Digital Storytelling Program - week 4 - Editing

This week was the introduction to the editing process. Transitioning from script and storyboard to the production environment. It can be a scary business...

Digital Storytelling - A Labor of Love

During the past 3 weeks, I have been guiding faculty participation the VCU CTE Digital Storytelling Program. This has been a labor of love. Interest in the program is high and the participants are fully engaged, with a second contingency tentatively scheduled in a few weeks. Little did I know that I would be inspired to transform my own reflections on our sessions into a serial production of digital stories, but the feeling has been so strong, that I had to create these stories. I hope that my response and actions might serve as a model for the participants and others who are interested in exploring the creation and use of digital storytelling in education.

Thanks to Terry Carter for providing initial feedback to the program and stories on her blog, Comming About: Learning About Digital Storytelling.

Guiding You is the title of the first story, which is my reflection on week 1, and that is exactly what I hope I am doing. Guiding is the act of leading, sharing information and learning with others as we correct our own course and make new discoveries.

Guiding You (week 1)

Story Circle (week 2)

Storyboard (week 3)

Tribes, News, Technology, Social Media and Education: First Reflections on Speeches During Blackboard World ‘09

WASHINGTON - APRIL 20:  Vietnam War veteran St...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Watching a thing unfold and reflecting on the elements as they construct a larger picture are two different activities and experiences.

Reflecting on the Blackboard World '09 conference, I can begin to make connections between the opening keynote presentation, in which Seth Godin (author of Tribes) discussed the concept of tribes and the power of connectivity, to the closing session by Lester Holt of NBC News, who shared his background and passion for journalism and search for understanding. Given the conference announcement of the partnership between Blackboard and NBC News Archives on Demand, it is not surprising that Lester Holt would promote this new resource. However, the power of his message was above and beyond any promotional pitch.

Seth Godin started with exploration of who we are and how we identify ourselves, and others by the clothing (uniforms), hairstyles, the products we buy, and other actions or items, which become the symbols and banners of our “tribe”. He concluded by illustrating the power of connectivity and how individuals with passion to accomplish a goal can network and form a tribe, which can and will contribute their skills and various resources to implement the changes necessary to succeed. His message also conveyed that the technologies and tools of the day are powerful agents in the process.

Lester Holt reflected on nearly a century of journalism and how media has and can impact our awareness and understanding of events. He stated that news organizations record events and have been the “first documenters of history”. He also addressed the challenges which traditional news organizations face with the advent of the Internet, cell phones, digital cameras, and what some refer to as “citizen journalism”. When asked about information coming from these nontraditional sources, he acknowledged that many times, the professionals have been “scooped” by the amateurs. But he was quick to stress the importance of considering how we gather and verify information to document historical moments. Some of the remaining strengths of professional journalism are archival resources, professional research capabilities, including the ability to ask good questions and verify answers. Who and where did this report come from? When and where did the creation of this image, video, recording, etc. take place? He stressed the importance of a verified timeline, in order to establish that a story has not been fabricated to promote a particular agenda.

So what do the messages of both of these speakers convey to me? What are the links, which connect their stories with education and with my work as I consult with faculty about their teaching objectives and use of technologies in teaching and learning?

Seth Godin reinforced the power of group work and the impact which social media is having and can increasingly have on the formation of "tribes' and world events. He confirmed that the exploration of social media to expand learning both within and outside of the classroom is valuable work, which can benefit our faculty and students as they pursue both formal and informal learning.

Lester clarified, that as learners, we must all ask good questions & that good teaching is about enabling others to do the same. He reinforced the notion that the use of stories, particularly those, which are created and delivered with digital technology, can be a powerful tool in conveying understanding and/or provoking thoughtful discussion. To me, his message is consistent with Constructivist Learning Theory, which holds that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences.

My time listening to these men was well spent. I am re-energized to continue my own learning and gain new understanding about the world in which I live, as it transforms at an ever increasing speed.

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The 3 G's of Mobile Computing in July of 2009.

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

I include the date in this title because I believe the "promise" of mobile computing will be fulfilled in the near future, but the current reality is that:

Gee, I have an iPhone

Gee, it has neat features & available APPs

But, Gee it's problematic to get connected!

As I started this note, I was participating in the Blackboard Conference at the Gaylord National Hotel, National Harbor, Washington, D.C. The comments below have been written upon reflection.

