Friday, October 15, 2010

Where We Are Is All In The Perception: The Identity of Mobility

“someone talk to me!!!! i can't handle this class any longer :(....booooooo)
Thursday [10/14/2010] at 2:08pm.”

This mobile transmission from Blackberry to Face Book was from my high school valedictorian-college honors- last year nursing student-daughter sitting in a lecture-based class. The first respondent was a high school friend, 1000 miles away. My daughter, according to Gitte Stald in the article “Mobile Identity: Youth, Identity, and Mobile Communication Media,” realized the liberation “from the constraints of physical proximity and spatial immobility” (p. 147). Like most adolescents and young adults, her mobile device did not get completely turned off as she survived her experienced boredom by allowing texting to take her somewhere other than her immediate physical space.

It is exactly this aspect of mobile reality that, as a high school classroom teacher, I cannot appreciate. For, not only is the student disengaged with the learning process taking place in a physically "real spatial existence," the student is attacking my self-perception as I am acknowledged as irrelevant. The reality of the face-to-face relationship is completely denied as the student perceives herself “to be in another space than the physical space, [and] the mediated situation is experienced as real” (Stald, p. 154). I cease to exist.

Before cell phones, there were daydreams that took one to a state of another existence. It was a private reality, shared only with the self. These daydreams transpired as self-reflections or “Walter Mitty” transformations. There was an essence of a thought process (though disengaged from the reality at hand). A teacher, or other face-to-face individual, could interrupt the daydream and once again become a part of a shared reality that was both spatial and conscious. This is not possible with technological mobility that actually engages others outside of spatial existence to unite in the new essence of place. Or is it?

Future of Identity in the Information Society (FIDIS) may have found a possible solution to this mobile “absence presence” (Staid,p.156).

Think of the possibilities placed from a podium or desk. The invasive possibilities…….oh, sorry, I was daydreaming.

Once the mobile device is under the (dare I say it?) control of the teacher, there are applications that I find exciting. Students are forever taking pictures on their phone. Now, a free service,
Yodio,, allows the addition of voice to the photos that could lead to the creation of meaningful, sequenced, storyboards. These storyboards can be created from a relatively inexpensive (as compared to a laptop) cell phone. The mobility of the technology allows the transport of the creation to other technical devices. Students can create and send projects directly to teacher or to a class web page. The “communicative function” (Staid,p.143) becomes a lesson integrating literacy, creativity, and technology. My self-perception has been restored.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Social Networking: A New Way to an Old Need Among Teenagers

In “Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life” Dana Boyd (2008) examines how social networking sites, specifically MySpace, engage teenagers in self-exploration as they seek “insights into identity formation, status negotiation, and peer-to-peer sociality” (p. 119). In MySpace, a network public establishes itself as individuality flourishes amidst masks, personas, and fantasies. All traditional boundaries are replaced as participants communicate and collaborate across time and space. The “of the moment” communications that were once stored as personal memories or diary pieces, become “recorded for posterity,” as “like minds” are given a path to discovery through searchability and a distinction as the moment can be replicated and shared anywhere, at any time (Boyd. 2008, p. 126). Teens are drawn to these social network communities as they are drawn to “the ability to visualize their social world through the network collection of profiles” (p. 122).

Ms. Boyd reveals how business interests understand the possibilities of creating a cyber networking site in which communities are given the reality of individual creation, collective identity, and public recognition. The MySpace creators played on the music industry to give a vast audience of teens the possibility to realize the public status of what many adults recognize as “groupies.” They also gave teenagers a place to create, through profiles, their own identities based in perceptions of how they visualize the world and its realities.

As a teenager expressing myself through the essence of Woodstock and its music artists, I can reflect on the association with music defining a persona-and-cause mentality. Seeing myself as a revolutionary leader of organized protests during the Viet Nam War, I can reflect on how my actions hurt many of my peers who were forced to fight in a war which I perceived as irrational, immoral and socially unjust. My parents tried to protect and guide, as many rallies and protests turned violent and included adults who could threaten or negatively persuade, but they couldn’t suppress my need to express and “manage impressions” as I resisted at every bend of my “let me be myself and learn for myself” lens of exploring personal identity.

As a high school teacher, I see this same need for expression and resistance to suppression of freedoms in today’s teenagers. Little has changed in teenagers’ needs. It is the means that has undergone transformation. MySpace is a new way for teenagers to find their place, through action and interaction, in today’s society. Yes, it can be dangerous. As Boyd states, “our role as adults is not to be their policemen, but to be their guides” (p. 137).

