#INF533 Critical Reflection

In my first blog post (Bailie, 2016, July 25) and my reflection on Digital Literature experiences (Bailie, 2016, August 28) I was struggling with whether or not you are really reading literature if the literature is presented as a video. Back then I decided that reading literature had to incorporate the decoding of at least some text. I have come to see that the broader term “experiencing literature” is more useful and this doesn’t have to mean decoding only words. Digital storytelling to me has a more fluid, less rigid meaning. Stories can be told verbally, through pictures and sounds, by reading words or even through maps as I discovered in creating my Digital Storytelling Project. Are these stories literature? Well, not necessarily (Walsh, 2013), but their value for learners to both experience (Matthews, 2014) and create (Sukovic, 2014; Tolisano, 2015) cannot be denied.

Even though I am a social media enthusiast and can no longer imagine my life without Twitter, I have not previously combined it with my fiction reading. However, I have readily engaged with writers who I read in a professional or academic capacity, including for other subjects in this course. As a connected learner it is second nature for me to share my learning so the reviews for Experiencing digital literature were no exception. I shared my review of Upgrade Soul with its creators via Twitter and their Facebook page and had quick and positive responses.

Facebook post

I thoroughly enjoyed the digital storytelling project, I think mostly because, for the first time in this course, I was able to immerse myself in something which I have a deeply personal connection with, not just a professional one. Much of the research for A stranger in the town (ASITT) was completed when I did a local history project for my HSC in 1981. I believe I have transformed the content into something that could not have been imagined back then. In particular:

  • Technology now allows images to be scanned, enlarged and enhanced making them not only look better than the original but able to be shared. Previously only one original copy was held somewhere (hopefully) safe and poor quality photocopies had to suffice.
  • The use of interactive maps as a storytelling tool. This is explained further in the Context for digital storytelling project.
  • The ability for the story to shared widely. I remember showing my grandparents my original project but that was as far as it went. My father has already emailed the ASITT link to many Yandell and Bailie relatives. I used the facility in Atavist to set up Facebook and Twitter sharing, editing the text for post to both platforms.

Here is the original handwritten project:

I consider myself fairly savvy with digital tools and find most things easy to use and navigate. The simplicity and elegance of the design of Atavist digital magazines appealed to me and I believed using the finished product to be self-explanatory. However, I shared the story with my family to proofread and from their feedback discovered that some of the features of the platform are not necessarily intuitive for the new user. The simple symbol where audio is embedded wasn’t obviously clickable, likewise the slideshow navigation arrows don’t stand out so only the first image was viewed. I’ve since added in specific direction about viewing the slideshows and listening to the audio. This was a lesson in not assuming anything about users’ facility with technology.

Like a previous student of INF533 I hope my story might inspire others to digitise their family photographs and record their memories so they can be shared more widely (Clark, 2015). For my original HSC project I spoke with my grandparents and Aunty Margaret but I didn’t record anything (even if I had it’s unlikely the media would have survived, cassette player, anyone?) and they have all since passed away. How wonderful it would be to hear their voices in this project too. My dad is nearly 80, I’m so happy to have had this opportunity to record some of his memories and I hope these will survive.

Completing the project, which was very broad, made me see value in smaller stories. If I was starting again I might instead turn the story of my grandfather setting out to be a travelling salesperson at the age of 4 into an interactive book like The Artifacts or use the story of Robert and Lilly’s first meeting and wedding as the basis for creating a story told through Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

INF533 has really opened my eyes to the possibilities of digital storytelling and I hope to be an active creator both personally and professionally. Likewise, there is enormous potential for students to use narrative technology (Hall, T. 2012) to be active creators of content, instead of passive consumers (Morra, S., 2013) and I will help my school move forward by become a digital storytelling evangelist among my colleagues.

References

Bailie, H. (2016, July 25). #INF533 Blog task [Web log post]. Retrieved http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/hbailie/2016/07/25/blog-task/ 

Bailie, H. (2016, August 28). Critical Reflection of Digital Literature Experiences [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/hbailie/2016/08/28/digital-literature-experiences/

Clark, G. (2015). The Backstory To My Backstory On The Late Antonio Giordano (1907-1984). Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/cloudingaround/2015/10/12/my-social-history-backstory-on-the-late-antonio-giordano-1907-1984/

Hall, T. (2012). Digital Renaissance: The Creative Potential of Narrative Technology in Education. Creative Education, 3, 96-100. doi: 10.4236/ce.2012.31016.

Matthews, J. (2014). Voices from the heart: The use of digital storytelling in education. Community Practitioner, 87(1), 28-30. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1474889132?accountid=10344

Morra, S. (2013) Eight steps to great storytelling. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/8-steps-to-great-digital-storytelling/

Sukovic, S. (2014). iTell: Transliteracy and digital storytelling. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 45(3), 205–229. Retrieved from http://doi.org/10.1080/00048623.2014.951114

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA). Retrieved from https://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/walsh-m3.pdf

Context for Digital Storytelling Project

image-for-blog

The non-fiction digital storytelling project A stranger in the town (ASITT) is designed as both a resource for teachers to use with students and as a “hook” for professional learning workshops for teachers. It also has a personal context as a means of sharing memories and precious family photographs with extended family.

ASITT has been produced in a digital magazine format using Atavist, exploiting the affordances of technology (Rettberg, 2012) with elements unimaginable in printed text (Jabr, 2013). The platform was selected for the ease of using a range of multimodal elements, simple formatting and elegant design.

