Digital Mentor Text #4: “Size Matters Not”

Here we are, midweek, in our series on mentor texts in the digital writing workshop, and I’m feeling just a bit left out in the sense that I’ve chosen to focus on professional mentor texts in that I am not commenting on student work like BillKatieKevinTony and Franki are. The thinking on these topics so far has been awesome, and it will take me quite a while to actually go back and digest everything they’ve shared from the writing to watching the videos and viewing the projects that they and their students have done.  In particular, Tony’s post today about how his students use visual literacy to revise a slide —  as well as showing the relevant screen captures from that revision process — are wonderful!

But, I digress, and I must return to a much more important topic: Star Wars.

Yes, Star Wars.

For many of my generation, there are very important decisions to be made about how we introduce Star Wars to our students and especially to our own children.  Studying the hero’s journey, and helping them realize that the main protagonist in the Star Wars saga is not Luke Skywalker, but instead Anakin Skywalker, is not just an exercise in pop culture literacy, as the Wikipedia entry on Darth Vader demonstrates.  Even though my own children have seen all six episodes of the saga, and can recite the lyrics to the Weird Al song that came out with episode one, it really has been quite interesting to watch the saga with them again. And, despite the quite humorous nature of the public service announcement from the link above, it really has been an interesting discussion with kids to help them think about how characters are portrayed as well as their motivations as we watch the Blu-Ray versions together (a hearty post-Christmas thanks to my wife for the discs, and my dad for the new player!).  And, yes, for the record, we did start with episode four.

Anyway, I digress again, because the real point of this digital mentor text exploration is about the use of kinetic type. If you’re not familiar with the phrase “kinetic type” or “kinetic typography,” then you are certainly familiar with the concept, defined succinctly here from Wikipedia: “an animation technique mixing motion and text to express ideas using video animation.” You’ve likely seen kinetic type in the series of Ford commercials narrated by Denis Leary, and even politicians (or, at the very least, their PR people) are getting into the kinetic type game. My colleague and mentor Danielle DeVoss introduced me to the concepts of kinetic type quite some time ago, and has captured a great collection of resources in the NWP Digital Is website. Inspired by that collection, Kevin created his own resource, too, that outlines the process he used to create a kinetic type-style poem.

So, this fourth mentor text is a favorite of mine, and given that we are right in the middle of The Empire Strikes Back, perfect timing.

The force is strong in that example… :-)

There are a few points from the video that, as a digital mentor text, encourage me to think about how we can ask students to connect and represent characters, dialogue, setting, plot, and other narrative elements through the use of kinetic type. Rather than try to plot out every possible question that this one segment of dialogue from Yoda — and this kinetic interpretation of it — could raise for us as readers/viewers of both Empire and the entire saga, I will just make some points here about the way the this digital text has been constructed. For each, you could simply ask “why did the digital writer make this choice,” and how that could lead to further discussion:

  • As the video begins, notice the choice of font, color, and background. How do these choices situate this remixed text within the larger discourse of Star Wars?
  • At about the :04 second mark, “judge” as a verb appears in a much larger font and is then eclipsed by the even-larger “Hmmm?” followed by the disappearing question mark. What does that say about Yoda’s beliefs?
  • At about the :12 second mark, notice how the word “for” appears and then changes to “force.” How is that symbolic of the ways in which the Force is described?
  • From the :13 to :15 frames, notice how the word “ally” is used and the scope of the camera angle on the original text changes. What does this say about the role of the Force and Yoda’s larger purpose for this speech to Luke?
  • From :20 to :24, pat attention to the period and it’s relation to the word “us.” How might that be used as a way to discuss Yoda’s grammar?
  • From :27 to :29, notice how the “S” connects the words “binds,” “us,” and “luminous.” Along with the lighting effect on the word “luminous,” why else might the digital writer have used the “s” as a connection point?
  • How does the rotation of the text from :26 to :31, as well as the tone in Yoda’s voice, affect you as a viewer?
  • At :51, how does the text change to indicate a conclusion?

My hope is that you could look for similar types of moves that digital writers make in other kinetic typography, and use those as mentor texts, too. There are plenty out there, although not all are appropriate for school.

