This coming Tuesday, May 31st, I’ll be working with some English 11 students about turning written memoirs into digital stories. The teacher has given me carte blanche to introduce students to a wide range of media and forms for turning a written work into a 3-5 minute digital narrative. Needless to say, it will likely involve still imagery, video, and audio to varying degrees, but beyond a suggested final form, the only hard requirements are making sure to include all forms of media listed above.
Hopefully, you see my predicament; it’s a wide open assignment to produce a digital story using more traditional digital storytelling elements, but focused around one particular memory. Think StoryCorps and This American Life mashed up with the typical YouTube vlogger. I wanted to provide the students with a few examples that we could discuss, much like a critique in an art studio, and figure out how to help them elicit certain emotions within the digital stories.
I have a couple of examples to share with the students. The Book Mobile by StoryCorps, and I Should Have through the Story Center are two prototypical stories that students will likely be able to relate to, and don’t stray too far from the traditional digital storytelling narrative. I wanted to talk about how each piece made them feel, and the elements used within them. Again, nothing terribly out of the ordinary.
Which got me thinking. I bet my #DS106 friends could help me with this. Do you have examples of digital memoirs and narratives that stretch beyond the traditional “Photostory-esque” type of digital stories? The StoryCorps animated stories are a great first step, but students aren’t going to be able to animate anything like that in the time they have.
So I’m curious; if you were in a room with thirty 11th-graders, looking to give them a taste of the wider realm of digital storytelling, what would you share with them?]]>
Just a quick post, to share a small “a-ha” moment that I hope means I’ve successfully solidified my understanding of the Next Generation Science Standard’s “3D” learning. As a Science minor, and former middle school science teacher, I’ve always believed in the power of providing students with discrepant events (p.s. we’re supposed to call them phenomena now); the idea that you present some sort of demonstration or model of a real world occurrence that challenges students’ pre-conceived notions.
The idea of providing an engaging piece of phenomena isn’t a new theory (think about how “anticipatory set” was drilled into you during pre-service days), but the ways in which we can present them to students has drastically changed from my pre-service (and even science teaching) days. Consider the following, the sun emits UV radiation in a form of “invisible light.” Human beings can’t see it, but we do have technology that allows us to observe what it might be like if we could see it.
The phenomena here is the startlingly realization that our bodies react to naturally occurring processes which we cannot see in equally opaque ways. It’s actually quite fascinating! Sure, kids can understand using microscopes and telescopes to observe things too small for us to see, or too far away. But actually seeing something that’s invisible to our senses, that’s pretty cool.
It turns out that TJ McKenna has been stockpiling interesting visual phenomena for NGSS purposes over at NGSSphenomena.com. It’s an incredibly more mature, curated, and supported resource than the video story problems I was creating for the same purpose, and I’m happy that thinkers much bigger than myself (of which there are exhaustingly many) are doing the hard work to help organize digital tool kits like this to support teachers; not behind a paywall, or a text-book subscription. Just wide open out on the internet for others to use.]]>
I always try to title each of these episodes with something that captures the majority of the conversation between Pete and myself. It doesn’t always work, as well tend to bounce around a number of topics. And it means that often I have to provide provocative titles that often don’t deliver (although I did deliver on stuffed animals in the previous episode). It’s always interesting trying to talk about pedagogy when using technology, personally because I see so many teachers disengaged with the topic.
Sure, everyone loves to use technology, and the engagement factor is off the charts, blah, blah, blah…but rarely do we every talk about the pedagogy behind the technology. Why are your students writing collaboratively? How are you ensuring that students are participating in an equitable collaborative effort? Honestly, I feel as if many educators would be more than willing to have these conversations, but there just isn’t time in many teachers’ busy schedules to have these discussions. I’m stuck on what I originally pondered in this episode;
Is it better to stay current on pedagogy or technology? How do we distinguish pedagogy from trendy ideology, and should we allow the onward march of technological process to dictate what “is best” for students?
Timestamps for this week’s questions:
1:15 How awesome is Pete’s day so far?
2:50 Will teachers be able to easily connect document cameras to the new technology workstations for the high school and middle school next year?
5:40 Todd from Twitter wants to know, how do you keep current with the ever changing nature of technology?