For more information on how to guide and safely utilize social networking as a learning tool at a variety of levels resulting in positively impacted outcomes for users of all ages, I suggest the many resources at:

To learn more about the fascinating Danah Boyd I strongly suggest reading her blog at:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Voice for Everyone

"There are many languages besides those that are written or spoken. By learning a new language, a person acquires a new way of knowing reality and passing that knowledge on to others. Each language is absolutely irreplaceable. All languages complement each other in achieving the widest, most complete knowledge of what is real" (Boal. 1985, p. 121).

Diaries open the inner self to the same inner self. They speak, yet are silent with words only heard by the author. Entries are reflections safe from feedback. Vulnerability only occurs when trespassers violate the privacy and expose without permission. When this happens, it is an abuse, and like a rape the result is shame, fear, guilt and accusation. Diaries are life stories locked and hidden within unshared secrets.

Words that are written to fit an educational objective are locked in a predetermined product that cannot escape an assessment of one. The product is static with an identity shaped by standards of sameness,

Blogs are diaries freed of locks allowing the inner self an escape, still founded in “self-reflection, releasing pent-up feelings, and witnessing personal growth” (S. Stern, 2008, p. 101). Identity is defined by the author and the label ‘adolescence’ “negotiate[s] the boundaries of public and private spheres” (S. Stern. p. 97). Self-expression becomes the backbone of social networking and the possibilities to empower are embedded in personal site symbolism that can become a part of “the public culture” (Stern. p.97).

Are the risks worth the rewards? Are blogs, as Stern suggests, “therapeutic” (p. 102)? A former student of mine has given me permission to use her blog as an example of the powerful, insightful, and symbolic possibilities.

Part Two

You now know the story. My current students, many who are Anna's friends, know her story,and can follow her story. They are reading. They are writing. They are discussing, debating, grappling. I have to wonder how powerful this would be if allowed into the curriculum.

“Self-reflection is, perhaps, the most commonly cited reward of maintaining a personal site among youth authors” (S. Stern. P. 102). Stern speaks of a self-induced obligation blog authors have that drives reflective updates, discussion to feedback, and creative additions. The Internet author works with multiple literacies that redefine Aristotle’s peripatetic. She is a storyteller, travelling through cyber-space from computer to computer. Though the creation is for the self, it is meant to be read by a vast audience that further empowers self-expression through the reflection of self. The authors are their own directors as well as their own primary audience (p. 105).

Erving Goffman (1959) saw “all self-presentation as performative” (p. 106). The blog author becomes a performer, controlling how the self is represented and directing how words impress. The author creates a role, performs through writing, and presents a self-directed, personally designed, product (pp. 106-107). The “everyday self,” is revealed as the “authentic self,” and the performer searches for “validation” that “relieves [his] fear about being different or abnormal” (p.108).

The blog becomes transformative, as the author is in control of her identity, no longer dependent on false masks of protection. Online authors reveal a self-perception of truth and identity that can be revised as deemed necessary. Unlike a diary, a blog is alive. Blogs are learning experiences for the author as introspection is genuine, expressed through a “youth cultural production” that reveal perceptions of an authentic self.

A teacher's perception of a student's potential can also transform as a new sophistication of reality embraces words, and literacy becomes owned by the individual, not defined by an institution. Critique, too, is allowed a new found freedom, and can be answered, as desired, by the youth author.

A blog is, a new cultural experience and produces a discourse of literacy that, because it is important to youth, needs to be acknowledged by educators.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Learning Without Boundaries

Preconceptions: Don't Get Stuck In What You Think You Know

For many students, prior knowledge learned in the home, at school, or through experiences in the community, intertwines and manifests in preconceptions that can become "learning blocks" inhibiting the ability to take in, conceptualize, and accept new knowledge. The global explorations of the Internet allow students a new depth of prior knowledge that encompasses a diversity of beliefs, sociological/economical/political realities and unique ideas. The student is given a new level of experience as the ability to access and apply new knowledge is taken to a new level of conceptual acceptance.

When introducing the student to the Internet world of knowledge, the teacher must not fall victim to these same "learning blocks" of preconceptions. The technical tools of the Internet must be shared, utilized and applied equally by everyone in an educational community. Ideally, this community consists of students, teachers, parents, administrators and anyone else who is a part of the learning experience.

A secure, teacher friendly, 2.0 tool that allows the student the ability to share images, videos and documents with feedback from voices from around the world is, an exclusive educational component of VoiceThread.

Imagine a student in Chicago sharing information and ideas with a student in Japan without leaving the four walls of her school. A teacher collaborates with other educators located in countries throughout the world. A soldier in Iraq speaks to a classroom in Idaho. Each group shares pictures and tells stories. Voices are heard across a cyber-global existence that introduces a new world of knowledge that can be interactively evaluated and connected and become a part of the lives of all involved.

