Dialogue Notebooks: Using And Creating AI Thinking Partners

NowComment and AI: Dialogue Journal

I am fortunate to be connected to folks in my National Writing Project circles like Paul Allison, who administers Youth Voices network and the NowComment annotation site. Paul has been at the forefront in my circles in thinking a lot and experimenting with the possibilities of Generative AI as a technology tool that could help readers and writers.

I had noticed that Paul and a few others NWP-affiliated folks were experimenting with the concept of AI Thinking Partners at NowComment — AI generated bots that engage with a text — but I have only just dipped my toes into what he has been doing, now that my school year is over. Then I saw him ask folks to experiment by keeping a daily Dialogue Journal in NowComment, and experiment with the AI Thinking Partners that he and others have been building out (using the API of ChatGPT).

I jumped in and I have made my journal (from June 24-July 1) public, so feel free to peruse my daily writing, which was themed each day on thinking about Artificial Intelligence (which I have been doing a lot since ETMOOC2 in the Spring). Then, after my journal writing, I would ask the Thinking Partner to engage a bit in discussions with me in the margins.

Read my journal

Paul also met with me to talk through some of the steps to creating my own Thinking Partners, and I made three: JazzHands, with a creative arts persona; HaikuHere, which is designed to turn a text into haiku; and WriteOutRanger, which is an experiment for the Write Out project to have an AI “park ranger” engage in discussions about place-based learning.

AI Thinking Partners

I am still thinking through the elements of all this, and wondering in the back of my head how this might be helpful or not to students in a classroom. For now, I am in experiment mode, playing around and trying to learn through experience the possibilities of embedded AI Thinking Partners. I know I need to learn a lot more about Prompt Engineering, and Paul and others have gathered together a lot of resources to explore on this topic.

Peace (and Inquiry),

PS — Do you want to set up your own AI Dialogue Notebook in NowComment? Here are the instructions at the NowComment site. Let me know how it goes.

Write Across America: Nebraska

I’ve been circling around a few days late to the National Writing Project’s Write Across America visits, in which different sites host writing activities. The last virtual visit was to Nebraska, a state which I don’t know much about. Thus, the title of my poem, which I then made into a digital format. And I sure hope I got the basic facts right, too.

You can read the poem as text here.

Peace (Wandering The Terrain),

Write Across America: Hawai’i Writing Project and the Concept of Mo’olelo

Write Across America

The National Writing Project just kicked off its annual summer writing adventure called Write Across America, in which various NWP sites host online gatherings and share place-based prompts to spark writing. I missed the first session from the Hawai’i Writing Project, but the presentations are archived, so I went in to see what had been happening.

One of the prompts had to do with the native Hawaiian concept of Mo’olelo — a way to be spiritually connected to the native world — and it was described here. I liked this ending of that post: “Everything in the world was alive with a presence, vitality, and meaning that our worldview does not recognize.”

I am not suggesting that I completely understand the concept. I am not a native Hawaiian and my roots to my land seems less connected that I would like. But I used that idea of connection to the spirit of the land for a poem response.

Here’s what I wrote:

don’t listen
barely hear
forget noticing
lose ourselves

the stories
of the world
embedded in this place
remain undiscovered

wander this terrain
of rock and soil
and river

need to linger
longer in the quiet,
listening for


should listen
can hear
are noticing
find ourselves


Peace (and Roots),

ChatGPT: Alarm Bells And Learning Possibilities

ChatGPT Play Skit The Case of the Missing Jazz Song

First, it was Wikipedia that would be the end of student research. Then it was Google and other search engines that would be the end of student discovery and learning of facts and information. Now it might be ChatGPT that might be the end of student writing. Period.

As with the other predictions that didn’t quite pan out in the extreme but still had important reverberations across learning communities, this fear of Machine Learning Chat may not work itself out as extreme as the warnings already underway in teaching circles make it seem, but that doesn’t mean that educators don’t need to take notice about text-based Machine Learning systems, a technology innovation that is becoming increasingly more powerful and user-friendly and ubiquitous.

For sure, educators need to think deeply about what we may need to do to change, adapt and alter the ways we teach our young writers what writing is, fundamentally, and how writing gets created, and why. If students can just pop a teacher prompt into an Machine Learning-infused Chat Engine and get an essay or poem or story spit out in seconds, then we need to consider about what we would like our learners to be doing when the screen is so powerful. And the answer to that query — about what can our students do that machine learning can’t — could ultimately strengthen the educational system we are part of.

ChatGPT: Write A Sonnet

Like many, I’ve been playing with the new ChatGPT from OpenAI since it was released a few weeks ago. As I understand it (and I don’t, really, at any deep technical level), it’s an computational engine that uses predictive text from a massive database of text. Ask it a question and it quickly answers it. Ask for a story and it writes it. Ask for a poem or a play (See my skit at the top of the page) or an essay, or even lines of computer code — it will generate it.

