Book Review: The Innovators

Walter Isaacson covers familiar turf, for me anyway, on the history of the world of computing and technology, stretching back to the ground-breaking ideas of Charles Babbage and Lady Ada Byron Lovelace, to the present in his newest book, The Innovators. Knowing the stories here did not distract me from enjoying Isaacson’s book, however. His strong writing style and ability to put events and people into a perspective made for enlightening reading.

I particularly liked how Isaacson tried to draw out trends of the origins of innovation, building on recent ideas about how ideas often surface through collaboration, the “right cultural moment” and other factors more than individual genius and insights. Some innovations do get lost to the annals of time. Some get reborn. Some ideas are seeds to be planted and suddenly, bloom like crazy and change everything.

The thread of research and development investments by companies and the government run through the success stories here, as Isaacson notes it is often from these cauldrons of ideas that technology which transforms society emerge, although he does rightly point out that the modern start-up culture — with low overhead and quick adaptation to a changing market — is changing that paradigm of innovation, to some degree.

The Innovators is solid fast-moving tour guide of how we got to this moment, and Isaacson’s threads back to Lady Ada and her ideas on how machines might work in conjunction with people (and not to replace people)  is a masterful way of locating ideas on the timeline of history, even if ideas are not always ready for their own time.

Peace (compute),

Playing with Light

Playing with Light

This weekend’s writing prompt for Digital Writing Month brought me right back to the Making Learning Connected MOOC Make Cycle, in which we were asked to play with light. So, too, is the call for this weekend’s digital exploration, so I went back to find a nifty online tool called Glow Doodle, which uses your webcam to create arcs of light.

In the pictures above, I used two different flashlights, playing around with the light trails that they made in the image. I’d like to experiment a bit more with it when I have time. It’s one of those “whoah” sites whose applications beyond the “cool factor” I am having trouble wrapping my head around.

Still, the “cool factor” is pretty strong. Give Glow Doodle a try and see what you think.

Peace (in the afterglow),

A video:


Digital Writing as Making Music

(This old post was sitting in my draft bin and I figured now is a good time to share it, as part of Digital Writing Month.)

My friend, Jeremy, once asked us to define “digital literacy” as part of an online writing prompt. I worked with the app on the iPad called Telegami, sort of like Voki. The limited amount of time does not make for a very deep response but I was working to think of digital writing as music composition, in a way. It didn’t quite capture what I was going for (my fault, not the app’s fault).

Still, here is what I created:

Peace (in the voice),


Emergent Ideas from the #CLMOOC

As part of a presentation on open learning at the National Writing Project annual meeting, a few us from the Making Learning Connected MOOC have been gathering up what we learned from the CLMOOC and sharing it with others. My role is to think about emergent learning from the CLMOOC, or “the things that happened that we did not expect to happen and cherished for that very reason.”


First, this is an image that we created last year for the DML Conference, from the first summer of CLMOOC:
CLMOOC Emergent Branches

I then spent a lot of time, going through the CLMOOC archives for the second summer (last summer) to see what emergent ideas surfaced. I created this diagram/web to show what I noticed. It should be stated that there is probably a whole lot more that I either have forgotten or never noticed …

Emergent Ideas of CLMOOC

Finally, we wanted to think about CLMOOC as a connector point, and where other programs/collaborations feed into CLMOOC and how CLMOOC seeds some ideas into other collaborations. I used the Subway Map metaphor, and again, I have probably left out more than a few other nodes that could have been on the map.

CLMOOC Subway map2

Peace (in the share),

When a Comic Idea Goes Meta


Maybe I’ve been watching too many Christopher Nolan movies but I had this idea for a comic in which the lens pulls back further each time, where each character thinks they are looking at other characters. Sort of like those mirrors facing mirrors in which your reflection forever.

But in a comic …


So I played around with perspective a bit, adding myself into the middle comic and then pulling back again in the end. I don’t know if it worked exactly how I wanted it to work but it was neat to try to make it work.


Peace (in the metaworld),

Heading to DC for NWP

It’s that time of year: the National Writing Project Annual Meeting takes place this week and I am excited to be heading down to DC tonight for tomorrow’s workshops and gatherings of friends and colleagues in the NWP network. I won’t be staying for NCTE this year, alas, and wish I were. But there are some pretty cool NWP sessions that I am looking forward to.

I am also co-facilitating with my good friends — Joe, Karen, Christina, and Mia (and Anna from afar, as one of our co-planners) — a session that is a spin-off from the Making Learning Connected MOOC, as we are exploring what “open learning” means. Our aim is to have participants experience an “open learning”-style session, with the CLMOOC as a sort of anchor point.

Consider joining us for this “sandbox” session, if you are at NWP. If this helps, here is our session (B sessions) description:

B12: Playing with Open Designs for Professional Learning

1:30pm – 3:00pm Gaylord, Hotel Ballroom Level, Azalea 1

Over the past two summers, Writing Project colleagues have been connecting with other educators around the world in a massive open online collaboration known as Making Learning Connected, or more commonly, CLMOOC. As designers, facilitators, and participants of CLMOOC, we can think of it as a giant online professional learning “sandbox” where we prototype and collaboratively design ways to connect learning for ourselves, as adults, and the youth with whom we work. Come join us to explore the open designs of CLMOOC and think about the implications for this kind of production-centered, interest-driven, and peer-supported connected learning and teaching in your own context.

