The Prospect of Participatory Culture

I was one of a handful of guests recently on the wonderful Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast, where the discussion centered on a white paper put out by The New Media Literacies Center at MIT. The paper, by Henry Jenkins, focuses in on the concept of how students can move forward, navigate and thrive in the new world of media and technology. (Oh, TTT is also up for an Edublog Award this year)

You can access the paper titled Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, by Henry Jenkins.

Listen to the podcast at Teachers Teaching Teachers

You can see a video put forth by the Project for New Media Literacies:

This is one list of skills that the white paper talks about for our students:

Play – the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving
Performance – the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery
Simulation – the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes
Appropriation – the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content
Multitasking – the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details
Distributed Cognition – the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities
Collective Intelligence – the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal
Judgment – the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources
Transmedia Navigation – the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities
Networking – the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information
Negotiation – the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms
Visualization – the ability to interpret and create data representations for the purposes of expressing ideas, finding patterns, and identifying trends

What do you think?
Peace (in sharing),

Writing Processes of Digital Storytelling

Here is the workshop that I co-presented at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting a few weeks ago in San Antonio. I had a wonderful co-facilitator in Pen Campbell and the discussions were just wonderful, even in a large cavernous room with about 50 people.

Our focus was on the writing element of digital stories, but we also had long discussion on the elements of digital stories. I’ve included the podcasts of the session, if you are interested, and the website that was the heart of this session is a collaboration between NWP and Pearson Foundation that Pen and I were part of. You can view the website (still in beta) here. This presentation is also now part of my own collection of workshops around writing and technology.

Also, the short video examples that we shared are not in this presentation. Sorry.

(go to presentation)

Listen to the Podcast of the workshop:

Peace (in sharing),

Love Hate That Cat

Hate That Cat By Sharon Creech

Jack is back, and so is Miss Stretchberry, but this time it is a cat at the center of the story, and not a dog. You may remember how much I loved the book, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. I use Love That Dog in my poetry unit, reading it aloud to my students and using the poems and sense of exploration of poetic styles as a way to reach my young writers.

Well, Creech has done it again, but this time, the book is Hate That Cat, and just like its predecessor, the book is infused with poems from the canon (Edgar Allen Poe, William Carlos Williams, Valerie Word, Lord Tennyson, etc.) as Jack tries to come to grips with two things: how to find love for cats and how to explain his love for his mother, who is deaf. The book is written in the form of a poetic journal between Jack and his teacher, who remains a silent yet supportive and loving presence just off the pages of the book. Everyone should have a teacher like Miss Stretchberry in their life.

The cat element revolves around a black cat that scratched him and hurt him when he went out of his way to save it — thus the refrain: I hate that cat. But then, even as he continues to cherish the memories of his dog, Sky, that formed the center of Love That Dog, he gets a kitten and his heart melts. The black cat that he hates so much later redeems itself with Jack.

The mother element is more delicate and unfolds slowly, as Jack begins to tell what it is like to have a mother who is deaf and signs with her hands for language. He wonders early in the book, before we even know about his mother: how does someone who can’t hear sound experience a poem with sound words within it? He finds a way, and the book ends with a poetry reading, with his mother in the audience, as Jack signs his poems from the front of the room.

As with Love That Dog, I found myself getting very emotional at certain points in Hate That Cat and if you are not moved by Jack and his poems, then … I don’t know. Creech uses a sense of humor to set up the deeper emotional experiences from Jack’s world.

Along the way, Jack learns about poetic techniques such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, assonance, dissonance, and more. And Creech tosses a little literary fire into the mix by having Jack’s uncle, a college professor of English, argue with Jack about what makes a poem a poem (his uncle believes that poems must have grand themes, using intricate rhyming patterns and assures Jack that what he is writing in class are not poems at all, but just scribbles of words).

The book puts me into a bit of a conundrum: do I drop Love That Dog for Hate That Cat? Or do I find a way to use both?

Peace (in the wonder of books),

Lending Small, Acting Big, Learning Lessons

For the past year or so, I have heard about the Kiva organization and was interested, but I never took the plunge. It took a humorous piece in Time Magazine by Joel Stein to finally convince me to check out Kiva, which is a micro-lending organization that pools donations from web-based users to help strugging and emerging small business owners from the developing world. It works in increments of $25, so I lend out $25 and that is added to your $25 and so on. Then, the small business buys some equipment or expands its retail line or territory, pays back its loan and my $25 can get re-invested in some other business. (See a comic about Kiva and the way it works with other small lending agencies)

I love this concept, so I have put in a stake into a couple of businesses.

