Dear Ysabelle, Who Hacked the Hallways

(In order to understand why I am writing this letter to Ysabelle, you need to read Paul Bogush’s post over at Medium. It’s a powerful reminder of how students react to the stifling nature of our educational system by pushing at the boundaries of rules.)

“Despite Thomas Jefferson’s famous “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing,” in America, and in public schools, any rebellion now and then is a little rebellion too much. People who do rebel are seen as outsiders, as weirdos, as the crazy ones. Most kids who rebel are seen by teachers as being kids who do not have the qualities to be successful, yet they possess the very qualities that we would include when we list the attributes of heroes, role models, and leaders.” — Paul Bogush, Legacy at Medium

So, I found myself writing to this student that Paul featured in his post. This letter to Ysabelle goes like this:

Dear Ysabelle,

This morning, I read Mr. Bogush’s piece in Medium about your thought-provoking project to hang signs encouraging creativity and independent thought throughout the hallways of your school. I appreciated that you took the time to wrote a letter to Mr. Bogush about the rationale for what you did and why. I want you to know that I, a teacher too, applaud you, and so much of what Mr. Bogush writes in his piece, inspired by your act, is what I believe in, too.

Ysabelle, your response seemed reasoned, passionate and a powerful call to action for your fellow students. Your “hacking the hallway”, which is how I think of what you did, sent forth a strong message that no one is in this world is alone but that doesn’t mean we have to think and act like everyone else, either. The world changes for the better not because we shun those who think different and have a tilted lens on things, but because we embrace the crazy ideas that have the potential to become innovative ones.

I know enough about Mr. Bogush to know that he admires what you did, and so do I. Although I spend the school year with my sixth graders working to engage them as independent thinkers, so many students have already fallen into the comfortable role of following rules so closely they don’t know where to begin when given a task with no directions or specific outcomes. This is not their fault. It’s society’s fault. It’s us as parents who micromanage their days, and it is us as teachers who have clear expectations that narrow the possibilities of learning, and it is the world at large that casts a sneer at anyone with an original thought that falls outside of expectations … until that thought becomes something that alters the way we engage with the world (prime evidence: the admiration crowd surrounding the myth of Steve Jobs).

Your project reminded me of a Hackathon that I joined during a convention of teachers in Las Vegas a few years ago. Like you, we decided to “hack the hallways” by posting sticky notes on the artwork that was hanging throughout the convention center. Yes, even teachers like to be creative and break the rules. The task was to spark thinking in our fellow teachers in the convention, and to use the public artwork on the walls as a space for art. It was a blast, and even more importantly, there were a lot of teachers who asked what we were doing and who stopped to read our satirical notes. We hope we made a difference, just as you do. The convention center staff was not pleased, however, and some followed a few minutes behind us, ripping down our hacked signs as if we had used Sharpies and not sticky notes. It didn’t matter. The point had been made. Pictures had been snapped of the hacked art and the hacked notes were shared in online spaces, becoming a viral part of the conference. Our mark had been left behind.

The same goes for you, Ysabelle. Sure, your signs were probably taken down at some point. But the signs were only temporary outposts to your thinking, and yes, you have “accomplished more than just helping a few people…I have hopefully made every reader of this article’s day better,” as you write in your letter to Mr. Bogush. You did with me, Ysabelle.

If you ever find yourself in Western Massachusetts, Ysabelle, I invite you to come hack my classroom. Hang posters up all over the place. Spark my students to think creatively and independently. Take what you’ve done there at your school and pay it forward. In some ways, your poster brigade is a small act with small ripples. But ripples can become waves, and waves can change the world.

Thank you, and thank you to Mr. Bogush for sharing your story.

Sincerely,

Mr. Hodgson
Sixth Grade Teacher
Southampton, MA

Peace (in the response),
Kevin

 

A Return to Blink Blink Blink

blink blink blink
There’s no easy way to describe this old project (which can now be found housed on a Webmaker Thimble Page). It is  my first real venture into multimodal composition. I had just bought a Flip Camera, which no one had ever seen before, and had this idea for a poem that used three different videos, merging into one experience, so I asked some NWP friends at a Tech Matters retreat in Chico to blink into my camera and repeat the words “blink blink blink” for me. They no doubt thought I was crazy and could not figure out what I was doing, and I could not explain it, either. I taught myself some basic html coding and worked to bring it together.

I’ve hosted the poem itself in a few places over the years, often stifled and frustrated by the limitation of web hosting spaces that would not allow three videos to run simultaneously, as is required with this poem. The idea is that you click “play” on all three videos, and then center your own eyes on the nose. This allows you to experience ‘the face’ of the poem. (I know, it still sounds crazy). I included the text of the poem and also recorded a reflection on the process of writing and making the poem (which was interesting to listen to this morning … eight years later).

If you click on the screenshot above, it will bring you to the poem itself. (The sound quality sucks because it was a first generation Flip and the microphone must have been little more than a tin cup with a string.)

Confused? That’s OK. It was an experiment. I still find it intriguing and came back on it this morning for a blog post I am writing for the National Writing Project. It then occurred to me that Thimble might be the right place to host the poem, and it worked!  I did a little cheer.

