Archive for January, 2011

Interactive Digital Stories

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Today I started work on an ambitious project with my HND Visual Communication class who are studying the unit 2D Animation for Visual Communication: Advanced (Dx3D 36) . We’re making an interactive digital story.

The idea was inspired by several interactive websites including Inanimate Alice, Dreaming Methods, Vector Park and Elevator Moods. I found these websites to be very engaging and interactive, sometimes weird, and sometimes fun. The students have spent some time on the sites and agreed that they were very good pieces of work and would love to be able to create something like them.

I started off by giving the class a simple, short story and asked them to think about how the story could be told through the medium of interactive animation.

We started off by throwing around a few different ideas and mindmapping them on the whiteboard, we then chose a few of these ideas to flesh out, then decided who would work on each part. We’re using a Facebook group to help manage the project and for class members to collaborate. Already we’ve posted the original mindmap, a list of tasks to be completed and added deadlines to the list of events. In time the students will upload their artwork and the class can provide feedback.

Initial mindmap

Some students’ work will rely on their classmates producing some other piece of work in advance, so there is a need for collaboration. For example, some students are creating artwork representing the rooms in a house, however they must wait for another student to create the floorplan of the house, who in turn must collaborate with the student who is designing the outside of the house. Other students in the group are starting preliminary work on later parts of the story – creating preliminary sketches and researching ideas. In two weeks time we plan to have the component parts of the first act of the story. We’ll take these parts, which are mostly images, and animate them and add interactive features.

Sophie's floorplan

You’re probably wondering what the story is that we’re making. It is the story of a 7 year old girl who is moving house with her parents. Her parents take her to visit the new house a few days before they move in, and during the visit the girl finds a discarded clothes peg. Some days later while staying with her grandmother the little girl confesses that she’s frightened about moving house and moving away from her friends and school. She shows her grandmother the clothes peg and asks what it is. The grandmother tells her it’s a ‘dolly peg’ and asks the girl to fetch the sewing basket. Grandmother then proceeds to turn the clothes peg into a doll, dressing it in offcuts of cloth, making hair for it and painting its face. The little girl loves the doll and it takes her mind off the house move. The girl takes her doll everywhere, to school, out shopping and to the park. One day she accidentally leaves the doll somewhere. The girl looks everywhere, but can’t find the doll. The girl is distraught and cries in her room The final scene sees the clothes dolly, minus its clothes, clipped to a washing line. It begins to rain and the raindrops look like tears on the doll’s face. Slowly the dolls face fades in the rain.

As well as creating this piece of interactive media we’re also going to be documenting the project as much as we can, with video clips of students working on the designs and perhaps interviews with each students who will tell us about their role in the production. Afterwards I hope to set up a website for the project with tutorials and information to help others create their own projects.


Experiments in student led learning

January 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been quite inspired by some recent attempts by other educators at turning round the learning experience in schools and allowing students more say in what and how they learn. I’m particularly inspired by the work of Oliver Quinlan, which has been summed up nicely in his recent blog post on Changing Classroom Relationships.

Myself and several of my colleagues have recently posted questions on some of our class Facebook groups asking students what type of projects they’d like to do next semester. In an effort to increase student participation in the planning of their learning I have also asked students what they would like to learn in some specific subjects.

I am uncertain about how this approach will be received by students. I get a feeling that most mature students expect education to be like a commercial transaction – they pay for it, so expect something in return. They expect classes to be teacher led, they expect to be given everything they need to succeed. I’m less sure they’ll accept the idea of actually directing the learning and maybe actually doing some teaching themselves. Perhaps this is too alien a concept in a consumer driven marketplace. Gardner Campbell alludes to this in A Personal Cyberinfrastructure, when he says “the freedom to explore and create is the last thing on their minds, so deeply has it been discouraged. Many students simply want to know what their professors want and how to give that to them”.

So far there has been a reasonable response to the questions posed on Facebook, and I haven’t encountered any requests that are so diverse that they lie outside the boundaries of the units I will be delivering. In fact, most of the requests have been quite mundane. Perhaps it is a case of  “I don’t know what I don’t know”.

