Tag Archives: constraints

Playing with Constraints: Twitter Memoir

There is something about constraints that create conditions for creativity…especially when I’m just getting started with something.  Jeremy, a colleague over at the NWP iAnthology last week offered as a writing prompt an invitation to write a memoir in 140 characters…a tweet!  Here’s his directions:

One of the activities that I have my students do is something called a Twitter Memoir. It is a way for me to scaffold with my students on writing memoirs. We slowly build from 140 characters to 25 word memoirs, then 50 word memoirs. Finally they write their full blown memoir about a personal experience in their life. Many of my students are not on Twitter, but as I am introducing this exercise, I get a few to sign-up. I don’t require my students to be on Twitter because I have a Tweet board in my classroom where they can post their Twitter Memoirs.

So, I challenge you this week to write a short 140 character memoir. It does not have to be on Twitter. For the sake of simplicity let’s just write them here at the iAnthology. Also, if you want to know more about this process you can check out the book Troy Hicks and I co-authored titled Create, Compose, Connect. Have a blast doing this, my students do!

I was intrigued by the idea of a memoir in 140 characters and spent some time composing.  I was able to whittle down to 140 characters…but realized that I wouldn’t have room for hashtags if I used all the allowed characters.  So I trimmed some more hoping to get down to a point where I could include a hashtag like #ce14 (for connected educator month) or #digiwrimo (for digital writing month).  I finally posted this Twitter memoir in the iAnthology prompt space, I wasn’t able to get the characters quite small enough for the hashtags I wanted to include.

Here it is.  It includes 138 characters (spaces, punctuation, and letters)…and it happens to be exactly 25 words, so it fits two of the criteria Jeremy set out.

With phone in hand I explore my world, snapping photos, collecting thoughts & ideas, searching for new vantages. Through images I connect.

And of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a photo!  (This one is from an urban hike on Sunday…just beyond my neighborhood.)

Bare Tree

What will your Twitter memoir say about you?  Can you craft it to include a mere 140 characters?  I’d love to see yours…on your blog or on Twitter!  (You can find me @kd0602)  I’m going to tweet this post that includes my Twitter memoir…and include some of my hashtags along with the link.  I hope you’ll share yours with me too!

Spaces for Learning

Over at the Connected Learning MOOC on Google+, Terry posted this article by Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post about the struggles dedicated teachers face in our current climate.  He also invited us to respond…in a crowdsourced way.  Here’s my contribution:

I’ve just spent the past month with twenty educators passionate about improving their teaching and the learning experience of their students.  During this time they’ve read extensively, discussed and debated ideas and practices, demonstrated a practice from their own teaching setting in front of these peers, written and responded to writing—personal and professional pieces, all creative—and laughed and cried, dealt with worry and nerves, and invested countless hours because THEY want to be the best educators they can be.  Their districts and schools didn’t send them or pay for them—they came because they chose this experience.

Many #si13 discussions take place on these #orange chairs and cubes.

Many #si13 discussions take place on these #orange chairs and cubes.

These “third spaces” like writing projects, the CLMOOC, and Twitter have become more and more necessary for educators to thrive in our challenging profession.  These are the spaces where teachers experiment, innovate, and most importantly, find support when they feel that our educational system isn’t working for them or for their students.  In the face of daunting constraints, teachers like the ones participating in the SDAWP Summer Institute and those making like crazy in the CLMOOC continue to seek out practices that support learners and celebrate the joy and purposes of learning.  In these spaces we make sense of our world, we build relationships, we blaze trails for learning for those that feel pinched by constant test prep and narrowing curricula and in doing so we stay the course.  Because like Valerie said,

But some teachers are fighting these trends. Teachers believe that education is not just teaching students to pass tests. They believe that education is not just about how to make a living, but also about how to make a life. They believe that school should be a place of joy in learning, not learning in fear. They believe that play, imagination, and creativity have a place in school, just as much as mastering difficult material. In fact, play and mastery go hand in hand. And these teachers are fighting to work harder than ever so they can continue to find ways to be creative in the classroom despite the pressure not to be. These teachers have classrooms you’d love to have your child in.

What kind of classroom or learning spaces do you want for your child, for your students, for yourself?  I’d love to hear about your “third spaces” or alternative ways of dealing with the constraints that are strangling the love of learning and passion for teaching.