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.


  1. Love the "Hack the Manual" idea. And I know I am "provid[ing] a different avenue to accomplish the exact same creative process and learning goals" as Mindy asks. What we do should stretch us as well as inform us; what we do in the end though, must fit with our goals [which we may need to hack]. Thanks for the powerful reflection.

  2. Cannibalize the Wreckage will make a great bumper sticker! Also makes me think of one of my favorite words, bricolage, which I have stopped using since someone mocked my effort to pronounce the word as if in its original French. The root meaning to make do with whatever is to hand has always appealed to me, and I learned truly to live it as a way of life when I spent 11 years in the back, back woods of Northern California, at the end of one-lane dirt roads, where "going to town" meant a two-day excursion, at least...
    Most construction involved cannibalizing the wreckage.