Tag: resources (Page 2 of 4)

Resources for Educators: Open Educational Material

When at all possible, let others do the work. Yeah, that may sound lazy, but I prefer to think of it as efficient. Truth be told, there is a LOT of quality educational material out there that is free to use. A lot of it is for more advanced users (college courses and the like), but some of it is perfect for any age.

Here are a few of my favorite Open Educational Material sites

Open Stax

This initiative from Rice University provides dozens of best-of-breed college courses free for the public.

MIT Open Courseware

From MIT, another exceptional site. This one includes actual MIT courses that are streamed. You can interact with other students, ask the professor questions, and even do the assignments

Udemy

Udemy is a commercial site where users upload courses on every topic imaginable. There are a lot of these kinds of sites, but I chose this one to post about because it has high quality standards and a wide variety of courses

EdX

The Holy Grail of free online courses from top-of-the-line Universities. Some are always open, others run at the same time as the class on campus. Interact with students and professors and even take a credited route.

What have I missed? Share your favorites in the comments.

 

Benefits of Multimedia Education

I preach Educational Storytelling and the mixed-media, interactive revolution. But, the two are not separate. In fact, my ultimate goal is to help create a platform for interactive and personalized curriculum design using a multimedia platform.

Just to “test the waters” as it were, I have collected a few “stater” posts and articles about the benefits and use of multimedia in education.

  • Benefits of Using Multimedia in Education is an overview for a graduate level course on multimedia education.
  • This report, “Multimedia Transformation,” examines the many ways multimedia tools are transforming teaching and learning as schools work to raise achievement and prepare students for careers that require increasingly sophisticated uses of technology.
  • The last is a list of software and applications that can be used to create multimedia educational resources. As with everything in technology, the list can be a little outdated, but still valuable.

I will dig deeper into all of these as time goes by. For now, I just wanted to get them out there.

Please add your own to the comments.

The Future of Content: Immersive and Expansive

This post is part of The Future of Digital Content series, which discusses six traits I believe will be at the heart what content will look like in the coming years. These traits form a roadmap that lies at the heart of my research and experiments. The traits also work together, mixing and meshing, to paint a picture of how our future selves may read, watch, learn, and listen.

Read the rest of the series.

Let’s recap real fast. We are talking about what content may look like in the future. How is the line between books, television, internet, apps, and other content forms blurring? With shortening attention spans, how will content evolve?

So far, we’ve touched on five:

  1. Mulit-access – we want our content delivered in many different ways.
  2. Multi-modal – we want content that includes several forms of communication (video, text, sound, etc)
  3. Interactive – We want to take control of our destiny (or content). It should respond to us. Personalized.
  4. Collaborative – Working together with readers and other creators to build something more than we could ourselves.
  5. Social – In real live and in cyberspace, social between authors, characters, and readers.

Now, at the end, we reach immersive and expansive. My personal favorite.

Stories have universes, and we want to explore more than just the small part we see in a video or read in a book. Immersive means that we will be able to surround ourselves and explore content on our own terms. Expansive means that content will link together with other content.

To be honest, the inspiration for these traits come from Comicpalooza and other awesome scifi/comic conventions. For those who don’t know how they work, you basically shove thousands of (comic book, sci-fi, anime, and associated awesomeness) fans into a convention center for a weekend. Let the madness begin. The fans bring their favorite stories to life in really interesting ways: dressing as their favorite characters, creating new characters, writing their own stories based in the world, and creating a myriad of art, games, and other materials. This “fanverse” is not canon (not part of the official story), but often becomes just as important to the fans.

It may sound a little weird, but its a lot of fun. And this growing phenomenon can teach us about the future of content.

Expansive Content

This centers around the concept of a “storyverse,” another feature of my research into narrative identity. A storyverse is usually seen in two different ways, as the universe the story happens in and as the universe of story-related stuff in the real world. For clarification sake, I’m going to break these into two different terms.

The Storyverse

This is the world, the galaxy, the universe of the content itself. This is best seen in fiction, where you have characters playing out in a setting. The reader/audience only sees a small part of that universe — whatever the storyteller wants them to see. But, we can imagine that a character has extended family we never meet, lives in a city with unknown streets, and has lived a life beyond the 400 pages of our book. We don’t get to see everything. Most often, the feeling of a story being just part of a universe is what makes a story shine. You’ve heard of three-dimensional characters and internally-consistent worlds? This is the storyverse.

