Books for teens (multimodal?)

The latest edition of English Journal features a column by Traci Gardner on books for teenagers that seek to blend the multimedia world with traditional fiction. I have seen some of my sixth graders reading a few of these books but I have not done so myself (yet). I wonder if this will be more of a trend — shifting narratives into the wired world and using some of the facets of the wired world into traditional narratives.

Here are some of the books profiled by Gradner in the article:

  • Click Here (to find out how I survived seventh grade) by Denise Vega — involves a secret web site that suddenly becomes public (oops).
  • Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe — is a narrative built on email messages, chat room transcripts and handwritten notes.
  • ChasR: A Novel in Emails by Michael Rosen — showcases one side of an email conversation and ASCII artwork (smiley faces, etc) and forces the reader to interpret the other side of the conversations
  • TTFN by Lauren Mryacle (is that her real name?) — is told mostly through IM and follows a group of girls in their social circles.
  • The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriquez by Judy Goldschmidt — is written entirely through blog entries that were designed to be private but suddenly become public and well, you can probably guess the aftermath.

Gardner writes:

The texts communicate the emotions of the characters in authentic detail, as the characters themselves compose blog entries, email messages and IMs. Many of the multigenre and epistolary texts provide an interactive opportunity that invites readers to discover the story, like participants in a video game.

One of the books on her list — Cathy’s Book — is one that I have read (based on a recommendation from Bud Hunt, I believe) and it was quite interesting and mostly drew me into its web of hints and plot devices. There are web addressed hidden in the book and a complete web presence that one could follow, plus a few phone numbers to call that give you more hints to the plot.

But I wonder — so many of these books are geared towards girls, it seems to me, and where are the books for boys? (Ok, I need to write one, right?)

Peace (in many forms),
Kevin

SuperLooper — rock the net

I don’t use a mac so I have been very jealous of those who have access to GarageBand for making loops and other fun projects. I stumbled across this software called SuperDuperMusicLooper, which is for kids, and decided to check it out. It’s very fun (my kids will love it) and is simple to use. The program uses a “paint” the sound (and “eraser” for removing sounds) and it comes with a large selection of loops. You can change the key, tempo and even record your own voice or sounds.

The songs are then saved as .wav files, so I am converting them to MP3 via Audacity.

 

You can even try a demo at the Sony site, but it won’t let you save and it has limited options. (and now that I am going back to the Sony site, I realize that I maybe should have bought the next level up, something called Jam Trax. Oh well, maybe another day)

Here is what I created in 10 minutes yesterday after installing the software:

Listen to Wit Da Flow

This does bring up an entirely new question, though, of whether I am creating music here or something else, and what benefits does this kind of software have for young people interesting in music, and I am not so sure what this mixing and mashing means for young musicians. It is so easy to use, and so quick, and requires very little effort, that you wonder how you can convince someone to woodshed for hours in their room on a single note, or phrase, or song, when the argument is that the computer can do it better (it can’t, I don’t think, but that is one argument). In defense of SuperLooper, it does make visible the construction of a song in its many myriad parts, and that can be valuable to a young songwriter.

Peace (peacepeacepeacepeace in loops),
Kevin

The Video Explosion

I have periodically come across the Pew Internet and American Life series of research articles that take a deeper look at the impact of technology on our lives, particularly the lives of young people. They do a fantastic job of pulling together information.

A recent study by Pew looked at the impact of online video and how it is changing the nature of the web (again). Some interesting stats:

  • About 20 percent of all adults watch some kind of video on their computer (via the net) once a day. Just think about that — that is a whole lot of eyeballs scanning the web and belies the reason why Google snapped up YouTube.
  • About 75 percent of young users (ages 18-29) watch online videos each day (an amazing number)
  • 10 percent of people re-post or share links to videos via their Weblogs and other sites (such as MySpace, Facebook, etc)
  • 20 percent either post a comment on the videos or leave a rating (which seems to indicate the desire to be participatory members in the experience)
  • Comedy and humorous videos are the most popular genre of videos that people are watching and sharing with others (so true, so true)
  • Young males are more likely to watch animation or cartoon videos than any other demographic.
  • Almost no one pays any money for video services — “free” is the operative word here (although commercials and advertising videos are also being viewed, primarily by young people.)

I wish the report had dug into the ways and means and motivation of people who are doing the posting of videos, but maybe that is for the future.

Peace (with information),
Kevin

Amazing Animation — J Coltrane’s Giant Steps

Sometimes you stumble across something so amazing and intriguing, it makes you glad to know there is a wired world of inventors and artists. I love jazz, and I love John Coltrane (our cat is named Coltrane) coltraneand this artist used the classic song, Giant Steps, to create an animation based on the notes of Coltrane. It’s based on building blocks and notice how the movie shows the song and solo building up, and then tearing the melody back down again.