I’ll start by confirming that I love my iPhone. Falling in the category of a cell “phone”, I really do not think of this as a telephone; it is a computing and communications device. My expectations are to be able to make phone calls as desired, but equally, if not more importantly, I expect full Internet connectivity and the ability to access and share information from any location, at any time. However, the experience of getting connected and being able to access resources or participate in activities such as Twittering, online polling was widely variable and frustrating. Making a telephone call was the most successful. Within the hotel, I had 5 bars most of the time. However, 3G connectivity ran hot and cold. Just as I started to gain confidence that I could expect service, it would fail. Switching to the wireless network provided by the conference organizers was just as problematic. I did find moments of joy, but all in all it was frustrating. Because I’m on a quest to learn about mobile computing, I kept fighting the good fight. But, all the time, I thought about my dream to leverage this technology in the classroom or in association with learning experiences in any location. Sadly, we are not ready for prime time.

Attempting to use this technology in education should be encouraged and it must be supported. Educators must work with technicians and providers to communicate the issues and solve the problems. We have the world at our fingertips and we need to be able to grasp it and hold on. If we could put a man on the moon, forty years ago this week, we surely can step up to this challenge and open the doors to a new world of communication, collaboration, learning, creating and sharing.

Someone let me know how I can help.

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The Organic Nature of the Social Web: Contemporary Natural Selection

Both sides of Darwin-Wallace medal awarded to ...Image via Wikipedia

Use of the web, particularly the social media related aspects of the web are in a rapid state of growth and evolution. In reflecting upon how I use social media, social networks and tools, I have come to realize the organic nature of the web. Just as in nature, each entity has a purpose and value. When the perceived value diminishes, the importance of retaining that entity also diminishes and natural selection begins. When something breaks, even for a short time, such as the Twitteriffic App on my iPhone, the value moves to zero. It’s unfortunate, but a reality of our times which rely so much on instant access to information.

Let me rewind a bit and not pick on Twitterific, because I have loved the service (and I’m happy to find in the past 5 minutes that it has been restored *). But, when I tried to view my tweets this past weekend and received YAJE error message, I felt trapped; I could not connect. I waited a while, thinking it was an error on my end or poor 3G connectivity, but later learned that it was a problem which was being addressed by the vendor. In Twitter-time, it just was not “happening”. So, I went directly to Twitter. The direct connection to Twitter works, but I prefer some of the various Apps I’ve used, like Twhirl and Twitterific. Hence comes the natural selection process; Twitteriffic did not meet my needs, lowered itself (at least temporarily) to zero value and I moved on. I downloaded the TwitterFon App and all was well. Now I really don’t know all the ins-and-outs of TwitterFon, but it put me back into the game. So, at that point, the unstated question became: how important is it for me to go back? I found something that works and it provides information on demand.

There’s another personal awareness about the organic nature of the social web; we each have perceived value which is measured by how we create and share information, thoughts or questions and how we participate in conversations. Connections are made because they add value for a time. However, as interests and focus changes; some relationships become less relevant to current needs and our posts can add to the "white noise" of the web. When this happens, I’m learning to reach for the pruning shears, the metaphoric “unfollow” button. No need to be offended, I know who you are and I appreciate the value you’ve added to my life. I can find you in a heartbeat and I hope you will feel the need to find me as you need help in an area of mutual interest.

*Special thanks to Twitterific for fixing the problem and best wishes for continued and future success as you add relevance to many, many Twitter users.
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My iPhone and a Personal Exploration of Mobile Computing

Image representing iPhone 3G as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase

I’ve always liked communication devices. As a child, we made “tin can telephones” by tying two cans together with a length of string. We pulled the string taught and our voices were magically transmitted to the other can, which served as both a speaker and a microphone. I’m sure we were the forerunner of the Verizon ad, which asks, “can you hear me now?” Using a real telephone to communicate with my grandparents and friends was a real privilege. Advancing to a dial phone was high technology and gave me control. My big dream was to someday have a Dick Tracey watch. Radio transmission and reception were considered magic. I experimented with making a crystal radio and eventually, my parents bought me a Citizen’s Band Radio. Mobility was the next move. My Dad got the bug and he installed a CB radio in the car. We could talk to others while driving and get local information while on trips. We even got walkie-talkies so we could communicate while camping and during other escapades. Little did I know that some day I would have a cell phone and a computer.

With the advent of the internet, my communication options have continued to grow. The ability to e-mail, text, Skype or even transmit video to anyone with connectivity was the next dream come true. But, mobility was not forgotten. That dream was realized with acquisition of a laptop. Connectivity and mobility have changed my life and the way I think about my work, access to information sharing and education. It even changed my understanding of where I might be engaged in educational programs and aided my pursuit of an MSEd. from CSU Eastbay.

I’ve been attracted to the notion freedom and mobile communication all my life. I now live in a time when these various modes of communication and information sharing have converged into handheld devices, and I can see that experimenting and learning to use these devices effectively is the next step in my evolution. I have to learn how this technology can be leveraged to enhance learning and teaching. Hence, the iPhone cometh!

