Category Archives: ds106

Integrating Electronics Into Our Lives

As summer begins and kids get out of school, various versions of “summer rules” are floating around the Internet. It’s a way to set expectations for a time of year when it can seem that all rules are off.

This one, from the Thirty Handmade Days blog, is typical. Its purpose, according to the creator, is to keep the kids from spending the whole day glued to a screen so they earn the time with their gadgets  while spending time reading, writing, creating and playing outside. I like the spirit of it but something felt off, based on my own use of electronics.

For instance, I often use my device to read and write. I’m writing this blog post on my laptop. I often carry my phone on a dog walk, partly for safety, but also in case we happen upon something interesting that I want to record like an unusual bird or flower. I imagine that kids might want to do the same: create a video of the rules for a game they created or do some macro photography of bugs or butterflies. As for creating, I often reference the Internet for ideas or directions for things to my projects. I’m participating in the DS106 June 30 Day Daily Create Challenge. The goal is to be digitally creative by providing a new challenge each day and move us away from just “like buttons on Facebook or retweeting other people’s memes.” The tools we carry with us offer almost infinite possibilities for creativity but if we don’t help kids see that, then they will rush through the other items in order to be able to settle into the consumer pull of those same devices.

And, I understand that concern. We certainly don’t want the kids to spend the whole summer playing video games or watching movies, never lifting their heads or hands to interact with the real world. And, as Mique says, every family has to do what makes them comfortable. I would just like to see a more integrative approach to technology, finding ways to use it as part of our other activities. Maybe that is what she meant but this seems a little too much like the classroom where the kids only get to use the computers when they do everything else. Electronics shouldn’t be a reward but a natural part of our daily lives.

I also can’t help but wonder if these rules apply to parents, too?

Golden Shovel Poems

There is a poem nestled in my email each morning. It’s the Poem-A-Day from the National Academy of Poets. I often skip it by, moving into the more urgent emails first. And then the day goes by without reading the poem. One of my resolutions for 2014 is to actually read the poem first.

Today’s poem is from Camilla Dungy and follows the Golden Shovel acrostic form created/popularized* by Terrance Hayes. Hayes used the words from Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem We Real Cool as the last word in each line to create his poem The Golden Shovel. Dungy also used Brooks’ poem to write Because it looked hotter that way. In her entry, she describes why she likes using “received forms” for her own creativity and to help her connect to other writers.

It occurred to me that this would be a great ds106 assignment. You don’t have to use the Brooks’ poem, and you can use a memorable line rather than the whole poem. Here are the guidelines from the 2012 Golden Shovel call for submissions. (The editors of the anthology asked for a contribution from President Obama. Funny what you find on the Internet. I definitely want to get back to the database of letters.)

I submitted the suggestion to ds106 and thought I should also try my own hand at it. Here’s the ten minute version:

Rainy Day Farm

Another rainy day. We
shake ourselves dry after the chores, pondering the fact that the real
work of farming must be done despite all.  But it’s cool.
This is why we
the suburban world for this often tough school.
have learned that the farmer cannot linger or lurk.
You must commit to the work, commit to the land. Pigs don’t like being fed late.
When hungry, they may decide to pay a visit to the house even though we
ran the electric wire. Each day we strike
out into the barnyard, our way hardly straight
as we
move from hen house to pig pen, dragging lengths of hose and hauling buckets of food. The animals sing
their greetings, happy in their ignorance of sin.
raise our voices with them, joyful despite the thin
margin of our bank account. There is, indeed, more to work than a paycheck. At night we toast our lives with tumblers of gin
and tonic. We
jig to jazz
and dream of the warm wonderful days of June
when we
will plant the fields again, sowing seed that will grow and yield and die
as the winter comes again too soon.



*The Write Mondays website credits Hayes with inventing it while Dungy suggests he popularized it. None of the bios of Hayes seem to think it’s worth a mention. Acrostics are very old with several found in the Old Testament so maybe a new version isn’t a real cause for celebration.

Of Troll Quotes and Book Shelves

I spent a bit of time browsing the aggregator in hopes of finding potential blog post fodder. I loved Tom Woodward’s rif on quotes and authenticity but could find nothing of any consequence to add except to say thanks for providing the link to Michael Livingston’s blog, which has been added to the aggregator.

