Stories as Landscapes

storygridstory
What if a Story were simultaneously hemmed in and also open to roam the  landscape? What if the Story were merely small echoes of some larger narrative? What if  the Story were not one Story, but many Stories?

What if …?

During Digital Writing Month (which took place throughout November), the narrative of how we tell stories often got upended a bit as we explored how technology is changing the shapes of stories themselves, as us, as writers of those stories. How fitting, then, that Simon took the concept of the #25wordstory (a Twitter activity to write a story in 25 words or so) and slotted it into a spreadsheet grid, and then opened up the grids for others to add to.

I dug in yesterday morning with gusto, and quickly began writing all over the place, shifting from grid to grid, extending stories out from single anchor words so that the narrative arcs move in all sorts of directions. Truthfully, these became more like story fragments, little puffs of ideas floating in and among the rest of the stories. We pushed out beyond the margins. Added images and charts. Made links to places outside of the story.

So, what does this all mean for writing in the digital age? I can’t say with any certainty what it all means, to be honest, but there is something there in this kind of transmedia-like storytelling — an associative leap that writers make when both writing on the same page as someone else on the other side of your world and when you carve out stories in unknown territories. A spreadsheet as story? A spreadsheet as a map of the territory? Yes, once you get past the idea of what a tool is designed for you (spreadsheets-numbers) and open up your imagination to what a story needs to thrive.

The spreadsheet has become the Story itself, made up of smaller stories, made up of words and ideas, made up of Us. You come, too.  Write in the grid, but push against the confines of those grids. Simon kickstarted the Story. Now, take the Story to where it needs to go. Take the Story with you. Leave the Story with Us.

Write the Story …

Peace (beyond the territory),
Kevin

 

Hacker Feminist Barbie: Pushing Back at Gender Stereotypes

So, this is interesting … coming out of a controversy in which Mattel pulled a book from its Barbie collection in which Barbie is cast in a role as a computer engineer, but the story is framed as Barbie being someone who needs help from the boys to get things done, like the actual coding and programming. Lots of push back, as there should be, and then a few folks set up this site that allows you to hack and remix the Barbie book with your own writing.

I like that kind of push-back. You should give this a try, too. I am thinking of how to bring this into the classroom during the Hour of Code, perhaps. Maybe …

Here are two of the pages that I hacked …

Hacker Barbie

Hacker Barbie2

Peace (in breaking the stereotypes),
Kevin

 

Playing with Light

Playing with Light

This weekend’s writing prompt for Digital Writing Month brought me right back to the Making Learning Connected MOOC Make Cycle, in which we were asked to play with light. So, too, is the call for this weekend’s digital exploration, so I went back to find a nifty online tool called Glow Doodle, which uses your webcam to create arcs of light.

In the pictures above, I used two different flashlights, playing around with the light trails that they made in the image. I’d like to experiment a bit more with it when I have time. It’s one of those “whoah” sites whose applications beyond the “cool factor” I am having trouble wrapping my head around.

Still, the “cool factor” is pretty strong. Give Glow Doodle a try and see what you think.

Peace (in the afterglow),
Kevin

A video:

 

Girls, Gaming and Gender Stereotypes

lego gender remixerI’ve shared this Lego Gender Remix site before but it is so powerful in what it does that it is always worth sharing out again. I used this site yesterday in my class of sixth graders as we begin diving into the concepts of our Digital Life unit, in which we explore technology and media from a variety of angles. Talking to 11 year olds about the permanence of the web and technology … it’s an eye-opening experience for many of them.

One of the many angles we explore is advertising and gender stereotyping (a term which is relatively unfamiliar to them and which leads to a long discussion about cultural values placed on gender). If you spend time with the Lego Remixer site, you’ll see why it is so powerful for this conversation. By mixing the media of a “boys’ commercial” with the media of a “girls’ commercial,” you can deconstruct the stereotypes embedded in the advertising.

It’s a real eye-opener for many of my students when we do this, and in one of my classes, it led to a long discussion about the design of aisles in toy stores (the few that are left in existence). The girls’ aisle? All dolls and filly pink dresses and unicorns and horses. The boys? Guns and vehicles and action heroes.

“You know,” one of my astute girls observed, “if we saw a boy walking down the girls’ aisle at the toy store, we’d probably make a judgment about them. We’d look at them funny.”

Another piped in. “But if a girl is in the boys’ aisle, no one cares,” he added, and the room went silent as we thought about that. No one disagreed with those assumptions.

We talked about avatars, which was the main hub of our lesson, and how people represent or misrepresent themselves in online spaces. I asked my students why they think a boy might use a girl avatar or vice versa. More quiet thinking.

“In some gaming sites,” said one boy, “girls are not always welcomed. Maybe a girl would want a boy avatar so they can just play and not get harassed.”

No one took exception to that insight — that girls are treated differently in gaming sites that they visit. But when I asked if girls are as good gamers as boys, everyone agreed that gender does not connect with gaming skills.

So, I asked, why are girls treated different? More quiet.

“I think it’s because some sites are like clubs for boys,” a girl suggested,” and they think they own the world. They don’t like having girls in the club.”

“Or,” suggested another girl, ” they don’t like that girls being better than them at the game.”

