Saturday, July 30, 2016

Final Reflection and Portfolio



I have had some serious fun in this course. For my final portfolio, I used MS Office Mix to create a narrated video. Hopefully, it's not too long but contains some of my thinking from a journal I kept during the summer to help me organize my thoughts week by week. The creation of the Office Mix was incredibly powerful for me as it really is a lengthy reflection of my thoughts through the summer. I think my work has changed my thinking.    As a critical reader, of the texts,  I found myself continually attempting to draw links or to even to see links between what was happening in class and what was happening in other areas of my research and professional life.  I do not know if it was serendipity, coincidence, or that I simply have begun to see these webs as I work to decompartmentalize my thinking about teaching, learning, and schools.
Lankshear and Knobel really reshaped how I thought about digital literacy and storytelling.  I have been so focused upon digital storytelling as a shared narrative.  Part of this is through the work that I have done with Narrative 4, which is a non-profit organization seeks to, "build a community of empathic global citizens who improve the world through the exchange of personal narratives."

As I read the various readings by Lanksear and Knobel, I began to let go of my myopic view of digital storytelling and broaden my thoughts around it.  In fact my first story critique was of an audio story.  I is a dual or shared narrative which is something I am profoundly interested in.  However, it did not contain any video--it was simply a shared audio narrative.  That in itself was powerful and uncluttered.

I found the idea of literacy as developing a contextualized understand compelling.  To understanding literacy as simply a de-coding competency no longer seems adequate.  We living in increasingly complex and ambiguous contexts which require a deeper understanding and relational ability than we may have required even 20 years ago.  I see increasingly stronger threads in shared experience, collaboration, and the ability to create a shared experience in a digital space.  I believe that this will only become more important in the collapsed digital spaces we live and work in.

I continue to be fascinated by the profound ideas surrounding re-mixing and ownership.  As I watch my students and others deeply engaged in the fanfic movement, I realize that they are creating something new and extending previous creative works not only to entertain themselves, but to share and create community and relationships with others.  Understanding this phenomenon in a social-cultural context allows us to understand how affinity groups are created, and re-created through digital media.  Again, prior to this course, I had not considered how valuable this might be in identity formation and literacy development.

If I had to point to a singular experience in the course which truly changed how I looked at collaboration, it would be the hypothesis flash mob. I was doubtful at the outset.  However, once I got into the 'conversation' I can clearly see multiple ways to use this in classrooms at my school.  I will admit my new staff is skeptical and I may have to launch a hypothesis flash mob of my own to show them how this may work in a very positive way for our high school students.

I appreciated several articles which I thought addressed important elements of creating culture and identity in a digital context.  I completely resonated with the Scott Campbell article, "Being Alone in the Digital Era."  We are so bombarded with input through our digital devices that solitude becomes essential and unplugging becomes a discipline rather than a natural course of daily events.

I mentioned in my Mix presentation how much of this course was influenced by the course of daily events this summer.  It has been such a tumultuous few weeks and the readings which challenged ideas of white privilege and race in America.  I took Shelley Zion's course on Power and Privilege several years ago where intense discussions occurred.  Professor Zion was amazing--but it really forced me far outside my comfort zone.  I found myself outside of my comfort zone again--as it is clear that privilege and race are conversations that we need to continually engage in.  Digital spaces can create spaces where these conversations can happen.



Sunday, July 24, 2016

Week Seven Reflection: Not Quite A Wrap

In the movies, the director hollers, "and....it's a wrap!"

ILT 5340 is not quite a wrap.  However, we are getting close.  Week seven has been wonderful.  I have begun to reflect back on this last seven weeks and I really think that what we have experienced is a mashup between a sprint and a marathon.  I'll work on a visual for that prior to my last reflection. Each week, I have been drawn further into the ideas of literacy and what that looks like in a digital community of learners.  I have reconsidered the ideas of time and space and learned about a vital concept that will become a permanent part of my own research interest: the collapsed context.

This week, I spent all week long working on a new high school concept.  It has been challenging to build a new team with educators who are reluctant adopters of technology and who are largely resistant to change.  This has been hard--because the frustrated leader in my has often found itself inwardly screaming, "For God's sake, take a flipping risk!"

Our kids need to know that taking a risk will often lead to huge rewards.  Our kids need to know that risk taking is an important 21st and 22nd century skill and that the kids coming into our schools today will quite likely be navigating a 22nd century world.  We need to develop that kind of forward thinking risk taking.  We need to stop thinking about today--and tomorrow--and start thinking about what lies just slightly beyond our singular limited experiences.

We need to teach ourselves to dream.  It occurs to me that our stories and the stories we tell need to reach back to the idealism of Dr. King and look forward to a shared experience and collective understand empathy that looks forward to an existence where every story shared is an experience of created and nurtured co-existence.  Digital collapsed contexts allow us to share those experiences across time and space and cultural contexts.  In many ways, they encourage us to dream.  They also encourage us to never forget and to become the curators of multiple shared experiences.  Alton and Philando will become a part of those shared experiences.  Hopefully, we dream about those experiences--and hopefully we can share those experiences across time, across culture, because to be human is to know we are not alone through shared experiences.  "We read to know we are not alone," words by C.S.Lewis--We share our stories to know that we can live better, more fully when we share experience and understanding.

So, my reflection this week is more metaphysical.  But, it is also one which reveals how much the stories we share and tell intersect with my own experiences and the experiences of my children to create something much fuller, much deeper and much more important that my singular story.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Week 7: Reading Response Project Based Learning--The Real Deal

This week, I have been inundated with a host of readings around project based learning.  A key one for me is: The Main Course, Not Dessert How Are Students Reaching 21st Century Goals With 21st Century Project Based Learning? Authors: John Larmer and John R. Mergendoller Buck Institute for Education 2010.

This approach so resonates with me as a school leader working within and around a new model.  In this model we acknowledge that there are focus areas students need within and across subject models to move forward toward higher level thinking.  However, what we really want students to accomplish is higher order thinking around a set of cognitive skills which can be applied in every area of learning and by extension, life.  This has huge ramifications for what our schools and classrooms look like and really requires innovating thinking around design, structures and the role of both teacher and learner in any environment.

This led to a tremendous amount of thinking around how Remi and Lisa have approached this course. The model is intentionally not teacher led--and to some extent, not really teacher guided either.  As I look at the course from a meta-cognitive perspective, what I see is the intentional creation of a community of learners who are situating learning around central spaces of shared creativity, thought and collaboration.  This is SO powerful.

My struggle as a school leader in a 9-12 school is creating this same type of learning within a structure which has an established status quo and centuries long tradition of remaining unchallenged as our public schools have become.  This past week, I spent time with my new staff.  None of them have experienced both the fear and freedom of letting go.  They are well entrenched in traditional classrooms and encouraging them to leave that behind and start thinking less about how they are going to experience teaching and more about how students will experience learning has been a challenge.

For some of them, sadly it will be an impossibility.

For me, it will require diplomacy, the ability to coach consistently, and the patience of a saint.

For our students, it has the potential to engage them at deeper levels of understanding and a richness of collaborative thought that many will find liberating.

Hopefully, they will find a voice like Simon found in the Nilsson article.  They will make a meaning for their experiences which will add to their identities and help them find a place where they truly can make meaningful contributions to their communities.  That is the goal.  I think we have lost sight of what is truly important about teaching--creating those connections and helping our students create them in a context which encourages connection to self and to others.  There is a power in that that we underestimate.  There is a power in empathetic thought and understanding.

