We asked everyone to examine the “walks” they share and what it meant to name. Then we explored how naming influenced identity.

Molly Shields challenged us back. She felt our prompts suggested a separation of the text and world. So Molly threw three prompts at us:

  • Shouldn’t we say, rather, that texts actually make up our world?
  • In other words, how can an act of reading, writing, living not be part of the world?
  • Why is there an assumption that naming is apart from the world instead of the world itself, thus separating me from it?

A Confession

I decided to take up this challenge. Now I throw out this confession. I have no formal training in literary theory, semiotics, or linguistics. I have read the thinkings of a variety of perspectives including  Bakhtin, Kristeva, Kress, Chomsky. I have Googled Derrida.  These efforts were for enjoyment or to fill in gaps in my knowledge. So I am not as well versed as many involved in the #walkmyworld project.

In fact the genesis of  my deep explorations into this field was also the genesis of #walkmyworld. It started with Kristeva and intertextuality. Then  Sue Pet and I began to explore multimodal poetry through the lens of Rosenblatt’s Response Theory. We quickly found the focus on the “self” too constraining in the theoretical perspective. This drove us to Bakhtin’s notions of heteroglossia and chronotopes. Thus my reading into what I guess you call linguistic and literary philosophy began.

An interest and not a mastery. I am a mere novice, a padawan turning to Twitter and Google+ as my Master. So I wanted to try Molly’s challenge. This is the result:

I then decided to create a found poem from some of the annotations I made in the texts of literary philosophers. I went through my books both in print and pixel and pulled the quotes. I then rearranged them into a new poem. I could not think of a better way to illustrate the dialogism of online poetry:

polyvalent language
unfixed. There is
multidimensional spaces of
within a network
unity is variable
and relative
Truth is not born but a
separation of self and world
text is a tissue
is it found?

Image credit: Connections. MT-y. https://www.deviantart.com/art/Connections-143519661

Bike in Kaohsiung(parking)-030

flickr photo shared by 謝一麟 Chiā,It-lîn under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Once again our friends from across the globe amaze us. In fact new poets, learners and readers join #walkmyworld every day. To this end we will no longer publish weekly challenges but will shift the focus to learning events. This will allow folks to step in and out of our burgeoning affinity space.

In the last learning event we asked you to think about what it means to name things, and to consider the power of what you name in the pics you share. We considered what Hass meant when he said, “naming things is a way of establishing your identity through one’s surroundings.”

Many turned to to the the poem “Meditation at Lagunitas.”

I was blown away by the work @dogtrax who created a poetic response. Alecia’s exploration of Lagunitas and blackberries captured what it meant to identify oneself through one’s surroundings. Molly Sheilds challenged my definition of what text means.
We even had Robert Hass reach out to a Kate Booth’s kindergarten class involved in the #walkmyworld project.

Next Learning Event

These are just a few of the amazing things to come out of the last learning event. We will continue to share Hass’s poetry over the next few learning events. We will post a poem and a prompt to spark your thinking.
We will not tell you how to respond. Some may just write a paragraph or two based on the prompts. Others may annotate the poem. I am sure @dogtrax will post a series of poems in response. Molly will issue me another challenge.
The goal is for you to focus on your thoughts, your works, your identities.

Letter to a Poet

A mockingbird leans
from the walnut, bellies,
riffling white, accomplishes

his perch upon the eaves.
I witnessed this act of grace
in blind California

in the January sun
where families bicycle on Saturday
and the mother with high cheekbones

and coffee-colored iridescent
hair curses her child
in the language of Pushkin–

John, I am dull from
thinking of your pain,
this mimic world

which make us stupid
with the totem griefs
we hope will give us

power to look at trees,
at stones, one brute to another
like poems on a page.

