Design Your Wild Self Avatar: Getting to know one another through mulitmodal composition

post by Bridget

Avatar design could be said to be a new literacy. When playing digital games and social networking, kids often select and customize avatars to represent themselves. They offer opportunities to experiment with different identities and take on roles within the specific context of the game or community. They also offer the opportunity to design with different media and think symbolically about how to represent ‘character’.

This past summer, I used an avatar design activity to launch a Digital Writers’ Workshop with urban middle school students who were participating in a summer school program. Collaborating with a group of doctoral students (Blaine Smith, Christian Ehret, Summer Wood, Tyler Hollett and Robin Jocius), we used the avatar design activity to help us all get to know one another and to introduce kids to the notion that they are multimodal designers and could communicate with different symbol systems (a key theme of the workshop).

Across a series of composing activities, we tried out a scaffolded approach to multimodal composition: Demonstrate, Create, and Share-reflect-respond, or DCSrr for short (Dalton, 2011). Below, I describe this process and share some examples of students’ work, along with their design reflections.

Getting started: Finding the “Build Your Wild Self” avatar design website

The first challenge was finding an avatar design tool online that was free, appropriate for young adolescents, and which ran on the lab computers without glitches. Blaine and I spent a few hours searching, finding some very cool sites that we had to reject, typically because they required registration with a commercial enterprise (something we wanted to avoid), the images of females were highly sexualized, or there were few multicultural options.

We hit pay dirt when we found the “Build Your Wild Self” website sponsored by the New York Zoos and Aguariam and the Wildlife Conservation Society (http://www.buildyourwildself.com/). Of course, the first thing I had to do was design my own avatar to explore the tool and think about how kids would use it. Here is the home page, which displays my avatar.

avatar home page

Here I am on the “Build Your Wild Self” avatar design website

screen shot of PPT introducing avatar activity

screenshot of Blaine's avatar design

image of avatar design

Serina’s avatar:

Antennas: I picked the antennas because I can search out things and I also need glasses to see. Those are kind of my little glasses.

Rabbit ears: So I have the rabbit ears, if that’s what they are, so know that I can hear you

Wings: …because I thought they were cool, they looked all right and also I can fly,

I can do anything I want to do and see stuff and if you mess with me, I’ll stick you.

image of avatar design

Serina’s avatar: I can do anything I want to do

Parting shot: Fun? Yes! Multimodal composition? Yes!

Try designing your own ‘wild self’ and then try it out with your students. I would love to hear how it goes (post a comment, please!).

Developing student’s visual literacy through scaffolded image inquiry

A post from Bridget

We live in a visual world.  The screen of the computer, eReader, smart phone, and game consul is dominated by visuals that we must interpret in relation to their design, communication purpose, and interactive capabilities. What is changing, however, is the degree to which the visual is entering the academic domain.  While visual literacy has always held a place in the literacy curriculum, it is increasingly recognized as an essential literacy skill for the 21st century.   According to the Common Core standards and the IRA/NCTE reading/language arts standards, students must learn how to be savvy consumers AND creative, adept producers of visual messages.

In this post, I feature one of my favorite visual literacy resources, Image Detective, and share an example from Isabel Bauerlein demonstrating how the Image Detective scaffolded inquiry process can be extended in the classroom.  Read on! View on!

Image Detective, is a free online tool developed by Bill Tally and colleagues at the Center for Children and Technology, Education Development Center. http://cct2.edc.org/PMA/image_detective/

home screen of Image Detective

click image to enlarge

We’re used to teaching students the inquiry process in relation to their research projects and science investigations.  Why not teach them how to “inquire” about images?  Better yet, teach them visual inquiry within a subject area such as social studies so that they develop visual literacy skills while also learning to think like a historian with primary sources?  The Image Detective scaffolds the inquiry processes of asking questions, critically reading images, understanding context and background, synthesizing ideas and drawing conclusions, and comparing conclusions. The turn of the 19th century images reflect social studies themes such as immigration, women’s suffrage, and the American west.