This brings me full circle back to change and risk-taking.  All of this requires paradigm changes and a willingness to take a risk.  Remaining in this arena means that there are days when I will get beat up a little bit.  I have to be OK with that--because firmly entrenched systems create barriers which are difficult to break down--even though we see that in order to create equity and access for all of our students, breaking down preconceived notions about learning, teaching, growing, and being is essential.  The only way to do that is to take a risk and simply go for it.

DS 106 Assignment Bank: The Bucket List

This week I went with the bucket list assignment.  My summer theme of change/transformation and risk-taking seems to lend itself quite nicely to this assignment and really, I wanted to go back and really consider a few of my life's choices.  This seemed like a great opportunity to do that.

So, I had a handy-dandy bucket list available.  A few years ago, I stumbled upon on of those ridiculous FaceBook lists.  It was a essentially a bucket list in which recipients were asked to identify the ones they had already completed.  It was a nonsensical grouping of items.  One of the really great things about being on social media for a good length of time is that is can serve as a kind of repository for these types of personal inventories.

So, I went back and, as I recalled, I found my own personal bucket list which I wrote on May 29, 2010.  It seemed like a great idea to take stock now, six years later through this particular assignment which now may become a part of my own digital story.

Here is my list:

 Sit on a balcony in a Tuscan villa drinking a lovely red wine with my husband and watching the stars twinkle in the sky (I have not done this yet--but it is still on my list today)
• Wipe the tears from my eyes as each of my children marries the love of their lives.  (I've done it once and let me tell you, it is a precious moment!)  
• Learn to appreciate a beautiful sunrise. (I am coming to appreciate the peace early morning hours afford me.  There is a goodness in solitude which is hard to find at other times of the day.)
• Learn to speak Italian. (not yet and dropping off the list quickly.  I think at this point in my life, being able to order a gelato in Florence is about as close as I am going to get!)
• Be able to retire knowing that I made a positive difference for at least one other human being as a result of my occupational labors. (I can check this one off.  My career has been extraordinarily rewarding and wondrous!)
• Develop an observable bicep muscle. (Ain't happening--time to drop this one off the list.)
• Attend a performance at the Sydney Opera House.  (This one needs to be moved up on the list!)
• Peer into the eyes of my grandchildren and see a part of me twinkling there. (Done and she's precious and definitely a part of her grammy!)
• Run a marathon  (Time to exit this one off the list!)
• Take a trip on the Orient Express (Does it even exist anymore?)
• Write one really great piece of fiction. (Not the great American Novel—I’d settle for a published short story.) (I still want to do this--and now more than ever since I have developed a real interest in the power of our stories)
• Spend an unlimited amount of time in the Vatican—and it’s archives reading Church Historical documents. (How am I going to pull this one off--I would love to--I just cannot figure out how to make it happen)
• Swim in open water without worrying about the aquatic beasties waiting to make me dinner.  (Time to remove this one from the list.)
• Learn to dance like Ginger Rodgers with my fabulous husband!  (We are two willing, awkward, geeky people.  Do you think we still could pull this off?)
• Worry less, enjoy more, love deeply,  (I am definitely better at this than I was in 2010.  I shall keep on moving in this direction more intentionally.)


I think I may see a great digital story growing out of this list--so I need to keep my mind on it as a possibility for further development.  I was so glad to have found it in my archives which is a great reminder that our social media can actually become a repository of our shared experiences and narratives.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Daily Create 1655: Contrasting Emotions



Republican National Convention in full swing.  I created this as a response to Ted Cruz's great debacle on Wednesday evening.  I could not resist.  Trump is such an easy subject for this daily create!

Week 7: Video Critique "The Power of One"

video


After spending the last 6 weeks reviewing digital stories, primarily in the form of movies, which are personal and really address the ideas of change and transformation, I have opted to share out a video which has a much more personal connection to me.

Last year, my daughter was inspired to create this video as a result of an assignment she was given at school.  The assignment was intentionally vague and required the students to use literary elements.  These included repetition and creating a motif around a central theme.  The teacher also asked them to not create fiction--but to address an issue or situation that was personal to them.  This was really difficult for my daughter who finally settled upon this very personal narrative.

As I critique her video, it is difficult to separate out the pride of a parent.  So, I have looked primarily at the rubric provided by the teacher and also as a part of this course.  What is immediately apparent to me is that she has developed cohesion in her narrative through the use of her central idea of 'one.'  This element ties everything she says together and draws the elements she has chosen into a singular idea.  I actually like this because I believe it helps the viewer to understand where the emphasis is. Otherwise this becomes a linear plot line with out much to pull it together.

I also hear a clearly developed voice.  She has struggled finding a narrative voice in her writing and it is fascinating to see her develop a clear one in this digital story.  Her voice is strong and passionate.  She has a great idea and concept in which her own voice emerges.

Her use of digital tools is good--the voice/music audio is well balanced and the background music compliments the story.  She deliberately chose an edgy piece of music which has an Asian feel but which is modern.  She was not satisfied with her own voice over but I think it feels authentic and genuine.

She did not use any fancy editing techniques with her photos.  She does have a nice mix of personal and stock photographs which describe her theme.  She might have used smoother transitions more effectively--fading in and out could have been more effective.  I do like the repetition of photos which match up with the audio narrative for emphasis.  That repetition is very effective and really drives the idea and theme home.

Overall, I find this digital narrative to be very effective and think that Lark met the goal of the project as it was assigned.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Week Seven: First Daily Create C64 Yourself


Commodore 64!  I actually had one of these as a kid.  64 pixels.  It's unthinkable but we actually survived this period of history!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Week Six Reflection; Social and Emotional Exhaustion

Truth be told, I am glad week six is behind us.  I know that life happens--but I cannot remember a week in my life when it has been more trying to be a human being.

Even as I write this reflection, three police officers are dead in Baton Rouge.  We are gearing up for some of the strangest political party conventions held in my lifetime.  Turkey is about 12 hours post-coup attempt.  There is a heat dome headed for most of the Western US.  There are still people missing in Nice, France.

This feels like humanity is converging upon sure disaster.

Then, I think, does all of this seem connected simply because we are all so connected to it.  I can turn on the news--broadcast 24 hours/7 days a week and get the latest details.  I can take a quick glance at any number of my social media connections and get a quick read on what is happening and how my circles are responding to it.

Has the world always been this chaotic?  Or, have our connections just brought the chaos into full, focused view for all to see?

And, I am trying to think about how we can guide our students through all of this information to productive conversations.  I wonder how we are going to do that when some of our best universities are encouraging us to moderate the tone of our social media usage.  Our students have their voices too--voices which need to be heard and voices which often contain more reason than those of the adults around them.  I am loathe to ask them to moderate their voices when, to the depth of my core, outrage does seem appropriate.

However, it is not enough to feel outrage.  Collectively, we have powerful tools in digital media that allow us to create communities of understanding.  We can learn from experience and move forward in a way that is productive.  I am convinced that humanity has the capacity to create collapsed digital spaces where perspectives and solutions to our shared issues can germinate, pollinate and grow.  Can we use what we are learning here to create narratives which can move us in a different direction.  Can those same ideas be used to move our politicians and leaders in a direction which serves all humanity?

Perhaps I am an idealist--still.  Converging upon sure disaster is not a place which is comfortable for me--and the question becomes, how can we help ourselves and our students become change agents working against this madness?  Can we equip them with digital literacies which give them a powerful voice to become catalysts for change?  I believe we can--and I believe we have an ethical and moral responsibility to help them move in that direction.

Tough week for our planet.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Week 6: Assignment Bank

It has been a week of what if's for me.  What if we could just turn schools upside down?  What if the creative spaces for learning were truly creative, open and welcome.  What if our learning was open--to all kinds of possibilities.

