Category Archives: Scholarship in the Act


Haiku here inspired by Susan Watson’s poem “Quicksand, Ellipsis”.  The story behind this is simple.  When it gets emerald and alive and warm and foggy with spring life squeezing into every open door and window and orifice of perception…well, that is surfeit of, too much of, much too much of necessary Spring.

The poem also arises out of my attempts to exercise my creative muscles.  One of my ten daily creative  ideas was to create kinetic poetry, simple and easy and in my own workflow with the least friction I could manage.  So managed and so fun, job done.

This is a kinetic poem created using Jelly Cam  to animate a set of screenshots taken using SnagIt and a bighugelabs’ writing tool called Writer.  I recorded music from the outercool website Hatnote using QuickTime. (Hatnote is ripe for picking and using in the classroom.  My jaded uni students loved it–as in agog and mesmerized like a  tantalized chicken.)

Here is the original poem:

Breathless, “Nature, stop!”

“Too much. Can’t take it all in.”

Words fail me, just ellipsis…




The Streetlight Effect and the Drama of Play and Infinite Game

Scott Glass was messing about with the #edjoy twitter xtravaganza the other night. I suggested a collaborative poem on hackpad to celebrate the #enjoyment of poetry. He, Kevin Hodgson and I played a bit in Hackpad.

The next day Scott asked for some help embedding gifs in the hackpad and that led to a poem for his students and an invite to add to the collaborative work there. Here is the Hackpad with the Billy Collins poem, “Forgetfullness”.

View Loss on Hackpad.

I followed up by forking a page off of the first line of the Collins poem: “I had an idea but I lost it. . .” If you click on the link I created in that line it takes you to another wiki page that is a short scene recreating the Streetlight Effect along with pix and gifs.

View but I lost it… on Hackpad.

I don’t know if this is what Scott had in mind. If it isn’t, no big deal, but I think the spirit of play and infinite game are attitudes that go a long way toward igniting the creative spirit. BTW, play along with this by creating ten ideas a day. Click here for more info.

Also, if you want to play along with a larger group annotating Collins’ “Forgetfullness” then check out Genius:


Don’t Just Derive | Engender and Thrive

Just finished reading Tania Sheko’s blog post about Pinterest as well as viewed her SlideShare presentation below. Go ahead and check it. I’ll wait.

You can tell she has thought about Pinterest and its thoughtful uses for quite awhile.  Sometimes you just know someone else has paid her dues just in the self-assuredness that shines through.  Tania is self-assured in her Pinterest practice and knows what it affords.

I commented on her post because I have been thinking about my own tool use of late, and about how I have lost  one of my favorites–Zeega. I feel its loss so keenly because it helped me create.  I got the dopamine rush when I used it and now its gone. I have looked far afield to find something to give me the same feeling, but no joy suffices so far.  This has made me think about how I need to embrace the undifferentiated creative life, the one that cleaves close to the heartwood and releases the Muse there.  Tania’s post made me write the comment below:

Love the uses for Pinterest. Wondering what other wild uses might be made of it not intended by its creators, what re-purposes? Could we make a paper-style Pinterests for the classroom? in the hallway? for parents to create, too. Could Pinterest be like a seed packet? How about a mystery gift used one time and then discarded? Could we collect badges together? or pictures of weeds and wildflowers which we assign ours and others’ names to?

I find myself looking at your blog’s background photo and thinking to myself, “That is a much more authentic Pinterest board than Pinterest could ever muster. So why can’t Pinterest be more like it?”

Back to your post, I find all of these “annotation/curation” tools to be great for helping me to process the world, but I also ask myself, “Why?” You answer so ably here and I want to go …differently,too. I am not saying better, just saying further. There is a natural progression from collecting without comment to curating to creating. I think that creating is where I want to be. I want what Pinterest is and what Pinterest does to serve the Muse. That is what my paragraph above dithers about. Just thinking about how so much of what I do is secondary, indirect and adaptive. I get this powerful voice inside me that says, “Don’t just derive, make and thrive.” Of course, the irony is that I am replicating what you have started. For that I thank you, Tania.

