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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End of Semester Thoughts: Digital Storytelling, Wikis, and the Changing Conversation

Another semester has zoomed past and, before these thoughts escape me, and I begin a series of summer workshops and our CRWP summer institute, I am going to try to capture a few of the lessons learned in relation to digital writing and digital teaching. Good lessons seem to come in threes, so here goes:

1. Digital storytelling takes time, and a story to tell (larger lesson: any digital writing takes time, and a distinct audience, purpose, and sensibility to craft and design)

I enjoy digital storytelling, both as a digital writer and as a teacher. I appreciate the ways in which a combination of images, sounds, music, and video — coupled with one’s own voice — can create a multimedia work that is truly more than the sum of its parts. Moreover, I continue to be intrigued by new understandings related to fair use of digital media, and the implications that this has for creating digital stories. So, when I introduce digital storytelling to any group, especially my pre-service teachers, I get excited about the possibilities of what can come.

That said, I also get worried, because sometimes what comes when their stories finally premier are not really digital stories in the sense that they have crafted a narrative and supported it with multimedia. Instead, they are slideshows set to music. While one could argue that I am being snooty in this distinction, I don’t think that I am. Let me elaborate a bit.

If we want writers to compose stories, then we have to expect them to begin with the story. I am not sure where I went wrong with this over the past semester, but as I watched the numerous digital stories that my students produced for their final portfolio, I was amazed by the fact that so few included their own voice (literally, by recording it) even after they asked me if they needed to do that. Also, even after we looked at a few digital stories and talked about the ways the authors used transitions and effects, as well as supporting their tale with music rather than letting the music tell it, I still saw many, many slideshows with music.

So, I am not sure what else to say about this right now except to say that I need to reiterate the idea that digital stories need to, well, tell a story. In your voice. With your voice. More to think about with that in the summer institute.

2. Wikis are the most functional space for digital writing to live

After talking with my friend Steve before the semester about how and why to keep using wikis (after almost making an ill-fated decision to switch to Ning), I am more pleased than ever that I use a wiki for the hub of activity in both ENG 315 and in CRWP.

This semester, I asked my ENG 315 students to post almost all their work to the wiki, as well as to respond to the work of their peers. This really extended the conversations that we were having in class and made having a writer’s profile that much more important because they could link all their work back to it to form a makeshift portfolio. As many of them have continued with their work over the semester, the wiki grew and grew. Now, most have very robust writing profiles that also include their multigenre projects.

I like the idea of calling these writers profiles, as that implies something that will continue to grow and change over time whereas, somehow, “portfolio” seems to be more fixed. Given the ways in which the profiles worked this spring, I hope to use the same strategy in CRWP this summer, the WRITE NOW grant workshop in August, and in my ENG 618 research methods class in the fall.

3. Something is changing in the conversations about literacy and technology

I am really not sure when and how this happened, but Sara and I were talking about the fact that, in the past year or two, the ways in which people talk about technology and education seems to have changed. Even as recently as the workshops I was doing for PROJECT WRITE in 2007-8, it seemed as though participants kept asking “why?” when a new technology was introduced to them (and these were people that volunteered to be a part of the grant). That said, it really seems to me that in the past two years, the question has shifted from “why?” to “how?”

In other words, there really isn’t a lot of time spent on arguing for technology use in education anymore, at least not when I go to a school or conference. Maybe it is because many people have laptops and internet-ready mobile phones. Maybe it is because of a backlash to NCLB. Maybe it is because of the many curriculum documents and reports about 21st century literacies. Probably some combination of all of this, plus a shift in the skills and attitudes that children now bring to school.

All the same, I have begun to find it refreshing that I can start the conversation with a group of pre-service or in-service teachers now and not have to justify technology use so much as I need to talk about the literacy practices enabled by technology. I get my first chance of the summer to have that talk tomorrow with teachers in Littleton, CO, as they work to integrate laptops into their writing courses.

So, considering my approach to digital storytelling, the use of wikis, and the ways in which we talk about technology will continue to be on my mind this summer. I look forward to the continued learning as I participate in the many upcoming PD events I have scheduled for the summer and hope to share more of my thinking here.


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Notes from Thursday Afternoon Sessions at SITE 2010

A smorgasbord of sessions from SITE 2010 with the notes I was able to catch from each (some more than others)… enjoy!