Increasingly, we are seeing storytellers let the reader into more of the storyverse through bonus features, short stories, and connected series.  In this way, we get to choose our own path as we discover the storyverse. There are extra storybits “out there” for us to play around with. For the moment, let’s stick with “cannon” or official bits of the storyverse.

These extra bits don’t have to be bits at all. Look at Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere or the new Marvel movies. In both cases, there are many stories weaving in and out of each other, connecting with  one another, and building a more complete storyverse than a single, linear story can provide. There are many points of entry and many paths through the narrative.

We can see an expansive trait easily in fiction, but it can be just as powerful in non-fiction content. Think of news articles that relate together, articles connected, and bonus features around social media. We are already seeing this everywhere and it is only going to get stronger.

The Metaverse

If the storyverse is all the official stuff of the story or content, then the metaverse is all the other stuff, the stuff outside cannon. For fiction, these are fan stories, cosplay, licensed artwork, and (most) video games just to name a few. It can (and should) be much more though. What about discussions happening around the story? I mean actually embedded in the page. What about comments and markup? These things ring even more true for non-fiction.

The metaverse is where your readers engage with the storyverse.

This is going to happen, regardless of what you do. What will make content successful in the future is an intentional plan to facilitate this metaverse. How can we encourage this interaction, this creation, this collaboration? Those are the content pieces that will win.

 

Immersive Content

Immersive content surrounds the audience, engaging more than one or two senses. It makes the content part of their world, part of their life. We can see this clearly already with virtual and augmented reality.

Virtual Reality, we will define as engrossing reality. Something that completely surrounds and captivates your audience. The VR headsets are the best example of this so far. Augmented Reality is the accepted term for something that adds to but doesn’t replace the audience’s perception. Things like Google Glasses, which overlay a screen onto the real world would fit here. I would add Engaging Reality in which content engages as many senses as possible, not just sight and sound. Think of interactive theatre or those wonderful scratch-and-sniff stickers.

This may all seem out there, but we are already seeing a lot of this happen. As the future becomes the present, these traits will creep into our content. The most successful — the most memorable, powerful, and effective — content will be intentional about how it is immersive and expansive.

The Path Ahead

This leaves us at the end of our Six Traits of the Future of Content. We have seen how the content of the future (and increasingly of the present) will be multi-access, multimodal, interactive, social, collaborative, and immersive and expansive. The winners of the war for attention will use these traits and create some truly mind-blowing content.

This isn’t the end of the discussion, though. These are my predictions, but no one has the crystal ball, and the future will unravel as it does. I will continue my research and my writing and we will see what happens. How the world will surprise us.

This isn’t even the end of this series! We’ve introduced some basic concepts, but how do we make them work? How do these elements fit together? What is the workflow to create these bits of awesome? Stay tuned, Bat Friends.

This is just the start and the future will be awesome!

10 Sites for Differentiated Instruction

This is a fantastic list of resources for teachers (and everyone else) who wants to start dabbling in Differentiated Instruction and Personalized Learning.

Differentiation, the ability for teachers to meet the needs of a variety of learners, is a key component for successful teaching.  While there are lots of ways this can be done and lots of tools that educators can use to accomplish this, there are many sites that can help facilitate the process. This list is in alphabetical order.

  1. BrainNook – A wonderful site/apps for Math and Language Arts that generates detailed common-core aligned reports allowing educators to set assignments targeting students weak areas  or areas for improvement.
  2. Clever Island – A fantastic site that covers a wide range of subjects: Math, Reading, Science, etc. Also, CI is geared for students to learn at their own pace as well adapt to children’s different learning styles.
  3. Gummii – An innovative site (private alpha)/app for different areas of Math (fractions, addition, subtraction).  Gummi immerses students into a educational 3D world (similar to Minecraft) where they solve mathematical equations tailored to differentiated instruction.

Read the Rest at TechLearning.com

The Future of Content: Collaborative

This post is part of The Future of Digital Content series, which discusses six traits I believe will be at the heart what content will look like in the coming years. These traits form a roadmap that lies at the heart of my research and experiments. The traits also work together, mixing and meshing, to paint a picture of how our future selves may read, watch, learn, and listen.

Read the rest of the series.

Let’s recap real fast. We are talking about what content may look like in the future. How is the line between books, television, internet, apps, and other content forms blurring? With shortening attention spans, how will content evolve?

So far, we’ve touched on three:

  1. Mulit-access – we want our content delivered in many different ways.
  2. Multi-modal – we want content that includes several forms of communication (video, text, sound, etc)
  3. Interactive – We want to take control of our destiny (or content). It should respond to us. Personalized.

