Strange Music Fun with Acapella App

The folks how made the PicPlayPost app that I use quite a bit and like for its multimedia possibilities (it allows you to make a collage with images and video and then sequence them) must have realized that folks were using that app to make Acapella versions of themselves singing with themselves.

So, they took the PicPlayPost idea and made this new app called … Acapella. It feels like PicPlayPlay but it allows you to sing and play music with yourself, in a sort of Brady Bunch style of video screens. A metronome keeps you in time. You can use up to nine screens/frames. It’s strange. It’s weird. It’s all pretty nifty, and the free version allows for 30 seconds of music or so. (More than that and you need to upgrade to premium).

I was scrolling through the Acapella app homepage, where they feature singers and projects and most of the featured people are incredibly talented teenagers, harmonizing with themselves and working on songs within the app. How cool is that? Thanks to Laura for sharing this one with some of us on Twitter a few weeks ago.

I envision doing a “poems for multiple voices” with this app, but haven’t yet gotten that far. I wish you could start a file, and then send it along to someone else, who could add to it, and then send it to a third person …. but it doesn’t seem like you can do that right now within the scope of the app.

Peace (in the doowop),
Kevin

#DigiWriMo: Spelunking into the Story

Yesterday,  I shared out a transmedia piece that I created. I don’t know how many people tried it out. I do know that there plenty of places where the technology might have fallen apart. First and foremost, some of the sites and tricks I used worked only on computers, not mobile. That limitation is a big deal.

I am also trying to make visible my ideas around this term: transmedia. I am no expert. I am exploring, though, and so in the aim of showing what I was thinking and planning for my story, I figured it would be helpful to pull back the covers a bit.

Here, then, is overview of the entire project. I’ve used Thinglink to annotate my story map with links to the pieces. So feel free to bounce around. Unlike yesterday, when you were traveling blind among the caves of my imagination (which was the idea behind the construction), here I am providing you with a flashlight.

I’ve love to know how you experience it. The final link is an interactive wall, for you to leave me thoughts and comments and complaints.

Thanks for being explorers in this cave I built. Now, go spelunking into the story!

Peace (in the narrative path),
Kevin

Collaborative Song Recording: Peace Garden

Peace Garden musical collaboration

I love the element of collaboration that digital writing spaces bring to the forefront. Soundtrap is yet another, and one I have used before, but essentially, it is a Garageband-like loop music site that allows for collaborative recording and mixing of songs.

Cool.

Last week, after the horrible attacks in Paris, I was searching for some way to connect with my many friends in the Digital Writing Month community. Something that would bring us together and signal the need for peace in the world. Something reflective and collaborative. It would be a small gesture, perhaps, but change begins with small gestures. So, I went into my guitar case (it’s my unofficial filing cabinet of lyrics) and pulled out an old song called Peace Garden.

The backstory to this particular song is that I wrote it in the aftermath of a terrible event in our small city, where one high school student stabbed another high school student on the streets of our city after an argument. The victim died. It was horrible and shocking, and when the high school where both attacker and victim were students created a Peace Garden to remember their classmate and to promote peaceful resolution to conflict, a small musical group I was in (The Millenium Bugs) was invited to attend and perform a song or two. I wrote Peace Garden for that event.

This past week, I pulled it out again, dusting it off, and recorded a version in Soundtrap and then, I put out the call to others to join me in adding layers to the song. And they did. They did. I had Ron, and Alan, and Bryan, and Sarah, and Maha, and a few others popped in, too. Some left sounds. Some just listened and tweaked the mix. Some are still adding to it.

I’m happy for the collaboration, and satisfied that this kind of activity brings my own world, at least, a little closer on the theme of peace. May we all plant flowers in the ground and join together in making the world a better place today, tomorrow, forever.

Peace (in the garden and beyond),
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: A Garageband Tutorial

(I have been exploring sound with my students as part of Digital Writing Month. I also wrote a more expansive piece about these sound stories for my Middleweb monthly column this week.)

I was asked by a few visitors to my blog this week to create a tutorial for making “sound stories” with Garageband. I thought I might do a screencast, but then thought that screenshots with annotations might be better. (Note: You can do “Sound Stories” with other recording software, such as the free open-source Audacity. But you will need to find sounds to import for use. I have used Freesound before, and liked it. Garageband is helpful for students because it has more than 175 sound effects built into the system.)

