Book Review: Seveneves

This book took me forever to read. It wasn’t that it was a chore. It was that life got in the way and it was that the book is huge (880 pages). But I kept with Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, and I am glad I did. For while some sections got a bit bogged down with technical, scientific details, the second half of the novel soared with imagination, and showcased some of Stephenson’s fine skills as a science fiction writer.

The story revolves around Earth in the aftermath of a devastating event: the moon is blown up into seven pieces by a mysterious object and the result of this extraordinary event changes Earth forever, leading to a survival story of the human race. The first half of the book is how Earth will send a core group of representatives to space, as they anticipate a cataclysmic event known as the Hard Rain, as pieces of the broken moon break apart further and form a shower of fire and destruction. Humanity will be destroyed.

Only those in space will survive, with a mission to stay alive and return to Earth many generations down the road. The moral quandaries of this mission — who gets to go? who has to stay? — as well as the scientific ones — how will they survive over the term? — are at the heart of the first part of the novel.

The second half of the story is set way deep into the future, when humanity has regained some foothold in space (as descendants of the only survivors in space — seven women known as the Seven Eves who use genetics and science to begin a rebirth of humanity … thus, the title) and these people are helping Earth comes back to life through terraforming. Surprises await this race of humans as they slowly make their way back onto Earth.

I won’t give more of it away. Seveneves is a good read if you like science fiction, with a hefty dose of science thrown in. Stephenson never explains what caused the moon’s destruction and only hints that it was part of some larger event or religious experience, like some modern Noah’s Ark story.

Peace (in the world),
Kevin

Word Drop and Broken Verse: Further ReMEDIAtion of a Poem

I’m continuing to push a single poem in multiple directions with this Make Cycle in Making Learning Connected MOOC on the issue of remediation — a term that is getting some pushback here and there in various spaces.

One of my good friends, Sarah, took my poem, and as she said, broke it.

That got me thinking …

This time, I went into Mozilla Webmaker’s Thimble tool. I used a kinetic text remix in an effort to do a sort of “reverse blackout poem,” in which words drop from the poem, leaving behind a second poem.

You can check out my Thimble project here, but it works best in Firefox (for me, it won’t work in Chrome).

Here are some screenshots, in case you are curious:

First, what the code page looks like:

Thimble-ized Poem

Next, the poem in its original form:

Thimble-ized Poem

Finally, after hitting the “transform this poem” button:

Thimble-ized Poem

What is cool about Thimble and other Webmaker tools is that you can remix. Just click the remix button on the poem in Thimble and make your own.

And one more further remediation of the poem for today. I don’t think this worked as well as some of the other experiments. I created a comic version of the poem. What I struggled with was the representation of ideas within the allotted four frames that used the possibilities of a comic to tell the story of the poem. It just … didn’t work.

Comic remediation

I’ll finish up tomorrow with two more versions of the poem as the Make Cycle moves into reflection stage.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

Make an Inquiry via #CLMOOC

One of the offshoot projects (and there seem to be quite a few this year, which is so very cool, as they are coming as much from participants as from facilitators) of the Making Learning Connected MOOC is Michael Weller’s concept of Make an Inquiry, in which he is encouraging a group of us teachers to consider a classroom inquiry project. By coming together as a collective, the hope is to keep momentum going forward through the summer and into the school year.

I shared out this video that I created for some professional development work that our writing project site has done with some schools in our area. It is a simple overview of how classroom inquiry might proceed (you might have a different path).

And here is a quick video of some recent presentations by teachers at a middle school STEM school. I worked as a facilitator with this school for a year, ending with inquiry presentations to colleagues. For many, this was the first time they had ever done an inquiry project for their own classroom. It was a learning experience, for sure, but valuable in that the reflective stance — of noticing something you wonder about, asking a pertinent question, gathering some resources, trying something out, sharing out the experience — made for a wonderful way to draw our work to a close.

Our writing project is working on curating the Inquiry Project presentations and when that is done this summer, I will share out via the CLMOOC and Make an Inquiry group. We learn from each other, right?

So, here is my own inquiry question that I am beginning to ponder for my sixth grade classroom. The question is sparked by our school district’s move (finally) into Google Apps for Education. I am wondering:

How can my students engage deeply in the revision process when the “peer review” process moves beyond the walls of the classroom?

