The original assignment recommended using Twister for creating a fake Twitter tweet, but a quick internet search led me to Simitator.com which has generators for fake Facebook, Yahoo and other services as well.
Most people today have never heard of Dr. John R. Brinkley, but in his day he was more famous than Justin Bieber, richer than Bill Gates, and developed a surgical procedure using “goat glands” that was believed to have similar effects as Viagra, preceding this drug by 80 years. In his time, he was a media mogul; a true household name, doing his radio broadcasts across the USA. He was the original licensee of the XER border blaster radio station in Mexico. He was also a pioneer in distance learning and mediated education, doing lectures over the radio for college credit. It should also be noted that he died in disgrace, broken and penniless.
Well, it is week two of Digital Storytelling and the theme this week is Welcome To My Nightmare. Speaking of nightmares, last night I had one. I woke up heart a-pounding and yelling out as a zombie was eating my face. I think it used to really bother my wife when this happened, but now she just wakes me up & tells me to knock it off. It’s quite a relief to realize your face isn’t actually being eaten.
I went to a PTSD workshop just before school started. We have a lot of veterans on campus and they wanted the faculty to be familiar with what to expect. As a combat veteran myself, there was a point in the presentation I really had to resist the urge to get up and leave. I’ve never been diagnosed with PTSD, but the symptoms they described sounded familiar. Evidently, people having prior traumatic events can be pushed into PTSD with later events. I didn’t know that, but it explained a lot about me. I’ve had nightmares off and on my whole life,(possibly related to a childhood trauma I experienced) although they have slowed down quite a bit in recent years. I think the theme of our storytelling class might be stirring the pot of my mind a bit.
A few students expressed some concern over some of the content of this course. We suggest that you approach the recommended stories analytically, rather than reading/watching/listening to them as entertainment. Consider the techniques being used to convey the story. What do the authors do to get reactions from their audience? How do their techniques impact our emotions? How might you employ those techniques? Taking that approach might make the media a little less scary. Anyone who has serious concerns about the content should let us know.
This also holds true for my students. If you have serious concerns about the content, let me know. You aren’t talking to an unsympathetic ear here. The bad dream I had this morning really happened. But do think about viewing this subject from an analytical point of view. Please consider the techniques used by the author to gain and hold the attention of the audience. And also consider the question of why does the audience purposefully subject themselves to this genre? If you step away and view things from a critical/analytical perspective, it may actually help you to be less affected by things.
Therefore, I will press ahead, because I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose of scary movies. Why do we love them? For me, it is sort of a rush similar to that offered by a roller coaster. You feel like you are putting your life in danger when you experience roller coasters and scary movies.
Dr Marvin Zuckerman explains the psychology of Horror Movies and how this genre has become more and more intense over the years:
Now if you’ve read at least the intro to Stephen King’s Danse Macabre book, you know that he thinks the sort of people who enjoy horror movies and stories (sensation-seekers) are a special breed. They aren’t living life in the same way as ordinary people. To King, they live life more fully, acknowledging human frailty, but charging ahead anyway, fully cognizant of the risks.
Another reason I think it is good to like scary stories is that it forces us to face our own mortality. Maybe not everyone responds in this way, but I do. Our lives are of finite, relatively short lengths. Let us do the most we can do to live meaningful lives. People can be here today and gone the next day. So let us also treat each other with great dignity and care.
There’s a book by Og Mandino I read many years ago that I highly recommend entitled A Better Way to Live. Like I said, it has been a long time since I read it, but the one takeaway that has stuck with me all this time is his suggestion to treat every person you meet like you secretly know that today is their last day on Earth. How differently would we treat people if we knew in advance that they would be dead tomorrow? Mandino’s point is that we can’t know this in advance, but it could happen. Perhaps it’s even happened to you – losing someone and you might have treated them differently if you had known the end was coming.
Well, horror stories can put this knowledge of human mortality right up front and center for us. We can respond by cowering in fear for our lives, or we can respond by deciding since our time is short we will make the most of the time that we have, and treat others the most absolute best we can as well.
