Join the Conversation
Watch Elyse Aidman-Aadahl, NWP Director of National Programs and Site Development, make beautiful connections between writing and making in the Writers at Work Series that originally aired July 2, 2013. Add your comments in one of two ways:
- Watch the video on the big screen. Make comments on stickie notes using one stickie note per comment. Make sure to note the time elapsed so you can add it to the corresponding time on the physical video timeline.
- Put in your earbuds, and cue up the video here at Vialogues. Sign up and login to leave comments at any point in the video.
Gallery Walk: Physical and Virtual
Make an Introduction
When finished, share our a link or snap a pic and tweet it out to #NWPAM13.
The maker movement helps us think about how we can spark creation, iteration, and collaboration in process-centered writing spaces. Maker logics disrupt the ideas of textual ownership and deconstruct the notion of a lone writer working inside her head to make meaning in the world. Instead, maker logics acknowledge the collective power of shared purpose and invite continual riffing, reworking, and, oftentimes, repurposing and remediating, of products.
Let’s Try It Out
Randomly–because change and ambience are always part of any composing process– pick someone’s introduction to remix. If you chose a play doh introduction, maybe you’ll want to remix the arrangement or the elements. Maybe you’ll add something new or take something away. Perhaps you’ll take a picture and annotate the picture in Skitch or another tool. If you choose someone’s Visify bio, maybe you’ll use Mozilla Xray Googles to hack and rewrite their webpage. Permission yourself to completely unmake and remake something new from the base elements of the text.
Last week, I had the awesome opportunity to accompany a few of my National Writing Project colleagues, Christina, Chad, and Peter, to London to participate in MozFest–a production-centered gathering of “Crazy Mofos” who believe the web should be open, accessible, and collaboratively built. As teachers, we were there to make teaching resources or “hacktivity kits” as part of the Teach the Web strand– and to feel and reciprocate the Mozfest “love bombs” of inspiration, collaboration, and appreciation.
To facilitate these making sessions called “scrums”, the intrepid space wranglers Laura and Kat from Mozilla detailed our make ideas on colored cards and posted them on the wall under the “To Make” category. As the weekend progressed and we worked on our own and other’s scrums, we moved those cards into the “Making” and “Made” categories– a brilliant color display of the innovation happens when the right people form cross-functional teams and plug into the right tools.
During the scrum sessions and during the Friday night science fair and the Sunday night demo, I floated around the floors of the openly-designed Ravensbourne College building (with the ghost of David Bowie, their most famous alum) talked and made with folks in Open Science, Open News, Make the Web Physical, Open Badging, Teach the Web, and Open Gaming. As a grant writer, I am thankful I met the folks from Census Reporter who are making the latest census data accessible, usable, and visible. As a teacher, I’m happy I met Sam and Elsa from Hive Chicago who are embodying connected learning theory and letting young people lead the way. As a digital writer, I am stoked to have had good conversations about new media with and mentoring in Popcorn from Patrick who was patient while I made an animated gif with a new British grunge soundtrack. As a maker and a parent of a maker, I am thrilled to have met Super-Awesome Sylvia and her parents who were kind enough to put the watercolor maker-bot to work in service of a custom Doctor Who tardis painting for my son, Calder.
In terms of my own make, a hacktivity kit for teaching critical storytelling with Mozilla X-ray Goggles, I riffed off of Doug Belshaw’s session of Mozilla’s Web Literacies and benefitted from good feedback from NYC Hive Teacher, Jeannie. At Doug’s session, both Peter and I were interested in the making of this framework and struck by what appeared to us as a functionalist approach to thinking about how we make the web. We talked with Doug briefly about this noting that, to us, the framework seemed to articulate a core set of web skills, not web literacies, which we think about as socially-constructed and wrapped up with the interplay between tools, humans, and cultural meaning-making practices. Doug argued that the framework was bounded in web-only practices and noted that these were not digital literacies but web literacies–core practices that were essential to building the web, as opposed to living an being in a digitally-mediated world. Still not satisfied, Peter and I pushed at this, asking about the critical and rhetorical lenses that we bring to web-building and teaching the web, practices that are never neutral and are always already wrapped up in questions of audience, purpose and context as well as questions about power and privilege.
