the best of qualities is dispassion

Tag: Critique

My Response to: “The Intelligence of Emotions: Philosopher Martha Nussbaum on How Storytelling Rewires US and Why Befriending Our Neediness Is Essential for Happiness”

This week I couldn’t resist focusing on emotions and truth. These two issues boiled to the surface due to the recent heated debates concerning fake news, whatever that means, and the harm which is done by those producing it; that is those who sacrifice the […]

Digital Story Response No. 11: “Ghost Dance”

While searching the StoryCenter’s YouTube channel for recently uploaded digital stories I encountered “Ghost Dance.” Early into watching Tommy Orange’s digital story, I connected it with Dee Brown’s (1971) seminal book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West”  which […]

Response to Chapter 5: “Seven Steps Of Digital Storytelling”

I enjoyed reading this piece by Lambert (2012) and learned a good bit from it. In this course, I have been viewing and responding to digital stories. I have also been researching what can be learned through digital storytelling. And through my journey, I have come to believe that digital storytelling is a very useful device and has a place in the classroom. Now the time is coming for me to produce a digital story, applying what I have learned. Therefore, reading Lambert (2012) at this point was very helpful as he clearly articulates the seven steps required to produce a successful digital story. The steps he outlines are:

1. Owning Your Insights
2. Owning Your Emotions
3. Finding the Moment
4. Seeing Your Story
5. Hearing Your Story
6. Assembling Your Story
7. Sharing Your Story

I found two of the steps enlightening and wish to briefly discuss them. The first of which is step 2, “Owning Your Emotions” where Lambert (2012) suggests that storytellers ask themselves “Which emotions will best help the audience understand the journey contained within your story?”  I would never have stepped back far enough from my storytelling to even consider this important question. He then rightly recommends against using language that can feel judgmental and threatening and instead find “… the voice that conveys their emotional honesty, as if speaking to a trusted friend” (p. 58). Since I tend to be a bit preachy, I will pay close attention to my choice of words and voice in order to avoid this error.

The other step that I found very useful and have already begun to focus in on is step 3, “Finding the Moment.” To help clarify this Lambert (2012) offers the following quote by W.D. Wetherell, “A story isn’t about a moment in time, a story is about the moment in time.” He then recommends that storytellers ask themselves “Was there a moment in time when things changed? Were you aware of it at the time?” He describes how this moment in time often forces one into a new perspective on a subject. This step is very valuable as his questions helped me to actually Identify “the moment in time” when my perspective shifted (p. 59).
Reading this piece allowed me to clearly see and understand the steps required to produce a digital story. This reading also helped me to finally decide on the topic for my digital story as I had been vacillating, and have now settled on a topic that is very important to me. It was well with my time and energy.

Lambert, J. (2012). Seven Steps OF Digital Storytelling. In, Digital storytelling: Capturing lives, creating community (pp. 53-96). New York: Routledge.

Digital Story Response No 10: “The Story of My Story”

Today, I’m responding to K’s digital story “The Story of my Story” and this feels right, as today is the day after the US presidential election. I stumbled across this story some weeks ago but at the time I felt its message was too serious […]

My Response to “The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind”

This week I turned my attention towards philosophy and the issue of focusing the mind and improving one’s sustained attention. Due to my refocusing, I critiqued and wrote a response to the digital story “Eastern Philosophy: Wu Wei” which I

Digital Story Response No 9: “Eastern Philosophy: Wu Wei”

The digital story “Eastern Philosophy: Wu Wei” is hosted the on School of Life’s YouTube channel. I first encountered this channel when I was attempting to decipher the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche for an undergraduate philosophy course. The School of Life produces short videos wherein they endeavor to explain philosophical concepts that one can employ to improve their quality of life. I’ve found these short videos quite valuable in introducing a subject, or concept, that is otherwise often difficult to grasp. They describe themselves in the following extract from their website, “The School of Life is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. We address such issues as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand, and where necessary change, the world.” Ambitious goals indeed, but the contemporary philosopher and author Alain de Botton certainly understood the challenge of sharing his “philosophy of everyday life” when he co-founded the school.


In this digital story de Bottom tackles the natural Chinese philosophy of Lao Tzu and focuses on the widely misunderstood concept of “wu wei.” The direct translation of the Chinese term wu wei is non-doing or doing nothing, which is at the root of its misunderstanding by many in the West. As de Bottom explains this is not an “… invitation to relax or fall into laziness or apathy…” but instead a call to the “noblest kind of action.” Wu wei is a vitally important concept in Daoism (often transliterated as Taoism) and invites one to follow the way, which is the Dao. Dao is the core concept of Daoism and is described in the following passage from the Dao De Jing, which entwines wu wei and the Dao, “The way never acts, yet nothing is left undone.” Wu wei advises a flowing natural action, as a stream might gently flow its course and around any natural obstacles it encounters, like boulders, and yet it flows on while eroding the obstacle.


It advises one to be naturally aware, as others act frantically and then lightly adjust one’s actions accordingly, so as not to react.  Acting with purpose, and to be at peace while engaging in frenetic activity so that one can employ their skill and perform the task with optimum efficiency. It also invites us to abandon egotistical ideals that we might be tempted to force too violently on the world and instead focus on the true needs of the situation. No war on anything, but a natural awareness of, and unity with, one’s environment, through a reduction in one’s rigidity while flowing with one’s spiritual momentum. Change will come, like the gentle stream eroding the boulder.

