Sunday, January 11, 2015

A #StoryIn140: A Literary Challenge

Creativity in all it's engaging guises but presented with a new technology and social media twist!
I really can't remember how I stumbled across this idea of writing super short Tweet size stories.  I certainly didn't originate it - yet when I searched the hashtag I found an assortment of fits and starts with a challenge to write a short story in the form of a Tweet - and I was intrigued! I guess it's sorta related to the Tweet Me a Book Review idea I had and blogged about a few years ago with it's accompanying Wikispaces lesson page. The activity is below is copied from my Wikispaces page where, at the bottom of the page, I uploaded for you the doublesided paper PDF version for practice or when you want that social media engagement but you can't get to or have the machines.

The Wikispaces version of the lesson features a java script character counter widget and a Google form to submit the story. A good portion of my kiddos are under 13 and I wouldn't want them to use Twitter directly, I'll be the Tweet conduit.  I did this activity with 7th grade ELA classes right before the holidays & splurged for a couple hundred blank white and brightly coloured bookmarks from Amazon so they could write the story up & decorate it for fun! While they were creating their stories I took pictures with my new Daring Librarian Instagram account letting the kids tag themselves in they wished to and I even took a Vine of a couple of my kids rapping their story posted below!

Here's the story:
Saw a Twinkie bout a week ago
looked good so I ate it thoa
old lady wanted some &
I said no
u want some fight me tho
Avery & Malechi 7gr

Your Challenge!
Can you tell a story in 140 characters? The size of the average Tweet? This literary challenge requires you to write a super short story that includes a main character, a problem, an event, & intrigue. Try it! Please note: if you add the hashtag #Storyin140 the total will actually be 130, but Story in 130 didn’t rhyme! More examples of student work below.
Here's How!
Brainstorm with the character counter generator embedded below on the left. Just type in what you're thinking then hit-calculate characters. Don't forget to add #StoryIn140 hashtag to your creation & your first name, last initial, & grade. 
Writer's Block? Are you stumped? Can't think of anything? Try working in a pair to brainstorm a story. Think of it as an Madlib. Who was where, did what, what happened, & intrigue! Intrigue means here, to inspire curiosity or to fascinate.
To make the reader think: What's going to happen next?
Extra Challenge: If you leave a few extra characters (total 125-130) then you have more chance for people to RT (or re-Tweet) your story, passing it along to the world.
We will be selecting via gallery walk, the best for special recognition, fame, glory, possible lamination, display, and Tweeting them out to the world!

Submit the Final draft in the Google Form: Don’t forget the hashtag #StoryIn140 Your full name will NOT be used just your first & your grade. Non-MHMS students will be deleted.

View the whole thing at my #StoryIn140 Wikispaces page! 

Extension ideas: 
Why not write a collaborative story via Twitter with your own hashtag? Announce you'll post the next "chapter" on a certain day and at a certain time?  This was the very idea that inspired Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box,” a short story tweeted line by line by The New Yorker’s fiction account featured in the Ted Talk below.
Andrew Fitzgerald: Adventures in Twitter fiction
I've also seen some cool historic and literary Twitter accounts that Tweet in persona. Much like the idea of Fakebook I blogged about years ago. Creativity in all it's engaging guises but presented with a new Technology and social media twist!

Suggestions? Additions?  I'd love to hear them in the comments! 

Friday, January 2, 2015

10 Super Geeky Tips for the New Year

Happy New Year!  It's that time of year that I do my Geeky house cleaning, so it's another year going over my past posts about this topic and thinking how to improve them! At first I thought I could leave out the password comic & tip and then the Sony thing happened. WTHeck!? It was recently released that some Sony employees had a password of s0ny123 and the worst, "password!" Also, with brute force hacking making the rounds, I decided to update a few of my tips.
"The only person you can rely on to keep your password secure is yourself. And let me tell you, you're probably not doing enough to keep number one safe. The reason: Your special lump of letters, numbers, and symbols are likely spread over too many sites, are not long enough, and are probably too personal. Most of our passwords suck. And it's kind of a big problem." - Gizmodo
1. Craft a Perfect Password & Dump Your Cache
OK, so there IS no perfect! According to Lifehacker:
But maybe you can use this handy Comic Tutorial to create a really super new password for every website you visit....don't worry, there's a trick!  You don't have to go to every site you use right away - just make a commitment that when you do go to a site that requires your password, you take the extra 5 min to change your password - using one of the 4 tips & suggestions in my new updated Comic.
Basically, have a root password consisting of 5 non-related words or a pass phrase, varying numeric and character substitutions and add an ending that has something to do with each website.
EX: "escalators go up" turns into: esc@lator$((G0))up** = 20 characters
for Twitter: esc@lator$((G0))up**TWIT = 24 characters. Use the secure and handy "GRC search space calculator" to see if your password has teeth!
Another tip, forget these machinations all together, consider downloading a password keeper to make life easier because you only have to remember one super-secure password. iOS 8 users could try the "holy grail" of password keepers from 1Password. 
Oh and in the small print of my comic I said 3 important things: Turn off your wifi & bluetooth until you need them - especially in airports and on trains!   
When was the last time you dumped your cache, cleared your history, and removed cookies? At least once a year (I try quarterly) go around to every computer you use at school, public & private -and dump the cache, clear your cookies, & browsing history.  
Please note my Disclaimer - I'm not a security expert and nothing is foolproof. Geeks all over the world have different opinions about passwords and security (and I want to hear them in the comments!) - these are just mine. 

2. Is Your WiFi Secure?
After you set up your home WiFi network, did you set a secure password to protect it from squatters? If not, now's the time to do that. Not only can strangers steal your signal for unlawful activities, but they can creep in and gain access to your personal documents and information, which can lead to identity theft.

