Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bad Guitar Players and Bigger Amplifiers

During our last cluster share at Sunnybrae Normal, Stephen demonstrated his use of the Visual Portrait of Story (VPS). I wanted to expand a little on the source of the VPS and its relevance.

I attended a digital storytelling workshop with Jason Ohler in 2005 and something he said about technology has stuck with me ever since. "Technology can be like giving a bad guitar player a bigger amplifier" (Source: Then What?). Just because we can 'flash up' a presentation with animated graphics and sound, this does not automatically improve the learning, quality of the content or message we are attempting to communicate. Jason also discusses this concept in his article, Art becomes the Fourth R (recommended reading), stressing the importance of the teacher's role. Jason writes...

"... although multimedia can act as an assistive technology, it cannot take the place of vision, talent, or skill, whether developed or inherited. We will always need to tell a story with our art and to tell it with honesty, depth, and detail if it is to survive as more than a transient, disconnected thought. For this reason, teachers will become more important as technology increases in power. More than ever, students will need teachers for their wisdom and knowledge to help navigate a purposeful path through the glitz and distraction".

So within the context of digital story telling, Jason introduced us to the VPS. In short, this was added in to the traditional story planning process, after coming up with the idea but before storyboarding or outlining the script. Since then I have used the VPS with students for digital story telling presented through a variety of software from iMovie and PhotoStory to ComicLife and animation. Key to the VPS is that it supports the necessity of a good story to include the main character experiencing some kind of transformation. If you look at the VPS and match a well know story to it you will see what I mean. After using a similar strategy with students, I give them a hard copy to draw on and 'plan the pitch' for their story, the VPS has become a crucial step in pre-production, however its impact can be evident throughout the production process.

Below is an example of a well know story applied to the VPS.

If you are interested in reading more I have posted a copy of the VPS and links on the wiki. I would like to thank Jason Ohler for providing me with one of my 'Aha'! moments.
Also as I was locating the links to Jason's articles for this post I noticed he is a Keynote speaker for TUANZ 2008 ...see you there.


artichoke said...

Seems like everything needs a scaffold, though I note that the VPS equivalent of the Lead guitar bit in All along the Watchtower is a little more complex.

The issue with using templated writing frameworks like the VPS (and all the others like this) is that we get formulaic predictable un-interesting story lines - they seldom result in great creative writing, just like we don't get great art from paint by numbers kits.

Begin this riff by sliding from the nut end of the guitar down to the thirteenth fret on the "G" string. Use your 2nd finger for this. Then, use your 1st finger to play the twelfth note on the "B" string. Next, you will be performing the bend. Use your 1st and 2nd finger to do this. Perform that four times, and shake the string ( vibrato - probably latin for "vibrate." ) Next you will just be letting the full note bend back down and going back to the twelfth fret with your 1st finger. Notice that the vertical line on the fourteenth fret on the "B" string goes back down. That just signifies that you are releasing the bend.

Next you will need to go to the "G" string on the eleventh fret with your 1st finger. Slide to the thirteenth fret, and then move to the eleventh fret. Play the eleventh fret a few times for accurate timing.
The next part of the riff is much the same as the first part that you just learned. There are no different "effects" that you haven't already learned from the past, except for a pull-off. If you can perform a hammer-on, you can perform a pull-off. Just think - they are polar opposites of each other. Begin this part by doing EVERYTHING BUT THE AMOUNT OF TIMES ON THE BEND the same way as before, until you get to the eleventh fret on the "D" string ( use your 2nd finger). ( The best bet here is just to listen over and over to get the feel of it.)

Now that you are there, use your 1st finger on the ninth fret on the "B" string. Hammer-on to the eleventh fret on the same string with your 2nd or 3rd finger, basing the arrangement on comfort for you. Then, WITHOUT picking again, simply use your 1st finger to go back to the ninth fret on the same string. You just performed a pull-off WITHIN a hammer-on. Good work! Now, you are almost finished. For the next note, just use your 1st finger on the ninth fret on the "G" string, and then bend the twelfth fret on the "B" string with your 3rd or 4th finger. Perform the same bend on the 12 fret, and perform a slide on the fret toward the first fret of the neck. Don't forget about the vibratos in between there. YOU ARE FINISHED!!!!!!

Fiona Grant said...

Not everything thing needs a scaffold, Artichoke. The VPS is not a template but, as I understand it, should be viewed and used more as a map.

Now there’s no denying that a map can come in very handy sometimes…a diagrammatic representation to help guide us through the unfamiliar and plot a possible course through places unknown.

However, like most maps, these tools will only be as effective as the person (or in this case the teacher) that utilises them.


Artichoke said...

Ahh ... a map rather than a templateDo enjoy maps they let me know past present and future all on one page, and we travel around so much I'd be lost without - and I have been having lots of fun showing kids how they can create their own Google Earth Maps for Geography and social sciences topics this year ..I could imagine VPS as a map but it is horribly linear and I kind of think that "getting to places unknown" should not be so well charted. Would be interesting to get a reaction from educators noted for their ability to develop student creative writing on VPS - the ones I nudge up against in the day job despair over VPS like approaches to writing. VPS seems such a blunt strategy when you check out Manhire, Bill. Mutes and Earthquakes: Bill Manhire's creative writing course at Victoria. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1997. Perhaps we should use VPS with kids who struggle to find their voice, but not make too many claims about the quality of the product

Fiona Grant said...

Yes I agree with you there, like any of these strategies or tools I don't believe it's a one size fits all. Thinking carefully about how it is used and whether it aligns with the learning purpose is essential... will check out the 'Mutes and Earthquakes'.