The Poetry of Robert Fanning, Central Michigan University

“Let Go.”

Of so many things.

A litany of images cascades from Central Michigan University professor and poet, Robert Fanning, in his mesmerizing poem, What is Written on the Leaves.

In the world of algorithms and big data, in which we are reduced to nothing more than our assemblages of profiles, browsing history, and followers, we are reminded once again of the very difficult task of being  human. Poetry does this for us. And nothing humanizes us more richly than luminous poetry.

The poem, taken from his most recent collection of poems, Our Sudden Museum, published by Ireland’s Salmon Press (, could be the voice of our wiser self, putting us on notice, that of all our accumulated sufferings and possessions, we are to “let go.”

Is it a command, a suggestion, or something else-maybe a refrain from the deepest blues song, that we are to lay down our weariness, our baggage, we are to “let go.”

But, what would we be without it?

arch-rock-ascendingMerely free.

Any reader who is looking for solace and inspiration today, should definitely check out Robert Fanning’s work.

I do believe teachers of creative writing and English teachers would find much to appreciate in this poem. Experience for yourself but I believe Robert Fanning’s accessible poem, What is Written on the Leaves, rich in imagery, rhythm and repetition would be suitable for older students.

An interesting thematic lesson might be to read Robert Fanning’s poem after reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. How do these two works complement each other?

Please check out Robert Fanning’s website and his reading of What is Written on the Leaves on Soundcloud.

Additionally, parents will find his poem, Watching My Daughter Through the One Way Mirror of a Preschool Observation Room especially poignant.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is your first reaction to his poem, What is Written on the Leaves?
  2. What images connect with you?
  3. What are 3 poetic devices that Robert Fanning uses in the poem?
  4. How does the use of repetition of the phrase “let go” add to the poem’s meaning?
  5. Who is the speaker in the poem?
  6. Why is it essential to hear poetry spoken aloud, or to speak it aloud ourselves?
  7. What does this inspire you to “dream, learn, do?”

Saving Money With 3-D Printing-Michigan Tech University Research

Does your school have a 3-d printer? If not, why not?

Not only does the 3-d printer have many great educational uses, new research from Michigan Tech University professor Joshua Pearce reveals they can save money too.

According to the research,most households, by making simple household products once per week can make their money back within 6 months and have a 1,000% return on their investment within 5 years.

But aren’t they hard to use and require lots of training and set-up costs?

Not so much. One of the best aspects of the research was that the products were all created by a novice. The subject, engineering student Emily Petersen had never used a personal 3-d printer before. Within a mere sixty minutes of activating the printer, she was off and running, well printing.

She ultimately printed 26 household objects to exemplify how using the printer could have tremendous utility for any personal household, being able to print anything from shower heads, drinking cups, cabinet pulls, to toys for the kids. I definitely want to check one out to see if it as easy to use as they say, because to be honest, technology and I do not always see eye to eye! (Thank goodness I have wonderful teenageers at home to help me!)

What amazing creations would your students come up with? As you know, one of the primary mindsets we are encouraging with our blog, Wide Open Research, is to encourage students to be actively engaged learners-learning both the academic foundation, but also creating, making, doing, experimenting. In short, making the learning come alive. This article provides great “data” for a teacher to advocate to their principal or administrative folks to seek ways to get a 3-D printer and other technology available for their students. 

Definitely check out MTU writer Stefanie Sidortsova’s piece  on professor Pearce’s research as it features a brief video of the 3-D printer in action. I definitely want the little green octopus!

Questions for Discussion

  1. What would you make?
  2. How does it work?
  3. What are the potential societal implications of this? What happens if the new knob you printed ruins your washing machine- is the warranty void? Who is liable if a product you print hurts someone?
  4. How could this impact the economy?
  5. What are some more benefits besides, the economic ones?
  6. What will be the next step, after 3-d printing?

What else does this inspire you to “learn, dream, do?”

To read more from Wide Open Research about 3-d Printing, please click here.

Inspired Research at the University of Cincinnati

It is easy to be frustrated by the world of education these days, when every decision both internally and externally becomes a conflict-when protecting egos and turf are prime motivators, when hyper-competitiveness seems to crush the joy of learning on many days. Sigh…. 

So, I am always grateful to come across an a story  that inspires me and reaffirms my hope in our students, for our future. 

If you are looking for such an article, please check out Jac Kern’s excellent piece in the University of Cincinnati magazine, about a student led engineering society, EnableUC, who decided to put their love of engineering to good use- to help make low-cost prosthetic devices for pediatric patients.

It focuses on the president of the campus group, an exceptional person, Jacob Knorr, who is focused not only on serving  the needs of those who might benefit from their prosthetic technology, but  he is eager to share his love of engineering with high school students, especially those that might not have access to engineering mentors.

Knorr is quoted in the article,” We’re working on high school outreach to get that next generation of students interested so they can go to school for engineering.”

It is my sincere hope that Knorr and EnableUC succeed in their mission of inspiring students not to only become engineers, but to use their talents and gifts to serve those who are less fortunate.

If all of us adult educators would keep focused on that same mission, what a beautiful world we could create. Thanks for the great article and keep up the great work, EnableUC!

The article has a link to their upcoming plans and projects for a low-cost battery powered prosthetic hand that the group is working on. Please share with your friends! 

Leave a comment below and let us know who in the world of research is inspiring you these days!

