The World Wide Wakayama Chronicles; Part II; Day Seven

12-18-13; Wednesday

4:00 am, the alarm rings. We leap from bed to shower to taxi to train to another train to monorail to plane. We land at Shirahama Airport at 8:55 am and then pile into the vans again. It is raining and will rain all day, so that means we have a free day.

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We drive to a large indoor market that sells fresh ocean produce of every shape and size. At the entrance sits an enormous panda stuffed animal. Panda related products are everywhere. As one souvenir T-shirt declares, “Shirahama is infested with pandas!” I haven’t seen any actual pandas yet but I have seen a true infestation of panda cookies, cakes, toys, key chains, dusters, hats, blankets and giant pillows.

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While the photo crew settles into a booth at Toretore Ichiba (http://www.toretore.com) to chat and smoke, I run around the market using my new Nikon D3200, (my first real camera ever!) to practice by photography skills by taking photos of fish: dried fish, pickled fish, fresh fish, pressed fish and even stretched fish. There are large tanks of swimming fish, tubs of squishy sea cucumbers and pools of lobsters and clams piled up on top of each other.

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When the sushi bar at one end of the market opens, we all put in our orders and tuck into our tucker. The salmon and salmon egg donburi are very fresh and absolutely delicious! We have to wait for an hour after our meal for our hotel rooms to become available so I write and Elsa plays a video game called, “Papers Please,” and pretends that she is an immigration official trying to support a revolution while staying alive.

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“Hotel Seamore” is our destination and it is indeed perched on the shore of the sea. The hotel is a bit old, but our corner room is spacious and lovely with an amazing view of the ocean from the large plate glass windows that wrap around the room. Room 615 is set up like a suite with a separate genkan and hallway leading to the bath, toilet and main room.

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The beds are very comfortable and I crawl under the covers to sleep away most of the day as I have come down with a sore throat that drops my voice an octave or two. My daughter says that I now sound like a heavy smoker. ( Land of Counterpane )

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The project writer who came up with the creative text on the JR posters is pictured above!

WakayamaGuidedFootsteps

Translation: “More than walking, it was like being led by God.”

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I wake up in time to join the crew at a yaki-niku restaurant where we grill tender slices of beef and vegetables over the fire in the middle of the table. We eat our fill and then head back to the hotel to catch up on email using the free Wi-Fi in the lobby.

Finally, we head downstairs to enjoy the wonderful hotel onsen. The outdoor tubs are especially lovely and we prop our elbows on the fresh smooth cedar and listen to the waves splashing on the rocks directly below.

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Down below on the shore, you can see the ancient rotenburo where the photos for the JR ad were taken.

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Tomorrow, we are off to “Kushi-Moto;” perhaps we will se the source of the dango on a stick!

 

Distractions or Enhancements? The Interactive Question

What is a book? The concept of “book” is changing so fast, it’s hard to keep up with it all. There are so many options available now when designing a book, that it is almost mind-boggling. I would even go so far as to say that the options may begin to distract one from the original purpose in creating a book. This is a problem for the author as well as for the reader.

guardian.co.uk Photograph from Rex Features

An article published by the UK’s “Guardian” suggests that interactive digital books tend to distract children from the content and storyline of the book and make it harder for them to remember crucial details from the story. The headline of the article declares: “Enhanced eBooks Are Bad for Children.” The article then goes on to detail the results of a study done in the USA where parents, with their children, read a story together. Half of the group settled in with a print book and the other half with an interactive digital version of the story. The print book kids could recall more details and discuss the story much more readily than the digital book kids. The researchers concluded that while “print books were more advantageous for literacy building co-reading”, ebooks, and particularly enhanced ebooks, were better “for engaging children and prompting physical interaction”.

So an author has to consider the goal of any particular book before beginning to design it. Is the book created to promote physical interaction and initial interest or is it created to build literacy and present an engaging story? This is what I have been asking myself as I consider the digital options of my first illustrated children’s book. I began the project with an illustration that simply begged for a story. It was chosen as a “Deviation of the Day” and was simply titled…

“You!”

When I first saw the illustration on the Deviant Art website, the picture was so compelling that the story began to write itself in my head. And then it wouldn’t let me sleep until I had written it down.

So when designing the book, I knew that the detailed illustrations were a key factor of this story and they would be displayed beautifully on a retina-display iPad where the viewer could zoom in on the picture to see all of the creative, little details which the artist has tucked into every page. For example, there is a dragon hidden on almost every page of the book if you take the time to look carefully. And there are critters hiding in trees, in the grass and in wee hidey-holes, just waiting to be discovered. Because this particular artist, Therese Larsson, is very skilled at portraying light in her digital art, the back-lit iPad is an ideal platform for showing it off.

