I have two weeks left to school (I know … long year) and we are working on two main projects now: an adventure short story and a unit on Hacking Literacies. Yesterday, I brought my sixth graders to the Hackasaurus XRay Goggles site, and we began playing around with the hacking tool. Of course, first we had a discussion (which we have been having all year) about how tools can help put more power (agency) into the hands of the user, so that they begin to see themselves as less consumer and more active producer when it comes to media (digital or otherwise).
We have had threads of conversations about the word “hacking” and the connotations that arise in culture now (that it is bad) and I spend time explaining how “hacking” emerged first as a good thing — that folks want to share expertise with others and make the world a better place, and that one of the reasons why technology is what it is today is due to hackers in the Open Source world and beyond. (I also got a bunch of “awwwws” when I said that the XRay Goggles tool is an overlay and does not hack the original site, only makes a hacked replica.)
Then, they played around.
Some were hacking gaming sites; some were hacking our classroom site; some were hacking the Google homepage; some were at clothes shopping sites. The informal discussions were interesting, as they talked about how to parody companies and personalize sites. Today, I intend to continue this work, and I think I am going to bring them all to a single website (my brainstorm at 3 a.m. in the morning: the famous Tree Octopus hoax website) and have them be creative in their hack even as they examine why this is so famous a site.
We’ll see how it goes.
Peace (in the xray),
My friend, Terry Elliott, and I created the first “Make with Me” video for the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and we decided to focus on podcasting. Using audio was one of the suggested “makes” for the first week of introductions, and we wanted to be able to share out a few simple tools to lower the barrier for folks. We urge you to give podcasting a try, and to put your voice out into the world.
Peace (in the make),
At a professional development I was co-facilitating the other day with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, we were very fortunate to have Maggie Roberts (from Teachers College) skype into our session to chat with us about the idea of informational writing. This has been one of the topics that we have been exploring with this group of teachers for much of the school year, and Roberts thoughtful analysis and sharing of strategies and conceptual ideas around the shifts to more informational writing was very helpful.
What I found most useful were Maggie’s overview of the qualities of informational writing:
- Focus on the topic – narrowing the focus of the writer from general to specific;
- Organize with a logical structure, so that the pieces fit and work together;
- Group ideas in a meaningful way that is clear and compelling to the reader;
- Use transition language — from paragraph to paragraph, from idea to idea, etc.;
- Tap into specific terminology and vocabulary of the subject, and ensure the reader understands;
- Elaborate with detail;
- Structure the writing — flow from start to middle to finish.
I think we all found these ideas handy to keep in mind when our students are working on informational text, and we even talked a bit about how students have an internalized understanding of fiction (because it is a central part of their reading and listening experience) but not so much with non-fiction, and that makes moving from reader to writer all the more difficult. It requires much scaffolding and mentoring.
I also liked how Maggie explained three main ways to think of research:
- Lived experiences (personal)
- Text-based reading (traditional research, online and offline)
- Investigation of sources (interviews, experts,etc.)
This validates the students’ view of the world even as it encourages an unfolding of experience to how others see a topic. That was a nice way to frame the idea of research from our notion of “open the book, take notes” to “what do you know, and where can you go to find out more.)
Peace (in the visit),
Terry Elliott and I are the two main facilitators for this first week of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, and last night, we hosted the first in a series of Google Hangouts. We invited a few guests and then spent a thoughtful hour last night talking about the art of “making,” the rationale of the MOOC, and how folks can be active participants in learning this summer. We invited a few folks (Michael, Gail and Christina) from the weekend’s first Make Cycle to share their own thoughts, too.
All in all, it was fantastic.
We were certainly busy this weekend, enjoying the ways that MOOC participants have been representing themselves to each other as part of the first Make Cycle. We’ve had photographs, videos, animation, online biographies, avatars, and much more, and the range of work by people is just stunning. Our hope is that the energy of this first week continues into the other weeks of the MOOC, and that even more folks join in.
It’s not too late. Come join in the fun.
