OnPoEvMo: Beyond the Cloth of Broken Glass April 2007

The past few weeks, this poem has bubbled up slowly. It was no doubt inspired by the rediscovery of my writing notebook from my Summer Institute with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. The words drew me back to that magical summer of writing, teaching and connecting with this network of people and friends.


Beyond the Cloth of Broken Glass

April 2007

Listen to the poem

I came upon myself today
and I was trapped inside the page
of an ratty old notebook that had been sitting there
for ages and ages
and I reflected on the hours — oh, those glorious hours —
in which I had been the writer, and nothing more,
just a pure scribbler armed with paper, pen, a locked door and an open mind.

And so, I removed all of my clothes
and danced naked among ruins of the long-forgotten poetry
of rhythm and rhyme that had been long lost to time’s fickle ways.
I squeezed in among the half-finished chords littered with abandoned notes
just yearning for a special place somewhere farther up the staff
but now rendered immobile with forgetfulness.
I inched forward onto the stage, into the plays, an actor composed of thoughts,
and inhabited the characters who moved inside my singular spotlight of mind,
and then vanished behind the curtain call of the closed notebook cover.

It was then that I found the letter,
the note that I wrote on a day when I had nothing better to do
but muse upon the future, the “me” that now reads the “me,”
and I uncorked this bottle
and sank down into the words that I created for only my eyes to see:

Write with your heart, search with your soul,
hold tight to the love,
so that you don’t fall back into the weariness
and uncertainty that seems to shove up against you at every turn,
and, for God’s sake,
don’t wrap yourself up again in that cloth of broken glass —
the shards will surely cut anyone
who comes in close and you — me, we — we may not last
if you have to go it alone in this world.

Bits of glass stung my tongue as the memory crawled back
and I remembered, finally, what this was,
this pad of paper filled with words from some other time
that had been squirreled away.
It had been a lifeline holding me together
when everything else was coming undone
and I feared the loosening of the threads above all else.

I closed the past and tucked it back where it belonged
and let the words of that letter settle in and live with me again as a friend
as I pulled up my blanket of silk and cotton threads and connectiveness and comfort
and silently slipped into a safe sleep.

Peace (in poetry),

Guest Host for TTT

So this is what I get for suggesting a topic to Paul Allison for the wonderful Teachers Teaching Teachers show — he asks me to guest host this Wednesday night (9 p.m. Eastern time) on the topic of how we can integrate the Web 2.0 technology with storytelling. I am, of course, honored and excited to be asked to sit in the Big Chair and I want to invite you all to join me.

Here is my blurb:

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Using Technology to Tell Stories

The concept of digital storytelling has been around for some time as people began to envision the impact that the visual and aural elements could have on the traditional writing process. Video documentaries, radio reflections and other experiments have blossomed with the Web 2.0 world. There are many publishing sources and many means of expression. But what does it all mean? How can the interactive web be tapped into to bring storytelling and composition to an even deeper level of meaning for the writer and for the audience?

Join guest host Kevin Hodgson, who is the technology liaison of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, this week on Teachers Teaching Teachers as he seeks to explore some of these questions. Kevin is a sixth grade teacher who has students create digital picture books (last year’s theme — math, and this year’s theme — science) and stop-motion claymation projects (in which his sixth graders collaborate with second graders). He has been exploring the intersection of the world of digital storytelling and the Web 2.0 frontier in recent months with NWP Colleague Bonnie Kaplan through a community Weblog and a new collaborative ABC movie project that features more than a dozen teachers throughout the country who are contributing video segments to a larger collaborative project that uses online tools to plan, produce and distribute a digital story.

The program will try to showcase some different aspects of storytelling and technology, brainstorm some ways that people can get started, and consider what the future holds for telling stories in a digital environment.

Our guests will include Tonya Witherspoon, who has run a claymation movie camp for kids; Gail Desler, who is part of the ABC Movie Project and a deep thinker on the pedagogy underlying the use of technology in the classroom; and others.

Please join us for the conversation this Wednesday evening on EdTechTalk.com (6pm PDT / 9pm EDT / 1am GMT (global times).

Some Resource Links

Kevin and Bonnie’s Using Technology to Tell Stories Weblog (http://techstories.edublogs.org/)
More information about the ABC Movie Project (http://techstories.edublogs.org/category/abc-movie-project/)
Tonya’s Claymation Camp Site
Kevin’s Weblog (https://dogtrax.edublogs.org/)
Bonnie’s Weblog (http://blk1.edublogs.org/)
Gail’s Weblog (http://blogwalker.edublogs.org/)
Tonya’s Weblog (http://essdack.org/spoonfed/index.html)
Kevin’s Storytelling Site (http://www.umass.edu/wmwp/DigitalStorytelling/Digital%20Storytelling%20Main%20Page.htm)
Tonya’s Delicious links for Digital Storytelling (http://del.icio.us/tonya.witherspoon/digitalstorytelling)

I hope to hear you then.

Peace (with podcasts and people),

Collaborative MovieMaking

In the past month or so, my friend, Bonnie, and I have launched a Weblog as a way to think about how technology can inform and inspire storytelling. We have been sharing resources, sparking discussions and just thinking about the convergence of the Web 2.0 interactive world with the traditional (!) digital storytelling techniques.

We are now moving into action, with a Collaborative ABC Movie Project, in which people will submit segments of movies based on letters of the alphabet and then we will use Jumpcut to edit them all together into one large collaborative movie. We have no idea how it will turn out, but we are game for exploration.

Here is my example for the letter A:


We’ll be sharing our experiences as we go along and I will try to move those thoughts over here. But feel free to check out Using Technology to Tell Stories blog and add your voice to our conversation.

Peace (with video clips),

One word for TM

I found myself wandering through Paul Allison’s site (one of his many interesting ventures into the world) and came upon this list of words that we used this past summer to describe Tech Matters ’06 in Chico, California. Tech Matters is a one-week intensive technology retreat for fellows in the National Writing Project Technology Liaison network. I have written about it before (and created a little claymation video for a friend who is working on a project about TM). But this list reminded me of our last day in Chico as we reflected on our experiences:

One Word about TM06

  • Reenvisionment
  • Recommitted
  • Tranformational
  • Inspiring
  • Relationships
  • Networking
  • Upgraded
  • Invigorating
  • Empowering
  • Liberating
  • Challenging
  • Fulfilling
  • Illuminating
  • Validating
  • Usable
  • Solidarity
  • Inspiration
  • Collaboration
  • Friendship
  • Creating, creating, creating…
  • Self-expression
  • Tired, hot, and laughing…
  • Fun
  • Community
  • Entertaining
  • Revolutionary
  • Exasperating
  • Visioning
  • A-ha moment
  • Tension
  • Eating
  • Read/write web (not Web 2.0)
  • Clarity
  • Gator skin drive
  • The world is flat
  • Whirlpoo…
  • Excellent
  • Tremendo
  • Beautiful
  • Magnificent/Magnifico
  • Nurturing
  • Bonding

Peace (in Chico),

Creative Kids

Today’s post is more for family, but I share it with everyone anyway (hey, you are all my extended family — and stop complaining, Uncle Bob!).

The other day, my oldest son (9) came up and asked if he could make a newspaper. Ahhh, words to brighten the Writing Teacher’s day. We propped him up on the computer, and his younger son came over, and together, they created this gem of their athletic exploits. (Now they are trying to sell copies — if they enter into an agreement with Google, the world is coming to end).


Meanwhile, their baby brother (not so much a baby anymore — he is two) was snuggling upstairs with me, and we usually sing songs together. On this day, I was armed with my voice recorder and captured his very cute voice singing “Puff the Magic Dragon” and other classics.

Listen to the singing little dude

Peace (with creative kids),

PS — there is no Uncle Bob.

My Weblog/Podcast Workshop Site

A friend asked me to share the Weblog site where I launch many of my workshops on Weblogs for teachers in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project with very little, if any, knowledge of Weblogs, Wikis, podcasting, etc. At this point, the site is only the main interface and not an actual blog, although I have used it for that during various workshops (it all depends on audience and purpose).

Feel free to use the workshop site as you like.

