Teaching Naked (but keeping your clothes on)

I am in the opening stages of an online experiment by Autumm, who is facilitating a book study group across multiple media platforms, as well as some live interaction time with colleagues at her university. She’s experimenting as part of an extension of Rhizomatic Learning, of putting theory into practice. Educator/Writer (now president of Goucher College) Jose Antonio Bowen would probably call this push of juggling tech/no-tech as “naked learning.” He is the writer of the book we are reading, entitled Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning.

Goodreads Teaching Naked

I’m through the first section (The New Digital Landscape) and am participating in the book group mostly via Twitter, and I guess my blog here, and in my own little world on Goodreads, where I am using the comment section to make notes as I go along in the book. I’m a bit mixed on the book so far. I think the title and his labeling of “naked learning” — the face-to-face time between instructor and learner that is enhanced by technology that students are already using and knowledgeable about in their non-school lives — is purposefully provocative and geared for search engines. Hey, I may be wrong about that, but I think that thought every time I see his naked phrase.

On the other hand, Bowen’s push for university professors to make the shift into technology as a way to engage students is right on the mark (even if he often couches his push on professors with the call of using “graduate assistants” to monitor the media flow).

… technology has shifted the nature of the classroom. Learning now happens in more mobile, customized, and varied ways. We need to consider how we can advance student learning by thinking equally about learning environments inside and outside the classroom.” (Bowen, p. xiii)

I am not far enough into the book to give an in-depth analysis, nor am I teaching at the college level. So I am not the ideal audience, but there are plenty of ideas that are already resonating with me as a teacher and as a professional development facilitator.

But I like that Bowen acknowledges and validates the lives of learners outside the institution itself, and provides handy and accessible “Implementation” guides that walk the reader through ways to use Skype, Facebook and Twitter or setting up a virtual seminar, or even the nuts and bolts of establishing a protocol for communicating with students in various social media spaces.

I’m moving into the section section of the book — Designing 21st-Century Courses — and it will be interesting to see if he explores the tension between closed LMS systems that most universities require, and which are about as unauthentic spaces as you can image, versus open learning system, like Rhizomatic Learning or CLMOOC. I was telling Autumm that I looked in the index and there is no reference to MOOCs at all. Which is odd. (Note: the book came out in 2012 and Autumm think she saw a reference to MOOCs in the book itself)

More to come …

Peace (says the Emperor),

A Rhizomatic Knit (A Gift from Sarah)

I received a package in the mail the other day, all the way from Scotland. One of my connected friends, Sarah, had knitted me a winter hat, with a sort of Mobius Strip theme to it. Air mail packages from Scotland do not come every day, and it is a testament to the power of connections in Rhizomatic Learning that she would take the time to knit me a hat and then send it across the pond to me.


I used Vine to “unpackage it” (Did you know there are whole YouTube communities around watching people open packages? Seriously. It’s a bit strange. But I figured, this is my chance.)

I love the hat — the knit and the color — and will definitely wear it when winter rolls around here in New England, USA. And I appreciate that Sarah worked it with her own fingers — those same fingers that play her ukulele on some of our collaborative songs — and she even found a rhizomatic-style greeting card (how’d she do that?) to send with a note to me.

Thank you, Sarah. I love the hat and appreciate the friendship and cherish the connections.

Peace (on our head),

Slice of Life: I Wore My Sticker (Less Testing/More Learning)


(This is a post for Slice of Life, a weekly writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers in which bloggers examine the small moments of life for larger reflection.)

less testing

Yesterday, many teachers in our state of Massachusetts wore the sticker I am showing here in the picture. It’s part of a larger week-long effort by the Massachusetts Teachers Association to push back on the demands of standardized testing. The slogan of “Less Testing/More Learning” is an indication of the push, as our MCAS and now PARCC testing takes up more and more of classroom learning time — both in preparing students and in the actual taking of the tests.

I had a lot of students ask me about it, although one of my colleagues noted that our audience of students and teachers for the stickers we were wearing was rather insular — the schools in which we teach where exasperation with high-stakes testing already runs high.

But still, it was the notion of pulling together as a teaching community with a single message about caring for our students as learners in this age of data collection. And here I am, writing about it to an even larger audience.

Peace (and making it stick),


A Requiem for Popcorn Maker



Another remix tool getting carted away. Mozilla recently announced changes to its whole Webmaker suite of tools, as they shift from web-based activities to mobile-based activities, and as a result, Mozilla is shutting down Popcorn Maker, an innovative and valuable remixing tool for video and media. Sure, it has always been a bit quirky, but Popcorn Maker has been a site that I have used with students and with teachers, to introduce to the concept of remix as a shift in literacies.


So, with the deadline approaching for pulling the plug on popcorn, I had to make one more project: A Requiem for Popcorn Maker. It maybe my last bit of Popcorn.

Interesting aside: In 2012, my oldest son took part in a free filmmaking camp at our public access television, where they were piloting the first iteration of Popcorn Maker with youths, to see how it would be used and test it out on a real group of filmmakers. I remembering thinking, what is this? You take video from the web and remix it and share it? I was hooked before I even started working with Popcorn.

Peace (remix it!),


Which Modality? Making Music

Interesting question … and it feels like the 140 character limit on Twitter just won’t cut it. Or, it will cut it too short to respond with depth. Yin-Wah, if I think of which modality I most like to create in, it has to be songwriting. I do love the other kinds of creating — making comics, writing stories, remixing media. But there’s something about working on a song and music that pulls me in deeper than all of the others that I dabble in.

