Steve J. Moore

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Educational Change in Finland; What Can We Learn?

In Writing on October 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Educational Change in Finland; What Can We Learn?

I recently finished this audio book on my commute to and from school. I really enjoyed hearing it spoken; my only problem was that I couldn’t stop to write notes and questions constantly that came up while I was listening. I will most certainly be returning to this book in its paper form so I can search out the many tables, figures, and points made about this fascinating topic.

I highly recommend this book if: you are concerned with the status quo in public and private American education; are feeling “stuck” in your current practice in school’ or, if you are just interested in how one system was transformed through a focus on research-based teacher prep, teacher autonomy, and a shared vision of the purpose of school.

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Designing a Path to Identity

In collaboration, Design, identity, Writing on March 20, 2009 at 11:22 am

Steve J. Moore

“This is part of a conversational series shared between multiple writers. As each new article is written, they will be displayed on the sites of all participating authors.”

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Design begs for authenticity

Today, you hear a lot about the importance of branding, in the online world. Whether you’re selling T-shirts for your band, writing Op-Eds for a periodical, or mocking up websites for photographers, you are aware of the idea of brand control and its potential impact. Business owners need to be sure that the products they put out are consistent with their plans for objectives as a company. It is the same in education; a teacher needs to be consistent in his or her message to the class about his lessons. If the rules appear to change for no reason, then you lose credibility. You lose your audience. Such is the purpose of design, to help you communicate your brand’s message clearly. But how does good design contribute to your objective? Isn’t such a thing as ephemeral as “design” only a subjective screen covering a person’s idea? How does good design help define who you are as a professional?

These are all questions with dangerously simple answers. They are questions specific to expression, that we all think we understand. The truth is, the ideas of design and expression boil your idea, your product, or your company down to one thing: Identity.

Being the good little scholar of literary concepts that I am, I naturally connect this concept which some may see as strictly economic, like “branding,” or rooted in art, like “design,” as a question of narrative importance. Design is all about who you are; it’s all about building, maintaining, and sharing your identity. So design becomes much less murky if you know who you are (or who/what you are representing). That’s simple, right!? Dang, that’s two posts in a row an interrobang could have come in handy. Sure it’s simple. Just open your chest up and look inside. Pop the hood. Crack open the server case. Read your old book-jacket cover. Well, if only life came with instr–resisting the urge to use cliche–if only, people were so simple, so static…

If design is inherently connected to identity, then marketers had better get on the couch and start self-discovering. Building web pages, you hear a lot about optimization through the use of “meta tags” that mark your domain with keywords. Looking at the word  “meta,” (which is really more of a prefix) we find that it means  “in reference to,” “about,” or “from within.” So websites and their designers need to do a little soul searching before their designs are complete. If you don’t understand the “within” for a particular job (web designers), then you most likely won’t be able to meet the needs of your client. Business owners, on the other hand, need to understand themselves before having new design implemented.

What questions can I ask myself related to establishing identity?

What language do I speak?

This is not as simple as it sounds; language is as deep and pervasive as any aspect of our identities. Furthermore, this question goes beyond what geographical tongue you use, but makes you describe who your audience is. Who are you trying to reach? Design, by definition, should fit a pre-determined purpose. Your website should be designed to fit a group or type of person with specific objectives. Maybe you are a blogger yourself and so, in considering design, you can access your own metacognitive habits and thoughts. Considering that I have a lot of readers who are, themselves, bloggers, web designers, and writers, I do my best to casually tailor my posts to fit their lexicons. I have an education blog too; I use different language off-the-cuff there than I would here.

For example, I may very easily dip into the educational “alphabet soup,” as one of my professors called it, and confuse readers if I am not careful. I wouldn’t dare write this sentence here without explanation:

“While NCLB may be considered to drive more action-based WFSGs and PDCs, there is  only correlative data to support this claim.”

Most people in the field of education (or very active parents) would understand that I’m writing about No Child Left Behind, Whole Faculty Study Groups, and Professional Development Communities, but a web designer would be rather perplexed most likely. On the same hand, I wouldn’t want to write this sentence in an education blog post:

“While pervasive in the development world, recursive acronyms like PHP, GNU, and TIP are humorous in ways often not understood by those outside of the field.”

