Tuesday, June 30, 2015

First Design

Something about this Daily Create with the instruction to "tell us about your first time making art" caught me. I've always drawn and doodled, as far back as I can remember. But there must have been something that was the first really deliberate, consciously-aware making of art. And then a memory came back all the way from high school, so I made it into a little story.

(The Daily Create for June 29 2015 at ds106)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Video Chops

A Reflection on Week 3 of INTE 5340

This was the last week of school, and it kept me busy. It also provided material for some of the assignments, which, now that I think about it, has happened each week so far. I like the way that grad school work contributes to my high-school work, and vice versa.

Thinking more about next year, I am beginning to understand that teaching my students to use story to understand physics is going to be a multiple-literacies experience. When I imagine what I would like them to do, I see primarily the technical practices: using equations, graphs, diagrams, and charts as parts of a certain way of explaining; using online sites for finding and accessing texts, images, audio and video files, simulations, and models; and using other digital tools for creating presentation material, software like Photoshop and hardware like Smart Boards. In other words, I imagine what it is that I already do, the ways in which I am literate, and how I can model these technical practices for my students.

I posted the following:
  • My first and second TDC assignments
  • My Video AB assignment
  • My Response to L&K Chapter 3
  • My first and second Critiques
  • My four Peer Comments (1 2[post][comment] 3 4)
  • and this Reflection
  • I also worked some more on my Video AB assignment. When I record video indoors with the Surface tablet, funny things happen to the color in the low light. I didn't really know how to tweak the color in the video clips, though I did experiment, but I was not happy with the final posted video. It satisfied the assignment, but I really wanted to get the color right, just for my own enlightenment. I did it finally, and the result is here.

I would give myself a 10/10 for the week. I was very pleased with my work, and I really sank into my reading response. I am getting better at video production - I feel like I'm really developing my video "chops." I continue to enjoy reading Lankshear & Knobel. I'm beginning to see everything around me as a potential literacy issue!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Recycling Softballs

Here's a photo of me recycling softballs. These balls are frequently abandoned in a baseball field near where I live. My wife and I pick them up for our dog Lily to play with (recycle #1). I also clean up the best ones and use them at school for physics demonstrations (recycle #2) (see here). What I'm doing in the photo is skinning a softball. What's inside? A lovely plastic sphere which is light yet durable, and also useful in my physics class. I'm convinced that they would make a great Newton's cradle, so I'm "harvesting" some to try it out this summer (recycle #3).

(The Daily Create for June 28 2015 at ds106)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Lily-Dog Nightmare Take Two

I was so happy with my recent audio assignment that I couldn't resist trying Kathy Onarheim's video assignment for ds106. I used the audio file below as the audio track for a video that would tell the story visually.

I wanted to preserve the pacing and spookiness and disorientation of the audio file, so I approached the video as I had done with the audio, repeating a number of small clips. I recorded a collection of short videos of Lily on my Surface tablet. Then I used VirtualDub to edit the clips. I extracted the parts I wanted, stripped out the audio, and made other adjustments. I assembled the clips into Windows Movie Maker, resized them, moved them around a lot, and added fade effects everywhere. I uploaded the final video to YouTube.

I Critique Me!

Now that I've had a chance to critique a number of videos from the point of view of story, I decided to revisit a video I had created last semester. I wanted to take a look at it again in light of what I am studying this semester. This video was created to provide an introduction to my UC Denver portfolio, and in it I tell a story of what I hope to accomplish as an ILT professional and a teacher of physics.

Though I am writing as if I were a neutral observer, I am, of course, well aware of the effort I made and struggles I experienced producing the video. What I want to see is if the video holds up under scrutiny several months after the fact.

I referred to Jason Ohler's list of possible digital story evaluation traits to examine this story. I used three traits: flow (& organization and pacing), media grammar, and writing.

Flow: The video was well-organized, and flowed evenly and briskly with excellent pacing.