I am struck by this progression and would add a bit more by using a Pinterest template from Canva (is that hopelessly derivative or what?)

lurk (1)


Now the final reveal.  I derived these thoughts from the very interesting ideas here.  Sigh.  Is it habitually derivative all the way down?  Commenters are invited to help me out of this quicksand.



The 13th Donut or Gift from the Gods


This post was inspired by a comment on my other blog by Joe Murphy.
Tweedy Impertinence

If you click in the box above you will see Joe’s post and my annotation of Joe’s post, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”. Not sure, but I think Joe came to my post via #YouShow15 and I really wanted to reciprocate or as Joe puts it, express a little “lagniappe”.  I have always understood this to mean “the 13th donut”,

Missing from the rebus above is the




The annotated link is a way to do this kind of extra reciprocation, an extra donut. The beauty of the tool, Diigo, is that it allows lots of extra little embedded donuts to be hidden in the box.  You can respond with text, you can share with others en masse or in a group, you can embed sound and text and animations and pix.  All of this is free to Joe, but the ‘equal sign’ above lets me tell the rest of the story of that equation.  Honestly, it should be an approximation sign:




The beauty of giving more than you get is that it seems to prime some magical pump.  Bread thrown on the waters does come back, almost always in unknown ways. Here are the ways I know that I didn’t know before:

    • A new word, lagniappe,
    • A new re-acquaintence with an old credo-the 13th donut,
    • A new connection with Joe,
    • The idea that we are simultaneously part of the hierarchy AND the wirearchy,
    • Wise advice: don’t make a fetish of the tools. Valorize the act of serving–the tools will get their due as a matter of course

I also got to share some cool gifs, pix, songs, and personal observations, but here is the important part for me: there are many unknown unknowns that will redound to me. The reciprocation, the equal sign, is always approximate…and mysterious. For me the most mysterious manifestation so far has been how this has prompted me to reconsider an important idea from another point of view:  black swans.

I know this is really far afield, but it is one of the gifts that Joe’s post has washed onto my shore.  Since I am a cargo cultist, I naturally assign preternatural meaning to it.  A black swan is an idea that Nasim Taleb cast into the world to describe the unknown unknown, the wave we do not see coming.  Hell, that no one sees nor can see looming.

There are many global examples of black swans. the internet being one, but they all hold three traits in common–they’re surprising, they’re big, and they’re rationalized by hindsight. So…Joe’s gift to me, the one that I did not know I was going to get until after I had cast my manna on the water, was this question:  can there be local black swans?  And by local I mean a sample of one–me.

In a very uncertain world where I am snapped about by  the crack-the-whip of larger events, am I also subject to personal black swans generated in my own timeline? Could the world be even stranger than I think?  My first thoughts are, “Yes, far stranger.”

If I am subject to global and local swans, how must I live? I take my lead from Taleb. First , I must be on the lookout for black swans as they happen. I have to identify them as they happen.  Second, I must, as Taleb says in The Black Swan, have coping mechanisms in place for dealing with them. The embed below quotes from the second edition afterward in Taleb’s book and outlines ten ways to cope as a society.

Ten Principles for a Black Swan-Robust Society

Now comes the thinking about how to adapt and adopt these principles to the sample of me.  Then that manna goes back out on the water.  Thanks, Joe, for the coke bottle from the sky.


False Horizons or Failure of the Imagination or …

This post started off as a very short comment on the chart below.  It has become the monster below.  Please, dear reader, forgive me, but please read me.  I need all the help I can get.

Audrey Watters has a salutary chart in her most recent blog post at HackEducation.  The chart below is a summing up of the Horizon Reports 2004-2015.  So pretty.  I am so glad she made it all so legible.  There are many stories in here to be teased out and philosophical assumptions to be spoken to.  A steaming pile of ramen and soup to eat!

