#MNLI13 Day 3 Reflection Coding Community


Karen Brennan sparked my thinking today. She presented her work on using Scratch. The programming, games, and stories children created made a large impact on everyone at the conference.

For me it wasn’t the take away of creative computing I found most moving. It was Brennan’s point that making take two things: creating and community. She argued that you can’t have interactive writers without both.

I witnessed this yesterday, but it wasn’t with coding,computers, or even a classroom. I saw the synergy of creating and community in a dingy basement in a dark dusty bar.

Ian and I were heading home after dinner and wanted to stop in somewhere. We like dives. Dust on the floor, ripped stools, and low lights. That brought us to CanTab in Cambridge. It also brought us to a community of creators.

After sitting down we saw a steady stream of people heading to the basement. We asked what was going on. Turns out CanTab is the home venue for the Boston Poetry Slam team. Turns out Wednesday is Open Mic night. Turns out this was the last open mic before Boston hosts the National Poetry Slam.

What we witnessed encapsulated Brennan’s lesson about community. The camaraderie among the poets flowed through the room. Poets did parodies of each other’s work. Talked about revising together. Read about being struggling artists.

For the CanTab crowd community leads to creation, and creation leads to community. This was Karen Brennan’s take away. So what does this mean for teachers and participants at MNLI?

Community of Writers and Readers

When I am awed by quality literacy teachers it always comes back to community. The students in the room feel, no they know, that they are among readers. They know they can turn to other writers for support. Just like the students in Brennan’s study who remixed, offered feedback, and helped each other grow. A great literacy classroom builds upon community.


Each year at MNLI some of the administrators choose the creation of a PLC, professional learning community as their project. I cringe a little. You can’t force community. Most PLC’s that exist in schools are simply committees that meet more frequently than others. Can schools use PLC’s? Yes, but they need to be interest driven and faculty lead. They need to have open memberships and recognize and build expertise.

Coding as Poetry

The CanTab experience was a serendipitous connection for me. I have little experience with code. In 6th grade I did a show and tell using Basic and made a rocket ship take off based on a dice role. Then during my dissertation work I had to edit XML files as we made a simulated environment. I do not know code but I do see poetry in code. I see these patterns that somehow standout like stanzas. What I saw at CanTab was the type of creating Karen Brennan wants out our students.

It isn’t just about creative computing and interactive writers. We also just need learning experience that create a community of learners both offline and online. We need interest driven classrooms that recognize student expertise. We need connected learning.

5 responses on “#MNLI13 Day 3 Reflection Coding Community”

    1. Thank you for the response. Never thought about the power of one book had on one continent and then the world. The Bible was used as a tool of liberation, enlightenment, slavery, power by the state, and learning. Good point.

      Though I disagree that our critical responses to power have to be verbocentric. Computers have pointed out the obvious that symbol systems used for meaning making go beyond the word.

      Lets think about the images I used:

      The first image is a very popular image in the genre of “reactionary gifs.” It is is scene from a movie involving a popular American actor and comedian. It is used as a sense of shock or surprise, and like most reactionary gifs in a very hyperbolic way.

      I see the genres and cultures that exists because of the computer to be one point for compute over the printing press.

      Reactionary gifs are just one part of many cultures that can now network online. The genre is so popular that the Speaker of the House (third in line for President in US) sent out a reactionary gif rebuttal to President Obama’s plan for free college education:

      We do our identity work in new ways because of the web. That set from The Speaker contain a famous pop star. The obvious connotation is Republican outreach to tech and youth.

      Given your points about the Bible, Martin Luther filing the world’s most famous customer complaint, and the fall of monarchy I can see you an Arab Spring and call the score 1-1.

      The second set of images played off the tortoise and hare to compare the scope and speed at which the Web spread compared to the printing press.

      The next image compares the amount of digital information stored in the library of congress versus the amount of digital information created. If we consider them both, the book and the computer, tools for external storage the computer

      A clear 2-1 in favor of computer.

      The next few images were links to either mutlimodal poems I have written or remixes of academic work. These were in relation to the ideas of how the printing press changed the unit of analysis. I think the computer requires the same rethinking. A return of non-verbocentric symbol systems.

      I must admit this is where my n00b status starts to show. I originally joined XMCA bc my ed psych program had great thinkers in the field of learning sciences, and situated cognition, but no strong Vygotsky and CHAT. So I do not have a complete understanding of linguistics to argue the unique ways of making meaning the computer has enabled.

      Instead I just do my identity and thinking production in images and sounds.

      That would leave it at 3-2.

      In your reply you argue that the printing press had a gradual effect on production and the computer a catastrophic effect. I thought the question was which had a BIGGER effect and not a BETTER effect.

      In terms of production this clearly has to be the computer. There is not one component of human activity that has not been shaped by the computer. Transportation, food production, migration patterns, shift in economic value. All of these were altered by the computer.

      Where does that the score? I wonder if it shouldn’t be the computer or the printing press at all but writing itself. It was the genesis tool of all the external storage and symbol systems.

      It has accelerated at a spectacular pace in human race. More efficient tools for writing replace less efficient ones. Paper the cunieform, printing press vs scrolls, word processor vs typewrite. n each iteration the window between releases shrunk. Then the computer. I

      Now then things changed. New tools for meaning making emerge every day that no longer supplant older tools but supplement and co-exist. Facebook, Twittter, youtube, blogs…more people are writing more words than any single point in history and this growth will not stop.

      Behind it all is a set of universal directions that render bits into symbols.

      Code is the ultimate lingua franca.


  • Dorine Flies


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