Media grammar: Media grammar refers to the conventions and rules of use in a given medium. In this video, the media grammar was handled reasonably well except for the section starting at 0:22. In this section there were obvious bumps and inconsistencies as the producer tried to achieve certain effects. In the section starting at 0:12, the coordination between what was described verbally and what was presented visually was incorrect. The images needed to correspond to what was being said. Finally, a higher-grade video recorder would also have improved the image quality in the first and last sections where the speaker was visible.

Writing: I can definitely say that there was a script and a storyboard. The writing was competent and concise, the overall plan of the video was sound.

A final comment: I was particularly happy with the audio portion. The quality of recording was good, and my voice was expressive and appropriate for the task. I also composed and played the two pieces of music. The change in music signaled the main transitions, and the music effectively set the mood for the video.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Toilet Swirl

Yes, another science video, by the fellow I whose video I critiqued two weeks ago, Derek Muller. Muller has developed a series of videos on YouTube, and I had not ever seen one, so I though I'd take a look.

This video is about the Coriolis effect, an effect that results in atmospheric and oceanic currents moving clockwise in the Southern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the Northern hemisphere. A misconception is that this force can be experienced at a small scale, such as in a flushed toilet. (The video actually ends at 6:02. The rest is a plug for subscriptions.)

I referred to Jason Ohler's list of possible digital story evaluation traits to examine this story. I used three traits: flow (& organization and pacing), media grammar, and writing.

Flow: The video was very well organized, and used a variety of techniques to present different kinds of information that maintained the flow. The pacing was uneven, though - some of the transitions from section to section lasted a bit too long.

Media grammar: Media grammar refers to the conventions used in a given medium. This video used many different video recording techniques, plus additional videos, animations, and graphics. In all cases, the media were expertly constructed and presented.

Writing: I think it is safe to assume that a script and storyboard were used in this production. The writing was natural, precise, and concise. The overall plan of the video was effectively assembled. It reflected Muller's view (as explained in his research video that incorrect preconceptions need to be addressed and confronted in order for new concepts to be formed.

A final comment: the Coriolis effect can be quite difficult to explain. I felt that Muller not only provided the clearest explanation I have ever heard, but he accompanied it with a brilliantly simple and effective animation. I had also never seen a kiddie-pool demonstration of the effect before.

A Modern Literacy Experience

A Response to Lankshear & Knobel, New Literacies, Chapter 3

I would like to tell a story about an experience I've had over the last three weeks at school. After reading Lankshear and Knobel's third chapter, I realize that this was a "new literacies" experience, and I'd like to relate it to what I've been reading.

I'll start with the set-up. The State of Massachusetts had decided that all schools must create an assessment tool called a District Determined Measure, or DDM, for each course. The tool could be whatever the school wished to create, but it needed to measure each student's progress in some fashion. Progress was to be measured relatively for each student in the context of all students in a course. The State provided, typically, little guidance on how this was to be achieved. Most teachers in my school opted for a variety of pre- and post-tests. I spoke with my fellow physics teacher at length about how such a test could be scored in a manner that meaningfully and equitably measured individual progress. We quickly realized that an absolute scale would not suffice, and we threw some numbers around as examples of how we thought the scoring should work.

Later I realized that the solution was to use a relatively simple scaling formula, like what you would use to scale exam results up. I opened my favorite go-to tool, Excel, and starting tinkering. It didn't take long for me to construct the scale, and soon I was building a test template. I mentioned it to my supervisor, and she thought it could be used school-wide. With that in mind, I cleaned the Excel workbook up, added some more functionality and instructions, and made it available to all teaching staff.

Of course no one knew, for various reasons, how to use it or what it even meant.

I volunteered to make myself available toward the end of the school year, after the seniors had left (and teaching loads had correspondingly diminished). I held a series of group workshops, and then helped teachers individually. It turned out to be quite an exercise in teaching the new literacies to my fellow teachers.