And, I thought it would be fun to share a photo of one of the classrooms we developed over the past two years.  It is a classroom with multiple spaces for learning, collaborating and interaction.  This was designed so that students could have spaces to work independently.  They could also collaborate in a face to face environment.  They could collaborate with other students using web based communication tools and video conferencing software.

They have the opportunity to work with more knowledgeable others including teachers and mentors.
It's a great place--but it was missing one element.  So, I put Toby under our tree.






I used a web-based photo editing program and a transparent photo overlay.  It is a fairly simply but effective procedure which is very intuitive.  My photo editing skills are marginal--but I think this one turned out pretty well.

Re-conceptualizing learning spaces is difficult because we are all somewhat set in our ways when it comes to what schools look like.  Even most newer designs still begin with a series of rooms on either side of a series of hallways.  This is both inefficient and inadequate for creating collaborative created spaces for students.

I had fun with this--and created another aspect of change thinking.



Week 6 Reading Critique: Platforms and Personalized Learning

This has been an incredibly full week and like most of the others associated with ILT5340, there has been a serendipitous intersection between life and class!

I am spending two weeks at the Summit Public Schools Basecamp.  The Summit Public Schools have been identified as one of the top ten transformational schools in the United States.  In this model, students are in the driver's seat of their own learning.  They access what they want to study, when they want to work on it through a Personalized Learning Platform which allows them multiple on-ramps for choosing and discovering their best ways of learning.  Sounds like a fantasy, right?

I really was not going to do this in 2016/17.  I was going to hang out in my sweats and finish my dissertation.  Really.  That was my plan.

Then a new charter school had its founding principal resign in June.  My plan fell to pieces when I was contacted by them and we started talking.  Mental note:  I should never ever engage in a conversation about transforming schools unless I am willing to take the job.  A mere week later, I signed an agreement to get Launch High School up and running.

Launch High School will be using the Summit Personalized Learning Platform.  You can read about it here: http://www.progressivepolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/2016.01-Osborne_Schools-of-the-Future_Californias-Summit-Public-Schools.pdf

One of my goals as a school leader is to significantly reduce the amount of time I spend on attendance issues.  I have struggled with the very high drop out rates particularly among our minority students.  I have also really had to grapple with my own personal opinion that schools have become less and less relevant to our young people in the 30 years I have spent in the profession.  I am disturbed that 50% of our minority students find them so irrelevant that they simply cease engaging in the school environment.  I have said more than once that if our schools were responsive to the needs of our learners, I would never have to enforce a truancy statute.  I believe this.  I want to see it play out in the field.

So, what happens if we re-create what schools look like entirely?  Rather than continuing to create disconnected 'course' -- we work to connect the learning to real life.  Rather than assuming that every student needs to learn the same things in the same order, we toss out Scope and Sequence in favor of a more just in time approach?  I have heard educators--including 4 new teachers I have hired for my team, tell me that this is impossible.

In our model, students will be working on entrepreneurial projects.  They will be working inside their communities and their world to figure out how to make things better.  While some of these projects will be profit based, we already have students working on social entrepreneur projects with Youth Venture and the Ashoka Foundation.  This provides a real world application where learning becomes relevant and effective.  Students will have the opportunity become change agents in their communities.

This is exciting and transformational work.  It also comes directly against every system currently in place to measure effective schools.  To be honest, we do not know what test scores will look like.  We are unsure if our post secondary readiness will fit into a rubric the Colorado Department of Education has designed for such purposes.  We are hoping that by making what happens both in and out of our building relevant for our students, they will perform well on those measures.  However we simply are not sure.  This is the disconnect between transformational schools and intractable systems.  We need to overcome that.

And yet, how can we do that without critical discourse?  I was so deeply saddened by Remi Holden's communications regarding open discourse at the Colorado Learning and Teaching with Technology Conference.  As this field continues to emerge, there are important conversations that need to happen--and disagreements will happen.  I am a real proponent of iron sharpening iron.  We all get better when we agree, disagree, and practice our work collaboratively.  I found the communication between the conference and Remi so condescending and inappropriate among a body of scholars.  I was sickened.  Moderating voices will never move our field forward and in fact perpetuates a status quo that simply is not working.  I do not believe this is appropriate in any academic field.  I am shocked that this occurred and like Remi, I'm not sure how one even combats this line of thinking.

This sort of fight is mentally exhausting.

I am also intrigued by the additional readings on solitude.  As someone who is highly connected during the day, I find myself craving time simply to be rather than to do when I am away from school. I see the demand of the incessant vibration of my cell phone annoying to the point that frequently flip it off.  For the purpose of writing this blog, I checked: yesterday I received 43 phone calls; I received 72 emails and responded to 54 of them.  By any measure, that it more communication than I could have ever have managed in an unconnected world.  Part of this is due to the online nature of the work I do.  But there is a seeming expectation that we are all available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I have to wonder about the cognitive fatigue we all experience--and whether or not I am meaningfully connected to anyone when I am so fatigued.

This weekend, I am turning off the cell phone--and connecting face to face.  I am doing that mindfully. I am doing that because ultimately, I believe life is about relationships and nuturing meaningful connections which are empathetic and rich with shared experiences.

Won't you join me?


Friday, July 15, 2016

Week Six: 2nd Daily Create-My Personal Logo


Week Six: What would you Change?



I love this video.  I have to admit after stumbling by accident into the Jubilee Project last week, I ended up digging a bit deeper into this during week six.  I find that so many of their videos line up perfectly with my focus of transitions and change and risk-taking.  However, they do have a bit of a formulaic feel after you watch a few of them.

The storytelling part of this really creates empathy between the individuals in the video and the viewer.  Every woman who has had a child can identify with the woman who wants to erase the stretch marks she has earned as a result of pregnancy!  We all wonder if we should cover those grey hairs or not--even men these days are doing more than just dabbling with hair color which is quite a shift in my adult experience.  (Of course, they could go the route of my husband who opted for bald as a recourse to turning grey!)

The digital literacies demonstrate in this video are fairly sophisticated--without appearing so.  This is deceptively simple in terms of setting.  Just a tall stool in an open room somewhere.  However, the lighting is perfect.  The camera angles are flattering.  The background music enhances the overall feel of the message--it's a good fit for the message.  All of the technical features come together for a cohesive whole.

It is in the message though that the strength is really found.  This is what the Jubilee Project excels at--the delivery of a message which is thoughtful and thought provoking.  It takes me back to one of my favorite quotes from Robert McCammon's A Boy's Life:

“You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves."

Then I view a video like this and it occurs to me that we were all kids once who would only change their bodies by growing mermaid tails or wings so they could fly.  I wish we could embody that wishful ambition for living magical lives instead of allowing that to become consumed by the trials of daily living which quickly reduce us to making a living rather than living a life.  Those are two very different things--the first of which will never require a mermaid tail or a set of wings.  So, in periods of transition and thinking about risk taking, I am wondering how to make that mindshift backwards and rekindle the comet fire within myself and the students I serve.  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Week 5: Reflection--From Practice to Practicality!

It's hard to believe Week Five is over!  With each passing week ing ILT 5340, I feel like I have developed more skills and a better understanding of the theory and the mechanics of digital storytelling.

I was particularly able to connect this week's readings to practice this week.  In my work life, I am busy developing a program for a brand new school which will open in a few short weeks.  Launch High School has been specifically chartered as a blended learning program with a focus on entrepreneurship.  It is one of many of the opportunities I have had professionally in my career that just leaves me wondering at the serendipity that is my life. I have been trying throughout the semester to think about what group annotation might look like in a high school environment.  By the time I completed reading and annotating this week's required readings I had ideas for every member of my new staff about how they could implement hypothesis in their classes and how they could inspire students to read more closely and more thoughtfully--but more importantly more collaboratively in the classroom.

