Changing the story (a Prisoner106 activity)

I confess that I haven’t done my Village morning announcement yet.  How does it start?  What do I say?  Can I fake a British accent?  The answer to the last question is no.  I’ve really been overthinking the assignment.  But while overthinking, I did find the Voice Changer app, which may have potential.

While reading through some of the audio assignments, I was inspired by the Line Remix (audioassignment1539) and a recent trip to Cookout in Farmville to change up The Prisoner story.  Rather than being a former spy trapped in a village of mystery, No. 6 is just an irate fast food customer.

That guy is so touchy.

I recorded my voice with the Voice Changer app and added the bullhorn effect.  I emailed the recording to myself, downloaded the MP3 from my email, and then imported it into Audacity.

I then imported the “I am not a number” track.  My voice track was much louder, so I used the envelope tool to make it a little less booming.

Finally, I found audio from a fast food restaurant at FreeSound and added that in because authenticity.




GIFable Memories

I was gone for a while.  I can’t say where I went.  I can’t say for how long I was gone.  I can only say that there was no Internet.  Luckily I had files on my computer, so I was able to make some animated GIFs.  It’s important to keep the mind busy.

I recommend following this handy tutorial for making an animated GIF with MPEG Streamclip.  It’s very important to save this page to your computer in case you are unable to communicate with the outside world.  Pro tips.

Oscilloscope from "The Prisoner" (episode 1)

Oscilloscope from “The Prisoner” (episode 1)

No trust.

No trust.

Subtle no6 -- this didn't turn out quite like I expected, but oh well.

Subtle no6 — this didn’t turn out quite like I expected, but oh well.


Before the internet…: a not very well thought out personal history of media and networks

I’ve been thinking a lot about Red Burns lately.  For someone so influential, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information or analysis of her work out there.  I think I was looking for tweets where she burped out bite-sized nuggets of wisdom or maybe I wanted a memoir where she lays out her philosophies on art and technology in an easily-digestible, quickly-consumed listicle.  What I got (with my limited research) instead was Big Bird and Beyond: The New Media and the Markle Foundation and a 1971 New York Times article called, “TV of the People Operating on Cable.”

Both sources talk about Burns’s work with NYU’s Alternative Media Center, which eventually morphed into the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), and Burns’s overarching philosophy that technology should empower people.  Specifically the Big Bird book and NYTimes article focus on Burns’s work with public access cable and training citizens and community organizations to produce shows for public access cable.  Public access cable was a platform for a community’s voice.

Snippet from McCandlish Phillips's "TV of the People Operating on Cable."

Snippet from McCandlish Phillips’s “TV of the People Operating on Cable.”

I grew up in rural Virginia in a town with less than 10,000 people.  There was one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school.  There were no traffic lights.  Once school was out for the year, I spent summers writing letters to my friends in other parts of the county, because calling some of them meant making a long distance phone call.  Long distance calls required parental permission, and permission was granted only in special cases.

I loved writing letters.  I loved receiving letters.  To feed the beast, I ended up responding to several pen pal ads in esteemed journals like Tiger Beat and Bop.

Teen Beat cover from the 80s/90s

Not Tiger Beat, but six of one and a half-dozen of the other.

The pen pal ads divulged important and essential information about the pen pal seeker: favorite color, favorite foods, favorite movie, favorite member of New Kids on the Block.  If someone sounded like a potential BFF, you picked up a pen and wrote a letter.  Sometimes those lucky enough to have their ad chosen for print in the teen magazines wrote back!

I’m assuming that the kids who had their pen pal ads published in the teen magazines were swamped with letters from adolescent girls and boys.  I didn’t get many responses, but there were enough for me to realize that ads for pen pals in teen magazines were just a gateway.  There was a whole pen pal culture out there, and part of that culture was friendship books, which circulated with letters.

Friendship books

I stole this image from the Internet. I am sorry.

Friendship books were small books that accompanied letters.  The creator of the friendship book would include his/her name and address and then pass it on to one of his/her pen pals.  That pen pal would send it to another pen pal.  When the past page was filled, the book was returned to the friendship book’s creator.  He/she then has a passel of potential pen pals.

I wrote A LOT of people.  A few of them lived overseas.  Most of them lived in the states.  A pen pal in Louisiana told me all about Mardi Gras and sent me a package full of Mardi Gras beads and cake babies. Jenny from South Carolina and I exchanged letters for a long time.  We probably started writing to each other when I was in 10th grade.  I sent my first email to her my freshman year of college.  I met her for the first time when I went to tour the University of South Carolina for graduate school in 2000.

