All Join Hands: A Global Musical Collaboration

All Join Hands musicians

I am fortunate. I have friends who are willing to collaborate with me, and it doesn’t matter where on the globe they live. We connect and create, regardless of time zones and languages. This was once again made clear to me over the past two weeks when I recorded a song that I had written a few years ago, moved it into Soundtrap, and began inviting folks to sing along with me on the chorus.

The song — All Join Hands — is a response to the violence in the world, a pushing back against discord. An acknowledgement that we need to help those in need, and that we all have an obligation to each other. We all need to join hands.

All Join Hands music tracks

The chorus goes:

All join hands and light the candle
We are one tonight
Peace and love and faith inside us
We are one tonight

So, out went the invites, asking for voices, and in came the amazing array of sounds as Ron, Sarah, Maha A., and Wendy all lent me a gift that we wove together for this version of the song.

Thank you, friends. Thank you for taking the time to sing with me. Thank you for honoring the lyrics with your voices and passions and melodies. Thank you for connecting with me, again, and reminding me of the power of those connections.

Thank you.

And I am excited that my other close friend and regular collaborator, Bonnie Kaplan, may use this song as part of the soundtrack for her annual Digital Storytelling collaborative project, in which she invites folks to send her images on a theme. This year’s theme is “Joy.”

Peace (and love and faith inside us),
Kevin

 

Now, this is a map … of the Gaming Worlds

I have a version of this map hanging up on the wall of my classroom right now. Groups of students stand there, reading it, for long stretches of time.

The map comes from the Boston Sunday Globe. We are deep into our game design unit right now, and so when I saw this map created by this 17-year-old (Martin Vargic), I saw it as a perfect complement to our discussions around the impact of gaming on the world at large.

You can read more about Vargic here at the Globe.

I see that Vargic also has a book of his maps out for sale. It’s worth a gander. I have it ordered for myself (a little holiday gift)

Peace (on and off the map),
Kevin

 

Student Video Game Designers At Work

Student Game Designers at Work

It’s hard to resist gathering snapshots of the work going around my room during the science-based video game design project. I like how these students have their storyboards right next to them, using them as guides for the design.

Student Game Designers at Work

Peace (by design),
Kevin

Found Poem: Toward a Collective Ownership of Stories

Defining participatory culture

We’re just launching our #DigiWriMo slow-read of the new book – Participatory Culture in a Networked Era — by eminent scholars Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito and danah boyd. Terry Elliott has set forth a few collaborative annotation options for people to feed into as a way to demonstrate participatory culture as a shared reading experience.

I hope we begin to examine how technology platforms promote and/or hinder participatory involvement.

After reading the first section — which is, as the rest of the book, mostly in the form of a transcribed/edited conversation between the boyd, Ito and Jenkins — I was struck by a number of phrases and ideas. My highlighter (I am reading paper copy of book) had been busy, and as I looked over my notes, I began to see a found poem taking shape.

The phrase “Toward a collective ownership of stories” keep ringing around in my mind. This phrase resonated with me and all of the collaborative projects that we undertake in places like #DigiWrimo or #CLMOOC or #Rhizo(add year) or whatever. While the platforms of technology open up possibilities, it is always the people that make the collaborations happen. We tell stories, together. I am making connections between that work/play and what the three writers here are talking about when it comes to participatory culture.

Those words in the text became the anchor point for a found poem. I had this vision of doing it as a podcast, and trying to get many people to read that line “Toward a collective ownership of stories” together, as a chorus. I might still try that, but I have been swamped and I know others are, too.

Found Poem from Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

You are invited to slow-read this book with us, too. This slow-reading idea means we are not in any rush. The discussions will probably unfold over a few weeks, right into and through the new year. People will get their books when they can. Semesters need to end. The holidays need to pass. We’re starting but there is no real starting point.

Come along with us.

Some of what we will do will be in our DigiWriMo Google Community. Some will be via the Twitter hashtag of #digiwrimo. Some will be at your blog. Or my blog. Some may unfold in Facebook. Some will take place who knows where. That’s good. That’s fine. We like that. Disperse your ideas in ways that help you move forward.

Peace (and participate),
Kevin

 

Game Design Mantra: Engage, Educate, Entertain

Three words I say every day to my game designers

 

My students are no doubt weary of me saying these three words every day as they work on their science-based video game project. But I find it helps to keep them focused on the three elements of our project.

I remind them that, as video game designers, they want to …

ENGAGE the player in a game that fun to play, hitting that “sweet spot” of not too hard, and not too easy, but just challenging enough (ie, the Goldilocks Principle).

EDUCATE the player about the science that should be baked into the game itself. Our focus is on Buoyancy and the science behind it is the underpinning of the games.