Watters, Audrey. “Horizon+Tracking.png (956×593).” Blog. HackEducation. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.
Watters, Audrey. “Horizon+Tracking.png (956×593).” Blog. HackEducation. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

Watters argues that the chart’s accuracy, Horizon’s batting average,  is not so important as what Horizon’s imaginative ‘process’ reveals about how the story of ed-tech is told.  I, too, am interested in both the failures and successes of the Horizon imagination, but where does it go from there.  What does the use of wikis and their transparency reveal?  Just because we can see the inner machinations of the experts panels at Horizon, that ‘information’ does not speak for itself.  It is the story we tell with the data, it is the signal we filter from that dogpile of noisy puppies that is what Watters is interested in.  My question is this: is our current narrative about this dogpile up to the task.  Do we need a new way of imagining the story in order to tell the new ed tech story? Can we proceed to imagine a future from the past or must we imagine that future from the future?  What I ask goes to the heart of what ‘history’ and ‘imagination’ mean to the idea of narrative  and who should tell the story of any future.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”~G. Santayana

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”~Heraclitus

Should Santayana or Heraclitus tell it?  Does the past dispose of the future, condemning us to repeat it in some Fated endless recursion or is the future’s story told by the imagination as we take unique steps toward what we invoke from that future?  I think that I would prefer the story was told by Heraclitus not Santayana.

Consider the chart above. I love charts.  I love teasing out the stories in them.  I love how they sum up.  For example, you would expect that the items that appear in the “Four to Five Years Out” column for 2004 would begin to appear in 2008 and 2009.  Do they?  I don’t know for sure.  Sometimes the terms that Horizon uses to couch their predictions is much like that of palm readers and horoscope diviners–wide enough to apply across a wide swath of the adjacent possible but really the frailest of signals. They don’t appear to tell much of a story.  I really don’t think that is Horizon’s purpose.  They understand the future in Santayanan terms-past is prologue to future.  They mine what has happened and they think that this is enough.  But what if they wrote their narratives with the idea of delineating lots of possible paths to the future or even better showing others how they might imagine that future into being.  That would be a very different narrative.  It would inevitably have some figurative elements to it.  Metaphor, metonymy, analogy, as well as humility and a rich capacity to prefigure instead of configure the future.  Poetry? Cinema?  Multigenre narrative?  Next generation Monte Carlo simulators? Black Swan machines?

Yes, when I see the realm of the possible and their adjacencies as a way of telling the edtech story then I find myself radically bored by Santayana’s crew at Horizon even at what seems only short time jaunts of a year.  By the by, why don’t they ever go out two weeks or two days. Prediction is prediction, right?  But that is my point.  There purpose is not to foretell but rather to argue.

This is to say nothing about the metaphor of the chart above.  I see it as surveyed territory with metes and bounds.  It is a platte book with ownership dilineated:  ‘mobiles’ owning this field this year and then his daughter ‘mobile apps’ owning it another.  Each edtech idea is contained and a property entire unto itself.  This way of telling the story is as handy as a pocket on a shirt, but it is also a handy ‘lie’.  Ideas are very rarely self-contained.  They are not atoms (or as Leibniz called them, monads).  They are more like messy pieces of memetic code replicating willy nilly.  And they are totally species agnostic as to who they have sex with.

A satellite view of my farm.
A satellite view of my farm.

As a farmer, when I see this chart I think of a farm with regular fence fields.  But I know when I get my muck boots out on them they become irregular in elevation and in what grows best in them and what flora and fauna haunt their margins and a multiplicity of need and purpose.  And I see that some of those fences will have to go and that I will need a pond here or some drains there. I see the chart above in much the same way.  I have made the world what James C. Scott termed ‘legibile’.

