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Building Open Education Resources from the Botton Up

Hello to everyone at the Open Education Resources Free Seminar today in Brisbane. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there in person today, but for those who were there – and anyone else interested – my short presentation ‘Building Open Education Resources From the Bottom Up: How Student-Created Open Educational Resources Can Challenge Institutional Indifference‘ is embedded here:

My apologies for the few glaring typos in the slides – it’s a good argument against recording a presentation at 1am in the morning! Any comments, questions or thoughts either from folks at the seminar, or from anyone else, are most welcome!

Update: If you’re just after the powerpoint slides, you can now view or download them on Slideshare.

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Student Digital Media Project Showcase

After getting off to a decent start with my blogging about student creativity this year, I seem to have fallen a little behind.  I’ve had this post in draft form for ages, waiting for some insightful commentary to spring forth from my uncooperative brain, but alas, none has emerged so I thought I’d just showcase a few outstanding examples from my Digital Media (Comm2203) unit last semester and let them speak for themselves! While the first Student News assignment in this unit asked students to make a relatively traditional television news-style story (the best of which were screened on local tv), the final project was rather different as it was designed to provoke some hard thinking about digital media more broadly both in form and content.  The outline for the final projects stated:

The Digital Media Project is designed to explore the affordances of digital video and media in an online context. Working in teams (the same as your Student News Project team), students will produce a 3-minute short digital video piece which critically explores an idea, concept or area which was discussed in or, or directly provoked by, the ‘Convergence & Transmedia Storytelling’ or ‘Citizen Journalism and Participatory Culture’ lectures, readings and seminars.

This project emphasizes (a) research in the area of digital media, (b) clarity in communicating and sharing a research-informed perspective or argument about part of the digital media landscape; (c) taking an innovative approach to creating digital media; and (d) technical proficiency in creating digital media.

Given that the first half of the unit was largely practical – many were first-time users of digital video cameras, sound equipment and non-linear editing software – I wondered if introducing conceptual material from the likes of Henry Jenkins and Axel Bruns might overwhelm students; on the contrary, I found almost everyone excelled at combining their newfound practical skills with wider issues and concepts.  All 28 projects submitted were of a high quality, and everyone who took this unit should be proud of their work, but a few really did stand out amongst the rest and are well worth highlighting here.

The first project I want to mention is ‘Citizen Journ vs Traditional Journ‘ which mimics the style of the Mac Vs PC advertisements, with a stop-motion twist, to explore the changing relationship between traditional journalists and citizen journalists:

In a similar vein but using a really different technique, ‘Something Old, Something New‘ mixes excerpts from a 1940s documentary on being a journalist with contemporary footage to examine exactly how far journalism has changed in the face of participatory culture:

Looking at web 2.0 culture more broadly, ‘A Blog’s Life’ is a comical look at the evolution of blogging, in the style of a nature documentary:

And in a slightly more academic tone, ‘Transmedia Storytelling and Convergence’ gives a pretty good rundown of some core features of Henry Jenkins’ arguments about transmedia in the digital media landscape:

Finally, ‘Joe Bloggs Presents Web 2.0’ is a laugh out loud satire looking at the average blogger (A LANGUAGE WARNING, though: Joe Bloggs swears like an angry trooper!):

And, yes, I did have what can best be described as an awkward cameo appearance in that the adventures of Web 2.0 there – but it was worth if, if nothing else, for that outstanding end credits song! If you’re inspired to see more, 27 of the digital media projects can be found here.  Also, it’s worth mentioning that the majority of students chose to post their work under a Creative Commons license (not all, I should add, but I’m pleased enough that by the end of the course everyone knew enough to make an informed choice one way or another).

Oh and quick shout out: my partner in crime in teaching Digital Media was Christina Chau who was an excellent tutor and whose own thoughts on the unit can be read here!