Last, yet certainly not least, I want to point you to another resource created by a teacher, Jillian Johnson, from earlier this summer when I taught in France for MSU. In her efforts to “hit the sweet spot” of TPACK, she made this instructional screencast about hacking PPT to create kinetic type, using Kevin’s resource on Digital Is, as well as his poem, as a text to build from.

More tomorrow…

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Revision note (1/13/12): Reading Tony’s post that referenced this one of mine, I realized that I didn’t go back to do a really good proofreading of my writing. I had used MacSpeech Dictate to get much of the text from my head onto the screen, and totally overlooked “genetic typography.” Whoops! I changed it to the correct term, “kinetic typography.”

A Creative Summer

Over the past few weeks, I have been fortunate enough to teach in MSU’s MA in Ed Tech program here in Rouen, France. With the inspiration of Leigh Graves Wolf and Punya Mishra, one of the major foci of the program is on creativity. As I think about how to be more creative in teaching my own pre-service methods courses and leading professional development, this summer has been very helpful for me, allowing me enough flexibility to explore new ideas while also teaching about broad themes in education, as well as educational technology. To that end, we have been inviting the teachers to do “quickfire” types of activities each day, and I wanted to share some of my thinking on some of the creative works that I have developed in the past few weeks alongside my colleagues — and how they can be connected to digital writing — beginning with one that Punya led yesterday.

Multiplicity Photo

Troy's Multiplicity Image

Troy's Multiplicity Image (7-20-11)

Yesterday, Punya led us in a conversation about “tensions” in education, and we had to represent our tension through a multiplicity photo. Using my iPhone (solo, so I had to actually record this as a video and take screen shots from the footage), Pixlr, this tutorial, and help from colleagues in class, I was able to produce and submit the photo above. Don’t ask me which tension I was trying to represent exactly, as I am not really sure myself; my composing process got too focsued on the the outcome and the tech, and I really forgot what it was I was supposed to “say.”

What I do know is that it took me a great deal of thinking to do this quickfire because A) I did it alone and we were supposed to have a partner to take the photos, B) I got a late start, and C) even though Punya said we could repurpose a tool like PPT to blend photos together, I knew that I wanted to do something with an image-editing tool (once Photoshop wouldn’t work for me, I switched to Pixlr).

More importantly, I was learning with my students. I normally talk about the fact that I am only one step ahead, and helping them figure things out. But, because I am one step ahead, I look like a tech genius. In this case, I was walking right next to my colleagues, or even a step behind. I had to raise my hand when Punya asked us who wanted a tutorial and, after figuring it out, immediately had to explain the concepts of the layering, erasing, and blending to another colleague, leading her through the process.

This put me in the role of the learner, and only a slightly more knowledgable other. It was good to feel uncomfortable with a technology and process. This reminds me that when I am talking about digital writing tools, no matter how common they are to me, they can still seem completely strange someone who has never used them. Moreover, describing what we did as a composing process is critical, because it helps me frame the task in terms of purpose and audience.

Ignite Presentation

[iframe_loader src="http://present.me/embed/625/350/1253-maety2-authentic-use-presentation" height="375" width="640" click_words="Go to Present.me to view" click_url="http://present.me/embed/625/350/1253-maety2-authentic-use-presentation" ]

Inspired by the idea of an Ignite-style presentation, in particular this one by Chris Lehmann, Greg and I wanted students to summarize the major problems and possible solutions related to technology integration in education. We also wanted our students to be concise and collaborate. We wanted them to develop an “Authentic Use Policy” for themselves and their colleagues. Knowing that Present.me would be the final tool that we used to share our work and record the five-minute presentation, we knew we needed to have slides in a PPT compatible format. Also, people needed to collaborate. Fast.

So, we went with Google Docs. And, while it didn’t allow us all the flexibility in terms of design, it did work as a collaborative composing space. I recorded the entire 30 minutes or so of the slidedeck coming together using Camtasia, and here is a quick clip of the few minutes that I was working on my slides. Watching what I am doing (playing with fonts, finding a CC licensed image, organizing slides) and what is going on in the background with other partners’ sets of slides shows us a quick glimpse into the collaborative composing process. We had talked about slide design and looked at some resources from Robin Williams’ Non-Designers Design principles, and that helped some of us guide our work.

This collaborative, quick process is one that many of the teachers said could be adapted to their classroom. Moreover, the slides contain information that could be adapted for future PD that they might lead. While it was fast, it captured a semester’s worth of learning, and brought all our voices into the process, both in terms of design and implementation.

