Going Behind the Scenes: ESPN Studios

A good friend of mine works at ESPN Studios and I took advantage of that to bring two of my sons, and my dad, on a tour of the huge media complex down in Bristol, Connecticut (about an hour away from where we live). My youngest son is interesting in video production, and my middle son is interested in sports. Our eldest, also interested in digital media, is off to his first year of college, so he could not come with us.

Saturday mornings are pretty quiet in the sports world, but that allowed us to go through the myriad of engineering rooms and editing booths and sound rooms and a handful of the massive recording studios that ESPN uses to deliver sports to the world. A “farm” of about 30 massive satellite dishes sit on top of a hill, sending out signals to the dozens of outlets for ESPN media.

You realize rather quickly how technical the entire operation is, and how studios use illusion to create reality — the fake grass, and the corners of tables that the cameras can pan to seem large on the small screen but are often just kitty-cornered against a wall in a room larger than a football field. Dozens of people work together to produce a 30 minute sports show that seems so slick and seamless on the screen. (My friend does technical support. Nothing is ever seamless for him. Things break down and don’t work.)

Our eyes can deceive us.

It’s a bit like Oz. You pull back the curtain to see the mechanics of the visual world that seem magical and you get a larger sense of how the magic works from the reality point of view. It doesn’t take away from the magic, per se, but it expands the notions of how the world comes together in the first place.

Peace (it’s not just a show),
Kevin

At This Camp, Movies Get Made

Making Movies at Camp

My youngest son attended a day camp all last week, writing and shooting and editing and producing short films over five days. on Friday, family members were invited in to watch the results, and the movies were not only entertaining, but pretty well done, given constraints (of locations and time and props). The camp, at a local Montessori School, borrowed high-quality video cameras from the local Cable Access Station (which will showcase the short films on its television channel and online sites). You can see the difference — the video is rich and professional grade quality.

The camp facilitators let the kids do all of the heavy lifting — writing the scripts, setting up the cameras, and editing with iMovie. My son has done most of these things before — he loves to make his own movies — but it was nice to have him in a group, working with other kids and being creative. I don’t think he wrote all that much, though, which is too bad.

There were three short narrative films (including one very intense one about a puppet and a cruel puppeteer that had the audience in silent wonder) and a few music videos, most using Green Screen effects. Later, the videos will be hosted online. I’ll share out when that happens, in case you are interested in what kids can do with cameras and iMovie and imagination.

Peace (from small screen to real life),
Kevin

We Need More Dandelions: Who Owns What in the Digital Age


flickr photo shared by opensourceway under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Call me naive but …

… I keep finding myself wandering back into the question of ‘who owns what’ in the Digital Age. It’s not just a question of a single item — say, a photograph, or a music file. Those kinds of issues — particularly when it comes to livelihood of an artist — are important and still being sorted out. I do think, and hope, that elements like Creative Commons licensing helps delineate lines for those of us who create (and may need to protect some of our art) and those of us how like to use art of others to create something new (and may need to learn better how to note where the original came from).

I’m thinking more of ideas here, and who owns the idea. If I spark a discussion in online forums and along various hashtags, or if I launch a collaboration that others take part in, do I own that idea from now to forever? I think about the poems I have invited others to write into, and various media projects that I have opened the door to, and other projects that I have been involved in. The spark has always been collaboration, not ownership.

I know I may be unrealistic but ..

… once the idea is out there, I figure it’s no longer just mine to do what I want with. I’ve given it, as a “gift” of sorts, to the world (and in my case, the world might only be a few people), which may very well completely ignore the idea or it might remix the idea into something different entirely. It may even call my idea the same name I gave it. Or not. It may give me a heads up about its use of the original. Or not. But it’s not really all mine anymore. If I didn’t want that to happen or unfold that way, I probably should have kept the idea to myself or tried to sell it with licensing restrictions — a phrase that gives me pause even as I write it.

