I am reading Teaching Naked (about how best to use technology at the university level while maintaining strong in-class connections with students) with some other folks in and out of social media spaces, and while I will be missing Twitter Chats and face-to-face gatherings, I still feel connected in my own way.
This week, I saw and shared this post about Summer Reading Challenges for students at Educator Innovator, and sent the link forward. I haven’t perused all of the projects that harness video for understanding literature, and making cool stuff.
But I thought it might be intriguing to do a digital story with quotes from Teaching Naked that I have been sticky-noting (is that a word? No red squiggle there) as I have been reading, as my version is a borrowed library copy of the book. I turned to the easiest app (and it is free) I know to make digital stories: Adobe Voice.
But I am not done yet. It occurred to me that my own voice is missing, so I am going to work on layering in some commentary in a second version of this project later this week. I’ll see how it goes. The idea is to push technology in a different way.
I am in the opening stages of an online experiment by Autumm, who is facilitating a book study group across multiple media platforms, as well as some live interaction time with colleagues at her university. She’s experimenting as part of an extension of Rhizomatic Learning, of putting theory into practice. Educator/Writer (now president of Goucher College) Jose Antonio Bowen would probably call this push of juggling tech/no-tech as “naked learning.” He is the writer of the book we are reading, entitled Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning.
I’m through the first section (The New Digital Landscape) and am participating in the book group mostly via Twitter, and I guess my blog here, and in my own little world on Goodreads, where I am using the comment section to make notes as I go along in the book. I’m a bit mixed on the book so far. I think the title and his labeling of “naked learning” — the face-to-face time between instructor and learner that is enhanced by technology that students are already using and knowledgeable about in their non-school lives — is purposefully provocative and geared for search engines. Hey, I may be wrong about that, but I think that thought every time I see his naked phrase.
On the other hand, Bowen’s push for university professors to make the shift into technology as a way to engage students is right on the mark (even if he often couches his push on professors with the call of using “graduate assistants” to monitor the media flow).
… technology has shifted the nature of the classroom. Learning now happens in more mobile, customized, and varied ways. We need to consider how we can advance student learning by thinking equally about learning environments inside and outside the classroom.” (Bowen, p. xiii)
I am not far enough into the book to give an in-depth analysis, nor am I teaching at the college level. So I am not the ideal audience, but there are plenty of ideas that are already resonating with me as a teacher and as a professional development facilitator.
But I like that Bowen acknowledges and validates the lives of learners outside the institution itself, and provides handy and accessible “Implementation” guides that walk the reader through ways to use Skype, Facebook and Twitter or setting up a virtual seminar, or even the nuts and bolts of establishing a protocol for communicating with students in various social media spaces.
I’m moving into the section section of the book — Designing 21st-Century Courses — and it will be interesting to see if he explores the tension between closed LMS systems that most universities require, and which are about as unauthentic spaces as you can image, versus open learning system, like Rhizomatic Learning or CLMOOC. I was telling Autumm that I looked in the index and there is no reference to MOOCs at all. Which is odd. (Note: the book came out in 2012 and Autumm think she saw a reference to MOOCs in the book itself)
It was the title and the cover that caught my eye in the library as I was searching for a read-aloud for my son. Alistair Grim’s Odditorium, eh? Well, I am thankful I grabbed the book by Gregory Funaro, as it was quite a fast-paced magical adventure that is apparently becoming a series of books (and my son and I always love series even if we hate waiting for the next book to be published in the series we love).
The hero of the story is one Grubb (no first name, no last name, only Grubb with an extra “b”, as he explains) who was once an orphan and then a chimney sweep for a mean stepfather and who now finds himself caught up in the adventure of a lifetime as he finds himself in the Odditorium, a mysterious house with all sorts of secrets. And of course, there is Alistair Grim himself – an inventor, tinkerer and sorcerer whose use of “odditoria” is at the heart of the story that Grubb finds himself in.
I won’t give the story away, but it has its fair share of wonderful twists and intriguing characters, including some villains who are after the same sources of magic as Alistair Grim. As a read-aloud novel, Alistair Grim’s Odditorium succeeds in a fun way, and now my son and I wait for the second book to see where the oddness takes us and Grubb. It comes out in January.
Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One has been on my want-to-read list for some time, given its theme (video game as narrative device) and plenty of solid reviews and recommendations of various friends. In fact, I almost bought it at the store three or four times in the past year or so, and then didn’t. I finally got it out of the library.
I won’t say I was disappointed by the story. It was fine. But I could not help but shake the feeling that Cline was writing this novel in hopes of it turning into a Matrix-like movie. (And of course, it is now becoming a movie, directed by Steven Spielberg).
I am having trouble pinning down what has kept me feeling as if there could have been more to the story. For, in many ways, Cline did an admirable job as a first-time novelist in creating a future and character that are believable enough, within the fictional universe of Ready Player One, and the narrative device of finding Easter Eggs in a huge, immersive game world kept the plot moving along, as did many of the action scenes. And Cline humanized the story, with his protagonist — Wade Watts — making connections with other players offline and online, and the book even ends on a very positive, human note.
So why didn’t I love this book? I should have loved this book. Maybe it was the hype or level of expectation on my own end. Maybe it was the one-too-many references to the 1980s (although some I did enjoy and many of the cultural references resonated with my own childhood). Maybe it was the cinematic feel that didn’t translate well to the page for me. I can see the story on the screen in my mind. Maybe I don’t like that.
Maybe it’s just me. Give it a read and see what you think. Do it before the movie comes out and reshapes the story.
Terry, with Nick’s permission, took Page 45 from the book and popped it into ThingLink for a crowdsourced annotation. I found it fascinating to add layers to the work, mulling over how the messages of the page might get represented by other work, pulling the reader from the page itself. In effect, we are doing a dance with Nick, the writer, saying to yet a third reader: “Here is what I see in this. What do you see?”
Meanwhile, I took an image of Page 45, too, and began to mess around with it in various photo editors. One of them allows me to really remix an image, through various cut-up lens. This one gives the impression of a collage remix, with the box emphasizing a message all of its own.
Then, I thought: What if I cut out the frames of the page and re-arranged them into something new? Would that even work? Would it make sense? It was worth a try. Here’s what I came up with when I was done.
This not a review, per se, but a sharing of my various interpretations of the theme (as I understand it) behind Nick Sousanis’ interesting graphic novel/dissertation Unflattening. (This book was suggested by my friend Ron in the Rhizomatic Learning space, and then Susan mentioned she had read it and so did Wendy, and then Terry got the book and began doing his own interpretations and then Greg just got the book but knew of the work and … meanwhile, Sousanis himself has been engaged in the conversations on Twitter about our observations of his work … all pretty fascinating in and of itself)
Honestly, I will need to read Unflattening again, and maybe a few more times, to gather up all of the nuances of thinking, but Sousanis puts forth ideas about how to break free of a narrow vision of the world and art and meaning by reminding us that we need to better see how image and art and other perceptions come into play when navigating the world. His use of the comic/graphic story format is incredibly engaging and interesting, and perfectly suited for this kind of philosophical journey.
While reading, I kept wondering how to represent my own thinking as the reader (following Terry’s lead) in non-traditional ways. How could I “unflatten” my own experiences with the book?
Unflattening is a simultaneous engagement of multiple vantage points from which to engender new ways of seeing.” — Sousanis, page 32
I began, as I usually do but which seemed very appropriate here, with a comic and a remix. I took a page from Unflattening and added my own layer of comic characters, making commentary on the content of the page. My idea was not to lessen Sousanis’ message, but to strengthen it by showing how a reader can interact with text.
Still, the remix comic exists in flat space.
I started thinking, Sousanis should have an Augmented Reality layer to the book, which would create an invisible layer of information and maybe more insights on top of the book as it exists. If we all had Google Glasses when we might read books in a different way …
This led me back to the Aurasmas app, which I have toyed around with before, to see if I could add a layer of commentary via video on top of the book itself. I was quickly reminded how complicated it is to share “auras” (as the app calls them) but I finally figured it out (the app is native to your device; if you want to share auras you create, you need to set up a folder at the website, load your project there, and then share out the link. Those who have the app can use the link, which opens up the app on their device and sets off the “aura” when they point their camera at the object, which in this case is Unflattening.)