My institution, The King David School, is an independent, Jewish K-12 school in Melbourne. In year 6, students undertake a Dorot (generations) project which is an exploration of their family history and Jewish heritage. The unit extends over a whole term, covering aspects of the history and Jewish studies curriculum, and culminates in presentations to family at a celebration breakfast. Although it is a technologically literate school with students bringing their own devices, the presentation of Dorot projects is largely analog.

ASITT is an example of some of the elements of the Dorot project presented as a digital story, taking advantage of technology to use multimodal elements to present information in a different way (Reid, 2013). Reid cites strong evidence that students who create ebooks are more engaged in learning (p. 38), particularly for the potential for their work to be viewed by more than just their teacher.

In the Dorot project students research the migration story of a family member and present it in the form of diary entries, in ASITT the story of A.C. Yandell’s journey from Adelaide to Castlemaine and early days at the diggings is presented as a diary. Students also prepare a world map showing this relative’s home town, eventual destination in Australia, and places stopped along the way – in ASITT the Google application Google My Maps has been used. Google My Maps provide an interactive way to view and engage with information in a geographical context. Being able to zoom into the village where Yandell was born and then zoom out to see the length of his journey to Australia puts the magnitude of the journey into context in a far more relatable way than a static map.

Google My Maps could in itself be used as a digital storytelling platform such is its capacity for adding multimodal layers of information including lines to connect locations, images, video, datasets and more. In the Dorot project the class could collaborate on one My Map document, each adding their own layer, possibly identifying connections between their families, adding to the potential for meaning-making.

Included is explanation about how some of the information was discovered, and links to historical sources to support the students in their research. Explanations have been provided for some unfamiliar terms but not others, leaving open the opportunity for discovery through guidance from the teacher.

In using ASITT with students, teachers could refer to the iPed model (Mills & Levido, 2011): link, challenge, cocreate, share. Using selected aspects and sections as appropriate to the stage of the unit the teacher would support students to find links with their own family stories, challenge them to think about how their story could be portrayed, support them in the co-creation process to use the chosen tools, and then share completed projects with family. Stories provoke us to make connections with our own lives (Lambert, 2010, p.10).

In conjunction with the Dorot project the year 6 teacher could use ASITT as a catalyst for cross-curricular activities also fulfilling Australian Curriculum ICT Capabilities for creating and communicating with ICT. For example, in Literacy it could be used as a springboard for writing for different purposes:

Informative text

  • Rewrite the information from the newspaper report about the wedding in contemporary language and post to a blog.

Creative text

  • Reimagine the story of Dave setting off to be a travelling salesman at the age of four, or use some of David’s memories to create a fictional narrative for younger children. Create illustrations and turn this into a digital picture book.
  • Imagine what it would be like growing up in a household of eleven sisters and one brother, either in the 1880’s, the present day or another time period. Present the information as a diary/series of social media posts.

Persuasive text

  • Use digital tools to create an advertisement for A.C.Yandell’s business.

In Numeracy students could use the linked resource Measuring Worth to explore relative values and the mathematics behind their calculation, while Google My Maps has many applications for the teaching of measurement.

These activities may also be applicable at other year levels.

As a hook for teacher professional learning, the digital story would be shared with teachers prior to them signing up for workshops where the mechanics and potential of tools like Atavist and Google My Maps would be explored.

References

Jabr, F. (2013). The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/

Lambert, J. (2010). Digital Storytelling Cookbook. Berkley, CA: Center for Digital Storytelling

Mills, K. & Levido, A. (2011). iPed: pedagogy for digital text production. The Reading Teacher, 65(1), 80-91, DOI: 10.1598/RT.65.1.11

Reid, K. (2013). Creating e-books in the classroom. In J. Bales (Ed.), E-books in learning – a beginner’s guide (pp. 37-43). Australia: Australian School Library Association.

Rettberg, J. W. (2012). Electronic literature seen from a distance: the beginnings of a field. Retrieved from http://www.dichtung-digital.org/2012/41/walker-rettberg.htm

 

Digital Storytelling Topic Proposal

Diggings in the Mount Alexander district of Victoria in 1852, watercolour on paper, 24.5 x 35 cm by ST Gill (http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3112373) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Proposed topic:

An early Castlemaine family

My great, great grandfather, A.C. Yandell, arrived at the Mount Alexander goldfields (later named Castlemaine) in 1852 and his descendants have lived in Castlemaine ever since.

This digital story will highlight selected aspects of A.C. Yandell’s life, as well stories about some of his children and grandchildren. Interwoven in the story will be information about how I researched the information to inspire and enable the reader to research their own family.

Proposed digital tools and spaces to be used

The main digital tool/space to be used is Atavist. If required, additional media will be uploaded to Youtube or Soundcloud for embedding in Atavist.

Rationale for topic focus for the digital storytelling project

I work at an independent Jewish K-12 school. In year 6, students undertake a Dorot project (dorot is Hebrew for generations) which is an exploration of their family history and Jewish heritage. Some of the elements of this project are:

  • Constructing a family tree
  • Researching the biography of a family member
  • Researching the migration story of a family member
  • Selecting and reflecting on an artefact that connects to their Jewish heritage

While I am not Jewish, my story about my family heritage could be used as an example of how this information can be presented. The inclusion of explanations about how information was discovered and links to historical sources would also support the students in their research. The opportunity to compare their stories to one from a different heritage and time period would be an interesting extension activity.

