Digital Learning Day: A Twitter Chat on Sunday Night

Check it out: Troy Hicks and I are heading up a Twitter Chat sponsored by NCTE in preparation for Digital Learning Day coming in February.

January 19, 2014: Celebrate Digital Learning!

ncte chat logoAs you prepare for Digital Learning Day (#DLDay) — February 5, 2014 — join two NCTE members and edubloggers for a conversation about classroom technology’s past, present, and future.

Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) and Troy Hicks (@hickstro) will host #nctechat on Sunday, January 19th, 8 PM EST, and will invite you to consider three big questions while sharing tech tips and teaching tools:

  • To begin, what was your first brush with technology and how did it change the way you wrote, read, and interacted with others?
  • As you think about your classroom right now, what are your plans for Digital Learning Day this year? With critics concerned that technology has become more and more of a distraction, how can we help our students stay focused on smart, intentional work?
  • Finally, what are you looking forward to learning, trying, or making in 2014?

Join us for a conversation about the history of Digital Learning Day and great ideas for teaching digital reading and writing in your English classes!

Peace (in the chat),

Slice of Life: A Bright Wire

(This is part of the Slice of Life weekly writing activity with Two Writing Teachers)

The other day, I was watching this child just move through the space we were in, all in a world of their own. It was as if no one else were there. And I remembered that feeling, too, suddenly and out of the blue. I had this phrase “live wire” in my head from the last sentence of some New Yorker article, and out of that, I began to write this poem of childhood and adulthood, and the act of observing through the lens of memory.

I used Storybird to use the text of the poem as a picture book (although, I am not sure if work as I wanted it to work. The images don’t quite match up to what I had in my head.)

I also podcasted out the poem, as I often do.

Thanks for reading and listening and observing my poem. I hope you, too, are a live wire.

Peace (in the poem),

#Walkmyworld Morning Commute Photo Collage

WalkMyWorld Morning Drive
As part of the #WalkmyWorld social media experiment, I decided to visually capture my commute into school on a typical morning. I had my camera on the passenger seat and when I thought I saw something interesting out my window, I’d pull over and take a shot. Luckily, there is not much traffic on the side roads I travel. I wasn’t sure what would come of this but when I pulled the photos into this collage, I was pleasantly surprised. I see the beauty every morning — the rolling hills and tree-lined streets — but the sunlight at that time of day, during this time of year, is particularly beautiful.

Peace (during the drive),

Shaken, Stirred and Remixed: A Poem on Tap

This is the poem that I remixed the other day, with Terry. I turned to Tapestry for merging our poems together because I think it allows for interesting movement of text on the page. Plus, I love the clean design and feel to Tapestry. For the most part, the left side of the screen is Terry and the right side is me, and the middle is where lines merge, converge and become one. I hope you enjoy it.

Peace (in the tap),

Student Video Game Reviews: Temple Run 2

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, Emma shares her views about Temple Run 2, which is an app for mobile devices.

Peace (on the run),

The Abandoned Book: When Gimmick Overtakes Storytelling


It’s painful to write this post of why I abandoned a book, and the fact that I got this particular book as a gift from my family (after openly expressing interest in it) made me stay with it longer than I would have otherwise done.  I’ve got some guilt today. So, believe me when I say, I really, really wanted to keep with this novel that pushes the envelope in so many directions in ways that I find intriguing. Co-written by JJ Abrams (yes, that JJ Abrams, of moviemaking/television fame) and Doug Dorst, S. (that’s the title) is a story within story within story (and maybe more).

But I won’t be staying with it.

Ostensibly, the centerpiece is an old manuscript called Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka, but the real story unfolds in the margins as two graduate students make notes on the text itself and then letters to each other. Colored ink with the notations shows the layered passage of time, as some notes have been written early and some notes late, and other notes, even later. Plus, the “book” (Ship of Theseus) has footnotes from the editor, adding yet another layer to the stories. And there are postcards, letters, code wheels and other objects stuffed into the page of the book. (See New Yorker piece about the book for more information from the authors on their intentions to tell the story this way).

So, as you read the main story, you also read the notes in the margin, and the footnotes, and all three are working towards some larger story. (although one person on Goodreads said they were going to read the main story first, and then go back and read the margin notes. I’m not sure what that experience would be like). It’s like juggling for the mind. And I like that feeling of being stretched by writers. I’m a sucker for pushing the expectations of what a book is, and what a book can be.

Except … except …. I am almost halfway through the book and …. nothing is happening. I have completely lost track of the multitudes of confusing characters (there are many in the main story — Ship of Theseus — that have  connections to the ‘real” world of the writer V.M Straka, as postulated by the two graduate students …. oh …. I’m confused just trying to explain it all here). Oh sure, there are hints of some grand conspiracy, and of break-ins, and of academic theft, and other elements. And the story between the two students is nicely done, which I suspect is not easy to play for (setting forth a relationship entirely in margin notes). Colored writing as story device is fascinating, as I found my mind switching time modes depending on the ink.

