#Digiwrimo Interactive Fiction 2: Screenshot Tutorials

I’ve been trying to create resources for the various digital writing pieces I am doing, in order to help me explain better to my students how to use technology and also, to encourage you to give it a try.

Here, I am trying to show how we use Google Slides (or Powerpoint or Keynote or other presentation software) to create Interactive Fiction stories, or Make Your Own Ending narratives. My students are working on their own Interactive Historical Fiction Stories right now.

These are the basics for using Slides to do this:

Interactive Fiction1

Interactive Fiction2

Interactive Fiction3

Interactive Fiction4


Peace (in the explain),

The Anatomy of a #Rhizo15 ‘Close Read’ Comic

wicked close reading

Allow me a brief detour here …. as some of you may know, I like to make comics as a way to zero in on blog posts and tweets in online learning adventures that I am part of. It began with the Making Learning Connected MOOC, then extended into Connected Courses, and now is part of my routine with Rhizomatic Learning. My aim is to find the anchor or kernel of idea that intrigues me, and extend it out in a visual way with a comic.

My hope is that the writers of the material don’t get offended, and I try very hard to make sure the satire or humor is not directed at the writers themselves. But humor and satire are definitely part of my intention, as is the hope that I might, in my own way, open up the doors to the power of comics as a medium of expression and to inject a little levity into some very serious pedagogical discussions.

Plus, I find it fun.

So, I thought I might walk through the process of how I found a typical post, what I discovered as I read, and how the comic itself eventually came together. I’ll use Will Richardson as my example, if only because I have followed Will for years, read and been inspired by his books, and suspect he won’t mind if I reference his blog post that led to a comic. (Thanks, Will, in advance).

Rhizo comics

Will entered the Rhizo15 stream a few weeks in, which is fine and “right on time” but that can be disorientating to the late-comer, I think, as you try to figure out, what the heck are they talking about? What can I contribute? Where is this thing going? Will’s post — entitled Learning with #Rhizo15 — was thoughtful, as usual, and centered on the difficulty of finding your footing in a “course” like Rhizomatic Learning, where there is no set curriculum map, no established center space, no direction on your learning other than what you bring to the table for yourself.

I was really intrigued by his list of things that can make an open learning experience “hard.”

Will writes:

  • It’s hard because no one’s telling me what to read or when to read it.
  • It’s hard because there’s no one text, no central collection place for ALL the associated thinking with the course.
  • It’s hard because I worry about what I’m missing.
  • It’s hard because there are no due dates.
  • It’s hard because I don’t know if I’m doing it “right.”
  • It’s hard because despite the fact that I’ve been learning online informally for almost 15 years, I still have a lot of “old school” baggage built in when I hear the “course.” (By the way, if you want a lesson in how long it takes to unlearn old habits, watch this.)

That line about “old school baggage” resonated with me and I decided that was the line that I would use to represent this idea of our expectations of a learning experience clashing with an open educational space, and how our brain seeks to make sense of something new even as the old framework creates a certain sort of tension.

So, this is the line I took from Will (and added a word — word — for context):

I still have a lot of “old school” baggage built in when I hear the (word) “course.”

I use different comic platforms at different times, but I was on my iPad and so turned to my favorite comic app called Comics Head, which gives a lot of flexibility for creating comics. I also use a site called Stripgenerator on the computer, or Bitstrips, sometimes, too. I’ve also been know to pull up Dave’s Rage Maker Comics from time to time. I guess I am all over the place, but each gives a different feel and different compositional possibilities.

With Will’s words in hand, I started to consider what the comic would look like and what I wanted to say. You see, my aim with comics is to add some of my own perspective — to riff off the original writer, where the comic is the comment.

I thought that a background of a traditional college would make sense, with someone (a stand-in for Will, but really a stand-in for all of us) at the front door, wondering where the classroom is and referencing Professor Dave. (Hint: there is no classroom, and Dave Cormier is the facilitator but he lets things go their own way). Will’s quote is plastered up on the wall, like graffiti or something. (Hide the paint can, Will). I actually struggled with where to put the text, from a design standpoint, because the background is a bit too busy. The wall seemed ripe for defacing, so to speak.

I struggled with how to represent the open quality of #Rhizo15 in contrast to the university. At first, I had student faces in the windows, heckling the visitor, like those old guys from the Muppets. I didn’t like that, though, as it felt a bit mean. I don’t want to be mean-spirited here.

