Observing The Writer in The Wild

This is just goofy, embarrassing but I am sharing it out as part of yesterday’s Daily Create, called Who Are You? The assignment asked us to create a video of us, but using the lens of a scientific television show (I don’t think anyone got mauled by lions as they shot footage, but you never know … maybe that is part of the blooper reel)

I decided to set up the video and capture me “writing” as a sort of “writer in their natural environment” with a voiceover, narrating what the writer is doing. It was strange meta-fun, knowing that I was going to be narrating what I was doing and so as I was writing, I was thinking about what I was going to say as the narrator observing me writing. And poking fun at myself, too.

I even wrote a note to the viewer on the screen in the video in extra large font (I don’t normally write in size 72, by the way)

Odd, right? But that’s the Daily Create for you.

Peace (in the wild),

Kicking #Rhizo14 to the Curb (and Learning While I’m Doing it)

If you read the provocative title of this post and thought, what rant is he on now, you’ll be disappointed. Go on. It’s OK. You can move on other blogs, if you want. Or stay. Please do. I’m happy to have you here. It’s the end of the Rhizomatic Learning course (wrong word for what it is/was) at P2PU and this week, facilitator Dave Cormier has us thinking about how we move off center stage and allow for learning to become the natural fabric of our lives, without structured support.

How do we plan for “planned obsolescence” when we are the teacher or when we are the learner in a specific learning space?

If, like me, you are a classroom educator, this is more of a June discussion (in New England, anyway) with summer approaching, not a February think when winter is still in full gear. Here, in February, I am still center stage with my sixth graders, guiding them as best as I can towards ways to think and write about their world. I hope something catches. In June,  as the year winds down, I will be more contemplative — wondering, Did anything catch? Anything at all? Will they still remember our lens of thinking five, ten, 15 years down the road? Did I do what I set out to do?

It’s difficult to have a rhizomatic thinking pattern when you in the midst of the learning. If these discussions have taught me anything, it is that simple fact. We have trouble making sense of the moments when we are in the moments. I suspect it takes a reflective stance and a larger-picture understanding of our place in the world to gain insights about what we have truly, deeply learned. Time forges on. Yet, learning experiences can also begin to fade, if we are not careful. We must have a forced-memory strategy, as a way to call back the experiences. I use writing. Words to remember. This blog space works in that vein. I am collecting ideas and reactions and reflections in this moment in hopes that later, I will come back and better understand what it is I was doing. I will. I do.

Because right now, right here, as #rhizo14 ends –  I don’t know what I have learned. Not yet, anyway.

I began the #rhizo14 with a poem (see Zeega, above), about roots taking hold. Those roots? Still taking hold for me. Still. May those roots of new ideas keep working their way into my head, and keep finding new ways to transform the way I see the world so that, perhaps, some of that transformation seeps its way into my teaching, so that I may help transform the thinking of my students, whom may not even know it until years later. Roots often remain hidden until we suddenly realize they are in full bloom.

It occurs to me as I write this post that some of the same ideas are also being explored, although slightly differently, in the Deeper Learning MOOC, too. There, we’re talking about to how create rich and meaningful learning opportunities, spaces and connections for students so that it just not a shallow scrape of the surface of ideas. Deep resonated with all of us — as teachers designing those possibilities in hopes that something will catch in the mind of kids and as learners trying to make better sense of the world and ourselves.

What it takes to reach that point of rich learning is some faith on the part of the learner. Hope that our experiences matter. That we’ve gathered something important from our time spent together. That the shared journey holds us together. Roots take hold.