ChatGPT: Literary Analysis Paragraph

It’s not always correct (The Lightning Thief response looks good but has lots of errors related to a reading of the text itself) but the program is impressive in its own imperfect ways, including that it had access to the Rick Riordan story series in its database to draw upon. And, as powerful as it is, this current version of ChatGPT may already be out of date, as I think the next version of it is in development (according to the hosts at Hard Fork), and the next iteration will be much faster, much larger in terms of scale of its database, and much “smarter” in its responses.

Can you imagine a student taking a teacher prompt assignment and putting it into the Chat engine, and then using the text as their own as classroom submission? Maybe. Probably. Will that be plagiarism? Maybe.

Or could a student “collaborate” with the Chat engine, using the generative text as a starting point for some deeper kind of textual writing? Maybe. Probably. Could they use it for revision help for a text they have written? Maybe. Probably. Right now, I found, it flattens the voice of the writing.

ChatGPT: Revise This Text

Could ChatGPT eventually replace the need for teachers? Maybe, although I doubt it (or is that just a human response?)

But, for educators, it will mean another reckoning anyway. Machine Learning-generated chat will force us to reconsider our standard writing assignments, and reflect on what we expect our students to be doing when they writing. It may mean we will no longer be able to rely on what we used to do or have always done. We may have to tap into more creative inquiry for students, something we should be doing anyway. More personal work. More nuanced compositions. More collaborations. More multimedia pieces, where writing and image and video and audio and more work in tandem, together, for a singular message. The bot can’t do that (eh, not yet, anyway, but there is the DALL-E art bot and there’s a music/audio bot under development and probably more that I don’t know about.)

Curious about all this, I’ve been reading the work of folks like Eric Curts, of the Control Alt Achieve blog, who used the ChatGPT as collaborator to make his blog post about the Chat’s possibilities and downsides. I’ve been listening to podcasts like Hard Fork to get a deeper sense of the shift and fissures now underway, and how maybe AI Chats will replace web browser search engines entirely (or not). I’ve been reading pieces in the New York Times and the Washington Post and articles signalling the beginning of the end of high school English classes. I’m reading critical pieces, too, noting how all the attention on these systems takes away from the focus on critical teaching skills and students in need (and as this post did, remind me that Machine Learning systems are different from AI)

And I’ve been diving deeper into playing more with ChatGPT with fellow National Writing Project friends, exploring what the bot does when we post assignments, and what it does when we ask it to be creative, and how to try push it all a bit further to figure out possibilities. (Join is in the NWPStudio, if you want to be part of the Deep Dive explorations)

Yeah, none of know really what we’re doing, yet, and maybe we’re just feeding the AI bot more information to use against us. Nor do we have a clear sense of where it is all going in the days ahead, but many of us in education and the teaching of writing intuitively understand we need to pay attention to this technology development, and if you are not yet doing that, you might want to start.

It’s going to be important.

Peace (keeping it humanized),

Music Playlist Poems (via Write Across America)

The National Writing Project is once again hosting a traveling online writing festival called Write Across America, and once again, I keep missing the live events and coming to the prompts a bit late. Whatever. I still enjoy the experience and a few weeks back, the Chippewa Writing Project in Michigan hosted, with a music theme that I could not resist.

They had a slew of Michigan-rooted musicians, groups and songwriters, and I chose five to work with, listening to their music as I wrote my poems. I also used the opportunity to continue to work on my draft and revision skills, working and reworking this set of poems over many days. You can read the text of the poems here, if that’s more to your liking.

Peace (and music),

Collaborative Poetry: Making a Poem in MidAir

I used Etherpad to invite some colleagues in a new National Writing Project social space to create a poem with me. The video documents the writing of the poem, via Etherpad’s cool time-lapse feature. Since Etherpad now removes all ‘pads’ after a time of inactivity, the full poem can be read here.

What I love about these kinds of activities is the unexpected, the way a fellow writer can take a few lines in a new direction, and how the next person tugs the thread and pulls the poem forward, too. It’s not always in complete sync but going into a collaboration like this means giving up preconceptions about where a piece of writing is going.

(and see how Terry created his own video version)

Peace (in poems),

Book Review: Annotation

Annotation | The MIT Press

(Note: I was one of those people who took up an early invitation by the writers to add some thoughts via crowd annotation to an early version of this book)

Annotation and Curation seem to be critical skills and processes that might help us all thread together our disparate and often confusing online information flow in this modern age. When we annotate, we leave a trail of thoughts and discourse. When we curate, we pull those trails together in meaningful ways.

In the new book, Annotation, researcher/educators Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia (two people I know well from through the National Writing Project) explore the power of social annotation of texts through a variety of lens and make the case for a future in which our comments and conversations across platforms and texts could connect, and transform the way we think, learn, read and communicate with others.

Annotation Annotations

Comics made as annotation to Annotation

This small book from MIT Press has both historical references (the way annotations helped readers make sense or talk back to books in the margins of those books, that were then passed around communities) to the Talmud (religious text annotations across time) to the way annotation helps learners with reading comprehension and text questioning, through solo annotation (for oneself) and crowd annotation (writing in the margins along with others).

