Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Harvesting Electronics to Become English 1103

"Does this vacuume thing have a motor inside!!??"

I stood holding a broken hand vacuume yelling this across the house late last night. I had an emerging plan for the next day's writing class, which involved some electronic items, like motors, batteries, and wires, and I was scavenging the house for any spare electronics that more handy household members might have stashed. When I saw the broken vac, it occurred to me that I was surrounded by electronic parts! I just don't usually see them that way. It was one of those shift moments. The vaccuume was a little red pill and I was seeing the world without the veil of coorporate plastic casings. All the noisy toys I had previously rolled my eyes at, now seemed like treasures chests. Inside there would be more motors! In fact inside the vacuume was not only a motor, but the wires and a fan!

A confession: I have been thinking about the maker movement for a few years. I think of myself as a maker... of text based writing, digital movies, website code even. This summer though in a workshop on e-textiles with Kylie Peppler I sort of woke up again. Oh!!! This is the part of making I want more of! The tactile tinkering around. I mean, don't get me wrong, I do believe that all the other stuff is making and that it is embodied, too- I mean words don't float out into the universe from nowhere- they are generated by fingers moving along keys, gripping a pen held to my daybook or clumsily keyed onto my phone- in conversation with other people and as part of activities bound to the politics of labor. Still it can be easy to forget the bodily experience of making and writing, when words and even photographs or movies can seem so two dimensional. This is why I have been so intrigued by the integration of improvisation into the teaching of writing... it gets us thinking about how our bodies are deeply connected to language.

That evening of preparing for class at home was another knot-making moment in my maker identity. I knew that I wanted to use this second day of class to identify with, engage as or become makers ourselves. Students would have already watched parts of Connected Learning TV's Webinar Writing as Making/Making as Writing and Dale Dougherty's TED talk, We are All Makers and we had taken science photos on the first day of class.   As part of our fledgling maker space, I really wanted to offer at least one possibility with electronics, but I had hedged all summer on buying all the stuff I thought I would need to make it happen. Then finally planning for class I was looking through websites and images of maker ideas and projects and hacks and realized we really needed some stuff, like leds and motors and battery cases. Finally I found the Scribbling Machine from the Exploratorium's Tinkering Lab, and I had all of the materials at my house- except the motors.

And this is just what my tinkering with Kylie did. I played with alligator clips and leds and sewing conductive thread. I made some plans, ditched my plans, watched other people seem to have working plans, tried my planning again, ditched my planning again, jumped into sewing, went back to alligator clips as tactile planning, tried sewing, watched other people, handed my project over to Kylie, took out stitches, sewed more, took out more stitches, went back to drawing plan, and eventually didn't finish!  This tinkering with electronics was giving me yet another layer to understanding myself and others as makers. I am wondering if for some students this layer coming along earlier might create another point of entry into the conversation on writing as making and making as writing. We'll see what they think about that as they write reflective blog posts over the weekend!

 Hack on writers, teachers and makers!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post! How you weave together all these events, conversations, and reflections that led you to your current inquiry spot is super smart...I've tucked this post away to use later as a reflective writing mentor text...maybe for me or my students. I'm also inspired to read how you are putting your thinking into practice, feeling more excited about making space for making in my class and get my students tinkering with the idea of " writing as making and making as writing." So glad you shared. Thanks!