My hometown was so far away from everything.  We didn’t have cable.  The “local” college was 30 minutes away, so listening to the college radio station wasn’t an option (and I probably wouldn’t have known it was a thing anyway).  I was at the mercy of mainstream radio and its top 40 hits.  Like the Internet, exchanging letters exposed me to a lot of music and books and ideas I wouldn’t have considered mainly because I didn’t know what was out there.

Those friendship books held the names and addresses of people who contributed to the evolution of my taste in music and teenage philosophies.  I found REM (which was not hard to do as all of this coincided with the release of Out of Time).  I found Juliana Hatfield.  I started taking guitar lessons.  Somewhere along the line there was a subscription to Sassy.  I found zines.  Somewhere along the line I had a pen pal fight about Lollapalooza.

A pen pal once sent me a mixed tape.

I can only recall one song.  It was “Oh Bondage Up Yours” by X-Ray Spex, and it was the most amazing thing I ever heard.  It sounded like every show and house show I would see in graduate school and beyond (I was in Farmville for my undergrad years, and the bands that came through there sucked).

Things, of course, changed.  As they do.

AOL connecting logo

Online! Yay!

Physical letters stopped coming and going.  I maintained some relationships for a while through email.  Chat rooms and forums opened up opportunities to meet and talk to new people.

Things were more immediate, naturally.  But interactions were also more fleeting like conversations with someone in an elevator.  Each person was going somewhere else.  Might as well chit chat along the way.

But this isn’t a “Technology is bad.  I wish things were slower, and I wish people sent me mixed tapes and Mardi Gras babies” post.

Reading about Red and her work with public access cable got me thinking about my history with the Internet, which got me thinking about pen pals and the flow of information (in this case friendship books and mixed tapes) through a network of folks interested in and doing the similar stuff.


It’s hard to write a witty title when you know nothing about The Prisoner

Summer vacation is almost here, and I’ve got plans.  Big plans.  Some of those plans involve working a little bit–tending to stuff in the library and co-teaching some Scratch/Makey Makey camps with Carolyn.  A lot of those plans include kicking around the city with my 5-year-old son.

But I also need some DS106 in my life.  My GIMP/PhotoShop skills are rusty, and I still have that typography poster to finish.

Turns out another season of DS106 is on the horizon.  This time it’s centered around The Prisoner (not this Prisoner).  I haven’t seen or heard of either Prisoner.

It looks like a place called The Village figures prominently in the show.  It’s funny, but a place called The Village here in Richmond figured prominently in my life when I moved to RVA in 2006.  The Village was one of my favorite places to visit before I became a responsible adult in 2009.  It was full of artists and writers and riff raff and misfits.  The Vesuvio of the east, perhaps?  Sometimes there are nostalgic conversations about the Richmond of the 80s and 90s on the Richmond Counterculture Facebook page.

the old Village

The Old Village (before my time). The Village now lives at 1001 W. Grace St. (across the street from the original location).

I spent a lot of time on Grace Street going to see shows at the Nanci Raygun (which became the Bagel Czar which became Strange Matter).  Many conversations were had in the booths of The Village before and after shows and on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

So here’s to a summer of DS106.  #4life.

The VIllage

The Village.  Animated.

Now the tutorial for anyone who may need it:

1.  I found a picture of The Village through a Google image search.  It was a static image of course.

2.  In order to animate it in some way, I figured I needed some contrast, so I opened the image in GIMP and painted the neon sign a darker red so that it would resemble a neon sign turned off.

Painting the neon Village sign

Painting the neon Village sign

The sign is dimmed

The sign is dimmed

3.  I then found this nice tutorial that explained how to turn .jpgs into an animated GIF in PhotoShop, because as I previously stated, my PhotoShop/GIMP skills are rusty.

4.  Then I had the wonderful GIF posted three photos above that closely matched what I was imagining.

It’s nice when it turns out that way.

* Also, I’m rereading this post the next day, and it sounds totally incoherent.  That’s because I was writing it while watching the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie with my son, which means there was a lot of, “Hey mom, look at this!” followed by somersaults on the sofa and kicks in the air.

A #networkedcourse

The summer of 2012 was transformational.  The summer Olympics were held in London, England.  The US witnessed one of the hottest summers on record.  The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars.  Carley Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was the official summer anthem.  And campers everywhere flocked to Camp Magic Macguffin for a summer of hijinx, mystery, and animated GIFs.

