The Value of Taking Things Apart and Putting Them Back Together

Eric Braun Blog, Iterative Creativity, Teaching

When I decided to dive into the world of education several years ago, I spent a lot of time exploring models of great learning. My exploration came through reading articles on pedagogy and research, talking to educators and learners and thinking about my own experiences. Although I had been a very good student in the traditional sense, I realized that what had made the most impact on me was hands-on and experiential learning. For some reason, I was the kind of person who explored tangential curves that veered off the main course and usually returned back through some sort of twisting wormhole. It began with taking apart clocks, radios and other gadgets to fix them and find out how they worked. It continued through music and the arts and into entrepreneurship, which was more about putting things together and creating something new. Taking things apart and then putting them together in a different manner, creating something new from the analysis and understanding that came from deconstruction. Deconstruction and reconstruction can happen in many subject areas. Jazz musicians take apart a song and put the ideas together in a new improvisation of the original. Writers take a well-known story and retell it in a new, fresh way that may not even look like the original. The musical West Side Story was based on the storyline from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and James Joyce’s Ulysses is a modern-day retelling of The Odyssey by Homer. The key learning component in deconstruction is the analysis …

30hands Storyteller Pro version 2.5.1

Eric Braun Blog

We just released 30hands Storyteller Pro version 2.5.1. What’s new with this release? In addition to stabilization and plumbing improvements, we have some features that make things easier for teachers, experienced users and younger users, too. It’s important to update to version 2.5.1 to get the latest features, bug fixes, performance enhancements. Here’s the rundown of the releases from the past 6 months: 2.5.1 (April 21, 2017) The key update in this release was to fix a critical bug that may have made you think you need new glasses, because published videos had really bad, scrambled quality. It may have been good for a creative art project, but not for general usage. In addition, we included the following: merged the 2 options for publishing (Free and Hi-Res) added a setting to exclude the final 30hands slide when publishing a video   2.5.0 (April 18, 2017) This release included several enhancements to improve usability based on feedback from research called Toys or Tools done by Dr. Monica McGlynn-Stewart of George Brown College in Toronto. These changes include: moving the red “Recording…” text to the center, so it is easier to see that recording has begun extending video slide lengths to 2 minutes and prompting the user with instructions if a video is longer adding Pixabay web image search to Extended Drawing adding more exclusions to the Pixabay web image search filter changed the Cancel button to red and the Save button to green In this release, we also upgraded the Google Drive and Dropbox integration …

Sadly, Our Free Starter Must Ride Into the Sunset

Eric Braun Blog

Like a humble cowboy who has done his job and is overstaying his welcome, 30hands Starter must ride into the sunset. The road has ended and the trail is clear. We developed 30hands Storyteller to help kids learn better in a fun way, unsure if this iterative, storyboard method of creating a presentation that becomes a video would resonate with teachers and students. But we found that it has. If you still believe in this deep method and model of formative assessment and easy creation of video content, please show your support by talking to your school administration about upgrading to 30hands Pro (on the iPad) or 30hands Web (for Chrome). We have more improvements and functionality on the way, like extended video slide durations, improvements to “Enhanced Drawing”, better search filtering and usability improvements. To help with the transition away from the free Starter version, we will be offering 30hands Pro at a discounted price of $4.99 through June 2017. Apple’s VPP for education still applies. Think of the value you get: for the cost of a single ice cream party for your class, they get fun learning for the whole year, which is like ice cream for the whole year!. For 30hands Web, we will extend the free trial period as needed for you to better evaluate it as you discuss site licenses with your schools. We understand that people like things that are free, but the sustainability of 30hands Pro and 30hands Web depends on the departure …

