Two Leftover Musical How To’s

There is never an end to our Make Cycles at the Making Learning Connected MOOC (You can enter in and make things whenever you want)  but as we begin to shift towards the launch of the second Make Cycle, I realized I had two How To projects that I never shared out, for different reasons.

boy band thimble

The first one is How To Build a Boy Band, and the inspiration for it was during a gathering of Connected Learning folks last summer, when we were chatting about the recipe for pop music (and New Direction had just started to play on our airwaves). I remixed a project via Mozilla Webmaker, creating the ways to build a Pop Band, adding in some humor (I hope).

I had planned to share it this past week and then got busy with new Makes, so scuttled it in favor of what I was working on during the week. But, as we now at the end, I decided to bring it back, in hopes that maybe someone will remix it yet again (maybe, How to Build a Girl Pop Band?) Actually, Alan Levine had once remixed it in a funny way, creating How To Build a Dog Band. Ha.

The second Make is something I created this week, entitled How To Make an Odd Song. I never shared it because it didn’t turn out the way I wanted, and I could not figure out why. Then, I realized, it become more of a showcase of me playing, and less a project to show you how to do it.

Part of the reason is that I wanted to keep the video file around 3 minutes, and skipped through some steps for the viewer to replicate the actions I am showing. The result was less than satisfactory for a How To project, which requires an unveiling of the architecture of the explanation, and I think mine failed on that account. I could not get past that kind of fail when I was thinking of sharing it during the week.

But, feel free to check it out as part of my Make Leftovers here, as I use an app called BeatForge (which costs 99 cents, by the way, and is not free, as I suggest in my video) and a small device known as the Kaossilator.

Peace (in the next Make),


Bring Me the #TvsZ #Antidote

Yesterday, in the Twitter-based tag game of Twitter vs. Zombies (aka, #TvsZ), I was a “human” for only a short time in the morning, then got hit with a #bite that turned me into a zombie. Apparently, being up early, as I often am, was a huge disadvantage because I had no other human friends around because no one could #swipe me and protect me. I become a zombie.

Twitter vs zombies

Not that that’s a bad thing. In this game, that is. As a zombie, I spent parts of the day looking for other human players to #bite, and tried to navigate the rules (turns out, I broke the #rules more than a few times and had to retract quite a few #bites, and then I blamed it on my Zombie Brain.) Friends on Twitter noticed my changed avatar — the Zombie me — and were asking, what happened? Is it the end of the school year? Ha. As if …


As a huge, shifting game of Internet tag, Twitter vs. Zombies is intriguing on many levels, and I have written about this before. But this time, I tried paying attention to how the change in the rules impact the game. Adding elements changed game dynamics every time, and that was important. We all needed something new to hang on, to know that the game would not be static (so, hats off to the organizers).


During the day, I made comics, memes and even hacked the Twitters vs. Zombie website with xRay Goggles, as way to bring some media fun into the mix and add some different literacies into the game.


One of the rules of the day involved sharing images, too, to either add a #bite if you were a zombie or find shelter if you were a human. I ended up using this penguin that my son had turned into a zombie of sorts, posing it throughout the house during the day as my way to get #xtrabite power.

Twitter vs zombies

The latest rule change allows zombies to change back into human form, by writing a blog post with the #antidote hashtag. So here I am, ready to resume a rather normal life. Or so I hope. There is still a day ahead of us, although I know I will be away from technology (at ball games) for much of the day. So, who knows what will happen …

Peace (in the game),

Make Cycle 1 Reflection: Herding Cats with Curation

HowTo Flipboard Mag
This week has been an amazing thing to watch unfold with the Making Learning Connected MOOC (CLMOOC). I think I wrote last year about the sort of anxiety that teams of facilitators and designers of free, online courses have just before something launches, and you wonder: Is anyone going to come to this party?

Boy, they arrived, all right, and with Make Cycle leaders Chris Butts and Rachel Bear leading the way with a fantastic theme of creating “How To ….” projects, the bubbling expertise of participants came fast and furious, and a steady stream of participation rocked my email notification system all week, as updates flowed in from Google Plus, Twitter, the Blog Hub and other spaces where people are making and sharing and connecting. We know we don’t know all of what is going on, which is what makes our CLMOOC so interesting. There are many pockets of activity here, there, everywhere, and we honor that that is happening outside our field of vision, and we honor all of those who just want to lurk and hang out as viewers.

The difficult in this kind of system is: how do we even begin to curate the wonderful projects being shared out in these spaces? It’s a bit like herding cats. We struggled with this same idea last year, too. It’s part of the system of our collaborative ethos: We encourage you work to work in a “domain of one’s own” and yet, we would still love to archive and curate the work being created, as best as we can. That dichotomy is what we grapple with, rather happily, to be honest. We would not want to change it to a closed a system. Yet, this conundrum is tension in open networks, I think.

The How To projects are good example of this. With the shift in many of our states (mine included) to Common Core and a push for more expository text, these assorted media-infused How To Projects have the potential to be a gold mine of mentor texts for teachers and maybe for students, too. In our Twitter Chat the other night, I mentioned how I thought Chris and Rachel might want to collate the projects into an e-book or something, which Chris rightly responded by noting they had thought about that, but wondered: how does one even do that when the flow of projects is to furious and far-ranging and not in one place to begin with?

