Scream Team

Who do I trust to be on my side when all hell breaks loose? Realistically, most of my friends and family will be lost to the chaos and those that survive will be ill-equipped to deal with the harsh rules of the new world order. So my dream team consists of four of the most resourceful, rugged, and and intrepid warriors of the apocalypse: Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead), Daryl Dixon (The Walking Dead), Doc (Z Nation), and Addy (Z Nation).

Special Features:
Why?: This Daily Create from the DS106 Twitter feed is callled “Build your dream team.”  The idea was to create a poster that includes people that I would want to work with for any reason, and I instantly thought about who I would want on my zombie slaying team.

How?: This image was created using three separate images and Photoshop to mesh them all together. The background of one of the images was kept in tact and the rest erased. I then used a variety of tools to blend, shadow, create a uniform color tone, and blur parts of the image to make it flow together.

The Hero We Didn’t Want But Desperately Need

zombie-hero

When the end times are near and humanity turns against itself for the sake of survival, one woman  and her crazy, undead cat will be the difference between becoming zombie bait and staying alive. Zombie Zina is like none other in this bleak apocalypse; half zombie, half human she has retained her conscious in the body of a rotting corpse. Within her bitterness at this unfair life, she seeks justice by eliminating the undead scourge from the world and rescuing those who find themselves in peril.

Special Features:

Why?: This week’s daily create comes to you from the DS106 assignment, “The World Needs More Heroes.” The original assignment was to create a hero using Marvel’s hero creator, but after searching through their database of body parts I could not find a single thing to create an undead anti-hero. I was inspired to find a new way of creating the hero I desired and set out to see if there was another simulator I could use instead.

How?: This hero was created by using the HeroMachine – Zombie Edition. All of the features were taken directly from this simulator and colored within the simulator.
#tdc1759

The R/Evolution in Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling isn’t just a practice or an idea, it’s a continuously evolving revolution. It’s not just about one person’s story, but how the story of one can become the story of many. It’s also about how a story can resonate  and create change. This week’s reading had me puzzled at first as to why we were reading the tale of a single person and his achievements in the digital storytelling age. Quickly, I began to realize that there was more to it than that.

In “A Road Traveled: The Evolution of the Digital Storytelling Practice,” one man details his journey from small-time justice activist and theater leader to founder of the San Francisco Digital Media Center with a global focus on education, health, and human services. Along the way he discovered the heart and soul of hat it means to be a digital storyteller. The biggest take-away I discovered from reading his life’s work came when I read the following passsage:

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Storytelling is a profound part of all of our lives. Given the opportunity to tell our unique stories, empowers us to feel like we are bringing meaning to the world around us. It elevates our status when we feel that we are helping others through the telling of our own journeys. When we are oppressed from telling our stories or are unsure of how to get our stories heard, the lack of significance to inspire change can kill our spirits. This may have been the most profound realization in my own journey to learn more about storytelling. I have seen the importance in giving others the opportunity to storytell, and I have seen the science behind why it engages people, but now I really understand the heart and soul of why we must communicate our tales.

The reading was also quite insightful in helping to see the transition from story readings to live performance to digital media. Another section that stood out to me said the following:

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As digital media began enhancing storytelling, the presentation of stories became less about the perfect and well-honed Hollywood presentations and more about the informal, conversational stories of the common person. Closing this gap between performer and audience again served to uplift the everyday person and again bring out the heart and soul of storytelling.

After seeing all of the different places storytelling has been leading up to the digital age, I am left wondering about what is next in this continuing evolution of practice. What comes after digital storytelling? What is the next step in telling the story of the next generations to come?

 

“I REMEMBER!”

A black screen. A simple text fades into view, “The first symptom is the memory loss.” As the words disappear, the silence is broken by the sound of chimes and the sight of a swarming zombie horde.The camera view glides down and around the feet of the undead masses and zooms through a ragged hole in a wall where a man sits tensely in a yellow chair, gun pressed firmly against his temple, blood oozing from a wound on his forearm. The tension of the scene is interrupted briefly by the calm voice of a narrator – the internal monologue of a doomed man. Immediately we understand his situation. Five minutes is all it takes to start to forget pieces of your memory. Five minutes is all it takes to begin the turn into a brain-dead, flesh eating zombie.

Many of the zombie digital stories I’ve reviewed in this blog have belonged to one of two camps: movies or short clips to watch or games and interactive material to play. Five Minutes doesn’t completely fall into either of those categories. It’s more of a hybrid between film and game; a blending between watching and doing. Each time the main character forces himself to remember, the viewer is forced to take swift action to help him remember by swiping patterns on the screen in time with the film. Every time he is thrown into action, the viewer also must take action to save his life.