The two readings on the letters to the next president put some flesh on those ideas which made it possible for me to send them out to my staff.  I truly believe this is the most contentious presidential election in my lifetime and having tools our students can use to tweet, blog and message the candidates is an empowering element that we have not had in previous election cycles.  Using this in our Social Studies classes will give our students a whole new perspective on the process.

The highlight of the reading week was truly the annotation flash mob.  I had honestly never thought about this--but am now envisioning doing this as a collaborative exercise in a classroom--either as a pre-reading exercise or as a way of starting a collaborative discussion.  The 30 minutes I was able to spend in the flash mom was incredibly illuminating--and provided a lot of inspiration.

So in terms of my professional practice--this is a week of transference for me.  I'm much more able to transfer this week's readings to our school's practice in the coming weeks.  Most of all, my horizons are a bit wider.

On the artistic/creative side, I have LOVED this week's daily creates.  The mashup became a group project in our household which means that my daughters have learned how to use transparent images to create mixes of their own.  It is the ultimate in DIY when my kids join in and muck around with me as we figure out new programs and see what we can do.  There are so many great ways to complete the daily creates and I am learning to just sit back and have fun with each one as it comes up.

Bring on Week Six!


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Week Five: 2nd Daily Create: A ghost in the shadows!


We created a ghost in the shadows!

Week Five Reading Critique: Moving Past Fear

It has been an interesting week in America--and a tragic one.  As I reflect upon the course readings, it occurs to me how very much our entire culture has shifted away from hope and toward fear.  Several weeks ago, I had the privilege to speak at an education conference.  As so often occurs at conferences, the speakers enjoy a pre-conference dinner and the conversation shifts to the various themes each of us will explore.  As educators and innovators, the group I was with lamented that we have so many possibilities and yet in our schools, we are so often discouraged from even attempting to maneuver away from very traditional ways of doing things.

One educator, and a coordinator for the entire conference stated, "My district is light years away from adopting any of these practices."

And then I recalled what a district leader in my own district had said to a group of principals, "This district can absolutely do nothing for the next 3-5 years and it will not jeopardize our accredited with distinction status at all."

As I was sitting with my fellow presenters, it occurred to me, we have all begun operating from a position of deep fear.  We fear rocking the boat.  We fear a negative evaluation. We fear engaging deeply in innovation and design thinking.  We fear change.  It is simply easier to maintain the status quo than to explore anything new even though it has profound possibilities for expanding our ability to share understanding and to re-conceptualize our work in new contexts.

This is shameful.

I read each of this week's readings and as I was reading, I could hear the voices of the status quo ring in my ears:

"But, if students do this, they my be exposed to information the district has not approved."
"We cannot take on this kind of liability."
"What if parents complain?"
"Parents will object to this."
"We'll lose control of the scope and sequence."
"Our system is not set up for this."
"Our teachers/staff/IT department cannot support it."
"This violates our curriculum review policy."
"This is not in the standards."
"We don't have time for this....we have to use every waking minute to prepare for PARCC!"

And, I wondered how we are ever going to open the schoolhouse doors and trust that our students and staff can 'manage' the ambiguity that is the world we live in today.  The old paradigm has become less and less responsive to what our students are facing and yet, within our schools, there are few acceptable structures to even have the conversations.  This seems counter intuitive to what our schools should be doing.

So, in our school, we will be engaging in the Dear Future President exercise--and truly engaging in the political process, debating each other, engaging in a meaningful conversation and discovering what it means to be a participant in the process.  Because until we are fully engaged participants, we are not fully engaged citizens.  And this week, in America, it seems to me that we need to use every space we have, whether it is in a brick and mortar building, a public street or a digital condensed context, we must start engaging, conversing, and creating meaning for our lives which constructs mutual understanding and cultural awareness of the very different lives we each experience.

So, while this may be less of a reading critique this week--and maybe a critical commentary on the general state of our world--as educators, don't we have a responsibility to propel our students forward with courage rather than to operate from positions of fear and self-protection?  It seems to me that we do.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mashup: Hermione's Nightmare



This week's mashup assignment is inspired by my eleven year old daughter who is actually typical tomboy by day and clearly a mad scientist by night.  She received her owl letter as expected on her eleventh birthday and caught the train on track 9 3/4 just recently to attend Hogwarts.

By the looks of it, she's giving Hermione a run for her money especially in potions class where Willow clearly understands the need for protective eyewear and a smock to cover her robes.  Maybe Willow's parents are not the muggles they appear to be?  Maybe Willow has latent powers which are only now being nurtured.  Whatever it is, clearly Hermione is jealous and more than a little half-blood peeved that Willow is at Hogwarts and excelling!

What provoked this mashup?  We revel in all things Harry Potter and really are kind of nerdy.  As I was playing with the mashup assignment, Willow was lurking and playing around with it too.  As happens so often with digital media, this assignment quickly became a family affair.  And it occurred to me that as I work through this class, I am really also demonstrating how powerful risk-taking can be for my young daughters.  They watch me work through using programs I am unfamiliar with.  They hear me cussing at regular intervals--and then cheering myself on when I manage to pull off something new and satisfying.  They are learning with me that trying something new is important and a way of growing even when it is difficult.

And, it can be fun.  It can be amusing.  It embodies a sense of satisfaction and learning new things can make us laugh even if the process is frustrating at first.  There is something to be said for humor and being silly in our creativity.  That makes it worth it.

This took some work--but it was not impossible.  I used a photo of Willow taken at a science museum.  She was dressed for the part as she was working on an experiment which had the potential to be explosive.  In Pixlr, I uploaded this photo.  Then, I found a transparent photo of Hermione facing in the right direction and looking suitably menacing.  With a little work and practice, I managed to size it so that the proportions looked good and the two characters were placed at a distance from each other that worked well for the mashup.  The proportionality was the trickiest and required a lot of editing/re-editing to make the two characters appear to be sitting next to one another. I am not completely satisfied, but this works.

Best yet, Willow likes it!  She likes it well enough to want a poster of it for her room which means that as a mom, I scored!  So again, learning to loosen up and just have fun with the creative part of the course has been important.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Week 5: Story Critique: Blind Devotion | Jubilee Project Short Film









WOW! WOW! WOW!

This digital story comes about as close to perfect as any one I have viewed thus far.  It is charming and powerful in its presentation.  I stumbled upon it through the eyes of my thirteen year old daughter who asked me if I was looking for a tear jerker.  While my theme of change/transition/risk-taking has often lent itself to tear jerker narratives, this one is powerful, profound, and yet lovely.  It does not cross the line in to something overly saccharine and inauthentic.  But rather, tells a story of a profound life's transition for the two characters involved.  It is the second narrative I have used this course which tells the same story from two different points of view which I think can be a really great tool to understand perspective.

The overall look of the video really captures the story.  It uses subtle colors--almost black and white.  This really mirrors the story line of a woman who is slowly losing her sight.  The colors are not bright--but muted as if to echo what is actually happening in the story line.

This is a professionally edited story.  The video scenes are spliced together in a way that produces a cohesive, clearly told story.  The narrative is simple and clear.  It tells the story with minimal pathos which keeps it from being overly sentimental.  Yet, at the same time, I can identify with the anger and frustration of this disease process.  The soundtrack is subtle and yet it adds to the story --and even includes a back channel narrative which adds dimensionality to the story that otherwise would not be present.

The story may be about a huge life's transition for both characters.  However the theme is about love, tenderness, caring and nurturing a relationship through a transition.  It is a universal theme easily recognized by anyone who has shared some of life's more difficult moments within a relationship. This is long in terms of many digital stories--but as a viewer, it contains many of the story elements that could be found in a feature film.  It is skillfully rendered in a way that a complete, multi-character story takes on its own life and creates a sense of empathy for both characters.  Very skillful camera, lighting, and dialog work is clearly evident.

This story really spoke to me--not because it tugged on my emotional heartstrings.  It spoke to me because in life's transitional spaces, there is opportunity for relationships to grow closely together. This story illuminates those narratives in an eloquent and powerful way without feeling like the intention is to manipulate the viewer.  I think this is a difficult balance to strike especially with difficult topics.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Week Four Reflection: Blogging as an Act of Community

I have been mulling over this week's reflection for a couple of days now.  As I think back on the week's reading and activities, it all boils down to creating communities of practice.  I found it useful to go back and read through my annotations from the entire week and look back at my daily creates and consider how the different pieces all fit together.  It was easier this week to see those connections after I went back and read my work with intention--looking for threads of commonality.

It is interesting in the small groups to see how we are coming together in our posting.  I have responded to most of the members of my small group over the past couple of weeks.  While each one of my group members has a unique perspective, as we bounce our ideas around, it is clear that a sense of shared learning is coming together.  At first, I was not sure about posting to the private group because it felt small and limiting.  Now, I see the purpose in that.  In our very large class group it would have been much more difficult to create those shared learning spaces and a shared understanding of our different perspectives.  So, this is a shout out to Group A -- because as colleagues, you all rock!  You have broadened my thinking in many ways.

I have come away from the readings this week with new ideas about blogging.  I never really thought about blogs as anything but a singular experience.  Even in my own blogging experiences which can be distilled into two purposes: I blog to inform far-flung family of our activities; or, I blog as a visual journal for myself.  The first blog is open to comments because we have family members who really like to comment on how fast the kids are growing or how great the music recital video was.  The visual journal is not open to comments because it is definitely more personal--and while I know that others read it, I am not particularly open to being vulnerable enough to want more than a one way shared space with them.  

Affinity spaces are interesting that way.  As I look for digital stories, because of my interest in personal narratives, I often stumble upon very personal stories.  I shared one of those this week--about life, living and dying.  The author/creator of that story chose to remain anonymous, as I do in my journal blog.  Yet, he shared his thoughts in a very public space where people like me would have no difficulty finding his story.  It is one thing to share the story.  It is an entirely another to dialog about it.  In fact, it occurs to me that a story like this which does not allow for comments is a bit like one of the rules in a twelve step program.  You can share your story and you are encouraged to do so. However, the group norm is that you cannot engage in cross-talk.  Participants cannot ask clarifying questions or make comments.  The story is shared for the purpose of creating community--and creating relationship, or becoming a part of the affinity group.  It is not necessarily about creating a shared dialog.  Some blogs are like participating in twelve step.  You share.  That's it.

All of this serious stuff aside, my favorite part of this week was the 2nd daily create.  I stumbled upon it late Saturday night.  I actually dreamed about it.  Sunday morning, Ro-Po came alive in just a few minutes.  There is something inspirational about working in digital spaces for me which allows for really creative thinking which I have only experienced within this space.  Until I spent a lot of time working within this space, I never considered myself to be very creative.  I usually fall on the analytical side of things.  I am linear to a fault.  So, the daily creates have been somewhat of a challenge--and I have not particularly challenged myself mostly due to fear and some uncertainty about my ability to actually create something!  This week, it all came together and I just let go and had some fun with it.  I need to remember that I have that within me--and capitalize on it when it happens.  That being said, I think I'll keep Ro-Po to myself and not share it on the neighborhood FaceBook page where I am guessing they would not share my irreverent sense of humor!

Carry On--Week Five, here we come!

Week Four Daily Create: Signs of Suburbia


It is Sunday morning and I'm sitting in my armchair listening to  the roar of lawnmowers, a crying baby next door, and the incessant barking of the neighborhood dogs.  The noise is continual--and it is the cacophany which is suburbia on a weekend.

This is Daily Create #1636--create a hip acroname for your neighborhood.  So, this is difficult because to begin with, my neighborhood is not hip in any way, shape, or form.  I live on Rock Pond Way--a series of cookie cutter homes in a cookie cutter neighborhood where the moms pretend to practice yoga and stop off for $5 cups of coffee to kvetch about the neighborhood on their way home.  They drive mini-vans and store $500 strollers in their garages.  The kids wear Gymboree and Gap and the dads wear striped ties and blue blazers.  Creating a hip acronym for this neighborhood becomes a challenge because hip is not what we value or who we are.

So, I listen to all this noise this morning and realize, I cannot tell you a single name of a single person (or dog) who is a player in this neighborhood symphony of sound.--And, I think that's ok because my kids don't wear Gymboree and Gap; I brew my own coffee; I don't wear yoga pants or even pretend to practice yoga; I am an un-hip mama/grammy who wears faults and scars with more than a little humility and some pride.  I have the wisdom borne of marriage and motherhood--my doors are rarely locked and I still don't give a damn about being hip.  Though in this neighborhood of stepfords, I probably appear to be more bohemian than most.  

Oh...the irony that is Ro-Po.  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Blogging as Story Telling

This week proved to be a better one for me in the course.  I found the Davies and Merchant chapter to be intriguing primary because it forced me to look at blogging from a different point of view.  I am still not completely certain that I even view blogging as a form of digital story telling.  This may be because my experience with digital story telling has been about creating narratives--and stories about our lives and experiences.  I never considered the collaborative work we are doing in hypothesis to be digital story telling-or even story telling.  For me at this time, it is creating community around a shared work space which allows for multiple points of view and modalities to be shared, expanded upon.  Upon further reflection the concept of re-mixing from Week 3 begins to appear as a very real part of the work we are doing online.

One idea that keeps reappearing in all the readings for me is this connection between creating identity through digital media.  From a developmental psychology perspective many of our students are creating identities and trying on new identities as they work to find out who they are in the context of their families and communities.  I have started exploring this idea of  identity formation through digital story telling and spent most of my week exploring research on this particular thread. This is a reoccurring theme for me as I really struggle on many levels with how adolescents form identity in a digital world where personas can be created and discarded--and judged by others.  The primary issue I have is that when the world is virtual and it is impossible to tell who is representing the best of their authentic selves versus those who are creating a persona or a new identity for themselves, can an adolescent use the judgement and comments of others to assist in identity formation as a real barometer or calibration for their beliefs and actions?

This is a question that comes up in the comments section of our groups hypothesis often--along with the blurring of public and private lives.  I was challenged by Remi's response to a comment I made about teachers being coached to keep public identities separate from private identities thaMy opinion is that such coaching - and even such policy - is a detriment to educator agency and prevents school from serving more democratic ends. "

I find this interesting--because in K-12 education, this has largely come about as inappropriate relationships have been formed -- often through social media--between students and teachers.   I know I have worked in districts where social media contact between students and teachers is a violation of district policies.  Those policies were designed to limit the opportunities for inappropriate behavior and actions between students and teachers.  Is there a happy medium in this?  I suspect that in my district, the use of hypothesis would be strongly discouraged if not forbidden altogether because of the possibilities for public annotations which could not be vetted before they were posted.  How do we balance those areas in our schools?