Peace (in the sharing),
Here is some video from a recent gig of my rock and roll band, Duke Rushmore. We had just learned this song and the singer just learned the riff on xylophone (as well as just learned the xylophone), so we pulled a woman from the audience (it was her birthday!) to hold it for him, and for someone to sing to. (I am the saxophone player). Right before the song started, she turned to me and whispered “I don’t want to do this!” but the drummer counted off the song and we were off. She ended up having a birthday to remember.
Peace (in the tunes),
We kicked off the first day of the Making Learning Connected MOOC with a flurry of activity. It was so energizing to see the variety of ways that folks are diving into the first cycle of making, by creating representative media to introduce themselves. We’ve already had audio, video, artistic, interactive, and more examples.
This animated introduction is how I introduced myself to the community. Since I am asking folks to explain their process of making, I should do the same, right?
First, I used an app called Animation Desk. I paid the upgrade version, but there is a free version, too. It’s a pretty powerful stopmotion animation app. It’s not the simplest one out there, but I like the options for what you can do, and to be honest, I think I have only begun to scratch the surface.
I decided to draw a picture (note: I am not a visual artist and I don’t even play one on the Internet, and I don’t have a stylus so everything is finger-drawn, as if you could not guess) and I thought about having important elements of my life revolve around me. So, I began with my kids, then my wife, and then music and writing and teaching. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this took quite a long time. You have to play with every frame. (I later kicked myself for not doing a simple thing — I should have had my eyes following the movement. That would have been cool. Oh well.)
Next, I exported the animation out of the app, and it allows you to export directly to sites like Youtube. But I emailed the file to myself, and then dumped it into iMovie, where I added the titles, voiceover and soundtrack, and then hosted it up on Youtube, in order to easily share with the Making Learning Connected community.
I hope it captures a bit about and maybe inspires you to try something different.
Peace (in the MOOC),
You may be a little weary of my chatting up the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration (MOOC) that I have been involved with over the last few weeks with the National Writing Project. I’m excited about it. I’ve shared out a lot of teasers, but today, we officially launched the MOOC and I want to invite you to join us. If you are a little leery of the time involves, it’s OK. You truly will determine what works for you. If you just want to lurk, go ahead. Just tweet every now and then? Fine. Go knee-deep into the activities? Even better.
There are plenty of informational pages along the top of the MOOC site, by the way, in case you are curious or have questions about how the MOOC might unfold. This one — Getting Started — is the perfect place to begin.
But I encourage you to come along for the ride. The opening post was published this morning, encouraging you and me and us to craft an introduction to ourselves, considering some use of media or symbolic representation. Who are you and how can you represent yourself to the world?
Check out the blog post for more information about the first Make Cycle of the MOOC. I hope to see you there, here and everywhere!
Peace (in the MOOC),
This summer, I am working with an urban high school as part of a bigger initiative to nurture academic progress in English Language Learners and struggling students. My role is to design an interactive workshop (four days a week, two hours a day, for five weeks) and I have decided to do it around the concepts of “Hacking Literacies and Video Game Design.” I won’t get into all of the overarching goals, except that the main ideas are to make students creators of content, analytical observers of media, and connecting those elements to game design and portfolio/publishing. Much of this thinking has been supported by the work I have been doing with the Teach the Web MOOC these past few weeks. (So, thanks!)
I am hoping others might help me think this through. I have put the overview into a Shared Document with CrocDoc and I am asking for comments, suggestions, etc. I love how the document can embed right here, and you should be able to make notes, annotate it, etc. Go for it!
Peace (in the hack),
Tomorrow marks the official launch of the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration, and boy, it is exciting to think about getting this adventure off the ground after weeks of planning. As one of the facilitators, I have been working hard with the others to get all the pieces in place necessary for you to have a grand ol’ time this summer. (What? You haven’t signed up? Come join us.) We have tutorials, guides, suggestions, and more … all with an eye to help you get the most out of the MOOC.
