Thursday, 28 February 2013

How I am learning to use Mozilla: By taking a sMOOC

So the past two weeks we've been concentrating on digital literacy and what it means in all its various personae. ETMOOC had proposed the following questions to answer:
What does it mean to be digitally literate? 
What is the difference between being digital literate and web literate?
How does digital literacy relate to participatory culture?
What digital competencies and skills do your learners demonstrate through their daily use of technology?
What digital competencies and skills are required by our emerging knowledge economy/age?
What are the differences between digital literacy and digital fluency?
What is the role of attention within the spectrum of 21st century literacies?
What are the problems inherent in defining literacy, fluency, skills, and competency today (e.g., using terms like 21st century literacies, digital fluency), and how do these affect curricular development, pedagogy, and the work of teachers and students?

I have thought about these questions, answered some and been baffled by others. What these past two weeks have done is show my areas of literacy strengths  and weaknesses. And so I have decided to do something about them. Thank goodness for my PLN as they have showed me the way! Thanks Christina Hendricks and Janet Webster for steering me in the right direction.

So as you know if you've been avidly following my blog (ha!ha!) is that I've been trying to learn how to use the various new software put out by Mozilla. First there was the tale of using Popcorn  and now I am writing about my ongoing saga with Thimble, X ray Goggles and Hackasaurus. It's not been pretty. Unlike Haiku Deck, which very nicely responded to my laments on Twitter about it not being available for PC users, I am never sure if Mozilla has heard me (even though sometimes I think they have-my mistake).

So what are my issues with Mozilla which is admittedly putting out some fantastic stuff for us to play with in this sandbox and expand our digital literacy?

I think, no, I know! that Mozilla suffers from a lack of "instruction" literacy. They are either a) so immersed in the language of code that they don't see that others are not or b) trying to convince us that it is that easy. I am not sure which one it is but either way I feel as dumb as a pack of hammers every time I go to their site (I felt the same when I started Popcorn). I had a very brief (and mercifully short) introduction to html in the distant past and I've steered clear ever since. (Is it because it reminds me of how stupid I feel in math?) Now I am going back to play with html because it is time. And right off the bat I am made to feel incompetent.

This is what I mean:

 Now this says three easy steps. I can tell you right now they are wrong. I have actually enrolled in this smooc course WomenLearningTech (courtesy of Christina and Janet) so that I can be taught how to use Mozilla XRay Goggles and all of their other lovely programs. It took Kim Wilkens 6 minutes of video time to explain this software and I was pausing and following along step by step in order to create this. Once you understand that to Activate XRay Goggles you have to put it in your bookmark bar that solved a lot of problems. But how was I supposed to know that? Is there a secret code or something? And the different colours? What do they mean? Is there a colour code? And which box to type in to change the code? The one on the left or the right? (the left) And what not to touch of the code in the box?  After the lesson with Kim I had produced my own web remix. I still don't know what the R is supposed to do. I expect that now I at least know what I am supposed to do in the site I might go and try and find out.

Perhaps Mozilla expects us to mess around with the program and find out by playing with it? That's great for some, especially if it works. But it doesn't work for me and that means it won't work for others. How does this approach promote digital literacy? Wake up Mozilla! If you really want people to use your products cure your "instruction" literacy problem so I can cure my"digital" literacy problems.

And Mozilla? I really hope you're listening this time.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

You say "condition", I say "continuum."

So #etmchat today was interesting. I am still having problems getting past literacy being a "condition" rather than a "continuum" and it really boils down to semantics, which means.....we're both right? You see, getting down to it linguistically condition has multiple meanings. Doug Belshaw likes #2 on the list of dictionary definitions while I use the word in all it's multiple meanings including 5 b) which is obsolete [and when did that happen?] Now continuum  really does explain exactly how I think of literacy. And perhaps it is because I have a degree that straddles both science and the arts it suits me to think of us being on a sliding scale of literacy, both in the traditional sense of literacy as defined by Doug Belshaw in his blog and the newer, ever expanding digital literacies as discussed over the past few days. And since I seem to disagree with Doug on the use of the word "condition" I also disagree with his definition of "skill" as he has chosen to define it. Not because it is wrong, but because of his choice, again, of  which aspect of the definition to use in defining what a skill is. For me, the acquisition and use of language skills (in all its multiple formats) is the bedrock of literacy. All flows from this. 

