Dog Counter Culture: Tinkering with Mozilla AppMaker

doggyapp2

I’ve been meaning to try out the recent addition to the Mozilla Webmaker tools, something called AppMaker, and Melissa Techman’s recent presentation at the K12Online Conference spurred me on. The AppMaker is designed to teach both simple and complex skills around designing an app, which can be viewed online and on mobile devices that run the new Firefox IOS.

As with most Webmaker tools, there are remixable projects to start from, which I found handy. I used a Cat Counter, removed the cats, added my own dogs (current and deceased) and made the Dog Counter Culture app. I am thankful for this handy guide at Mozilla Webmaker, which had detailed instructions on how to remix the Cat Counter app. I just followed the directions, tinkered with the settings and it didn’t take me long to have an app.

DogCounterCulture App

Here is the web version of the Dog Counter Culture app. (Yep, that’s me … barking like a dog). Here is the install link if you have the Firefox IOS. I don’t. But maybe I should try it out?

I wonder, now, how I might pull this AppMaker into our Hour of Code activities in early December. What kind of apps could my students make and why would they make them? Need to get some brainstorming under way. If you have an idea, please drop me a comment. I’ll be asking my students, too.

Peace (in the app),
Kevin

Envisioning a Transmedia Story

The Mouse Problem

The first week’s prompt at Digital Writing Month – to create a transmedia project of sorts — has me revisiting an old story. I started this back when I began teaching the book, Regarding the Fountain (by Kate Klise), as a way to talk about inference and different media to tell a story. Her book is told entirely in artifacts. It’s a hoot, too.

The Mouse Problem is my attempt to do the same, in hopes I might get my students to create their own artifact story, too. So, here I am, back with The Mouse Problem, trying to move it along by adding more media to it. (I have two classes reading Regarding the Fountain right now, so this is good timing for me). The story is a mystery story, with a play on words.

There is a page (it is written in Powerpoint) in which an anonymous caller rings up the newspaper reporter. This morning, I used Soundcloud to record the conversation. I’ll weave it into the book at some other time, in some way. (Although I feel as if I should add sound effects to the audio, too).  

I am thinking of other media that can be integrated to tell the story, too. For example, could I design a simple video game, for some sort of chase? How about a Vine video for a television reporter?

And how will I embed all this media in a meaningful way? Working on it …

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

Book Review: The Blood of Olympus

The Blood Of Olympus

The other day, a former student who is now in high school visited my classroom. I immediately asked, “What are you reading?” Just like old times, when he and I would chat about books in my sixth grade classroom.

Blood of Olympus. You?” he asked.

“Same,” and we both laughed. Years have passed, and somehow, writer Rick Riordan still has us reading his books of mythological demigods in the midst of crisis, saving the world. My 10 year old son and I just finished The Blood of Olympus, which it the last book in this particular series that is an offshoot of The Lightning Thief series, with hero Percy Jackson.

Listen, no one will ever put these books up on the same literary level as Shakespeare but Riordan has done something magical — he has hooked an entire generation of adolescent boys (and girls .. plenty of my girls read these books, too, but my boys are more likely to be disengaged with reading and so I often think of them here) with stories of mythological action and adventure. I appreciate that he has developed some interesting female and male characters, weaving their stories in and out of the course of the books. And add in a gay demigod character, too, and Riordan is reaching out into a wide terrain in his series.

My son and I both agreed, after finishing the book the other day, that Riordan in The Blood of Olympus, did an admirable job of tying up many loose ends and bringing the entire series to a close, with the defeat of the Earth goddess who was intent on waking and destroying the world with vengeance and revenge.

And as we flipped through the glossary of Roman and Greek terms at the end, we could not help noticing a little teaser text. Riordan is at it again. The next series is set in Asgard, and so it looks like we’ll be moving into Nordic territory soon. Odin, here we come!

Peace (in the book),
Kevin
PS:

My Emoji Bio

My Bio as Emoji
Over at the Digital Writing Month launch site, there is an emerging “roster” of folks who are participating in activities this month. I decided to play around with mine a bit, by using an app that turns text into emoji and making my biography very visual. It was interesting, trying to represent some ideas with icons and it reminded me of how visual composing can sometimes coincide nicely with written composing, but not always.

I decided to deconstruct the biography a bit, noting some of my thinking as I was putting it together.
Deconstructing my emoji

What would yours look like?

Peace (in the image),
Kevin

 

And Now … #DigiWriMo

digiwrimo comics
November means .. Digital Writing Month. I went back to see some of the comics that I did for a previous #DigiWriMo year. Digital Writing Month is a time when folks explore all month the ways that technology is influencing and shaping the ways in which we write (while others are engaged in #NaNoWriMo, writing a novel in a single month … and last year, at Digital Writing Month, we collaboratively created our own novel … in two days).

Check out my Digital Writing Month comics.

I have no real plan for this year in #DigiWriMo, other than to be open to possiblities. While the Connected Courses is still underway, I’m making a transition, keeping a foot planted on both. I’m also giving myself permission to step back if I need to. And of course, to have fun, be engaged and reflect on the possibilities for my students as writers in the digital age.


See Vine directly ..

