craftivism workshop at The Royal Standard arts collective

flickr photo shared by craftivist collective under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Many of us agree that we need to align our classroom activities with the digitally literate lives our students lead. Yet we still hear of many classroom simply focusing on technology integration.

Simply put this is a mistake. When we look at the shift from page to pixel in terms of technology integration rather than an ever shifting and dynamic text we create a horse race environment where technology never improves learning.

It’s like the old Orbitz commercial where a refund is delivered by hovercraft instead of mail.

Just because you have technology does not mean you need to use technology. Instead always ask yourself, “How do these emerging text enhance or inhibit my pedagogical goal?” Do not simply use a hovercraft because you have one.

Multimodal Poetry

One area that I have been working on for the past five or six years is to integrate digital texts and tools into my teaching of poetry. There is something rewarding about using the oldest genre of litertature with the newest forms of text.

I also think poetry, as a potter’s wheel of the soul, is a great place to shape ideas about design effecting meaning making. Each word, phrase, stanza, image, or metaphor continuously redesign meaning as a new audience stumbles upon the poem.   The rich words and guttural reaction to poetry allow for a conversations around topics such us color scheme, image placement, font, etc.

Finally I have too often seen poetry taught so poorly that generations of new writers may have never discovered their poems from within. We do not let students work with one poem over time, or to play with meanings. Instead the focus in on literary elements, i.e. find me a one poem with a metaphor, one poem with alliteration, etc.

The humanity is lost in the hunt for the mechanics

Celebrating Poet Laureates

It was decided then that at each year at NCTE we would submit a proposal to celebrate the work of a Unites State Poet Laureate through multimodal poetry so we could get away from what Billy Collins (our first featured poet) called teaching children, “To beat the meaning out a poem with a hose.”

In 2009 we highlighted Billy Collins by exploring new ways to respond and author poetry with images.

In 2010 we featured Kay Ryan and went through #Twitpoems and multimodal retellings with iMovie.

This year, in Chicago, we brought in the works of W. S. Merwin and connected to using poetry to make the world a better place. That is our definition of critical literacy-words in action to change or question the status quo for the greater good.

W. S. Merwin and Poetry for Change
 
W. S. Merwin is also an interesting choice as he has developed a natural suspicion to many things digital. We wanted to show that there is just as much poetry in the design choices students make as in the words they add or leave off the page.

Basically we read some Merwin poems as mentor texts. Next we took ideas from Probst and concentrated on converting prose to poetry. Students had to choose a social justice issue. Then we took he project into two separate directions.

One group of students completed an internet inquiry topic around their issue. They wrote a collaborative paragraph. Next they highlighted important words or phrases in the paragrpah and used those a basis for a poem. Students then, using Audacity and iMovie, created a multimodal version of their poem.

Another group of students went out into their world to find a social issue. They collected cell phone pictures to document the problem. They then searched for similar images online. Using search engines they connected back to the websites that hosted the images and “found” texts they wanted to use in their poems. They then used iMovie or MovieMaker Live to create the poem.

Moving Forward

Poetry has been a great avenue to explore multimodal design elements. We hope to continue our work at NCTE next year, or by simply sharing our work with other teachers. 

As a sixth grade teacher I pushed the boundaries of technology integration. You know the type of teacher. They come in early and sign out the computer labs months in advance, they spend hours on building teachers websites, and they integrate digital texts into the literacy curriculum. The first two units I taught that focused on digital literacies centered around mythology and poetry. I just found it so rewarding to juxtapose the worlds’ oldest genres on emerging texts. This week I share ten ideas to integrate poetry and technology.

Too often teachers view poetry as unit of study. Its a two week assignment that has to be done. Often students are even worse. They view poetry with disdain, loathing, and fear. As an educational community we must share the idea that poetry is a text for life, not a unit of study. Technology provides an avenue for such an understanding.

Online Communities
The first place to start is to include a discussion board or classroom blog in your poetry units. In my classroom the poetry discussion page received the most monthly when compared to my other webpages.

In a class forum you can create different threads for specific genres of poetry. For example have a page for antithesis, haikus, etc. You can also create a spot for collaborative poems where students add a line at a time. Teachers will quickly discover the threads developing a life of their own.

On a classroom blog emphasize the growing voice of poets. Have each student create a poetry blog, or a page on their blog specifically for poetry. The young poets can add poems and others can offer feedback and advice using the comment features.

Poetry Mash Ups
Students will find mash-Ups, or the idea of taking content from many places as the ingredients in a new recipe, as a perfect tool for developing an appreciation of poetry. Using PowerPoint, Imovie, or Moviemaker kids can easily take an entire poem, a specific stanza, or even a word and create a new work. For example students could select a poem by a canonical author and then rearrange the words with images and movies found online. Then using one of the tools online create a digital mash up.

Twitter Poems
I never tried this as a teacher, but follow some wonderful Twitter poets. Having students try to write a poem in 140 characters or less is a great way to teach students that the power of words often resides in both their scarcity and in the silence between stanzas. First (bacause Twitter is blocked in most schools) print out some great examples. Simply search for #twitpoems or #twitterpoems. Then model with the class writing a poem. Finally give students a chance. For an extra challenge try writing Twiakus!

Lyric Hunt
teachers have used song lyrics for poetry instruction for years. The Internet, however, has given access to unlimited titles and allows students to find texts that interest them. Song lyrics are a great way to teach poetic devices and reinforce Internet searching skills. Simply challenge students to find examples of poetic devices in the lyrics of their favortie songs.

Found Poems with Google News
So many teachers bemoan our cut and paste culture. I say when it comes to poetry why fight it. Use Google News and the idea of found poems to teach students both poetry and the use of specialized search engines. Students can search out specific topics, take words from the headlines, and create found poems.

Respond to Poetry with Images
This lesson is always a hit with teachers (for materials visit our NCTE presentation. Basically you have students circle words in a poem that affect the meaning. Then they search the Internet looking for images that capture that meaning. Finally they arrange images on a tableau to represent the meaning. This is a great lesson that not only focuses on poetry, but also introduces the idea of design affecting meaning.

Xtranormal Slam
The folks at xtranormal proudly say if you can type you can make a movie. I always thought it would be fun to do an animated poetry slam. Students could write poems, then have their characters challenge each other in a virtual poetry slam. Xtranormal really makes it that easy. If you can type you can create a wonderful movie.

Multimedia Metaphor Poems
This is another lesson that students love (for materials visit our NCTE presentation). Basically students create an extended metaphor poem and use both words and images to share their poems. I found, when teaching this lesson, that often it is the images that drive the words, and not words driving images. It was a great way to introduce the idea of design literacy.

Internet Inquiry
Internet can also serve as a tool that establishes a community of poets that links to the bards of the past. Another learning activity that highlights the efficacy of the Internet as a text for traditional content while building offline and online reading comprehension is a comparison of poets and their work. Students can build online reading comprehension strategies while developing an understanding that poets and their writing are products of their time and environment. For example, a teacher could assign two somewhat contemporary poets such as Langston Hughes and Robert Frost and contrast the role urbanization had in their work. Hughes captures the jazz beats and tribulations of urban migration, and Frost writes in a style that resembles the windy roads he traveled to escape the city and recapture rural America. Students could search for works by these two authors, and synthesize their critique with information found on biography pages and history pages of the early twentieth century.

Doink Poems
The final technolgy and poetry activity I share today involves a great tool I was introduced to at NCTE. Doink is a wonderful collaborative tool for sharing, uploading, and using animations. Like xtranomral it is easy to use, but has many applicatio0ns. One of my favorites is creating illustrated poetry projects that involve animations created by others. Your students will love thins.