Peace (in some final thoughts),

PS — here are two comments I left in the P2PU site that align to some of the thinking:

We banter about the term “lifelong learners” in education quite a bit. It’s a hopeful sentiment — that the learning opportunities in our space will not just spill over in the lives of our students (I teach 11 year olds) but will provide the structure for self-centered learning in unknown situations at any given time in the future. In some ways, the younger the students, the more difficult this is because of the ways that technology and digital media are completely transforming the world (Remember the world of 10 years past?).
We have no idea what the world of work and life will be like for my sixth graders when they graduate high school in six years or college in 10 years (more or less). To think otherwise would be foolish. But such conundrums open doors, too, if we don our optimistic lens. We have to be mindful of thinking practices that transcend the moment.
Same here, with this course and others in open education. I can’t even articulate what I will take away from #rhizo14 because I may not even know I learned it until the moment I need it .. and remember. But I suspect seeds have been planted. I am optimistic that my time spent here, with everyone in conversation and creation, will be fruitful in ways I don’t yet know. In the unknowing is the hint of knowledge, right?
But you can see how that thinking would drive educational policy wonks crazy. There are no fixed data points on that kind of learning. You can’t test me on what I have learned in #rhizo14. Well, you can, but I’d cheat on that test. (Take that data point, you wonk!)


I just started to read danah boy’s new book, It’s Complicated (the social lives of networked teens), and one of her themes is that teens have now become so connected and so part of the social web fabric (even if they are not always sure what they are doing) partly due to of us parents and teachers (yes, the very ones who fret over so much screen time and online interactions). We are the ones who have micromanaged their days, and hours, and interactions. We are the ones who see free time as wasted time. The teens she interviews in her book express frustration that there is no time to just hang out in real space, so they turn to online spaces to do what they don’t have time to do otherwise. This observation connects to the theme here this week for me because we (my teaching colleagues and I) have noticed more and more students not being able to independently persevere when confronted with a problem with no easy answer. They give up before they start. They immediately seek adult guidance. They have little confidence that they can learn it by doing it. They don’t trust themselves. So, this question of enduring learning is something my colleagues and I talk about, and talk to our students about. And chat with parents about, delicately. It’s fascinatingly frustrating. (and boyd’s book is a must-read)

Ongoing Thoughts: It’s Complicated (the social lives of networked teens)

I am reading danah boyd’s excellent new book, It’s Complicated, and making notes as I go via Goodreads as a sort of comment trail of my thinking of her ideas. So far, it is a great read, with lots of her insights drawn from extensive research around teenagers over multiple years time. She really has a critical eye for what kids are doing, and how adults perceive what kids are doing (often through the wrong lens).

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked TeensIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd

I am going to check in here now and then as I read this book by the fabulous researcher, danah boyd. Her extensive research and background in social media and the lives of teenagers should make for an interesting read. As a father, and a teacher, and someone who tries to harness technology for storytelling and writing and composing, I am always intrigued by what kids are doing, or not doing, or doing without thinking of what they are doing. I am hopeful that boyd’s work will shed some light for me and for others.

View all my comments on It’s Complicated

Peace (in the reflections),

Trading Fours on Poetry Genius

Trading Fours

I popped my prose poem from the other day — Trading Fours on the Seventh Night — into Poetry Genius, which allows for some neat annotating of poems (it is part of a larger system that includes the controversial Rap Genius, which has been taken to task over copyright issues for lyrics). What the site allowed me to do was connect my poem with the podcast, as well as annotate with embedded videos of the jazz musicians referenced in the poem.

Check it out and feel free to annotate the poem yourself.

Peace (in the poem),

Slice of Life: Inside My Mind

(This is for the Slice of Life feature at Two Writing Teachers)


Each day, I receive an email notification from The Daily Create (an offshoot of  DS106) about an activity to get the brain and thinking mind moving in new directions. It’s really such a great idea, these short assignments that push boundaries with humor and creative passion, and every day is something interesting or odd to consider. I don’t mind odd. In fact, I embrace oddity when it comes to digital composition because I think that diving into the odd will push boundaries. Yesterday, the Daily Create assignment was to sketch out an imaginary map of your mind.

This one hung with me all day, as I took my son sledding and as I set up the ping-pong table for some ferocious paddling, and as I read my books, read aloud to my son, checked my email, wrote a few tweets and began the first day of our February vacation (not technically our first day, since we had two snow days to end last week, extending our time away from school). All day, I kept thinking: map my head, map of my head, map it out.