The story should always be the reason for a storybook. You write a book to tell a compelling story. Too many digital books that I have seen lately, seem to have been produced to distract a child or to provide a platform for playing games; they often lack an original story. So when thinking about how to design my digital book, I decided that I did not want to include animation or distracting games. I wanted to add things that would enhance the story. The read-aloud function will be included as the story uses a higher level vocabulary than is customary for a picture book. Some words may present an pronunciation challenge for younger readers and the read-aloud function can help with this. I certainly did not want to “dumb down” the text, especially not after the discussion I had with the 5th grade students at my international school when they realized that many modern authors are doing just that as they attempt to make their books more consumable to young readers who may not want a challenge. (The 5th graders were offended and went and checked out challenging books just to spite those authors.)

“Wily” and “plundering” may not be commonly used words, but they are delicious and poetic and deserve some airing out, and so they are staying in the book. But it does help to have a function that will read the words out loud so that “wily” does not become “willy,” (heaven forbid). I work with many students who are struggling to learn English as a second or even third language, and they are helped out a lot by being able to check out from our school library audio books and books with read-aloud CDs included in the back cover. Some of our EAL students check out the audio version of a novel when they check out the print novel so that they can hear the native pronunciation of the words while they are reading the text. I see read-aloud digital books as being very useful in the international school context where students may not have native language speakers at home.

In deciding what digital enhancements to include or not include in a book, the author has to think carefully about the purpose of the book. Will the book’s purpose be amplified or diluted by the choice of digital enhancements. This type of consideration applies to using technology in the classroom as well. A tool should help achieve one’s goal instead of becoming a distraction unto itself…. (one reason why I just cannot appreciate the design of certain pencils).

made-in-china.com

 

 

Honing the History iBook Project

Sigh. Thinking about my final project and wondering how the heck it’s going to get done…

I need to bring myself from a valley of dull dread to pinnacle of sharp enthusiasm. Blogging my thoughts can serve as a whetstone for both attitude and ideas.

Writing a book in six weeks that encompasses the history of books and libraries sounds like an impossible task, right? My final CoETaIL project will be to produce an iBooks Author version of said book and I’d better get cracking or it will never be done in time. Oh, I won’t be doing it by myself. No, that would be inconceivable. How could one person manage such a far-reaching project? I will succeed with the help of a classroom of 4th graders! Ta-da! Isn’t that a brilliant strategy?

No, they have never used iBooks Author before, but that is a skill that, once mastered, will allow them to publish their own stories to the world. Our ES tech support person, Grace Y., will be assisting with this task. (What would I do without amazing Grace?)

We are spreading the monumental task around by assigning one part of the history to one student. Their task is to create one page for our book. To scaffold their task (and to move things along) I will provide lists of books, magazine articles and websites from which they can glean essential information. They will mock up their page in the “Pages” application, remembering to find, insert and attribute appropriate visuals. Because iBooks Author accepts input directly from Pages, this will simplify the construction of the digital book.

Challenges Thus Far:

1.  4th graders only have library time for half an hour per week.

2.  Library time for 4th graders was canceled this week for Pro-D days and is canceled next week because of a field trip.

3.  Some sections of the planned book have few resources in our library.

4.  iBooks Author needs to be installed on the student laptops.

Solutions or Plans:

1.  Add time available to the project by partnering with classroom teacher to incorporate iBook project into classroom writing time.

2. (See #1 solution.) Also use all of the library time to work on iBook and have students check out books during one of their recess times, before or after school.

3.  Allow use of web resources as long as the source is valid.

4.  Done. Our tech guy, Dusty Mack, (yes, he works with our Mac computers which are used so often they never do get dusty) has already installed iBooks Author on the laptops.

More honing to be done, I am sure, but at least I am ready to start.

Student-Created iBook About Books

COETAIL Course 4 Final Project:

After checking with the 3rd grade teacher, I am cleared for revamping the 3rd grade library unit, “The History of Books and Libraries” for the 2012 – 2013 school year. I have designed tech-friendly unit that will create an end product which will be helpful as a teaching resource for not only our own school, but other schools as well.

The unit will incorporate several tools which we have explored in Course 4 of our CoETaIL cohort and will put into practice some of the things which we have learned so far in our pursuit towards a Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy. The end product will be a student-produced iBooks Author textbook that will be offered for free through our website or given away through the iTunes bookstore.

