Lambing Time in the Hollar: Nothing Theoretical

Lambing Time in a Kentucky Hollar by Tellio

Stream Lambing Time in a Kentucky Hollar by Tellio from desktop or your mobile device

There are lots of theoretical underpinnings to the work we do on the farm. For example, my wife and I are both midwives and husbands. We share the work of bringing lambs into the world and we share the work of raising them up. One of the theories behind this is capitalism. We sell them for money. They are part of the bottom line. Another theory is that farms need animals to be complete. Yet another theory is that sheep are part of the ecosystem that allows one to leave the world knowing that you have helped increase the fertility, the carrying capacity, the health of the ecosystem.

The recording I made above shows how little theory goes into making sure all is well in the peaceable kingdom. The poem below tries to connect to earth and sky as one whole thing and think.





Boots on hoar-frost,
the clank of a chain on cold metal,
a new moon and diamonds in the sky,
no noise save the chewing of cuds,
and roosters warding their hens.
All is well in the peaceable kingdom,
as far from theory
as the Dog Star is
from me.

My Map, Your Territory

This was the week what wuz. A week of strategy in the classroom that boils down to this:  my map, their territory.  Humbling.


My students asked me for a map of the semester and the image above is what I drew for them.  Then I pointed out to them that the map is not the territory.  We spent a few minutes messing up this flattened representation of the course timeline, noting waystations and places where tickets get punched.  Then began the acknowledging of the actual, stratified rhizomatic root ball of their territories.


Each of their other university courses are layered atop and through this map, each of their working lives interlaced, their personal lives fusing it all together. We discover that my map is not their territory. The smoke is not the fire: the wake is not the ship.   We talked a bit about this idea and then I asked them if we had done what needed to do with the map.  An eerie quiet descended.


Above are the notes I made to myself that morning before I taught.  They sustain me as I try to move from script to improv and back again. I never did get around to making the connection from the map to a “choose your own adventure game”, an allusion you can see in the pic above where it is cut off next to the arrow that points to the right from “SUMMARY”. I think that turning the map into a game board is worth considering–research project as game board.

The reference in the image above, “Presencing & Feedforwarding”, is an idea I have been playing with since last summer. I borrowed it from Otto Scharmer and Peter Senge as well as Marshall Goldsmith. They are now a guided journal exercise I do at the beginning of every semester for my composition classes.  Below is one that our community is using this semester. It is actually my response to the exercise I am asking them to do for Monday’s class.  I found it refreshing.  I plan on returning to this on a daily basis as I work through the semester.

The 2-D map above does need some cleaning up and some layers of explanation.  It could be the entire syllabus if I used something like Thinglink to add depth to it. As you wish.

On Friday I drew another “map” of sorts on the board as seen in the video below. I mapped it further with my digital friend, Thinglink, using their video annotation capabilities.  You can pause and click on the blue tags as they pop up if you wish.

Conclusions?  I realized something from this reflective exercise.  There is a delicate balance between my map and their territory.  As Nick Sousanis describes in his graphic philosophy text, Unflattening, I am seeking out not a single, distinct vantage point, but one that is joined in dialog with others and not merely side-by-side…


In a Google Hangout on Air a couple of weeks ago Daniel Bassill and Simon Ensor and I talked about mentoring and working with youth and the one charge we gave each other was to come back for our next “picnic” with some strategies.  This post is one of my attempts to be transparent about my strategies, about what I do and how I do it and why I do it and whether what I do engages or enrages or something else.  This has been fun.  In no way does it capture the territory that is my teaching, but it does throw down a map for others to check out and use if they wish as part of their own travels in the undiscovered country that is the Gordian rhizome of their lives. By the map, this map is a doozy to refold.


Software Haboob: Sandstorm and Happy Friends

“Tis the season to play around with new tools. Sandstorm and Happy Friends are the ones I am in the sandbox with today and this week. I risk muddying the post by writing about both. They are very different beasts, but I love how they are both about control and owning one’s own digital self.

On to Sandstorm

Just finished reading Jim Groom’s blog post about Sandstorm, a package of open source software that can be served from your own servers (or from theirs).

