Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beyond Essays: Web 2.1 and the World of the Multimedia Collage

Summary of a talk given by Jason Ohler at the Desire2Learn Fusion 2008 conference.

Miss Phelps was my favorite teacher ever. She was one of those magical teachers who can hear students knocking on every door. You know, many teahcres say, you can't go through that door, we're all going through this door. But she understood, and found a way, for you to learn the way you want to learn. I remember, she got me to learn the names of the dinosaurs by telling stories about them. Or my grade ten music teacher. I was in a rock & roll band. I could hear music, but I couldn't read music. You had to be able to read music to be in the course. But he let me in.

Our kids these days are banging on the door. They have iPods and video and the rest. They want to show you what they know. But they can't show you unless you open that door. To me, teaching is being a door opener. The rest is well-intentioned paperwork.

Look at today. 25 years ago this was Star Trek. We create original music for our phones. No matter what the technology, we will create with it. It's not just a communication device. It's an easel. Using two devices at once! 'Screasels'. Not just screens, but easels. This is where they go to paint.

Literacy means producing and consuming the mdia forms of he day, whatever they are. Which just so happen to have been, basically, words on a screen. But that's just not the case any more. The media are today are so varied - you go to slideshare, you go to YouTibe. They're varied. And students need to be able to rad and write in these media. And they need to write. If they just produce, if they don't consume, they become victims of media. Kids need to be able to writ whatever it is they read.

Literacy has shifted. We had words when we were in college. This was up to just a few years ago, as recently as five years ago. That's when it becme very easy to produce media. The multimedia collage is the new baseline media. Images, text, movies, animation, music - and the abiliy to put all those together.

Why is literacy changing? The 'read-only' to 'write-possible' time is shrinking. For text, it took thousands of years. Moving pictures, about 100 years. Web, about 15 years. To the point where, as soon as something is created, we will be able not only to consume it, but to write with it at the same time. Not only that: the tools are cheap. And there are free stages everywhere, free art and story environments.

When kids go into the story environment, their sense of quality goes through the rood. That's because of the tEcosystem - the tech ecosystem. Remember when it was tapes and 8-track and vynal? Not it's computers and cameras and video.

Web 1.0 - 1990- 2005. You had very few people generating content, and the rest of us would read it. You needed to know HTML (and have no social life). Now everybody can play. Everybody becomes a client and a comoytrer at the same time. Then there's Web 2.1, which I call read-write-paint.

But the big change that's coming is the semantic web, web 3.0. It will be a while yet. What it does is that it takes web 2.1 and it puts it into the contextual model of a brain - everything is related to everything else. We 3.0 goes out, collapses Googles million search results, and relates it to everything you know, everything about you. It's the only way to deal with all this information.

6 Mantras

- Go from text-centrism to the new media collage

- art is the 4th or the next R - you need to use th pencil, and you need to be able to use photoshop. Multimedia collage is the next Esperanto - that's how we are able to navigate a Chinese web site. Creating art today is rel work for real pay. ISTE is on board - their new standards require 'innovation and creativity', first and foremost. And the easiest way around copyright is to have kids create their own stuff.

- the DAOW of literacy. Digital, Art, Oral, and Written.

- attitude is the new aptitude. Practice zen-tech, not zantech. Evaluate everything. Be critical. Everything changes. Don't ttry to hold on to things, to control things. Put the tools into the hands of the kids.

(number 5 was skipped)

- story is the resonant info-schema. A kid using a green screen to put erself into a story using her own artwork. Do kids love this? Oh my yes. I haven't found one person who realy doesn't want to tell their story. It is not about high-end gear and lots and lots of time. I can work with any technology - generally whatever I do with students is all free to them. Money is no longer a barrier. The rule of 80-20 -- they could produce 80 percent of the content in 20 percent of the time, and spent the rest of the time tweaking. And it's all about the story first, and the technology second (what happens when you give a bad guitar player a bigger amplifier?). If you have a weak story and commit it to multimedia, that only makes it worse.