Peace (in the fun),
Kevin

 

The Random Connector Generator

For the entire month, we’ve been collecting and posting daily ideas for making connections as an offshoot of the Connected Courses. The aim was to find fun ways to get folks to collaborate with each other, modeled on the ever-wonderful Daily Create from DS106. Our Daily Connect ends today, but really, nothing ever ends on the Internet, right?

So, we created a Random Daily Connector button. Push the button on this image (via Thinglink) and it will bring you to one of the 30 ideas for connecting. We hope the Daily Connector site is a legacy project for the Connected Courses participants and others, something that lives on into the future as a resource that can be shared, remixed and used whenever you feel you need a bit of connections in your life.

Peace (in the randomness of the connectiveness),
Kevin

PS — Thanks to Maha, Simon, Laura and others for helping to get the Daily Connector off the ground on October 1. We pulled it together rather quickly but the site seemed to be effective. And thanks to Alan for technical advice her and there, and as always, everywhere.

A Comic About Access, Equity and Diversity

Plant seeds of change #ccourses

I’m not sure if this comic works as I wanted it to work, but I was trying to represent the ideas around access, equity and diversity in a positive light, as seeds for change. Or maybe I had Terry’s offer to mail off flower seeds to anyone on my mind.
Peace (in the frame),
Kevin

Girls, Gaming and Gender Stereotypes

lego gender remixerI’ve shared this Lego Gender Remix site before but it is so powerful in what it does that it is always worth sharing out again. I used this site yesterday in my class of sixth graders as we begin diving into the concepts of our Digital Life unit, in which we explore technology and media from a variety of angles. Talking to 11 year olds about the permanence of the web and technology … it’s an eye-opening experience for many of them.

One of the many angles we explore is advertising and gender stereotyping (a term which is relatively unfamiliar to them and which leads to a long discussion about cultural values placed on gender). If you spend time with the Lego Remixer site, you’ll see why it is so powerful for this conversation. By mixing the media of a “boys’ commercial” with the media of a “girls’ commercial,” you can deconstruct the stereotypes embedded in the advertising.

It’s a real eye-opener for many of my students when we do this, and in one of my classes, it led to a long discussion about the design of aisles in toy stores (the few that are left in existence). The girls’ aisle? All dolls and filly pink dresses and unicorns and horses. The boys? Guns and vehicles and action heroes.

“You know,” one of my astute girls observed, “if we saw a boy walking down the girls’ aisle at the toy store, we’d probably make a judgment about them. We’d look at them funny.”

Another piped in. “But if a girl is in the boys’ aisle, no one cares,” he added, and the room went silent as we thought about that. No one disagreed with those assumptions.

We talked about avatars, which was the main hub of our lesson, and how people represent or misrepresent themselves in online spaces. I asked my students why they think a boy might use a girl avatar or vice versa. More quiet thinking.

“In some gaming sites,” said one boy, “girls are not always welcomed. Maybe a girl would want a boy avatar so they can just play and not get harassed.”

No one took exception to that insight — that girls are treated differently in gaming sites that they visit. But when I asked if girls are as good gamers as boys, everyone agreed that gender does not connect with gaming skills.

So, I asked, why are girls treated different? More quiet.

“I think it’s because some sites are like clubs for boys,” a girl suggested,” and they think they own the world. They don’t like having girls in the club.”

“Or,” suggested another girl, ” they don’t like that girls being better than them at the game.”

Some of you know that I teach a video game design unit, and I do try to pay attention to these gender issues. It’s not a boy-centric unit of learning, yet I do find I have to be attentive to supporting and elevating the girls to a certain confidence level. Many girls seem apt to cede the expertise to the boys, and I work against that tide.

When I showcase student-created games as exemplars, I make sure the girls get slightly more equal footing than the boys. I ask girls who have figured out “workarounds” to share that knowledge and insight with the class. I don’t ignore the boys, but I pay attention to the girls a little bit more in our gaming unit. I have never heard any of my boys speak down to girls when we do gaming. But I am not naive, either. I know it happens in the spaces where I don’t go and that the adult world simmers with these inequities.

Look at this quote from Anita Sarkeesian, who is the heart of #Gamergate.

“The notion that gaming was not for women rippled out into society, until we heard it not just from the games industry, but from our families, teachers and friends. As a consequence, I, like many women, had a complicated, love-hate relationship with gaming culture.” from New York Times

What is very obvious each year is this insight as a teacher: my girls often design and build and publish more engaging games than my boys do. Ok, so I am generalizing a bit and maybe stereotyping my kids, but it’s true. (Note to self: document this during this year’s project?) The girls often design their video games with rich storytelling, where the game play informs the storytelling (the while premise of our game design unit). The boys go for the rapid fire action, the shooting avatars, the survival of the protagonist. Their stories are often the weakest element of their projects.

My challenge as a teacher is to do my best to remove those walls and have girls and boys share the best of what they bring to the table, so that we can all learn together as a community of many, not a group of two genders. I can’t take it for granted that gender issues do not exist as a wedge in the world of gaming and beyond. It does. I just need to be cognizant of this reality, and make sure girls are not just invited into the party, but are front and center alongside the boys at all times.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin