How They Wrote ‘Uptown Funk’

I like this kind of insight of songwriting … Uptown Funk started with a drum beat by Bruno Mars and the line about Michelle Pfeiffer/White Gold became a lyrical hook … here, Mark Ronson talks through the process of how the song came together collaboratively.

And you no doubt have heard the song:

Peace (in the song),

A Poem, A Puzzle, An Act of Playfulness

So, I had this idea … what if I wrote a poem and delivered bits and pieces of it (let’s call them stanzas, shall we?) to a few friends in online spaces and asked them to piece the poem together over social media? What would that look like? How would you even pull it off? And this began an adventure this weekend with three of my friends — Charlene, Sheri and Terry — as I launched a poem like a balloon and watched it wander off.

My goal as a writer in digital spaces was to try to figure out how to make this kind of playfulness meaningful and to extend out the poem’s life beyond me writing it and me publishing it. It helped that I know Terry, Sheri and Charlene are game for the oddness of play, as we all were deeply involved in the Making Learning Connected MOOC experience over the last two summers.

In the end, what I decided to do was make the poem a puzzle. The embedded Thinglink here is an annotated version of a flowchart that I created (first, on scrap paper, and then later, with an app) to try to show what happened to the poem and the puzzle over the weekend. The challenge for them was to find their way to the website where the entire poem was published — all four stanzas (they only each received a single stanza, in isolation).

I put the poem a link beyond a password-protected website that I set up, and their task was to coordinate together to find the code word that would unlock the website that would lead them to the poem. Along the way, they made their own poems and pictures and websites, and used a hashtag on Twitter to share (and for me to give out clues).

It was fun to watch unfold — using writing and social media as “game” for reading, listening and collaborating, and trying to coordinate it from afar took some doing. But I think a variation of this kind of activity could be used as a model for how to think of literacy in the context of social media and social gathering.

It become the poem I let loose like a balloon to the sky …

Charlene later asked, how could this translate into a classroom experience? Good question and one I am still mulling over. I suspect you could replicate it in offline space by using stanzas of poems as clues to some larger mystery that students have to collaboratively solve. Or have students create the poems that become the clues … there are possibilities.


Peace (in the poem),

Audio Poem: Before Dawn/Walking Home

SeeSound Audio Recorder

The image above is a visual wave-file representation of an audio poem I wrote for the learning cycle of Walk My World — where the focus is on the dawn. And it turns out, the YouShow theme recently has been audio, too. The audio recording here was done in a very nifty online tool called SeeSound, which I found thanks to two Maker/CLMOOC friends — Stephanie and Rob. I love the audio-becomes-visual element, and I wish I could download the live view as video (I guess I could take it as screencast).

I wrote this poem in the hours before dawn, when I am up before the world is up (mostly) and writing every morning. It’s just the dog and I, in the snowstorm this morning, and he goes back to sleep after our walk through the neighborhood while I pound on the keys here. I am often awake before I am awake. If I am working on an idea, I wake up, knowing my head was working out phrases and concepts during the night. If I don’t wrote, I lose it.

So I write before the sun comes up, just about every single day. (Like, right now).

Before Dawn poem

Here, then is my poem: Before Dawn. What I did was record it via SeeSound, downloaded the audio file, and then used the “reverse” switch to make the audio file go backwards (take that, Led Zep!), and tacked it on to the end of the forward file with Audacity, so that the poem is me moving forward and backwards. The poem then is hosted at Soundcloud.

Peace (in the visual poem),

How Not to Explain the Internet (in Comic Form)

The other day, my friend Ian O’Byrne referenced this great piece by Doug Belshaw about how to explain the Web to kids. Ian is now inviting a bunch of people to think about how to do this, to extend out Doug’s piece. I thought I would try my hand at comics, and quickly found I didn’t know how to put my explanation into simple, understandable language.


