We were just having a conversation about YouTube and television use in my sixth grade class two days ago. They are writing arguments about whether schools should allow cell phones or not, and we were reading a magazine piece about kids and technology that clearly has some outdated statistics about television use and Youtube … in fact, we agreed that the numbers should be flip-flopped, as my students admit to watching almost no television and many hours of YouTube on a regular basis.
If you pay attention to kids, the latest survey of youth about technology from the Pew Research Center will hardly be surprising. Still, it makes visible what many of us teachers know through anecdotal discussions: more and more of our students are highly connected, often through expensive smart phones, and they mostly shun Facebook and instead, lean towards Snapchat and Instagram, and they use YouTube for just about everything: entertainment, music, learning, etc.
All social networks face a natural decline over time, although Facebook has held on longer than I would have suspected, perhaps because the loss of young users has been balanced out by the addition of older users. Still, when a space is losing huge amounts of young people, trouble is surely ahead (see:MySpace, Friendster, etc.). I am not suggesting that is a bad thing, by the way.
It’s been clear for the last few years, in surveys I do with my sixth graders during our Digital Life unit, that Facebook holds almost no appeal to young technology users. Some of that is that the network is now mostly adults, and what kid wants to hang out there? Another is the design of the site. And of course, privacy issues have become front and center.
It’s worth noting how the use of technology has become an obsessive component for many young people, and whether that is good or bad is not yet clear. We don’t know if this connectedness will open up new ways of thinking and spark innovation, or if it is just doing strange stuff to their brains via screens. As a father and as a teacher, it is worrisome, this amount of screen time, even as I teach how to use technology for meaningful projects and learning.
I think the chart about the positive and negative elements of using technology is intriguing.
We educators should use this information from Pew and others to think about how to build on the positive while finding ways to help our young people battle the negative. Clearly, our young people are insightful and seeking positive venues, and they are having experiences that are shaping how they interact with each other and the world through technology.
I was doing some searching for something else entirely when I came across this piece by Mimi Ito about the connections between gaming and writing. Ito shares a case study profile of a girl whose interests in Minecraft expanded her sense of self as a writer.
I appreciate this section, where Ito talks about how the student followed her interest in gaming by writing scripts that take place in Minecraft, and how the teacher was open enough to understand that the students was following a passion.
Tal got the idea to write scripts for her and her friends to film as animated plays in the game from a post on a Minecraft online forum. She got support for doing so from her social studies teacher, who had noticed Tal’s interest in creative writing. While the teacher wasn’t a Minecraft player herself, she did recognize that the game created a socially rich and creatively driven context for nurturing Tal’s writing interests. — from Writing to Gaming to Writing by Mimi Ito
I support comic artists Stuart McMillen via Patreon because I find his work to be so insightful. And since I learn from him, I want to help him with crowdsource funding, so he can keep doing what he is passionate about doing.
The quote above comes from the video down below, and I found it interesting, this observation of how he makes sense of the world.
Check out his “I Used to Be Racist” as one example of the kind of work he is doing. Or “Defending Dumbphones.” All of his pieces will make you think. He also shares insights from time to time about his art.
The short video down below for his Patreon site shows him talking about a typical day in his life, as a working comic creator making sense of the world through the visual medium. That behind-scenes stuff always fascinates me.
(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)
I have a sweet, older dog. Sometimes, like yesterday, on our first walks of the day, in the early mornings, the shadows startle him. He gets a bit jumpy, which can then startle me, even though the shadows are not usually something to worry about. Usually, the shadow is just a stick, or a kid’s toy on a neighbor’s yard. Whatever it is, it shouldn’t be there today because it wasn’t there yesterday. I guess the apparitions of the world startle all of us, now and then.
The second iteration of Networked Narratives has been over for at least a few weeks now, and I’ve had a version of this reflection sort of sitting here in my blog draft bin.
I’ve watched Alan Levine, one of the instructors, post his reflection yesterday from a teacher perspective (which was insightful to peruse). I’ve read through and enjoyed Wendy Taleo‘s reflection and presentation she gave about a project in Networked Narratives that we launched. I’ve skimmed through some of the final posts by the university students who took NetNarr for credit at their university.
What I continue to find intriguing is the open invitation by Alan and Mia Zamora for anyone to follow NetNarr and participate, and so I and some others (like Wendy and Sarah Honeychurch) have done so. We’ve come and gone, as we pleased. Added to conversations. Commented on blogs. Disappeared from time to time. Re-appeared suddenly. Engaged. Created. Made. Remixed.
