First Day Dealing: Advantage to the House



This is a common workflow for me especially at the beginning of the term.  I have been trying to draw more of the ‘stuff’ we do from the student side of the card which on this first day is quite blank.  Below is a ‘popplet’ version of this 4X6 card that I project in class as both class notes (which I email to them) and as our platform for discussion.

I like the flow from analog card to digital space.  Everything is there for the learner.  It serves as a reminded for what happened in class, it has the assignments on it, and I can add to it.  In this case I will add the spreadsheet that is created by the google form, add notable quotes from the Vialogue perhaps in a hackpad, and perhaps create an annotated link with Diigo with my own response to the Clay Shirky article from which I will create my tl:dr version of his article.  Lots of room to play.

One Direction: How We Lead from the Future with Boy Bands, Pleasure Reading, and Larry Stylinson


If a podcast and a survey had sex, this post would be its love child. I am tempted to bring in Munchaloompas here, but this post will be weird enough as is.

How often does this seemingly random mashing and thrashing of information happen to you?  For me, not often enough.  It is one of the reasons I love/fear the addiction of the Net.  I figure the longer I am here, the more likely it is I will get this happy accident to happen.  No, I know serendipity doesn’t work that way, but here’s how it went down.

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, “Reply All”, while I was bushhogging.  I love podcasts. You can take them anywhere.  I love Reply All especially because of its variety and depth. I can count on knowing not only something more but something better and deeper.  It is always surprising.

Podcast with show notes. 

I almost had to quit working and just listen to this particular podcast (above). It was alternately ‘milk squirting out the nose’ funny and ‘this cannot be true’ sad. Without spoiling too much of this priceless podcast I can tell you it is the story of mistaken identity that leads to the revelation that there are:

  1. millions of fans of a pre-teen/tween/teen boy band I am only lightly aware of called One Direction (1D),
  2. in the larger set of 1D fans exists a subset of perhaps hundreds of thousands called “larry stylinsons” or just larrys for short,
  3. the main tenet of the larrys is that there is a conspiracy to hide in plain view the obvious fact that two of the band members are gay  and in love with each other (Harry Styles + Louis Tomlinson= Larry Stylinson).
  4. this fact is obvious to them, but they put an inordinate amount of energy in demonstrating on forums, in Twitter, on YouTube and wherever conspiracies are sold that this is indeed a case of the band’s management and label trying to keep truth in that needs to be out.

I know that there are conspiracy groups everywhere, but I never knew that there were ones that made so much over so little.  Of course, that’s just my opinion, man. It is a big deal to the larrys of the world, the hundreds of thousands of them that create stuff like this to prove their point to those who would doubt:

This would be an ordinary if weirdly ordinary story of true love seeking redemption with the help of young women everywhere (that is the main demographic of 1D), but it doesn’t stop there for me.  Remember that I had been bushhogging?  When I came in I grabbed some well-deserve iced green tea and sat down for some serendipity on the Net.

What I chanced upon was a post at KQED’s Mindshift on tween and teen literacy:  “Why Don’t Teens Read For Pleasure Like They Used To?” The tl;dr version of the post was this: research by CommonSenseMedia on the reading habits of kids and teens found that reading for fun was way down.  Or you could look at a much more interesting summary that they provided along with my annotations:


2015-08-05_08-44-45 (1)



I suppose I “lucked up” on this research brief and infographic, but it did ride in on my Inoreader RSS feed on purpose. I suppose it also got there because KQED played a major role in the MOOC I helped facilitate/participate in this summer. The fact that I glommed onto their feeds so as to not miss out on their brilliance really wasn’t a happenstance. I suppose I chanced upon it, but the real lottery here was that I came to the article after listening to Reply All while on the tractor.  That particular synchrony was pretty off-the-charts improbable.  If I had moved the electric fence like I should have before coming in, I don’t doubt I would have collapsed in front of our single overworked window unit air conditioner while watching something on Hulu. No words would ‘ere have been writ.