DS106 was my first exposure to a networked course.  It was a class that demanded participation in the community through a host of creative assignments, tweeting, blogging, reading/comments on the blogs of others, and animated GIFs, animated GIFs, animated GIFs!

Dr. Amy Nelson lead a workshop called Networking Your Hybrid Humanities Course on the last day of AltFest.  Several of Dr. Nelson’s classes are hybrid classes.  Students meet face-to-face, but they also spend time analyzing and interacting with primary sources.  The syllabus for the fall 2014 Russian History course emphasizes the role of the student in defining the class….


“Much  of  this  work  will  take  place  in  a  networked  learning  environment,  which  will  use blogging,  Twitter,  and  other  learning
technologies  to  construct,  elaborate  and  refine  the  contours  and content  of  the  course.”


And the goals for blogging…


The  blogging assignments  are  intended  to  leverage  the  freely accessible  resources  of  the World  Wide  Web as well as the digitized collections  of  the  Virginia  Tech  libraries  in  order  to:
o Develop  your  skills  in  historical  analysis
o Develop  your  skills  identifying,  using  and  citing  historical  sources
o Develop  understanding  of  the  key  developments  and  dynamics  of  Soviet History


Nelson commented that she worried students would have nothing to say in the classroom if they took their took their discussions online via blog posts and comments.  However, that wasn’t the case.  Classroom discussions were so rich that one student wished they had notes of the dialogue taking place.  Thanks to Google Docs and student volunteers, archived class notes were born.
The comments on students’ blogs feed into the class mother blog so conversations are easily followed.  Students and readers don’t have to go to each individual blog to see what’s discussed.
Screenshot of comments on the mother blog

Screenshot of comments on the mother blog

Sometimes a class can have over 30 students, which means over 30 blogs, which means over 30 posts to read and leave comments.  Nelson has an editorial board in place to help with comments.  This team also selects the posts that appear in the coveted Editor’s Choice spot.  Students on the editorial board also contribute to the body of knowledge the class creates over the semester.  You can read a couple of examples here and here

The Editor's Choice slider

The Editor’s Choice slider

Selections for the slider are posted (in a perfect world) every Wednesday during a semester.  Nelson said she notices an uptick in traffic on Wednesday afternoons.  Students check out the mother blog to see what posts have been chosen for the week.

Dr. Nelson builds courses that are engaging and participatory.  She and her students leverage the best the web has to offer.  They make use of open educational resources.  They share their analysis and thinking in the open through their blogs and comments.

You can find links to student blogs, blog post guidelines, mother blogs, archived class notes, and more on this Google Doc.

Hello from AltFest

Last year the school where I work explored options for a new schedule for lower, middle and upper schools.  A consultant came in (as they do) to evaluate the current schedule, the culture, the ins and outs of the lives of students.  There was a long meeting where a few drafts of schedules were reviewed; the pros and cons were weighed.  I don’t remember many of the details or the conversations (it was, after all, over a year ago, which is practically an eternity ago).  I do remember talk of rallying points.  These are points in the school year that give students, staff, and faculty a break from normal routine.  The rallying points are something to anticipate.  Convocation.  Homecoming.  Fall break.  Snow days.  The spring fair.

I’m at the AltFest at VCU, which is very much a rallying point for me.  Even though we’re close to the end of the school year, it’s good to get away and explore topics of open and connected learning, technology, #learningheroes.  It’s nice to see some friendly faces that I haven’t seen in a while and meet some new folks.

AltFest kicked off Tuesday with #ALTCamp or a couple of media-related workshops led by Molly Ransone (who has the most awesome blog header ever).  Those attending the “Lights, Camera, Teach!” session were invited to pick from a host of props (a model of an anemone, a butterfly net, a DNA helix, etc.) and a script.  We then entered the Jazzmosphere to film the bit, which would be used in a later workshop on editing video and making amazing things from green screen footage.

Wednesday’s dose of ALTFest started off with Mimi Ito, who unleashed some interesting research about affinity spaces, the lack of access to extracurricular activities for kids in homes with limited resources, engagement (or lack thereof) in formal educational settings, successful mentoring, how to be the “Aquarium Shop Guy*” or connect kids with their Aquarium Shop Guy/Girl.

The keynote resonated as I’ve been thinking about access to extracurricular activities through schools, public libraries, and other community organizations as well as the fierce competition for students’ time.  With the new schedule, the clubs period was reduced to 40 minutes once a week.  Students in clubs, which are (in theory) created and directed by students, met during this block of time assuming there were no class meetings scheduled.

