Insights from a Comic Creator

Comic Artist

I support comic artists Stuart McMillen via Patreon because I find his work to be so insightful. And since I learn from him, I want to help him with crowdsource funding, so he can keep doing what he is passionate about doing.

The quote above comes from the video down below, and I found it interesting, this observation of how he makes sense of the world.

Check out his “I Used to Be Racist” as one example of the kind of work he is doing. Or “Defending Dumbphones.” All of his pieces will make you think. He also shares insights from time to time about his art.

The short video down below for his Patreon site shows him talking about a typical day in his life, as a working comic creator making sense of the world through the visual medium. That behind-scenes stuff always fascinates me.

You can find more about him at his Patreon site. Or at his comic site.

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Shadows and Dogs

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I have a sweet, older dog. Sometimes, like yesterday, on our first walks of the day, in the early mornings, the shadows startle him. He gets a bit jumpy, which can then startle me, even though the shadows are not usually something to worry about. Usually, the shadow is just a stick, or a kid’s toy on a neighbor’s yard. Whatever it is, it shouldn’t be there today because it wasn’t there yesterday. I guess the apparitions of the world startle all of us, now and then.

Peace (Where light meets dark),
Kevin

Final Reflections: Networked Narratives from Out Here in the Wild Open

Netnarr Daily Alchemy Playlist

The second iteration of Networked Narratives has been over for at least a few weeks now, and I’ve had a version of this reflection sort of sitting here in my blog draft bin.

I’ve watched Alan Levine, one of the instructors, post his reflection yesterday from a teacher perspective (which was insightful to peruse). I’ve read through and enjoyed Wendy Taleo‘s reflection and presentation she gave about a project in Networked Narratives that we launched. I’ve skimmed through some of the final posts by the university students who took NetNarr for credit at their university.

What I continue to find intriguing is the open invitation by Alan and Mia Zamora for anyone to follow NetNarr and participate, and so I and some others (like Wendy and Sarah Honeychurch) have done so. We’ve come and gone, as we pleased. Added to conversations. Commented on blogs. Disappeared from time to time. Re-appeared suddenly. Engaged. Created. Made. Remixed.

Being out here in the Wild Open, as I often refer to it, has its advantages (we can engage where our curiosity is piqued and ignore the rest) and disadvantages (we aren’t always part of the larger conversation that comes from being in the class at the university, and seem to be invisible at times).

Here, in this NetNarr reflection, I want to share out a few projects that I took on that formed my framework of interaction, or at least, the hope for interaction. One of the three was more successful in this than the other two, but the other two were meaningful to me anyway.

First, when Mia and Alan announced this second round of Networked Narratives with the theme of Digital Life, I was interested. I had had fun with the first round of NetNarr a year ago, and figured, I’ll just see what they’re up to this time. I decided to bring a comic strip character out of hiding, and wanted to weave a story about Arganee –the fictional world of the first NetNarr — and digital alchemy, a theme of inquiry for NetNarr.

So, I wrote a story about Horse, the companion to The Internet Kid, and left the Kid at home. I remember being obsessed with telling this story in comics, and working very diligently on the storyline. I released the comic story, one comic at time, into the NetNarr hashtag, and then bundled the entire thing up into a graphic story adventure.

Made with Padlet

I really enjoyed this Horse with No Name comic project, but I got almost no response from the NetNarr students or participants (Wendy and I did a little exchange now and then), and I wonder if those students even knew that the Horse story was always part of NetNarr. Or if they just thought some weirdo was releasing comics into their midst.

That would be me.

Second, I also tried to do the Daily Arganee prompts, every single day. My aim was to come at each prompt from a slant, and to be as poetic as I could. I used the app called Legend for its animated text and visual image feature, but its text limits forced me to edit and narrow the poems to their core. Some were more successful than others. This YouTube Playlist gathers up six small collections I made throughout the three months of NetNarr.

Again, there was very little reaction to any of the poems, although I did them mostly for myself, and the challenge of writing small pieces on an angle from a prompt.