As Lankshear and Knobel pointed out, a literacy can be new in the ontological sense of new technical practices and practices related to a new ethos (p.55). The technical practices involved going online, retrieving a file from the school's server, downloading that file to one's machine, and possibly emailing the file to a comrade. These practices were the most likely to have been mastered by the staff, though some older staff still struggled at this level. Then came the real fun - how to work with Excel.

There is an entire literacy of Excel, and most of the teachers had not developed an Excel practice. I am something of an Excel guru, so I was able to teach the specific practices necessary to complete the DDM scoring, but it was time-consuming. Many of the teachers were familiar with Word, some of them gurus, but Word skills do not translate to Excel - it's a different literacy! The teachers who struggled thought they struggled because they were not comfortable with the math, but the point of the Excel workbook was to make the math happen automatically. I had to keep in mind, while tutoring, that this was a literacy problem.

Some teachers wished to understand the underlying premise of the workbook, and this introduced another literacy - statistics. I kept it as simple as I could, and eventually crafted a response that easily conveyed the statistical underpinnings without actually broaching statistics itself.

What was even more surprising for me was the teachers' response to the other ontological facet of a literacy - the ethos "stuff." In this case, to make the DDM scoring work, teachers had to collaborate with other teachers teaching the same course and establish testing and scoring standards and protocols. I had assumed that the teachers of English Language Arts, say, were in regular communication with each other. This turned out not to be the case. Outside of email and maybe Google Docs, the ethos of digital participation and collaboration in the pedagogical affinity space was poorly developed. Certainly the teachers were aware of and some well-practiced in the personal digital-social space. I was heartened to hear that everyone enthusiastically agreed that more digital participation and collaboration in the pedagogical instance would be a good idea going forward.

I was glad to have been an enabler, and I was aware of seeing a lot through the lens of Lankshear and Knobel.

As a way of keeping notes, I list below, without elaboration, some phrases and ideas that jumped out at me in this week's reading:
  • What counts as new? (p. 51)
  • The new ontology: technical "stuff" and ethos "stuff" (p. 55)
  • digital remix = "writing" (p. 67)
  • "performing" software (p. 70)
  • "folksonomy" and distributed expertise (pp. 75-76)
  • Jenkins (2010): Web 2.0 is a business model (p. 80)
  • proprietary, projective, and participatory configurations (pp. 81-82)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rocket Eye!

A rocket's eye view - little and then tiny people!

This is a bit of a cheat, but I couldn't resist the coincidence. The coincidence? This Daily Create was posted on the same day that my physics classes first got a chance to launch their rockets outdoors. These rockets are made from plastic 2-liter bottles and paper and cardboard and lots of tape and hot glue. The students had worked for a few days on them, building, measuring, and testing indoors. On the second day of launching one of the students decided to take the risk and taped his iPhone to the rocket. The iPhone landed safely, and the student sent me a copy of the video. It's pretty cool - the phone unbalanced the rocket enough to cause it to tumble mid-air, but it still went up pretty high - probably more than 100 feet!

The video was in MOV format, so I used QuickTime for Windows to open it. Then I exported a section of the video as a sequence of images. I decided to choose four images evenly spaced throughout the flight so you could tell what was going on - a little rocket story of sorts. I assembled and tweaked it in Photoshop.

(The Daily Create for June 22 2015 at ds106)

PS Thanks Woobens!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Settling In

A Reflection on Week 2 of INTE 5340

One trick I use for dealing with the demands of my work is to build and rely upon templates. Templates are great because a certain amount of the task at hand (and sometimes a lot of the task) is embodied in the template, and the work-flow is much more efficient. The problem with a template, though, is that the template can become stale, or the work-flow become automatic. I like tinkering with my templates, though, changing and improving them, and I think this allows me to avoid being stale and automatic over time. I try not to lose sight of what the work is asking of me, and I try to stay committed to and mindful of the work.