Here, then (I hope) is the link you can use to get to my “aura” of Unflattening. Don’t have the book? No problem. Use the image of the book’s cover here as your object for launching the aura. On your mobile device, click on the link below, which should launch the app, and then point your camera on the image in this post (OK, so that might require some device juggling. Be safe out there, people.) Ideally, a video of me should emerge in the augmented layer of the book’s cover. I hope it works for you. It did for me, when I tested it. If not, the above screenshot is pretty nifty, with the illustration web of footprints running through my face (and what’s up with my eyes? I must be in the midst of some keen perceptions there).
It also occurred to me that I could use a nifty tool in the Firefox browser that lets you get a 3D look at websites, and that I could use that tool to look at Sousanis’ own website where he writes about the writing of Unflattening. I love how he uses the last part of his book to talk about what influenced individual pages. I am a sucker for “behind the scenes” of writers. In using the 3D view tool in Firefox, I would be making the leap from the book to the author writing about the book that I was reading, and I would be using yet another lens to see what he was writing about. Maybe. I’m not sure it succeeded on that level, but it is still an intriguing look at how to use “multiple engagement points” to look at the web. I took a tour.
Meanwhile, Terry and Greg and I and a few others are working on a media annotation of a page in Unflattening, with Sousanis’ permission (although, to be frank, we would have done it anyway, as that is the reader’s prerogative, but we let Sousanis pick the page from his book he would like us to annotate because the relationship between reader and writer is always an interesting one to explore. I wonder how Nick feels about all this.)
I’m tempted to write a six word book review for this one. But Roy Peter Clark’s How to Write Short (Word Craft for Fast Times) is worth more than just few words, even if I break from some of the very suggestions Clark lays out concisely and with humor in this book about writing in the modern age of short texts.
Clark, a newspaper man who works with journalists and others on the craft of writing, covers quite a bit of ground here, giving very specific advice and mentor texts about the art of writing short, using everything from Tweets, to photo captions, to six word memoirs, to marginalia, to listing, texting and more. He is also a talented writer.
His premise is that a good writer can pack a mighty punch in just a few words, if one is careful with their word choices and sentence creations. He also notes that we live in a world where updates and short texts are coming to rule how we get and share information, and having a working knowledge of this kind of writing is a key part of being literate. Of course, Clark also warns that writing short has its pitfalls, of losing depth to brevity, and the lack of nuance. A writer has be a good writer, even if the text is small.
Clark ends each (short, of course) chapter with some helpful “Grace Notes” that offers ways for the reader to become a writer in the form or format or genre that he has been discussing, and I found these a great source of ideas for writing activities. In short (ahem), How to Write Shortis a powerful advice guide, with wit and humor (although there is a bit too much of Clark talking about his friends and networks and he almost works a bit too hard to show off his charm in his own writing) that will get you thinking of how to write and how to teach writing.
The book reminded me of this Ignite piece that I presented at NCTE a few years ago, on this very topic (here, I fall into what I criticized Clark about — showing off. Sorry.):
Miles Harvey subtitles this book “A True Story of Cartographic Crime,” which has nice evocative hook to it. Harvey’s The Island of Lost Maps is a journey into the small field of map collections, but Harvey expands his scope to look at how maps have changed our perception of the world and how the increasing value of maps has given rise to a new kind of criminal: the map thief.
The book revolves around a history of mapmaking and Harvey’s journalistic pursuit of Gilbert Bland, whose crime of map theft landed him in prison, but not allegedly before raiding many library collections with an exacto knife and pure guts. Bland then sold the maps on the market and was only caught when another library patron senses something odd about the man, sitting at the table, perusing an old map collection.
Harvey does a good job of bringing us into the world of map collecting, and of the many ways that mapmakers created visions of the known and unknown world that shaped the Explorers of Europe during the age of discovery. Where Harvey goes a bit too far is in describing his own “map making” as he tries to piece together the life of Gilbert Bland, who refused to talk to Harvey and remains, even at the end, a bit of a mystery. Harvey uses the map metaphor for his own journalistic exploration, and while that metaphor can work, he often goes a bit too far.
Still, the way maps shape our lives is a fascinating story, and The Island of Lost Maps (besides having a wonderful title) does the job of filling in some of the gaps of the field quite nicely.
I wrote a review about The Next Digital Scholar collection over at Middleweb. It’s a book that has a lot of information packed tight into it, with lots of great chapters designed to help teachers think about the intersections of learning and technology.