Some of you know that I teach a video game design unit, and I do try to pay attention to these gender issues. It’s not a boy-centric unit of learning, yet I do find I have to be attentive to supporting and elevating the girls to a certain confidence level. Many girls seem apt to cede the expertise to the boys, and I work against that tide.

When I showcase student-created games as exemplars, I make sure the girls get slightly more equal footing than the boys. I ask girls who have figured out “workarounds” to share that knowledge and insight with the class. I don’t ignore the boys, but I pay attention to the girls a little bit more in our gaming unit. I have never heard any of my boys speak down to girls when we do gaming. But I am not naive, either. I know it happens in the spaces where I don’t go and that the adult world simmers with these inequities.

Look at this quote from Anita Sarkeesian, who is the heart of #Gamergate.

“The notion that gaming was not for women rippled out into society, until we heard it not just from the games industry, but from our families, teachers and friends. As a consequence, I, like many women, had a complicated, love-hate relationship with gaming culture.” from New York Times

What is very obvious each year is this insight as a teacher: my girls often design and build and publish more engaging games than my boys do. Ok, so I am generalizing a bit and maybe stereotyping my kids, but it’s true. (Note to self: document this during this year’s project?) The girls often design their video games with rich storytelling, where the game play informs the storytelling (the while premise of our game design unit). The boys go for the rapid fire action, the shooting avatars, the survival of the protagonist. Their stories are often the weakest element of their projects.

My challenge as a teacher is to do my best to remove those walls and have girls and boys share the best of what they bring to the table, so that we can all learn together as a community of many, not a group of two genders. I can’t take it for granted that gender issues do not exist as a wedge in the world of gaming and beyond. It does. I just need to be cognizant of this reality, and make sure girls are not just invited into the party, but are front and center alongside the boys at all times.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

 

Speaking of the Web …

The focus on the Web in Connected Courses reminded me of this fascinating, if slightly alarming (for sheer flow), tool from Gary Hayes that shows the flow of social media being created and shared at any given moment in time. Get it running and then come back after a few minutes. You’ll see what I mean …

I show this to my students, and with parents, and even with other teachers, if only to give a representative scale of how technology and digital media inform our lives these days.

Peace (in the flow),
Kevin

The Path of a Poetic Thought

I had the pleasure of being part of an impromptu chain of poetic events yesterday, which stems in part from discussions in the Connected Courses, although all of those in this poetic chain are existing connections.

I may have gotten the very start of the poetic path wrong. I wasn’t there at the gathering, so I am interpreting from the echoes of words left as breadcrumbs from others, and I suspect there may be more to this that unfolded outside my field of vision. Isn’t that always the case anyway? Aren’t we always left to our interpretations of where an idea has begun and where it may yet end up?

So … I made a map, of sorts. Follow along, and take the connection further, if you will. We made room for you. Find an anchor and write. Make a connection and invite us in.

Peace (in the pursuit of a poetic idea),
Kevin

What We Made: A Collection of Tech Tools

Peter Kittle started up a crowdsourcing activity early on in the Making Learning Connected MOOC — asking people to add tools and technology resources they were using as they were “making” projects this summer. I took that list and grouped things as best as I could, and share it here with you. A list like this can be useful to a limited degree — in the end, what you compose and make comes from your own ideas, not the tools themselves. Still ….

Curated Collection of #CLMOOC Tools

Peace (beyond the tools),
Kevin

Six Image Memoir (as digital story)

During some discussions over at the Making Learning Connected MOOC about this week’s Make Cycle of a Five Image Story, I wondered aloud about whether another variation might be a Six Image Memoir, inspired by the Six Word Memoir idea.

I decided to give it a try, using Adobe Voice to create a digital story. I am happy enough with how it came out, but I don’t think it came out as a story — it was more of a list of personality traits and roles I have in life, so I am still wondering how this might work better to tell a narrative of a memoir. I mulled over whether I needed to have any text, and I decided, it needed it for context (another discussion point going on this week with using images to tell a story.)

You will also notice that I used info-art, not real images, and that was a purposeful choice in that I wanted consistency of tone and composition across the six images. Maybe I will do a variation where I find images to represent the six traits.

What about you? What would your six images be?

Peace (in the memoir),
Kevin

 

Fruit Horror: A Movie Short (by my son)


I wrote about my 9 year old son being part of Apple Movie Camp last week, and here is his final short movie about fruit and a blender called Fruit Horror. I helped only with the filming (holding the video camera for him, and using the big knife). He made the soundtrack, did the editing, etc, and I had to resist the urge to do too much with him.

On the last day of the free(!) camp, we watched about three dozen short movies (true!) made during the week by kids, and most had no or little narrative structure. Some seemed to go on forever about nothing and others were just video taken of self. I am not being critical of the kids, who were making movies after all instead of watching them so that is good, nor of the Apple camp, which only ran three days for 90 minutes each day and that’s not enough time to do much (did I mention it was free?).

But the Showcase Viewing that we experienced does point to the need for us educators to still teach story and narrative and pacing, even in video production (storyboards help), and to have young people consider audience and all of the elements of storytelling that we have always taught for print media. It still have value in the digital age. It brings to mind how we can’t assume young people know what they are doing when we put them in front of a screen, or put a video camera in their hands, or a microphone, or whatever.

We still need to teach the skills that underly how they compose for the world.

Peace (in the blender),
Kevin