Common Craft

Commoncraft.com is a Website that provides ‘easy’ explanations to difficult concepts through animated videos that last no more than three minutes. These videos use custom, hand-made shapes with pencil and colors, then animated throughout the video-presentation. The Website also offers customized videos as well as a vast supply of free custom shapes downloads so users can build their own. Its Know How page offers instructions on how to make your own ‘craft’ video from using their own cut-outs and videos, to guides for script writing, all for decent amount of money if you go with the basic plan.

According to Christy Dena in The Writer’s Guide, Craft Part I, “Writing for new media requires that writers understand elements such as interactivity, micro lengths and digital media affordances.” The people behind Common Craft are aware of how interaction can help not only with the process of learning but also with retaining the information; by making the videos short and using clear language instead of jargon, these videos are easily displayed in a wide variety of platforms, as well all can be shared with different social media.

For example I saw the video for “Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)”, they managed to explain a complicated topic such as APIs in an easy way to understand the subject in less than three minutes. Not only the video’s narrative script is easy to grasp, but also the hand-made shapes and animation contributes to the overall understanding and gives us a feeling like we draw them ourselves.

 

References

Dena, C. (2007). Australian council. Retrieved from http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/writersguide/craft,_part_one

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Never Go With What People Tell You

In my freshman year, my major required lots of science classes: astronomy, pre-calculus, programming, so I was getting ready for a busy semester. The first day of my pre-calculus class, was sort of, intimidating. Usually at the first class you get the hang of it from the teacher, the syllabus, the pace of the class.  Not with this one. There was some degree of uncertainty as to what to expect from this class.

When I was a student, I always liked the challenge.  I believe that if you study and prepare, there is no such thing as a hard class.  That’s why when some of my classmates gathered around at the end of the calculus class, somebody starting saying that this professor had fame for being extremely hard and that every semester, most of his students fail or end up with a C.  A good friend of mine decided that he was going to switch to a class with an ‘easier’ professor; he suggested I’d do the same.  I kindly declined and decided to stay.

I must say that in the next couple weeks I starting doubting if I made the right decision.  At one class I remember asking a question and the professor answered it in a way I thought was very condescending.  That day I went home sad, disappointed, and I even remember telling my husband about the whole thing, me having the opportunity to change classes and I didn’t. Since the deadline to switch the class without penalties was over, I had no choice but to stay. My husband cheered me up and I just thought of doing my best as with every class.

On the first project, we had to do something with exponential formulas utilizing real data and using the knowledge and formulas we learned in class. I did mine about the exponential growth in population within the next 20 years for my hometown in Saltillo, Mexico. The following week, the professor was giving back the graded projects but by the look of my classmates, this was no good. I saw lots of F’s and C’s and all I thought was why I didn’t listen to my friend then.

When he gave all the projects back except mine, I started to worry.  The professor then proceeded to explain how this particular student did the project while he is holding it in the air (his voice very serious). At this point I am totally freaking out. All I thought was, if this guy starts making fun of me, I don’t care, I am getting up right now and I am dropping this class even if it stays in my student records for eternity.

It turned out he began praising ‘this’ student project. How organized, neat, professional, detailed, useful content, pages numbered, he even loved the cover page.  He said he wanted from now on to have all projects to follow this same format; and then he called my name… This made me feel so proud and motivated to study even harder, but especially gave me the confidence I needed. I would not say his class was easy, after all calculus is not an easy topic, but his way of teaching helped me to truly think and analyze math concepts to then be applied to real life situations.

At the end of the semester, not only I did very well, I truly enjoyed his class and learned a lot.  I also understood why this professor was nationally recognized as a great math teacher, and why he was so avoided by students.  Sometimes students want the easy A and don’t care whether they learn something or not. I also saw my friend who switched classes at the beginning of the term and I asked him how it went with the easy teacher.  Turns out he got a C which he claims was because the class had an easy teacher and therefore he did not study as hard as he should of.

The lessons learned here are, a) listen to your inner voice and don’t follow the crowd, 2) the old say about studying hard and doing your best does pay off, and 3) never go with what people tell you. Just because someone had a bad experience at something, it doesn’t mean you will have it too. Oh, and 4) there is no such thing as an easy teacher or an easy class. NEVER.

Field Trip: TED Talk – Jonathan Harris: The web as art

TED Talk – Jonathan Harris: The web as art http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_harris_collects_stories.html

Jonathan Harris, a computer scientist, uses his programming skills to capture stories from the web and from all over the world, yielding rich results in storytelling with an anthropological sense, and a duty to document—and preserve such stories.

From our readings, “Web 2.0 Storytelling, Emergence of a New Genre”, authors Bryan Alexander and Alan Levine concur that Web 2.0 has forever changed the way we tell a story. No longer is a story told to a passive-receptive audience. We all make that story one way or another. “Stories now are open-ended, branching, hyperlinked, cross-media, participatory, and unpredictable” (Alexander & Levine, 2008, p. 40).

Harris takes advantage of this open-ended, branching cross-media by extracting every two to three minutes with computer programs “bits of information” from recent blog posts with occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. The result is an amazing library of phrases and images that each one not only tells a story, but also represents someone’s life out there.

One of his projects, “Happiness”, where he interviews people from a small Himalayan town about what is happiness, the stories he gets as a result each is unique and inspiring.  After he interviews them, he takes a picture of them, a picture of their hands, and a picture of them making a silly face.  These three poses each one represent what Svensson refers to his article “knowledge and Artifacts: People and Objects”, as something tangible that “symbolizes a lifestyle” (Svensson, p. 87), where the picture of their hands for example, tells the individual’s life by just looking at them.

Harris with his projects and his approach to recollect information on the Internet has revolutionized collecting and archiving procedures. Jenny Newell’s article, “Old objects, new media: Historical collections, digitization and affect”, she states in page 289 that “[H]istorians are as yet more often users than creative producers of digital historical material”, where some historians are suspicious of utilizing new technologies to for “research, teaching, and publication”. Jonathan Harris’ project, “The Whale Hunt”, is a fine example of how new technology can be applied for research, teaching, and publication for collecting, archiving, and storytelling for future generations.  Harris built this “framework” or “webinar phase”, where one can build the story based on several parameters like images, date, and action level, resulting on a different told story based on the parameters selected.  Just like in real life.

 

References

Bryan Alexander, A. L. (2008, 23 October). Educase review online. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/web-20-storytelling-emergence-new-genre

Svensson, Tom G. (). Knowledge and Artifacts: People and Objects. Museum Anthropology, 31, 85-104.

Newell, J. (2012).  Old Objects, new media:  Historical collections, digitization and affect.  Journal of Material Culture, 17(3), 287-306.