Finally, I am taking issue with the idea that we are literate for a purpose. We are literate because we acquire language through social interaction. How many of us actually remember learning how to read or to speak? I don't. I just remember getting in trouble for writing my own sentences and for reading too much in Grade 1. (I didn't like Mrs. Lynch's sentences. She called my mum. I did not get in trouble. I love my mother.) I watched my nephew teach himself to read a few years ago and I will concede it was for a purpose. He wanted to read what and when he wanted to read. There was no "awareness, that you are, indeed, literate" on the part of my nephew. It was a need. So is a 'need' a purpose? So as the old Gershwin song says "you say 'tomato' and I say 'tomato.'

How I learned to love Twitter.

It's all here in my Storify. I had a blast and while not completely competent in the medium yet I have actually been in a Twitterchat twice now!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Who is Digital Literacy for?

So I am stuck in last week's storytelling mode because I am still working with Popcorn Maker. While you can turn the sound off on the video you've downloaded, you can't seem to be able to replace the sound track with another track ( I was thinking of replacing the sound track on Twitter vs. Zombies to yodeling just for fun. It changes the impact of the video that's for sure! If you want to try this go to Soundcloud, find your favourite track, open Popcorn Maker and turn the sound off on the video you are using as the base for your new mash up.) I was looking at the popup feature which does have a sound aspect but I am not sure how that would work when trying to replace an entire soundtrack plus you have the popup bubble on your screen. Am I just asking too much from the program? Any other Popcorn Makers out there having the same issue?

This leads into the subject of digital literacy. I have yet to see the discussion by Doug Belshaw and I will probably miss part of tonight's discussion with Howard Rheingold. Real life interfering with digital life! But what is digital literacy, really? Does it mean that I can swim in the digital pond? There are times I think I may be just dog paddling and not able to complete a lap. And yet, I am supposed to be competent in the area of technology (or at least my degree says so!) So if I am feeling a tad overwhelmed at times, how must it be for those who have little to no experience with technology?

I found my dad a few weeks ago, attempting to email someone back and he had placed his message in the bcc line. My dad is an intelligent man, well read and fluent in a verbal argument. But he does not write. (He's a lefty and there were a few too many cracks on the knuckles when he was trying to write left handed so he just doesn't do it with his right hand or his left hand.) But he will type occasionally. But he doesn't use email. And email today is so ubiquitous that programmers really don't think about new users too much anymore. And you have to know where to get help to use help on a page. And he did not.

So how easy is digital literacy? It demands so much more of us than traditional literacy because we not only have to engage with people and print in real time, we now have to write and maintain a written presence, have some sort of oral presence and perhaps a pictorial presence online. We need to be willing to fling ourselves off the digital cliff so to speak, to dive into the deep waters of new programs and ways of communicating. And how many of us are committed to being a perpetual student? And what about access to digital literacy? Is this literacy only for the connected few with high speed internet? So literacy for the elite? How many more divisions are we going to put between those who are struggling with basic literacy and those of us who have the time, energy, money and education to swim in this pond?

So as usual no answers, but a whole pile of questions!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Twitter vs. Zombies 2.0 using Popcorn #2

So I thought I would talk about Popcorn Maker as educational software today rather than just sharing what I made with Popcorn. I am in the process of creating a new movie with Popcorn to experiment with the program so more, so as I warned before, there will be another Zombie movie coming to a browser near you.

What's to like about Popcorn? Actually, quite a bit. It is certainly easy to place media into the template and to add all sorts of popups, text , etc. But anyone who has used the software is aware that it is supposed to be user friendly.

But is it? First, the tutorial.