I asked Doug if I could remix the web literacy standards and re-situate them in a more humanist framework that considered functional, critical, and rhetorical approaches to web-building. Citing the consensus Mozilla had finally reached over this framework, he said no. So I used Thimble to create a hacktivity kit called X-ray Goggles for Critical Web Literacy. My objective– to remix the framework and situate some of the functional skills detailed in the “Building: Creating for the Web” inside a meaning-making framework that acknowledges making as a rhetorical act and forces us to ask, “Who gets to make? Why? And how?”
While focusing on the critical and rhetorical aspects on the web, people will also learn basic concepts of HTML, CSS and the Open Web, building critical, rhetorical, and functional web literacies…Participants will understand that web making involves making choices about audience and purpose (rhetorical), who and what gets featured and what doesn’t (critical), and how to combine and remix the building blocks of the web (functional).
To me, these practices, such as remix and hacking, are not limited and bound by the web. Instead, they are practices inspired, facilitated, enabled, and/or proliferated by the web and grounded in an open ethos that guides the way we play with others and their compositions. And this is the ethos I experienced most passionately at Mozfest– a collective identity and socially-constructed webbed literacy generated through the use of human codes to negotiate our relationships and meaning-making practices, both on and off the web.
Yesterday was Friday the 13th– the official start of Twitter vs. Zombies Part III. My buddy from the Making Learning Connected #clmooc, Kevin Hodgson, baited me on G+, and I signed up for what turned out to be a pretty quick slaughter.
In the morning, I lurked. There were lots of zombies already prowling, and the humans brave enough to mingle were quick with their #dodges and protective of their clan with #swipes. Most of the players I knew were already zombies, so I invited other Tweeps to play. Most ignored my pleas for a posse, but Writing Project friends Lacy and Jesse jumped in with a promise to stand by me– unless I was bitten.
I was all set with a human zombie-fighting crew, so I decided to go out for the night. My favorite Piedmont Blues musician Lightning Wells was playing a show nearby, and I thought, with my human protection, my iPhone, and a nail-encrusted baseball bat, I was ready for walkers. So little did I know.
My friends were excited and all a-twitter, calling me out in their posts. Kevin took a cheap shot, and I defended, but before I knew it, they were on Lacy. I was watching her dodge– so quick and nimble. The zombies were hungry, and I was following along frantically on my phone while Lightnin’ Wells wailed away on Little Sadie.
It was an hour or so before I knew. I woke up hungry, but I had a taste for brains, not grains. Before I knew it, I had invited Lacy and Jessie to the breakfast club for a #bite. In my #25wordstory I wrote, “Last night, they talked– amygadalas marinating in fear. While they slept, they didn’t know, I was nibbling their ears.” Action without thought. I felt myself becoming a walker and was welcomed by imagined kin.
“The family that hunts together stays together.” Karen had taken me in. It felt good to be with the powerful and the hungry.
Then the #ds106 ethos intervened and Mariana’s story (like stories do) made me think. Do I have a choice? Can I choose to feed or not to feed? But wait! Another realization. I can still think? Then I must have a brain, right? So what does it mean to know with a body? What does it mean to know with a brain? I’m losing a toe, but the old loaf, it seems, is still intact.
Being in the Hangout was an effortless way to connect. It made the MOOC feel like a place where real people with real bodies and real voices could meet and connect. They made me feel welcomed and supported– and that’s a critical part of collaborative inquiry and social learning.