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Links for August 4th 2008

Interesting links for August 3rd through August 4th 2008:

  • Chinese netizens rail against Great Firewall [watoday.com.au] – A look at the heavy hand of internet censorship in China and the lengths China’s netizens have to go to to avoid being blocked. A recent example shows a meme that the phrase “I’m just doing push-ups” after the line was used by allegedly corrupt communist officials. The meme is going strong, one example being these photoshopped images of a popular Chinese TV host doing push-ups in various locations across China.
  • Kind Strangers, Comicons, and the People that Need a Hug. [Nathan Fillion MySpace Blog] – Nathan Fillion, sees the future in Dr Horrible (despite being Capt Hammer!): “I think it can be said that Dr Horrible was a tremendous success. More than just an incredible project to enjoy, but a more than important view of entertainment to come. This is the future, everybody. This is a window into how things will be when the control is finally wrested from the moneyed claws of big business and placed, nay, returned to the caring hands of the creators.”
  • Postmodern path to student failure By Justine Ferrari [The Australian] – In a new anti-postmodernism book, The Trouble With Theory, by Gavin Kitching, “insight” such as this appears: ‘Students equate the way language is used with the meaning of words, so that the word “terrorist” always means a person using extreme violence for political ends, and anyone called a terrorist is actually a terrorist. But he said such thinking excluded sentences such as: “Calling these people terrorists distracts attention from the justice of their cause. “They have a very narrow idea of how we use words. (They believe) words have given meanings, and these meanings have certain biases or prejudices. If you use words, you have to accept the biases or prejudices – you’re stuck with them. That you can use words ironically is not something they can take seriously. Clearly that’s not true. We use words to refer to things, but we can refer to them ironically, we can refer to them sarcastically, doubtingly, aggressively.”
  • Britney and McCain in 2008 – Barely Political [YouTube] – New running mates: John McCain and Britney Spears. Not the most technically exciting YouTube political mashup, but the rhetoric matches perfectly!
  • Notes on Cult Films and New Media Technology [zigzigger] – Interesting thoughts: “My basic point is that the availability of films to own on videotape, disc, or computer file marks a transformation in the way audiences engage with the film text, and that this transformation makes the cult mode of film experience much more typical, more available to more viewers and to more movies.”
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An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube

Michael Wesch, an anthropologist focused on digital culture and YouTube (famous for the the videos The Machine is Us/Ing Us and A Vision of Students Today) has released (on YouTube) an excellent presentation he gave about YouTube’s history and cultural impact called An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube:

While much of the story Wesch presents will be familiar, this 55 minute package is an excellent overview and will no doubt prove an excellent resource for getting students thinking about the place of YouTube in digital culture. Beside which, it features a whole bunch of old favourites which should make it enjoyable viewing for almost everyone. (If a 55 minute YouTube clip is a bit much, Wesch has posted a timeline for the video in his blog, so pick up the story wherever you’re most interested.)

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UWA Student News on Channel 31 THIS FRIDAY

With Perth’s community broadcaster, Access 31, alive for a while longer, it’s my great pleasure to announce that the eight best news projects from students in my Digital Media (Comm2203) unit this semester will be screening as a half an hour programme this Friday night (11 July, 2008) on channel 31 at 8pm. There are some very impressive segments in here, including several news stories which engage with critical issues for Perth right now, and about larger issues such as media and the upcoming Olympics. If you’re near a TV (and in Perth) this Friday at 8pm, please tune in and take a look!

For a sample of what’s going to be screened take a peak at this post.

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Great Anti-Cyberbullying Ad

I just stumbled across this excellent anti-cyberbullying ad from the US Adcouncil and had to share:

It’s simple, straight-forward and extremely effective. Show your kids. [X Post]

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Annotating YouTube


Even thought Viddler already does it, and does it better, I’m still quite excited by YouTube’s addition of annotation tools.  I’ve got 28 groups of students creating Digital Media Projects at the moment and one of the stipulations was that they have to examine the videosharing websites out there and select one to host their work: 27 of 28 groups selected YouTube (most of them rely on the simple point that YouTube gets the eyeballs … and, for now, they’re right).  From an educational perspective, critically engaging with digital video becomes a lot more fun when annotations, references and links can be added to existing video!  Even though they’re pretty crude at this point, the annotation tools for YouTube also mark a shift from treating YouTube as slices of TV (in video terms) toward an environment where the hypertextuality of digital video comes to the in to play.  A bit like what Quicktime already facilitates so brilliantly.

Of course, YouTube’s annotations are all in beta at this point (and proper, not perpetual, beta … you can’t embed annotations in external sites yet, and I’m presuming that eventually YouTube will allow optional viewer annotations, too), so the toolkit may very well evolve.  Until then, I can’t wait until I’ve got a cohort of students annotating away to critique and comment on digital video … what fun could be had with speak bubbles, I wonder?