ENTERTAIN the player with an interesting story-frame — the narrative that the game is wrapped up in. I tell them to consider their audience as a player who is reading their story by playing their video game. Yes, it is a high concept, but it builds off our work last month with Interactive Fiction.

Every day, every class period, I am saying “Remember: Engage, educate, entertain.” And it does occur to me that this could be a mantra for any classroom, although some might quibble with the “entertain” element there as being as important as the “educate” one.

Peace (ummmmm),
Kevin

Comic Response: On the Issue of Poverty and Possibility

On Poverty: A Response to Daniel

My friend, Daniel, has long been part of my various online networks, and his work around youths and poverty and violence prevention have informed many a discussion. 

As he writes on his blog:

My aim is to help communities create and sustain strategies that make more and better non-school tutor/mentor programs available to inner-city youth in high-poverty neighborhoods of Chicago and other cities. I’m Daniel Bassill. I have led volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago since 1975. Learn more about me at http://www.tutormentorexchange.net/dan-bassill.

Last week, he posed a question to his social networks. Daniel asked us to respond with different kinds of media to this query:

“What Will it Take to Assure that all Youth Born or Living in High Poverty are Starting Jobs and Careers by Age 25?”

Daniel often uses mapping to show how data might inform interventions for young people. I went with a comic to respond to him. This both added another element and also restrained my response. I didn’t want to make a multi-page comic, so my three answers are in the middle.

Later, Daniel noted that I had not talked about after-school programs in my comic response, and he is right. While I think those activities are important, I find that the best way to reach the most kids is right in school itself, and I often worry about money and grants allocated for after-school programming take away from needed resources in the schools. I don’t discount the impact after-school programs can have, however.

Feel free to add your ideas to the conversation, in any media that helps you make your point.

Peace (everywhere, all the time),
Kevin

Visualizing the Game: The Importance of Storyboarding

In the first stages of our science-based game design project, I have students do two steps of brainstorming. First, they have to write out some initial ideas for a story-frame (the narrative story around which the video game is built); the science and scientific vocabulary that they will bake into their game; and challenges or troubles they see on the horizon as they seek to bring their vision for a video game into reality.

Then, we shift into storyboarding. I emphasize a lot about the importance of this step, of putting onto paper a plan of design that will guide the development of the game. Even if they venture away from the paper design later, it will be an anchor point for them, a place to refer back to time and again.

Here are two storyboards from this year that I wanted to save as exemplars for next year:

From Ellie:

ellie storyboard game

From Will:

will storyboard game1

will storyboard game2

Peace (in the story on the board),
Kevin

Student Game Developers’ Journals: Active Thinking

Game Developer Journal collage1

As part of our science-based video game design project now underway, my students have to keep a Game Designer Journal for reflective writing on their process of designing, building and publishing their video game projects. The collage above gathers some of the posts from the first day, as they were asked to reflect on what they like and don’t like (or find challenging) about using Gamestar Mechanic.

As always, I am right there with them, modeling what I am hoping they might do with their writing. We are using Google Docs, so that this reflective game journal becomes another piece of their writing portfolio this year.

Here are my first entries for my game project:

Mr H Game Developer Journal

Peace (reflect),
Kevin

The UpDown Disaster: A Game of Buoyancy

opening to game

I’ve been working on a mentor game to share with my students as they begin work on their own science-based video game design project. We’re using the theme of “buoyancy” this year. I am still working to improve the second level, which is a bit difficult to play and is a stretch to represent the science concept.

Here’s what I came up with (note- Gamestar does not play well on mobile devices):

Peace (in the play),
Kevin

A Single Word Can Change a Story (Perhaps)

Short Fiction Ornament String

Yesterday, I wrote this flash fiction story on Twitter with the #25wordstory hashtag. You know … write a story in 25 words (give or take a word here and there, that’s my interpretation). My aim was to infer another story, behind the ornament being put away, and also, to shorten each sentence to make the story more and more compact by the end.

I let that story sit and then realized, if I added the word “cried” at the end, as a last single-word sentence, it would change the emotion of the story. While before it wasn’t clear why she was putting the ornament away, now with that one word, you have a better idea (albeit, still not completely clear. Is she crying over remembering? Over loss? Sadness? Maybe happiness?)

And what, I wondered, would happen to that story — still so very short — if I changed that last word to something else. Another emotion. What if I made it “laughed” or “smiled”? Would the whole tenor of the story shift? I think so.  I used “laugh.” But now I wonder, after reading it with some distance, if “smile” would not have been better.

It’s interesting what you can do in the small confines of a Twitter story. A single word is a powerful anchor of emotion.

Peace (in the tiny),
Kevin