Category Archives: Holy Multimodal Roundings

Play the Feedforward Game for #Rhizo15 …or Grade That!

I have been called out in the comments by Sandra and Nick for offering a blank space for the feedforward game.  This was not some late April Fool’s joke or me doing a Dave Gadfly imitation. So…here are some instructions and a sample feedforward that I have done. To play the game you have to do a little bit of guided journaling and you have to share it on Hackpad. Actually, you don’t have to do anything of the sort. As they say in “Pirates of the Caribbean”–these just be guidelines, arrrrrr, but ye can play if ye want. Be the RhizoNinja you were meant to be.



Here are the instructions which I admit kind of suck, but too effing bad. It is an editable Hackpad, you fix ’em if you want. Just ask me for directions if you get lost.


Here is my completed set of answered questions.



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:


A Month of Creative Ideas? Join Us

Canva Design School Blog

One of my favorite brushes for my digital palette is Canva. I like it because it is free to use, easily shared, remixable, a user-friendly joy to use, and so very handy. I have always thought of Canva as one of those perfect hothouses for creative work– any age and skill level.


 It provides a healthy balance between templates and free rein. What I hadn’t realized before was how much it is designed for the informal learner. There is a sweet course-in-a-blog that I outline in the Scoop.It embed above. There’s a blog for newsy/teach-y stuff, tutorials to get you started in the world of design and teaching resources. I especially like the design post below: 10 Menu Design Hacks Restaurants Use to Make You Order More – Design School


I also plan on adapting one of their lesson plans on using Canva to create what amounts to a social media ad campaign.  How handy is that!


Author Innovation through Social Media – Design School

Lately, I have been trying to exercise my creative muscle as part of my ‘pense-betes’ motto, “Don’t Just Derive, Create and Thrive”.

poster with motto
Don’t just derive, create and thrive.

I acknowledge that part of everything we do is ‘derived’ from what someone else has done, but I also want to promote the idea that we can step out onto the creative cloud by putting the stamp of our own lives on the tools, ideas, and acts already out there.  I was inspired to do this by blogger James Altucher’s post, “The Ultimate Guide to Exercising our Creative Muscles”.

His post is an inspiring outline of how he does a creative workout by writing  down ten or more ideas every day.  That’s it.  He says the practice helped save his life.  So what are the ideas about?  Anything. Do they have to be all good ideas? No.  It is quite unlikely that any of them will be, but without pushing that capacity, we all know what happens–we  descend into the world of the xerox, of the routine, of the solely derived.

Here is  a hackpad with my ten ideas for today:

And here is where to go if you want to add your own to each day’s version. I am making this a priority for the next month. Every day. Wander through, lurk about, report on, or create your own list here or elsewhere. Just let me know how your month of ideas is progressing. And read Altucher’s post for more ideas and further discussion on what to do with these ideas going forward.

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.


PowerPoint Karaoke, Improv Presentation & the Infinite Game–Playing to Learn

I have known about PowerPoint Karaoke for years.  If the idea is new to you think “improv for presenters”.  Terrifying?  To some, any kind of presenting is next to losing a family member or having a tarantula crawl on you…

and that is why  I am exploring this as end-of-class fun for everybody.

So big deal, I have a depraved funny bone, but let me explain anyway.  The main focus of my English 300 writing course, Writing in the Disciplines, is to produce a research project that uses all of the skills most folks in rhetoric consider critical to being a competent writer: summary, critique, analysis, and synthesis.  I prefer to simplify that whole categorical mess by using Harold Jarche’s triune approach to knowledge management–‘seek/sense/share’.

Every class I try to help students do each of those elements.  I might combine a new search tool like Topsy with a sense-making tool like critiquing and use peer discussion to share.  Sometimes the mix is eclectic and weavs technologies (Google Scholar/Zotero/ Other times I flip the classroom and have them go totally paper and pencil and face-to-face.  The goal is to always be doing all three at some point in the class period or as part of an assignment.

One opportunity/challenge/terror they face at semester’s end is The Presentation. I have always thought of it as a festival of their ideas while many of them (especially my international and public speaking phobic learners) regard it as Professor Terry’s Cabinet of Horror.  

