Sometimes, It’s All About the #TvsZ Metaphor

What a mad rush of playing #TvsZ 6.0 yesterday … in between family time (shopping for shoes, raking leaves, etc.), I popped into Twitter to play when I could as odd things unfolded, from a merging of teams (My team is now #DragonBovines) to multimedia creations, and some trash-talking as the main teams jostled for position in the literary landscape of the game (I hacked some photos last night with my cow character). We were writing poems, making videos and collaborating all day (although to be fair, I missed most of those activities … thankfully, other the other firecows had things under control).

This morning, I got to thinking again (see yesterday’s post) about ways we could bring everyone together — to find ways to collaborate within the game framework instead of working against each other. I don’t know if this will work but I created this comic and put it into ThingLink, and opened it up for anyone to add tags on the Metaphorical Bridge to Survival. I am hoping players from all teams will tag the bridge.

We’ll see …

Peace (in the metaphor),
Kevin

 

 

Some Initial Thoughts on Playing #TvsZ 6.0

TvsZ 6.0
In game theory, the idea of dynamics is important. Change a variable in any game system, and the play changes along with it. You can make this theory visible for yourself by taking any familiar game, such as Chess or Monopoly, and adding or removing elements/pieces/rules. You quickly realize that while your knowledge of the game has some historic grounding, the changes now put into place add a wrinkle to the perception of play. The game becomes something new.

Which leads me to a bit of a ramble … I am participating in the 6.0 version of TvsZ, or what was known in previous iterations as Twitter vs. Zombies. It’s being run by some very good friends of mine as an offshoot of Digital Writing Month and as part of the grad (I think) classes they are teaching. I find that fascinating, extending the learning about literacy in the classroom to something like a Twitter-based game. Now, this particular TvsZ is not Twitter vs Zombies, as the organizers were wary of having fun with zombies in a time when Ebola and other epidemic crisis flash points face the global community.

Instead, the narrative of this Twitter game (yes, it all played on Twitter, with hashtags and alliances and media and more) is about finding a community aligned with either Technology or Nature to survive an apocalyptic moment in time, where you need to determine what is important and what is not. The game rules allows you to #recruit others and fend off recruitment. It’s a bit difficult to explain here and you might be shaking your head.

The game started mid-day yesterday and continues through the weekend. I popped in when I could during teaching breaks. As I played TvsZ here and there during the day and into the night, some trends I noticed had me thinking about past variations (see a past reflection on why I played Twitter vs. Zombies) and the updates now embedded in this version.

Here, then, are a few unfocused observations ….

