A Stolen Poem Finds Its Way Home

Steal This Poem

As part of the Rhizomatic P2PU course‘s theme around “cheating as learning” with Dave Cormier, I offered up a poem for others to steal and remix. It was a sort of call to arms, partly as poetry about the remix culture and partly to see if what I view as a rhizomatic concept (that of ideas twisting, turning and being reshaped as we make sense of experience in unexpected ways) might actually take place. You never really know, when you toss something into the wind, whether it will take root or not.

My poem — Steal This Poem — was an invitation to others to take what I wrote and do what they want with the words. I didn’t claim ownership. When I hit publish, the words were no longer my own.  In fact, it was quite the opposite. I wanted to set the words free. I know that sounds rather esoteric, but I was curious about whether the world of digital writing — where anyone can steal anyone’s words rather easily — might be a larger canvas for collaboration, and whether we could turn the word “theft” on its ears, and make it a door for creativity. The unknowns were whether anyone would read the poem, care about the poem, and figure out a way to remake the poem. That’s a lot of unknown elements.

Whether anyone would take me up on the idea of stealing my poem or not, I honestly had no idea. While Terry Elliott and I had done some remixing of poetry a few weeks earlier (Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams), he and I know each other, and so it was less of the unexpected happening with the two of us. We collide all the time. What if others I didn’t know quite as well were involved in a remix venture? Would it work? Or would the poem fall silent upon release, shackled forever on my page? I didn’t know. It was a worth a try, though. I let the poem go and hoped they would come.

And they did.

First Maureen responded (first as a poem and then as a media remix), and then Cathleen used her voice to recraft the delivery if not the poem itself and then last night, Tonya shared out her remix of the poem, complete with fingerpainting and diagramming and counter-verses. All three of three remixed projects are so very different and bring a unique stance to the words and ideas. And Sandra used the poem in her class as an anchor piece of writing around poetry and remix culture.

Take Cathleen’s version. She “heard” it as a slam poem of sorts, and added a soundtrack and her own voice, giving the poem a beat edge to it. Fingers snapping, she finds new places in the poem to add emphasis, and the swirling, swelling electronica behind her is interesting. She used part of the poem, not the entire thing, and that allowed her to focus on the central message of the remix. It’s a fascinating aural experience.

Maureen went two routes. First she crafted a poetic response in Google Plus.

“This is Just to Say”

I have stolen
the poem
that you recorded
on soundcloud

and which
you probably
stole from someone else

Not asking for forgiveness.
Remixing it felt so deliciously
crafty and playful

Her second remix was a media remix. She used a site called Weavley, and with my voice booming with reverb, she put the poem to movie clips of theft and stealing from The Reader and The Book Thief. I find it intriguing how my eyes watching the video seem to take precedence over my ears listening to the poem (or maybe I am sick of my voice). Turn the volume off on the remix and think about what feeling the clips bring up. Turn the video off and listen to the poem. Then, do both. I’m struck by how the media informs the meaning.

Finally, last night, Tonya (who kept me updated on her attempts via Twitter), released her poem remix, too. You have to read her reflection on how it came together, which in itself is a gift. Her remix is like a call-response, and I love how she laid it out, using fonts and colors to expression emotion, and used a poem to talk to a poem. It’s a poem for two voices, fingerpainted by her three-year-old child.


I’m grateful to be the victim of the theft. The poem has come home. But go ahead, steal it again. Make it your own. If you already did a remix, but I never saw it or forgot it, please drop me a link in the comment box so I can add it in.

Peace (in the remix),



All I Got Was This Lousy Comic

A lot of folks are over at Educon, but not me. (again). I tinkered around with Chad Sansing’s Virtual Toy Hack page (which he is using at Educon, I believe — NOTE: Chad is NOT there. Too bad for all them, I say) and created this version of the “all I got was a T shirt” meme. Maybe next year ..
I didn't go to Educon
Peace (in the hack),

Screens Collide: A MultiMedia Collage Idea

My friend, Molly, shared out a new video app tool that is pretty nifty and cool.  PicPlayPost (costs $1.99) is a collage-style app, that allows you to do a Brady Brunch-style video with smaller videos embedded in the final product. I’m still working and playing with it but my brain is working out and wondering about how to use it more creatively. Is there a way to connect videos as a poem?