The theory is that since they have had the entire semester to explore their project that they have become experts and are, theoretically, more confident.  Well…while almost all are more expert than their peers by far in their research arena, most do not feel expert at all as presenters.

This fits.  Consider the presentation habits of our greatest presentation practitioners–standup comics.  Almost all of the major comics (Chris Rock and Louis CK come to mind) have a similar workflow.  Their goal is about an hour of comedy once a year. And…it takes them about a year to do that.  (Aside: Think about that and then consider how little time we allow students to get ‘good’ at presentation.)  Typically,  the comedian will work up a few minutes of stories or jokes and then do short standup sets at very intimate comedy clubs.  Some stuff kills, some stuff sucks. Over a year of trial and error (and occasionally some new material created on the fly) a coherent hour emerges. A year of starts and stops and this and that.

And what do we give students?  I won’t even say because it is the definition of the word unfair.  Hence my crazy embrace of Powerpoint Karaoke.  What are the rules?

There are no rules so much as there are…guidelines, but if you are like Crazy Walter–

then here’s yer rulez:

  • The presenter shall NOT see the presentation slides in advance.
  • The presentation time shall be limited. 5 minutes is the most common time limit.
  • The jury shall have a sense of humor.
  • The speech must be related to the Powerpoint slides. General nonsense is not allowed.
  • Imporant: Everybody shall remember that the reason to do it is to have fun

What I am doing is a slo-mo embrace of the game.  First, I introduced it and showed a few video examples.  I then asked them if they were interested in trying it out on Fridays just for fun.  Horror dawns in their eyes.  A few brave souls with the hearts of middle schoolers willing to try anything including jumping off a bridge agree to try it.  Not an auspicious start but not unlike the first days of a drama class as you practice warmups.

Next, I asked some folks on Friday if they wanted me to demonstrate.  Of course, I was terrible compared to some of the great examples I had already shown.  Then it hit me.  Let them use their own research questions/topics, let them sit at their seats and let them do just one or two slides in a variation we call “pptx-relay”.  I see a bit more enthusiasm.

Next week we will try more.  The point (heh heh, maybe I should say the powerpoint? Oh, ok that would be mega-lame) is to ease them into the water with small successes.  I create the slide decks and I advance the slides while they just do the improv.

The main purpose is to play the long game– have fun , but if you insist on having cover then find some CYA in the Common Core (good luck) or just note that we are getting students to use the oldest trick in the book–teaching others in order to learn better ourselves.  An added CYA bonus is that we begin to increase the amount of time doing at least some extra rehearsal in front of others.

I sincerely believe that if you play the infinite game, you reap infinite, ever-expanding rewards.  If you play the finite game, you get winners and losers.  Needless to say I will be the entire judging panel and I will make sure I “cheat” so that the points don’t matter.  I am endlessly creative and improvisational in ways that make sure that everyone ends up getting the same amount of points. (Aside: you should hear the howls when I do improvisational team quizzes and my strategic students discover that there is no way to win or lose OR I rig it where I am the ultimate winner.)

Here is an exemplary ppt-karaoke to gnaw on.  Tasty. Wish me luck.


Camera Non-Obscura: Or Why the Brain Sees Better than the Camera

I was inspired to write this post by the work of Kim Douillard and Kevin Hodgson in a project called “Slices of Life”.

I was especially struck by Kevin’s photos here (and I am avidly awaiting Kim’s).  In Kevin’s night picture, however, I found myself wondering about what I could not see just as much as by what I could see.  Having taken night photos before, I also thought about how limiting the camera is as it tries to record the fullness that the night can seem.  I know that is not a fair comparison in many ways, but technology is almost always like that.  In other words, in the fair light of day or night, technology reduces, delimits, and otherwise ‘cheapens’ experience. It makes the world more legible, but less wise.

For example, below is a photo of a rectangular platte of ground shot this morning just outside my back door.

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What we see has little to do with it means.  For one thing, the metaphor of the ‘frame’ makes legible only a very small portion of the available universe.  In a way this is exactly what the brain does so very well–it uses an ‘ignorance’ filter.  And by ‘ignorance’ I mean that we accent the second syllable.  Based upon some idiosyncratic and lifelong evolving algorithm, each of our brains takes from the picture above what it will and ignores the rest. A collander metaphor jumps to mind.  Or maybe it actively pays attention to some stuff in favor of other stuff, a pattern bias unique to each of our own sets of experience.  Schrodinger’s Cat? Or Maxwell’s Demon?

