Take One Comic. Hack It.

All summer, as part of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, I’ve been dabbling with an comic maker on my app called Rosie (although she has only appeared a few times … I’ve been using other minor characters). This week’s Make Cycle is all about hacking your writing, so I created this comic:
Hacking writing

But I wanted to hack the comic, too, to do something to make it different by laying meaning on top of it. It’s a bit too difficult (although not impossible) to hack the actual comic — I could have emptied out the dialogue boxes, I suppose (which is now sparking an idea for CLMOOC … sort of like that Garfield Minus Garfield site where they remove Garfield, leaving Jon, the man, looking like he is losing his mind. And it turns out there are other variations of the Garfield remix. And then there is the random Garfield generator. And look at this — Square Root Garfield, where people send in ideas to be created. What is with the Garfield remix focus?)

Anyway, I took my original comic and moved it into another comic maker, and added some snarky commenting from another set of comic characters (well, me, as in my avatar), giving it a sort of meta-comic look.


Does it work as a comic? I suppose. As a writing hack? Yeah, it does. I think.

Peace (in the frames),


At MiddleWeb: A Look at Thriving, Not Just Surviving

Thrive-coverMy latest post over at MiddleWeb focuses in on Meeno Rami’s new book, Thrive. Reading her book about finding ways to stay invigorated and connected to teaching young people, even in the face of difficult days and situations, reminded me of a book that I used to read every summer when I began teaching. Sometimes, we need touchstone texts. Rami’s book is one of those.

Read my piece at MiddleWeb

Peace (in the text),


Having Fun Hacking Notebooks

WMWP Paper Circuitry

We had a blast yesterday as our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute took part in Hack Your Notebook Day. I was the facilitator of our WMWP session but the educators in our institute were the Makers, and Make they did. Using paper circuitry, they illuminated poems, short prose, scientific ideas and even more with LED sticker lights, conductive copper tape and a round watch battery to give their writing power.

At the end of the two hour session, I asked them to move into a reflective stage. How,  I wondered, might this kind of notebook hacking — with paper circuitry — be valuable in the classroom setting? While I had explained the concept of “taking back our notebooks” — where notebooks again become a place of invention and risk and creativity — there remains the question of, How could this translate into a learning experience connected to curriculum? (beyond the teaching of circuits)

Some of their thoughts (Note: the Summer Institute teachers represent a wide range of grades and content areas):

  • Use with English as Second Language students to engage them in the playful act of writing, as a means of self-discovery;
  • In history class, during a unit on the Industrial Revolution, add paper circuitry to traditional poster reports, perhaps even representing the shift from gas lights to electrical lights;
  • In science, use the lights to show the flow of (well, choose your topic here but we talked about) nerve pulses, and connect with poetry that explain the process;
  • Use for content-area vocabulary, where students are presented with specific words, and those words get “lit up” in the illustrated sentence that they write;
  • For advanced student writers, reflect afterwards on the ascetics of the writing when using paper circuitry, such as how does the use of circuits impact the writing itself (brevity, placement, use of specific words, etc.)
  • Many saw the possibilities of creating a timeline project, where the lights represent important elements of the timeline itself (there were questions about how to connect multiple timelines together);
  • Creating a cultural heritage map, where students’ family origins are “pinned” with light to the world map itself, giving a visual representation of cultures.

I like all those ideas, and it showed a thoughtful approach to the work we did yesterday, if you can call it work. It was more like play, and we had that moment where the very last piece lit up (after some minor repairs and reconfiguring) and knew we had achieved success on Hack Your Notebook Day.

Peace (in the hack),

Gearing up to Hack our Notebooks

21st Century Notebooking with Inside/Out from NEXMAP on Vimeo.

This morning, I head off to the Western Massachusetts Writing Project Summer Institute to lead a session for Hack Your Notebook Day, using paper circuitry to show the educators a bit about the move to reclaim our notebooks as a space for thinking, exploring and tinkering. Hack Your Notebook Day is a national event, and you can even watch some live webinars during the day as various groups work on hacking notebooks, via Educator Innovator and NexMap. (Check out these resources)

Our WMWP site is participating, as we purchased an entire paper circuitry kit so that we can dive right into the topic. I’m a little nervous, because although I have done this activity with my students (see my post over at Middleweb), I have not yet had the chance to meet the Summer Institute folks, nor have I had a chance to see the entire package of materials in front of me.