If you know anything about me, you know I can’t draw worth a darn. Which is why I so often turn to digital tools to help me, and finally, as I watched my son and his friend barrel down the huge hill on sleds, screaming the entire way, it dawned on me how I could do this assignment. As a comic. And I would do it in the style of Mad Magazine’s Sergio Aragones, who makes all of those little comics in the margins of the pages, with little characters doing funny things in small spaces.

My Meandering Mind and Me

By the way, today’s Daily Create is to make a video of you or someone unboxing something. Anything. Make it dramatic. Share it out. Odd, right? See what I mean? The Daily Create rocks.

Peace (inside),


Inspired by Hass: Trading Fours on the Seventh Night

We’re examining Robert Hass‘s poem, The Seventh Night, for #walkmyworld this week. I was not familiar with the poem (actually, I was not familiar with any of his poems) so I dove into it cold. We’re using Poetry Genius to annotate the poem, if you want to come along. As I listened to Hass, and read the poem, I realized that the playful bantering reminded me of “trading fours” in jazz, where soloists exchange melodies back and forth. Sort of like a poetry slam, with music.

That led to me writing this prose poem this morning:

Trading Fours on the Seventh Night
(hat nod to Robert Hass)

The bar fell silent, watching. All eyes staring. They locked gaze together, swaying in time to the beat of the drums and the bass pounding out on the wood floor beneath their feet so that every thump traveled up their spines, every pluck of the fat string by fat fingers reached into the base of the neck. The pianist tickled out the faint melody of a tune. The stage was set. She raised up her horn. Started to call him out. Eyes closed, dancing with the muse. He admired the way her fingers flew over the keys, the bell of the trumpet suddenly alive with faint echoes of Armstrong and Morgan and Gillespie, before setting down into the cool of Baker as if someone had poured the room a scotch, neat, unhurried. He angled his mind then, catching one of her melodies in his ear and leaping in with it, knowing that once the first note was out, it would be instinct alone and nothing else to guide him. He folded himself up in her song as she watched him, smiling at the way Young and Rollins and Getz uncurled in syncopation, first from the reed in his mouthpiece, then from the caress of keys, then from the open bell on the roof of the saxophone where, finally, at last, Hawkins rolled out to take a drink with them, too. She poured that glass herself with an old line from Davis, sliding the whiskey back across the stage, where he added the ice with Coltrane. As if. And so it went, into the night with not a word spoken between them as they bantered about with metaphors rooted in the past yet slinking towards some symmetry neither one could understand nor comprehend, inventing a language all of their own on this Sunday night, this seventh night, this day of rest. Even after the crowd got antsy. Even after the band got tired. Even after the owner got so fed up that he yelled at them to stop, for God’s sake, just stop. Even after they had begun packing their horns away, there they stood, he and she trading fours until the owner turned off the lights and everyone went home but them.

Peace (on the imaginary stage),

Up to V: The Nerdlution Wordvention Fictionary Update

I can’t believe I am at V already in my #nerdlution goal to invent a new word for every letter of the alphabet. The project — which I am now calling The Fictionary — is rolling along nicely. Some words are better than others, but I suspect that is true of the real dictionary, too, right?

Anywhere, here is my Monday video update:

I’ll be completing The Fictionary later this week, and I am working on a plan to gather all of the words (which are published in Notegraphy) together in some sort of online booklet of sorts. (Any ideas on how best to do that?)




Peace (in vercabulary-style writing),

Write Yourselves into a Poem: A #Walkmyworld Call to Writing

Reflections from Week Five of the #WALKMYWORLD Project

I may be wrong but it seems like we are at an important juncture in the #walkmyworld project, where the shift from documenting and sharing our worlds towards reflecting through poetry hopefully will begin. I’m not sure how ready people are, though, as that leap from putting the lens on things around us (we can be removed from the action, somewhat) to putting the lens on thoughts inside of us (poetry comes from the heart) can be difficult for many, and sharing in a public space … even more so. It brings up the uncertainty that many have of themselves as writers. Yet, if the project is to be more than just documenting,  more than something than just another cute hashtag on Twitter, then I think we’ll all have to move forward, with Ian and Greg and others nudging us.