So, I tried my hand at making a troll quote instead:

This seems like something that would make it to Facebook, if I do say so myself, although it occurred to me that I am very much out of the mainstream when it comes to media.

The LIbrary

From Tom (btw, that West Wing video clip in another post is one of my favorites), I headed to Ars Technica because this phrase annoyed me: “Bookshelves today are simply not as appealing as they used to be.” Really? I do beg to differ. I have no interest in spending $500 to build a book scanner so I can get rid of my books any more than I got rid of my albums once I digitized them. I still put an album on the turntable now and then. And there are just times when I want to read an analog book, one with pages, one that runs on its own power (and mine as I turn those pages). Part of the reason we bought this house is because I needed more shelves! Two more books arrived in the mail yesterday.

Then, it occurred to me that maybe I’m out of the mainstream here as well. Digital is always better, and I can turn into a 150-page-a-minute book scanner. But, when would I find time to read?

Create, Connect, Commit in 2013

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach described her New Year’s commitments and challenged the rest of us to do the same. As always, she makes a powerful statement and I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read. Dealing productively with digital and emotional distractions, finding a work/life balance, and pursuing excellent in everything…these are all worthy goals. She sums it up beautifully: “I am determined to influence the world this year rather than be  influenced by it.”

I have three goals for the new year: create, connect and commit.

Make Art Dammit!

This is the mantra from The Daily Create, an offshoot of ds106, a MOOC that originated at the University of Mary Washington. Each day, they post an assignment designed to inspire “spontaneous creativity.” Today’s assignment is to illustrate a decision. Mine is a screenshot of my Kindle app and wondering what to read next…

First Read of 2013?

As part of ds106 GIFfest, I had fun making my first animated gif in a very long time. It reminded me that I enjoy creating:  from crocheted doilies to homemade bread to flower gardens to digital media. And, I have lots of opportunities to be creative, as long as I make the time. Along with Sheryl, I’m going to stop thinking there isn’t enough time…I value creativity so making it part of my daily life is important. In a larger sense, by creating these things, I am creating a life.

Create Connections

One of the great things about doing The Daily Create is that you do so as part of a community. It was a real kick to get positive comments on my animated gif along with suggestions for how to extend the creativity. Creating is fun but being part of a creative community is even more fun. Writing this blog post is part of this goal: a way to connect with others at the start of the new year, a year in which I want to do more connecting. More blog writing, more twitter sharing, more community creating. I have recently started exploring Google+ as well. I do a lot of connecting as part of my work, bringing people together in courses and webinars and conferences, but I want to do it more personally, including getting more involved in the crochet group I joined last year.

Increasingly, our farm is becoming a place to make connections. We have gotten to know many members of our local community when they come by to get vegetables. We have also made connections with other local farmers, and the first thing I did this morning was sign up for beekeeping classes so I can get my hives up and running this year. This past summer, we donated our excess harvest to the food bank in town. I want to strengthen those local community ties, perhaps as part of a local anti-poverty or literacy initiative. Moving to the country has opened my eyes to rural issues. I’m not sure of the details yet but am committed to finding my niche in our new place.

Forge Commitment

When I look back at my reading list for 2012, it is filled with great books. But most of them are fiction. Meanwhile, there is a whole host of writing calling for my attention: get back to Kozol, dig further into the banned book list, spend time with contemporary writers about education and change, and work on the shelf of Wendell Berry’s books. I feel a deep connection to Berry as both a writer and a farmer.

This reading will help fuel my writing. I committed to a daily blogging practice this fall and then life and work got in the way. I am re-committing to that practice as I move into the new year. Writing is a way to both create and connect so offers a foundation for my other goals.

So, a public declaration of my goals for the new year…what about you? Want to join me in any of these endeavors?







Stargazing with Kermit

Happened to read Tim Owens’ blog this morning and discover the ds106 assignment of creating an animated Muppet gif. Rainbow Connection is my favorite Muppet song so here’s my gif of Kermit singing in the swamp:

What’s so amazing that keeps us star gazing
and what do we think we might see?
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

I haven’t made an animated gif for many, many years so many thanks to the detailed tutorial from the folks at ds106!

And generally thanks to ds106 for providing ideas for creativity. I needed to do something fun on my computer today!