Archive for July, 2015

So, I’m still thinking about Make Cycle 4. Each topic is really thought-provoking (or I’m a slow thinker) and sometimes it’s not until midweek that I have a decent idea. Then there’s the whole work thing getting in the way. All this is to say, I’m still thinking about changing systems.

The system I’ve been thinking about is mapping. I loved AAA’s Triptiks that were printed out and bound in little books. You got your route highlighted in yellow (an early sign that I would be all about color coding as a teacher) and fun facts to read along the way. Infotainment before the web made it a word! My early experience with maps was all about getting somewhere, knowing where to go, and giving name to the unknown in between. What Metro stop should I get off at if I want to get to this location? What are the stops in between? Do I have to change lines? etc.

However, there are a lot of other ways to think about maps. In Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making the main character meets Mr. Map who says:

Leef taught me to copy out my own memories onto parchment, to paint a perfect path. . . a path back to the things I loved, the things I knew when I was young. That’s what a map is, you know. Just a memory. Just a wish to go back home–someday, somehow.

Mapping a memory takes the system of cartography and flips is, making it a reflective process rather than an outward looking one. This is the mapping of the early explorers who were making maps from experience/memory as they literally charted new-to-them territory. The maps they created could also be used as guides for others, but were in fact a form of memory for the makers themselves.

With so few of us experiencing locations that are truly unmapped, have we lost touch with the memory aspect of map making? Or, do only certain, select individuals retain that flip side of the mapping idea? For myself, the idea of going out into the world, having new experiences (even if they are not in undescribed territory), and then coming home to sort them out rings true. When I’m “in the thick of it” as a friend says, I am just in it. I don’t necessarily reflect or change. But then, once I’m at home, I can think about the experience, review my memories, and let the experience impact who I will be as a result. I map a new self as I create my memories.

In The Collected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, TS maps events of his life in detail–the path of dinner table conversation, the ears of corn with bugs, the path his dog takes around the ranch. He does this because he can’t not do it, but also to make sense of his world and to transfer his experiences to memories. In addition, he makes detailed diagrams or maps of natural history specimens. When asked how he can do this so well, he asks

Do you ever get the feeling like you already know the entire contents of the universe somewhere inside your head, as if you were born with a complete map of this world already grafted onto the folds of your cerebellum and you are just spending your entire life figuring out how to access this map? (315)

He goes on to say

When I make a map that exactly captures what it is trying to map, it is like I already knew this map existed; I was just copying it. (316)

In finally getting that map or memory right, one recognizes the truth that was already there. Mapping a piece of experience, and then another, and another at some point gets us ever closer to the whole. Maybe the whole is home?

S. E. Grove also weaves together ideas of map making and memory in The Glass Sentence. In it maps of moments in time include sounds and smells in addition to the events, which are collections of the memories of many people combined into a single map. Mapping as a collecting memory making is another interesting idea to add to this new system of mapping that I am imagining. It prompts me to think about the collective “complete map” and whether in mapping, even collectively, our way home we are ending up at a common point, or a group of slightly different ones.

Included in all three authors’ ideas of maps is the notion that maps “lead us home again” to a deeper understanding, to a different self, to truth. Equally important though is the role we each must play in creating this map to and for ourselves. Someone else may start us on the path, or share some way points, even introduce us to friends we did not know previously, but ultimately what these stories illustrate is that we all must be our own cartographers.

So, as I think about reimagining mapping as a system, it may in fact be that I am looking to pick up some pieces of an older understanding of mapping, throw in a dose of the fantastic, and a bit of the maker movement to imagine a shift towards mapping as creation rather than exclusively consumption. In adopting the idea that a map is a memory, a way home, and an exercise in comprehension, I imagine something more complex than photo album or a journal. I imagine something that combines understanding of change and process with experience and identity. Because, when we say home, don’t we mean our true selves?

So I’ve been thinking about public spaces. I listened to the Stories and Spaces HangOut on Air which provided a lot of food for thought.

I decided to make flyers which asked questions about public spaces and post them in public spaces. I sketched out several versions myself and made a list of where I might post them into neighborhood. Then I realized that quantity might be important and remembered I have free labor at my house. So I introduced the idea of poster making as a fun family project (insert eye rolling here).

Ultimately we ended up with these two flyers.

Then the staple gun jammed, and work got busy. I enlisted my free laborers again, and they posted a dozen of the first poster around here and there.

So far, a few of the tabs have been pulled off the poster closest to our house. Also, I saw someone take a picture of one of the posters, but no tweets from the poster.