The Value of Video: Faster Ways to Leverage Your Knowledge

Eric Braun Blog

In the past 10 years, we have seen an exponential increase in the amount of video content on the web, content that is used for entertainment, communication and learning. YouTube has been a dominant force by providing an easy to use, 1-stop shop for finding and viewing videos. According to Cisco, over 70% of Internet data is video data, and that will rise to nearly 85% by 2020. The rise in video content has changed the way people consume information, favoring video over the written word so much more than in the past. Yet, despite the ubiquity of videos, creating great learning content in video format is not as easy as it should be. 30hands Learning is changing that, because there’s no better way to leverage your knowledge than through the medium of video. It’s true that every phone has a video camera now, but taking straight video on the fly is not the answer. If the flow is not planned, organized and scripted, it may ramble on or miss the point of the message, the lesson or the training. Here are some of the inherent problems: Taking straight video on the fly does not generally make for great content. Planning the flow and organizing a script are difficult. Quality is improved through iteration, but revisions often require starting over. Video software is often complex and hard to learn and use. There is never enough time to learn how to use an app or be creative. If existing information and presentations could be leveraged, the process …

Introducing 30hands Storyteller Web

Eric Braun Blog

If you are using Chromebooks or laptops in your schools, you can now explore the power of Digital Storytelling with the new 30hands Storyteller Web app. As your students advance from an iPad to a device with a keyboard, the way they explore content, learn a topic and create projects changes. We have taken advantage of some of the great features of a larger screen and a keyboard to make the learning experience better. It’s just as quick and easy to create a digital story or presentation in the browser as it is on the iPad, but there are more possibilities, like Narration Notes, Private Viewer Notes and Thumbnail Navigation. When iPads came out several years ago, schools saw great value in how students could use them in schools, and the number of apps that came out to support great learning grew exponentially. In 2013, we introduced the 30hands mobile app as a way to get students of all ages to show what they know through a multimedia digital story. As we  work with teachers, we continue to improve the app to make it an even better fit for learning through hands-on creation and presenting. Now, after a year of exploring design concepts and a busy summer beta-testing with a group of teachers from across the country, we have released our digital storytelling app as a browser app. This means that 30hands Storyteller Web will run within the browser instead of downloading it to your device. The app is currently …

Models of Experiential Learning: Entrepreneurship

Eric Braun Blog

When I decided to dive into the world of education several years ago, I spent a lot of time exploring models of great learning. My exploration came through reading articles on pedagogy and research, talking to educators and learners and thinking about my own experiences. Although I had been a very good student in the traditional sense, I realized that what had made the most impact on me was hands-on and experiential learning. Recently, I experienced a few events and activities that I found to be great models of experiential learning. Let’s take a look at one event on Entrepreneurship. The Entrepreneurial Journey Entrepreneurship is all the rage nowadays, but what does it mean at the core? What does it take to be an entrepreneur? What’s the impact if  you happen to be female? These are questions that Nora Poggi sought to uncover as she created her film “She Started It“. The film takes the viewer through the journey of 2 young women starting companies, with some side trips along the way to highlight a few others. In a little over an hour, the viewer gets a good sense of the joy of success and the agony of defeat. We see the hard work, the fear, outside influences, luck and constant change. Having been in this world myself for over 20 years, I am impressed at how much of the journey comes out in one short film. Kudos to Nora and her team! Why is this relevant to the future of education? It …

Digital Storytelling Covers Multiple Concepts & Standards in 1 Activity

Eric Braun Blog

Just the mention of the Common Core Standards can be enough to cause the hairs on the back of one’s neck to bristle up, either from hatred of the standards or from fear of criticism of standards by parents and the community. Whether we call them standards, learning goals or something else, there are valid skills and concepts we need to teach our kids. When you put them all together, there’s a whole lot of detail and complexity to the learning puzzle. Finding activities that map to multiple standards, skills or learning goals can make the learning and teaching process much easier. Digital Storytelling is one of those activities. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the value of the Digital Storytelling process. In this post, we’ll look at how a Digital Storytelling activity can be mapped to a selection of Standards from a few different sources, including the Common Core and ISTE. Now, that’s great value! For this activity, let’s look at the book Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, which could be used for a 6th grade classroom. Here are a few themes from Walk Two Moons: Empathy as a source of understanding Nature as a source of comfort and strength The symbolism of the journey Discovering one’s identity Grief and how people deal with it The roles of women The impact of culture on people As a student, I might select “The symbolism of the journey” for my theme. I could perform research on the journey in other …

