Eating Brains: Feeding the Writing Hunger

As I draw nearer to the creation of my own digital story, I find myself drawing inspiration from some of the well-known and the lesser-known authors of the horror genre. I have been “picking their brains” for tips, tricks, ideas, and words of wisdom for how to get started writing successfully about the undead. I have read excerpts from Stephen King’s On Writing, consulted Jim Butcher in person at a meet-and-greet in my town, and read a variety of blogs from a plethora of authors. One that stuck out to me recently was a post by author Craig DiLouie from his blog post titled, “Writing The Zombie Novel: Lessons on Craft.” In his post, Craig details ten different tips on how to write survival horror that people actually want to read. Reading through these ten tips, I couldn’t help but think about how his advice was the embodiment of the work we’ve been learning and doing in class. They also epitomize the ideas of good story telling.

Tip #1, “Read Everything,” and Tip #2, “Always Be Writing,” are the exact rules that were set by Lori on day one. Every week we sit down to read/watch something story related and every week we sit down to write our own thoughts, critiques, and personal creations. As time has gone on, repeating these two acts has helped me to become a better writer, reviewer, and storyteller. I remember a while back that a fellow student questioned the validity of only reviewing stories and not writing them; wondering what the purpose behind these writings was all about; implying a desire for wanting to be more of a creator than a reviewer. I believe that Craig’s first two tips very clearly underline the purpose behind our work in our blogs. Right now, writing about others’ work and reviewing it critically on a consistent basis is getting us to practice in reading everything and practicing to always be writing. Repetition in this way is preparing us to produce more interesting stories full of depth and development. Not only that, but it is exposing us to numerous examples of what works and what doesn’t, thereby providing us with enough fodder to remix a story that is unique and creative to our own styles while respecting the styles of those who came before us.

Continuing through the tip list, tips #5 through #7 invite conversation around Jason Ohler’s traits for assessing storytelling. Respecting the needs of the audience is an important part of a successful tale. Doing your homework (#7), responding to your audience’s ability to suspend belief (#5), and writing a story about people, not zombies (#6) are all geared toward respecting the target audience of a survival horror production. Audience buy-in is probably one of the most important factors in a story’s success, and this can be accomplished through reader empathy. My good friends Lisa Fish and Nick Grimes feature empathy in their blogs frequently as a tool for good storytelling due to its ability to unite people of different backgrounds and beliefs. Craig also addresses it in his blog by stating, “Readers need somebody to empathize with in the story; in a sense, characters stand in for the reader. As terrible things happen to these people, the reader feels like these things are happening to him or her. But if the reader has nobody to care about, they will not empathize.” This is something that I am going to be playing very close attention to as I start to develop my own story.

Tip #10 may very well have been written by Lori herself stating, “be prepared to promote your work.” Since the beginning of this course, we have been asked to promote ourselves via blogging, Twitter, and a variety of other social networking tools. Seeing this written out by Craig got me thinking if what I am doing now is enough to get my story out there and, if not, what I should be doing to publish myself in as many places as possible. The more that I write in this blog, the more important it has become for me to have viewers reading what I am writing. In our latest Gallery Walk, I finally realized just how important my blog posts have been to my peers and how I can have an impact on a larger audience. I am determined to make my own digital story shine better than any blog post I’ve created to date and find new ways to gain attention from others outside of our class to promote myself and my work.

@CraigDiLouie, @StephenKing, #INTE5340, #DS106,

Triumph of the Walking Dead

For the last several weeks, I have chosen to focus on scholarly articles that speak broadly to the term “digital storytelling.” This week I am trying something new on for size – examining the success behind some of pop culture’s cult zombie digital stories. Triumph of the Walking Dead edited by James Lowder is a compilation of professional reviews examining why zombie stories like “The Walking Dead” have risen to fame and stayed in the spotlight for so long. In order to pull off these reviews, the authors rely on comparing the show to movies like “Night of the Living Dead,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Survival of the Dead,” and a plethora of others. The reviews held enlightening comparisons that showcased elements of good storytelling, but what I didn’t expect to find were the themes that have shown up over and over again in my DS106 assignments and previous articles prescribed by this course.