KevinH-Student Poems Collage


(Scenes from my classroom)

But here is my plan for the day of hacking notebooks with teachers:

  • Start off with a blind question: draw a simple and parallel circuit on a notecard. We’re activating knowledge here about circuit design.
  • Give an overview of Hack Your Notebook Day, and how it fits into the Educator Innovator Summer to Make, Play and Connect;
  • Explain why paper circuitry is something to be considered, showing connections to writing and science, and critical thinking, and design, and more – all of which are now part of our state standards, and which will connect even more when the Next Gen Science Standards get adopted by our state in the next year or so;
  • Show some examples — mine and my students — and walk through the process ideas of creating a circuit layer underneath some writing, in order to light up elements of the writing (with an eye towards the possibility of more complex circuitry later on);
  • Writing assignment: write a poem or short piece of prose with the theme of “light” and then illustrate the writing, leaving spaces where you want to the lights to shine through;
  • Step by Step instructions on how to create the paper circuit (this will take the longest and is the trickiest);
  • Showcase what has been created;
  • Reflect: What have you learned? What are applications for the classroom?

I’ll be doing some sharing of how things went.

I want to point out two more resources, these from Chad, that connect with what we will be doing. These are shared over at Mozilla Webmaker:

Peace (in the circuit flow),


The Return of the Line Lifting Poet

I spent some time yesterday morning, wandering the Making Learning Connected MOOC Blog Hub, finding ideas and stealing lines (aka, hacking and remixing to make words into something different) from blog posts in order to write poetry, which I then collected together into this Prezi. Thanks to all of those people who didn’t know I was using their words. You inspired me!

I added podcasts to this Prezi, too, so there is audio that will run as you move through the poems. I hope that doesn’t distract from the original. Although I am embedding it here, I think it “plays” better in full screen mode.

And the Prezi is remixable, so feel free to have at it, if you are inspired, too.

Peace (in the remix),

How to Remix with X-Ray Goggles, and Why You Should Bother

The theme of the Make Cycle with the Making Learning Connected MOOC is now Hacking Your Writing. I decided I would hack the newsletter announcing the them of Hacking Your Writing. I used Mozilla’s X-Ray Goggles, which allows you to create an overlay on websites, and provides you with the opportunity to remix/hack the site, and publish your alternative to the original.

I used CAPITAL LETTERS to add my voice to the newsletter, and changed a few images. You can view my hack here.

And maybe you want to do your own hacking with X-Ray Goggles? Well, in the spirit of the first Make Cycle of the CLMOOC, where we all created How To … pieces, this is how you use the free X-Ray Goggles to tinker with some remixing.

First, you will need to create an account with Mozilla Webmaker. This is worth it because the tools there (not just X-Ray Goggles but also Thimble and Popcorn Maker) are powerful and getting better all the time.

Second, go to the X-Ray Goggles page and drag the bookmarklet right up into your tool bar of your browser. (this bookmarklet is a bit of code that sits in your tool bar, ready for use)

xray1Next, find a website that you want to hack or remix and call it up in your browser. Activate X-Ray Goggles by clicking on the bookmarklet sitting in your tool bar (the one you dragged up). This opens up the X-Ray Goggles editor.

Tinker around with elements of the website, such as changing the text.

You can even replace images. Just find the url of the image you want and make the change in the code.

Publish your remixed page and share with the world. There are tools on the lower right side of the page.
Clicking publish leads to a live link …
Which becomes …

(again, you can see my full remix here)

Why would we teach this to our students?

