Making Flappy Writer (a forked game)

I saw a link to a game development site called Play My Code and I could not resist checking it out. It’s pretty code-heavy (thus, the name) but it does allow you to remix/fork projects that others have created, so some tinkering with the underlying code gives you an opportunity to play and make games. Here, I took someone’s remix of Flappy Bird, added some new images, and created Flappy Writer.

Play Flappy Writer and avoid the pencils

And here is the embedded version of the game (wondering if this will work)

This site is clearly marked in Beta Mode, but it has some neat potential for those students who want to move beyond my video game design unit with Gamestar Mechanic, and who want to dive into some code-based development.

Peace (in the game),

When the Meme Turns Serious

My Students ... meme
Someone in the Making Learning Connected MOOC community posted a pretty serious-themed meme yesterday, as part of our work around understanding memes as cultural currency. I was struck by the realization that I seem to always go for the funny bone when I make and read memes, and yet, there is something about a meme that can be strikingly serious, too, if done right.

I decided to put aside the humor for a bit and try my hand at a serious meme, which is more difficult for me than I would have thought. Serious means that I had to resist the urge to be flip and/or sarcastic, which is the heart of how I view memes. I had a small amount of writing space and the image had to tell much of the story, if the meme were to be effective.

In addition, I wanted to move away from using the meme generator sites, which offer limited choices and pull you into their system, leaving very little agency. Instead, I wanted to create the meme, all on my own, with my own image and my own text, and my own choices, with no branding on the final meme.

I don’t know if I succeeded or not in my serious meme angle, but I can’t shake the feeling of how big business is really impacting our educational system, and the sense that it is more the bottom-line of those companies than the needs of our students that is driving much of the educational reform movement. I know I am probably preaching to the choir, if you read this blog, but it still is something that sits in the back of my mind (particularly as our district is spending gobs of money on a new math curriculum by a company whose name and presence is all over the testing industry these days. It begins with a “P.” You know what I am talking about, I am sure).

So, this meme (shared above) seeks to stake out some protective ground, establishing as best as I can a philosophical wall between the business interests outside my classroom door and the students who are inside my space each and every day of the school year.

This is how I made this meme:

  • I went into my Flickr files/archives to find a picture of a student at work. This one is from a National Day on Writing event a few years ago where my students were podcasting and publishing some of their writing;
  • I used the Aviary editing tool within Flickr itself (although I had a hard time finding the Aviary link, as Flickr made some design changes to its tools in the last few days);
  • I layered in text and added a border to the original image, and tried to find a text font that seemed “meme-like” that would stand out on top of the image;
  • I struggled with the wording, and how to concisely say what I wanted to say. I knew I wanted the large font on top to say “my students” in some vein, and the “not a cog in the wheel” kept gnawing at me. I ended up with “My student writers are not cogs in your business model” with the purposeful use of “you” to direct the meme at educational businesses (as if they care);
  • I reposted the image, now a meme, to Flickr for sharing.

Peace (in the message),

PS — if you want to use my image to create your own meme, feel free to do so. The image is linked here on Flickr or you can grab it from this post.



Deconstructing the Cowbell (A Meme Exploration)

CLMOOC cowbell

Raise your hand if you know the reference to this meme? As part of our exploration of memes as cultural currency with the Making Learning Connected MOOC, I decided to use this particular meme and deconstruct it a bit. And I decided to do it in comic form.


Check out how Google Trends followed the “more cowbell” concept over time:

And also, where the phrase has cache, globally (almost entirely in the United States):

If you want to know more about memes, then you should check out the site – Know your Meme – which provides context for original references and tracks the history of particular memes. Plus, it’s a fascinating history lesson into the digital age of popular culture references, for good and for bad (many memes have racist or mean origins.)

This is just a sampling of the hundreds of variations of this meme at this one site. You can see all sorts of references to businesses, inside jokes, friends and more.
cowbell memes

Over at Meme Generator, you can even set up a Meme Generator, so if you truly want more cowbell, then go make a meme!

clmooc fever

Peace (in the meme),

Making a Mess with Memes

Clmooc meme
So, we’re going to have some fun this week with the Making Learning Connected MOOC, with Make Cycle 2′s theme on the topic of “memes.” You can read the newsletter that gives the context for memes and cultural humor, and more, and then we invite you to dive into making memes yourself.

Clmooc meme

I make a lot of memes, as regular visitors here know, but I want to try to dive in a bit deeper this week, and learn more about the ins and outs of how memes connect to popular culture, and how some memes become a secret language of sorts for young people. This is a good overview by Peter Kittle, one of the Make Cycle leaders this week.

Meanwhile, make your own memes, and share them out with the CLMOOC community.

Peace (in the meme),

Two Leftover Musical How To’s

There is never an end to our Make Cycles at the Making Learning Connected MOOC (You can enter in and make things whenever you want)  but as we begin to shift towards the launch of the second Make Cycle, I realized I had two How To projects that I never shared out, for different reasons.

boy band thimble

The first one is How To Build a Boy Band, and the inspiration for it was during a gathering of Connected Learning folks last summer, when we were chatting about the recipe for pop music (and New Direction had just started to play on our airwaves). I remixed a project via Mozilla Webmaker, creating the ways to build a Pop Band, adding in some humor (I hope).

I had planned to share it this past week and then got busy with new Makes, so scuttled it in favor of what I was working on during the week. But, as we now at the end, I decided to bring it back, in hopes that maybe someone will remix it yet again (maybe, How to Build a Girl Pop Band?) Actually, Alan Levine had once remixed it in a funny way, creating How To Build a Dog Band. Ha.

The second Make is something I created this week, entitled How To Make an Odd Song. I never shared it because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted, and I could not figure out why. Then, I realized, it become more of a showcase of me playing, and less a project to show you how to do it.

