I find it fascinating how pretty much universal this is: a presenter/teacher talking out about the technological things they are doing as the Zoom crowd waits for whatever comes next. I’ve even found myself apologizing to my students to narrating what I am doing to get things ready for class when we are on Zoom.
I always imagine my students having a chuckle about it at my expense. Which I don’t mind at all. The mute button is … right … over … here.
The other day, I wrote about a collaborative poem that folks in #ds106, and #clmooc, and beyond had contributed to. With 106 lines in its construction, the poem has now become a place of possible remix. I had joked at one point at trying to write a Sea Shanty with some of the words (ie, TikTok trend) and yesterday morning, after watching a bunch of YouTube videos of the recent Shanty trend, I was pretty confident that I could remix something. Too confident. I tried to work out a song on my guitar and realized my Sea Shanty was becoming more folk-punk with a hint of Dylan.
Ah well. I abandoned that ship and sailed forward into this:
Here are my process notes for the writing and recording:
I dove into the 106 lines of poem and began to find and make couplets to the rhythm I had started on my guitar. Sometimes, I could use the phrasing outright. Other times, I had to do a little twisting and editing to make the words fit. If a line didn’t seem right, I moved on to the next.
I quickly realized again just how much interesting phrasing was going on in the collaboration, as people jumped into the original poem to add lines. I felt bad that I could not use something from every line but that was not going to happen or else it would be a 30 minute song. In the end, I had eight full stanzas of four lines of mostly rhymed couplets.
I realized a chorus and maybe a little musical bridge was needed to break up the song and to give it a hook. I tried a bunch of possibilities and ended up on a Believe/See theme (after abandoning a Breathe/See theme). The couplet lines in the chorus are mine, as they capture what the poem is all about, about remembering and connecting. The short musical interlude is a way to put space between the verse and the chorus.
For the music, I had first thought just to do a raw recording and be done with it. Guitar and voice. But then I had this bass line in my mind and I realized a simple drum pattern would propel it along, so I jumped into Garageband to lay down some tracks. From there, I moved the files to my computer, and recorded the guitar part.
The vocals, always my weakest point, came last and I nearly passed out, trying to fit all the words into the phrasing. At some points, you can hear me, gasping for breath on the phrasing. (or I hear me, anyway). I gave it a real Dylan reading/singing feel. You may notice that the first section has two verses, and then the next two sections, three verses, before landing on the last section, with one verse. It makes the center of the song feel longer than I’d like but when I had it another way, it all felt too long. Combining verses condensed the song.
I tweaked some of the audio settings here and there, and added an underlying vocal track to the chorus to give it more life and played an organ keyboard down low in the mix, but mostly, the song was recorded straightforward. I think it’s OK.
(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)
It’s a year or so into the Pandemic, and it seemed like a good time to have my sixth graders reflect in writing on life in the Pandemic. I framed their responses as a Message in a Bottle (digital version) for Future Historians. We used a Padlet wall to write and I asked them to share both the challenges and the positives.
While the Pandemic has been disruptive and terribly destructive, the lock-downs and social distancing have also opened up some unexpected opportunities for many of us. I wanted to make sure my students were not deep in just the negatives (they wrote plenty of these — from missing family to feeling isolated to wearing masks to missing the normalcy of school).
Here is some of what my sixth graders wrote on the positive side of things:
Acquired new goats (three of them for one student) and a donkey (for another)
Adopted many new puppies and rescue dogs
More time outdoors; hiking with family; Exploring spaces in town
Lots of online gaming with friends as social events
Dancing via Zoom, connecting with distant friends
Lots of extra time to work on new art projects
Time to skate on the frozen ponds and create lawn rinks
Bike riding and running together, as a family
Time to read lots and lots of new books
Horseback riding with family
Welcome break from constant “always on” sports seasons
Time enough to get caught up with schoolwork
Dreaming of the great vacations, once it is all over
Listening to more diverse music and discovering new artists
Lots of memes/too many memes/memes everywhere
Interesting Tik Tok videos and projects (like musicals)
I’m not completely sure what I am doing here, but Networked Narratives is designed on the reality that the Pandemic has changed learning at the University level. I followed the lead of some others in designing some art about this concept.