  • I admit, I was confused at first about the team concept, but then I aligned myself with Team Technology. I thought, all these young people will want the Technology over Nature. (I was also confused because an earlier version was Zen, not Nature, but I think the organizers went with Nature so as to not confuse students who are playing with philosophical concepts that would draw away from the game … maybe … I am not sure). So I thought the pendulum would swing to Tech. Wrong. Very wrong. For much of the afternoon, I seemed like one of the lonely technology beacons in the game, and then got recruited in a mad rush to Nature by a bunch of players. I could not defend myself and switched teams. Reading the tweets of the players on Team Nature, and realizing of course that it is a game, I could not help but think of the game as a way to push back on the intrusion of technology in our lives. I mean, the numbers even this morning remain overwhelmingly against technology in this game. It’s fascinating, particularly if it is a cultural criticism of our lives becoming digital and a yearning to break free of it now and then. Maybe the game has given some people a chance to express that contradiction (ie, they are playing a game on Twitter while renouncing technology).
  • In previous versions of the game, the narrative arc of the game was clear. The zombies are out to get you, and you better use all of the rules of the game to remain human. Or if you become a zombie, become relentless and get the hoomans. I’m not a zombie-literature fan, and find zombie stories rather boring. I never got into The Walking Dead. But I enjoyed the dichotomy and simplicity of the game. You were human or you were zombie. Zombies (antagonists) chased humans (protagonist) and humans banded together to thwart zombies. This is not a criticism of the architects of this 6.0 version, but I am feeling a little lost in the survival narrative of the game right now. It seems like teams are out to disparage other teams to shift the power balance by increasing recruitment. I get that. But unlike previous version, I am not sure where that is taking us. (I am hoping there are grand plans afoot to make it clearer.) I was happy to see a new mission on “food” this morning.
  • Related to that last point, I began to feel during the course of the day that there should be more ways to bring the groups together. It’s a survival story, right? It does not have to be a zero sum game (ie, you perish so that I can survive, or vice versa). I began to wonder if there were collaborative points that could be inserted into the game narrative, as a break to bring people together, no matter the affiliation. That led first to me creating a collaborative poem space — a #hidingspot — where folks on any team could write together. I also suggested a possible rule called #danceparty, in which if someone shares a technology- or nature-themed music video, the game stops and becomes a global dance party for five minutes. Imagine that? Yeah. I’ll be thinking more of ways to bring the game’s players together instead of pushing them apart. We’re all hooomans, after all.
  • It’s been intriguing to watch other groups emerge, too. Along with Tech and Nature, some groups of students created Dragon and Fish teams. And then last night, a friend with #ds106 connections created the Bovine team, and I was happily recruited. I wonder how this splintering of teams affects the overall narrative. Hacking games is a way to gain agency in the system, and I am curious to know how it will start to come together and make sense on a larger scale. I understand the smaller scale of the game. I want to see the larger picture.
  • I appreciated, too, that the organizers have opened up the Rules Document and allowed players to suggest rules for play, providing a space for anyone to get involved in how the game will unfold. We are not shackled by one vision of the game, although someone will become arbiters of the rules in the end. This is how digital writing plays a role here. I could write to the makers of Monopoly, and make suggestions, but what are the chances my words and ideas would be read and used? Unlikely. I know my suggestions in #TvsZ will be read and maybe included. Even if a rule change is not implemented, I feel empowered by the process. And that happens because of a click of a switch that makes a closed document an open document. That’s a powerful example of collaboration.
  • Finally, a huge hats off to the game’s organizers for exploring this kind of Twitter-based game for learning with their students. In the past, I’ve wondered how I could adapt Twitter vs. Zombies for my sixth grade classroom, and came up empty. I think this shift in the rules might be a way for me to revisit the idea, if I can find a solid “hook” to the narrative for my students … or maybe a more solidified goal for how the game ends (do we all become one large community again? do we defeat the darkness with a blast of light? do we build a spaceship and head off into the sky?) I will keep looking to the game unfolding this weekend as a possible model for how it make work.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

Bring Me the #TvsZ #Antidote

oncebitten
Yesterday, in the Twitter-based tag game of Twitter vs. Zombies (aka, #TvsZ), I was a “human” for only a short time in the morning, then got hit with a #bite that turned me into a zombie. Apparently, being up early, as I often am, was a huge disadvantage because I had no other human friends around because no one could #swipe me and protect me. I become a zombie.

Twitter vs zombies

Not that that’s a bad thing. In this game, that is. As a zombie, I spent parts of the day looking for other human players to #bite, and tried to navigate the rules (turns out, I broke the #rules more than a few times and had to retract quite a few #bites, and then I blamed it on my Zombie Brain.) Friends on Twitter noticed my changed avatar — the Zombie me — and were asking, what happened? Is it the end of the school year? Ha. As if …

Zombiepets

As a huge, shifting game of Internet tag, Twitter vs. Zombies is intriguing on many levels, and I have written about this before. But this time, I tried paying attention to how the change in the rules impact the game. Adding elements changed game dynamics every time, and that was important. We all needed something new to hang on, to know that the game would not be static (so, hats off to the organizers).

zombietesting

During the day, I made comics, memes and even hacked the Twitters vs. Zombie website with xRay Goggles, as way to bring some media fun into the mix and add some different literacies into the game.

zombiehack

One of the rules of the day involved sharing images, too, to either add a #bite if you were a zombie or find shelter if you were a human. I ended up using this penguin that my son had turned into a zombie of sorts, posing it throughout the house during the day as my way to get #xtrabite power.

Twitter vs zombies

The latest rule change allows zombies to change back into human form, by writing a blog post with the #antidote hashtag. So here I am, ready to resume a rather normal life. Or so I hope. There is still a day ahead of us, although I know I will be away from technology (at ball games) for much of the day. So, who knows what will happen …

Peace (in the game),
Kevin

Enter the Twitter vs. Zombies Game (if you dare)

tvsz
Today marks the first day of another round of Twitter-based Twitter vs. Zombies. It’s a crazy game of hashtags and 140-character moves and, well, it’s a bit difficult to explain but that’s no reason you should not come into the game, too (Me? Not a huge Zombie fan. But I find this game of TvsZ fascinating).

