DeComposing in the Twitter vs. Zombie Game

I can’t say I am a big fan of zombies (well, who is, really?) and I have often wondered about the ways zombies have taken anchor in popular culture. But friends in the Digital Writing Month adventure launched a Twitter-based game called Twitter Vs. Zombies is more complex than I can go into here (although you can find all the emerging rules here). It’s essentially a massive game of Twitter Hashtag Tag, and I have to say, it drew me in this weekend.

I started the game out as a zombie (no comments from the peanut gallery, thanks), and throughout the day, I tried to bite (#bite) humans to turn them into zombies, as they used various hashtag commands to escape (#dodge) and save themselves (#swipe) as a cooperative survival experience. What struck me early on is how easy it was to become immersed in a game that was entirely virtual and in text. And it was fun, particularly as folks got more and more creative with their tweets as they ventured into the imaginary landscape. Pretty amusing.

I was reminded a bit of Jane McGonigal’s theory around gaming, particularly large-scale social gaming, and how the act of play and invention brings together a myriad of people (even zombies). I wonder how this could translate to the classroom — without zombies, perhaps, but in some other vein, so that the nature of game and play would become an undercurrent throughout the day, week, or month. I think some schools have done this, and I need to do some research.

Another thing that struck me was how different this kind of game is from other games that I play — from video games, where we are mostly in the world of someone else’s imagination, to board games. Here, although the rules provided some boundaries (I got called on the carpet for exceeding my #bite ratio and it was my own fault — didn’t read the rules carefully enough), it was the imagination of the folks playing that created the “board” on which we — the “pieces” — were moving.

I admire the folks who set Twitters vs. Zombies up, and how they created not only rules set for adaption and potential flexiblity based on users comments and suggestions, but also a spreadsheet for keeping track of data. Very interesting.

Plus, I just earned another #bite for posting this blog post. Booya. I’m back in the field …


Peace (in the game),

PS — speaking of decomposing, that is also the name of the blog of my friend, Paul Oh. Maybe he’s a zombie, too?


Digital Writing Month: The Audio Comic Strip


The other day, as I was working with Thinglink on a media piece about digital writing (you can still see what I did and add your own thoughts) for Digital Writing Month, I had this brainstorm of using the site to add an audio track to a comic strip.

So, I did it.

Actually, the process became a bit more complicated than I first thought. Here’s what I ended up doing, and try to view the process through the lens of digital writing. In this case, I was thinking of the audio engineering as ‘writing’ and how I worked to manipulate, and then embed my voice, was part of the compositional process. I can’t make it all visible here, but it had me thinking and working/reworking the concept I started with.

First, I decided that the comic should include an audio storyline, so that the content of the comic would coincide with the ways I was composing the piece. I decided that one of the kids would turn in a report, all as an audio file, and this would cause the teacher to struggle over ideas of traditional grading.

audio in comic

Second, I opened up Audacity. I read through the speech bubbles. I began by creating a file, and then creating a second file, for the same character, but ran into problems when I began to change the pitch with some Audacity tools — in order to give the kid a higher voice and the teacher a lower voice. After one round of recording Dave in the first frame, I could not match his voice pitch for the second frame. Ack. I went back to square one, and deleted all of my work, starting over again. This time, I made one master file with all of Dave’s speech, added the pitch change, and then tinkered with cutting/pasting editing of that one master file to create MP3 files that all had the same pitch.

I did the same method for the teacher, but here I had a little conundrum: the thought bubble. I knew that the voice should change — the voice in our heads is different from the voice that comes out of our mouth — and decided that adding some echo/reverb might aurally indicate the thinking of a character, as opposed to the talking. I think those words got a bit muddled on me. Later, I thought about how I should have tweaked that a bit more. Oh well.

After making all five MP3 files from the various speaking/thinking parts, I uploaded them into my Box storage site and grabbed the direct links. Then, over in Thinglink, where I had already uploaded the comic (which I created over at Stripgenerator and then hosted over at Flickr), I layered in links near each character’s speech, so that clicking on the little circles will bring you to the audio file.

Or, if my words were a bit too rambling and unclear, maybe this image will help, showing the path of creation.
Audio Comic Process Overview

It’s not perfect. Far from it. For example, I don’t like that a new window opens up, but I don’t see any solutions to that problem. But in the end, it was a fun exercise in the possibilities of mixing media and compositional practices using digital tools.

What do you think? Does adding character voices change the comic reading experience for you? (or are you tired of me creating comics?)

Peace (beyond the frames),

Digital Writing Month: Twitter vs. Zombies

Digital Writing Comic13
I’m going to try to take part in an offshoot Digital Writing Month activity this weekend called Twitter versus Zombies, which is described by some of the organizers as “epic zombiefied experiment in Twitter literacy, gamification, collaboration, and emergent learning.” I have no idea what will entail but I have wanted to dip my toes into this kind of emergent game and see how they unfold.

So, I am in.

And it made sense to have the kids in my comic in, too. Plus, there are plenty of little zombie-like creatures in the comic creator site that I use (Stripgenerator). In fact, it’s almost as if it were built for zombie comics. Hmmmm.

Peace (in zombieland),



Digital Writing Month: Tagging and Defining Digital Writing

This month, as I am involved in Digital Writing Month, has me thinking about what I mean when I say Digital Writing. It’s not easy to define. Maybe you can help. I have started up a Thinglink image with a word cloud of terms related to digital writing, and I have begun to “tag” the image with ideas and media related to the terms. I’ve opened it up so that anyone can collaborate, so feel free to add your ideas to the mix, too. I’ve added assorted media — a podcast, an audio poem, a “choose your own adventure” video experiment, and more.

Come to my ThingLink and add a few thoughts.

And do you agree that this image, with the tags, is a piece of digital writing?

Peace (in the defining),



Digital Writing Month: Digi Gets Stuck in a Google Doc

Digi in the Doc

Yesterday, I wrote about using the Google Search Story creator. Then, in the afternoon, I stumbled on a link to yet another Google story tool — Google Docs Story Builder. it’s .. pretty neat. It “captures” a Google Doc in video time, although you are really writing the doc as a story, and not necessarily as a real collaboration. In honor of Digi the Duck, the mascot of Digital Writing Month, I created this short piece with the story tool in which Digi gets stuck in a Google Doc.

Check out Digi in the Document

You can give it a try with the Google tool, too. If you do, share it out, won’t you?

Peace (in the doc),


Digital Writing Month: Wrestling with Google and other Frustrations

 Digital Writing: A Search Story

(You can listen to the audio podcast of this blog post, too. In case you want to hear my voice. It’s all about options for the experience, right? Audio and text and visual …)

It’s been fascinating to take part in the Digital Writing Month adventure, particularly as it has forced me to consider how my writing practices are impacted by technology. And that exploration has raised the question once again: is technology transforming and changing the way we write? I’ve noticed, as I follow others in Digiwrimo, that much of what we are calling digital writing is mostly blog posts — texts on a page. Or Tweets. Sure, a digital page, but still, I would not term it something all that different from traditional writing, except audience. So what does it mean to write digitally, then? I don’t have that answer, although the question intrigues me. But this morning, as I was trying to think about how I might compose with video, I returned to the Google Search Story site. Here, you can create a short digital story with search engine queries. I was curious about the process that I would put myself through to try to tell a story or make a point, with limited text and with the video coming from somewhere else. In other words, I had less agency as a writer than I would have liked. (And, admittedly, I was contributing to Google’s bottom line by making a video with its search engine).

Here’s what I noticed as I was creating a search story about Digital Writing Month and the act of writing digitally: I found myself in a constant wrestling match with Google. You’d think it simple enough: write five or six search queries and let Google do the rest. But Google wasn’t doing what I wanted — its search results were different from my vision. I tweaked words. I revamped phrases. I worked harder on those five search phrases than I am working on this reflection piece. Seriously.

And I am still not satisfied, and it made me think about the compromises we make with technology when we compose with the tools available. Yes, it would be nice if we were all programmers with enough coding expertise to create our own tools for our own purposes, but most of us are not. I’m not. What I am left with is this feeling that while technology allows me to stretch in new directions, it also hinders my sense of expression. And I can’t shake the feeling that we are not yet close to the promise of being real digital writers, when all of the agency of expression is in our own hands.

When we can write what we want to write, and say what we want to say, in a medium of our choice and with all the flexibility we desire, I’ll be doing a happy dance as a digital writer. Until then, I push as far as I can, and hope that I can live with the sense of compromise that often is the result of the conversations between me, the writer, and the various tools of technology that are at my disposal.

Peace (in pushing boundaries),

PS — I want to apologize for putting my own book — Teaching the New Writing — into my search story but it seemed pertinent. Right? Well, I was also using Google for my own aims there, too. If they can monetize my story through my use of its search engine, I might as well turn it back on them and use their search engine to publicize our book.