In other words, using Google Apps not just for writing to the teacher (me) and even the classroom, but beyond that. And if the audience shifts, how does the revising process shift to meet that audience of the world? This will tie into my professional goals next year of starting the process of “digital portfolios” for students. That could be its own inquiry question, right?

Peace (in the questions),
Kevin

Poem ReMEDIAtion 2: Turning Words into Audio

Yesterday, I shared out the first steps in taking a poem through its paces, under the banner of “reMEDIAtion” of the Making Learning Connected MOOC. The idea is to see what happens to our work when we move into different platforms, and consider whether the heart of the idea changes or shifts or is transformed.

Is “remediation” just another term for “remix”? Maybe. Probably. Possibly. Maybe perusing those words will be my reflection point later on in the Make Cycle.

For now, I am using a single poem about liminality as my base point. Yesterday, I talked about moving from a handwritten draft to a typed version, and then using a text layout tool to impact the metaphorical presentation of the writing. That was not very dramatic, in terms of remediation of text. Some, but not much.

So, I have turned to audio to see what happens. I wanted to move beyond just podcasting — of just reading the words into a microphone — and dove into the Garageband App (one of the best 5 bucks you will ever spend on an app) to see if I could re-compose the poem.

Take a listen:

I decided to document my intentions in the composing with sound here with this comic reflection:

Remediating the poem as audio

The end result, I think, is an aural landscape effect. I hope my use of voice and of music draws the listener in, creating a wider effect of the poem’s meaning. I was intentional with everything.

More remediation tomorrow …

Peace (in the sounds),
Kevin

An Exercise in Re-MEDIA-tion, Part One

The second Make Cycle for CLMOOC kicked off yesterday and we are now plunging out way into the concept of remediation — of considering the ways in which technology and composition strategies change/alter the message of the original media/composition.

Check out the CLMOOC newsletter, done as collective voice in an art museum, as video. The script is the same as the text (see it here) but the brings the ideas alive, particularly when the group finds the right art for the right moment. That’s part of the remediation of words, when image and sound inform/change the writing.

Here is a user-friendly concise definition of remediation:

“It is essentially the appropriation of the content of one medium into another.” — from The Average Penguin

I am always intrigued by remediation ideas, particularly in this age of digital media, and so I have decided to take a poem I wrote the other day and bring it through some various remediation this week. The origin is a tweet by Jeffrey Keefer, who wrote about a term I had never come across before: liminality. The more he tweeted out about it, the more I found this poem forming. It may be that I am not as deeply informed about liminality as Jeffrey is (in fact, I know that to be true), and I found myself shifting more towards Vygotsky’s Zones of Promixal Development.

I won’t always be stuck here
in-between,
will I?
I’m wiggling my toes
flexing my fingers
stretching my mind
digging my way
into the crawl spaces of liminality
all for the hope that where I’ve come from
will lead me into the place where I’m going
with only a few more questions as bumps in the road ….

Well, this is not completely true, either. I had a little sticky note that I write the first draft of the poem on. It was a mess. I accidentally tossed it away. You won’t see the true origin of the poem, unfortunately — only the first remediation of it as I typed it out.

Then I decided to share the poem out via Twitter, so I turned to one of my favorite writing/style sites called Notegraphy. The site gives your presentation frames for text, and this began my first element of remediation and a question: How would I present my poem so that the style would complement the message of the writing?

It’s more difficult than it seems, given a vast amount of choice, and I ended up with this very simple design, tilted a bit on its axis. For me, this tilt seemed to metaphorically represent the heart of the poem — of questioning what it means to be in the middle of learning something — not quite a novice and not quite an expert.

The poem came to look like this, which I mostly liked, except that the design screwed with my line breaks .. which brings to the surface the concept of “agency” of the writer, and how far do we go to force our own vision on what technology does to our vision. Here, I accepted the change, reluctantly. I compromised with technology. It didn’t even know or care, of course.

But I do. I still do.

Liminality remediate 1

Then I decided to go another step .. of using the Docs Demo: Master’s Edition by Google that allows you to write in an experimental Google Doc with some “masters” of writing. What would they do to my poem? And more importantly, how much of my poem was I willing to give up to the unknown media changers? For this, I held on to little, allowing Google’s site to do what it would with my words, in the name of the experiment.

