Friday, July 17, 2015

Twitter as a Tool for Reflective Teaching?

I was doing a session on playing with author blurbs as a way to study genre for our Writing Project Summer Institute.  It was the 3rd time I'd done the workshop this summer and I was struggling to bring the enthusiasm.  This is why I always had my classes reading different novels when I taught high school.  Doing something the second time helps me work out the kinks, but by the third time I'm bored.

As I launched into my mini-lesson about genre as a site of action rather than a form to be filled out, the room was quiet.  I continued on with my metaphor  about writing into a genre being like going to a party - you have to know who the party is for and who is going to be there.  The room was deadly quiet.  People were typing on computers and scribbling notes, but few were making eye contact.  Crap.  I was boring the heck out of them.  I finished up the mini-lesson and moved on to the activity.  I picked up my phone to set a timer and found it exploding with tweets.  Things like:

"Learning how to be recognized in the discourse and push the discourse with @birdawg"

"you can push the envelope as long as you know how to act at the party" birdawg on genre at this rockin' awesome SI session"

Well how about that!  They were engaged in back-channeling about the session.   And I'd hit the nail on the head.  Not only that, but they were re-framing my words into their own, pointing to the things that were important to them in what I'd said.

I started thinking (again) about the use of Twitter in the classroom.  What if students had the access to this during mini-lessons in school?  What if they could point back to and re-frame what teachers were saying.  It would certainly engage their active minds by having an outlet to communicate with others about what they were learning, but it would also show the teacher what is getting through and perhaps even what is causing confusion.

Thinking back on all of this now, I think this type of tweeting would need to be taught.  When I've seen Twitter used in classrooms in the past it's been more about reporting out the agenda for the day . . .  "we learned about worms today"  These posts go a little beyond that, pointing to salient points in the lesson and lending them a sort of "A-men sister" to what I was saying.  It's a little bit of ego stroking for me, for sure and I wouldn't want to turn it into a process of making me feel good about what I was doing in the classroom, but it sure was helpful when I had a break to see that what I had wanted to communicate had made it through and that I could build further on those concepts rather than re-teaching them.

If nothing else, I'm wanting to think more about this.   I'm hoping I get a chance to play with this some during the school year.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Yogi Writer/ Maker - a Revision to Reclaim my Identity

Running and Writing.

I suffer an identity crisis every time I read this piece.  It is the opening of my first book and people who have read it come and tell me how meaningful the analogy is to them - and that always follows with the dreaded question - "So how's the running going?"

The truth is, I don't run anymore.  So then I'm compelled to tell the story of how I blew out my hip on a run when I tripped over the dog and now hot yoga is my jam.  I even published a Digital IS resource about this identity crisis.

It occurs to me now, five years into yoga and nine years after the book was published that there is an analogy to be found in yoga and writing AND in making and writing. It's all in the idea of practice.  Yoga is a practice.  There is no race  or competition to train for.  You simply show up each day and practice your craft.  You listen carefully to your body.

Writing and Making - composing if you will - is a lot like that.  You show up each day and your practice your craft.  You listen to what your soul is telling you to create.  You speak the words that are there - composing carefully.

Sometimes you fly in your yoga practice, nailing each pose with a strong flexible body.  Somedays you are stiff and wobbly and your side crow crashes into a face plant.  On those days you have to revise your practice, to reiterate it.  You have to listen closely to your body and let it tell you what it is capable of this day.  You have to weed out the distractions that are making you wobbly, you have to find your drishti.  But most of all, you continue to practice in the way your body will allow that day.

Sometimes your words or make fly together, speaking out to the world about ideas of importance.  Carefully crafted statements of social justice fly onto the page or into the make.  Somedays, nothing works.  The glue isn't right, the pieces fall apart, the words won't come.  On those days you have to focus on revision and reiteration.  You have to listen closely to what your soul is telling you and get one word down, one piece put together.  You have to try it out and see if it works and if it doesn't, you have to try again.  You have to silence the distracting voices that tell you that you have nothing to say.  But most of all, you continue to practice your craft in the way that your mind will allow that day.

The biggest lesson for me as I've grown from the running analogy to the yoga analogy is a spirit of playfulness.  When I read that running piece I am struck by the hard work, the slogging through pain.  Yoga is playful and so should writing and making be.  It's a choice, approaching with this spirit of play.  Making a mess and seeing what will happen is the heart and soul of writing and making.  And that sense of play is far more encouraging to me as a writer and a maker than the drudgery of trying to craft perfect words or compel myself up a monster hill.