Upon reading Ian’s reflections this morning, his urging of us to become more collaborative and connected with others in the #walkmyworld spaces had me mulling over how I might write a poem inspired by the tweets in the #walkmyworld hashtag, and maybe use a poem to encourage/invite/cajole others to begin some poetry themselves. My aim is to bring people into the poem itself as way to encourage them to write their own. I humbly “borrowed” tweets from the #walkmyworld stream, finding inspiration within the confines of 140 characters. If you are in my poem, I thank you for your words and ideas.

Here’s what I composed:


Write Yourselves into a Poem

Over coffee …

my fingers flutter over the footsteps
of those who would
#walkmyworld with me in these
virtual spaces:

Cassandra, in backwards visual motion
bringing us out and then in again
towards faith;

Jason, with flames firing
out the center of his plate,
an extra helping of warmth in winter;

Kristen, her camera obscured,
capturing the days of others
unfolding as private moments in public spaces;

Ken, in negotiations with the unseen,
a call for action and a slow halt
to the falling sky debris that clutters our days;

Laura, on the inside looking out,
shadows falling against window panes
a lone green sentry standing guard in paradise;

Aubri, with blankets and family
and food and the screen as some beacon
of entertainment escape from the snow;

Julie, pondering her flexible role
as teacher, mother, writer, blogger
in this navigational spaces that don’t quite exist;

Antwon, deep in thought as his mind
runs along the texts of the page
even as the camera finds him in quiet repose;

and Kelly, raising her glass in a toast
to us all, to the world on which we
find ourselves walking thanks to

Ian and Greg and others who have pulled in Haas
as a mean to find words, and rhythm, to express
the everyday magic of the objects of our lives

so go on, write yourselves into a poem
sneak inside a corner of this page
and make yourselves at home …

We #walkmyworld together

Write your poem, if you can.

Peace (in the walking of the world),


Book Review: Tua and the Elephant


Tua and the Elephant is a beautiful little novel, and it was such a nice change of pace from my read aloud with my son of action and adventure stories that have a lot of noise but very little depth. Which is not to say that action and adventure are not part of this story in which a little girl, Tua, sets out to rescue an elephant, even as she is being chased by two seedy men who have abused the elephant and want it back. Set in Thailand, this small novel gives such a flavor of setting and character, and moves with humor and humanity, making it a perfect read-aloud for home or the classroom.

Tua is smart and determined, and her heart is what drives the story forward from the first page to the last. You can’t help but root for Tua and care about the young elephant she is intent on saving. Finding a gem like Tua and the Elephant (I saw it on a table at the book store, and was captivated by the cover, and picked it up) is such a refreshing thing, reminding me of the power of story told with compassion and understanding.

Tua lives in our hearts now, too.

Peace (in the story),


Daily Creatin’ with a Visual Lens

I’ve been diving back into the Daily Create this week after a stretch of somewhat ignoring the daily prompts to “make stuff.” The Daily Create is still an amazing resource for stretching your mind, and I like the photography angle, since that is not really part of how I see myself.

This morning, the prompt was about pixelating and manipulating an image using an excel-based tool. Pretty strange, but I uploaded an image and toyed around to create this madness. If I had more time and patience, I would have been more systematic about what I was doing. As it was, I was just doing, not planning. (but check out the image pulsates if you toggle up and down very quickly. Odd)

Dog Leash Excelerator

Yesterday, the prompt was about using tape to create household art. I set about making Tapeman, and then (as someone noted, as if he were Flat Stanley), I propped him in various elements of the kitchen. He spent the night drinking our bottle of wine and is now paid out flat on the counter top. Never invite Tapeman to your party.


For Valentine’s Day, the prompt had to do with remixing a set of stock images with snarky comments. I tried to capture the digital disconnect with this one.

False Valentines

And finally, there was the visual palindrome prompt. My mind raced (eh, sorry) to the phrase of “race car” and you would not be surprised at how quickly race cars can be found in a house with three boys.

Visual palindrome

How about you? What’d you create this week?

Peace (in the share),