Visual Slice of Life: Variations on a Flower

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

Over at another writing space where I “live” with words, our friend Kim has begun to prompt our thinking around the visual. So, today, this slice is more visual than written. Kim has us thinking “spring” this, which is difficult to do when our yard is still covered in snow and temperatures plunged again the other day.

Spring has not yet sprung in New England … and yet … and yet, I saw a neighbor hooking up white buckets and tubing to his trees, anxious to catch the flow of sap when it begins. So, maybe he knows something I don’t know. Maybe spring will actually come.

For now, I have flowers in a vase, and this series of photos and filters is a celebration of the bright yellow on our kitchen table.

First, one of the originals:
Flowers

Then, a collage:
Tulips before Spring

Then, some odd filtering:
More Tulips with effects

Finally, a visual word cloud:
Spring
 

Peace (in the color),
Kevin

 

In the Poet’s Defense: I Lift Lines to Remix Ideas

Not a single person has complained about my periodic “lifting of lines” from people in the Slice of Life Challenge. But still, I feel like I need to if not defend, then at least explain, what I am doing when I lift lines (steal phrases) from other bloggers. By writing about it here, I am trying to name it. By naming it, I am trying to see if it has legs for learning.

You know what I mean? (Note to self: your defense is off to a murky start)

BelieveinCastles

Katherine even wrote a comment here at my blog after I left a poem at her blog:

There is beauty,
in the words you lift.
A second life found
inside of your lines.


Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app

When I “lift lines” from Slice of Life posts, I am borrowing a phrase of words from the post, and constructing a poem around those words. I am deeply reading the slice. Meanwhile, I am also putting on my poet’s hat. Where is the “center of gravity” for me in the post? What words leap out in my mind as I read? What’s the nuance I bring to the post as a reader? These are the internal questions that go through my head. I think it started when I got tired of writing comments for Slice of Life folks that seemed genuine but rather boring. As teacher, we learn to say ‘good job’ and ‘nicely done’ in many different ways, but with fellow teachers, I wanted something more.

WhatisitabouttheWind

I want to play with words, to make my comments sing in a rhythm of their own, and I want my comments to enliven the conversations.

In a sense, my “line lifting” is nothing more than remixing, right? It’s not plagiarism, is it? I don’t think so. I am never stealing and using without attribution, and in fact, the poetic responses are published right with the post itself, as a way to honor the writer. And I do it to respect their ideas, and maybe bring a new perspective from the outside poet. Interestingly, as a writer, I find that some of my poems are clear partners to the text; Others, are distant cousins. Often, it may be that only I see the connections. This is part of the text wrestling that goes on between writer anc reader, and how online spaces both close that gap and make it more complicated.

maps

The concept of “line lifting” came from somewhere else — Gosh, I can’t remember now, and I am sure someone gave me the idea. It may have been Margaret who named it for me after I did my work with some of her students’ poems — and I used the phrase “stealing lines” at some point, too. Names matter. I sort of like the alliterative tone of “lifting lines.”

I am sure we are all stealing, borrowing and grabbing ideas from one another, and I, for one, am all in favor of that free flow of ideas. During the #rhizo14 class, I even started a whole project called Steal This Poem (go on, it’s still there for the taking) and watched with wonder as others did just that — stole my words and made beautiful new works of art from it.

Steal This Poem

In my head, I am happy when I find that line in someone’s post that works just right, and resonates with me. The poem will flow, and I just sort of watch it happen. And I suspect that a blogger who writes, hits publish, finds people have read their writing … I imagine that they will be pleased to find a poem in the mix — a small morsel of words and rhythm — with the rest of the comments. And, if I am lucky, it will bring a smile to someone’s day, if only for the moment it takes to read a few lines inspired by your own writing. Maybe it will inspire a poem by others, too. Now, that would be a gift.

April will bring the whole “poem in a pocket” idea. I’d prefer to “lift lines” in March and leave small poems scattered about like seeds in the wind. I hope you catch a poem yourself one of these days and find a line that inspires you. Be a remixer of ideas and see what happens.

DentedCups

So, does this translate into classroom practice? Yes, it will, and when we move into poetry later this year, I will be bringing this concept of “lifting lines” to my students, using other poems and stories as fodder for creative ideas. What better way to foster readers who read carefully and writers who engage in “conversation” with other writers?

Peace (your honor, the poet thief rests),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Start to New Stories

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

There’s something special to starting a new book. Yesterday, I began to read two new books that have been on my radar for some time. On one hand, I love stacks of unread books. They represent so much potential. On the other hand, seeing a stack of book to be read makes me antsy, and I risk losing the “moment” of being “in” the book I am reading in order to rush to get to the book next up on my list.

Does that happen to you?

 

Wildwood book cover

Anyway, the first new book I began reading yesterday is a read-aloud with my nine-year-old son (a common theme of my Slices of Life – if you remember, my very first Slice of Life six years ago was reading The Lorax to my older boys, who were much younger then). Wildwood Imperium, by Colin Meloy (he, of The Decemberists fame), is the third book in the Wildwood Chronicles. We read the first two books and have been waiting for some time for the third. That’s a whole other feeling, right? Waiting for the writer to get to work and get the story out (I’m talking to you, George R.R. Martin).

So, when Wildwood Imperium arrived earlier this week, and sat on the kitchen counter, my son and I were both thumbing our way through the pages, checking out the glorious illustrations by Meloy’s wife, Carson Ellis, and getting ready to dive in. Of course, neither of us can recall all the details of the last book, so I keep stopping and we keep asking each other, do you remember the shape shifting fox? the bear with hooks as claws? the plan to find the automaton boy prince? the magical tree?