They did this:

The end result was my poem looking like this:

The Masters Mess with my Poem

I have more ideas brewing for the next few days … will remediate.

Peace (in the mix),
Kevin

 

On a Morning Blog Walk in #CLMOOC

clmooc imageWith so many social media spaces acting like livewires of sharing and reflecting for the Making Learning Connected MOOC, or CLMOOC, it is easier to forget that a fair number of folks are blogging regularly, too, and that the CLMOOC has a Blog Hub that gathers up blogs in one space.

I decided to spend some time this morning, in the space between Make Cycle One that just ended and Make Cycle Two that will soon launch, to read some blogs from CLMOOC folks and make some comments, and collect some quotes that have had me thinking in new directions. I love the close reading that this kind of activity invokes. It’s authentic close reading, not some regimented process that comes from a book by Pearson. I read to seek inspiration, for the words that make me pause. I read to learn.

Lots o Quotes

My blog tour began with Deanna Mascle’s post about media and remediation. Her journey into identity issues and how technology and digital media impact how we view and are viewed by the world is a critical component of Connected Learning principles, the very foundations of CLMOOC.

Deanna Quote

inspired by Deanna Mascle – http://metawriting.deannamascle.com/notable-notes-identity-remediated-via-clmooc/

Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful photograph? Week after week, I am inspired by the work of Kim Douillard. I am lucky to have her as a friend in multiple networks. Here, she uses her blog to remind us of how the lens of our cameras might open up different reflective stances. I am one of those who needs that kind of constant reminders, as I am more apt to think in terms of words.

kim quote

inspired by Kim Douillard — https://thinkingthroughmylens.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/musings/

Maha Bali and I, and some others, have often had conversations around this idea of inclusion/exclusion, and how networked spaces and community ideas open or shut the doors on others. I love that she continues to push at that idea. It’s important in online spaces but just as important in our classrooms. Who feels welcomed? Who doesn’t?

maha quote

inspired by Maha Bali — http://blog.mahabali.me/blog/parenting/symbolism-interpretation-and-media/

Kathleen is someone new to me but I love that she is science-orientated and her post about engaging in her first Twitter chat is such a great perspective. She tried something new. She is gearing up to try something new again. That’s the CLMOOC ethos. She is also engaged in the Make an Inquiry venture within CLMOOC (me, too) and I am grateful to have her perspectives.

kathleen quote

inspired by Kathleen Marie — http://stemforall.weebly.com/blog/turning-inside-out-my-mad-dash-to-change-learn-grow-and-become-a-more-connected-teacher

Jeffrey Keefer has been dipping into poetry this CLMOOC, inspiring others with the concept of liminality … that learning space in between the first step of the novice and the confidence of the expert. It reminds me of Vygotsky and zones of promixal development, and how important it is to navigate forward, even in uncertainty. His quote here is off-kilter because it comes from a poem. I left it because the off-kiltered essence seemed somewhat metaphorical to me.

jeffrey quote

inspired by Jeffrey Keefer — http://silenceandvoice.com/2015/06/23/make-cycle-one-my-unintroduction/

Barry Geltson was writing about an interaction with a friend, who made a quip about email. It reminded him, as it does me, of our role as teachers to find ways to encourage agency in our students in the wave of digital media.

barry quote

inspired by Barry Gelston — http://tumblr.mrgelston.com/post/122338649527/makeaninquiry-connected-communities-learning

Like Maha, Susan Watson explores the idea of gateways and access in a post that blew me away with some new thinking of intentional designs in public spaces that have implications for us in digital spaces. The invitation in and who is the host …. we can’t ignore these ideas.

susan quote

inspired by Susan Watson — http://teachingbeyondtropes.blogspot.com/2015/06/dont-sit-on-my-fire-hydrant.html

I think, sometimes, that Sheri Edwards and I surf the same wavelengths. This summer, already, she has been pulling the collaborative threads left and right in the CLMOOC, and I so appreciate it. Her reflections are as interesting as her projects (and she has many)

sheri quote

inspired by Sheri Edwards — http://whatelse.edublogs.org/2015/06/28/clmooc-digilit-random-me/

Michael Buist wrote a very personal post, about vacationing in Maine and the connections to family history. But in the midst of it, he had this line that resonated with me and with CLMOOC — he is bringing us into his experience while also inviting us to make our own.

michael quote
inspired by Michael Buist – http://buistbabble.tumblr.com/post/122332130405/unmaking-echo-lake-for-clmooc

Thank you to all the bloggers in the CLMOOC Blog Hub. If you blog, add yours, too. The center of the CLMOOC is always YOU and if you blog, then consider opening the doors and invite us in. We promise not to wreck the place. We might remix a few things here and there but we will do it with caring and love.

