Monthly Archives: October 2009

oh what fun…

image courtesy of Photo Dictionary

…it is to create a voice thread. Very fun! Of course it’s always fun to talk about one of your favorite things, which is what I did. I also did a pre-practice thread about my cat. Not sure if my cohort can handle all that excitement.

Writing with just words is a very different process for me than writing (composing) with words and images. I like language. I like words. I don’t necessarily consider my writing as a way to create visual pictures for the reader. Or at least I’m thinking in words and not so much pictures during the creation process. I usually want readers to feel what I’m trying to express. With my voice thread, I started with the pictures, and I had to figure out which words should go with the pictures. Should my pictures tell the story? Do I need to describe the pictures? How does a narrative look when it starts with the pictures?  Visual imagery isn’t something I’m fluent with like language.  It has its own elements of style, and I definitely feel like a beginner when it comes to visual storytelling.  But it’s fun!  Pictures are fun.  And I think pictures are more accessible and exciting to most kids than words and language.  I can see my students being very engaged in voice thread production, and it feels like a tool that even primary level students could use.

The end product, the final voice thread, should tell a story that combines the best of language and visual images.  Great images alone, or great words alone, will not cut it.  I think students are visually literate enough to appreciate when the combination of words and pictures tells a compelling story.  Now, can they create those stories?  I can’t wait to see how they approach the process.

Now…if only I could embed my own voice thread into my blog like all you lucky blogger users.  A link will have to suffice.  Last but not least, my resource: Boomerang, an audio program geared toward elementary-aged kids.  Boomerang is all about “big ideas” that challenge kids to think in an engaging format.  I know that the audio format is just one digital input–no fancy images or hyperlinks to carry the listener to another place.  But it reminds me a lot of the radio shows that captivated kids in the 1930s and 1940s.  Who knew that Little Orphan Annie and The Lone Ranger were precursors to podcasts?  The downside to Boomerang is that the episodes are not free (although there is a free sample episode available)…perhaps a PTO request is in my future.

just pretend

Well, I tried.  I tried to be a gamer, but it was hard!  I spent a lot of time scouring mmorpg (massive multi-player online role play gaming) websites and blogs and message boards in an attempt to absorb the culture.  Perhaps I should have actually attempted World of Warcraft so my experience could have been more authentic.  But I did learn things, and that’s the whole point, right?  Pre-role play, I was not a video game person at all.  They never appealed to me, and I never understood how people could spend hours each day lost in gaming.  Reading the research helped me get a more objective view, and now I really do see value in those all-encompassing online role play games.  There’s even a whole line of research dedicated to tracking the mmorpg community.  Amazing.  A whole world I never really knew existed.  It might not be my thing, but it’s also not a waste of time.

Adopting my new persona was a challenge, but it was also liberating to try out new styles of interaction.  I think we all maintained a certain level of civility, but I do feel like I “pushed it” a little more than I would in face to face conversation.  I probably could have pushed it more, but like I said, it was a challenge being this new person.  I do think that students get into this way more than I do, and I definitely see the value of online role-play in an educational context.  I especially liked the link “Dr. Synapse” posted about an online forum students at the University of Virginia used to explore and understand a 19th century poem.  What a perfect application of online role play to really deepen appreciation for complicated literary work.

In addition to struggling with the whole role play thing, I also struggled coming up with a resource link this week.  My brain is a bit fuzzy lately.  But I do remember some of my fourth graders making an avatar to represent themselves last year, using Voki.  I should have tried it for my own avatar…maybe I still will.  I can give Jesse a new look.

toes first

Even though we specifically weren’t supposed to wait until this weekend to start participating in the online role play, I did.  I procrastinate on things that I’m not too sure about, and role play is definitely one of those things (see previous post!).  So tonight I immersed myself in the Ning, explored member pages, followed links, and dipped my toes in the water.  It’s not so bad.  Just like with cold lake water, you stand in one place for a while and then the water doesn’t feel so frigid anymore.  Then you inch in a little bit farther, acclimate again, and eventually you’re neck deep and feeling fine.  Tonight I’m only ankle deep.

over my head

Role play is not my thing.  There.  I said it.  When I go into kindergarten classrooms during choice time, I head toward the board games instead of the dramatic play area.  I can pretend for about 4 minutes and then I’m ready for real life again. If I order a pizza at the pretend pizza parlor, and then someone brings me the fake pizza and I pretend to eat it, what happens next?  The fake pizza is still there.  Where do we go with the whole role play scenario after that?

I know that role play is good for kids.  I especially know that the kids I work with on the autism spectrum need lots of practice in role play scenarios in order to master basic social skills.  So we pretend a lot, and somehow it seems less tedious to practice how to face a conversational partner or make a friendly comment rather than order slice after slice of plastic pizza.  Kids on the autism spectrum are less likely to engage in dramatic play with peers (although there are exceptions), meaning they have fewer opportunities to observe and incorporate pro-social behaviors into their repertoires.  Role play and simulation require participants to shift perspectives, to think about situations and behaviors from a viewpoint perhaps different from their own.   In the world of special education, this is called theory of mind, or the recognition that other people have thoughts, feelings, and knowledge that differ from our own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

As I jumped into my task for the week–setting up my fictional persona for our online role play–I started feeling distinctly uncomfortable about how little I know about this world I am about to enter.  I volunteered to be the “gamer” in our role play because I knew it would be a challenge; aside from my recent acquisition of Beatles Rockband, the last video game I played was probably Burgertime.  But the more I researched, the more I realized that I know nothing about being a gamer.  There are social rules in the gamer world, and I don’t know any of them.  Even though I’m just pretending to be this different person, I don’t want to do anything wrong or offend anyone.  So I’m at a bit of a standstill, not ready to commit to an avatar or develop my online profile.  Because what if it’s not right?   Which makes me think…how often do my students feel this very same way in the lunch room or in the hallways or in a cooperative group?  Instead of doing something that’s probably not quite socially right, they choose to disengage altogether.  But I WILL choose an avatar.  I WILL develop my fictional persona.  And I will use that experience to help identify with my students who struggle with social rules.

On an unrelated but also related note…I found another Ning, Classroom 2.0,  in one of my endless searches for how to incorporate simulation activities into my work with students.  It looks like a great place for me to browse, lurk for a while, and (if I don’t feel too overwhelmed with my current digital presence), perhaps join in.  But I think I’ll just browse for now.