Technology Enhanced Collaboration – Schools and Teachers Engaged in Professional Development
Tim Frey, Kansas State University
  • Context
    • Two districts that are 65 miles apart and both rural
    • 20 teachers, K-12 (web cam and stipend)
  • Online facilitation through KState Online
    • Primarily used video postings
  • Project-based professional development
    • Series of relevant tasks that serve as a stimulus for critical thinking and knowledge building (Howard, 2002)
    • Relatively long-term, problem-focused, and integrate concepts from previous learning
  • Design of TEC-STEP
    • Structured a step-by-step intervention project
    • Collaborative learning community
    • Extended engagement in activities
  • Project examples
    • Using webcam to improve reading fluency
    • Student created video for parent/teacher conferences
    • Students recording stories to be “read” to preschool classroom
    • Peer tutoring videos in math via VoiceThread
    • Teachers recording lessons and allowing students to view them as podcasts
    • Using video projector to add to content presentation
    • Social skills modeling and role play
    • FFA recording for presentations
  • Preliminary results
    • Developed collaborative relationships across districts
    • Creating a supportive group of professionals who are willing to take risks
    • Most teachers chose to use the web cam as a part of the project
    • Most projects were student-centered
    • Even minimal project reports were inconsistent and seemed challenging
Developing a Framework for Teacher Professional Development Using Online Social Networks
Kinnis Gosha, Clemson
  • The main point:
    • To develop an application that enhances professional development by harnessing teacher connections on online social networks
  • Current PD process:
    • Required by admin, options given by admin, self-initiated, hybrid
  • Challenges:
    • Teacher diversity and different interests
    • Teacher feedback is inconsistent
    • Milestones vs. Opportunity — some see it as something they have to get through, others see it as a real opportunity to learn and grow
    • Various teacher groups within and across districts
  • Online social networks (OSN)
    • How do I make it? From scratch? Customize existing networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube
    • Do teachers really use online social networks? Do they use them for personal reasons, or professional ones? Would they be willing to participate and give feedback in an OSN?
  • Survey results
    • Many used Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube, but in different ways
    • Only about 50% likely to give feedback, and split on comfort level in participation (35% willing, 35% not willing, 30% said it depends
    • Teachers don’t trust Facebook
  • Goals:
    • Fill in domain gaps
    • Learn more regional PD trends
    • Distinguish pre-recession and post-recession PD procedures
    • Recommendation of tool features

Mobilizing Educational Technologies in a Collaborative Online Community to Develop a Knowledge Management System as a Wiki
Nancy Copeland and Anne Bednar, Eastern Michigan University

Digital Storytelling Viewed Through a Post-process Lens
Martha Green, Texas A&M
  • Educational context
    • NAEP Writing Assessment showing 33% proficiency at 8th grade
    • Integrating technology into all methods classes
  • Post-process theory: Writing is public, interpretive, and situated; communication is a cultural activity; reading and writing is an active construction
    • Seeks to use life experiences that students bring into the classroom
    • Places interest in the meaning of the work at the core of the experience
    • Trimbur — university classes have lost the view on the “circulation of writing”
  • Connecting post-process to digital storytelling
    • Adaptation of oral storytelling
    • Intentionality, reflection, self-evaluation, and revision
    • Written to be shared; private to public
  • Methodology
    • Culminating project of the semester
  • Observation
    • Sharing their stories was an important part of their experience
  • Results
    • Pre-service teachers felt empowered by the process of reflecting on a past event and constructing a digital story about it
    • Would use digital storytelling in their own classroom
  • Digital Storytelling Resources from WorldRoom Website

Effectiveness of a Hypermedia Video Case-Based Library for Inservice Teachers’ Professional Development
Mary Cockburn, Purdue

  • Hypermedia resources for pre-service teachers have shown documentd benefits
  • Ten preschool teachers had access to 100 video cases of best literacy practices
  • All teachers felt positive about the use of hypermedia; there was no current resource available and “… it was much better than having to search through Google to find teaching strategies.”
  • Implications
    • Improving in-service PD via hypermedia may be effective
    • Minimal training is required
    • Familiarity with computers is not a prerequisite
    • More research with a larger and more diverse sample is needed

Preparing Teachers to Purposefully Plan Technology Integration that Encourages Curiosity, Creativity, Independence and Collaboration
Dina Rosen, Kean University

  • What does it look like when you are using technology to really encourage creativity and collaboration?
  • Four key characteristics of quality tech integration
    • Learner centered
    • Representation centered
    • Community/real-world centered
    • Build on existing practice


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