ISTE NETS for Students:

In designing this unit for our 3rd graders, here are the standards that I hope to address:

ISTE NETS
Creativity and Innovation
 1 Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Students:
a.apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.b.create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
Communication and Collaboration
 2 Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:
a.interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.b.communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.

d.

contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

Research and Information Fluency
3 Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
a.plan strategies to guide inquiry.b.locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.

c.

evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.

d.

process data and report results.

Digital Citizenship
5 Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students:
a.advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.b.exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
Technology Operations and Concepts
6 Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. Students:
a.understand and use technology systems.b.select and use applications effectively and productively.

The unit will begin with the use of the “Flipped Classroom” model…

Flipped Classroom:

Students will work in pairs to study in depth one section of the “History of Books and Libraries” unit. As homework, all students will be required to watch an overview video and will answer questions related to the content while they watch. Students will be able to replay the video or pause it long enough to record their answers. This will be especially helpful to the ELL students who sometimes have trouble understanding all of the content the first time through.

Possible Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vg-9kOixAbQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM7OZUWUC40

As I looked for resources before teaching the books unit this year, I found that there really wasn’t a lot out there geared to the elementary age level. What I really needed was an interactive textbook that a 3rd grade student could understand. The resource did not yet exist, so it would have to be created. The need for resources is part of the impetus behind this project.

 Technology Integration:

As technology should be integrated when and where it is most applicable and relevant, creating a digital book about the evolution of books themselves seems an appropriate application. The iBooks Author tool is designed to be easy to use and intuitive. In researching this option, I have experimented with creating some books of my own, but I was very impressed by one example of a student-produced book on the flora and fauna of Florida that I recently came across. I downloaded the book and will use it with my class to show what can be done with this book-authoring tool. Creatures, Plants and More! by Andrea Santilli and her 7th grade students is available for free download at the iTunes store. Their project was recently highlighted in an article for MacLife.

As you can see, this is a chance for reaching the Transformation level of the SAMR model as the task of creating an eBook allows the students to do something previously inconceivable.

I can’t wait to see what the students create and hear about all that they learn through the process of creation.

Mono, Bi or Multi-Media

A book can now be two-dimensional (just words on a screen), or three-dimensional (visually and in terms of extended content), or even multi-dimensional (and this is where things get really complicated). Multi-dimensional, multi-media books can have extended story lines in movies, television, graphic novels, interactive multi-player game platforms, toys and merchandizing. And the digital books themselves can be animated or enhanced with sound or video, with a wealth of embedded links to make the story richer and more complex.

Now that I am aware of all that could be done with the construction of original written content, I have to intentionally decide what should be done. In the creation of content and in the teaching of creative content, I need to be intentional with the tools that I select for each intended purpose.

Obviously, in teaching students how to create a digital story of their own, I should choose tools that are simple enough to be grasped quickly so that the actual writing and editing process remains at the forefront. Google Docs seems to lend itself well to this process, allowing the teacher to keep track of the students’ progress and to edit directly. If iPads are available in the classroom, then iBooks Author is another easy and intuitive tool for students to create their own polished-looking books that can be shared with other iPad users.

Here is an example of a story created using iBooks Author and presented in a PDF format for ease of viewing:

Continue reading

The Encyclopedic Impulse

No, it is not the uncontrollable urge to grab an encyclopedia for whatever purpose. It is the desire to dig deeper into content, something that is much easier now with embedded links and the internet at our fingertips. You don’t have to hunt and peck for information. You don’t have to comb through feathery haystacks for the proverbial pin; no chickening out at the prospect of trying to find exactly what you are looking for… your every encyclopedic impulse can now be satisfied. (Yes, I am egging you on.)

The term, “encyclopedic impulse” in Henry Jenkins’ blog post, “Transmedia Storytelling 101” struck me as being very evocative. I can imagine a student reading a text and telescoping individual words and phrases out of that flat page into the three-dimensional world of deeper understanding. This is, after all, what each of us does when we read. We usually have some background knowledge which we apply to help us make sense of what we read. We add bits of personal information which helps to deepen our understanding of the text and connect it to our lives. We collect a few assumptions about parts that we are not sure about and wade through the rest of the reading hoping to solve the mysteries with which the text might be complicating our final understanding of the content.

Now, with digital texts, we can literally embed into the reading a veritable encyclopedia of information: definitions, pertinent links, deeper explanations, pictures, maps, related stories, etc. Whatever we don’t know or fail to understand at first glance, can be dug up to increase our understanding.

