A Wonder for My Mental Beach. ETMOOC.

As Christina Hendricks first said “This is my love letter to ETMOOC”

It is hard to believe that three months have gone by and that ETMOOC has passed so quickly. If you had said to me on New Year’s Eve that, “2013 would be the year you fully reconnect with not only your love of learning but your joy of teaching.” I would have snorted in disbelief.

Do you remember when you were small and found a treasure on the beach? The sand was warm as it sifted between your toes, your hair was almost hot from the sun beating down on it and the water made a soft, rhythmic lapping sound where it broke along the shore? And then you spotted it? It could have been a magical speckled rock with golden glints, or a shell with that smooth lustre inside and purply grey knobbles on the outside. Or it may have been a gnarled piece of driftwood that looked like a face or the actual bones of an animal? And you would cup it in your hands and race up to your parents or your brothers and sisters to show them the wonder of what you had found? Serendipitously, I found a wonder for my mental beach. ETMOOC.

Life is full of surprises, twists, turns and opportunities. And ETMOOC has been a tremendous opportunity. Not just because I learned new technical skills, or because I embraced my artistic, creative side, or because I was introduced to new ways of thinking and communicating. These have been enormously beneficial to me. But what I have valued most are the people I have interacted with all along this journey.

I feel like I’ve been on an exploratory mission to a new territory, with some wonderful guides and an enormous group of supporters who read my blogs, provided feedback, answered my questions and made me stop lurking and actually participate, even though what I may be saying is not original or has been repeated elsewhere. Remixing, repurposing and retweeting are part of my repertoire now. I learned that it is okay to share, to be open and that my incessant need to ask questions is what makes me who I am, so ask away! Jeff Merrell said it best when he used the word authentic. This has been an authentic learning experience for me and I hope that the spirit that has infused me during ETMOOC will keep me connected, sharing and questioning long into the future.

Please leave the lights on….

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Collective Wisdom: Using Aboriginal Knowledge as a Guide to Openness

Interesting how sense making converges. Not only rhizomatically but layered and scaffolded. Currently I am enrolled in three courses, ETMOOC, Aboriginal Worldviews and Education (AWE) and WomenLearningTech. I am also reading the Half Life of Facts. Last night we had a wonderful etmooc chat around K-12 open education discussing ideas about what does being open mean, the potential pitfalls and barriers as well as the opportunities openness brings to us and our students. This morning while looking up some information for a quiz in AWE I came across these words in the section about personal knowledge from Marlene Brant Castellano in Updating Aboriginal Traditions of Knowledge (2000) “Aboriginal knowledge is rooted in personal experience and lays no claim to universality. The degree to which you can trust what is being said is tied up with integrity and perceptiveness of the speaker…His observations would not necessarily be accepted uncritically, nor would they be contradicted or dismissed. Rather, they would be put in context.” ( I added the bold) This ties in directly with many of the topics we discussed last night, that of building a ‘brand,’ (I hate that term for carrying my identity forward! Please someone rescue us from becoming part of a marketing campaign!) based on integrity and perceptiveness, building trust and relationships online and the need for placing observations and ideas in context. 

 

I also like the idea that you can be critical of an idea without being dismissive or contradictory. “The personal nature of knowledge means that disparate and even contradictory perceptions can be accepted as valid because they are unique to the person….In other words, people do not contest with one another to establish who is correct-who has the ‘truth.'” And after reading Half Life of Facts and seeing how teaching science in elementary school can be changed in a blink of an eye (Pluto is not a planet, Bernoulli’s Principle does/does not explain lift) what is ‘truth’ and who has ownership? And how long does ‘truth’ last? Perhaps that is an aspect of openness that also needs to be discussed.  Even in science, light is both a wave and a particle and the principles of flight can be explained through Bernoulli’s Principle or Newton’s laws of motion. Why must, as I have said before, there always be a right answer? This means that we all have the opportunity to pursue making our own truth and knowledge and by each of us sharing and respecting other views we grow together. Within aboriginal knowledge, “collective wisdom is arrived at by a process of ‘putting our minds together,'” which seems to mirror the actions we take within the ETMOOC community on a regular basis. I know that I have been enriched by the process of creating collective wisdom, both in my thinking and in my new friendships. 

 

If you do anything this week, please take an opportunity to read this wonderful article. There is also a section on oral tradition, and experiential learning that turns our discussion of literacy on its head as aboriginal knowledge considers the literate approach to knowing one dimensional.

 

“‘I can’t promise to tell you the truth; I can only tell you what I know.'”

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How I am learning to use Mozilla: By taking a sMOOC

So the past two weeks we’ve been concentrating on digital literacy and what it means in all its various personae. ETMOOC had proposed the following questions to answer:

What does it mean to be digitally literate?
What is the difference between being digital literate and web literate?
How does digital literacy relate to participatory culture?
What digital competencies and skills do your learners demonstrate through their daily use of technology?
What digital competencies and skills are required by our emerging knowledge economy/age?
What are the differences between digital literacy and digital fluency?
What is the role of attention within the spectrum of 21st century literacies?
What are the problems inherent in defining literacy, fluency, skills, and competency today (e.g., using terms like 21st century literacies, digital fluency), and how do these affect curricular development, pedagogy, and the work of teachers and students?