–Melissa Techman, School Librarian and CLMOOC Participant
One of the most exciting features of the Making Connected Learning Connected (#clmooc) experience has been the regular Google Hangouts On Air we’ve hosted during each Make Cycle. As synchronous events broadcast live and archived on the NWP Make With Me blog page, these sessions provided an opportunity to share what we were working on during each week’s Make Cycle, invited participants into the larger conversation, and helped us dig deeper into the Connected Learning Principles that underpinned each week’s explosion of making and sharing.
A week or two before the Make Cycle began, lead facilitators would coordinate with the #clmooc team to choose an hour that would work across time zones and publicize the Hangout on Air in the weekly newsletter, on the G+ Community, and with the #clmooc hashtag on Twitter. Depending on the theme of the conversation, facilitators would invite particular participants to join the hangout in advance and post the hangout link in the G+ Community for those who wanted to pop in last minute.
Unlike a Hangout generated from your G+ profile, hangouts you intend to broadcast and archive are generated from the Google Hangout on Air page. After clicking the blue button, you are taken to a screen that asks you you to name your hangout, invite participants, and reminds you that your hangout will be streamed through both your YouTube and your G+ Account. This means that anyone who has you in a G+ circle and anyone who subscribes to your YouTube channel can watch your hangout in real time. To reach a wider audience, however, you can click on the embed link in the center screen, copy the embed code, and paste it in a public website as we did at the NWP Make with Me Blog page. Once your hangout is done processing and you and your guests are ready to go live, you can click on the Start Broadcast Button. For more on the technical aspects of hosting an On Air Hangout and using other social media tools, check out Joe Dillion’s fantastic guide.
During the broadcasts, viewers could watch live, converse in the chatroll–also available on the Make With Me page, and join the hangout to video chat with the group on air. Just like regular hangouts, Hangouts On Air are limited to ten guests. We decided ahead of time that if we had a good number of participants who wanted to join, one of the supporting facilitators would drop out to make space. Often folks would join or drop out midstream, and facilitators pretty quickly learned the etiquette of pausing conversations to introduce new participants and bringing them up to speed if they weren’t already following along.
As you can imagine, Hangouts on Air can be frenetic. With the multiple channels and modes of conversation that are happening simultaneously in the chatroll, backchannel conversations in Hangout chat, and the main frontchannel conversation being broadcast, we found it helpful to have facilitators take on different roles. Typically, the lead facilitator would initiate the Hangout on Air and send the embed code to an NWP staff member who would plug that into the Make with Me Blog Page. Lead facilitators would also host or invite other participants to host as we did in Week Five to start handing off responsibility and leadership opportunities to participants. A supporting facilitator would monitor the chatroll and serve as a liaison, bringing questions and ideas from the chat to the Hangout. We also tried to play with the insider/outsider perspective, a fishbowling of sorts, and had people in the chat who were deep into the week’s makes and Connected Learning principles along with an outsider who could prompt us to articulate and surface many of the threads we were picking up on from the Twitter chats and the Google + community.
In many ways, the On Air Hangouts, while procedurally formalized, provided space for informally hanging out, messing around, and geeking out, a practice that Mimi Ito describes as essential for building peer networks that drive learning. And while hanging out “on air” was intimidating at first, over the course of the summer, I learned to be more comfortable showing up without a script, sharing ideas that are only half-baked, and using digital tools to facilitate conversation instead of delivering content. This is the ethos of #clmooc, and Hangout on Air is one of the tools that helped us construct it.
When NWP staff contacted me back in April to ask if I’d be interested in working to help create and facilitate the Making Learning Connected #clmooc, I blindly and enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity. Over the last few weeks I collaborated in real time and in lag time with my fellow facilitators in calendars, hangouts, documents, dashboards, chats, and communities with NWP staff and #clmooc facilitators to make a vision and make a plan for this massively open online collaboration.
And still, two weeks into the #clmooc experience, I am finding myself simultaneously frustrated and amazed, fearful and confident, overwhelmed and invigorated– very similar to the way I felt in 2007 when I participated in Tar River Writing Project‘s inaugural summer institute. With such an amazingly capable and brilliant group of people thinking in such deep and sophisticated ways about learning and design, people who could have made this whole #clmooc thing completely perfect without me, I keep wondering about the ways I can contribute. I keep asking, “Why am I here?”