The first movies to portray zombies as the walking, flesh eating nightmares that we know today were created by George Romero in the late 60’s Before that time, zombies were nothing more than people enslaved by voodoo curses to do others’ bidding. Romero took a more docile version of the walking dead and made them into a terrifying phenomena that has set the standard for all other movies thereafter. As one author notes in the this book, “Zombies in the Romero style are precisely what Robert Kirkman delivered when he kicked off the comic book series…The first few issues tread other rather familiar patches of storytelling ground, too. The opening…has been criticized as being derivative of the film 28 Days Later…Both Kirkman and Boyle were tapping into a long tradition in postapocalyptic fiction of hospitalized [protagonists].” In these few sentences, the author is describing the use of inspiration and “remixing” for the sake of creating something new and exciting. In a previous blog post, I talk at length about how remixes – using another’s work to inspire your own; to turn it around to make something new yet reminiscent of another’s style – have been around for a long time and has led to successful digital story creations. Here in this review, we see the very evidence of a professional creator using inspiration to remix a new version of the zombie apocalypse and “move beyond [its] inspirations.” Previously, I noted that remixes are a great way for students to find more easy access into creating their own digital stories. However, its not just at the amateur level that success can be found in remixes, but we can even see here that at a professional level remixing can lead to success in digital story creation as well. After realizing this connection, I thought to myself, “what a cool thing to share with students when introducing them to digital storytelling,” and “what a great perspective to give students who find themselves struggling with remixes as ‘not quite their own,’ or ‘unoriginal.'”

Though remixing is a large theme throughout many of the reviews in this piece of literature, another theme also prevails in explaining the success behind “The Walking Dead” and its predecessors. One of Jason Ohler’s assessment traits for evaluating digital stories is a sense of audience. In other words, “how well does a story respect the needs of the audience?” In a world where audience exposure to death, gore, and other gruesome horrors has created a numbness to these visuals, viewers are in need of a different way to connect with digital stories meant to inspire fear. One author addresses this in his thoughts. “If you believe the characters in a story, you will believe most anything. It’s the key to making a good fantasy work. Make all the day-to-day details, the lives and interests of the characters, real, and we’ll accept those zombies…The Walking Dead is full of real characters. The good, the bad, the ugly, and mostly, the complex: that’s what keeps pulling us back. We want to see how things turn out for these folks.” Seeing professionals openly recognize the validity behind knowing a story’s audience was another cool eye-opener for me in revealing successful traits behind digital stories. But it’s not just the acknowledgement of this trait that makes it interesting, it’s the way that they help us understand how the story is connecting to the audience psychologically and physically. When the audience cares for the characters (for better or worse), the horror that gets bestowed upon them manifests actual physical symptoms in the viewer. “Audiences must deal with the unpleasant physical reactions themselves” which ties them closer to the story.

All in all this book provided some great insights into how the things I am learning about in abstract articles and assignments from this course really are the cornerstones in the professional world of digital storytelling. Sharing the ideas with students as isolated traits to incorporate into their own storytelling is powerful in helping them to realize what makes a strong story, but if we are to truly empower our students to make their own strong stories, sharing examples and understanding of these traits (such as those found in this reading) can be even more powerful in the long-run.