[iframe_loader src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnOqF-pKpPA" height="550" width="510" click_words="Go to YouTube to view" click_url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnOqF-pKpPA" ]

Stop Motion Video

[iframe_loader src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/5KjsG_467do" height="550" width="510" click_words="Go to YouTube to view" click_url="http://www.youtube.com/embed/5KjsG_467do" ]

Punya has been exploring stop motion with his own children for a number of years, and I have also been inspired by the work of Kevin Hodgson, and I wanted to find a genuine opportunity to try it out with my own. After watching a series of videos that our MAET students created in response to a prompt about creativity, my own children were quite inspired. Lexi, Beau, and I took my iPhone, and some bowling pins that they had been playing with outside, and began to craft a story. Using a lawn chair to steady my camera, we shot dozens of pictures while, at the same time, trying to think about a good story to tell along the way.

They quickly figured out that the one yellow pin should be excluded in some way, and had to figure out how to animate that. They worked together to hold the yellow pin off screen, having her “peek” back in as the bowling ball moved forward to knock down the other pins. At first, we ended the picture taking with the yellow pin standing in the middle, triumphant. But, they were not happy with that ending, as they didn’t feel like the story was really “over.” So, we brainstormed other options. One of them remembered that grandma had just thrown away a red twist tie, and we fashioned that into a smile to put on the yellow pin. After importing those shots, choosing a song, putting in the sound effect, and testing it out on an audience of siblings, we knew that we had created a good story.

While my kids did not “write” in the traditional sense, spending time putting words on paper (or screen), we were clearly engaged in a storytelling process. Also, the fact that they had to think about the story in such small, frame-by-frame increments led them to carefully consider what each pin would be doing. Finally, even though Lexi’s feet were accidentally included in one key shot (that we didn’t want to shoot again because we couldn’t get all the pins back in the exact place), they were able to creatively solve that dilemma by putting a note in the credits.

This has been a fun summer, both in terms of teaching and trying out new digital writing approaches with my kids.

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Designing PD Experiences: Can You RELATe?

This afternoon, second year students in MSU’s Master of Arts in Educational Technology presented a conference – in person and virtually – for their teaching colleagues: RELATe (Rouen Educational Leadership and Technology Conference, #relate11). This conference comes in the middle of the 4 week summer program, and is one of the main projects for Year 2 students. As one of the instructors for the course, and a mentor to them during the planning process, I have asked them to reflect on the process of creating this conference, so I also want to add a few thoughts to the conversation about technology, leadership, inquiry, and learning.

  • Planning – I have coordinated about half a dozen conferences, numerous summer institutes, countless workshops, and more than a few online events. Given that the focus of this event was for the teachers themselves to plan the event, it was difficult to step back from the planning in many ways, yet I still offered my informed opinion and helped scaffold a discussion about the conference by having them talk about effective PD, analyze past conference schedules (and lack of materials online), think about back-channeling and  archiving, and the overall presentation/hands-on balance within the conference. For the most part, I think that they did a good job planning an effective day, although I do wonder if the kiosk/hands-on times worked in the way they thought (as a combination passing time and opportunity to work one-to-one with presenters). It seemed like most of the sessions either ran over into that kiosk time, or people left because they weren’t quite sure what to do during the kiosk time.
  • Thematic, not technological, approaches to organizing sessions – rather than highlighting specific technologies in session titles and descriptions, as had been done in years past, the group took a more thematic approach to designing the sessions. I think that this worked well, as it really helped them focus on the content and pedagogy aspects of TPACK (not that technology was excluded by any means, but it certainly was not the star of the show). I hope that this thematic approach guides the MAET students as they approach PD plans in their own schools.
  • Social media – there was a team for social media (as well as for other aspects of the planning) and they did a great job producing a series of viral videos, sharing the hashtag, and tweeting/back-channeling during the conference. This has helped me really think about how we can, conscientiously, work with conference planners and attendees before, during, and after conferences to enhance their experience. As one MAET teacher mentioned to me — I’ve been to conferences before, but I never realized how much work goes into planning and promoting it. This is amplified even more in an age of social media. Given that many of the professionals we target for writing project and other literacy PD are still on the fringes of heavy social media use — and it was still tough to get everyone from our very techie group involved today — I wonder how we can more effectively employ social media for groups like MRA, NWP, and NCTE.
  • Web streaming – I was genuinely surprised when, a week ago, I asked if anyone in the group had been a part of a webinar before and found out that no one had. Leigh did a great job setting up the Adobe Breeze rooms, and most of the actual connections worked well during the conference. One link from the Weebly site had an extra two spaces at the end and, in turn, directed people to the wrong “room” on the MSU server. Once we figured out that the spaces needed to be deleted, we were back in business. Also, we realized quickly that presenters were not advancing slides in the Connect rooms, so the virtual visitors were not on the same slide. Also, one presenter used Prezi, and the Flash interface wouldn’t play in Breeze. Then, it was tough to monitor the in-room and Twitter backchannels both at once.
  • Virtual keynotes - fortunately, we had the keynoters record their sessions before hand and just join in for a Q/A session. The first one went fine, but we lost the Breeze connection on the closing keynote. So, being sure to have a back-up plan for that is important, too.

