Monday, July 29, 2013

Text & Context Frame in Wonder

       The joy of composing often dances in the way a sense of light guides the focal point until awe half releases breath and holds, filling the frame so that the centerpiece arranges like a hummingbird poised, counterbalanced by the invisible scent of nectar.  The rule of thirds handily reassures the steady pressure needed to claim a capture of beauty, and then the kept breath escapes.  But the texture and grace has been brought closer by presuming to enter the flow of light, to still the falling petals, to treasure the residue of storm clouds.  And having entered this, the delicate exchange of finding the center of focus flows, a half-step from the midpoint for the harmony with a slightly blurred background, a bow to mystery, the unknown, longing, calling.

       When one holds peace, we compose: as a rider knows about how balance in the riding trot cannot be fixed but continuously moves to complement a mythical perfection, or how the poet circled the tower as a falcon or a moon marking the magnetic field.

       When I entered the gravity of “What’s the Most Beautiful Thing About a Horse,” my being suspended into the question.  It’s a field of joy, wonder, in the power, amid beauty.  So when I assembled the array of images and words, the forced separation of work and play evaporates like the disappearing dew, the magic of mist; and we dance with the feel of this and then this, and ah, hmm, and . . .  One gift comes in the distilled glance at contents in a flexible frame so that tentative words offer inadequate names.

       When I look back at the composition, I look for my response to the invitation, and I see or, better yet, feel the smile of a stranger-no-more (see ~2:04 in What’s the Most Beautiful Thing About ).  

On either flank of the horse float the two sides of the globe, making words but much more.  It’s the weaving of peace, the soothing of mistrust, moving closer to power, the dissolve of difference.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The CLMOOC Flood

Perhaps MOOC should be added to the list of synonyms for “flood.”  If you haven’t had the sensation recently of treading your way amidst a massive flow of tweets, that rush rhizomatic & not organized like a school of fish, or if you still want to catch a riptide of more tantalizing things-to-try than a too-brief-summer can hold, just tune in to the final week of the Connected Learning MOOC or even scan the Make Bank. (Also, see Kevin’s blog on the Make Bank.)

Flooding offers the rare attribute of discerning what comes to the top.  The test includes being able to hold my breath while an amazing display passes by with a forced opportunity of sensing the “right” ones.  Which of the treasures most resonate with my own being and particular context?  The strain might not be worth it except for my fascination with the quantum concept of timespacematter/ing and due to the exigence of affirming “local knowing/learning.”

Whether a MOOC can attune to the local gets featured in an exchange between Clay Shirky and Patrick Deneen.  Deneen casts a dim view of MOOCs, calling them the “Wal-Mart of higher education” in contrast with his preference for the farmers’ market that favors local knowledge and unique, situated identity.  Shirky also recognizes potential problems with MOOCs but concludes: “what happens now is largely in the hands of the people experimenting with the new tools, rather than defending themselves from them.”  I believe that the Connected Learning MOOC has made a bold exploration into the positive potential within our new address of www.

In my lurking (trolling? treading? sifting?) of the CLMOOC waters, I caught or was caught by (probably both) the popcorn remix.  It was like a gar, as I recall those boyhood days, exciting but on the scary side.  I’ve developed a caution when Chad puts up something as if it’s going to be easy to remix.  Apparently, I have an allergic reaction to coding.  So I resisted trying it out until +Scott Glass put up a compelling mix of music, art, and text.

Perhaps in a rhizomatic way this remix invitation collided with an intention to make a book trailer.  I’d seen both beginning teachers and fourth-graders produce quality work with iPad’s iMovie template. (For a 5 min intro, see: How to create trailers with iMovie on the iPad.)  About the same time, the postman delivered a long-awaited book.  My own production process, while stimulated by popcorn and the iMovie template, led me into the use of Camtasia, but I don’t think I would have made What’s the Most Beautiful Thing About without the #CLMOOC flood.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Diffracting as well as Reflecting


     I’m re-mixing a variety of items on "diffraction."  So don’t expect scientific accuracy.  I gather that some persons think physics should not generate metaphorical thought or imagination; I don’t see it that way, and I’m not a physicist.  To me, all language is metaphor and I’m no longer looking for an objective reality.  My intention includes not getting stuck; instead, I want vitality, that and to lean toward social justice, toward increased consciousness, and to ride.