The creation of a digital library is the fundamental concept that drives VoiceThread. At, this library is created by an education community comprised of students, teachers, professionals and parents. It can become a global collaboration of cultures, beliefs, information and ideas.

Commenting avatars communicate via a computer microphone, phone, text, audio file or webcam, and there is no softwall to install. Synchronized video doodling allows commentators to visually accentuate ideas and interpretations. For the classroom, voicethreads and comments can be secured and monitored on

The Educational Possibilities

  • Create

  • Collaborate

  • Practice

  • Explore

  • Solve

Digital stories and documents can be created in a collaborative, interactive environment established by the educator. Language skills can be practiced and documented through project designs viewed, interpretted and commented on by peers. Global exploration becomes real as places are visualized and the stories behind the pictures are given international voices. Math problems can be solved and science theories can be shared through a cyber-diversity of perspectives.

Professional Development and VoiceThread

From actual VoiceThread posted to the main site to those found in, teachers can find a cornucopia of lesson plans, research and tutorials. In addition, each VoiceThread has teachers' comments from throughout the world. There are excellent support materials found at VoiceThread Forum as educators post questions, problems and ideas to a moderator. This site provides help in the form of video tutorials, discussion posts and manuals.

Arts: A Natural Integration

"The arts, especially the visual arts, have often been regarded as a kind of discharge of personal expression, where expression refers to an emotional release through visual materials" (Eisner 232).

The personal expression released by a student in a VoiceThread presentation is done through a visual image. This image is created by visual materials that include paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and slides. The personal expression is heightened as the student's voice is added to tell the story, interpret imagery, present a concept, or vocalize other components of creative, critical thought.

This personal expression is presented to an audience comprised of a global stage as others are invited to view and share the experience of the visual materials and become part of the emotional release. The audience is encouraged to add to the story through equally personalized interpretation, conceptualization, and vocalization of creative, critical thought.

This interaction manifests in a collaborative effort that breaks down the barriers of preconceptions as prior knowledge is shared and authentically experienced. Concepts are changed through expansion of experiences and complexity of ideas as the learner becomes his own creator of a learning process that has allowed exploration beyond the prior knowledge of home and school and ventured into the community of an educational world.

All facets in this new learning environment connect, interact and collaborate. Core curriculum, the arts, and technology integrate with an end product of heightened critical thought that is conceived through the authentic expansion of experience.

To View my video on VoiceThread please go to my Youtube account at:\my_videos?features=mhw5

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Art, Literacy and Technology: Integration for the 21st Century

“The arts, if they are about anything, are about the creation of a personal vision."
(Eisner, 2002, p. 44)

In today’s ever evolving technological world, the personal vision of the student is expanded by the infinite possibilities of Internet exploration. With this expansion comes a new definition of literacy as portals to communication become global, offering today’s student educational experiences that promote heightened critical thought through creative expression. A new place for the arts in education has emerged and unless its importance is realized, the opportunity to explore and accomplish will be denied.

Digital Storytelling opens a new window to communication as digital tools intertwine and an individual's story is unveiled. What is created are real stories told through images, video, audio and the written word. Art is truly integrated, and "... multimedia technology has opened up the world of the artist. Today, anyone who can move a mouse can jump in and give it a go" (Ohler, 2000, n.p.).

Through Digital Storytelling, all students can share lifestyles, beliefs, life lessons, and significant life moments. The world of literacy becomes open to everyone as stories are illustrated, visualized and told.

Before there was the written word, there was storytelling. There were pictures in caves, on walls and on pottery. People danced, sang and chanted life. Digital Storytelling goes beyond the written word. It is a way for all students to understand the power of literacy.

Digital storytelling provides a process for the individual to shape a story through multi-media art projects. Digital storytelling becomes digital literacy as tools of technology are used to create, organize and evaluate.

The Process:


A digital lesson unit integrates the literacies of writing, speech, artistic design and technology. Students engage in activities that encourage collaboration by the entire educational community as they read and write media. The digital lesson unit is scaffolded as students are guided through a process that is: brainstormed, mapped, scripted, spoken, technologically designed and presented.

  • Students collaborate and share through brainstormed ideas
  • Teachers enter the process as they provide input to the story map.
  • Students engage in shared ideas as the mapped story evolves into a script
  • Technology is integrated as the words, pictures, and video are embedded to enhance the script.
  • Community becomes an audience as the finished product is published.

