Considering Twine as Video Haiku: Letter to the Future

Yesterday, a colleague in the National Writing Project’s Making Learning Connected MOOC made an observation about the Twine video app that brought something into focus for me. Elyse Eidman-Aadahl observed that while the six second limit on the video is short, one could almost imagine using twine as “haiku” and that reminded me of an interview that I read in Wired Magazine with the creators of Twine about how they envision folks having just enough time to film 2 second beginnings, 2 second middles, and 2 second endings to create a short narrative.

At first, I was thinking: yeah right.

Two seconds to set a story in motion and four seconds to complete it? It seems almost impossible to do so. But then Elyse’s comment about video haiku kept coming into my mind — what we did see the video in three parts. I wondered if it would be possible to tell a story in six seconds. How could you film something and leave much of it out? What would you expect the audience to infer?

A story began to form in my head … of writing to your future self. The story would begin with an envelope, addressed from the present self to the future self (in clear lettering, easy for viewer to read quickly); the next part would be crumpled up papers, showing frustration about what to write — and these would be mostly negative starts; and then ending would be a letter about love, being stuffed into the envelope to the future self. It would capture in six seconds the idea of what we want to pass on to ourselves in the years down the road. Hopefully, that would be love, and not worries, fears, and negative energy.

Thus, the short film:

What do you think? Although I shot the video in three short takes, I thought about the “story” for hours yesterday, visualizing how I would film it. Six seconds? Not a lot of time. But if you think of it like video haiku — three parts, looping over and over, hinting at something larger– Vine as a venue for storytelling starts to have possibilities.

See what you can make and share it out. Let’s inspire each other to push the technology in creative directions. Tell a story. You have just six seconds. Make each second count.

Peace (in the make),




App Review: The World in Figures

Somehow, last year, we got a free subscription to The Economist magazine. It’s not on the top of list for “must reads” each week (New Yorker and Time hold that spot) but it can be interesting at times as it sees the news through a world financial lens. I’ve been noticing a free app that the magazine is touting called The World in Figures, and decided to give it a go to see what it is.

Well, it’s pretty nifty.

The app is built around data from countries around the world, and the results come out as a sort of infographic format. You can search through categories such as education, crime and punishment, and freedom of the press, and see how countries are faring. You can even choose two countries and compare data points. Or you can randomly wander through topics or even use the trivia option to get random information about countries. The app is fairly easy to navigate and provides a glimpse at the world through numbers.

I could see students using this app to gather information around important topics as part of a research query. The visual rendering of information is useful for understanding the world.

Peace (in the app),


Using Vine: Coffee and the #CLMOOC in the Morning


I’ve had the Vine video app (6 seconds and that’s it) on my iPad for some time now, trying to figure out how to use it. I am a fan of the concept of “short” (see my Ignite presentation from NCTE) so this seems like it would be a natural fit for me to try out. But I remain a bit at a loss of how to shoot a meaningful six second video. I mean, six seconds … that’s not just short — that’s wicked short (as they say here in New England.)

But with other friends in the Making Learning Connected MOOC starting to share their own vines, and looking for others to become part of the experience, I dug out the app again this morning, and decided to capture how important coffee is to my morning reading and writing experience. I sequenced it out in my head with four short scenes, and … it’s not bad, I guess.

Still, I continue to wonder … how might we tell a story in six seconds. A plot. A character or two. Dialogue? Still thinking that one over …

Peace (in the shortie shorts),


Making Black Gold (or Master of the Compost Bin)

I’ve been doing a lot of digital “makes” this week for the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and it seemed like it was time to get off the screen and get my hands dirty. While I am not a gardener (and don’t play one on the Internet), I am the vigilant Compost Man in our home. So, what I make is black gold — the rich soil that grows our veggies and flowers.