Learning as Social Practice

Education is not about filling up a bucket, but rather about lighting a fire. In this digital day and age, all of the information anyone could ever want is at the touch of their fingertips. Say, “Okay Google,” or “Siri,” and a voice-over will even read you the answers to your desired questions. For that reason, confining learning to the old principals of teaching information for the sake of acquisition makes little to no sense. Learning has become more of an organic process through the use of social spaces and social interaction. This is a belief that I have had for a very long time as a learner and more recently as the result of being an expeditionary learning teacher. So when I started to read the article titled, “Social learning, ‘push’ and ‘pull’, and building platforms for collaborative learning,” I felt right at home with the message of “embed[ing] learning in activity and make[ing] deliberate use of the social and physical context [for learning.]” If you are new to this idea, the premise is that in order to make learning meaningful and transform students into life-long adaptive learners, teaching needs to move away from teaching abstract ideas with no context to providing students with authentic experiences in which to enhance the material being learned and which also provide students with opportunities to develop 21st century social and digital skills. How does this actually look in a classroom setting? It depends. To give you an idea of how this can look in my classroom setting, I will draw upon my own experiences teaching math in an expeditionary way. This past spring, I transformed my unit of functions, sequences, and series to include an artistic and a historical component. I taught students how to make beadwork using ancient and modern South African styles. While students were beading, they were also actively participating in the concepts of inputs, outputs, counting, finding and making patterns, and discovering the difference between algebraic, geometric, and exponential growth. On a weekly basis, I also brought in art historians to bead with us and tell stories about where the math behind the artworks comes from. It was a total social immersion for my students. They learned early and often that they could not work in isolation if they were to be successful in their work. They were provided real chances to fail, flail, and help each other find success at their own levels of learning. Students also learned to be adaptive in their thinking as they found ways to make their beadwork even more complex yet still follow the mathematics. Meaning making spiked for my students and in that their levels of understanding the math concepts also peaked higher than I’d ever seen previously teaching this unit with word problems and examples alone. This is an example of what expeditionary learning can look like, but also in many ways it is the kind of social learning that this article talks about.

An important thing to note about social systems of learning is that its not just about being around other people and engaging in activities together. It’s about being able to take on an identity within the system of social learning. Creating spaces where students can assume multiple roles and access the work through multiple modalities plays a crucial part in creating a successful social system. The article touches on this by stating, “It is difficult to understand your place and role within a system without the opportunity to take on an identity and engage in activity within the system. Nowadays the most important title a student can assume is that of an “expert novice” – an expert at continually learning anew and in depth. As the article states, being an expert novice requires “deep learning,” the kind that “can generate ‘real understanding, the ability to apply one’s knowledge and even to transform that knowledge for innovation.” This changing world requires adaptive learners and thinkers and social learning spaces is a way to get this to happen naturally.

Something that I really respected about this article that few articles are willing to admit is that while there is an incredible amount of potential for Web 2.0 platforms and services to create social learning, “it is important also to consider examples that are primarily face to face, local, and may presuppose little or no internet access whatsoever. These, after all, are the original spaces of social learning.” Social learning can be a digital adventure or a face to face. Either will be effective in creating the learning environment conducive to encouraging students to be adaptive thinkers and learners.

The Stories Behind Math

Not too long ago, the world of mathematics teaching was filled with memorization, relentless practicing of skills, and the idea that all math problems have just one answer. While some of these vibes still exist in some of today’s classrooms, for the most part a shift in instructional practices has started to reshape the way teacher’s teach math and the way student’s learn math. One of these practice shifts has been taking the logical and cold-hearted calculations of math and putting a more human spin on it to make it more relatable to a variety of students. This being done in a multitude of ways, but the most interesting way has been through the use of storytelling. My choice for this week’s reading, “Using storytelling to teach mathematics concepts,”  showcases this pedagogical shift and its success .

“Storytelling appeals to children’s imaginations and emotions and helps make learning more meaningful. When children listen to stories, they create mental images that belong to them, connecting the content to something personally significant.” Now replace the word “children” with the word “people” and read the quote again – the quote still holds true. So how exactly does this apply to a math classroom? 65% of the population are primarily  visual learners and 30% are primarily auditory learners. These two percentages make up 95% of all learners in the world. Lecture alone reaches the 30% auditory learners, and written examples only reach the 65% visual learners. What ties both of these two groups together and strengthens the learning process? Storytelling.

In the article, math teachers used the premise of a fictional tale to teach the idea of counting by ones, tens, and hundreds. Students were given context for this math concept and then provided with an opportunity to replicate the story for themselves to practice the math concept. By engaging with a story that fit the mathematics, students were allowed to create a personal connection with the math. Through these connections, students were more easily able to overcome obstacles in solving similar math problems and also were able to take their thinking to the next level.