Here is what I created to help you make a Sound Story (if it helps, click on the image to go to the actual image. A few seem to be getting clipped short by my blog):

SoundStory Tutorial1

SoundStory Tutorial2

SoundStory Tutorial3

SoundStory Tutorial4

SoundStory Tutorial5

I hope you make some cool sounds.

Peace (in the share)
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 Collaboration: Our Eyes on the Skies

This week, we move into Visual Literacies with Digital Writing Month. We continue to discover ways to engage people collaboratively, and the latest project is an inspiration by my friend, Kim Douillard, whose weekly photographic prompts are just a wonder in and of themselves.

As Kim is a guest contributor to the Digital Writing Month site this week, I asked if we could take her latest theme of “the sky” and turn it into something larger: a collaborative, global photo journal of people documenting the skies.

You are invited to join us, too. Head to the open Google Slide Presentation we are calling Our Eyes on the Skies, choose a slide, and upload an image of what you see when you look up. Add your geographic location, and name, if you are comfortable.

Peace (in the spirit of collaboration),
Kevin

 

Entering the Visual Through the Lens of Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard

I recently got inspired to check out Google Cardboard, the giant company’s cheap answer to expensive virtual reality technology that may (or may not) transform the way we play games and watch videos, and all of that hoopla.

In an ideal world, I would have downloaded one of the instruction kits and spent my weekend piecing together my own pair of Google Cardboard glasses myself. That would be in true Maker spirit.

Alas, I cheated and paid twelve bucks for a pre-made set of Google Cardboard off of Amazon. I have only just started to tinker a bit with some of the basic apps that come with Google Cardboard (some apps are available for smart phones, which then get placed in the front of the eyebox, on a sort of cardboard slot, and the magnifying eyes you look through zoom directly into the screen of your cell phone … it’s pretty ingenious).

So far, consider me impressed, as the depth perception of the Google Cardboard apps are pretty nifty and immersive. You move your head, and the scene shifts all around. You point your eyes towards objects and use a little clicker on top of the eyebox to click the “mouse.” Things happen. You glance up and start flying through the sky. (There is an app for a planetary tour of outer space … I am going to get that one.)

What I wonder about is how storytellers can use this visual trickery for interesting storytelling that pushes the edges of writing, but I suppose we are a bit too early for that to come to play (or if it has, I have not yet come across the app that will wow me … I admit, I have not yet done much exploring on the Google Play store).

And, given the relative inexpensiveness of Google Cardboard design (really, just magnified googly glass eyes in a cardboard box) coupled with the prowess and creativity of app designers, the possibilities for the classroom might not be as far as off as one would think. I like the potential for storytelling. How would you write for the virtual reality device?

As we explore the visual literacies in Digital Writing Month, it will be interesting to think about places where the possibilities of technology to expand storytelling might go deeper, even if the technology is not quite “there” yet. We take in so much information with our eyes, filtering data and making sense of connections, filling in the gaps of what we don’t see — that this kind of virtual reality possibility might bring on an entirely new experience for us as readers/viewers AND writers/composers.

Peace (in the scene),
Kevin

 

#DigiWriMo: A Mixed Media Wall of Wonder

The Digiwrimo Quote Wall

There are so many neat things going on with Digital Writing Month but one of the daily activities that I am enjoying is sharing out a quote from Frank Serafini’s Reading the Visual. And when I do, I add it to the “Wall” — a padlet site that I set up to collect the quotes and then I realized: this needs to be an open wall.

So, the wall became collaborative, and there is now just an amazing richness of quotes, remixes, links and other media on the Quote Wall that I just love moving through it, knowing it is being built together, as a network. Just looking at it is pretty cool. It’s like some virtual quilt being pieced together with media.

Add your quote about digital literacy or digital writing. It’s simple to use: just click anywhere on the wall and start writing. Or just peruse the wall. Unlike the famous “gum wall” in Seattle (which I saw in person a few years ago and was both grossed out and mesmerized by the sticky graffiti of it) , which is now being melted down and removed (the gum, not the wall) for hygiene reasons, our DigiWriMo Wall will remain firmly in place … unless Padlet changes things up and takes away my account.

Peace (in the share),
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