What is your history?

Knowing where you have been is crucial to knowing where you are and where you want to go. So understanding the origins of your ideas is very helpful in forming a dialogue with your audience. If your readers perceive that you have an appropriate level of authority, then it will be much more likely for them to subscribe to your ideas. Being able to express where you are coming from is key to building a base upon which to prop your design (whatever it may be). Consider the classic frame of the Hero’s Journey, as Joseph Campbell describes it:

Is your design heroic?

Is your design heroic?

Inception: the hero’s call to action (expressing the origins of your idea)

Trial by fire: the hero’s challenge (show your work and experience)

Return: the hero finds his/her way home, changed (explain how you are unique)

I have always understood the basic plan for design to be rooted in this information. Maybe it’s your updated business plan, your master’s thesis, or an autobiographical reflection; find useful ways to incorporate this information, and your design will be more authentic for it.

If you’d like to contribute an article to our conversation,  comment here, on RyanBurrell.com or at SilverPenPub.net. We’re also all active on Twitter:

Steve, Ryan, and Matthew.

Collaborative Conversations

In collaboration, The Web, Writing on March 11, 2009 at 11:03 am

Ryan Burrell

The idea that anything written and presented on the Web is of a static nature and lacking malleability is a false one.  Likewise, the idea that articles or topics presented in format for consumption over the Internet are closed to observer modification and addition is also false.  The Web allows for an extremely unique interchange of thought, be it an initial article writing, subsequent discussion or comments, or responsive posts created on other sites.  It encourages viewers and readers to have an opinion or viewpoint, and to share that with anyone else who may be interested.

To that end, the idea of a “collaborative conversation” has been applied to writing for the Web.  Myself and several other individuals have taken up this notion (originally a teaching method) to try and spur ourselves onward in our writing, for several reasons.  We wanted something that gave us a focus for our writing, even if it was an arbitrary idea or topic.  Being able to dance around an issue and comment from multiple viewpoints was appealing; not arguing or making a case for anything (per se), just observations and discussion.

The rules we follow are minimal:

  • Someone picks a topic, and we try and tie in whatever we write with that topic. Think of it as more of a theme than a thesis statement.
  • Everyone participating must post each article that is written.  For larger numbers of people writing, we may dispense with this and simply include links to each part of the series on our own posts.
  • Don’t pander to the audience. Part of this type of conversation is to think on the topic, and come up with a unique viewpoint or observation on it.  Just as in real life, we want the conversation to be interesting.

The first experiment in this followed the the idea of the Internet being a product of humanity that has also changed it irrevocably.  Future topics have been selected and we will hopefully continue what has been (for me at least) a very nice exercise in both writing and observing.

Reading Ballistics and Conceiving a Journey to the Top of Chimney Rock

In Nature, poetry, Writing on February 3, 2009 at 8:27 pm

chimney-rock

I wish I could climb a rock
fingers in cracks and feet en pointe
through rubber
my soul wants to rise up
through to the clouds above the summit
and I wish

I could read a book of poems
while I was shimmying
jimmying, and scraping to the top.

I wish his words–Billy’s words were there
at each cinch and in each crevasse
speaking in forms of detached
and animated cartoon mouths
so I could reap
so I could roll back my eyes
while my muscles contract.
The striated, lean, and corpusculous
tissues conquering the planet’s skin.

The crag should drink my blood
where the sun could bake it black
with everything but the carbon evaporating,
because of such a rough disagreement
of skin and bone with sediment.

Words, Words, Words

In Uncategorized, Writing on February 2, 2009 at 7:19 pm

I decided to check out how often I said which words in my blogging after seeing word clouds of President Obama’s, as well as Bush, Clinton, and Lincoln’s, inauguration speeches last month. In my own reflection, I figured  that “music” would be a large word, meaning I use it often in my posts, but I never saw things like “just” coming. I guess my relaxed style let’s such words become over exercised, I just can’t help it!

spigotwordle

A Poetic Inauguration

In poetry, Radio, TV, World Events, Writing on January 20, 2009 at 9:48 am

Because I love poetry, because I love politics, because I am too lazy busy to write anything else, I am posting a copy of the inaugural poem that Robert Frost read for John F. Kennedy on this very day in 1961.

