Untethered Spaces: A #digipoetry for #rhizo15

Yesterday, I shared out an audio file that represented a converted image of the nodes of connections in the Rhizomatic Learning network. I wanted to take it another step further, so I decided to create a digital story, with a poem as narration, using a phrase that I tossed out onto Twitter the other day about the “untethered spaces” of #rhizo15. The soundtrack is the audio from the image of the network. The visuals are representations of the connections. The digital story format brings those pieces together. My aim with the poem itself was to emphasis the invitation to “you.”

Here is the poem:
UntetheredSpaces

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

Muse (the poem); Inspired by The Crossover

I just finished The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, which is a verse novel that won the Newberry Award this year for young adult fiction. It’s good, and I can see how the appeal of the poem/story (a teenage boy and his twin brother, both basketball stars, and their father, a fading sports star) will resonate with kids, particular those athletes with an eye on the game, and maybe show them some potential of poetry as a freeing way to tell a story.

Alexander’s book inspired me to try my own poem this morning about a song I have not been able to write because something keeps eluding me:

Muse (a poem)

Peace (in the shape of the story),
Kevin

What #Rhizo15 Connections Sound Like (sort of)

Rhizo15 Network Visualization

A friend, Daniel Lynds, in the Rhizomatic Learning network has been collecting and sharing out daily visualizations of the connections people are making in the #rhizo15 community on Twitter. It’s interesting to see the nodes shifting and changing. Simon Ensor had this idea of animating the visualization. That got me thinking of stopmotion/time-lapse but I haven’t figured out an easy way to do that yet with any of the data visualization tools that I have seen or have access to.

Instead, I wondered: what does this all sound like? This plays into a big audio push of the #rhizo15 network this first week. What are we hearing?

So, I took a screenshot of Daniel’s visualization sharing from yesterday and I jumped into the Audio Paint program I have on my PC. This nifty little freeware takes a digital image, maps it out as digital bits and bytes, and then converts that information back into a sound file that you can download and use. Basically, your image becomes audio.

Here, then, is what the Rhizomatic Learning community connections sounded like on April 18. Pretty spacey. I did only a little editing of the sound, tinkering with the settings in Audio Paint and then merging two different audio files (of the same image, just different settings) to make one track. Notice how the intensity increases as the connections get tighter, and calm down where the connections are lighter. And of course, my screenshot of Daniel’s sharing shows three different views in one image file (in fact, I think they are three different image files from Daniel.)

Peace (in the sound),
Kevin

Enter Pink Fury (Tired and Sore)

This is our team, Pink Fury. As you can see, there are only about a dozen of us.

Pink Fury 2015

I am on the one with the painted shirt. I like to do my own thing.

In the Students vs Teachers Quidditch match the other night, there were more than 60 student vying to play us in our school’s unique game. For almost 80 minutes, we teachers ran and shot the quaffle and did all the nutty things we do for our game, as wave after wave of students (fresh from sitting) joined in.

Yesterday, I was tired. This morning, I am sore. But the spirit of fun was baked into the entire day yesterday, and it was all kids could talk about it (even our new principal joined in the game and she had no idea what was going on). So, yeah, as we move into our April break, it was worth it.

Peace (in the pink),
Kevin

PS — our name, Pink Fury, comes from supporting a colleague battling cancer …

Book Review: Fakes

Fakes

For those who know me, this is my kind of book. Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, “Found” Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifacts, a collection edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer, is all about taking a genre and twisting it all around in an attempt to make something new and interesting. I first saw this book on a store shelf in the Library of Congress, of all places, and then ordered it when I got home.

The fiction in this book — which begins with a disclaimer to the reader and ends with a  contributors’ note and index, all finely fraudulent  — runs the range of all sorts of official-looking documents — from Last Will and Testaments, to Works Cited, to complaint letters, to personal advertisements — that open up to the door for the writers to explore genre, break genre and be creative. In doing so, they open up the reader’s eyes to possibilities.

The most powerful piece in here, for me, is Kevin Wilson’s “The Dead Sister Handbook: A Guide for Sensitive Boys (Laconic Method to Near Misses)” — which broke my heart while pulling me down into the world of self-help guides for kids. A brother trying to comprehend his sister is the center of this piece and all the while, you can feel the slope getting steeper and steeper.

