Slice of Life: Pool Pool

Pool at the pool

I am gearing up for a extended, long weekend visit with some friends that I have known now for nearly 30 years. We gather together each year, from whereever we live, to reconnect, and play the Pool Championship of the World (or, our little world). Yesterday, at our neighborhood community swimming pool, I touched a cue and table for the first time in almost a year. My son is getting better, but not good enough yet to beat the old man!

Peace (in the pocket),
Kevin

PS — my tag, In the Pocket, reminded me of an old song of mine from my band, Big Daddy Kiljoy.

We Need More Dandelions: Who Owns What in the Digital Age


flickr photo shared by opensourceway under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Call me naive but …

… I keep finding myself wandering back into the question of ‘who owns what’ in the Digital Age. It’s not just a question of a single item — say, a photograph, or a music file. Those kinds of issues — particularly when it comes to livelihood of an artist — are important and still being sorted out. I do think, and hope, that elements like Creative Commons licensing helps delineate lines for those of us who create (and may need to protect some of our art) and those of us how like to use art of others to create something new (and may need to learn better how to note where the original came from).

I’m thinking more of ideas here, and who owns the idea. If I spark a discussion in online forums and along various hashtags, or if I launch a collaboration that others take part in, do I own that idea from now to forever? I think about the poems I have invited others to write into, and various media projects that I have opened the door to, and other projects that I have been involved in. The spark has always been collaboration, not ownership.

I know I may be unrealistic but ..

… once the idea is out there, I figure it’s no longer just mine to do what I want with. I’ve given it, as a “gift” of sorts, to the world (and in my case, the world might only be a few people), which may very well completely ignore the idea or it might remix the idea into something different entirely. It may even call my idea the same name I gave it. Or not. It may give me a heads up about its use of the original. Or not. But it’s not really all mine anymore. If I didn’t want that to happen or unfold that way, I probably should have kept the idea to myself or tried to sell it with licensing restrictions — a phrase that gives me pause even as I write it.

Information cover final web

In Corey Doctorow’s book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, he uses the metaphor of a dandelion and the release of seeds to explain in a way how ideas can take root from artists and others in this age of the Internet. The dandelion doesn’t care about where the seeds go, or even if the seeds become flowers. What the dandelion cares about is the spawning of new seeds and the release of those seeds to the wind. That’s where all of its energy is at. It puts faith in the notion of something will be planted somewhere, and the world will continue.


flickr photo shared by norio_nomura under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Doctorow uses this metaphor as part of his argument around on how small artists can emerge as successful, or at least surviving, artists in the digital age. Release seeds (or music tracks, or photo teasers, etc) and see where those ideas flourish. If your seeds find root, your audience will find you and support you.

In contrast, large organizations — such as record companies and movie companies and publishing companies — spend all of their time with their prodigy, like overprotective parents. If I remember, I think Doctorow continues the metaphor by noting how much alike large organizations are like mammals, with all of the energy in the system centered on ways to nurture and protect their progeny. We give our children our last names and then talk about “family” honor and hereditary lines. We celebrate this with family trees. I’m not saying that is necessarily wrong, but it feels at odds with the open promise of spawning ideas in the Digital Age that I believe in.

I like to think of the whole DS106 ecology as one fine example of how no one really owns the ideas. I don’t personally know Jim Groom or Martha Burtis, two folks I believe were at the start of DS106. There might be others. I’ve only walked virtual dogs with Alan Levine in online spaces like The Daily Create. Others who were part of the whole DS106 shebang from the start are people I don’t quite know or remember. No offense to them, but they aren’t all that important anymore to the DS106 environment … as it exists today.

The DS106 world — with its digital storytelling and creativity focus — is there for the picking. I believe you could start a DS106 course right now, today, and connect in and it would be fine. You could set up your own version of The Daily Create, and it would be fine. Heck, I think Alan Levine will even give you the WordPress Theme to do so. There are no legal documents to sign. There are no permissions to get. Just go on and do it. It’s an open invitation, set in motion years ago, to take the idea and run with it.


flickr photo shared by mikecogh under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Why isn’t there more of this? Why don’t more innovative ideas have huge REMIX THIS buttons? I’d love more dandelions in the digital fields of play.

To be upfront and honest, though, I still struggle with this concept as a classroom teacher. As I make slow but steady movement into Connected Learning ideas with my sixth graders each year, I try to find balance between needing a certain sense of control and providing opportunities for independence for my students. I wish I leaned more than I do towards the latter. But I am learning, and I am always open to possibilities. I have my ear to the ground, as much as I am able. I celebrate the Remix and wonder at the Creativity. I don’t quibble over who owns the ideas that began it all.