Information cover final web

In Corey Doctorow’s book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, he uses the metaphor of a dandelion and the release of seeds to explain in a way how ideas can take root from artists and others in this age of the Internet. The dandelion doesn’t care about where the seeds go, or even if the seeds become flowers. What the dandelion cares about is the spawning of new seeds and the release of those seeds to the wind. That’s where all of its energy is at. It puts faith in the notion of something will be planted somewhere, and the world will continue.


flickr photo shared by norio_nomura under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Doctorow uses this metaphor as part of his argument around on how small artists can emerge as successful, or at least surviving, artists in the digital age. Release seeds (or music tracks, or photo teasers, etc) and see where those ideas flourish. If your seeds find root, your audience will find you and support you.

In contrast, large organizations — such as record companies and movie companies and publishing companies — spend all of their time with their prodigy, like overprotective parents. If I remember, I think Doctorow continues the metaphor by noting how much alike large organizations are like mammals, with all of the energy in the system centered on ways to nurture and protect their progeny. We give our children our last names and then talk about “family” honor and hereditary lines. We celebrate this with family trees. I’m not saying that is necessarily wrong, but it feels at odds with the open promise of spawning ideas in the Digital Age that I believe in.

I like to think of the whole DS106 ecology as one fine example of how no one really owns the ideas. I don’t personally know Jim Groom or Martha Burtis, two folks I believe were at the start of DS106. There might be others. I’ve only walked virtual dogs with Alan Levine in online spaces like The Daily Create. Others who were part of the whole DS106 shebang from the start are people I don’t quite know or remember. No offense to them, but they aren’t all that important anymore to the DS106 environment … as it exists today.

The DS106 world — with its digital storytelling and creativity focus — is there for the picking. I believe you could start a DS106 course right now, today, and connect in and it would be fine. You could set up your own version of The Daily Create, and it would be fine. Heck, I think Alan Levine will even give you the WordPress Theme to do so. There are no legal documents to sign. There are no permissions to get. Just go on and do it. It’s an open invitation, set in motion years ago, to take the idea and run with it.


flickr photo shared by mikecogh under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Why isn’t there more of this? Why don’t more innovative ideas have huge REMIX THIS buttons? I’d love more dandelions in the digital fields of play.

To be upfront and honest, though, I still struggle with this concept as a classroom teacher. As I make slow but steady movement into Connected Learning ideas with my sixth graders each year, I try to find balance between needing a certain sense of control and providing opportunities for independence for my students. I wish I leaned more than I do towards the latter. But I am learning, and I am always open to possibilities. I have my ear to the ground, as much as I am able. I celebrate the Remix and wonder at the Creativity. I don’t quibble over who owns the ideas that began it all.

Peace (together),
Kevin

Choose Love

I so appreciated that John Spencer shared out this video message to his young son in the wake of the recent Orlando tragedy. It’s message of “love” should resonate with all of us. Should, but may not. I created this Distorted Graph, tilting us all towards love.

Distorted Graph Choose Love

Peace (everywhere),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Song for the Boys

The 'rents performing These Boys

My eldest son has just graduated high school, and we threw a large party at our house the other day for the family and and friends of our family and his friends. As a surprise, I wrote a heartfelt yet slightly sarcastic song for the group of “Boys” who have known each other for many years. A group of parents (and my dad, at the last minute, got on the snare drum) came together to rehearse the song (well, we rehearsed once), and then, we performed it for them at the party.

Peace (sing it),
Kevin

My Son’s Video Journey

When my oldest son, now graduating high school, was young, he wanted to learn how to make movies. It turns out, I was teaching myself how to make stopmotion movies at the time, thinking I would bring that kind of moviemaking into my classroom (which I did for a few years). So, my son and I made movies, together. It was a blast.

Mouse and Cat Together from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

Then, he began to venture on his own, planning more complicated and longer films, and using a little flash video camera for shooting and MovieMaker software on our old PC. Sometimes, he would ask me to help or to be in the movie. Sometimes, not.

The Squop from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

Then, he began to go deep with the idea of making movies and explored various editing tricks. He would storyboard, just like I showed him, and once he had a YouTube account, he’d post some of his short films online.