There is tricky vocabulary in here (no surprise if you know Meloy as a songwriter) but I like that, and I like that my son has new words floating in his head as the story unfolds.

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The other book I picked up as a solo read is The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud,  American Legend – a non-fiction book about the masterful leader of the Sioux Indians who oversaw a huge swath of America and even defeated the U. S. Army at one point (I believe), only to have the tide of injustice sweep him under the rug of history. Those who win write the history books, right? I know I never read about Red Cloud in my social studies classes. Now, I am learning.

While non-fiction, the book has beautiful writing, very evocative of the landscape and characters and the time of expansion and turmoil in our country, and I am only a chapter deep but already wishing I had a few hours to sit with the pages, reading.

What are you reading?

Peace (in the words on the page as stories in the mind),
Kevin

Emergent Ideas from the #CLMOOC

CLMOOC Emergent Branches
One of the themes of our presentation about the Making Learning Connected MOOC at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Boston last weekend was the planned learning versus the unplanned, or the emergent, learning. I found it incredibly exciting over the summer when the unexpected happened. It was something we facilitators hoped might happen but when you are planning, you can only lay some groundwork. You can’t force unknown ideas to emerge.

You can, however, notice it and focus the spotlight on it.

For our session, I went in and created this visual, showing what we planned (the trunk) and what emerged naturally (the branches) from each of the Make Cycles of the CLMOOC. I like that this kind of illustration allows me to document and remember the emergent ideas from participants, and values their innovative ideas.

Peace (along the branches),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Getting Published in the Paper

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

I had a column of mine run in the local newspaper yesterday, as I explained the rationale behind our continued teaching of Three Cups of Tea, in light of the controversies behind the book and Greg Mortenson. The column was partially spurred on by some questions from our School Committee about why we would still be teaching this book, and partially because this particularly column in our local newspaper is a place to feature teacher/writers from the Western Massachusetts Writing Project (although others do periodically write).

Chalk talk

Here is a podcast of my column:

Peace (in the inquiry),
Kevin

Curation Collection: Where I Walked in #Walkmyworld

One of our final tasks for the #walkmyworld project is to curate our work, using Storify. It took me a lot longer than I thought it would, but having it all in one place makes a lot of sense. Here is a bit of where I walked. I decided to curate around themes, not around time (taking a cue from Luke’s Storify for Digital Learning Day).

You can go directly to my Storify

Or view it as embedded here:

Peace (in the walk),
Kevin

Slice of Life: You Write with That?

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

I had a student come up with this in his hand, complaining that he could not get it into the sharpener.

Tiny pencil

Well, of course. It’s a bit small to be writing with, don’t you think? I watched him, amazed at his focus on the sharpening. But by then, the pencil was even a bit too small for him. He ended up using one of my tiny hand-held sharpeners and then agreed to trade his teeny little pencil in for a full-size brand-new pencil, although he did it rather warily, as if he had spent a lot of time and energy to this pencil just right and its size represented the amount of words that he had written out.

The funny thing is, this is not unusual — this small pencil syndrome. And it is almost always boys. I can’t explain it. But I can write a poem inspired by it.
TinyWordsTinyPencils
Peace (in the writing of small posts),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Wandering the Books of Memories

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

When my kids were younger, the Picture Book rooms of our libraries were our home away from home. As a stay-at-home dad with my two older kids (now in their teens), we could/would spend hours in the stacks, just browsing, reading, playing and hanging out with stories. Sadly, our youngest boy is now a bit too old for the picture book room, as he moved on to novels and graphic novels.

I still look wistfully at the room, though, and last night, as my youngest son and I were killing some time before getting his older brother from his Confirmation class, we drove to the library (our small city has two libraries, and this one is the one we don’t visit as often). While he sat on the ground, perusing a graphic novel, I wandered into the Picture Book room.

Such memories!

And I could not resist. I went thumbing through the stacks and pulled out a few favorites of the boys over the years — you know, the books that I had read hundreds of times and was always at the point where I was happy when the books were either taken out by someone else or I could convince them to leave the stories for another child. Captain Raptor, Traction Man, Bill Peet stories … oh, there were others, but these are some of the few I could still find in familiar places in the bookshelves, thankfully.

Books

And then I figured: check ‘em out. Bring ‘em home. And so I did.

Welcome back, old friends.

Peace (in the books),
Kevin

Making Maps, Making Meaning

map collage
We had folks in our workshop session at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in Boston “making maps” as part of our presentation around the Making Learning Connected MOOC. It was so cool to see the different approaches to ideas and to representing pathways of discovery. Some folks created flowcharts of their conference learning. Others did mind maps of where they want to go next with some ideas. A few built three-dimensional representations of their online worlds and connections.

Since I had already done a learning map the other day, I went into another direction: representing my affiliation with bands that I have been in over the years. (that’s mine, on the right). This is my learning map:

My Immersion Map

The image on the left is the collection of maps from participants, as we lined them up together at the end, stitching together our learning into one larger map. The pattern on the rug helped …

I guess maps are having a moment, right now. In my RSS feed yesterday, I found two interesting links around mapmaking as learning. The first showed maps as an example of “digital empathy” and the other focused in on sharing of maps as the new meme.

Peace (along the lines),
Kevin