Blackout Poems: Name Recognition

(I am using the New York Times interactive Blackout Poetry site for a few days to create Blackout poems. They give you some articles to choose from. You create poems of no more than 15 words. The interactive does the blacking out around your chosen words. It’s pretty cool. You can also read other poems built around the same articles. Give it a try.)

Blackout Poetry1

Process Note: This poem is created from an article about model Kate Upton and her attempt to move into acting. It’s also about what beauty is in the age of viral images. In this poem, I tried to keep my attention on the recognition of name in pop culture, and the transient nature of likes and thumbs-ups and more. That “no more than a cameo” is a good line. I also liked the floating off the page concept.

Peace (in what’s unsaid),

Kid, This is NOT a Timewaster


We were nearing the end of a two-hour hike in the woods. Three 11 year old boys. The dog. Me. The sun was shining, keeping the bite of Spring at bay. No bugs were bothering us. The boys had crossed a small river twice, scaling their way over fallen trees, calling out encouragement to each other. One even took off his shoes and walked through the cold water, balancing on mossy rocks. They had played Manhunt, hiding among the rocks and trees.

It was a Grand Adventure.

Then …

“Well, this has a been a Timewaster,” one of the kids told me. I don’t think he was jonesing to get back to his video games or anything. He was the one who took off his shoes to dip toes into the water. But I don’t think he is used to such lengthy unstructured “wanderings,” either.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Spending two hours out here” —  and I pointed around me at the beauty of the woods — “is never a Timewaster,” I told him. The dog looked up at my voice and then the trees, as if noticing the woods for the first time, too.

“Nope,” I added. “Time in these woods is never, ever wasted time.”

The boy (not my own, by the way) looked at me in an interested way, sort of nodded, and kept on walking. I followed. The dog was happy to keep moving, too. We all were.

Timewasting, indeed.

Peace (outside the inside),

EduJoy: Scenes from a Pop-Up Concert

I am the advisor to our Student Council, and the group just hosted the first Pop-Up Concert — a sort of unofficial concert of sixth grade musicians (including teachers) for an audience of sixth graders and anyone else who wandered into the cafeteria after lunch. We didn’t really announce it or anything.

I wrote a song for the event, and I was joined on the stage by my school technology friend and guitar player, Steve. The song is called One True Friend.

There was a sixth grade A Capella group who did a fantastic job (but not sure of permissions to share photos and videos) and then a few individual student performers, including these two gifted students who work with Steve on music on a regular basis.

Sara (on the ukulele, singing Riptide)

Gabby (singing a song she wrote)

It was a cool way to end the week before April vacation, and to showcase student talent in a concert that wasn’t all that stressful (although the students were still nervous).

Peace (in the share),

Slice of Life: Poetry and Image Collecting

I’ve been using primary source images from the Library of Congress to write poetry for the past few days and it’s been pretty interesting to get inspired by history. I gathered them all up here in a Storify as a way to curate the poems and images and reflection points.

Peace (in poems),

Disrupted, The Big Short, and the Great Unknowns

It’s just by chance that I finished Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Start-Up Bubble by journalist Dan Lyons (he, of Fake Steve Jobs fame, writer on Silicon Valley, and former tech columnist of Newsweek) on the very same day that we watched The Big Short for family movie night.

What can I say? I am worried about our whole financial system now, and I can’t tell if that is because Michael Lewis’ tale (The Big Short is adapted from his book) of how the economy crumbled in 2007-2008 is merely an alarming precursor of “here we go again” on the horizon of technology start-ups instead of the housing market. The movie certainly reminded me of not just the weakness of underlying factors but also exposed yet again the ways in which banks and Wall Street and the business world stack the deck in their favor. Every single time.

The world crumbles, millions of people lose their jobs and homes, and the leaders of Wall Street walk away, rich as hell with the taxpayers bailing them out. (I know this is simplistic understanding but it’s what I got right now). This is why Bernie Sanders resonates with young, nervous voters who see the system as corrupt and stacked against them. Even the characters with some moral undertones in the movie get rich — by betting that the entire American/Global economy will fail.

