Game On – the K12Online Collection

I was fortunate to be the keynote speaker for the K12Online Conference strand of Gamification and Game Design this year. I was also fortunate that others in the strand took on gamification, so that I could focus on video game design for learning. Here are all of the strand’s videos, and they are all well worth your time if you are interesting in gaming for learning.

Peace (in the game),

The Echo Chamber Effect

Mariana F., a friend from DS106 and beyond, posted a very powerful piece called “A Human OER” that is worth your time and careful attention. In her post, she examines the idea of open education and tries to pierce through the facade of the idea of creating a perfect learning environment. It’s more than that, but this thread of her blog post is what I was thinking about.

Her hope is that we find more humanity in the connections even as we acknowledge the ways that spaces like MOOCs and others often fall short of those ideals. Real world problems come into those spaces. And if we close the doors to those ideas and people with those views — those who would disrupt the world and cause harm to others, through words or actions — then we are not really creating a true educational space.

Her post is not negative, per se. In fact, she makes it clear that she is always hopeful for the best.

MarianaquoteGardner Campbell did a nice response, shifting into the direction of leadership and ownership, and collaboration, and therefore, responsibility, of those working and learning inside online spaces to become what they want their learning environment to be, even if they don’t quite know or believe they are ready for it yet.

GardnerBoth Mariana and Gardner got me thinking. I have participated in a fair number of online spaces, and helped facilitate a few, and one of the things I see connected with the trend of “large numbers starting/small numbers finishing” is the closing of the circle. As the crowd of people interacting gets fewer, the shared ethos of that tribe becomes clearer, and as a result, the echo chamber effect can take hold. We all end up validating our own ideas. We all agree with each other. We love hanging out with those whose values are close to ours. This is natural. But it impacts online learning spaces, right?

Echo Chamber #ccoursesI don’t have any magic solutions here. If we want rich discussions, we have to be open to people who disagree with us, or push us to think different about what we believe. The promise of open educational spaces remains great and powerful, and well worth the many experimentations that are going on across the board. Learning can be approached from many different angles, and access and diversity and multiple entry points are one of the keys to allowing everyone to feel as if they are both the leaders and the participants, and that the rich possibilities are always within reach on the horizon.

or, you know, something like that …

One of the things I have liked about the Daily Connect with the Connected Courses is that one can bring more people into the conversations with only the smallest connection to Connected Courses. You can reach out beyond that circle. I see Daily Connect on a good day being that very web metaphor we use for the Web, with strands of connected silk pushing out beyond our peripheral vision.

Peace (in the think),


Poetry Analysis with Meme Creation

I had the good fortune to sit in on a workshop at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the topic was how to use memes for literary analysis, with a look at poetry in particular. The presenter was a middle school teacher, Jacqueline Desmarais, and she had us looking at memes and then using them to analyze Emily Dickinson’s poem, I’m Nobody – Who Are You?. This piece speaks to fame, and privacy, so connects nicely to the issue of viral media in this modern age.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –  
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –  
To an admiring Bog!

Jacqueline asked us to create a few memes, based on the poem itself, and here are two that I came up with, as rebuttals to privacy issues.



Next, we had to write an analysis of our meme creation, which is a smart way to bring thinking into the activity.

This is what I wrote:

I chose Grumpy Cat and Dos Equis man for my two memes inspired by the Emily Dickson poem, I’m Nobody. Staying within context and structure of the meme can be tricky, as you are fitting an idea into a prescribed slot. Plus, the visual literacy skills rise to the surface here. Add in the tone of humor or satire or sarcasm, and you notice rather quickly that tere’s a lot going on with composing a meme.

For the Grumpy Cat meme, I used the caption “Face Recognition Software Found Me …. It was awful.”

For the Dos Equis meme, I wrote, “I don’t always share my data with Pearson…. but when I do, I’m Nobody.”

I was aiming to get at the poem’s central idea of controlling your identity, and keeping that privacy sacred. In these times where corporations are leveraging technology and digital media, and social networking spaces, for their own financial gains, it is increasingly difficult to keep that privacy wall up, short of not participating in the technological revolution now underway. With our students, this is an issue, and teaching them about the benefits and the drawbacks of engagement with digital media and online spaces is a critical part of preparing them for the world.

We can do this without the fear tactics – of bringing in the district attorney’s office and state police units to talk about violations and legalities. We need to put the agency of privacy and identity into the hands of our students. They need tools. They need clear information. They need us to be on their side, and not always in a punitive manner. Using memes to help teach this lesson could be just one way into the digital composition.

What I was thinking was a natural extension from this lesson is the idea of a remix, of changing the tenor and tone of the meme, and for making their own localized memes – cultural references that only can be “read” by a local audience (school-based, for example). This would provide some intriguing discussions around the concept of viral information, in both the possibilities and the drawbacks.

Peace (in the meme),

WMWP Keynote Anne Marie Osheyak: We Are Not JUST Teachers

Anne Marie Osheyak was our keynote speaker at last weekend’s Western Massachusetts Writing Project Best Practices conference. Anne Marie is the 2014 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and an advocate of social justice in education, as well as a powerful educator with strong views on the profession of teaching.

This video collects some of the elements of her keynote address, which was met with a standing ovation from the conference as she reminded us to “reclaim our voices” as teachers in this age of data points and assessments, and that none of us are “just teachers.”

We ARE teachers.

Peace (in the talk),

Speaking of the Web …

The focus on the Web in Connected Courses reminded me of this fascinating, if slightly alarming (for sheer flow), tool from Gary Hayes that shows the flow of social media being created and shared at any given moment in time. Get it running and then come back after a few minutes. You’ll see what I mean …

I show this to my students, and with parents, and even with other teachers, if only to give a representative scale of how technology and digital media inform our lives these days.

Peace (in the flow),

Neighborhood Maps Spark Discussions Of Community

(This dovetails nicely with Slice of Life)
Map Collage1

My students were working on maps of their own neighborhoods, as part of the National Day on Writing yesterday. We were using mapping as a way to think about community, about how mapmakers focus on what is important and what is not so important by using color and scale. And as students shared out their maps (with our classroom and then, online, with the #6Connect project), the discussions of neighborhoods transformed into discussions about community (with a little help from me).

map collage2

I love the idea of visually representing a place, and my students enjoyed thinking of how to represent their neighborhoods as a map as well as providing some insights into where they live on a day when we were writing and thinking about community for the National Day on Writing.

map collage3

Peace (on the map and beyond),

#writemycommunity: Two Paths Diverged (I Took Both)

This is a comic for the National Day on Writing, as we think about communities that we are part of as writers and teachers. I was thinking of my online communities and my offline communities, and how there is not an either/or when it comes to connections — it can be both.

Peace (in the midst),

What’s Your Community? The National Day on Writing

Paper Circuitry NDOW Collage4 2014
Today is the sixth annual National Day on Writing, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English and various partners (like the National Writing Project) and this year’s theme is Writing Your Community. I’ve been mulling over how best to do this, and decided that mapping out communities — either literally or metaphorically — made a lot of sense.

Check out this workshop that I led at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project this weekend, in which we played around with paper circuitry to illuminate nodes on maps of our communities. This workshop was part of our annual Best Practices conference, and the group of teachers were highly engaged in this hands-on activity around transforming notebooks with circuits and lights.

Peace (in the notebook),