Selfie with my pet

For my daily create I chose the Selfie With Your Pet assignment from DS106.  Not being one to take a lot of selfies, I thought it would be good to have one with my biggest fan – my dog Lizzy.  If you ever want to know what it’s like to be followed from room to room with a look of an admiring fan – get yourself a dog.  My cat, on the other hand, waits for me to stop by his perch and entertain him.  Which usually means some sort of scratch on my hands.

So anyways, here it is – me and Lizzy hanging out together:


And now for something completely different – Traffic Patterns

I’m once again looking for an unusual digital story that differs significantly  from the others that I’ve looked at in this blog.  Expanding my concept of digital storytelling, I found a digital story called Traffic Patterns about how humans make a very special type of wave pattern in traffic.  It’s part of the Engines of Our Ingenuity series on the Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling web site from the University of Houston.


Having lived many years in large cities such as Denver, I’m very familiar with the ebb and flow of traffic.  Even though I now live in a small town with very little traffic congestion, I can still feel the tension and anger I used to experience when I would sit at a traffic light where it would take numerous cycles before I made it through the light, only to go through the same thing again at the next light.  Not realizing it, I was part of a kinematic wave.

Kinematic waves in traffic are created by our minds.  Knowing that it’s dangerous to get too close to a car in front of us, we create a “safe” distance between us and the next car.  35 mph seems to be the speed that allows for the greatest speed and safety combination.  But due to many possible interruptions (accidents, traffic lights, etc.), the cars get closer and closer.  And when the jam starts to clear, a wave is formed that travels in only one direction – backwards as we drive away from it. So even though they look like a physical phenomenon, they’re actually a social contract. Part of our instinct to live harmoniously together.  And they’re as reproducible as physical waves such as sound or water waves.


So next time you’re sitting in that traffic jam feeling anger and frustration, take a moment to remember that you’re part of a social phenomenon known as a kinematic wave.


I enjoyed this story because the topic is unusual and interesting.  It’s a short video made up of only still images and the narrator’s voice.  But it’s put together so nicely that there is a real sense of being at a location due to the sequencing of the images.

Ohler’s assessment traits –

  • Story: The story in this digital story is different from many of the other stories that I have examined.  There is an emotional content, but it is more complex than in the usual digital story.  The emotion comes from the idea that this kinematic wave is part of an experience that is very frustrating to many people.  So there is not a lot of drama to the story, but there is a tapping into that common emotional experience that so many people know.  For someone who has lived their entire lives in a small town without traffic problems, this story probably has much less significance to them.  So the emotion comes from a common and relatable experience, which is a technique that we can use in our own stories to make them more powerful.
  • Economy: This story is a very short story (only 3:26) that explains a very complex idea.  The use of images to tell the story actually makes it more economical because the image can be shown for only a second to get across an idea, or longer if needed.  Video imagery might make this story longer  due to using longer sequences to tell the story (such as video of traffic driving to get the idea across vs a quick image of cars driving).  So using images is a good technique for keeping our stories economical.
  • Media application: I thought the use of the narrators voice and the series of images was very effective at telling the story.  With the right sequence of images it is possible to give a sense of movement (or lack thereof) to the story.  I also liked how they used older black and white images to introduce the topic, which gives us a sense of being in the forties or fifties, and then they switched to color images as they started talking about the waves in current times.

Virtual reality and the future of storytelling

I’m stretching out a bit this week to take a look at what could be the future of storytelling.  In the article Virtual Reality Lets the Audience Step Into the Story by Olivia Koski we get a glimpse at the prospects for storytelling when it incorporates virtual reality.  With virtual reality technology becoming much more accessible to the average person over the past few years, it is now time to think about how this technology will affect our use of storytelling in the classroom.  Koski shares a number of scenarios where the story takes on a whole new dimension with the immersion of the participant in the middle of the story in ways that we could only imagine a few years ago.  Although this article is focused on how reporters can use virtual reality to share their stories, the same holds true for teachers in the classroom.


