A Story West of Here: The Elk of the Stars

The Elk of the Stars

I’ve been thinking of Tall Tales with the #Western106 open course, and have even pitched the idea to everyone to collaboratively write and record a Tall Tale radio program. We’ll see how that goes. (Hey, of course YOU are invited, too. Invent a persona. Add to the script. Venture out West with us. It is loosely labeled Smoke Signals.)

I went into Storybird, a picture book story-making site with an interesting art/writing twist, thinking I was going to start writing an original Tall Tale. Instead, I came away with this story that is definitely not a Tall Tale. I went with the Muse. This one is informed by my reading, listening and watching of Western narratives — of the incursion of White Settlers on traditional American Indian lands, and the great and devastating Changes that would happen. That did happen. That are still happening.

What came out was this story entitled  The Elk of the Stars.

I suspect my story has stereotypes and pillars of the Western genre, but I hope it comes across as a heartfelt ode to remembering the power of Stories to heal and to help the Earth. I know Stories are not enough. But they are something.

Storybird is a site that allows you to write stories, by using professional illustrators’ work. It’s an interesting process because you call up art based on keywords or artists, and then build a story around the images you have available (not the other way around … traditionally, you would write a story and then make images to go with the narrative). So, I took time to absorb the artwork before beginning the story after searching “West” as my keyword. I like how it came out, so much so that I paid a few bucks to get a download of the picture book to save (and share).

I later moved the PDF over to a Flipbook creator for better sharing but you really have to use full-screen mode to get the flavor. Or you can read it over at Storybird.

Peace (in this tale),
Kevin

At Middleweb: Nurturing Writing Skills with Video Game Design

My latest blog post for Middleweb is a reflection on the various kinds of writing activities we do in our video game design unit. I know this kind of sharing is important for teachers wondering about the potential for video game design but still juggling how to meet their curriculum goals.

Read Infusing Writing Standards into Video Game Design at Middleweb

These ideas were part of a presentation done this past week at a technology conference, and I am revamping the presentation a bit for the Web, so I will share that out another day.

Peace (in the learning),
Kevin

Quotes from a Tech Conference (What I Heard)

I co-presented on our science-based video game project and attended a technology in education conference yesterday. This morning, I was looking over my notes, and I decided to pull out some of the quotes that I heard.

antero

Antero Garcia kicked off the conference with an intriguing youth-centered Keynote Address that reminded us to pay attention to cultural values, students as writers in the larger world outside our classrooms, and the role that educators have in broadening the views of our students.

eric

Eric Braun, a college professor, talked about a digital storytelling app that he and others developed for the Apple Store. I can’t say I was all that ‘wow’-ed by the app itself — it didn’t do anything that free apps can’t do — but the centering of discussion around stories always pulls me in. I had hoped to have a deeper discussion about how digital stories are different media experiences from both the viewer and composer standpoint than print stories (brought to recognition by a question from a participant about printing out the stories made on the app.)

gaby

Gaby Richard-Harrington‘s session on reading and writing in the digital age could have used another hour. It’s a huge topic, as readers of my blog know. And Richard-Harrington’s focus on how we can use technology to improve opportunities for literacy growth for students with learning needs, in particular, was important, and needs much more work done in PD sessions. I loved that she cited the work on Connected Reading ideas of two of my good friends — Troy Hicks and Franki Sibberson — in her presentation. She had to rush through some of the apps that she uses in her teaching life at the end, and I wish we had had more time to play.

peter

And Peter Billman-Golemme got my attention with a session around leaving audio comments on student work right in Google Docs. He showed us the app Kaizena, which seems to have potential but I worry about the complicated set-up (I had issues in setting it up and that sets off red flags for me when thinking of my students … but then, when we had it working, and commenting on writing from others in the session, I could see the idea in action). He shared some research around the power of teacher voice to help students make revisions on text, but admitted that he is still figuring out its impact. I am going to be tinkering more with this app, too, and looking for others that provide the same audio commenting experience (I can see students reflecting on their own writing this way, right?), but with lower entry hurdles (leave comment if you have suggestion, please).

Peace (in the listen),
Kevin

 

 

 

 

 

The Signal From Inside the Annotation Flash Mob Noise

Annotate

That was interesting. Last night, I followed an invitation of my friends, Terry and Joe, and took part in an online annotation Flash Mob experience, where a bunch of folks mostly used the tool Hypothesis (a browser add-on) to close read and annotate a New York Times article … about annotation.

The article is worth reading, just for the read. (if you have the Hypothesis add-on, you can also read all of the annotations on the article, and add your own)

But the act of annotating an online article together, as a crowd, is always an interesting experience. There are a lot of tools out there to do this, from the comment feature in Google Docs to Genius to Diigo and more. Hypothesis is a nice tool, clean to view, and if the tool is activated, when you come to a page that someone else has annotated, it allows you to view and comment and add to other people’s annotations. You can also add images, video and animated GIFs. It saves your annotation into your own “home” stream.

Annotate Flashmob Hangout

The way the Annotation Flash Mob worked was a bunch of us hung out in a Google Hangout, talked about annotation, and then got to work — all the while talking through the annotation process and screen-sharing what we were doing. Well, I found I could not really talk and listen closely, while also reading closely and annotating, so I sort of found myself in my own little cloud of thoughts for a big chunk of time. There was a bit too much “noise” for my brain to handle, but I did the best I could to listen, read and write.

For me, the best part was the end, when we stopped annotating and starting talking reflectively about the implications of this kind of online annotations for learning in the classroom.

  • Ian talked about having students in his college courses annotate the syllabus with suggestions and comments.
  • Joe talked about the power of the crowd, coming together on a single document (apparently, that is going on tonight with the State of the Union speech) as an example of social networking.
  • Jeremy (of Hypothesis) talked about (or wrote about) how teachers can keep track of student work, and the article references how this might fold into student learning portfolios.
  • Terry noticed Karen working all through the hour, and talked about how one might video-capture with reflection the act of annotation as a way to show your learning and thinking.
  • Remi noted how this kind of active annotation might have more value than Twitter chats and other social gathering activities, where too much affirmation and cordiality might soften some deeper learning and sharing of insights.

Many of us, including me, wondered, as voiced by Terry, So now that you have all this “noise” of annotation, how do you find the signal? How do you curate your annotations, and your crowd’s annotations, into something useful that moves beyond that single moment of time?

We did not have a solid answer, except to note that teaching the art of curation is getting relatively short-thrift in a lot of our classrooms. Ian noted that by not teaching curating, we are missing an opportunity and important skills in the information-rich Digital Age.

I agree. This blog post is one way that I am doing for myself. I am trying to make sense of our Flash Mob activity, but to be frank, the idea of now going back through more than 50 annotations on the page from last night seems rather daunting …

Peace (in the signal),
Kevin

 

Short Poems for Shortened Days (Twitter Haiku)

For just about every day in December, as the days got shorter and shorter, I joined a group of friends in writing poetry, mostly haiku, and sharing out via Twitter each morning. Some others wrote at their blogs and then shared the links on Twitter. I decided that I would just use Twitter, and then half-way through the month, I realized something: I was losing track of the poems. They were disappearing into the media stream.

So I set up a Storify project and began backtracking in time, gathering the poems together, and then each day afterwards, I made sure to add the new poem into the collection. Phew.

What’s interesting *and a bit frustrating* is that the haiku lining formatting gets flattened in this kind of sharing. I guess you will have envision the 5/7/5 syllables. Still, in this way, the tweets seem like another form of poetry, with words flowing across the character confines.

Thank you Mary Lee, Carol, Steve, Leigh, and Carol.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

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