What can I say, my friend?
There are tricks of animal grace,
poems in the mind

we survive on. It isn’t much.
You are 4,000 miles away &
this world did not invite us

In your response explore some, all, or none of these prompts:
What words or phrases spoke to you and influence the overall meaning of the poem?
What does this poem suggest about human connections and isolation?
What does Hass suggest about the ways we are, and are not, part of the world?
How do your walks demonstrate a connection  or isolation to the natural world?
You cannot support deep learning without evidence of knowledge growth. I am glad the Deep Learning MOOC uses this as a cornerstone belief. I am a writing teacher, but I am also a teacher of writing teachers. Therefore modeling how to examine student work is a critical component to my class.

I not only want to improve writers, I want to create a community of writers and teachers ready to cretae their own community of writers.

To accomplish this I use blogs an RSS Feed. Specifically I use and happliy endorse Feedly. This allows me to create a rol of my student blogs, displays new posts in a beautiful UI, and helps me track the feedback to students.

Screenshot 1:29:14 4:02 PM

By using an RSS reader I can look across student work and identify patterns. I can also leave students feedback on how to improve their writing by visiting their website and leaving comments.

Screenshot 1:29:14 4:01 PM 2

I try to couch my feedback within the social practices of effective blogging. Like all writing there are no steadfast rules but there are some general patterns to the text structure. For example, I noticed (this was our first two posts) that many bloggers just wrote one long paragraph.

Screenshot 1:29:14 4:01 PM

I also use the blogs and the feedback to students to set individual writing goals for my bloggers. I am not a fan of writing rubrics, well at least for formative assessment. Giving students a rubric with seven criterionand four scales of quality does not do much to improve writing. Students can’t make sense of 28 squares of feedback. Teachers can not use the data. his results in good writers scoring well and developing writers turn into struggling frustrated writers.

Instead I would rather look across a students feed, by using FEEDLY, to identify the specific criterion in a summative rubric that will help that student as a writer.

One area I need to improve upon with my bloggers is peer feedback. I do not require (yet… and not sure if I should) students to comment, let alone offer feedback, on each others post.

Overall I find classroom blogs a great way to examine student work.Cafeteria staff can rest easy.  Feedly and blogsvehas ended my era of milk crate grading. No longer do I need to lug home crates full of journals.

I also find Feedly to be a great tool. There pro features improve everyday and new features will roll out soon that educators will love. I had the pleasure of chatting with Arthur Bodolec @abrodo Feedly’s co-founder about new features. I am not sure if I can share so I will just say the enhanced features coming out will be a great addition for educators.

I know I am looking forward to future use with Feedly to help me and my writers examine student work.

It’s amazing how the smallest comments can have large impacts on ones life. I once spent hours coding and then just I simply quit. The year was 1987. I  stood as a scrawny 6th grader in fron of a class getting ready to demonstrate a progam I created in BASIC.


The computer I used was a few years old (1983-1984ish). I am not sure of the brand. My father got it has a hand me down from a neighbor.  We called it a PC compatible. It had two 5 1/2 inch floppy drives and you had to use a separate boot disk to start the computer.

When I moved to Pennsylvania from Texas I took to the computer and began to teach myself BASIC and DOS. I had these manuals you could use as self teaching guides. I was so proud of my program. I created this code that allowed the user to generate a number at random. A spaceship would then scroll up the screen based on the number you rolled.

I thought it would be great to show the program when we had to do a demonstration speech in 6th grade. My father dragged the computer up the stairs of East Ward Elementary school and I set it up. Lets just say I did not get the reaction from the audience I expected. Hours and hours of writing code were reduced to a thrity second demo.

Then a student ( who will remain anonymous) ask why I did not use a particular component in the computer or a different language. I remember not even knowing what he was asking about but for some reason I felt defeated. I assumed I would  never know or maybe never afford. Who knows, but on that day I gave up.

That was the last program I ever wrote.


Instead in middle school I discovered social computing. I would troll Prodigy and find interesting things. I got my hands on computer files that taught me how to make free pay phone calls, remove the scramblers on cable boxes for HBO, and other nefarious activities.