What was most important in making the link between post and podcast was the demographic one.  Both are about a tweens and teens.  And because of this obvious discovery,  the podcast might go a long way toward explaining some of the questions the post raises.

I was hard struck  by the “reading for fun” category in the infographic above.  If you think of fun as a pie chart (or just as a pie which really is fun unless it’s mincemeat and that would just be wrong) it looks like a finite resource.  That is arguable, but let’s just accept that as given for now.  If it is finite, where the hell did all the fun go for 17 and 13-year olds?  They lost 18% and 14% respectively of their total fun.  Why isn’t there a revolution among this demographic to get their fun back?

No one stole their fun.  They are just distributing it in “better” places.  They are, also, finding it in many more places than ever before.  They are rooting it out in Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, and YouTube as “larrys”.

What does this signify to those of us who do knowledge work as teachers and coaches and mentors?  For one thing, we cannot count on the cushion we got for years from this ‘reading for pleasure’.  And by cushion I mean fluency and sheer competence. And by competence I mean vocabulary and the million words you need to have read to be a disciplined reader. (This carries over into competent writing, too, by the way.)

For another thing, the cognitive sink they are investing in (the online universe) is one we do not value like we have valued reading for pleasure.  We don’t have a survey that looks at measuring how ‘larrying’ has grown over the last decade.  That’s just absurd on its face.  Who cares about ‘larrying’?  They do.  Very. Much.

We have to ask this: is ‘larrying’ just as valuable as “reading for pleasure”?

And that is when I started thinking hard about what this future really invites.  I originally wrote ‘portends’ because the future often seems to me like it did for Lady Macbeth–a hell that is murky. Then I realized that there might just as likely be lots of ‘brights and shinies’ there.  Where does a future with Larry Stylinson beckon us?

1. The larrys are still readers, but they are also makers and doers.  There are probably a higher proportion of makers than takers among this group.

2.The larrys value their passions above all else, especially their pleasure reading. Their pleasure reading is tied up in pleasure doing.

3. Larrying activity might be the future equivalent to pleasure reading

4. There are larrys aplenty in your learning environs–clever, creative, autodidacts who know something AND more importantly can figure out how to learn more on their own.

5. The larrys represent latent learning capacity that can be extended elsewhere.

6. And many more adjacent possibles that arise from the initial condition of being a larry

There is much more here than we can see in the murky future’s roar, but there are hints that while all is not perfect, all might be well enough as we muddle toward it.

I still don’t like 1D’s music, but I love every passionate conspiracy-seeing Louise, Harry and Larry that is trying to make sense of their world.  Isn’t that what we want ultimately in any learner?  Someone who seeks, makes sense of, and shares with the world?  I hope so.

If this upsets you, then Yogi Berra gives us a little zen wisdom as a balm for this brave new world.  Listen to Yogi.

fork in the road



I have been playing about with a resurrected version of Z33ga. Not resurrected by me, but by my daughter’s significant other, Brennan. Not sure if he wants his name bandied about. He has been a total mensche about getting me running after I asked him to just take a glance at the github source code for the program. He is an astonishing tech dude with a little free time so he just took on the project. It’s not open for prime time yet, but my goal is to exercise due diligence and get this on my own server and see how much I can share without things breaking the bank for server access.

I recommend as always that you click on the play button then hover over the lower right hand corner of the image box and go to full screen. Much better that way.

Also, please read Simon’s post first. Why? The post and the multimodal z33ga are supposed to work together. In fact, I have always envisioned each z33ga as first intended for an audience of one and then afterwards for others, but only if they read the post first. Ideally, folks would come to their own translation via the remix aspect of zeega.

I first started doing z33gas as a method of close reading by translation. By recodifying text into image and music I was able to really do the original work much greater justice. Besides…I am a slow wit not a quick wit (don’t go the rest of the way there, pardner) and this tool is perfect for getting me part of the way into a text. My first reading of Simon’s post was basically, “WTF?” By using z33ga, I got my camel’s nose under the tent.

