Crazy Collaborative Dictionary Project: From Amic to Zzaj

New Words 2017

Now in our 12th year of collecting newly invented words (ranging alphabetically from Aamic to Zzaj) from sixth graders, our Crazy Collaborative Dictionary is pushing nearly 1,000 invented words. The invention of language is part of our lessons around the origins of words, and the roots of the English Language, and we have a blast with this word-invention activity.

But what amazes me is that this year’s class of word inventors weren’t even born when the first class of word inventors began making up words in 2005. Actually, we didn’t use a wiki until 2006, I think, but we used to publish the words as an in-house dictionary document. We started with an old wiki site called Seedwiki, and then moved to Wikispaces when Seedwiki kicked the bucket.

Once I had the first version of the wiki dictionary up, we shifted to the online dictionary concept (as well as lessons about this thing called the Internet and what in the world Wikis were). I’ve had them submit words all sorts of ways. This year, we set up a Google Form to collect words into a database.

A few years ago, we added podcasting to the activity, giving students a chance to record their word and definition. As I now pitch it to them, their voice will be forever (well, we’ll see about that, right? Forever is a long time in Internetland) linked to their word, in this moment in time. Five years, or ten years, from now, they should be able to “listen” to their sixth grade self, reading out their word and definition at the Crazy Collaborative Dictionary. (I am still connecting podcasts to this year’s collection of words)

I think that idea is pretty nifty, as is the concept that many of my students are now “collaborating” with older siblings, some of whom have graduated and are in college, or in jobs. But their words are there, in our dictionary, as are their siblings’ new words. As a father of three kids, I find that idea of cross-year collaboration pretty magical indeed.

Peace (words matter),
Kevin

Google’s Story Experiments in 360 Degrees


PLANET BREMEN flickr photo by jonasginter shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Google’s shift into transforming video stories with 360 degree perspectives dovetails nicely with the push into virtual reality storytelling, and some of the talk scattered around Networked Narratives (and more likely to come). This release — Pearl — tells the heart-warming story of a father and daughter, all set inside and near a car, and the viewer can move around the setting of this car as time passes on.

What I find fascinating is how this kind of video/story experiment begins to push the agency of the storytelling to the viewer, who can move around the “car” here, or just keep the eyes focused outside the windows. The story unfolds, but where the lens is looking all depends on us. I think that is intriguing.

Watch Pearl (I am embedded it here but I think you might need to go to the video on YouTube). I see they have other stories now published, too. I like Pearl, though, for its emotional connection (see? Story overrides tech, even as tech complements story)

And watch the Behind the Scenes video of the Making of Pearl.

Peace (with stories),
Kevin

#NetNarr: Getting Elemental with Poetry

NetNarr Element Poems

Part of the “assignment” this week for the Networked Narratives course is to document the four Elements, as part of a larger discussion about Digital Alchemy. As usual, I decided that the idea of eight images of the elements (four literal, four interpreted) wasn’t what I wanted to do. But I did wonder if I could write four short poems, based on the elements of earth, wind, fire and water.

Using the app Legend, which animates text against a visual background, I got down to work, trying to hint at the elements but trying to write about something larger. I hoped the visual would connect to the element, as well as some key phrases. The constraints were length: Legend only allows a short amount of text, and the resulting animation is only six seconds.

But I was happy with each of the poems, which I think mostly captured what I was trying to accomplish in terms of the elements as inspiration for writing.

I posted each short poem on Twitter, via the #Netnarr hashtag, but then realized I really wanted them to be stitched together, so that all four poems of four elements became one digital composition. I turned to Animoto as the easiest way (I could have done it in iMovie) but also because I knew they had “elements” themes. The “air” theme seemed right, particularly when I found the “rain” song to go with it.

Networked Narratives is a hybrid course – part of a Keane University offering AND an open invitation to anyone. Come join the fun, with Mia Zamora and Alan Levine leading the way.

Peace (braving the elements),
Kevin

Engaging Students (and Educators) as Citizens of the Digital Age

Jacqueline Vickery Keynote

There’s a term kicking around the new Networked Narratives course that I keep referring to and which I am curious to get to in the coming weeks: Civic Imagination. Mia Zamora hints at this a bit with her posts over at DML about the Networked Narratives course that is a hybrid between a university class and an open course (with Alan Levine), with the theme of digital storytelling.