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Videogames, Storytelling and Sex … all in 10 minute animated lectures!

Thanks to Boing Boing, I’ve just discovered two excellent animated mini-lectures from Daniel Floyd looking at story-telling and sex in videogames. The first one argues that videogames have an extremely exciting potential to be story-telling spaces, but that potential is rarely fulfilled and, at present, is largely discouraged by game distributors:

The second animated min-lecture is sure to prove a little controversial as it argues that in order to be taken seriously as an artistic medium, videogames need to have more sex in them. Floyd isn’t arguing for more sensationalised and sleazy games, but in contrast points out that every notable artistic medium is full of explorations of sexuality. If videogames normalised sex as part of character development and stopped using extremely large-breasted women killing things as a marketing tool, then sex would become part of the fabric of games, normalised not demonised (Floyd also reminds us that many gamers are adults; he’s not suggesting sex has to be part of all games):

I really like these videos: they’re an accessible and entertaining entry point for thinking about some big concepts in relation to videogames and they’re creative ways of engaging students on a topic beyond the traditional lecture style.

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Best of Student News

On Tuesday, the students from my Digital Media class, as well a few invited guests and colleagues, enjoyed a screening of the Best 8 Student News Projects from the unit. This project, the first major assignment for the unit, takes place after 4 weeks of workshops which introduce digital video cameras, sound recording and (very) basic lighting, non-linear editing and copyright in media production. It’s a bit of a whirlwind, but the culmination of these workshop is a project in which students, working in groups of 4 or 5, get exactly one week to produce a 3 minute news story on the basis of pre-assigned topics (all of which are based on relevant local issues).

Once the projects are completed, part of the feedback process is not just comments from myself or Christina (who is tutoring half of the classes, I’m tutoring the other half) – although we do give a fair bit of written feedback – but we also have a reflective seminar where the projects completed by the groups in these seminars (there are 4 groups in each seminar) are viewed and the other members of the seminar offer written and verbal feedback. I find this is always a very rewarding process, as students often engage more directly with peer feedback. To top it off, at the end of each seminar (there are 8 ) each seminar votes and the best project, along with the top from the other seminars, become those which make up the Best of Student News screening. While I am a little hesitant to place too much weight on the ‘best’ projects – learning is, after all, not a competition – students nevertheless respond well to this voting process. I suspect the idea of them deciding the best projects rather than the course staff is very appealing! Then, in the Best of Student News screening, the students get to vote once more and select their choice for the Best Student News Project of the year.

I have to say, I think the level at which students produced their projects this year has been outstanding. Even though most of them have learnt their media production skills over 4 one and a half hour workshops, many of these projects can stand up against the work of professionals who’ve had 3 year of training. The Best Project for the year, as selected by their peers, shows that humour – when used properly – really is one of the universally appealing elements of media. So, without any further ado, this year’s Best Student Project takes a comical look at the role of community radio in the era of media conglomeration.

Community Radio

At the screening, there is also a Staff Award given the the project which got the highest overall mark. This award went to the group behind a technically outstanding project which explored whether Australia’s young Olympians are adequately prepared to be thrust into the media spotlight at the Beijing Olympics.

Young Olympians and the Media Spotlight?

There are two other projects from the screening I wanted share: one takes a look at the proposed redevelopment of the Perth inner city foreshore, and the other asks to what extent Earth Hour is a genuine attempt at ecological change.

Perth Foreshore Redevelopment

Earth Hour 2008

One other noteworthy aspect of these projects, and of many others students created for the course, is that after our discussions on copyright, each of the projects above has selected to place their finished work under a Creative Commons license. Among other things, this suggests that far from the end of the conversation, some of these student projects may, indeed, have an interesting life being screened and remixed in different settings.

The students in this unit are now working hard on their second project, which is explores more specifically the affordances of digital video on the web, and I have to say, having just heard their Pitches for these projects, I’m really exciting to see the next projects as they’re completed!

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Student Creativity and Writing (on) the Web

One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot this semester has been the way my teaching does – or doesn’t – encourage my students to develop that elusive, highly ambiguous but universally sought-after quality of creativity. I’ve been running two units – Digital Media, which is a relatively large second year unit (about 140 students) with a fairly hefty hands-on component; and a far smaller honours unit called Creative Selves which is specifically about exploring the way creativity is thought about, situated and can ultimately be harnessed in the world of work (or, at least, the world outside of formal education).

