Monday, July 28, 2014

CLMOOC Reflectations and Connectivations

  • This video is my Thank You to everyone involved in CLMOOC - facilitators, planners, lurkers, fellow participants and anyone else who was even tangentially a part of this experience.  It has been a really rewarding, enriching and energizing 6 weeks for me.
I like to just spew things out  follow my gut when writing, so here goes.  The first thing I am struck by is how much of an impact it made on me to have a real world audience for my "makes" and writing.  I knew the critical role of audience; I am first and foremost an English teacher;  it wasn't a concept I wasn't intellectually aware of, but this experience made me really FEEL it. "Who was I sharing with?  What did I want from the audience? What did I hope to communicate to them?" CLMOOC re-invigorated my need and desire to ensure more real-world audiences for my students.  It also reminded me how much I love writing, and that I need to get it done do more of it.

Continuing with the gut responses: I was stupidly happy to be able to interact with so many smart people who were curious, active learners.  I don't get enough of that in my offline life, or even usually in my online life.  This is what I will wallow in  miss the most.  How can I continue to connect with the people in CLMOOC, and how can I add to the list of interesting, smart people that I interact with on a regular basis?  I need to figure this out.   Too many teachers are in #survivalmode and rarely able to get past it to engage in connecting and learning at a different level. 

I still wished that more people were able to respond to the posts of more other people.  I think it is the nature of a "not-a-class" experience to try to simultaneously be completely No-Pressure while still needing and reaping the benefits of interaction and connection.  I wanted more of all of it - more interaction, more connection, more people responding to more posts, more depth sometimes. Is this antithetical to the "jump in and out" nature of it?  I don't think so.  I think everyone benefits if we hear more points of view, have a more tangible audience.  Post at least two meaningful comments for each Make you post??   I want to make sure I engage my students in a plethora of these interactions - they are too valuable to shortcut.

This past school year, I gave my teammates a survey to discover their strongest role on a team. Categories included the Organizer, the Cheerleader, the Producer, etc.  What we found is that the role we were most missing were Challengers - people who are willing to speak up and disagree: Disagree with the status quo, disagree with the consensus, disagree with a decision, a plan, a goal.  In CLMOOC, for me this person was Terry Elliott. Just when things felt comfy-cozy, Terry jumped in to question the concept of hacking, and continued to question things throughout CLMOOC.  Terry's input helped me to enjoy this experience at an exponentially higher level than I would have without his challenges. Like my school team, I think CLMOOC needs more of that - it encourages healthy debate and thinking outside the current mood and online feed stream. On top of that, Terry is a talented maker and writer.

Kevin Hodgson-music-magic-maps-tools.  He added his music to one of my Makes, and
made it infinitely better.  He adds meaning. His collaboration-reflection with Terry was gorgeous.  He brings magic to CLMOOC and is incredibly smart, positive and supportive. Sheri Edwards helped to capture me into CLMOOC early on by looking at my work and commenting.  It's so important early on to feel "seen," and she is a master at this. She was also our cheerleader, helping us even when on vacation or spending time with her grandchildren, and is extending the connections beyond CLMOOC to a middle school network. Karen Fasimpaur, Mia Zamora, Kim Douillard and her photos, Mary Ellen B, Scott Glass, Fred Mindlin, Simon Ensor, Charlene Doland, Michelle Stein (and others that I know I'm forgetting) were the inspirational glue that held CLMOOC together and helped make it such a valuable experience.

So many "nurturers," as Michelle Stein called them.  Thanks everyone, for making this possible!

"There's no wrong answer here."
Kevin Hodgson

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Light-Full Inspiration


This week's assignment was to use light to create a story.  I really wanted to focus on story rather than tech tools.  But how to involve light? I wanted to try using
a small light source in a dark room.  

So, I waited until night, got my tiny flashlight, and closed my bedroom door.  

Once inside what felt like a cave, I turned on the flashlight and began to play with light and effects.  In the midst of this, I realized that I felt like I was seeing everything, perhaps, as a baby in utero might see it - small orbs of light surrounded by darkness.

Looking at the finished photos, I knew I wanted to write the baby's story, and I wanted it to be a baby who had been around before.  This idea was partly inspired by a recent article I read, "Why don't babies remember being born?" and partly inspired by a friend's son, who spoke at a VERY young age and remembered being in his mother's tummy.

I think maybe some babies do remember.

Follow me down this rabbit hole? It's taken me all week to navigate.

This is the story of one baby.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Turning Something on its Head

#clmooc Make Cycle 4: Hacking Your Writing

What a fascinating week of Making and Hacking in the #CLMOOC community!

In reflecting on this week, I find myself thinking about two different threads: 

  • First - What was my process and what did I learn?
  • Second - How can I apply what I learned this week to my practice?

1.  What was my process and what did I learn?

All too often, in the educational field, I find that people are too nice can be afraid to communicate honestly on a professional level, or they don't know how.  As I have gotten older, I have embraced the fact that I can often learn more from people who are willing to disagree with me and from people who are willing to put forth ideas that are new and controversial.  There aren't enough people willing to do this in schools, where the presiding feeling is too often a fear of hurting someone's feelings or someone taking something personally.  I sometimes want to do a P.D. session on how to have a professional discussion in which people disagree!

