Music VR: Step Inside the Songs

Google and Sound Exploder (a cool podcast in which musicians dig deeper into their tracks) have created a pretty interesting new music experience called Inside Music. Only a few tracks are available right now, but the website brings you into an immersive 360 degree environment with all the tracks of the songs separated out, so you can isolate tracks and remix different elements of songs.

They have also put the code out for GitHub, as they invite other musicians and others to replicate the experience with their own songs and own tracks. I don’t know how to do that, but it would be fascinating to try it out with an original song some day.

Check out Inside Music

Note: in my Chrome browser on my laptop, the site didn’t launch right. It might be because of some of my ad blocking or maybe some other settings. I’m not sure. In Safari and Firefox, though, it all worked fine and was very cool. And I want to try it out on my phone, maybe with Google Cardboard.

Peace (sounding fine),
Kevin

Fake News/Media Literacy: The Slideshow Digital Comic Lesson Plan

Yesterday, I shared out the presentation that I did for my sixth graders around Fake News and Media Literacy skills, providing information and talking points for 11 year olds navigating a strange social media-infused world of truth and fiction.

Today, I want so share out my lesson plan for them, in which they use Google Slides to create a Digital Comic that focuses in on strategies they learned for filtering news. This lesson had two focus points: showing them how to use ‘call outs’ for dialogue bubbles in Slides and how to use the ‘scribble tool’ to free draw, as well as sharing information about Fake News in an engaging format.

As always, I created my own version of the project, making a Slideshow Digital Comic on the Fake News theme. In the next day or two, I will share out some of the student work on comics and fake news.

By the way, making comics in Google Slides is an idea that came from Mike Petty, who has tons of resources on how to do this.

Peace (spilling beyond the frame),
Kevin

(My Students’) State of Technology and Media 2017

Sample Screen from Student Survey

Each year, I give a survey to my sixth graders about their use of technology and social media as one entry point into a unit we call Digital Life. I also share the compiled results back with families, too, so they have a sense of trends with technology.

Here are the results of this year’s survey:

A few observations:

  • The amount of time that kids spend on technology is certainly continuing to grow over time, moving pretty solidly into the two/three/more hours a day. This echoes the results of a lot of official surveys of this age group.
  • More and more of my students have Smart Phone, meaning parents are spending a lot of money not just for the phones, but also for the services.
  • Facebook has seen another sharp decline among my sixth graders while Instagram grows at a steady rate for this age group.
  • Snapchat continues to be popular and growing.
  • Fewer students say they have had negative experiences in online spaces than in years past, and this reflects a trend in my surveys. Good news there.
  • More and more students indicate that parents and teachers have had explicit discussions with them about using technology. Another piece of good news.

This is a small sample, of a narrow population group, but for me, I find it valuable as a way to talk about their footprints in the digital world, and what it all means — both in positive terms (connections, sharing, creating) and negative terms (harassment, bullying, privacy). It’s all about the balance.

Peace (in the numbers),
Kevin

A Poem Emerges from Collaboration

Emergent Poem Collaboration

One of my participatory ideas from my presentation last week on “Emergence: Expecting the Unexpected” for the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing was to invite those in the presentation to write an acrostic poem with me. Over the course of a few days, I invited others, too, and the result is pretty nifty. I used an open source writing space called Board.Net (built off elements of the old Etherpad), and used the timelapse element to capture the poem being written.

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

PS — Terry Elliott is also using Board as an invitation to play with a poem.

What They Suggest (Students Inventing Passwords)

Student PW Suggestions

One of the activities I like to do with my students during our Digital Life unit is to have them explore and think deep on the notions of passwords for their many apps and accounts with technology. We use a site that tests the strength of passwords, and I have them use password creation strategies to invent password suggestions for their four main teachers.

Student PW Suggestions

It then becomes a classroom challenge, where groups of students share the password that they have for me, their ELA teacher; share and agree on a single suggestion from the group; and then we pit each one against each other to see how strong it is. Each of these images is a slide from each of my four classroom’s challenge. One rule is that I would have to be able to memorize the password, and that is must contain different elements of password strategies (mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols).

Student PW Suggestions

Most of these contain clues and elements of what they know about me — from my teaching to my family life to my interests. During the activity, I was actively interviewed about favorite foods, favorite numbers, music I like to listen to, etc.