Process: I found ten photos on my Facebook page I was willing to share in video form. I used Camtasia for editing. It is my go-to editor for quick and dirty, not-too-fancy video editing. I threw in a music snippet I had handy on my hard drive. Looped 12 seconds over and over for a full minute. Uploaded to YouTube. Posted it here.
PS – Did you know that you can mail-order chickens? I was blown away when I discoverd that. You feed them for six weeks. Then eat them up, yum!
For me, February 25, 1991 was an unforgettable day. It was on that day that I was stationed aboard the USS Missouri doing shore bombardment off the coast of Kuwait. Not only were we in an Iraqi minefield, but we were very close to shore.
As we bombed the shore installations, the Kuwaiti oil wells were afire, lit by the retreating Iraqi army. The air was filled with a dense, black smoke. At one point, the alarm was sounded for a gas attack, so we all quickly donned our gas masks, not knowing what would become of us all.
At that point, claustrophobia set in. If you’ve ever worn a gas mask, or any kind of mask really that restricts your breathing, you may know the feeling. But it was especially eerie knowing that poison gas could be lurking nearby, just waiting to overtake us. Then I began to itch. The tip of my nose got an awful itch. But there was nothing I could do. No way to scratch without removing my mask. Definitely not worth the risk.
Just then, our hearts already pounding away, knowing we were under attack, the Captain yelled into the ship’s loudspeaker, “MISSILE INBOUND! ALL HANDS BRACE FOR SHOCK!”
At this point, not only could we not breathe, but we had to find something strong enough to hang onto before the missile slammed into us. “Don’t forget to bend your knees, so they can act as shock absorbers on impact!”
I could hear on my headset chatter that the lookouts had spotted the missile heading our way. Then they saw two streaks launch from our neighboring ship, the HMS Gloucester, towards the missile. SPLASH ONE VAMPIRE! (Inbound missiles are nicknamed vampires.) Hoots and hollers cried out! They got it! What the heck happened? I’m not sure. Was it close? I don’t know.
But a nervous relief set in. We narrowly missed that close call, thanks to our friend riding shotgun, the Gloucester.
I read recently, that sadly, the HMS Gloucester is taking her final voyage to the scrapyard. It will be an ignoble ending to a courageous lady who saved our behinds. I’ve never met a sailor who was on that ship that day. But if I ever do, I’d like to shake his hand.
This fall, I am offering for the first time a course in digital storytelling. I have some online students and some face to face students. Since all of the activities are computer-based and shared online, I am working with the two groups together. In fact, we are collaborating with the DS106 group over at UMW.
I met Jim Groom several years ago when he gave a guest lecture at K-State and was amazed by how he turns a course into a narrative with DS106. Each semester has a storytelling theme, and this year the theme is Tales from DS106, a riff on Tales from the Crypt. This year, my students and I are joining in the fun.
Naturally, I have been pondering the horror genre and its significance. This morning I read through Stephen King’s introduction to the latest edition of his book Danse Macabre, and what he said about people who enjoy the genre is fascinating. According to King, the imaginative person who enjoys these stories “has a clearer fix on the fact of his/her fragility; the imaginative person realizes that anything can go disastrously wrong, at any time.” He says that regular folks with banal entertainment tastes suffer from what he calls “imaginative myopia.” It is the imaginative people who live lively lifes, and more bravely too, because although they more fully understand the risks of being human, they keep going anyway. To them, according to King, “horror movies are a safety valve.”
So I’ll ask you, dear readers, and especially to any students who are reading this. Where do you stand? Are you one of King’s “imaginative people” who enjoy a good horror story? What is your favorite? Do you dislike the genre? Why so? Is it possible that your conception of horror stories is narrow, and actually if you broaden the definition of horror, there are some stories that you do like? And finally, what is your favorite movie or book or comic series – what is your favorite horror story? Let’s discuss in the comments below…
Tomorrow is the first day of school. It can be an awesome, but for me it is sometimes a stressful day. I have often read the online posts of teacher friends and colleagues writing about the excitement they feel in preparing for a new year of classes. The planning, the preparations, arranging the room, even the smell of new school supplies gives them great joy.