Mia’s terminology was on my mind yesterday as I listened to a keynote presentation by Jacqueline Vickery, a professor and researcher out of Texas, during a local technology conference that I attended. Vickery’s focus in her talk was about engaging students as citizens in the Digital Age, and how adults often thwart those moves by teenagers to engage with the world through fear and intimidation. Vickery’s talk reminded me of the deep work by danah boyd, too, and how we need to pay attention to the “stories” of our young people, and help them find ways to positively engage with the world through social media and other technology/communication avenues.

Vickery (who has a book coming out called Worried about the Wrong Things: Youth, Risk and Opportunity in the Digital Age) noted that her research comes from observing young people interacting with technology. Many adults — parents and teachers and public policy makers — often react without taking the time to understand the underlying issues, or what is really taking place between youths when they connect.

“This narrative (of young people not in control and falling prey to the dangers lurking everywhere) … ignores what they are doing with technology,” Vickery said. “We often hear young people’s technology use pathologized .. (ie, web junkies, addiction, etc.) … as if they have no sense of agency of what they are doing, as if they are just passive users of technology.”

TIE Conference

Vickery laid out some tenets of helping young people see themselves as Citizens of the Digital Age (see image above), where social interaction across the technology is a vital component for participatory media and connections, for the betterment of the world.

She asked, rather rhetorically, if schools were doing enough to teach students about use of technology, from the standpoint of:

  • Civic Engagement
  • Emotional Growth
  • Social Justice
  • Equity

Probably not, in my estimation.

And this brings me back around to Mia’s reference to the term of Civic Imagination, and it has me wondering how we help students envision a better world ahead of them, and then how to turn that imaginative yearning into reality through awareness, information, agency and engagement with the world. This is the whole underlying premise of Connected Learning, by the way.

Vickery didn’t dispute that there are places where young people need help and oversight from adults to navigate the tricky waters of technology, but overall, she remains positive about the choices and the actions of young people.

“There are many ways to connect students with digital media, to see themselves as agents of change and active citizens,” she said, near the end of her talk. “If we view young people as agents of change, then we as adults can help them.”

Peace (here and into there),
Kevin

 

TIE Proposal: Making Interactive Fiction

I am pitching this idea on Interactive Fiction Writing at the Technology in Education Conference in Western Massachusetts as part of the “unconference” part of the, eh, conference today. So, if my ideas gets accepted, you are probably here. If not accepted, you are still here. Welcome. Now, how about making a playable story?

There are many posts here about Interactive Fiction and digital writing, if you are interested.

Peace (in every direction),
Kevin

 

Flocabulary Gets It Right: Civil Rights Hip-Hop Resource

(This is a post from the past that seems worth re-sharing today. — Kevin)
MLK Day Dream

Flocabulary has a great musical resource available for remember Martin Luther King Jr. and honoring the Civil Rights movement. Along with the hip hop song that brings in words and imagery into the flow, the group provides a set of lyrics you can print out. Whenever I use Flocabulary and their mad rhymes, my students pay attention. The site even has a classroom view, allowing the video to come into center focus. You can’t embed the video in other sites because Flocabulary sells subscriptions (and periodically, makes resources like this one free).

Check it out.

And remember and honor the man whose voice continues to ring out and resonate with much of the country.

Peace (on this day),
Kevin

The Power of Language: Trump on Twitter

Thanks to Ian for sharing this in his newsletter. The video by Nerdwriter is alarmingly fascinating in closely examining the way Trump uses Twitter (and brings up for me the entirely other important question of what happens when — and I believe it will be “when” not “if” — Trump’s account gets hacked).

Check out this analysis of language and rhetoric and impact:

More analysis is here. And here.

The fact is, it is both frustrating and fascinating to watch news unfold this way. Mostly frustrating, because Trump’s inability to be articulate is likely intentional (or not?) and yet, the social media platform allows him to rattle the world while drinking coffee in his pajamas. That’s alarming, all right. (see my earlier note about worrying about his account getting hacked.)

This data analysis over use of language, though, is interesting, if one can remove feelings about Trump from the equation. (OK, that’s hard to do.) Parsing through words and tone, and use of devices for writing, make for an interesting way to see how Trump interacts with the world, particularly through the “emotional charged” language (many of his tweets are negative, not surprisingly) and the sharp endings of Tweets and use of exclamation points that are “framing devices”  for his rhetorical message.

The video notes that we are used to seeing this kind of spontaneous outbursts from our friends and wacky relatives. It’s part of the social networking fabric.