8:53 Ben admits that he doesn’t keep current with all technology.
11:30 Ben ponders if keeping current on pedagogy is better than keeping current on technology.
12:19 Is there any news on the busses with wifi?
13:43 We ran across some issues with internet miscreants bringing the school’s internet to its knees, unintentionally.
15:42 Future plans for bus purchases with wifi.
18:22 Stump Pete!
19:24 JW wants to know, what is Pete’s home improvement project for the new home?
Tech Director Chat – Pedagogy Vs Technology
If you ever find yourself in downtown Los Angeles, you owe it to yourself to visit The Last Bookstore. It’s an amazing space filled with a labyrinth of books housed in an old bank building; the kind with the big metal vault doors, high ceilings, and a mezzanine high above the main lobby of what used to be the first floor bank tellers. The columns and art deco architecture fit perfectly with the quirky, sprawling shelves of new, used, and prized books.
It’s a book-lover’s fantasy come to life. In short, it’s the kind of place that Henry Bemis from the Twilight Zone episode “Time Enough at Last” would be at peace within. With all of those books, how could I resist creating a video story problem with one of the most iconic features of The Last Bookstore; their book arch!
I really wanted to focus on two important parts of this particular problem; improvisation and estimating/guesstimating. Too often students will try to perfectly solve a math problem (thanks in part to drill and kill worksheets and online tools used in many schools that seek exact answers) rather than just provide a rough estimation. Which is a shame, as estimation is a method that they will likely encounter in the real world quite often for everyday use. How much money do you need to order pizza? It’s going to cost $9.99 a pie, and we want two, so $20 should do it. You want to purchase a new video game? It’s $59.99, but there’s tax, so make sure you have $65. Improvising measurements with my forearm helps make it even less likely that a completely accurate answer is given, as students are using a non-standard form of measurement.
Special thanks to The Last Bookstore for letting me shoot video there, and for the makers of Lice Cap for creating the animated GIF of one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes.]]>
Have you ever found yourself curious about how basic wifi networks work? No? Well then, that’s too bad, because Pete and I took far too much time to explain how they work using our own homegrown metaphor with highways, maps, traffic cops, and even trains. It’s actually not that bad of a metaphor, we just drone on for no good reason. However, we do manage to answer a host of other questions about occupancy sensors, recovering deleted files, and more.
Beyond that, this week’s episode of our semi-regular podcast boasts an explanation of the little stuffed pig that Ben carries around with him (you can follow piggy’s adventures on Instagram if you like). And then Pete manages to flunk another “Stump Pete!” challenge, but I’m still pretty certain that he knows what Bjork’s first band was.
Timestamps for this week’s questions:
0:55 Pete is confused about how we open the podcast
1:32 What has Pete been up to?
3:07 Will the new schools have designated places for technology to be stored?
4:55 What information do the occupancy sensors provide, and what do they cost?
7:30 Kevin wants to know if he can recover previously deleted iMovie project files.
9:00 What’s up with the Apple TVs?
10:22 The Tech Department turns into an 80s arcade
11:00 Ben attempts to ruin Pete’s explanation of our wireless network.
15:45 Someone wants to know why Ben always has a little stuffed pig with him.
20:15 Stump Pete!
22:02 What was Bjork’s first band?
Tech Director Chat – Wifi and Stuffed Animals
After an almost two-year hiatus, I actually set aside some time to edit together a new video story problem. It’s not a particularly difficult video, nor is it highly polished…but it does involve candy, so that’s a plus, right? Truth be told, to create a video story problem properly (or at least the current way I feel is proper) involves pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Among a list of internal checklists, here’s a few items that I typically have to go through when creating a video story problem out in “the wild”:
NONE of the above tasks is easy for me; while it’s true, I do enjoy being in the limelight (I flirted with the idea of being a theater major in college), being a “lone nut” with a camera out in the real world is incredibly intimidating, and makes me all sorts of nervous. So rather than continuing to dwell on it, here’s a short, sweet, and hopefully engaging video story problem that likely has many different answers, depending on where you are in the world, and how pricey Twix bars are at your corner candy store.