Then, I thought: what if the gathering of the Rhizomatic Learning Swarm (ie, those working together in the community, with the “swarm” term coming from folks like Keith Hamon) is outside the frame of view itself, and the text boxes are calling the visitor to avoid the building altogether? We don’t ever “see” the #Rhizo15 learners .. which is mostly true, anyway. We are defined by our writing and our media in social media spaces.

I then realized that a cool juxtaposition would be the element of an elementary school — the playfulness of a playground, and the metaphor of a sandbox, and the open invitation to come join in the fun and exploration. I like that dichotomy of the friendly invitation to play and explore and the rather imposing image of the school building.  The final touch was the labeling of the building as “Typical University” to indicate how untypical the Rhizomatic Learning experience is (but should not be).

Here are a few more comics from the weekend:

Rhizo cimics

Rhizo cimics

Peace (under the hood),

PS — This comic/close read anatomy exercise is inspired by the YouShow project a few months ago, when Alan Levine and others were pushing folks to make their process and thinking more visible.

A Video Mirror Poem for Two Voices

I don’t know if this worked as I wanted it to work … but I was playing with the theme of mirrors for Walk My World and wanted to write a short Poem for Two Voices, performed as a video mirror.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I wrote the poem (well, yeah). I was working on the continued theme of identity.
  • I set up my iPad video and recorded me reading the first side of the poem, with my head turned. I had some trouble reading, and finding the red “record” button. It took quite a few tries.
  • Then, I reversed myself, and read the second part of the poem. Again, red button trouble. But even more difficult was the pacing of saying the words of the poem. This second part took quite some time, as I kept stumbling into the words of the first part. I never got it perfect. Just close enough.
  • I used an app called PicPlayPost to create the video collage. I like this app for projects like this, as it allows you to mesh video and images. Here, I wanted  a simple view: the mirrored self, reading a poem together. The line down the middle of the collage worked nicely for this.
  • I posted right from the app to YouTube.

Peace (in the poem),

Zeega Music Demo: I Fall Apart

This demo song is one I wrote quite a long time ago, and only recently pulled it back onto my guitar. It was first written in the aftermath of the devastating Haiti Earthquake. I tinkered a bit more with it in the last few days, adding a new section, and then recorded this as a spare song. Don’t worry — it’s thankfully not about me. I am happy. I am fine. The narrator of the song is not. (I always feel the need to write that for these kinds of songs.)

I am still making with Zeega until the doors close …

Peace (in the fall and recovery),

Songs About Writing: A Weavly Remix

I started searching for songs about the process of writing (thanks to a post over Two Writing Teachers) and I’ve been meaning to use Weavly for video remix. This seemed liked a good time to give Weavly a try. What songs about writing am I missing?

Director’s Notes

Weavly makes it easy to clip together videos from Youtube and other sites. I did some initial searching for other people’s posts about songs about writing, inspired first by this post over Two Writing Teachers. Then I tried to remember any songs that I knew about writing (I had that Natasha Bedingfield song in my head and could not remember her name for the longest time … and there it was, at the original post that inspired me to do this … doh), pulling together the videos into the Weavly editor. The trickiest part was finding the verses/choruses that I wanted, and cutting the clips. I wish there was a better way to fade in and fade out (I have the same problem with Popcorn … the transition from one video to the next is often a jolt).

I like the animated Beatles video at the end … it has a natural stop …

I’d also say that my collection is very white, right? I did some searching for hip-hop song that dealt with writing but came up empty.

Peace (in the remix),

Audio Poem: Before Dawn/Walking Home

SeeSound Audio Recorder

The image above is a visual wave-file representation of an audio poem I wrote for the learning cycle of Walk My World — where the focus is on the dawn. And it turns out, the YouShow theme recently has been audio, too. The audio recording here was done in a very nifty online tool called SeeSound, which I found thanks to two Maker/CLMOOC friends — Stephanie and Rob. I love the audio-becomes-visual element, and I wish I could download the live view as video (I guess I could take it as screencast).

I wrote this poem in the hours before dawn, when I am up before the world is up (mostly) and writing every morning. It’s just the dog and I, in the snowstorm this morning, and he goes back to sleep after our walk through the neighborhood while I pound on the keys here. I am often awake before I am awake. If I am working on an idea, I wake up, knowing my head was working out phrases and concepts during the night. If I don’t wrote, I lose it.

So I write before the sun comes up, just about every single day. (Like, right now).

Before Dawn poem

Here, then is my poem: Before Dawn. What I did was record it via SeeSound, downloaded the audio file, and then used the “reverse” switch to make the audio file go backwards (take that, Led Zep!), and tacked it on to the end of the forward file with Audacity, so that the poem is me moving forward and backwards. The poem then is hosted at Soundcloud.