On Saturday morning, we will be posting our first Make Cycle post (we’ve designed the MOOC around Make Cycles, which will have various themes to consider), followed by a newsletter, and then the start of some introductory activities. We’re aiming to ease folks into the MOOC experience.
I created this diagram to help me visualize how the interactions and connections might take place. Since we’re really honing in on the open part of the adventure, the sharing and connected spaces are decentralized, hovering around the participants. That mean that things may be taking place in different spaces, at different times, and the challenge is to keep some of those threads together. Maybe this will help you conceptualize it, too.
We will be repeating this message a lot: You are in charge of making meaning of the MOOC. You enter the conversations and Make Cycles where it works for you, you participate when you can, you guide your learning. It’s OK to lurk and check things out, It’s OK to just follow on Twitter, or take part in our Google Plus community, or to blog in your own space, or write in your network area. This MOOC is about you, not us, although we do hope you will make connections.
So, come on and make something with us this summer. We can’t wait to connect with you.
Peace (in the adventure),
Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project just published a second round of profiles of teachers with lesson plans around writing, complimented by student work. It is called Writing to Go, and I was lucky to have been asked to contribute to the publication. My topic: teaching the synthesis of reading across multiple texts and using evidence from those texts in analytical writing. (This is also my main teaching goal this year).
The book has a wealth of great ideas, from using images to inspire writing, to how to build a sense of community through reading and writing, to using primary sources to inform writing, to how to best analyze the potential of quotations and dialogue. Writing to Go was rolled out at the WMWP 20th anniversary last week and will go on sale through the WMWP office and website in the coming days. It also provides a nice look inside the work being done by various WMWP teachers.
Peace (on the pages),
Music and songwriting have always been ways of protest. Check out this rap by a teacher, Jeremy Dudley, that hits hard against this age of testing everything. You can find more out about the video over at the Answer Sheet, where I first found this rap.
Peace (in the muse),
The Making Learning Connected MOOC site is at: http://blog.nwp.org/clmooc/
Peace (in the MOOC),
I promised the other day that I would walk through how I went about taking part in the challenge by PBS Media to remix loops for its Mister Rogers project. (You may know that PBS has created some great remix of Mister Rogers’ videos by using auto-tune and music loops — setting the television host’s messages to a beat).
First, when I was done, this is what I created:
In hopes that you might dive in, too, here is how I went about the remix process.
First, of course, I had to learn about the remix invitation. I can’t remember now where I first heard of it, but I think it was a tweet that someone in my Twitter stream shared out. I’ve had “remix” on the mind lately with the Teach the Web MOOC, so I was intrigued by what PBS Media was inviting folks to do. I headed to the site, and found that they had established a group in SoundCloud, where PBS was sharing out a collection of musical loop files. You could take one, or more, or the entire collection. I took everything as a .zip file to my desktop. It was pretty fun going through them – listening to drum beats, Mister Rogers’ voice talking about loving music (the overarching theme), and other things like tubas. Yep, a blast from a Tuba was in the mix.
Second, I considered using Garageband, but to be honest, I still find GB a bit funky to use at times. So I turned to my old trusty Audacity for loop editing. I choose a bunch of loop tracks (not all) and moved them into Audacity. Here’s where the real work and the tricky part began. The fact that the remix probably should have a consistent beat puts the remixer into the role of music composer — lose a beat, and the effect can be pretty jarring to the listener.
I spent a lot of time moving, shifting, repositioning, listening, re-repositioning, moving again, lining up and doing all sorts of tinkering with the tracks to make them fit. There was a moment when I could sense that it was coming together finally, and that the pieces were fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle of sorts. As a remixer, that’s a glorious moment, right?
Finally, I was done, and I uploaded the track into my Soundcloud account, and then shared it over with the PBS Media group (as they requested for remixes). I also played around with Popcorn Maker as a way to add my remix soundtrack to the video, but in this case, my music was not in sync with the movements in the video. Of course, my intent with the remix was for audio, not for video, and I realize now that my process would have been different if I had video on my mind.