I am feeling more confident in my navigation around the various pieces of this course, and this week I started building templates and habits that will carry me through the course. My high school is still in session, and it's the very end of the year and there are a lot of things to finish up, so it is still difficult to keep up with both schoolwork and coursework. One more week . . .

As the school year winds down, my thoughts turn to next year. I want to pursue this idea I have of using story to teach physics - specifically, having the students express physics in their own stories. By reading Lankshear & Knobel on literacy, I think that I may gain a broader perspective on physics-as-story, something along the lines of a physics literacy.

I posted the following:

I would give myself a 9/10 for the week - again, I was pretty happy with my work. I am particularly fond of and adept at audio production, so I was glad to have an audio assignment to sink my teeth into. I loved reading Lankshear & Knobel's second chapter. Even though I felt like I was barely hanging on to the language and ideas, I knew I was getting into the meat of their thesis, and I am eager to read more. Finally I feel like I'm starting to settle into this course, and I'm beginning to get a sense of how all the pieces will begin relating to and amplifying each other.

Bill vs. The Great Recession

Once upon a time a young college student named Bill decided to become a schoolteacher.

Every day he went to school with great joy and taught his students.

But one day he followed an urge to do something different, and he became a piano tuner.

Because of that Bill was able to run his own business for years and years, which he loved.

Because of that, though he was happy with his decision, Bill's finances were sometimes precarious.

Because of that, when The Great Recession hit, Bill found himself on the verge of bankruptcy.

Until finally Bill decided, reluctantly, to return to teaching, and eventually found a great school.

And ever since then he has discovered that he is a great teacher, and loves his work.

(The Daily Create for June 21 2015 at ds106)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Lily-Dog Nightmare

OK, so we all like to talk to our pets in baby-talk. You know, poopsy-doopsy ohhhh what a good girl! Have you ever thought that it might not sound as appealing to your dog as it does to you?

I decided to take up Jason Nemeth's challenge in his audio assignment for ds106 to make an audio track that was spooky, or at least other-worldly. I started with a banjo track for the background, which happens to be me playing the traditional fiddle tune "Sail Away Ladies." Then I added short clips of myself speaking to my dog Lily in baby-talk. I duplicated and moved the clips around in the audio editor (actually an audio mixer called n-Track Studio which used to be freeware) and then added effects (mostly echo, reverb, and pitch-change) until I got something nightmarish. Not too scary, just a little malevolent, and then I faded out with the banjo.

Performance - Practice - Literacy

A Response to Lankshear & Knobel, New Literacies, Chapter 2

As Lankshear and Knobel laid out their trajectory in the second chapter, I felt like I was drowning in all the new vocabulary. I've never read sociology, and this was a new use of language for me, and I struggled to hang on. There were a few landmarks that I felt I could focus my eyes on, and I will come back to them below. I began to trust my navigators (L&K) and relax, and by the end of the chapter I felt that I almost could understand and apply that summary sentence on page 46 (and repeated on the last page of the chapter). I'll type it out here, just to plant it more firmly in my head: literacies are
socially recognized ways in which people generate, communicate, and negotiate meanings, as members of Discourses, through the medium of encoded texts (p. 50).
I love a sentence like this, each word chosen so carefully, concise as a poem. The sentence serves as a guide, it's a story unto itself. Some pieces of the sentence are familiar to me from other sources. I recognize the idea of generating and negotiating meanings from cognitive neuroscience, for instance.

There were three distinct landmarks that jumped out at me. When Lankshear and Knobel wrote of social practices being "performed (p. 34)," it rang a bell for me. I am a professional performer (both as a musician and as a teacher), and it is not difficult to find performers who consciously practice (in the critical sense) and who come to see almost any activity in life as a performance. Another landmark was in the discussion of encoded texts:
Perhaps what is most important about literacy as a social phenomenon is that it enables people to do what cannot be done by orality alone (p. 40).
It was the word "orality" that struck me, and made clear for me the contrasting idea of encoded texts. The third landmark was this phrase: "a particular 'configuration' of literary practices: a literacy (p. 49, quoting Barton and Hamilton 1998)." I actually read the colon as an equal sign. These three pieces from the chapter helped me to hold the chapter's main sentence (from page 50, quoted above) in my head.