Not every piece is as strong as that one, but given the ways in which we have come to twist genres and styles of writing, and the way the Internet allows us to freely share our versions of writing, Fakes remains an intriguing look at some possibilities. For more daily variety, I suggest you check out McSweeney’s Internet Tendencies, too. I get more laughs per post there in my RSS feed than anywhere else.

Peace (its not fake),
Kevin

 

#Rhizo15: Annotating to Understand

Annotating Susan

One of the lines of inquiry this week for Rhizomatic Learning is about the subjective element of learning spaces. While Dave Cormier suggests we think about this in terms of designing a course, I can’t help but think about it as a learner in online communities, too. Unfortunately, I am grappling with the objective vs subjective ideas, so I am seeking out others in the Rhizo15 who are explaining it better than I can, in hopes they can explain it to me.

Of course, in doing so, I am letting their subjective experiences influence my subjective experiences. Not very objective of me, is it? But this is how I learn, from gathering ideas from others and trying to figure out my own line of truth. Or as close to an understanding as I can help to get.

Take Susan, for example. Her post this morning really was what I was looking for, in terms of teasing out the various terminology and allowing me to think about my own understanding. I ended up annotating her blog post in Diigo as a way to interact with her words and ideas.

My takeaways on this topic:

  • I never go into a course as a student with an objective outlook. I bring all of my experiences with me, and those experiences form my expectations. This can be good (I am open to whatever comes my way as long as I am engaged) and this can be bad (what do you mean, there is no plan for where we are going?) but I know that if a course/event does not work for me, I can pull out with no regrets (sorry, but the fedwiki project a few weeks ago did not work for me).
  • Note: if ever there was a course that is not a course, and the role of student that does not feel like a student, that would be Rhizomatic Learning. There is always the sense of, we’re all in this together. If you are used to a course having a clear syllabus, and course objectives laid out, this line of cloudy inquiry can be discomforting.
  • As a teacher, I realize how much the “objective” lesson planning expectation is baked into the language of our profession. I suspect this is from the data-driven culture, where learning must be reduced to numbers so that it can be converted into charts that can be shared in Powerpoints that an influence policy that trickles down like a ton of bricks to us classroom teachers. I am gathering my “evidence” of student learning for my principal and noting how much is boiled down into those outcomes. We lose the individual when we do this. I know that. Still, I fall in line. My artifact portfolio has graphs, and numbers, and data … and my students as learners and writers … they get lost in the mix. That’s where the objective inquiry fails miserably to the subjective, right?
  • I was glad that Susan brought the concept of “subversive” into the mix, and while her tone seems more negative than I would have put it, I see my own learning style as a subversive learner, as someone pushing at the edges and using humor and remixing and other non-traditional methods to find the heart of what I need to know, and maybe bring along a few collaborators as I go. I don’t consider this an act of disrespect … I see it as an act of independence.
  • I’m still struggling with the line of our inherent bias that we bring to the table and the concept of being subjective as a learner. Some friends on Twitter have provided me with some helpful insights. Certainly our biases shape our experiences, as both teacher and student. Sarah suggested that subjective goals are what we want out of an experience — we have agency over articulating our expectations — while bias is the shape of us (not her words here, mine).

So, yeah, more confusion than clarity, but I am OK with that. The more I read from others, like Susan, the more my own thinking expands. I like that.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

We Play Quidditch (What About You?)

So, today is our huge, massive, completely-nutty Quidditch Tournament at our school, where the four sixth grade classes square off against each other for an entire day of running, teamwork, running, throwing, running, cheering, running and well, running. There’s a lot of running in our game, which began with a group of students reading the first Harry Potter book years ago and asking, “Why don’t we make this game for us to play?”

They worked with our PE teacher to design rules of the game and this “literature in motion” has been a major event at our school for more than 12 years. Other classes come to watch the games during the course of the day (not a favorite event for many other teachers, I must admit.)