Barack Obama has chosen Yale poet and scholar Elizabeth Alexander to pen the fourth presidential inauguration poem for him. She was a Pulitzer finalist in 2005 and has written several volumes of poetry.

 This first poem, Dedication (pictured below), was written in commemoration of John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration, but due to 87 year old eyes, Frost could not read the type. Instead of the poem below, he read The Gift Outright (further below) from memory.

 

frost

 

Dedication

 

Summoning artists to participate

In the august occasions of the state

Seems something artists ought to celebrate.

Today is for my cause a day of days.

And his be poetry’s old-fashioned praise

Who was the first to think of such a thing.

This verse that in acknowledgment I bring

Goes back to the beginning of the end

Of what had been for centuries the trend;

A turning point in modern history.

Colonial had been the thing to be

As long as the great issue was to see

What country’d be the one to dominate

By character, by tongue, by native trait,

The new world Christopher Columbus found.

The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed

And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.

Elizabeth the First and England won.

Now came on a new order of the ages

That in the Latin of our founding sages

(Is it not written on the dollar bill

We carry in our purse and pocket still?)

God nodded his approval of as good.

So much those heroes knew and understood,

I mean the great four, Washington,

John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison

So much they saw as consecrated seers

They must have seen ahead what not appears,

They would bring empires down about our ears

And by the example of our Declaration

Make everybody want to be a nation.

And this is no aristocratic joke

At the expense of negligible folk.

We see how seriously the races swarm

In their attempts at sovereignty and form.

They are our wards we think to some extent

For the time being and with their consent,

To teach them how Democracy is meant.

“New order of the ages” did they say?

If it looks none too orderly today,

‘Tis a confusion it was ours to start

So in it have to take courageous part.

No one of honest feeling would approve

A ruler who pretended not to love

A turbulence he had the better of.

Everyone knows the glory of the twain

Who gave America the aeroplane

To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.

Some poor fool has been saying in his heart

Glory is out of date in life and art.

Our venture in revolution and outlawry

Has justified itself in freedom’s story

Right down to now in glory upon glory.

Come fresh from an election like the last,

The greatest vote a people ever cast,

So close yet sure to be abided by,

It is no miracle our mood is high.

Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs

Better than all the stalemate an’s and ifs.

There was the book of profile tales declaring

For the emboldened politicians daring

To break with followers when in the wrong,

A healthy independence of the throng,

A democratic form of right divine

To rule first answerable to high design.

There is a call to life a little sterner,

And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.

Less criticism of the field and court

And more preoccupation with the sport.

It makes the prophet in us all presage

The glory of a next Augustan age

Of a power leading from its strength and pride,

Of young ambition eager to be tried,

Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,

In any game the nations want to play.

A golden age of poetry and power

Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.

 

 

gift-outright-frost

The Gift Outright

 

Poem recited instead by Robert Frost at the

1961 Inauguration

  

The land was ours before we were the land’s.

She was our land more than a hundred years

Before we were her people. She was ours

In Massachusetts, in Virginia,

But we were England’s, Still colonials,

Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,

Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

Something we were withholding from our land of living,

And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

Such as we were we gave ourselves outright

(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)

To the land vaguely; realizing westward,

But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,

Such as she was, such as she would become.

 

As a gem for those of you who at least scrolled to the bottom of this post (not everyone reads poetry carefully, I know) I stumbled upon two poems that Obama, himself, had published in an Occidental College journal years ago. Read them for yourself here.

Words for Music, A Sonnet for “The Management”

In Film, Music, Radio, TV, Writing on December 12, 2008 at 11:48 pm

One Strange Title to Another


“Oracular Spectacular” alone is a whopping four iambs,
but I hate counting syllables, hand to my throat
bumping into my chin awkwardly. I’m always left laughing
and I lose count. Better to stick with number of lines
as I listen to the Brooklyn breeding psych pop dancing
of The Management. The only rhyming happens between keys,
as the electric feel wages weekend wars with the youth
and the handshake kids decide “it’s time to pretend”
with pieces of what, I cannot tell. The speaker foam
hides a prision for Bob Dylan, condemned to jamming
with the Sex Pistols using only old church organs,
a hand-me-down strat and Barry Gibb’s larynx. Voices
transport me in a telephone booth to a discotech arcade
where pac-man does lines, trying to escape the ghosts.