In coming weeks and months, I intend to use this blog to document my experience with the iPhone, mobility and exploration of opportunities to transform my own learning and teaching.

My iPhone was actually purchased on April 11, 2009. My blogging practice has been on the back burner for some time, but with this post, I hope to resume sharing my learning and thoughts on a more regular basis.

I’ll collect my notes and share some specifics in the next few days, but I do want to state that the iPhone has already changed me. I no longer think of the device as a telephone, but a Mobile Computing and Communication Platform (MCCP). I’m searching for a clever name, but even that process makes me think deeply about what this device does, can and will mean to me as my experience unfolds. It’s not just a phone; that’s actually a very small part of it’s function. It is not just about communication, because I clearly can do computing functions. It’s not just about what I can do between myself, and someone with another device, because it has already changed the way I converse at the dinner table. The option to do research on the spot or share information with others at the table is transforming my face-to-face experience as well.

Welcome along for the ride.

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Twitter and the Value of Community

Those who are new to Twitter are not infrequently perplexed as to what this is and why anyone might want to use this tool. As I explain my perspective, I try to represent not only my own use, but ways in which I see (or suspect) that others might use the service. Recently, I've been benefitting from Twitter searches and I've discovered that I can usually get help/advice from the "wisdom of the crowd".

Today, I'm preparing for a presentation on concept mapping and will be addressing a faculty user group who focus on the use of tablet PCs for teaching. Not being a power user of a tablet PC, I posted a tweet to see if I might shortcut the research process to find software, online resources, examples, etc. which might be relevant to the particular group.

My first reply was not what I expected, but the humor and quick wit made my attempt worthwhile. It provided the smile I need to remember to lighten up and enjoy the process.

Thanks Alaine. :=)

Limited E-Mail...Have I died? Is this Heaven?

Red Red WineImage by ...-Wink-... via Flickr

Vibroplex bugImage via Wikipedia

Having a work routine and some limits is probably a good idea and something I need to work on. The notion of not checking e-mail until 10AM, as suggested by lifehacker, in Simple Guidelines for Workday Quality Over Quantity, is tempting and something I do on mornings when the creative muse is dancing (which has thankfully been happening more frequently these days). However, the use of e-mail is culture driven. Constant checking of e-mail may not be demanded, but it is not uncommon in many office cultures that one has read and possibly followed up on e-mail by arrival at the office.

Communication is (minimally) a two-way exchange. If everyone practices a 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. schedule, just think how long it might take to get a reply to your own messages, which you “send any time”. E-mail is just one mode of communication, in a digital world. Communication and information options, such as Twitter, Yammer, and other tools can push information and vie for our attention nearly 24/7. Each of these communication tools has it’s own unique characteristics and we can uniquely adopt them for our own reasons. Conversations can begin in one mode and migrate to another, or even continue simultaneously in multiple modes. An e-mail may inform you of something you feel compelled to share in Twitter. The Tweet might lead to reflective thought which is posted in a blog. The blog might generate responses which trigger a wide conversation.

So, perhaps instead of a concrete rule which stipulates when I will read my e-mail, I need to reflect on communication in general and ask a few questions.

Why do I use e-mail?

Who is sending e-mail?

What other communication tools do I use?

Why do I use each tool?

How do I decide to move the conversation to a different mode?

Is it OK to stop following an individual in Twitter, etc. as your needs and relationship changes?

Which tools should I drop?

Is there a way to quickly identify critical e-mail communication from other types?

Are other communication tools contributing to my work, thinking, or life in general?

Can I use special techniques, such as subscribing to RSS feeds, monitoring the messages of “friends” or using a customized “portal”, such as a Ning?

I’ll ponder these questions and more. I’m not sure which mode of communication I’ll use as I search for answers.

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Quick Thoughts on Social Media

While talking with Brit Watwood (bwatwood) about the development of an upcoming brown-bag discussion of social media, I quickly listed some approaches and then scribbled the following thoughts.

In regard to our work, the social networks we formed in the past were primarily with our colleagues on the local level and those whom we met during participation in conferences.
My social networkImage by luc legay via Flickr
Online social media has allowed individuals to quickly identify people and experts with common interests and connect in ways that were just not possible a few years ago. People who cannot physically attend conferences may participate in real-time conversations with on-site participants via Twitter and similar tools. Ideas and/or resources may be quickly shared or requests for help on a particular topic may be solicited with the expectation of almost immediate help from the "community". Twitter's Update PageImage via Wikipedia

Various tools lend themselves to a particular expression and the "conversations" which occur may migrate to various media. The important component is the ability to create relationships with both individuals and communities of people with common interests and a willingness to share.

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