Due to the unique hybridization of this story, I have used a variety of types of traits from Jason Ohler’s assessment bank that can speak to each category that this story fits under

Title Description Critique
Content understanding How well did the student meet the academic goals of the assignment and convey an understanding of the material addressed? The urgency and frantic feelings of not knowing if or when someone is going to turn into an undead monster were conveyed extremely well in this digital story. Each time the viewer had to draw a pattern or quickly click on parts of the screen to save the man’s memory/life, it became a race against the clock to do so which created the necessary tension. When the viewer was not directly interacting, each movie scene was filled with nervousness as to when the next interaction would occur. These uneasy feelings are crucial to any zombie story, and this film nailed it in all aspects of communicating them. 10/10
Project planning Is there evidence of solid planning, in the form of story maps, scripts, storyboards, etc.? Solid planning is evident in this story in many ways. The story was well laid out, and the interactive elements appeared at appropriate and well-timed areas to keep the story moving along. The parts that weren’t as well thought through were the dying scenes. If the viewer did not click or swipe in the correct spot fast enough, words appeared on the screen indicating that you had died. In comparison to the actual story, this seemed very anticlimactic. 7/10
Originality, voice, creativity How creative was the production? Did the student exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective? This production at first glance looks like a rehashing of the same old story of a survivor getting bit and their loved one having to contend with it and the aftermath. However, some unique twists have been added to keep this story interesting for the viewer. Firstly, the focus of memory loss as a symptom provided a new lens through which to tell this story. With the main character so focused on remembering his past, it not only provides a good reason to show flashbacks, but also to provide a fresh perspective on how the zombie virus works. Secondly, the interactive swipes and clicks help the viewer to become more involved with this “same old story” to actually feel the tension of this moment. Lastly, the conclusion of the story deviates from the norm in that we don’t actually see the main character turn into a zombie after being infected. Though there is a twisted moment of memory for the main character, the resolution of the story shows the 5 minute timer going off with no signs of zombification. However, the happy moment turns sour when the viewer realizes the character’s memory has been wrong all along, yet we never get to see if he changes or not. This type of cliffhanger is unique to this old school zombie story. 9/10

If there was anything I would change about this particular digital story it would have to be the death scenes. So much tension, anxiety, and frantic energy in the film and interactive portions made me wish that when I did die there were death scenes tailored to the spots where I died to heighten these feelings further. Instead, I was only ever met with text that would tell me when I had died – very anticlimactic. It was incredible how much of a mood killer it was to see those words. Even if the death scene had to be the same for each scenario (maybe a scene showing his brain waves turning off and the zombie virus taking over), I would have still been satisfied because it would have at least provided a visual to keep the original worrisome feelings of the rest of the film.

 

 

Do More, Be More with a Domain

Thinking back to my own schooling experiences, I can’t remember ever being asked to become a curator of my own learning. In asking my colleagues to reflect on this same idea, most of them could not recall having to do this either. Responsibility for learning was never really a public affair for us growing up. Rather, our knowledge and accomplishments were showcased through the completion of tests, projects, research papers, and homework – all great ways to assess understanding of a students learning, but not very powerful in allowing students to reflect on their learning nor understanding how to present themselves responsibly within the public domain.

Since working at an Expeditionary Learning School for the last 3 years of my teaching career, I have come to realize just how important being able to post to a public audience is to the learning of my students. As a part of our school philosophy, we coach every student starting in grade 6 on how to showcase their learning journey through the curating of a digital portfolio. Being a part of a public school, we do not have the ability to let students have their own public domain such as the schools that I read about in Audrey Watter’s post, “The Web We Need to Give Students.”  so the public aspect to our students’ portfolios isn’t quite as extensive as those found in this article. Like the article mentioned, they too have the ability to include text, images, video, and audio recordings to personalize their journey. To quote the article, “[these] opportunities [allow students] to express themselves in a variety of ways beyond the traditional pen-and-paper test or essay. After engaging with this article further, I realize that our system definitely has room for improvement when it comes to coaching students on digital story-telling. Oftentimes, I as a teacher get so caught up in figuring out how to coach students to post responsibly that I forget to relax on certain criteria and allow students some freedom in how to design their own website or make their own decisions for what to include in it. One particular sentence in the article resonated with me and forced me to confront this particular downfall with our system.

“Schools routinely caution students about the things they post on social media, and the tenor of this conversation — particularly as translated by the media — is often tinged with fears that students will be seen “doing bad things” or “saying bad things” that will haunt them forever.”

The teachers and I at my school are at times guilty of harboring this fear and allowing it to drive our digital citizenship talks. At times, it also puts a damper on students’ creativity within their portfolios. Further reflecting about this, I am wondering what my team and I could do better to allow students to express their learning while still helping them to understand “how to think through the data trails they’re leaving behind?”