Peace (in the visual poem),

Remix that Machine (for Information Digestion)

Inside the Popcorn Remix

I’ve been reading Audrey Watters series on Medium about The History of the Future of Education, and passing her pieces on to others. It’s interesting to examine the patents of educational technology and think about education in the larger lens. And having Audrey Watters as a your guide gives it all the perfect tone.

Then, Alan Levine created a remix of one of the videos of Sydney Pressey demonstrating his Teaching Machine contraption. Alan grabbed the audio from a TED piece on MOOCs and superimposed the audio. It’s intriguing to watch and hear.

So, I wondered, what if I flipped Alan’s video around — put Pressey’s voice as the audio for the TED talk? Alan shared his process notes of downloading the videos, taking the audio and remixing in iMovie. I’m lazy. I went into Popcorn Maker and did my remixing there. The result is less fine-tuned than Alan’s.

Like Alan, I was struck by the comment about using candy as incentive, and then Tums when the Lifesavers no longer worked. It’s a great comment, and so I used that as the introduction, after finding a funny The Jetsons commercial for Tums. I’m sure George won’t mind.

What’s neat about Popcorn is that YOU can now easily remix my remix. Just click “remix” at the top right corner of the video and it will open up all of my media. Tinker away!

Peace (in the remix),

Annotated Song: Walking (With the Thoughts of You)

I’ve been working on this demo song that meshes nicely with Walk My World and the YouShow project. It is inspired by a friend but also, some distant memories of my hiking days. So here it is:

And this version via Zeega:

Interestingly, Terry “remixed” my Zeega, which means that at the end of mine, his version begins (new song and new media). Be sure to experience both.

Director’s Notes

The guitar part for the song is an echo of a very old song of mine, one I wrote about my grandmother when I was first starting to write songs (oh so long ago). I didn’t want to lose the chord progression after rediscovering it and I kicked around with it for a bit before the lyrics started to take hold here. The words are sort of a gift to a friend who is going through some difficult times right now and who spends many days hiking in isolation as a way to think and understand the world (truly, walking the world). I put the final lyrics into the app Notegraphy, which makes words look fancy, and then downloaded the lyrics as an image file. I uploaded the file into Flickr, and then used Thinglink to “borrow” the image for annotation. The song was recorded very simply (live take, no dubs) in Soundtrap and then exported into Soundcloud for embedding here, there and everywhere, including Zeega (which borrows audio from Soundcloud).

Peace (in the muse),

Identity Exploration: Not That Kind of Writer

Not the WriterAt Walk My World, we are diving into identity in this cycle,which is always a fascinating topic to explore when it comes to who we are in digital spaces (or whom we project ourselves to be) and who we are outside of those digital spaces, and where are the intersecting lines.

With my sixth graders, our work around avatars is centered on this concept of identity — who we choose to be when we are online, and how to make sure we have that choice. Want to see an interesting collection? Go to the New York Times piece about avatars in gaming environments. They put photos of the real person with their avatar, and it is a stunning example of how people project who they want to be in digital spaces.

This poem of mine is one way for me to think of my own act of writing and publishing in online spaces, and the question of: Is that really me writing there? I think we all hold back part of ourselves, even those who dip over the TMI line, and so what you see in these words here is just a glimpse of me as the writer. I wrote the poem, trying to show the veil that is there for all of us, and how the push into the digital spaces we inhabit both foster this concept of multiple identities and collapse it … sometimes doing both things (expand and collapse) in the same moment.

Director’s Notes:

I took the photo on my iPad as I wrote the poem as a draft. I had this idea of writing a few lines about writing (the first line was my first idea) and I wanted a shot of my with pencil on paper. Not keyboard and screen. I still write a lot on notepads, particularly when I am writing poems and songs. Those drafts then get written on the screen, but only after much scribbling and much reworking (and sometimes, head scratching over what is that word that I wrote anyway …).

Taking the photo required a bit of human origami. You don’t see my left hand reaching out behind the Ipad, twisting my thumb to the large circle that will take the shot. There’s got to be a better way …

I moved the photo into an app I have called Fragment, which allows you to mess with the photo in any number of ways. Since this piece is about identity, and mixed identities, I thought it would make sense to fragment the photo itself.  I then moved the photo into the free Aviary app (a must-have),  added a border and then finished the poem itself.

I liked how one of the tools in Aviary allows you to color in small sections, so I kept the color focus on the pencil and my hand, writing. This brings the eye into the writing, which is the heart of my identity in this poem.

The photo is hosted at Flickr, which allows embedding in media sites.

Peace (in who I am right now in this writing),