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Mia Zamora
Published
Jul 29 2014

Hack Your Writing: Reflections and Connections from #clmooc

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This was originally posted as a blog for Making Learning Connected 2014, otherwise known as CLMOOC. These reflections and connections come from the fourth week's Make Cycle focused on Hacking Your Writing by Erica Holan Lucci and Mia Zamora of the Kean University Writing Project.

Transformed Book by Larry Hewett; Making Learning Connected 2014Image of "Transformed Book" by Larry Hewett

A heartfelt thank you to everyone in the CLMOOC community for your insightful contributions to this week’s “Hack Your Writing!” Make Cycle. We were so impressed with the variety of works posted in the G+ community, on Twitter, and to the Make Bank—we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what it means to hack (your writing) in this (analogue to) digital age.

This week’s theme led to a number of folks questioning the definition of hacking and what it means to hack one’s writing. Susan Watson pondered this key question while hacking her daughter’s video and Terry Elliot inquired on Google+ "Does putting my writing into an electrified notebook with circuits that power bells, LED's and whistles constitute a hack? Inquiring minds want to know.” Hacking literally went “viral” this week courtesy of Amy Cody Clancy’s post on visual poetry. Kim Douillard encouraged us to consider what affordances and constraints hacking brings to the curriculum, giving pause to reflect on how the notion of hacking can be applied to our classroom settings, while Shannon Falkner drew inspiration from everyday mobile communication by hacking her text messages. Larry Hewett demonstrated his captivating papercraft hack by literally carving a sculpture from a traditional text. His work is a testament to the mantra that meaningful hacking of writing is not always digital.

Paper Circuity by George Salazar, image by Mia Zamora; Making Learning Connected 2014Image of Paper Circuity by George Salazar by Mia Zamora

In addition to inspirational make posts and blog reflections, this week was chock-full of fun events, including a Tuesday night "Make with Me," the celebration of Hack Your Notebook Day on Wednesday, July 10, an additional special Live Hangout on Air with Meenoo Rami Thursday morning, and a "Special Make with Me” Thursday afternoon, featuring participants from the Kean University Writing Project. Shoutouts to our fabulous panel of guests: Meenoo Rami, Kim Kiefer, Dana Cansian, MaryEllen Banfield, and Christina Cantrill (from behind the scenes).

While Hack Your Notebook Day was celebrated internationally on July 9, the Kean University Writing Project lit up with the creative possibilities awaiting us in our Paper Circuitry workshop (click on the photo to the left to see more).

We’re still giddy with excitement over our visit with Thrive author Meenoo Rami, who also participated in the day’s paper circuitry hack events. While she had fun making and learning with us on Wednesday, we learned from an insightful discussion with her about the power of teacher and student agency in the classroom. Creating a network of thoughtful, driven, like-minded folks in your school, district, social media communities, and beyond, learning from “the classroom teacher across the hall, or across the U.S.” is an extraordinary gift of reciprocity. Meenoo’s chat with our TCs dovetailed so nicely with the paper circuitry work the day before, and the conversation invariably continued to flow into our afternoon “Make with Me” Google Hangout. We hope that some of the inspiration we have experienced this week was also felt in our network beyond campus.

Many thanks to Ian O’Byrne, Michael Wellner, and company for the “playful” Twitter chat we had on Thursday evening. There were a lot of LOLs. It is clear that the overall hacking theme seemed to draw out a little fun in us. We discussed the notion of hacking as remix with an element of ownership. We also agreed that hacking-as-revoicing text is acceptable for the purposes of innovative remix so long as attribution is taken into account.

Found Poetry image by Nikki Smith of BookSmithStudio @ cloth.paper.scissors used with permissionFound Poetry image by Nikki Smith of BookSmithStudio @ cloth.paper.scissors used with permission

REFLECTING ON HACKING YOUR WRITING

On some level, hacking has emerged as a form of mischief making. To hack is to discover ideological agendas, to revoice a text, to “mess” with an original perceived intent. And hacking can indeed be messy and even convoluted at times. But what is broken and twisted can also beautiful. Hacking can be a bearer of new knowledge.

There are so many questions that have emerged collectively as we have explored writing-as-hacking together this week. When do we know when a “hack” is a successful one? Does a “hack” need to move beyond structural remix and simple translation to an identifiable new level of meaning-production in order for it to be successful? The inherent question of plagiarism, cheating, (even of plagiarizing oneself) have come up, prompting us all to think about the ethics of imitation. Is it possible to conceive of an “ethics” of hacking practices when applied to writing? In the end, “remix is conversation” (to quote Chris Lawrence from Mozilla.) The highly participatory nature of the cultural moment we live in demands a new kind of critical literacy. As educators we want to empower our students to become engaged complex thinkers. Meenoo Rami stated “I want my students to code, decode, make, break things. I want them to shape an argument, to engage civically, to be critical thinkers.” Perhaps hacking (as a methodology applied to writing) might help us get there.

In this Make Cycle we have discovered together that hacking might expand an entry point for writing and writing/making for our students. For reflecting further on Make Cycle #4, we invite you to elaborate on your experiences with Hacking Your Writing this week in longer form. You can always add your thoughts on this topic in this Vialogue. Consider a blog post to explore the idea that writing is indeed a kind of making. Or perhaps you might further reflect on the hacking-as-writing concept a bit more by trying a “Make a Case” exercise? Regardless of form, we would appreciate hearing about your making processes (i.e. your successes, failures, iterations, ah-ha moments, stuck places, and everything in between). Record and share out to the community your insights about “hacking as writing”. What are your perceptions of the possible ties to Connected Learning? What ways might hacking be incorporated in your classrooms? And what influence might “hacking” play in your role as an educational leader?

What's Ahead

We look forward to what you continue to share in Make Cycle #5. (Nor is it too late to share a “How To Guide”, continue making “Memes”, tinker with “Games”, or “Hack Your Writing”). The fifth Make Cycle begins on Monday and facilitators from Maker Jawn in Philadelphia of the YOUMedia Network who will bring storytelling and further illuminations into our Connected Learning space. We’re excited to continue the call to make, learn, and play next week. Until then, keep hacking and reflecting!

Our most sincere thanks for an enlightening and empowering engagement this week,

Erica Holan Lucci & Mia Zamora,
Kean University Writing Project

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