Third, there is the Digital Alchemy Lab project, an adventure that began with a desire to weave the concept of transmedia storytelling (which didn’t really take root the way I envisioned, mainly because I could not envision how it would take root), collaboration with other Wild Open participants (and university students), and the theme of “every object tells a story.”

Alchemy Lab unofficial object tally

Over the course of weeks, a group of us planned out how to invite collaborators to use media to tell stories of assigned objects, which were then woven into the Alchemy Lab — an immersive 360 degree art project using ThingLink. This project took the most time and coordination, and the result is something magical — a collaborative art piece that weaves story and media together in a fun way, showcasing how people can come together to create and make and learn. I wrote three long reflective pieces just about the Alchemy Lab endeavor.

This project continues, in a way, as we share out individual pieces each, with an invite into the lab. Yes, you are invited, too. Come on in. The narrative is networked.

Finally, I want to share a project that had on the surface seemingly nothing to do with Networked Narratives, and yet … it did, in my mind at least. It is a music collaboration project called A Whale’s Lantern, in which online music collaborators from all over the world work on writing and producing a song, which then becomes part of a larger “album” of music.

The reason I include this here in the NetNarr reflection is that I saw/see A Whale’s Lantern project as part of the larger aims of Networked Narratives — of finding ways to connect people from around the world with media creation (in this case, music) as connector points for collaboration, using the Internet as a way to publish and interact in a meaningful, authentic way. It didn’t matter that this took place off Mastodon as opposed to Twitter, or that I was the only one making the NetNarr connections (although Wendy may have seen that connection, too, as she dipped her toes into the music collaboration).

The point is that the very things that we all looked at in NetNarr around the positive elements of our Digital Lives — of following your passions and engaging in virtual strangers with similar passions to create something unique, together, with technology and media — played out beautifully here, overlapping at the same time I was engaged in NetNarr.

We weave the threads.

And, to make the connection even clearer, the lyrics I wrote for my collaboration with my partner, Luka, was inspired by Networked Narratives itself and the idea of digital alchemy. The song is called Alchemist Dream, and you can find the lyrics here. How’s that for synergy?

Thank you, Mia and Alan, for at least trying to find way to fuse classroom experiences at the university level with the open learning networks beyond the classroom walls. I still wish there were more ways to interact among the two groups — the Wild Open and the classroom — but realize the logistics would be difficult to navigate and the demands of running a university course are different from facilitating an open learning adventure.

Still … imagine the possibilities.

Peace (reflects wel),
Kevin

Get Ready To ‘Write Out’ This Summer

Write Out Comic

I’ll be sharing more about a project called Write Out as the summer progresses, but I am a co-facilitator for an open learning adventure this summer that connects the National Writing Project and the National Park Service together, helping teachers make connections with park sites and historic sites, and vice versa.

It’s going to be fun.

Read a quick blurb at Educator Innovator

Then, listen to some of my fellow colleagues chat about the summer project at NWP Radio.

Finally, the Write Out website is up, but still being developed. You can take a peek, if you want.

The Write Out project will take place in mid-July.

Peace (outside and inside),
Kevin

 

 

 

A DS106 Thing: GifMeme Creative Workflow

via GIPHY

I haven’t often written about my daily creative wanderings for the #DS106 Daily Creates (or at least, not in some time) but this morning’s call to make a meme out of a music video got me thinking, I should at least explain my process.

First, check out the Daily Create prompt.

This had me sipping my coffee, thinking of music videos. The thing is, I don’t watch as many music videos as I used to, you know? I thought about Peter Gabriel (Sledgehammer, anyone?), but then wondered if that would be too obvious for strangeness. Then, I remembered The Cars video for You Might Think, and although the peeping tom element is a bit unsettling, I remembered a clock face.

In my Chrome browser, I have an add-on called Gif It, which is integrated into YouTube, and this makes grabbing gifs from videos a breeze. It’s so simple to do. Just feed in the time of sequence and you get a gif in seconds.

But the prompt was for a meme, not just a gif.