The story has scope for inclusion in teaching about “using historical sources as evidence” and “exploring historical perspectives, concepts and skills” as required in the Victorian Curriculum – History (Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, n.d.). The content of this story directly links with Victorian Curriculum Historical Knowledge Level 5 and 6 topics The Australian Colonies and Australia as a Nation, in particular “The causes and the reasons why people migrated to Australia from Europe and Asia, and the perspectives, experiences and contributions of a particular migrant group within a colony”, and “The nature of … colonial presence … and aspects of the daily life of the inhabitants”.

Reference

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (n.d.). History. Retrieved September 08, 2016, from http://victoriancurriculum.vcaa.vic.edu.au/the-humanities/history/curriculum/f-10#level=5-6

Critical Reflection of Digital Literature Experiences

One of the questions I have struggled with in this unit so far is what actually counts as literature in the digital environment. Do we read a digital text or can we merely watch it? Web series such as The Green Gables Fables and The Lizzie Bennet diaries have been presented as literature in a digital environment but to me simply watching some videos and reading Facebook posts is no more reading literature than watching a movie is. I have reached the conclusion that a digital text must require the user to actually decode and comprehend text, that is, the written word, in order to be literature. Enhancements such as having a narrator read the same text as is visible on the screen are fine, especially when they support the learning process (Lamb, 2011; James & De Kock,2013; Yokota & Teale, 2014). But at the heart of the text must be the words.

In essence, a good digital text is no different to a good non-digital text – the features of good literature must be present (Walsh, 2013) – but multimedia features must also stand up to scrutiny, serving to enhance the text, and not distract or detract from it (Lamb, 2011; James & De Kock,2013). Navigating and using the multimodal features should be intuitive or simply explained and easily achieved. The very best digitally originated texts are unimaginable in the print environment. The enhancements afforded by the environment to The Artifacts (see review) put it in this category as, while the pages could be printed, the levels of meaning to be gathered from the interactive features, sound effects and the way additional text appears, could not.

In good digital literature both the narrative experience and the multimedia experience are designed (Meyers, Zaminpaima & Frederico, 2014).

Meyers et al discuss the challenge of sourcing quality storybook apps for young readers. Using published reviews can be problematic they say, as different review publications have different purposes and perspectives. A reviewer seeking quality literature using traditional criteria of characterisation, themes, style, vocabulary (Walsh, 2013) might see some multimodal features as superfluous whereas others will prize these same features more highly than the quality of the text and its appropriateness to its intended audience. For educators, the bottom-line should be: do the features both align with and maintain the integrity of the story (Yokota & Teale, 2014).

A good digital text might actually do a better job of engaging reluctant readers or supporting learning through enhancements such as narration of the text or multimodal elements which provide additional access points for comprehension (Yokota & Teale, 2014).

Almost everything I read these days, be it for work, pleasure or study, is digital, falling into the categories of reconstructed literary text or digitally originated text (Unsworth, 2008). I rarely read print these days, except for flipping through the newspaper when on a break, usually while eating. Somehow it is ok to use sticky fingers on a newspaper but not on a device. I love my digital texts on my Kindle and iPad, mostly for the convenience factor (Jabr, 2013). In a device no heavier than a small novel I have access to more than I could possibly read in my lifetime (Sadokierski, 2013). I can carry it without any inconvenience while walking and read while travelling by train to work. I can take it on holiday and have no concern with luggage limits. I can highlight points of interest, make notes, and easily search the the text to locate a relevant section. In short, I’m a total convert.

For the digital literature review I read Upgrade Soul (see review) which is completely outside my usual field of interest, both in form and content. I have never been a fan of graphic novels, either in print or online, although as a teacher-librarian I recognise their attraction to adolescents (Moorefield-Lang & Gavigan, 2012) and I fully support their inclusion in our collection. When I’ve looked at graphic novels in the past I’ve been irritated or underwhelmed. I tend to read quickly, skipping over illustrations and find having to decide whether to read across then down or vice versa annoying. I haven’t taken in the full experience that the artwork gives. Upgrade Soul, however, might have created a convert. The atmospheric soundtrack and the fact that each frame appears in the order it should be read slowed me down and made me appreciate what I was reading. It became an engaging experience and I now eagerly await the publication of the next chapter.

Upgrade Soul was probably the digital text I enjoyed the most but it didn’t scream with classroom possibilities, particularly for the upper primary students with whom I work.

The Artifacts, however, would make an ideal text study for English for year four or five students. At my school these classes share a set of iPads so a copy for each iPad could be purchased through Apple’s Volume Purchasing Program for $56. (Managed distribution is an option for student-owned devices). Each page has possibilities for discussion questions or different types of writing activities. For example, page 6, where a caterpillar and Asaf are alternately shown collected in a jar, students could discuss the ethics of collecting living creatures or write a creative piece imagining that they have been collected – what would they do, how would they feel, how could they escape? There are also many opportunities for vocabulary activities: finding out the meaning of, and using in a sentence, the additional atmospheric words that appear on several of the pages.

