in front of me.

KevinH-Student Poems Collage

 

(Scenes from my classroom)

But here is my plan for the day of hacking notebooks with teachers:

  • Start off with a blind question: draw a simple and parallel circuit on a notecard. We’re activating knowledge here about circuit design.
  • Give an overview of Hack Your Notebook Day, and how it fits into the Educator Innovator Summer to Make, Play and Connect;
  • Explain why paper circuitry is something to be considered, showing connections to writing and science, and critical thinking, and design, and more – all of which are now part of our state standards, and which will connect even more when the Next Gen Science Standards get adopted by our state in the next year or so;
  • Show some examples — mine and my students — and walk through the process ideas of creating a circuit layer underneath some writing, in order to light up elements of the writing (with an eye towards the possibility of more complex circuitry later on);
  • Writing assignment: write a poem or short piece of prose with the theme of “light” and then illustrate the writing, leaving spaces where you want to the lights to shine through;
  • Step by Step instructions on how to create the paper circuit (this will take the longest and is the trickiest);
  • Showcase what has been created;
  • Reflect: What have you learned? What are applications for the classroom?

I’ll be doing some sharing of how things went.

I want to point out two more resources, these from Chad, that connect with what we will be doing. These are shared over at Mozilla Webmaker:

Peace (in the circuit flow),
Kevin

 

The Return of the Line Lifting Poet

I spent some time yesterday morning, wandering the Making Learning Connected MOOC Blog Hub, finding ideas and stealing lines (aka, hacking and remixing to make words into something different) from blog posts in order to write poetry, which I then collected together into this Prezi. Thanks to all of those people who didn’t know I was using their words. You inspired me!

I added podcasts to this Prezi, too, so there is audio that will run as you move through the poems. I hope that doesn’t distract from the original. Although I am embedding it here, I think it “plays” better in full screen mode.

And the Prezi is remixable, so feel free to have at it, if you are inspired, too.

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin

How to Remix with X-Ray Goggles, and Why You Should Bother

xray7
The theme of the Make Cycle with the Making Learning Connected MOOC is now Hacking Your Writing. I decided I would hack the newsletter announcing the them of Hacking Your Writing. I used Mozilla’s X-Ray Goggles, which allows you to create an overlay on websites, and provides you with the opportunity to remix/hack the site, and publish your alternative to the original.

I used CAPITAL LETTERS to add my voice to the newsletter, and changed a few images. You can view my hack here.

And maybe you want to do your own hacking with X-Ray Goggles? Well, in the spirit of the first Make Cycle of the CLMOOC, where we all created How To … pieces, this is how you use the free X-Ray Goggles to tinker with some remixing.

First, you will need to create an account with Mozilla Webmaker. This is worth it because the tools there (not just X-Ray Goggles but also Thimble and Popcorn Maker) are powerful and getting better all the time.

Second, go to the X-Ray Goggles page and drag the bookmarklet right up into your tool bar of your browser. (this bookmarklet is a bit of code that sits in your tool bar, ready for use)

xray1Next, find a website that you want to hack or remix and call it up in your browser. Activate X-Ray Goggles by clicking on the bookmarklet sitting in your tool bar (the one you dragged up). This opens up the X-Ray Goggles editor.

Tinker around with elements of the website, such as changing the text.
xray2

You can even replace images. Just find the url of the image you want and make the change in the code.
xray4

Publish your remixed page and share with the world. There are tools on the lower right side of the page.
xray5
Clicking publish leads to a live link …
xray6
Which becomes …
xray7

(again, you can see my full remix here)

Why would we teach this to our students?

  • X-Ray Goggles  shows the underlying code of the World Wide Web, which many young people are unaware of. They think of websites and social media platforms as being pretty interfaces, not built on underlying code. X-Ray Goggles shows what is under the hood, so to speak.
  • X-Ray Goggles gives young people a chance to work with code in playful environment.One activity I did with my students was to talk about reliable sources with the Tree Octopus site, and then they hacked the site themselves, adding to the absurdity of it.
  • X-Ray Goggles puts a remix tool right at their fingertips, and activities tap into play in a meaningful way. It also opens a chance to talk about responsible hacking — not remixing for nefarious reasons but remixing for change, and to add a new voice to the conversation. It moves the “hack” word from the newspaper headlines.
  • X-Ray Goggles is a great tool for argument and rebuttal — take the front page of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and change the news stories — add different slants, revamp the news of the day — who really owns the stories we read anyway? What better way to think about that than to do it ourselves?

I suggest you give it a try and see what you can make. Then, consider the possibilities, and share it out.

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin