Wandering the Map with Eyes Closed, Ears Open

My friend, Wendy, sent me a map from Australia. It is part of the CLMOOC Postcard Exchange, and last month, we were working on mapping as a theme in CLMOOC. Wendy’s map is a Soundscape — the drawn map connects to a playlist on Soundcloud that connects back to the map itself, all with an invitation from her to make a path on the map.

Hmmm.

I was intrigued and wondered how best to honor her invitation. I put on my headphones, closed my eyes, and let my imagination wander around her soundscape. Her mix was a collection of her own recording, and then chosen songs from within Soundcloud.

Hmmm.

I realized that the listening was giving me a way into her map, which was a sort of story. So I decided to jot down some ideas as I listened, and then found a poem emerging, which later became a sort of free-verse rap of sorts, with stanzas connected to different points on her map that connected to different music in her soundscape.

Hmmm.

I decided she probably needed to “hear” my poem response, and so did a version (listen above) and shared it out, hopeful that Wendy knows her map has kept me traveling forward. The words in parentheses connect to her tracks and her points on the map.

A Snail’s Pace: Soundscape Response

(Welcome)
I am here
inside the sounds
of this map
that a friend
has drawn true,
a snail’s wandering,
slow, ambling motion
into the unknown blue —
this space is here
between me
and you —
I keep my pen
in its place…

(Sea Turtle)
… where echoes
bloom inside
the clicketyclack
of turtle shells,
the railroad track,
the path, it yells,
as it beckons me
forward …

(Sky)
… the sky’s filled with
fallen stars, of birds
fluttering
from afar, their wings set
to the beat of
forever blue, forever
this line follows
magnetic north, true
..

(Forest)
… my feet are in motion,
dancing among the fallen
trees of
the forest,
all hallucination
and emotion,
all appreciation
and devotion,
for gravity has me
turned around,
upside down,
off the ground,
I’m always almost
there …

(North East)
… I hear the noise,
of the Northeast arrow,
the corridor calling my
name, I’m game
for the adventure,
I follow the sparrow …

(South East)
… of the Southeast
flow, something goes
in the direction of justice,
words folding
my heart into
bass lines and mad
rhymes and
a brave face
against these troubling times …

(South West)
… I am disappearing again
into the fingers
of the keyboard, the V
of the geese of the sky
of the distant shore,
where the poems
always flowing …

(North West)
… I’m going,
I’m still going,
you can’t stop me,
everyone is always knowing
this map is more
than the snail’s pace,
it’s the way we play to create
the world as a safe space and
you’ve drawn me out
with love
and peace
and filled us
with your grace.

Peace (off the map),
Kevin

Creating Print Advertisements for Video Game Projects

Making Video Game Advertisements

I’m continuing to share out elements of our Video Game Design Project, as my students race to the finish line with publishing and reflecting on their work of the past weeks with designing, creating and publishing an original video game with a Hero’s Journey story-frame narrative.

Making Video Game Advertisements

Today, I’d like to share about our Video Game Print Advertisement Campaign assignment, in which we explore the art of advertising and then turn the students loose on making a print advertisement for their own projects. After holiday break, we will hang them up all over the room and hallways.

We begin with a presentation that allows us to closely examine the way video game advertisements are constructed, noting layout, art, lettering and other elements.

Making Video Game Advertisements

Then, I turn the class over to my paraprofessional colleague, who was a graphic artist for various companies before becoming an educator. I am grateful every day for her presence in the classroom. Beyond her skills as a support educator, her knowledge of art and layout is expansive, so she becomes the teacher during this part of our activity. She provides visual examples of works in progress …

Making Video Game Advertisements

Students have to lightly draft out their advertisements in pencil, and then go through a process of creation (after proofreading): blocking out letters and images, erasing pencil marks, coloring in the page. They have a lot of fun with this assignment — art connected to writing connected to design — and seeing them working so hard at something they love to do is always a nice experience.

Video Game Advertisements Dec2017

The results run the gamut — it depends on how careful a student is being, really — but taken together, the ads are always impressive and the posters become visual invitations to play the video game projects that have been working so hard on.

Peace (free and over the counter),
Kevin

Book Review: We Will Not Be Silent

Talk about a powerful story of resistance. This book by Russell Freedman — We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler — about the White Rose Resistance Movement in Nazi Germany, in which young people secretly organized a resistance movement against Hitler, is powerful on so many levels. It shows how courage and organization, as well as sacrifice, can change the minds of people, and give courage in the face of fear.

And it’s all a true story, too, documented with research by Freedman. There are images and letters and journals and context, all showing how the narrative of Germany during the war is often missing the stories of those common Germans who did what they could to resist Hitler and the rise of violent Nationalism and Fascism.

Here, the story focuses on a brother and sister, Hans and Sophie Scholl, who helped organize The White Rose to disseminate leaflets and information, with secret printings and clandestine meetings, and to counter the Nazi propaganda machine. The students who were part of The White Rose network began the resistance as high school-age and then continued into the University years as the World War unfolded.

And ultimately, both Hans and Sophie paid the cost of resistance with their lives, as they were caught with White Rose leaflets, brought before the ‘Hanging Judge,’ and quickly executed for their actions.

Their deaths brought a whole new level of energy to the resistance movement, however, and their story — the whole story of The White Rose Resistance — serves as a reminder that everyday citizens still have a chance to take a stand, even in places where the government has taken control with little regard to morality and ethics and common law.

Maybe the GOP leadership on Congress could use a historical reminder …

This book is geared more for high school students, given the content, but some middle school readers may find it interesting. It is a bit too intense for younger readers. Freedman does a nice job of turning non-fiction into a page-turning read.

Peace (in politics),
Kevin

PS — I found this video which dovetails nicely with the book

Where Persuasive Writing and Game Design Meet

My students reviewed video games through a design lenses, with a persuasive element to the writing. They could either choose a game they like, or one they don’t like, and write a review of various elements in relation to our work in class with game design principles (visuals, audio, game play, effectiveness, etc.)

Video Game Review organizer

These are a few of the video game reviews from this year. What games do you play?

Peace (10 out of 10),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Mystery Words

(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 introduced a game-style activity yesterday for our vocabulary lessons called Mystery Word, where you give a series of escalating clues for the guesser to guess the word. Honestly, I needed about twice the time I allocated for this during classtime (we had other things to get to, too), and it all felt too rushed to be as effective as I wanted it to be.

Next time … more time.

This is my very simple sample (which I followed with a sample of a word from our class vocabulary list):

Mystery Word Sample

But, the students really enjoyed the challenge of coming up with clues that pointed to a vocabulary word without giving it away completely at the start. I had them write the clues out on notecards, which we then distributed around the room. A better version would have been to have each one read the clues, one clue at time, to a partner, and use our listening skills to locate the words. And I probably should have done more quick mini-lessons on syllables, Parts of Speech, rhyming, etc.

Mystery Words Help Slide

I didn’t make up the Mystery Words activity, and I was trying to remember where it came from. I think it is both a variation of a Mystery Number activities that our math teacher does earlier in the year (complex clues to find a number) and an adaptation of a lesson from a writing project teacher who co-taught a digital writing summer project for struggling high school students with me as my English as a Second Language partner, and I gleaned a lot of vocabulary acquisition ideas from her work.

The game-and-guess format makes for an engaging time, and adds a wrinkle to learning and using new words.

Peace (is the lesson),
Kevin

A Whale’s Lantern: Musical Collaboration Across a Network

Whales Lantern

For the last six months or so, I have been writing in and exploring around Mastodon, a federated social networking space that is free from corporate structure. Federated means there is no one central server or space where people are located. Instead, there are “instances” where people connect to and write from (instances are hosted by individuals and most instances have a theme). All instances can share across the larger Mastodon network. I know that will sound confusing. Upshot for me: it’s becoming a neat, creative, connected space that is more than just an alternative to Twitter.

In late September, someone in the Mastodon timeline put out a call for musicians to collaborate together for an album project.  They hoped to leverage the connected element of common interests into a music project. I took the plunge, and became part of what is now known as A Whale’s Lantern project — a collaboration of musicians who have made music through the Mastodon network.