So I can read a sentence and convince myself that I know what it means. As a teacher, I know that real understanding comes with making actual use of the sentence. In the beginning this will mean making mistakes; misusing words, stumbling over meanings, applying concepts incorrectly. It is no different than struggling to learn and use Twitter and Blogger and Photoshop etc. Trying to read a book about literacy is a kind of literary practice. Here goes:

I can see that in my classroom I am trying to make my students literate in science generally, and physics specifically. I wish to create a Discourse of science students who can generate and negotiate physics meanings through the media of equations, explanations involving technical vocabulary, diagrams and graphs, digital simulations, and tangible demonstration equipment. In particular, I insist on seeing all of our encoded texts as narratives to some extent, in the belief that narrative, or story, is the most natural and accessible meaning vehicle.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sauce for Thought

One of my students turned me on to Vsauce, a collection of YouTube science (and other) videos created by Michael Stevens. I've since been referred to Vsauce by quite a few people. The videos have become quite popular. Here is one ostensibly on what happens if everyone jumps at once.

You may notice that I said "ostensibly." Once I, for one, finished seeing the video, I was not entirely sure what it was about. I had been very entertained by the thread that wound around from a straightforward explanation into distant worlds and then back again. Apparently all of Stevens' videos are like this - very engaging, very well done, and a journey with its own logic that leaves you roller-coaster dizzy. As much as my students like these videos, they are almost useless from a pedagogical viewpoint. It's educational fun, in the manner of "pseudoteaching."

I referred to Jason Ohler's list of possible digital story evaluation traits to examine this story. I used three traits: economy, performance, and sense of audience.

Economy: Even though Stevens seemed to meander, he actually followed a tight, if circuitous, path, and dropped us gently back down where we started. Part of the fun was exactly this journey. The apparent dizziness of the journey was a result of his economy of storytelling.

Performance: This is the trait at which Stevens excelled. His presentation was gripping, the performance masterful. This was true both of his presentation as actor and as producer.

Sense of audience: I could infer from the way the video was produced that Stevens understood completely the audience he addressed. This would be a young audience, raised on YouTube and thus video-literate, having a short attention span and a leaning toward the dramatic and personal. Not for nothing are his videos popular.

An evaluation trait that I could easily add would be flow and pacing. The pacing was consistent, the flow continuous, with no bumps or disorientation (except possibly from the speed). The plug at the end was a distraction.

Chemistry is Nuts

I'm going to keep with the theme of science videos as stories this week. As I've explained before, I think a good science explanation works like a story. The cause and effect present in a science explanation can act as a narrative arc, with a beginning, middle, and end. Some science videos are simply demonstrations, and are not stories, though they may still be be pedagogically useful.

The University of Nottingham in England has a chemistry department that is particularly wacky. Hands-on demonstrations are a mainstay of the department, and the professors and lab technicians are all interesting, even unusual, characters. The head of the department, Professor (and now Sir) Martin Poliakoff, thought it would be a good idea to record these demonstrations as videos and make them available online. All they needed was a videographer, and Brady Haran, a specialist in video communication, proved to be an excellent videographer, editor, and producer. He completely understood the characters in the department and brought them to life in the videos. He also captured the humor and wackiness in the work they did. The resulting videos, collectively called The Periodic Table of Videos, are quite popular in schools around the world. I have made use of them myself. I thought it would be a good exercise to evaluate one of the videos.

