25 November 2014

Thing 38 - Digital Storytelling

I enjoyed  Thing 38.  I've often said that  if someone would pay me to write for a living, I would be in seventh heaven.  My current job is likely to be as close to this as I will get and I am content. However, every so often, I hanker to write a different kind of creative.  This Thing gave me a chance to do that.

I looked at Inanimate Alice and Snappy, My StoryMaker and Storybird.  I chose to create something in My StoryMaker and Storybird.

My StoryMaker

The images used in this  program remind me of the kind one now sees in modern Saturday morning cartoons and some comic books.  I can't say that I care for this style but then I'm not the target audience for this program. In terms of use and potential,  I thought this was fairly simple to use and can see  elementary teachers, librarians and children's librarians in public libraries using this with elementary age children in reading and language arts/creative writing activities. 

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the stories in the Jack and Jill magazine which invited the reader to write the ending to the story. The next issue would feature numerous contributed endings as well as the author's original ending.  Another application using My StoryMaker could be to read a  simple story  in story time but not in its entirely, and children are asked to use My StoryMaker to write an ending.



 One thing about Storybird that surprised me was the number of  cartoon-like images.  I have gradually come like the Japanese style drawings though. This program seemed more sophisticated with a different audience in mind than My StoryMaker.  Having said that I did notice that users could choose the audience and the audience groupings did include features to  further tailor the stories to an audience/age group and when I did my story, I set the audience to adult.

Because users add the tags, and there is no standard topical organization, it is challenging to locate the picture that is just right for that "brilliant story idea" you have :-). I found that frustrating at first because I had difficulty finding again, the illustration I finally chose.

I also thought it odd that if the user chose the poetry option, that poems were written by dragging words onto the page.  I'll have to explore this some more, but it appears that users  cannot have the option of choosing their own words.  I'm going to  return to the site and try writing a poem and see what happens.

I think teens and adults would enjoy Storybird the most. Creating digitally would appeal to most teens and I can see this being  used for creative writing exercises in  classes and perhaps at public libraries as well. In the Public library setting,  I  was able to imagine teens using this to write stories for young readers and sharing their stories  with a child (children) in a story time activity.

For adults, in addition to using it in creative writing  or poetry  writing groups that might meet in a library,  Storybird  could also be used with genealogy groups; images could be chosen as writing prompts for  a memory or family story that could then be written up.  The image I chose while not prompting a specific memory,  did make me think of my father  and his favorite John Deere tractor.


18 July 2014

Thing 81- Popcorn Maker

I found Popcorn Maker fun to try out.  While I don't think it is a difficult product to use, I do think it takes some experimentation to figure out to create layers and make reasonably smooth transitions between layers. it also takes a steady hand and a sharp eye.

In the clip below, I envisioned it as a means of introducing patrons to a number of possible topics depending on how this was presented (or added to beyond what I've done).

In particular, public libraries may not have a large collection of resources for the topics I suggest here so  this could be  used to introduce customers to the books and other resources available on the French painter Edgar Degas,  or impressionist painters in general. Alternatively  this could even be a colorful way to  showcase books on hats, millinery or period clothing.

I experimented a bit more a second time and  this was a bit more challenging to accomplish but in this instance, my example had promoting reading and your local library in mind.

I think Popcorn Maker has potential for many uses in libraries.  A spirit of creativity, a steady hand, a sharp eye, a sense of humor and the willingness to experiment are really all that is needed. As Maria points out, it does take patience, lots of it and looking at what others have done to figure out what to do. Personally, I'd have to be very patient and experiment a lot more before I'd do anything much more complicated than I've done.

From the patron side of things,  I think activities using Popcorn Maker  for activities for teens and middle schooler's would be popular, especially  since projects can be done collaboratively.

09 April 2014

The Art of Conversation: An Endangered Social Skill?

The march of science and technology does not imply growing intellectual complexity in the lives of most people. It often means the opposite.

On a recent Sunday, my spouse’s son stopped by to borrow an enclosed trailer to move some furniture. While the trailer was being coupled to the Land-Rover, I had the opportunity to observe the antics of the identical twelve-year old twins who had tagged along. (Parenthetically, the twins are mirror image identical and in many instances the only people sure to tell them apart are their parents. Consequently, I pay especial attention when I see the twins – in the (usually) vain attempt to determine which twin is which.)