The movie is by Michal Levy and is wonderful. Be warned, though — there is a significant load time (100 seconds, I think) but it is worth the wait.

This is one snapshop from inside the movie

Peace (in jazz exploration),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: Superhero, July 2007

My sons and I were at a used book store this weekend and we picked up this quite large book about the history of Marvel comics. When I was my oldest son’s age (9), comics were a big part of my life. I had many, many comics, sorted by various categories, and could not get enough of these stories of flawed heroes and their adventures.

This poem for my One Poem Every Month for a Year project sprang to life as I perused the Marvel comic books and recognized many long-forgotten names and stories.

Superhero
(July 2007)
Listen to the poem

The soul of a superhero
is deep,
complex and unfathomable —
full of inconsistencies that bend reality
on some sort of divergent ground
in which the powerless ignite,
soar, swim,
standing down the villains of oppression
and righting wrongs in spite of themselves
and their own limitations of
ego
muscle
intelligence.

I stand here, a collector of souls,
piled dozens deep in a paper bag
and purchased with pocket change
wondering
how I, too, can be altered in some accident
or mishap,
and if it were to be for the better or for the worse
if I could suddenly fly and fight and protect
or if it is better that my destiny is to remain
immobile and passive in the face of the Evil
threatening to shatter this world
into tiny tentacles of suffering and paranoia
and dangerous illusion.

The child in me yearns for power that is just beyond me;
the adult in me fears it,
knowing as I do the responsibility of our
actions,
the bravery masked as impulsiveness and
that innocence that ventures close to imperfection.
Brazenness was never my virtue
and so my powers remain dormant
somewhere inside this timeworn paper bag
even as I await the calling of the hero
inside of me.

This seemed an appropriate time to use my son’s Comic Book Creator program:

(click on the comic to view the PDF version)

Peace (with powers of the unknown),
Kevin

A decade of blogs

Last weekend, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy piece about recognizing that blogging has been underway for a decade (although I bet even that is in dispute somewhere out here). It was an interesting overview of the evolution and transformation of the Weblog World and notes how the Weblog really helped spark the content-driven revolution that underpins most of our notions of the Web 2.0 world. I can publish, you can interact, we are connected.

Here is a quote:

The consumption of blogs is often avid and occasionally obsessive. But more commonly, it is utterly natural, as if turning to them were no stranger than (dare one say this here?) picking one’s way through the morning’s newspapers.WSJ

The articles goes on to profile some folks who blog and asks them to reflect a bit (Tom Wolfe blasts the idea of blogging while Mia Farrow discusses its power to a writer).

So, ten years? I have been married ten years. Interesting to think of the timeframe and how the world has changed in that time.

Peace (in decades),
Kevin

Mini-Movies from Camp

Here are a few more small movies made by kids at my animation camp in their free time. The first one is interesting because it is a take-off on the fairly famous (and wonderfully done) web-movie called Animator Versus Animation (and the sequel). I showed the kids how to do a version of it in Pivot but it is difficult (the original uses flash). Some of the movies have sound and some do not.

Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

Peace (in video),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: A Stone’s Throw, July 2007

Did you ever have one of those days? You know, when it begins with a shattered window? Sigh.

This installment of the One Poem for Every Month for a Year project is about one of my sons causing some havoc at our house. At least I can say that he gave me some writing inspiration on an otherwise uninspiring day. (Just don’t tell him that — it would leave him off the hook).

 

A Stone’s Throw
(July 2007)
Listen to the poem

The sound of shattered glass
is no way
to start the day
and the frantic sobs of the seven year old,
screaming: “You are going to kill me”
is like icing on the cake.
Summer is the time of idle plans
and imagination
but that doesn’t explain how a
rock and a sock
and gravity
combined forces to leave a Pollock picture
of glass pebbles on the driveway
nor does it excuse the need to enter
the twisted labyrnth of the insurance company
on a day designed for rest and relaxation.

Peace (with the unexpected),
Kevin

 

Teachers Teaching Teachers: A Tech Matters Reunion

Last week, I went on Teachers Teaching Teachers once again and found myself in conversation again with some friendly voices from last summer. A few of us from Tech Matters 2006 used the forum to talk about what we have been up to and how we view the use of technology for creation of a vibrant community.

I talked a bit about the ABC Movie Project, my Ning experiment, Youth Radio and a few other tidbits that sprung out of Tech Matters (which is a week-long retreat for technology and technology-minded folks in the National Writing Project). It was wonderful to hear Joe, Bonnie and others once again.

Take a listen to the podcast from TTT

Peace (with connections),
Kevin

Six Claymation Movies

Here are the final claymation movies made in the second (and final) week of an experimental animation camp:

Dora the Turtle
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

It’s All Gone Wrong
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

The Magic Burger
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

Talent Show
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

The Blue Blob of Doom
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.

Work in Progress
Download Video: Posted by dogtrax at TeacherTube.com.