Michael Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.  Now, thanks to the efforts of graphic journalist Dan Archer it is possible to put ourselves into the middle of the situation that occurred on that evening. And it’s possible to enter that virtual reality from a number of different perspectives, whether it’s Michael Brown, or officer Wilson, or as friends of Michael Brown, or even as bystanders recording the incident.  This ability to place ourselves, or our students, in the middle of historical events has tremendous implications for storytelling as a teaching practice.  Not only will students be able to view the events as if they were there, but they can view it from the many different perspectives that surround every event.  And with the inclusion of gaming theory and the ability to interact with the people in the story to change the course of events, it gives students the ability to explore the many “what if” scenarios that can increase understanding.

Project Syria is another virtual reality project where the participant is standing on a corner in Aleppo, Syria when a bomb goes off.  They see the chaos, fear, and pain of the surrounding individuals as they run from the scene or lie bleeding on the street.  They also visit a refugee camp where there is a continuous stream of new people showing up. Students can feel like they are actually experiencing the events that they hear about in the news. Scenes like these can tell a story beyond any 2 dimensional media.  Nonny de la Pena, creator of the Syria experience, feels that,  ” the virtue of virtual reality is that it puts ‘people inside the story so they can experience the action as it unfolds. [It] allows you to experience stories in a visceral way'”.  The stories of the people in the scene can resonate with the participants in new and interesting ways as they explore different individuals in the virtual reality.

And Koski also writes about some of the work that is being done on two of the biggest problems with current virtual reality systems.  One is the feeling of continuous motion that can make some people feel sick to their stomach.  Work is being done to fix the lag time problems that often cause these problems.  The second big issue is that it takes a lot of effort to put together these virtual reality sessions, which makes it difficult for individuals, such as teachers or reporters, to put together the sessions.  David Dufresne of MIT is currently working on software that would offer templates that story developers can use to greatly reduce the time and effort to put together a story.

Immersive virtual reality will likely change the way we tell stories in the near future.  There are still a number of hurdles to overcome, such as the cost of getting the technology into classrooms, and learning to think of stories in a non-linear fashion, but with the innovations that we are currently seeing in virtual reality storytelling, it won’t be long before we see students traveling to far away places while they sit in their classrooms.


Koh Panyee football club – where there’s a will there’s a way

Continuing on with my topic of “The beautiful game”, today I’m sharing the story of a group of boys in the village of Koh Panyee in Phang Nga Province in Thailand.  The village is notable for being built by Indonesian fisherman completely on stilts.


This true story is about a group of boys who lived in the village in 1986 and loved watching soccer on TV, but they had no place to play it themselves.  Not to be deterred, they decided to build a floating soccer field where they could finally play the game they loved. Through their own efforts they managed to build a floating field, and even though they would often end up in the water chasing the ball and playing on wood planks that had nails sticking up, they finally had the field that they wanted.  Eventually, they decided to participate in a tournament on the mainland.  They initially thought that they weren’t good enough to do very well in the tournament, but they ended up making it into the semi-finals.  The semi-final game was on a very rainy day and they went down by a score of 2 – 0 in the first half. At the half-time break they decided to take off their soccer shoes and play the game the way they always played it at home, in bare-feet.  They were able to come back and tie the match, but in the end they lost due to a late goal.  But they were so proud of what they’d done, plus with the strong encouragement of the other villagers, they decided to build a much nicer floating soccer field than the one they originally played on.  And they’ve been very successful in tournaments ever since.

This is a heart warming story about a group of young men who were determined to have a soccer field, and were willing to do whatever it took to get one.  The video is nicely produced and with the captions it’s easy to follow the story and share in the sense of accomplishment by the boys.  There is a wonderful contrast between the majestic beauty of the surroundings versus the small cramped space that the villagers called home.  It’s also a great introduction to the life of the villagers of Koh Panyee which seems to be a very tight-knit community.  The video has a very light-hearted  feel to it with a young boy’s voice narrating the video while happy native music plays in the background.