Then, this week, I found a post by Bud Hunt, who was following the trail of Karl Fisch, who has created a group within Kiva for educators and urges the concept of “Paying it Forward.” This is what Bud wrote:

Today, Karl Fisch posted a message on his blog inviting members of his PLN (Personal Learning Network) to join Team Shift Happens and contribute however much possible to Kiva. Kiva is different than other charities in that it is a micro-lending website. People, like you and I, can loan money ($25 and up) directly to individual entrepeneurs in the developing world.

On Karl’s suggestion, I’ve donated $25 to an entrepreneur and I also purchased two $25 gift certificates that I have emailed to two members of my PLN. I’m asking them to do the same as I did:

  1. Log in to Kiva.
  2. Join Team Shift Happens (click on Community and search keyword, “shift”)
  3. Choose the entrepreneur to whom they will loan the value of the gift certificate.
  4. Then consider doing the same thing I did – purchase two $25 gift certificates and email them to two members of their PLN with the same request to “pay it forward.”
  • Make a $25 loan yourself, or
  • Do what I did; make a $25 loan, then purchase two $25 gift certificates and email them to folks you know and ask them to do the same, and/or

So, I did join the Shift Happens team and I did add two loans to the group, and I will be sending forward a gift certificate or two to some friends in my network, with hopes that they might do the same. It’s a great way to give, and follow the impact of your giving (Kiva gives you updates on the status of the loan and project).

But, I have a group of students working on a Teach the Teachers Day at our school (set for Dec. 23) and they want it as a fundraising activity (it costs a dollar for a student to teach a lesson in class). I mentioned Kiva to them as a possible place for the funds raised by the Teach the Teachers Day, and they were very excited about the concept. So, my intention is to give the students complete responsibility for choosing the business and investing fundraising money and following the progress of the loan. I think it will be a great lesson in financing, collaborative efforts and social responsibility.

Peace (in small but powerful doses),

When Geeks Get Mad

The latest series in my Boolean Squared comics is all about what happens when the geek kids get picked on by the school bullies. They respond in the only way they know … with technology. Come on in and see what Boolean and Urth are up to when they deal with “the bully boys” at their school.

The twice-weekly comic is found at the Springfield Republican Newspaper. But here is the RSS feed and also my own home to the Boolean Squared collection.

Peace (in kids),

21st Century Skills

This is a nifty graphic showing the skills that kids need in this world. This comes from Edutopia (a magazine I used to get for free, but have dropped now that they want money. It was nice a freebie, but to me, it didn’t seem worth the cash). I like how create and collaborate are just as prominent as the learning that goes on in the classroom.

What do you think?

(See image at Edutopia site)

Peace (in the present and future),

Writing a Song for the Holidays

Our church does a holiday children’s pageant every year, but this year, there is a twist. A musician who works with schools and kids all overt the area is helping to develop an original pageant with original music from the Congregation, which I think is pretty neat. He received a whole bunch of lyrics and song ideas, and I sent forward mine, too.

My song is called All Join Hands and I was trying to capture the spirit of the church as a welcoming and open place that does quite a bit of social justice work. I then recorded it twice: first, by myself, as a demo, and then with my band — The Sofa Kings — one night, quickly showing them the chords, the words and then punching the “record” button and seeing what happened.

The song will be in the pageant in a few weeks, I think, and I will try to record it with the kids singing it. I showed it to them last week and it was neat to hear the young voices singing out the lyrics.

Here are the lyrics:

All Join Hands

All join hands
and light the candle
(’cause) We are one tonight
Peace and love
and faith inside us
(yes) We are one tonight

Everybody, everywhere
We’re reaching out for you — don’t despair
A kindness offered — and one received
A treasure in your heart
is a tender place to start
There’s room enough for you and me


Though you may travel many roadways
In search of safety — and blessed byways
Beneath this banner — we receive you
With hope in our hearts
It’s a tender way to start
There’s room enough for you and me


And here are the recordings:

Peace (be with you),

Mulling over the Heroic Journey Map Project

I’ve been sitting on this project for at least a week or so, thinking about how it all went. In a nutshell: after reading The Lightning Thief novel and then a graphic interpretation of The Odyssey, my sixth graders created their own heroic journey home, using Google Maps and Picasa photo sharing. The “monsters” they could encounter came from an entirely different project that we had just done, which was handy.  I had never done this project before and it came to me as a sort of inspiration one day.

So, how did it go?

Let first say that my students were really into this project, once they grasped it all. There were certainly a number of steps (write your journey, learn about Google Maps, learn how to embed pictures from Picasa into Google, etc.) But they were game, and the few who “got it” wandered around the room with me, helping the others. In fact, one day when I was away, I bravely let the sub give them access to the computers to work on the project, and they did a wonderful job on their own.

