Digital Poetry: Before Summer Ends

Before Summer Ends

My friend, Carol Varsalona, does a seasonal call for digital poetry — words layered on image. She then pulls them together into an online shareable gallery of community poetry. It’s very cool and inviting. The latest gallery will be called Summerscapes (read more here, and consider joining us with a visual poem of your own).

I went back into our Maine vacation photos from a few weeks ago, and found one of the marsh that was just beyond the deck of the house we rented, and then, although it is the end of July, I started to think about the end of summer. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t help it. (dang it).

Peace (in summer’s embrace),

Graphic Novel Review: Secret Coders (Paths & Portals)

I found this second book in the Secret Coders graphic novels series by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes more enjoyable than the first, which was fine but felt a bit flat to me. Maybe I needed to know the characters a bit more, and here, in Secret Coders: Paths & Portals, the characters and story get more developed.

As with the first book in this series, the story integrates Logo programming language, as the protagonists — Hopper, Eni and Josh — discover a portal to an underground “school” beneath their existing school (Stately Academy), and the place is full of programmable “turtles.” The school janitor is actually the professor of this Bee School, now closed but once a fertile space for young people to learn computer programming.

The story revolves around the kids learning about programming, and making the turtles do some tasks, as the principal of the regular school uses the Rugby team to steal a turtle and discover what the kids and the janitor/professor are really up to. At the end of each section, the reader is asked to consider some simple programming logic before moving onward.

There’s always the danger in books like Secret Coders that the “teaching” will get in the way of the “story,” but the writers’ sense of humor and lively illustrations provide a nice balance. Yes, you learn some basics of Logo programming. But not at the expense of an entertaining read. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in the Secret Coders books, and wonder where I can get my own Secret Coders t-shirt that the kids rock in the book!

Peace (code it for all),

Science Journal App: Tracking the Ups and Downs of Music

Setting up the Music Space

I’ve had Science Journal app on my phone (Android) for some time now, and every so often, I pull it out to play with it. But last night, as my new/old band began to play for the first time in over a year with a PA system and guitar amps (long story short: we lost our singer and bass player and practice space, went acoustic, found new practice space, looking for singer and bass player), I wondered what the sound levels were.

Right before we started our first song of the night in our new practice space — Love Potion Number 9 — I put the Science Journal app into motion, capturing and recording the decibel levels in the room. Yeah, it was loud. Our drummer has been waiting a long time to pound on his skins (as opposed to the electronic drums he has been using). He pounded away.

But it was neat to see the spikes of the song in Science Journal later on. I could see where the solos were, and where the song dipped into the break part, and more. I could see where the decibels clipped maybe a bit too high.

It made me wonder about that 85 db range that we hit. So I tracked down this chart. No wonder our lead guitar player wears special “in ear” plugs. We hit 737 sounds!

Science Journal is part of Google’s Making & Science initiative, which is pretty cool to check out.  You can read more about Science Journal (it even connects to Arduino? Cool) with this article.

Peace (it sounds like),

WMWP: Considering Experiential Badges and Micro-Credentials

Draft: WMWP Badges and Micro-Credential Brainstorming

At a leadership retreat for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, we have been talking about “pathways” into leadership opportunities for teachers at our site. It’s part of a larger initiative supported by the National Writing Project. I am not part of the core group at our site (which is led by my lovely and talented wife), but I did join in the meeting yesterday as we broke into three groups to further some topics under discussion.

I joined a small group that focused on the idea of “micro-credentials” or badges, and whether our site might benefit from this concept. We’re building off the work done by a NWP Pathways Project, which put together resources on badges for NWP sites to mull over (thanks to Bud Hunt as the main facilitator there). Their draft work and resources have been helpful for framing micro-credentials within the concept of a Writing Project site, particularly via the Summer Institute experience.