Being out here in the Wild Open, as I often refer to it, has its advantages (we can engage where our curiosity is piqued and ignore the rest) and disadvantages (we aren’t always part of the larger conversation that comes from being in the class at the university, and seem to be invisible at times).
Here, in this NetNarr reflection, I want to share out a few projects that I took on that formed my framework of interaction, or at least, the hope for interaction. One of the three was more successful in this than the other two, but the other two were meaningful to me anyway.
First, when Mia and Alan announced this second round of Networked Narratives with the theme of Digital Life, I was interested. I had had fun with the first round of NetNarr a year ago, and figured, I’ll just see what they’re up to this time. I decided to bring a comic strip character out of hiding, and wanted to weave a story about Arganee –the fictional world of the first NetNarr — and digital alchemy, a theme of inquiry for NetNarr.
So, I wrote a story about Horse, the companion to The Internet Kid, and left the Kid at home. I remember being obsessed with telling this story in comics, and working very diligently on the storyline. I released the comic story, one comic at time, into the NetNarr hashtag, and then bundled the entire thing up into a graphic story adventure.
I really enjoyed this Horse with No Name comic project, but I got almost no response from the NetNarr students or participants (Wendy and I did a little exchange now and then), and I wonder if those students even knew that the Horse story was always part of NetNarr. Or if they just thought some weirdo was releasing comics into their midst.
Again, there was very little reaction to any of the poems, although I did them mostly for myself, and the challenge of writing small pieces on an angle from a prompt.
Third, there is the Digital Alchemy Lab project, an adventure that began with a desire to weave the concept of transmedia storytelling (which didn’t really take root the way I envisioned, mainly because I could not envision how it would take root), collaboration with other Wild Open participants (and university students), and the theme of “every object tells a story.”
Over the course of weeks, a group of us planned out how to invite collaborators to use media to tell stories of assigned objects, which were then woven into the Alchemy Lab — an immersive 360 degree art project using ThingLink. This project took the most time and coordination, and the result is something magical — a collaborative art piece that weaves story and media together in a fun way, showcasing how people can come together to create and make and learn. I wrote three long reflective pieces just about the Alchemy Lab endeavor.
This project continues, in a way, as we share out individual pieces each, with an invite into the lab. Yes, you are invited, too. Come on in. The narrative is networked.
Finally, I want to share a project that had on the surface seemingly nothing to do with Networked Narratives, and yet … it did, in my mind at least. It is a music collaboration project called A Whale’s Lantern, in which online music collaborators from all over the world work on writing and producing a song, which then becomes part of a larger “album” of music.
The reason I include this here in the NetNarr reflection is that I saw/see A Whale’s Lantern project as part of the larger aims of Networked Narratives — of finding ways to connect people from around the world with media creation (in this case, music) as connector points for collaboration, using the Internet as a way to publish and interact in a meaningful, authentic way. It didn’t matter that this took place off Mastodon as opposed to Twitter, or that I was the only one making the NetNarr connections (although Wendy may have seen that connection, too, as she dipped her toes into the music collaboration).
The point is that the very things that we all looked at in NetNarr around the positive elements of our Digital Lives — of following your passions and engaging in virtual strangers with similar passions to create something unique, together, with technology and media — played out beautifully here, overlapping at the same time I was engaged in NetNarr.
We weave the threads.
And, to make the connection even clearer, the lyrics I wrote for my collaboration with my partner, Luka, was inspired by Networked Narratives itself and the idea of digital alchemy. The song is called Alchemist Dream, and you can find the lyrics here. How’s that for synergy?
Thank you, Mia and Alan, for at least trying to find way to fuse classroom experiences at the university level with the open learning networks beyond the classroom walls. I still wish there were more ways to interact among the two groups — the Wild Open and the classroom — but realize the logistics would be difficult to navigate and the demands of running a university course are different from facilitating an open learning adventure.
I’ll be sharing more about a project called Write Out as the summer progresses, but I am a co-facilitator for an open learning adventure this summer that connects the National Writing Project and the National Park Service together, helping teachers make connections with park sites and historic sites, and vice versa.
I haven’t often written about my daily creative wanderings for the #DS106 Daily Creates (or at least, not in some time) but this morning’s call to make a meme out of a music video got me thinking, I should at least explain my process.
