How to Get On Your Boogie Shoes and Get People to Dance

Here is another project for this week’s Make Cycle for the Making Learning Connected MOOC. We don’t expect folks to do more than one, but it is neat if they can. I had this idea for a How To .. for music-related things, and this Haiku Deck is about how to rock the house and get people to dance.

How To Rock A Show And Get People To Dance – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Can you tell my band — Duke Rushmore — has a gig coming up? It’s next Friday, at a local brewery, where they open up the main floor, hire a band, give out free “samples,” send patrons home with free beer, and let the party rock for two hours before the whole thing shuts down. It’s an odd gig, but hey, it’s a gig!

Hey, if you live in Western Massachusetts, come on down to the Paper City Brewery next Friday night. If you don’t live in Western Massachusetts … CLMOOC Road Trip!

Peace (in the boogie),
Kevin

#CLMOOC Make: How To Make a Snarky Flowchart

Making a Snarky Flowchart
I admit. I’m partial to flowcharts that explore odd ideas, and inflect humor into the choices. Some of the best ones that I come across these days are on the back page of Wired Magazine, and if appropriate (which is not always), I put those flowcharts up on a closet door in my classroom so that my students can read them. You should see them gather around, following the paths of decision-making.

There are all sorts of things going on when you compose/write a flowchart. You have to imagine a “conversation” with the “reader” who needs to make choices about which way to go. But you also realize that every reader will ultimately follow all of the paths, too, if only to figure out where things might have gone. The questions have to be written in an engaging way. You want to draw the reader in.

So, I decided that for the first Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, in which the them of the cycle is to create a “how to do something” project, I would create a flowchart that would explain how to create a snarky flowchart. Snark is hip on the Interwebz, and another difficult writing activity. If you go to far with snark, you lose the reader (no one wants to be made fun of) because you insult their intelligence. If you don’t go far enough, the snark loses its … snarkiness, and thus, the appeal. I’m not sure I found the middle here, but I tried.

This is how I went about making this flowchart (in the CLMOOC, we try to lay bare the process of making as part of our reflection):

  • I began with a simple sketch on paper, knowing that my topic would be How to Make a Snarky Flowchart. I worked on some basic questions only, knowing more would come as I created the real chart;
  • I opened up the Draw.io app in Google Docs (it’s one of those add ons you can know install). This app is designed for flowchart creating, although the artwork is very simple and rather boring;
  • I dragged boxes, arrows and text into my flowchart project, trying to keep it to one page for easier viewing. Flowcharts work best when it is all in front of you, the whole crazy map of choices;
  • Readability is key, so you don’t want too many lines zig zagging all over the place, and it helps if a few of the “loser” choices point together towards a single box. Working on the right text for that shared box took the most writing time, it turns out. It needs to be generic enough for multiple arrows and yet, still have a message;
  • I then exported the flowchart from Draw.io (the file is now in my Google Docs, by the way) as a jpeg file and uploaded it into Flickr;
  • Then, I wrote this post which I am writing right now and added the image and my bulleted points that I am writing this very moment in this very blog post, so I guess I better stop typing …. now … right now … stopping

What would you explain how to do? Come join the CLMOOC. It’s never ever too late to jump on in.

Peace (in the flow),
Kevin

Where ‘Dogtrax’ Came From

(my first dog, Bella)Bella headshot

The other day, a friend on Twitter posed the question of where my moniker, Dogtrax, came from. Actually, Maha Bali was riffing on the fact that Alan Levine, whose work with #ds106 is crazy fun, and I both have dog-related nicknames (he is Cogdog and I am Dogtrax). She wondered if we had some connections to each other (we don’t, other than #ds106) and what the story was.

I played it for humor, as if I were trying not to give away some grand secret. But then Alan shared out one of his very first blog posts, in which he explained where Cogdog came from. That made me feel as if my diversions to Maha’s questions weren’t warranted, so I told her I would search my blog for a post in which I explain my name.

I guess I never wrote it, so here it is.

