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),

Slice of Life: That Confounded Bridge

I love the small village in which I live. It’s part of a larger, small city, but our village has a real small-town feel to it. One of its central features is an old bridge that stretches out over the main river, connecting one neighborhood and conservation area to the main road (such as it is).

But, alas, our Hotel Bridge is closed down to even pedestrian traffic. It’s age and lack of maintenance has been an issue for the Hotel Bridge for years, and now there are worries of safety. I can remember being able to drive my car over it, and I biked over it more times than I can count. When my boys were little and sitting in the plastic child’s back seat of my bike — little legs sticking out and little fingers poking me in the back — I would often stop on the bridge, and we would gaze down at the water, searching for fish and turtles.

(photo by Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber)

There is now an effort to save the Hotel Bridge, and last night, we gathered in a community meeting to hear from an Iowa firm called Workin’ Bridges, which seeks to save and restore old bridges. The cost for our bridge runs from $1.6 million to more than $500,000 — depending on the use for the bridge. It’s a lot of money that our city does not have right now, but I am heartened by the energy of the village and the public-private partnerships that we have in our area.

It’s so interesting to think of how a bridge holds the historical fabric of a community together. This one certainly does. Not just mine, as a dad on a bike, but also, the ghosts of a hotel that once sat on one side of the river, and the mill buildings upriver in viewshot, and the dam downriver, where teenagers still swim. The bridge is a visual fixture and anchor to the community. Saving it is saving more than a structure; it’s saving a part of who we are here, here in our village, for generations to come, and who we were. I hope we can find a way to do it.

Leeds Hotel Bridge (Northampton, Massachusetts)

Peace (across the span),

Book Review: Ready Player One

Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One has been on my want-to-read list for some time, given its theme (video game as narrative device) and plenty of solid reviews and recommendations of various friends. In fact, I almost bought it at the store three or four times in the past year or so, and then didn’t. I finally got it out of the library.

I won’t say I was disappointed by the story. It was fine. But I could not help but shake the feeling that Cline was writing this novel in hopes of it turning into a Matrix-like movie. (And of course, it is now becoming a movie, directed by Steven Spielberg).

I am having trouble pinning down what has kept me feeling as if there could have been more to the story. For, in many ways, Cline did an admirable job as a first-time novelist in creating a future and character that are believable enough, within the fictional universe of Ready Player One, and the narrative device of finding Easter Eggs in a huge, immersive game world kept the plot moving along, as did many of the action scenes. And Cline humanized the story, with his protagonist — Wade Watts — making connections with other players offline and online, and the book even ends on a very positive, human note.

So why didn’t I love this book? I should have loved this book. Maybe it was the hype or level of expectation on my own end. Maybe it was the one-too-many references to the 1980s (although some I did enjoy and many of the cultural references resonated with my own childhood). Maybe it was the cinematic feel that didn’t translate well to the page for me. I can see the story on the screen in my mind. Maybe I don’t like that.

Maybe it’s just me. Give it a read and see what you think. Do it before the movie comes out and reshapes the story.

Peace (ready),

Thoughts From the Periphery (or Tossing Balls Against the Wall)

Whenever I went to see if I might glimpse at what was going on in the Facebook group for the Rhizomatic Learning adventure, this is what I would see:

Facebook Gate


The wall. The gate. The closed door.

It’s been intriguing being a complete outsider to the Facebook experience for both Rhizo14 and Rhizo15. I have a personal aversion to Facebook that I won’t get into here, other than my belief that Zuckerberg and company are privacy pirates not fit to own my media, and so, I knew both times (Rhizo14 and Rhizo15) that many conversations were unfolding in a space I was not in, and sometimes wondered:

What are they talking about over there?

When we consider open learning experiences, we are told (as participants) and we tell others (as facilitators) to “use the space you are in” and branch out from there. But I wonder if, even with a blog hub like Dave’s posts for each learning cycle and all the efforts to pull the disparate parts together to re-align the thinking, we aren’t being exclusive at the same time of being inclusive. Can we be both? I don’t know. I think so.

Imprecise graphing

I am intrigued by the notion of being an active insider in at least two spaces (Twitter and GPlus) but a complete outsider in a third space (Facebook). Reading the comments of some folks who have bveen writing in a collaborative document about how positive Facebook has been to their Rhizomatic Learning experiences, I realize only now, later, how rich those conversations must have been. And what people did I miss entirely? Are there whole swarms of folks who engaged in Facebook but nowhere else whose ideas could have informed my understanding? I suspect, the answer is yes.

I find myself reading echoes of the past, trying to connect the dots from these reflections to my own experiences, and noticing the gaps, too late. Or not. My own experiences were rich with content and connections, too.

While the Rhizomatic Learning Facebook group was open, it was only open if you were in Facebook, and unless I became a member (and thus, had to join Facebook … not happening … see above), I could not view the conversations unfolding there in FB from the outside.

The “Log into Facebook” screen that greeted me when I followed a link was like a locked door, and I did not have the key, and was unwilling to pay the price to be let in. I find it an interesting and intriguing dilemma of open learning: the social media place where the most people are in is the very social media place that keeps the most people out.

Don’t you?

Peace (tossing balls against the wall of Facebook),

Media Made, Connections Created, Lessons Learned in #Rhizo15

Let's connect

I made a ton of comics for the most recent round of Rhizomatic Learning with Dave Cormier, as well as other assorted media, such as memes and graphs and artwork. I realized, as Rhizo15 now officially winds down (but really, it never ends, if we can help it … thus, the Let’s Connect image above), that I have 56 items in my Flickr Album for Rhizo15.

56 items?

How’d that happen? (Wait — now 57, as I added a screenshot of the group into the album itself)

My Rhizo15 Flickr Group

Check out the full album (if you want) In all seriousness, this array of ideas does represent a lot of my thinking and connecting, and how to value with humor the important things being done inside the Rhizo15 collective (community? network? assortment of oddities?)

I’ve been trying to think about how best to reflect in writing about what I have learned with Rhizo15 and in typical rhizomatic fashion, I find it difficult to pinpoint specific things in a way that will make sense to a larger audience (that’d be you, my reader friend).

I did make this comic the other day, as part of Dave Cormier’s call for artifacts to explain Rhizomatic Learning.

And then yesterday, I created this deck as a sort of Top Ten-style, of things I am thinking about/learning about from Rhizo15.

things considered from rhizo15 – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Maybe somewhere in all that mess of media, something helpful will yet emerge. Or at least, it will get you wondering. Me. too.

Peace (in the share),

NWP Radio: The Writing Thief MOOC

I was fortunate to be invited earlier this year to participate with folks from The Writing Thief MOOC project on NWP Radio, with host Paul Oh (my good friend). The Writing Thief MOOC emerged from the Making Learning Connected MOOC project from last summer and the summer before (and will soon kickstart into its third iteration next month – come join in), and in this radio snow, Kim Douillard and Janis Selby Jones of San Diego Writing Project give great context for why an online reading group/maker group made sense for professional development.

Check Out Education Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with NWP radio on BlogTalkRadio

I was just a participant in this MOOC, but as a facilitator of the CLMOOC the past two summers and as a Make Cycle leader this coming CLMOOC, I am excited to be part of the reverberations of that project in this project. When you run a collaboration like CLMOOC, you hope others will build off the experience, and they did, and it was fun and wonderful.

The Writing Thief refers to the common book we all read by Ruth Culham about mentor texts.

Peace (on the radio),