This is a good overview, particularly if you think of it as a “giant game of tag.”

And, a few years ago, during a round of TvsZ, my son and I made this movie:

Finally, read through this great piece about why TvsZ matters when it comes to digital literacies and multi-platform, collaborative writing. I still struggle with: How can I design a version of this for my students?

Peace (in hiding until it is too late),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: The Start of Something Interesting

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

Midway through the very first  #TeachWriting Twitter chat last night, I finally chimed in. I had other things going on and so I didn’t get home until the halfway point of the chat, a bi-monthly chat on Tuesday nights centered around the teaching of writing. The brainchild of Lisa Hughes and Ben Kuhlman (maybe others? not sure), #TeachWriting is another way for teachers to share with and learn from each other, in the fast-flowing realm of Twitter chat.

A few months ago, Troy Hicks and I offered up some feedback to Lisa and Ben as they were planning because Troy and I have done these kinds of chats before (including one together, via NCTE for Digital Learning Day.) Really, though, Ben and Lisa did fine on their own. But when Ben shouted out earlier in the week that he hoped to see me at the chat, I knew I had a conflict and might miss it.

I’m glad I caught the second half, as the flow of discussion was amazing, rich and expansive, and there were many people in the Twitter Chat that I had never run across before (an ancillary gift from #TeachWriting). It’s heartening to know that so many folks care so deeply about writing, and want to know how best to get their students to care about writing, too. I was a little worried that Lisa and Ben might only have a few folks, but … not a worry! Dozens of people seemed to be involved, sharing ideas and asking questions, and making connections across disciplines and time zones. It was the perfect example of the power of a Twitter Chat.

So, how do you get involved?

Every other Tuesday night (the next one will be April 11, I believe, with Beth Holland and Shaelynn Farnsworth), jump onto Twitter and find the #TeachWriting hashtag. More information is at the website: http://teachwritingchat.org/ and sign up for the newsletter. Also, follow the chat’s twitter account at @teachwriting2

One word of advice, if you have never joined in a chat: consider using a Twitter Chat client of some sort. I use TweetChat but there are others that allow you to focus on specific hashtags.

See you on the Interwebz!

Peace (in the chat),
Kevin

Six Years of Writing: When I Began to Tweet and Why

Twitter has done something interesting for its 8th birthday: it is allowing folks to find their very first tweet. I couldn’t resist — mainly because I couldn’t remember how long ago that was nor could I even vaguely remember what I wrote for my very first tweet?
first tweet feb2008

 

Oh.

How creative! (snark)

But 31,000 tweet later as @dogtrax (I know? What the heck do I write about? I don’t know), I am still wondering how to push the boundaries of the 140 characters. I write 25 word stories, tinker with hashtags, collaborate across the world, make memes, take part in Twitter chats, share with others and steal from others (and remix what others are stealing from others). My professional development will never be the same. It’s an odd thing, this Twitter.

I started to use Twitter in 2008 a few months after a National Writing Project gathering in Amherst, where Bud Hunt (aka @budtheteacher) chatted over dinner one night about this thing called Twitter, and he wasn’t quite sure of all the possibilities and potentials for writers, but he was pretty confident it was not a flash-in-the-pan kind of technology. He grappled to explain it to us, and we grappled to understand. 140 characters? A stream of tweets? What the heck is he talking about?

As usual, Bud pointed us in the right direction. I started tweeting and haven’t stopped (see this post from 2008 that collects my first few tweets.) It’s true that not everyone cares or should care about what I post, but every now and then, something clicks and connects — some ideas that suddenly transforms your view of the world or your view of teaching or your kids, or technology — and in that moment, the power of Twitter is suddenly exposed. You do have to get through a lot of LOL Cats to get there but …. you know … it’s worth it.