All in all, it was a fun experience. Sure, it took some time, but it was time well spent. Now, I have my Mister Rogers Remix. How about you?
Peace (in the sharing),
Look at this picture. Isn’t it cute?
I took it the other day during our Stuffed Animal Day in writing class, after my sixth graders had gone off to Library. I love how they left their animals in their seats. We have a Stuffed Animal Day as part of a prompt around descriptive writing — they have to use good descriptive details to describe one of the animals in the room, and we have to guess which one it is. (Gets tricky when there are 20 or 30 animals lined up along the shelf).
But there is another reason, too, and it is one of those things that I forgot about until the day arrived. You should have seen how excited these sixth graders (soon to be seventh graders) were when they arrived with their stuffed animals. Some were very protective of them; others tossed their animals around.
It reminded me of how we really need to continue to value the connections to their childhoods. This often gets lost in the need for pushing through our curriculum, driving them to do their best on standardized testing, and working hard at learning all year long. This connection to the innocence of their age gets lost in all that, and yet a simple activity like Stuffed Animal Day …. it brings it all right back into the classroom.
Peace (in the stuffies),
Over at the Making Learning Connected MOOC (which launches this coming week!), I created a few webcomics to illustration our Frequently Asked Questions page. It was a way to have some fun, but also get information out about what participants might be wondering about. Here is the collection:
Come join the adventure by signing up (it’s free!) for the Making Learning Connected MOOC adventure this summer.
Peace (in the frames),
PBS Media puts out some interesting remix versions of classic Mister Rogers clips, and it recently invited folks to borrow some of the loop tracks from its archives, including the voice of Mister Rogers, to create a remix version. How could I resist? I’ll share out the process of how I created the remix tomorrow (and offer up some suggestions for your own remix). Today, here is the remix that I created:
I also took the audio remix and used Popcorn Maker to layer it in as the audio track for the video from which the loops come from. Unfortunately, it does not sync as well as the original. But still …
Peace (in the remix),
Over at the iAnthology (a network of hundreds of teacher-writers via the National Writing Project), I posted a collaborative document and started a few lines from a poem … and then asked my friends in the iAnthology to hack the poem, remix it, add to it/delete lines, and make it into something alive via collaboration. We were using a tool from Mozilla called HTMLpad that I learned about via the Teach the Web MOOC, and the results were amazing to watch (in fact, the poem continues to grow). It only made sense to capture the unfolding of the poem (one of the features in HTMLpad is that you can watch everyone’s add via a timeline) with me reading the poem as a podcast, and so I used another Mozilla tool – Popcorn Maker — to layer in the podcast on top of the screencast.
The results? Pretty interesting (see the published poem, for now anyway .. every time I look, a few new words spring up), and a fascinating example of how writers can become collaborators on a single poem. I’m honored that others dove in to collaborate and hack my words.
Or see the Popcorn project here: http://popcorn.webmadecontent.org/14y1
Peace (in the poem),
We’re winding up our unit around paragraph writing, and the final assignment (related to persuasive) was to write a review of a game. It did not have to be a video game, but many chose to go that route. Initially, we were going to do podcasts with Garageband, but the computers were needed by another teacher (and I did not want to be a complete laptop hog), so we went to Plan B and used Voicethread. Participation in the podcasting was optional, but even so, it showcases a range of games (although Minecraft continues to have a leg up on other games, particularly with the boys)
Or go to: https://voicethread.com/share/4661162/
Peace (in the game),
I’m a little late to this party for sharing this video (it got lost in my draft pile) but I wanted to share out this video about the importance of learning coding and programming, and its connection to literacy. This fits in nicely with a summer camp program for high school students in which we intend to explore hacking as literacy, and the concept of learning coding as literacy is right in the mix.
Peace (in the code),
A friend asked if I would share the graphic organizer that we used to get our students thinking of their memory object as the focus of a digital story project. Of course.
(download it via Scribd)
You can also view the playlist of some of the digital stories:
Peace (in the sharing),