Monday, January 23, 2006

Teens Posted by Picasa


Today I was over at at a friend of mine's daughter and husband's house to watch the big Pittsburgh Steeler game. We're going to the Super Bowl! My friend gave the following testimonial about this blog:
A blog for thirty percent of those who do not read.
Babble as I do, I believe there's some mistake. Nonetheless, clearly I see a need for blogs which appeal to those who don't like to read.

The picture was posted by Margot on Journaling Ethiopia. It's a kind posts that gently addresses the recent unrest in Addis Ababa. Mostly it was an observation about teenagers:
Two rebellious teenage girls at Key Afer market day. I love that while I had no idea what they were saying, nor did my translator, the meaning came through loud and clear. Teenagers, in my experience, demonstrate similar kinds of attitudes and exuberance across cultures, time zones, and generations. It's part of their dubious charm, and part of why, infuriatingly, most development efforts do not exert themselves to adequately address the needs of youth because "they are difficult to work with." (Along with the other truths that no one likes to admit, that in most cultures their voices are not heard nor respected, and their needs and desires are often ignored and disrespected, despite all the lip service paid to the youth as "the future.") Hmph. Adults!
In Sunday's Post-Gazette is an article about a summit against racism held here. And pictured are two American teenagers about whom Margot's words about the Ethiopian teens would not seem out of place.

Another friend at the Steeler's game works with teens creating art and they've been blogging their sessions. He told me one of the students in the class asked: "Whose that creepy guy who always leaves comments on our blog." Me, a bit red faced, but my friend told me he hoped that wouldn't inhibit my comments. Richard Scoble was in town last week. He mentioned that most businesses in this town don't allow their employees to blog. I guess that same sort of caution has filtered down to the kids. I told my friend that I thought blogs were a good activity for kids, of course I'm singing to the choir because my friend incorporates a blog in his instruction.

Lots of teens have blogs. Petersondesigns put a posting taken from the Kansas City High School Dialog Buzz Web site. I'll copy it here because if promted some very good discussion elsewhere:
* I will access up-to-date information - you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
* I will immediately know when I misspell a word – you have to wait until it’s graded.
* I will learn how to care for technology by using it – you will read about it.
* I will see math problems in 3D – you will do the odd problems.
* I will create artwork and poetry and share it with the world – you will share yours with the class.
* I will have 24/7 access – you have the entire class period.
* I will access the most dynamic information – yours will be printed and photocopied.
* I will communicate with leaders and experts using email – you will wait for Friday’s speaker.
* I will select my learning style – you will use the teacher’s favorite learning style.
* I will collaborate with my peers from around the world – you will collaborate with peers in your classroom.
* I will take my learning as far as I want – you must wait for the rest of the class.
* The cost of a laptop per year? - $250
* The cost of teacher and student training? – Expensive
* The cost of well educated US citizens and workforce? - Priceless
I can't remember how I happened on the conversation about this: whether if was first at think:lab or at Doug Johnson's The Blue Skunk Blog or at petersondesign in the first place. the important thing is that many people who care very much about children's education recognise what some in the business world have discovered: blogging is an important tool for learning.

The whole notion of a blog for people who don't read intriqued me and reminded me of one use for the small acordian books I've been thinking about how to make. It seems a hard puzzle to figure way for connect people in places in Africa where access to computers are limited. Paper seems one way. But as I'm also reminded by Nathan and members of the BSLA that there are many in their community who don't read at all. I also know that the members of the BSLA adult literacy groups want practical information to learn to read. They want to know how to increase their income. So one idea for the Cracker Jack books is to show how to do useful things in pictures.

The wonderful blog Mental Acrobatics posted a slide show on Flickr How to Slaughter a Sheep. I've been impressed with how much information can be conveyed in photo slideshows. Of course it would be to expensive to print photos into the little Cracker Jack books, but the sequence aspect is similar. For Americans who don't read such photo essays seem perfect.

So far I haven't gotten very far in creating a template in my word processing software to produce these acordian books. Maybe someone's already figured it all out, so I keep looking. From the We-Make-Money_Not-Art blog I discovered Flipbooks:
It's a web application that allows people to easily create frame animation by simply drawing on screen and publish it online (yeah, it's that simple - and works well). There are over 180,000 animation clips contributed by the visitors (including me) and the number is increasing. This work's value would be not only in the web application itself but also in the media space that is rapidly expanding through end-user contributions -- and the simple and inclusive user interface that invites people from many countries in the world to create and contribute...

A cool feature you might not want to miss: you can download a PDF version of an animation clip, print it, cut & bind, and create a physical flipbook of animation. My first time to print animated web contents so easily.
Perhaps the template for Cracker Jack books would be most useful as a PDF file. Instructables is another fantastic site for people to easily put up directions of how to make things. The comment features allow for the community to make suggestions for improvement for each project too. This as very close to the spirit of Cracker Jack books, especially on the how-to-side of things. What I need to do is to find a more or less standard template for people to make Cracker Jack books. How to get them both on paper and on a blog is something to work out.

Nobody who doesn't like to read coming to this blog would wade through to find those cool links to Flip Books and Instructables. But it seems pretty likely they might find those sites interesting and useful. Now I've got to learn how to make a blog for people who don't read (much). Teens and adults the world over might really appreciate how much of the Internet can be embraced without reading.

All of this is pretty far afield from the topic of teens. Journaling Ethiopia reminded me how important young people's voices are and how often teens feel they do not have a vehicle so others can hear them. In the picture of the Ethiopian teens and the picture of the teens from Pittsburgh in today's paper the "dubious charm" of teens shows through. I want to find ways for teens to tell their stories and to hear others' stories. The Internet and blogging opens new avenues for teens and all sorts. There must be ways of helping people in the developing world gain access too.

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