Education 2.0


The following video was created for one of my graduate courses at OISE (KMD2003 “Technology and Education,” taught by Megan Boler).  This video represents my first attempt at stop-motion (which was a challenge in itself!).  This medium allowed me to engage in “conversation” with renowned educators, vis-a-vis my claymation figures, by parsing/re-mixing some of their online speeches/TED talks and inserting my own voice into the mix.  The panel consists of Sir Ken Robinson, Don Tapscott, as well as my graduate supervisor, Dr. Jim Slotta (who recorded his part while on sabbatical in South Africa!).

While this video does not actually solve the key problems addressed, it serves to bring them into conversation by integrating the historical context, theoretical “idealisms” and the realities of practice within our current educational model.

Reflection on “Education 2.0” Claymation Project

When this KMD2003 course first began and we discussed the options for our final course project, I was thrilled at the prospect of creating a multimedia/digital project as an alternative to a traditional final paper.  I had dabbled with iMovie previously, though my experience was not extensive, and I was thrilled have an “excuse” to sharpen my movie-making skills.

Throughout the semester, one of the recurring themes that came up in our class and online discussions was the notion that internet 2.0 technologies had the potential to enable “conversations” to take place online, as opposed to traditional, uni-directional, “broadcast” media.  There was some skepticism as to whether these online conversations were effective and/or identifiable out of the drivel and other banalities that proliferate in these 2.0-type settings.  Moreover, there was question as to who would actually participate or “listen” to these conversations, how they would be used or acted upon and for what purposes.

Therefore, for the purposes of this project, I decided to engage in “conversation” with some renowned educators whose messages had mainly been delivered using traditional “broadcast” methods (e.g. written texts, lectures and TED talks).  I had considered several options regarding which medium I would use to facilitate this “conversation,” noting that I wanted my “characters” to resemble specific people.  I considered hand-drawing cartoons, but if I had gone that route I likely wouldn’t be finished for another year.  There were also a number of online animation programs available, which I played around with a bit, but none of the cookie-cutter template characters adequately resembled the individuals I was specifically looking for.  Therefore, I decided to create my characters using decapitated Barbie/Ken dolls and some oven-bake clay.

My first step in creating the video was to lay out the audio “storyline.”  I began by downloading every TED talk, podcast and public lecture I could find by Sir Ken Robinson and Don Tapscott.  I then proceeded to mark the segments I thought were notable and relevant (using traditional pencil and paper keep track of the titles and times).  I extracted, parsed and re-mixed these audio segments using a program called “Ableton Live,” and then recorded my own voice track to interact with, pose questions and “respond” to the pre-recorded lecture segments.

I had shared my project idea with Jim Slotta (my faculty advisor) back in February, and expressed to him that I wanted to include a “practical reality” element to ground this conversation, which was otherwise broad and idealistic.  Also, because this KMD2003 class was a course that he usually taught, I thought it would be neat if his presence could be included in this capacity.  He agreed, and recorded his audio track whilst on sabbatical in South Africa (a truly 2.0 effort!).  His component was also far less “rigid” than the Sir Robinson and Tapscott pieces, since he was aware of the purpose of this project; his audio track represented an actual conversation as opposed to one that was parsed from lecture.

Once I had completed my audio “story” (including the selection of sound effects and background music), I began on sculpting my characters and constructing my “set.”  The set was constructed using foam board, recycled cardboard and old science brochures that would have otherwise ended up in the recycling bin.  My next challenge was figuring out how to make the characters “talk.”  I tried a few methods.  Having watched several Tim Burton claymation “behind the scenes” featurettes, I saw that his animators had several different “heads” to represent different expressions/emotions and mouth shapes – a method far too time-consuming/impractical for my purposes!   On the show “Robot Chicken,” the characters have stick-on mouths that change to match the shape of their spoken words.  After attempting this method, I felt it would be much more time-effective if I did the mouth-manipulation digitally, as opposed to with physical stickers.  The other challenge was synchronizing the mouth shapes with the audio track, which, at 30 frames per second, was no easy feat.  In the end, the mouth movements are very basic up-and-down motions, with no emotion or changes in facial expressions; however, even this was quite time consuming.  The other “problem” was that because I was using a still frame to edit the mouth movements, my characters couldn’t move their bodies while they were talking.

Rather than having my video consist of 20 minutes of “talking heads,” I also decided to include a variety of other relevant video clips and images.  Because I was mixing so many different media formats with varying frame-rates and qualities, my Final Cut Pro software didn’t “like” what I was doing and refused to encode my final, finished video.  After overcoming the heart-attack that came with 9 crashes (and near-losses of my entire 2-months worth of work), 3 filled hard-drives, and a much needed RAM upgrade, I was able to save my finished video.  Though the output quality isn’t stellar (definitely not HD), I was happy to have a product that was playable and uploadable to YouTube.

I published my video to YouTube the day before our original presentation date (April 19th).  My intended audience was “educators” in general, though I figured other academics, parents and students might find it interesting as well.  The following Saturday, I posted it to Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.  I also Tweeted it directly to Sir Ken Robinson and Don Tapscott.  Both Sir Ken and Don Tapscott tweeted my video to all of their followers, and one week later my video has had over 5,300 views (oh, the power of social media!).  I’ve had teachers and principals ask me if they can show my video at PD sessions.  A conference I attended in Halifax last week caught wind of it and recommended the video to their 1,500 attendees.

Therefore, the “2.0” message is clear: If one engages in meaningful “conversations” online, using quality content, and directing these conversations towards the appropriate audiences, (aided through social media), there is no doubt that there are in fact people listening and ready to respond.  The mechanisms of curation that exist on the social web are powerful tools for identifying and recommending content that is of value, and filtering it from the LOLcats and other drivel.