Look! Alan and Darren Are Talking About 50 Ways Gone Mobile

April 15, 2014 in 50ways, Blog Pile by Alan Levine


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Krister462

Off and on since the start of the year, Darren Kuropatwa and I have been meeting via video chat (we love appear.in) as we work on an expansion of the original 50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story to include mobile story creation apps. I’ve written up already what we’ve done and the idea.

It’s still formulating… err percolating… err fermenting… errr processing. But we’ve had in mind to run some online open happenings (probably as Google Hangouts). While we thought we might have something more formal to organize, we thought, “What the sheep” why not just extend the conversations we have been doing to a larger group?

So you are welcome to join us April 22, 6PM PST / 9PM EST (check your local time) to see where this project should go. My own ideas:

  • We definitely need to ramp up the collection for more Android apps
  • What is the affordance gain by creating stories on a mobile platform? Does it really produce something that leverages what the mobile offers? Heck, is this worth the effort?
  • In our project so far, there has been an interesting impact for Darren as he has been telling my Dominoe story as the standard example. The approach of “re-telling” interests me as the aim is not to do a carbon copy, but explore and find your voice within someone else’s story.
  • We’d like to get more people trying out the ones we have and adding examples to the new designed submission form (currently on the mobile tools only)
  • I honestly have some question about the focus on the list of apps/tools. There are more than enough “TOP XX APPS FOR ZZZZZZ” floating out there. In my last workshop at Skidmore College, we spent the whole time on the story development, and I saw no disappointment that we did not get to the tools.
  • That said, my position on the web tools has always been, “These are interesting to experiment, but there are very few I might reach for to produce something I need to have done. But I am seeing now a few apps Storehouse, TouchCast that are ones I would use for something more than “experimenting”

Our idea was to have it as an open conversation. So we are. It will be in Google Hangout, and there will be info posted to the 50 Ways Google Community.

What happens when we try to balance the mobile platform?


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by nao-cha

50 Ways to Wooster

May 22, 2012 in 50ways, Blog Pile by Alan Levine


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by bernat…

Today was the third time I was invited to do a remote presentation of 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story for the Wooster College Faculty Fellows Program. Since Jon and Matt visited UMW a few weeks back, we had a good chance to talk about some different ways to structure the session, and it worked well.

I suggested we try presenting via Google Hangout, but the google docs presenter in there is fine for screen viewing, but too small for projection, so we went low tech, and used Hangout to see each other, and had them advance my slides on a second screen there.

Here’s da slides, with embedded movies

This time I spent much less time talking about the tools, and front loaded with some discussion of the shape of stories, e.g. the Kurt Vonnegut talk

as well as some stuff from Nancy Duarte from her Resonate book section on sparklines, but mainly to make a case for the need for academics (teachers and students) to consider the allure and impact of their communications- like the idea of using what works well n cinema as a “trailer” for work that then can be treated in also a more traditional form, if appropriate.

I also illustrated the brilliant work of Dan Meyers in creating his Three Act approaches to math lessons, which could easily be applied to almost any discipline — see his three act resource for a gold mine of ideas


I’ve been getting a ton of inspiration from Randy Olson’s “Don’t Be Such a Scientist”

Olson was a tenured marine biologist who long harbored to be a film director, and in his 40w he bailed entirely on the academic career to enroll as a student on the USC Cinema School. He opens with his being shamed by a tough acting teacher who scolded him for being too much in his head, and Olson goes on to share what he learned about the effectiveness of the storytelling aspects of film that can make academic communications much more effective.

I used some of his stuff as well as the Wikipedia reference on the Three Act screenplay structure to change up the workshop activity.

Typically I do as an audience participant part a story prompt, something to get them shouting out ideas for a story. I typically do something about “You would not believe who I saw last night at _________” where I pick a locally well known locale. This is all about them brainstorming as a group.

For the Wooster group, I chose as last time, a local landmark restaurant, Matsos. but instead of just a 2 part break in the slide show, I set it up in the 3 act play structure, with prompts for the group to develop a story they would all use later. I created a google doc for each one, set open to edit for the workshop (now read only)

The group was small enough to make this a table discussiom but they also jumped in together. I was surprised how cohesively they came to a pretty solid story concept, if I can paraphrase:

Greg, the local guy who goes around shirtless, goes to Matsos for dinner; the pizza is so hot he burns his chest hair. The owner starts a fight, and in the middle, instead of a screm, Greg belts out an operatic solo, and the owner dude is so impressed, he arranges Greg to get a tryout for the local production company. Greg ends up so successful, he becomes mayor

They certainly followed the 3 act structure to a T. I mentioned the idea (again from Olson’s book) about distilling this into an elevator speech, and even more into the Hollywood High Concept one sentence or phrase (e.g. “Snakes on a Plane” or “What if we could clone dinoaurs?”). i am not sure how to do this story- “even the shirtless sing arias”?

I also had them search for media to put into a shared spreadsheet- the idea was after the 2 hour intro session, they would have 3 hours of work time to each tell that same story in a different tool.