Bret Victor: A Revolutionary Look at Embodied Dynamic Cognition

The hair on the nape of my neck rises as I note the approach of a new idea, a new friend. I take hand and we walk together. And then I am never the same again. It’s the “check valve effect”. The function of a check valve is to allow flow in one direction. A new idea can be that check valve. Perhaps this is what walking with Socrates felt like, a peripatetic check valve. What new idea am I nattering on about? Bret Victor’s hour-long talk last October, “The Humane Representation of Thought”. And yes, it is worth watching the whole thing because it is whole idea.  You could watch it over a few days in Vialogues if that makes it easier, but I think you will be riveted by it.

Here is the talk below. I will save my further natterings for the Vialogue that follows further down the page because I feel the need to walk this path with others.

The Humane Representation of Thought from Bret Victor on Vimeo.

Here is the Vialogue space for those who might want to explore like Bret Victor suggests:

Re-Codifying a Poem: Susan Watson’s “Outside” with DNA Added/Subtracted

Here is Susan Watson’s post/poem “Outside”.  Click here now.

Full of images and ideas, right?  Poetic as all “get-out”.

I took my handy annotating tool, Diigo, and highlighted and tried to simplify (for my own understanding). Here is the raw material I mined from her post/poem.

brain retreats
I want I want
don’tdont’dont comment by Terry Elliott
inevitable hopelessness
unenviable dread
seeps through
seeping through comment by Terry Elliott
each beginning
each day
I try
I try I try I try comment by Terry Elliott
to lever
to pry
into the day,
I Resist
black murk
some days
the sun
grabs me by the neck
a best friend
me wallow
weighted by two-ton memories
I slog
through thick magnetic mud comment by Terry Elliott
neck my arm my heart toward Outside
holy map
make it
dragged along
surfeit of, glimmers
a path appear
exponentially into a widening
view of
this bird this tree this weed this flower this shadow. This air
the grey fizz fuzz buzz
makes me feel
Alive. Outside.
combination lock

A poem is a wild digital thing loosed into the world and as such fair game for remix.  I remix in order to slow read, slow process, otherwise I glide over its surface like sponge over teflon.  You might be a better reader, but if reading is anything like listening or observing, then my best guess is that you gloss over the lot, too.  This isn’t judgment or condemnation.  This is just the way it is.

I…must…..widen….my ……….gyre in order to find my prey.  And my prey is not the secret sitting in the middle, not the solved mystery, not some puzzle clicking into place.  My prey is food, to be eaten and made into my substance as well.  Food and words, slow food and slow words.

And now to slow it down further, I recodify.  I honor the original by making something different with its DNA–not a clone but a child poem arising from the original. The same lineage but a different line. (Sorry, it won’t embed yet.)

Thank you Susan for food and air and water.


Fred Nails It: Nary a Notice

In my hollar, natives still use the expression “nary”. Only the way they pronounce it, it rhymes with “sorry”.  And it’s clipped at the end so that it sounds like “Nar”.  Here’s some dialogue to demonstrate.

Terry:  Hey, Fred. Loved the worm post.

Fred: Thanks, Terry, but I’m puzzled.

Terry: What do you mean?

Fred: Nary a notice of it earlier.

Terry:  Nar one?

Fred: Nar one.

Fred Mindlin is the very real correspondent above and his puzzlement is also concrete, too.  I share his puzzlement over this particular post which is real universe of discourse and in my own lack of traction in my own work.  I responded to him on the #CLMOOC Facebook page.  Because that is a closed space (until the end of this six week MOOC at least) I carry over the response into this open space.