And I am not ever claiming that I am some professional songwriter, or ever will be, nor do I think that the songs I write will become the soundtrack of the world. It’s a personal thing, this songwriting that I do, although some songs do become used in the band I am in, Duke Rushmore. As I was writing this, I remembered once writing a post (I see, from 2009) entitled Why I Write Songs.

Just this week, I was working on a new song, perhaps for the band, and in a break in the writing (and even in breaks, my brain keeps working on lyrics and rhythm and parts …. when writing songs, I can’t turn it off), I found myself writing a second song. It emerged from an old scrap of a guitar riff, and then the first line came, and I found myself writing very quickly, this song of losing a friend, and in little time at all, I had the structure and the first verse and the chorus.

It’s odd how sometimes the writing flows like that, something coming out of nothing and utterly unexpected, Yin-Wah. So, for a few days, I found myself toggling between two new songs. For me, if I don’t play the song over and over, and over and over, I lose the nuance of it. I have to practice it into the ground (my poor family) to understand what the song is, and what the song is about. My fingers ache, Yin-Wah, from playing guitar so much this week.

But I can look at what I wrote, and hear it as I play it, and know: this is something worth keeping. That might mean just stuffing it away into my guitar case, or it might mean sharing it with my bandmates. I’m still unsure. Last month, I dug out a song that I write five years ago and never shared, and showed it to the band, and now we are working on it. You just never know. Songs are like messages in a bottle. The bobble on the surf of the mind.

Maybe you want to hear the demo of the song I have been writing about?

First, here is my lyric sheet. You probably can’t read much of it, Yin-Wah. I’m a word scratcher. But you can see the general ideas I was developing, the ways I identified rhyming and verses and choruses, and how one word gets changed, erased, changed again, returned to the original, changed again. I revise more with songs than I do with other writing. I admit it: I am terrible reviser. But with songwriting, every word is a rhythm, and every beat is important.

Come in close lyric sheet

Here is a demo I recorded quickly yesterday. I hear the flubs. You may not.

Thank you for asking me about my writing. This is probably more than you expected, but in answering your Tweet, you gave me an excuse to be reflective. That’s a gift in and of itself.

Peace (in the muse you find),

Why I support Good Guy with a Gun

I only periodically contribute to Kickstarter campaigns but I was happy to become a small supporter for a documentary film, Good Guy with a Gun, that will explore the tension of arming teachers in schools with guns. If that sentence has you thinking — What? — then you and I are thinking the same thing. What?

My reasons for backing this documentary film are:

  • what the heck is wrong with our country that we are even thinking about bringing guns into schools on purpose?
  • my neighbor and friend, a documentary filmmaker who has done wonderful work, is one of the producers of this independent film.

I’m actually a little uncomfortable even thinking of what they are going to discover in their inquiry about the move to arm teachers with guns — just the shots of teachers at firing ranges as part of some professional development makes me squirm — and in some locations, those guns can be hidden away by school staff as part of policy. Maybe it is some East Coast, liberal bias kicking in, but this all seems like a reaction too far. I think we must be going crazy.

So, yeah, I am supporting Good Guy with a Gun, and I was happy to see they just received enough funding support from crowdsourcing on Kickstarter to get the production of the documentary up and running, with a possible release this coming fall. I’ll let you all know.

Good luck, Kate and Julie.

Peace (please),

The Swarm Creates … Collaborative Autoethnography

Untext Screenshot

A wonderful article by a collaborative group of scholarly friends about the creation of something known as the Untext (from last year’s Rhizomatic Learning experience) reminded me that I forgot to share this post a few weeks ago.

First, check out the post at Hybrid Pedagogy: Writing the Unreadible Untext.

Second, you can read through some of my annotation of that article. Others might be mixed in, too, since the link is for a tag itself.

Next, you can take another view the Untext via that I participated in the this multimedia document, which stemmed from that same Rhizomatic Learning exploration. It was shared as a presentation at a recent conference. I love how we were able to bring so many of our voices and ideas into the mix.

Peace (in the swarm),

Book Review: Alistair Grim’s Odditorium

It was the title and the cover that caught my eye in the library as I was searching for a read-aloud for my son. Alistair Grim’s Odditorium, eh? Well, I am thankful I grabbed the book by Gregory Funaro, as it was quite a fast-paced magical adventure that is apparently becoming a series of books (and my son and I always love series even if we hate waiting for the next book to be published in the series we love).

The hero of the story is one Grubb (no first name, no last name, only Grubb with an extra “b”, as he explains) who was once an orphan and then a chimney sweep for a mean stepfather and who now finds himself caught up in the adventure of a lifetime as he finds himself in the Odditorium, a mysterious house with all sorts of secrets. And of course, there is Alistair Grim himself – an inventor, tinkerer and sorcerer whose use of “odditoria” is at the heart of the story that Grubb finds himself in.

I won’t give the story away, but it has its fair share of wonderful twists and intriguing characters, including some villains who are after the same sources of magic as Alistair Grim. As a read-aloud novel, Alistair Grim’s Odditorium succeeds in a fun way, and now my son and I wait for the second book to see where the oddness takes us and Grubb. It comes out in January.

Peace (in the strange),