I have thought about these questions, answered some and been baffled by others. What these past two weeks have done is show my areas of literacy strengths and weaknesses. And so I have decided to do something about them. Thank goodness for my PLN as they have showed me the way! Thanks Christina Hendricks and Janet Webster for steering me in the right direction.

So as you know if you’ve been avidly following my blog (ha!ha!) is that I’ve been trying to learn how to use the various new software put out by Mozilla. First there was the tale of using Popcorn and now I am writing about my ongoing saga with Thimble, X ray Goggles and Hackasaurus. It’s not been pretty. Unlike Haiku Deck, which very nicely responded to my laments on Twitter about it not being available for PC users, I am never sure if Mozilla has heard me (even though sometimes I think they have-my mistake).

So what are my issues with Mozilla which is admittedly putting out some fantastic stuff for us to play with in this sandbox and expand our digital literacy?

I think, no, I know! that Mozilla suffers from a lack of “instruction” literacy. They are either a) so immersed in the language of code that they don’t see that others are not or b) trying to convince us that it is that easy. I am not sure which one it is but either way I feel as dumb as a pack of hammers every time I go to their site (I felt the same when I started Popcorn). I have a had a very brief (and mercifully short) introduction to html in the distant past and I’ve steered clear ever since. (Is it because it reminds me of how stupid I feel in math?) Now I am going back to play with html because it is time. And right off the bat I am made to feel incompetent.

This is what I mean:
Hackasaurus Screen shot

Now this says three easy steps. I can tell you right now they are wrong. I have actually enrolled in this smooc course WomenLearningTech (courtesy of Christina and Janet) so that I can be taught how to use Mozilla XRay Goggles and all of their other lovely programs. It took Kim Wilkens 6 minutes of video time to explain this software and I was pausing and following along step by step in order to create this. Once you understand that to Activate XRay Goggles you have to put it in your bookmark bar that solved a lot of problems. But how was I supposed to know that? Is there a secret code or something? And the different colours? What do they mean? Is there a colour code? And which box to type in to change the code? The one on the left or the right? (the left) And what not to touch of the code in the box? After the lesson with Kim I had produced my own web remix. I still don’t know what the R is supposed to do. I expect that now I at least know what I am supposed to do in the site I might go and try and find out.

Perhaps Mozilla expects us to mess around with the program and find out by playing with it? That’s great for some, especially if it works. But it doesn’t work for me and that means it won’t work for others. How does this approach promote digital literacy? Wake up Mozilla! If you really want people to use your products cure your “instruction” literacy problem so I can cure my”digital” literacy problems.

And Mozilla? I really hope you’re listening this time.

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Who is Digital Literacy For?

So I am stuck in last week’s storytelling mode because I am still working with Popcorn Maker. While you can turn the sound off on the video you’ve downloaded, you can’t seem to be able to replace the sound track with another track ( I was thinking of replacing the sound track on Twitter vs. Zombies to yodeling just for fun. It changes the impact of the video that’s for sure! If you want to try this go to Soundcloud, find your favourite track, open Popcorn Maker and turn the sound off on the video you are using as the base for your new mash up.) I was looking at the popup feature which does have a sound aspect but I am not sure how that would work when trying to replace an entire soundtrack plus you have the popup bubble on your screen. Am I just asking too much from the program? Any other Popcorn Makers out there having the same issue?

This leads into the subject of digital literacy. I have yet to see the discussion by Doug Belshaw and I will probably miss part of tonight’s discussion with Howard Rheingold. Real life interfering with digital life! But what is digital literacy, really? Does it mean that I can swim in the digital pond? There are times I think I may be just dog paddling and not able to complete a lap. And yet, I am supposed to be competent in the area of technology (or at least my degree says so!) So if I am feeling a tad overwhelmed at times, how must it be for those who have little to no experience with technology?

I found my dad a few weeks ago, attempting to email someone back and he had placed his message in the bcc line. My dad is an intelligent man, well read and fluent in a verbal argument. But he does not write. (He’s a lefty and there were a few too many cracks on the knuckles when he was trying to write left handed so he just doesn’t do it with his right hand or his left hand.) But he will type occasionally. But he doesn’t use email. And email today is so ubiquitous that programmers really don’t think about new users too much anymore. And you have to know where to get help to use help on a page. And he did not.

So how easy is digital literacy? It demands so much more of us than traditional literacy because we not only have to engage with people and print in real time, we now have to write and maintain a written presence, have some sort of oral presence and perhaps a pictorial presence online. We need to be willing to fling ourselves off the digital cliff so to speak, to dive into the deep waters of new programs and ways of communicating. And how many of us are committed to being a perpetual student? And what about access to digital literacy? Is this literacy only for the connected few with high speed internet? So literacy for the elite? How many more divisions are we going to put between those who are struggling with basic literacy and those of us who have the time, energy, money and education to swim in this pond?