Venkat Rao has written about this better than I can.  I recommend him, but I can borrow an image from Scott that says it all.

scottForestry (1)

The chart is a rationalization of the state of edtech.  It is analogous to  the forest above on the reader’s right. Rao sums up this recipe below (apologies for the long quote):

Scott calls the thinking style behind the failure mode “authoritarian high modernism,” …

Here is the recipe:

  • Look at a complex and confusing reality, such as the social dynamics of an old city
  • Fail to understand all the subtleties of how the complex reality works
  • Attribute that failure to the irrationality of what you are looking at, rather than your own limitations
  • Come up with an idealized blank-slate vision of what that reality ought to look like
  • Argue that the relative simplicity and platonic orderliness of the vision represents rationality
  • Use authoritarian power to impose that vision, by demolishing the old reality if necessary
  • Watch your rational Utopia fail horribly

The big mistake in this pattern of failure is projecting your subjective lack of comprehension onto the object you are looking at, as “irrationality.” We make this mistake because we are tempted by a desire for legibility.

What the Horizon Report does is create a blank slate reality and then projects onto what it must view as a blank slate future.  Of course it is a failure, but as you will note in the final two bullet points, there are some very practical political realities that can arise from the blank slate.  Its very process can lead to ever greater failures.  Has it?  Now that is an interesting story to tell:  who has relied on this report to make future going policy decisions of consequence?

I look forward to Watters’ other shoe to drop on this.  I do not like the dreamfield that I see in the chart.  It is potentially a map for control.  And to gain control you have to dumb down the narrative.  Where there are guardians of the narrative there are uncast shadows and strings leading straight up to we know not who.  A worry.  Yes?



A Portfolio Response to Summary

An Improvisational portfolio on the subject of Ferris Jabr’s “Why Brains Prefer Paper”.

For class,  Friday the 13th, February, 2015

1. Here is the article for summary:

2. Here is the diigo annotated link:

3. Here is the diigo outliner that scraped all the links and little bit more as I attempted to ‘Backward engineer’ the author’s writing workplan:

4. Here is the picture of the map I drew based on the annotated link above:  20150213_070511

5. Here is the zeega:

I prepared this on the fly for class and will report back on results and more explanation in the next post.  What. Fun.


Engagement: I Do Not Think It Memes What You Think It Memes

INIGOI don't think

When I search Google for “engagement WKU” or “student engagement”  I get a hot mess of stuff.  In fact it clarifies for me how the word has lapsed into confusion (at least for me).  The Google nGram chart below for “student engagement” indicates that before 1962 there is no record of  the use of the phrase.

The Oxford English Dictionary connects engagement to mortgage in a feudal bow toward reciprocal duty.  The modern usage  has abandoned this idea of shared duty for the behaviorist schema that engagement is something we do in order to elicit the response we seek.  In other words where engagement had once been a two way street, it  has now been reduced to a “treatment”.  I get attention by doing something to get it.


I am trying to figure out what this word means in the classroom.  With the aid of two blog posts, one by Steve Greenlaw which led me to another  by  Gardner Campell nearly ten years ago, I have begun to  sample what engagement might mean.

Here is the idea that Gardner Campbell suggests:  treat engagement like an Apgar Test.  Interestingly, out of my 60 university students only four of them admitted to having heard of the idea and only one nursing major and one elementary ed major could speak specifically to what it meant.   As a husband whose wife birthed all of our babies at home (she is my hero), I helped administer the Apgar Test to all three of my newborn squids.  My favorite observation from the midwife of my first born was “pink to the fingertips”, an observation that meant a lot considering my son had the umbilical wrapped around his neck.

The idea here is to use this tool as a simple screening device to get an even simpler take on whether or not your learners are either finding themselves engaged or are actively engaged.  Below is the HaikuDeck I used in class to administer the Gardner’s Apgar. If you click here you can also see my slide notes.

Gardner’s Apgar – Click here to see slide notes and observations.

I have prepared a Google Form for use in future classes:

One of the reasons for doing this work is to push back on the behaviorist notion that engagement is an experimental stimulus to be applied to learners in order to get more of it. Engagement is indeed what the teacher does, but it is even more what the learner does and even more than that it is about how everyone in the community connects. It is what the learner brings to the task at the hand, what she brings to the community of learners, and what we all share as our “ante into the game”. And the game is no fun unless you have skin in it.