I have some experience with the notions of Open Badges in open learning spaces — in fact, we just launched an Open Badge project for the CLMOOC, after a participant asked about badges and then followed her interest to create the system for CLMOOC badges.

Medium badge

I have mixed feelings on the merits of badges, but I have an open mind, too, and I think the CLMOOC experiment was a good one for a number of reasons (including: someone had an interest in badges and they followed that interest into action, providing a resource for everyone else). But what would micro-credentials look like at a Writing Project site? And how would it have value and meaning?

The Western Massachusetts Writing Project

We didn’t reach any conclusions but I think our thought processes has taken us in an interesting direction. The core experience at our WMWP site, as it is in most NWP sites, is the Summer Institute — an intense, immersive experience in writing and teaching. There are three core themes to the Summer Institute:

  • Teacher as Writer
  • Teacher as Presenter
  • Teacher as Researcher

When you emerge from the Summer Institute experience (which actually unfolds throughout the following school year with a classroom action research project), you get the designation of a Teacher-Consultant, or TC, which puts you on the map as WMWP fellow and opens doors to leading professional development and other activities.

Back to Badges: If we think of becoming a TC as one level of experience, we could possibly provide a badge for that experience, based on evidence that they were writing, presenting to share knowledge with others and diving into classroom research. So, three badges would lead to a Teacher-Consultant Credential. That makes sense.

However, what we are more interested in is this: What about educators who want to do the WMWP Summer Institute, but can’t do it, for logistical or personal reasons (it is three full weeks in the summer). What if we had a badge system that provides an alternative path for those folks to eventually get the TC Credential, but instead of attending the Summer Institute, they did menu options over time? They would have to earn Teacher as Writer badge, a Teacher as Presenter badge, AND a Teacher as Researcher badge.

Earn those three … and you become a TC.

Taking it a step further, we wondered about the next tier up above TC. How might we use badges and micro-credentialing to provide more opportunities and incentives for current Teacher-Consultants to stay involved. If we had an Advanced TC tier, then we would use the same framework themes (writing, presenting, researching) but these TCs would have to earn those badges in various WMWP offerings, perhaps in clusters (such as curriculum, digital literacies, etc.) or perhaps leapfrogging around, as long as they earned the three badges (writer, presenter, researcher).

That’s a lot to think about, and when we started to imagine the logistical elements of keeping track of all of this … we sort of came to an end to our conversation. I’d love to get some feedback on this, and if you use a similar system for your organization, could you let me know?

Peace (more than a badge),

At Middleweb: Assessing Student Digital Writing

I posted a book review over at Middleweb that explores the difficult terrain of assessing student digital writing. It’s an area I know I continue to struggle with. This book — edited by National Writing Project colleague Troy Hicks and featuring a number of National Writing Project educators — seeks to show a variety of paths (via protocols) to look at digital writing, mostly from the view of process of creating as opposed to evaluation of the final product.

Read my review of Assessing Students’ Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely

Peace (we’re all looking),

Pondering a Purposeful Pause with Postcards

CLMOOC Postcard Collection

We’re trying something new with the CLMOOC this coming week: instead of continuing on with the weekly Make Cycles (which aren’t time-dependent anyway), we are entering a Brake/Break Week – or, as Anna Smith so thoughtfully put it, a Purposeful Pause.


In other years of CLMOOC, folks have expressed a need to slow down and have time to go back to what they missed. The flow can be overwhelming at times. In an open learning adventure like CLMOOC, which plays out in many social media spaces, it is easy to lose track of conversations, projects, interactions and more.

This week of “pause,” as guided by Jeffrey Keefer, is an opportunity and an experiment. We hope folks will use the chance to do what they need to do, and even catch their breath, and yet still return for our final Make Cycle week, when the theme is celebrating connections. We also hope they use the time for reflection and sharing, just in a different way.