This idea continued to dance around in my head. I thought, maybe Diigo bookmarks as a collection? Or maybe Jog the Web? I thought about making a Table of Contents in a collaborative document, with links to individual projects. But I didn’t like any of those. They weren’t visual enough. They would not capture the magical energy of the projects. They didn’t honor the people who were knee-deep in the making.

Then I thought: Flipboard!

Why not create a Flipboard Magazine just for the How To Projects, and so, I did just that, and then spent a considerable amount of time going through our Google Plus community, adding projects into the magazine. That work reminded me of the range of projects and the vast talent that resides in the emerging CLMOOC community. Pretty amazing stuff, from tutorials on cooking, to parenting, to teaching, to so much more. And the look of Flipboard honors the work, I hope.

Come check out our CLMOOC How To Magazine on Flipboard. As more projects roll in, I will be adding them into the mix. Curation is as important as creation, and our CLMOOC community is hopefully the richer by seeing the larger picture of all of our projects merged together.

Peace (in the flip),

PS — Here is a Storify collection of the wide-ranging, informative Tweet Chat we had this week, with Chris and Rachel leading the way and Karen gathering up the tweets. Tweets are in reverse-chronological order, just so you know.



Considering Comic Literacies

My latest blog post is up at MiddleWeb and I consider comics in a variety of ways. What drove this piece is realizing that while many of students read graphic novels, they don’t all understand how to “read” graphic stories. Come see what I am talking about.

Read my piece at Middleweb.

This is a project that my class did to create a graphic story rendition of one of our novels.

Peace (in the frames),

Enter the Twitter vs. Zombies Game (if you dare)

Today marks the first day of another round of Twitter-based Twitter vs. Zombies. It’s a crazy game of hashtags and 140-character moves and, well, it’s a bit difficult to explain but that’s no reason you should not come into the game, too (Me? Not a huge Zombie fan. But I find this game of TvsZ fascinating).

This is a good overview, particularly if you think of it as a “giant game of tag.”

And, a few years ago, during a round of TvsZ, my son and I made this movie:

Finally, read through this great piece about why TvsZ matters when it comes to digital literacies and multi-platform, collaborative writing. I still struggle with: How can I design a version of this for my students?

Peace (in hiding until it is too late),


Surveying Students: The High And Lows of the Year

I try to give a final writing prompt for my students, asking them to rate the various projects we have undertaken, and books we have read, and offer them a place to grade me (if they want) and to offer suggestions for improving what I teach and how. This year, I decided to use the Adobe Voice app to make a short digital story of some of the data I collected. I decided not to add my own narration and just let the slides speak for themselves. It seemed more effective that way, like a silent movie.

Peace (in the reflection),

How To … Diagrams from Student Writing

It really is by chance that one of my students’ last writing assignments (but not the very last — they are finishing up a short story projerct) was an expository piece, or a How To Do Something paragraph. I say “by chance” because the first Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC is all about creating a How To Do Something project.

Along with the writing, my students had to diagram out the sequence of the steps of whatever it was that they were showing us how to do. The results were pretty interesting (and came on the heels of doing some fun work with Rube Goldberg Machine drawings).

I grabbed a bunch of diagrams and popped them into Animoto.

Peace (in the share),


Graphic Novel Review: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

I’ve written warm words about Ben Hatke’s series of books about Zita the Spacegirl before, and I am going to keep on writing those kind of positive words until he proves he me otherwise with stories of his heroine, Zita, the young Earth girl with a heart of gold and more savvy, pluck and courage than most of those adult characters you find in these kind of science fiction stories. In fact, it’s her heart and compassion for others that makes Zita a hero to cheer for, and a fine girl role model for young readers of graphic novels. (My nine year old son practically ripped this book out my hands when I opened the package with it, and then proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes reading it through, with a huge Thumbs Up review)

In the last part of a trilogy — The Return of Zita the Spacegirl — Zita is in deep, deep trouble — captured as part of a scheme to destroy the Earth, and it is up to all the friends and aliens who have populated the first two books of the series to come to Zita’s rescue, returning the favors they owe her for all that she has done to save them in other parts of the galaxy. Watch the stars float off in an attempt to spread the news of her capture, and you will understand. Listen, the story here itself is not all that original (hero gets captures, Earth in trouble, rescue mission ensues), but the graphic novels are driven by Hatke’s ability to conceive interesting characters and move the plot along. And his wonderful inviting artwork.

It’s been a few years since I read the very first book, so I was pleasantly being pulled back into old story lines and characters. You don’t need to have read the first two books, but it makes it easier to know why the leviathan that powers the planet needs to be saved, and why there is a giant mouse in a cage that needs to be saved, and where the boy came from and what he is up to. Add in a cat, a few pirates, and a talking skeleton who teams up with a living pile of rags to escape a dungeon (and a rock with eyeballs) and you get a little taste of the odd adventures of Zita.

As an aside, I really enjoyed Hatke’s insights at the book on where Zita’s story and character originated from (Hatke’s girlfriend-now-wife, it turns out) and how the story emerged over time into this series of graphic novels. Oh, and what book has sat on the top of the New York Times best-seller list? You got it! The Return of Zita the Spacegirl.

Peace (in the adventure),


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),