I am also very interested in explore the idea of Openness in our current system.  At this point in time, it appears that some districts maintain a very top down approach to what is available for teachers to use or employ in their classrooms.  I happen to have worked in a district last year where the IT department literally dictated what we could use and how we could use it.  The idea of using open resources would have been anathema to that department.  I found myself contrasting the situation I have worked in against the Becker article on open PD and really felt like I had experienced a situation where the IT department was driving what happened in classrooms rather than the student's needs driving what occurred in the IT department.  It feels very intuitive now to stop and think through things like an 'approval' process for open resources.  I am also more and more skeptical of corporate led professional development which seems driven more by a product than by student or staff need to solve a problem.  I wonder what possibilities might come to fruition if we intentionally engineered serendipity through letting individuals sit in a room together and see what percolates to the top in terms of design, problem solving and solutions.  We have missed the boat on this type of organic work that truly can change what we are doing.

Week Four: Digital Story Critique



This week I have chosen a very intimate and personal digital story to highlight.  In my own research, one of the areas in which digital storytelling is emerging as a tool is in healthcare.  There are a number of sites which highlight digital stories produced by patients and their caregivers.  These are both sobering and empowering, which in itself is a unique combination of emotions.

The author of this story is telling a very personal story in a very intimate way.  Delving into issues of life, living and death and dying create a vulnerability and an empathy which serve to draw the viewer into the story.  We all become participants in the universe through viewing this story and as significant as we may feel in our current place, there is also a certain insigificance when we consider the vast universes which lie far beyond where we are.  "You see more, You see further. "You see deeper."  

The literacy dimensions in this piece are perhaps not as sophisticated as in many other remixed pieces.  However, the writer has chosen a piece of music which really blends together with the story and with his story.  I personally enjoyed the analogy to images from the Hubble Telescope.  As a dying man, he is clearly thinking deeply about what he is learning in the process of dying and he is indeed seeing more deeply.  There is also a vocal quality which is strong and while the music does not overpower his narrative, it does enhance the strength and resoluteness of his story.  The written narrative is the strongest part of this story. It is actually a very simple story visually.  The author includes nothing personal in the visuals.  Every photograph is an image from the Hubble Telescope. There are no transitional elements.  

I am not sure that I would characterize this as a story brought to life. This is housed on the University of Houston Website for educational purposes.  This story is authentic  The photos are all still--with no video elements other than photos changing.  I am not entirely sold on this as I feel that they do not necessarily add to the strength of the story or the power of the narrative.  
This is such a strong story that could really rest upon its own power.  I honestly would have loved to have seen the story teller's face and watch him tell the story.  I would have liked to have heard the story from his perspective.  I did note that it is posted anonymously at the author's request.  Perhaps it is painful to share something as intensely personal as the story of one's perspective on one's own death. That being said, when you are looking at eternity in the face, photos from space and galaxies far removed from this earth also have a certain power.  I would have altered the visuals in this producti

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Week Four: Lost in the Word Cloud

I love word clouds.  I used them frequently in my work.  So, when I stumbled upon this option in the DS106 Assignment Bank, I was thrilled.  Not because I already like them, but because they really are great visuals which highlight the important points of just about anything.  You'll find the Word Cloud Assignment linked here.

I chose to do a word cloud on ILT5340 because last week things were a little murky in this course for me.  I really struggled to make meaningful connections between the various assignments and the work I was reading.  It was actually the first time in the course that I struggled to create those connections and overall it meant that the week felt disjointed.  That created a cognitive dissonance for me that made me wonder if I was missing something.

I use word clouds with students as a way for them to learn to see the connections in the work they do. The essential principle is that the larger the appears in the cloud, the more important it is to the overall whole.  The smaller text are generally the links--the concepts which act as catalysts pulling things together.  I needed something visual this week to help me see those links and the bigger picture.  Word clouds really work in this way and honestly, this one has been very helpful.

I used a free word cloud generator at www.wordclouds.com.  I will admit, I did not want to superimpose my own thinking on the number of words or how significant or insignificant they might be.  So, I simply copied and pasted this week's Narrate/Annotate post into the text box in the word cloud generator.  That way, I did not put any artificial emphasis on one word over another.  I thought it was fascinating the words that ended up being the largest.

Hypothesis, the largest word in my cloud, is about collaboration.  It is about sharing our experience with both image and text and elaborating on our insight and questions.  Ultimately, in my summer's theme about transitions, change and risk-taking, we take individual risks in our work and we share the outcomes in our collaboration. I know I am re-thinking areas of my own research and adding to my understanding of storytelling and narrative as I view multiple digital narratives every week--and share my colleagues responses to them.

The other large word is Create.  Yes, I've spent a good amount of time creating and mucking around with various tools this summer.  However, my creation extends further than that.  I am also creating context and understanding for myself.  I am learning to take risks with some of my more clumsy attempts and I am discovering that to be uncomfortable for a while is not necessarily a negative thing. The fact that we are doing this inside a shared community makes it a little nerve-wracking but also provides a comfortable environment as my colleagues share when the going gets rough for them as well.

Remi and Lisa, your names are quite small here--and I think that is a nod to the fact that while you are here guiding and facilitating and reminding, your role is not nearly as professorial as it is collegial.  Your voices are here--in the group--but not coming as if you were oracles on the mountaintop--but rather as guideposts from the side.

The word cloud is a helpful clarifying tool for me.  It came along at the right time to propel my work in this course forward.




Week Four: TDC Carrot People

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa I adore you!  (with apologies to Nat King Cole).

This is not my official blog post for this week's daily create.  But, I had a lot of fun mucking around with this and finally settled upon this inspiration.  It made me laugh.  I needed a good laugh today.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Week Three: Reflective Summary or Difficulty Building Bridges

I always feel like I am in a confessional when I write my reflective summary.  For those of you who read these, my apologies in advance!  This week, I felt like I was traversing a huge cultural divide between what I believe about information and knowledge and the practices that occur in many school districts.  We have tremendous power as educators to change our world for the better and yet there is a parochialism that is so invasive within the system which undermines the free exchange of information and the development of collaboration which has the potential to create new channels of understanding.

I believe more than anything else, this stifles human growth and keeps information in a very few hands rather than distributed in collaborative environments where change is truly possible.  I do not believe information should be a commodity.

On a more micro level, this week, I had some difficulty building bridges between the information I am working on for ILT5340.  I do not know if it was just me or if others experienced this week the same way I did.  The daily creates felt disjointed from the readings for the first time in the course.  I spent a lot of time thinking them through and working out the technical details.  In particular the plotagon was time consuming.  I felt the outcome was worth it simply because it is something I can use with my students and which is very engaging.  The video was easier to produce--but if I had to be honest, my children probably got more out of that experience than I did as they acted as my camera operators and technical support.  In retrospect, I would have used them as actors and done more of the technical work myself.

These activities felt a bit disjointed from the required readings WHICH I LOVED!  As a former homeschooler and someone who supports alternative education, the whole notion of DIY completely resonated with me.  I have watched so much of the backlash against the DIY movement play out as the professionals clamor to hold tightly to their proprietary knowledge.  The collaborative nature of building understanding through communities of practice is something that just rings so true to me and frankly, is something we should embrace across fields.  We need to build bridges and create on ramps for participation in these communities.  On this level, I was able to create some continuity between my own belief and practice.

I spent a good time this week on an outside reading, The Story Factor by Annette Simmons.  I was struck by a particular quote:  "People don't want more information. They are up to their eyeball in information. They want faith...Faith needs a story to sustain it - a meaningful story that inspires belief in you and renews hope that your ideas indeed offer what you promise...Story is your path to creating faith. Telling a meaningful story means inspiring your listeners...to reach the same conclusions you have reached and decide for themselves to believe what you say and do what you want them to do. People value their own conclusions more highly than yours. They will only have faith in a story that has become real for them personally. Once people make your story, their story, you have tapped into the powerful force of faith. Future influence will require very little follow-up energy from you and may even expand as people recall and retell your story to others."

