I have nothing to write this morning. The election has zapped me of my optimism.
(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are invited to notice the small moments. You write, too.)
There’s always an edge of chaos when I introduce something new and technology-related to our writing process. We’ve been working for about two weeks on a small research/writing project in which my sixth graders are composing Letters to the Next President based on a topic of choice. I wrote about it yesterday.
Last Friday, I put students across my four classes into Virtual Writing Groups. They “invited” other students from their groups into their documents in comment mode. Then yesterday, after a mini-lesson on Warm and Cool Feedback and how to comment in Google Docs, they spent about 30 minutes reading other students’ letters, using the comment tool to offer support and suggestions for improvements.
For most, this is the first time they have used the commenting feature as collaboration and the first time they found themselves in a single document with other students, sometimes in the same document at the same time (since all groups had at least one or two other students from the same class as well as students from others).
If you’ve ever been with young writers then they suddenly discover the power and potential of commenting into Google Docs, as well as its potential collaborative features, you know what the room suddenly becomes. A scream out loud, a laugh across the room, a shout to someone else, a burst of confusion. We had it all, in each of the sixth grade classes yesterday.
My role, as teacher, was to allow those moments to happen, put what they were finding out into context (“Now, imagine if we extended your Writing Group to students beyond our own sixth grade in our own school ….”) and then guide them forward to keep actively reading and offering suggestions for improvement.
I asked that they NOT yet read the comments on their own letters, as we will be doing that today in a lesson around accepting/rejecting feedback from others while acknowledging the authority of the “outside reader.” I wasn’t strict on that point, but most were fully engaged in reading what others had written and offering comments.
Next up? Final editing/revision of the Letters in today’s classes, printing them off and mailing them to the White House in the coming weeks. It’s a nice bit of symmetry that our letter project comes to an end on the day of the election.
Peace (it’s collaborative),
Check out Letters to the Next President — there are more than 6,500 letters of all media types from students 13 and older and more seem to arrive every day. Since my students are under 13, I have been working on a similar project but not for that site (which does not allow letters for writers under the age of 13). Letters to the Next President is part of a National Writing Project/Educator Innovator project.
I’ve been able to guide my students into the research component of Google Docs, using tables to track information and sources. This rather small-scale research component sets the stage for longer research pieces later in the year. We’ve color-coded a few letters from high school students as a way to notice facts and opinion as a way to visualize how they can use facts from research to bolster their opinion on the topic they have chosen to write about. And they have been writing their own letters on a topic of choice, laying out an argument for action by the next president.
Last week, I put them into “virtual writing groups” with students in all four of my classes — they “invited” other students in other classes to comment on their Google Doc letters — and today, they will be peer reading and reviewing other letters, with the Warm/Cool Feedback approach. Tomorrow, just in time for election day, they will read peer comments, revise their letters and then be just about done with the project. Well, except for the printing and mailing to the White House, which we will be doing.
I admit that I missed a few opportunities: I had an offer from a CLMOOC friend who teaches upper middle school to have his students peer review my students. I dropped the ball (maybe it’s not too late). I keep contemplating using Youth Voices as a publishing platform. I still might offer that option up, but it requires parent sign-off, and so I need to get my act together.
So, we are the finish line and yet, maybe not quite yet.
Peace (in words and wonder),
Yesterday, I spent nearly the entire day at a Leadership Retreat for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. It was productive, as always, and yet, I did find my mind wandering from time to time. I decided to try my hand at Visual Notetaking to keep focused.
I tried at Visual Notetaking, but I failed. I began with notes on paper during the meeting and then later, after the retreat, I used the Paper app to draw the visual with my stylus.
Well, first of all, too many words. Too much text. But that’s who I am: a word man. And I wasn’t patient enough, either, for thinking through the visual design element. I sort of jumped in, started and then worked around my starting point. I’m not sure either of these really captures much beyond a pretty note.
Check out Sylvia Duckworth and her art. It really is inspiring how she listens, processes, and then captures the movement of ideas in her artwork. All of it seems logical and designed with an eye towards cohesiveness of the reader/viewer.
I’m not giving up on the idea of Visual Notetaking, but I understand that free-hand drawing is not my strength and never has been. It doesn’t help that I have a fat stylus for the Ipad, making detailed drawings more difficult than it probably should be. I am more apt to be creative when I have the art done for me, which has its drawbacks and limitations, and I can work on the writing and design piece. I need a partner!
Still, this opportunity allowed me to dive in and try the process, and I did find some good resources to put into my Diigo bookmarking for later perusal. I like the simplicity of this overview, for example.
Have you tried Visual Notetaking? Have you done better than me?
Peace (in the draw),
The Young Writer’s Project in Vermont (an amazing organization supporting student writers) is taking on the unofficial hosting of some themes for what used to be and still is #DigiWriMo as way to help its writers keep writing in a digital way. Each week, they will offer up a theme. This week’s idea is: Home.
I went into MapStack and created a few versions of my neighborhood with its coloring layering tools and then pulled those images into Adobe Spark on my iPad, writing a poem as the narration, and ended up with a digital poem.
I like how the map layout doesn’t change, but the layered effects does, and the words are inspired by each image, to some degree. In other words, the writing of the poem came AFTER I had created various versions of the maps, not the other way around.
I also used the Fused app, which does double exposures of images, to pull maps together to make something slightly different. By keeping the layout exactly the same, the blends gave a slight twist to the originals. Subtle, even.
Peace (at home and beyond),
I did #WhitmanWednesday and #ThoreauThursday — two white guy poets of much acclaim — and I wanted to find a poem with the alliterative “F” for Friday that moved away from gender and race of the other two dudes.