I came back to see the final results, and like my Mom used to say, I was blown away by not only their products, but also how they treated the story each in different ways, but kept its structure. Here are a few of them:

The Matsos Pizza Shirtless Guy Story done in

The more odd thing has the handful (3 or so) who who not make their work public- I got a hint of some concern since the story involved real people, but this lack of interest in sharing disturbs me some. I even heard them say “Well we can always delete it after this workshop” – that is the sword to my gut when people dismantle the web.

That is the only negative I came away with- this was a fun group and I enjoyed the new approach to the workshop.

I still have looming over me a huge mountain of updates to the site, but am also toying with a completely new approach to the site that could make it more portable and localized for interested persons.

Stay tuned- but thanks again Jon and Matt for inviting me back to Wooster- now I just ahve to get there one day and claim that beer and pizza and Matsos

50 Ways Returns Down Under

December 1, 2011 in 50 ways, 50ways, Blog Pile, presentations by Alan Levine


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

It was an honor, privilege, and a hoot to be invited to come to Melbourne to do a 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story presentation for the PLP Network project here.

This all came about because in October, during my road trip, I paid a visit to the home of Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach in Virginia Beach (get it, beach? beach?). We have known each other for a long time online but had never met in carbon form. Over dinner, she told me that her colleague, Will Richardson (whom I did not get to meet on the loop) was unable to attend the culminating meeting for their project in Australia, and would I be interested in going in his place to do a keynote?

I think I said yes before her question ended.

Thanks Will, we had way too much fun talking about my qualifications being a pony tail. Thanks for also sending me the audio clip I used to introduce you as one my my online avatars:

Will Richardson intro

So that was my meal ticket to make the big crossing, but you have to bring your best stuff, and I hope I did. I mixed up my usual presentation with some new elements.

All of the presentation stuff, including slides and links are at http://50ways.wikispaces.com/plpconnectu. I had thought about doing a live broadcast to ds106 radio, but port 8010 seemed to be blocked, so I recorded my own audio.

Audio archive of presentation (71.7 Mb / 1:14:40)

I had my Keynote autotweeting in active mode, to share links, and draw people in from the outside when the activities started.

The reason this was special is because the very first 50 Ways workshop was done in Australia, back in October 2007 on my 2 week whistle stop tour of every capital city for the Flexible Learning Framework.

So I started with the Amazing FLower story that happened there, for no other reason than is pretty amazing.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I also used a more recent story that came out of a presentation I did for Alec Couros’s ECI831 class, one that Kevin Stranack shared about a bit of family discovery that started with one out of the blue email.

Before going into the 50 Ways bit, I set up a few activities based on the ARG activity Sheryl and her team had set up for the participants here- it was a story about the PLP penguin, Periwinkle who had somehow gotten him/herself tied up in a boxing match with a tough kangaroo named Joey.

The think is we know about this as an event, but I wanted the groups to do some work on how these characters developed their personalities, do some creative activities to develop their personas. I went back to an activity I learned of in the late 1990s, when I worked on a project at maricopa with a colleague Liz Warren, who teaches at South Mountain Community College.

We took an activity she had already developed to foster creative writing, built around the ideas of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and made into a web tool for that and more. Stunningly, it still sits on the web server at Maricopa, though it is not fully functionally — see http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/smc/journey.

This really happened because by another sheer accident of timing, the night after I returned home from my 5 month road trip, Liz was doing a live storytelling event in Pine, AZ, and I went to see Tellebration again and to say hello.

Anyhow, before the writing prompt questions for the 17 steps of the Hero’s Journey, Liz developed a series of questions designed to help outline the main character’s traits; and I used these same ones for my group.

I split the room in tow, and had half the room work on the questions about Joey’s character and half do the same questions about Peri (created in open Google docs) — they took to it with more activity and energy than I could have dreamed of!


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I had to pull them out of the google docs while they were still writing and laughing.

To use thids material and introduce them to another tool, I asked for a volunteer to come up on stage and lead the choices of photo for a 5 card flickr story (I had gotten people to tag about 300 photos with the project tag plpconnectu).

Lois was a great sport (see her story) — I set the group out to do their own, and again, they really ran with this activity.

We still had a lot of ground to cover.

I wanted to extend the story development process, again leaning on Liz Warren’s Hero’s Journey approach. I made the groups switch, the people who had worked on Joey’s character, now had to review the traits about Peri, and enter the responses to the Call to Adventure stage for Peri — and likewise, the other group do the same for Joey’s Call to Adventure

Again- well I had to work hard to get their attention back. I then got two more volunteers to come up on stage and do a pechaflickr round of improv /a> with those plpconnecu tagged photos.

Both Trish and … (ugh was it Rob) both did pechaflickr the way I envisioned it; not be being 100% literal, but also by keeping their banter moving between slides.

I had to rev the session into 9th gear, running through the media search and the examples. We clearly did not have time for them to do the story creation with the 50+ tools, but I had but one more new trick in my bag.

I told them that I have been asked to develop a thing that would help pick the right tool for people, and I had that ready- it was devised to take biometric input and learning analytics to provide a predictive tool selection- all they needed to do was click “pick” on the 50 Ways Tool Picker

And that was the whole show.

I have to say this was one of the most high powered groups I’ve gotten to present 50 ways to– and I have had some great groups. It changes the whole atmosphere when you have people who are on the edges of their seat and willing to jump in and play.

And with that, my work here in Australia is done, and its 2 weeks of play time.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Time to go play!