Peace (together),
Kevin

My Son’s Remix Project: Trump and Futurama

Rowan's iMovie project

My youngest son (age 11) was watching an episode of Futurama a few weeks ago. In it, Richard Nixon (with his head in a jar) is talking to a crowd of people, about building a wall to keep space aliens out. A light when on in my son’s head. He remembered all the hoopla about Donald Trump building a wall.

So, he started to plan out this idea of a political remix, of meshing Trump’s call for a wall on the border with Mexico with Head-in-Jar Nixon’s call for a wall in outer space. I helped him get the videos he wanted to use but he knows enough about iMovie now to do the editing and mixing himself. I was mostly hands-off.

The result? Pretty cool political remix, I think, for an eleven-year-old kid who understood that he could make political commentary with pop culture elements. Of course, I am biased. He’s my kid. You’ll have to watch and see what you think.

Peace (remix it for greater effect),
Kevin

App Review: Chosen (Music Video Creator)

Chosen App

This was sort of fun. I guess. I heard about a music video mobile app called Chosen that is becoming popular with young people (after, typically, not necessarily being used in the way it was built for). Kids use it for lip-syncing videos, and the company just got rights to millions of songs, I guess.

I figure it’s always a good idea to get a handle on what is becoming popular (still have yet to do Snapchat, though, so maybe take my pronouncements with a grain of salt) and so I dove into Chosen.

It’s pretty simple to use. You can record your voice or music, or choose music (this is the lip-sync method). There are some funny overlays you can choose. You hit “record” and do your thing. The video gets saved to your device and you can share it out. Or you can share it within the Chosen ecosystem. (Note: the folks might want to, eh, choose, a new name I could not shake a religious theme from my mind when hearing the name of the app).

Here I am, grooving to Justin Timberlake’s song of the summer on pop radio:

Give it a try. See what you think. Maybe we can do a lip-sync competition during CLMOOC?

Peace (muse it),
Kevin

Resonation Points 2: Poems and Comics


flickr photo shared by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about seeking out the writing of others and creating something new that honors those writers. I called it Resonation Points. This morning, I want to follow up on that with two more resonation points: one that arrived in the comment bin of yesterday’s post and the other that arrived in my mailbox.

First, Terry (who was one of those writers I focused on) responded at the blog with a very poetic comment, with all sorts of nifty phrases, and then noted that it might be a poem. “Be watching for it on Twitter,” he said, so I did, and then we had some back and forth with poetry. He wrote about it in a way that is much better than I can write about it.

This is the poem I wrote, remixing his blog comment:

Comment poem

Then, I received a postcard from Susan (some of us in CLMOOC have been spending a year sending out periodic postcards … it will become part of this year’s CLMOOC, too) with a lovely message … and a challenge that I use the postcard in a comic somehow. Well, challenge accepted!

Susan's postcard comic

Peace (get connected!),
Kevin

 

Resonation Points: Practicing Noticing and Connecting

We’re hoping that when the 2016 version of Making Learning Connected MOOC kicks off on July 10 (sign up at the CLMOOC webpage or just jump in when you see things unfolding on Twitter, G+ or wherever it unfolds) that many participants will be “noticing” each other’s work, and “honoring” it through remix or comments or connections.

we are still clmooc

Following a Google Hangout meeting yesterday with some of the folks who have volunteered to help lead CLMOOC (Yep, it’s a crowdsourced affair this year and very exciting to see CLMOOC being led by participants), I wanted to practice a bit with this concept of “noticing.”

I began by following a link in a tweet by Simon to a post by Mary Ann Reilly, whose beautiful writing about loss has touched many of us in Slice of Life and beyond. She wrote a post called Love is a Story in Five Parts. Go read it. I was touched, and something about her last lines, about stories, stuck with me.

I used the app Super (which is very visual orientated) to honor Mary Ann’s words.

Stories

Next, I was reading a post by Wendy, who is already taking part in a CLMOOC Postcard Project (which began last year with folks sending postcards to each other as connector points). She had just sent out a new batch of postcards.

There was a whole line she had written about understanding an image by altering it (or, as she put it, breaking it apart from the whole and seeing it anew). I used an app called Legend to pluck that phrase out.

On Twitter, Melissa wrote about looking forward to CLMOOC and she used a phrase (in response to Anna) that had me wondering. I went into Super again.

Plans

And finally, Terry wrote a blog post that had a theme of “reading outside of your discipline” so that you can step outside your bubble (and the post goes on with more depth on shell games and the current educational environment). The call to read far and wide is a good reminder. I slightly edited what Terry wrote for this, via Legend.

In noticing and honoring the work of others, I hope to go deeper with my own reading and understanding. When you approach a piece of text this way, you can’t skim. You have to pay attention. (Go ahead and call it Close Reading, if you want). You are looking for resonation points, and ways to connect with the writer.

Peace (travels in connections),
Kevin

Spoken Poetry: Walls Are for Tearing Down

The theme of this week at Letters to the President is all about spoken poetry. I can’t seem to shake the metaphor of the “walls” going up and wanted to try to counter that image. What if the walls came down and we build something new out of the rubble? (After I wrote the poem and made the digital piece  — using the Adobe Spark app, if you are curious — I thought about the vote in Britain. So maybe tearing things down to rubble isn’t always the best political option.)

Walls Are for Tearing Down

Peace (please),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Hitting Balls Against the Wall


flickr photo shared by Bill David Brooks under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I’m trying something new this summer, and it has nothing to do with teaching or creating or technology. This summer, I am trying to re-learn how to play tennis.

Yesterday, for the first time in many years, I grabbed my old tennis racket (which I bought in college) and a new container of tennis balls (which I bought from Target), and biked to our local park, where they have tennis courts. After ponying up for a year membership to use the courts (my commitment ceremony … now I have to go back at least nine more times to make it worth it), I signed out the court with a wall and spent the next hour hitting the ball back and forth.

I did OK. My arm and shoulder are sore this morning, so I guess I was using parts of my body that have not seen much use in recent years. I hit the ball over the wall, and the fence, about a dozen times, swearing at myself. But learning to get better to control, too. The walk to get the balls over the fence was sort of long, so I concentrated on keeping them in the court (it was hot outside yesterday).

My tennis years, if you can call them that, were sporadic and I won’t claim to have been all that good. But my roommate in one college urged me to get a racket and hit balls with him. Then, when I transferred, another roommate asked the same (it turns out he was a nationally-ranked youth tennis player in high school … he kicked my butt every game … but I got better just trying to keep up with his serves and hits). As an aside: cold beer tastes great after playing tennis on summer days.

What I like about the game of tennis is the rhythm of the movement of the ball and feet. When a volley happens, it’s magic. It’s sort of mesmerizing and trance-like. I also admit: I like the competitive spirit of the game itself. I want to win and push myself to do so. Even when I lose a game, which is often, I still enjoy it.

So now, I am trying to recruit some of my family members to play with me (and realized, yesterday, I forgot how to keep score in a game … need to Google it). The wall was fine — I found a rhythm — but I want someone else on the other side of the net. I am pretty sure I can convince my middle son (age: 16, and an athlete) to move from our garage ping-pong tournaments (we’re pretty even on the little court) to the tennis courts. And my wife said she would try it.

If not, I have the wall.

Peace (in love),
Kevin

Tech Pedagogy: An Annotated Exploration


flickr photo shared by zoxcleb under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

My friend, Terry, recently published an entire series of blog posts in which he introduces and explores various technology tools, from an angle of pedagogy. He wonders as much of “the why” as much as the “here it is,” and I like that.

I’ve collected his series of posts as an Outliner in my Diigo bookmarking world, pulling out some of Terry’s words and adding a few of my own as an attempt at annotating what he was doing.

You can can view the Outline here on Diigo, if you want.

Or you can see it all right here in a sort of messy version of the Diigo Outliner.

In either case, bookmark what he was up to, and share it out. I’m sure that will make Terry happy.

Tellio’s Tour of Tech Pedagogy
  • RhetCompNow | Nowhere but here.
    “I also believe that unless technology evokes fun and the spirit of play it will never be personally useful to you as a teacher and learner.  So…I propose to bring you a series of tech tools, processes and information that you will come to find are “as handy as a pocket on a shirt”.” — TerryDon’t know Terry Elliott’s blogs? You should. He’s always up for the unexpected — either through sharing of what he is learning at one of his online spaces or asking questions meant to push our thinking. Revive the signals? Yes. (That’s the tagline at one of his blogs) This outline list of links tracks and shares Terry’s work to uncover the pedagogy behind various technology for learning. While he made these posts for his Writing Project Summer Institute, he is kind enough to share them out to the world. Enjoy. Learn. Create.

    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Thirteen (6/24/2016) | RhetCompNow (Managing the Media Overload)
      “Today’s post strays into a briar patch where only rabbits feel comfortable: the sense that the noise of the net is drowning the inner signal that is trying to get out of ourselves, our voice.” — Terry.
      Me: Here, Terry pulls back the cover on how he manages his media stream. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Having a means to manage it all is important.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Twelve (6/23/2016) | RhetCompNow (Finding Media to Use for your Projects)
      “Do you need free?  As in “copyright free, CCBY,  public domain sounds and music for a student or personal project” free?  If so, your options are extraordinary and here are a few of them.” — Terry.
      Me: Remixing and using media for creation can get tricky. The best option? Make stuff yourself. The next best option? Find someone who is freely offering their work for your use, and then point back to the artist.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Eleven (6/21/2016) | RhetCompNow (Assorted Summer Reading Doo-Dads)
      Me: Terry gives us some options for online summer reading.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Nine (6/18/2016) | RhetCompNow (Neat Stuff)
      “Some websites are cool tools unto themselves. I am going to share a few of those today. They have proven to be artesian wells of knowledge and prompts to action. I hope you enjoy them as well.” — Terry.
      Me: I didn’t realize he had my blog on there. Well. Thanks. I love how Terry annotates as well as shares. He models for the rest of us how we can think out loud, for the benefit of the self and for others, about the “whys” of what we’re doing.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Eight (6/18/2016) Analog Meets Digital: the Fountain Pen as Strange Attractor | RhetCompNow (Of Fountain Pens and the Analogue World)
      ” love fountain pens. I love what you can do with a decent one. ” — Terry.
      Me: Writing comes in all forms. I do find myself leaning in to the digital a little too often, perhaps, and I admit, I have not written with a fountain pen since … I was a child, playing with ink. This is a nice reminder that the tools we use to write can often shape the writing we are doing.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Seven (6/17/2016) | RhetCompNow (Make YouTube and Online Videos Work for You)
      “Want to use YouTube in the classroom, but find it a bit risky and potentially embarrassing or worse with younger students? Wish you could convince your district to open up YouTube but not sure how to argue for it?” — Terry.
      Me: For teachers wondering how to safely use the vast media out there in the classroom, Terry points us in some various directions.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Six (6/16/2016) | RhetCompNow (Twitter and Its Potential)
      “Today, a simple suggestion. Use Twitter for professional development.” — Terry.
      Me: I’m not sure if his Writing Project colleagues took him up on the offer, but there is little doubt that Twitter has completely changed the way teachers can connect and share and learn from each other. It has completely turned the whole PLC concept on its head … in a good way … (but avoid the echo chamber effect)
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Five–the Ides of June Edition | RhetCompNow (Audio Annotation)
      “My post today is about annotating SoundCloud. Yes, you can make time specific notes on sound files. It’s free, easy to use, congenial to share, and worth having in your repertoire.” — Terry.
      Me: Over the years, Terry has reminded me time and again about the power of adding text annotations to digital media, and here, he explores the very rich opportunity that Soundcloud has baked into its system.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Four (6/14/2016) | RhetCompNow (Annotating Images)
      “All of this activity falls under what I think of as “developing a repertoire.”  The Internet is still a collection of small tools loosely joined.  All you need is a small collection of tools in order to create and share.” — Terry.
      Me: Here, Terry introduced Pablo. I never heard of Pablo. You can do fun things with images and text, such as write short text pieces or add annotations. There are, of course, many ways to do this, but sometimes, it’s worth checking out a new technology in order to see what might happen, even if the tech is not designed for that experience. And I like Terry’s words about having a collection of things to pull from.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Three (6/13/2016) | RhetCompNow (Annotate the Web)
      Hypothes.is allows you take any web page on the Internet and annotate the text.  Like Vialogues, it is free and open to all.  You just need to sign up with them and then begin.” – Terry.
      Me: What happens when your thinking meshes in harmony and reacts in contrast to others’ opinions? You get a conversation. Technology like these ones provide a path through the gap. Not perfect. Not yet. But a path, just the same. We can talk and react and learn.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode Two (6/12/2016) | RhetCompNow (Close Read This)
      “Close reading is an old buzzword.  The idea of slowing down and breaking open a text in order to explicate its meaning goes back to the the very earliest Biblical scholarship.  Like most ideas it bears a bit of skepticism.  In other words use it and don’t be used by it. ” — Terry.
      Me: Good words, there. Terry turned me on to Vialogues some time back and I love that it allows people to interact with a video, and that you can skip and jump from comment to comment, and it lands on the video the comment is about. Nice.
    • Writing Project Tech Pedagogy: Episode One | RhetCompNow (What He’s Up To)
      “Life is short, teaching time is precious.  If the tool is handy and you find it is valuable to you personally, pedagogically or professionally, then “have at it, hoss”.  If not, then move on to the next one. I will promise to do my best to not waste your time. ” — Terry
      Me: Thanks, man.

Peace (it’s all good),
Kevin

Book Review: The State of Play (Creators and Critics on Video Game Culture)

“… video games are a complex and rapidly evolving form, where different qualities intertwine and influence each other in subtle, often surprising ways. A progress, critical approach to games and their place in culture does not preclude the appreciation of them as the rich and wonderful pieces of entertainment they are. But if our understanding of them is to move beyond the simple escapism, games must be held up to the same standards and allowed the same scrutiny as any other form of creative expression. “ — Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson, editors, from introduction to The State of Play: Creators and Critics on Video Game Culture

This rather uneven collection of essays — The State of Play: Creators and Critics on Video Game Culture — is nonetheless an important look at how video game culture reflects both the good and the bad of this still-emerging form of popular culture entertainment. Tackling topics like Gamergate head on and exploring issue of gender and race, the writers here go deep with insights. And many of them are game developers themselves, as the subtitle suggests, and so, reading their insights from the other side of the console, so to speak, is an intriguing element of The State of Play.

One of the more intriguing essays here is from Hussein Ibrahim, whose piece entitled “What It’s Like to Always Play the Bad Guy: On the Portrayal of Arabs in Online Shooters” does what it says — it gives Ibrahim a platform to explore the culture of video game design that always seems to pit denizens of the Middle East as the enemy terrorist with guns and bombs.

“The problem is, the ‘authenticity’ (of games like Medal of Honor) is only on one side. As an American, you get to relate to the hero defending his country from terrorists threatening your freedom. As an Arab, you get to relate to the guy who wants to blow up your city, and that’s all,” Ibrahim writes. “Often, it seem more time is spent making sure the guns in the game are authentic than on accurately representing the culture I belong to.”

Interestingly, Ibrahim plays those very games, and finds himself feeling “Indifferent (about the portrayal), which is unsettling.” He then notes an event in which someone noticed a map in Modern Warfare had a saying from Allah hanging in a virtual bathroom. An uproar ensued among Middle East gamers (Ibrahim says there are “several million” players of the franchise in the Middle East) and the map was later revised, the Allah engraving removed. He wonders why this event (the engraving) caused more uproar than how Arabs are used as villains.

“… I guess we have all grown a little numb,” he notes.

Another interesting essay — “A Game I Had to Make” by developer Zoe Quinn — explores a game designer’s quest to make a game for themselves, to understand a confusing world. In this case, the game in question — Depression Quest — is designed to help a player deal with depression. Writing in second person, Quinn tracks the development of the game and the release into the world. She never expected the kind of splash her game received.

“You have inadvertently become a beacon for the cause of depression,” Quinn writes. “A massive conversation has begun around the game, sometimes positive, sometimes negative … you’re happy that a lot of people feel like they can talk about this enormous, invisible thing (depression) they have always been unsure of in the public eye.”

In “The Squalid Grace of Flappy Bird,” Ian Bogost explores how such a simple app game became so popular (before the developer, overwhelmed by the success, pulled the game from the Apple App store). Bogust’s exploration of game design, and the ways in which Flappy Bird both ignored and followed the “rules” is intriguing, particularly when he dips into how games reflect culture, and vice versa.

“In game design circles,” Bogost writes, “we sometimes wax poetic about the elegance and simplicity of a design, the way complex emergent behaviors arise from simple rules and structures … The best games are not for us (or for anyone), but instead strive to be what they are as much possible. From this indifference emanates a strange squalor that we can appreciate as beauty.”

The State of Play is a needed book, in that it steps back from video games and examines the ways in which culture and gaming are meshed together, warts and all. NOTE: there are some themes and language in here that might not be appropriate for classrooms, so you might want to read it first before bringing it in for students to read or use.

Peace (beyond the game),
Kevin