What really interests me is meeting the students. That’s what I love most about my job – working with people, helping them to grow and improve themselves. But this is a bit of a paradox, because I can tend to be sort of introverted. Isn’t that strange? I love people, but first encounters can be awkward. It takes me longer than I think it should to learn names, and even after I’ve learned names, I’m still nervous about calling someone by the wrong name (it happens more than I care to think about.) It is frustrating, but I do my best.
This year, I plan to work harder at connecting better with my students. I think sometimes I project a withdrawn, uncaring image but it is mostly just my inner introvert taking over. (Also, I’ve been highly distracted the past several years, and a big part of that is now resolved and out of my life, thanks to a successful Ph.D. defense!)
I’m envious of those who don’t have any issues of connection and rapport, but I’m still willing to work on and improve in this area. I’d be really curious to hear from teachers who have struggled and made improvements in this area.
Digital technology continually offers us new forms of communication. Literacy in the digital age involves both interpreting and creating texts using these new media forms (Daley, 2003; Hobbs, 2011). One of the most powerful forms of communication is the motion picture, which until recently was left to professionals using sophisticated and expensive production equipment. However, new technologies such as digital cameras and editing software have made digital video both accessible and affordable. These tools coupled with Internet-based publishing platforms such as YouTube make it possible for nearly anyone to communicate with a potential global audience.
According to Elizabeth Daley, Dean of the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California, the language of the multimedia screen has become the new vernacular, noting that the screens of televisions and computers are what most people in our culture now use to obtain information and entertainment. She observes that the language of the screen is “capable of constructing complex meanings independent of text” and “enables modes of thought, ways of communicating and conducting research, and methods of publication and teaching that are essentially different from those of text” (Daley, 2003).
It is possible for educators to transfer their assessment knowledge from traditional domains, such as writing, into assessments of new media forms, such as digital video (Worsnop, 1996). Given that assessment of traditional writing assignments is transferable to the medium of digital video, during the past several semesters, we have explored the notion of video as a powerful new form of literacy through the use of “video term papers.”
Paul Bogush has a recent blog about storytelling and I couldn’t resist discussing it here. I think my teaching is at its finest when I am telling relevant and compelling stories. Stories speak to the heart, and I think it may be a skill that is in short supply.
My online friend Barbara Nicolosi has made a career of telling stories, and helping others tell their stories better in the storytelling capital of the world, Hollywood. It is what separates the truly great films from the rest. Paul relates in his blog an idea that is Barbara’s mantra. Great storytellers never tell the audience what to think. According to Barbara, it is the failure of following this principle that gets most Christian filmmakers into trouble. In fact, she has argued that secular filmmakers often do a better job of making Christian films than professed Christians do. For some reason, Christian films can’t ever seem to resist the urge to tell you what to think.
One of Barbara’s favorite writers is Flannery O’Connor, who wrote often morbid tales that leave you thinking. Each story contains a moment of grace for the protagonist, and often this moment of grace is rejected. The author leaves it to the reader to ponder the implications of rejecting grace and redemption. When storytellers do this, they respect the intelligence of the audience. But all too often, this principle is ignored.
This semester, I taught a class in social media technology that essentially was one story after another about the power and pitfalls of the new communications medium. We learned about people who have amassed fortunes through blogging and tweeting online, as well as unfortunate souls who have lost their ability to make a living because of their missteps online. Most of the time, we discussed these stories together in class and I was able to let students reach their own conclusions without explicitly giving them the moral of the story, but I have to admit, there is a powerful urge to do just that.
There seems to be a perception that teachers aren’t doing their job if they aren’t telling you what to think. I would simply rather help my students to do quality thinking. Believe what you believe, but be sure your reasoning is sound.
