Sometime you’ve just got to let the kids speak for themselves. Digital Narratives due, hopefully, by Friday, after our Red Carpet Premiere, Period Two.
In Chapter Two of Mark Twain’s glorious, ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ – believe me, if you are an adult and haven’t read this in years, drop everything, stop reading this daft Blog and go and read it; I promise you’ll thank me – Tom is punished for his bad behaviour by having to whitewash his Aunt’s picket fence. Initially mocked by friends, Tom’s genius and razor sharp mind manages to turn the tables and convince everyone that painting the fence is the best party in town. The task itself becomes the prize.
I quoted some of my students’ Glow Blogs in my previous post, where they were beginning to reflect on the reading experiences involved when studying ‘Inanimate Alice’. These experiences helped us this week as we begun to think about creating our own episodes.
There are some days when teaching is merely a series of small battles. With management, with colleagues, with pupils, with parents even; with computers which get huffy at exactly the same time you want them to be your friend. I had some of those battles this week in preparing for Episode Three of Inanimate Alice. It seems that every computer suite in the school was overbooked for weeks ahead and the fabulous notebooks we used last week were nowhere to be seen. For two days, all of my preparation had to stay on hold. But did I lose heart? Well, yes, I did a bit.
“When I first saw Inanimate Alice, I had walked into the middle of it because I was at a music lesson. After I came in, I quickly tuned into the story. Once a few scenes had passed I noticed that it was the same story we read a few days ago. When I first saw it I read the words and then noticed the background images and film. I also heard strange music which made me uncomfortable.
The first time I saw “Inanimate Alice” I really loved the idea of it and watched it at my home, it is a very different experience to reading which I love. I also love film and music so it was a very enjoyable experience.”
Trying to make sense of the story is difficult though, I have so many questions like, Who is Brad, is he real or totally made up, and how can he speak?
I can’t wait till we can make our own Inanimate Alice episode. I have some pretty good ideas and even though it looks quite difficult it’ll be loads of fun!”
I received some fantastically supportive comments on my last ‘Alice’ Blog post. Most astonishingly for me anyway, a direct response from Kate Pullinger, the original writer of ‘Inanimate Alice’. A convincing argument for a global classroom if ever there was one. Within minutes, yes minutes, of posting my Blog on Twitter I was receiving messages from interested teachers from around the world. My work was posted on FACEBOOK – never been a fan, slightly changing my mind now – so I knew things were happening.
- Well, I think it was good idea to challenge them to create their own episodes of ‘Alice’. Their complete bewilderment at my challenge during the first Episode is now beginning to grow into something very interesting indeed.
- I spent a lot of time preparing these lessons, way more than I normally would, but it is hugely important that, while they are perhaps more ‘techy’ than me, not all of them are. I must keep in mind that at I have to be able to step in at any time.
For about a year and a half now I’ve been peering enviously over the wall at those incredibly inventive teachers who been teaching and enjoying the amazing Inanimate Alice, the interactive digital narrative which has been lighting up classrooms for a few years now. The blog posts, the wikis, the web pages I visited all glowed with the originality and depth of this new, modern and ground-breaking narrative form.
- I read everything I could find on Inanimate Alice on the web. I found Wikis, the ‘Alice’ website, Bill Boyd’s excellent blog post. Alice’s School report was particularly helpful for advice and tips. There are some great people out there who’ve been fighting Alice’s corner. Pull on their coat tails. Learn from them.
- I watched Episode One – China – over and over until I was happy with what I thought the students might get from it. I would normally read a text at least twice before teaching it so this was standard for me. I would recommend this as it focused my mind on the idea of reading a media narrative. What did I see and hear? What might my students think as they watched and listened and read?
- Before I began, on Monday of this week, I wanted to construct a list of questions which I wanted to answer as I progressed through the lessons. I was holding off on Learning Intentions as I wanted this to remain open to an extent. I’m hoping the students will adapt those LI s as we go.
- We discussed the title ‘Inanimate Alice’ as a class. What did ‘Inanimate’ mean? How could we break it down to work out the meaning? Are there many different meanings?
- We, as a class, read through a printed text of the story. I deliberately left the meaning open and asked the students, in groups, to ask as many questions as possible. The evidence is in the photos below. I think I made my first error here. They rushed into the task and came up with what were, at times, fairly bland, poorly thought out questions. ‘Why is she frightened?’ Why is it dark?’ With hindsight I would have taken more time to discuss the types of questions I was looking for. However, there were flashes of gold in there which we followed up in discussion in the next lesson.
- For homework I posed the question, ‘How do you read a text?’ They came back with excellent responses about how we construct meaning traditionally through words in a story and those words develop as we get more sophisticated in our reading and our experiences. I believed that these thoughts would act as an effective entry point to discussion of the digital narrative.
- Today, we watched the digital narrative and were blown away. Students couldn’t believe at first that they were reading the same story. We discussed the differences in reading both versions of the text and, on Monday, we’ll continue with that. What impressed them most was the ability to move on when they chose and look back and forward at bits they wanted to see again. Yes, like a traditional story but even then they were seeing the visuals in a different way.