In a further attempt to get the students on board I think that I will break with tradition during the first lesson of my 2nd semester subjects and actually take time to look through the descriptors of the units with the students. Together we can identify what they must do to pass, but hopefully this will also prompt them to consider what they would like to do in order to fulfil the outcomes. Maybe this will elicit some more creative ideas from my students, and perhaps set them thinking about skills they want to learn for the future rather than having it dictated to them.

Frankly I’m bored doing the same lessons year in, year out for the same subjects. Maybe a more seat-of-the-pants approach will energise the classes and make it more of a shared learning experience rather than a teacher-led experience. That’s what I’m hoping for, so we’ll see.

Categories: teaching

BETT showdown

January 14, 2011 Leave a comment

This year’s annual pilgrimage to the BETT show in London involved two presentations at the Adobe stand, an education reception at the Serpentine Gallery, networking with fellow educators, attending a seminar in the Innovation theatre and the customary game of dodgems through the crowds to try & find out what’s new.

My Adobe presentation this year was on 3D imaging and photography. 3D is a major trend in digital media at the moment and I’ve been experimenting with 3D photography with some of my classes. The process & science behind it is pretty simple and my presentation looked at the history & science of 3D as well as demonstrating how to use Photoshop to create 3D photos. I also demo’d some experimental 3D video clips that I made recently with Flip cameras & Premiere Pro.

Photo by Mr Ush (Flickr)

If you’re interested in trying 3D photography, then log in to Adobe Education Exchange & search for my tutorials on stereoscopic imaging.

I also attended a session entitled Skateboards, Graffiti and Storytelling presented by Steve Bunce and Alasdair Douglas. They demonstrated some of the activities they’ve been using in school to engage youngsters, including skateboard lessons, creating graffiti artwork and creating stories and artwork based on video games. They also demonstrated a tool called Friispray which allows you to create graffiti style art using a projector and a TV remote as a digital spray can. The session was very informative and engaging, and I came away with lots of new ideas for using digital media with my own classes.

Photo by Mr Ush (Flickr)

So, what was new at BETT this year? First thing I noticed was that many more smaller vendors had stands on the ground floor. Perhaps this is a sign of the recession – perhaps some of the larger vendors weren’t attending this year and floorspace wasn’t at such a premium. Many people commented that the Oracle stand was vacant as the company hadn’t turned up.

3D televisions and projectors were fairly common this year and were being touted as the new Interactive White Board. I doubt that, but it’s what the salespeople were saying. Tablet computers weren’t quite as evident as I had expected, though there were a lot of iPads on display with artistic tools and e-learning materials running on them. I personally don’t have a purpose for owning a tablet – my phone has a lot of the same functionality in more portable form, and if I want to do serious work then I need the power of a decent computer. Schools were definitely the target for tablet computers, and I can see why their portability and function can be attractive, but I’d be terribly fearful of students dropping them.

Finally, the recession was most evident by the lack of ‘freebies’ on offer this year. Usually it’s possible to leave BETT with an armful of mugs, pens, cuddly toys, mousemats, stress balls and other shwag*, but vendors were holding on to it until they’d prised contact details from potential customers and given them the full sales spiel.

*shwag is a contraction of the words ‘shit’ and ‘swag’, which I think describes marketing paraphernalia perfectly.

Time for study

January 5, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I did any formal study, and given that there is not even a snowball’s chance in hell of getting any funding from my employer to undertake any kind of qualification, I decided to take matters into my own hands and did a bit of searching…

Eventually, and entirely by chance, I came across a Digital Storytelling course, open to anyone and studied online. The course is facilitated by Jim Groom, Instructional Technology Specialist and adjunct professor at the University of Mary Washington, who describes the course as a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course).

Taking place over about 15 weeks (I think) and beginning on January 10th, the course looks to cover a number of areas in which I have some experience, but hope to improve. The course looks like it should also run in parallel to some of the units I’ll be delivering this forthcoming semester, so hopefully there may be some crossover between the course and my day job.

This will not be my first experience of undertaking an online course, but I think it will differ significantly from the single multimedia module I did online with Napier University ten years ago. So I expect this to be a new and interesting experience and hopefully I’ll make it through to tell my story.


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