A Many Forked Path: The Historical Timeline of the Web

web history timeline project
I found myself lost in this Web History timeline, which is put together smartly and which brings you right into the history of the Internet and the Web. There are many links you can follow, but what becomes clear is how recent the history of the web and hyperlinks and hypertext really is. It’s another reminder that we are living “in the moment” and yet, we still are trying to make sense of it all.

And can I just say that I found it incredibly fascinating to think that the first point plotted on the line is a short story (by Borges) called The Garden of Forking Paths, which prefigured hypertext choices of the reader and provided a conceptual framework later on for the integration of hyperlinks to connect information (or stories) together. I don’t know the story, but I am going to try to find it and read it.

Check out what Wikipedia has to say about the story:

“Beyond its façade as a spy narrative, “The Garden of Forking Paths” has similarities to today’s digital media and hypertext projects. Borges conceives of “a labyrinth that folds back upon itself in infinite regression”, asking the reader to “become aware of all the possible choices we might make.”[4] The elaborate hypertext is much like the book which Borges suggests to be the labyrinth, (“Every one imagined two works; to no one did it occur that the book and the maze were one and the same thing…the confusion of the novel suggested to me that it was the maze”[1]) in a sense of how the site offers different approaches to how you may interpret the information provided, yet you’re not trapped in the dilemma of choosing one and eliminating others; you may choose to unfold all possibilities. You “create, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork” (Wardrip-Fruin, 33). Although the story appeared before the advent of modern computers, Borges seems to have invented the hypertext narrative structure. Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort write: “Our use of computers is … based on the visions of those who like Borges—pronouncing [The Garden of Forking Paths] from the growing dark of his blindness—saw those courses that future artists, scientists and hackers might take.”[1]

— from Wikipedia

Peace (along the line),

PS — Reading the timeline inspired me to begin writing a new webcomic, called Walking the Web, about two kids who go back in time to see the development of the World Wide Web. It’s sort of like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure but the boys meet up with folks like Steve Jobs, and Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Case, and others. I’ll start sharing that comic tomorrow.

Fantastic Resource: Reading Like Historians

One of the points of discussions with my fellow teachers on my sixth grade team, in relation to the Common Core, is how to keep developing ways for reading and writing to become the center of learning in the science and social studies classes. We’ve been making good progress for the past two years, but the more resources I can share, the better. That said, check out this wonderful collection of videos from The Teaching Channel around “reading like a historian.” We’re brought right into the classroom, and the issues of teaching content-area reading are really front and center along a few threads: an overview, the evaluation of sources, putting history in context, and corroboration of information. I am definitely sharing this with collection with my colleagues.


Peace (in the reading),

eBook Review: Gutenberg the Geek

It’s not hard to think: that Johannes Gutenberg really changed the world. The use of the moveable type printing press suddenly made books more available than ever, opened the doors of literacy to more than a small, select group, and set the stage for various revolutions that took place once data and information began to flow. In Gutenberg the Geek, Jeff Jarvis seeks to understand Gutenberg as a man of his time, but also as a foreshadowing icon of the current age of technology, where innovation, hardship, luck and the ability to pull together disparate ideas into one large concept are shaping the environments in which we work, learn, and live.

“Our accepted wisdom today is that the change we are experiencing is pushing us forward at lightning speed. But I’m coming to wonder whether, instead, it is happening very slowly. That is, we are only at the bare beginning of the change we will undergo and we cannot yet fathom its full shape and extent.”

Jarvis, Jeff (2012-02-27). Gutenberg the Geek (Kindle Single) (Kindle Locations 239-241).  . Kindle Edition.

In this book, Jarvis tracks some elements of Gutenberg’s life as a businessman, and a printer, showing some connections to various tools of social media and the Internet itself. His aim to create echoes from the past, with Gutenberg’s ideas around information flow altering the way the world worked, to today, where things are still very much in flux, and unknown. Living as we do in “the moment,” it’s hard to know for sure what the Internet and technology will end up doing to us as information gatherers and creators. If we look back to Gutenberg, it’s clear that seeds get planted when information is cut loose from the narrow few (publishers, etc.), but what kind of flowers and weeds will bloom won’t be known until historians look back.

And Jarvis concludes his fascinating piece with these words of warning and possibility:

“I believe the internet could prove to be as momentous an invention, as profound a platform. This is why we must protect the net from the control of governments and corporations — especially because they are the objects of the disruption technology enables. Only if it remains as open as the printing press for anyone — no, everyone — to use can the net realize its potential and can we realize ours.”

Jarvis, Jeff (2012-02-27). Gutenberg the Geek (Kindle Single) (Kindle Locations 298-301).  . Kindle Edition.

Peace (in the geek),


What to make of Google Field Trip

Check out the video above, which is an advertisement for a new Google App (on Android) called Field Trip, which pings you with information about places and things, and history, as you walk around with your phone or device. It’s like the next version of the MP3 Museum Tours, but outside, in the big world. (Add in something like Siri and you’d have a chatty companion talking as you walked, I suppose)

It’s intriguing on one level. You can get deep knowledge about various buildings and locations that might have some significance you never knew. It’s also a bit worrisome from a privacy level (you’re being tracked!) and on an advertising level (buy our stuff!), and you can see how this kind of app might be integrated into the Google Glasses idea (wearable computers for the eyes).

