Ghost Train: A Digital Poem about a Public Space

Like perhaps many of you, we have a wonderful old railroad bed that been transformed into a highly-useable public space: our rail trail/greenway system. A few years back, I wrote about the trail for a local poetry compilation, and I thought this week in the Making Learning Connected MOOC would be a fine time to dust that poem off and make it into a digital poem.

I tried to use the lens of the camera as part of the poetry itself … not sure if it worked the way I wanted it to work …

Peace (in the past and present and future),

Twitter Chat Preview: Are You? Can You? Will You?

Join_the_CLMOOC_Twitter_ChatIs it Thursday already? Tonight, we will be hosting a Twitter Chat for the Making Learning Connected MOOC (#clmooc) and we invite you to come along for the ride … er, discussion … as we share out thinking about open spaces and public parks and other threads from the current Make Cycle that we are in.

CLMOOC Twitter Chat

  • When: Tonight (Thursday)
  • Time: 7-8 p.m. Eastern Time
  • Location: Twitter
  • Hashtag: #CLMOOC
  • What to bring: ideas, questions, insights and maybe an image or media to share
  • Suggestion: use the Tweetchat site as a way to manage the flow of discussion.


And I made this a few years ago: How_to_Survive_a_Twitter_Chat
Haven’t gotten outdoors yet? This handy flowchart might help you make that decision. Flowchart to get outside

And if you missed our Google Hangout/Make with Me the other night, it has now been archived and posted. We talked about youth outreach, the US National Park System, engaging teachers in the outdoors, and the Every Kid in the Park initiative. (The chat roll archive is here, too)

I hope to see your tweets tonight!

Peace (in the sharing),

A History of Arms and Innovation … the Springfield Armory

Here at the Making Learning Connected MOOC, we are discovering, or rediscovering, our parks this week. For me, in Western Massachusetts, there are plenty of smaller parks — private, state and municipal — but only one US National Park: the Springfield Armory, which was one of two main armories for the United States for many generations (the other is Harper’s Ferry, scene of John Brown’s raid.)

Although it is only a 30 minute drive, and new signs for the Springfield Armory dot the highway near Springfield, our urban center of Western Massachusetts, I had never visited or thought to visit, to be honest. The museum is located near the heart of Springfield, on the gated grounds of a community technical college.

But this summer, our Western Massachusetts Writing Project forged a partnership with the National Park Service, thanks to a grant from the National Writing Project, and knowing that this Make Cycle on parks would be coming up, I decided to visit the Springfield Armory with some of my sons and one of their friends. I went back another day to document a youth program that our WMWP teachers were running for a week for urban middle school youths, too.

I was impressed by the Armory, yet — and this is no surprise — I was taken aback by all the guns. I know. Of course, there are guns. It’s a museum at an armory, for goodness sake. Still, even so, the walls and walls, and displays, of guns of all sorts is a lot to take in, given what I teach about in my classroom and what I believe in my heart about the world. The guns sure got my son’s attention, and made me more than a little uncomfortable about our country’s legacy, even though I know it is an important part of our historical story and even though I am a former National Guardsman myself, trained to use a variety of weapons (and in that time of service, hoping I would never have to use what I was learning).

But seeing all of the weapons in the Armory, and imagining how they were used to take lives and to save lives, and to affect national aspirations, and utilized at the hands of mostly-young, mostly-poor men while politicians directed wars far from the battlefront … that historical story of who is called to fight for a country all became very evident as I walked through the museum, read the displays and examined the guns.

This is not the museum’s fault, of course. They have done a fine job of representing the Springfield Armory’s role in history, and an entire wing of the museum is themed on “innovation and engineering” and the ways the armory transformed the economy and manufacturing systems over time. It’s quite impressive. I do wonder, though, if teachers are apt to bring classes of students here, given the theme of weapons. I don’t know.

I was very impressed, however, on how the WMWP teachers and park rangers at the Springfield Armory used that tension as a learning experience. Youths at the camp dove into a theme of social justice, and history of Springfield, and the connections to the Armory, and they wrote poems, and make comics, and constructed 3D models of Springfield, and more.

What I learned myself is that history not only educates but also has the ability to create discomfort, and maybe it is through this discomfort that we come to understand our nation, and ourselves, a little bit better.

Peace (let it be),

Using PicMonkey to RangerMe

I am sure some of my CLMOOC friends would like to join in on the RangerMe impromptu make. So, here is a tutorial using the free but powerful PicMonkey photo editing. I chose online so that it can cross platforms.

First, you need to have the template ready for upload. Go to the photo in my Flickr account and download it.

Rangerme Template

Second, go to PicMonkey and click on “edit for free” link in upper right corner of the page (or create an account). Now, follow this visual tutorial:

How to RangerMe with PicMonkey1How to RangerMe with PicMonkey2How to RangerMe with PicMonkey3How to RangerMe with PicMonkey4

And be sure to share out!

Peace (in the make),

We’re Digging into the Great Outdoors

rangerme collectionI am fortunate to have been asked to help facilitate the last Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC with some new friends from the US National Park Service, which is nearing its 100th anniversary celebration next year. Together, we are asking participants and teachers alike to get outside and explore their local parks and open spaces, and reconnect to the world.

Our main collaborative project this week is a map. Called GeoTag Your Space, we’re hoping that folks take pictures, shoot videos, write poems, or whatever inspired them, and that they come back to add a tag to the collaborative map. You go explore, too, and then come back to collaborate with us by adding your own pin and media to the map. Need help with pins and media? Here is a tutorial designed to help walk you through some of that.