Part of the reason is that I wanted to keep the video file around 3 minutes, and skipped through some steps for the viewer to replicate the actions I am showing. The result was less than satisfactory for a How To project, which requires an unveiling of the architecture of the explanation, and I think mine failed on that account. I could not get past that kind of fail when I was thinking of sharing it during the week.

But, feel free to check it out as part of my Make Leftovers here, as I use an app called BeatForge (which costs 99 cents, by the way, and is not free, as I suggest in my video) and a small device known as the Kaossilator.

Peace (in the next Make),


Bring Me the #TvsZ #Antidote

Yesterday, in the Twitter-based tag game of Twitter vs. Zombies (aka, #TvsZ), I was a “human” for only a short time in the morning, then got hit with a #bite that turned me into a zombie. Apparently, being up early, as I often am, was a huge disadvantage because I had no other human friends around because no one could #swipe me and protect me. I become a zombie.

Twitter vs zombies

Not that that’s a bad thing. In this game, that is. As a zombie, I spent parts of the day looking for other human players to #bite, and tried to navigate the rules (turns out, I broke the #rules more than a few times and had to retract quite a few #bites, and then I blamed it on my Zombie Brain.) Friends on Twitter noticed my changed avatar — the Zombie me — and were asking, what happened? Is it the end of the school year? Ha. As if …


As a huge, shifting game of Internet tag, Twitter vs. Zombies is intriguing on many levels, and I have written about this before. But this time, I tried paying attention to how the change in the rules impact the game. Adding elements changed game dynamics every time, and that was important. We all needed something new to hang on, to know that the game would not be static (so, hats off to the organizers).


During the day, I made comics, memes and even hacked the Twitters vs. Zombie website with xRay Goggles, as way to bring some media fun into the mix and add some different literacies into the game.


One of the rules of the day involved sharing images, too, to either add a #bite if you were a zombie or find shelter if you were a human. I ended up using this penguin that my son had turned into a zombie of sorts, posing it throughout the house during the day as my way to get #xtrabite power.

Twitter vs zombies

The latest rule change allows zombies to change back into human form, by writing a blog post with the #antidote hashtag. So here I am, ready to resume a rather normal life. Or so I hope. There is still a day ahead of us, although I know I will be away from technology (at ball games) for much of the day. So, who knows what will happen …

Peace (in the game),

Make Cycle 1 Reflection: Herding Cats with Curation

HowTo Flipboard Mag
This week has been an amazing thing to watch unfold with the Making Learning Connected MOOC (CLMOOC). I think I wrote last year about the sort of anxiety that teams of facilitators and designers of free, online courses have just before something launches, and you wonder: Is anyone going to come to this party?

Boy, they arrived, all right, and with Make Cycle leaders Chris Butts and Rachel Bear leading the way with a fantastic theme of creating “How To ….” projects, the bubbling expertise of participants came fast and furious, and a steady stream of participation rocked my email notification system all week, as updates flowed in from Google Plus, Twitter, the Blog Hub and other spaces where people are making and sharing and connecting. We know we don’t know all of what is going on, which is what makes our CLMOOC so interesting. There are many pockets of activity here, there, everywhere, and we honor that that is happening outside our field of vision, and we honor all of those who just want to lurk and hang out as viewers.

The difficult in this kind of system is: how do we even begin to curate the wonderful projects being shared out in these spaces? It’s a bit like herding cats. We struggled with this same idea last year, too. It’s part of the system of our collaborative ethos: We encourage you work to work in a “domain of one’s own” and yet, we would still love to archive and curate the work being created, as best as we can. That dichotomy is what we grapple with, rather happily, to be honest. We would not want to change it to a closed a system. Yet, this conundrum is tension in open networks, I think.

The How To projects are good example of this. With the shift in many of our states (mine included) to Common Core and a push for more expository text, these assorted media-infused How To Projects have the potential to be a gold mine of mentor texts for teachers and maybe for students, too. In our Twitter Chat the other night, I mentioned how I thought Chris and Rachel might want to collate the projects into an e-book or something, which Chris rightly responded by noting they had thought about that, but wondered: how does one even do that when the flow of projects is to furious and far-ranging and not in one place to begin with?

This idea continued to dance around in my head. I thought, maybe Diigo bookmarks as a collection? Or maybe Jog the Web? I thought about making a Table of Contents in a collaborative document, with links to individual projects. But I didn’t like any of those. They weren’t visual enough. They would not capture the magical energy of the projects. They didn’t honor the people who were knee-deep in the making.

Then I thought: Flipboard!

Why not create a Flipboard Magazine just for the How To Projects, and so, I did just that, and then spent a considerable amount of time going through our Google Plus community, adding projects into the magazine. That work reminded me of the range of projects and the vast talent that resides in the emerging CLMOOC community. Pretty amazing stuff, from tutorials on cooking, to parenting, to teaching, to so much more. And the look of Flipboard honors the work, I hope.

Come check out our CLMOOC How To Magazine on Flipboard. As more projects roll in, I will be adding them into the mix. Curation is as important as creation, and our CLMOOC community is hopefully the richer by seeing the larger picture of all of our projects merged together.

Peace (in the flip),

PS — Here is a Storify collection of the wide-ranging, informative Tweet Chat we had this week, with Chris and Rachel leading the way and Karen gathering up the tweets. Tweets are in reverse-chronological order, just so you know.



Considering Comic Literacies

My latest blog post is up at MiddleWeb and I consider comics in a variety of ways. What drove this piece is realizing that while many of students read graphic novels, they don’t all understand how to “read” graphic stories. Come see what I am talking about.

Read my piece at Middleweb.

This is a project that my class did to create a graphic story rendition of one of our novels.

Peace (in the frames),