This time, what I noticed was that when told they couldn’t use one of their father’s electronic gadgets, the twins seemed lost and didn’t know what to do with themselves while waiting. I’ve been thinking about that observation ever since.

Technology has transformed society in ways that couldn’t have been imagined when I was the twin’s age. Today, parents are concerned whether their child’s homework will suffer because they're texting 100 times a day or spending hours playing video games. Those concerns pale in the face of concern about cyberbullying, online predators, and sexting. Since observing the twins, I have different questions. "Will they be able to hold their own in conversation? Will they develop good self-regulatory behaviors and good manners?"

Is the Art of Conversation Dying?

Some who study child development warn that actual conversation is becoming a thing of the past which isn’t good for our kids' future. Granted, few of us exercise our face-to-face socialization muscles as frequently as we did before the age of smartphones. But adults have experience talking to strangers when forced to. The muscles are there, and we generally don't worry they'll atrophy.

But what about children growing up as dependent on gadgets as this generation seems to be? What happens to the development of those skills if you've had a phone to stare at every time you didn't want to make eye contact while waiting in line? Can kids these days handle spontaneous social interactions? Are they learning self-regulatory skills?

The ability to self-regulate – the ability to manage our own emotions and behavior -is learned by practice. If mom stops to visit with someone while in the grocery store, children are reaching for the phone instead of joining the conversation or otherwise figuring out how to amuse themselves. Creativity, imagination, and self-initiation, are critical for sustainability, self-gratification and happiness when one is older.

According to Melissa Ortega, a child psychologist at New York's Child Mind Institute, "[Children and young adults] don't know how to handle conflict face to face because so many things happen through some sort of technology. Clinically, I'm seeing it in the office. The high school kids who I do see will be checking their phones constantly. They'll use it as an avoidance strategy. They'll see if they got a text message in the two minutes they were talking to me."

Conversation Takes Practice

Conversation takes practice. Today’s children may have trouble initiating interactions and engaging in small talk for lack of practice. They are missing out on experiences that help them develop empathy, understand emotional nuances and read social cues like facial expressions and body language. Neither are they learning the social niceties like “please, thank you, or it is a pleasure meeting you.”


Conversation is not Connection.

Conversation is not connection. As humans, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word - nonverbal body language accounts for the remaining 93%. Each of us can think of an instance in which the tone or nuance of an email or the included cc list resulted in conflict. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m in” doesn’t mean they have bought in at all.

In the world of work, the use of electronic communication has overtaken face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication. This major shift has been driven by two significant forces: the speed/geographic dispersion of business, and the lack of comfort with traditional interpersonal communication among a growing segment of our employee population: Gen Y and Millennials.

By 2020 a mere 6 years from now, Gen Y and Millennials will comprise more than 50% of the workforce. Studies show that these generations would prefer to use instant messaging or other social media than stop by an office and talk with someone. This new communication preference is one of the “generational gaps” plaguing organizations as Boomers try to manage to a new set of expectations and norms in their younger employees, and vice versa.

Reciprocal Conversation is a Necessity

Despite the rise of digital communication, adolescents will need to converse. They will need to develop the skills needed to participate in a reciprocal conversation easily and comfortably. Such skill is necessary for a job interview or in a meeting. And - it’s not just this curmudgeonly Baby Boomer who thinks so.

Writing at SocialMedia.com, Amy Summers said, “I, as a seventeen year old, honestly believe that social networking is having an impact on the social skills of today’s youth and am worried about the effect it will have for my friends and peers in terms of employment. Employers, even of small, local supermarkets, are still looking for people who can speak adequately. They can’t afford to get a bad name because they have staff that swear at customers or can’t be understood or huff and puff when they don’t want to talk.” A Teen Speaks: Is Social Networking Damaging Our Social Skills?

Technology is certainly not all bad. Its positive effects on youth are well-documented, from the benefits of laptops in schools, to the ways in which iPads are helping children with autism become more social. Social networking, too, has a real upside, from raising self-esteem to encouraging expression of "virtual empathy."

But I still wonder about the impact of social media and other technology. Experts are divided over how and to what extent technology is affecting the social skills of the next generation. Research on the subject is just beginning. Perhaps we should be less focused on how kids are using technology and more focused on why they're using it so much.