Hope to see you in DC!

Peace (in the flight),


All the Literacy Points of the Imaginary Lands


Over at by Working Draft blog at Middleweb, I wrote about a project called The Peaceful Imaginary Land Brochure Project as part of a way to talk to my students about our school’s Peacebuilder’s Pledge in a different way (beyond mouthing the words as a school every morning.)

I did not share the above graphic there, but I had worked on this image as I was thinking through all of the literacy points with the project as a way to document the student learning. As I added more and more elements, I realized just how expansive this one project can be, and on how many points of writing, reading, listening and speaking it hits.

Peace (in the lands),

When Words Become Image Become Sound

Last summer, I discovered an interesting freeware software program for PC called AudioPaint (no luck finding an equivalent for my Mac). What it does is takes an image, analyzes its bitmap, and then turns the image into an audio soundscape file. Think about that for a second. It reminds us that all digital projects are really nothing more than data.

This week, as part of this week’s challenge with Digital Writing Month, I decided I would try to write a poem that would be converted into an image that will be converted into audio sound. The result is eerily fascinating, and each piece on its own might be sort of intriguing (at least, it is to me, the writer) but taken together, they mesh and merge in some strange kaleidoscope of composition that I can’t quite explain.

Take a listen to the poem, as painted in audio:

Is this digital writing? Isn’t it? It surely hits the concept right at the very basic level that all of our keyboard strokes are data points that can be manipulated by software, and the challenge is … how to retain our humanity as writers in that kind of environment. I think we do this by putting what we write about into the context of being a writer.

I listen to the sounds generated by the image of my poem, and I find myself seeking out narrative highs and lows, wondering where that wave sine might connect with that word phrase, and considering if the sounds I am hearing have any connection to the theme I was writing about. It’s a fascinating dance we do, here in this emerging world of digital writing.

Between the Media

And then, I thought, what if I took the raw audio file from AudioPaint, and moved it into Audacity, adding in some layers of words from the poem, flipping the whole thing back on itself. Take a listen.


Peace (in the sounds of the image),

Some Takeaways from #TvsZ 6.0

The #TvsZ game ended last night, after a weekend of furious activity on all the teams involved to complete the final “mission” that pulled together all sorts of strands of stories, media and collaborative principles. Unfortunately, I was out of the house for much of the afternoon and left the curating of my team’s mission to others. I did create a “myth” story for our team (#DragonBovines) as a comic, in hopes that I could at least contribute something. Others wrote myth tweets, too.
The Myth of TvsZ

But I continue to think about the take-aways from a social media game like #TvsZ and what literacies and skills come to the surface. These are merely my own reflection points:

  • A game played in real time across a social media network like Twitter means that many players missed much of the unfolding of the game, and that’s OK. Unless you were jacked to your screen for 48 hours, elements of the game went by you or pieces got completely missed. Realizing that there is no way to know everything is not a weakness but a strength of the game (and thankfully, the administrators were around most of the time to clarify rules.)
  • The need for collaboration and team-building trumped mostly everything else. This is built into the dynamics and flow of the game itself, as you begin by recruiting for a team and then work forward from there. Much of the play was recruiting, resisting and helping teammates as membership shifted across the board.
  • Some literacies that I noticed: writing in short-form, collaborative story writing, media awareness and media creation, hyperlinks as text, collaborative practice, rules negotiations, remixing content, and other skills that I am still mulling over.
  • You don’t quite realize the extend of connections until you get a glimpse of something like the Tagsexplorer that was set up for the game. Check it out. That’s when you get to pull back and glimpse some of the writing and connecting that was going on, as all of those strands reach out and represent connections. Pretty amazing. And the tool is perfect for getting a real idea of activity in a game like this, which can often feel fleeting in the moment.

TvsZ tagexplorer

I will be curious to see how the discussions unfold in the undergraduate classes that were playing the game across the world, and what the students saw in the game. One question should be: did playing TvsZ have value beyond just playing the game itself? What was learned about the self and about connected learning practices?

It may be a game, but TvsZ is always more than just a game.

Peace (in rest mode),

PS – here is a collection of comics from our team, as curated by NanaLou.


Sometimes, It’s All About the #TvsZ Metaphor

What a mad rush of playing #TvsZ 6.0 yesterday … in between family time (shopping for shoes, raking leaves, etc.), I popped into Twitter to play when I could as odd things unfolded, from a merging of teams (My team is now #DragonBovines) to multimedia creations, and some trash-talking as the main teams jostled for position in the literary landscape of the game (I hacked some photos last night with my cow character). We were writing poems, making videos and collaborating all day (although to be fair, I missed most of those activities … thankfully, other the other firecows had things under control).

This morning, I got to thinking again (see yesterday’s post) about ways we could bring everyone together — to find ways to collaborate within the game framework instead of working against each other. I don’t know if this will work but I created this comic and put it into ThingLink, and opened it up for anyone to add tags on the Metaphorical Bridge to Survival. I am hoping players from all teams will tag the bridge.

We’ll see …

Peace (in the metaphor),