References

Jabr, F. (2013) The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific American, April 11. Retrieved from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/

James, R. & De Kock, L. (2013). The digital David and the Gutenberg Goliath: the rise of the ‘enhanced’e-book. English Academy Review, 30(1), pp. 107-123. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10131752.2013.783394

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Meyers, E.M., Zaminpaima, E., & Frederico, A. (2014). The Future of Children’s Texts: Evaluating Book Apps as Multimodal Reading Experiences. In iConference 2014 Proceedings (pp. 916-920) doi:10.9776/14312 Retrieved fromhttps://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/47386/312_ready.pdf?sequence=2

Moorefield-Lang, H., & Gavigan, K. (2012). These aren’t your father’s funny papers: the new world of digital graphic novels. Knowledge Quest, 40(3), 30-35. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/knowledgequest/docs/ FREEArticle_TheseAren%27t_30-35.pdf

Sadokierski, Z. (2013, November 12). What is a book in the digital age? [Web log post]. Retrived from http://theconversation.com/what-is-a-book-in-the-digital-age-19071 What is a book in the digital age?

Unsworth, L. (2008). Multiliteracies, E-literature and English Teaching. Language & Education: An International Journal, 22(1), 62-75. doi:10.2167/le726.0

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA). https://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/walsh-m3.pdf

Yokota, J. & Teale, W. H. (2014). Picture books and the digital world: educators making informed choices. The Reading Teacher, 34(6). Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/3886534/Picture_Books_and_the_Digital_World_Educators_Making_Informed_Choices

 

Digital Literature Review: The Artifacts

The Artifacts start page

The Artifacts by Lynley Stace and Dan Hare is an interactive storybook (Lamb, 2011) available from the iTunes store as a universal app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch at a cost of A$4.49. Produced in Australia and first released in 2012, this digitally originated text (Unsworth, 2008) is targeted at middle primary to early secondary-aged children, an under-catered for market (Grabarek, 2012).

Asaf is a collector of collections, things that other people throw away. His parents view his collections as rubbish and do not want them in the house. When Asaf is 13 they take the opportunity of a move to a new house to throw them out, instructing him not to have any more collections. Asaf retreats into his imagination. He discovers it is possible to collect things that others can’t see – ideas, information, fantasy worlds, and develops an excellent memory. When he grows up he leaves home taking only “two small suitcases and one very large mind”.

Asaf's cluttered room

The Artifacts is a cleverly constructed story with multimodal features (Walsh, 2013. P. 181). From the opening page where narration and sound effects can be turned on or off by flicking old-fashioned light switches, and random symbols appear from a cardboard box, to the caterpillars noisily eating leaves added by a touch, to the positive and negative concepts streaming from the hot and cold taps in the bathroom, this story is greatly enhanced by clever interactive features. The app does not come with instructions so the interactivity is not explained and must be discovered. For this reason, it will reward re-reading as new features are revealed. On first read, I didn’t realise that tilting the screen had an effect and missed a number of the interactive features. The app is presented for linear reading but it’s possible to navigate to different pages via the menu.

The illustrations are in a simple, realistic style and the colour palette changes with the mood through the story. Simple animation – static objects moving on the screen – and appropriate sound effects are used to good effect, enhancing the overall experience.

Asaf's new room

While it is refreshing to hear an Australian accent in a market dominated by American products, the narrator’s voice lacks animation and is not entirely appropriate to the story’s tone (Yokota and Teale, 2014, p.580). Pronunciation mistakes are jarring – pen-chant instead of pon-shon – is one example. The narrator is not credited, presumably it was not a professional voice artist or actor which is a pity as this is the only glaring negative feature of an otherwise engaging story app.

Throughout the story the use of language is creative and evocative: “Asaf sat inside the desolate room and hated everything about it” (p. 9) where tapping the screen summons an alphabetical stream of unhappy and negative phrases “the absence” “the betrayal” “the cheerlessness” “the dearth” “the ill-feeling” “the joylessness” “the minimalism” and so on. Later, Asaf is in the bathroom cleaning his teeth and “collecting his thoughts” (p. 18). Tapping the cold tap reveals negative words in blue: disappointment, rage, guilt, anxiety; while the hot tap reveals red, positive terms: excitement, delight, amusement, hope. In the library, he reads books with outrageous and amusing titles “Practical onomatopoeia” “Frowsiness illustrated” “Treatise on giggling and chuckling”. As Asaf moves from his desolation at the loss of his physical things to the realisation that he can amass vast collections in his mind, the reader must interpret and comprehend more than just the text, the interactive features contribute to the meaning (Leu et al, 2011, p. 6), they maintain the integrity of the story (Yokota and Teale, 2014, p. 581) and enhance the reader’s imaginative projection (James and de Kock, 2013. P. 114).

Asaf collects his thoughts

The Artifacts lends itself easily to classroom use. Extensive teaching notes are provided giving page by page reading notes, pointing out some of the interactive features that could be missed, and lesson ideas for oral language, advertising, the natural world, creative writing, geography, and writing a compare and contrast essay. There are links to further information, resources and templates. (Slap Happy Larry, 2016).

Links to the Slap Happy Larry Youtube channel, Facebook page and teaching notes are found from the “i” icon. Each of these is protected by asking the user to “Press 1. Slate Gray 2. Raspberry simultaneously to continue” from a choice of four colour patches. This is unlikely to stop any child capable of reading this text.

Produced in Australia, the setting could be any one of a number of places, and is modern but not time-stamped. It could be taking place anytime from the present back 10, 20 or 30 years which will help the story remain relevant for at least as long as it continues to function properly as iOS is updated. The app was last updated in July 2015.