Peace (in the dirt),


Mad-style Free-Style Twitter Chatting on the MOOC

Meme twitter chat

We hosted our first Twitter Chat last night, and boy, talk about a mad rush of ideas. I’ve taken part in chats before, but to be (with my friend, Terry) one of the facilitators as tweets come fast and furious was interesting and little breathtaking in its pace and speed. The hour flew by and before I knew it, we had begun and ended. In between those time warp moments, though, a slew of folks chimed in about where they were from, what they were doing in the Making Learning Connected MOOC, how they were making connections, and more.

Topics moved from the digital versus non-digital “makes,” and the use of infographics in the classrooms, and how to make connections with others outside of the MOOC. There was more sharing of technology tools, and instructions on how to begin to establish stronger connections within the community.

It was fascinating to see the conversations unfolding, blasting down the screen. Terry and I had a list of questions ready, which we popped into the mix every now and then, but for the most part, our job was welcoming folks and validating ideas, and asking questions to spur the conversations further along. You know the phrase, herding cats? That was what it was like, but in a good way, as if all the cats were purring and ready for play.

And in fact, the beauty of the MOOC community that we are helping to establish is that it can be self-sufficient, and supportive from within, with only minimal structural help from the facilitators. That’s a wonderful thing.

Peace (in the reflection),


Book Review: The Fairy Ring (or Elsie and Frances Fool the World)

What an odd little book.

The Fairy Ring (or How Elsie and Frances Fool the World) by Mary Losure is a non-fiction account of two young girls in England who fooled the world, as the title suggests, by taking staged photographs of themselves with fairies. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (he, of Sherlock Holmes fame) was drawn into the hoax by the young girls. As with most trouble, it all began rather innocently enough, with Frances and Elsie using a camera to take a picture by a remote glen, using cutouts of fairies with wings in the picture.

This is 1917, and in England, some of the most intelligent scientific minds thought that fairies might be real — just outside the realm of the known — and even though we can look at the photos the two girls took (and there were not many, only four or five), it is clear that the fairies are not real. But to someone who wanted to believe, and to a world that had not yet understood the manipulation of media, the photographs were proof of the existence of fairies.

It soon got out of control (media frenzy, spurred on primarily by Doyle’s public writing about the photographs) and the girls soon regret their hoax, but by that time, it was too late to come clean and too big a deal in the world, and in their family, to tell anyone the truth. In fact, it is only in old age that one of the two girls finally tells her grandchildren the truth of the matter, and the truth of the staged photos slowly trickles out into the world decades later.

And yet, even years later, Frances truly did believe that she saw fairies in the woods — real fairies — just not the ones she and Elsie fake photographed.

Losure does a nice job of using source material here to bring us into the heads of the girls, and to the setting of the hoax. While her writing is a little clipped (almost as if she were going for the Hemingway’s style, so that sentences are short and ideas are too the point), she unfolds the narrative in a linear way that allows the reader to forgive the girls and shake our heads at the BigWigs of the British community that took advantage of the girls’ childhood for media fame. It was important that she show us the photos, and she does.

The Fairy Ring is a solid example of creative non-fiction, and would fit right in a middle school classroom. I could even envision some “media manipulation” projects along the way, as well as some examination of modern day hoaxes (I guess there will always be a way to suck in the public.)

Peace (in the tale of the fairies),



The #clmooc Twitter Chat is Tonight (Thurs)

Join the Twitter Chat

We invite you to come join us for the first Twitter Chat for the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration (MOOC) as we explore how the first week of the MOOC has been going, give some teasers of where the MOOC is headed, make visible some of the connections to the Connected Learning principles, and answer questions that YOU may have about the summer project (already with hundreds of teachers involved).

The Twitter Chat — facilitated this week by Terry Elliott (@tellio) and myself (@dogtrax) — will be taking place tonight (Thursday June 20) from 8-9 p.m. Eastern/ 5-6 p.m. Pacific / 6-7 p.m. Mountain/ 7-8 p.m. Central with the #clmooc hashtag.  If you have never taken part in a Twitter Chat, it’s OK. We have designed a resource guide to help you get started:

A Twitter Chat is a freewheeling conversation that is anchored on Twitter with a hashtag (in this case, we are using #clmooc) that then later gets archived and shared back out to the community.