Not long after I started on Twitter, I composed this poem:

I Dream in Twitter
Listen to the podcast

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters
that cut off my thoughts before they are complete
and then I wonder, why 140?
Ten more letters would serve me right
as I write about what I am doing at that moment
in time,
connecting across the world with so many others
shackled by 140 characters, too,
and I remain amazed at how deep the brevity can be.

I find it unsettling to eavesdrop on conversations
between two
when you can only read one
and it startles me to think that someone else out there
has put their ear to my words
and wondered the same about me.
Whose eyes are watching?

Twitter is both an expanding universe
of tentacles and hyperlinks that draw you in
with knowledge and experience
and a shrinking neighborhood of similar voices,
echoing out your name
in comfortable silence.

I dream in Twitter
in 140 characters,
and that is what I am doing
right
at
this
moment.

Then later, I wrote and recorded this song:

Twitter This

I get up in the morning and I twitter all my dreams
140 characters is just enough for me
Then, each moment of the day becomes a Twitter storm
until the world is at my doorstep and everyone belongs
to

This Twitter space
inside this Twitter place
I’ve got a little bit of smile
on my Twitter face
Take me as a friend
or shut me out cold
I’m gonna keep on Twittering
until the platform gets old

I’m reading all my friends — the ones I haven’t met
from all across the globe, it’s a safety net
We’re putting pressure on Iran — let the China wall fall
let the information flow so we can all crawl
inside

This Twitter space
inside this Twitter place
I’ve got a little bit of smile
on my Twitter face
Take me as a friend
or shut me out cold
I’m gonna keep on Twittering
until the platform runs cold

 

Peace (in the tweet),
Kevin

Turn This Thing Up: A Fake Twitter Post

Twitter Twister Spoor Rickenbacker

Here is a potentially fun site. Twister (part of the Classtools.net suite of interesting activities) is a Twitter spoof site, in which you find someone from history and “create” a fake Twitter site and tweet. I did this one for Adolf Rickenbacker, one of the founders of the electric guitar. The Twister site gives you a few boxes for information (username, real name, tweet and date) and then creates a single page that looks like this one.

There is even a bank of exemplars, and I wonder if this might be a nice extensive activity for students doing research on a historical figure. I didn’t think it would so well with fictional characters but then I tried one with Percy Jackson, and it seemed to work just fine.
Percy J Twitter

What’s interesting is coming up with a Twitter username (here, you might teach theme) and what kind of short text/tweet they might send out to the world. It shouldn’t be just random and yet it shouldn’t sound like a historic document either, so you are crafting a page that has personality. That’s an intriguing project for a student, don’t you think?

Peace (in the twist),
Kevin

 

Considering Twine as Video Haiku: Letter to the Future

Yesterday, a colleague in the National Writing Project’s Making Learning Connected MOOC made an observation about the Twine video app that brought something into focus for me. Elyse Eidman-Aadahl observed that while the six second limit on the video is short, one could almost imagine using twine as “haiku” and that reminded me of an interview that I read in Wired Magazine with the creators of Twine about how they envision folks having just enough time to film 2 second beginnings, 2 second middles, and 2 second endings to create a short narrative.

At first, I was thinking: yeah right.

Two seconds to set a story in motion and four seconds to complete it? It seems almost impossible to do so. But then Elyse’s comment about video haiku kept coming into my mind — what we did see the video in three parts. I wondered if it would be possible to tell a story in six seconds. How could you film something and leave much of it out? What would you expect the audience to infer?

A story began to form in my head … of writing to your future self. The story would begin with an envelope, addressed from the present self to the future self (in clear lettering, easy for viewer to read quickly); the next part would be crumpled up papers, showing frustration about what to write — and these would be mostly negative starts; and then ending would be a letter about love, being stuffed into the envelope to the future self. It would capture in six seconds the idea of what we want to pass on to ourselves in the years down the road. Hopefully, that would be love, and not worries, fears, and negative energy.

Thus, the short film:

What do you think? Although I shot the video in three short takes, I thought about the “story” for hours yesterday, visualizing how I would film it. Six seconds? Not a lot of time. But if you think of it like video haiku — three parts, looping over and over, hinting at something larger– Vine as a venue for storytelling starts to have possibilities.

See what you can make and share it out. Let’s inspire each other to push the technology in creative directions. Tell a story. You have just six seconds. Make each second count.

Peace (in the make),
Kevin