* Mimi Ito started with a story about her son, who found and scooped up tadpoles on a hike.  He went to an aquarium shop to find the necessary accessories for keeping these tadpoles alive, and ended up finding someone (the guy who worked at and/or owned the aquarium shop) passionate about aquariums, aquatic life, amphibians, etc.

The Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

Alice Campbell, Digital Initiatives Librarian at VCU, hosted a Wikipedia edit-a-thon where participants added or edited Wikipedia articles.  This tweet from Melissa (who writes things here) sums up the feelings:

There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to adding or editing a Wikipedia page.  I was going to create a page about Nara Sushi, a sushi restaurant that once existed at 1309 West Main Street here in Richmond (it’s now home to a hotdog shop or something).  One could eat sushi by day, but by night it was home to some AMAZING punk and metal shows.

Apparently people slept in the back.

Apparently people slept in the back.

I opted not to add the page, because what could I offer other than the physical address?  Could I use oral histories from people who went to the shows?  Could I use information from people who once worked there?  Does that stuff count as reliable resources to Wikipedia, or is that stuff considered original research?  Would some Wikipedia editor curse my name, because Nara Sushi isn’t notable enough to warrant its own page?

So many questions!  It was the questions that made me think how great a Wikipedia edit-a-thon would be for students who struggle with citations or who are bored with a traditional research paper.  When creating a new page or editing a page that currently exists, (if one is a decent human being) one must be informed on the topic.  Therefore some prior reading and synthesizing is necessary.  I’ve seen plenty of students pull a quote out of a source and slap it in a paper with the justification, “Well, I need to cite five sources, so….”

I imagine giving students the opportunity to become an expert in an area of interest to her/him and contribute to Wikipedia, something she/he is familiar with, would bring about some compelling results.

Students struggle with citations and sources.  What’s credible?  When is something considered authoritative?  What’s the difference between a journal and a magazine?  What does peer-reviewed mean?  The Wikipedia edit-a-thon really allows for the unpacking of a source, especially if there’s the chance that another editor might call one out (in a nice way, of course) on a questionable source or edit.

Co-Creating a DML Distributed, Open, Collaborative Course

Lindy Johnson and Anna Keune talked about their work co-creating open, connected courses through DML Commons.  After discussing the planning process and the elements of the two courses currently in progress, we broke into small groups to plan our own DOOC.  What would the subject be?  Which elements would we include?  The group I was in decided that we’d want ALL the things:  a course hub (and this, and this), the integration of Twitter, blogs, etc., webinars and accompanying etherpads for conversations/questions, the opportunity for students to help and teach each other, etc.

As for the subject, we didn’t get to that, but I have a few ideas circling.  What would a distributed, open, collaborative course about Richmond neighborhoods and their histories look like?  Can public libraries leverage DOOCs for entrepreneurs, inventors, and makers in the community?  Based on an email from a friend in a local public library, I wondered if public libraries can leverage the DOOC model to address the learning needs of the community.  How does one solve for the digital divide that still exists in many areas?  There’s a tech committee at school, and we’re talking about digital literacies and how to teach those.  Would a DOOC work?  Is it even necessary?  What about a 23 Things-like thing for staff and faculty?  Is that even necessary or wanted?

And there is the question.  What do people want?  What do learners want to learn?

Lindy and Anna asked us to share a time when we asked students what they wanted to learn and came out of that.  I didn’t share (because, introvert), but I did think back to a info literacy session I did last year when I asked students to write down their thoughts or questions about research on a post-it note.  The post-its were given to me, and we went through them.  Questions ranged from “Is it ok to use Wikipedia?” to “What is NoodleToosl?”  It was an awesome conversation.  Often the question on the post-it lead to other questions and concerns.

STEAM is Not a Big Enough Tent

I didn’t actually go to this session hosted by Josh Weisgrau and Colin Angevine.  The description for the session reads as:

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math have coalesced under a larger interdisciplinary tent known as STEM.  Recently educators in the field found that there was a missing creative element, and STEM became STEAM.  The story we will tell is about how STEAM is still not a big enough tent.

I’ve talked a lot about STEM and STEAM and project-based learning and social entrepreneurship with staff, faculty, and students this semester.  I didn’t think I had the cognitive surplus for one more STEAM-related conversation.  After watching some curious tweets roll though, I regretted not going.

If you don’t have time for the Youtube video, you can read Colin’s “Outgrowing the Acronym.”

So that’s the quick run down from day 1 and 2.

Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by  Robert Bejil

Mic drop.  Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by
Robert Bejil