If this sounds like gobbledygook geekspeak, I suppose it is, especially if you don’t own your own domain name or used a hosting service. Let me see if I can unpack the bits and bobs enough to make sense.

Most people are like me when they start blogging. They use someone else’s platform, someone else’s cloud, someone else’s software. At some point you begin to wonder who is the controller and who the controlled. For me, my moment of clarity came when I read one of the axioms of the Maker Manifesto:


I wanted to own it–the domain, the tools, you know, the real Lebowski.

So I paid for a domain and a hosting service and learned how to install the tools that were available on that service.  Along the way I was able to lift up the hood and find out how some of the tools worked and how they didn’t.  Of course I was limited in part by my own powerful ignorance and in part by the installations available to me to use. I still am.  I have a hard time knowing where to start when someone says, “Yeah, just go to GitHub and find all you need to install it from there.”  Hmmmmm.  Sorta can figure that out sometimes if the instructions for pouring the water out of the boot are written on the heel. For example, if someone sent me to GitHub to find the eminently useful collaborative writing software, Etherpad, and told me to install that on some server somewhere,  I would look and look a bit more until I gave up.  The bounds of time and reason and intelligence make cowards of us all, I fear.

But what if someone had some of these cool tools as part of their installation package (see first pic above), then maybe I could push on down that road.  That is what Sandstorm is, a collection of open source applications like Etherpad that are a treat to install.

Groom’s post goes on to describe how to set up your own Sandstorm server.  That is where I will be in my spare morning minutes over the next week or so as I try to take the next logical step in freeing myself from the shackles of someone else’s cloud (is that a mixed or just a bad metaphor).

What if I want to play around with these applications right now?  I have always wanted my own instance of etherpad.  How can I get it?  Sandstorm provides hosting services much like Groom’s Reclaim Hosting (they are the best), so you could buy

2016-02-04_06-00-32Or, and this is the sweetest part,



I have the perfect project for this.  Our new Kentucky Governor, Matt Bevin, has proposed some draconian cuts to the higher education budget (13.5% over the next two years) and some new directions for state community colleges and universities (workforce development).  I am going to create a blog to highlight what is happening in a blow-by-blow way for my fellow faculty members.  I will install the blogging platform, Ghost as one of my freebie applications as well as Etherpad as my collaborative writing space.  If I run out of space, I will pay for a bump in service and then create a Patreon donation site to help defray costs.

Thanks to Jim and Sandstorm.

On to Happy Friends

Dave Winer created Happy Friends as another of his aggregation experiments. This time it is a way to aggregate tweets much like a Twitter List…only customized. For example, when I sign into Happy Friends with my Twitter username and password, I can add any of the users that I follow into the Happy Friends stream. Here is a link to the public stream where I have dragged a few users into it and then practiced the outlining function. Oh, I didn’t mention outlining. Anything that comes from the fervid mind of Dave Winer is going to involve aggregating and outlining. My earliest blogging was done with Radio Userland and Frontier so I have kept an eye on Winer for a lot of years. He doesn’t disappoint.

Here is a screenshot of the work I have been playing with today.


And here is the text above transferred over to collaborate on EtherPad (using Sandstorm).

Enjoy all the free fun stuff.




A new podcast from Wyoming is turning hosting on its head – Poynter


A new podcast from Wyoming is turning hosting on its head

This can include anything from taking notes on a book to writing introductions for segments to writing out interview questions for the host to use during a pre-taped or live interview.

Inspiring. I want to start a podcast like this only I will be exploring with my own students and asking them to tell the stories of their lives. Ordinary students. Ordinary ambitions. Nah, nobody is ordinary if you draw them out properly,IMHO.

I propose to use a tool like Zcast (if I can get it to work in my iPad mini).

First Assignment: Spring 2016–Strategies for Participatory Culture in the Writing Classroom

[I have enabled as a plug-in here so feel free to annotate.  You may also find this on my Dropbox site as well where you can comment and add to it.]


