Google’s Story Experiments in 360 Degrees


PLANET BREMEN flickr photo by jonasginter shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Google’s shift into transforming video stories with 360 degree perspectives dovetails nicely with the push into virtual reality storytelling, and some of the talk scattered around Networked Narratives (and more likely to come). This release — Pearl — tells the heart-warming story of a father and daughter, all set inside and near a car, and the viewer can move around the setting of this car as time passes on.

What I find fascinating is how this kind of video/story experiment begins to push the agency of the storytelling to the viewer, who can move around the “car” here, or just keep the eyes focused outside the windows. The story unfolds, but where the lens is looking all depends on us. I think that is intriguing.

Watch Pearl (I am embedded it here but I think you might need to go to the video on YouTube). I see they have other stories now published, too. I like Pearl, though, for its emotional connection (see? Story overrides tech, even as tech complements story)

And watch the Behind the Scenes video of the Making of Pearl.

Peace (with stories),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: Dog Man

Well, I could not not read this, right? I mean, Dog Man! I am Dogtrax in social media spaces. And Dav Pilkey! Who doesn’t love the hijinks of Dav Pilkey? (not counting the teachers in his books, who complain about kids making comics all the time).

In a nutshell, Dog Man is a comic story being made by two comic characters (Harold and George) in Pilkey’s comic book. If you know Captain Underpants, then that makes sense. If not, go forth and read Captain Underpants (there are worse things to read, including the daily newspapers with headlines coming out of Washington DC).

Dog Man is a police officer with the head of a dog and the body of a man (and don’t ask how that happened) who always seems to save the day, from either the villian cat (Petey) or animated hot dogs (the edible kind, which sort of gives away the resolution of that particular story … sorry).

Pilkey has great fun with sight gags, and word play, and general mayhem and silliness that makes Dog Man a fun read, mostly for the elementary age (but my middle school son enjoyed it). What more can you ask of a book? (other than some deep underlying theme of the human condition … yeah .. you won’t find that here in Dog Man.)

Peace (it’s ruff),
Kevin

#NetNarr: Getting Elemental with Poetry

NetNarr Element Poems

Part of the “assignment” this week for the Networked Narratives course is to document the four Elements, as part of a larger discussion about Digital Alchemy. As usual, I decided that the idea of eight images of the elements (four literal, four interpreted) wasn’t what I wanted to do. But I did wonder if I could write four short poems, based on the elements of earth, wind, fire and water.

Using the app Legend, which animates text against a visual background, I got down to work, trying to hint at the elements but trying to write about something larger. I hoped the visual would connect to the element, as well as some key phrases. The constraints were length: Legend only allows a short amount of text, and the resulting animation is only six seconds.

But I was happy with each of the poems, which I think mostly captured what I was trying to accomplish in terms of the elements as inspiration for writing.

I posted each short poem on Twitter, via the #Netnarr hashtag, but then realized I really wanted them to be stitched together, so that all four poems of four elements became one digital composition. I turned to Animoto as the easiest way (I could have done it in iMovie) but also because I knew they had “elements” themes. The “air” theme seemed right, particularly when I found the “rain” song to go with it.

Networked Narratives is a hybrid course – part of a Keane University offering AND an open invitation to anyone. Come join the fun, with Mia Zamora and Alan Levine leading the way.

Peace (braving the elements),
Kevin

#NetNarr: Worldbuilding in Writing Notebooks

WorldBuilding Collage

In the Networked Narratives adventure just now unfolding, there is some talk down the road about “world building” and as my students were just finishing up an entire unit on video game design (telling a Hero’s Journey story inside of a video game structure), I decided to riff off the idea with some daily writing activities in their notebooks.

Day One’s prompt was to map out an imaginary world, either in the form of maps or an atlas, and to name landforms and water forms within their world.

WorldBuilding2

Day Two’s prompt was to use that Imaginary World as the setting for a short story, sending a character on an adventure through the new world they had conceived the day before.

What struck me was how closely many of the student’s maps and atlases of their new worlds resembled Earth. I expected more of them to take more creative license with the prompt. However, the stories were imaginative, conceptualizing a strange and imaginary place for adventure, and I wonder if their ability to “tell” stories (something we work on all year) gave them more freedom to explore the unknown elements of an unknown world.

BONUS: I made this prompt into a prompt for the Daily Digital Alchemy the other day. Give it a whirl. Create a world.

Peace (somewhere, there’s a world),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Rhythm of the Night

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)

Nature has a beauty all of its own. So, when the sleet is using my house as a drum pad all night, I can both appreciate the music of it as well as wish Mother Nature would give it a break. The drums were a mix of hard staccato beats, the wind providing an energetic pounding, and the soft jazzy brush of light tapping, almost as if somewhere, someone was playing their saxophone underneath the street light.

And still, the music played.

I’m awake now, early morning, and so can appreciate the different tones, of how sleet hitting the window sound different from sleet hitting the slanted roof over the sun room, and now those two are different from the sound of sleet hitting the basement bulkhead door.

I can appreciate it here, in my dry house, with coffee going and school just called closed. But I know the dog is going to get up soon, and I am going to have to head out into this music, feeling the drumsticks on my head and face, and the leftover sounds from the night’s jam session crunching beneath my feet. My appreciation for music might not last.

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Curiosity Conversation: Virtual Reality Storytelling

Bonnie

I have known Bonnie Kaplan for more than a decade now, through our affiliation with the National Writing Project and our common interest in digital storytelling. She is an avid video documentary filmmaker, and we have jumped into more than a few projects over the years (including the Collaborative ABC Project and the launch of the iAnthology writing space for NWP-affiliated teachers).