This is one of the early videos (2008), about Potassium. You'll see that the action moves back and forth from technicians blowing things up and doing other labwork to the mildly eccentric professor in his office (that's Prof. Poliakoff) explaining and telling stories. This video is less useful as explanation/narrative, but it is engaging enough to work well in conjunction with other classwork and instruction.

I referred to Jason Ohler's list of possible digital story evaluation traits to examine this story. I used three traits: economy, performance, and sense of audience.

Economy: Haran, as videographer, was a decent storyteller. In this early example of his work, however, his storytelling was not as economical as it could be (and would become). I thought the middle section about the potassium mirror was interesting, but almost beside the point. The ending seemed tacked on.

Performance: The outdoor scenes of potassium exploding were great theater, and here Haran completely captured the fun. The scenes with the Professor were also engaging in a different way. The Professor was presented as quirky, a little mischevious, yet lovable, and the close framing of his face was effective. Haran preferred to keep himself out of the action, but sometimes you could hear him guiding the Professor with questions.

Sense of audience: Haran clearly knew that his audience would be people interested in science but not necessarily knowledgeable. One could watch the demonstrations understanding what was happening, or one could watch and simply enjoy the fun.

An evaluation trait that I could easily add would be originality and voice. When introduced, these videos were a dynamic departure from the "professor at the blackboard" kind of science videos. The "voice" of the video was distinctive, and all Haran's.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

My Classroom

My classroom has no windows
I miss the sky so much
But I see stars and planets
So close that I can touch

(The Daily Create for June 17 2015 at ds106)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What the Hell is This?

A Reflection on Week 1 of INTE 5340

Have you ever watched a cat enter a room for the first time? I'm that cat. I sneak in past the door and creep around the periphery of the room, hugging the wall. I take my time. I sniff everything. I circle the room, and then start checking under all the furniture. I crawl into any open container and sit for a minute. I jump up onto all horizontal surfaces. It will be quite a while before I venture into the open, but when I do it will be with authority.

The big issues this week were mostly navigational - figuring out how to find and be found (posts and tweets), how to coordinate the parts of my network, how to find my way around the course materials and around ds106, how to manage the deadlines and expectations, how to employ the many communication channels among the class participants. It's all a work very much in progress, but progress I made.

I thought a lot about what makes a story "digital," and whether being digital makes a story fundamentally different. I thought a lot about literacy, multiple literacies, whether the words "literacy" and "story" are tossed around too much or too little. I wondered why everyone isn't required to study sociology at some point in their lives.

I posted the following:

Though I struggled (as always) with time management, I was pretty happy with my output. I like getting my writing head loosened up, and I began to reach out to classmates on Twitter. I've always read Twitter, but I'm eager to establish a habit of tweeting. I would give myself a 9/10 for the week - I was pretty happy with my work, and I put a lot of time into tweaking my social media infrastructure so it will work well for the course.

I did not dive particularly deeply into L&K's first chapter, but I'm looking forward to the second chapter. I made careful note of the references to Gee and Rheingold - I hope to pursue some of their work before long.

Finally, I love telling stories and I love being funny, and I'm glad I will be doing a lot of both this summer!

Points for Distance?

(The Daily Create for June 13 2015 at ds106)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A New Literacy

A Response to Lankshear & Knobel, New Literacies, Chapter 1

The teachers were all dreading the professional development session. It was to be two-and-a-half hours of how to implement the Common Core Curriculum in our technical high school. "I guess we're supposed to all become Language Arts Teachers now" was a common refrain in our grumblings. It turned out to be one of the best PD's we've ever had.

The consultants had a well-thought-out and comprehensive framework about literacy. The idea was that the word "text," as used in the Common Core Standards, could be quite broadly interpreted. It didn't mean just written text. As a physics teacher I already considered "text" to include graphs, charts, diagrams, and equations. But these consultants had done their homework. For an example they described a possible outing to a work site by one of our technical programs, carpentry. The task would be to inspect a damaged deck, create an estimate for repair or replacement, and consult with the homeowner. Each of these three tasks involved skills that could be considered literacy. The damaged deck was a "text" that could be "read" through inspection. The "text" was then interpreted through the means of creating the estimate, which itself was another text. Finally, the interaction with the customer, determining his needs and budget and presenting an appropriate proposal, was all interpretation of another text.

