eBook Review: The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

Cover (CC BY { pranav }I am a big fan of Doug Belshaw, and his work via the Mozilla Foundation and on his own to shine a light on what it means to be a writer/composer/creator in the digital landscape. Belshaw thinks deep about what it means to be literate in this technological world, yet he offers an even eye on the world, too — being critical when criticism is needed and being a cheerleader when possibilities emerge.

Belshaw has now published an interesting ebook — The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies — that expands this thinking beyond his insightful tweets and weekly newsletter and short blog posts (with a few longer ones in the mix from time to time). He is involved in some interesting projects with Mozilla around digital literacies, including some mapping projects related to how we use the Web to learn, write, read, interact and more. What he wants to get a handle on, as do many of us, is how the influx of powerful and relatively cheap technology is changing our literate lives.

“As devices become cheaper and easier to use, the barrier to entry becomes less to do with technology and affordability and more to do with cultural and social factors. Digital literacies are not solely about technical proficiency but about the issues, norms and habits of mind surrounding technologies we use for a particular purpose.” Belshaw (45)

Belshaw’s ebook is an intriguing look ¬†inside that shifting landscape, as Belshaw brings us on a journey to explore the difficulties of understanding digital literacies (or it is all just one larger Digital Literacy? This is one of the questions he tackles); how our sense of what has come before us in terms of literacy is shaping what is now in front of us, and maybe hampering our abilities to comprehend those changes; how memes are an interesting metaphor for the ways in which the spread of information and collaboration has taken hold in digital spaces; and how remixing content, in any of its many forms, is an act of purposeful composition that should be embraced and valued, and taught.

Belshaw helpfully breaks down his own view of digital literacies into eight main elements or lenses from which to view the digital world, and our own interactions:

  • Cultural
  • Cognitive
  • Constructive
  • Communicative
  • Confident
  • Creative
  • Critical
  • Civic

These eight elements become the threads of Belshaw’s analysis throughout the book, and I found these anchors to be useful as discussion pieces and reflective points in my role as a teacher. It certainly moves us beyond the harmful dichotomy of the Digital Native/Immigrant idea.

I  highly recommend The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies as an insightful look at how our world is in the midst of intense change, and how we can think of literacies at the heart of it all. If nothing else, put Doug Belshaw on your radar as someone to follow and learn from. The book is only available as an ebook, I believe.

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

 

Find Your Muse: Making an Animated Meme

I’ve tinkered with animated GIFs before (most notably, with DS106) and when I saw a fellow traveler in the Making Learning Connected MOOC world sharing an animated GIF meme, I thought: I gotta try that.

So, I did. Here’s how I went about it.

First, I found a clip on YouTube that I liked (of Lisa Simpson playing her saxophone).

Then, I grabbed the url of that video and went into a site called Make a Gif, which does what it sounds like it does: it creates animated GIF files out of YouTube videos. I took just the first three seconds of the video, as the loop of Lisa playing while Homer kicks back and dreams of other things while Lisa kicks out her saxophone jams.

Then, I went into an online photo editor called EZGif, which allows you to layer in text on top of animated GIF files.

I’ve run into problems hosting animated GIF files before and I have found that if I use Flickr and grab the “original” image (not the embed code that Flickr gives you, as that will flatten the GIF down to a static image) via copy/paste, and place that original upload file directly into my blog post, it will remain animated.

The result?

 

Pretty nifty, eh? Go give it a try and share out what you made as part of this Make Cycle around memes. We’re moving to shift gears out of this Make Cycle but it never really ends. You can enter into the conversation with the CLMOOC whenever you arrive.

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

There Are No Digital Natives

Here is yet another canon shot against that Native/Immigrant divide that we sometimes refer to … which does not exist with such clarity as one might be believe, so how about we stop using these terms? Agreed?

My friend, Bill Ferriter, wrote a post about this, too, focusing on how teachers are often called Digital Immigrants, as if they can’t find the power button on a computer or something.
Reading Bill’s post led to me make these two comics:
Not a Digital Native
Take that, Native Boy

Peace (in the shift),
Kevin

Making Pokemon Cards

My youngest son has suddenly sparked an interest in Pokemon cards. I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of Pokemon cards and games, and worlds, and accept that this Pokemon universe is a kid’s world of knowledge. I’m Ok with that.

But I would love to steer him to make his own cards, and I remembered a site that Chad Sansing had shared with me a long time ago that allows you to do just that: make your own cards, online. The site was shared by someone else on Twitter this week, and I suddenly remembered Chad’s idea from last summer.

Check it out

So, I’ve been tinkering with the site, and it works OK. The trickiest part has been getting the image the right size so that it isn’t completely smooshed and flattened in the card. I’m still working on that. But my son (he’s away this weekend) will be thrilled by this activity. You can download the cards as image files, or share/publish them at the site.

Here’s one I made, using an art app on the Ipad. I was going for a saxophone-themed creature.
Saxophonius Pokemon

Here’s another I made for my friend, Terry, using Bitstrips to create an avatar of him as Captain Zeega.
captain zeega card
Pretty nifty, even if I have no idea of the different powers and rules of the Pokemon universe.

Peace (in the cards),
Kevin

 

Remixing Dave with YouTube Video Editor

youtube editor
I was watching a video interview with Dave Cormier, whose work around open learning is so thoughtful and interesting (and whose Rhizomatic Learning course was a fantastic learning adventure earlier this year), when I got distracted by a “remix this video” button.

Of course, I clicked the button.

And I got pulled into the YouTube video remixer/editing tool, which allows you to do a few things with online videos (but folks who put up videos have to allow it in their settings). You can splice the video, add text, change transitions, insert audio, and more. It’s interesting and I need to spend more time, but I had fun adding some words on top of Dave as he was being interviewed.

I’ve used the tool a bit before, but it has been some time since I’ve gotten back to it, and it has been improved. I love the remix element of it, too, and wonder how far it can be pushed.

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin

 

When We Fold Stories

I’ve been experimenting with a site called Fold That Story, which allows you to collaborate on a story, one small piece at a time (without knowing the pieces written prior to the one before you, so the writer is always in the dark about where things really began). So far, so good, and I may tinker with it with my sixth graders here at the end of the year, particularly with the option of allowing them to create their own stories.

Here are the results of two folded stories that I set in motion with teachers in our iAnthology writing space.

Inside This Poem

along the tops of trees

Peace (in the fold),
Kevin

Trigger Warnings: An Animated Poem

trigger warnings poem
You could not escape the phrase “trigger warnings” last week, as colleges and universities grappled with the idea of warning students about text before reading, and the battle over censorship and the protective society. I say, let young adults read without warnings, and if disturbed, so much the better for the discussions and experiences that follow.

Anyway, those news reports inspired me to write a poem that warns the reader about the poem, and recommends they take a chance anyway. I used Webmaker’s Thimble for this one.

Check out Trigger Warnings

Peace (in the text),
Kevin

Internet: Data Flow

You may have already seen this but it is yet another way to get your mind around how much flow is happening in online spaces. Or, you might not be able to get your mind around it. Still, our students and what they are doing is part of this mix.

Click the image to open the interactive version (via PennyStocks.la).

Peace (in the flow),
Kevin

 

App Review: Adobe Voice for Digital Stories

I have to admit: the new digital storytelling app from Adobe, called Voice, is such a breeze to use that I wonder why other apps are not set up. With a clean design, clear steps and access to Creative Commons images and infographic symbols and my own pictures, Adobe Voice really raises the bar for how you can tell a story on a mobile device. I’ve been toying around with it for a few days.

Here, for example, is a book trailer that I did yesterday as my son and I finished reading Scat:

Here is one from the other day, as a promo for Making Learning Connected MOOC:

Both stories took me about 10 minutes each to make and to publish. I did not hit a single hurdle in either story. Clear commands on what to do — record your voice, add an image, choose a theme, pick a song — are easily accessible. You have to have an Adobe account to publish your story to the Web. And the story, as far as I can tell, can’t be saved natively to your mobile device, nor shared directly into YouTube or other video sharing sites. That’s too bad, but I suspect Adobe made this app free (yep, free) so that people would have to come under the Adobe umbrella.

If you are interested in Digital Storytelling, I suggest you check out Adobe Voice. For ease and design, I have not yet come across anything similar, and I can live with the drawbacks that I listed above if the trade-off is in design.

Peace (in the voice),
Kevin