Assessment traits

  • Originality, voice, creativity: The voice of this story is one of its strengths.  The voice is all based on one young man who narrates the entire piece.  His voice gives credence to the idea that it was a bunch of young kids who decided to build the field and then accomplished it.  It is important for producers of stories like this one to understand that a story aimed at a younger audience is more believable and relatable if it uses the voice of a young person.
  • Flow, organization, and pacing: The video was very successful in how it was organized and the flow was consistent with the story.  It had a bright, happy feel to it that seemed to bounce along with the characters as they built the field, played on the field, and then eventually played in the tournament.  It felt as if I was one of the kids from the village playing on the field.  I especially enjoyed the occasional comments from the adults that showed that they were interested in the endeavor, but letting the players do it themselves.
  • Media application: This digital story would not have been successful if it didn’t have the images shot around the village and at the tournament.  Seeing the village on stilts gives us a different perspective on what it takes to enjoy some of the basics in life such as a field to play on.  Images of this nature can help us share remote and far away places with our students, which will not only help them understand very different cultures, but it will also help them appreciate their own environment and what they take for granted.


Daily Create – Mashup Day!

Today’s daily create is Mashup Day!

The idea is to mashup two famous people and/or events from October 12th.

On Oct. 12th, 1859 Emperor Norton I, the self proclaimed Emperor of the United States, issued an edict abolishing the United States Congress.

And on Oct. 12th, 1901 Teddy Roosevelt renamed The Executive Manor to The White House.

Which leads us to….


Response: Social learning, push/pull, and collaborative learning platforms

In Chapter 7 of the New Literacies Sampler book Lankshear and Knobel introduce us to the concept of social learning which is a collaborative form of learning.  It also includes a discussion of the “Push” and “Pull” learning environments where the push environment is based on pushing out the learning materials to the students (as in traditional classes) vs the pull environment where students pull the learning material that they need in a given situation.  There is also a discussion at the end of the chapter about collaborative learning environments that promote social learning.

Ssocial-learningocial learning, according to Brown and Adler, is based on our understanding of concepts and processes that have developed through conversations with others working on the same problems or actions.  It is more a matter of how we learn, not what we learn. Knowledge is not just a matter of learning about a subject.  It also means learning how to participate in a given field of knowledge.  The authors contend that social learning will lead to a deeper learning.

“Deep Learning” is learning subjects well enough to apply the knowledge in multiple and varied contexts, instead of the sometimes superficial learning that is only relevant to narrow situations. Or as Gee points out, “…it is necessary to move beyond ‘learning about’ and, instead, focus on ‘learning to be.”

To me, one of the questions that needs to be explored is how do instructors incorporate this social learning into their courses and yet still provide a broad spectrum of learning that we would identify as a general education.  It is easier to focus on one area of the curriculum at the expense of other areas, but it is more difficult to engage the deeper learning environment when attempting to cover many topics at once.  For example, creating a social learning environment that is focused on a particular science (say Chemistry) is easier to establish than a social learning environment that is based on all of the topics likely found in a general education  (like Chemistry, English, Algebra, History, etc.)

It might be a matter of “grit” that enables students to traverse this diverse landscape of topics, and to find new ways to tie these topics together.  Gee and Hayes talk about “grit”, or the combination of passion and persistence for experiencing success in different situations.  Mastery of a particular topic or skill allows us to recognize opportunities for innovation and creativity.

Brown and Adler also talk about moving from a “push” learning environment where knowledge and skills are pushed out to the learner independent of their immediate need for that knowledge to a “pull” learning environment where the learner pulls the knowledge that they need for the current learning situation, thus creating a “learning to be” situation.  From Hagel and Brown, “Pull models treat people as networked creators … who are uniquely positioned to transform uncertainty from a problem into an opportunity.”
Ultimately, in order for the student to successfully achieve the deep learning, it is up to the instructor to create a successful collaborative learning platform.   As Gee and Hays say, “platforms can be seen as combinations of components and resources that help us to access, attract, and achieve: to connect with others, optimize the likelihood of serendipity, and persist with our passions”
Platforms of learning are the spaces we create to enable social learning for those with the passion to delve deeper into a particular topic.  These spaces include the ability to quickly access the resources needed (usually people) to create and innovate using the knowledge they have acquired.  Students participate in authentic activities that give them access to experts, other students, or any combination of resources that they might need for the activity.