Student PW Suggestions

They like the game element of it, but as I remind them, what this lesson is all really about is reflecting on the kinds of passwords they use in their lives and how to make them stronger.

I know I have hit a nerve when students start asking, “Can you show me how to change my Google password?”

Peace (safe and secure),
Kevin

Book Review: Streampunks (YouTube and the Rebels Remaking Media)

Robert Kyncl is no neutral party here. He is one of the executives at YouTube (YouTube Chief Business Officer) so his title of his book has to be taken with a grain of salt (as catchy as it is). Even so, Streampunks (YouTube and the Rebels Remaking Media) is an interesting look behind the curtain, a way to see how the Google YouTube corporate structure is working to find new personalities to anchor video watching as people shift away from network television and other traditional media.

I read with a critical eye, as it is easy to see Google as supporting the development of YouTube only to make money off our eyeballs, but I still appreciated Kyncl’s analysis of the transformation of entertainment that has emerged from the notion of anyone can post and publish video, anytime. More and more, we see YouTube personalities making their way into the mainstream (for good or for ill, and Kyncl is open about both, citing PewDiPie’s problems as just one recent example while also noting how Vlog brothers John and Hank Green have used the platform for good in the world).

One pervading message in Streampunks is that more and more of those entertainers hosting their own YouTube Channels are finding niche audiences around the world, giving rise to massive viewership for such interests as watching other people play video games, doing make-up, unboxing packages, and more. It’s another version of the long tail.

The important points that Kyncl raises here is that many of these YouTubers doing this work would never have found a platform on network television or in the movies or in music because they never would have been given a chance (Kyncl’s story of Justin Beiber’s rise is a good example of this as is the reach of Lilly Singh, aka IISuperwomanII), and that YouTube has created a place for cultural representation and communities of interaction between performer and audience. In fact, success on YouTube relies heavily on the personal touch, which video can provide in a way no other media really can.

Kyncl does write pretty honestly about the challenges of such open spaces, too, of ways that trolls bring negativity and how comments can become places of vitriol (when I ask my students about places they have seen the Internet as a negative experience, the overwhelming response is always YouTube comments). He says YouTube needs to do more to reach an even more diverse talent pool, and notes the efforts by YouTube to highlight diversity of personalities and cultures, and seek out new voices.

What I found most intriguing here is his profiles on some of the talent who are earning a solid living off video, and the work ethic those folks put into what they are doing, feeding the audience with new material, engaging always with comments and questions, and nurturing a vision for their material that fills some sort of gap. Kyncl makes it clear that almost no YouTube video comes out of nowhere, and goes viral. Most of those videos now come from a careful long-term plan by the creators, slowly building audiences until something catches with the general public, and then riding that wave to the next level of stardom.

As a teacher, and as a father of sons who dabble in video production, this insider’s look was valuable, as is trying to understand the YouTube phenomenon from an insider like Kyncl, who does have a long-standing vision for streaming video (he helped lead a project at Netflix as it was transitioning to streaming) and putting more opportunities in the hands of everyone (while making a bundle of money in advertising for Google, of course).

I’ll leave you with Kyncl’s book dedication:

To the kid out there filming a video on a smartphone who will one day become the biggest entertainer in the world

Peace (on the air),
Kevin

Stepping Into Immersive Virtual Reality Art

Wandering in VR Space

I had the day wrong, I realized later. I had read a news item promoting a “Print and Book Festival” in an art space in our city’s downtown, and convinced one of my sons to come with us to see what it was about. It was billed as 30 small press publishers and others, sharing comics and chapbooks and more. It was a rainy Saturday, so why not? (Plus, well, we love books in my family.)

It turns out that event is TODAY. Yesterday’s event in the same space? A showcase of Virtual Reality immersive art and gaming, with about five stations of VR headsets to try out. This VR event was connected to a local film festival going on up the street in the downtown theater. We live in a very art-orientated community.

In one VR station, you walk a plank jutting out from the top window of a skyscraper and then you need jump to the ground (that one freaked out my wife). In another, you play a version of Frogger, running through traffic to get to the other side. That was fun, if a little frenetic.

