(A collage of “grounds” from the Look Down to the Ground Collaboration)
We’re wrapping up two weeks of Pop-Up Make Cycles that the CLMOOC Crowd (past participants who have stepped up to facilitate the Connected Learning MOOC this past year) organized for what used to be Digital Writing Month (but may be no more). We invited people to share photos, annotate and curate on the Web, make and share animations, discuss Digital Writing in a variety of formats, produce inspirational images and messages, and more.
It’s probably not the ideal time of year to hope that many, many people will take the CLMOOC up on the invitation to make, create, share. Still, that’s the beauty of the Pop-Up Make Cycle idea (first launched by Joe Dillon and Terry Elliott, I believe). It comes. It goes. It’s an open invitation.
Two of the pieces I am proud of making:
Do I wish more folks participated? Yes. But then I remember something we said early this past summer at all due to a different focus for the National Writing Project, when it seemed that CLMOOC might not happen in 2016.
A few us (participants and past facilitators) chatted and decided: Yes, CLMOOC will indeed happen, and those few soon grew to more than a dozen people who volunteered to become the CLMOOC Crowd (my name for it). We agreed that “small” is perfectly fine. The “M” in this mooc does not have to be “massive” anymore. It just has to be “meaningful.” So, “minimal” works, too.
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.
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.
We didn’t spent an hour with coding this week, but I did introduce my sixth graders to the Hour of Code site yesterday, and gave them time to dig into some of the activities. As in other years, I explained why we talk about programming and code in an ELA class this way:
Not all of us will be computer programmers but nearly all of us will use technology. It’s good to have a basic understanding of what goes on “behind the screen” and to understand that people program the software that runs our games, apps and more
Programming is a logic puzzle, requiring patience and sequential thinking. The Hour of Code activities are engaging and move from easy to challenging in a solid way
We’re into our Video Game Design unit, and I have been sharing information and video about paths towards game design opportunities down the road, and computer programming, obviously, is a huge and growing field
Some of my students were completely hooked by the Hour of Code, and I will be using the site as an “extension learning” opportunity as some finish other projects. Along with a new activity connected to Moana, the activities with Minecraft, Angry Birds and Flappy Bird are all favorites.
In one of my classes, I had a student how already used Scratch, and a small group gathered around him as he taught others how to build an animation in Scratch, all on his own. I thought that moment was pretty cool and just let it unfold without my interference.
We’re in the early days of our Video Game Design Project, in which my sixth graders are learning how to use a narrative “story frame” to design and publish a video game via Gamestar Mechanic. As a writing teacher, my aim is to show how story can become the backbone of a video game, and how the reader “plays” the story that the game designer has written. It’s all about expanding the notions of Digital Writing, and how games are emerging as the place for inventive storytelling.
This week, students have been brainstorming their “story frames” and that work is done before they can start designing their games. I want them to have a “map” of where they are going before they starting designing with blocks and avatars and rewards and more. I am always pleasantly surprise by the detail of their brainstorming and their imagination.
Our theme this year is “the Hero’s Journey/Quest” — a topic we have been building off since September (in the past, these games were all science-themed, but this year’s shift to Next Gen Standards for our science teacher created a bit of a problem for us, so we’ll try again next year).
We connect game design to writing process and we do a lot of writing in this unit, from Game Developer Reflections to writing persuasive Game Reviews (as podcasts) to using their “game worlds” as setting for short stories, and more. I aim to use their engagement in game design to spark their interest in writing across genres.
As a mentor text, I dissect my own game for them. My game – called The Odyssey of Tara — is a riff off The Odyssey, where our hero — Tara — has to make her way home, fighting monsters and battling obstacles along the way.
I’m looking forward to playing my students’ stories.
These are results of my annual survey of my sixth graders on their views and use of technology and social media. We used these slides as discussion points for a unit we call Digital Life, which we just wrapped up with a talk about advertising and the web, and how to use tools to filter out ads and tracking.
Here are steps to making and sharing a simple stopmotion animation with Para Para Animation (part of Mozilla’s Webmaker family … I think …) Warning: The site is kind of funky at times and not always completely stable. And I am not sure how well it works on mobile devices. Just warning you. But I have used it with students and they LOVE it for the simplicity and easy entry point. You will, too.
(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)
“This is for you,” she said, finishing up the last bit of art on the page. I had been wondering what she was doing. As the rest of the class had moved on to another activity, she had been hard at work. “Because this is what you always tell us.”
And with that, this sixth grader handed me this beautiful hand-drawn sign, which I immediately put up in the classroom. Sometimes, it’s nice to hear that the message is getting through. Always, it’s humbling to receive a gift of your words coming right back, amplified through the art of a student.
I was reading and commenting and enjoying the discussion that has been unfolding in both the body and the comments of this Open Document/Slow Chat format centered on the nature of images as digital writing as part of the CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Cycle last week. You should read it. And contribute.
I was wondering how to make sense of the various threads, and decided to try my hand at a Found Poem. I narrowed my reading to just the comments off to the side. As I dug around, some common themes and phrases began to emerge, and I assembled and then re-assembled them in another document, tinkering with the flow — adding a few words here, changing some endings there — until a poem emerged. Of sorts.
I decided, in the interest of Digital Writing, that I wanted to do something different with the poem, so I opened up Keynote and began constructing the poem as Kinetic Text, using the animation feature within the slideshow to have parts of the poem appear and disappear. I could have gone fancier, I suppose, but I wanted to keep things simple so the words would not get lost for the flash. (I’ve done this kind of piece before. See my resource at Digital Is.)
My sixth graders finished our version of their Letters to the Next President right on Election Day. The next day, we knew who had won. Yes, we will add President Trump to the salutation and ship the letters out nearer to Inauguration Day. I hope the transition team isn’t in such disarray that the letters get lost.
It is no surprise that the environment was a popular choice. Young writers often are worried about what is happening with Climate Change (yes, Mr. President, it is real and not a hoax) and the plight of animals in the changing world. I suppose “pollution” could have fallen under the “environment” umbrella, too, but there was enough distinction to warrant its own category for my purposes.
Again, you can read more about what we were up to at Middleweb.
I led a deep and somber lesson this week with my sixth graders in our Digital Life unit about “Online Bullying.” I know the lesson is important but I always try to balance the negative aspects of online behavior with the many possible positives, and try to make sure my message is “Most of your experiences in online places will be a positive experience, but if it isn’t and you feel alone and threatened, know you have people like me who care deeply about you and can help you.”
We talk about the aspects of viral media, about how the potential for embarrassment and targeting can reach unknown levels, through YouTube or Instagram or Snapchat or whatever. The “public space” is greatly expanded with social media tools.
The very next day, in order to provide some ballast for that lesson, I talked about the not-so-negative aspects of various viral social media projects, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge. I asked if any had heard of the Mannequin Challenge. All hands in all four classes went up into the air. Well, I said, we’re going to do it. That led to cheers. Kids really do like being part of viral media, replicating what they see when they are online that seems cool and on the edge of something.
Since we are in the midst of reading independent books, I told them that our theme would be Frozen Readers. As I filmed with my camera, they should put themselves into a frozen reading stance. I later stitched the videos from all four classes together and shared it back with them (which I may share out publicly later, as I need to navigate the privacy issues — the short video here is just a taste of the larger video).
It was great fun, with lots of excitement, and a positive lesson on being part of something larger than our classrooms. Plus, our focus was on reading and books and literacy. Win-win.