Digital Mentor Text #5: “Changing Education Paradigms”

As we continue to look at professionally produced videos as digital mentor texts, the fifth video genre that I want to explore is what I would, for lack of better term, call “infotainment with a creative twist.” I mean this less in the sense of “soft journalism,” as described in this Wikipedia entry, and more in the sense of information presented in a creative manner that — while not exclusive to the internet — is powerfully enabled by distribution on the internet.

For instance, the often-humorous, yet clearly-written and produced “Common Craft” videos offer overviews of many technology-related topics, all “in plain English.” I use them all the time in workshops and courses.

Another slightly different (and more “live action”) take on the genre has been made popular by sites like eHow, which also uses videos, and who knows how many individual examples of how-to videos on YouTube and other video sharing sites. In short, people can make videos about how to make stuff, or do stuff, and they keep on making those videos.

One of the interesting takes on this kind of video comes from the group RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) and their RSA Animate series. What I find amazing about these videos (besides the animation itself) is that they are, in many ways, born of the collaborative, open nature of the internet. For instance, the video below is crafted from Sir Ken Robinson’s RSA Talk (he also does a similar talk on TED), which was made available online, for free, and then adapted to this animated storyboard. For a little more info on how the videos are made, check out this (and other) forums on Quora, this overview on Cognitive Media’s site, or this interview with Abi Stephenson from the production team. So, on to the video…

As an exercise in visual literacy, then, I wonder how we can use RSA Animate — “scribing” ideas as they are spoken to create a visual synthesis — as a digital mentor text for students. Some possible questions:

  • As you view the video, note which concepts are drawn and which are printed as text. Why would the scribe make that choice for each of the different ideas?
  • What are the drawings representative of? Are they meant to be literal or symbolic? How is the main speaker represented?
  • There is very minimal use of color in the video, so what does the use of color say about the importance of ideas? What is emphasized through the use of color?
  • When the scribe chooses to write words that are not spoken (for instance, at about the :54 second mark when writing, in a speech balloon, “I know where I am from”), what meaning does that add to the spoken text and the visual synthesis as a whole?
  • At about 1:15, notice the animation of the baton and the hearts. How does this contribute to/detract from the “scribing” approach that has been used up to that point in the film?
  • At about 2:23, notice how the scribe changes one of the existing characters in the scene. How does this approach work as compared to drawing an entirely new character?
  • From about 3:40 to 5:50, the scribe draws a map, most likely one similar to what the speaker used in his actual talk. How does the scribe’s representation of (and additions to) the map accentuate the speaker’s point in ways that he may not have been able to do himself in the live speech?
  • The editing of the actual speech from about 9:10 to 9:46 leaves out the subsequent statistics from the speaker’s talk and the scribe does not write them down and, at about 9:50, begins making a claim about the results. What are the challenges in making meaning from this?
  • At the very end of the video, what effect does the camera panning back and out on the entire visual synthesis have for you as a viewer? Would a different panning/zooming strategy have been more effective for you?

Also, we can consider stop motion, as Kevin and others in our series this week have shared. Punya Mishra, for instance, has worked with his own children to create a wonderful series of stop-motion videos highlighting ideas about creativity. This led to a series of stop motion videos we produced this summer in MSU’s MAET program, too, as well as this one that I did with my own children. Although these videos do not rely on narration, specifically the type of natural speaking that occurs in the RSA lectures, they do require digital writers to think carefully about the story being told. With the right kinds of questions from a thoughtful teacher, those decisions can be seeds for great discussions about the storytelling process.

Finally, when thinking about the possibilities for creating videos, I also wonder how we might invite students to construct infographics and, via screencasting, capture their thoughts. Almost like a kinetic type construction of an infographic. Hmm…

I hope to get one more digital mentor text tomorrow and, over the weekend, some reflections on what I have read from everyone else’s posts this week.

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2 thoughts on “Digital Mentor Text #5: “Changing Education Paradigms””

  1. I’m interested in your observation about lack of color, and why that choice was made and what it means. I hadn’t thought about it much. I suppose the simplicity of the colors buffers up against the complexity of thought behind the video. When we think of composition, though, these kinds of decisions come into play more than we imagine.
    And as to the panning effect, I think it really gives a more global view of the concept, allowing the viewer/reader to take in the whole, instead of just the focused parts. How would you accomplish that with traditional writing?


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