But, I am at the end of my patience waiting for something, anything, to happen. I mean, this is J.J. Abrams, for goodness sake. No offense to Dorst (who seems like the one who did most of the actual writing, if I read the interviews correctly) but Abrams is the master of suspense and action these days. Lost, Star Trek, Star Wars. There’s plenty of suspense in this book but no resolution of the suspense. And not much action. Actually, no action to speak of. I’m not even sure how I have read the 200 pages I have read.

The book has become stalled in the act of the gimmick of storytelling. And, as the reader, I’ve had enough. I’ve been mulling over whether to abandon the book for days now, eyeballing my stack of other books and sighing as I hefted up  S. each night, coming to get that “Do I have to?” feeling of picking the book up. Finally, this morning, I realized, “I don’t have to.” I am setting it aside, maybe to someday return to it. Maybe not.

I feel disappointed and letdown by the promise and premise of the book, though, and I am more than a bit sad that the story element seems have been buried under the whiz-bang of producing something new and eccentric. Writers, I don’t have time for gimmicks that don’t work. Give me a story and characters to believe in any day, and you’ll have me hooked and faithful every time.

Peace (on the pages),


Combined Voices: Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams

My good friend, Terry, released a poem into the wild yesterday, and he asked that we remix it. I am not one to pass up a remix invite, and so I requested that he podcast his poem and share the file with me. What he didn’t know was that I was recrafting his words as a poem for two voices. In Audacity, I cut up his audio file, adding my own, and used sounds from his farm and from my own saxophone as the soundtrack.
The result is this collaboration known as Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams:

This is what my page of writing looks like, with Terry’s words on the left and my word on the right, with arrows showing how I imagined I would lay out the audio files. Yeah, it’s a mess. But it was a plan, a map, a poem all of itself.
Poem with Terry: Ice&fire&memory&music&songs&dreams
One of the things I found interesting and difficult was how to connect the themes together in some way that made some semblance of truth. While he was writing metaphorically (I think) about life on his farm in winter, I shifted into music in the midst of winter. His “honey memory” became my “blues memory.” There are also a few places where I had our voices overlap. It didn’t work exactly as I imagined, and the quality of sound from his to mind is a sort of jolting shift (which I had to accept and move on with.)

But, I am pleased with how it came out and love that I could give a remix to a friend, particularly Terry, who spent the summer with me in the CLMOOC making crazy things together, including memories.
Peace (in the poem),

Student Video Game Review: Lord of the Rings

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, Aiden reviews one of the many Lord of the Rings games out there (which seem to be popular with a set of my kids).

Peace (in the ring),

Student Video Game Review: Cut the Rope

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, Abby reviews Cut the Rope, which continues to have a wide appeal among gamers.

Peace (when you’re falling),

The Nerdlution: 40 Days Down; 10 More to Go

The view from Day 40
As I was writing the title of this blog post on Day 40, I realized that it seemed like a football play announcement (OK, folks, the team is back on the 5 yard line and still needs a first down. With the clock running down, Dogtrax steps back to find a receiver of his comments. The line of scrimmage is crazy right now and perspective is out of whack. He sees an open blog. He releases the pass and ….).

While the #nerdlution has not been a race nor has it felt competitive, 50 days still seems like a long stretch of time to keep up with a resolution. In fact, the start of the whole thing way back in early December is like some distant memory. Yet, here I am, still finding blogs every day to write comments on as I do my 50 comments on 50 blogs over 50 days idea. I created the infographic as a funny way to show how the final stretch seems larger than the last part. I know that is not true. But it feels that way right now. Plus, I am enjoying playing around with infographics.

I have also been keeping track of where I’ve been and will share that out at the end. It’s been a cool visual way to curate my wanderings and comments and words. I have not yet had time to return to those blogs and comment back to any replies left to my original comments (brain twister there) but that will be part of my post-nerdlution writing. For now, my biggest struggle has been … finding blogs that I have not yet commented on. I’ve tried to keep a focus on other folks in the #nerdlution effort but some days, it has been difficult to find a blog that I have not yet visited (in the past 39 days, I have only inadvertently repeated a visit once, and I only realized that when I was curating my comments).

One thing becomes clear as I do my blog-skipping, though. A lot of folks are writing powerful reflections about teaching, learning and reading. This effort on commenting has forced me to visit spaces that I might otherwise have overlooked, and I am appreciative of that.

And now, it’s off to find a bloc to comment on ….

Peace (in the final stretch),