This next screenshot shows how students collect and interpret visual clues in response to one of the default questions, “Is this poster in favor of women’s right ot vote or against it?”  Students may also type in their own question.

screenshot shows image clue hotspot and notes about clue

click image to enlarge

The third screenshot shows how students develop a conclusion based on the image clues that they have collected. Once they’ve submitted a conclusion, they can compare their response to others’ that have been posted.  Important note – the Image Detective does not save students’ work after the session is ended, so students will need to print out their work or cut and paste it into a Word doc.

screenshot showing prompted conclusion

click image to enlarge

What about the research base for this type of digital tool?  Tally and Goldenburg (2005) studied how 159 middle school and high school students and their teachers used Image Detective to explore one of the Picturing Modern America images.  They found that students were able to engage in historical thinking behaviors such as close observation, inferencing from evidence, corroboration, and question posing.  Students also reported that they enjoyed learning history by investigating images, rather than listening to lectures and reading textbooks.

To learn more about this study, read:  Tally, B. & Goldenberg, L. B. (2005).  Fostering historical thinking with digitized primary sources.  Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38(1), 1-21.

Extending Image Detective in the classroom – An example from Isabel Bauerlein

Teachers often ask me if it is possible to use Image Detective with images other than the nine scaffolded images that are featured in the tool.  I think that would be a great feature, but it is currently not on option (are you listening, Bill Tally?!).

I usually respond that it would be great to introduce students to the visual inquiry process using the Image Detective tool and then extend it informally beyond the specific tool and images.  In one of my classes last semester I suggested that Power Point might serve well as a hypertext authoring environment for creating an Image Detective-like learning experience.    I speculated that teachers and students could both get involved in creating scaffolded image inquiries to share with others.  Isabel Bauerlein, a recent graduate of our masters’ degree program in reading, took up the challenge.  She designed an intriguing extension of Image Detective for her class project, using  Power Point to create a scaffolded inquiry experience with photos that are now freely available from Life magazine.  With her permission, I am sharing some of her work. I find it quite inspiring!

Here is Isabel’s description of her project:

Isabel Bauerlein Analyzing Images  This three lesson series for 9th grade English is designed as an introduction to the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Students practice analyzing images on the Image Detective website, transfer those skills to analyzing a historic image from the 1930s, learn about the Scottsboro Trial, and then analyze a set of LIFE magazine photos for ideological stance.

An excerpt from Lesson 2 about the Scottsboro Trial is shown in the next 3 slides.  Note how Isabel used the same inquiry structure as the Image Detective, offering support through hyperlinked slides.

click image to enlarge

Isabel goes on with additional slides that pose questions and offer clues that encourage students to apply a more critical perspective to this historical image.  For example, in the following slide, Isabel asks students to think about why the Life reporter (and magazine editor) would use the word “goggling” in this caption to describe how these young black men are viewing the scene outside the window.

click image to enlarge

Are you feeling inspired to try out Image Detective and/or create your own scaffolded images ?!  While this tool and Isabel’s example are designed for students in middle to high school grades, I can imagine how it could be extended for work with younger students.

Please share your experiences teaching visual literacy skills and resources by posting a comment to this blog.  Read! View! Interact!

Digital Book Trailers: A Welcome Alternative to the Book Report

A post from Bridget.

I was an avid reader beginning in third grade, when my parents finally allowed me to ride my bike to the local library on my own (those were safer times). Once a week, I would collect as many books as I could fit into my bike basket and pedal back home with my treasures.  My friends didn’t know I was a voracious reader (I didn’t want to appear nerdy and enjoyed my private reading world).   Perhaps more surprising is the fact that my teachers were unaware of my love of reading. I deliberately kept them in the dark for fear that I would be asked to write the “dreaded book report”, a genre that I found incredibly boring. Even worse, I might be asked to stand up in the front of the class and give an oral book report.

Happily, in today’s media rich world there are alternatives to the traditional book report.  Digital book trailers are becoming increasingly popular with kids, teachers, authors, and publishers alike.  What is a digital book trailer?  While definitions vary, a popular form of digital book trailer is a short digital video (less than 2 minutes) that combines characteristics of a movie trailer and a book advertisement.

In the following section, I highlight some wonderful examples of book trailers created by students (and in one case, by an incredibly entertaining teacher and librarian), and provide some links to resources.