Even though creativity is often associated with the romantic ideal of the lone creative genius, one of the contradictions I’ve been quite aware of, and something that has come up in both units, is that both individual and group creativity is often meaningfully enhanced and provoked when students are thinking about the audience that might ultimately view/experience/interact with their creative work. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise since over the last 4 years I’ve often encouraged (and occasionally mandated) that students blog their work for just that reason. In so many cases, when the potential audience for a work – written, audio, video or whatever else – stops being just the marker or examiner and starts being a potentially global community, students tend to push themselves to work that little bit harder. Occasionally one or two students have suggested this is unnecessarily stressful, but 99% of the time when students are faced with the large potential audience that the internet provides, they step up to the challenge.  There are other clear advantages of getting students to create in the public sphere, too, such as those outlined by Jason Mittell:

One of my pet peeves about teaching is that often you get wonderful student work that is, by design, written for an audience of one, and has no lingering presence beyond the semester. By asking students to blog, share, and otherwise publish their work, it both raises the bar for their own sense of engaging a community with their ideas, as well as offers an opportunity for faculty to publicize their excellent work.

Mittell has written a series of posts showcasing some of the impressive work students have made as part of his Media Technology course this past semester.  They range from podcasts which interrogate something specific about audio, to video-games based shorts (sort of machinima, but not in the Red Vs Blue sense – more videos which mix and match game footage in different ways to highlight a particular critical or creative point).  One assignment I particularly liked was the use of video remixes, or mashups, which included one student effort which remixed current blockbuster trailers – and a ubiquitous iPhone ad – to create an overhyped trailer for technological convergence itself:


Another student collaboration I’ve come across recently is Shake Girl, The Graphic Novel.  This graphic novel was a collaboration between 17 Stanford creative writing, art and design students who’ve produced a moving and provocative story which ultimately ends up being a heart-wrenching tale highlighting the terrible phenomenon of acid attacks on women in Cambodia.  This is no two-dimensional moral rant, though: it’s a thoroughly engaging story, with sophisticated characterisation which envelops the reader in the story only to shock them with the protagonist’s fate.  In their About section, one note rang particularly true for me, regarding the challenges but also the substantial rewards which come from successful creative collaborations between students:

The process of collaboration – we think all of our students will agree – was both one of the most frustrating and exciting experiences of our lives. A lot of the first in the first two weeks, much of the second in the last four. Those of us writing the script seemed to trip over one another in the early stages. We wrote, researched, rewrote, tossed drafts aside, argued, yelled sometimes, tossed our hands up in the air, and then started over. The illustrators waited patiently, until patience ran out, and we were finally left with this mission statement: 1. We want to get this project completed, and 2. We want to make everyone moderately happy.

And with that, we made the jump to light speed. How many late-night hours did we draw, redraw, rewrite, design, redesign, and mostly… really enjoy each others company, efforts, and camaraderie?

All I can say is that Shake Girl definitely highlights an impressively successful student collaboration! [Via BBoing]

This graphic novel also reminds me on one idea for a small-scale creative project I’ve always wanted to do especially with a large first-year class.  Many of you will recall the fabulous Theory.org.uk Theorist Trading Cards, which were essentially bubblegum cards featuring well-known cultural theorists.  In a large first-year class where new theorists, ideas and concepts are introduced for the first time, I suspect that if students generated their own cards as part of tutorial presentations, this would be a great way to creatively get them reading and thinking about the main features, and differences, between the writers and works they encounter.  As an added bonus, these trading cards could be collated online and serve, to some extent, as useful prompts when students are revising for exams.

Restricted Knowledge? University Bandwidth Regulation and Facebook World.

Along a similar line, this week my Digital Media students are presenting a pitch, outlining an idea for a short video which will critically explore some aspect of digital culture loosely based on arguments about either convergence or citizen journalism, so I hope I’ll be able to post a few of the results in a few weeks time.

Until then, I wanted to end this post by pointing to the very cool and very virally popular video Apple Mac Music Video by Dennis Liu.  While not really student work (Lui has just finished formal education, but has been working professionally for a while; read an interview here) this is video is inspirational.  It’s a brilliant reminder that under the hood of an Apple Mac (or even a decent PC) is more than enough power to make some truly inspiring and amazing creative work …

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