In Disrupted, Lyons writes about his time as a 50-plus-year-old unemployed writer trying to find his way into the Dot-Com world of Boston after being laid off by Newsweek. He does get his foot in the door at a growing technology company, only to realize, as Lewis showed, that everything in the business world is stacked against the average person (and against anyone over the age of 4o … ouch) and that what he sees runs counter to the logic of business understanding. Start-up technology companies don’t make profits — they make IPOs, and the average worker does not cash in. The CEO and executives do.

What I found most startling, if Lyons is to believed, is the near-cult-like culture that he finds in the technology start-up world. The place is teeming with 20-somethings, fresh out of college, and taking low salary for long hours of sales, sales, sales. Whole rooms are crammed with young marketers, pitching products on the phones. They follow every lead by every click on their websites (yes, web cookies track you and every free ebook you download is an invite to get a cold call). Unrealistic quotas drive the company dayafterdayafterdayafterday. People get fired, with no notice. Wait — the language is not “fired” but “graduated” to something else. The vision from the top is not on the technology that will transform the economy. Instead, the narrative is on the “company story” that will fuel Venture Capital and investors.

These young people seem to buy — hook-line-sinker — the endless rhetorical nonsense of the company leaders about the value of hard work for low pay, all in the name of the good of the company and unity and some touch-feely acronym world. Some of what Lyons shares seems like something right out of Orwell or Kafka.  The whole notion of these tech start-ups is the not the product itself, but the sales numbers that will convince investors in a public offering to pay more for stock on the possibility (and only a possibility) that someday, down the line, the company might make a profit.

Maybe. Possible never. (That’s what they write in their IPO, believe it or not. Profits may never come.)

Yikes! That’s akin to realizing there are whole ghost town subdivisions in Florida that are nearly vacant because of mortgage problems and defaults. It’s the canary in the coal mine. When the folks in The Big Short see those subdivisions with their own eyes — hundreds of empty houses — they realize the tragic reality: It’s the bubble about to burst.

There’s a strange epilogue to Distrupted, too, in which some of the top executives of the company where Lyons worked get accused of hacking their way to gain access to a book being written about their company (Lyons assumes it is his book that is the target of the hack). Some get fired but not the top dogs of the firm. They come out just fine. And they get rich when the IPO happens.

Of course, they do.

My oldest son is off to college next year in the Boston area. I’m passing him Lyons’ book, just in case he has some illusions about joining the burdening start-ups in Boston (one of the hot spots in the country). It may not stop him when he reaches that decision point of his first job in a few years, although I would try my best to convince him otherwise. Wish me luck.

Peace (in the markets),

Library of Congress Poetry: Radio Signals

(I’m exploring poetry through images by tapping into the extensive collection of the Library of Congress on Flickr. There are some amazing images shared with the public and more coming every month or two, it seems. What can inspire you? Be sure to cite where you got the image from. Use Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution tool and your life is a breeze.)

flickr photo shared by The Library of Congress with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)

Imagine the noise
if you stood
inside this antenna
and opened your ears
to the world.

Close your eyes
and listen, if you can,
and be patient, as your mind
puts frequencies into

Somewhere, out there,
in some far-off place,
someone else is listening, too,
and all you need to do is

tune in.

Process Note: What I noticed first with this image is the wide open space behind the man and his radio device. Also, the large box antenna pulls in radio signals. I tried to move the poem beyond the man and his radio apparatus … to more of the idea of all of us, slowing down and listening to the world.

Peace (in all frequencies),


Continued Reverberations of Online Connections

flickr photo shared by priyaswtc under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Three posts recently had me thinking again about the reverberations of online networks or communities or whatever term it is you wish to use to indicate projects that never quite end.

First, there was this tweet from my Making Learning Connected MOOC friend, Allie:

My answer to Allie was: Truthfully, I don’t know.

It may be that the CLMOOC has run its official course and that some variations of it may continue into the summer. I’ve been a facilitator in the past, and enjoyed it immensely, but I am not in charge of the official decision of whether another six week CLMOOC will happen this summer. I don’t think National Writing Project, which has hosted CLMOOC, envisioned supporting CLMOOC forever, and I know a focus right now by NWP is on Educator Innovator projects such as Letters to the President.

So, I don’t know.

I think I can safely say this. The #CLMOOC Twitter hashtag isn’t going anywhere, and until Google pulls the plug on Google Plus Communities, there is still a home there, too, and people are still sharing links, resources, ideas and a weekly #SilentSunday image share. And we have had some “pop up” Make Cycles this spring, thanks to Joe Dillon and Terry Elliott and others. I know I am planning to use the CLMOOC Make Cycles for a graduate class I am teaching through the University of Massachusetts and our Western Mass Writing Project this summer.

Second, I saw a blog post by Alan Levine, reflecting on the Western version of DS106 earlier this year, which he explains better than I can, but I want to note in that in his reflection he reacts to a comment about a sense of “fading” in DS106. I suspect that any online adventure has its time of high activity that slows down after time, even as it continues to persist in some fashion.

DS106 is an intriguing example because some university classes use it as a framework of classwork, connecting the physical classroom to online exploration. At times, there are “headless” DS106 courses that are not connected to a university — with only nominal direction. Come and go, as you please. Other times, a theme starts and ends, and echoes in the Daily Create. People keep making stuff. Cool stuff. Every day.

Alan writes:

I was talking to someone who’s been around the DS106 corral and it was this person’s contention that DS106 had “faded” suggesting in so many words it was past the top of a curve, and maybe it was missing a “charismatic leader”. Many people who got crazy bit with ds106 in 2011, 2012 are not much less or non-active. That’s not a problem, that’s a natural curve of evolution.

And DS106 does persist and it continues encourage continuous creativity, even if you never dipped a toe into any of its online course mutations. Just look at the DS106 Daily Create. It rolls on and on. People don’t just come and go; People come and go long after their first connection to DS106 ever took place.

And then the third post that caught my attention was by Dave Cormier, who has spearheaded Rhizomatic Learning communities since 2014, wrote a fascinating post that references an article he wrote two years ago, in which he responds to a question his young son asks as he is watching Rhizo14 unfold. (The question: Are you in charge? The answer: Not really.)

Dave begins:

… we are potentially radically redefining what it means to be an educator. We are very much at the beginning stages of our learning how to create the space required for community to develop and grow in an open course. These field notes speak to the my own journey in the design of ‘Rhizomatic Learning – the community is the curriculum’. They are, in effect, a journey towards planned obsolescence.

Interestingly, the Rhizomatic Learning connections seem sort of shackled by the hashtag. We began with #rhizo14 and then #rhizo15 and now #rhizo16, but adding a number hampers the ability of the community to last beyond the year, it seems to me. This sort of calls attention to the importance of early course design — how to design for something to never end in social media circles? (This is not a critique of Dave or any of us in Rhizo, by the way, but merely an interesting observation of how a time element stamp can lead to unexpected narrowing of community reverberations.)

How do these three strands/posts come together for me?

Well, I’m intrigued by Dave’s notion — made years ago but seemingly more and more relevant — about “planned obsolescence” of the architect of online experiences. Dave’s notion of “the community is the curriculum” is intriguing, as is Alan’s notion of the “natural curve of evolution” of an online experience.

We may not yet be there. Dave is launching a third iteration of Rhizo under the banner of Learning Resilience.  Maybe we still need someone behind the wheel. While the Rhizo community remains active and vibrant, I think we were waiting for Dave to kick off something for 2016. (I know I was but I didn’t realize it until I was writing this post.) I wonder if the person who wondered about DS106 “fading” was waiting, too, for someone like Alan to step up and lead the way. Did Allie think I was in charge of CLMOOC?