After the teams of sixth grade students play all day (with us homeroom teachers as coaches), then the students take on the staff at night (I am exhausted just thinking about it already) in a fun match in which the line of students seems never-ending and the line of teachers seems pretty small. Did I mention a lot of running?

See you on the field …

Peace (in the Quidditch Pitch),
Kevin

A #Rhizo15 Song Takes Root (And We Find Our Way Through)

WeFindOurWayThrough

For the last few days, I’ve been collaborating on a song with some friends around the world as part of the pre-start of Rhizomatic Learning (the event officially starts to day). This is the messy and interesting story of how the song — We Find Our Way Through — came to be ….

It began, for me, with a tweet and then a blog post by Sarah, who wrote an intriguing piece about being fine with being private and then mentioned playing her ukulele. I know this goes completely against what she wrote about, but I suggested that if she ever wanted to take the plunge into the public, perhaps we could collaborate.

It turns out that Ron was already moving her in that direction, after reading the same blog post. So, I proposed, let’s try to see if we can collaborate on a song. I didn’t have a song at the time, but during the day, I sat down with my guitar and wrote a very simple song about the idea of community and rhizomatic learning, with the song itself being an example of the swirling, unknown nature of learning experiences.

rhizo15 Song Collaboration

I went back to a music site that I have tinkered with, Soundtrap, and recorded the rhythm guitar and vocals (first mistake: not recording separate tracks here. Lesson learned). I then invited Sarah and Ron into Soundtrap (and Ron and I even did a loop collaboration as a test), and sent out the lyrics and chords. I think Ron used his MIDI system to record a few tracks and Sarah may have recorded offline and then uploaded into Soundtrap. There are a few places here and there with the timing is off, but we all worked with what we had to work with.

Meanwhile, Jeff had seen a tweet in the #Rhizo15 stream and asked a question. I saw on his profile picture that he is playing a guitar … bingo … consider that an invitation. Jeff came in and added some background guitar and a few tasty licks.

Sarah then wondered, can we do background vocals? She asked me for the notes I was singing. Eh. I have no idea. I’m not that kind of a singer. Barely a singer at all. I sing to write songs. But Sarah kindly worked out a simple harmonic arrangement and Maha responded to a tweet for singers. Soundtrap did not work for Maha, so she recorded herself singing and then emailed me the file, which I loaded up and tried to sync as best as I could into the song (she has a lovely voice). Sarah also suggested that others sing the lead, but the mistake I made in the first track (unable to remove my voice and leave the guitar) made that idea difficult. My track is the glue that everything is built around, for good or bad.

It was while mixing Maha that I noticed my main track had gotten accidentally cut into, so there is now a glitch midway through. Dang. Nothing I can do about it, though. I had saved an earlier version in Soundtrap as a backup but even that one had the glitch. I probably did something at some time. Who knows. But, just as in Wreck-it Ralph, the Glitch is the thing that makes the game unique, I have convinced myself this morning that the glitch gives the song a reminder that anything rhizomatic is messy by nature, and rough around the edges. I almost believe it. Give me time.

I’m pretty proud of how We Find Our Way Through came out and even more proud of how the song emerged as a collaboration, given that we worked remotely from the United States, Scotland and Egypt in just a few days time. We found our way through. We may do a second version, giving other people a chance to sing the lead. I’d like that.

Peace (in the rhizomatic collaboration),
Kevin

Rhizo15: Even When You Know What It Is, You Don’t Know What It Is

I was sharing Jabberwocky with my students last week. They are sixth graders and most had never heard nor read the poem, although a few remembered the name a bit from the last Alice in Wonderland movie (with Johnny Depp). After I read the poem, and then get students to read the poem, and after we talk about it from the writing and narrative stance, I show them The Muppets version.

What stuck with me was the line that Scooter says at the start, along the lines of “Even when you know what it is, you don’t know what it is ” as the Rhizomatic Learning event kicks off this week, and lots of folks are wondering about syllabus and stuff. Dave Cormier sent out a nice note this week, saying that the questions and uncertainty are what will drive the activities.

Thus, a remix of the Muppets for Rhizo15:

Feel free to remix the video yourself. See that remix button. Click it. See what happens. Go forth into the unknown and be creative. Make something new.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin