In Support of Those Who Lurk

A Party of Lurkers
So, even though I wrote a post yesterday that said I was gonna lurk, you can see how I easily get pulled into the mix. Just writing the post itself, as Howard noted in a comment, meant that I was no longer lurking with the Connected Courses, and the whole shebang hasn’t even started yet.

One of the ideas that we really talked about and worked hard to value during the facilitation of the Making Learning Connected MOOC was how to best recognize and include those who were not ready to jump into the fray, but who either only wanted to watch or needed time to process before considering entry into the CLMOOC. As you might imagine, this stance of inclusion is made trickier by the invisible threads that connect participants to an online project. You just don’t know who is there, watching, if they never comment or participate. And if it is not a credit course where posting is required (the CLMOOC was not that), then it becomes even more of a challenge to understand the nature of participation.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there, learning along with everyone.

We found that out in the time between our first year of CLMOOC and the second, when we heard later stories of folks who lurked, brought ideas to the classroom or professional spaces, and then came back strong in the second year as active participants, grateful for the ongoing message of valuing those who lurk to learn. Others were a bit wary of the technology hurdles and needed time to process, to tinker on their own. And others just had little bits of time, so they popped in and out to see what was going on, but never participated. Not everyone is comfortable with learning in open spaces.

This sort of goes against the grain of basic teaching philosophy, right? No child left behind? We assume everyone needs to be learning and we need to gauge that the learning is being done. In online spaces, we often do that by tracking comments and blog posts and Twitter feeds. You can’t look across the room and see that someone is not participating and tell yourself and/or them, I’m going to call on you next, kid, so be ready with some ideas.

We don’t allow lurkers in our classrooms, do we?

Yet, lurkers are the invisible army in just about every online space there is, and they are the folks we don’t often value enough. There’s no cultural cache for the quiet, is there? That doesn’t mean they aren’t important. With CLMOOC, we made sure every newsletter had references to how we valued those who were just watching and learning. Posts in our online communities were purposefully welcoming to all comers, even those who were only passing through. This message (hats off to Joe Dillon for his work on this issue) became part of the ethos of the CLMOOC, even though at times it felt as if we were writing to no one (Most lurkers don’t respond when you write to them, as is the nature of lurking.)

But they are there, and they are important to the network, and they need to be part of the conversation, even if the conversation can often feels one-sided. And sometimes, they party on. Thus, my comic.

Peace (in the outer worlds),
Kevin

My Life as a Lurker

Lurker #ccourses
So, I am interested in the emerging Connected Courses that is slated to begin very soon, with a bunch of folks that are always worth hanging around with in the virtual interwebz (Jim Groom, Alan Levine, Howard Reingold kick things off and then others like Mimi Ito! Laura Hilliger! Mike Wesch! take the baton). It seems, from the outside anyway, like a nice continuation of ideas and thinking from this summer’s Making Connected Learning adventure and from the various DS106 parties. Plus, it part of the Digital Media & Learning Research Hub (DML), so that’s always worth a gander (old fashioned word, repurposed for the digital age)

But I suspect I may be more of a lurker in the #ccourses this fall for a few reasons. The theme of the course seems to be university level (higher ed is right in the title). I know I will be swamped at the start of my school year with my sixth graders, and a new principal. And I am trying to figure out what the heck I doing for my K12 Online Conference Keynote presentation.

Still, I want to be tapped in, watching things unfold. So, I am putting on my lurker hat and swimming around the edges of this Connected Courses concept, hoping to steal some ideas and engaging in conversations when I can.

Peace (in the lurk),
Kevin

Where I’ve Been Writing (or at least, published)

While I was away from my blog, I had some pieces published in other spaces that I wanted to share with you.

Working_Draft3-240X300-broom

First, my MiddleWeb column as we end summer is about reflecting on my digital sites and doing a bit of housekeeping as school is about to start. It’s a nice time to reflect on what we project to our families and students before they come into the classroom for a year of writing and learning.

Second, I wrote a piece for the National Writing Project’s 40for40 blog, as NWP celebrated its 40 years with 40 posts from NWP teacher/writers. My piece reflected on a time when I traveled to Chico, California, to take part in a week-long technology retreat, where the people I met continue to be partners in online endeavors across the Internet. The piece is entitled “That Week in Chico” and it was a great way for me to ground myself in a time when so many doors opened up for me.

Finally, I took a break from blogging but still dabbled in Twitter while on break and found myself working on a regular diet of #25wordstory stories, which I then collected and shared out for Slice of Life via Storify. I love these stories for brevity and inference and revision, although it can be a struggle to find just the right words and leave just the right amount of story “out” of the story. You decide if it worked or not.

 

Peace (in the writing mode),
Kevin

Six Word Book Reviews (My August Reading Pile)

I’ve been away on a sort of blogging vacation, toning down some online work to re-center some gravity (which I do every August). But I’ve been reading a boatload of books, and instead of a review for every book, I figured I would just create six word reviews (making it challenging for me but perhaps easier on you).

Read Aloud Books with my Son

The Emerald Atlas

Literally, magical adventure on every page.

The Night Gardener

The Night Gardner

Creepy tale. No one is safe.

Breadcrumbs

Friendship and perseverance conquers bad magic.

Punished!

Punished

Playing with language makes fun story.

My Own Reading

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Story of Modern Pop

Fast-moving, engaging history of cultural soundtracks.

Help Thanks Wow

Deeply reflective, but light on humor.

Book I Abandoned

The Magicians

Too much of nothing going on.

I realize none of these reviews do fair justice to the books. I would highly recommend The Night Gardener for its writing and depth (and expect it to see in some book award lists), and The Emerald Atlas for its action and adventure (we are now reading the second book in the series). Yeah Yeah Yeah! is a phenomenal look at pop music over time but the book is huge and reads at a quick pace, and I need to revisit it in the future to keep absorbing pop culture in waves. The Magician did nothing for me, even though I enjoy the writer in other venues and I know the series is getting high marks (so it must be me). I wanted to like it but could not.

Peace (in the pages),
Kevin

 

Time to Unplug for August (my blog vacation)

blogvacation
It’s that time of year when I need to pull back from blogging and some other virtual writing, so this space will be nice and quiet for the rest of August. Along with some much-anticipated family vacation time, I will be doing some prep work for professional development I am facilitating and finally getting a chance to think about my keynote for the K12 Online Conference. Basically, it’s a breather.

See you in a few weeks!

Peace (in the silence),
Kevin

Working Out a Song as Media Project

I am not sure if this works, but I took a new version of a new song that I shared out last week (which Terry, and Scott, and Simon all remixed into Zeega media productions) and went into Popcorn Maker to make my own media version. I wanted to move away from distinct, concrete images, and instead, shift into something a little more quirky and visual. You may notice (now that I am telling you) that each section of the song has a visual theme, and believe me, that took a while to sync up!

I recorded the song’s music in Garageband app, and then the vocals were layered in via Audacity, and I think it sounds best with headphones, since you can hear some funky stuff going on in the background where I added piano and some vocal layers.

Thanks for listening!

Peace (in the song),
Kevin

 

Book Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly

You know a book has some lasting power when you get to the very last page of reading it aloud, and you and your listener (ie., my son) both have the same thought: I sure hope she is writing a sequel. Such was the case with The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson. The story is set in a place similar in some ways to Earth (or some version of Earth) where odd objects fall from the sky, some people (or versions of people) have special powers, two kingdoms are on the brink of war and exploration, and our hero, Piper, is a Scrapper trying to bring the lost Anna back home.

Of course, as in any good story, there is more to it than that, but I don’t want to give it away. The Mark of the Dragonfly hooks you quickly, immersing you into its world, and then pulling you into the action and motivations of Piper and the people she meets along the way of her journey.

Kudos go out to Johnson for creating a strong female protagonist in Piper, and in her companion, Anna, and for putting as much attention to character development as she did, without taking away from the action and adventure that moves the plot along. While my son and I had plenty of questions about the world where the story is set that Johnson hasn’t answered (yet?), we bought the premise of the land of Solace easily enough, and then raced through the second half of the book with every reading moment we had available.

It seems as if Johnson has set the stage for a sequel, but who knows? The book’s main plot does sort of resolve itself, and we remain fixed on Piper’s choices about where she goes now. And who can argue with a huge train, and all that it represents, as a significant setting for the novel. Plus, Piper’s own special powers, which I won’t reveal, open the door to some very interesting possibilities.

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

 

 

WE are Groot in the #CLMOOC

clmooc groot meme
I suspect that the Guardians of the Galaxy movie will not be for everyone. In fact, I know that, because I took my sons with another family this weekend to see the flick and my female friend and her daughter were not all that impressed. There may be some gender lines being drawn due to the violence and action of the Guardians … I thought the movie was entertaining  enough while my sons think it is Best of the Year material. Yeah. I don’t think so.

Still, I liked the banter, and the action, and the visual effects, and the use of music to connect with memories and personal history. The story revolves around part of the comic universe that I don’t remember reading as a kid, so there were plenty of surprises for me.

What has stuck out for me, however, is the character of Groot, as played by Vin Diesel. With just one line for most of the film — “I am Groot” — the nuance of how the words are spoken and the facial features says a lot about language, even from a walking tree like Groot. But there is a moment, when Groot is about to save the crew by doing something only he has the power to do, when he turns to his companions, who beg him not to make the sacrifice, and says wisely, “WE are Groot.”

That line — WE are Groot — has stuck with me as the Making Learning Connected MOOC has been winding down. That little bit of dialogue captures the collective connections that we have to each other. Not to get over-analytical about it, or too sappy, either, but there’s a real power of the way a community/network like CLMOOC can come together to support each other. We weren’t in any life-threatening danger, of course, but I like to think that our worlds became a little more connected this summer, and that WE are CLMOOC. We’ll be here, and will still be here, if we need one another. Count on that!

Peace (in the connection),
Kevin