Half way through and we reach collaborative. Simply put, “maker and audience are distinctions are starting to fade. We can all work together to build content that is something unlike any one person could have planned.

What Does Collaborative Content Mean?

noun: collaboration; plural noun: collaborations
  1. the action of working with someone to produce or create something.

All content is collaborative in some way, even those created by a single author. The author was influenced by others, likely received some feedback, and (since human cannot create something from nothing) mixed existing elements in a new way — all collaboration with unseen individuals. More than that, words on a page serve little purpose without someone to read them, someone with their own ideas, interpretation, views, and colored lenses. The audience will undoubtedly interpret what was written in a slightly (or wildly) different way than the author intended. (A bite-sized philosophy). So, the maker and audience are collaborating, each bringing something to the experience.

That’s all the philosophy we can stomach. lol.

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The Future of Content: Mixed-Media

This post is part of The Future of Digital Content series, which discusses six traits I believe will be at the heart what content will look like in the coming years. These traits form a roadmap that lies at the heart of my research and experiments. The traits also work together, mixing and meshing, to paint a picture of how our future selves may read, watch, learn, and listen.

Read the rest of the series.

We’re paving a road to the Future of Content. The first brick was Multi-Access. We want our content wherever we are, whenever we want it. We talked about 1.) accessing the same content in multiple ways, 2.) linear content that mixes access methods, and 3.) non-linear content that mixes access methods. You can read about that here.

The next brick in the foundation of our super highway is Mixed Media (or Mulit-Modal), something that is particularly close to my heart. Content will not just be one thing. A story will alternate between pictures, text, and audio. Articles will include videos. And they will engage more than just one or two senses.

As It Deserves

Mixed Media simply means content presented the way it deserves. Each piece of great content is vibrant and unique. Some pieces may be visual while others are a symphony of great word choice. In the past, content developers have usually been locked into a single medium to express their ideas. If you were lucky, you got a few charts to illustrate what the text is already saying.

Not so in the future (or even the present). Remember our content distinctions? Content is the whole enchilada. Substance is the half that defines what you are saying; the story, the pitch, or the information. Form is how that substance is presented to your audience.

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(Five) Elements of a Good Title

Let’s be honest, when you pick up a book the first or second thing you experience is the title, and nine times out of ten, that is as far as you get. Along with the cover art, a title really is the most important aspect of a book-to-be-sold. This applies to authors in traditional publishing, indie publishing, or any form of hybrid. Even if you are a superstar at Random House, you will have to compete with every other book and do an insane amount of promotion if you want your story to get the limelight it deserves.

So, why do we think so little about the title? We should be intentional, right?

Well, I have done a little research, talked to some authors, and dissected a number of titles to see if I could find some common keys to successful title for novels. Here are my (very unscientific) findings.

1. Keep It Short

Shorter titles are easier to remember. Unless the book is a marketed in a very specific way to reflect classic titles (like those with multiple subtitles), keep it to a few words at most. People have a lot to remember and they are bombarded with media. The only way they will remember is if the title is memorable.

2. Rhythm Matters

Think of a title as a short song or micro-poem. These are things that stick with us, that line of a song that we can’t get out of our head. Why? Alliteration. Rhythm. Soft and hard sounds working in concert. When the Crickets Cry mixes soft “w” sounds with the double “c” sounds. When a title is lyrical, it will stick with us.

3. Juxtaposition

Think of a title as an opening line when asking someone out. You have exactly one chance to convince them to keep talking to you. People love intrigue. People want puzzles to figure out. If a title creates a question in their mind, they are likely to (at least) read the cover to see what the question even is. Use juxtaposition for this, setting two thing against each other that don’t normally seem connected. Also, consider words that evoke images. I love Daughter of Smoke and Bone as a title. How can you not see an image with those words and wonder, “what’s that all about?”

4. Must be Relevant to the Book

Moving into more “business” concerns, the title must represent the book. People know what they like and are always on the lookout for something that piques their interest. So, if you book is a murder mystery, the title should represent that to attract those readers. A title “Summertime With Daises” doesn’t conjure images of back-alley investigations, does it. The title is the very first contract with your reader. They want to know what the story is, and that you can deliver on your promises.

Also, consider your brand. You may not write hundreds of books, but even one book constitutes a brand. How does the title represent your future works? Can you create a hook that ties them together?

