(This is post for Slice of Life, as facilitated by Two Writing Teachers each Tuesday. We write about small moments. In March, the Slice of Life goes daily for a month. Consider joining the effort to write every day.)
It was one of those nights and aims to be one of those days …
Peace (with one eye open),
PS — If need information about the March Slice of Life challenges, here you go:
You should read Terry Elliot’s post about a chart that Audrey Watters put together about the Horizon Report and its predications for trends in EdTech over the years. Terry warns us that when an organization like Horizon makes predictions, it shapes the future. He is more deep than that, though, so give his piece a read.
This was my take on the chart (which was interesting to read):
And I could not resist a meme after reading Terry’s post.
But I was also struck by Terry’s heartfelt views of the impact organizations like Horizon have on policy makers, and that led to a “found poem” that I then moved into Zeega as part of my push to make Zeegas until they close up shop soon.
I don’t know if can keep it up but I am trying to do a Zeega-a-day before the site closes up to the world on making new Zeegas. Yesterday, Ian O’Byrne posted a wonderful blog post, reflecting on the latest Learning Event for Walk My World that had to do with totems and identity. I remixed Ian (who facilitates Walk my World with Greg) by taking some of his insights and moving them into a remix Zeega.
Add Alan Jacobs to the list of people who are both concerned and excited about how the act of reading is undergoing significant changes in the digital age. In The Pleasures of Reading in the Age of Distraction, Jabobs explores “reading” along many different tangents but remains centered on the theme of Whim at the heart of how we read (or should choose our reading).
Yes, we need to learn how to read. Yes, it helps to be guided to books by others. But the kind of reading that stick with us for life is with the books that we choose to read because there is something about the story or the writer or even the cover art, that pulls us in. Even in this age of digital text and hyperskimming/hyperlinking/hyperreading, our Whim in what we read can take us far, if we let it.
I appreciated how Jacobs pushes back against the scholars who say “this is the list of book you must read” as well as those who say “reading has changed and deep reading of books is no longer how people read in their lives” and instead, shows us how literature has the potential to transform our lives. Interestingly, Jacobs found a balance after realizing that his focus on deeper reading was waning and only found it when he bought himself a Kindle. The e-reader allowed him back into deep reading, he says. (I’m not sure that has helped me and when I use an e-reader, I find myself more distracted than Jacobs claims to be.)
In The Pleasures of Reading in the Age of Distraction, Jacobs explores the art of annotation (and pushed back a bit on the crowd-sourced annotations now available via Kindle and others as noisy interference to one’s own mind in the act of reading); of re-reading books at another age from when you first encountered them, so that life experience gives you another lens; about the beauty of discovering that book that changes your perspective forever; of getting lost in the story so completely that the world in front of you is the story itself, for a brief duration of time, anyway; the need for quiet spaces to get lost in a tome; and how educators can both be a shining beacon for emerging readers or a stoplight in the love of a good book.
Jacobs urges readers of all ages to come back to books. Not to abandon their skimming for knowledge in the data bases of our lives — all that online dancing from site to site, media to media — but to find the time to read deeply, too. Find the books you want to read and then read them.
“Don’t waste time and mental energy comparing yourself to others (readers), whether to your shame or gratification, since we are all wayfarers. Come to what you read with a charitable disposition; don’t expect to fight with the text, but instead seek to treat it well; be willing to meet it more than halfway, as though it were a guest in your home, which in a way it is.” — Alan Jacobs (p. 97)
Another casualty of the technology world (for me and a few friends anyway) as Zeega, a multimedia creation tool, is being closed down by its founders, who are moving on to other ventures. I get it. But I don’t like it. Zeega was different from some other media apps in that the reader had the agency — they could move forward and back through media at their own pace. As a writer using Zeega, I had to consider that shift in my composing, and it forced me to think different.
But, look, I get it. Technology comes, technology gets used, and technology goes, particularly if the money runs out or the enthusiasm runs out. Or whatever. I’ll miss Zeega for what it did. Sure, the Zeegas will continue to live on the site but this may be my very last Zeega creation …
It’s taken me a few days to really think about a “totem” that captures the essence of my identity. This is part of our explorations at Walk My World, and the idea for this learning activity is to consider a representation of self, something that connects you to who you are.
I have been honking out notes on this particular tenor saxophone for more than 30 years. Although in childhood, I had aspirations of becoming a professional musician, that plan never came to be. I did attend high school summer programs that immersed me deeply in music and even spent a year in a music program in college. But it was clear that I didn’t have the focus and intensity (maybe dedication), nor the innate talent, to succeed in a very difficult field filled with amazing musicians and not a whole lot of job opportunities.
