Case study proposal

Case study research question and illustration

DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT

This case study will focus on students’ personal devices used for learning and teaching in year 6 and 7 to examine how students can be supported to make meaningful and empowering uses of their devices. My school is a small, independent P-12 school with approximately 50 students in year 6 and 70 in year 7. Students in year 6 continue from year 5 but in year 7 as many as 30 are new enrolments. The school’s BYOD program for years 6-12 is in its second year. Students are supported to bring any device of tablet size or larger (not mobile phones) meaning that there is great variability in capacity of devices in any classroom. I am interested to learn more about what types of devices are present; when, where and how they are used for learning and teaching, and to explore whether the variability in device type has a significant impact on either teachers or students.

EXPECTED OUTCOMES

Develop an understanding of how devices are being used for teaching and learning in years 6 and 7 at my school. This may indicate a need to further investigate whether BYO any Device is the best model for our context.
Develop a report for the community to assist parents in the selection of a suitable device for their child.

DATA GATHERING

  • Literature review
  • Survey for year 6 & 7 students (Google Form)
  • Survey for year 6 & 7 teachers (Google Form)
  • Classroom observation
  • Interview selected year 6 and 7 teachers

Overwhelmed and under-coherent

I have been feeling rather overwhelmed this week with the number of different study-related things that need my attention (not to mention work and family). Between trying to get to grips with the module 2 reading, keeping up with forum posts for colloquia, thinking about my case study proposal (and the recommendation to dip into module 3 for that), other reading requirements AND blog posts, I’m starting to feel like I’m going in circles spending a lot of time not getting anything done. And I’ve just come down with a cold…that’s what you get for congratulating yourself on how healthy you are!

So, an apology first up, this post will be a bit of a mish-mash of various thoughts I’ve had over the last week and a bit, and probably won’t flow as a coherent whole.

Firstly, while listening to Mike Hourahine on last week’s colloquia it occurred to me that Think Global School’s Learning philosophy had quite a bit of synergy with Modern Learners’ Ten Principles for Schools of Modern Learning

TGS Philosophy

Modern Learners Principles

Think Global School Learning Philosophy

 

Modern Learners Principles of Modern Schools

Students should have more autonomy and choice in their learning Principles 3 and 4
Students should be designers of their own curriculum and experiences Principles 3 and 4
Technology should enable authentic, real and rigorous learning Principles 6, 7 and 8
Learning should not be limited to the classroom and the classroom should not be limited to one teacher and one group of students Principles 5, 9 and 10

Modern Learners’ principle 1 is implicit in a school’s philosophy – “clearly articulated and shared beliefs” while principle 2 could pretty much sum up TGS in a nutshell “Live a mission and a vision deeply informed by new contexts for learning”.

TGS’ Lesson learned #3 really resonated with me: “A focus on high stakes exams and teaching to the test all but eradicates wonder and curiosity.” When will those with the power to dictate curriculum and outcomes to schools wake up to this?

Questions raised by the session:

How might we apply what TGS has learned to our geographically fixed schools?

How could the travelling experience be realised for more students?

Could it be virtual as discussed by Davidson and Goldberg in The future of learning institutions in a digital age (2009). What about programs like the Victorian Education Department’s Alpine, Snowy River and Gnurad-Gundidj campuses of the School for Student Leadership, or other term or year-long experiences for year 9 students? Could it be like the School of the Future where “class schedules and locations change every day (the goal being to break down our culture’s dependency on time and place)” (Davidson & Goldberg, 2009.p. 50).

Davidson and Goldberg was a good read, I particularly liked this statement: [Banning wikipedia]…” is a catastrophically anti-intellectual reaction to a knowledge-making global phenomenon of epic proportions” (2009. p.28).

Back to Mike Hourahine who posed the question “What is the purpose of required secondary education?”. I answered in the chat “to keep them off the streets” and I was only half joking. In Victoria now the leaving age is 17 unless the students has a job/apprenticeship or recognised training course to go to. In the past kids could leave school at 13, 14 or 15 and go into real career paths with the post office, public service, in trades or even just retail. Those opportunities are long gone, VCE is a minimum for anything. For the kids who don’t want to go onto further education the purpose of their education might just be keeping them busy until they are allowed to leave (and hopefully get a job or access welfare if they can’t). My previous school was in an area with a high percentage of generational poverty – 2 or 3 generations of families where no one had ever had an ongoing job, where the family lived on welfare. Job search allowance isn’t available until you are 17. Staying at school is an end in itself.

Interestingly, I was listening to Bruce Dixon and Will Richardson’s latest podcast where they discussed the notion, put forward by Seth Godin, that going to college is a bigger risk than not in terms of cost vs value. They discussed going straight to college or university versus taking one or more gap years or, for those young people with great computer skills (often learned outside of formal school) going straight to the workforce. It made me reflect on my own children and what the future holds for them.