So as usual no answers, but a whole pile of questions!

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Twitter vs. Zombies 2.0 using Popcorn #2

So I thought I would talk about Popcorn Maker as educational software today rather than just sharing what I made with Popcorn. I am in the process of creating a new movie with Popcorn to experiment with the program so more, so as I warned before, there will be another Zombie movie coming to a browser near you.

What’s to like about Popcorn? Actually, quite a bit. It is certainly easy to place media into the template and to add all sorts of popups, text , etc. But anyone who has used the software is aware that it is supposed to be user friendly.

But is it? First, the tutorial.

“Hi, Popcorn is so easy to use, any idiot can do so and it will take you five minutes or less to understand how to use the software. Then you can make a video. Enjoy!”
“Hi, my name is Karen and I have some questions? Um…Hello?” New user goes through Popcorn site looking for answers and gets this:
“Hi, Popcorn is so easy to use, any idiot can do so and it will take you five minutes or less to understand how to use the software. Then you can make a video. Enjoy!”

So maybe I was having an off day but nobody’s software is that good that it doesn’t need a help desk that gives answers. So hopefully other users will also share their experience of using Popcorn ( this one was helpful. You’ll notice the interface has changed a little since this wiki was created.)

Now why did I need help?

Have a look at the tutorial. All of the extra content added to the video is in one or two layers. The tutorial plays and it looks so easy.

When I started playing with the program to make my video “Twitter vs. Zombies 2.0” I wanted to cut the first 19 seconds after the first second. I used Skip, then I added in my first popup, played around with length, font, etc. of the popup and moved on. I then added in my next popup (@cogdog) and a photo of a strawberry that Alan Levine had tried to use to save himself from zombiehood. Placing it on the screen, I could see that no matter where I placed it, the photo wasn’t going to work, so I went to delete it.

Guess what? There is no delete button in Popcorn Maker. I tried to move it, and it wasn’t going anywhere. That’s when my fruitless hunt for answers began. I found the wiki I’ve linked to above and it mentions (in passing, almost as an aside!) that if you want to remove something from your video you can delete the layer as each layer has a garbage can icon beside it. So I deleted the layer, plus all the work I had done so far.

Started again. Made many layers. Worked on the content some more to refine my popups and text. Added some more skips into the movie. While the play bar tells you approximately what second you are in the movie, each event demands an exact time and you need to know that for the movie to be seamless.  Added a loop. Added another loop. Loop seemed to be broken and kept looping at the original number of loops I requested instead of the new number. Removed looping layer (which was a shame because I think having the woman look over her shoulder a couple of times would have been amusing.) Tried to line up looped event with popup event (Statue of Liberty) hoping that would improve play by moving the layers. You can’t add extra layers between layers to keep events together for tracking purposes. You can only add layers at the bottom. You can’t move layers. If you delete layer 2 it messes up at the layer 13. Complete hopeless mess. Movie now stuck skipping between the opening and the first zombie and won’t progress. Close program. Open program. Seems to be working……and no it’s not. Delete movie. Did this a few more times.

And that’s when I went back to the first principles of design. I know we all want to build spontaneity into the process of creation but it is still a process. I created a storyboard. For every layer I wrote down the potential action/event, the time when I wanted it to occur, the accompanying text and I did it sequentially (except for the first skip that did not seem to like being in layer 0, it went into layer 1). This time it seemed to work. I previewed, refined the content of the events and published.

But my cautionary tale does not end there, unfortunately. When you play the movie back prior to previewing, it seems to run smoothly. All of the cuts and loops seemed to splice together nicely. Then you look at the preview. Little bits of film that you’ve skipped or looped that you may have missed magically appear. You go back, refine again, republish, preview, all seems well and post. As you review the finished product you notice the little problem areas that still plague it.

Today, I went back to my video and tweaked it a little more. I think I may have improved it a bit, but the Statue of Liberty loop still isn’t right.

The moral of the story? Please use Popcorn in your classroom. It is a great program. But be prepared to teach students how to storyboard in conjunction with using this program because remixing a story in Popcorn needs to be planned to work. It will save you and your students hours of frustration.

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Twitter vs. Zombies using Popcorn

I had a few false starts with this software, probably because I was trying something new for me (I did send a tweet for help!) but in the end I think this is a pretty good movie/story. Would I use popcorn again? I expect so. I can see it being K-12 friendly as well (with a well thought out wiki for support).

Here is the link to the original video which I thought was fun and a good choice as a base. And here is my popcorn as my ode to Twitter vs Zombies 2.0.

Unfortunately for all of you I haven’t finished mining my zombie experience so you’ll just have to sit back and enjoy (or not!)

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How I learned to love twitter by being a zombie

As part of the digital storytelling week I share my experience playing Twitter vs. Zombies 2.0

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