  • X-Ray Goggles  shows the underlying code of the World Wide Web, which many young people are unaware of. They think of websites and social media platforms as being pretty interfaces, not built on underlying code. X-Ray Goggles shows what is under the hood, so to speak.
  • X-Ray Goggles gives young people a chance to work with code in playful environment.One activity I did with my students was to talk about reliable sources with the Tree Octopus site, and then they hacked the site themselves, adding to the absurdity of it.
  • X-Ray Goggles puts a remix tool right at their fingertips, and activities tap into play in a meaningful way. It also opens a chance to talk about responsible hacking — not remixing for nefarious reasons but remixing for change, and to add a new voice to the conversation. It moves the “hack” word from the newspaper headlines.
  • X-Ray Goggles is a great tool for argument and rebuttal — take the front page of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and change the news stories — add different slants, revamp the news of the day — who really owns the stories we read anyway? What better way to think about that than to do it ourselves?

I suggest you give it a try and see what you can make. Then, consider the possibilities, and share it out.

Peace (in the remix),

The Numbers, Not the Story

Clmooc by some numbers

I grabbed some numbers of the Making Learning Connected MOOC and created this infographic. Warning: the visual representations are not accurate. And, as my friend Terry has pointed out, the numbers don’t tell the story of the CLMOOC in many important ways — such as, how many folks are just hanging back, watching, learning as we go? We work hard to show we value lurkers, and we do, but the reality is that we have no idea who they are or what they are learning, or how many are there.

If that’s you, we say “hello” and we hope you are having a good summer with us. As always, we invite you into the conversations but we value your decision on your own participation.

Peace (in the community),

PS — You may be wondering about the concept of “impressions” and according to the site being used, it defines it as the number of times tweets with the #clmooc hashtag have been delivered to a Twitter account. I’m not exactly sure what that all means. The number seems HUGE. Maybe that is the indication of the lurkers?

Children of the Screen: Reading Offline vs Online

Offline vs Online Reading Skills
A conversation with some friends had me sharing out an old piece I had written about online reading comprehension. Much of what I learned about how kids read with screens comes from the folks at the New Literacies Institute (some of whom are still in my orbit — Ian and Greg). In that article, I had created this chart with help of other folks through some crowdsourcing, and mostly, the chart still holds up.

You can read the piece over at the Learn NC site.

I’d also be remiss not to share out a few of my webcomics that I had done around this theme of “children of the screen” when I was writing Boolean Squared. (It’s a bit dated, as you can tell from the reference to Apple still developing an ereader, which became the iPad. Was it really that long ago that I was writing this BS?)

Peace (on the screen),

The Game Is Part of the Story of Us

I’ve been in and out of the Making Learning Connected MOOC in the past few days because I was up in New Hampshire with old friends. We gather every year (for at least the past 20 years) to catch on our lives and play what we call our own Pool Championship of the World. We have a whole round robin system of playing and we gather from quite a long distance to come together,

I was thinking about my long weekend with my friends because the CLMOOC Make Cycle of gaming is sort of winding down (although the cycles are always open for anyone to jump in when they want) with a call for some reflection by facilitators Joe and Terry about what has been going on with games this past week or so.

In New Hampshire, we played billiards. But what we really did was tell stories, and we used the game itself as an anchor to stay connected with each other. Our tournament is a means to bring us together, and yes, we play both seriously and for fun, and yet, the game itself is little more than a connective anchor that we share together.

The game is part of the story of us.

And I think that is true of what happened this week in the CLMOOC, as hashtag play became game pieces on Twitter, poetry was passed around and tinkered with, photos became a means for rule creation for very short narratives, current events led participants to create games to make commentary, video games were played and created, and I even led a Folded Story game in which many people added lines to an unfolding story that none of us knew how it would end.

I ended up doing a podcast of the entire story, using Vocaroo. (It’s 9 minutes long, so grab a drink and snack before you listen)

Audio recording and upload >>

Games are getting a lot of attention these days in education circle, and Joe and Terry kicked off this Make Cycle by reminding us of the stories that lay behind the games we play and the games we create. This can be a point of contention in the gaming world — whether a game needs a narrative arc or not. For us, in the CLMOOC, the answer is a resounding “yes” because, just like with my friends and our pool championship, the games are now part the story of us.

Media bubbles
(Part of Scott’s Game of Using a Common Photo for a 15 Word Story)

Peace (beyond the game),


We’ve invited participants in the CLMOOC to add themselves to our map. It’s a nifty way to see where we all are geographically, even as we hang out in some of the same spaces for our making, connecting and playing.

Peace (along the navigation lines),