You have to wonder, though, about the possibilities for education. Could we get our students to eventually move towards constructing tours of their own communities, based not on businesses selling stuff but on historical records?

We’ll see ..

Peace (in the walk),


The Musician Video Game

Diagramming Network of Game
I came across this odd game development site a few weeks ago called Game-O-Matic, in which you build a simple video game by providing the system with a “networked diagram” of ideas. (Sort of like a mind map). The software then constructs the game, which is a little difficult to play. But it is fascinating how the use of a diagram of ideas linked together can get transformed into a video game.

I created my game (called The Musician Game) along the lines of a musician, and the bonus points are notes and ideas while the penalty points are dissonance and critics. The idea is to keep growing the musician by feeding on the notes and ideas, and avoid the power suck of the dissonance and critics. This kind of game might be an interesting way to teach symbolic thought.

Give it a whirl:

Peace (in yet another game),
PS — here is a tutorial:


Reading in the Shadows of Strangers: On Shared Highlighting

Like many of you, I am sure, I remember saving money in college by buying used books. I really hated the concept of using someone else’s books for class because I always wanted a pristine copy of the textbook or novel that I could mark up as I saw fit. Instead, I had to deal with someone else’s version of main ideas and interesting points highlighted in (mostly) yellow, and I was always distracted by those markings by the past owner. Did I agree with their marking? If I didn’t, was I missing something? I found myself reading in the shadows of strangers, trying to make my own observations and connections whole in some invisible conversation with someone else.

I was thinking about this again as I (late to the game, I realize) began to use my Kindle App on my Mac to read ebooks. I like Amazon’s collection of short pieces just for the Kindle, but I don’t have an eReader device. So I read on my laptop (which is not quite the same thing as snuggling down on the couch — so the reading experience is not nearly the same but still …). I hadn’t quite counted on a feature that seems completely logical given our connected culture, but it still has me remembering those college textbook days: the notation feature that shows how many other readers of my eBook have highlighted specific passages in the same ebook. (It also reminded me that the ebook that I buy is still part of the Amazon infrastructure, and not really sitting there in my Kindle App. Which is odd to think about, right? Do I really own this book or not?)

For example, I am now in the midst of Gutenberg the Geek by Jeff Jarvis. One section that I highlighted was also noted by 41 other readers before me.

ereader highlighting

And so I am left with the same conundrum that I had in college: I am interested in what other folks find interesting, and yet, I find myself reading those passages very differently — almost out of context from the whole. When a certain sentence has a few dozen highlighters affixed to it, I wonder: what is so important about that particular sentence that so many people added some color to remember it? I also wonder, did the first person highlight it for a specific reason, and then the next reader comes along, and say, “that must be important, I’d better highlight it, too,” and then the layers of highlighting grows from there, as if we were are reading-lemmings? Are we all being influenced by the readers before us? By the very first reader of this book to click on the highlighter?

I assume I can turn the shared highlighter off somewhere in my app, but I haven’t done that yet. That’s because I am still uncertain about how I feel about having it there. On one hand, it makes reading feel like a collaborative journey. My highlighting will be part of the ongoing narrative of this text for the next and future readers. I am not alone. On the other hand, I am unsettled by having other voices in my head as I read, pointing me to things that might be important to them but not to me.

No doubt, the emergence of eReaders and the tools that come with them are intriguing and unsettling at times, and completely fascinating in a range of ways.

Peace (in the highlights),



TFK Saves the Day (again)

tfk president resource

I am not a PR flak for Time for Kids. Honest. But it seems like every time I am about to launch into a large research and writing project, TFK arrives on my doorstep with useful resources. Last year, just as we were about to do an environmental science essay project, a special edition of the weekly news magazine that focused on the environment came to my classroom.

Now, as we begin to set the stage for an iSearch research project next week about the presidential campaign (students choose topics to research, and then the writing becomes a persuasive letter to the next president), a TFK teacher resource guide lands on my desk, with tons of resources and activities and handouts about the presidential campaign that will be a great addition to our discussions.


Peace (in the research),

PS — we used this great video from CommonCraft the other day to give an overview of how a president actually gets elected via the Electoral College system. My students had never heard of it, and they really enjoyed the video.


Todd Whitaker: What Great Teachers Do Differently

Here are two videos from Eye on Education that zero in on what makes a good teacher better than a bad teacher.  Maybe. But the message of “responsibility” resonated with me, particularly here at the start of the year where I do make assumptions about every weakness I see in my student instead of seeing those areas as possibilities for growth. It’s a shift in thinking. I’m not saying I am a great teacher, but I strive to be.

Peace (in the teaching),


How Fonts Affect Writing: A Digital Is Resource

font resource digital is
This past week, I posted a new resource over at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site around font typsetting, writing and the way we represent our writing in visual ways. I share out some places to make your own fonts, the world of “font fights,” the history of emoticons, and more.

Check out the resource: Fonts and Letters, Words and Meaning: What’s Your Type?

Peace (in the type),

Another Dream: Marine Biologist

I have a number of students whose dream is become a marine biologist. It may be a trend of news about global warming, or the love of animals. This Dream Scene digital story was wonderfully done, and is a good example of the format of our project.

Peace (in the sea),