Terry Elliott launched the hacking conversation and it captivated me throughout the week.  It reminded me to question what I was doing, and to really parse out my process in a way that made me choose every step with clear intention.  "How can I have fun with this, but also actually challenge myself to hack?"  Like most good learning, it could only happen by doing.  By failing, and reflecting, and continuing to try to do something authentic.

Ball Bounce animated GIF
Failure is necessary.

It is also only with age that I have found the confidence to put out "first draft" work that is filled with imperfections, in the spirit of sharing a process.  And while my "hacking" was probably somewhat inconsistent in terms of "a hacked product," it still felt like I was hacking my own process by "how" I was Making.As Terry said, it was my "questing, uncertain, whistling in the dark movement back and forth" that mattered.  So in my mind, hacking can be about hacking a process AND/OR ending up with a truly hacked product.  

Dark Side Darth Vader Gif animated GIF
Hacking the Dark Side?

But either way, I think there has to be something turned on its head in order to qualify as hacking.  The posts I loved most this week were the ones that made me first go "Huh?" and then take a second and third look, and the ones that reflected a bit more on the Dark Side.  

In terms of moving forward, I want to put more thought into the emotional content of a piece before and after it's hacked.  I felt like I didn't get the time this week to really focus on this, but it is integral to good writing.

Interestingly, I shared much of what #clmooc did this week with family and friends, and it started some great conversations.  Even my brother in Houston weighed in, as did my daughter, whose work I tried to hack this week.  You know it's a great week when it causes even more connecting and learning to happen.  Thank you to Terry and everyone else who added to the conversation this week.

2.Applying this week's experience to my practice

I continue to grapple with the question that Mindy Early brought up in her post : "Do virtual technologies deepen or add to the traditional writing process, or do they just provide a different avenue to accomplish the exact same creative process and learning goals?"  I think we are all engaged with this Connected Learning class at least in part because we are trying to figure out how to use technology in a way that does indeed deepen the process. It is up to us to make this happen for our students, and it is daunting but exciting to think about.  I certainly don't have it all figured out.
miley cyrus animated GIF

I work at an alternative school.  I think that the subversive aspect of hacking is what will hook my students.  I plan to give them a text that they perceive as being "From the Authorities," such as the Student Handbook, and have them hack it. I can predict that some chaos will ensue, and some staff will get irritated that Their Sacred Text Got Screwed With, but the discussions will be amazing.  My kids will be engaged by the idea of disrupting something that they have previously had no control over.  They have "the need for power and personal agency" that Terry Elliott brought up, and they often embrace the dark side he mentioned.  This might be a new way to deepen their thinking about the writing process.  At least, that is my hope and plan!

I want a shirt that says Cannibalize the Wreckage.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hacking My Kid's Process (And What is Hacking, Really??)


My daughter Jessi has always been a creative person, in all of the best senses of the word. One of her biggest strengths is her willingness to show vulnerability in her work, whether the medium is painting, writing, performing, or making videos.  

When I took the National Writing Project grad class, that was one of the biggest lessons I learned - good writing is like "opening a vein" (original source in dispute).  You have to be willing to share your authentic self.  

About 5 years ago, at age 19, my daughter made this "People Project" video.  I loved it then and have loved it since.  It inspires me. It makes me proud.  It makes me think, and it makes me want to be better at "making."  And it is her, authentically.

In the spirit of #CLMOOC, I wanted to use Jessi's video as the basis for my Hacking Your Writing project.  This was daunting.  I was confident that I could not come anywhere near her creativity re-create the depth or the artistry that she had been able to demonstrate, nor could I do it with the raw intensity of a 19-year old.  But I wanted the challenge!

"Hack #1"
For my first attempt to hack her work, I used WeVideo.  I approached it with the intent that I would not obsess over trying to make it look perfect.  In the past, I would have made myself LOONY over it spent several days on such a project.  This time, I gave myself three hours, and this was the result.  CLMOOC-ers Kim Douillard and Shannon Falkner have both mentioned how putting constraints on our work can help our creative process, and it definitely helped me to actually get something accomplished move forward.  I was happy with the end product.

+Terry Elliot and his #flailer ideas made me really wonder - had I really hacked her video? Or just made a crappy version? Granted, I put my own spin on it, and added a silliness that fits who I am and changed the emotional content.  But hacking?  More like a remix, I think.

So - I hacked my hack.  And this time, it felt like it was actually worthwhile more authentically a hack - "Ahhhh, so this is what hacking feels like."  Rather than just making a crappy different version of what my daughter had done, this felt like I had hacked my own work, which had been inspired by her version.  

"Hack #2"

Why, for me, did version 2 feel more like hacking?  It was nonlinear, and I had less control over the content (which for me, as a perfectionist,  is subversive), and there was a randomness about it which I loved but would never have come up with on my own.  The message and intent were even more unclear.  I liked that.  Granted, it took an app to make this happen, but I learned from it.

Which version did you like better?  Was either one a "hack"?  What do you think?

Through this, I rediscovered the beauty of hacking: that your end product is something that could never have existed without its original source.  SO - the better the source, the better the potential hack?  Another question to think about!

Thanks to everyone for the inspiration!   #butstillflailing