STORYTUBES:  Young children are in on the act of creating book trailers

The annual STORYTUBE contest is sponsored by several ALA libraries.  Open to children from ages 5 to 18, students submit their digital book trailers in January/February.  In addition to the winners selected by a panel of judges, the online audience votes for their favorite.

Take the time to view two of my personal  favorites in the 5-7 year old category.  The first features “A Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats and the second features “ The Story of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo.   In “A Snowy Day’, a young girl is videotaped as she introduces the story, falls asleep to enter into the story world where she re-enacts key scenes from the book, and then wakes up to close with a message to read the book.  The Edward Tulane video is more complex in video production, involving a green screen, hand-drawn illustrations, and props.  Both are terrific!
StoryTube website

http://www.storytubes.info

http://storytubes.info/drupal/node/50

http://teacherlibrarian.ning.com/video/storytube-contest-entry-edward

Middle School Students at Veterans Park Academy post digital book trailers to their school blog

Book trailers are ideal for middle grade children who have seen and enjoyed many movie trailers and are eager to merge this with the book advertisement.  Check out the digital book trailers created by Mrs. Hansen’s students using Photo Story 3. While there is no live video,  Rachel’s book trailer for “Rules ” by Cynthia Lord shows how images, sound track, and text can work together to pique your curiosity and make you want to read the book “to find out what happens…”

http://vpaamedia.edublogs.org/2009/01/20/students-create-digital-book-trailers-like-movie-previews-for-books/

The Digital Book Talk Center 

The Digital Book Talk Center’s motto is “ Creating a community of avid readers, one video at a time”.  Led by Dr. Robert Kenny of Florida Gulf Coast University and Dr. Glenda Gunter of the University of Central Florida, this award-winning site offers 113 digital book talks (with more coming from K-12 and university students).  There is an array of book trailers that will appeal to adolescent learners, either as an enticement to read a new book, or as an introduction to a book they have already selected to read.  You may also  download the U-B_the_Director curriculum, and view other instructional resources, such as the “how to make a book trailer” video. http://www.ehow.com/how_4491963_make-book-trailer.html

 http://digitalbooktalk.com 

Everybody is doing it, even teachers and librarians!

I can’t end this post without calling your attention to a very entertaining book trailer, MouseSpace:  Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, 2008 Librareo Winner

I laugh every time I watch this video about a teacher who runs into the library moments before the bell rings for class to find the book that she absolutely MUST HAVE for her lesson.  Unfortunately, she can only remember that it has something to do with a mouse.  See how many titles you recognize as this knowledgeable librarian runs through a multitude of ‘mouse-related’ book titles!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM3Ws0W86r4

And, that’s a wrap, folks!

VocabVid Stories: Developing vocabulary depth and breadth through live action video

A post from Bridget

Language is hard to express in words. Voltaire

Last week, Jill blogged about a chapter we wrote on developing vocabulary through multimodal expression (Castek, Dalton & Grisham, in press). I wanted to expand on the Vocab Vid strategy (Dalton & Grisham, 2011) and share some examples created by students in my graduate course on adolescent literacy. Their videos “show not tell” the potential of this multimodal word learning strategy. I have also included a handout at the end of the post that you can adapt for use with your students. I’ve learned that some structuring of the process results in more creative and effective videos.

The way that I‘ve been thinking about VocabVids is in the form of a short, live action story (30-45 seconds). Language learning is social – we learn with and about vocabulary as we experience it in specific contexts (Gee, 2004). We also know that many students benefit from multimedia learning, especially in relation to vocabulary (Mayer, 2005; Dalton, Proctor, Uccelli, Mo & Snow, 2011).

To create VocabVids, students work in small groups to develop a scenario for use of the word, discussing the nuances of word meaning and relationships between words. The planning process involves getting to know the word through initial research with tools such as an online thesaurus and an image search of the term. Students brainstorm a context for the word, asking who, what, where, when and why would this word be used? Skits are improvised, filmed, reviewed, and reshot if necessary. I deliberately have kept the process short – the video is planned and filmed in about 15 minutes – and the product is a live action video that does not involve editing. The final products are presented in class for discussion of the words and digital video skills, with an option to publish to a larger audience on the school website, YouTube, Teacher tube, etc.