On the bright side, Searching the #publicsspaces does produce some interesting images and discussion that I am happy to have found. And, I continue to be interested in this idea and may expand the area of the first poster to see if I can’t get some tweets before moving on to the next one. Once school is back in session I think I might see more tweets, given where we posted the flyers. I’m intrigued by the idea and hope I can keep rolling it around in my head for a while.


So, I’ve been thinking about where else to go with this idea of the world around us as part of us. I wrote about and shared images of my first attempt with using my surroundings to create the pattern of a dress. Lots of other people took the idea and ran with it in really interesting directions, Kevin and Wendy in particular.

I am still thinking about this idea of our attire, the system in which we dress ourselves, and its relationship to our surroundings. Not only do we dress FOR our surroundings, but we dress IN our surroundings. I have a couple of directions I want to go with this idea.

First, I remember the early days of my first year away at college. All these new people were now in new surroundings. They still had to get dressed, please, get dressed. For some the distance, either actual or metaphorical, they ‘traveled’ to this college was relatively small. For others, they had traveled a much longer distance and this too was reflected in their attire. All of us came to college dressed in our old surroundings. Of course some of us were looking to make statements with what we were wearing, some of us wanted to look like we belonged. We were all probably dressing in ways that we expected to elicit one response, when in fact it might elicit a very different one. Students who ‘traveled’ a long way may have been acutely aware of or have expected these differences. Those who didn’t think they were traveling far may have been very surprised.

  • What would it look like for students to create a set of images of clothing created from their home surroundings?
  • College is a chance for reinvention. Would it be possible, or be seen as desirable for some, to try to hide or mask some of the realities of their home surroundings?
  • Reinvention by choice is one thing, but feeling forced into reinvention, what sort of way is that to begin a new adventure?

Then, I also thought about students who attend high schools that are a distance from their homes. What is the cognitive load of switching environments and systems on a daily basis? While I know there are many who care not one iota about clothing, schools create many systems around. Some opt for the uniform, often in an effort to avoid highlighting the differences that will arise without one. However, the uniform itself is someone’s system. Often it is a very formal, traditional, gendered system that supposedly serves to erase some differences at school, but shines a spot light on  students once they step outside school walls. They are now clearly identified as students of a particular school. What sort of system do we owe students in this regard? I do not have the answer.

Finally, I was thinking about how to bring this idea into my classroom. There was an article in the NYTimes Magazine this past weekend about two sets of identical twins who got mixed up at birth and therefore grew up as two sets of fraternal twins. I did not read the entire article, but the family circumstances were very different. What might it be like to use the cut out card to show clothing made by their non-identical surroundings?

And what about for book characters? Could it be informative to make cut outs for a character and create clothing from their surroundings? Does this character wear his or her surroundings proudly? What if a character were trying to hide an identity? While all of these questions speak to the system of clothing and the assumptions we often make about the wearer of the clothing, the other idea to consider, I think, is the importance of visual literacy here. When we read novels set in other times and/or places, students don’t always have the background knowledge to create the surroundings for the characters. And, there is only so much description they will read. What gaps in students’ image banks could we fill with this type of exercise?

When we read with young children, we read picture books, and we always show them the pictures. We do this not only because they cannot read the words, but because they are building all manner of background knowledge about what a farm or a city or a train station or a school or a castle looks like. When we ask students to imagine what will happen next in a novel, part of what students need to do is create not only actions but images in their heads. With older students we want them to predict based on the text and to make reasonable inferences, not just make &@#$ up. But I would argue that the students, no matter what the age, who make rich predictions, can extend the text, write that ‘lost chapter’, also have a good visual idea of what they are reading, even if there are no pictures provided.

So, to answer my own question, I think there could be some value in students collecting images of the time and place of the work they are reading and maybe even creating some outfits from those surroundings.

One of the books my class will be reading next year is Slaughterhouse Five. Do they know what Dresden looked like after it was bombed? Here is my image of a soldier with the helmet cut out and Dresden in the space. It’s definitely the two second version of this, but you get the idea.

Could be some interesting food for thought. It’s definitely going in my bag of tricks.

Make Cycle 3 #CLMOOC

Posted: July 7, 2015 in clmooc
Tags: ,

So, I’ve been thinking about the topic for this make cycle. Or rather, I’ve been thinking about what the topic would be once announced. 

I have been really enjoying the various Make tasks. So I’ve been wondering if the topic for this week would be something that I could do from afar. Since I’m on vacation I didn’t want to have my computer with me, because that says work, work email, work documents, etc. in a way the my phone and iPad don’t. I couldn’t figure out a way to bring a lot of craft supplies and half finished projects to a multi family gathering, although I may have seriously considered it.