     Diffraction has my attention because I sense that educators are being restricted; if not stuck, we're at least slowed or distracted by “reflection."  Maybe tossing in “diffraction” might loosen the restrictions on thinking and doing.  In my playful read of physics, diffraction (or diffraction grating) goes with rainbows while reflections make reverse images.  Or as one commenter noted: “What we call reflection really isn't. It's absorption and re-emission.”  Those things are valuable but don’t we want more?  Look at these Google images on “diffraction and prisms.” 
Diffraction and Prisms
     Let’s let Feynman (1965 Nobel Prize for Physics on Quantum Electrodynamics; see PBS NOVA bio: Best Mind Since Einstein) loosen our minds from the hold of reflection.  Here are some notes and quotes from a 15 minute video clip of his 1979 QED lecture on “Reflection and Transmission.”
* Because shadow was very sharp, Newton made a mistake on his theory of light as particle.
* Transmission is opposite of reflection.
* Wave theory was used as explanation (but the mystery remained).
* Rules (for behavior of energy related to reflection & transmission) are empty of modeling, that is, empty of a model of the type you are expecting. (14:20 into the video)

This connects with what I'm reading in Jung's Red Book, p. 231 & note 25: “If you live according to an example, you thus live the life of that example, but who should live your own life if not yourself?  So live yourselves.  This is not a law, but notice of the fact that the time of example and law, and of the straight line drawn in advance has become overripe.”  Reflection is too tied to a done deal, even if the example is from our own personal history. 

Let’s do reflection and make sure we go further.  #CLMOOC invested not only in web tech but in making.  Check out the variety of makes, especially in cycle 2 and 3, and imagine how this might open our classrooms to let light diffract, to spin patterns beyond.  Karen Fasimpaur gives a lovely example; she plans a Mini-maker day for kids with “unique consideration #1: there will be no computers” and activities including “make a mask, yoga for kids, make jewelry, make a snack, cardboard challenge, and make a puppet.”  Love it.

I have to balance my computer screen time with hands-on horsemanship.  I’m in my mind this morning but yesterday Leg’cy was sound enough for us to move into mounted work/play.  Embodiment makes more complete being/doing.  We move into Rumi’s mystery “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing . . . even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Reflections/Diffractions on NWP's Making Learning Connected

Very surprisingly, CLMOOC (National Writing Project’s on-line Making Learning Connected) is carrying to me the tone of NWP in-person events; the tone that vibrates a certain voltage of the small-retreat quality, signaling community and the kind that I seek out and prefer over other gatherings.  The NWP-tone has provided me with a balm in a profession that forces isolation because working at the edge of consciousness drives one into an inarticulate zone where easy conversation has the luke-warmness that Revelation 3:16 despises. 

In the hot/cold tumultuous shoreline, I have to bumble about.  And while I’d rather be alone than banal or criticized for using fragments, yet I yearn for professional intimacy. And, more importantly, I’m certain that acting toward social justice depends on collaboration right here at the shoreline, not in the calm waters where words have high clarity and formulaic reactions that have already been tried, found failing, and harnessed by powers-that-be, rendered lukewarm.

How many years did I endure large professional conferences and their excruciating publications because I didn’t even know that there was an option to sharing and extending scholarship.  Finally along came in-person NWP.  And now, this summer, I’m getting the NWP-tone even in the bumptious choppy fragmatic tweetchat (Storify summary forthcoming).  How surprising is that!

The special resonance hums in like-mindedness; perhaps the word “soul” could even be used; it’s a dangerous term that needs to be reserved for times when we trust its special meaning to be shared.  The vibration that I value has to penetrate into the inarticulate, like Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic,” and so often association with persons who flaunt the term leads into disappointment, possibly on into deeper isolation and alienation, even despair.  It’s better to be alone than to be false.

This calls to mind the Rilke poem, “Too Alone,” translated by Robert Bly in Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke
     I want my own will, and I want simply to be with my will,
     as it goes toward action,
     and in the silent, sometimes hardly moving times
     when something is coming near,
     I want to be with those who know secret things
     or else alone.

Passion such as this has the distinctive quality of demanding action because it “contains” suffering, not so much personal but toward compassion for injustice in the world.  To choose the passionate life calls one toward companionship and to service or stewardship that tends the “soul of the world” (elusive meaning but more toward Carl Jung than Google’s top responses: Coelho’s Alchemist).   

I’m hesitant to sound the name anima mundi because it draws us toward the out-of-control and reminds me of that bar where Luke Skywalker found so many weird creatures.  But to traffic with passion means going where it takes you.  In last night’s tweetchat, the conversation around “access” and “equity” and then “collaboration/co-labor” carried the kind of tingling in my skin that said “yes.”  Isn’t it time to venture ahead trusting in the NWP-tone and a few reckless adventurers?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Credo & Digital Media Production

“Midway in our life's journey, I went astray
from the straight road and woke to find myself in a dark wood.”
           So begins, Dante’s Divine Comedy as translated by Anthony Esolen. 

And here we are about midway through the #CLMOOC with our own invitation into composing a credo with particular application to the principles of Connected Learning.  Here's a video on mine and a few production notes:

Credo July 9 2013 (the link)

 I find this an imposing task, even slightly frightening, and yet much appreciate the opportunity and the models that have been offered.  I’m increasingly aware of the importance of making access, a topic that Terry Elliott rightly emphasizes.  The first weeks’ focus on comic-style avatars and re-mixing toys probably paved the road, opened gates, or lowered barriers, in Terry’s metaphor.  The early stage of HOMAGO (Ito, etal.) suggests that our design efforts with digital media, with connected learning, should consider how to allow and encourage “hanging out.”  It’s not only a foundation for the apprenticeship of observation, it builds the trust needed to go into the dark wood. 