References

Grabarek, D. (2012, January 16). Review: ‘The Artifacts’ for iOS. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/touchandgo/2012/01/16/review-the-artifacts-for-ios/

James, R. & De Kock, L. (2013). The digital David and the Gutenberg Goliath: the rise of the ‘enhanced’ e-book. English Academy Review, 30(1), pp. 107-123. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10131752.2013.783394

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Leu, D.J. et al (2011). The new literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy and learning curriculum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,55(1)5-14. Doi: 10.1598/JAAL.55.1.1

Slap Happy Larry. (2016). The Artifacts [website] Retrieved from http://www.slaphappylarry.com/story-apps/about-the-artifacts/

Stace, L. & Hare, D. (2015). The Artifacts [Mobile Application Software] Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-artifacts/id467935343?mt=8

Unsworth, L. (2008). Multiliteracies, E-literature and English Teaching. Language & Education: An International Journal, 22(1), 62-75. doi:10.2167/le726.0

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA). https://www.csu.edu.au/division/library/ereserve/pdf/walsh-m3.pdf

Yokota, J. & Teale, W. H. (2014). Picture books and the digital world: educators making informed choices. The Reading Teacher, 34(6). Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/3886534/Picture_Books_and_the_Digital_World_Educators_Making_Informed_Choices

Digital Literature Review: Upgrade Soul

Upgrade Soul (Daniels & Loyer, 2014) is both a digital graphic novel (Moorefield-Lang & Gavigan, 2012) and an enhanced eBook (Lamb. 2011) available as an app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. It is free for chapters 1 and 7 with subsequent chapters available as in-app purchases for A$1.49 each. First released in 2012, the story will eventually have 18 chapters, currently up to chapter 9 is available.

Upgrade Soul is a collaborative creation of writer and illustrator Ezra Claytan Daniels, interactive media artist Eric Loyer and composer Alexis Gideon, created using the Panoply platform (previously known as Opertoonity). The creators first built on the Unity game engine to develop this new platform for creating interactive digital graphic novels. Creator, Eric Loyer, says they were motivated by the desire to “explore the intersection of comics, games, music and touch” (Daniels & Loyer, 2014).

While not animated as such, images are enhanced as the platform uses the accelerometer feature of iOS devices to produce 3D effects when tilting the screen. The 3D effects can be turned off if preferred.

Navigation is not explained but intuitive and simple – swipe left or up to move forward, right or down to move back. Tapping the top of the screen gives the option to go back to the navigation panel, open the options menu or share on social media. The main menu includes extras such as information about the story’s creators and development.

The display is identical on iPhone and iPad, forcing a landscape view. There is no capacity to “pinch and zoom” which this reader found to be a disadvantage on the iPhone where the text is quite small, but of no consequence on the iPad.

The story centres on Molly and Hank Nonnar, a mature couple who have invested in a company researching age-defying technology, on the proviso that they are the treatment’s first subjects. Navigation is linear (although you are able to dip in and out of chapters) but the story is revealed in a non-linear fashion. The first chapter introduces Molly and Hank before they leave for the research facility, and concludes with a disturbing revelation of the initial outcome of the treatment. Subsequent chapters reveal how the Nonnar’s learned about the research, how they reached the decision to participate, and the backstory of the researchers, and moves forwards and back in the days and weeks before and after the treatment. Throughout the story the soundtrack is an integral part, adding to the developing suspense and tension. Music is fully integrated, for example, beeps are heard in time with speech bubbles announcing an alarm by repeatedly appearing and disappearing.

Unlike traditional graphic novels or comics presented online, the panels are not revealed as complete pages all at once. Instead, just a fragment might appear, followed by a bit more, before opening out to the full scene. Panels and sections appear from different directions and this movement becomes part of the storytelling. In conjunction with the score this feature enhances the suspense. Close-ups are cleverly used – the section in chapter one where bandages on Molly’s eyes are gradually removed, slowly revealing the room from her perspective puts the reader in her position, and heightens the suspense and sense of impending doom.

Upgrade soul 1

Upgrade soul 2

Upgrade soul 3

Once immersed in reading there is little to distract from the experience (Lamb 2011). Tapping on the screen is only for navigation, while tilting the device triggers the 3D effects which enhance rather than distract. Upgrade Soul is a compelling read – this reader found the immersive experience at odds with Liu’s view that screen reading reduces sustained interaction (2005).

Upgrade Soul is a sophisticated science fiction story suitable for readers of secondary school age and older. The non-linear storytelling can be a little confusing and the reader must be able to infer meaning from the illustrations and sound effects to fully comprehend the story. The themes are thought-provoking and would provide an interesting prompt for a discussion of scientific ethics, or the challenges of ageing in the science, health, philosophy or English classroom.

Only half the planned 18 chapters have been released so far. The complexity of the story and the non-linear narrative will reward re-reading as I imagine fans will do as subsequent chapters are released. While it is possible to imagine Upgrade Soul being formatted into a print graphic novel, it would lose much in the translation, particularly in the way gradual reveal of scenes is used. As Jabr says “new technologies [can] evolve screen-based reading into something else entirely” (2013). As an app Upgrade Soul becomes an experience, not just a story to read. It is a pity it is only available to holders of iOS devices as this intriguing, clever, disturbing experience deserves a wide audience.