So when the email arrived, I was at first thinking, I’ll have to sit this one out.  Once I am back home, I may give some thought to remaking a game that I played a lot as a kid, but I have never been a big game player or at least the kind of game that has levels and screens.  I did a lot of puzzles, over and over puzzles. And, I played card games with my family and grandparents: gin rummy, solitaire, and hearts. I realize this makes me sound like I might in fact be a grandparent, but I am not. The other game I played was Life. I will do some thinking about how to remake that game later, but  while I’m out of town with limited supplies, I thought I would share something that could be a game.

After seeing something similar online, my daughter made me a birthday card that has become  a fun holiday game. The card has a picture of a person wearing a skirt. But the shape of the skirt is cut out. When you hold the card up the view becomes that pattern of the skirt. 

 As we drove to our vacation and as we spend time with family, I am taking pictures through my card, turning my card into a game. 

Here’s my first try. 

And here are a few more attempts. 


 I think the game I’m playing is about incorporating landscape into who we are, about having the world around us not just impact what we wear (mittens when it’s cold, bathing suits for swimming) but blurring the line between ourselves and our surroundings in creative ways. 

This is level 1.  Play along with the image my daughter made, or make your own.

Level 2 has more than one cut out. 

Who is playing? 

So, I’ve been thinking about maker projects and STEAM a lot lately. I co-taught a minor class last year called Digital Fabrication. It only met a time or two a week and was ungraded. We worked with soldering circuits, 3D printing, and laser cutting/engraving. Let’s just say, I was not an expert in a lot of this.

It turned out not too many of the students were either. My co-teacher had a lot of technical skills. I provided some creative ideas, gender diversity, and a more artistic perspective. Now that it’s summer, I need to learn some more about the tools we use. We have a few 3D printers, soldering materials, and a laser cutter/engraver. I have done some soldering in the past and am a fairly confident solderer, but not exactly a circuitry expert. (When I was younger one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up was a stained glass window repairer.) My colleague and co-teacher is not only good with circuits and soldering but has also done quite a bit of 3D printing, so we have some know-how there. That leaves laser cutting/engraving wide open, waiting for an expert. My other colleague, @Mr_Fornaro has also been working on learning the ins and outs of the laser engraver.

On a VERY rainy Sunday, I went to the Department of Making and Doing to take a class on laser cutting/engraving with the @Betny802. It was supposedly about using the laser cutter for jewelry making, but it didn’t really matter what you made. We worked in Adobe Illustrator and got the very basics. There is plenty more to learn and practice, plenty. But, I now know what kinds of things I need to know, which is not only a step up, but also makes it easier to progress. Plus, is there a better way to spend a Saturday than making stuff? I will answer this for you. No, there is not.

So, we learned a few basics about Adobe Illustrator and were off. @Betny802 tweeted this at the end of the class.

I also made a chicken pendant which I put on some reddish cord I had at home. I wore it to school last week. I thought central administrative team meetings might benefit from a humorous accessory.

Photo on 7-2-15 at 3.49 PM

I can’t wait to learn more about Adobe Illustrator. Summer is so great.


So, I’ve been thinking about this challenge all week. I’ve been busy with a conference (writing about that shortly), and administrative team meetings. Not being able to spend time planning my projects has been making me crazy. I have a bunch of ideas, but want to get something going here before I am off for some family time.


I’m a fan. My son’s school has chickens and sells the eggs. I would love to have chickens at our house, but I would also love to have a kitchen from any of the past 3 or 4 decades, and perhaps green eyes. None of those is happening any time soon. So, chickens as art.

This past January we, my family not my class, went to the Pennsylvania Farm Show. If you are available and live near Harrisburg, PA, or even if you don’t live that close by, you should go sometime. There were a lot of chickens. All sorts of chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Since I like the idea of taking up close, portrait type photographs of them, I have a few images. If I were at all good at better at photo editing, I would remove the bars on the pictures, but I’ll save that for another time. You get the idea.




I was also thinking about other ways to enjoy chicken imagery. So, I laser cut a chicken shape out of red acrylic and made it into a pendant.

Photo on 7-2-15 at 3.49 PM

My other bird-based project, although not necessarily chicken-based, was a handbag with feathers and lights. The feathers piece is actually a place mat/charger that I attached to the wool handbag. I based the shape of the bag on the bag in the picture on the back cover of The Art of Tinkering by the amazing folks at the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium in San Fransisco.



On the curved, lower edge of the bag are lights, kind of like low-rider running lights. It could use some support to keep its shape better, and it appears to be molting, but a conversation starter for sure.



So, would this be chicken remediation?