Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When last year, Facebook decided to change the prefix on the status bar for it's 65 million users, it got me thinking. They had previously only allowed 'Martin is ...' for the status area, and for most users that was fine. 'Martin is snowboarding' or 'Martin is having a coffee' etc. For a minority however, it wasn't enough, and so the 'is' was removed after much badgering to allow more freedom in this status field for Facebook users.

It got me thinking about the way in which web applications, or the businesses behind them, direct our experience online, particularly the social online experiences of young adults.

One of my greatest concerns in this brave new digital age we're accelerating through, is that young adults will for the most part, simply accept and allow online tools, particularly social media websites, to direct their experience. That their socialisation will be subtly guided by the businesses that own the platforms on which they are playing.

I'm concerned that young adults won't question sources of content, why information is presented in a particular way, or how their own data is used by businesses behind the web tools we're becoming reliant on.

I'm not suggesting a conspiracy, but that young adults need to be equipped to question the online environments they are exploring and spending their time in.

One of the best ways to help students to explore the features of a web application and to teach them to use it for their own purposes rather than those it was designed for, is to encourage them to create stories.

Building creative narratives with Facebook and digital image editing websites, chat services and collaborative tools like Google Docs helps students to be more objective. It shows them that these tools can be used for purposes other than those they were built for. It encourages them to question why these online applications are designed and built the way they are.

When young adults build stories using web media, when they subvert the original purpose of these online applications to be creative - they take control.

The Digital Narrative was built with this purpose, to encourage educators to guide young adults toward taking control of their experiences online.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Building web pages for classroom use is a wonderful way to keep resources and your expectations for assessment (amongst other things) at your students fingertips. Webnode is a fully featured website builder I came across recently. It's free, with a relatively straightforward UI.

If you're looking for something simpler however, with less features, but a shorter learning curve, Stixy is likely to be what you're after. I've posted about Stixy before, and remain impressed. Simple to set up, it's perfect for presenting information quickly for an audience needing ongoing access.

These web building resources are also good for students that wish to present material online. Stixy is simple enough for late primary students.
Xtranormal is a wonderful little website that allows you to build an animated story quickly and easily. This story building tool is great fun for students exploring storyboarding and narrative, and a useful way of working with an existing class text.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My wife's blog featured a lovely digital narrative today. Thought I'd share it with you. And who is that gorgeous little girl in the picture?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I attended the Setting the Scene exhibition yesterday, and was wowed. The exhibit contains set tools from some remarkable movies, as well as other physical representations of space. Though the exhibit doesn't contain many actual set pieces, what it does have are a number of the models and numerous drawings used to draft the spaces films would emerge in.

I found particularly interesting, the notion of blending spaces. For example, in Australia, virtual spaces were created to blend the real with the unreal, to smooth over the fault lines between location spaces and sets at the studio.

The exhibit was interesting for another reason, the notion of spaces in writing, the way digital narratives are informed by the spaces in which we explore them. Digital stories are influenced by the spaces in which they are screened (personal or private etc). They are influenced by the static and animated recordings of spaces shown in the story. They also are explored in spaces described through narration, remembrances and imaginings.

There are also the degrees of influence spaces represent in a digital story: private and public, virtual and staged, places of transition or power, labyrinthine spaces. All these spaces may be inhabited, and are often as evocative as the characters in story themselves. These spaces can be instigators of change and conflict in story, and through this are a significant consideration in narrative structure as they directly inform character.

The exhibit is on at ACMI in Melbourne, Australia for those interested in attending.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wander over to Jeff Utecht's blog The Thinking Stick and read his latest blog post. It explores the idea of teaching writing in this new era, where young writers are immersed in multiple forms of media.

The post mentions the notion of audience, and that young adults now have a broader understanding of who they are writing for. Young adults are more likely to understand their audience in a way that they never have before. Social media particularly is engineering a revolution in the way that young adults consider who they are directing their writing toward.

It's my belief that through this broader understanding of audience, we will witness a generation of young adults with a deeper sense of community, and a stronger appreciation for how their writing impacts on the world around them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

As part of a current course of study, I'm engaging in some digital artwork online in order to better understand how to teach creatively. Art is not something I'd say I excel at, but I have strong theme driving my engagement with this task, so it will be interesting to see what the end results are like.

The brief is simply to build a personal creative project, and reflect on the results. Feel free to build me up, or tear me down based on the results so far :-)

Art Journey