Transmedia Digital Storytelling Course: Final Thoughts

Transmedia Storytelling Narrative Universe

I recently finished a free online course through FutureLearn entitled “Transmedia Storytelling.” I wasn’t all that impressed, but perhaps that is due more to covering ground I’ve already covered on my own in the past than the course itself, which is a mix of videos, articles and a comment strand. (Look: the course was free. I’m not really complaining. But FutureLearn ain’t no NetNarr!)

What I really wanted to see was some transmedia digital story projects showcased as exemplars for how digital stories can jump from platform to platform, creating an overarching arc of story while still maintaining independence on the platforms. Unless I missed them, I didn’t see nearly enough of those kinds of projects.

Transmedia Storytelling Branches

There was quite a bit of information about what transmedia is, and why it is an interesting new twist on the age-old elements of storytelling (which began with oral tradition, moved into print tradition, and now seems to be coming back to oral tradition with digital media, according to the course instructor.)

Transmedia Storytelling Media Works Together

I had the vague sense that the course was aimed more at business folks, who are learning how best to market in the digital age through digital immersion of content. That was never said outright, but that was my inferential take on some of the material presented.

Transmedia Storytelling No Barriers

Perhaps as Networked Narratives explores digital stories more deeply, I will try my hand at another transmedia composition. I’ve done a few before, and always felt like they pushed me to think differently as a writer. Writing across platforms and spaces, with threads to tie all the pieces together as a whole, requires deep thinking and extensive planning.

Transmedia Storytelling Platforms

When transmedia works, it’s magic.

Peace (in stories),
Kevin

Why I Follow Those Whom I Follow (and Why I Unfollow Those Whom I Once Followed)


Twitter flickr photo by clasesdeperiodismo shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

The other day, I wrote about my week of semi-digital hibernation, as part of a Digital Audit activity with CLMOOC. I mentioned that I weeded out a lot of folks from my Twitter stream. That got me thinking a bit more deeply: why do I follow those I follow? And what makes me unfollow them?

I follow:

  • Anyone who seems to have an affiliation with the National Writing Project. I am a sucker for friends and colleagues in the NWP network spaces, and have a NWP Twitter list going with nearly 800 people. Even though I clearly don’t “know” them all, I feel affinity for their work and ideas. A follow makes me feel connected to the larger network.
  • If you write that you are a sixth grade teacher, I’m going to likely follow you. I may want to steal some of your ideas, or celebrate you and your students, or just glance over your shoulder. I am always looking to learn about teaching.
  • If you are someone who dabbles in digital media, through the lens of learning and experimentation, I am likely to follow you, particularly if you are sharing out your creative process and interesting art. I like artists and teachers who push the boundaries, and are not afraid to write about success and failure, and the next project on the horizon.
  • If I am in an open course, like NetNarr, I will likely follow other folks in that network. But I might unfollow you later. It depends on how strong the connection is that we make.

Why might I unfollow someone?

  • If it is clear you are merely using me to buff up your Twitter list, most likely for marketing of some service, I will unfollow you. I don’t want to be part of anyone’s marketing campaign or part of someone’s Legitimacy Reputation. (ie, Look who follows me? I must be legit.)
  • If you have nothing written in your bio on Twitter, I am probably going to stop following you (if I followed you in the first place). Using a few words to stake your claim to a space is important. Link me to a webpage or blog. That said, if the words don’t resonate with me? Probably unfollow.
  • If you only retweet, and barely ever share your own writing or learning, or never engage in conversations or discussions, then I am unlikely to follow you. Life’s too short for too many silent interactions. But, I usually give some time for you to get acclimated to Twitter before making that decision. I know new folks have be immersed first.
  • Most companies and organizations, even educational ones, don’t stand a chance with my follow button. But if they do, they best be clear about the work they are doing to advance student learning or digital writing, without a public on eye on “selling” their services. I know that goes against the grain of why companies are on Twitter. Too bad. Find another way.
  • I’ll follow some bots, if they are interesting and creative. What I hate is when I follow a bot for a time, and then suddenly, that bot starts pushing inappropriate content out through “retweeting.” Unfollow. Block.

There are probably more reasons why I stop following people. These are the ones that stood out as I continue my work on scaling down my Twitter followers and following streams.

