The Educator Innovator website did a nice overview article recently about this past summer’s Write Out project, focusing on a few folks and giving an overview. I was one of the team of facilitators, and enjoyed the intersections of the outdoors, the historic, and writing/making/sharing/learning.
#Writeout was a two-week professional development program, sponsored by the National Writing Project through a partnership with the National Park Service. The program connected educators and park rangers with place-based learning opportunities in July 2018. A team of educators from both organizations—educators who have themselves been working on collaborations in their local communities between Writing Project sites and national park sites—designed #WriteOut. Their goal was to help educators make connections between learning, writing/making, and local outdoor and historic public spaces. — Educator Innovator
I don’t know if others get Time magazine (do people still get magazines?) but I get a free copy because I use the Time for Kids version with my students. Last week’s issue still resonates with me, particularly as Networked Narratives opens with a theme of critical lens on technology and society.
The cover story is by Roger McNamee, who was an early investor in Facebook and whose presence during the early years helped shape what Facebook was to become. He says he was often in the room with Zuckberg during the formative years, and he is still an investor and shareholder of Facebook.
In his very critical piece that pulls few punches, McNamee chastises in a very public way both Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg for losing their way, for abusing their power with the social media platform, for ignoring their privileged position to enact change, and for being so driven by profit and algorithms that users’ trust and data have been abused, used, sold and discarded with little consideration of the human impact on society.
He also lays out some major topics and areas of concern where Facebook may be a threat to a civil and civic society:
Democracy (see, election interference)
Privacy (see, data surveillance of every click and view and share by Facebook)
Data (see, sale of data to third-party vendors)
Regulation (see, not any to speak of)
Humanization (see, or lack thereof)
Addiction (see, the world around you)
Children (see, bullying and alarm bells about the brain)
McNamee is blunt and to the point, calling Facebook to the carpet for losing its way (Me: I don’t think they ever had a way forward with true public benefit, despite the storytelling the company does, and I have never bought Zuckerberg’s platitudes about connecting the world to make it a better place. All signs point to profit, right from the start.)
Whether McNamee’s piece (which is adapted from a book he has coming out) makes a difference is unknown. He is still an investor and an insider, so maybe his influence will influence others, and that will influence Zuckerberg and Sandberg. I suspect not.
Other pieces in this edition of Time are also interesting, from Tim Cook calling for more regulation over data privacy to Filipino journalist/activitist Maria Ressa explaining how Facebook allowed others to attack her and her alternative news organization to Eli Pariser calling for restoring a sense of dignity in the technology world through better design.
Instead, she gives a nuanced look at research and findings around the impact of screens on kids, and the role of parents in the age of the digital entertainment world, and reminds us that all we can do is our best.
She borrows and remixes Michael Pollan’s phrase about food, with a technological twist: “Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly with others.” I think that is good advice, even as I both see the benefits as a teacher and father, and worry about the impact of digital devices on developing brains, including my own children.
I appreciated her findings from surveying other parents about how they approach limiting screen time (something my wife and I grapple with at home with our youngest, a teenaged son) and how our difficulties are not isolated. It seems like many of us as parents are finding this a difficult world to navigate. How much screen time is too much screen time? What are the lasting effects of decisions we are making now? How can we find more balance for us and our kids?
Kamanetz looks not just at how kids use technology, but also how parents are becoming the role models for kids, and not always in good and positive ways. She explores the mommy-blogging world (something I sort of know about but not really, and I am both disheartened to see it commercialized and heartened to see there are places where good advice and caring communities exist).
The most important piece of advice — the one huge researched take-away for all parents that sticks with me — is to protect the sleep patterns of your children. No devices and no screens in bedrooms, and turn off screens an hour before bedtime. The sanctity of sleep is key to the development of a growing brain and emotional self.
In a nod to the world she is writing about, where time seems slippery and tl/dr (too long, didn’t read) is a cultural shortcut, Kamanetz even has a final chapter in which she summarizes her book into a five-minute read (sort of like a bulleted cliff notes version). You could read that, of course, but I suggest reading the entire book, and thinking about technology, our kids, ourselves and the world in a critical and constructive way. It is worth it.
I worked my way back into the version of Zeega that Terry hosts (and which web browsers don’t like and call unsafe but it is fine, just so you know). Zeega allows you to layer images and gifs over music, so I took the soundtrack to a project I worked on as a remix — Four Seeds Seeking Roots — and added layers of images to it.
This is just another way of “seeing” the work through making media along a theme.
This is the direct link (and your browser may ask you to approve access). Also, you might need to unmute the audio — this is done in the bottom right corner of the page. And sometimes, the embed doesn’t play nice with browsers, either, because of iframe scripts (I guess).
A third iteration (three, right?) is underway for Networked Narratives, a university course also opened up to the world for open participants. It is overseen by Mia Zamora and Alan Levine. One of the first assignments is to use Kevin Kelly’s Internet Map project. I did this recently with my sixth grade students, so I will feature their artwork here.