My eldest daughter has just started this year at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of music. People ask me what she plans to do with her music degree. I don’t know, she’s just started…who knows what will happen in three or more years. In the meantime she’s having some amazing experience, meeting and playing with interesting people. She’s also exploring casual work options on the side, one that has come from her year 10 work experience with Daniel Donahoo – she is now apparently a “creative professional”. I don’t know what will come out of that, potentially amazing stuff or maybe nothing at all, but I’m certainly not worried.

As for my other daughter, she’s in year 10 and right now facing up to selecting her VCE subjects. She’s a polymath, at this stage for year 11 it looks like English, German, Music Performance, Studio Arts, Maths Methods, and Physics (Unit 3 & 4 as she is doing units 1 & 2 this year). Again, who knows where that will take her, but really, does that matter now? She’s choosing subjects that interest her and that she’s reasonably good at, which as far as I’m concerned are the main considerations. I’m fairly certain she won’t go straight to uni, she’s been planning a gap year (visiting Girl Guide World Centres) since she started secondary school. I’m not concerned at the prospect it might turn into two, three or even five years as apparently Bruce’s daughter’s did – she’s now a successful lawyer.

So there’s my rambling collection of thoughts from week 3. Now back to reading…

#INF537 Back on the rollercoaster

Rage Roller Coaster Drop Harry Rose via Compfight

I’m back! It seems like ages since I posted here. My last subject was through the WISE exchange program – Information Visualisation at San Jose State University. A fascinating subject, totally different to anything else I’ve done and also conducted quite differently to CSU subjects, with continuous assessment including marks for contributing to discussion forums and even a couple of tests. Needless to say, posting on my Thinkspace blog was not required…and, dutiful student that I am, I didn’t!

But I feel I’m back in another way, and that’s down to INF537 itself. I feel energised and overwhelmed all at once in a way that I haven’t experienced since INF530. Fitting, I guess, as that was the keystone subject and INF537 the capstone.

I’m energised by the cohort. So many people I’ve already connected with over this four year journey, and a handful I’m excited to meet for the first time. People I’ve collaborated, commiserated, celebrated, shared, whinged and laughed with, fabulous educators who truly are Modern Learners as described by Bruce Dixon in our first colloquia (more on that soon).

I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of what has to be done in this session (which takes place over little more than a standard school term). Reading, forum posts, participating in Colloquia, reading, blogging about Colloquia, other blog posts, reading and commenting on cohort blog posts, reading, a case study, reading and I haven’t even looked at what assignment one is yet! I’m fighting off an overwhelming sense of inadequacy – everyone else uses bigger words than me, they seem to have read more, know more, they articulate their thoughts more eloquently…will I be good enough, can I keep up? I’ve not felt like this since INF530 (well, maybe in INF536 also) but as I’ve said, I’m fighting these thoughts off and deep down I know that I can do it, seven subjects in I’ve always managed it somehow.
So, onto our first colloquia.

Bruce Dixon, co-founder of both the Anywhere, Anytime Learning Foundation, and, along with Will Richardson, Modern Learners, was guest presenter at our first colloquia held on Monday evening. In the spirit of anywhere, anytime learning, I listened to the first 15 minutes or so while walking home from the gym. The fact that I needed to hold up an umbrella inhibited my ability to participate in the chat for that time but I digress…

Modern Learners recently published ‘10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning’ white paper which is a short and worthwhile read and much of the colloquia discussion related to issues raised by the paper (Richardson, W. & Dixon, B., 2017).

A key tenet of the paper and our discussion is that the modern world requires self-directed and self-determined learners and there are concerns about the capacity of our schools and teachers to facilitate the modern learning required to produce them.

We were challenged to articulate what learning actually is, what self-directed learning looks like, and to consider what conditions provide the best opportunities for children to learn (whether or not that was within school).

There was some discussion about the role of technology in learning. I particularly like this quote from Chris Lehmann from Science Leadership Academy, PA, that Bruce shared with us:

We believe technology in schools needs to be like oxygen…ubiquitous, necessary, invisible…then stop talking about it.

An oft repeated phrase lately is “it’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning (or pedagogy)” which is true…to a point. I think a lot of “it” is about the technology, but the technology has to be easy and it just has to work – or as Chris says, be invisible. So many things that our students can do today were unthinkable when I was at school (no mobile phones, no instant creation of images, audio or video, no Google, no Youtube, no interactive websites, no instant communication, no social media…), and technology is the reason. What stops many teachers from fully embracing modern possibilities is their experiences of when things didn’t “just work”. We should no more have to think about technology than we do about a pencil’s capacity to make a mark on a piece of paper.

We need to stop privileging content over capabilities. Information is abundant, the notion of content being king started to go out with the invention of the printing press. Scholars then feared that the brain would be affected if it did not have to memorise knowledge that would be now stored in books. Learning how to learn is key. To finish, a quote from the white paper:

Regardless what the future holds, there is little doubt success in the future will first and foremost depend on one’s ability to learn, not on one’s accumulation of knowledge. (Richardson, W. & Dixon, B., 2017. p. 5)

Seymour Papert quote

References

Richardson, W. and Dixon, B. (2017). 10 principles for schools of modern learning. [ebook] Modern Learners Media. Available at: http://modernlearners.com/blog/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

#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.