But what about word choice? I would choose words for different purposes. To begin, you might ask students to select from a list of words that meet Beck and McKeowan’s notion of tier 2 words – words that are important to know and which aren’t part of everyday word knowledge. Or, you might want to open it wide and let students choose their own words, which could be quite specific to their interests, linked to a novel they are reading, or to a unit they are studying in science and social studies. Encourage them to choose a word that lends itself to being acted out (don’t avoid abstract words – they can be excellent candidates).

Student-designed Vocab Vids
The following 6 videos are posted with permission of the authors who are graduate students in my class, EnEd 3400, Reading and Learning with Print and New Media. I’ve highlighted the targeted word and story context for your information. However, I recommend that you and your students try watching the video without knowing the targeted word to see how quickly you can generate a range of guesses. Use the related words and storyline as clues to engage your students in active word learning.

VocabVid 1: ‘Ritual’ by Meridith and Ashley

With a coffee cup and the words ‘routine’, ‘pattern’, and ‘customary habit’, Ashley and Meridith illustrate a morning ritual many of us enjoy – drinking coffee.

VocabVid 2: ‘Conspicuous’ by Leah and Max

Playing Hide and Seek?  As Leah chides Max, it is very important to be ‘discreet’.  Since Max is usually ‘obvious’, ‘blatant’ and ‘eye-catching’, will he be able to find a hiding spot that is not ‘conspicuous’?

VocabVid 3: ‘Diminutive’ by Katie R and Laura

Laura convinces Katie that the spot on her jeans is ‘little’, ‘tiny’, ‘petite’, even ‘Lilliputian’.  It is ‘NOT huge’, as Katie fears, but “diminutive”!  Personally, I loved the Lilliputian reference from Gulliver’s Travels.

VocabVid 4: ‘Eerie’ by Erin

Flashing lights and strange noises in the bathroom result in a ‘weird’, ‘spooky’, ‘creepy’, and ‘eerie’ experience for Erin.

VocabVid 5: ‘Lurk’ by Neil and Yumeng

When does ‘lying in wait’ and ‘peeking’ turn into ‘lurking’?!  Yumeng helps Neil understand the difference.

VocabVid 6: ‘Braggadocio’ by Russell and Simon

Technical alert – this video is sideways, but funny!

Why would Russell call his friend a ‘bombast’ and scorn him for his ‘pomposity’ and lack of ‘humility’?  Watch ‘braggadocio’ Simon to find out!

STUDENT HANDOUT: 30 Second VocabVid Stories

 Your goal:  To show, not tell, the meaning of a word in a 30-second digital VocabVid  Story

VocabVid Stories are short (about 30-45 seconds) videos that illustrate the meaning of a word through a short skit.  The goal is to situate the word within a meaningful context to help us learn and remember the word.  And, you will learn something about designing short videos along the way!

 Plan

1.  Research your word to find synonyms, antonyms, and other related words that you can include in your story dialogue. Don’t forget to make note of different forms of the word. The Visual Thesaurus or other online thesaurus tools are great resources for exploring the meaning of your word.

2.  Brainstorm possible contexts for how the word might be used.  As you’re brainstorming, think about how you can act out your video skit.

  •  Where might you hear this word?
  • Who might be saying it?
  • What is happening?
  • When is the word being used?
  • Why are they saying it?
  • What kinds of feelings might be associated with this word?

3.  Do you need any simple props?

4. What is your location? Where will you film? (Since we are in school, I have made arrangements for you to use this class, the hallway, outside the door at the end of the hall, etc.)

5. Make a sign showing your word in writing (print the word large and clear so that it can be read on screen). You will show this sign at the end of the video.

 Film

6. Improvise your skit, giving each other feedback as you go along.

7. Film your skit and review (see the technical advice section on shooting your video and using a Flip camera).

8. Try filming again if needed and select the best one.

Show (and perhaps publish)

9. Share your videos in class and discuss what you learned about these words, as well as what you learned about creating VocabVid Stories.

10. Consider posting your video to a class website, blog, or YouTube (be sure to have everyone’s permission to post)

 Technical Tips for Shooting your Video

1. Don’t shoot into the light! (Avoid standing in front of windows).

2. Actors need to face the camera or each other at an angle that still allows them to be seen and heard. It is common for people to turn away from the camera, especially if they are in groups. Watch out for this.

3. Actors need to speak clearly! Be dramatic!

4. Find a quiet spot.  Test your volume at the beginning, so you know who needs to be louder or who needs to speak more clearly.

5. Show your vocabulary word on a piece of paper at the end.  I have provided markers and paper for you to use.

 Flip Camera Directions

  • How to Turn Your Camera On: Slide the gray button on the top right side of the camera down. Your camera will automatically turn on.
  • How to Begin Shooting: Hold the camera in the vertical position (otherwise, you will get sideways video!). Press the red button to begin filming.
  • How to Stop Shooting: Press the red button again.  There is no way to pause your videos, so you will have to complete them in one take. But, please film a few takes and compare so that you can choose the best one!
  • Zoom In/Out: Press the + button to zoom in and the – button to zoom out.
  • How to Play Videos Back: Press the Play button to the left side of the screen. Press it again to go to the next video.
  • How to Delete Videos: If you want to delete a video, press the trash can twice.

ONLY KEEP THE FINAL VERSION OF THE VIDEO ON THE FLIP CAMERA. DELETE ALL OTHER VERSIONS BEFORE RETURNING THE CAMERA to Robin – she will download on Bridget’s computer.

 References:

Castek, J., Dalton, B., & Grisham, D. (in press). Using multimedia to support students’ generative vocabulary learning. In J. Baumann and E. Kame’enui (Eds.) Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Dalton, B., Proctor, C.P., Uccelli, P., Mo, E. & Snow, C.E. (2011).  Designing for diversity:  The role of reading strategies and interactive vocabulary in a digital reading environment for 5th grade monolingual English and bilingual students.  Journal of Literacy Research, 43 (1), 68-100.

Dalton, B. & Grisham, D. (2011).  eVoc strategies: Ten ways to use technology to build vocabulary. The Reading Teacher, 64(5), 306–317. DOI:10.1598/RT.64.5.1

 

Shrek and Big Bang Theory: Using Popular Culture to Develop Vocabulary

A post from Bridget

I have been on a vocabulary roll lately. Everywhere I go, I find myself intrigued by vocabulary instruction possibilities inherent in our everyday experiences, enmeshed as they are in technology and media.

Idea #1: Driving home listening to an NPR radio show on new words from 2010, I found myself singing “I’m a belieber” to the tune of the Beatles song.  No, that is not a typo —  a belieber is someone who is a fan of Justin Bieber!  It would be fun and productive to have students nominate, advertise, and vote on “new” words or phrases, drawing on popular culture and current events, as well as local words that are part of their school, family, or community scene.

For example, my sisters and I know what it means when we say “donkey”, especially if accompanied by a raised eyebrow and gaze at the person of interest.  We’re referring to the Shrek movie scene where the donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy), is about to lose it and yells, All right, nobody move! I’ve got a dragon and I’m not afraid to use it! I’m a donkey on the edge! “

image of donkey from the movie Shrek

My sisters and I  know to back off and give the “donkey” some space, or to gently offer help (for memorable Shrek quotes, see  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0126029/quotes ).

Students could post their written or multimodal nominations for new words to a class or school-wide vocabulary blog and construct a voting poll using a free tool like Survey Monkey (SurveyMonkey.com).  1 minute podcasts for the ‘New word of the Week’ could become a regular feature of your class!

Idea #2. While we often bemoan the low level of vocabulary heard on TV, inspiration can be found in unlikely places.   “The Big Bang Theory”, a sitcom about a group of nerdy academics, makes me laugh out loud at the way language is used. The show presents multiple opportunities to engage students in exploring advanced vocabulary in a humorous social context. Students could watch video excerpts (there are a slew of them on youtube.com ) or read quotes (again, just Google ‘Big Bang Theory’ and you will find lists).  They would work with words in different ways, depending on the quote.

