The Only Reliable Tech is Pen and Paper

This is becoming a regular story of mine, and probably yours. An app that I really liked using for writing and making digitally, and on which I relied upon regularly, seems to have gone dead on me. Its name is Legend, and it was an animated text app that Terry Elliott turned me on to long ago.

And I loved it on my iPad, for its simplicity and its design and the way you could easily find Creative Common images via its Flickr connection and then layer short text on top of the image. I used Legend for poetry and for quotes, and for merging words with motion and image. It was my go-to app for many things.

And now Legend is gone from the App Store. Vanished without a trace.

I was having some troubles with Legend on my iPad the other day, and I deleted the app in hopes of re-installing and re-booting it, and soon discovered that the app itself was nowhere to be found in the iTunes App Store. It’s not even a mention anymore in my “bought” apps file bin in iTunes. It’s like it never even existed, and its loss saddens me.

But, of course, I should know better.

In this world of digital writing and composition (and art, and whatever else we want to call it) the only technology that really stands the test of time with any consistency is a piece of paper and a pencil or pen. All else is mostly temporary, so be sure to back your stuff up and keep an eye on the horizon for alternatives.

In my mourning for Legend, I have been trying out a few different animated text apps. I grabbed a quote from Dave Cormier’s recent piece on Rhizomatic Learning.

This is HypeText app:

Experimenting with Animated Text Apps (w/Dave Cormier quote)

and this is TypiVideo app:

Experimenting with Animated Text Apps (w/Dave Cormier quote)

And this is TypoTastic app:

Experimenting with Animated Text Apps (w/Dave Cormier quote)

None do what I want it to do. None feel quite right. Some have limits on loop time (either going too fast or too slow). Some don’t give you much access to images beyond your own files (which has value but requires deeper planning than I am usually doing for this kind of work.)

I’ll keep exploring. I am checking out Legend on my Android phone … hmmm … seems like it now has an entirely new name now (Animated Text), and has advertisements within it … and no longer has access to Creative Commons images. Dang.

This exploration is another reminder to myself, and maybe to you, that nothing lasts forever in this shifting environment of operating system updates, app development, and that our own means and venues of digital writing is always in flux and motion.

Peace (animated with image),
Kevin

PS — I’d also like to say that I could probably do what I want with animated text via Keynote or Powerpoint (and I have) but I appreciated the ease of making animated texts with Legend and other apps. Maybe another post for another day is about what we give up as writers — creative control, freedom to make change, a vision from start to finish — when we allow our tools to guide our writing process.

These Games They Play

GameReviews2018

One of the writing tasks for students with our video game design unit (still underway) is to write a persuasive video game review, using a design lens (controls, audio, visual, playability, etc) as the lens in which to examine a game. It’s also a helpful zeitgeist moment for me, the adult in the room, on the trends of video games that young people are playing.

The word cloud above is a gathering of the titles of games my young writers chose to review. Fortnite, for sure, has the highest number of reviewers, over all, and it is a mix of girls and boys. Minecraft, for years the most-reviewed game, has slipped in popularity while Roblox has gained traction, mostly with girls, it seems. Gamestar Mechanic, which we use to make and publish games, was the default choice for those who don’t regularly play video games but still needed to write a review.

I notice more kids writing about playing games on consoles (Xbox, etc.) than on mobile apps, which is another interesting shift I noticed this year. I’m not sure it is a trend or an indication of the increasing popularity of multi-player games, like Fortnite. Many students write about the lag time on big games like that, and how the lag makes for frustrating gaming.

There always some video games that get reviewed that I don’t know about — Tank Stars, Fishing Break and Avakin Life, for example — so at least having these titles on my radar screen is helpful as I weave in game design with writing this time of year. I’ll be sharing out some of the reviews another day.

The persuasive nature of video game reviews provides an opportunity for them to express their opinion about something, sometimes rather strongly (bad reviews of terrible games were as acceptable as good reviews), and to examine the genre of video game reviews. Many of students watch reviews on YouTube, which makes me wonder if I need to begin to adapt this assignment for video as well as text.

