#Digiwrimo Interactive Fiction 3: Let My Students Explain

How to .... Interactive fiction

Yesterday, I shared out some screenshots on how you might use Google Slides for Interactive Fiction in the classroom, as I am currently doing with my sixth graders. Along with some of the “non-traditional writing” we are engaged with, I am also having them write more straight-forward pieces, too.

Last week, I asked them to compose an expository paragraph that walks someone through the process of creating Interactive Fiction with Google Slides. We did this offline because I still want them writing on paper, and given all of our discussions in Digital Writing Month about the continued emotional power of handwritten pieces in a digital age, I though I would share their pieces directly here.

How to .... Interactive fiction

This reflective practice — of pulling back from a project and taking stock of how you are doing it — is very valuable on many levels, including for me as the teacher to know if they truly understand the processes of digital writing.

How to .... Interactive fiction

I love the ending to this one: “When you are finished, send it to me!”

Peace (on the paper),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Interactive Fiction 1: Making a Playable Story

Story Map The Bike

I’ve been doing my best to bring elements of Digital Writing Month into my sixth grade classroom. We worked on Sound Stories and with images earlier in the month, and now, during this theme of “transmedia,” I have my students working on Interactive Fiction pieces. Interactive fiction is a designed story/game in which the reader is given choices to follow, and every choice branches off into another aspect of the story.

I’ve done these before with Twine, but the freeware didn’t always play nicely with our computers, although the new beta Twine 2.0 as online experience might be worth another look, and hosting the final products has become problematic now that Google Drive has changed the way public folders are set up. Here is a map for a Twine 2 story I did the other day for Digiwrimo:

Twine map

So, with my push this year around digital portfolios within Google Apps for Education, I am teaching my students how to use hyperlinks within a Google Slides project to create Interactive Fiction.

Using Google Slides for this style of writing is not perfect, but it works, and along with creating a non-traditional writing experience, it gives me a chance to teach them more about design and hyperlinks within presentation formats for the purpose of storytelling.

My students are writing historical interactive fiction, as I am connecting our project with work on early civilizations being done in our Social Studies class. Students are writing in second person narrative point of view, of an early human, surviving (or not) in the Ancient World, using sensory details and descriptive writing.

Yes, my students love this Interactive Fiction writing project, although most have never read the Make Your Own Ending stories (I have a class set that we read and talk about) and they are so deeply enmeshed in the writing experience right now. And yes, it is a very complicated writing endeavor. You have to plan for multiple story-lines in a single story experience, and let the reader “play the story,” as I have been saying each day.

Here are a few of their “story maps” — which I require to be done before they even touch a computer.

Interactive fiction maps

I’ll be sharing a bit over the next few days …. including a screenshot tutorial on how you might do similar stories in Google Slides. If you want a taste of what I am talking about, this is an Interactive Fiction piece that I wrote last year as a mentor text for my students (designed more as a mystery story, not historical fiction, which is what we are doing this year).

Come, play my story.

Peace (in the interactive),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Sound Stories: What They (Students) Made

Sound Stories under constructionThis is my wrap-up post for series I have been doing about teaching my sixth graders how to create Sound Stories — writing and recording stories in Garageband with sound effects. Today, I want to share out some of the students’ work. (Note: I wrote more about this project at Middleweb.) This is connected to the exploration of audio in Digital Writing Month. Sound Stories under construction

Take a listen to just a few of the stories:

 

Peace (in the voice),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Sound Stories: The Ones We Made (Together)

Yesterday, I shared out a “mentor text” of a sound story that I created as I was introducing my sixth graders into the idea of composing and recording a story constructed with voice and sound effects. Today, I want to share the next step in the lesson plan: short class collaborative stories.

Here, I asked each of my sixth grade classes to work as a whole to help me write a short story that used a few animal sound effects. We used Voice Typing in Google Docs to build the story together, sentence by sentence, and then we recorded in Garageband, with students helping by using the Interactive Board to build out the sound file as I narrated it. (Ideally, I should have asked a student to come up and narrate, instead of me, but I was trying to keep the lesson moving along.)

The intent was to make visible the construction of a sound story, by doing it together. I was reminded of work done by a NWP friend, Glen Briere, who constructed entire radio programs with his class as collaborative writing experiences. I’m filing this smaller sound story project away in my mind for later consideration of how to use Glen’s idea for whole class writing experiences.

Each “story” is only a few sentences long, and the shared sound effects means there is a common thread. Notice how the stories all came to a point where all the animal sounds play together. My students enjoy cacophony. (And for me, it allowed me to show them how to layer multiple sound tracks to play at once.)

Most of my students are nearing up completion with their projects, and I will be sharing out their voices later this week.

Peace (in the sounds),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo Sound Stories: The One I Made

Sound Laboratory 2

(flickr photo by Attila Hajdu http://flickr.com/photos/attilahajdu/5321511238 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license)

I’ve been moving “Sound Stories” into my writing classroom the past two weeks, teaching students how to write a story that incorporates sound effects/audio as part of storytelling, and then diving into Garageband to “compose” a piece with sounds embedded into the narration.

I am writing a longer piece about the teaching of “sound stories” in the classroom (an idea borrowed heavily from play with DS106, by the way) for Middleweb, but I want to share out bits as part of Digital Writing Month‘s exploration into audio.

This is the story I created to share with students as a mentor text of sorts. Tomorrow, I will share out some collaborative sound stories that we built together as classes, and then later this week, I will share out a collection of sound stories by students.

Peace (in the sounds of the world),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Students Expressing Peace

Our art teacher does some amazing work with our sixth graders, and the annual Peace Poster project — in conjunction with the Lion’s Club — is a great example of how the visual can be used to create a message (which is a theme of Digital Writing Month this week). These posters are all over the walls of a hallway in our school, and each one reminds us of the power of peace. Collectively, they are a quilt of love to the world.

I worked with students on writing up artist statements, which will get attached to the posters. Again, the depth of student writing and reflection is wonderful to witness.

Peace Poster Artist Statements

Peace (beyond the posters),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Too Much Consuming, Not Enough Creating

Troy Hicks, whose books about digital writing and connected reading are must-reads for any teacher, has written a great post for Digital Writing Month about the role that Infographics are now playing in our reading and writing lives — and how the visual shaping of data has the potential to surface stories. I was thinking of Troy’s post when I came across the results of an extensive survey of pre-teens (tweens) and teenagers by CommonSense Media about the role of technology and digital media in their lives.

You can access the entire report and key findings at the CommonSense Media site. It makes for a fascinating read. The infographic at the side here breaks down the findings into more visual understandings.

What jumped out at me in the findings?

How about the balance between the ways in which students “consume media” versus the time they spend “creating media”?

Only three percent of their time is doing, making, creating? Let me write/say/shout that out again: ONLY THREE PERCENT OF TEENS REPORT CREATING THINGS WITH THEIR TECHNOLOGY. (Sorry. Didn’t mean to shout. But it is important.)

We need to change that. We all need to do a better job of putting tools of making and creating into the hands of students. We need to empower agency. We need to show students that being passive recipients of information (including targeted advertising based on technology habits) is not enough.

Consuming, Not Creating

When I am asked why I spend so much time with Making Learning Connected MOOC or Digital Writing Month, or any of the other online ventures that I find myself intrigued by, my answer to the question of why is direct:

I want to discover more ways to engage my students — those 11 year olds growing up in a world in the midst of significant change — as active creators.

So, we design video games. We produce sound stories. We make comics. We collaborate.

Much of this I learned from doing myself with other teachers, trying out new things and tinkering with technology. We need spaces for us to create and compose, too. I wonder what the results of this survey question would be if we asked teachers the same question?

Do you consume? Or do you create?

Speaking of creating, the activity with Troy’s post asks us to make an infographic. I did this one, about a typical writing morning (like right now, in fact)

My Writing Mornings

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Squish Your Writing (Text Compactor)

Text Compactor

I was intrigued by a technology tool that was mentioned in a recent series by Teaching Channel around digital literacies. The site is called Text Compactor and it does what it says: it takes a block of text and allows you to automatically summarize. You have options on the size of the summary. It is built with an algorithm around word frequency.

Above is a sample. I took a pretty lengthy short story that I am writing (in class, with my students, as they write) and tried to create a very small summary. Not bad, I guess. It seems more like a “blurb” on the jacket of the, ahem, novel I am writing (not) than a good summary of the story so far, if you ask me.

But I might include this site as an extension activity for my students when they finish up pieces of longer writing, and have them reflect on what the technology leaves out and puts in.

Want to try it out? Choose someone else’s blog and pop it into the Text Compactor and see what happens. Share it out with the #digiwrimo hashtag. Get all squishy with it.

Peace (in the compactor),
Kevin

 

#DigiWriMo: The Tensions of Teaching in the Age of Digital Writing

I had the oddest experience in my classroom the other day. My sixth graders are in the midst of writing short stories in their new Google Docs accounts. It’s been a great writing experience. We’ve done collaborative peer reviewing, and I’ve been able to keep track of student progress. Most of my young writers are finishing up the story and now moving into the editing/proofreading stage.

The task of editing is difficult work for them, as it is for me when I write, and probably for you, too. So, I pulled out an activity around editing and proofreading, where we talk about some basic proofreading and editing marks that they can use to mark up a draft before moving into a final draft. I gave them a one-paragraph story that I wrote, and told them it had 18 errors. Who can find them all and use the proofreading strategies?

That’s the lesson and activity, right? Mark up the text to practice improving a text. Talk about technique and put it into action. Then, do the same with your own writing.

Except …

… I was halfway through that explanation to my students when I stopped and realized something rather important. It was one of those “duh” moments.

Here, my students are writing their stories in a digital space. Proofreading symbols? Marking up the text with pencil? Unless they were going to use a Sharpie on the computer screen (please, don’t), the lesson itself seemed out of sync with the ways in which I have them writing and revising with technology.

With computers as their medium for writing, I should be teaching them cyclical revision strategies — revising as you go, and then circling back around to keep an eye on audience. Keep shifting from writer to editor, and back again. Use the tools (spellcheck, etc) at hand, wisely.

Carrots (to insert text), circles (for spelling errors), paragraph indentation symbols … they all seemed rather meaningless when we write for the screen. Unless I want to print out 80 stories (many are now running 5 to 6 pages of text) … and I am not going to do that for this project. (Among other things, including disconnect from the medium of the story itself, it seems a waste of paper).

I forged ahead with the lesson, however, framing what we were doing with editing and proofreading in terms of being able to “see errors” in your writing (which is not easy) and know where changes have to be made. They had fun trying to figure out the errors — they made a game of it.

Me? I have to think about revision, too. Lesson plan revision for writers in a digital age.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

Their Digital Lives: State of Technology and Media 2015

I’ve been giving my sixth graders a survey for a few years now on the State of Technology and Media in their lives. The results become the anchor points for conversations in class around technology and social networks and privacy and digital footprints.

Here are this year’s results, which I also shared with parents:

And here is the famous Gary Hayes Social Media Counter that I also shared out, and had a long discussion about what its data flow shows about the world they are growing up in:

Peace (in the share),
Kevin