Though this article touched on the use of storytelling in an elementary math context, this same idea can be extended to secondary mathematics, too. In my reading of this article, I had a couple of realizations about my own use of storytelling in my middle school math classes. Since my own educational background was in art education, I have always leaned on my degree to support the ways in which I teach mathematics. Much of the way that I introduce new ideas to students is through visuals and stories. To give you an example of this, every year I teach rules for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing negative numbers through the context of something called “The Integer Game.” Students start by reading a story about two students who play the game. The students in the story are found intensely engaged in trying to beat each other in this game. As the students taunt each other in the story, they reveal their strategies for how they are going to win the game for themselves, which also aids in showcasing how the rules of the game work. Once students have read the story, I ask them to make connections to it on their own, in pairs, and then as a whole group. Every year, students compare their experiences playing card games to this situation, and then I give them the same cards used in the story to play the game in their groups. Since implementing this story and game in my classroom, I have seen a 94% success rate in students’ abilities to add, subtract, multiply, and divide negative numbers as opposed to my previous 78% success.

Much of my instruction follows a similar manner of allowing students to engage in stories with mathematical concepts. However, something I haven’t considered before that I am now considering is how do I get my students to be the ones creating the mathematical stories? I have already started to answer this question a little bit by introducing Flickr to my students. In a previous blog post, I mentioned introducing Flickr as a way for students to post photographs of mathematics happening in the real world around them and writing up a blurb about where the math was found and how it relates. Since doing this, students have been extremely interested in finding the math we do in class in their everyday lives. Since it is an optional assignment, students so far have only posted about 15 pictures, but these photos all have interesting stories attached to them that demonstrate students’ strong understanding of how the math relates to the world. Now I want to make real storytelling assignments that get students to interact with math in this way. This article has inspired me to seek resources that demonstrate digital storytelling specifically in a math classroom, and I hope to within a few weeks design and implement an assessment that lets students do this. What I am currently struggling with is finding the time to do this successfully, and I wonder how much of the time I should be using to teach digital tools to students versus letting them just play and figure it out on their own? I suppose this can only be discovered through trying it out, but it would still be nice to see examples of how other math teachers have done this in their own classrooms. In the meantime, I will continue my search to find out what I can through research and experimentation.

#ds106 #INTE5340

Remix, Rediscover, Reinvent

As an artist, I have spent many years struggling so hard over the idea of “remixing.” It is a topic that I never approach lightly, because of how close its boundaries hug the line of plagiarism within the realm of creativity. I think the reason that I struggle with it so much is because of my aversion to the original art history movement that started this idea of remixing – pop art. I thoroughly dislike the ideals set by artists such as Marcel Duchamp (mentioned in the chapter) and Andy Warhol. To me, their works are unoriginal, because in a sense they were producing copies of things that already existed in our world and claiming them as art since they were created with art materials and an artistic audience in mind. While this was a revolutionary idea in the art community for its time (forcing the viewer to confront the mundane and over-marketed images with an artistic view) the works themselves are just replicas of everyday objects such as soup can labels, toilets, bicycle wheels, pipes, and other objects. After studying this movement for many years in college, I never gained a greater appreciation for this movement, only a bigger distaste for it. The other reason that it challenges me is that I often find it difficult to separate my own work as my own when I rely so heavily on other people’s resources and creations for inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I do look to other works of art to become inspired, but what I’m saying is that if I spend more than half of my time remixing someone else’s work it never truly feels like mine. For these reasons, the chapter “Music Remix in the Classroom” from this week really challenged my perception on what it means to be inspired by another work of art.

The sentence that really set my mind at ease about this new idea of remixing music in this chapter stated the following: “However, remixing is not simply taking somebody else’s intellectual property and putting your name on it.” This is what I have been trying to say for many years. As I studied artists like Warhol, who decided that his signature was the work of art and by placing it upon whatever he pleased the image would then also transform into art, I became disgusted by the pretension behind this act of taking what’s not yours and making it only slightly different for the sake of making a statement. So when the chapter opened up with this sentence, I realized that there can be more to remixing than simply copying. Instead, it should be thought of as a conversation. The remixes exist not as a way to copy someones work, but to show an understanding and appreciation for the original while also allowing new artists to add to the conversation that was started in the original. To me, this makes a lot more sense, and brings value to the educational table through students engaging in interpretation, communication, and collaboration skills. Something I eventually realized about myself through this reading, too, is that I’ve been enjoying remixing for quite some time in my music library without even realizing it. The following are examples that I have identified to be appropriate remixes without overstepping the bounds of the original works of art.

Original Remix
Rehab by Amy Winehouse

Toxic by Britney Spears

Rehab/Toxic Remix by Anonymous
Down with the Sickness by Disturbed Down with the Sickness by Richard Cheese

Over the the course of my life I have learned the difference between using a resource to become inspired and copying a resource without adding my own flair, but the question I keep hitting a wall on over and over again is “how do we teach this skill to students?” This is something I still haven’t answered for myself, but I am seeking input and responses so that I can lead my students down the path that delicately balances self-expression with inspiration.

Chapter 3 of this text did not provoke as much of an emotional response from me as Chapter 2 did, but I wanted to recognize it within this post, if only in a small way. I have been listening to many podcasts for a long time (as you may have noticed in my blog post titled, “We’re Alive.“). I really see the power of engagement in them for myself, and I would one day love to try using podcasts in the classroom. I do not, however, have any particular ideas in mind about how to do this in math, but if anyone has ideas for me I would be glad to read about them in the comments below.

Your Brain on Stories

Think about the last time someone told you a story. Not just a time where someone told you something about their day, but a genuine story. A time when someone became so animated due to their excitement to share their side nothing else mattered but the every detail pouring forth from their lips.  How well do you remember it? What details do you remember? Did you relate to it personally? Have you ever retold the story to someone else? If you can provide any level of detail about the story or you answered yes to the last two questions, chances are good that your insula was being activated as you engaged in that person’s story.

What is insula?

I’m so glad you asked.

Insula is the part of the brain that activates in order to help humans relate to the same experience of pain, joy, disgust or else shared by another human. One of my interests over the past few years, besides exploring new tech, has been studying how the brain works especially when it comes to learning or relating to something new. Since story telling has begun to transform my teaching practices, I’ve begun to dig into the depths of research based in why story telling is an engaging teaching practice. My latest discovery has been an informative article posted by Leo Widrich titled “The Science of Storytelling: What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brains.”  This particular reading brought a lot of insights to the things that I thought I once knew about student engagement.

My previous perceptions on story telling in the classroom involved the understanding that story telling was fun which is why students are more eager to engage with it thus learning more with their increased interest. However, it turns out to be a bigger, more physiological reason. To understand this, let’s first look at an anti-example. Let’s look at what happens when a student listens to a generic presentation. The presentation hits the language processing parts in the brain where word decoding happens, but that’s all that happens. Now let’s look at what happens when someone is told a story. Again, the language processing parts of our brain are activated, but so are the parts of our brain that we would use if we were experiencing the story ourselves. Our whole brain is engaged. This is such a game changer for how I have been looking at using digital story telling in my own classroom. I no longer see it as a way to just get my students interested in the concepts; I see it as a way to make learning more meaningful to students in terms of their personal learning styles. My personal philosophy has always been to incorporate as many teaching techniques as possible in order to cater to the different ways students think. Now I have a way to bring all types of learning styles to the table, but with just one strategy – storytelling.

It’s not just about me though, it’s about other teachers who follow my lead on trying these different pedagogical practices in their classrooms, too. Though I work in a very progressive school where experimentation in teaching is encouraged, I know from working in different schools for the last 5 years that not every school works the same way. For me, to teach math through the use of art, storytelling, physical activity, or any other methods rarely gets questioned by students, parents, or my administration. For others, there needs to be a solid justification for the need to bring these things into a math classroom – where they have commonly seemed out of place. This article provided not only a logical explanation for the need of storytelling in the use of learning, but it provided research based evidence for why the brain learns best through the use of storytelling. If there’s one thing that is hard to dispute, it’s research. My hope is that by showcasing this to others, more and more teachers will feel comfortable utilizing story-based projects and lessons into their contents as well. If not to shake things up a bit, but also to help more students discover new ways to connect with their learning.