As Jeffrey wonders:

So, this week, as I try to slow down a bit with CLMOOC, I am going to turn my attention to the CLMOOC Postcard Project. This offline adventure began last year as a way to connect folks during the year, via old fashioned writing and letters, and it’s such a lovely gift of a project. I took photos of all of the postcards I have received for a little video.

In the coming days, I am going to write and send postcards to all my CLMOOC friends. They will arrive either during the last Make Cycle or afterwards. What will you do be doing?

Peace (rest),

A Day in the Life of a Daily Connect

Created and Shared by Melvina Kurashige


We’ve been releasing Daily Connects every day for the CLMOOC, and even before the CLMOOC started. The Daily Connect is inspired by the Daily Create, and it first came about during an earlier open course called Connected Courses (from 2014).

For this year’s CLMOOC, I revamped many of the Daily Connects from the CCourses project, and have been invited folks to do small-scale activities around connections. The invitation is there, as is the offer to completely ignore the ideas.

Yesterday was interesting, as many folks took the Daily Connect idea and ran with it. The concept was to use words from another writer and “paint” with those words. The Daily Connect offered up a site called Visual Poetry that allows this to be done rather easily (just pop in the text and start drawing), but a few folks just went in their own direction, which is how it should be.

Here, then, are a few of the pieces that were shared out yesterday:

(I used a post about voice and audio from Janet for this one)


(from Terry, with a quote from Clay Shirky)

(This from Melvina, honoring Verena)

(Susan honored a call for photos about Staycations from Kim)

(This from Algot, capturing the spirit of Sheri)

(This from Sarah, taking a post of mine and spinning it wildly)

(Susan honored Algot’s words)

(Kim’s post about writing inspired this one by me)

(And Ron showed artistic flair with his words and image)

There are probably others ….

I love how a simple idea can spark an entire say of creating and sharing and making, using words and writing as the quill of our artwork. The Daily Connect offers up odd, surprising invitations to make art and connect with others. Come join us.

Peace (let’s make it happen),




WMWP: Celebrating Student Writing

Emerging Voices WMWP Youth publication 2016

I was only part of this event from the peripheral, but our Western Massachusetts Writing Project hosted a youth writing event in the Spring that was hugely successful on many levels. Now, an e-book of student writing from that day has just been finished and I am helping to get the word out about it.

I love the variety of the writing and how the themes of the writing pieces reflect the mission statement of our WMWP site. The organizers — led by WMWP Youth Co-Director Justin Eck — set the stage for stronger outreach for student writing programs. (Note: We used to events like this quite a bit but then funding issues forced us to focus primarily on teacher programs, not youth programs. A crowdfunding campaign allowed this particular program to run this spring.)

Read: Emerging Voices

Western Mass Writing Project: Emerging Voices E-Text by KevinHodgson on Scribd

Peace (starts with the kids),

#CLMOOC #F5F: Finding Five on a Reflective Friday

Clmooc find five Friday

Each Friday at the CLMOOC, we encourage folks to take a look back at the week behind and find five things/people/projects/collaborations/whatever to highlight as a sort of end-of-week reflection.

Here are mine:

  • Scott Glass launched a collaborative slideshow that asked folks to “remix” their working spaces with images. Some made photos within photos, and others added creative touches. It was a neat idea.
  • Susan Van Geldar had been working on an image of her set of Recorders, and then, after queries from the CLMOOC community, she created a ThingLink with some information layered on her image. That wasn’t enough for us. We asked to “hear” the Recorders. So, Susan created short videos of her playing each Recorder, and layered those videos on top of the image, too. What a perfect project!
  • Deanna Mascle made a Tanka found poem, but her visual poetry via video composition is so peaceful and wonderful to watch. It pulls together many ideas in an ode to the entire CLMOOC community.
  • A continuing project (no need for it to end) is the Found Poetry slideshow that Sheri Edwards put into play in the first Make Cycle. People have been remixing posts by others into found poetry and then adding them to the collective project. It’s a beautiful thing!
  • Finally, for the second week, I had to miss the CLMOOC Twitter Chat, but I volunteered to Storify it afterwards. It’s so interesting to be the outside curator, following various threads of discussions and trying my best to capture the essence of the flow of the chat, while leaving much out.