The difficulties mostly lay in the fact that my students do not have email, so I created an umbrella Gmail account that we all shared. On the positive side, this meant that I had access to all of their maps (there were 17 maps in all) at all times. The negative side is that sometimes, students would accidentally click on someone else’s maps (I will say “accidentally” here and give them the benefit of the doubt) and made changes, which then had to be fixed.

But some of the maps were just fantastic and I put the entire collection into a Google Sites that I set up to showcase the group of maps. See a couple of examples here:

We also talked about moving their project into Google Earth, so that they can see their projects on another scale, but we sort of ran out of time. (This took a lot longer than I had planned, as usual, and I am hoping they are accessing the project at home, too).

As a final reflection, I had them take an online survey about reading The Odyssey as a graphic novel and creating their maps. Here are their overall responses:

(see larger version)

As part of the reflection, I posed the question: why in the world did I assign this project to them?

Here is what they wrote:

  • To get us to use new software and also to have us learn how to make maps about the two the books
  • So we could have fun and we could explain our own sorta journey meeting with Greek gods or mythical creatures IT WAS SO MUCH FUN THANKS SO MUCH MR HODGSON YOUR THE B-E-S-T
  • Because you wanted to see how good we were with technology.
  • I think you had us do the project so we could learn to use new tech stuff, help us learn about the book more, and to have fun.
  • It goes along with the story
  • You had use us do that because it is like the Odyssey.
  • I think you wanted use to do that because we can make anything up.
  • To be more creative and be able to think of our own journeys that are like the books we just read. THANKS MR.HODGSON THIS PROJECT WAS AWESOME.
  • So we could become more familiar with the c.o.w.s, have fun,and be able to use the monster exchange project in a creative way.
  • Because either you just felt like it or this was like our version of Odysseus’s journey.
  • I think you gave us this project because you want us to become good writers and you wanted us to think about how would it be if we went on a journey.:-)
  • Because the Odyssey has a journey
  • I don’t know, but it was fun…….
  • I think you had us do this mapping project because it shows how to use technology and make our own journey.
  • I think you had us do the mapping project to almost relate to Odysseus and to look how a journey is spread across the world. I also think the mapping project helped us write our own adventure, which related to both the Odyssey and the Lightning Thief.
  • So we could have a chance to use technology.
  • I think you had us do this because so we would understand it better.

I also asked them what advice they would give to improve the project.

Here are their responses:

  • We could have our own accounts.
  • to make your own username and password
  • A way we could make the mapping project better is if you looked up pictures of mythical creatures like hellhounds and hundred handed ones so we could encounter those on our journey. other than that it was A-W-E-S-O-M-E!! <3
  • Make us not have to write so much
  • I think if we added some pictures of say Poseidon and other gods it would make it better.
  • Making us do the project on Google earth
  • More gods.
  • Nothing. It was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • It’s fine. No changes needed, but you might want to scan the monsters, not take photos of them.
  • This project was too awesome that there was no possible way it could have been better!:-)
  • I don’t know. It was good
  • Making a separate account for everyone so that only the student and their teacher know the password to their account, so that no one else could change their map, as we experienced, and found it not to be a good thing.
  • We could have more pictures so we have our monsters then the monster exchange ones. 😀
  • I think that we could have taken a blank map and drawn our adventure. I would have rather had it be more artistic; I love technology, but sometimes art is better to explain a story. Google Maps was cool to look at, by I didn’t like the whole setup that much. I didn’t enjoy watching other people changing other people’s maps, it was extremely frustrating to watch this.
  • I think that the projects could be better if we did not have to copy and paste pictures on to Google Maps.
  • Battle a lot more monsters.

Yes, this project was very worthwhile and engaging, and not only did it use technology to connect them to reading and writing, it also allowed me to talk about the use of technology platforms they knew nothing about before.

Now, I need to grade them, and I am thinking: I wish I didn’t have to. I wish we could let the experience be the learning and not assign a number/letter to the experience. But we are not there yet, and they are expecting a grade.

Peace (in points on the world),

A PhotoFriday Picture Story

Allanah showed me this site — called Capzles — that seemed intriguing, so I grabbed all of my submissions to the PhotoFriday Flickr group and made this little show, with some original music of mine.

I think the site is pretty nifty. And it was incredibly easy to use — I uploaded, created and embedded this whole thing in a short amount of time.

(You can also view the show directly with this link. I noticed that the nice background I created in Capzles is missing in the embed widget, so it is worth the visit, I think)

Peace (in slides),