Digital Writing Month: Just Rick Roll Them

Digital Writing Comic4
There was someone in my twitter stream of folks participating in Digital Writing Month who was wondering how to merge that challenge with the National Novel Writing Month, and I whimsically suggested that they just make their novel just one huge hyperlink, and cover both challenges with one piece of writing.

It would work, right? (Although this gets to another post on another day about what digital writing is and should be, and all of that)

Then, I got to thinking about what link would you make a piece of writing like that lead to? In the case of my comic, Dave just wants to have fun.

Peace (in the rolling),

Hacking/Remixing the Digital Writing Month Website

Digiwrimo Web Hack

Ok — so, not a real hack of the Digital Writing Month website. But still … hacking and remixing are modern literacy skills, right? Check out what I did with Mozilla’s xRay Goggles tool that allows you to revamp and remix websites. You can’t yet publish the changes (that seems to be coming soon, though), so I had to take a screenshot of my hack and upload it as an image.

See the larger versions of the hacked page if you want a closer look at how I, uh, tweaked the page. I was poking fun at what we are up to this month (and the duck … you know, the duck is fair game in a hack).

See what my friend, Rafi Santo, has to say about hacking as a way to understand content, and how remixing what we find gives us more agency as writers/composers, and the strong connections these skills have to authentic youth literacies. I’m still investigating. You should be, too.

Watch live streaming video from connectedlearningtv at


Peace (in the changes),


Digital Writing Month: Inside a Novel-in-a-Day

I’m sure others will have a better insider’s look at Digital Writing Month‘s monumental collaborative project from yesterday entitled “Novel in a Day.” The goal was to use a Google Doc to create a novel of 50,000 words in 24 hours by as many people as possible, writing vignettes. In the end, it was just over 41,000 words, apparently. And about 55 writers were writing on the document yesterday throughout the day (the theme was using the mascot of the month — Digi the Duck — in vignettes.) A collaborative planning session in another Google Doc the night before narrowed down the focus of the novel, which I thought was a neat way to bring many voices into the mix.

I added two pieces — Vignette 9, which was about the duck trying to write a poem but he can’t reach the keyboard, and Vignette 28, told through a text message in which Digi asks Mickey Mouse for some advice. I had an idea for a third piece, but my oldest son was hogging the computer with some friends (ironically, they are writing a collaborative movie script) and by the time they were done, I was nearly asleep. Ack.

Here are some observations from my own experiences being inside and outside the Novel-in-a-Day idea:

  • The novel is long. I know that is a “duh” moment but I was so caught up in the writing that I barely had time to read what others were up to. In that situation, the vignette concept was brilliant. But it often felt like I was more of an isolated writer than a collaborative writer. I also had a lot of other things going on during the day, so I wasn’t fully immersed in the experience. I’m pretty sure a few folks were working to tie threads of the stories together. I made an attempt in mine, but I am not sure I was all that successful.
  • At some points, there were more than a dozen folks just lingering around in the document. I think some people wrote elsewhere and then pasted their text in. I wrote directly in the Google Doc. I had this feeling of being watched. I didn’t mind it so much but it was an odd experience. Another time, I was trying to start a new vignette, but the person writing the piece before mine kept on typing, and as I was trying to write, I was messing up their text. I could “see” them pause, try again. I’d wait, try, and mess them up. After two times, I gave up, thinking Google Docs must be on a bender. I hope that other writer forgives me.
  • The collaborative element was a key component but I was hoping for more ways to push barriers with text, as part of the inquiry with Digital Writing Month. One writer did something interesting: using the idea of anchors, he created a series of “make your own adventure” choices for the reader. I may have missed it, but most of what is in the novel is traditional text. Odd storytelling, and very creative, but still very traditional: words on paper/screen. The third vignette that I did not write was going to be a story converted into html code, with a message embedded within the code. I really am sorry I missed that chance. I was hoping for a video vignette, or maybe some audio. There were some images sprinkled here and there. Of course, it was just 24 hours. I need to be realistic with my expectations.
  • Does this translate to the classroom? Yes, and I have done collaborative stories like this with my sixth graders on wikis, using colors to show a change in writers. What this kind of activity does is allows you to talk about voice, and collaborative technology, and the focus of a story (which often gets lost).
  • Was it worth it? Heck, yes. I love how technology can bring collaborators together to try new things. Although I was not one of the planners or organizers, who should feel pretty good this morning about the novel experience, I feel connected to the success of the writing experience. It’s not about the word count; it’s about the experience.

Peace (in the novel),