5. Think of Promotion and Search Engines

I wish this wasn’t the case, but its important. You will have to compete for a spot in the myriad of noise bombarding us every day. Think of your novel as a search term. I even go as far as to look up Google Adwords Search Terms to see which terms are most searched for. If you can piggy-back on some of these coveted terms the better. Do a quick search for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tips. You’d be amazed how many apply to novel titles, as well.

And that’s all I have for now. As I come across more, I will share the love 🙂

Be sure to comment below.

(Seven) Principles of Transmedia Storytelling (from Henry Jenkins)

Henry Jenkins is one of the leading researchers studying transmedia, fanfiction, and media consumption. In graduate school, I read lots of his books and he is quoted in my thesis. Here, he details seven core principles to telling mixed-media, interactive stories (transmedia in his words). This article is pretty technical and long, but really great. I’ve pulled out the seven with a quote, just to wet your appetite.

Read the rest.


  1. Spreadability vs. Drillability – “the capacity of the public to engage actively in the circulation of media content through social networks and in the process expand its economic value and cultural worth”
  2. Continuity vs. Multiplicity – Is the story linear from point a to b or is it fragmented?
  3. Immersion vs. Extractability – “These two concepts refer to the perceived relationship between the transmedia fiction and our everyday experiences.”
  4. Worldbuilding – The internal consistency of the characters, plot, and setting
  5. Seriality – Lots of smaller stories combined together to form a larger narrative.
  6. Subjectivity – The story outside the story, such as fanfiction, twitter wars, and cosplay.
  7. Performance – The reader performs the story in life.

From the Article:

I first introduced my concept of transmedia storytelling in my Technology Review column in 2003 and elaborated upon it through the “Searching for the Oragami Unicorn: The Matrix and Transmedia Storytelling” chapter in Convergence Culture. For me, the origami unicorn has remained emblematic of the core principles shaping my understanding of transmedia storytelling, a kind of patron saint for what has emerged as increasing passionate and motivated community of artists, storytellers, brands, game designers, and critics/scholars, for whom transmedia has emerged as a driving cause in their creative and intellectual lives. We all have somewhat different definitions of transmedia storytelling and indeed, we don”™t even agree on the same term ““ with Frank Rose talking about “Deep Media” and Christy Dena talking about “Cross-media.”

As Frank has put it, same elephant, different blind men. We are all groping to grasp a significant shift in the underlying logic of commercial entertainment, one which has both commercial and aesthetic potentials we are still trying to understand, one which has to do with the interplay between different media systems and delivery platforms (and of course different media audiences and modes of engagement.)


I will devote more time to applying some of these principles and reviewing the core concepts in later posts.

Read the entire article.

Teaching Essential Life Skills Through Storytelling

 The web is a big place filled with great gems of research, inspiration, and methods for educational storytelling. In this fantastic interview from funderstanding.com, the author interviews great classroom teachers who discuss how they use stories in innovative ways. Read the original here.


“Storytelling is the oldest form of education. Cultures throughout the world have always told tales as a way of passing down their beliefs, traditions, and history to future generations. Why? One reason is that stories are at the core of all that makes us human. Stories are the way we store information in the brain.”

So say professional storytellers Mitch Weiss and Martha Hamilton, who have been preaching the storytelling gospel for over thirty years. And they are hardly alone in their advocacy for storytelling in the classroom. The duo, who perform, teach and write as Beauty and the Beast Storytellers,  lead weeklong artists-in-residence workshops in elementary schools along the East coast. Hamilton and Weiss insist that teaching the history and craft of oral tradition to today”™s kids is more important than ever.

Perhaps surprisingly, they assert that in this electronic age, persuading educators of the value of such an ancient skill has become easier rather than harder. “Since the mid-1990″™s, most states have undertaken a serious educational reform effort. They have adopted educational standards that call for placing greater weight on oral communication, specifically speaking and listening skills, as part of the language arts curriculum. Amazingly enough, these standards relieved us of the burden of always having to explain the relevance of storytelling to most administrators,” explains Hamilton.

I recently interviewed Hamilton and Weiss to get to the bottom of why storytelling matters, and just what goes into (and comes out of) a one-week elementary school storytelling workshop.


Read the rest at here at fundestanding.com

Types of Fantasy Stories

Earlier this week, I posted about Brandon Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic. Continuing on that theme, I wanted to explore the different kinds of fantasy stories. First, let me be clear: I am not a fan of lists or concepts that claim to boil everything down to 12 easy steps. Those things may have a certain place in life, but I feel that reducing the complexities of the world to an even number people can count to using hands and feet is more a marketing scheme than anything else.