How about doing a RangerMe make project? Take this image (please) and add your face into the circle, and then share it out. It will depend upon your operating system, but some folks are just using a simple photo editing program to grab their face from one image and layering it on this template. Rangerme Template

See you outside!

If you are interested, come join the various conversations about this Make Cycle:

  • Join our Make With Me live broadcast with chat tonight (Tuesday, July 28) at 7p ET/4p PT/11pm UTC live streamed with a synchronous chat here at CLMOOC. This session will also be recorded so you can watch the archive later.
  • We will be hosting a Twitter Chat for Make Cycle #1 on Thursday, July 30 at 7p ET/4p PT/11pm UTC with the #clmooc hashtag

Peace (in the walk),


A Smattering of Poems in/of Public Spaces

I seem to have left a few poems scattered here and there during the week’s exploration of public space via the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and I finally rounded up a few to pull together into a single post.  Two of the poems are about the voiceless in our spaces, and the third is the hacking of a public space for art. The notion that we are all in these spaces together becomes a theme for exploration.


WeforgottenUsclmoocdonowAnd this one I shared earlier in the week: Clmooc


Peace (in poems and public space),

The Internet as Public Space 3: Talking Back to Howard

This is the third post in my inquiry around the Internet as a Public Space for the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and of course, I had to share out the views of Howard Rheingold, who has been exploring this notion for many years.

This video (which he made for one of his college courses but then shares it with everyone else) is entitled: Why the history of the public sphere matters in the Internet age.

I also invite you to talk back to Howard, via a Vialogues I have set up which allows you to annotate and comment as you watch the video unfold.

Peace (in the chatter),

Turning a Math Problem into a Video Essay

Wmwp tech workshop 2015

I was the lead facilitator at a Digital Writing Marathon yesterday, bringing in folks from various groups of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project for a day of play, tinkering, making and reflection on teaching practice with technology. Our workshop purposefully dovetailed nicely with the ethos of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, too.  I’ll share out some more of my end of the entire day in a future blog post but I wanted to share out a project that my WMWP Tech Team member Tom Fanning brought to us that really had us engaged.

Tom led part of the workshop, fusing math, writing, and technology in a really interesting way. He had us creating short video expository essays to explain how we solved a math word problem using Google Sheets (ie, Excel) to solve it.

Essentially, Tom laid out a math problem (two girls walking from two ends of town need to meet … where do they meet and when?), gave us some initial data points, and then proceeded to help us learn how to use Google Sheets to solve the problem. First, we did some data analysis, and then we turned our data into a chart that provided us with a visual of where the two girls would intersect. That information then helped us answer the questions of where and when they would meet.

That was all interesting enough, particularly for the room of English and Science teachers not all that accustomed to crunching numbers and generating data charts.

Tom then had us outline a “script” in which we had to explain our answer and our process to finding the answer, and use video to capture our thinking. Tom often uses this style of informal expository video capture as part of his work around digital portfolios (he shared a video of a student walking through some math strategies). The videos are rough, no editing needed, but are a perfect way to document understanding and voice in a meaningful archived way.

Here is what my partner, Rick, and I came up with:

What I like about Tom’s project is the cross-discipline approach (math and writing and technology); the discussion my partner and I had around what we would say to explain the problem; the way the video essay element becomes a real documentation of what we had learned; and the deeper use of Sheets/Excel to really dive into the concept of formulas and data bases (this part of the lesson could have gone another hour or two, I am sure.)

Peace (solves the problem),

The Internet as Public Space 2: We, the People

The Internet Map

The Internet global network is a phenomenon of technological civilization, and its exceptional complexity surpasses anything mankind has ever created. In essence, what we are dealing with here is a huge quantity of utterly unstructured information. The Internet map is an attempt to look into the hidden structure of the network, fathom its colossal scale, and examine that which is impossible to understand from the bare figures of statistics.

The Internet Map is an interesting site that calculates the connections made of people moving between websites to create a visualization of the Internet. Sort of.

As the developer says:

The Internet map is a bi-dimensional presentation of links between websites on the Internet. Every site is a circle on the map, and its size is determined by website traffic, the larger the amount of traffic, the bigger the circle.

Use the search engine at the Internet Map to look up countries and you quickly notice a trend: Google is everywhere. Seriously, if we open up our definition of Public Space to include the Internet (which we should), then it becomes clear rather quickly how enormous a reach Google has on the world through our search engines.

What does it say about us that we let a private, for-profit company have such a hold on the public sphere? It says we (me, too) value speed and convenience over privacy and data protection. It says that most of don’t even recognize the changed world from this vantage point because we don’t take the time to see the world this way.

But if the Internet is a public domain, or if it should be, then we all need to do more to protect that space from the encroachment and control of private companies. Are governments up to the challenge? Not likely. That just means we, the people of the world — the People of the Internet — need to be more vigilant and informed about our elected officials. We need to ask questions about privacy and Internet freedoms and more.

I also came across an interesting chart in a post the other day. It is entitled “Where the Internet Lives.” While the focus of the piece was on the visualization of who has connectivity, I kept wondering about the opposite: who does NOT have connectivity and what does that mean for the future of those places? I’m not saying the world is turning on technology alone, but lack of access should be a major concern of all of us.

Image: Ralph Straumann, Mark Graham, Oxford Internet Institute

Peace (and insight),