I did not take computer programming in Junior High or High School. You had to take computer science first before programming which would teach PASCAL. The pariah status I felt in 6th grade and the social pressures of middle school, combined with memories of reformatting spreadsheets kept me far far away.

Returning to Code

I began experimenting with HTML as a teacher when I needed to create my own websites. I realized the joy I remember having in searching for patterns on code. I could stare at the source code of pages and see poetry. There was alliteration in those lines.

Still I could do just enough to mess up websites.

Then as part of my PhD work at the New Literacies Lab I had to learn some basic XML. We were creatign a simulated internet and these ran on xml scripts. I didn’t do much more than changing timing, texts, and dimensions but I found it enjoyable.

Just recently, like last week, I took my first stab at moving from HTML to CSS. You just cannot use HTML tables anymore for the mobile web. I had to learn some CSS. I was able to name and make a few objects and even made them float.

Should I continue?

I have ideas. I want to see them come to. I just wonder if my time should be spent learning to code. I registered for #CS50 Havard’s MOOC for coding but haven’t gotten past week one.

I wonder if I should just be an idea guy. Should I instead look to work with programmers and instructional designers to develop my ideas?

I do see poetry in code, but poetry is hard.

Videogame communities, affinity spaces, and transformative learning: Fluid and connective literacy practices in online and offline spaces
Session Participants:

Chair: Sandra Schamroth Abrams (St. John’s University)

Chair: Thomas Liam Lynch (Pace University)
Discussant: Amy Stornaiuolo (University of Pennsylvania)

Fluid Literacies: Videogaming and Related Practices
*Sandra Schamroth Abrams (St. John’s University)

Connective Literacies: Gaming, Reading, and Writing
*Hannah Gerber (Sam Houston State University)

Transformative Literacies: Using World of Warcraft to Transform Language Learning
*Jason Lee (Pennsylvania State University)


This symposium offers a new perspective on videogaming and digital literacy, one that focuses on interconnected literacy practices that seem inherently part of videogame-based learning. Data from three separate studies reveal how adolescent students and an adult college undergraduate utilized socio-historically imbued on-and-off screen activities, honing their understanding of traditional and digital texts. The rather seamless transitions among students’ practices call attention to the ways videogaming may serve as a catalyst for fluid literacy development.


On Monday we held the second Literacy Research Association Netcast. We put together an amazing panel on Grpahic Novels

I, a novice in the world of Graphic Novels, was struck by a few salient points.

First there is a general misconception about the complexity of Graphic Novels. Many teacher erroneously believe that graphic novels step down from the complexity of texts. This belief the panelists argued is cuased by numerous novel adaptations that create the illusion of being less complex. When we examine the body of work that began as graphic novels and not as adaptions the layers of meaning captured both in and out of frame become clear.

The complexity in graphic novels involves three levels. The vocabulary of graphic novels often exceeds other grade level texts. Yet lexile scores use sentence length so they disfavor graphic novels. The second level of complexity involves the art. In fact expert comic book readers pay more attention to the art rather than words when compared to novice readers. The third level of complexity emerges at the intersection of art and words and in the spaces between panels

David Low, a panelist, coined the term graphile to describe this additional qualitative difference. The presenters agreed this where we need to mov in order to support teachers. We do not need to justify the use of graphic novels but understand the challenges of graphile complexities. We need to move past talking about modes in graphic novels but delve into how people use those modes for meaning making. Finally we need to develop a system to evaulate the quality of graphic novels so we can make recommendations to teachers.

Those that know me know I am fond of saying I love juxtaposing the oldest genres in the world (poetry) with our newest texts. Each year Sue Ringler Pet, Ian O’Byrne, and myself celebrate a poet laurete at NCTE through the use of digital texts and tools.