Here is my soliloquy from Facebook in response

I am not surprised. Blogs are easy to ignore, anything smacking of ‘long form’ reflections get short shrift in our nano aware, attention-centric social networks. I believe that “attention” is part of the commons and in order for networks to become communities, for us to become humans instead of nodes, we have to figure out a way to share that attention. It is a limited resource, what Nobel economist  Elinor Ostrom called a “common pool resource”. She spent her whole life chronicling how we can manage that resource in other ways beside the fake invisible hand of the market. I am thinking more and more that we need rules to do this otherwise there is no room for Fred or me or newbies and damn sure no breathing space for the lurkers.

And this put me of a mind to bring together two of the greatest thinkers I know, Thomas Jefferson and Elinor Ostrom.

the earth belongs in usufruct to the


I am going to be thinking about this a lot as #CLMOOC shifts into creeper gear (farm tractor terminology) and even more as I rethink the classroom space as a commons, a shared attention space.  Jefferson will remind me that it is the folk who know the territory and Ostrom will remind me that there is a lot of successful practice in the world that we can turn into useful theory including #CLMOOC.


A Letter from the Heart of Darkness in My Own Private Dumbf***istan

I originally wrote this as a response to a mild post of Kevin’s blog.  His post was about cell towers and lines of sight. I decided this was too crazy for that venue and not fair to burden his site with. Instead, it will fester here.

I do get insane sometimes about what has happened in less than two generations  where I live in Kentucky. My children are smart and they have moved away to where hope has a better chance to live, maybe even thrive. I cannot be consoled about that nor made glad nor coaxed into being positive. Don’t try.

Some might go ahead and argue that I should lighten up. Be more positive, they say, and you will draw more positive energy to you. That would be like telling a cancer patient that if they had a better outlook they wouldn’t be in stage four now. I won’t be positive. It is a culturally desperate situation. It snaps in the air around me like a downed power line in the dark, burning insulation and more. Here is what I wrote for Kevin, but decided it needed to live here in this public space instead.

Confronted by failed private infrastructure every day. No cell service in the hills and hollars unless I get it from an inferior local provider–Bluegrass Cellular. I have T-Mobile because they were the first to offer wireless cell connection at home. But it all comes at a cost and it is all as fragile as a penny on a railroad track waiting on a train.

This is the trivial tip of the iceberg for me. Below that surface we see the classic political powerlessness of the truly rural. I have a railroad not three miles from me, but no passenger service. Why? No political power to wrestle money from the eastern and western rail corridors, no power to increase the size of the pie, no power to make the private rail corps share the transportation commons.

Info infrastructure? I am dead end on my connection. Have been told I will never go any faster on my dsl. Schools are underpowered with both internal wireless access as well as fibre in and out their doors. And that says nothing about the totally spotty access our students get, access that’s absolutely mission critical if by ‘mission’ we mean their futures.

This rural disconnect even gets down to seemingly trivial items like radar coverage. We are at the edges of three different radars (sited in metro areas of course) and we get ‘fuzzy’ coverage at best. What this means is that the very real threat of tornados is combatted not by viable technology but by human spotters giving notice via sirens atop volunteer firehouses throughout the county. That’s a real WTF.

Some might argue that we hillbillies should vote with our feet, again another urban-centric reaction. Some of us are committed to growing things for cities to eat. Not sure we want too many more of us to leave that calling. Say what you will about tobacco and growing it (both detestable to my mind) but it provided economic and agricultural stability for generations. When government price supports were withdrawn ( in other words when political power abandon us) we lost that. People did vote with their feet when this happened. My county, the second largest dairy producer in the state, began hemorrhaging farmers so fast that the average age of dairy farmers went up ten years in the same time period. Average ages don’t do that hardly ever unless something dire is happening.  Plague maybe or the crashing of a culture?

Kevin, I know you didn’t intend for this to be a political soapbox, but it seems to me that rural life has become an idyll for most, but you cannot feed your family with myth. Cheap food along with cheap oil has enabled political power to be concentrated into urban hands. And folks marvel about the nasty intensity of the gun nuts and the preppers and the meth farmers and the tea partiers. I don’t wonder at all. We in dumbf**kistan have been abandoned. It is every crazy mf for him or herself and the devil take the hindmost. Or at least that’s what it feels like on the worst days to me, a not so quiet desperation.