And yet, I still play music with my saxophone. Each week, I gather with my bandmates in Duke Rushmore and we play for two hours. A few times a year, we gig out. I have a gig coming up in a few weeks, in fact, and we are working on our set list for that night. I’ll never claim to be a great saxophone player, and my ability remains fairly limited. I play because I love the act of making music, and my saxophone is one way in (the guitar is another, although that is primarily for songwriting).
Music continues to enrich my soul each week, each year, and I find some deep connection with the old Martin saxophone.
Plenty of times, I have thought: I wish I had a Selmer, not this old tenor. The saxophone can be a bit moody at times, and it has a rich deep bottom but the top of the scales are a little thin. It might be me. Or it might be the two of us — the saxophone and I. Still, I strap it on to play and it feels comfortable, like a blanket you pull over you, night after night. You know how it feels. That’s how I am with this old Martin.
We know each other.
And when I think of how many turns life has taken, there’s something to be said about some consistency. I am happily married, with a family, but that saxophone has seen me through some other, turbulent times. There were years when the sax collected dust in the closet. Still, I would pull it out and play now and then, getting lost in the music, working through some emotions that words (spoken and/or written) could not articulate. Allowing me to make music just for myself is a gift this saxophone has given me over the decades.
Thanks to Laura for her blog post that sent me to the site for this documentary, RIP: A Remix Manifesto. I need to check out how I can watch this (since YouTube, ironically, blocks the content in the documentary because of proprietary issues), as it dive into the things I have been trying to wrestle with when it comes to remixing content, making something new from something that already exists, and the way technology puts more tools in our hands to do that.
I still remember the first time that someone tried to explain Twitter to me. It was Bud Hunt (aka Bud the Teacher), and he was visiting Western Massachusetts for the National Writing Project. We were all at dinner in Amherst and he started to talk up Twitter, which had only just launched from the ashes of the Odeo podcasting site. Bud talked about it as best as he could, and admitted he was struggling to explain why Twitter mattered. But he predicted tweeting would take hold and it would be important to teachers as a way to network and share resources.
So it is. Just the other night, I stumbled into the #Engchat conversation on Twitter (where Brian Kelly was hosting a conversation about using audio in the classroom and “writing for the ear”) and for the next 30 minutes, I was hooked into sharing and exploration of voice and audio with a boatload of other teachers around the world, expanding my knowledge and never leaving my home. It was more valuable than many elements of formal PD I have sat through over the years.
I thought back to Bud’s dinner table talk as I read Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship and Betrayal by reporter Nick Bilton. The story of Twitter has many twists and yes, many betrayals of friendship, as the platform moved into the mainstream from start-up mode. Bilton did extensive research and hours of interviews to get into the moment of Twitter’s emergence as a media powerhouse. Twitter began as an offshoot of Odeo, which I remember using as an early podcasting site, and grew up into something still emerging, right?
What struck me is how important the “creation myth” of Twitter became to the four founders of Twitter (Evan Williams, Noah Glass, Jack Dorsey, and Biz Stone). Each in their own way tried to shape the story of who “invented” Twitter, if Bilton’s book is to believed. Some of the four (Dorsey) were doing it intentionally, so as to gain a foothold back into leading the company forward. Others (Glass) got lost in the faded history of Twitter.
The other story that drove Twitter is the essential question of Twitter: is the status question told in 140 characters one about you/me (what’s your status?) or is it about the world (what’s happening?). What story are we all telling? That debate over a few words led to divisions within the company itself.
Hatching Twitter is one of those books that made me think of my daily media life a little different. We take technology for granted. But behind the tech that succeeds (as opposed to the multitudes that don’t), there is always a story of creation and there are always people shaping those creation stories. Bilton’s book about Twitter shows how messy that endeavor can become once the money starts flowing.
The current Learning Event for Walk My World is to explore the concept of a “totem” which is an object that connects you to your past, your culture, your family, your sense of self. I’m still thinking of the object but that thinking had me remembering the apartment complex and neighborhood that I grew up in. I used the Paper App to sketch out a Memory Map of where I spent my childhood.
I left out a lot, I realized, but then maps are always filtered experiences, right? The tree fort, the Big Rock (left over from glacier times, or so we were always told), the river, the woods and the bog were all central elements to growing up for me. Alas, the woods and bog are now covered in housing developments, and I did not put the giant fallow farmer’s field in the map, either, which is also now nothing but suburban houses as far as the eye can see.
It’s been years (maybe a decade) since I went back to this neighborhood, and I don’t feel any strong urge to do it now. The Memory Map here helps situate me, and reminds me of stories (falling in the river during an ice storm; getting bonked on the head by a hammer while standing under the tree fort; playing ice hockey on the bog in winter; having crabapple wars in fall) that cling to me as personal history.