I’ve heard Alexander Chee’s name before but had not read anything by him, and then his latest book — How To Write An Autobiographical Novel– starting showing up in the places where I read about books. I’m glad I discovered it, and him, for his writing is lyrical at times, and powerfully moving. In this collection of essays, connected by the larger theme of exploring one’s life through fiction, Chee tumbles into the terrain of writing.
I won’t recount his difficult, yet interesting, life, but themes of race and cultural identity, gender politics, sexual orientation, literary mentorship, and ways of looking at your world through a lens of words all come to the surface in interesting ways.
Even with the title, I didn’t quite realize what Chee was up to until I finished the book, and thought deeply, later, about how his pieces fit together as advice for a writer grappling with identity and stories, and how to tell those stories (and the price you pay for using your own stories to write fiction). He also has some beautifully written sentences and passages. Even if he hadn’t noted that Annie Dillard was one of his professors, you would catch some of her style in his style (not a bad thing), although his focus of topic is very different from hers.
I’d recommend this book for those seeking to explore what it means to be a writer, but this book is probably more for adults than students below the university level.
Actually, Wendy wrote a lot more, at her blog, and you should read her look at what she calls “reconstruction and remix.”
It begins with an openness, a willingness to share something out with others. In this case, Terry wrote a poem at his blog inspired by his work looking at seeds for the spring for his farm. He could have written the poem and not shared it. But he didn’t. He shared.
It moves along with an invitation. Terry invited folks to write responses, in the margins (with Hypothesis), in the comment box at his blog, in the Etherpad he had set up. He’s looking for collaborators. His invitation is clear and heartfelt.
It shifts when collaboratorsjoin in. For many, perhaps, this is the hardest part. The joining in. Terry will tell you that any sort of response was a good response. I left poems for him. But that’s what I do. I hoped to honor his poem with shoots of words.
It gains traction with acknowledgement. Terry sent me a quick one line email, thanking me for the poems. The act of acknowledgement seems powerful in this kind of work, to show you have another person out there, reading or listening or watching.
It sometimes won’t sit quiet. This is sort of a pivot point. Something about Terry’s invitation and then his acknowledgement, along with the theme of seeds, had me wondering about the poem. I gathered up my three poems and shared them in another space, Mastodon, as a #smallpoems (which Terry also is part of). It was small scale curation.
It takes further listening. Terry saw that in Mastodon, and remixed my poems. He was taking poetic responses to his own poem and remixing them into another bookend poem, with mine in the middle. I should note: there was no plan. Terry and I did not talk or organize any of this. It happened rather naturally.
It takes honoring the other. I was fascinated by where my poems and his remixes gathered together and splintered apart, and it seemed like I needed to find a way to show that. Thus, the music to capture the poems, and the video.
It takes openness. Back to the beginning. Sharing the piece out led to Wendy, listening, and adding notation to the Soundcloud of the soundtrack I had created with Garageband and Thumbjam. And Yin Wah, asking for how one might enter the conversation, and how it all came together (which is why I am writing this).
Along this path, there were multiple entry points. Some came with distinct invitations. Others were less visible. It is also something built on years of riffing with each other, as Terry and I go back. We are comfortable with our remixes. We trust each other.
Perhaps this trust is the most important element of all.
Terry wrote the other day of seed catalogues, crafting a fine poem and offering an invitation to write with him in three stems — in the comments, in an etherpad, and in the margins. I took him up on all three and then later added a fourth: Mastodon. He added another branch, remixing my four poems.
This is the sixth: a video interpretation, as I composed on mobile device four small pieces of music to go with each piece, calling them Seed, Seedling, Sapling and Stories. Each piece has two poems — mine and then Terry’s remix.
Process Notes: I used Pablo to make the poems visual, keeping the same backdrop for each variation. The music was composed in Garageband app or ThumbJam app, written each time after reading both poems for each section multiple times. I redid the Stories piece twice, and still am not sure it does what I want it to do. Ah. Well. The video was edited and produced in iMovie. I thought about using the plant theme in Animoto, but you can’t sync music to image in there, so I stayed with iMovie.
I have been facilitating a PLC group of elementary teachers in my school district on an inquiry into Project-Based Learning, and during our session yesterday, we spent a lot of time reading about teachers’ experiences with PBL with our common text – A.J. Juliani’s PBL Playbook. None of us have tried a full PBL unit yet with students, so we are all figuring our way forward, together.
Along with reading vignettes from the classroom, via PBL Playbook, I also wanted us to be able to hear from a teacher with experience using PBL, so I reached out to my friend, Charlene, from my CLMOOC network (and beyond). Charlene has been working with PBL concepts for many years now, as a teacher and as a coach. Her blog has been one of my resources. Charlene readily agreed to video into our session, and for about 30 minutes, she gave us her insights and answered questions.
For that, I am very grateful. Grateful that Charlene took time out of her day to share her expertise and knowledge with teachers she doesn’t know. Grateful I have built a network of people I can turn to when I know I don’t know what I need to know. Grateful I can learn from my friend, and that my friend is willing to step up to help us learn. Grateful that I can help connect those connections (from my online friends to my teaching colleagues).
My students created poster advertisements for their Hero’s J0urney video game projects. This allows us to think about visual elements of persuasion, deconstruct how we are targeted through advertising, and merge art and writing with game design.