I took that gif from the video and moved it into Giphy (along with a link attribution back to the original video), where I could then play around with its gif meme maker (where you can add text and stickers and drawings). Giphy allows you to download and also to embed in sites (like here).

Then, I shared that music video gif meme out to the DS106 hashtag on Twitter, and wrote the post you are now reading.

I also tried the process out with Genesis’ I Can’t Dance.

via GIPHY

Not to be stuck in the DinoRock Era, I also dug into some Courtney Barnett songs from her recent album, and found this neat image of her rocking out while standing on a planet for her song Need a Little Time.

via GIPHY

Peace (in the flow),
Kevin

 

At Middleweb: Raising Teacher Voices

My latest column for Middleweb is all about a publishing project we do at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, in which we partner with the local newspaper to feature a teacher columnist every month.

The result is some amazing writing and sharing, a chance to raise teacher voices into the public sphere, and a raising of the profile of WMWP. We encourage our teacher-writers to bring a lens into learning and teaching, and to consider how the mission statement of WMWP might be a guide for this writing.

So, it’s all good.

I coordinate the program, so I am often chatting with teachers about their writing, and making sure the connection with the newspaper stays strong. And I get inspired by what my colleagues are exploring in their pieces.

All of the columns get posted at our WMWP website, as archived voices and stories.

Read Raising Teacher Voices in our Community Media

Peace (out loud),
Kevin

It’s a Student Haiku Celebration

Haiku Poetry Collection

My sixth grade students have just finished up the writing of a series of haiku poems, and using Google Slides to create visual representations of their poems. Each student then “donates” a poem to this collection. There are some wonderful poems in here.

Peace (in three lines),
Kevin

The Fortnite Phenomenon (Where Social Gaming and Kid Culture Collide)

So, this was weird.

We had just finished the last round of our state testing (we, meaning them) and we had some time in the classroom as we waited for the other three sixth grade classes to also finish (and then we would get outside for fresh air).

They ate snacks, and started games of Uno and Scrabble, and then I watched the boys (this was only the boys, and every boy in the classroom) gather together and start to act like their arms were pickaxes and they were cutting down trees (some acted like trees that others were cutting down.) When we finally got outside, the boys ran to bushes and trees, and began acting like they were chopping wood again.

Ok. What? Minecraft? Maybe?

I soon realized that the boys were “playing” Fortnite, the multi-player video game phenomenon that I know has been part of many of the students’ gaming lives for weeks now. But to see it being acted out — the axes being used to clear bushes and trees to make hiding spaces in the game world — just looked … odd. (The girls kept glancing over at the boys, with a look like … they are such strange creatures.)

At one point, one of my students came over to me, and with a smile and a laugh, asked: Mr. H, do you Floss?

I knew better than to respond right away, and I quickly realized that The Floss is a dance that players do inside Fortnite (and also outside of the game, as I recognized the movement immediately). Along with (thanks to later research)  the Floss, there is also the Fresh, the Squat Kick and the Wiggle.

So, what to make of Fortnite? It’s a survival game, in which collaboration is key. It’s social. It’s global. Millions of people are playing it. I hear my students planning Fortnite sessions for the evening. Fortnite is everywhere right now. Is it just a fad? Maybe, but even fads have reverberations in culture, and the language and dancing and other elements of Fortnite are creeping into pop culture, for sure.

Just ask your kids.

A day later, I was reading a piece in The New Yorker about Fortnite by writer Nick Paumgarten (the article was inspired by him watching his adolescent son and son’s friends play the game). He immediately noticed the social aspects (including friends gathering to watch other friends play) as well as some of the positive pieces of the game. He also noticed how the design of the game draws players in for extended periods of time.