For example, the following Big Bang Theory quote offers a comical contrast of expert and novice:

The guys are playing the Halo video game and Peggy joins in…

Sheldon: This is a complex battle simulation with a steep learning curve. There are a myriad of weapons, vehicles, and strategies to master, and not to mention an extremely intricate back story.
[Explosion on the video screen.]
Penny: Oh, cool! Whose head did I just blow off?
Sheldon: Mine.

Big Bang Theory scene, playing Halo

The youtube scene is 2.49 minutes and includes several great examples of vocabulary and figurative language; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd37YLDWv28.

Students could begin by delving into Sheldon’s vocabulary (e.g., complex, myriad, intricate, back story, steep learning curve) and then discuss why Penny’s response and the outcome are both ironic and funny.  Would it be so humorous if Sheldon had merely said “Halo is an awesome video game that I play all the time”?   What if Penny had failed at the game? To extend the activity, have students create their own conversational exchanges contrasting “expert” and “novice” ways of talking so as to poke fun at the expert (or perhaps the reverse).

Sheldon often has difficulty understanding the social nuances of language. Here’s another quote from the show that invites a discussion of the differences between literal and abstract meanings,  and the fun that can be had when we intentionally (or unintentionally) confuse the two.

Leonard: For God’s sake, Sheldon, do I have to hold up a sarcasm sign every time I open my mouth?
Sheldon (intrigued): You have a sarcasm sign?

And, finally, here is an example of Sheldon’s use of hyperbole (i.e.,  exaggerated language that is “used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally, Wikipedia).

Sheldon:  When I try to deceive, I, myself, have more nervous tics than a Lyme Disease research facility.

In addition to interpreting and critiquing “Big Bang Theory” language use, students could be challenged to find examples in current events, TV, songs, billboards,  and overheard conversations.

Here is one from the Simpsons:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve been to Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together.”
(Kent Brockman, The Simpsons)

Another way to approach hyperbole is to start with an image as a stimulus. Consider this photo of a fish feeding frenzy.  Figuratively speaking, when do people go after something (other than food) with a voracious appetite – mobbing a celebrity for an autograph? devouring books?

fish feeding frenzy

Check out Worsely Middle School’s website featuring students’ use of hyperbole.  http://www.worsleyschool.net/socialarts/hyperbole/hyperbole.html

All too often, students think learning vocabulary is boring (especially when it involves looking up definitions and writing sentences).  Media and technology offer a fruitful playground for vocabulary learning, appreciation, and expression.  Try it and see!  And, please post a comment to share your insights and experience.  I can say without hyperbole that I would be over the moon!

NOTE. Photo acknowledgement:  Creative Commons license.  fish feeding frenzy by devan.laney.  Shrek movie image of donkey retreived from Google Image.  Image from Big Bang Theory taken from youtube.

Adopt a word…please?!

A post from BridgetOne of my grad students, Isabel Bauerlin, brought my attention to this quirky vocabulary website from Oxford University Press, savethewords.org. Unusual (dare I say, archaic?) words call out to you when moused over, “Hey you, adopt me!”. Of course, with adoption comes commitment – you must swear to incorporate the word into your speaking vocabulary (well, okay, perhaps your writing vocabulary). Just for fun, hold a weekly adopt-a-word day in your class. Have two or three students make a case for adopting a word and then have the class vote for their “adoptee”. The challenge is to see how creatively the word can be woven into conversation in and out of class during the week. In no time at all, you will find your vocabulary knowledge gumfiating (swelling, that is!). Verily, your students will find this activity to be locupletive (enjoyable), contributing to the word consciousness and playfulness that is at the heart of vocabulary development.  Enjoy!

Wordle – a free word cloud tool

A post from Bridget

Okay, here I go.  My first blog.  What is important enough to share?  Maybe I won’t worry so much about importance (for whom, after all?  It should be important to some, of course, and certainly important to me).

I’ve been playing with Wordle, a free online tool that allows you to create a word cloud based on the frequency of words in a text (wordle.com).  Here is one that I created based on a National Geographic article about the mysterious disappearance of bees:

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