How Digital Storytelling Improves Learning

Eric Braun Blog

There’s been growing talk about Digital Storytelling lately. iPads, Chromebooks and laptops are everywhere, and educators want to take full advantage of their capabilities. With the landscape the way it is, I’m sure many wonder if this trend is more about the technology or the story. Everyone would agree that tech for tech sake is not the way to go. Using computers and the Internet do teach kids how to use devices and infrastructure that have become fixtures in the world around us, but… “Is that all there is?” I hope not, and I think not! Why does a story matter? It’s all about the process. Let’s look at what it takes to create a story. We all know what a story is and that it has a slew of parts (beginning, middle, end, characters, conflict, etc.), but what happens when we create a story? What process do we go through? The truth is that it’s a highly iterative and active process. Here’s an example: Assignment: Tell a story that shows you know about the planets in our solar system. Show you know what order they are in. Show you know at least 2 facts about each planet and about the Sun. Include Pluto if you’d like. Make sure you tell a story rather than just providing the facts and information. Make it fun and memorable. Sample Process for non-digital story could be: Think of a story concept that interests you. Be creative! Think outside the box! Think about how to include the solar system, …

30hands for Peace: 20 Children, a Navajo Story

Eric Braun Blog

We are visiting Sedona in the desert and the mountains which expand forever. Century plants rise up to the vast skies that swirl above, and the powdery red dust colors everything around. By the side of the road, there are Navajos selling jewelry at stands near the roadside. One woman says she is 54. She looks great and has no wrinkles. She says she’s been through a lot. Raised 20 children. “Foster?” She nods but maybe not 100% true. She was the mother to her sisters and to her own mother, she says. “Where are you from?” she asks me. Boston. “You have no rocks there, right?” Right. “Everything is covered.” She cannot believe a life without rocks. I nod, thinking about my broad green lawn and the rocks hidden below the surface, the rocks that I uncovered only when I wanted to plant a tree or build a brick walkway. One year, she says, they traveled to South Dakota to see Sitting Bull. There, they heard of a place called Standing Rock. In a place where everything was covered, they wanted to see this rock. Perhaps, it would remind them of home. They could not find it, though, and finally asked someone. When they got there, they laughed. The rock was not even standing! Every summer she and her family travel on pow wow where they dance traditional dances and sell jewelry and Indian souvenirs. “All 20 children?” Yes. “In a bus?” No, in a truck with a trailer …

Time Travel and Aging

Eric Braun Blog

Last night, I watched a television show about time travel (Genius by Stephen Hawking), which I was compelled to watch due to my recent desire to explore black holes and quantum physics to find ways to make the topics more accessible to kids. When you talk about time travel, it’s impossible to ignore black holes, and I fell into the program by its gravitational pull. Like most intellectual endeavors, this exploration left me with clarity but also with more questions and more obscurity. First and foremost, I wondered, “Would one age faster or slower when traveling in time?” Let’s explore this a bit. The Genius Show The Genius show could also be named “Can you think like a genius?”. Hawking sets up challenges for 3 “average” people. The challenges are meant to lead them to conclusions made by great scientific minds to show that the concepts may not be as difficult to comprehend as one might think, just that the mind needs to be prepared in the right manner and, most likely, coached in the proper way. This comes across well and helps the viewer follow the same path. Although we do not know what was edited out, the participants grasp the concepts easily and we are shown that we can understand the concepts, too. And think about this: Why would this not be true? Many concepts that we fully grasp and believe today were not so obvious in the past. The Earth is round, not flat. The Earth rotates around …