"Wow, I hadn't really thought of it that way" became a new refrain. The anxiety around implementing the Common Core Curriculum was replaced with a certain excitement around utilizing this new idea about literacy.

The first chapter of New Literacies was basically a summary of how the concept of literacy has changed over the decades. I was afraid that it would be a dry run-through, but Lankshear and Knobel steered through the details with a steady eye on their destination - their own interpretation of "new literacy." I was surprised by how much of the summary I recognized. I guess I've been around for a while! But I had never connected all the dots in quite the way that Lankshear and Knobel had. By the time the summary had gotten to "The radical 'multiplicity' of literacy" (p. 21) the memory of that professional development session had popped into my head and I knew I would have to write about it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Can We Watch a Video?

A physics teacher named Frank Noschese wrote and hosted a series of essays on the concept of pseudoteaching. Pseudoteaching is activity that looks like teaching, feels like teaching, but no learning is taking place. One of the guest bloggers was Derek Muller, a physics teacher and researcher who now creates science videos. Muller contributed a video blog to the discussion. His video was a story about how, in his research with instructional videos, he discovered the root cause of why learning often fails to happen when students watch a video. I present the video below. It's a bit long, so I've embedded the video so it would skip the introduction about Khan Academy and go straight to the research story.

It's a lovely story, very surprising and sobering if you are a teacher. Research is a kind of story. There is a goal, and a desire to discover something, and a plan of action, with hidden pitfalls and unexpected outcomes. In this case the research is about videos that present a second level of story, the explanation or the discussion or the demonstration. In physics, any good explanation/discussion/demonstration is also a good story.

I referred to Jason Ohler's list of possible digital story evaluation traits to examine this story. I used three traits: the story itself, the understanding of content, and the voice.

The story: Muller was a good storyteller. His story was structured perfectly and proceeded with a certain inevitability to its conclusion. He knew how to say exactly what he wanted to say.

The understanding of content: Because the story was based on his personal research, Muller's understanding of this story was obviously thorough.

The voice: Quite literally, Muller has a lovely voice and he used it effectively. But Muller's "voice," meaning his narrative sense, was consistent and clear. This was also true in the video snippets which were clearly scripted by him. His use of Khan-Academy-like animation was an effective way to tell the story visually.

An evaluation trait that I could easily add would be the economy of presentation. Because of his understanding, Muller knew how to make his points without straying into detours or "over-explaining." He of course knew exactly how the story went, but his telling of the story was concise and engaging.

As an aside, I too have written about pseudoteaching.

Marching Milkmen

My wife and I started a marching band 12 years ago for a local dairy delivery company called Munroe Dairy. Why does a dairy company need a marching band you might ask. Because they were already appearing in a couple of parades every year, dressed in old-fashioned milkman whites and leading a restored antique milk truck. And we were already associated with the dairy, having done some graphic design work for them. "You guys need music," my wife said. "You need your own marching band."

Six years ago a budding videographer and friend of ours named Richard Goulis spent two parades recording us. He took all the footage home and edited and edited . . . and edited. I hadn't realized then how important editing is to storytelling, digital or otherwise. We loved the final video, and I present it below.

What I love about this video is that it is a story. It is a story about an event (a parade) that is in itself a kind of story. Those of us who perform in parades experience them like a story because they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They have an arc, and a resolution, and things happen along the way. The videographer captured this experience, and thereby told a story. He told it with music, with imagery, yet with no explicit verbal narrative.

I referred to Jason Ohler's list of possible digital story evaluation traits to examine this story. I used three traits: the story itself, the understanding of content, and the voice.