This had me sipping my coffee, thinking of music videos. The thing is, I don’t watch as many music videos as I used to, you know? I thought about Peter Gabriel (Sledgehammer, anyone?), but then wondered if that would be too obvious for strangeness. Then, I remembered The Cars video for You Might Think, and although the peeping tom element is a bit unsettling, I remembered a clock face.
In my Chrome browser, I have an add-on called Gif It, which is integrated into YouTube, and this makes grabbing gifs from videos a breeze. It’s so simple to do. Just feed in the time of sequence and you get a gif in seconds.
But the prompt was for a meme, not just a gif.
I took that gif from the video and moved it into Giphy (along with a link attribution back to the original video), where I could then play around with its gif meme maker (where you can add text and stickers and drawings). Giphy allows you to download and also to embed in sites (like here).
Then, I shared that music video gif meme out to the DS106 hashtag on Twitter, and wrote the post you are now reading.
Not to be stuck in the DinoRock Era, I also dug into some Courtney Barnett songs from her recent album, and found this neat image of her rocking out while standing on a planet for her song Need a Little Time.
My latest column for Middleweb is all about a publishing project we do at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, in which we partner with the local newspaper to feature a teacher columnist every month.
The result is some amazing writing and sharing, a chance to raise teacher voices into the public sphere, and a raising of the profile of WMWP. We encourage our teacher-writers to bring a lens into learning and teaching, and to consider how the mission statement of WMWP might be a guide for this writing.
So, it’s all good.
I coordinate the program, so I am often chatting with teachers about their writing, and making sure the connection with the newspaper stays strong. And I get inspired by what my colleagues are exploring in their pieces.
All of the columns get posted at our WMWP website, as archived voices and stories.
My sixth grade students have just finished up the writing of a series of haiku poems, and using Google Slides to create visual representations of their poems. Each student then “donates” a poem to this collection. There are some wonderful poems in here.
We had just finished the last round of our state testing (we, meaning them) and we had some time in the classroom as we waited for the other three sixth grade classes to also finish (and then we would get outside for fresh air).
They ate snacks, and started games of Uno and Scrabble, and then I watched the boys (this was only the boys, and every boy in the classroom) gather together and start to act like their arms were pickaxes and they were cutting down trees (some acted like trees that others were cutting down.) When we finally got outside, the boys ran to bushes and trees, and began acting like they were chopping wood again.
Ok. What? Minecraft? Maybe?
I soon realized that the boys were “playing” Fortnite, the multi-player video game phenomenon that I know has been part of many of the students’ gaming lives for weeks now. But to see it being acted out — the axes being used to clear bushes and trees to make hiding spaces in the game world — just looked … odd. (The girls kept glancing over at the boys, with a look like … they are such strange creatures.)
At one point, one of my students came over to me, and with a smile and a laugh, asked: Mr. H, do you Floss?
I knew better than to respond right away, and I quickly realized that The Floss is a dance that players do inside Fortnite (and also outside of the game, as I recognized the movement immediately). Along with (thanks to later research) the Floss, there is also the Fresh, the Squat Kick and the Wiggle.
So, what to make of Fortnite? It’s a survival game, in which collaboration is key. It’s social. It’s global. Millions of people are playing it. I hear my students planning Fortnite sessions for the evening. Fortnite is everywhere right now. Is it just a fad? Maybe, but even fads have reverberations in culture, and the language and dancing and other elements of Fortnite are creeping into pop culture, for sure.
Just ask your kids.
A day later, I was reading a piece in The New Yorker about Fortnite by writer Nick Paumgarten (the article was inspired by him watching his adolescent son and son’s friends play the game). He immediately noticed the social aspects (including friends gathering to watch other friends play) as well as some of the positive pieces of the game. He also noticed how the design of the game draws players in for extended periods of time.
While a magazine headline writer used this warning in the magazine as the subhead on the featured image — The craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis, and eating Tide Pods — Paumgarten ultimately notes that Fortnite is ” … a kind of mass social gathering, open to a much wider array of people than the games that came before it. Its relative lack of wickedness — its seems to be mostly free of the misogyny and racism that afflict many other games and gaming communities — makes it more palatable to a broader audience …”
My son, age 13, tried to download Fortnite to my iPad, but it didn’t work because of the age of the iPad (sorry, Kid). So he went into another game that is sort of a clone of Fortnite that he plays with friends. They keep an open communication channel and my wife and I can hear him chatting and planning and laughing and shouting, and socializing, with friends as they play together. This element of player connection, mostly positive for now, makes the game environment different, I think, and I wonder where that element will take the next tier of video games.