How about you? Why do you follow or unfollow? Have you even ever thought about it? (I hadn’t really, until recently. I found myself just clicking follow all the time, it seems, without any thoughts about why I was following someone.)

I am reminded of my CLMOOC friend, Algot, who has mostly shifted to writing in the Mastodon social networking space. There, just about every time someone follows Algot, he writes a personal and individualized note of thanks and welcome to that person, explaining his hope that he will be up to the task of engaging them in interesting thinking and conversations. How cool is that?

Peace (following it),
Kevin

Students Engaging in Reading with #BookSnaps

BookSnaps from Students

I wrote the other day about my plan to try out BookSnaps with my sixth graders. BookSnaps are images of reading books, with “stickers” and short text annotations. While the original idea is to use Snapchat, we used Google Draw, and it worked out just fine.

BookSnaps from Students

My aim was to talk about annotations, with text and images. I also wanted to show them Google Draw, another app within their Google accounts that can be tapped for various projects.

BookSnaps from Students

I walked them the process. We ended up using PhotoBooth to take the pictures (while I was going to use an extension created by Alice Keeler, I realized that our students don’t actually log into the Chrome Browser but instead, log into Google itself.) It turns out our librarian had already shown them how to use PhotoBooth, so that was … a snap.

BookSnaps from Students

Next, I talked about what could be in the texts, which were call-out shapes within Google. I explained that annotations make thinking visible, so they could

  • Ask questions of the text
  • Make predications
  • Find connections with other books
  • Pull out phrases or words that seem interesting

BookSnaps from Students

One friend suggested creating a Google Draw template with call-outs and stickers in the margins of the drawing field, which is a good idea, but I went with a blank Draw slate, and let them build from there. It took longer but I think it gave each BookSnap its own flavor.

BookSnaps from Students

And the ‘stickers’ were merely Google Images, related to the text on the page. I did some mini-lessons around cropping (which some used and some apparently didn’t), and the fading tool, so that they could better manipulate the image within the design of the page.

BookSnaps from Students

Overall, the BookSnap project was a success, and kids were very engaged in the activity. I have now shared all of the folders of BookSnaps with all students across four classrooms, so they can peek in and see what their friends and fellow readers are reading, and maybe get inspired to pick up a new book.

BookSnaps from Students

Peace (and stickers),
Kevin

Aw Snap — Introducing Digital Annotation with #BookSnaps

BookSnap Mentor Example

I ran across a reference to an idea called BookSnaps that seemed intriguing so I followed the thread to Tara Martin’s blog, where she shared out information about how to use digital tools, particularly Snapchat, for annotation and layering of media.

Watch Tara’s short talk/presentation about the idea:

I was intrigued because I am interested in finding more ways to engage my sixth graders with annotation and digital tools, for many of the reasons that Tara gives: the ways annotation focuses attention, how it helps us remember, how to it makes visible the learning of a text.

While Tara shares about Snapchat as the platform, I was more interested about using something within our students’ Google accounts, to make it easier to teach and easier to save. We are in our Independent Reading unit right now, so this is a perfect way to share the first pages of books they have chosen, I am thinking.

My sample — for Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust, see above — was done in Google Drawing and it all went quite well, using call-out text boxes for the writing and some images searches for the “stickers.” There’s not a lot of space, so finding focus will be key, as will setting parameters for how many overlays can be on a page. I can see my kids getting carried away with images.

Tara does have a video about using Google Drawing that helped me think this through:

(Note: Google has now changed the way one can take image snapshots within its system, so the direct method that Tara mentions in her video may no longer work. I used PhotoBooth for my sample, but Tara kindly mentioned a free extension by Alice Keeler for Chrome that takes pictures and puts them into a Google Drive folder, which can then be moved into Google Drawing. I tested it out and it seemed to work quite well.)

I envision this BookSnap idea as one of the first steps of our work with digital annotation, and the connection to Snap Chat (even though we won’t be using it) with layered text and layered image, and sharing, should grab my students’ attention. And sharing out books, and reading about what others are reading, is always a powerful sharing experience, made more fun with layers of annotation.

I’ll let you know how it goes …

If you are thinking that the use of Snapchat App is of interest, this video by another teacher (not Tara) gives a good walk-through of each step along the way:

Peace (layer it and annotate it),
Kevin

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