So after checking out a variety of takes on credos, I returned to some of my treasures, favorite photos I’ve taken and depths of living I’ve tasted.  I thought I might try some of those apps (like Haiku Deck or Story Creator, both added to my iPad from the MOOC), but I chose to work with my medium of choice.  Not exactly, because I thought I’d be using Camtasia as I favor some of its editing capacity; but it didn’t want to import images I’d mixed on Power Point.  I find it easier to play with text fonts, shaping and sizing photos, etc., in PPT than in the production programs I use.  Then it’s easy to do screen captures of the slides and import.  I found it easier to bring them into iMovie than to Camtasia, and I want to keep working with iMovie because it’s more and more the program of choice and use by my college students.  I prefer other programs for adjusting visuals, mixing audio tracks, but . . .

My sound track came from a mix I’d composed on  I’d recorded our front porch chimes (key of C) and birdsongs in our woods.  I mixed that with a jazz option, I think.  I wish I had more knowledge and skill with music, but I’m determined that digital media production should be as authentic as possible.  So I “make” as much of it as I can. 

The script for voice over came through early morning musing, travel to tend my horse (not able to ride due to a lameness issue so I’m currently soaking her front hooves in Epsom salts instead of riding), reading other credos, and dialoging with favorite images. 

I’m thinking making credos might be a good activity for professional development with teachers.  Choice is so important and I’ve seen terrific variety in the apps and other presentational formats that have used for presenting credos in the MOOC.  I also like this focus because the content is anything but superficial; and this depth, therefore, counterbalances the capacity of technology to go glitzy.  I remember far back in rhetoric classes when I first heard, “Style is the man.”  The split of style from substance costs dearly.  Integrity must be key.  Authenticity.  Meaning.  However we make literacy, let’s walk the talk.  And let’s make a path toward someplace worth going.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Literacies, Essential Questions, & Inalienable Rights

 The demand for one strikes at the core.  When educators use terms like “essential” (e.g., “Using Technology to Make Essential Questions . . .” & “On Genuine vs. Bogus Inquiry—Using EQs Properly”) and related terms such as “authentic” and “driving,” the intent may be good but the danger is great.  The source of what’s genuine, authentic, essential drives one over the edge of knowledge into a falling that can only be held by acceptance of not-knowing, of living in longing, of the hole in the cup that flows back to the source (see David Wilcox, “Break in the Cup”).

When a teacher initiates an EQ (or a driving question in PBL), the inalienable right of an individual has already been threatened, and an awake person’s inner knowing automatically bars the door.  Gnosis, the direct access to ultimate knowledge, opens from the inner heart and sniffs out surely the wolf in lamb’s clothing even when the beast lacks self-knowledge or acts out of the unconscious, assuming that the professional garb authorizes external control.  Teachers who have been dominated by external controls throughout their education and have been trained to post the objective, the EQ, and to enforce the code of conduct are subject to semi-conscious presumption of control.

The path toward authenticity plummets into multiplicity.  Neil Gaiman gives a quantum diffraction of multiplicity in a conversation between Shadow and Sam in American Gods:
“It’s not easy to believe.”
“I,” she told him, “can believe anything. You have no idea what I can believe.”
“I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not . . . that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise and sheer blind luck”  (American Gods: The Tenth Anniversary Edition: A Novel, HarperCollins. Kindle Edition, pp. 348-9). 

The ability to hold multiplicity does not mean a person cannot choose a better action among alternatives in a specific contextual situation (e.g., Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development).

Essential questions are not to be answered, certainly not corralled in objective tests, and yet they are to be explored and the primary guide for that comes from the inner heart.  Exploring essential questions stirs the heart of education; many are reaching toward such education as in Connected Learning and MakerFaire.  I believe they’re at the heart of our UMCP I-Series courses, including the one I love to teach.  The way we search in Good Stories—Teaching Narratives for Peace & Justice comes in developing resonance in archetypal stories (e.g., “Illumination,”  Main Idea on Auto-Pilot Makes Nonsense).

What we should expect from our search for essence is not answers and not even happiness, certainly not fame or fortune.  As stressed by Elyse and others in the #CLMOOC, it’s more toward passion (e.g., “Writing as Making/Making as Writing).  Again, let’s not get fixated on bliss, for passion is as distinguished by suffering as by happiness.  I tend to choose the term vitality as a distinctive quality of approaching essence.

For those of us who play and work in story land (that is, in literature, rhetoric, and broader composings), capacity to explore for essences, thus for resonance and for vitality, can be expressed in the term “literacies.”  Literacies can be conceived as a capacity to work/play along the edge of consciousness in order to resource vitality, to enhance relationships (including building community), and to strive toward peace and justice.  Such a perspective on literacies affirms the need to go deeper than the surface, to engage technologies into play—yes, because play releases the imagination and persistence and the escape from fear of failure that are needed to reach toward justice that allows individuality.  Play also erases cognitive fences that cut literacy off from intuition, flow, and other forms of knowing.

And that’s a good place to take the invitation.  Go play.  Like in #CLMOOC.