I have been thinking about how true this is in the digital stories I have chosen to review.  Ultimately, I am drawn to those very human stories which dig into issues of empathy.  These stories are high impact and they do create faith--faith in humanity, in the ability to change, in the power that is inherent in taking risks.  The vast majority of making meaning for me grew out of this outside reading this week.

Where I think I fell short was in building cognitive bridges for myself between the activities and the information in the course this week.  I wish I could have done this better.  I don't usually struggle with this quite as much as I did this week.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Week Three: So Who Owns it?

As I went through my annotations for this week, I thought it was interesting to see my questions about copyright and ownership.  When I first was involved in online learning, these were questions that had not even been considered.  I had to go back and check my files to see when an ownership clause appeared for the first time in my employment agreements.

It was 2005.

A small rural school district here in Colorado was advised by its attorney to make a claim on any and all teacher created materials whether or not they were used directly with that school's students through any medium.

I rebelled.

This seemed like such an over-reach to me.  Over my years in teaching, I have created enough of my own materials to write several books and to suddenly have those materials belong to the school district I happened to be working for seemed like a huge over-reach.  I refused to sign the employment agreement until that section was redacted.

Then it appeared again when I was writing curriculum for a large international online curriculum provider in 2007.  This made more sense as I actually was developing curriculum for them and it only seemed fair that if that was my role, they would in fact own what I was producing.  I was not happy about it--but when you work for the borg, they will eventually take what they believe is theirs.

I did not rebel--but I did not assimilate easily either.
(My apologies to Star Trek.  Once assimilated--it's hard to break free!)

Things have changed though which leave me questioning the role of corporate big business in education.  One only needs to look to Texas to see the coercive power shared by the Texas State School Board and large textbook publishers.  There are billions of dollars at stake and additional stakeholders every year.  Corporations have shareholders and they must answer to those shareholders. Schools are more than buildings where learning takes place--they are consumers of products and producers of products all of which are measured by other corporate entities.  It is a vicious cycle driven by supply, demand, profit, loss and ownership.

My question is, "Does this make sense anymore?" followed closely by, "Did it ever make sense/"  Who owns the education process and the products and tools developed within it?  My belief is that information belongs in the hands of the many and the products thereof serve a greater good in open environments.  I no longer wonder if we should be sharing what we know with others.  It is imperative that we do and in fact doing so can change how we interact with other individuals around the globe.  To not be a part of collecting, sharing and disbursing knowledge and understanding seems parochial.

That being said, the Western World approaches information from a parochial point of view--Information is power and they who have the most of it are the most powerful.  It is this mindset that creates regulations which restrict the free-flow of information across cultures and political boundaries.  It is this mindset which continues to silo information in narrow ways which makes new creation and remixing difficult and which stifles or even snuffs out valuable connections which can provide new solutions to problem solving.

This week, it is all about ownership and creating for me.  We have to change how we think about education and the products created outside and inside the systems.  As a student, I am uncomfortable with the idea that someone else would own the work I am creating primarily because much of what I write is simply today's iteration of my own thinking.  I want to own what I create today and have the freedom to extend that thinking into a new space tomorrow without being bound at some point later in time and defined then by what I am writing today.  For my students who are actively remixing, are they co-owners in the next conceptualization of the materials they used or interacted with?  Or are they editors for the previous materials?  How does this fit into the larger picture of creativity which our students actively engage with every day?

Ownership--Information--Power--Profit.  These things fit together in strangely important ways which require re-definition and re-framing in terms of a world with fewer fixed boundaries and many more flexible learning, knowing, understanding and collaborating spaces.  These are significant questions for all of us and yet there are few answers.  It seems that even as the parameters for creative work push outward, the legalities of doing some drawn inward to limit creative expression in digital environments.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Plotogon: A New Tool

This week, I found a new tool to use courtesy of ds106.  I had used other similar tools before but it seems that many of them have disappeared from the web.  So, as I was looking at Daily Creates under the video section, I happened across this one.  Plotagon seems to have any number of great educational uses and I decided to make a short video which mocks my current progress in dissertation writing.  --and my love for classic literature which is what this daily create encourages in the original assignment: tdc1225.

One of the drawbacks to plotagon is that you cannot embed the completed video in a blogpost.

Apologies Charles Dickens
So the closest I can get is to provide a link beneath the image which accompanies the video.

I chose to poke fun at the risk-taking exercise I am currently engaged in--otherwise known as writing a dissertation.  I cannot say that I am not enjoying the process.  However, the iterative process does make me crazy from time to time.  So, I decided that with this assignment I would add a little to Dicken's original opening to A Tale of Two Cities which he never could have imagined I would have chosen to lampoon here.

The process was really not difficult although the software does take some work before it becomes intuitive.  Plotagon is available as an app here

The essential first is to create a character.  As I chose to narrate my own plot or classical piece of literature for this movie, I created a character that looks much like me wearing my dissertation writing uniform of sweats and yoga pants.  There are a huge variety of ways to style and dress your own characters.

You then can proceed to write your plot.  I copied and pasted the text in the text box but I found the animated voices too robotic for my liking.  I needed a voice which was more expressive so I decided to record my own.  Again, this is a fairly intuitive process which involves a few more clicks but is easily accomplished.

The fun begins with the animation and giving your character actions to perform.  My movie is fairly simple in this regard.  I restrained my character from too much drama and instead she slapped her disinterested buddy only once.  To be fair, I don't necessarily believe that writing a literature review is cause for violence.  However, friends really ought to at least attempt to appear that they are interested in my topic!

As you add elements, you can preview them by hitting the play button.  They are easily modified or deleted and a drag and drop feature allows you to move them to different places in the narration.

This would be a wonderful tool for students in the classroom to demonstrate many different types of learning.  I can see it used as I did to inject some humor into an assignment or used to describe or explain a newly learned concept.  I found the process lengthy and definitely thought provoking.  However, the tool gave me ample flexibility to move elements and 'restage' my final production in a way that I liked.

So, in spite of the serious nature of my summer theme, I think I have successfully managed to find some humor in it.  We all take risks.  While the character in this short video laments that her risk taking represents both the best of times and the worst of times, her friend, like many of mine, is relatively unaffected and disinterested.  This is actually pretty representative of how thin this process can become for our families and friends who can only observe it from afar.

Hopefully, you too will enjoy the humor I intended!  I downloaded the plotagon app which is available here.

Week 3: Story Critique: "I took a chance"


This story caught my eye because I of my thematic approach to this summer.  I'm looking at change, transformation and risk-taking.  This is one of the first creations by a student which links up with that idea directly and which addresses fear of risk-taking in an original way and with an original voice.  It is notably short but none-the-less engaging.

Because this is a student production, it seemed useful to use a rubric created by a student to assess it. I opted to use this one described by Jason Ohler on his site:

For the first element of story flow, I would say that our student definitely did a very good job of creating a narrative about a topic which was focused, and which made sense.  While some would say that this topic was a bit juvenile, I could easily see my middle school students identifying with it. Many students at this age are working with larger ideas of identity and their place in this world.  I thought the topic was both appropriate to that as well as a great starting place for using digital storytelling without being intimidating for the student.  

The student's craftsmanship was evident.  I did like the mix of still photos and the video.  As she described what she thought children were like, the transition from still photos to video was effective and picked up the chaos of what she assumed small children were.  Additionally, the music background was effective and did not feel like it overshadowed her telling of her story.  I felt that overall it all worked together.