Peace (in the blogs),
Kevin

Tracking the Flow of an Impromptu Make

Flow of a Make

I am not sure I have this completely correct but I am trying to track the flow of a Make project that was completely unscheduled and unscripted in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and yet, gained traction among some CLMOOC folks (and continues to even now). I also recently got myself a stylus pen and wanted to try it out in my Paper app. It’s better than my fingers on the touchpad.

This began with Simon, folding laundry and wishing he had some audio to listen to. As per CLMOOC ethos, he decided to record his own narration and then put out the call to the CLMOOC community, asking folks to make audio and share it out. There is something powerful with voice and podcasting, and even in the very first year of CLMOOC, we were encouraging people to share their voices. Not many did. Simon found a hook that was both open-ended and connected, as indicated by the hashtag of #adhocvoices.

This morning, Simon curated the audio a bit in Soundcloud, and I made this comic after listening to files this morning and reading his own reflective post.

Voices

But Terry took it one step further, making the comic into a clickable curated file in Thinglink, with different pieces leading to different audio.

So, I did the “flow chart” at the top of this post — showing the flow, so to speak — of how I saw things unfolding from Simon’s initial call for voices, in an ongoing attempt to make as much of our creative work this summer with CLMOOC visible and maybe replicable in some fashion with either other educators or with learners.

The key here is expect the unexpected, and go with the flow. See where things take you. It’s that uncharted country off the map that we often talk about in open learning. Leave a few breadcrumbs so we can follow you. One caveat to my own reflection here is that many of those who have participated in this #adhocvoices are familiar folks, and we want the map to get larger, more encompassing of more people.

That might be you.

Peace (in sound),
Kevin

Book Review: Space Case

Imagine being stuck on a pioneering base on the moon and someone is murdered. The murderer is among you. It sounds like an Agatha Christie novel, doesn’t it? And Space Case by Stuart Gibbs plays out a bit like “And Then There Were None …” in that there is a closed setting, a murder and someone can’t be trusted.

Gibbs, whose fine sense of humor have been on display in some of his other books for young readers, is in fine form here with Space Case, as pre-teen Dashiell Gibson realizes that the untimely death of a famous scientists on Moon Base Alpha does not add up, and he is determined to get to the cause of the incident.

Gibbs plants plenty of red herrings, a must in this kind of story, and a surprising twist near the end of the novel, and Space Case really captures both the amazing idea of living on the moon and the claustrophobic element of a murderer hiding in plain site. I read this aloud to my son, and he and I both enjoyed the tale.

Peace (on the moon, baby),
Kevin

Odds and Ends: From Abamao to Zzzzzzzzzzcratching

Frindle: Words from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

I’m still abuzz from this past year’s version of the Crazy Collaborative Dictionary Project. What’s that, you say? What’s a Crazy Collaborative Dictionary? It’s part of our annual exploration of the origins of words, with a project in which my sixth graders invent new words and then add them to an ongoing collaborative dictionary.

There are now more than 900 words, from over 12 years worth of students. Siblings are writing with siblings … across time. Think about that for a second. A collaboration across time. And a nutty dictionary emerges as a result, too, that completely engaged my students in the art of vocabulary creation.

Oh, and we podcast the words and definitions, too, preserving the voices of sixth graders.

So, from Abamao (The skill of tripping/falling for no reason and being congratulated for it) to Zzzzzzzzzzcratching (The act of using a zebra leg as a back scratcher), there is an entirely new vocabulary out there.

Peace (in the collaboration),
Kevin

The CLMOOC Word Map

No reason for doing this other than I wondered how it would come out …

I used Word Map, which is a pretty nifty tech tool, if you use a real word. Hashtags are just confusing for the voices.

Peace (on the map),
Kevin