This morning, Bud the Teacher had an image for poetry that had me thinking. It showed a mother and child, standing in front of a picture of a woman, and a man is off to the wide of the frame, looking in. I had this sensation of everyone looking for everyone else, but in different realities (including the photographer), and that reminded me of a Mobius Strip.
Here’s what I wrote:
I’m slowing sharing out a collection of student-created Interactive Fiction pieces, which I am compiling into a website resource, too. Here, a team of two students really got into the narrative choices as they worked with the software, Twine, to map out and create their story: Exploring Brankav (I believe the name is a play on elements of their names).
It took me a few months to get through this “history of comics,” told in comic form, by Fred Va Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, but it was worth it. The Comic Book History of Comics is an insightful ride through the history of the graphic story which has its roots way back in storytelling with images, and has now pushed its way into the digital sphere (when a recent comic distribution site — ComiXology — offered to make free some old archives of Marvel comics, the rush by folks to get there caused the entire site to go down.)
What’s great about this book is how the history is told as comic story, with funny and insightful jokes scattered throughout the frames even as the ups and downs of the comic world are told. The illustrations and artwork are witty, with tons of tongue-in-cheek references to politics and pop culture, and more. (In this way, the book demonstrates the kind of storytelling power that comics are about.) Topics range from the stereotypes of early comic strip characters, to the “investigations” by the government of the moral influence of the comics, to the emergence of new forms of comics in Japan, and more.
That said, this book is probably not all that interesting to most young readers. It is pretty dense, coming across more like a textbook for a college classroom than a readable history. (That’s why it took me a few months to read.) In some ways, this history comic is for the diehard comic fan, or for that person who wants to go deeper into the impact that graphic storytelling is having on our world. You can see the influence of comics in movies, books, and popular cultural, in general. The Comic Book History of Comics does its job well, but it is not for the casual reader.
The other night, the segment about data mining and privacy issues in the digital age ran on Fox News, and my students and I were part of the mix. Some of you may remember that I allowed Fox News, with anchor John Roberts, to come to my sixth grade classroom on Digital Learning Day as we were in the midst of a unit around digital citizenship. The hour-long feature — called Your Secret’s Out — is pretty damning, as Fox examines how companies and the government use data to know who were are and what we’re up, too, etc, and is pretty much, well … Fox News. There’s heightened music, a sense that something is very wrong with the world, and Robert’s arched eyebrows show us that we better be more aware of our use of digital spaces. Now, this is true, but the feature gives is more of a dark underpinning than it needs. But that’s television, for you.
Now, you can imagine my worries about how my students and I would be portrayed in that kind of conversation. The last thing I want is for my students to come across as fools, or inarticulate kids. That didn’t happen. We did OK. I think we all came off as pretty thoughtful, and the brief segments show us in good conversations about the digital world. I think I was able to explain the rationale for teaching about digital footprints, in soundbites. I have edited our section out of the larger piece so that I can show my students. The stories that immediately follow us include references to sex tapes and Charlie Sheen and other pop cultural references that I’d rather not bring into my classroom, if I don’t have to.
Mary Lee posted a video clip this morning, as part of her month-long inquiry into using media to inspire poetry, connected with using Wikimedia Commons. The video shows a bird, in a cage, squawking as if laughing (I doubt it is laughing, though), which led me to write this short poem. I was playing with rhymes a bit, trying to overlap lines.
this could be you
stuck here with me
inside this zoo
where all we do
is prance and wait
for someone else
while dreaming only
I fear, though,
we’re here for ages
across our cages.
There’s been a ripple of posts around the Net lately in which educators write or share their thoughts about why they keep teaching (see the Use Your Outside Voice blog being moderated by Beth Shaum). An offshoot of these are public resignation letters being sent to Arne Duncan. These responses come, no doubt, due to the increasing pressure we teachers are under from political officials. Over at our National Writing Project iAnthology space, the question of “Why We Teach” is at the heart of this week’s writing prompt. I went the route of using Storybird to create my visual, storybook response:
Peace (in the book),
PS — here is the video put together by Beth and others that captures what is on the minds of many teachers.
Mary Lee posted an interesting photo this morning of a telescope in Chile, shooting out its beams to outer space. (This part of Mary Lee’s use of media to inspire poetry and learn about copyright issues.) This is the poem that I wrote:
The sky falls down
in a gentle rain of heavenly sights.
We gather hands and dance
amidst the possibilities
of chance that somewhere,
someone else is looking out as we look in,
our eyes both extended into the stars
even as our words get scribbled out,
near and far, letter by letter,
line by line,
in this data-strewn world of virtual space.
I am pulling together a collection of student stories that were created as part of our Interactive Fiction unit, in which my sixth grade students first read and reflected on the use of “choose your own ending” style of stories (we were lucky enough to have some funds to purchase some class sets of the books) and then worked with the software, Twine, to write and build their own stories. I am in the process of building a website in our new Google Apps for Education space to publish and share a collection of student stories, and I am now considering ways to adapt what we did with Twine for when I do Interactive Fiction with my next two classes in a few weeks. (I might use Inklewriter, the online writing space.)
First up, though, is a wonderful story by Sarah called The Temple of Selaina. Sarah is one my stronger readers, and she really seemed to “get it” when it came to reading and writing these stories with many branches. In fact, she followed every single ending in the books that she read, and came in each day, talking about what had happened to “her” in the stories (usually, something bad, given the way those books are written.)
The image above is a screenshot of the main interface of Twine, showing where stories branch off and how they become a tree of ideas. I really love that aspect of Twine — it gives a very visual map to the stories as students are writing.
Leave it to Bud to come up with a little twist in his sharing of images this month to inspire poetry. Today, there was no image. Instead, in its place was a message saying the photo had been redacted and removed. That inspired me to write this poem.
This day, I fear, has gone in reverse -
so that every door opened, shuttered;
every word uttered, retracted;
every kiss given, returned;
every lesson learned, forgotten;
to the point where driving out becomes merely coming home,
and tonight, as I sit down heavily on the bed,
book in hand, ready to read to sleep to dream,
my mind is already cranking into the slow gear of morning thoughts
with coffee percolating in the air
and words dangling along the edge of the wilderness,