This is clearly an original story told in this student's voice.  She told it carefully and paid particular care to her voice tone and inflection.  You could hear the sadness as she described her feelings of being lost.  In the next moment you can hear her enthusiasm for really enjoying her time with the smaller children and her real excitement about the time she spent with them.  "They are hilarious!" I can almost here the exclamation at the end of that sentence in her own exclamation.  

This video clearly shows the student's effort and time.  It is well developed.  While it is short, the story is told with an effective economy.  It is easy to listen to primarily because she took the time to tell it effortlessly.  This works for the teller and the listener in this case.  The topic suits her and it is clear that her volunteer time has changed her and that she has enjoyed taking this risk.  

This is my first critique of a student's story and I think I need to search out more examples from younger digital story tellers to help flesh out my own thoughts regarding the use of digital story telling in the classroom.  


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Week Two: Weekly Reflection: Life Meets ILT5340

This has been a really interesting week.  I have been playing around with a lot of ideas--starting with remixing.  The Lankshear and Knobel reading really emphasized some of the technical aspects of what exactly was happening during a remix and I felt really got into the technicalities so much that they overlooked how remixing may also change how the remix is understood and perceived by individuals who were consuming the remix.  I noticed this is several of the comments by my colleagues on the piece as well.

I also really enjoyed some of the recommended articles which I found very helpful for my own practice and understanding.  I appreciate the broad differences in the approaches of the recommended readings and the contribution they are really making to my exploration of change, transitions and risk-taking.  I am also enjoying the flexibility to explore academic, peer-reviewed articles and then juxtaposing that research oriented approach with a more experiential approach which explores how individuals are constructing their own meaning within this digital space.  I was and will continue to be fascinated by the concept of a 'collapsed context' which I discovered during my own research this week and which I referred to at length in my reading critique this week.  This is a really interesting idea which was completely new to me.  It is not often that I stumble across something new since my dissertation literature review is nearly complete.  So while I now have a very valuable addition to the literature review, I also have another way of thinking about digital spaces and creation.

Since this is my focus theme for the summer, as I am reading and exploring the various readings and daily creates, it seems that this is a theme that is pervasive.  I am not particularly having difficulty finding interesting and even provocative digital stories which easily accompany this theme.  Nearly every digital story explores this theme from multiple perspectives.

This was also an incredibly personal week.  With the events in Orlando at both Pulse and Walt Disney World, I found it difficult to distance myself from my own feelings of empathy and sympathy.  I despise the 24 hour news cycle in that it smothers us with information before the information can even be verified.  At the same time, I was moved enough by my own experiences with my own children at Walt Disney World to filter my second daily create assignment through that particular lens.  Yes, I have an interest in emotional intelligence and empathy which has worked its way into my academic research--but I chose that as an area of research because I believe there is something about empathy which is worth researching and understanding.  I was very much surprised at the sheer emotional impact the Orlando tragedies had upon me.  I was equally surprised that it filtered into this class as a means of expressing empathy and my shared feelings for the families.

This was true with the audio daily create as well.  I chose a very evocative piece of music that speaks to me in many different ways.  Is it about empathy?  I do not know--but what I do know is that the experience of listening to music is qualitatively different from listening to a lecture or a TED talk.  It takes us down a different set of neural pathways and while I am not an expert and I am certain that a significant body of research exists already, my experience with music tells me that it inspires me differently than the spoken and written word.  That takes me directly back to the idea of medieval minstrals singing the stories from one age to the next.

So often in my research, life has intersected with courses--or maybe I am more attuned to listening for that intonation.  In any case, this has been an extremely interesting and valuable week.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

TDC1623: A Remix of Sorts


Daily Create 1623 is a challenge to overlay a flag across my hand.  I chose not to do that--but to extend it a little bit.  This week was a horrific week for a place that holds so many happy memories for our family.  On Thursday, I awoke to the unimaginable news of the tragedy of the young family whose child was killed by an alligator in what otherwise is known as the Happiest Place on Earth.

I thought of the many wonderful times I have had with my own children in this very same place.  The times I have held a toddler's hand as she splashed at the water's edge near the very same place young Lane was lost this week.  I thought of the preciousness of the parent-child bond and the powerlessness those parents must have felt knowing that there was nearly no chance that their young son would survive such an attack.

I cried.

So, instead of superimposing my flag over my hand, I chose something more profoundly personal.  I took a picture of my child's hand enfolded in mine---a sort of emblem of protective motherhood that parents worldwide can identify with.  Then, I superimposed the fantasy that is Cinderella's Castle.  It is just an illusion of magic, of good always prevailing over evil, of safety and security of Prince Charmings on white stallions saving the world.

We know it's an illusion.  But the alligators in DisneyWorld are real--and sometimes, they attack.

So for Lane and his family--may you remember the good hand-holding times and the magic of castles and fairy tales.

Week Two Reading Critique: Exploring Empathy

What a great week of readings.  I have to admit, I am enjoying the recommended readings almost more than I am the required ones--and perhaps I should be less apologetic about that.

"An Open Letter to My Students" was such a great piece.  I know on its face, it may seem to be of less value than some of the more academic readings we are doing.  However, at this stage in my life, I wish I could go back and re-live some of my earlier academic experiences through this lens.  I was an undergraduate in the early 1980's--and yes, a good number of you were not born yet.  In the 80's, it was all about achievement, prospering, conspicuous consumption and, as an undergraduate, we were all hyper-focused on the almighty grade point average.  When you become focused on a gpa as a measure of your success, you become dependent and reliant upon someone else's measure for your achievement and success.

I so wish that I had not been quite that intensely focused on grades--and more focused upon learning to develop my identity through my own lens instead of through someone else's perception.  This is heady stuff--which I am even now just beginning to wrap my own head around.  However, there is a wonderful freedom in exploring the boundaries of your own understanding in a way that makes sense for you.  Which is only saying that I am enjoying exploring the boundaries of my own understanding in a way that makes sense for me!

To that end, I stumbled upon a jewel of an article about digital storytelling and empathy in my reading journey this week.  "Mirror Neurons, the development of empathy, and digital story telling" proved not only to be interesting but also a purposeful look at how telling our own stories allows viewers to engage in a mirrored experience and that current research on the brain supports the idea that when we engage in the experiences of others in this way, the biological structures known as mirror neurons actually fire and we experience the experience of others in a very intimate personalized way.

The other aspect of this article is the concept of developed by Michael Wesch which is really worth digging into a lot more deeply.  Wesch has explored vlogging, or video blogging as a way of creating a mask, or identity, in both a very private space but yet one where the whole world has the potential of watching.  A vlogger is essentially alone--with a video camera--speaking often very personal and intimate thoughts directly in the camera.  Within this private space, which appears to me to be somewhat analogous to a confessional, the vlogger is solitary and simply alone with his thoughts. Yet, once the vlog is published, it is at once a most personal reflection released into a most public space.

Wesch describes this as a whole new space for creating, contextualizing and communicating and refers to it as a "context collapse."  The digitally mediated environment is in fact a different kind of space where communication takes on a different aspect that it ever has previously.  There is Wensch explains a "freedom to experience humanity without fear of anxiety."  Like the experience of empathy--this is a drawing in rather than a pushing out and away.

This is fascinating material to dig into.  I'm learning to be surprised at the serendipity that is ILT5340 and just go with it.  The readings themselves present multiple ways of understanding ourselves and the material and I'm just happy to explore where it takes me.


References
  • Hess, M. (2012). Mirror neurons, the development of empathy, and digital story telling. Religious Education,107(4), 401. doi:10.1080/00344087.2012.699412