Peace (with sharing),

PageFlakes — Rss-ing the world

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, in a way. One of my projects this year is to work with our Massachusetts Writing Project (newly reconstituted with Susan at the helm) with newsletter weblogs for all of sites, and then collect all news via RSS feeds to a single blog site.

This would give us a collective voice for sharing information and by using RSS feeds, I am hoping that it will be less work for everyone involved (except for me, in setting the darn thing up).

Our writing project site also envisions a time when all of our assorted projects (Project Outreach, English Language Learners Network, Reading Initiative, etc) will have their own blog space for sharing with others, and we want to be able to collect their news at one site, too.

So I started toying around with PageFlakes and Mike, over at his Edublogs tutorial site, showed the world how to collect feeds from PageFlake and then move that code over to an Edublog site — just what I may need. (Thanks again, Mike!)

Check out my public PageFlake site and give me any feedback. I have collected all the feeds from folks in the Western Mass Writing Project who have completed the three-hour Weblog/Podcast workshops with me.

Peace (with Pageflakes),

More WMWP Technology Autobiographies

This weekend marked the second in my series of workshops for fellows at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project around blogging and podcasting. Note: Three hours is barely enough time! As part of the series (funded with a grant from the National Writing Project), I have all participants create a blog with Edublogs, post a technology autobiography, and then — using a free MP3/voice recorder and Audacity — create a podcast of their writing. It’s a lot to take in but everyone has come away saying it has been a wonderful experience.

Last time, I shared some excerpts from their writing and the audio (although the flash player isn’t working and I think it is due to the voice recorders somehow but can’t yet seem to pinpoint it, so just click on the actual links to the audio files — thanks), and so I will do this again.

Listen to Susan

” During graduate school, my job in Harvard’s African American Studies Department brought me in contact with my first computer. Thank goodness! I can’t tell you how many late nights I snuck into my office to use the computer to transcribe all the interviews I was conducting and write all my thesis papers. It quickly became hard to imagine all those undergraduate English papers I wrote on the typewriter–talk about a hindrance to revision! ”

Listen to Carole

“I started out in teaching by not teaching. After student teaching, I was not at all sure that I wanted to continue, so I took a job as a Radio Shack manager. Personal computers were just hitting the market in a big way, and “user friendly” was not part of the vernacular yet. Explanations in manuals for how to correct problems often involved patches to correct a “misunderstanding” between the hardware and the software. I will always be thankful for that year. Users and sellers were much more exposed to software and hardware code. We had to pick up a lot of information to make computers work for our customers. As a result, without any real training, I can more easily pick up software that is new to me.”

Listen to Mike

“My first successful experience with technology in the classroom came as an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts. In 1997, the chemistry department pioneered an online homework system called OWL (online web-based learning) for use in their general chemistry courses. This system allowed professors to assign homework modules to their students and then monitor their progress throughout the semester. Before OWL, professors weren’t able to check or correct homework assignments in an efficient manner. Test grades suffered because students didn’t have the motivation to complete their homework. OWL gave students deadlines to help them budget their time more appropriately and to avoid the last-minute cramming sessions that became all too common. Another feature to the OWL system was instant feedback. If students selected incorrect answers to questions, the system would explain why that particular answer was incorrect.”

Listen to Tammy

“When I started this year, my team had a smartboard. I had never heard of this piece of technology before. What made it so smart? I had created a blog for my students to use and the math teacher on my team told me that the smartboard would be a great tool to help me show the kids how to use the blog. She and the computer lab teacher showed me various things I could do with the smartboard. I could circle pages in red, green, blue, or black! I was so excited to use it. Then, we came to the issue of moving the board from the math room to my room. There was also an issue of where to put the projector. On top of that, the cables and cords were too short to actually reach the outlets and computer and projector all at the same time. We literally had to fidget with it for two days. But we got it to work.”

Listen to Jane

“When I was attending library school in 1996, the first thing we had to do was pass a Technology Test to show that we had at least mastered some rudimentary uses of the computer. Among the tasks were to send an email, link to some appropriate websites, do some simple research using a database. I was terrified and sure I would never be a librarian ever ever ever. We had four weeks to send in our assignments, which meant that if you didn’t know how to do it, you could learn. I used the very clear tutorials they had fashioned for us, passed with flying colors, and felt very proud of myself; much more so than getting into grad school in the first place.”