While I didn’t know who I would be partnered with, as names were drawn randomly, it turns out I was paired with a friend from other connected spaces: Laura Ritchie. She’s a cellist and music teacher and wide-range thinker.

 

Yesterday, our “album” was released on Bandcamp. Laura and I worked on a song that I wrote called I Fall Apart (Like Stars in the Night) and the whole group of us, including some of who didn’t get time to finish their collaboration, are in the midst of writing up our reflections. Collaboratively, of course, and hopefully, it will be published in a Mastodon open journal called Kintsugi in the future.

Check out A Whale’s Lantern: Flight into the Nebula.

Peace (listening to the muse),
Kevin

Transmedia Digital Storytelling: Week One Reflections


Storyworlds flickr photo by ZenFilms shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I’m taking a free online course through FutureLearn about Transmedia Storytelling. I aim to reflect every now and then on some of what I am learning or thinking about.

This is not the first time I have been exploring this concept of Transmedia — of how different media platforms might be used collectively to tell a story, and how each platform (think: from blog to  social media to image to audio to video, etc.) might be utilized for its own attributes to help a ‘reader’ experience the story in different media and different mediums.

Here are some quotes from the first week’s segments that stood out for me:

Transmedia Cultural Production

This is a key concept: the idea that a writer views multiple media and multiple platforms one of of the same, and not as separate parts, in a composition (although some suggest that the parts of Transmedia should be able to stand on their own, too, separate from the whole. I’m not sure about that.)

I imagine this concept as a painter with a canvas, and the painter is using not just paint, but other materials. The canvas is the composition, but the materials are the different elements that will bring the larger vision to reality. With Transmedia, the ‘composer’ views all of the platforms as possible places to thread a story. The story itself is the canvas. The platforms, and how we compose there, is our ink and paint.

Transmedia Writer Reader

Transmedia has the possibilities of collaboration — between writer but also between writer and reader, narrowing that gap between who creates and who responds to the creation. The course notes that shifts in technology have allowed more of this to happen, particularly as more mobile technology has emerged. Many apps blend experiences, opening the door for potentially interesting interactions.

This is also how many companies are now marketing products to consumers, leveraging our attention into cool storytelling techniques with product placement and immersive commercials. We, the reader, have to be aware of how our storytelling senses can be manipulated by corporations in this way.

Transmedia Novice VeteranThis concept of Transmedia is rather new (although forms of it have its roots in earlier designs — such as the Magic School Bus series of picture books that became a television show that became video games, etc.) and the technology possibilities are becoming more and more available to more and more creators. But having examples – mentor texts — is a key element here, and we are learning from each other how to do this, and why one might do this.

In one year’s Digital Writing Month (the site is now offline, alas), I tried my hand at a Transmedia piece. Want to see it? Follow the leaf.

Leaf in Motion

Peace (shifting spaces),
Kevin

Story hint: Literally, follow the leaf with a mouse click and clues to where to go next will emerge  … some of the platform may not work well on mobile devices .. sorry …

 

Getting Teachers Doodling

Teacher Doodles at PD session

I was facilitating a professional development session yesterday afternoon with my colleagues, and I wanted to find an engaging “write into the day” activity. The topic of the PD was using Google Classroom to help ease flow of information and assignments to and from teachers and students (currently, I am the only one using Google Classroom in our school).

I remembered all of our work this summer in CLMOOC with doodling and drawing (and this month has been DecDoodle via CLMOOC, so I have been doodling every morning on daily themes) and using illustration as a way to think on the page.

Teacher Doodles at PD session

So, my prompt for colleagues at the very start of the session was “Doodle what Flow looks like in your classroom setting” and we septn about 15 minutes doodling and then sharing. A few looked at me at first like, you want me to doodle? Yes, indeedly do. Or yes, indeedly doodle.

Teacher Doodles at PD session

The range of drawings and representations was pretty cool, and provided a nice frame for our discussions and exploration of Google Classroom from the standpoint of making the management of student work and assignments and interactions a little easier (as long as you understand Google’s impetus to build easy-to-use products to hook long-term users).

Peace (doodles away),
Kevin