Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reflections of a new blogger

Having gone through and reread my sixteen postings, I find that none of them would be in the running for a People's Choice award. My voice (not to mention bias and emotions) is quite clear on most entries, but I wouldn't award myself many points for design or embedded references. I'm very glad I can go to others for that choice. Usually I was among the first people to post in my curriculum group, so I would check out others' entries over the weekend or Monday nights. I also blogged about things I read which weren't on that week's topic list (for example, my Appropriation entry).

I have also been ruminating about the purpose of blogging which we discussed in Week 8. I certainly used my entries to think and inquire of others. I did a little bit of sifting--my seashell icon refers to that--and more of archiving. Candance nominated my blog as an example of networking and I have tried very hard to respond to as many entries as I can. And I am certainly using the blog as a place to play (although I think the NING was more fun).


I didn't spend a lot of time making my blog fancy and most entries do not have a visual component. I do, however, like my Multiple Meaning Words, posted on September 19. Sparked by a term in our reading, I jumped to one of the most difficult aspects of English for language learners--figuring out words in context when they don't mean what the first dictionary entry said. I think my visuals for 'land' were quite good, although certainly not exhaustive. I have been much more concerned about content than appearance.


In terms of thinking and process, I think my response to our collaborative multimodal, multigenre multimedia project is exemplary. I responded both on a personal and professional level to the experience. In rereading my entry, I think I spoke for many members of the class. Another posting that demonstrates professionalism is Checking the Blogs, which produced four responses. It certainly demonstrates that I was doing my homework! (:-)


None of my entries strikes me as particularly clever, but I did respond to readings and events that weren't on the syllabus. Appropriation drew on articles in the StarTribune the week after we had discussed this in class. It's Everywhere is another example of an additional posting in response to non-assigned material I read. No one responded to I LOVE TONY ROMANO, although that certainly has my voice loud and clear!


It's hard to choose the 'best' entries for this category. I love what Elizabeth B. is doing with The Things They Carried on her blog. I like the visual appearance or Natasha's blog and the hatching of a rock story. Consistently, Mary K. and Isa have written about rich resources and research that were new to me. I love how Janice is using her blog to try out ideas for her class, too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Collaborative writing

I really liked the Bledsoe article because it was an excellent yet realistic example of collaborative writing process. Note, though, that he said I will teach the curriculum my way, which is collaborative for students but not for teachers. I see the focus in the school district now as being one of teacher-share: small mixed-class reading groups, collaborative SMARTBOARD lessons, required team meetings, for example. I see the curriculum being jammed into short, fragmented days which don't allow the freedom to create over the length of time Bledsoe takes with his projects. We can 'do it,' 'make it happen', but the more compressed and compartmentalized and skill-driven teaching becomes, the less viable an authentic collaborative writing workshop may be.

Over the years, I have participated in both cross-grade and intra-class collaborations. For several years, I paired my fifth graders with a primary class for a poetry unit. The big kids were amazed by the imagination of the little kids and the little kids were impressed by the attention and writing skills of the fifth graders. One of the favorite types was color poems. The fifth and first or second graders would alternate images a la HAILSTONES AND HALIBUT BONES. One year my fourth graders wrote and acted in 'animal plays' that they wrote in small groups. It was an act of faith on my part to give the students so much freedom, but they rose to the occasion and made everyone proud. I haven't done anything electronically, but I see a variety of potential explorations.

On a personal level, I do a lot of newsletter articles for a variety of groups of which I am a member. Sometimes people like what I've written, but other times I really have worked collaboratively with another person not just as editor but as co-author. Two heads are usually better than one.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Two articles in the StarTribune this week caused me to think more deeply about remixing and appropriation. One was the review of the show "Afterword" at Thomas Barry Fine Arts. The artist, Thomas Allen, cuts up pulp novel covers from the postwar era, then remixes the images to create new scenes. He explores perspective, 'leveraging depth perception, shadow and the occasional blurred focus to punch up the intrigue,' according to Greg Scott, the reviewer. I expect that the copyright has expired on the old novels, so Allen is free to use them in his new work. Scott thinks that Allen's work is more 'camp' than art, but it caused me to wonder how artists have been using appropriation for many years. (I remember a music teacher criticizing Resphigi for being un-original since all he did was 'remix' some ancient airs and dances and call it new music).

The other article was on the editorial page, an ongoing conversation about Shephard Fairey's use of an AP image of Obama to make his famous HOPE illustration. Stephen Bergerson, a trademark attorney, says that the issue is one of copyright--the original photo was taken by an Associated Press photographer, but it was Fairey (and Obama) who benefitted from the photo. Mina Leierwood, a Minneapolis artist and activist, had previously written that the HOPE image had become so iconic that it belongs to the people, not the AP. The question that is raised for me is: did Fairey transform the image deliberately to make money or fame or did he use it as a starting point to make new art? The link above cites some online comments from others as well. I would think that other people had similar photos of Obama, but that the AP one was most readily available. Does intent matter? If Fairey hadn't been so artistic/creative would the appropriation have really mattered? I honestly haven't been following the ins and outs of this discussion, but it raises some of those questions of fair use and copyright new technology is causing us to ponder.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Digital literature

Deb S. used the phrase 'crossing over' and I think I am on the same bridge. This week's resources were so inspiring, I'm not sure where to start. I viewed all the examples that Candance suggested and also CRUISING (amazing!) that Janice recommended on her blog, plus the Crayola video Deb mentioned. I'm beginning to see how creation of multimodal, multigenre pieces could be considered writing. For weeks, I was much more comfortable calling 'composing' since to me writing must include words. Then, especially in Jester's article, I began to see how tools such as storyboards, combined with strong visual images, could offer both structure and feedom. And once you call a graphic organizer a storyboard, well, they're used in movie and cartoon making and we're into new media. Chris Jensen's images tell a story once he explains the setting. I'm not sure where the documentary/creativity line is (I'm sure it's blurred), but I wonder if images alone are digital literature. Not being a gamer, I had no idea how powerful and lifelike the images in a video game can be; Heavy Rain, the Origami Killer looked realistic at some times and in some angles. I think this can be harnessed for good or evil.

I had a conversation last night with my daughter, who is in the MFA creative writing program at Syracuse. She was going on about how none of her novels would ever be on Kindle and how she wanted to work for a small PRINT press when she graduates. For her, visual images are something to be created in the mind, not handed to people so they don't have to visualize and use their own imaginations.

And I had a conversation today with a fourth grade teacher who said she was having to revamp one of her units that has a strong computer component because the labs were given over to testing. Now that I want to bring more digital work to my students, 20th century roadblocks seem to be multiplying. The school district has a way to go to make 21st century learning a reality.