.

.

The MGMT’s newest album, “Oracular Spectacular.”

oracular_spectacular_2008

If a Prat Falls in Space…

In Film, Writing on December 8, 2008 at 6:36 pm

On any Monday, I try to find as many tiny reasons to bring the corners of my mouth a little closer to my ears.

Personally, I’m a sucker for the exploitation of Star Wars in any case, especially video games (see KOTOR), but usually not anything containing the term “fan-produced.” Today, I found one exception though:

Gotta thank io9 for posting the goods where I saw them.

The silent film piano score really makes this bit feel the part. The images of Vader remind me of Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator as he plays on the likes of Nazi Germany.

the_great_dictator1

The Storm Toopers hussling back and forth are echoes of policemen running to and from a black and white bank heist scene in vain, or maybe they are just chasing after Laurel and Hardy. I suppose this very short film presents us with a question, if Darth Vader is Charlie Chaplin, what place would he come in if he entered an Anakin Skywalker look-alike contest?

On My Way Home from Normal

In Writing on December 2, 2008 at 10:24 pm

It’s been a long couple of weeks and student teaching is coming to a close: papers due, assignments to grade, and time records to double and triple-check (in pencil of course). Driving home from Republic, Ben Folds banged on 88 piano keys and rang loudly in my ears. His new album, Way to Normal, has been out for several weeks now and I’ve heard a lot of good.

If I could give the album three adjectives to describe it:

Wistful

Organ-grinder

Philarious

Ok, that last one is cheating, but I wanted to say philosophical+hilarious! Wistful, is probably too soft of an adjective to describe the entire album per se, but the elements that are so foil the artist I think. Folds has always been full of…wist…to me.

Expectantly or yearningly eager, watchful, or intent; mournfully expectant or longing. (Chiefly in reference to the look.)

Thanks OED, don’t know what I’d do without you! Just looking at Ben Folds you get a sense of his style. His constant half-smirk is always wispering something melodic, existential, and half-cursing, into my ear. I ordered Whatever and Ever Amen from Columbia House (13 CDs for ONE CENT!!!!) back in 1997. I was 13, what can I say? But the album has always stuck with me. His lyrics are raw not like a shank of uncooked beef, but rather like a California roll from a hole-in-the wall suburban take-out place.

Maybe Organ-grinder isn’t an adjective, but I’m adopting it into my musical lexicon of description. Listen to You Don’t Know Me, featuring the incomparable Regina Spektor.

It’s so wonderfully full of noncannon sound. The little five-piece group backing Ben and Regina makes the song my favorite toy in the box. It’s fun, brightly colored, and it hasn’t bored me yet.

Metapoetic

In Writing on November 8, 2008 at 10:47 am

coffee-painting

A Confession to Pretension

I’ve been writing this in my head
while I drink black coffee and
unroll the etymology of a cigarette
with my tongue, wet from a soft kiss
my mistress muse gave me
after we made love in-between
the sheets of Shakespearean Sonnets

She, I will compare to the
coldest winter’s eve,
the kind that chills
a wind, inducing stupor

I’m not sure how to tell her
I use a smartphone to text my wife
or that I drive a decent car and have
zero facial hair.

I’ve never known someone who killed himself.

I have no gruffness,
no malice to stew in.
Maybe I should chain myself
to a type writer, but I don’t have one
and word processors are so much less
dramatic, so much less noisy.

What I want are reasons:
reasons to sew tulle into a sentence
in an effort to fish for compliments,
reasons to build flying buttresses
that are the pointed eyebrows
of a great face,
reasons to brew tea in a can of Mountain Dew
in order to save money on sugar,

reasons to sing along with—visit—Highway 61
for the first time again.

But I can’t give in.