This works wonderfully with non-fiction readings. We can indulge our encyclopedic impulses until we are sated with information. But the possibilities of adventure and depth of meaning are also waiting to be plumbed in the world of fiction as well. Students  at our school are beginning to have a renewed interest in “Choose Your Own Adventure” books where, depending upon the choice you make at the end of a section, you are directed to one page or another to continue the adventure, or possibly to meet an early demise. The book is a bit like a precursor to the now-ubiquitous adventure games (like “Adventure Quest“) where one’s avatar roams through a fantasy world on a quest.

How would we apply the modern capacity for creating an encyclopedic story with a web of storyline possibilities or a depth of background information? This type of project seems perfectly suited for collaborative storytelling where a whole class works together to build a rich literary experience.

The 4th graders at our school are beginning a unit on story writing and will produce a digital story with illustrations, using the simple presentation tools embedded in Google Docs. Initially, the student and teacher will be the only collaborators, but once the students master the tools and hone their storytelling skills, there is the possibility of creating a story authored by the whole class since Google Docs works well collaboratively. The story could be tied to a curriculum unit, such as the “Arctic Regions” where each student would be responsible for creating depth and detail for certain animals or environments that enter into the story. Along with the storyline, information, photos, maps and even videos could be worked into the project. It would be interesting to see what a class could produce using this encyclopedic writing type of approach.

Communication Evolution or the Rise of Digital Storytelling

“What we do now with words, we’ll soon do with images,” says Kevin Kelly, (a “Wired” geek), in an ancient article published way back in 2008. And what he describes in his NY Times article, “Becoming Screen Literate,” has already come true. Kevin describes how technology shifts bend the culture and the ways in which we communicate and pass on our essential truths. Storytelling has gone from oral to print to photographic to video in the space of a very short span of our history.

The print advertisement was developed at M&C Saatchi, Melbourne, by creative director Steve Crawford, head of art Murray Bransgrove, art director Rebecca Hannah and copywriter Doogie Chapman, with photographer Christopher Tovo and retoucher Ed Croll.

And while we may consider the modern mash-ups and remixes a completely new type of storytelling medium, it is just another way in which storytelling reworks available material to create old stories in new ways. All art recombines and storytelling is no exception.

Storytelling has always been a visual art. The storyteller relied on her actions and expressions or on his masks and props. Storytelling has used puppets, music and actors since ancient times. Now we have so many visual choices to choose from that the prospect of telling a story can seem overwhelming. The story itself, is the most important component, of course, but now it has become obvious that the supporting visuals of storytelling can make or break the story itself.

Most would agree that “Star Wars” is a compelling story, but the truth is that George Lucas could not “sell” his story concept to any movie studio until he had engaged the services of a technically skilled and inspired artist named Ralph McQuarrie, (who has just recently passed away). Ralph drew some compelling illustrations to accompany George’s movie pitch, creating from his fertile imagination, the imposing menace of Darth Vader and the appealing innocence of C3PO. Accompanied by these compelling images, when Lucas pitched his movie to 20th Century Fox, it was immediately financed.

Teaching our students to visualize stories as they write them and then giving them tools to illustrate their stories in a rich variety of ways will equip them to communicate the story lines that the future longs to hear and, in some cases, needs to hear. Exercises in crafting original stories based on old, traditional themes can be as easy as interpreting a fairytale.

During a weekend workshop, we were challenged to create a lesson plan that resulted in the writing of an original digital story. In just a few hours, our team of three was ready. With the intention of encouraging students to write a modern version of an old fairytale, we hammered out a rubric and produced an example story. One told the story, while another quickly illustrated the action in storyboard squares, while the third wrote the lesson plan out in detail. The result was a book created in iBook Author that can be viewed on an iPad or exported as a PDF viewable on any laptop device. Here is our original fairytale sample:

Gretel and the StringFactory

Original fairytale

Another quick and easy way that students can create and share their stories is through Google Docs. The tools provided allow students to create simple drawings, import photos and artwork and even embed videos to accompany their text. Using Google Docs is also a great way to encourage collaboration between students on a story. Because the teacher can be included as an editor on the document as well, students can get immediate comment and feedback on their stories as they write. Here is an example, unfinished but quickly created for a short workshop on digital books that I offered last Friday during a teacher Pro-D work day at our school. The last few pages were added by various teachers as they experimented with the functions of Google Docs. Take a look at the result:

DustyMcHoofers

The PDF version does lack the functionality of the Google Docs version. It does not play the embedded video or show the WordArt “Water” disappearing, etc., it does show a basic sample of what can be produced in a very short time with a minimum of instruction and prep.

We are now ready to set our 4th graders loose to unleash their creativity within the generous and expanding boundaries of a wide range of storytelling tools. It will be exciting to see what they come up with.