Beautiful Photos Capture the Unseen Lives of Street Dogs

For my digital story critique this week I wanted to try something a little different.  The adage that a single picture can tell a thousand words can be expanded to multiple pictures can tell ten thousand words.  And so I selected a digital photo story about dogs living on the streets titled Beautiful Photos Capture the Unseen Lives of Street Dogs by photographer Traer Scott.

In the introduction to the photo story Scott talks about how he traveled to Puerto Rico and Mexico with a group of animal rescuers to document just a few of the millions of stray dogs that wander the streets and remain mainly hidden from people.  It’s a tragic story about the overwhelming numbers of street dogs, but it’s also a story of resilience  by the dogs who have found a way to survive with dignity.

The dogs have adapted in ways that show how their lives are more than just the fight to survive.  In the photo titled “Running Mates” two dogs are obviously enjoying each other’s company while they run down the road.  In “New Arrival at Dead Dog Beach” we see a heart rendering picture of a dog that looks lost and lonely, but in the background we see another dog sitting and watching as if he is just waiting to make friends with the lonely dog.


We also see the dogs caring for each other in the photo “Surrogate Mother” where an older dog was clearly treating a young puppy as one of her own.  It gives us a sense of the beauty that can be found in the streets where life can be harsh. And “Nursing Mother” shows how the nurturing of life can take place anywhere, even on the streets.

Some of my favorite pictures are of the individual dogs who have so much personality even though they are lost to the humanity around them.  There is “Gumdrop” who seems to have a sense of dignity about her.  And then there is “Daryl” who has the look in his eye of an experienced survivor.  “Senior” looks as if she is old and tired, but still with enough spirit to not give up.  Scott has given us a view of a world that most people walk by without noticing.

Assessment Traits:

  • Story – The story is told about the complex, beautiful world of street dogs through touching and interesting photos.  Although there is an introduction by the photographer that tells us about the problem of so many street dogs, it’s the photos that give us a such a strong story of survival, caring, and companionship.
  • Economy – The words in this story are minimal, but the message is clear and effective.  With just a few pictures Scott has given us a glimpse of a world that exists around us.  The photographs are poignant and effective at sharing the story of these dogs.
  • Media application – This story is as much about the dogs as it is about the power of these photographs to share their story.  No amount of words could describe the beauty, the spirit to survive, and the pain seen in these pictures.

Response – 8 Steps to Great Digital Storytelling

Samantha Morra shares with us a practical guide on how we can bring digital storytelling into our classrooms in 8 Steps to Great Digital Storytelling at the site.  Her article not only provides the step-by-step process for how to have your students create digital stories, but she also provides a number of resources for each of the steps so that anyone using this method can explore each step in greater detail.  She also shares a list of elements that make a great digital story.

The following diagram illustrates the 8 steps in the process:


With these simple steps, students have a road-map of how to create their own digital stories.  Some of the most important steps are writing the script which is where the students actually put their ideas down on paper, forcing them to think through all of the elements of the story.  It also gives them the material to move on to the next step, Storyboard/Plan where they can further refine the flow of the story.  Once they’ve completed these steps it should be much easier for them to move through the creation of the content and putting it all together to create their own stories.

Two important parts of the process are step seven and eight where they share their story with a larger community, or as Morra says, “Knowing that other people might see their work often raises student motivation to make it the best possible work that they can do.”  And the reflection and feedback are also key steps to give your students  a sense of accomplishment, and hopefully create a sense of wanting to do more digital stories.

I liked the list of elements to a great digital story that Morra provided, which included that they :

  • Are personal
  • Begin with the story/script
  • Are concise
  • Use readily-available source materials
  • Include universal story elements
  • Involve collaboration at a variety of levels

These elements describe some of the characteristics of good digital stories that can be used as a guide by your students during their journey through digital storytelling.