As someone who has used platforms like Hypothesis, Vialogues and NowComment and others to annotate with others on a variety of texts and media, and found the experience empowering and enlightening, I appreciated the many angles that Kalir and Garcia bring to the table in their book.

They raise critical and ethical questions of content ownership (does the writer of the text need to grant permission for online annotation?); whether platforms are texts and writing on those platforms, annotation (Is Twitter a text and tweets, annotations to that text?); how marginal voices might find a way to be heard amid so much noise of the world and power imbalance; and so much more.

Annotation will provide you with a deep look into how annotation has evolved into the digital age and leave you with the hopeful ideas that annotation has the possibility of pushing back against disinformation as well as becoming part of a larger quilt to reconnect our disparate online selves and words together, whatever the platform. And in doing so, Garcia and Kalir argue, the world might become a more interesting and more positive place to engage in with others, while solidifying your own presence.

There is a conversation underway about the book and ideas on Twitter with the #AnnoConvo hashtag.

Peace (in the margins),



Stories of the Poems: NWP

NWP logo

I enjoyed a series of video interviews that Tanya Baker, of National Writing Project, did with poets called Story of a Poem, digging deep into a single poem with the poets and then ending with an invitation to write. It was like Song Exploder (a favorite podcast of mine) but with poems. I took the poets up on the invitation to write.

Here are my poems:

Squiggles Break My Art

kicked this po em
around somuch
the words have

a p
a r


computer squiGGles
break my


Inspired by George Ella Lyon via https://youtu.be/0L8OKN2gmbE

Words Bring Us Through

Where are the notes
when you need them
the most

the tongues of strings
that have no name
but still, sing:

cancion, oran,
kanzunetta, laul,
canco, abesti

Rest, then, for when
you least expect it to:
Words bring us through

Inspired by Dan (Zev) Levinson prompt of language and his “Sundailed” via

Circular Revision

with the birds,


Wake with
dawn breaking
to the songs
of birds singing


Be awake;
Birds sing
this day into


The day
sings you


Inspired by Shirley McPhillips and “Uncommon Education” via

Every time you lose something — no matter what it is — you find something else…
– Patrice Vecchione


Sometimes I wonder
which reader found it –
that small notebook
of scratched stories,
pieces remembered
only after discovering
an empty pocket
at the train terminal
where I remained,
suddenly reminded,
how ephemeral is ink,
and paper, merely

Inspired by “Finders Keepers” by Patrice Vecchione and the call to write about something that has been lost via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2fiEv_bKh8

With a Kiss From Hippocampus

Dipping fingers inside these fluid lands, inside what we don’t understand, so we go where the flow takes us – it breaks us – this tumbling turmoil off rock and ridge where such creatures live, where monsters like this exist – this fall, it breaks us – it takes us, it makes us humble again, for we might yet comprehend how every drop that comes apart from gravity’s kiss is also a drop where worlds resist the pull, such as this, this water, this rain, this, it takes us, this falling, this calling, it draws us to wonder, again, forward, towards bliss

Inspired by H.K. Hummel’s discussion of her prose poem: “The Fable of the Sailor and the Kraken” – and invitation to write about mythological creatures via https://youtu.be/G2MbsnA157E

Writing Rails of Ghost and Bone

That day we were walking
through wooded trails,
lost but never alone,
when we came upon
the remains of rails,
the tail end of the past
clutching the earth
with taut iron fist

how could we resist
the sudden urge to grip
the hammered steel,
slumbering on stone,
and wait on the day
for an oncoming rumble
of ghost and bone?

Inspired by t.l. sander’s poem “This” and the invocation to play with language and poetry via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSoAtx60v4E 

Peace (and poems),

Walk My World Comic: A Turning Point for Teaching

Turning PointThe latest prompt in Walk My World is a look at a “turning point” in our own narrative stories — a place where something shifted and took you in a new direction. Of course, every life has many of these decision paths, and some are too personal to share in a public space like this.

My comic is about a moment as a new teacher — just coming out of ten years as a newspaper journalist — when a friend, Paul, shared an idea and a technology so new at the time, we didn’t even know the word: blog. But I immediately saw the possibilities for my students as connected writers in shared spaces, and for how technology might add to my writing curriculum, and I never looked back.

All of it, thanks to the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the National Writing Project.

Peace (in a moment of insight),

Curation: SmallPoems of December

Advent candles“Advent candles” by Markus Grossalber is licensed under CC BY 2.0

My National Writing Project friend Deanna has been gathering teachers and writers together online pretty regularly, to inspire and connect. I’ve missed every one of her online sessions but I have used her prompts and poems as threads for my own small poems each morning. I am most appreciative, too.

For December, she posted and shared a slideshow of an Advent calendar, and I used those poems for a poem response each morning for 25 days (I have missed at least one; I’m not sure – but I see I used one poem, twice). I wrote these poems each morning elsewhere but now I want to curate them together.

First, my last poem – a gift of thanks to Deanna.

Now, here are the titles of the original poems with links back to my responses. You can read the originals either through Deanna’s presentation or there are direct links at the bottom of the page to each of my poems, winding a path back to the original:

Peace (together),