VR Gallery

One other area had someone printing out local Snaps from Snapchat, using some local tag, and the printed images were then put on one side of a plexiglass wall. Visitors were invited to doodle with markers on top of the image (but on the plexiglass side), using the Snap as the frame for art, and then the original was removed, leaving the doodled art in thin air (on the plexiglass).

Painting in VR

My favorite (and my son’s favorite) was a station in which you can use the Google software called Tilt Brush, which allows you to draw with all sorts of colors and inks and techniques in a virtual landscape of your choosing. It felt as if you were surrounded by ink, and waving the wands brought the pens into motion. I started to draw in space, and then on the desert, and then with bubbles in a pink surrounding.

I have never heard of Tilt Brush, have you?

At the front of the gallery, an artist was hard at work, using Tilt Brush and her own VR set to make some sort of gallery art installation in Virtual Reality, and watching her work in silence was fascinating. She’d wave her wands, as the monitor screen showed her art in progress.

So, a mistake made for an afternoon adventure, and the cool thing is? That original Book and Print Festival is still happening later today, so I have a chance to get “immersive” in good ol’ paper and ink.

Peace (immerses us in reality),
Kevin

Sussing Out Ideas with Crowd Annotation

Annotation: Copenhagen Letter

I followed an invitation by Maha Bali to annotate a document known as the Copenhagen Letter. Maha had her university students in Egypt doing annotations on a digital text, and she put out a call on her blog to others.  The Copenhagen Letter is an open letter to the world by a gathering of technology and social media folks, and other “thinkers” of some kind or another, as a manifesto for change when it comes to technology. (Here is a link to some of the background of the conference and the letter itself).

We used the Hypothesis add-on for crowd annotation, which is such a handy tool for this kind of work. You can read through the nearly 40 annotation observations by following this link: https://via.hypothes.is/https://copenhagenletter.org/ and I suppose Maha would say, Come on in and add your own thoughts, too.

As I dove in to the letter from the margins, I found myself feeling mixed about the content. On one hand, the letter is a call to action as a counter to the negative vibes and corporate for-profit threads that seem to be changing the entire DNA of social media spaces. It’s clearly the voice of frustration in terms of corporate desires overtaking user needs. On the other hand, the content of the letter is so vague and so general that is seems almost meaningless as a call to action.

I noticed, as I read the margin notes of Maha’s students and others, that not only was I not alone in that critique, but others were far more critical, questioning many phrases and intentions behind the letter. Someone even shared out Aaron Swartz’s 2008 Guerilla Open Access Manifesto as an counter example of calls to action.

At the end, where folks can “sign” the Copenhagen Letter, I wondered aloud: Did anyone in the margins ever sign the open letter? No response yet. (I did not sign it.)

An ancillary conversation on Twitter pursued this frame of thought a bit more – about whether such a manifesto does any good or if it only exposes the fuzzy language of how we talk about social media and technology in our lives. I’m still unsure about how I feel about the letter, but I appreciate that folks took the time to come together, to recognize the need for change, and worked to articulate concerns to the world. That’s not easy to do.

I’ll leave us with a comment by my CLMOOC friend, Sheri, who is wise and always has insightful and positive things to say about the world:

Which leads me to share out news that the group behind Marginal Syllabus, in partnership with the National Writing Project, is launching a project called Writing Our Civic Futures, in which various documents will be open for public annotation with Hypothesis over the course of a few months. This project begins this coming week, so now is the time to engage in discussion and discourse.

Learn more about Writing Our Civic Future here. And read the first invitation to annotate a post by Henry Jenkins about youth culture and social media, and change.

And a bit about Hypothesis:

Peace (in the margins),
Kevin

 

Teaching Attribution

This “card” will be helpful for my students to have in from of them when I get into my lessons around digital media and attribution principles, with a focus on how to search for Creative Commons for projects and how to use what other people have made in our own work.

This tutorial image comes from a useful post over at KQED called “Pause Before Downloading” and that article also includes a helpful list of places to look for Creative Common images.

And I don’t want to forget that Alan Levine’s handy attribution tool for images is something to install as a bookmarklet on our school laptop browsers. Alan has created a simple way to make sure you have the language of attribution down. Just drag the bookmarklet into your browser and whenever you find a Creative Commons image, just click on it and it will give you options for attribution. I use it all the time at home. Simple. Powerful. Handy.

Peace (link it),
Kevin