Questions for Discussion

  1. How has 3-D printing revolutionized prosthetic development?
  2. What parts of the world might benefit most from this low-cost technology?
  3. What is the dual mission of EnableUC?
  4. What new technology is EnableUC trying to develop?
  5. What other ideas could your students do to use 3-d printing to help those in need?
  6. What are 5 things in your classroom that were developed by engineers or designers?

What else does this inspire you to “learn,dream,do?”

Another Wide Open Research post about outreach with 3-d Printers.

Lowntheil Collection of African-American Photographs at Cornell University

Educators wishing to enrich their senior high school social studies or  college curriculum or to help commemorate African American History Month should check out the Lowentheil Collection of African-American Photographs, available through Cornell University.

This rich collection of historical photographs from the time of slavery to the modern era is an incredible research and educational opportunity. These digitized photos are a compelling look at “how black people in American saw themselves and were seen by others,” according to Cheryl Finley, associate professor of art.

It took several years of painstaking work to digitize and organize these photographs to be made available to the wider public.

There are so many ways an educator could use these photographs from the Lowentheil Collection of African-American photographs. For sure, to glimpse the attire, hair styles and posing of the time period. But also, to understand the essential humanity captured in the photos.

For sure, an American History teacher could find these valuable artifacts to deepen the understanding of the time period. Students can scan the gallery and answer questions about what is observed. They can begin getting an understanding of how a historian would use primary source material for research. Additionally, you can help them develop an appreciation of the great role that media specialists and archivists play in recording the history of our culture.

I can also imagine using these photographs in a creative writing context. The clothes, the facial expressions, the poses of these African-American subjects could be used as a “prompt” for a creative writing, free write. Simply look at the picture and imagine the story of the person in the photo. Imagine what was happening in their lives during the time of the photographs. What was important to them? What were they thinking and feeling and dreaming?

What genre would best fit the image titled, “Portrait of a Man?” A poem, an essay, a short story? For some reason, I see him possibly giving a speech, what about you?

I believe our colleagues in the Fine Arts classes would find much to commend about the photographers effort in “Men and children dancing” from 1886. What do you think of the staging and the intensity in which the boy in the foreground stares at the camera? How has the camera and film technology changed since the era of these older photographs? Stylistically rich and visually appealing, these photographs would enliven any photography classroom discussion. 

Any educator with a passion for celebrating the difficult work of curatorial research and of experiencing a profound glimpse into the power of the humanities to close the gap of time, would find spending time with this digital collection gratifying.

Questions for Discussion

  1. How can this digital collection help us better understand this time period?
  2. How has the photographic technology changed?
  3. What is the importance of primary source material in historical research?
  4. What can we learn about the subjects in this collection- are there generalizable characteristics or is it best to understand the subjects individually?
  5. Why do you think Cornell believed it was important to share this resource?
  6. How else could you use this collection in your own class or professional development setting?

For a link to an article in the Cornell Chronicle by Melanie Lefkowitz, please click here.

For a link to the Lowentheil Collection of African American Photographs, please click here. 

Do Video Game Ratings Labels Work?


Yes, according to Iowa State University marketing professor Russell Laczniak.

In an excellent article posted by writer Angie Hunt, Laczniak states, “Parents must actually mediate kids purchase and play of video games, which requires effort and time.”

Professor Laczniak and his associates conducted the research by surveying 220 families online. The survey had questions for parents as well as children. Interestingly, the research respondents were primarily dyads of mothers and sons. He focused on children in the age range of 8-12 as that seemed to be a heightened time of cognitive change and growing influence of peers.

It is essential that parents must actually intervene and influence both the purchase of video games, but also the time that their child spends on video games. So, parents need to set clear limits and implement them consistently in order to have a positive impact.

So, what is this positive impact-simply reducing the number of hours playing video game? According to Laczniak and colleagues, the impact is so much more.  The article suggests that when video game use is limited in this age group, the children are less likely to demonstrate acting out behaviors. This comes as no surprise to most of us who have worked in education for a while, but is important to have yet more data that leads to this conclusion.

Previous research notes, that a particular parenting style also has the most impact on successful implementing the limits- parents who are warm and restrictive as opposed to “anxious” tend to have the best results. I think there is a body of evidence that shows that this is important in any parental interaction, not simply in the limitation of video game watching. Please also check out the science tab of Wide Open Research for further information on being a digitally wise parent or educator.

This is great research and all parents and educators would want to read the article. Teachers of Psychology, Child Development, Parenting, Marketing for sure could use this for a productive discussion. Teachers of an Intro to Law, or Media Studies course could use this to discuss the larger legal and cultural role that video games play in our society.

A few takeaways for teachers and administrators to share with parents:

  1. Read the labels on video games and follow their guidance.
  2. Calmly and firmly tell your child that you will not buy or let them play video games that are “too old” for them. Explain that you are trying to help them become the best students and people possible and this is going to help. Do not have an extended debate.
  3. Provide an alternative activity for the child.
  4. Network with other parents and educators who hold similar values. Common Sense Media is a great resource. 

Question for Discussion

  1. What is your experience in playing violent video games?
  2. Why do they hold such a fascination in our culture?
  3. Are these games popular throughout the world? Where?Who tends to play these games the most?
  4. What are some limitations of this research?
  5. How could professor Laczniak and his colleagues conduct follow up research?
  6. What do you think of the suggestions noted in the article regarding other ways companies could show a game’s rating? What other ways can you think of to help parents make more informed choices regarding video game use?
  7. Perhaps the creative teachers would like to help their students develop Public Service Announcements, to help parents use this research?
  8. What else does this inspire you to “learn, dream, do?”