It’s OK to lurk and see what it’s all about. We do invite you to participate, too, if you are interested, and we encourage you to make connections with others in the Making Learning Connected community. This could be done any number of ways, but finding common hashtags in Twitter and Google Plus is one possibility. (We built a resource about Google Plus, too.)

I hope to “see” you there, as we extend our MOOC conversations in every little corner of the Internet.

Peace (in the chat),



Inspired to Make at the Making Learning Connected MOOC


In the span of just a few days, I’ve come across some amazing ideas for digital “makes” in the Making Learning Connected MOOC that I am helping to co-facilitate. Here are a few of the things I’ve been creating as part of the introductory activities.

clmooc Meme2

Yesterday, a member of the community began to make memes for the MOOC, and she is going to try to set up a system of memes to emerge over the six weeks of work. Memes are interesting, but only if they come viral in a community, and if you begin to try to make them, you realize how difficult it is to wed the right snarky words to the right snarky picture. I gave it a try but I don’t think either of these will be viral. I’m going to keep trying, though.


Using an app called WordFoto, I was able to upload an image of myself and then add in key words that I wanted to layer on top of my image. The result is interesting — it’s as if words become the picture. I liked that I did have choices, and there are just a few tools that can use to manipulate the texture of the image. Still, I wish I had more options in the creating. If I did, I would have pulled the words back a bit as shadows, instead of having the photo be in the way back (the result is a bit like a zombie, don’t you think?)

twitter video

During the first days of the MOOC, lots of folks jumped into Vizify, which is a graphical biography that pulls data from your social networking connections. You don’t do much, other than allow it access to your streams. But I did find its Twitter tool sort of interesting, as it makes your Twitter data into a video.

I had also used a Mozilla Thimble site that my friend Chad had set up for folks to share out their “last 10 books read” and it came out pretty nifty, but now, my Thimble book site seems to be down (Mozilla did some updates on Thimble and other tools this week and so I am hopeful this is just temporary.) So, I can’t share out the site but I can share out the image of the books that I used as the centerpiece of the site:

Peace (in the sharing),


Hacking as an Entry to Agency

hacking collage

I have two weeks left to school (I know … long year) and we are working on two main projects now: an adventure short story and a unit on Hacking Literacies. Yesterday, I brought my sixth graders to the Hackasaurus XRay Goggles site, and we began playing around with the hacking tool. Of course, first we had a discussion (which we have been having all year) about how tools can help put more power (agency) into the hands of the user, so that they begin to see themselves as less consumer and more active producer when it comes to media (digital or otherwise).

We have had threads of conversations about the word “hacking” and the connotations that arise in culture now (that it is bad) and I spend time explaining how “hacking”  emerged first as a good thing — that folks want to share expertise with others and make the world a better place, and that one of the reasons why technology is what it is today is due to hackers in the Open Source world and beyond. (I also got a bunch of “awwwws” when I said that the XRay Goggles tool is an overlay and does not hack the original site, only makes a hacked replica.)

Then, they played around.

Some were hacking gaming sites; some were hacking our classroom site; some were hacking the Google homepage; some were at clothes shopping sites. The informal discussions were interesting, as they talked about how to parody companies and personalize sites. Today, I intend to continue this work, and I think I am going to bring them all to a single website (my brainstorm at 3 a.m. in the morning: the famous Tree Octopus hoax website) and have them be creative in their hack even as they examine why this is so famous a site.

We’ll see how it goes.

Peace (in the xray),

Make with Me: Podcasting in the Making Learning Connected MOOC

My friend, Terry Elliott, and I created the first “Make with Me” video for the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and we decided to focus on podcasting. Using audio was one of the suggested “makes” for the first week of introductions, and we wanted to be able to share out a few simple tools to lower the barrier for folks. We urge you to give podcasting a try, and to put your voice out into the world.

Peace (in the make),