Where Dogtrax Came From

The nickname Dogtrax is a variation of a nickname I had a child. I grew up in an apartment complex with lots of kids, and we would gather to play sports most afternoons and most weekends in the grassy field near the side of the apartment building. Baseball in spring; soccer in the fall; and football (American football) right into the cold months of winter. We had a whole range of ages, so little kids would be in the huddle with older ones, and usually, someone went home hurt during the games. It was just the way of the world.

A good friend of mine was a star athlete and he excelled in neighborhood football. Me? Not so much. But I was big for my age, so I could block whenever my quarterback friend wanted to run down the field. I should mention here that I have/had red hair (“had” being the fact of life of getting older), and there is a football play called Red Dog, which my friend liked to call when he wanted to run for a touchdown with me blocking in front of him.

Thus, my nickname for a long stretch of time as a kid in our neighborhood was Red Dog. Interestingly, nobody outside of our block called me that. It was a real name connection to where I lived at the time.

Cut to college, where my drinking buddies and I were talking about childhood memories and nicknames, and I told the story above of the football field, so my friends in college began to call me Red Dog again, and then they later dropped the Red to leave just the Dog (a word which later became pop culture slang for friend, as in Dawg. We take no credit for that. Just saying.)

Which leads us to Dogtrax. Its origins are in my very first email address I ever created — too many years ago to now even count — and a little music machine. Around the same time as I was discovering email (this must be the early 1990s), I was using a Tascam four-track recorder to record and produce some original music, and in the vein of feeling “professional,” if only for myself, I took to labeling my tapes (hand-delivered to friends) as being created by Dogtrax Productions (the trax being in reference to “tracks” of music. X sounded cool, but now it is overused, right?)

When I needed to create an email username, I went with Dogtrax@xxxx, and I have stuck with it ever since as I have moved email hosts and moved into Twitter, etc. I don’t really think about it much until someone like Maha asks me or someone at a conference says “Oh, you’re Dogtrax.” Actually, that makes me feel sort of foolish in the moment. “Eh, yes, but I am Kevin.”

Even as the world has shifted more towards open names in webspaces, I still fall back on my Dogtrax moniker, as sort of a touchstone of childhood and young adult memories, and a bit of a veil of identity, too (now completely gone as I write this). The name has guided my avatar creation over the years, too, to some degree (see an earlier post here about my shifting avatars). I realize, as I write this, that Dogtrax is my anchor in shifting spaces, an identity that has stayed constant over the years as my presence in different networks and communities has come and gone.

It’s interesting, too, that the Internet world is overrun with LOL Cats, and us dog-related identity folks (like Alan and I) often find humorous ways to push back against the feline presences in our feeds. When we wag our tails, it means we’re happy, by the way.

And that is the origin story of Dogtrax.

Duke(my current dog, Duke)
Peace (in history),
Kevin

Understanding the Make Cycle Concept in the #CLMOOC

The Making Learning Connected MOOC (CLMOOC) is anchored on the idea of Make Cycles, which are activities sponsored by a handful of writing project sites and affiliated groups. The very first Make Cycle will launch later today (look for it as a newsletter in your email box) and there will be descriptions of what the Make Cycle looks like. There is a solid overview at the CLMOOC website worth reading.

Here is my own webcomic explanation of what that means, as told in comic form (modified a bit from last year):
The Arc of a Make Cycle in #CLMOOC
As with everything CLMOOC-connected, what you make of any particular Make Cycle will be completely up to you, but we hope you dive in and make some cool things happen this summer.

Peace (in the Make),
Kevin

Amidst the Activity, YOU Remain the Center of the CLMOOC

CLMOOC Overview Map 2014
The first days of the Making Learning Connected MOOC have already brought a stream of cool sharing and connections. As a facilitator, I try to keep an eye on posts, making sure everyone is being greeted into whatever space they share, and just keeping a pulse on things that might emerge (avatar creators, for example).

Yet, even for me, the open nature of our kind of Massive Open Online Collaboration can present the problem of “Where is the center of this whole thing?” Well, the easy answer is, there is no real center, although the main website and newsletters are anchors.

