In the 19th century poet Whitman used his powerful voice and his overarching persona to set off on the Open Road- “Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, . . . The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.”
Walt envisioned himself as a social activist his poetry to alert citizens of various ethnicities, social and economic stations to their commonality and shared civic goals: “I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go, / I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them.”
For 19th century Whitman his broad poetry as a tool for social action mission, had to be confined to dissemination through the available technology platforms of his time. He published extensively in print and he networked as a speaker and as a community activist. He cultivated a photographic persona for himself as “the good gray poet.” But his capacity to reach extensive numbers of Americans and certainly world citizens was limited by literacy, available and plentiful translation sources, and access to print media and even more access to audio recording capacity. But as testified by the Open Road’s ongoing popularity in a 21st century car commercial and Whitman’s position in the canon of American literature today, he did a superlative job in speaking to his own and future audiences given his available technology platforms.
Shane Koyczan, a Canadian, born in 1976 shares Walt Whitman’s vision of using writing as a “way I could stand up for myself.” (2014). As a child, he was bullied and got through it by writing down his thoughts. When he matured into adolescence those thoughts were shaped by him into poems dealing with among other topics the anguish of being bullied, the dilemma posed for bystanders to bullying and the back stories behind those who are bullies. Koyczan in the 21st century paralleled Whitman by initially writing down and performing on stage his poem about the experience of bullying. As a result of his stage performance of this written text, audience members shared with him their own experience of the sadly universal bullying trauma.
Since unlike Whitman Koyczan also had a band (Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long), he accessed the 21st century recording technology to develop a piece for his album Rembrance Year: http://shanekoyczan.shop.redstarmerch.com . (Hear it immediately using your class Chromebooks- recommended for grades 9-12). Already technology had expanded his ability to share and to through his website and other social networks get immediate reaction and interactive response about bullying and his artistic composition far beyond the personal audience comments or written or published reaction 19th century Walt Whitman could achieve.
While Walt Whitman in cultivation of his “good gray poet” did go to hospitals to nurse the Civil War wounded and highlight the poor and socially disadvantaged, Koyczan realized that since his audience’s responses were so moving, he could tap a 21st century tool unavailable to Whitman to expand his literacy and social action network to engage animations- a universally accessible visual platform to inform, alert and sensitize a broader issue to the issue of bullying. Using his social network channels-face book, twitter, web, etc., he could quickly get 86 animators and motion artists to crowd source short animations inspired by his poem text to create a single fluid video. The “to this day video” http://www.shanekoyczan.com/store/to-this-day-video access it immediately using your Chrome books), went viral and got 12 million hits internationally in 2013 alone!! Unlike Whitman who certainly knew he was recognized in his time period and met or heard from his public, Koyczan as he started his fourth decade had solid numbers of persons worldwide who he and collaborators had reached through performances, recordings and the video. Unlike Whitman for whom the writing and publishing and performing of a social activist poetry text were the only platforms through which he could hope to reach his audience; Koyczan had already and could document that he had reached millions, before he actually decided on a print book with again a collaborative layer of 30 artists who illustrated the poem plus provided commentary for it. The book came last not first in his ongoing TO THIS DAY ant bullying social conscious project. It was published after the video in 2014.
As Koyczan notes: “writing became the way I could stand up for myself. . . Self expression . . . makes the world my friend . . .the world will never hear you if you choose to say nothing.”
Koyczan’s use of multiple 21st century accessible and available technology venues and platforms- album recordings, fluid animation video, personal website, twitter account, online Ted talk, and more model how today’s Walt Whitman poetry based social activists and literacy educators can tap into the varied digital and multimedia platforms to offer 21st century learners multiple formats to identify their expressive strengths.
The Chromebook instantly accesses all students in your classes to your curated for age and content appropriate model digital formats which can anchor student creations and responses again situated in immediate use access on the Chromebook through its Google features. Whether their learning talents and styles lie in speaking and listening, writing, working collaboratively, singing, using art formats to graphically communicate knowledge or a message or in reading and reacting to a print or online presentation; Koyczan models how today’s literate informed citizen can participate across a span of text options as a social activist global community member. In doing so, students of course use the full spectrum of literacy skills including reading, writing, speaking, listing, knowledge and conventions of language. Even more important they can read, see, get online feedback, collaborate globally and quickly achieve audiences for their purposeful messages in ways Whitman could not fathom from his 19th century technology base.
In Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, 19th century Walt Whitman looks ahead to our century and beyond and tells us: “It avails not, neither time or place-distance avails not; /I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence/ I project myself – I also return- I am with you and know how it is.”
If Whitman did succeed in being able to look forward to our century and beyond- and this poem is still widely taught and respected-then he is looking at the work of Koyczan and other literacy driven social justice activists and smiling in delight at the way they tap digital platforms to reach infinite number of citizens worldwide. The good gray poet of the 19th century open road is comforted by the vision of a future in which Chromebook situated technology has enabled infinite global numbers of citizens representing a broad spectrum of talents to walk that road alongside him and engage others in this walk toward a caring collaborative and collegial world community.
Chromebooks allow students to inculcate and concretely use actual Common Core and PARCC skills toward addressing creatively problems that are personal to them with equally personal responses that can be at teacher discretion published to a broad open road community of social activist citizens. Here’s looking at you, Walt Whitman from the 21st Century, we are with you!!
About Sector 5,
Sector 5, Inc. (OTCQB: SFIV), is a Proud American Corporation, that sells, manufactures and develops new innovative consumer electronics under Sector 5 and other brands. The Company markets its partnership with Google approved Chromebooks to educational organizations, other B2B and B2C sales channels, with retail sales on Amazon. It is in development of several new products to serve the educational, business and retail markets. Follow the company on www.twitter.com/sectorfiveinc and www.facebook.com/sect5 and find further information at www.sector-five.com. For Sector 5’s Forward Looking Statements, click here.