Conditions for Knowing

In 2010 I created my very first Flickr account with the intent of becoming a refined photographer. How exactly was I going to accomplish this? By challenging myself to post one picture every day for 365 days. The idea was that I would get better at seeing the world in new ways with every snap of my camera. Days 1 and 2 proved quite promising. I woke up on both of these days with the excitement and fervor of a kid waking up to Christmas morning, snapped my pictures, quickly edited them for quality, and posted them to my account. Days 3 and 4 proved more difficult as I struggled to find the time in my busy schedule to snap and post photos, but nevertheless I accomplished this small feat. Day 5 came and went with no photo evidence to be found. That was the day that I never touched my account again. Six years later, the remnants of this challenge can be seen on the same Flickr account that I have begun using for my graduate studies classes today. The photos sit there like a tombstone on a dead project – a reminder of a goal left unfinished. What exactly went wrong? How could a simple “post a picture a day” challenge get derailed in as little as five days?

In reading Chapter 4: Visual Networks: Learning and Photosharing by Guy Merchant, I believe I have finally discovered the reasons for my 6 year 365 day failure. When I originally set out to accomplish my challenge, I had only one thing in mind: take photos and make sure they got posted. This was the only way that I interacted with Flickr. I thought of it as just another way to display my images; it was nothing more than that to me and that was my first mistake. A large part of the chapter focused on the use of Flickr not just as a tool for photo sharing, but as a social networking and learning environment. Merchant placed a heavy emphasis on this idea and referred back to it frequently in relaying his own experiences and the experiences of others with Flickr. He labeled Flickr many times as an affinity space -“social contexts that are guided by purpose, interest or content.” For him, Flickr was a way to invite meaning to his graffiti project by allowing people to comment on and engage with his photography. He not only collected a fan-base from his public galleries of art, but he also started conversations. In one of my earlier posts, I talked about how new forms of digital storytelling have begun to evolve the idea of literacy and its involvement with social learning. My thoughts from that previous post tie in perfectly with the ways in which I read about Guy Merchant’s use of Flickr, because he wasn’t just posting pictures, he was telling visual and written stories and inviting others to do the same. He talked about multi-modality – “the visual and verbal modes work together to establish and develop meanings” – and how this incorporated literacy through the use of photo tagging and adding descriptions and interesting titles along with the images. During the five days of my photo challenge so many years ago, I never once bothered to personalize my images in this way. To this day, you will see no tagging, no titles, and barely any descriptions on my photos. I never bothered to really talk about my own work, and, because of this, no one ever bothered to talk to me about it either. I inadvertently closed off communication with others; I closed off my own learning. I stopped caring about the project, because it didn’t engage me fully.

As I sit here writing this, I realize just how important social learning has become in my ability to process information. Merchanct writes, “seeing can transform into attentive noticing when we begin to label things in our environment.” While this most certainly applies to the idea of visual languages like photography, I can’t help but feel connected to this statement in another way. Reflecting back on my failed project and relating it to the things I’ve been reading in this course have forced me to start labeling my learning behaviors. As a result, they have helped me to see clearer what really motivates me to keep exploring and learning. These things have started to set the stage for attentive noticing and conditions for knowing myself better as a student and a teacher.

Moving forward, I am extremely intrigued in the idea of using Flickr to motivate my students in math. Reading some of the examples for how Merchant had seen students using photos to engage with literacy and learning has sparked a few ideas for me. I would like to design a semester long Flickr space for my students to upload the imagery that they encounter throughout their day that they interpret as relating to the math concepts we cover in class. A requirement of uploading their images would be that they have to tell a story in their description and use appropriate tags to convey their meaning to the world. I need to think a little bit harder about the rest of the details surrounding this project, but I am excited to begin trying another new avenue of mathematical exploration with my students. I am wondering how they feel this will impact their learning at the end of the semester? Check back later for my report on this exciting new development!

Cargo

How often is it that we measure our successes and achievements in life by the things we possess? In our modern day, the perception of someone doing well in life can sometimes be equated with the amount of material possessions they have – how many homes they own, the health of their stocks, what type of car they drive, the numbers of digits on their paycheck, how many college degrees they earned, or even the type of job they have – their cargo…but what if one day all of those things went away? What if one day you woke up and society was crumbling around you? What if all that was left was the shell of a world and humanity was on the brink of extinction? What would be precious to you then? How would you protect it?