Other than agreeing not to show the store’s logo prominently or divulge its name in the video, this candy store was full of all sorts of goodies. Dozens of varieties of sour candies, every flavor of pop rocks ever made, and an entire wall of “giant” candy like the “Yard of Twix” that I used in the video. I thought it would be fun to see how well the price of 18 Twix bars ($27.99 at the time I made the video) compared to the price of an individual Twix bar in your average candy shop, and whether it would be a better deal to purchase the 18 bars altogether, or separately.
Conventional wisdom says that buying in bulk is typically cheaper, but it was a popular candy store in an extremely popular tourist destination in the greater Los Angeles area, so I thought it would be interesting to see how things played out around the globe, or at least in the few places where people actually read my blog…and have enough interest to figure this out.
As it turns out, a “Yard of Twix” was actually a pretty bad deal compared to the cost of a Twix bar for me back at home. For just 87 cents, I can buy a Twix at Meijer, a regional grocery chain in the Midwest. That means for just $15.66, I could purchase 18 individual packages of Twix. Which begs the question; is this the same cost everywhere? Are there places where the 18 bar package would be a better buy than 18 singles? Are the prices in Los Angeles that much higher? Is it marked up because of the novelty or location of the store? These are the questions that rattle around in my head from time to time.
Would I actually purchase the “Yard of Twix?” If I was with a large group of people, and we wanted something sweet, probably; the novelty of that box, and being able to say “I bought a yard of Twix” is just too good to pass up. Would you make the purchase?]]>
And we’re back! Every podcast deserves an extended mid-Winter break of more than two months, right? I dusted off the microphone, put aside Spring Assessment preparations; because I honestly feel that despite some lingering anxiety, we’re actually pretty well prepared.
Pete and I returned with a few hard hitting questions about concerns over why administration might need to dive into someone’s email archives, a question about mandating Blended Learning environments for teachers, and what in the world is happening to me email! I promise, if you’ve gotten suspicious looking email from my work account, it’s not me!
Timestamps for this week’s questions:
1:12 Where have Ben and Pete been?
2:30 Pete and Ben are no longer co-habitating in the same work space?
4:41 What are the protocols for administrators or district officials to look into our emails and district provided technology?
6:13 Google keeps a log of any access to an account?
7:12 We have had FOIA requests, but Pete has never been given any orders to look into someone’s laptop for suspicious reasons.
7:46 Are staff notified if someone would go through any of their files?
9:12 Why is it that no one can trust opening Ben’s emails anymore?
11:52 What is email spoofing?
14:15 Is our district going to be mandating the use of Google Classroom?
18:58 Stump Pete!
20:03 What reason did Jimi Hendrix give for being discharged from the army?
Tech Director Chat – Ben’s Email Can’t Be Trusted
I drift in and out of my obsession with Youtube. I’m split between the middle-aged father of two reality that I grow more comfortable with each day, and the younger millennial-esque yearnings to lose countless hours within the digital chasm that is the Internet. So it was with mixed delight and frustration that my children discovered Andrew Huang’s Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows. You can watch it below, but be warned; its ear-worm like qualities will leave you languishing for many days if not weeks…please don’t send me your therapy bills when you finally succumb to its maddening rhythm.
If you’ve watched the video…and still reading this blog post, my sincere apologies. It’s this type of silly, light-hearted performance art that stirs my mind, and besides irritating everyone around the breakfast table, gets me thinking about how to leverage the social media world to not only engage students, but challenge them. So I concocted a writing/music/performance challenge that would be a blast to do with students in just about any English, Writing, Music, or Theater/Performance class. I wish I still had students, perhaps in a digital media course, to work on projects like this alongside them.
Andrew likes his subscribers and viewers to submit music challenges. He’s created music with sounds from lightsabers, wheels, and apples, among other more common objects. He also creates amazingly creative lyrical challenges.
Challenge students to create a one-vowel poem, story, or rap in the vein of Andrew’s One-Vowel Rap. It doesn’t need to be lengthy or earth-shatteringly awesome. You could issue the challenge as a way to get students going at the start of a unit (jump right in and get their hands dirty…so to speak), or create smaller challenges each week. You could even use it as an assessment piece; it wouldn’t have to be anything terribly formal for actual performance or presentation; it could just as easily be a video challenge that lives within the classroom, or a daily station rotation for elementary students.