Peace (gaming it forward),
Kevin

Process Notes: The Sound Collage Cacophony

Silent Talk of Digital Writing: Filter Filter Filter Art

The image above seeks to represent a complicated idea — the merging of digital writing … through image. As part of a new push to explore Digital Writing (via the hashtag #MoDigiWriMo), I asked folks to share a wordless image to capture their view on digital writing. I know, strange, right? I then used the shared images from Terry, Wendy, Anna and Sheri to craft small poems, and then short musical interpretations of the image.

The final photo here is an attempt to merge all of the image/poems together, with a message of wonder and listening. I am happy with how the image came out, complicated as it was to create, and, as part of the MoDigiWriMo philosophy of sharing process notes of making art, this is how I went about it (mostly on my iPad):

1. Image to poem via Pablo extension

2. Poems merged as collage via Photogrid App

3. Collage texture and color via Prisma App

4. Collage broken into pieces via Fragment App

5. Shadow silhouette layers via Fused App

6. Paired silhouette via Photogrid App

7. Shared via Flickr

I also began wondering if I could (but never wondered if I should) remix the four musical interpretations into one single composition, knowing the juxtaposition of sounds would be strange, weird, and challenging. I did it anyway, using Soundtrap as my mixing tool, creating this layered cake of sounds.

The result is odd and disjointing, yet I find it intriguing (more so with headphones, where the shared landscapes are more likely to emerge). The one track that initially seemed out of sync was Sheri’s, so I ended up dividing it into smaller pieces, shifting it around as layers, finding the nooks and crannies for it.

There are moments of confusion in the track. But there are also moments of melodic and harmonic symmetry, where each piece seems to fall into the others. Sort of like how we write sometimes, digitally.

Peace (sounds strange),
Kevin

 

 

Graphic Novel Review: Be Prepared

Vera Brosgol has mined her childhood (as part of a Russian immigrant family in the United States) for this interesting take on a common childhood experience: overnight summer camp. But in Be Prepared, Brosgol gives us a glimpse of something else, too: how Russian immigrants created an entire community here after the Purges to help children keep their Russian roots.

I know this a reflection of the times we live in, but as I read Be Prepared, I couldn’t help thinking: is this story going to shift in some spy indoctrination story of young Russian children (Perhaps I’ve been watching The Americans too much and reading the collusion headlines of this presidency). But no. This is about a girl trying to find her own place in the world, where cultural clashes and family tensions make friendships difficult.

This book was fun to read, and I really ended up caring deeply about the main character — Vera, a version of the graphic novelist, who tells us at the end that not everything here happened as it happened in real life. She’s funny, witty, creative and uncertain about herself, and in the end, she finds a friend and connection at the summer camp.

This book is appropriate for elementary and middle school readers, for sure, and high school students might enjoy it. Brosgol is a graphic novelist/cartoonist to keep an eye on, for sure.

Peace (in cultural frames),
Kevin

Idea to Image to Poem to Song

A Divided Writer

I put out a call to some friends yesterday to visualize their digital writing, but without words. I was curious to what folks might do. Mine is above. As Terry, and then Anna, and then Sheri, shared their ideas, I started to think of how I might interpret their designs through poem and song. This part of an extended conversation about writing digitally (and you are invited). We are using the hashtag #modigiwri (more digital writing) on Twitter.

I first used Sheri, Anna and Terry’s images for poems, adding words as a layer of interpretation, and then moved into capturing what I was seeing in their art into short song loops. It’s a musical interpretation of a visual idea about a writing concept.

Which was an intriguing process, of looking deep into the images and trying to figure out, how do you capture an idea in music? I hope these three friends find my attempt interesting.

For Terry

  • Evocation: Contemplative, slow moving forward, junction points, pause

For Anna

  • Evocation: Sinking, Drum Circles, building towards a smaller center, outer lines moving inward, tension

For Sheri

  • Evocation: curiosity, celebration, maps with dotted lines, choices, convergence

If you share your image, I’ll do my best to do the same for you.

