My #DigiWriMo 2015


What I wanted to do here was display my new found bravery in the creative sphere and offer you a cool infographic or other excellently crafted visual that would show you what a great time I had being a part of Digital Writing Month (#DigiWriMo).

The truth is, I don’t have that kind of time. I could have tried speaking it but that would have meant having to listen to my own voice. I’ll save that torture for another day.  I might have found a cool template on one of these sleek graphic tools that are all the rage and simply fill in the blanks. But you know what happens there. You spend all this time trying to get your icons all facing in the right direction, your fonts all neatly aligned and before you’ve even addressed the content two hours have flown by and you have, like, nothing.

So I am back to words and lists and narrative. At least I know my way around here.

Here was my November 2015 in #DigiWriMo:

[Actually, I got a head start in late October with the warm-up activity to create an alternative CV. Couldn’t resist that one.)

November 1st: Turned 50

November 2nd: my guest contributor post, Author, Audience and Parts of Speech, kicked off

November 2nd-7th: I encountered the warmth, generosity and openness of the #DigiWriMo community as expressed in comments, tweets & retweets on my post. It was a joy to respond and interact and meet some of the crew. I received TWO poems in response to that post and I still am blown away by that. Poetry, y’all.

In the second week, the emphasis was on visual expression in digital writing. Right off the bat in Kevin Hodgson’s introduction to the visual as a theme I found a spark to explore the novel Wonderstruck by Brian Selziek. Then I was inspired by Kim Douillard’s post to add a photo of my corner of the sky to a collaborative collection titled: Our Eyes on the Skies.

By Nov. 11th I was ready to follow Troy Hicks’ pointers and consider producing my first infographic. Although initially at at loss as to what I would want to demonstrate, as I let myself play with the tool, the actual content announced itself in due time.

Here is what emerged: DigiWriMo2015(2)

By the time week three rolled around and the focus was on using sound in writing, well, let me just say, I had my reservations. Not about the relevance and possibilities but simply my own capabilities to build this aspect into what I already do. Once again, the community had my back and the guest contributors that week provided the encouraging nudges that led me to share this post: Shhhh! An Audio Revelation. And revelation was not at all an exaggeration – being able to listen to the opening of a number of different classes was so revealing and fascinating. How do I actually manage to get a group of 16 five-year-olds to settle down long enough to give some instructions? How do we negotiate those openings with each other?

In the process, I also learned how to use Sound Cloud and audiocopy. My #DigiWriMo treasure chest continues to grow. Along the way I discovered so many great voices and perspectives which gave me both pause and inspiration. In the final week when the emphasis was on transmedia expression I found that I had indeed hit a wall of sorts. The notion of “transmedia” somehow overwhelmed me at that moment, in that week, although the whole month long I had been doing precisely that in bits and pieces. Once again, the community was right there with me offering both understanding and opportunity. In the final guest post, “It All Falls Apart,” Anna Smith documented and shared her production process in creating her transmedial oevre “Pieces.” In my comment I was able to give voice to the odd uneasiness I was feeling for not having gone “the whole nine yards,” as they say. And I was able to sum up what this month of creative community meant for me:

#digiwrimo is more than a number of days, more than a collection of interested and interesting people, more than the numerous artifacts which were created under its auspices. For me, #digiwrimo has become a frame of mind that I want to hold onto: a reminder to dare to experiment and contribute to communities of play and experimentation, digital and otherwise.

Just like that, it’s suddenly December and all manner of fresh engagements fill up my calendar (and probably yours, too). But #DigiWriMo as an experience, as a source of inspiration, as extraordinary meeting of the minds – will remain with me. Practicing “being the audience I want to have” is an ongoing commitment and one I gladly honor. It’s the frame of mind that will grow along with me. For that I am immensely grateful.



Shhhh! An audio revelation

“Boys and girls, shhhh….”

“Keep your voices down.”

“Are you listening? How can I tell?”

“Use your indoor voice, please.”

“Thank you for sitting quietly.”

“Look at who’s ready for the next instruction!”

“Boys and girls, I’m waiting… it’s your time…”

We educators can spend a lot of energy trying to control student volume. We have our reasons and many of them are rooted in good intentions about being responsible and respectful community members. Be that as it may, I find myself making countless requests for students to be quiet, quiet, quiet.

This is the third week of Digital Writing Month and the theme is using sound in our writing and even as a form of writing. Bit of a stumper for me as I feel so much more at home in the literally written word. Yet in her introduction to the week’s offerings, #DigiWriMo co-facilitator, Sarah Honeychurch, offered the following invitation:

Listen to the way that voices help to tell a story. Think about the ways that sounds and tunes can be used to change the ambiance of your words. Which sounds form the backdrop to your everyday life – which ones do you love and which to you dislike?…Which sounds define you and what you do?

Those questions sparked something in me and led to an idea.

The sounds that define me and what I do are here:

In the clip above you can hear the beginning of two different classes, Pre-K and 1st grade. My students are brimming with life! There’s tremendous energy in their  voices and not surprisingly much of that energy flows into volume: giggles and shrieks, requests and demands, action and reaction – there seems to be very little space for quiet in all that! I hear my teacher voice trying to calm the buzz in order to unleash it again along with the gift of movement. As adults, it’s easy to forget how much enjoyment children can have simply being in each other’s company with license to give that exuberance full voice and volume.

Truth: the students are loud. And so is their enthusiasm. My challenge is to lower the volume (briefly) without dampening their enthusiasm. It’s a delicate balance yet the very balance they must negotiate time and time again throughout their school day. Their struggle is not to be or not to be, rather to be quiet or be shushed.

Meanwhile I was also inspired by an e-mail sent out to by my colleague, alerting us to the great things happening in his Minecraft after school activity:

Want to see a class full of sometimes behaviorally challenged elementary boys of different ages, enthusiastically collaborating, problem solving, sharing books, cooperating, developing their own ethical behavior , sharing valuable information and eagerly  learning from each other?

Then suspend your definition of “inside voice” and visit the Minecraft After School Activity on Tuesdays sometime.

I loved this message for many reasons, but the “suspend your definition of ‘inside voice'” really did it for me. Without being in the room I could easily picture the beautiful mayhem of these crazy enthusiastic and creative boys letting their imaginations run wild. And being allowed to crow about it. What a difference that must make.

So yeah, sound. Being able to capture sound in order to meditate on it, to investigate its impact, there’s something to it. More than that, even.  This experience has provided more surprises than I ever anticipated. Although I probably won’t go cold turkey on “shhh…” any time soon, I will consider when its purpose and usefulness may be overrated in a given context. I want my students to know and enjoy the benefits of both/and: loud and soft, boisterous and quiet. Creating the space for these and all the variations in between is within my power and I have the technology.