I’m still tinkering a bit with the html code but not too much. I like the idea of preserving it as much its original form as possible.

Check out Blink Blink Blink

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

My Son’s Short: Chase Your Dreams

Video award (my son)
My eldest son and high school friends recently won an award from an Electronic Media Festival that took place at a local community college. He submitted a short film that he and his friends shot in the high school category, and their movie came in second place. We had a scheduling conflict, so we could not go the event itself, but apparently, they showed the winning movies on a massive screen, which is pretty neat.

And he got a neat engraved Laser Disc as an award.

Here is their movie short (the ending is a bit too violent for my tastes and the whole thing has an purposefully creepy feel to it — right down to the soundtrack). You’ll notice at the very end a reference to a larger movie project that has been in the works (and might be on hold right now for all I know) for a full-scale zombie movie that they have written together collaboratively.
Chase Your Dreams.

Peace (in the flick),
Kevin

Webinar Alert: You’re in the Right Place with the #CLMOOC

CLMOOC Digital Dudes
When: TONIGHT, May 20, 2014, 7-8 EST, 4-5 p.m. PDT
Where: Via Google Hangout on Air from Educator Innovator Webinar page.

Making Learning Connected (also known as #clmooc) is a collaborative, knowledge-building and sharing experience offered through Educator Innovator. It is open to anyone interested in making, playing, and learning together about the educational framework known as Connected Learning. In #clmooc, educators of all types have an opportunity to play with new tools, make projects and friends, and share projects and reflections with colleagues across the country and around the world. Join members of the Making Learning Connected 2014 team as they discuss the plans for the upcoming summer, how to get involved, and why “you’re in the right place” if you participate in #clmooc.

Come check out the hangout for information on the launch of the CLMOOC in June. Plenty of room for you!

Peace (in the mooc),
Kevin

The Power and Importance of Reflective Curation

I’m as guilty as the next person — I collect a lot of media when I am online, gathering ideas, considering possibilities and sharing resources with my many friends all over the place. What I don’t do enough of is curate this digital debris, putting things into a context for others to consider (or for myself to consider when I finally make my way back to it).

I was thinking about this yesterday as I read through Tanya’s Storify collection of a series of collaborative poetry projects that we were part of in the Rhizomatic Learning experience earlier this year. Of course, I remember doing all of what she documents, but her ability to collate and contextualize the “moves” that we did as some projects unfolded is such a great and powerful example of curation. She makes visible the thinking, the learning, the collaboration, and in doing so, Tanya situates how we all used technology to create some wonderful works together.

I’m so grateful for her work, and it reminds me that I need to do more of that kind of curation, to give anchor points to the pathways that I am taking here, there, everywhere. Her Storify collection indeed tells the story of collaboration by knitting together tweets, and other media, so that what emerges is a narrative of discovery. That’s the power of curation.

Peace (in the story),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: They Changed the World (Edison-Tesla-Bell)

https://d2na0fb6srbte6.cloudfront.net/read/imageapi/coverforissue/239124/comic/300/new
What? Barely any Marconi?

I really enjoyed this nonfiction graphic novel — They Changed the World: Edison-Tesla-Bell – for the way it pulls together the stories of these three pioneering inventors as they worked to bring ideas to fruition that ultimately did change the world in so many ways. It’s amazing to think of how these men were working during a relatively common time period, and how their lives overlapped at times. (And how many women were also inventing but never written about in our history books? Just wondering)

The graphic novel by Campfire Press weaves in the biographies of Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison in ways that bring their hardships and success to … eh … light, as each pursued visions of electricity and more. Each man brimmed with ideas and each man took a different route to success, failure and then success again. Writer Lewis Helfand does a nice job of showing us “warts and all” of the men — their failings and their goodness (when Edison gives space in his laboratory to Tesla, a bitter rival and former employee who lost almost everything in a fire, it comes as a shock and shows Edison — famous for his business acumen –  in a new way.)

The artwork by Naresh Kumar (who does many of the Campfire books) captures the spirit of the times, when innovation and invention were in the air, and when many people were suddenly working on similar inventions in different parts of the world.

As I mentioned, Marconi gets only scant mention, even though his work on transmitting voice and data over wires (and wireless) was also underway around the same time. I guess three inventors was enough to write about. He gets mentioned during some legal proceedings over who invented what, and when, and who would get credit for the inventions.

I want to mention a nice bonus at the back of the book, too.  In the spirit of the “Make,” the graphic novel details how a kid can create their own version of a rudimentary telephone, with a glass, some water, a nail, batteries and string. I love the story ends with an invitation to make a telephone and maybe have kids begin their own path “to change the world.” Nicely done.

Peace (in the invention),
Kevin

Teach the Web: My Weekend Mood Ring

One of the activities shaping up at Teach the Web is to create a multimedia Mood Ring. I like that idea, so here’s what I culled together this morning — thinking of the Friday afternoon weariness into the Saturday/Sunday family time, and then shifting back to Monday morning. (It’s June. Teaching is more difficult with unfocused sixth graders.)

My Weekend Mood Ring

I used Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker, with the new search tools for Gliphy built right into the site, which is very handy! Plus, anytime you can add NRBQ to a project, you should!

Peace (in the Make),
Kevin