The story: Goulis quite successfully portrayed the experience of the parade. He presented the band preparation and the build-up of excitement and camaraderie before the parade, and the anticipation as the parade stepped off. He captured the way the audience started out a bit thin, increased in size and energy dramatically, and then thinned out again at the end. He even somehow captured how exhausted and dazed we were at the end. However, Goulis could have shortened the parade-end segment a bit to avoid the sensation of dragging.

The understanding of content: For Goulis to tell this story, he had to develop an understanding of the parade experience by immersing himself in it. He also understood that his assignment included showcasing the sponsor, Munroe Dairy. Goulis needed to know the role of each participant in the band. He demonstrated that he fully understood the situation he was assigned to portray.

The voice: Goulis revealed a distinctive voice in his video. He maintained visual interest with his varied and imaginative framing of shots, constantly in motion. His visual imagery was consistently full of energy and humor.

I would be remiss to not mention Goulis' use of audio. He chose one of the many songs the band plays and used it exclusively throughout the video (except for the credits). He maintained the viewer's interest by synchronizing visual events with the music. An added touch was his use of a cannon shot as a kind of punctuation, another sign of his sense of humor.

Donut Fonts

My wife and I have always laughed about the Dunkin Donuts font that looks like sausages. It does its job, though - you recognize it immediately, and you couldn't possibly use it for anything else. The font, by the way, is called Frankfurter, and it was designed by a gentleman named Alan Meeks. I wondered if Dunkin Donut's version of it could possibly be uglier, as suggested by Dean Shareski, who submitted the idea as a visual assignment for ds106.

This assignment intrigued me immediately. I like letter forms a lot. I've studied and practiced calligraphy a bit, and when I've occasionally free-lanced as a graphic designer my designs have relied heavily on fonts. I found an image of the Dunkin Donuts logo online, and cropped it down to just the lettering, so:
I immediately thought of using the much derided Hobo Bold, but it actually isn't that different in some ways, and it's not too too horrible:
So I kept going. I tried to find the most incongruous and potentially hideous font, and finally Curlz seemed to fit the bill:
That's more like it. But I felt bad for little Dunkin, so I thought I'd put him in a coat and tie:
Black tie no less. That's the much overused Times New Roman (which is not what the New York Times uses - they have their own proprietary version of Cheltenham).

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Random Act of Introduction

I just finished editing a small collection of vignettes that my wife had written over the last two days. They weren’t terribly long, but editing is intense work, and I was hoping to put her off for a few more days.

I’m a little freaked out that my grad school course just started, and I have to get this first assignment done tonight, and I still have to email my marching band about the weekend’s gig. I email an elaborate note called the marching orders, with directions and times and a weather forecast. Saturday’s parade is one of the biggies of the season.

And I’m still working at my high school full-time. The seniors are gone, but I’m trying to get the juniors out in one piece. They gave me room coverage today, which ate up my free time. I’m giving a workshop next week to the other teachers about an Excel file I programmed for dealing with some state-mandated testing, so I’m trying to prep for that. Everyone is grateful for the file I created, but no one understands Excel.

My piano-tuning customers haven’t heard from me in weeks, they’re starting to get ornery, but they’ll have to wait. July is around the corner.

So I wasn’t feeling especially generous with my time when I got home tonight. I know, my wife makes me dinner and everything. Please, Please, she pleads, edit my pieces. They’re sitting as drafts in her blog, waiting for the Publish button.

Random act of kindness. What does random mean? My wife isn’t a stranger, editing her stuff is part of the matrimonial give-and-take. Of course I’m always kind to her. My daily routine isn’t exactly spontaneous. I guess it’s that I gave in. I relented. I listened to the god who says Come on, what the hell is so important? I refused to be reluctant, but instead gladly gave of my time, gave in to generosity. I do love her writing. I love her. So does this count?

(The Daily Create for June 11 2015 at ds106)