Slice of Life: The Head in the Door

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

He stuck his head in the door. A colleague from another grade. We don’t see each other all that often because his classroom is in another wing of the building, up a set of stairs.

“I wanted to tell you,” he said, “that for a paper for my class (for administrator licensing), we had to write about digital learning in our building where we teach. I focused on the EPencil.”

The Electronic Pencil is our sixth grade home base for digital literacy learning and sharing.

“You’re doing some great things with the kids,” he said, “and I wish more of us were, too. Sometimes, we do things that we think no one ever sees. We still do them, anyway. I appreciate what you are doing with our students. Thank you. Great work.”

And then he was gone, but I sat there for a few minutes at my desk, pausing in my pile of papers that were helping me with the approaching report card deadline, and glowed a bit in appreciation for his gesture as one colleague to another.

The noticing is a powerful thing. It only took a few seconds but those few seconds set the tone for the rest of my day. I need to remember to do more of that, too.

Peace (sharing it),

BookSnaps: Getting Close to the Text

BookSnaps Collage 2019Last year, I tried out this close-reading technology activity called BookSnaps — an idea shared by Tara Martin — in which students use an image “snapped” from their independent reading books as a way to reflect on what they are reading. They layer “stickers” on the image that connect to the story and use text “call-outs” to put their own ideas/reflections in there.

The other day, I had my sixth graders work on BookSnaps (we use Google Draw, through Google Classroom) and my readers were quite engaged in the activity, identifying snippets of text and asking questions, making predictions, discussing characters. There were a lot of helping hands, as most needed help holding the books while snapping the picture.

While the BookSnaps themselves don’t allow for deep literary analysis, they do provide an visual and engaging means to discuss the books they are reading, and just as important, they spark interest in other readers, as a sort of BookSnap/BookShare concept.

This was the one I did as a sample for them to see — I was reading The Stars Beneath Their Feet.

Mr H BookSnap SampleHere is a video collection of the BookSnaps that were finished by students during our class period:

Peace (snap it into place),

PS — Tara Martin did a talk on this concept, which is when I first heard about it and wanted to try it out

Book Review: Art Matters (Because Your Imagination Can Change the World)

It is no surprise that I devoured this visual interpretation of Neil Gaiman pieces by illustrator Chris Riddell, nor that days after I read Art Matters that the words and images still float in my mind. With a title subheader like Because Your Imagination Can Change the World, you know this small book has grand designs to connect the way we make art with the way we see the world.

The book gathers four writing pieces that Gaiman has published elsewhere — Credo, Make Good Art, Making a Chair and On Libraries — and Riddell uses his own talents to bring visuals to the words, both through his illustrations and through the use of font design. I loved how Riddell tied the four pieces together like this, with the act of making art and noticing art as a public good for change as a unifying thread.

I guess Riddell has been illustrating Gaiman for some time, sharing pieces on social media, but I hadn’t come across them, so this was first time viewing, and the partnership is inspiring.

Whether you make art now, or want to make art tomorrow, or made art yesterday, keep on keeping on. Need daily inspiration? Come follow and participate in the DS106 Daily Create. Or find your own inspiration in the world around you.

Peace (in ink and paper),



CLMOOC Book Club: Annotation of Chapter 5 with NowComment

NowComment Affinity Online

Thanks to Terry for popping the last full chapter in the book Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning, being read by CLMOOC as a month-long book study, for some crowd annotation into NowComment. Like Hypothesis, NowComment allows for many people to be reading and commenting and engaging in conversations on a single text.

This chapter — entitled Moving Forward — has the researchers bringing the strands of earlier chapters together in a helpful narrative. You can join us even if you haven’t read the book. There are many pathways into the text, too, which we have outlined at the CLMOOC website.

But you are invited ….

Head to NowComment (accounts are free and NowComment is now facilitated by our CLMOOC friend, Paul Allison, so you know it is designed for engaging learning practices)

I am going to try the embed version here, too.

Peace (in the text),

Conversations in the Margins: NetArt with NetNarr

NetNarr NetArt

Networked Narratives held another of its regular Studio Visits earlier this week as the theme of the online course with an open invitation (allowing me and others to join in) shifts from the darkness of the web and technology to the light and the possible. Things are going from negative to positive.

Here, Alex Saum is the guest, and she has been exploring the world of NetArt, or the leveraging of technology platforms to explore the notions of art. This topic is something I have long been interested in (see Blink Blink Blink as an early experiment), so I popped the video into Vialogues so I can slow-watch and think out loud in the margins.

You are invited to join me, too. I hope you do.

Come to the Vialogues

Peace (making it experimental),

PS — here is an overview at NetNarr which has tons of examples that are worth perusing

PSS — here is a project from Alex

PSSS — I took her video, grabbed a gif, and tinkered with making art from her net art project

How Rube Goldberg Design Spilled into Video Game Design

Don't Move: Game

Many times, my students surprise me. Take for example, this student, who decided to take the concept of informational design/expository writing with our work around Rube Goldberg Contraptions and make a video game project version in Gamestar Mechanic. He spent a long time in design mode, making sure that once a player hits “play,” all they have to do is watch the game unfold on its own.

As someone who has designed games in Gamestar Mechanic, I can tell you: this is very intricate and required lots of planning and troubleshooting, but it is pretty cool to play/watch as things unfold automatically.

Play Don’t Move

Peace (this leads to that),

Slice of Life: My Other March Madness

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

Yes, I did my NCAA bracket (actually, I did two this year — one where I went with my gut on a few possible upsets and the other, I used a computer model to set the grids, just to see what happens). But yesterday, I was deep into another kind of charting system for another event that takes place this time of year, at least for us at my school.


I won’t go into all our rules of our game (which differ quite a bit from the college game, as we play inside the gym — here is a video, if you are curious) but my role as coach is both to cheer and encourage team play AND determine who plays what position for each squad in a balanced and fair way. We don’t let our athletes get all the playing time and we don’t let our wallflowers watch from the sidelines. Everyone plays, equal amounts of time.

Coordinating positions and playing time is tricky business, and this is what my dining room table looked like last night as I worked on three different tournament games, each with seven squads, and each squad with six main positions and four supporting positions.

Quidditch March Madness (making squads)

I think I finally got something approaching successful. We’ll see. Tomorrow is our all-day Quidditch Tournament. This is the 20th year of our tournament for sixth graders, a unique (and loud) experience that they will long remember, no matter who wins the Quidditch Cup tomorrow.

Peace (in the game),


Our Real Selves/Our Fake Selves/ Our Shadow Selves

The mic hears everything flickr photo by kreg.steppe shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

“We’re looking at the relationship between fake and real.” — NPR Host Alix Spiegel

The National Public Radio’s Invisibilia program turned its focus on the idea of our Invisible Selves, the way our online social media-infused identities are often in conflict with our offline identities. This radio program — Point, Shoot — is long, as a deep dive into an important issue, but it is worth the listen.

(Note: there is some profanity and references to violence)

Here is the transcript

Radio reporter Hanna Rosin centers, through her exploration of one person’s tragic story, on a boy named Brandon whose posting on social media led to tragic results in his small city, and she notes this premise:

“Maybe his online life would open the door to some dark side of Brandon that his family and some of his school pals knew nothing about … “

Later, after her exploration of how Brandon sought to represent himself on social media with guns and hints of violence — in contrast to the boy he was in real life — only to killed for his social media posting, which were seen as taunts to those who killed him, Rosen writes:

“We all do some version of this. Curate an aspirational online self. Most of us have one. And we outfit it with different props and costumes – like heirloom tomatoes, the dog we just rescued, a protest poster, a funny casual quip we spent 10 minutes crafting. This person has a relationship to us. But it is not us. “

In her discussions with family, and friends, the disconnect between who they knew — Brandon, the boy — with the identity he curated online — Brandon, the gangster — caused confusion that such posts would lead to his death.


… the problem is we’ve moved into a phase where the image – the version of Brandon constructed from a Facebook post can very easily eclipse the real. And we are just stubbornly failing to reckon with the consequences of that. It doesn’t matter who Brandon really was.

And this:

The confusion spread like a virus to Brandon’s friends and his enemies and the police and the courts until an entirely new code governed every part of the city, a code built on a giant misunderstanding about image and reality and how quickly the boundary between them is shifting.

A story like Brandon’s reminds us of how we need to be talking to all of our kids about identity and social media, and the power and consequences of words and images that get shared, sometimes in a fast and furious way. You can post something you think is cool, only to see it careen out of your control, and sometimes, that has tragic results.

Let’s help our kids be careful out there.

Peace (it’s real),


Slice of Life: Here Comes the Neighborhood

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

If you have been doing Slice of Life for long enough, you start to notice the cyclical nature of the season — of how some things recur in March. I’ve not written much about Quidditch this year, mainly because I used to write about it so much in other years (although, with our Quidditch Tournament coming on Thursday, more writing is surely to follow).

Leeds Block Party

Our neighborhood Winter Blues Block Party/Pizza Party is one of those recurring events, where our entire neighborhood community is invited to the local country club to gather together after a long winter, chat up our lives and have pizza and a yankee raffle full of unnecessary items.

What is necessary is the reminder that we are more than our own house, more than our own yard. That we are connected to the others in our streets and cul de sacs and driveways. This year, the longtime MC — our good friend, Jim — asked for people to show hands over how long they have lived here, and the amount of hands for “under ten years” was pretty startling, a reminder that our part of the city is undergoing another cycle of turn-over.

We — my wife and I, and then our children — were part of a similar turn-over more than 20 years ago, coming into the established neighborhood block, surrounded by the old-timers. For a stretch of time, my wife and I were the only ones with a small child, and then suddenly, there were kids everywhere. And we are not the longest here, either, as a few of the elders were born and raised and stayed here. They had their hands up, too.

This turn-over now happens again, and it is a process of renewal, and an event like this allows us time and space to connect a bit with some of the people we meet during the cold winter walks, where everyone is so bundled up we can barely recognize the other. When a neighborhood comes together, it’s a reminder of how we are bound together by land and by identity.

Peace (around the block and back again),

PS — I was navigating through our civic association website and found this video that my youngest son had created six years ago, when he was eight years old, about our community.

CLMOOC Book Group: Exploring the World of Nerdfighters

(Note from Kevin: I actually wrote this post two days ago, thinking I would post it yesterday. I left it lingering in my draft bin. Then, the massacre in New Zealand happened, and I had a poem spilling forth about madness and hate and social media that I just could not shake without writing it, and that poem is what I shared yesterday as a blog post.

The final stanza is a call about kindness in the world. I wondered where it is, where it was. I wrote: … no one ever seems/ to stream the kindness of/ the world, only the madness.

This morning, I revisited this post about Nerdfighters, and realized, THIS is about one of those places where the counter narrative of social media is already taking place, with young people leading the way. I also remembered Friday’s global walkout on climate change, where young people were protesting on a world scale for change. I had an answer, already written, to my question in the poem, but I had forgotten it, in my sadness and bewilderment of the world. It happens like that. We lose perspective. The horrible things push aside the good.

So, here, then is a post about an Affinity Network where young people are empowered to change the world for the better, and is thousands strong, too. It’s a reminder of how social media can be a tool for the good.)

I’ve enjoyed the Case Studies inside the book, Affinity Online, as we read the book in CLMOOC this month. The studies give us a more human story insider account of different Affinity Spaces and Networks. The focus on the Nerdfighters, which I knew of but never really dug deep, is fascinating for a few reasons.

What is Nerdfighters? They are not nerds fighting nerds, but nerds fighting for a better world. Or, in the words of the community, to decrease WorldSuck, their word for a world gone mad. Here’s a blurb from Wikipedia that provides a helpful overview:

Nerdfighteria is a community subculture, based mainly online. It began in 2007, when the VlogBrothers (John and Hank Green) rose to prominence in the YouTube community. As their popularity grew, so did coverage on Nerdfighteria, whose followers are individually known as Nerdfighters.[2] The term was coined when John saw a copy of the arcade game Aero Fighters and misread the title as Nerd Fighters.[3]

Hank Green describes it as “a community that sprung up around our videos, and basically we just get together and try to do awesome things and have a good time and fight against world suck”. He defines “world suck” as “the amount of suck in the world”.[4] The Greens established The Foundation to Decrease World Suck, in order to raise funds and launch projects that would help a variety of causes.

Nerdfighters believe in fighting world suck, promoting education, freedom of speech and the use of the intellect in modern society.[5]Nerdfighters and the Green brothers have collaborated on many projects such as the charitable drive, Project for Awesome which launched in 2007, and VidCon, the convention focusing on topics surrounding the world of digital media.[6][7] Nerdfighters have been documented by websites such as The Hollywood Reporter, and The Wall Street Journal, with a following estimated to be in the millions.[8][9]

The Nerdfighter community coalesced around two writers — the Green brothers, John and Hank– who early on saw the potential for video/vlogging as a means to make possible change in the world by reaching an audience of young people who often felt left out of the typical social circles.

The demographics, if still true from the statistics in the book, is predominantly a white, female majority (72 percent female and 85 percent white, in the information in the book, but also a high percentage of queer, gay and gender-fluid members) with an activist bent, using video and presence as its main media choice for messaging and connection points.

The Affinity Online rightly focuses on the Nerdfighters as an Affinity Network because of its deep civic action and reach. One of its main projects — Project for Awesome — has raised nearly $7 million for charities in the past five years, if I read the statistics right. Its homepage is chock full of user voice, with young people making and contributing videos as a way to engage and document and share.

Exploring the Nerdfighteria site, one quickly realizes how many strands are now out there, from various communities in other spaces to charity sites, to networking opportunities. It even has its own lexicon. And a map of local groups for local action projects. And a book club.

There is also VidCon, which is a digital media conference that showcases young and upcoming vloggers in the Nerdfighter networks. But the recent acquisition of VidCon by Viacom has me wondering about whether this Affinity Network event, designed to empower young video creators, will become another commercialized vendor space. If so, that sucks. And I use that word “suck” purposefully here.

How to become a Nerdfighter? The Green brothers explain, this video from a decade ago.

Peace (decrease the suck),