Okay, not that my little sermon is out of the way. While this isn’t a post about a limited number of ways to write a story, it is a helpful way to be intentional in the stories we tell. Knowing what you are trying to say is half the battle, the other half being to say it.

I found when crafting plots for my novels, that I needed to understand my own boundaries in order to be consistent. Not to say that I pinned myself in. Quite the opposite. Once I learned how my worlds worked, I was about to make them work with my characters, scenes, and awesome ideas. For me, the most important step was to see what kind of story I was writing.

This was especially important while rewritng a novel call Mississippi Secrets. The story seemed to fall flat to me, more mimicking other things I had read than being anything truly original. Once I took a step back and tried to see where it would sit on shelves, I noticed that it was a blend of several different things. That was great! But, I could not have gotten there until I knew what else existed.

Here is the list I have cultivated over the years. Different types of fantasy stories.


Worlds Upon Worlds

This list describes different worlds for each type of fantasy story. A world is the entire context for the story including history, geography, culture,  and the like.

  • “This world” does not necessarily mean Earth. What it means is the same basic context as the reader (which is Earth, I assume).
  • “Other world” is a totally separate planet or existence that is not connected to our reality at all.
  • A third “alternate world” would be some sort of alternate reality. That is, “what if” stories (what if the South had won the Civil War?).
  • Lastly, “past world” would be anything before the current context of the reader.

Also, building on Brandon Sanderson:

  • Hard Magic – Magic/technology has well defined rules that the audience understands.
  • Soft Magic – Magic/technology has unclear or vague rules, or none at all. This allows for a greater sense of wonder to be attained for the reader

Fantasy, unbound

High Fantasy, Other world

High fantasy describes magic that is deeply integrated into the fabric of the world and affects virtually every aspect of it. Other world means that it is a world totally out of the context of the reader, though there must some some kind of parallel for the reader to understand what is happening.

Most often, in Sanderson’s terms, these stories would tend towards Hard Magic.

The best example of high fantasy, other world is The Lord of the Rings.

Low Fantasy, This World

Low fantasy implies that magical things may happen, but they are not so widespread that the entire culture has been altered by them. This world means that it happens in a context that the reader thoroughly understands and (more less) lives in. These stories include the child who can pull magical tricks on their nanny, or the nanny who uses magic to teach the children (Mary Poppins). In most cases, this is very Soft Magic.

Secret Society, This world

This is one of my favorite types of fantasy stories. Think Harry Potter. In these cases, we are squarely in this world, but find that there is another, secretly hidden world all around us for magical folk. These may be wizards, or demigods, or vampires, or whatever. In each instance, these secret societies run parallel to our own reality and ofter intersect at points in history. So, some member of the secret society may have been a famous historical figure. In almost all cases I have seen, the protagonist must (in some way) juggle living in both our world and the secret realm.

Mythology, This World

Similarly (often extending) the secret society is the idea that some mythological force (gods, demons, angels, etc) are still active all around us. While this could include so many of the “fairy tales are actually true and still going on around us” stories, I would tend to make a distinction between mythology and folklore. Many books have been written on this, but to make it simple: mythology explains the world (gods make storms), folklore colors the world (fairies are entertaining).

Folklore, This World

Because I made the above distinction, I felt obligated to include this. The above applies 🙂

Generic, Non-World

These are hard to pull off, but incredibly satisfying. When you are able to concoct a world that is enough like our context but lacking specifics that lead the reader to wonder “are they in our world or not?” Lemony Snicket did a great job with this. Often, these stories take place in “the city” or “the country” or some other vague location.

Paranormal or Spiritual, This World

In these cases, the “afterworld” or “spiritual realm” bleeds into our current context. Psychics, mediums, ghosts, and telepaths often fit here.

Crossover, Two Worlds

In Narnia the children cross from our world into another. This may be the most staple type of fantasy story, and often the easiest to write if you are first starting out. Why? Because you can have a main character who needs to have the rules of the new world explained — just like your reader will.

Mix and Match an Elixir

Like the greatest alchemists, the best stories will mix and match elements from these different types. I may do some follow up posts on this idea in the future.

For now, I challenge you to take a look at your current manuscript, favorite story, or best idea and see where it may fit. Then look at others of that same ilk. What are the rules? How did that writer pull it off? How can you do it differently?

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