I think storytelling is becoming a lost art in the classroom. So much these days is prescribed. So much is formulaic. But if you’re creative, I think even the most rigidly defined curriculum still has room for stories.
I will end this with a question. How do you use storytelling in your teaching? If you don’t currently, as a thought exercise, what is one possible way you could use storytelling while teaching the subject you teach?
Yesterday in our Social Media Class, we had a student presenter Khaled share with us Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk on being Connected But Alone. I had read her book Alone Together, but had not yet viewed the TED talk in its entirety. If you aren’t familiar with her work, and are concerned about how technology is changing us, you don’t want to miss it:
After viewing the video, we had a good discussion in class about several of Turkle’s key ideas. This was one:
We’re letting technology take us places we don’t want to go
How is technology changing us, and are we even conscious about it? Are we losing our ability to connect with one another in real life? Are we never truly present to one another in our state of constant electronic distraction?
I was reminded of something Brené Brown wrote some time ago that struck a nerve with me back then: They don’t need us to be sorry, just present. Brown, at the time, was experiencing a meteoric rise in recognition, from giving her own TED talks to appearing on Oprah, and I’m sure things in her house were thrilling but chaotic.
I could totally relate when Brené wrote:
I don’t want my kids to feel like they’re competing with my computer for my time or attention. I’ll NEVER forget when Charlie was about 2 years old and he said, “You play with Chawlie or you play with com-poo-der?” Crushing.
But also this:
I do want to model the importance of hard work and persistence. These are two of my core beliefs and also my strengths – I want to hand them down. In my work I see how privilege and entitlement eventually crush a child’s self-worth. I don’t want my kids to be afraid of disappointment and work. My work is demanding and I want to model rising to the challenge.
All too often, I am guilty of giving only cursory attention to those around me. Family, friends, colleagues, students, everyone really. Like Brené, I am insanely busy at this point in my life. This should change somewhat after I finish my Ph.D. but right now there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
Yet Brené offers some solid advice towards moving in a positive direction addressing Sherry Turkle’s concerns about how we use technology.
I’m employing the Nordstrom method of engaging. The salespeople at Nordstrom always walk around to the front of the register table to hand you your bag. They never reach over the counter. I’m trying to do the same thing. I’m trying to never talk to my kids over the top of my laptop or while I’m staring at the screen.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of that? Someone giving you half (or less) of their attention while peering over the top of a computer monitor? It is unsettling, even insulting. Like Brené’s little Charlie, it feels like they love the computer more. When I remember the feeling, it is a lot easier to be mindful of when I’m doing it to others as well.
As a college professor I see many young students who struggle to connect – to look people in the eye, to carry on a conversation without checking their phones, to walk across campus without talking, texting or listening to music. It’s a problem.
Ask anyone working with young adults, they will agree. Heck, this often comes up in our class discussions. As Sherry Turkle reminds us, we are letting technology take us places we don’t want to go, but it doesn’t have to be so. We just need to be a little more aware of what is happening, and then put our foot down when we don’t like how things are. Like taking time to look people in the eye, to have actual, attentive conversations with one another. To respect and to value one another.
But it doesn’t come automatically. As Sherry Turkle says in her TED talk, technology plays to our weaknesses. It is always easier to send a text than to look someone in the eye. When you have a live, face to face conversation you cannot edit and perfect your words. You are there, warts and all; you are vulnerable. But that is part of being human, and part of being alive. Those who start to figure this out and make conscious choices in how they conduct their lives with regards to technology will be living as the best version of themselves.
Last night, on DS 106 Radio, my daughter & I listened to a program hosted by the notorious femme fatale, Talky Tina. After chatting with her on Twitter, we were invited to apply for “True Friend” status, which we have done straight away, because you don’t diss Talky Tina.
We even created an animated gif for our potential True Friend badge, and are anxiously awaiting to learn if we have met her stringent requirements. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
I’m so thrilled that we have been accepted as Talky Tina’s True Friends. I will now display this badge of honor forever!