Category Archives: New Media Seminar

Thesis: I Tell Stories

INTRODUCTION

I tell stories.

Although the specific medium and formal qualities may differ from project to project, the majority of my work is narrative. Most of my stories are presented in the form of comics, though animations and more experimental forms of storytelling do make appearances. The form a story takes is decided by what I feel has the most potential to successfully convey the content of the story. Much of my work can be called “digital storytelling”. This is a broad term: I use it to refer to any narrative which utilizes digital technology as an integral part of its production, distribution or consumption. This may simply mean that the comics I produced are published on the web though they could potentially be published in a print format. Other times it means that my work can only exist in a digital realm.

My stories explore the power of narrative to make sense of the world and to influence people’s beliefs and perspectives. I do this in one of two ways: remixing familiar stories and tropes and drawing attention to narrative structures within the narrative itself. Some of my stories draw on specific narratives of fairy tales or mythologies, while other only reference their common tropes, archetypes and story structure. Still others make storytelling and the power of narrative an important aspect of the story itself. By referencing common genre conventions and tropes and then turning them on their head, I cause the viewer to acknowledge the prevalence of these conventions and tropes. In having characters that recognize the influences of stories in their own experience, I force the reader to consider the ways in which stories are being used to shape their lives everyday. In addition, I seek to include types of characters who are underrepresented in the majority of mainstream stories, to push the idea that different types of stories are equally valuable.

But above all I simply try to tell good stories.

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Wired Learning: A Survey of Digital Technologies as Educational Tools

INTRODUCTION

We live in a digital society. In the U.S. people of all ages – teens and young adults especially – use technology in their daily lives. Between 70-80% of adults [1] and 93% of teens (ages 12 to 17) and young adults (ages 18 to 29) in the U.S. use the internet [2].

Bar graph of 2009 data showing the statistics of who uses is on the internet by age group.[3]

But our digital media use doesn’t stop at the internet. A huge portion of the U.S. population owns some kind of electronic “gadget.” 88% of adults [4] and 75% of teens [5] own a cell phone. 1 in 10 people in the U.S. now own an ebook reader [6]. Tablet computers are on the rise [7]. 80% of teens own some sort of gaming console and 51% own a portable gaming device [8]. It is growing increasingly rare to find anyone in the United States that isn’t wired in some way or another.

In addition, nearly three-quarters of teens and young adults have a profile on and use some sort of social networking site [9]. Facebook alone hosts over 901 million users, with 546 million of those being active on a daily basis [10].

It would be safe to assume, given these statistics, that technology and digital media was being used in every aspect of U.S. citizen’s lives. People, young people especially, find themselves engaging with at least some form of digital media on a consistent basis. They use technology to communicate, to find information, to entertain themselves, to play games, to consume content, to create content, to actively participate in the world around them, and most importantly, to learn.

However, a great deal of that learning isn’t going on inside of the classroom. As of fall 2008, the ratio of students to instructional computers with internet access was about 3 to 1 [11].  In 2009, only 40 percent of teachers reported using computers “often” during instructional time, and 10 percent claim to not use computers for instruction at all [12]. The statistics become bleaker when we look beyond computers to other technologies.

Table with data about the use of technology in public schools
Percent of public school teachers reporting how frequently they used various types of software and Internet sites for classroom preparation, instruction, or administrative tasks [13].

Percent of public school teachers reporting how frequently their students performed various activities using educational technology during their classes

Percent of public school teachers reporting how frequently their students performed various activities using educational technology during their classes [14].

In the majority of U.S. public schools, teachers are not taking full advantage of the technologies available to them. Part of this may be due to inadequate training. Only one-fourth of teachers gained any training as an undergraduate and only 33 percent as a graduate. 53 percent of teachers only spent 1 to 8 hours in professional development involving educational technology, while 13 percent spent none at all. Over three-fourths of public school teachers gained the majority of their understanding of how to effectively use educational technology for instruction independently [15].

Is this failure to effectively use technology in the classroom effecting education and our students’ futures? Possibly. In 2009 the dropout rate for students 16 through 24 years old in the United States was 8.1 percent. That percent jumps to 9.3 for Black students, 13.2 for American Indian or Alaskan Native students and 17.6 for Hispanic students [16]. Reports suggest that of those students who do graduate high school, only 25% are properly prepared for college [17]. Only 57% of students seeking a Bachelor’s degree will complete their requirements within 6 years [18]. Over half of recent college graduates are un- or underemployed [19].

Clearly something is not working with our educational system. Students today are disengaged from school and are unprepared for the modern workforce. This is in part due to the fact that there is a huge “digital divide” between student’s in-school and out of school use of technology [20].

As Larry Rosen stated in his book, Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn: 

“Education has not caught up with this new generation of tech-savvy children and teens. It is not that they don’t want to learn. They just learn differently. Gone are the days when students would sit quietly in class, reading a book or doing a math worksheet. Literally, their minds have changed – they have been “rewired.” With all the technology that they consume, they need more from education. The educational content is not the problem. It is the delivery method and the setting. Today’s youth thrive on multimedia, multitasking, social environments for every aspect of their lives except education” [21]

Today’s learners are learning all the time – outside of school. The problem comes when the ways in which they learn outside of school and the ways in which they are expected to learn in the classroom no longer align.

The second issue is the fact that schools are no longer teaching the right things. In 1996 the New London Group stated that “the fundamental purpose [of education] is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, [Creative] and economic life” [22]. In today’s world students require different skill sets. A good portion of those skill sets involve technology which isn’t being covered by the average school curriculum.

Obviously technology is not a panacea for all educational ills. As the failure of programs like the One Laptop per Child [23] program demonstrate, simply throwing technology at students will not achieve results. Instead technologies must be effectively utilized in order to bring about positive learning experiences.

The following content of this paper will give a brief and incomplete survey of the ways in which technology is currently being used for learning purposes in a number of different settings. These settings include:

  • Classroom use – Technology use within an otherwise traditional classroom setting
  • Online learning – or “eLearning.” A fully digital, online classroom experience
  • Blended learning course – which combine both classroom and online components
  • Independent learning – or learning completely separate from any formal educational institute

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