References

Daniels, E. C. & Loyer, E. (2014). Upgrade soul [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/upgrade-soul/id549051057?mt=8

Jabr, F. (2013). The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific American, April 11. Retrieved from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Liu, Z. (2005). Reading behavior in the digital environment: Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years. Journal of Documentation, 61(6), 700-712. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00220410510632040

Moorefield-Lang, H., & Gavigan, K. (2012). These aren’t your father’s funny papers: the new world of digital graphic novels. Knowledge Quest, 40(3), 30-35. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/knowledgequest/docs/FREEArticle_TheseAren%27t_30-35.pdf

Digital Literature Review: Seven Digital Deadly Sins

Seven Digital Deadly Sins (SDDS) is a website produced through a collaboration between The Guardian UK and the Canadian National Film Board. As such it is free and freely available on any computer or device with a web browser although there are significant differences between the computer and mobile device versions, which will be explained where relevant. For the purposes of this review it was viewed it on a Windows PC and an iPad.  Categorisable as transmedia storytelling (Lamb, 2011) it is “an interactive documentary about our collective digital behaviours” (Seven Digital Deadly Sins, n.d.) – an immersive journalism project and sociological study of new habits, behaviours and activities inspired and promoted by digital technology.

The website begins with a teaser video, a mash-up of sections of all the videos, missing in the mobile version. The classic seven deadly sins – Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Envy, Wrath, Pride and Lust – are used as a framework for the various behaviours examined. On a computer you are offered a choice of a list view of the topics and sections, and a floating interactive grid for navigation. The iPad forces a portrait view and only offers navigation from a dropdown list under each section, losing some of the visual appeal of the PC version where icons move and reveal their topic and related sin when hovered over. Fortunately it is possible to rotate to landscape view for the videos but it was difficult to navigate back to the menu from a video until it had played in full.

SDDS home - web version

Web version home

iPad view home

iPad view

Envy web view

Web view

Envy iPad view

iPad view

Each section (or sin) features a video of a public figure (comedians, writers, musicians, actors) expounding on something that they or others do in the digital environment. Musician Billy Bragg may not be the renowned songwriter he is today had the internet been around in his formative years as he now spends hours watching “fail” videos on Youtube. In the past he would have been playing his guitar and writing songs. For each sin there are several first person text narratives about a behaviour – “Instagramming food”, “I spy on my kids”, “I click to get angry” – to read, and some interactive polls – a behaviour that may be considered a sin is identified and the viewer chooses to condemn or absolve the sin and to admit whether or not they do this. The cumulative results are then displayed. 

Poll 1

Poll 2

Poll 3

The subject matter of some of the narratives – “Extramarital sex” and “Fetish porn” spring to mind – mean that this site, were it a movie, would garner an ‘M’ rating, so as a whole is unsuitable for under 15 or 16’s. That said, it is easy to see a multitude of uses for the stories and videos as discussion starters for English, health, wellbeing and philosophy classes for older students and selective use for younger secondary students, possibly using Mills and Levido’s iPed framework: link “text to self, text to culture, text to world” (2011). There is potential for increased student engagement by connecting instruction to popular culture through transmedia storytelling (Slota, Young, O’Byrne & Ballestrini, date) – SDDS could be very successful in the teaching of English as an Additional Language or as a hook for cybersafety issues for older students.

Each narrative is illustrated with a quirky line drawing, enhancing the content. In addition to the narrative, each of these sections also provides some salient facts in the sidebar (missing in the iPad view); some of these have a British or Canadian focus but are likely relatable to the Australian context also. For example, along with a story on illegal downloading of music and tv shows is the snippet “In the UK 7M people a month visit a site with illegally hosted content”. Others such as “42% of Facebook status updates are travel stories” and “Online piracy accounts for 24% of all bandwidth” are more generally applicable. 

Facebook article

Web view

Facebook - iPad view

iPad view

Options to share on social media are available for the videos, narratives and poll results as well as for the website as a whole. A word of warning: a twitter search of the supplied hashtag #digitalsins revealed some tweets that can only be classified as pornography.

The reader/viewer can dip in and out of each sin, electing just to view videos or vote in polls or read narratives, or read/view each section systematically or any combination. An atmospheric soundtrack,  missing on the mobile version, loops through a number of different tracks continuously as you view the various elements, pausing when a video is selected and resuming when it is finished.

Published in 2014 there is no doubt the content of SDDS will date but there is no obvious loss of relevance at this stage. Anyone interested in the impact of social media and the evolution of technology will appreciate this engaging, interactive site. It is somewhat ironic that viewers using today’s most ubiquitous technology – the mobile device – are denied the full immersive experience of the computer version but that is the price paid by the creators in making the experience device agnostic.

References

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live

Mills, K.A., & Levido, A. (2011). iPed: pedagogy for digital text production. The Reading Teacher, 65(1), 80-91, DOI: 10.1598/RT.65.1.11

Seven Digital Deadly Sins. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2016, from http://digital-deadly-sins.theguardian.com/

Slota, S. T., Young, M. F., O’Byrne, W. I., & Ballestrini, K. (2016). A New Hope: Negotiating the Integration of Transmedia Storytelling and Literacy Instruction. Journal of adolescent & adult literacy59(6), 642-646.