Cargo is a 2013 Australian short film directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke and written by Ramke that explores one man’s  journey to protect his most precious cargo, his infant daughter, despite the overwhelming odds he is forced to face in the zombie apocalypse.  The idea of protecting the ones you love in a post-apocalyptic scenario is not a new one, but this short film explores more than just the idea of parental protective instincts. The raw feeling of desperation to preserve the one thing worth saving is communicated very well in this digital story, and the chilling sense of loss and the clawing feeling of despair can be felt in every moment of this seven minute film. The emotional impact of this short story will derail you and leave you wondering what you would do to ensure the survival of the ones you love. Before continuing on with my critique, it is important to gain an insight into my observations by viewing the film for yourself here.

As much as I would have loved to get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes planning for this film, much time and effort to search for such objects turned up empty-handed. Without wanting to make up assumptions about the pre-planning leading up to the final product, I have chosen to select traits from Jason Ohler’s assessment list that deal with analyzing and critiquing only the final product.

Trait Trait Description Succeeds Fails to Capture
Originality, voice, creativity How creative was the production? Did the student exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective? While survival is the most generic story to tell in a zombie apocalypse story, this digital story adds a unique voice to this overly written about topic. We are deprived of any sort of narration by the main character which helps to avoid a lot of potential clichés. Unlike in popular zombie stories where we get told how the characters feel and what they think, we must instead witness it, feel it, and interpret it for ourselves through only his actions and expressions. This perspective makes the story far more immersive for the viewer, making them feel as though they have been put directly into this father’s shoes. To me, this trait does not fail at capturing this story, because “original voice” doesn’t always mean “brand new.” The theme of this story is not a new one, but the perspective from which it is told is refreshing.
Content understanding How well did the student meet the academic goals of the assignment and convey an understanding of the material addressed? The goals of portraying survival and unconditional love are intensely present in this film. It is evident that the creators have done their homework about the emotional state of a post-apocalyptic world. To me, this trait does not fail at capturing this story, because it sets out to tell the story of the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of one man and his daughter, and it successfully does this without too much additional visual or auditory “noise.”
Flow, organization and pacing Was the story well organized? Did it flow well, moving from part to part without bumps or disorientation, as described in Part III? The story is incredibly well organized. It immediately sets the scene for the audience, describing the conflict quickly and launching us into the main events leading up to the punch line. Upon first viewing, the audience might be left wondering what is going on until the final scene brings it altogether. However, I believe this to be the intent of the film, because of how well it ties the events together in the final scene. Therefore, the confusion and mystery in flow are an essential part of understanding the feelings of the main character. The flow of this short film is purposely designed to disorient the viewer and leave them feeling a bit lost from transition to transition until the final scene ties it all back together for the viewer. The idea that a story must move along without major disruptions or disorientation does not always apply to every genre of story – especially stories that are meant to make you feel as lost as the main characters.

I have always been intrigued by the idea of a zombie apocalypse and frequently tell my students about my plans for survival. What fascinates me most about the zombie genre, however, is not the zombies; it’s the emotions and experiences of the people thrown into the chaos that really make me interested. This film beautifully quantifies the feelings of parenthood and the overwhelming need to protect the ones you love regardless of your own safety. The third-person view turned first-person narrative really invited me in to feel this particular father’s struggle. When the bullet of a far-off sniper ended the father’s story, I instantly wanted the story to end, too. It’s not that I’m against happy endings or anything, but this particular story needed to not have as much closure as it did. I had spent 6 and a half minutes believing that I was the parent in this story and really feeling the struggle myself, and when it ended I wanted a feeling of emptiness – akin to the feeling of having my life now suddenly ended just like the father. I could have lived with just seeing the baby being found by the new group of survivors, but no more than that, because what came next only served to remove me emotionally from the story. The narrative and audience engagement would have been better served to not know what happened after the baby was found, and it would have invited the viewer to continue to fill in the missing pieces as they had to do throughout the viewing of the film.