While a magazine headline writer used this warning in the magazine as the subhead on the featured image — The craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis, and eating Tide Pods — Paumgarten ultimately notes that Fortnite is ” … a kind of mass social gathering, open to a much wider array of people than the games that came before it. Its relative lack of wickedness — its seems to be mostly free of the misogyny and racism that afflict many other games and gaming communities — makes it more palatable to a broader audience …

My son, age 13, tried to download Fortnite to my iPad, but it didn’t work because of the age of the iPad (sorry, Kid). So he went into another game that is sort of a clone of Fortnite that he plays with friends. They keep an open communication channel and my wife and I can hear him chatting and planning and laughing and shouting, and socializing, with friends as they play together. This element of player connection, mostly positive for now, makes the game environment different, I think, and I wonder where that element will take the next tier of video games.

Peace (in the worlds),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Fleet-Footed Kid and The Bad Track Parent

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

My wife and I joke that we are bad high school track parents. My son, a senior, is a captain of the spring track team, and is an amazingly fast runner in the 200m and 400m and the relay teams.

I grew up playing baseball and lacrosse. I didn’t know much about track when he started. I’ve learned as much as I can and follow the events with a muted interest. When he switched to track two years ago, we wholeheartedly supported him, but the track meets I have gone to have given me a few seconds of thrills and excitement — that burst of speed and athleticism —  and lots and lots of waiting-around time for something to happen.

I never complain to him, yet he tells us again and again that he does not expect us to watch him at every meet. We’re not sure to be grateful that he doesn’t expect us there all the time or sad that he doesn’t expect us there all the time. It’s complicated.

Last night, as I was at my younger son’s baseball game (they won), the high school running man was apparently ripping up a track event with high speeds, and helped bring his team to a season title yesterday. I know this because I opened up the website of our local paper and there is video of him barreling down the track, and an article focused mostly on him and his endeavors, and an interview with him as he celebrates his teammates.

What a kid!

Boys Track

from The Daily Hampshire Gazette

He got home late, so I didn’t even have a chance to ask him, How did it go? I think he would have downplayed it but now I know. I’ll be congratulating him this morning. Still, not being there to see him run and compete live and to not have been yelling support from the stands?

Yeah, I’m a bad track parent.

Peace (goes fast so catch it while you can),
Kevin

The Puzzle of the Unworkable Photos


fail flickr photo by surrender+ shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Yesterday, I opened up iMovie for the first time in some time in order to create a small video project for an open learning summer venture I am helping to facilitate (more on that in the days ahead). I had shot video and images on my new Pixel phone and wanted to use iMovie to pull them together.

This is something I have done many times. I figured it would take me about 15 minutes, tops.

The video imported fine. The images? Not.

While it seemed like the images (which I had downloaded from my Google Image application, as photos taken on the Pixel phone automatically upload into that shared multi-device folder) were in iMovie (thumbnails showed just fine in the media section), the photos were clearly not available (all I got was black blank space if I tried to preview the image or tried to drag them into my movie timeline.)

Huh.

I decided to do a Google Search on the problem, but found little help. One person, working on a related problem from an earlier version of iMovie, suggested converting jpg images into png images. I did that. I imported.

Nothing. Blank space.

Huh.

I thought maybe it was iMovie itself, or some update that happened since the last time I used it and upgraded my ios on the Mac, so I found an old image from another project and imported it in. It worked fine.

Huh.

So, I thought now in my detective brain, it has to do with Google Images and iMovie, but not with the format of the photo. I used another browser to do another search (I like Duck Duck Go but its search function is not nearly as powerful as Google, alas). Sure enough, I finally found a discussion thread on this issue. I had to read down far, but saw that the person fixed the problem by … resizing the images.

Huh.

Apparently, Google Images from my phone by default are pretty big, for resolution sake (one of the selling points of the Pixel phone and its powerful camera) and iMovie can’t handle the resolution. So, the fix is to pull each image up into Preview (or whatever photo app you use) and resize the image downward to acceptable size.

I tried it. It worked. Problem solved. Frustration fixed. (Sort of … now I need to go into each individual photo and resize it for the video project. That stinks.)

I share this story here so that I remember (my blog is often the place I come back to when I try to remember things like this) and for you or anyone else who might come up against it.

Peace (problems, solved),
Kevin