All systems go! – 2015 Make Cycle #4

Created by as a Make

According to the dictionary, a system is “a group of interacting, interrelated, interdependent elements forming a complex whole.” There are many types of systems: human, behavioral, natural, technological, mechanical, mathematical, political, social, financial, transit, etc.

In this make, we invite you to document, analyze and reflect on the variety of systems that influence your life personally and/or professionally. Use your creativity to document an existing system, access your ingenuity to improve an existing system or use your imagination to develop a unique new system and design a novel way to explain it.

  • How can you document a system that serves a function in your life?
  • Can you add inflow to an already existing system in order to make it function more effectively?
  • Can you re(media)te a system in order to improve it?
  • What about a hack? Can you hack a system or “the system” to make it work for you in interesting new ways?
  • Can you create a new system to take the place of one that is no longer useful or has become obsolete?
  • Can you design an entirely new system for something that has yet to be imagined?

Systems can be explained using a variety of medium. Take a photograph, draw a diagram, create an infographic, draft a story, write a song, do an interpretive dance, create a recipe, make a “how to,” develop a prototype, continue to play with games….The possibilities are endless!

Below you will find some additional ideas to help you get started:

Level Up Your Game Design! – 2015 Make Cycle #3

Created by as a Make

For this Make Cycle, we invite you to use game design to analyze, remediate, and reflect on complex systems.

You may ask – why game design?

The systems within which we operate can be difficult to understand – and even more so, difficult to discuss. Games – in all their forms – are engaging tools for experimentation. As dynamic and interactive works of art, games can inspire us to tackle and engage with complexity. Plus, games, and the ways in which they are designed, enable us to experiment and have fun with failure: the ability to try, fail, and try again is a powerful tool.

Games are active experiences. Like many things in civil society, every game has rules, players, and interesting choices you are “allowed” to take.

A game in which the player performs simple actions or activities simply to further a story is passive; however, if the player is presented with choices which meaningfully impact the future events in the game, these choices become “interesting” and active.

via The Institute of Play. Read more of their deconstruction of Oregon Trail

Make with Me

You might start with thinking about your favorite game (in any shape or form!) and reconstructing it using one or more different media. A good way to start can be answering these questions:

  • What are the rules of the game?
  • What are the actions (or verbs) you are allowed to take in the game?
  • Is there a “win” state? If so, how do you achieve it?

Game design is a creative process – anything goes. Help us learn how to play your favorite game, or create a new game we can play together! You can start with a drawing, create a flip book, and move to video. You can also take household items and turn them into playing pieces, transforming your kitchen table (or house!) into a game board!

We’d love to see how you level up or progress through your game. What actions can you take to move forward?

Don’t forget: as the game designer, you have the power to change the system, and you don’t have to do it alone! If you were to change a rule, how would that impact the actions you could take in the game? What would happen if you played with multiple people?

We also invite you to think about how you can also use your new game design skills to translate, analyze and change a complex issue. For instance, if you were to deconstruct the California Water Crisis

  • Who would be the key characters you could play?
  • What are 1-3 actions each character type could do in the game?
  • What are the potential outcomes?

You can start with a character, such as a farmer trying to conserve water but still grow crops. How many other participants play other characters, like policymakers or residents? If you were to change a rule, how would that change the game?

We hope that you will be inspired to explore a new medium, and create new understanding about what it means to analyze (and change!) a system.

Check Out These Resources

There’s plenty of ways to start thinking about meaningful game design. Here are some ideas:

Glasslab Games:

Institute of Play:

Other how-to/guides:

A few digital tools to consider:

Remembering games:

Books you might want to check out:

Share what you create by posting an “example” to this make!

The 5-Image Story

Created by as a Make

Welcome to Make Cycle #6 in the Making Learning Connected collaboration!

For this sixth Make Cycle, we will think about the power of images, and what it means to compose a text visually.

When composing with images, we are forced to think critically in a way that focuses us on our intent in order to get a clear message across. To this end, we will focus our explorations on the concept of a 5-Image Story. According to Wesley Fryer’s “Mapping Media to the Common Core,” a 5-Image Story is a “collection of five images which tell a story of some kind without using supplementary text, audio or video. The five photos should ‘stand alone’ as a story.”

BUT, feel free to break Wesley’s rules and add titles and captions to your stories.

At the Hudson Valley Writing Project, we have been playing with the 5-Image Story since Bonnie Kaplan, Co-Director, and Jack Zangerle, 8th grade ELA (Summer Institute ‘10) at Dover Middle School, co-facilitated an innovative project. The 5-Image Story seemed to be a perfect way to begin the storytelling process with a small group of tech kids. Here’s an example of a basic procedural 5-Image Story from one of the 8th grade students:

Used with permission from Jack Zangerle

More recently, Andrea Tejedor,(SI ‘13) Director of Technology at Highland Falls School District collaborating with Bonnie, brought 5-Image Stories to her teacher team. Here’s a video of teachers sharing and Paul’s 5-Image Story Project with a rubric.