For his senior year Capstone Project, he spent months making this documentary of his friends’ rock band, and as I watch his work from behind the camera and in the editing “room,” I see how far he has come and how much he has learned on his own.

I still remember with fondness those early years, though. And the videos bring me back …

Shovel Trouble from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

Peace (over time),
Kevin

Kid, This is NOT a Timewaster

Boys

We were nearing the end of a two-hour hike in the woods. Three 11 year old boys. The dog. Me. The sun was shining, keeping the bite of Spring at bay. No bugs were bothering us. The boys had crossed a small river twice, scaling their way over fallen trees, calling out encouragement to each other. One even took off his shoes and walked through the cold water, balancing on mossy rocks. They had played Manhunt, hiding among the rocks and trees.

It was a Grand Adventure.

Then …

“Well, this has a been a Timewaster,” one of the kids told me. I don’t think he was jonesing to get back to his video games or anything. He was the one who took off his shoes to dip toes into the water. But I don’t think he is used to such lengthy unstructured “wanderings,” either.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Spending two hours out here” —  and I pointed around me at the beauty of the woods — “is never a Timewaster,” I told him. The dog looked up at my voice and then the trees, as if noticing the woods for the first time, too.

“Nope,” I added. “Time in these woods is never, ever wasted time.”

The boy (not my own, by the way) looked at me in an interested way, sort of nodded, and kept on walking. I followed. The dog was happy to keep moving, too. We all were.

Timewasting, indeed.

Peace (outside the inside),
Kevin

Make Your Political Voice Heard: Annotation Nation

Annotation Nation

Here is another example of the “long arm of the CLMOOC” — Terry Elliott and Joe Dillon are launching an impromptu Pop-Up Make Cycle this week that invites everyone and anyone to join in the annotation of political pieces about the volatile and unpredictable American presidential race. Joe and Terry are selecting some articles to mark up, but you and I can share out our own pieces, too, and invite others to annotate along with us.

For example, I have been tinkering with this one about the role of Independent voters, via Medium. This link will bring you to the annotation overlay.

How will the crowd-annotation work? Many of us have been playing with the Hypothesis add-on tool for some time, and we find it has a lot of value for crowd-sourced annotation (along with some drawbacks around visibility). It allows you to layer on comments and media into the margins of the article. Whole conversations can unfold as another layer on the web.

But there are other ways to annotate — you could write a blog post about something you have read and share the link; you could use the Diigo bookmarking site, which also allows you to crowd-annotate articles within the Diigo environment and kicks out a shared link; or you might just want to remix articles in your own fashion. If you know anything about CLMOOC, you know you do what speaks to your own interests.

Here is one example of Hypothesis and a shared annotated text.

Annotate This

Or, if folks use the “CLMOOC” tag in Hypothesis, we can view all of our shared annotations together in one stream. Check out what I mean.

We are all part of the Annotation Nation now. Come join Terry and Joe and the rest of us. Make your voice heard, even if it is in the margins. You can use the #CLMOOC hashtag on Twitter or share in the CLMOOC G+ Community. Make a video. Create meme or GIF. Do what you want. Take part in the Make with Me live session on Google Hangout that Terry and Joe are planning for Tuesday night (tomorrow) at 7 p.m. EST.

Margins come alive

Peace (so we can make change),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Trilogy Comes to an End

(This is for Slice of Life, a weekly writing adventure hosted by Two Writing Teachers.)

Scenes from Movie jan2016

This past weekend, my son finished filming the third of a trilogy of home movies that began about four years ago. I have been on board as videographer and advisor, but the script was written by him (with help of friends now and then) and the acting direction is mostly his, and all I can say is: I am proud of him for making three movies but also glad to be done with the third movie, too.

He’s eleven.

He is now working on the editing in iMovie. I’ll give him some technical advice, but mostly, I let him do it. I want him to have as much ownership as possible.

My only parting advice to him as we finished three hours of shooting video for a movie that will be under 10 minutes long — next time, go for comedy and leave the action/adventure genre behind. (It felt as if each movie’s story was the same story, told over and over. Or maybe that was me.)

Peace (in film),
Kevin