“… what we’re not familiar with … is this kind of thing (using Twitter for thinking out loud) from the most powerful person in the world and how it will fall out when you hold a position where even your words, desperately tweeted into the void, have global impact …” — from Nerdwriter video

Ack. Or, as Trump would end his tweet: Ack!

Peace (please),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Filter (OLW 2017)

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

If you don’t know of the One Little Word project, it is a sort of New Year’s resolution to find a single word that might guide you forward into the coming year. Last year, mine was “remember” and I kept it on my desktop all year, as a reminder to keep a foot in the past even as I moved forward.

My one word for 2017 is going to be “filter.” I chose this word because I know I need to filter my news a bit more. I am NOT one of those who gets my primary news from social media, but still … it seems like I need to more active in where I get news and from places I trust. I need to better read beyond the news, too, and not trust reporters and writers to give me the whole story. I have an obligation as a reader.

I don’t intent for my “filter” to become a closed loop, however. Or another echo chamber. I will use my filter to seek out different opinions and hopefully, engage in discussions that are meaningful. I hope my filter helps filter out the nonsense, so some semblance of a truth comes through.

Also, I need to filter my anger and angst at the Trump presidency and the GOP Congress (it’s already difficult, given that GOP gutted the ethics commission that holds Congress accountable). But if I get angry at every little thing, then I won’t be able to discern real outrage when I need it.

(I made this via http://textanim.com/)

Peace (filtering for hope),
Kevin

App Review: StickNodes

A few weeks ago, for the #CLMOOC DigiWriMo Pop Up Make Cycle, the focus was on animation. There are all sorts of apps that allow you to animate now, and StickNodes is one of my favorites (I paid the $1.99 for the Pro version). It’s an update on an old freeware that I used to use with students called Pivot Animator. When we shifted to Macs, I had to move away from Pivot (it is a PC-only freeware) and tried Stykz for a bit.

StickNodes Pro is pretty easy to use, and has a lot of powerful features for animating stick figures. It’s also pretty darn fun to use. You can create and then export your animation as video or gif files, which can be hosted elsewhere.

Here is one of my early experiments: Stickman Walking. (I had uploaded it into Vine, which you can no longer do)

 

No surprise that there are tutorial videos on YouTube for using the app. Here is the first in a series done by this person.

Give it a try. Or try some other app, and let us know. We’re animating this week!

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

On the Mystery of Memes

We had to deal with is likely a “sign of the times” as our youngest son moves from adolescence into teenager (we still have six months!), and he learns more about the reach of media. I won’t share the whole story but it has to do with him sending an email blast to a bunch of friend and teachers with an image he thought was cute and funny.

It wasn’t.

It was an image of Pepe the frog. Which, if you followed the election and the emergence of the so-called Alt-Right, you will know that the image of Pepe has been, let’s say, taken over by the extreme right wing for racist insults. A frog is not just a frog on the Interwebz anymore. Pepe is a cartoon from the days of MySpace comic, and artist Matt Furie is trying to reclaim his image. Good luck with that.

To be fair, my son only shared an image of Pepe and not any of the nasty, dangerous memes. He was clueless about the back story of Pepe until I saw what he had done and sat down, and we had a conversation about the hidden meanings of many memes. Many times, the harsh meaning of memes is disguised behind a cute image. I had printed out an article about how the Anti-Defamation League had declared Pepe a “hate symbol” after the election, and showed him a blurb in Time Magazine about it.

This, from the ADL:

Images of the frog, variously portrayed with a Hitler-like moustache, wearing a yarmulke or a Klan hood, have proliferated in recent weeks in hateful messages aimed at Jewish and other users on Twitter.

“Once again, racists and haters have taken a popular Internet meme and twisted it for their own purposes of spreading bigotry and harassing users,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “These anti-Semites have no shame. They are abusing the image of a cartoon character, one that might at first seem appealing, to harass and spread hatred on social media.”

My son was taken aback, as he should have been, and then proceeded to write out apology notes for two of his teachers that he shared it with over email (we also had a longer talk about careful and considerate use of email and sharing  media with people), explaining his ignorance of the hidden meaning and stating that he is not a racist or right-wing fanatic.

Of course, they know that, but it was the act of apology that made the action right to do (and it turns out, one of his teachers was completely ignorant of Pepe, too.)

One resource that is valuable for us, as adults, and perhaps for kids, too, is Know Your Meme — a vast database of information about the histories of memes and the current usage of them. We all might want to spend some more time and thought on what we are sending before we send them out into the world.

Peace (in reflection),
Kevin