I teach three sections of Writing in the Disciplines every MWF,. This is a junior level general education course that gets students to research, write, and share in their own major/discipline. The assignment below was my first strategy in bringing participatory culture to this writing space. I am trying to open up and make richer the normal, one-sided space that is the traditional classroom. I admit that I am the one creating the channels, but it is my job to encourage my students to adopt, adapt, or create new and better ones in the service of the goals of the course. And what are the goals of the course? To create useful “writing” for others in your discipline or others interested in your discipline. I am making this as broad as possible and I am equally sure that you will not find that in the course description or in the syllabus. I told my students that this falls under the idea that the map is not the territory. The syllabus is the map, but nowhere in it will you find the energy that animates the territory.

The first task below is my way of tapping into their interests first. Or as Whitehead would call it, their ‘passions”, the romance of curiosity. Precision (skills/techne) and generalization (application in other spaces) follow with continued aid if needed. In this case we are moving from exploring/annotating a single article with the entire class, then toward one of the ideas they are curious about, then finding an article about that curiosity, then annotating that article with, then sharing it with class again. The path is basically seek, make sense, share, rinse, repeat. All of this is in the larger pursuit of the passion they have in their discipline. Without that ‘romance’, the processes that follow are utter drudgery and the products that emerge are junk to be buried in the cloud landfill lost and good riddance. I guess that at least has the benefit of not murdering trees for paper.

Here is the Friday assignment:

1. Bring 10 ideas/concepts/things that you are curious about to class on Friday. Make sure at least five of them are from your major/discipline.

2. Sign up for Remind and get app for phone. You can go to this link:

3. Sign up for Vialogues here: Once you have signed up and signed in go to this link: Play around with the video, comment and reply, share and play some more.

4. Sign up for Here is the “practice” article I showed in class: Remember you have to use the Chrome browser if you want to use to best effect. If you have difficulty, please note we will be practicing this in class on Friday.

Here are some of the side channels we will be using:


Twitter: #e300wku2016

Remind: see above

Email to all students en masse via Gmail.


What will emerge?  Stay tuned for reports because I can’t read that crystal ball.


Strategies for an Architecture of Participation

My goal in my coursework with learners is to begin to reconstitute some of the spaces we learn in together.  I am starting with Zeega as my first ante.  I hope to model this as a tool for coming to terms with the essential questions of literature. This zeega is a nearly textless explication of the anonymous poem/song, “Western Wind”

RSS in Reality

I have been doing some informal work with Jeremy Dean and Jon Udell on their killer annotation layer,  I asked in a recent email,


I spent hours this morning checking out blog posts on Jon Udell’s personal blog as well as his writing at and found that my wish was their command.  You can use some manual tricks to get RSS feeds from tags, users, or URL’s.  Here is the relevant info from the post

2016-01-26_08-32-30 (1)

For example, if you wanted to gather together all of the “ParticipatoryCulture” tags into one feed you would create this feed:

Here is the result in my rss aggregator, Inoreader, as a ‘bundle’:

ParticipatoryCulture bundle on Inoreader

Here is the code for the rss from all of my annotations on from my own username, tellio:

Here is the result in Inoreader as a bundle: Bundle: tellio feed bundle on Inoreader

Here is the code for all of the annotations for a particular URL:

Here, once again, is the rss bundle in Inoreader

The Future of Education: Programmed or Programmable? bundle on Inoreader

Smashup and Inoreader and get an annotation management system. One caveats.  First, you will need to do considerable manual coding of rss feeds. If you are a teacher, get students to do that themselves and send you the appropriate username in a Google Form.) 

This will be one of my strategies this semester in my university course “Writing in the Disciplines”.  I am trying to re-conceive this learning space. I want a participatory architecture that builds from the learners up with just a few initial conditions.

Group annotation will be one way to do this.  Expanding the notion of what “text” is and what “research” is and what tools are available to help us do that.  More reports from the scene, more strategy from the trail later.

The image below is a touchstone for further potential participation spaces. It was prepared  by Daniel Bassill and can be found here in his Google+ collection.  