Those are my Five on this Friday. What did you find last week that inspired you?

Peace (in the reflect),


Reciprocation: The Fine Line Between Remixing and Plagiarism

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

While the whole hubbub over M. Trump’s speech using lines from a M. Obama speech unfolded, the CLMOOC has been involved in a week of “reciprocation with generosity” – of recognizing and honoring the writing and sharing of others, with intention. Many of us have been “remixing” the work of others, taking pieces of media (writing, images, etc.) and using it to make something new that showcases the original writer.

If what we are doing is ‘remix,” then why is what happened with the Trump speech being called ‘plagiarism’? Well, I would suggest that the Trump campaign (intentionally or not) did not “remix” Obama because there was no overt recognition of the original writer (who may not even have been Obama herself, to be frank, but that’s a whole other path of discourse on political speechwriting).

In my opinion, and others might differ, a remixer finds the heart of a piece of writing, and riffs off it into something new, as sort of gift to the original writer. A plagiarist uses something useful, and either calls it their own, or doesn’t bother to indicate it might NOT be their own.

flickr photo shared by mikecogh under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Yeah, it’s a fine line in these days of easy access to media and tools that can take an audio file here, turn it into a video file there, and then post it here, there, everywhere. I’ve written about remixing more than a few times here at my blog (see posts) and still struggle with many elements of the concept. I do believe that “art should be set free” but also realize the implications of that statement are neither simple nor, perhaps, always legal.

Karen LaBonte’s blog post for CLMOOC yesterday — Pondering Remix: A #CLMOOC Reflection — raises a lot of questions for me as she explored what it meant to have her own words used for a reciprocation remix project in CLMOOC (she felt honored and then taken aback), and how that experience had her thinking through her teaching lens, too. She ends her piece with this short, but very thoughtful question:

What does it mean to be visible? — Karen LaBonte

Susan Van Gelder, after reading Karen’s post, offered up some of her own wonderings, particularly around the use of photographs and Creative Commons licensing. Her blog post — Remixing — is a great response, or riff off of Karen’s thoughts.

Susan writes:

It made me think about ownership, about using other people’s work with respect and about when it is appropriate and when it is not .

These are exactly the kinds of inquiry and questions that we hope will surface in an experience like CLMOOC. Connected Learning, the underpinning of CLMOOC, allows us to confront these tension points, with its focus on following your own interests, tapping into the larger world, interactions with others, and being very production-centered.

Together, in a place like CLMOOC, maybe we can sort some of the issues out as teachers, and then bring to the classroom for our students to wrestle with. You know, and I know, that many students are “remixing” already with video and audio and image. But are they thinking through what they are doing? In CLMOOC, we’re learning together, and playing together, and reflecting together on how the media landscape is changing, and how writing is being affected.

flickr photo shared by bighamdesign under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Since both Karen and Susan posed questions, here are a few more that came to my mind:

  • If I use someone else’s words for a remix, am I a writer or remixer? Is it writing if the words are not my own? (I prefer: composer)
  • If I remix, but fail to give credit, does remix become plagiarism?
  • Do I need to ask permission of the writer to remix their work, or does posting writing in digital spaces allow me to assume that work is fair game for remix?
  • If I remix, and then post to public spaces, who is the artist at that point? Me, the remixer, or them, the original writer? A collaboration?
  • If the writer asks the remixer to stop/halt/remove, does the remixer have an obligation to do so? (legal, moral, etc.)

Sticky issues. I always seem to fall in favor of a more liberal view of remixing. I believe “open” is our best path into the world because it creates an opportunity for generosity and collaboration and understanding of someone else’s views. (But I also recognize it can subvert those very things.)

What do you think?

Peace (World Remix),