3. Backup Your Data & Clean Your Cloud
iCloud & Dropbox were supposed to streamline our lives by keeping everything in sync. Now it's done its job just a bit too well, and many iClouds and Dropboxes are full of perfectly synced junk. Clear out your iCloud and prune your digital data life. I've blogged about Dropbox before, but this past year I finally went all the way with Dropbox and I'm paying for a TB of PRO. When I go to each of my devices (2 iPads, an iPhone 6plus, 2 laptops, and a desktop at school) I don't have to transfer my documents because they are already there once I install Dropbox! Boom!

4. Less Apps & No Pushing!
Your smartphone and tablet are weighed down with one-hit-wonder apps that you were obsessed with for a week and then forgot about. (Ahem, Draw Something & Flappy Bird, anyone?) Go through your apps and rid yourself of the excess baggage. Don't Push Me!  Retake control of your apps and your attention span by turning off all your push notifications — every badge, alert, and banner. Then, once you realize if you’ve actually been missing particular apps’ updates, turn them back on one at a time.

5. Photo Curation - Tag, You're It! 
With Dropbox and iCloud syncing all our pics, take time to organize, tag, and curate them.  With a TB of FREE photo storage, easy tagging, sharing, and organizing, I use Flickr. I'm still shaking my head over the fact that for YEARS I was uploading pics without adding any tags to them - so that finding them is a super chore now! So, create albums, add tags to each picture (or group), and set up an easily managed system for the photos in your life.

6. Did You Ever Delete Your MySpace?
We all have old accounts. Did you ever delete your MySpace page? I just did! My Care2 created in 199? Just now dumped it! Did you set up a Diigo account of bookmarks that you really never dug? Deleting your old accounts keeps your web presence up to date. And it just feels good. Ahhh!

7. Recycle Your Old Tech & Make Money
Want to clean up your house and earn some Amazon gift cards? You definitely must check out Amazon’s Trade-In Program. Go through your home and find any DVDs, Books, Video Games, or electronics you no longer need or use. Do a search on the Amazon Trade-In Store to see how much Amazon will pay you for a Trade In. If the price seems fair, click through to verify the condition, title, and price.You just print out a shipping label and take the nearest UPS store. Amazon gets it, and if they agree it's in the shape you said they automatically deposit the $$ into your Amazon account. I did this with my iPhone4S and got $165. I actually under estimated the value and they gave me $10 more! Note to my future self, keep the original boxes of new technology. 
8. Profile Power
There's something reassuring about having a polished profile that is consistent and updated around all of your social network accounts. Part of branding is to make sure that when people land on an account of yours, they recognize you. For most of my accounts, like Twitter, I use my David Lanham comic avatar, but for Yelp and LinkedIn I use my real picture. I also like to use my favourite colour schemes and backgrounds - and yes, the Tardis!  If you change your profile picture a too frequently, you may lose that all important recognizability factor with your followers.

9. Build And Manage Your Network
Having a Personal Learning Network is essential to stay in tune with the trends and what's going on in our profession. Sart talking to other excited educators about new ideas on Twitter...crowdsource! Comment on conversations, ask and answer questions, find a way to contribute! (I try to give 95% and only ask for help 5% - don't be needy or whiny!) GIVE, give, and give some more! Share shamelesly! Give your greatest works to our profession - it's good ed tech karma!
After a while, you want to look at your followers and start pruning. I just used ManageFlitter to discover that I have 719 people I'm following who don't follow me back. I get it that I can't expect Stephen King not to follow me but ? Sheesh! So buh-bye! You can only unfollow 100 people in 24 hours with this free website, so take a weekend to do this cleaning chore. You can also sort by who is inactive or haven't Tweeted in 30 days and delete them. Twitter is a relationship - built over time with shared interests. I'm not easy, baby :-) I don't auto follow ALL followers! The idea is to craft a varied, vibrant, interactive, diverse, collaborative, and global community. Want to read more? Twitter: The Art of the Follow

10. Digital Intervention
Do you really need to have your phone sitting on the dinner table to monitor your Twitter feed? Probably not. Is your phone or iPad binging and zinging every five minutes with updates and notices? Getting so involved in your virtual life can really take away from the real life happening right in front of you. Take some time away from your gadgets and gear in order to appreciate the scene instead of Tweeting about it to your followers.
I'm kinda sorta guilty of this. [hangs head in shame] So this is one thing I'm going to try and work on this year! I'm even going to be blogging more about this soon with a day by day set of steps to improve your digital detox and I'm also going to be taking 5 days this summer "off the grid" going to an Ashram / Spa w/ my Mom where NO ELECTRONICS ARE ALLOWED. [gulp!] I've always been good at keeping my gadgets on Do Not Disturb (unless I'm expecting a call) and to always have my phone and iPad on silent, but I need to mentally disconnect from my digital life more. Why not give it a try?

What are YOUR tech resolutions, tips, and techniques?
I'd love to hear them in the comments!

References, Reads, & Credits
Why Your Phone's Airplane Mode Isn't Just for the Airplane
How I’d Hack Your Weak Passwords
Hackers show ways to protect your iPhone
7 safety tips from hackers
The top 50 passwords you should never use | Naked Security
10 Tech Resolutions to Consider in the New Year | TIME
5 New Year's Resolutions To Manage Your Tech Habits
Learning to Let Go: First, Turn Off the Phone
Creating and Remembering Complex Passwords by Alex Jones (not my nephew!)
The original XKCD comic:
(click above for full size on XKCD!)

Cool Stuff From Your Comments! 
This is from a daring reader, Pamela Hill  @TechieLibrarian
Thanks Pam for your contribution and your comment!


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