Promiscuity in Prose & Poetry

    I might need to create a category just for Jonathan Lethem.  He’s doing some interesting work.  (And I like his writing.  Especially Motherless Brooklyn.)
    Here’s a link to and a description of his Promiscuous Materials Project.   Might be of interest to those of you interested in digging a little deeper into his ideas on appropriation and art leading to more art.   Basically, he’s released some of his writing for others to use in different formats.  Here’s that description:

I like art that comes from other art, and I like seeing my stories
adapted into other forms. My writing has always been strongly sourced
in other voices, and I’m a fan of adaptations, apropriations, collage,
and sampling.

I recently explored some of these ideas in an essay
for Harper’s Magazine. As I researched that essay I came more and more
to believe that artists should ideally find ways to make material free
and available for reuse. This project is a (first) attempt to make my
own art practice reflect that belief.


I especially like that he’s published some of what’s been done with his words.  I first caught this on an interview he gave to Fresh Air, and got to hear a chunk of John Linnell’s version (at the top of the page)of one of Lethem’s songs.  Good TMBG-y stuff.


The Podcast: Telling Stories with Technology

    This podcast, a follow up from the other day, is about further thoughts on how we plan to teach digital storytelling at my school in the next several weeks.  If you want to listen to my thinking on how and why to teach digital stories, this is the podcast for you.  For links to resources, I’ll refer you back to the notes from the last podcast.


A Better Tasting Drupal

    I’ve had a quick peek at FunnyMonkey‘s new flavor of Drupal, soon to be DrupalEd.  It’s pretty dynamically fantastic, despite the fact that it’s in alpha/beta.  Here’s the annoucement:

In conjunction with our work within the Drupal community and with OpenAcademic, we have brought a site live for people to check out:

The site can function as a blogging platform, a podcasting platform,
a wiki, an informal learning space, a course management space, and/or
as a replacement for an organizational intranet. Within the site, users
can create working groups or communities of practice. The site also
supports social bookmarking. The homepage of the site gives a more
complete overview of the functionality.

We would like to turn this site into a downloadable installation
profile as quickly as possible, so that whoever wants this
functionality can grab it and install it. This install profile will be
released under the GPL license.

If you want to check the site out, feel free to create an account and play around. If you want to get involved, we’d love your help!

  • To start, we’d love to get people’s first impressions as they check
    out the site, What made sense? What was intuitive? What was confusing?
    We have set up a wiki page for this feedback;
    your responses will help us tweak the look and feel of the site to make
    it easier to use. Please, share your thoughts! The more feedback we
    get, the more tweaking we can do.
  • Second, what do people need to know about using the site? We have begun some "Getting Started" documentation
    that people can build as they work through the site. What functionality
    do people need to know about as they use the site? This documentation
    wouldn’t need to be technical, but rather should lay out how to use the
    site from an end-users perspective: ie, click here to do this.

    As I envision it, this "Getting Started’ documentation will be
    edited/distilled into a user’s manual that will be included in the
    final install profile. This way, people who are new to Drupal, or new
    to working in an online environment, will have some guidance to help
    them get up to speed.

  • Third: Spot where it’s broken. See a broken link? Let us know about it.
  • Fourth: Theming. If there are any graphic artists/designers who
    want to throw some expertise into making the site look pretty, please
    let us know by leaving a comment here, or on this post.
  • Fifth: Add your name to the contributor list.
    If you added documentation, provided feedback, or helped get the site
    live, let the world know. The Contributors List, along with the Getting
    Started documentation, will ship with the site.

After we have received some input from the community (aka you), we will bring a version of this site live at
— in addition to providing a blogging platform for people who would
want one, the DrupalEd site could also become a place for educators to
get feedback on the non-technical issues of teaching and working online.

As I said, it’s pretty dynamic — but can and will get better as folks share feedback and responses and suggestions and ideas.  I’d encourage you to give it a look.  Bill’s a very responsive guy — and he’s eager for your thoughts.  Give it a whirl.



Talking Tech

    I’ll be joining the fine folks at Teachers Teaching Teachers folks tonight to discuss some ideas and issues around supporting teachers as they take their students online.  It’ll be a good conversation about partnerships, second wave adopters, and lots more.  If you’re so inclined, consider joining us at 7pm Mountain in the EdTechTalk chat room


Stealing, erm, Adding to the Conversation

    I’m not making any money plugging their program, I promise, but Open Source keeps doing good and interesting stuff.  And I thank them for that by sending you to listen, thereby draining their bandwidth and other resources even more.  For your listening pleasure tonight, I offer an aural feast on plagiarism, intellectual property, and from whence (and how, and why) we draw our inspiration.  In The Ecstasy of Inspiration, Jonathan Lethem creates a collage of others’ words — presented as his own.      
    Sort of.   
    Here’s how :

Nearly every word of this essay about cultural borrowing and reworking
was stolen — er, appropriated — from some other source and then cobbled
together with a big dose of Lethem magic to form a cohesive whole. Even
the “I”s aren’t Jonathan Lethem; they’re Jonathan Rosen writing in The Talmud and the Internet about John Donne, or William Gibson in a Wired  article about William Burroughs, or David Foster Wallace on a grad school seminar, or Brian Wilson in a Beach Boys song.

this is more than a stunt. It’s a passionate salvo in the copyright
wars, a crowd of voices coralled together to say, basically: without
borrowing, stealing, cribbing, remixing, mashing-up, collaging and
compiling — without influences great and small, in other words — there
is no “creating.” No hip hop, sure, but also no blues, no Disney, no
Shakespeare. No Lolita or “I have a dream.” We’d be reduced to staring at campfires and barking at one another.

     It’s a fascinating take on remix culture, what it means to use source material, and the Book of Ecclesiastes (or at least the first part, you know, about the stuff under the sun?). 
    I didn’t quite get it when I first read it, but listening to him talk about it in this podcast really was an intellectual treat.  I hope you enjoy both the essay and the explication.
    The takeaway for me?  I’m not sure.  I’m still digesting.  You?


Media RoundUp

    Lots of good stuff has either slid through the podcatcher or across the TV screen lately.  Thought you’d be interested in these two.

Frontline is looking very seriously at the future of news as well as what it means to keep secrets in a four part series called NewsWar.  A teacher’s guide is in the works and you can already view some of the show online.  (Frontline also keeps a collection of episodes online for viewing.  I love PBS.  And WGBH.)

Open Source the radio show
recently did an hour on the One Laptop per Child program.  I’m wondering how to get one of those machines in hand so that I can fiddle a little bit — but I’m guessing that won’t happen anytime soon.  One concern I have about the program is the notion that the computers are a magical solution.  I hope no one expects that simply distributing laptops will create a better educated world.



    Eric’s started a great discussion on creating a "killer EdApp."  Be sure to follow along in the comments — some smart folks are chiming in over there.  If you’re into PLE or CMS, you should certainly HOO (head on over).  We sure can acronymize, can’t we, fellow educators?
    As for me, I don’t want one killer app.  There’re a bunch of things that I want to do (and that I want my students to do), and I’ve found that the better a tool gets at doing everything, the less useful it is at doing some things.  Moodle‘s great for assignments and forums.  But its wiki’s weak, and so is the blog.  But Elgg‘s great for blogging, and Drupal‘s not bad. 
    One big strength of RSS and XML and the coming Semantic Web is the ability to personalize content.  One of the hardest things about teaching is finding the line between individual expression and centralized standardization.
    Why recreate the classroom when we don’t have to? 
    I want options, not one tool for everyone.