Breadcrumbs Lead Us Back, But Not Forward

My super collaborative buddy, Kevin Hodgson, and I have been sharing work inside of  We have been exploring  the theme of  gratefulness inside of some truly inspiring poetry from the anthology,  Poems of Gratitude.

The gist of the project is this:

  1. Find a poem in the anthology that is online somewhere.
  2. Use to annotate the poem any way you wish.
  3.        Make sure you tag your notes with #gratefulpoems
  4. See what happens in the margins.

And what happened this time was response, understanding, adding to, summing up, analysis, and, mostly, riffing and creating.  I have written more poetry and better poetry and had more fun with this single project than almost any other in the last year, thanks to Kevin’s most excellent sharing.

Two leads from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure play air guitar
Dogtrax and Tellio’s Most Excellent Adventures

Here is an example from this morning.

An interesting observation:  in writing out loud about this collaboration, the breadcrumbs only flow one way.  What I mean by this is that I can look back and tell you how this particular piece was created, but I could not tell you how a creative piece might emerge from the initial set of conditions.

Here are the initial conditions

  • Kevin and I both agreed to share poems of gratitude.
  • Kevin and I both agreed to annotate using and the hashtag #gratefulpoems.
  • Kevin and I both have a history of annotating via
  • Kevin and I both have a very broad definitions of what annotation means.  In other words it includes text, image, gifs, and videos as a possible means of response.

Predicting with any particularity what would follow was impossible.  That fits with complexity theory as I understand it in its simplest terms.  The zeega above was only an indirect result of this incomplete set of initial conditions.

You can follow how the zeega came to be (Zeega<——-Soundtrap file on Soundcloud<—–Mastodon sharing with Algot Runeman<—– poem annotated, call and response in the margins<——and all the initiating conditions listed above.

You will notice that the arrow of time goes backward above and into the past.  As a teacher I often think that I can reverse engineer this improvised lesson plan into a functioning piece of the gears of the curriculum.  But this kind of thinking just doesn’t work.  You cannot imagine the breadcrumbs forward in this rigid, curricularized manner.  Or I can’t.  What arises from the tacit knowledge and experience that Kevin and I share in our networked worlds are too complex.  We could predict that something interesting and worth doing might arise, but not what would arise.  I could not have said, “You know what? I think that this project will end up in a very interesting zeega that rose up from some annotations.”  That’s not a failure of the imagination, but rather that, as Hamlet said to Horation, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  It is dreams created that I want. Dreams made flesh.

Any system or institution that does not explicitly acknowledge this is, as far as I am concerned, a failed system.  Complexity demands improvisation, play, and the capacity to acknowledge failures both large and small in ways that allow for instructional changes in course and for personal changes in course on the fly.



One Reply to “Breadcrumbs Lead Us Back, But Not Forward”

  1. The insertion of my poetic effort via Mastodon into this process could certainly not have been remotely predicted. I did not know the early steps, nor the conditions Terry described.

    Education is a process of overlaying elements of learning with components of “content” and then, for the educator, standing aside far enough to watch the work of the learner take those pieces forward toward…change. It certainly is not always a predictable change, and the ultimate growth will not show itself in time for the semester or even the whole school experience to end.

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