This year Leanne Drapeau, a classroom teacher we partnered with joined us in Boston. I found the inclusion of a teacher,who could contextualized the young poets we celebrated,  in our presentation to be a rewarding experience. It also fit our theme quite well.

This year we dove into the work of Natasha Trethewy. Specifically we examined her work in documentary poetry.

Once again the project allowed students new access points into poetry. Here are a few takeways:

The Best Learning Activities are Grade Agnostic

When Sue and I first started this project we began by using Powerpoint to create extended metaphor poems. We have taught this lesson in early elementary school up to our graduate students. The best lessons in poetry work with any grade level.

Our work with documentary poetry was no different. We completed the project with 7th grade students, high school seniors, and pre service teachers. At every turn the students, no matter their age, were inspired by other young poets.

Delve into Poems not Devices

When we first looked at redesigning meaning through multimodality we framed the work through Billy Collins’s, “Drop a Mouse in Poetry.” For Sue and I we found poetry taught too often in isolation. Students did not search for emotion and truth instead they went on a scavenger hunt for similes and hyperbole.

Once again our work with Trethewey reminded us that teachers should not be afraid to spend immense amount of time on a single poem. The more we used and analyzed mentor texts the louder student voices become.

Sample of The Poems

Reflections and Thoughts

There was a different in topics and narrative voices

A pattern became evident to myself and the audience as we listened in on our young poets. Our older pre-service teachers seemed to write with a more meta detached voice. Topics included ideas such as Edward Snowden and the Korean War.

Students from New Haven and Hartford had a more personal and present narrative. Topics included Sanday Hook, child slavery, and gender discrimination. The voice giving  witness to the tragedy or emotion being documented seemed louder.

Do not teach a formula but a poet’s toolbox

In an earlier post I spoke of my 7th graders reading in a voice that was more prose than poetry. Their poems read like a narrative. Originally I speculated this may have been a product of a short time frame but after hearing from Leanne’s approach I realized the teachers I was supervising may not have provided students with the poetic toolbox.

Leanne and her students focused on four elements in their poems: juxtaposition, credibility, internal rhyme, and repetition. I only worked with a few group of students during writers conferences on repetition. Given more time I would have loved to work with tmy students and have them listen to their poems. They could identify elements that were poetic and revise the poems to include the toolbox Leanne shared with her  students.

Communal collaboration

Our original goal was to have students collaborate on these projects. Soundcloud, unfortunately, like many social networks was blocked in most of the schools. This did not allow for the collaboration and sharing of voices in the cloud.

Yet we also want to go beyond collaboration. We want to use digital poetry to highlight the interconnected elements of communities. That will be our focus next year. We are currently drafting a plan to not only witness other communities but to delve into personal and interpersonal perspectives. I will share later as we finalize the design, and I hope to highlight this work in D.C. at #ncte14.

Test you tech

I tried to present from my iPad and use Reflector to mirror to my laptop so I could screencast our presentation. Yet when we went to play video and audio we had no sound. This required us to pivot to my laptop. This lead to a downgrade in sound quality as we as speakers worked the room.


The Presentation

(Apologize for sound quality. I could not stream media from my iPad seamlessly and needed to use my laptop. We lost the proximity or the mic.)


I wanted to explore to modes for creating meaning as  a goal for both  #OOE13 and Connected Educator Month #ce13. I first focused on my practices as a blogger and a teacher of writing. This played out here on my blog as I documented my recent learning while creating new content and connections.

Now I am ready for the step. Ian O’Byrne and myself have launched an open netcast/vodcast/talkshow network. We want to create a space for teachers to watch and host shows relevant to their literacy lives and literacy practices. Welcome to the Networked Learning Collaborative.


We went live on Monday with out first show, Tech Talk  hosted by Ian. The show focused on specific applications of a digital text and tool in the classroom. As of now we have four monthly shows.