Communication Is For All Through Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling knows no language or learning ability barriers. Because it integrates four forms of known communication, all students are given the ability to tell their stories. Students narrate what is written. They hear the voice as it interprets the words chosen to define a digital image. Likewise, the digital image defines the chosen words through visualization. Students both hear and see their stories beyond the reading of the written words on a page. Creation and interpretation is owned by the students as they evolve from story maker to storyteller.

Digital Storytelling is Authentic Learning

A digital story tells a story through the perspective of what the student deems relevant and worth learning.

  • The final product is student centered as they uniquely create their own project.
  • Students take ownership as the story is personalized.
  • Critical learning is engaged as basic facts become concept based and result in projects that engage higher-order thought.

Digital stories promote collaboration.

  • Students are encouraged to share knowledge and initial ideas
  • Students work together to create a meaningful end.
  • Students provide feedback that is constructive and leads to a means for improvement.

The digital story lesson plan involves the entire educational community.

  • Teachers interact with students as learning facilitators, guiding students at all levels of production through scaffolding
  • Parents, teachers and community become involved as available resources and audience.
  • Community professionals provide information to both students and educators.

The digital storytelling outcome is a project founded in an environment of active learners that goes beyond the traditional classroom.The result is a learning experience that combines personal relevance in the "real world" with individual educational needs.

  • Students are actively engaged at all stages of the digital story.
  • The story goes from the page to an audience who can become involved beyond the classroom.
  • What is learned is knowledge relevant in today's ever evolving technological society.
  • Students produce an end result that is based on knowledge that is read, written, technologically understood, critically analyzed and meaningfully presented.


The objective of a digital story needs to be clearly realized by the teacher. The goal of digital storytelling is objectified by the individuality and uniqueness of educators. Suggestions for assessment include, but in no way are limited to the following. The student(s) will:

  • Present a story that is effectively researched and documented.
  • Present a story that integrates communication that is written, oral, digital and artistic.
  • Present a story that is logically sequenced through written story mapping and digital storyboarding.
  • Present a story that meets the academic requirements of the assigned project.
  • Present a story that the intended audience can relate to and interact with in a way that contributes to the academic importance of the project.

Digital Open Source Tool For Digital Storytelling

There are a number of tools that are open source, trial based and available as software. Whatever the tool, ability to sequentially organize images through a storyboard and synchronize scripted narration is important. After experimenting with several, I chose Photo Story 3 to demonstrate in a video tutorial. It is easy, doesn't confuse and produces a quality product.

Photo Story Tutorial Video: An Alternative to Youtube

To view my tutorial go to an alternative to Youtube, and via the "videos tab" click "e-learning." I am Melojill and the video is "Photo Story 3 for Windows." This doesn't require downloading and is an extremely user friendly alternative to other open source screen capture tools.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Audacity Tutorial Video

If you are having trouble viewing the Audacity Tutorial Video, it can be viewed at:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Connections: Literacy, Drama and Audacity

Literacy, Drama and Audacity
A Lesson Plan For All Ages

Objective: To improve a student's reading fluency and comprehension.

Materials Needed: A computer, microphone and speakers, free Audacity software from and level appropriate sentences. Complexity of sentence structure will be indicated by individual phonetic recognition, punctuation skills and vocabulary comprehension.

The Reasoning Behind the Lesson: Everyday students of drama perform sentences. They use the drama tools of body, voice, and mind to create characters from the page to the stage. Drama students learn that the most important word in a sentence is not necessarily the subject. The most important, or operative, word can be an adjective or adverb. It depends on the interpretive meaning of the sentence. This lesson plan integrates the use of voice with the written word to aid students in understanding what is read through what is said.

The Lesson Plan: Using Audacity, students record their voice reading sentences. From the simple to the more complex, students will become aware of the reason for punctuation as they realize the need for pauses, fluency and inflection. They make sentences meaningful as they hear the most important (operative) word. Teachers increase sentence complexity as student recognition of grammatical, fluency and comprehension skills increase.

Reflection: As a secondary drama teacher, I have experienced how drama positively impacts literacy. Students at all reading levels benefit from interpreting the written word through performance. Drama impacts all students including those with learning disablities and special needs. The results are realized in daily performance and assessments in language arts classes, standardized short assessment tests and mandated state and national evaluations.

Audacity provides all students a way to vocally perform the written word in an environment where the audience is limited to the students and the teacher. Teachers are given an incredibly easy-to-use tool . The results of Audacity's use can be authentically realized as meaning is sucessfully, vocally interpreted through the understanding of why words are used and how sentences are structured.

Audacity Basics: A Tutorial

A Powerpoint Overview of Audacity and Literacy