Listen to Corinne

“I thought that this workshop was two Saturdays ago. When I came into the computer lab, there were people in the room for a workshop. At that moment I didn’t have anything to make me think a was early. Then the workshop started and everyone knew everyone. Still I didn’t click in. As the conversation continued I began to think I wasn’t in the right place. These people not only knew each other, they had been working for some time on a project together. Even though I then knew that I wasn’t were I was supposed to be, I was sucked into the project these people were working on and the ideas of what I could or would do with something like this–blogging. My thought began to take off.”

Listen to Joanne

“My writing history started with a notebook and pencil, moved up to ink and then I actually owned my own typewritter. The first computer I owned was an Apple and I loved the idea that making changes in what I wrote didn’t involve erasing carbon copies. Can you still buy carbon paper? I’m glad I don’t even know.”

Words from Chuck (but no sound)

“I’ve resigned myself, prematurely, to being the opposite of a technogeek. An all-thumbs Luddite, but that’s not who I could be. I don’t see myself as a whiz at this, but at the same time, I can learn it. It’s so darn user friendly these days, idiot-proof as they said back in the 1900s. So, I’ll keep trying”

Listen to Mary

“Some thirty plus years ago my dad gave me a Texas Instrument chessboard and a cassette tape. He told me it was a computer. With wires and plugs in hand, a portable cassette recorder and an old black and white TV I proceeded to enter the world of technology. It was exciting. Once I figured out how to connect each device (Device not being in my vocabulary as a tech term then.) I played chess with the computer. It amazed me. I knew then that there was no turning back for me. I had ventured into a new world.”

Listen to Abbey

“I would like to expand my technology knowledge to have a real interactive blog with my AP Language class this summer as they read their summer reading books. I would like to make blogging part of assignments, not just a place for me to post. I am also interested in podcasting because other schools have done “This American Life”-esque shows, and that just sounds really cool to me. Some of my top kids are capable of making really amazing presentations and movies for classes, and I would like to use some of that energy to make our language applications more interesting to them and more connected to the real world.”

Listen to Margaret

“We thought we were so cutting edge, working in the computer lab with our classes connected to the internet. We now realize that our ‘cutting edge’ activities were merely worksheets that the students filled out using the same internet source as a reference, but it was a start. As we continued to learn more about the internet, we were able to develop lessons and activities that allowed the students more flexibility concerning topic and searching opportunities. This workshop is my first introduction to blogging and podcasting, so I am once again delving into another layer of technology in hopes of expanding my knowledge so that I can share new learning experiences with my students as well as my colleagues.”

Aren’t these wonderful? I am proud of our brave WMWP blog explorers.

Peace (with taking chances),

Youth Radio — podcasting to the world

I wanted to give some props to the work of students in our Youth Radio project, which is still coming together as the school year progresses. Our kids in Massachusetts, California, the Philippines, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, and Mississippi have been using the weblog site to publish audio pieces and then using the comment feature to react.

Gail D. even had the Californian Youth Radio-ans present our project to MegaConference 2007, which opened up our virtual doors to the world in a new way. (Unfortunately, my school district was on vacation and I was out of town that day).

I think it is safe to say that we are still navigating our expectations of student writers and readers and our own conceptions of how to use audio with the Internet for real writing in new and engaging ways. Someone asked if this was really “radio” and I would say, probably not, but I think the word calls to mind distant voices being pulled together at one source.

Peace (with Internet airwaves),


The Ins and Outs of Edublogs

I’ve been following closely the work of Mike over at his Edublogs Tutorial site, where he is generously walking people through the inner workings of the WordPress platform that is beneath the hood of Edublogs. (For example, I finally figured out that I could add widgets to my sidebar)

Mike has already shown such things as:

  • Adding MP3 files to your posts
  • Installing a message board
  • Linking photos
  • Using the sidebar options for widgets

All in all, he is very patient and very thorough in breaking down his steps but also acknowledging when things go haywire (as they sometimes do for all of us). Check out his site and give him some feedback. I personally think he needs a sexier name for his site but that is just me. 🙂

Peace (with platforms),