  • Tech Talk
  •  Digitally Literate
  • Spherical
  • TechTrenches

We hope to offer more shows in the future as collaborators join the network. Basically we created a WordPress site, used a video theme. We then host the shows on Google Hangout on Air and embed the shows on our network. Each show uses TitanPad for show notes and a  chat room.

I will be hosting two shows Spherical and TechTrenches.


Each week the show host will interview an author. We will discuss what it means to create meaning through multimodal composition. How does design affect meaning making? Where do bloggers develop their ideas? What posts do they believe are most influential? What connections have they made? How do blogs serve their reflective practice. Most importantly we will discuss writing as a window on to our lives.



The show focuses on an educator who brings the principles of connected learning to their classroom. Once a month a teacher will join us as a feature guest. They will share a specific project or idea in the class and reflect on what went well and what needs to change. Our guest will highlight their personal growth as a connected educator and their long term goals for student learning.



I have lurked. I have laughed. I have never launched into my own learning into DS106. For those that do not know D106 started off as a class into digital storytelling and it has evolved into one of the most active communitities for mutlimodal composition.

I always saw my favorite Twitter folks discussing #ds106 and #ds106 radio without knowing what it was. After struggiling to find a MOOC that met my needs as a learner, and after hving a positive experience with almsot completing the #CLMOOC I decided to give #ds106 a try.

Expertise without Authority

I think I enjoyed the CLOOC because it was a community and not a class. The members were people I respected as authors and makers before the class began. I have found that expertise missing in other MOOCs I have tried. No one was pushing my thinking. We did not delve into particulars of theory of Design, literacy, rhetoric, research design, etc.

Maybe the audience for the type of learning I was looking for isn’t that massive. What I do love, and I stress to my writing students, is that writing takes a community if we are to learn the cultural practices of meaning making.

That is what CLMOOC and from what I can see so far DS106 represent. It is expertise without authority. It a group of authors willing to explore the boundaries of multimodal composition in ways I have never thought of.

My First Creation

After perusing the DS106 website late last night I discovered the daily challenges. Yesterday’s challenge was satire. I fell in love with satire, like many, when I first read Catch-22. I followed this up with a study of Satire in college.

So I used Mozilla’s xx-ray Goggles to create a satirical news article.

 Where do idea come from?

As a writing instructor I promised my students to try and make my writing as transparent and open as possible. Yesterday I shared my pre-writing process. Today I wanted to talk about where ideas come from.

Ideas are dialogical. They develop through a dance of experience with other texts often taking the lead as a partner. To say I own my ideas just makes no sense. Ideas cannot be owned as they are entertwined in the fabric of yesterday’s stories.

So how did the idea for my Nemo story develop?

  • First as I stated I enjoy satire. True story: back in college I was a political science major. I was taking a class in comparative politics looking at Lenin, Roosevelt, and Hitler. I was also enrolled in acreative writing class on political satire. We had to write a story based on Swift’s Modest Proposal. I think my piece was on ending poverty by inoculating minority babies with the HIV virus. So my roomate, stumbling around, found a draft, and then saw all the Hitler books on my shelf and came to the obvious conclusion I was a secret neo-nazi.  So satire has been with me a long time.
  • Then last year I was taking my children to the mystic aquarium. Folks hate visiting museums with me. I want to read every placard at every exhibit. It was there that I learned of the mating habits of clownfish. I know, an exciting topic.
  • At the time I thought that this would make excellent satire. I shelved the idea away. Then when I saw the daily challenge on DS 106 it just popped back into my head.
  • So I Googled, “Finding Nemo.” and realized it was ten years old.
  • Then I Googled, “New York Times Lawsuit.” I needed a mentor text to serve as a template for the article.
  • Next I Googled, “Clownfish Wikipedia” so I could get a modicum of the science write.
  • Finally, I Googled the education director of the Mystic aquarium to add some authority to the piece.

Looking at this process my writing spanned over a decade (centuries if you count Swift). It is really a remix of a half dozen sources and the inspiration I have found in the writing is making crowd.