Words like “nodes” and “data packets” and “graphic interface” — those won’t work on younger kids. And it occurred to me that while Doug was referencing the “Web,” I was referencing the “Internet” and while connected, these are slightly different concepts. Unfortunately, I only thought that thought right now as I am writing these words. I think of the Internet as that invisible stream of information shared among many computers while the Web is how we interact with that information.


Anyhow, here are my attempts to explain the Internet. The three comics are from three different apps on my iPad: Make Beliefs (free), and then Rosie Comics and Comics Head (free version available). I don’t really think you can learn what the Internet is from my comics, but if it makes you chuckle, then I have done my job.

Explaining the Internet (sort of)

Explaining the Internet (sort of)

Explaining the Internet (sort of)

How would you explain the Internet/Web to a child?

Peace (in the think),

Remix that Machine (for Information Digestion)

Inside the Popcorn Remix

I’ve been reading Audrey Watters series on Medium about The History of the Future of Education, and passing her pieces on to others. It’s interesting to examine the patents of educational technology and think about education in the larger lens. And having Audrey Watters as a your guide gives it all the perfect tone.

Then, Alan Levine created a remix of one of the videos of Sydney Pressey demonstrating his Teaching Machine contraption. Alan grabbed the audio from a TED piece on MOOCs and superimposed the audio. It’s intriguing to watch and hear.

So, I wondered, what if I flipped Alan’s video around — put Pressey’s voice as the audio for the TED talk? Alan shared his process notes of downloading the videos, taking the audio and remixing in iMovie. I’m lazy. I went into Popcorn Maker and did my remixing there. The result is less fine-tuned than Alan’s.

Like Alan, I was struck by the comment about using candy as incentive, and then Tums when the Lifesavers no longer worked. It’s a great comment, and so I used that as the introduction, after finding a funny The Jetsons commercial for Tums. I’m sure George won’t mind.

What’s neat about Popcorn is that YOU can now easily remix my remix. Just click “remix” at the top right corner of the video and it will open up all of my media. Tinker away!

Peace (in the remix),

A Peace Poster/Elvis Costello Remix

(Note: This post got lost in the ‘draft bin’ but here it is ..)

After writing  about my students art project — the Peace Posters — and remembering the classic Elvis Costello song — What’s So Funny (About Peace, Love and Understanding) — I realized that I could merge and remix the two with Mozilla Webmaker’s Popcorn Maker.

And so I did ..

Peace (in the peace),

Two Makes I Can’t Quite Explain

I don’t know why I went off on these tangents, but I made two strange things yesterday in a burst. The first was inspired by Audrey Watters’ post that looked at the history of “teaching machines” and included some drawings from the patent office archives. I put one into my comic app and added a little commentary.

Patented ed

The second was a terms of service that Alan Levine shared out, for a “fake name generator” and its legalese really called for parody. I went in the underwear direction with a XRay Goggles remix.

Frack Name Generator

What did you make yesterday?

Peace (because),

Annotated Song: Walking (With the Thoughts of You)

I’ve been working on this demo song that meshes nicely with Walk My World and the YouShow project. It is inspired by a friend but also, some distant memories of my hiking days. So here it is:

And this version via Zeega:

Interestingly, Terry “remixed” my Zeega, which means that at the end of mine, his version begins (new song and new media). Be sure to experience both.

Director’s Notes

The guitar part for the song is an echo of a very old song of mine, one I wrote about my grandmother when I was first starting to write songs (oh so long ago). I didn’t want to lose the chord progression after rediscovering it and I kicked around with it for a bit before the lyrics started to take hold here. The words are sort of a gift to a friend who is going through some difficult times right now and who spends many days hiking in isolation as a way to think and understand the world (truly, walking the world). I put the final lyrics into the app Notegraphy, which makes words look fancy, and then downloaded the lyrics as an image file. I uploaded the file into Flickr, and then used Thinglink to “borrow” the image for annotation. The song was recorded very simply (live take, no dubs) in Soundtrap and then exported into Soundcloud for embedding here, there and everywhere, including Zeega (which borrows audio from Soundcloud).

Peace (in the muse),