Wednesday night, I felt all of these conflicting emotions most poignantly when I hit the “end broadcast” button on our Make With Me On Air Google Hangout for Make Cycle 2. I had never hosted a live video conversation from my dining room, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. While #clmooc co-facilitator Terry Elliot regularly reminds us to “do one impossible thing every day”, I am much better at doing one impossibly stupid thing every day. I just hoped it wouldn’t be on air.
By the way, if you didn’t join us live, you can watch it here. Impossible or impossibly stupid? Don’t worry. No spoilers.
What I can tell you, though, is that our conversation helped me to see the connections between the practice of toy hacking and the possibilities inherent in Connected Learning– particularly the ways that making, sharing, and connecting across generations, across time, and across spaces can support learning and build healthier, more equitable communities. I want to return to some of these ideas that we surfaced and string them out here in words and sentences, as that’s one way that I find I can hold onto and make sense of the beautiful chaos of semi-structured conversation.
For most of us, playing with toys is a shared childhood experience. Toys, even the most basic kind we see in this wonderful TED talk shared by Michael Buist on the #clmooc G+ community, are accessible and tactile. Toys speak to our need for joy, our desire to play and our capacity to make believe. As objects, they hold stories and possibilities, and as tools, they help us unlock our imaginations and identities. As Sandra Cisneros writes in her short story “Eleven, ” we are not just 28 or 38 or 58 or 78 years old, we are also 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and all the numbers between ten and your current age. Toys help us make those connections, to connect our old selves with our new selves, and when we hack them, we learn to re-see, to re-design, to-remake ourselves and our world.
Through toy hacking, we can make worlds where ponies and dinosaurs engage in civil conversations about diversity and gender stereotypes. We can make our favorite books spring to life as images and stories pop off the page and into our lives, shaping our beliefs, our values, and our actions, creating civic-minded fandoms like The Harry Potter Alliance and Bronies. We can cover the world in chalkboard paint and rewrite the code of our existence, and we can live in a world where pigs fly and meaning crosses platforms and media from objects to memes and back again.
And as Chad Sansing reminded us while he furiously hacked an homage to Adventure Time, toys are a great place to start developing a hacker identity and a maker-centered ethos. Toys are made to be played with, and as kids, we quite naturally push their limits, break them, take them apart, and intervene in their workings to see what makes them tick. If we can develop our capacity to tinker and hack in small, accessible low-stakes systems, like toys, and if we can develop our capacity to leverage the collective intelligence of our networks to solve problems like how to make Storm Trooper puppy drop its R2D2 bone, then we can grow into humans who can think through larger social, political, environmental, and governmental systems. Through toy hacking, we can develop our individual and collective agency to change and build new systems that recognize every person’s need to contribute.
Often in our conversations about school (system) reform, we hear words like “standards,” “rigor”, “college and career-readiness,” words that make a language that privileges rules over relationships. Our conversation last night and the larger conversations about connected learning and the #clmooc have a much different texture. The words we are using here– playing, sharing, experimenting, trying, listening, contributing, inspiring, loving, exciting, interesting, building, making, connecting, understanding– are more human, more humane. And while I’m generally pretty slow to come to these things, I think I’ve figured out a good and smart answer to that pervasive question about my role and purpose in the #clmooc community, that philosophical preoccupation that plagues our kind and makes us ask, “Why am I here?”
I am here to learn.
For the past three years, my students at ECU have created digital stories to remediate the standard narrative assignment for First Year Composition. They are encouraged to work at the intersection of images, sound (including a voice over), and alphabetic text to create a multi-modal composition that matters– to others and to themselves–and to share it broadly through social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Students often report this is one of the most powerful writing experiences they’ve had as they grapple with so many choices– both rhetorical and technological. In this project, they are called to learn new software tools such as Audacity, PicNic, iMovie and MovieMaker or to repurpose those technologies for an academic project. They are called to think through visual rhetorics of color and placement, typeface and size, cropping and panning; sonic rhetorics of volume and tempo, pitch and chords; narrative rhetorics of character and plot, scene and motif. They are called to think of themselves as digital writers with all the rights and responsibilities imbued thereunto.