It’s not that I think this disruption will completely dismantle higher education, but it is going to be impacted (as it already is) by technology and remote learning and more.
That’s worth noting and thinking about, and the NetNarr folks (a mix of professors, classroom students and open learning folks, like me) are exploring the aspect of change in learning and the next question of: Then, What?
Like some others (such as my friend and collaborator, Wendy), I might tangle the two together, bundling my learning and explorations across platforms and networks and learning programs. Both NetNarr and Walk My World are situated primarily in college classrooms, at the university. I’m not there. I’m here.
I know there will be convergences around identity in a digital age; what learning looks like; how to be creative and collaborative; and much more. These are all things that interest me as a teacher, writer, learner, musician, creator.
The comic above, as I played with identity and media, was for the first introductory activity for Walk My World.
Through the course of the day yesterday, I wrote three different poems as gifts, inspired by our month-long Poetry Port adventure in the CLMOOC community, where folks are writing poems to daily themes, composing words as gifts to others, and requesting poems be written for them. (learn more)
The first poem, above, was written as a gift for the collective students in the Networked Narratives class, which I dip in and out of as an open participant. I went through and read a bunch of blog posts, in which they were examining Langston Hughe’s poem of Let America Be America Again, and thinking of its message in the modern day. The short poem is a reflection of what I read, and what I was thinking as I was reading, and leaving a trail of comments across the blogs.
Next, my CLMOOC friend Karen Young, who has been traveling, wrote that she had written a poem for CLMOOC the day before, but it had somehow never got posted on her travels, and the poem was now lost in transit. The poem was a gift for her.
Finally, as preparation for an upcoming inquiry group with the National Writing Project called Grapple, with a focus on algorithms and learning, we were asked to do some pre-reading and some pre-viewing, and this video about having “blind faith” in neutral technology struck a nerve with me on the conflicted concepts of clear human bias in computer code, so I wrote this small poem for the facilitators of the inquiry, with the screenshot as reference point.
Meanwhile, I continue writing poems each day, using the CLMOOC calendar themes to inspire me.
Yesterday, the theme was Peace:
Meet me where
the river releases
eddies, small clusters
of currents over
roots and rocks,
where we’ll race our
fingers over water
of mountain glacial melt
and time’s perpetual tears,
where we’ll glide our fingers
over the swirling surface,
until the tension becomes
calm; the circles, smooth;
the place where
we practice peace
Today, the theme is Friendship:
The bracelet snaps
my attention; she points
and explains that she’s
the purple, and her companion,
the pink, the two of them
twined forever on her wrist,
twisted forever together
with fingers, in friendship;
all while she’s reminding me
of this in her quiet voice,
as if I had forgotten, but
I had not
Early on, I was pretty active in the Networked Narratives course as an open online participant, as a sort of satellite with a few others to the actual university course being taught by Alan Levine and Mia Zamora. My comic strip alter-egos — The Internet Kid and Horse with No Name — were also part of the Twitter conversations and activities.
At some point, I admittedly lost track in a peripheral way (this is the beauty of RSS feeds — I kept up with the basics of the course progress in my RSS reader from the NetNarr site).
So, I was pleasantly surprised by Mia’s sharing of the completed NetNarr Field Digital Alchemy Guide that all the classroom students contributed to as part of their research (I am not sure if any open folks added to the journal, too). The course itself began pretty dark — with all the ways technology is used against us, in terms of privacy and surveillance and more — and then moved into the light — how can we, as individuals, can make a difference and maybe help foster change for the better.
Each piece of writing is a review of one specific issue of concern about the internet of 2019, following ones we studied, e.g. the surveillance economy, digital identity theft, fake news, digital redlining, toxic data, self expression, bots. Writers were not asked to “fix” or “solve” these big problems, but offer suggestions for individuals how to better thrive in these environments, hence the idea of a “field guide”.