Peace (in sounds of static),
Kevin

 

Searching for Curation: A Nearly-Lost Conversation about Digital Writing

 

DIGITAL the poem

About six years ago, in 2012, my friend, Anna Smith, and I had a conversation.  A chat about Digital Writing. Through digital writing. With meta-explanations of how we write digitally, pulling back the veils on our process notes. Others, like Terry, joined in. We wove this all together, somewhat through our blogs and through the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site, and curated the conversation through a site called Jog the Web.

Like many other tools, Jog the Web is now dead, and with it, our curation conversations. Digital Is is gone, too, morphed into The Current. Someone came along and ate most of our breadcrumbs.

Anna kick-started another call for conversation this week, referencing our previous collaboration, and that had me working to find things that had gone missing — our digital writing was now so dispersed, it was hard to find.

Maybe this observation is where we are at now, with digital writing tools. We write in many places, across many platforms. We make media over here and post it over there. We add comments and then forget where those comments were left, so any response is hardly seen. We’ve distributed ourselves with technology to the point where we can’t hardly find ourselves anymore.

Spurred on by Anna’s recent wondering and Terry’s reactions (and his deep-dive start into new explorations), I began to go through different places to find our old stuff. I wish I had done a better job of backing up our Jog the Web (which was really quite useful, as you could “walk” through our posts in a sort of timeline-like effect. Oh well.)

This effort will have to do. I won’t pretend these are in completely chronological order … maybe it doesn’t matter anymore.

Here we go:

  • Anna began with a Screencast Challenge of sorts. And she later posted a follow up.
  • I responded with my own screencast, but sought to go a bit further with using the tool for writing as much as for capturing writing, and supplemented the work with a comic showing what I did and how at my blog:
  • This led us to put out a public call for others to join in the conversation. We did this via Digital Is and the post now lives at The Current. We wrote: “One of the many potentials of the shifts in envisioning writing in multimodal spaces is the chance for new conversations — for stretching out thinking beyond your own physical space and joining in discussions about the changes now underfoot.
  • At some point, I made a vlog video about digital writing:

  • Not long after, Anna posted this video reflection:
  • Not content to let her video site, I moved her video into Vialogues, which allows for annotation. You can still annotate her video today. (Take that, Jog the Web!)
  • At some point, we shifted over to Voicethread as a platform for interaction, and Terry joined in the mix (he may have been in the mix earlier. I don’t recall). He is also in the mix now. Which is cool.
    And I added the obligatory comic reflection:
  • Anna responded with her own Voicethread, as well as a deeper reflection on the practice of audio and image, and then Terry followed up on that with a presentation riff, which I had forgotten about and was quite happy to rediscover.
  • Following another line of thought — one that has rumbled deep enough into the present for many of us to mostly abandon the “digital” of “digital writing” and just call it “writing” — Anna pondered the question of “Where Isn’t the Digital?” She played with an infographic, too.

    My infographic response, as a sort of argumentative push-back:
  • I had written about this topic, too, with a post about the “naysayers.” Complete with comic.

  • And then .. I’m not sure … Where did the conversation go? We always meant to bring it to an ending point but I don’t think we ever did. There may be loose parts that I have lost. Probably so. But Anna and I, and Terry, and others, have continued to explore writing digitally over the years with CLMOOC, and DS106 and others. I even once made a Modest Proposal about Digital Writing (as part of an online conference session). I wrote:  Digital Writing
    • is more than just words typed on a screen. A simple blog post is not really digital writing;
    • potentially crosses mediums, so that words might mix with sound might mix with video might mix with other media;
    • narrows the gap between writer and reader by giving more agency to the reader than traditional relationships, and so, the writer must plan for that changed relationship;
    • can have deeper associative properties, particularly when thinking of how hyperlinks embedded within the text might connect one text to another, providing options and trails that move away from the main text itself;
    • may or may not harness the possibilities of the underlying yet mostly hidden “writing” — the computer code of the page that we read that has been represented as text but is actually not text;
    • provides for possible collaborations beyond the writer, and sometimes without their permission or notice, such as the margin annotations on a website page or a remix of media.
  • Maybe we will keep going forward … maybe you will join us?

