May 29, 2009
Last year my friend Kerri Mathew contacted me regarding finding a way to hook up a science fiction writer, PJ Haarsma, with students eager to read his book, play his online game, and connect in new ways with young adult sci-fi. Having just come off a year project with Kerri working with wikis and fanfiction, I immediately saw wetpaint.com as an outlet for the kids, and we we’re all a little excited about the author himself being part of the project. To get the kids excited about the book series, Jim Blasingame, professor at ASU and ALAN/NCTE guru, schedule PJ Haarsma to hit two local Arizona high schools including Basha. The kids seemed a little starstruck, but they quickly realized that PJ is a man just like they could be and he has a vision that could be anyone of theirs.
In the late fall semester of 2008 we encouraged the students to move towards an online official lexicon of PJ’s first two Softwire books and his online video game. I was able to procure an advanced copy of the third book at NCTE in November and used it to bribe the students into working faster and more efficiently. By Christmas they had a large chunk of text in the wiki, edited and put together. Two students stood out beyond the others as the shining stars for this project.
Jim’s goal was to present the wiki as a “premier” by the end of the spring semester at ASU. That was tonight. Tonight Jim invited Kerri Mathew, me, PJ, several of my students, Book Babe, media, professors and others to join him in discussing a summer project PJ and his good friend Nathan Fillion of Firefly/Serenity fame are producing, briefly introducing book #4 of The Softwire Series, and then a conglomerate of social media meets literature project of PJ’s.
I spoke at length in this showcase about the wiki, collective intelligence, social media in traditional pedagogical settings, and what the kids accomplished. Two of the students discussed some as well about their role in everything and how they put it all together. PJ explained what he wanted us to still accomplish, and then Jim presented me with consent forms from the publishers who want to publish the lexicon text in the back of the third book’s paperback form. The student and I are very excited about this, and I’ve discussed briefly with Jim how he can showcase some of this at AETA this fall at ASU and my plans to begin to write up and publish my side of this experience.
After a photo shoot and interviews with press and the media manage at ASU’s decision theatre, I headed home. Now the wiki isn’t public yet, but we will be discussing that move shortly between me, PJ and Jim. As for now, I am waiting to get my hands on the manuscript for book #4 this summer.