So I wandered about, used a Search Engine as a compass for navigation, and sailed into Mary Weston Fordham.
The Poetry Foundation says:
Little is known about the life of poet Mary Weston Fordham. A free person of color from a relatively affluent family, she bravely ran her own school during the Civil War and was hired in 1865 as a teacher by the American Missionary Association. She taught during Reconstruction at the Saxon School in Charleston, South Carolina. Her poetry contains references to family and to the deaths of several children in infancy.
A single volume of her work, Magnolia Leaves (1897), containing 66 poems, was published by a South Carolina press with an introduction by Booker T. Washington. Her poems display an ease with meter and rhyme in lyrical explorations of historical, spiritual, and domestic themes.
I read and then tinkered around with her poems, which have a certain grace to them that I liked. I settled on “Shipwreck” for its theme and imagery of language, but also I was hooked on the last lines of the last stanza.
So, I took the last stanza of Fordham’s Shipwreck into the Visual Poetry and painted with her words for #FordhamFriday. Is that hashtag a thing? It is now.
I also took her poem, The Pen, and did some blackout work on it, recreating the words into something slightly new.
Want to play along? Here is a link to various Mary Weston Fordham poems.
Peace (as remix),
It’s #ThoreauThursday, and in an intersection with the concept of Digital Writing Month, I gathered up a bunch of Henry David Thoreau quotes and layered his ideas about writing into a Zeega media mix. The soundtrack? A song called Walden Pond.
The digital piece works best if you use the Full Screen option, in my opinion. Never used Zeega? The reader advances the slides as the soundtrack plays underneath. The writer puts the pieces together, but it is the reader with the agency on the pacing of the piece.
What about you? What are you making today?
Peace (ripples on the pond),
Wednesdays are #WhitmanWednesday, and so in a convergence with #DigiWriMo, I found a quote from Walt Whitman about writing and used it as an audio file, adding in sound effects and an underlying string melody. I like the heartbeat, although the heartbeat sounds a lot better with headphones than on my computer’s tiny speakers.
What about you? What can you do with Whitman’s words and poems today?
Peace (sounds like),
This has been the year of plugs, nearly pulled.
First, the Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC) almost didn’t happen. Now, Digital Writing Month is here for November but it is not really here at all. In both cases, those who envisioned online learning adventures and those who nurtured those spaces over years decided time had run out. For CLMOOC, it was my friends at the National Writing Project. For DigiWriMo, it is the folks at Hybrid Pedagogy/Digital Pedagogy.
I think there are valid reasons for founders to say, we’re moving on to other things. Things do run their course. NWP has been deep into Letters to the Next President (worth checking out … thousands of letters of all media shapes and sizes from high school students). Digital Pedagogy people may be shifting its focus to other ways to support digital writing and thinking about digital writing (and thinking about the teaching of digital writing.) Both organizations do wonderful projects, with vision.
I guess I have a hard time letting go, though.
I was part of the crowd-sourced CLMOOC this past summer (where the collective parts led the activities, and it was fantastic). Now I am part of CLMOOC folks working to plan some Pop-Up Make Cycle activities later this month for Not-DigiWriMo.
It always feels strange when the founders say, this is no more, and the folks who in the midst say, let’s do more. There is the possibility of tension there (I can hear the voice: “Hey, I thought we said this was over!”). I don’t revel in that tension, but if we all believe in the potential of dispersed ownership of Connected Learning and the open value of hashtags and social media spaces, then it makes sense that if the participants don’t want something to be over, there is no reason why it needs to be over. We’re following our passions. (Reality Check: in some cases, though, the brand of an online learning space might be legally attached to an organization, so there’s that … here, both organizations know something continued/is continuing onward.)
Where I am going with all of this? Well, DigiWriMo is officially “retired,” as the pioneering folks at Hybrid Pedagogy noted on Twitter this week. Digi Duck is no doubt kicking back on a beach chair, drink in hand, dreaming of bread crumbs.
— Digital Pedagogy Lab (@DigPedLab) October 31, 2016
But you can make your own paths, and there are folks from all over the world out there to play along with you. See the Vermont-based Young Writers Project for weekly themes for their version of Digital Writing Month. Pay attention to the CLMOOC website for Pop-Up Make Cycles with a DigiWriMo theme. Take part in DS106’s Daily Create for inspiration.
But hey, don’t wait for us. Get writing, digitally. Make a poem. Write a video. Experiment. Tinker. Create. Many folks are still using the #digiwrimo hashtag on Twitter. Share. Inspire others. Get inspired.
Peace (in the code),
(This is a post for Slice of Life, a weekly writing share hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We look at the small moments. You write, too.)
I noticed something amiss the fourth or fifth time I looked at the wall clock. It was still 7:40 a.m. Or so said the clock. It wasn’t. It was 8:25 a.m. and students would be arriving soon.
The clock was dead and I was nearly out of time.
I scrambled to see if it was just my clock. It was. Time had stopped on me. I notified the custodians, who promised to replace it, and finished up my morning message for students. I was thankful for my Saxophone Clock at the back room (although it was interesting when some students who have been with me for two months now only noticed it now, when the school wall clock was busted. So much for being observant.)
Later, while my students were at Physical Education and I was working on plans for the day’s writing, the custodians did indeed come in. They took down the old clock and put up a new one, and then told me that it would take a day to settle into the automated system.
Ten minutes later (I think), I looked up and time, as they say, was flying. The seconds hand looked like it had a jolt of caffeine and the minutes hand was doing its steady dance around the hours. By 3:45 p.m., after school had ended, the clock read 5:20.
It was time for me to head home.
Peace (ticking away),