 "Hi, Popcorn is so easy to use, any idiot can do so and it will take you five minutes or less to understand how to use the software. Then you can make a video. Enjoy!"
"Hi, my name is Karen and I have some questions? Um...Hello?" New user goes through Popcorn site looking for answers and gets this:
 "Hi, Popcorn is so easy to use, any idiot can do so and it will take you five minutes or less to understand how to use the software. Then you can make a video. Enjoy!"
So maybe I was having an off day but nobody's software is that good that it doesn't need a help desk that gives answers. So hopefully other users will also share their experience of using Popcorn ( this one was helpful. You'll notice the interface has changed a little since this wiki was created.)

Now why did I need help?

Have a look at the tutorial. All of the extra content added to the video is in one or two layers. The tutorial plays and it looks so easy.

When I started playing with the program to make my video "Twitter vs. Zombies 2.0" I wanted to cut the first 19 seconds after the first second. I used Skip, then I added in my first popup, played around with length, font, etc. of the popup and moved on. I then added in my next popup (@cogdog) and a photo of a strawberry that Alan Levine had tried to use to save himself from zombiehood. Placing it on the screen, I could see that no matter where I placed it, the photo wasn't going to work, so I went to delete it.

Guess what? There is no delete button in Popcorn Maker. I tried to move it, and it wasn't going anywhere. That's when my fruitless hunt for answers began. I found the wiki I've linked to above and it mentions (in passing, almost as an aside!) that if you want to remove something from your video you can delete the layer as each layer has a garbage can icon beside it. So I deleted the layer, plus all the work I had done so far.

Started again. Made many layers. Worked on the content some more to refine my popups and text. Added some more skips into the movie. While the play bar tells you approximately what second you are in the movie, each event demands an exact time and you need to know that for the movie to be seamless.  Added a loop. Added another loop. Loop seemed to be broken and kept looping at the original number of loops I requested instead of the new number. Removed looping layer (which was a shame because I think having the woman look over her shoulder a couple of times would have been amusing.) Tried to line up looped event with popup event (Statue of Liberty) hoping that would improve play by moving the layers. You can't add extra layers between layers to keep events together for tracking purposes. You can only add layers at the bottom. You can't move layers. If you delete layer 2 it messes up at the layer 13. Complete hopeless mess. Movie now stuck skipping between the opening and the first zombie and won't progress. Close program. Open program. Seems to be working......and no it's not. Delete movie. Did this a few more times.

And that's when I went back to the first principles of design. I know we all want to build spontaneity into the process of creation but it is still a process. I created a storyboard. For every layer I wrote down the potential action/event, the time when I wanted it to occur, the accompanying text and I did it sequentially (except for the first skip that did not seem to like being in layer 0, it went into layer 1). This time it seemed to work. I previewed, refined the content of the events and published.

But my cautionary tale does not end there, unfortunately. When you play the movie back prior to previewing, it seems to run smoothly. All of the cuts and loops seemed to splice together nicely. Then you look at the preview. Little bits of film that you've skipped or looped that you may have missed magically appear. You go back, refine again, republish, preview, all seems well and post. As you review the finished product you notice the little problem areas that still plague it.

Today, I went back to my video and tweaked it a little more. I think I may have improved it a bit, but the Statue of Liberty loop still isn't right.

The moral of the story? Please use Popcorn in your classroom. It is a great program. But be prepared to teach students how to storyboard in conjunction with using this program because remixing a story in Popcorn needs to be planned to work. It will save you and your students hours of frustration.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Twitter vs. Zombies using Popcorn

I had a few false starts with this software, probably because I was trying something new for me (I did send a tweet for help!) but in the end I think this is a pretty good movie/story. Would I use popcorn again? I expect so. I can see it being K-12 friendly as well (with a well thought out wiki for support).

Here is the link to the original video which I thought was fun and a good choice as a base. And here is my popcorn as my ode to Twitter vs Zombies 2.0.

Unfortunately for all of you I haven't finished mining my zombie experience so you'll just have to sit back and enjoy (or not!)

Thursday, 7 February 2013

It's a Wonderful Life, Barbie!

A six word story too!

So Tuesday's Daily create on DS106 was to make a film of my favourite line in a movie. I decided to take Ken and Barbie out for a stroll again but I had a problem. Ken has no clothes and I didn't have time to go shopping for a trench coat ( I was thinking 'Casablanca'). So instead I chose 'It's a Wonderful Life' with a little role reversal. I also added Buffalo Gals at the beginning Rhonda Jessen!

At this rate I am going to end up reverting to my childhood! ( Not that I had a Barbie. I had Midge, Barbie's friend.) Where's the Kleenex? I need to make a Barbie dress!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Fearful horses

So I made these knife rests for a friend who lives in Kentucky. I haven’t sent them yet even though they have been completed since last summer. Why? Because of fear. What if she doesn’t like them? I rarely share my work and every time someone buys one of my pieces I am surprised. So in honour of sharing and responsibility here they are.

So why the lack of confidence? I have had some wonderful art teachers, including one who has encouraged me ever since high school (many moons ago!) But I have also had some really bad ones whose criticism made me fearful of producing work for these teachers. And even though I have continued to produce art all my life, I have never considered myself an artist.

And this is why art education done well is so important. Confidence is such a fragile thing and so is the belief in one’s vision. I am sad when I see elementary teachers muck up art assignments by telling students what they want as product rather than just teaching the method and then allowing students to create. Done well, art, drama and physical movement can be incorporated into every area of the curriculum.

And this brings me back to Sue Waters' blog about commenting. And while this is a cliche the old adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all,” really holds true. While many people have been blogging for a long time those of us who are new to the experience are still in that fragile, tentative stage of sharing and may be easily dissuaded from sharing by a negative experience. Feedback is crucial for growth to occur, but learning how to give feedback that is timely, reflective, positive and thought provoking is a skill that constantly needs to be developed and improved. So do I believe commenting counts? You betcha!

Barbie and the Seven Deadly Sins-DS106

So I have posted Barbie enacting four of the seven deadly sins to the DS106 website. I want to thank Laura Gibbs for turning me onto DS106 (even prior to our current assignment). I had so much fun with this assignment, shopping at Value Village for the dolls, thinking of the various scenarios (lust was the easiest!) to place Barbie and Ken in and finding props. I laughed like a loon while I was posing Barbie and my husband thought I was crazy (this is nothing new.)

So why this DS106 assignment when there are so many to choose from? This assignment comes from the memory of my brothers, John and Mark and their friends the "Wrecking Crew" posing my much younger sister Angela's Barbies and Ken in various sexual poses in her Barbie house.

My parents live on a farm north of Toronto and back then it was considered a rural area. My mother used to answer the phone "Ballantrae Taxi Service" since she had to drive us everywhere. So for good reason, my parents were always afraid of the teen killer 'drinking and driving' problem that afflicted the area. So every weekend my parent's house was where all of my brothers and the Wrecking Crew ( I am sure you understand why my mother called them that) gathered to play D&D, drink and sometimes pose my sister's Barbies. She was seven. On Sunday morning, there would be a cry from the hall where the Barbie house was located. "Mum, make them stop playing with my Barbies!" And the dreaded, "What's Ken doing to Barbie?" My mother, gracious woman that she is, was always able to answer these questions, even though both dad and mum secretly thought this was hilarious.

Before my parents left on vacation, I told my father of the DS106 assignment. He laughed and laughed. Today I am going to send my brothers and sisters the link. I am sure my family will enjoy it as it brings back fond memories.

Barbie and Ken will be appearing in an upcoming 1 minute production of my favourite movie line, but I have to go to Value Village again. Ken needs clothes for this one.

Burgundy Pot

So, on Wednesday nights we have etmooc chat and one of these nights I might make it to an etmooc chat because I am having a great time on this course. But Wednesday night is pottery night and I just hate to miss it. I'll be instructing some friends on how to use an extruder tonight so I will most likely be missing the chat again. And it is zombie night too! :( So here is a pot that I made in November 2012 and glazed just a few days ago. Pinched, with coiled decorations and bull. Burgundy mish mash glaze (more raspberry than burgundy I am afraid). Black Satin glaze on the bull. Cone 6 red stoneware. I quite like it. May try a deeper red/brown with black satin next time for a richer colour contrast. I really love pottery, especially sculpting, but the glaze process is always tricky as you never know how it will turn out.