I wrote a cutout poem about this and posted it on a public space started by Susan Watson.  It rises from the context above, driven to poetry by extremity.


I hate to sound like some faux John Brown in the wilderness prophesying death and destruction.  I actually believe we are in for a slower crash much like James Howard Kunstler describes in his World Made by Hand novels.  If you think I’m angry, then you should read his take on what is going on in urban blightscapes.

You might ask in fairness, what do you suggest?  I don’t suggest anything at this point.  I can only hope for a terrible status quo or move to the cities near my kids.  My wife and I have talked about this nearly every day.  It seems the rational reaction to abandonment and worse.  Get out while the getting is good.  Of course, there are myriad options, but they are all huge leaps and with each leap we would pull up the roots, the ties, the connections to what’s left of our community, a small, hard-bitten clump of 1970’s back-to-the-landers whose defining trait is stubbornness not intelligence.  And worse we would be ripping from its context the hard-earned tacit knowledge that is the legacy owed to future generations.  Gone forever.

I will recover from this outburst.  You need to see this for what it is.  Someone coming to terms with personal mortality and cultural destruction.  I just want witnesses.  I don’t want you to hurt like I do, I just want you to see the wanton and terrible  sight of a culture dying, to acknowledge it with a nod or to even curse it with a “good riddance and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out”.  I will let others argue for the moment about what is really happening, I will just tell you that I know what I know and this is what I know. Not positive. Not negative.  Your mileage may vary, but this is what I know.


The Big Here

Wanted to explore the idea of a watershed and how water follows simple rules to create awe inspiring complexity--river deltas, for example.

Wanted to explore the idea of a watershed and how water follows simple rules to create awe inspiring complexity–river deltas, for example.

When I teach literature, I am always impressed by how cut and dried the ‘idea’ of setting was compared to how complex setting plays out in the good ol’ day-to-day.  That’s why I was so glad to see KQED’s quest this week on #CLMOOC  was to help us question and explore the meaning of public space.

When I introduce the idea of setting to my literature students I want them to be very local.  In fact, I wanted them to think of setting in terms of their spaces, their homes, their neighborhoods.  I wanted to get them to become aware of where they lived as if they were characters in their own work of fiction.

In the process of doing this I discovered a marvelous tool for coming to terms with setting and place:  The Big Here.  This is a quiz created…well, let Kevin Kelly tell the story from here:

You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. (See the world eco-region map ). At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital.

The following exercise in watershed awareness was hatched 30 years ago by Peter Warshall, naturalist extraordinaire. Variations of this list have appeared over the years with additions by Jim Dodge, Peter Berg, and Stephanie Mills among others.

It is quite glorious how this ties together so many threads in our collective work this summer–systems, games, remediation, identity, and now–public space.  I have come back to this quiz/questionnaire over and over in my own.  Maybe you would like to explore it, too.  I invite you below or you can be terribly informal and just skim the website and lurk a bit there.  It repays deeply and irrevocably.

Here is a Public Commons if you want to share:

View The Big Here Bazaar on Hackpad.

I am hoping to add a Google Survey as well so that folks can gather their responses in a public spreadsheet, a more democratic space I cannot imagine. If somebody beats me to this I would not be unhappy (hint/hint/hint).

Twitter Lists + Vellum = Signal, Not Noise

I am becoming more sensitive all the time to the curatorial value of creating more signal and less noise.  The screencast below is a demonstration of that idea.  Take a river of noise like Twitter, get some initial flitering through someone else’s Twitter lists like Wesley Fryer’s and finally use nytlab’s Vellum as way to better visualize that list so as to scan and skim.

Of course, you will also want a way to gather together what you find and to broadcast what you discover in a discrete signal instead of just blather.  I use lots of tools for that, but that is another dozen screencasts.