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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reel Change student takes on ABC

One of my Reel Change for Nonprofits students, attended a 911 truth commission conference in Valley Forge this weekend hoping to catch an interview with filmmakers behind the film 'Loose Change' as an exercise for class.

When he got there ABC news were there also to interview the filmmakers and later the network ran a short, selectively edited piece.

My student had filmed the entire interview and was annoyed with the way in which the ABC piece had slanted its coverage and so decided to post his version of the interview on youtube.

Upshot: he's had 15,000 views in 2 days -- in the non-profit realm 15,000 views counts as a viral hit.

Another nice tidbit: we had just had a class on film sound and seeing that ABC had a sound guy with field mixer Scott had asked if he could run a line from their field mixer to his camera -- so uncharacteristically for a youtube video -- this one has good audio!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

MacArthur Foundation series on Digital Media and Learning

MacArthur is now making 6 volumes in its series on digital media and learning series available for free download.

A great example of open access publishing.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning examines the effect of digital media tools on how people learn, network, communicate, and play, and how growing up with these tools may affect a person's sense of self, how they express themselves, and their ability to learn, exercise judgment, and think systematically.

The full text of each volume in the Series is provided for free and open access thanks to the generous support of the MacArthur Foundation. The full text of these chapters is openly available below. We ask that you complete a brief site registration process, or log in if you are already registered at MIT Press Journals. Registration is entirely optional, but we hope you will register because the information that we gather helps us learn more about open access publishing.

If you're experiencing access problems or have questions about e-access registration, please email

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Scratch Programs at Digital Media and Learning Conference

A big takeaway that I got from the 2010 Digital Media Learning conference was that the Scratch programming language seems have really taken hold for creating interactivestories/animation/and games and for people to share and remix projects.

Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at MIT It is available as a free download for either mac or pc at and it is also a web-based community where 'scratchers' can share their work and their scripting. Scratch is based on a set of programming blocks that can be snapped together in different sequences and combinations. Control structures (like forever and repeat) are 'C' shaped to suggest that other blocks should be placed inside them --different color blocks for sound, motion, operatives, variables, oval shaped blocks for numbers etc. These blocks can be used to animate any number of characters (sprites) that you can choose from a menu of existing sprites, create yourself, import or remix from other projects. You also create stages or backdrops for the action. Place a group of blocks in the scripting area of the Scratch interface, click on a group of blocks and Scratch executes the code.

I thought this quote from the developers of Scratch was interesting as it speaks to the mission of my own organization: The Jacob Burns Film Center in a way that I have not seen previously from game programs:

"It has become common to refer to young people as "digital native". Indeed many young people are very comfortable sending text messages, playing online games, and browsing the Web. But though they interact with digital media all the time, few are able to create their own games, animations or simulations.
It's as if they can "read" but cannot "write". Digital fluency requires the ability to design, create and invent. To do so you need to learn some kind of programming. The ability to program greatly expands the range of what you can create, it also expands the range of what you can learn: programming
supports computational thinking and design strategies (such as modularization and iterative design) that carry over to non-programming domains" Scratch for All in Communications of the ACM, Nov 2009, vol 52, 11.

As an example, I have attached a screen shot showing the scratch interface, 15 sprites and 1 of 45 scripts that make up an animation called Underwater Problems. There is also a link to the completed animation.