Oracles Among Us

Word Clouds are fun. And they amount to an I Ching of sorts if used in an open and oracular way.  You have to ask the text a question and then create the word cloud and then interpret the cloud as an answer to that question.

I choose a post by Simon Ensor and one by Maha Bali to demonstrate.  This is play and fun to my mind, reading closely on a slant.

Here is the question I am asking of Simon’s post:  why is time not money?

The Oracle of WordCloud speaks text and image,

absent (2) acceptance (3) accident (2) barely (3) better (2) boxes (5) bring (2) busyness (2) choice (3) end (2) envelope (2) existence (2) feel (2) felt (5) fragment (2) head (2) hour (4) improvement (2) joy (2) language (3) life (3) looked (2) lot (2) love (2) metre (2) mind (2) money (10) nothing (2) open (4) paper (4) peace (2) poverty (6) quite (2) reason (2) seemed (2) something (3) speak (2) square (2) ten (3) thought (2) vialogues (3) walls (3) write (4)


You can write here if you want to collaborate:




Here is the question I am posing for Maha’s post:  can reform work?


You can collaborate here:

Picnic Preparations: HOMAGO with Daniel Bassill and Simon Ensor

This morning I am meeting with both Daniel Bassill and Simon Ensor to discuss…well, just to sit down to a morning picnic of emerging ideas (cheese) and practices (wine) and observations (bread).  We hunker down together on the digital sward to watch the sun rise and feel its heat upon our faces and to swap truths and stories.

Here are a couple of screencasts-out-loud about these two inestimables:

Daniel Bassill

Simon Ensor


Hanging Indent: Week of MLK, 2016



This week’s apotheosis from the sensorium.  My theme this week has been annotation, marginalia, scribbles, post-its, whatever you want to call them, they have been at the center of my work this week with Joe Dillon and Jeremy Dean.  Lots of doors creaking open both in and out of sight.

Music I’m Listening To —

Annotative accompaniment in Genius.

Article I’m Jonesin’ On

Looks like I will be “reading” Bryan Alexander’s blog post, “Fine podcasts for 2016: a mega-list of what I’m listening to“, for quite awhile.  Or should I say I will be living his listening life.  I am a huge podcast fan as well, but I have a problem–how do I unpack this?  How do make signal here out of what I consider to be an overwhelming mass of  beautiful noise?

I know some of these spaces,too.  Notably left off of Bryan’s list is Marc Maron’s WTF and the Berkman Center Fishbowl Series. I decided to do a little adhoc thinking out loud screencast on his post to see if could figure out a way to make sense of what Bryan has so thoughtfully provided.

Here is my takeaway, my attempt to fine tune his signal for my own purposes:

  • Create my own list over the next year.
  • Decide which podcasts give the best ROI and why I think so.
  • Describe how I derive better signal over noise as I listen more intentionally over the next year.
  • Get Bryan (and other podcast afficionadi) to articulate how they decide what to listen to.

Book/Story I’m Living With –

I am reading Yes, And…How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton of the Chicago improv troupe, The Second City.

I teach with two important principles in mind.  One is iconoclasty and the other is improvisation.  This book is full of lots of improv principles and applications that might really messify your classroom/office for the better. Here are a few of those principles boiled down in this marvelous list from the end of the book


And here is some fun I had with a quote from the book and my new best app friend Legend.

 Tools I’m Messing With

I am in the process of straightening my barn. One of the tools you need besides chains and nice, flat stones and battery powered drills is a farm jack.  Mine gave up the ghost recently so I went and bought a new one.  It was a knock off of my old one, every piece on it was engineered down to a less sturdy version all around, but it did the job.  It came from a Tractor Supply farm store.

 Almost everything in that store comes out of a Chinese container ship. I fear that container ships rule the global economy.  Is that the real reason we have such a large military, to make the shipping lines safe for oil and container ships?  If so, why are American citizens paying so much of that bill?  Why ain’t anyone else helping foot the bill?  I suppose the answer is that we all are paying and that because Americans benefit the most they should pay the most.  It is interesting that while I jack up my barn, I am connected intimately to the fate of the Chinese economy.  No one is an isolated jack handler unto himself.