They are written as a dialogue between the students and their invented digital alchemist mentor and will include links to the “notes in the field” left as web annotations.
The work done in the Journal is really rich with topics and insights and resources, and I applaud my former classmates (sort of) for the depth of their sharing in this journal, which is a valuable resource for anyone struggling with finding balance between the potential and the pitfalls of this technologically connected world.
I, for one, only vaguely know what F-insta is, so that’s where I’m heading off to learn more from the NetNarr-ians. Which topic grabs your attention? Be a real reader, and leave some comments for the explorers. Pose a question. Offer insight. Engage.
The CLMOOC Web Ring, still under construction with a few hiccups along the way (including this platform of Edublogs not quite in synch with how Web Rings work), is designed to provide paths to different CLMOOC blogging sites, so that you can move in circular patterns through the ring of writers. I still don’t have a full handle on Web Rings, yet, but I’m getting there, and Greg created this video tutorial on how to connect your space to the ring.
The CLMOOC RSS Planet, meanwhile, is a gathering of RSS feeds from bloggers who have been part of the CLMOOC experience over the years. Greg (with generous help from Sarah) set up a master feed that pulls in RSS into one place — one “planet” where we all orbit as constellations.
You can see both the CLMOOC Web Ring and the RSS Planet at the site that Greg has set up. Here’s another example of CLMOOC venturing into unknown terrain, under the ethos of making connections with each other and hopefully, expanding out the Affinity Space in different ways. And all with Greg’s continued guidance and support and, well, cheerleading, around the IndieWeb movement and Domain of One’s Own concept of DS106 and other connected networked spaces (a shift which I might need to start re-thinking myself this year, too).
Networked Narratives held another of its regular Studio Visits earlier this week as the theme of the online course with an open invitation (allowing me and others to join in) shifts from the darkness of the web and technology to the light and the possible. Things are going from negative to positive.
Here, Alex Saum is the guest, and she has been exploring the world of NetArt, or the leveraging of technology platforms to explore the notions of art. This topic is something I have long been interested in (see Blink Blink Blink as an early experiment), so I popped the video into Vialogues so I can slow-watch and think out loud in the margins.
“We’re looking at the relationship between fake and real.” — NPR Host Alix Spiegel
The National Public Radio’s Invisibilia program turned its focus on the idea of our Invisible Selves, the way our online social media-infused identities are often in conflict with our offline identities. This radio program — Point, Shoot — is long, as a deep dive into an important issue, but it is worth the listen.
(Note: there is some profanity and references to violence)
Radio reporter Hanna Rosin centers, through her exploration of one person’s tragic story, on a boy named Brandon whose posting on social media led to tragic results in his small city, and she notes this premise:
“Maybe his online life would open the door to some dark side of Brandon that his family and some of his school pals knew nothing about … “
Later, after her exploration of how Brandon sought to represent himself on social media with guns and hints of violence — in contrast to the boy he was in real life — only to killed for his social media posting, which were seen as taunts to those who killed him, Rosen writes:
“We all do some version of this. Curate an aspirational online self. Most of us have one. And we outfit it with different props and costumes – like heirloom tomatoes, the dog we just rescued, a protest poster, a funny casual quip we spent 10 minutes crafting. This person has a relationship to us. But it is not us. “
In her discussions with family, and friends, the disconnect between who they knew — Brandon, the boy — with the identity he curated online — Brandon, the gangster — caused confusion that such posts would lead to his death.
… the problem is we’ve moved into a phase where the image – the version of Brandon constructed from a Facebook post can very easily eclipse the real. And we are just stubbornly failing to reckon with the consequences of that. It doesn’t matter who Brandon really was.
The confusion spread like a virus to Brandon’s friends and his enemies and the police and the courts until an entirely new code governed every part of the city, a code built on a giant misunderstanding about image and reality and how quickly the boundary between them is shifting.
A story like Brandon’s reminds us of how we need to be talking to all of our kids about identity and social media, and the power and consequences of words and images that get shared, sometimes in a fast and furious way. You can post something you think is cool, only to see it careen out of your control, and sometimes, that has tragic results.