One such digital writing responsibility that is repeatedly repudiated is that of abiding by the laws of copyright. While we read about copyright, discuss relevant provisions in class, and examine scenarios, students have grown quite comfortable breaking these laws as there has been little consequence for them in doing so. And as a teacher, I don’t have time to join the copyright police, but with real audiences on the World Wide Web, I often don’t have to.
Every semester, as I review digital story drafts, I ask, “Is that photo yours? Do you have permission to use it? How much did you sample that song? It plays for a while… You did calculate your fair use, right?”
“Yes, Ms. West-Puckett,” I hear, and I nod my head.
Then the deadline rolls around and zombified students walk into my class. They underestimate the time it takes to render a video and have it upload and prepare, but they are proud of what they’ve composed. “OMG. That was so much work,” they say, “I want you to see it!” So we prepare the big screen for a director’s cut screening. “You’re going to love that new Taylor Swift song I added in the intro,” they whisper to their classmates.
Then comes the ultimate blow. They stare incredulously into a black screen. Sad face. Copyright infringed. Late Assignment.
“What did I do wrong, Ms. West-Puckett?” the students ask. Frustrated, they start to panic. “How do I fix it? Am I going to fail?”
Then we start the real work of all writing tasks, digital or analogue– revision. We look back through the raw file and analyze the what, where, when, and why of copyright infringement. Much like justifications for plagiarism, students a) don’t think anyone will really notice if you used 38 instead of 28 seconds of that rocking song, b)meant to go back and find another picture with a creative commons designation but ran out of time, c) believed one of the common myths about copyright such as “if there’s no sign, it’s all mine”, etc., etc.
The links below are some of my go-to resources for working with First Year College students to explore these issues and help them become savvy digital composers and sensible digital citizens. From interactive flash tutorials with elementary graphics to the definitive US Library of Congress Site, these sources provide useful guides for students and teachers wondering how to navigate the rights and responsibilities of digital writing. Use them. And be prepared to re-use them when students are working to untangle the natural consequences of working in spaces where all of us are basic writers.
Considering the Contributions of Off-Track and Off-Model Work in Composition
As a fixed-term faculty member teaching writing and taking classes in the Technical and Professional Discourse PhD program in our department, I am mindful of the in-betweeness and liminal nature of my work and my research in composition. My history and my title situates me as a contingent faculty member but my study in the PhD program and emerging understanding of the field of composition as a discipline is, for me, calling into question the narratives that define the field. Thus, I’ve become interested in situating contingent faculty narratives about the work we do and the ways that work is valued and de-valued in our department and in our university.
Because of increasing first-year student enrollment and unfilled tenure lines, my colleague and co-resarcher Jenn Sisk and I have been employed by the same university, teaching writing for a combined 15 years, which seems more of a surety than a provisionality. In this context, it seems more appropriate to explore other definitions of contingency that speak not only to the notion of chance—an event that may occur but is not likely or intended– but also to possibility. Contingency as possibility enables us to consider the unique or invisible contributions that non-tenure track, adjunct, and part-time faculty can and do make to the field. In seeking to document and understand these constructions of professionalism, we think that our work could chart new territory on Zebroski’s map, spaces for acknowledging the work that is being done by contingent faculty, and could offer additional possibilities for contingent faculty who are seeking a way of connecting or re-connecting with their colleagues.
We are excited to share our project with you and look forward to your feedback. As you think with us about our research, what comments, questions, or suggestions do you have? What should we be thinking about or considering? What surprises, bothers, frustrates, or excites you about this work? Please take a few minutes to tell us what you think!