Teachers are more important than ever. We need to be the guide on the side, and not the technician magician. When I go into a class, I ask who has a digital camera? Who has expertise in...? I made a catalogue of the resources I have to work with. Then I set up a scenario. This class is a senior seminar. It's a tavern. It's a hallway. It defines the sort of bhaviour that's allowable in the environment. (Great point! - SD) And then they create media (which they will do with or without us).

Assessment - we need to get away from the 'give an A to anything that moves' syndrome (that's where, you see the screen, if something moves, it's an A, because we're afraid of the tech, we don't know what's good or bad). We have to get past that. My book (Ohler's book) describes the things we can look for in order to assess this stuff. Everything that it took a kit to get up to the media is assessable - the writing, the planning, the research. Not just the stuff that's on the screen. You have a portfolio in front of you, a whole range of skills.

And you need to be clear: do you want the work to be clear like an essay, or challenging like a poem (it's a slider on a continuum). Documentaries need to be clear. But poems can be complex and challenging. My book: I decided to wriet a story instead of just another academic tome. Why is the story important? because a month later, you will be able to tell the stry. You will be able to remember it.

The core of stories: stories need a problem and a solution, and tension in the resolution of that. There has to be a transformation - a change, a growth. If you don't have a transformation, you have an average WWII movie (bad people, shoot them). Inquiry, discovery, learning. It's that simple. (Which is diametrically opposed to No Child Left Behind). It's the new you, who must change, and the old you, who doesn't want to change. Kieran Egan (SFU) - when students say "I don't get it" they;re really saying "where's the story?"

Kids come to school versed in the story form. But we tend to give them list-oriented information. There is no change, no tansformation. The opposit of a story is a vacation slide-show. Where is the transformation? (8 levels of stories - he blasted through this). There's the R word - I need to know, what does the character realize? Show me that they're a different person now. Bloom;s taxonomy is a great way to judge how effective a student's story is.

2 rules of media literacy:
- give people a question - you want people leaning forward, watching
- watch it three times, so you can see beind the story

(Demo of 4th graders' movies)
What made the video work: they culd have just shown how to roll the ball, but they didn't - they tried, and it didn't work, so they had to figure it out.

(Another movie)
Notice how the student didn't say "um" or "ah"? That is the norm. When they are immersed in their own story, they don't stutter at all.

(Another video)
Notice that in all cases we do not have tremendously high production values, and who cares? We are now at the point where if we are willing to live with some rough edges we are able to get the same kind of work, the same kind of prepapration and devlopment, in the same time, that we might with an essay.

The process I use is this: I don't use a story-board. All a story-board will do is ensure that your very boring story flows. So what I do is to use a story map that charts out the emotional flow (instead of the flow of motion) itself. Problem-Solution. Beginning, transformation, end. Then I have storytellers peer-pitch it. Just like hollywood. Because this catches the weaknesses, it changes things. The arc is a story map I use a lot. An arc of transformation, an arc of events. You need both.

The media development process. Planning, pre-production, production, post-production, delivery. Story creation process. Record it - an amazing and magical thing happens when people hear their own voice - when they hear themselves speak their own writing they themselves will go in and fix it.

The big picture: stories are dangerous. We know that we have witnessed a good story when we look up and say "I g=forgot I was there." What is the role of critical thinking when you are effectively hypnotized. That is the new frontier - wondering about how we do that. Because that is what we must do.

Don't rule by concerns. One person says "I ahve a concern" and everything stops. The problem is, thyere is nothing you you can do with it. Take a concern and turn it into a goal. Concerns are just negatively stated goals.

Forms, grammar - I can show you examples. I have them write in what I call 'visually differentiated text'. Vs. the essay form. I can't gt a visual toe-hold on the essay form. But they will read the nicely presented form.

Digital makeup. I don't like videoconferencing. I like audio conferencing. I put it on mute and lift weights. Anyhow, video - we will have video makeup filters.

Go tell your story.

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