Completing our facilitation team, Marc Schroeder (SI ‘09), 6th-8th grade ESL teacher at Meadow Hill School, Newburgh, is ready for any digital challenge and this summer is no exception. He has joined our HVWP documenting team, capturing our Young Writers Programs in the Hudson Valley. Good thing he’s off this week.

As you choose and produce your makes this week, we invite you to think about these questions:

  • What does it mean to compose a visual text?
  • What happens when makers push the boundaries of a 5-Image Story and approach the creation of a 5- Image Story from different angles?
  • What might this process mean for classroom practices as teachers prepare for the new school year?
  • How can teachers evolve this type of composition to move beyond the definition of a 5-Image Story and move into other media rich creations?

Make with Me

For this Make Cycle, an easy way in might be to grab your phone and head out into the world. Look for the places in your life where small stories take place. Maybe you are sitting on a blanket to enjoy a picnic in the sunshine and notice an ant taking crumbs from the blanket back to his ant hill. Snap a picture of the ant approaching the crumbs, one as he stops to take the crumb, one as he walks to his ant hill, another as he enters the hole and a final picture after he has descended home with his new meal. Bang! It’s the story of Anthony the Ant’s Afternoon Picnic.

OR: You may also choose to make an instructional 5-Image Story and use images to show how to do something through illustrating steps. If you really want to dig in, you may choose to carefully stage images to tell a story that conveys a message that you feel is important to share.

If you are really ready to take it up ANOTHER NOTCH, then you might consider using the images you take or collect and mix in other media such as music, video, narration and other effects to bring your story to life even further.

Still need help? Try starting with these five photos. Tell your story with them. Change the sequence, add a title and captions. Why not move them to TAPESTRY, free on the iphone and android phones, just for the fun of it. There are many ways you might develop your 5-Image Story.

Check Out These Resources

If you need images other than your own:

Flickr – If you don’t have your own photographs, this site has many beautiful photographs that you can weave together. Just remember what we always tell our students and be sure to cite your sources.

The Library of Congress – Another great place to find photographs if you don’t have your own. Most of these are in the public domain, but you still should use citations when possible.

Visit the following sites for additional resources about the 5-Image Story and a list of Cool Tools to Create and publish your voice through images:

And make sure to share your stories with us here (submit and example below) or on G+ or elsewhere!

Storytelling with Light

Created by as a Make

Welcome to the fifth Make Cycle in the 2014 Making Learning Connected Collaboration!

This week (or anytime, really), using some sort of light source, and any materials of your choosing, we want you to tell a story.

Some tools we have used in the past for this project include LEDs (we source them through Amazon), coin cell batteries, and various arts and crafts supplies. We like to use recycled, found materials as much as possible, and occasionally our prototyping lab looks like a thrift store exploded.

We like to use recycled materials not only because they’re cheap, but because there’s less at stake for a learner to risk if they ruin an old pizza box, as opposed to an expensive construction kit. Our activities are designed to be not only low-cost, but low-barrier to entry.

Inspired by Squishy Circuits, we’ve often been able to rope participants into engaging immediately with play doh, a 9-volt battery, 10mm LEDs, and alligator clips.

We introduced 70 college-bound students this summer to different kinds of zines, including the 1-page, single-sided zine.

After learning how to fold an 8 page book out of a single sheet of paper this 8 year old girl made a story about her sister as the “light” in her day.

Did you know that Wednesday, July 9th was Hack Your Notebook Day? Learn more about Paper Circuits, mentioned in Make Cycle #4).

copper tape circuits

Check out glowdoodle, designed by Eric Rosenbaum (also creator of MaKey MaKey) at the MIT Media Lab. Another similar resource is long exposure photography, which the Exploratorium covers well in this link.

You could also just design an object and tell a story in an entirely different way!

Whatever you make, we hope you’ll share it with the community by putting in your example below!

Hack Your Writing

Created by as a Make

In Make Cycle #4 we invite you to “Hack Your Writing.” Maybe you do not think you’re a “hacker” and associate the term exclusively with the most skillful and renegade of computer programmers. But this week we are encouraging a broader use of this term and a more open sense of its possibilities.

What does it mean to hack?

  • Hacking is playful exploration, perhaps exploiting the “weakness” in something.
  • To hack is to make innovative customizations.
  • Hackers are often computer enthusiasts.
  • Hackers often undermine authoritative systems. Hackers crack systems for “fun,” pursuing civic or collective action.

It seems that now, more than ever, the affordances of new digital tools and technologies have opened up our understanding of what it means to write. This week we are invoking a culture of remix and exploration. We propose that writing is indeed “making,” and we invite you to tinker with some writing to make something new. Remix your own writing OR remix other writing.

So Many Ways to Hack

We imagine there are multiple entry points for this week’s make cycle. One option might be to revisit something you wrote before and “dress it up” anew. If you have a notebook or journal that you’ve scribbled in, if you have jotted down a fleeting poem, or if perhaps you have penned an essay or article, this week’s make cycle might involve revisiting an old writing moment and breathing new life into a former work. Perhaps you might want to take several different pieces of writing and put them together to create a collage or compilation? Go for it!
Your own “hack” job might involve seeing something new in the everday texts of your life. Consider taking some pieces of your written world, the everyday stuff like grocery lists, fortune cookie predictions, or your favorite quote that you have up on your wall in your home or office. Re-discover the words around you, refashion them, re-order them. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

Your hacking exploration might bridge old methods of writing with the new. Consider hacking your own notebook. You can try “Paper Circuitry” as you light up your writing by creating circuits on paper using copper tape, LEDs, and some simple electronics. What new composing practices might emerge from this hack? And what new meaning and understanding might we gain as writers or as readers?

In other words, you might put analog and digital texts into conversation. Take some analog writing and bring it into a digitized universe.

  •  You might take a traditional poem and layer a multi-modal interpretation via hypertext links.
  • Use the Scratch program to explore new ways of writing and composing (just press the remix button to reinvent or animate texts).
  • You can give the “Concept in 60” digital writing method a try by demonstrating skills in audio and video recording and editing to create a rhetorically effective text.
  • Have you ever transformed your keyboard and your writing process with a Makey Makey?
  • Or how about creating a real life treasure hunt driven by digital narrative? Use your cell phone, GPS technology, and multimedia content to enhance your reader’s connection to a given place by giving locative storytelling a shot.

In short, we imagine there are many ways to infuse your “writing hack” with new found interactivity.

Check out some of these resources:

How To: Found Poetry

Line Lifting

Classroom Connections: Lesson Plan from ReadWriteThink

Paper Circuitry “Hack Your Notebook” Day

Classroom Connections: Our very own Dogtrax (Kevin Hodgson) Brings Paper Circuitry to his 6th Graders

“The Concept in 60” assignment overview

Mozilla Thimble

Mozilla Popcorn

Mozilla XRay Goggles

Mozilla Appmaker

MIT’s Scratch




An additional list of media tools can be found by clicking HERE.

And don’t forget to share what you do by adding an example below!

myHistro Timeline

Created by as a Make

There are quite a few interactive timeline apps on the market, functioning both on web browsers and as apps on mobile devices. myHistro exists as both. It also functions well in the Edmodo app store.

myHistro works as a timeline generator, incorporating text, pictures, video, and maps. Users can customize dates and times. Users can embed finished timelines into blogs and websites.

Ways users could use myHistro is to create timelines of characters in a book or the adventures of an explorer. This year I plan on having students create timelines of their year, constantly revisiting their work and adding snapshots and video clips that tell the story of their learning.


The adventures of chalkboard man

Created by as a Make

Chalkboard man wants to come visit you! Chad Sansing commented that my vines of Chalkboard man’s antics were like “an ongoing graphic novel.” Let’s write that graphic novel together! I will mail chalkboard man to you, and you can take a video or a picture, or make a stop motion, or anything else, of Chalkboard man’s adventures with you. To sign up, go to the google doc and enter your name and your city/state. I will map Chalkboard man’s route, and then re-order the list so we know who he is visiting and in what order. I mail him to the first person on the list, and chalkboard man can stay with that person for 3-4 days, and then that person goes to the google doc and finds the next person on the list, and emails or private messages them for their address, and sends Chalkboard man on. Post your pictures of Chalkboard man to Flickr and your videos to YouTube, or some other platform, making sure to use the hashtags #chalkboardman and #clmooc or something similar, and cross-post to the examples below! Be sure to sign up soon, as I will map his route on Tuesday 6/2/13 and send him out on Wednesday. If you want to join after that, it’s okay, I’ll just add you to the bottom of the list!

you can find the google doc here:

Alexander Calder-inspired #toyhack sculpture

Created by as a Make

Inspired by the work of American sculptor Alexander Calder (who has been credited as the originator of the “mobile” as a type of kinetic sculpture) my two boys and I embraced the second #toyhack make-cycle as a team.

We worked on our Calder-inspired sculpture project together from beginning to end. First, I turned to the internet to introduce them to Alexander Calder and show them all kinds of examples of Calder’s work, focusing particularly on his mobiles. From there we were all charged up and jumped right into our own creative collaboration. We scoured their bedroom for old discarded toy “refuse” (lego pieces, tracks from an old train set, foam letters, glow-in-the-dark-jacks, tinker toy pieces, etc.). We looked for old pieces of things that seemed like garbage now. We talked about shapes, color, and texture, and throughout we were considering the idea of “re-purposing” what has been forgotten. The boys continually expressed nostalgia for pieces of things from their toddler or pre-school past. The collaboration then spurned them (without prompting, I swear ;) to journal some of their current creative thoughts. They were drawing and mapping and writing as I was constructing the mobile. They were delighted when I started to arrange certain pieces and hold it up for pre-view. And they were very engaged in the particular placement of all the random found objects. It seemed to me that there was particular meaning in their sense of where things should go.

This brief animoto video captures the surge of collaborative creativity that went into making our #toyhack for Make Cycle 2:

This vine clip gives you a sense of the kinetic quality of our #toyhack:

This was making at its best: it was fun, it was educational, it was inspiring and creative, it was mechanical and hands-on, and it spurned collective reflection. The sculpture now claims a corner window in our kitchen. I imagine that this process could be remixed in a variety of classroom settings, and one could anticipate a variety of student learning outcomes from the overall collaborative process.

toyhack sculp