All in all, I feel that the RELATe conference was a success, both for the participants and, more importantly, for the Year 2 students who led it. I look forward to reviewing and discussing the evaluation data with them, as well as thinking about how they can transfer what they have learned about technology, inquiry, and leadership back into their own teaching contexts.


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Notes from Doug Hartman’s Talk at MRA 2010

Doug Hartman, from MSU’s Literacy Achievement Resource Center, spoke at MRA 2010 on “The Future of Reading and Writing at the Present Time: Preparing Students and Teachers for the 21st Century.”

Update – 3/30/10 – Embedded Slideshare Presentation

He outlined four shifts that are happening as we continue to think about new literacies and technologies:

  • Shift 1: The technologies students use for reading and writing are changing
    • Linguistic texts to semiotic texts (images, audio, etc)
      • The balance is tipping towards semiotic texts
      • Semiotic texts are increasingly digital
      • Digital texts are ever more online
      • Reading and viewing across these texts
    • Questions to pose:
      • Do our curriculum, standards, and assessments include the range of technologies that our students use?
  • Shift 2: The strategies that students use to read and write these texts are changing
    • Looking for information to supplement what they are able to find in textbooks and is able to find so much more
      • Reading the book, looks up words he doesn’t know, and may use a secondary source
      • Reading online requires different strategies — moving from one web page to another, back to the original, and one way leading on to another; the potential for his comprehension to be expanded is enormous
      • This second type of comprehension places a higher demand on people’s cognitive abilities than typical book reading
    • Types of knowledge for reading: declarative, procedural, and conditional; once online, also adding identity, locational, and goal knowledge. Read more on his Slideshare document. (NOTE: He said that the slides from this presentation will be posted there later today.)
    • Do our curriculum, standards, and assessments include the range of strategies  that our students use?
  • Shift 3 and 4 — ran out of time in the session, but “moment to moment instruction” and “professional development” are the third and fourth shifts

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Announcing MSU’s EdTech Hybrid PhD

Last fall, Sara and I had opportunity to sit in on some conversations about MSU’s EdTech Hybrid PhD program, and Punya Mishra has recently written about this on his blog:

And finally, if you still aren’t satisfied… you can also work towards a Ph.D in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology! (Link updated 9/17/2012) Designed for bright, established professionals currently serving in K-12 schools, community colleges, universities, policy centers, and research institutions, the goal of the Ph.D. program in Educational Psychology & Educational Technology is to prepare the next generation of educational leaders with the requisite skills to direct learning as it forges forth at the intersection of the growing world of digital media, online learning environments and traditional face-to-face practice.  You can complete the Ph.D. program either on-campus in East Lansing (with graduate assistantship or fellowship support) or, (and this is the most exciting) keep your day-job, and complete the program over summers, with courses taken online, in a new cohort-based hybrid option. You can read my initial abut this here.

Exciting!! Edupunk refresher, hybrid PhD & more…

Curt Bonk, author of The World Is Open, a book I am reading right now, also interviews Punya on his blog.

As I continue to think more and more about the possibilities of online learning, especially hybrid models, I will be curious to see how this doctoral program develops, both personally (as an alum of MSU and the spouse of a current student) and a professional interested in what we can offer through our own writing project. Best of luck to my colleagues and friends at MSU!


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