For now, I am just playing with some Vine videos from the #walkmyworld project.

My first attempt with the app was a version of a poem that I wrote and shared yesterday about walking my dog and thinking about teaching.

Here is the full poem as podcast and a link to the poem on Notegraphy.

Peace (in the share),

Where I’ve been Walking …

I continue to be intrigued by #walkmyworld, which is a social media project that will move into poetry at some point. For now, it’s about documenting the world where we live. Here are some of things I created and shared this week:

First, a webcomic about my days.
Walking through my Day Comic

Second, a few collages using an app filter to skew the tones.
Art on Walls, through lens

Selfie, through a lens

Finally, a couple of memes. Because … well, because why not?
Walk My World meme 3

Walk My World meme 2

Walk My World meme 1

How’s your world?

Peace (on a walk),

Student Video Game Reviews: Draw Something

Norris Gamers Icon
As part of our game design unit, my students explored games they liked to play and then reviewed them through a critical lens of a game designer. I’m going to be sharing out a few podcasts that my students did around their reviews, giving voice to them as players and creators.

Here, Lily reviews the collaborative app Draw Something.

Peace (with the pen),

App Review: Make Beliefs Comix


In workshops around using comics in the classroom, I often have teachers play around with Bill Zimmerman’s Make Beliefs Comic site. There are a number of reasons: it is relatively easy to use and understand; the site allows you to change to different languages (a great way to connect with English Language Learners); comics can be saved, printed or emailed to you; and there is no need for email to log in. You go and start making comics.

There are some limitations, too: no email means you can’t save comics or work on them later; the artwork — while fun — is rather limited; and the choices around text boxes (and flexibility of text box placement) is also limited. The site is what it is: a great way to get your fingers inky (virtually) with comics. And Bill Zimmerman’s work with ELL students in urban centers is inspiring. Plus, the books he creates around using comics for learning are pretty cool (he advertises his books on his site).

So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is a new Make Beliefs Comix app for the iPad. It’s free, and I downloaded it last weekend and began playing around with it. It works fine and is a wonderful companion to the website comic builder. Again, there are limitations, so if you are looking for a robust webcomic tool, the Make Beliefs Comix app might not be for you. But I suspect that students in an iPad classroom could easily get making comics in minutes with the app. (Note: there is an advertising banner at the bottom of the comic builder, I noticed.)

Peace (in the comics),

Independent Thinking in an Age of Conformity

Over at the Rhizome Thinking community, the theme this week is about “independence” and learning. I’m been trying to think about this along a few varied paths.

First of all, check out this student TedX talk about learning and using Minecraft as a place for inquiry and learning.

Looking at the video and listening to the talk through this lens of “independent learning,” it occurs to me that the freedom this student has had to pursue his own path and make his own discoveries has opened up some interesting doors for him, and provided a way forward into a lifetime of inquiry. I love his reference to “play” and using blocks as kids. And his smile when he says “at the center of this course is a video game …” is priceless.

Then, I think to my own sixth grade classroom. How much independence do I really give my students? I like to think I give more but I fear I probably don’t. Listening to Dave Cormier’s video at the Rhizome Learning site this week had me thinking about the environment of learning in my classroom, in my school, in my district.

That all sounds great, and I agree. The difficulty in nurturing a truly independent classroom space is twofold. First is that teachers are under intense and increasing pressure to meet standards, and while one could argue the Common Core actually opens up plenty of avenues for student-led inquiry, there is still a stifling framework. These things must get done, is the mantra I hear in my head. The second point is related to the first, and a bit more alarming: students have been programmed to follow directions to the T and to submit work that meets the criteria exactly.

I notice this a lot with mentor work that we look at for various assignments. I’ll bring in a piece of student writing or show them my own, and sure enough, when the projects gets handed in by students, they are like little replicas of the mentor texts (mini-writing-mes). Year after year of rules and testing and teaching to the test have created this rigid and rather inflexible set of learning ideas in their heads, and when given freedom and independence, a fair number of students seem unsure of what to do and where to begin. We’ve drummed out their curiosity for fear of failure, and we are all to blame.