How do we encourage folks to take over and be the learning itself? Dave and Alan have certainly encouraged that every step of the way. Yet we still gravitate towards someone to get us started. (Maybe that’s not a bad thing. We all need a spark.) How does that decentralizing of learning translate into our classrooms? That’s the question of the longer journey many teachers are on in the Connected World, I suspect. I know I am. Maybe you are, too.

If someone comes looking for CLMOOC activities and exploration, perhaps the best answer is to encourage them to create and share Pop Up Make Cycles and invite others to join in. Do we need someone in charge to tell us that CLMOOC is taking place or not? Probably not.

We can make learning happen just by making it happen. The fact that Allie had a “serious remix moment” that reminded her of CLMOOC is incredibly exciting. I wonder what that moment was? Can I join in? Don’t you wonder, too?

Peace (in the make),

Library of Congress Poetry: Seventh Inning Stretch

(I’m exploring poetry through images by tapping into the extensive collection of the Library of Congress on Flickr. There are some amazing images shared with the public and more coming every month or two, it seems. What can inspire you? Be sure to cite where you got the image from. Use Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution tool and your life is a breeze.)

flickr photo shared by The Library of Congress with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons)

Well, the game got called
on account of

the rain

and I’m still up next to bat,
so I’m impatient for

the pitch

So I don’t mind the mud
nor the empty seats nor

the rain

All I care about is
how far I’m gonna smack

that pitch

and win the game!

Process Note: There are lots of pretty cool baseball shots in the archives, but mostly of team shots or close-up head-shots. This one caught my attention. I was thinking of these men, waiting around. I don’t see rain but it made sense to have them stuck in a rain delay, seventh inning. That fellow leaning against the pole is thinking of playing baseball. I am sure of it. I wove in some inadvertent rhyme and decided to pull out the last line of each stanza as a way to show the rain and the pitch as important elements. Funny how you can do that with poetry.

Peace (in outfield),

Amid the Grids; Among these Gestures

Lots of people this week have taken up the call by graphic artist Nick Sousanis to create “Grids and Gestures” — a comic-creating visual activity in which you move beyond a literal interpretation of your day or moment or some period of time. Instead, you let your mind wander, drawing (without words, if possible) a visual representation (that’s the gesture) of the time period (that’s the grid).


I’ve done this once before with Nick, but doing a series of them over a few days has been interesting. Sort of like our Slice of Life writing activities, but with lines and circles and smudges instead of stories and vignettes. How would you “write” your day if you could not write, but only draw? How do you represent moments of joy? Frustration? Confusion? Boredom? Love? What does those ideas look like when you sketching at the edge of it all?


My five Grids and Gestures used the same six-panel grid, and I used the Paper app for my drawing. So each has a similar feel to them (and exposes my limited artistic abilities). I tried to explored different topics, and used the title on each to indicate what I was thinking about.

It does occur to me that while I can “read” the gestures, others outside of my head (that would be you, dear reader) might wonder, what the heck is that? I wonder if how you read my grids is different than how I wrote my grids? Maybe that is the case with writing, too, at times.


There was a community question in the Twitter hashtag about whether these Grids and Gestures are really comics, or something that comes before the comics. In other words, are they incomplete ideas, only part of the brainstorming process?

Nick suggests that this method of creating art with gestures is where much of his time is spent before moving into a larger project, and that it is an effective way to gather ideas and explore the flow of connected concepts. I suggested that the grids are comics in their own way, moving ideas through inferential design and using art to represent abstract ideas.

Maybe it doesn’t matter anyway. Art is what you make of it.


If you are interested, explore the Twitter hashtag of #GridsGestures (actually, check out the link to photos only in the Twitter hashtag stream — that’s pretty cool) or check out Nick’s website and some of his amazing work.

Make your own. Share them out. Be creative. Every day.


Peace (beyond the grids),