Peace (in the lost chatter),
Kevin

 

Video Game Design: Mid-Point Reflections

GameReflectCollage

I love adding in all sorts of writing into our video game design unit — sort of a sneaky way to get them to think about writing in context of a media project. They are in the midst of building video games in Gamestar Mechanic on the theme of the Hero’s Journey. We are approaching our publishing date, but things always take longer than expected in this unit.

Last week, I had them write me a mid-way reflective letter on how things are going. I love how the writing gives me insights into their progress and provides some nice entry into conversations during our conferencing.

Here are a few samples:

Peace (game it),
Kevin

Teaching Agency in a Technology-Infused World

The Agency Agency

Agency is a word I find I use a lot in different settings and yet, I struggle to frame the concept of empowerment for my young students in the classroom. As we near the end of E-Learning 3.0, Stephen has us thinking of the concept of “agency” in terms of learning in a distributed information environment.

Stephen writes:

We are the content – the content is us. This includes all aspects of us. How do we ensure that what we project to the world is what we want to project, both as teachers and learners? As content and media become more sophisticated and more autonomous, how do we bind these to our personal cultural and ethical frameworks we want to preserve and protect?

Wikipedia defines Agency as:

Agency is the capacity of an actor to act in a given environment.

We’re living in times where technology is nearly everywhere, for good and for ill, and for many us, even a simple understanding of what’s “under the hood” is elusive. Either we don’t care enough to look or we don’t have the skills to know even how to begin to look. We just go along and go along until it all blows up (see Facebook) and then wonder why we weren’t more attuned to the intentions of the technologies we are using.

At what moment did we sell off our data and privacy for ease of operation? When did we forget we even had any agency to begin with? This shift seems to be aligned with the often-unspoken language of “expertise” and of us allowing those with knowledge of technology to lead the way, and for us to follow blindly, for fear that those of us not as technologically-astute might break things. Even though, breaking things is how you learn.

Go on and break things.

I was reminded, as I pondered the notion of Agency, of this video of quotes I put together for a hackjam professional development session years ago, using ideas from Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or Be Programmed to explore this concept.

Looking deeper is important in terms of “agency” because seeing the cracks in the seams, the intention of design, the motors that make the world work gives you information, and with that information, you can make more informed choices about your actions. This is part of your agency.

Which is my I try to show how technology works to my young students — to make visible the corporate goals of profit by advertising, to introduce workarounds to problems, to question the motives of those developing the products we use. This sometimes feels like an odd fit inside a sixth grade English Language Arts classroom, but I expand the notions of “literacy” at every chance I get.

This is about reading the world, in order to write the world.

I saw the following bulleted list on the matter of learner agency in a digital world, and I thought it connected to these ideas. This comes from Jackie Gersten’s post from years ago entitled Learner Agency, Technology, and Emotional Intelligence. I wonder if the positive vibe here still holds true.

Technology also has the potential to directly enhance emotional intelligence.  Chia-Jung Lee (2011) described some ways:

  • Digital tools can connect people’s feeling to enhance emotional learning. Digital tools can support students’ emotional connection to a content or other people. This helps students learn better.
  • Technology can satisfy personal learning pace and style to support emotional learning.  The flexibility of digital tools enables students to learn based on the way that they feel most comfortable [which is directly related to agency.]
  • Digital tools can provide private spaces for students to explore difficult issues.
  • Empathy can be enhanced through emotional learning by means of technology. For example, students may develop empathy by viewing videos of personal stories of others in need; others who are experiencing some form of distress or problems.  http://teachteachtech.coe.uga.edu/index.php/2011/05/13/technology-integration-and-emotional-learning/

And then, my friend Geoff, added a thought across EL30 networks, taken from his years of supporting young writers with the Young Writers Project in Vermont. His insights about agency are worth sharing.

Geoff writes:

… we must be intentional to reach out to, bring in, support those who need it most, those without agency, opportunity and voice. I feel an affinity to this spirit with what Young Writers Project has done at youngwritersproject.org … the teens mostly those who feel isolated, unliked, outside.

Peace (thinking),
Kevin

PS — Stephen had a conversation about Agency with Silvia Baldiri, and Jutta Treviranus, which I have not yet watched but am looking forward to.