When I learned she was just back from a course on Virtual Reality Storytelling, out in California, I wanted to chat with her, to pick her brain a bit about the potential and the possibilities of this new technology in terms of where it might lead us into storytelling down the road. (You can read her blog reflections here).

Then I remembered Scott Glass and his Curiosity Conversation ideas from CLMOOC this past summer, in which one teacher reaches out to record a discussion with another on a topic of personal interest, so Bonnie and I chatted via Hangout.

I am grateful for her time and friendship, and her reminder that stories are at the heart of any digital storytelling.

Peace (in the chat),
Kevin

Bunch of Vines, Collected

Vine Collage

Vine, or the making of new Vines, sort of went kaput the other day, although I guess the 6-sec videos are still being hosted at the site, and there is something called Vine Camera replacing it.

But I am not sure.

All I know is, the other day I received an email from Vine, warning me that the deadline for using its downloader was upon us. So, I grabbed the ZIP file of all my Vines (videos and image shots, it turns out), and then thought .. now what?

I was curious to see the vids all together, and so pulled them into Animoto for this collection. It may only be amusing and entertaining for me, with context.

Peace (in little bursts),
Kevin

 

Graphic Novel Review: Secret Coders (Secrets and Sequences)

It’s the third book in the Secret Coders graphic novel series by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes, and I admit: I am pretty well hooked. I was slow to start with this series, even with Gene Luen Yang at the helm, for some reason — maybe the interjection of coding into the story felt a bit forced at the time.

Not anymore. As the story of our young female protagonist/coder — Hopper — and her friends uncover more and more strangeness in their school, and their school’s history, the narrative behind Secret Coders: Secrets and Sequences starts to kick into gear.

Sure, there are still interesting moments when the Luen Yang and Holmes stop the reader, ask them to mentally solve some coding puzzle, but I found myself enjoying those moments more than in the first book (and the second book started to really draw me in). I think it is me, not them, that is finally getting used to being pulled into the story from time to time as a programmer.

Here, in this third book, we meet a character who seems to be the main antagonist – Dr. One-Zero, a green man who was a brilliant student long ago but underwent a personal transformation of sorts (echoes of Dr. Strange here) — and we learn a bit more about Hopper’s missing father (part of the overarching narrative), as well as the strange connection to the school (Stately Academy) itself as a former place of innovation.

The coding gets more complex here, too, as the writers’ underlying mission to show young readers the ways that coding and programming through storytelling can be used to accomplish goals is extended out even further than the first two books. The kids at the heart of this graphic story use what they have learned about coding to escape from predicaments.

There is also a neat coding puzzle left for readers at the end of the book, as a sort of challenge for readers to uncover. You need Logo to solve it but the website connection to the book gives all of the information you might need to dive into programming. And the Fun with Coding page has some downloadable activities for use.

All in all, this series is a nice fit for upper elementary and some middle school students, particularly those with an interest in computers and programming. But the inclusion of a strong and fiesty female protagonist, ample amounts of humor, and a series of challenges for the reader to consider broaden the appeal for a wider audience with the Secret Coders series.

Peace (all ones and zeroes for action and adventure),
Kevin

 

Engaging Students (and Educators) as Citizens of the Digital Age

Jacqueline Vickery Keynote

There’s a term kicking around the new Networked Narratives course that I keep referring to and which I am curious to get to in the coming weeks: Civic Imagination. Mia Zamora hints at this a bit with her posts over at DML about the Networked Narratives course that is a hybrid between a university class and an open course (with Alan Levine), with the theme of digital storytelling.

Mia’s terminology was on my mind yesterday as I listened to a keynote presentation by Jacqueline Vickery, a professor and researcher out of Texas, during a local technology conference that I attended. Vickery’s focus in her talk was about engaging students as citizens in the Digital Age, and how adults often thwart those moves by teenagers to engage with the world through fear and intimidation. Vickery’s talk reminded me of the deep work by danah boyd, too, and how we need to pay attention to the “stories” of our young people, and help them find ways to positively engage with the world through social media and other technology/communication avenues.

Vickery (who has a book coming out called Worried about the Wrong Things: Youth, Risk and Opportunity in the Digital Age) noted that her research comes from observing young people interacting with technology. Many adults — parents and teachers and public policy makers — often react without taking the time to understand the underlying issues, or what is really taking place between youths when they connect.

“This narrative (of young people not in control and falling prey to the dangers lurking everywhere) … ignores what they are doing with technology,” Vickery said. “We often hear young people’s technology use pathologized .. (ie, web junkies, addiction, etc.) … as if they have no sense of agency of what they are doing, as if they are just passive users of technology.”

TIE Conference

Vickery laid out some tenets of helping young people see themselves as Citizens of the Digital Age (see image above), where social interaction across the technology is a vital component for participatory media and connections, for the betterment of the world.

She asked, rather rhetorically, if schools were doing enough to teach students about use of technology, from the standpoint of:

  • Civic Engagement
  • Emotional Growth
  • Social Justice
  • Equity

Probably not, in my estimation.

And this brings me back around to Mia’s reference to the term of Civic Imagination, and it has me wondering how we help students envision a better world ahead of them, and then how to turn that imaginative yearning into reality through awareness, information, agency and engagement with the world. This is the whole underlying premise of Connected Learning, by the way.

Vickery didn’t dispute that there are places where young people need help and oversight from adults to navigate the tricky waters of technology, but overall, she remains positive about the choices and the actions of young people.

“There are many ways to connect students with digital media, to see themselves as agents of change and active citizens,” she said, near the end of her talk. “If we view young people as agents of change, then we as adults can help them.”

Peace (here and into there),
Kevin