The better answer is, the center of the CLMOOC is YOU, the participant. Even if you are only lurking and observing, which we value, YOU are where things are happening, and no matter where YOU are, it’s the right place to be at the right time. It sounds sort of flip to say it that way, but we believe that to be true, and making YOU the center is the ethos of the entire development of the Make Cycles (which begin tomorrow, Monday) and the way the CLMOOC endeavor operates.

The graphic above a revamp of one I created last year, to try to visualize what that means. In our planning sessions, we talked about the emerging concepts of  ”A Domain of One’s Own” (a riff off Virginia Woolf) in which folks in digital spaces would ideally have their own spaces, which then connect in to something larger. You carve out identities, and then reach out to other communities and networks, expanding knowledge and connections as you see fit and as it makes sense for you.

Wherever you are, it’s the right place.

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

 

If It’s Not on the Web, Does a School Exist?

I’ve had the oddest experience lately with my sons’ school district (where I live but don’t teach). The other day, I was trying to find some information about one of my boys’ teachers, and I could not remember their email. So I went to search for the school district website.

Nothing came up.

I thought for sure it must be me, using the wrong search queries. So I tinkered with words to modify the search. I went very specific with my terms. I even waited a few days and tried again.

Nothing came up.

It was as if the school district had been yanked off the Web. I went to our city website and searched for a link to the School Department.

Nothing.

I scratched my head. Later in the week, my wife came downstairs, clearly frustrated, because she was trying to email my high school son’s guidance counselor to talk about his junior year. She had been searching and searching and searching for the high school website for 30 minutes.

Nothing came up.

I’m baffled on a few levels. First, I suspect that the school must have done some upgrade to its web presence that has completely taken it off the grid (maybe a new Google “Right to Be Left Alone” experiment?) at a time when schools need to do more to reach out to parents. But where is the site? And, second,  I find it interesting that, as a parent, I really do expect our community schools to have at least some sort of presence on the web so that information is available. I want information, now.

I’m assuming this disappearance is only temporary. The school is still there (or so my son tells me …) and my wife cobbled together an email address from some older email archives. But still, it should not be this difficult to find a school, right?

Peace (on the web),
Kevin

What They Will Make: A Media Project

What Will You Make media project
We’re in the last week and a half of the school year, but we’re still making and creating in my classroom. Students are finishing up a short story project (theme: a person from history is stuck inside a game and the narrator has to go into the game and get them out). Part of the project is to make a media component to the story, and what they make is wide open. I offer some suggestions (make a video game, create a story/movie trailer, compose a comic, etc.) but leave it to them to decide what they want to do.

This chart is just another way of representing some options, and my classroom has been abuzz the last few days as students are working on the media projects and their short stories, with time running out on us.

The chart connects nicely to the launch of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, too, as the ethos of the collaboration is all about choice, making things of interest and sharing within a community.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

What Are You Doing? Diving into the #CLMOOC

Summer of Make, Play, and Connect banner
Working on a new comic to start the first official day of the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration.
Monday marks the very first Make Cycle, in which folks are invited to make cool things and share out. This weekend, it’s time to say hello and get situated in the various spaces that make up an open learning space. You come, too. Sign up and jump in when you can. No pressures on making. Lurking is welcome.
CLMOOC Banner
Me?
I made a comic.
Getting Ready for Summer
Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

Going Meme Crazy for the #CLMOOC


Tomorrow (Friday) marks the official starting point for the second summer of the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration. That’s a mouthful that we narrow down to #clmooc. (If you have signed up yet, no worries. You can sign up in less than a minute.) The doors open tomorrow but the first Make Cycles won’t unfold until Monday morning.
I’ve been meme-ing the mooc for the past few days, releasing a meme a day on Twitter to spark interest and get folks interested. Here are a few of the memes:
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme
#clmooc meme

I hope you come along for the ride, too. We aim to have some fun this summer.
Peace (in the CLMOOC),
Kevin