But our views signify uniquely.  Each of us comes to the photo with a different filter.  Thinking out loud here, perhaps the metaphor is a loom, a Jacquard loom with a punchcard template (read schema) that weaves the sensorium back and forth.  Or as early neuroscientist Charles Sherrington called it “the enchanted loom”. The quote below is the loom in action according to Sherrington  as our brain wakes from sleep.

 The great topmost sheet of the mass, that where hardly a light had twinkled or moved, becomes now a sparkling field of rhythmic flashing points with trains of traveling sparks hurrying hither and thither. The brain is waking and with it the mind is returning. It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one; a shifting harmony of subpatterns.

I  am not thinking of the  kind of loom below as a metaphor although it is cool and tempting.

This weaving of the senses in with the schema we already have in our minds, that’s what I have in…mind.  Now, back to the matter at hand, the practical matter of what is seen in the rectangle of ground outside my back door.

First, I see or infer dozens of holes in the ground. Worms, beetles, and other critters are pouring from the warming soil looking for I know not what.  Perhaps they are like Mole in The Wind in the Willows. They’ve  got spring fever and are saying to themselves, “onion sauce”. The are holing out of the ground and checking out the surface because they can and because they feel the need.  Fanciful? Yet the holes are there and my mind weaves in some Kenneth Grahame

Second, I know what the holes signify–soil health.  There is much to eat and many to eat it.  In a way it is as the hermetic philosophers insisted, “As above, so below.”  Another weaving of the loom that contemplates the health of the soil.



Third, it means that spring has sprung. This cliche is reinforced by the ‘frogged’ thrum of peepers in the background ready to move and mate and carry on with the ancient seasonal struggle. And all the other heaves and sighs and blats and tweets of spring. Not to mention the smell and breath of spring, its earth and touch moving in between what I see and hear and what I have seen and heard in sixty years of springs.

The camera’s purpose, like the brain’s, is to limit.  An example of this is filtering within apps.  I have been playing with two such tools of late: Adobe Shape and Waterlogue.

Here is how Waterlogue uses its “It’s Technical” filter to view the ground above… and so below.


Reminds me of a topographic map without text.  In this case the map is both the territory and not the territory, what Vedantic philosophy calls “neti-neti”.  This filter is not like the brain’s enchanted loom.  It simply renders the photo into something legible.  It does not mean anything independent of the brain that views it.  Does a photo rendered in a forest by a filter signify if no one is around to view it? Nope.

The other app, Adobe  Shape is even more stark in its mapping of filter onto photo. Hard to believe it has the same picture as its source.


Photo filters and apps are more like the chain of punch cards for a jacquard loom than Sherrington’s magical shuttle metaphor.  This Adobe Shape filter seems more like a reduction of the original to that of a photomicrograph of…brain tissue, neurons and glia.  But, of course, that is what I am ‘weaving into’ the filtered picture.  I love the image of my mind shuttling back and forth into what it sees and carrying with it the partial, conjoined datum of the the brain (what it knows past, present,future) and carrying back the sensorium.   The gif below does not even begin to approach the speed and complexity of the process, but it begins to point at how meaning might begin to be made.

I return to the original inspiration–overlooked moments.  I think that every photo by design is an overlooked moment.  Each one has an audience that o’erlooks it.  That ‘overlooking’ is the meaning making moment, the time when the brain fills in the blanks or, using Sherrington’s metaphor, uses the enchanted shuttle to weave meaning back and forth.  And because there are many possible weavers, any picture can be a nexus for even more complex brocades, quilts, and damasks.  Is that what Kevin and Kim are doing. And me, too. We are “flashing shuttles weav[ing] a dissolving pattern, always a meaningful pattern though never an abiding one.” And always there is something overlooked that someone else can weave in or (and this is something I am only now considering) weave out, Penelope-like in the night.

Now what do you see that has been overlooked. I invite you to invoke the Muse, grab the enchanted shuttle and make.  We live in a world of connection and construction that is beginning to fit our minds better every day.  Carpe neuron!

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