So your students can write short poems and stories with just one vowel? How about challenging them to create poetry, prose, or song with using any vowels except the one they used in the first challenge! Andrew not only did it, but it actually sounds pretty incredible too!
Not challenging enough? Show them Andrew’s 26-genre video and see if students can craft alphabet-driven creative writing that covers 26 literary genres! Make it a group project, or a class project!
I’d like to think that these challenges are do-able in most classrooms, provided the teacher is willing to let go of traditional classroom thought (projects begin, are conducted, and concluded within a rigid framework) and just start creating with students. Language Arts, music, and performance-based classes scream for this type of hands-on learning, where students have agency over how they express not just their learning, but themselves as well. At the very least, I’d love to see projects like this happening more than just at the end of the year.
Sure, it would be messy, but it would be a fun kind of messy, and something that could help rally students after extended periods of vocabulary review, test prep, or lecture. It falls in line with the DS106 ethos of learning by doing, and providing opportunities within the classroom derived from the world in which students live, not just simulations of the adult world, or the world we keep telling them we’re preparing them for.]]>
Alright, so the title is totally clickbait, but I couldn’t help share what I’ve found to be an enchantingly brief dramatization of the the origins of everyone’s favorite educational video game, Oregon Trail. Well, at least everyone of my generation’s favorite educational video game.
Yes, the original version of Oregon Trail, the great grand-daddy of edutaining digital simulations, began life as a board game, and with the help of three college students was turned into computer code on a Teleprinter; a device with no monitor, and punch cards as output. That’s right, the original developers of the game created it using a medium that couldn’t even allow them to visualize their final output until it was finished and compiled after being translated from the paper cards to a computer.
Take that into the present, and you can get a picture of why so many in the educational technology world get excited about virtual reality, augmented reality, and any other types of reality that students are creating worlds within. You never know when some seemingly incomprehensible experience (writing an interactive computer simulation through typed punch cards) will translate to a cultural, and potentially educational, touchstone. It flies in the face of my previous post about my growing stoicism with the educational technology landscape, but at the same time gives me solace knowing there will always be a steady stream of newcomers and dreamers in the arena, ready to champion the next “big thing” despite obstacles and curmudgeons like myself
Thanks to John Phillips for sharing this with me.]]>
I’m supposed to be an educational technology cheerleader for my school district. I’m supposed to champion the unrestrained exploration and adaptation of technology in all areas of K-12 learning. I’m supposed to network with individuals that have an insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm for educational technology in all of its many forms. And yet, the older I become (or perhaps the farther I get from the classroom), the more restrained I find myself when it comes to pursuing new technology.
I feel like the stoic Samurai in Yojimbo, or Clint Eastwood’s character in “Fistful of Dollars” (minus the penchant for violence and gunplay). I feel reserved compared to more fresh-eyed techies that make Kermit’s signature arm flail celebration look tame when they gather at large ed tech conferences. I’m not sure if this is a natural evolution of thought, practice, or just a result of where my professional path has taken me (farther from pure tech, and more towards curriculum and facilitation of groups).I’m quite comfortable with this development, but it makes me wonder if a healthy dose of stoicism is appropriate for those managing and driving the use of instructional technology. I’ve found myself drifting towards celebrating and uplifting transformative teaching and learning practice, regardless of whether it utilizes technology or not. At the same time, I don’t see many educators that have become “edu-famous” for their contributions to the realm of instructional technology transitioning to a more openly thoughtful reflection on instruction and learning in general. It makes me beg the question if perhaps I’ve drifted too far away from my old enthusiasm for instructional technology to truly be effective with it anymore.
I’m excited about where I’m headed, and still confident that I can edu-craft my way to successful use and implementation of instructional technology; I just don’t see it as the end all, be all means of education transformation that I once thought it to be. I hope I’m not alone in these thoughts, as it would make me more than a bit forlorn to be drifting away from so many educational technology enthusiasts that I call friends.
At the very least, I still have ds106, and excellent digital storytelling friends like Michael Branson Smith, to prompt me to write reflections like this with the help of some clever animated GIF challenges.]]>