#INF533 Blog task

CC0 Public Domain Free for commercial use No attribution required image from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/kindle-paper-white-touchscreen-750305/

CC0 image from Pixabay

I have been battling with the difference between reading and viewing – is something literature when you view it – say a video consisting of moving words on screen? Is literature in a digital environment anything that includes text (that you read or have read to you)? This is perhaps clarified by Lamb (2011) “Reading is the process of constructing meaning from symbols” and “A book is a published collection of related pages or screens” (my emphasis). But does this make all books literature? Walsh suggests not, cautioning that “it is important to distinguish between digital narratives, created as literature, and digital storytelling that anyone can produce…” (2013, p. 186). I can see that her explanation of the qualities of good literature and features of digital narratives are going to be useful references when I am completing assessment item 2, experiencing digital literature.

I consider myself comfortable with reading online although generally what I read, other than blogs and websites, was first published for print or to mimic it. My leisure reading of fiction and narrative non-fiction is done almost exclusively on my Kindle or Kindle app on iPhone or iPad. I now buy many books whereas before I would only borrow from a library. I’ve had mixed experiences with borrowing from my public library through Overdrive and BorrowBox so I don’t do it often.

My Kindle helps overcome my fear of finding myself without something to read (I was the camper with the library in her tent) but you can’t take many books when travelling from place to place. Now it doesn’t matter how many books I have, the impact on luggage limits is no more than a slim novel plus charger. 

I still read the print newspaper even though I have the full digital version of The Age available on my iPad. I also read a lot of news online but usually from links from social media.

My reading for pleasure is usually done lying down – on the couch, a banana lounge, or mostly in bed before falling asleep – at that point in the day I don’t want a brightly lit screen, e-ink is fine (and my Kindle will turn itself off if I haven’t turned a page for 5 minutes). I don’t want music, sound effects or video, I’m trying to get to sleep. But I have greatly enjoyed experiencing transmedia narratives like Inanimate Alice and Firestorm, and I would like to explore these further, just not at bedtime! Sadly, there is little time to read for pleasure in the rest of my day.

For work and study I read almost exclusively online. Much is simply reproduced print, and linear, but I love the affordances of the digital environment and it’s great when an article is ‘illustrated’ and enhanced with relevant media like recorded interviews or videos.

I need to think beyond the personal and engage more with the needs of the young people I work with and consider how their literacy development and reading needs can be enhanced through experiencing literature in digital environments. As Leu (2011) says Literacy is deictic – what it means to be literate is changing with the evolution of technology. Offering access to and experience of all types of texts, digital and analogue, is essential for students to develop their literacy skills but I struggle with how I can make this happen. One of the best parts of my job in a year 4-12 library is connecting a young person with a new book and finding out if they enjoyed it later. But there are a few children for whom it seems impossible to find a book they will enjoy. They can’t tell me what sort of books they like, some say they’ve never liked a book. But I’m sure some (most) of them love using iPads and computers and there are many children who would be engaged by the interactive multimedia nature of literature in digital environments, especially if there were any sort of gaming component. The challenge is how do we, as a school library, provide access to this sort of literature when the children don’t come to school with devices in hand, and access to school-owned devices is controlled by their teacher? When their teacher demands they have a [physical] book to read for daily reading sessions? Yes, I can tell them about digital titles and provide access through our library system but I can’t put it in their hand to start reading now.

References

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17.

Leu, D.J. et al (2011). The new literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy and learning curriculum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,55(1)5-14. Doi: 10.1598/JAAL.55.1.1

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

#ETL523 final critical reflection

"The Web and the technologies that drive it are fundamentally changing the way we think about how we can learn and become educated in a globally networked and connected world. It has absolutely exploded our ability to learn on our own in ways that schools weren't built for." Will Richardson

Richardson (2016)

This statement absolutely resonates with me when I think about how and what I learn as part of this course. I sit at my desk at home or on the train on my daily commute or at the dining table with my iPad or even at the gym with my phone and I am connected to a network of learners. It’s exciting, it’s invigorating, it’s challenging, it’s fun. So why aren’t all educators connecting and learning in this way?

Digital Citizenship in Schools covered much expected ground but it also forced me to think about my digital learning environment (DLE), my school’s digital learning environment, information leadership, teacherpreneurship, and the globalisation of learning. I still find myself an outlier amongst my work colleagues. Although I have connected with three fellow staff members on Twitter their posts are so infrequent it seems they do not value this form of connecting (of course they could be gaining much from lurking, but not as much as they could be through active involvement. Their loss). That said, this post is about me critically reflecting on the experience of ETL523 over the past three months. Here goes.

My DLE:

I’m writing this using Workflowy, an outlining tool, as I find it a useful way to work through disparate thoughts and be able to jump from one idea to another. Eventually I will export this and paste it into a Google doc for refinement into a whole, cohesive post before moving to Thinkspace for hyperlinking and final tweaks.

I often start in Evernote and then move to Google docs as above. For forum posts I usually go direct from Evernote.

I’m using a desktop computer but I have my iPad in front of me as well so I can refer to other texts on one screen while writing on the other. As I write I periodically hop over to Tweetdeck to see if anything interesting has popped up, check the ETL523 discussion forums for any new information or questions, and jump in and out of Evernote where I have notes and resources stored.

While my blog posting has been a bit patchy, I have made a concerted effort to participate fully in the subject forums. It is surprising to note that for most topics fewer than half the class members participated. I wonder why people don’t. I do get that it can be scary putting yourself out there but I have to say that, in my experience in this closed environment, comments from peers are nothing but supportive. Am I being harsh in asking: if you won’t even give connecting online a go in a supportive environment, exactly what are you doing in a subject like this?