This reading also forced me to confront how I ask students to showcase their proficiency in my math classroom and realize that I could do more to reach out to different learning style through digital story-telling. What if my students kept a digital portfolio instead of a notebook? What if instead of traditional notes, they created their own mathematical archives and domains through video and visuals?  What if students created their own versions of tests and quizzes via blogs and held each other accountable for the learning on a public domain?  It looks like I have a lot of re-thinking to do as a result of engaging with this reading.

 

 

 

It “Spoke” to Me

bike

This week’s daily create is of a photograph I took several years ago of my bike tied to a bike rack with even more bikes – bike-ception, if you will.

Special Features:

How?: This photo was taken using my old school Canon SLR film camera and then processed on black and white matte photo paper. This is the raw image without any additional touch-ups besides proper set up and processing in a dark room.

Why?: This image was taken as a part of a series of photos in my college photography course a few years ago. The series was about personal connection. For me, this image shows connection in two ways: firstly, through the fact that my bike is literally attached to the other bikes at this bike rack and the gears and spokes are connected to make the bike run smoothly, and secondly, through the social connections I’ve made as a result of being a bike rider in a large community of bicyclists.

The New Literacies: Transformative Practices for a New Age of Learners

What a reading! This week’s reading was not quite what I was expecting. Upon first glance, it appeared as though it was going to be another one of those stuffy articles with a high level of pretension and fancy words full of emptiness. I am glad to report that I was wrong about this first impression. For the first time in a long time, I also found it a lot easier to read an article with this much terminology. I attribute this success to being able to annotate while reading as well as to read my peers’ annotations in real-time.

This reading led me to have quite a few insights and revelations when it comes to literacy. The first is that literacy isn’t just about the ability to read and write. The very opening of the article establishes that literacy comes in all forms such as video games, blogging, fan fiction, and other digital content. To me, it makes sense to lump all of these forms under the title digital storytelling. They all are avenues that people can explore in order to communicate a perspective, tell a story, or share their own insights and research, but I never really made the connection that they were forms of literacy. It makes sense, though, when you change your perspective on what literacy really is. Literacy is not just about being able to read and write. It’s about engaging with it through useful social contexts. It makes sense then that digital story-telling would be considered a literacy. It invites people in to tell their story through ways that are accessible to them. The idea of “digital” gives way to other forms of communicating such as visuals and verbal anecdotes. In this regard, this reading challenged and expanded my definition of literacy as it pertains to digital storytelling.

Another interesting insight that I had while reading this chapter was that knowledge is no longer something acquired and processed in isolation. Through the act of digital storytelling, it has become a social practice. The teachers and preachers of the world are no longer the main portals through which learning occurs – it is instead now up to all of us to bring together our collective knowledge and learn from one another. The practice of digital storytelling allows seamlessly for this practice. As I annotated this chapter and read the annotations of my peers along with it, I realized that this couldn’t be more spot on to the truth. Reading through their annotations, I was able to absorb more information and understand them deeper than had I tried to read the words on my own. This makes me question my own practices as a teacher and ask myself, “Do I give my students enough opportunities to socially engage with the work they do in my math classes?”

Within the reading, I found a few sentences that, when read a few times, really resonated with me in my current position at my school.

if a literacy does not have what we call new ethos stuff we do not regard it as a new literacy, even if it has new technical stuff.Once again, not everyone is going to agree with this view. We adopt it because it is possible to use new technologies (digital electronic technologies) to simply replicate longstanding literacy practices

Having engaged with this reading, I do have one curiosity that I am still pondering over. To quote the article directly, “people should be free to take (with appropriate recognition) “bits” of cultural production that are in circulation and use them to create new ideas, concepts, artifacts and statements, without having to seek permission to re-use, or to be hit with a writ for using particular animation or music sequences as components in “remixes” (Lankshear and Knobel2006, Ch. 4) that make something significantly new out of the remixed components.” This statement both excited me and perplexed me upon reading it. It excited me in that it encapsulated beautifully what it means to socially engage in literacy and digital storytelling – using the inspirations around us to remix and create something new. At the same time, though, it made me wonder how we should teach our students to do this successfully without falling into the realm of plagiarism or copyright infringement. The phrase “without having to seek permission” especially made me nervous. As an artist myself, I would want my work to be an inspiration to others but I don’t want my own work to go unrecognized or to become diminished. How do we show students how to make something significantly new as opposed to something that borders on a blatant copy of someone else’s work? All good answers come with time I suppose, and I look forward to what I find out from my time in this course.

image credit: iStockphoto

First Post!

I am still getting used to all of this new technology. I’m not a newb by anyone’s standards when it comes to new forms of tech, but I have strayed from things like twitter and blogging for the sake of anonymity on the web. Guess this course will challenge me in that regard!