We actually ran into this with teachers, too, during a year-long Professional Development project that I co-facilitated in an urban elementary school. It was a school that had done so poorly on state tests that the state came in and oversaw curriculum and instruction, with canned lesson plans and scripted lessons. The teachers became like robots, delivering lessons that they had little investment in. Our project was completely based around classroom-inquiry projects, where teachers determined the topic of inquiry and then moved into it. For some, just shifting to this kind of thinking was a hurdle almost impossible to overcome. They didn’t trust their judgment anymore as teachers. It literally took months of support and inquiry and modeling to break them free of those shackles and become independent thinkers again.

So what can we do as teachers to help nurture our students?

Keep opening up doors for students to be passionate about ideas (I often look to the work of Paul Allison and Youth Voices for how this might unfold). Remain flexible as a teacher about students being interested in things you know nothing about (ie, Minecraft). Model for students what inquiry looks like — not just at the end with a finished product but from the start with the brainstorming that leads along many different paths. Trust that the grading/assessment may be important in moment but is of very little importance for the student’s life.

Allow for independence, even in a system where conforming to rules and practices and standards is common practice.

Peace (in the thinking),


Slice of Life: The #Nerdlution Ends (for now)

(This is a piece for Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers).

As soon as I hit the submit button with a comment for Maureen’s blog post about deep learning, I sat back and thought, Fifty Days. If anyone else were in the room, I would have high-fived them. As it was, the dog was looking at me funny, with a tilted head, but he just wanted to get fed. He didn’t realize that the Nerdlution project, which began back in early December, was officially over. I had spent 50 days visiting 50 blogs, leaving 50 comments (one comment per day, although the reality was that once I started the routine, the habit took over and I tried to leave more here and there).

I’m one of those people who can’t quite let go of a project, so even though I know more than a few friends were not able to stick with it for a full 50 days (which seemed like a lot at the start and still seems like a lot at the end), I kept at it. It became a part of how I started my morning, looking for blog posts (ideally, via the #nerdlution hashtag but those started to run out on me, so I turned to related projects as blogs to read).

My aim was to visit blogs that I don’t normally visit, and engage in a conversation with other teachers. I did leave comments but I have not had time to go back and see where those breadcrumbs of words have gone. In fact, early on, I began to worry about this — how would I backtrack? So, I began with a Diigo bookmarking group, and then started to think about how to visually capture my 50 paths to 50 blogs.

I’ve always wanted to give Symbaloo a try, so that’s what I did. I set up a site, and began adding tiles every day as I left a comment.

Check it out:

My goal now is to begin a trail backwards through the blogs that I visited through the Nerdlution, and see what happened to my words and maybe keep the conversations going and flowing. I’d rather it not be a one-shot deal. I’d like to have conversations, and for all the hoopla over the power of blogging, that’s more difficult than it seems because keeping track of comments it not seamless, no matter how you do it (email updates, etc.)

I’m happy the Nerdlution took place and I am a little relieved that it is over, as I move into a few other projects.

Peace (in the goal),

Dipping in and Diving Deep (DLMOOC)

This week, the Deep Learning MOOC began, and so I started in with the first week of possible activities. It’s an open, constructivist MOOC, so you do what you want when you want and how you want. I happen to like it when there are a few steps forward, so I took the suggestions from the facilitators to read a few pieces about Deep Learning principles to get a better handle on what the theme of this MOOC is going to be as it unfolds.

First, I read a few articles and even used Diigo’s annotation tool to make notes on this piece by Jal Mehta about Deep Learning and the Common Core, and how the two might fit even as reality intrudes on those possibilities.

Check out my notes on the article

Then, there was this video (which I have viewed before) about a student’s view of the educational system. I decided to put it into Vialogues and annotate it as I listened, and then opened it for others to add notes (I am going to work on opening up the Diigo to others, too).

Finally, we were asked to tweet out an experience of our own, as students, when we remember learning deep. I wrote about a time in high school when I collaborated with another student in Jazz band to create a jazz piece for performance. We worked together for long hours, knowing that not only would our peers (the band) be playing it, but that it would become a piece in a performance for a real audience. It was pretty intense learning. I wish I had an audio of it now.

Earlier, I had also written a piece for the Deep Learning MOOC Story Bank about another experience with my local chapter of the National Writing Project, where I spent a summer writing and learning about the teaching of writing. It is a prime example of Deep Learning PD, I think.

Peace (in the MOOC),