Assignment 1 for me was a great example of what online learning and collaboration is all about – I’ve already written a reflection but having recently read Doug Belshaw’s The essential elements of digital literacies (2014) I couldn’t resist the temptation to frame another reflection with his eight elements. Read it here. (I highly recommend reading his book too, it is available here).

In my first blog post for this subject I wrote about recent developments at my school with the introduction of a BYOD program and new building with improved technological access and tools. I wrote: “It will be interesting to see if our teachers are ready to allow the available technology to transform their pedagogy. Will our students be given the right scaffolding to develop into good digital citizens?” (Bailie, 2016). Assignment 2 allowed me to explore those thoughts in depth and I found that the teaching of digital citizenship was ad hoc at best with patchy understanding of the complexity of the area and no clarity around who is responsible. Although a little nervous about seeming critical I will pass the report onto leadership and I’m reasonably confident it will be well-received. I hope shortly to find myself immersed in enacting some of my recommendations – establishing a shared understanding of what digital citizenship is; developing a digital citizenship policy that privileges student learning over behaviour consequences; examining the curriculum for opportunities to embed digital citizenship learning, and supporting professional learning for teachers.

Another opportunity that has emerged recently is a proposal for a special year 7 project for the final weeks of the school year. The plan is for a selected group of teachers to work with the entire cohort, off-timetable, in inquiry/project based learning activities. I’m excited to be involved (flattered to be told that, had I not put my hand up, I was going to get a tap on the shoulder) and looking forward to the opportunity to foster cultural awareness and potentially engage students in global collaborative activities. At the very least I hope to be able to influence information habits and in particular promote ethical participation – explicitly modelling and sharing the use of creative commons licences, referencing and attribution, and paying heed to copyright.

Overall, this session has been fun. Thanks Julie for another terrific learning experience. For those of you still deciding what to do next session, I highly recommend INF532 Knowledge Networking for Educators, also facilitated by the fabulous Julie Lindsay. My experience from last year greatly enhanced my efforts in creating a digital artefact, and understanding instructional design for assignment one. I’m confident reversing the experiences would be just as valuable.

References

Bailie, H. (2016, March 3) Digital Citizenship. #ETL523 starts here. Retrieved from http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/hbailie/2016/03/03/digital-citizenship-etl523-starts-here/

Belshaw, D. (2014) The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. Retrieved from http://digitalliteraci.es

Richardson, W. (2016, May 14). 16 Modern Realities Schools (and Parents) Need to Accept. Now. Retrieved from https://medium.com/modern-learning/16-modern-realities-schools-and-parents-need-to-accept-now-64b98710e4e9#.bw6k10nv

A hall of mirrors, or, another reflection on #ETL523 assignment 1

As part of my researching and preparing for ETL523 assignment two I read Doug Belshaw’s The essential elements of digital literacies (2014). I was inspired to construct another reflection on assignment one using the eight essential elements as a framework. Here goes:

The cultural element refers to our ability to move from one digital environment to another, understanding the issues, norms and habits of mind each requires. The collaborative wiki saw the team use Google hangouts, Google docs, Wikispaces, Pearltrees, Canva, ProProfs, Tackk, Powtoon, Twitter, email, Skype (when Hangouts wouldn’t play nicely one evening we switched, barely drawing breath in the process), and we even had a very fruitful meeting IRL. I’d say we’ve got that one covered!

The cognitive element refers the value of being able to use multiple tools “If you only have a (conceptual) hammer then all you see are (metaphorical) nails.”(p.46-7). The one who dies with the most toys wins perhaps! My list in the cultural element is applicable here too – we did good!

The constructive element is all about how constructing something in a digital environment is substantially different to that in an analogue one. Understanding how you can ethically reuse another’s work to construct something new is a vital part of this element. Given our learning module was about Ethical participation in the digital environment with sections on Creative Commons and Remix I’d say we nailed this one. Additionally, it allowed four disparate individuals to work together to create a valuable resource that I hope to share with staff at my school and further afield. We could never have achieved what we did in an analogue environment.

Communicative – understanding the norms and protocols of communication using multiple different digital technologies. Again, that list of tools and social networks we used shows we nailed this.

Confident – being able to solve problems and manage your own learning in digital environments. Sometimes solving problems is all about knowing who to ask; sometimes simply articulating the question leads you to find your own answer. The discussion feature on Wikispaces was almost overwhelming at times as each of us asked questions, expressed concerns, sought advice, answered, consoled and supported each other. We all showed ourselves to be confident learners.

Creative. Perhaps surprisingly, this element does not require originality. Instead, it can be about expressing something that already exists in a way that adds value, and feeling empowered to take risks. My digital artefact for the wiki used the affordances of digital technology to present an introduction in a visually appealing manner. Every frame included something created by someone else but I added value to it and made it part of my narrative.

Critical. We had to consider our audience (teachers) and we had to carefully evaluate the material we wished to share with them. Including Pearltrees collections for each section evidenced our curations skills.

Civic. Amongst other things, the civic element is about using digital environments to self-organise. A collaborative wiki project? – got it in spades!

Belshaw’s Ted talk will give you more background to his thinking and work. I highly recommend reading the book as well.

References

Belshaw, D. (2014) The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. Retrieved from http://digitalliteraci.es