I find much to value in Eastern philosophy and have studied it for many years, both formally and informally, although I don’t consider myself an expert. And yet, when it comes to wu wei, I argue that de Bottom understands, and furthermore, does a superb job of describing this confusing, yet simple, and very important concept. The story is narrated by de Bottom who again demonstrates his skill at storytelling while explaining difficult philosophical concepts. The story is professionally produced and the evidence of this is in the engaging images, theme music, and pacing. The text remains on screen long enough to afford one the opportunity to reflect on it, without disrupting the pace. Another quality production from The School of Life!

Digital Story Response No. 8: “What if Money Was No Object?”

Alan Watts was a very influential British intellectual, philosopher, writer, and speaker of the twentieth-century. Watts spent much of his adult life living and teaching in the United States. He wrote much on Eastern philosophy and worked to put it into terms that his Western […]

My Response to “At Last: Youth Culture and Digital Media”

This week I critiqued and wrote a response to the digital stories “Nanna’s House” and “Grandma’s Roof.” These digital stories were produced by two seventh-graders, Abigail and Victoria. The girls composed poems about their visits to their grandmothers’ homes and then read their poetry as […]

Digital Story Response No. 7: “Nanna’s House” and “Grandma’s Roof”

Poetry, written and performed by 7th graders is used to narrate these digital stories. This one digital story actually contains two which are packaged serially and labeled “7th Grade Poetry.” This film is a fine example of collaboration and creative cooperation, as even the transcript is simply titled “Nana’s House,’ which applies to both stories. The warmth, welcome, peace, and love that Abigail and Victoria experience when they visit Nana’s house is a theme which runs throughout the stories. The poems describe how their visits enliven their senses and encourage the dreams and hope of childhood. The first, “Nanna’s House,” emphasizes physical sensations, whereas the second, “Grandma’s Roof,” is more focused on the dreams and fantasies of her father’s childhood.

The takeaway for me is that some children do indeed realize that the love and nurturing provided by healthy parenting is invaluable. These girls, not only realize this but invest the time and effort required to pay tribute to it through their digital storytelling. Not the often seen childhood perspective and portrayal of parent as hero, or god, but instead a much more “sophisticated,” flowing, acknowledgment and appreciation.


The students used images creatively to tell their stories and the images that were chosen very nicely entwine with the young narrators’ poetry and voices. The images are flawlessly synchronized to the lines and together present very warm digital stories. Some of the transitions are a bit lively but I feel this is due to the creativity of youth. Their project was well planned and the complete transcript provided in the YouTube description offers some proof of this. I also enjoyed the poetry as narrative and will further investigate using this device in digital storytelling. It appears that this digital story was produced using PowerPoint or some other presentation application and the creators had a good command of the media. These somewhat short digital stories were crafted with care and I appreciate their effort.

Digital Story Response No. 6: “The Bookmobile”

As they say, I’m a sucker for happy endings” and I also love books. Therefore a digital story that includes both books and a happy ending is irresistible to me, and this rich story includes both. The Bookmobile begins by describing that the narrator, Storm […]

Response to Chapter 7: “Social learning”

I argue that some topics, even those which are seemingly innocuous, are better suited to abstract discussions than large collaborative projects. In these cases, the educator can offer both sides of an argument and then encourage an open discussion of it, and perhaps, a later […]

Digital Story Response No. 5: “Josef”

In my search for a digital story for this week’s critique, I finally realized that digital storytelling has become an important outlet for people who feel the need to share their pain. I encountered so many tragic stories of violence, including war, child abuse, sexual assault, racism, neglect and more. Some of which were so painful and filled with emotion that I couldn’t finish them. I can only hope that those sharing their tragic stories are able to use digital storytelling as part of their healing process. I also hope that those of us who inflict such pain on others learn from them.

Although these are crucially important stories, how could I possibly critique them, hence I settled on a more pleasant story, Josef. The digital story Josef was produced by Brad Johnson, it tells a compelling story of appreciation for what is, while also reminding us of the importance of perspective. Josef is the narrator’s maternal grandfather who came from the old country and lived through very hard times in the United States. Josef appreciates what he has, most importantly family and abundant food. The discussions at family gatherings are centered on food, which was difficult for the narrator to comprehend when he was a child.

This digital story is artfully crafted and really works, as it engaged me and held my attention until the end. The way in which the narrator slowly reveals the identity of Josef is very interesting, as he had me asking, who is Josef, which kept me focused on his story. The still images intermixed with the framed video elements was very impressive and encouraged me to investigate the technique.  The black and white videos and photos floating across the screen mixed with dated color videos effectively provide the mood for the story. The audio was crisp and clear and the narrator’s voice and pace were well matched to the images. The background music was pleasant and helped sustain the pace of the story and at the correct level. This digital storyteller had command of the media and created a very successful digital story. Thanks for sharing!

My Response to “The Use of Digital Storytelling for English Learning”

“We must teach communication comprehensively in all its forms. Today we work with the written or spoken word as the primary form of communication. But we all need to understand the importance of graphics, music, and cinema, which are just as powerful and in some […]

Digital Story Response No. 4: “Nowhere Anyhow”

This short digital story is artfully crafted and presents a girl’s history that must be told over, and over again until we finally hear it and correct the culture which permits it. A culture that all too often strips away a young female’s self-worth and […]

Response to Chapter 2: “Music remix in the classroom” and Chapter 3: “DIY podcasting in education”

With this topic, I’m certainly feeling my age as well as revealing my tastes in music and limited knowledge of pop culture. I’m afraid the remix culture, at least as it exists today, has left me in the dust.  Although I do watch many videos, and since the genre that I most enjoy is documentary, I encountered the documentary RiP!: A Remix Manifesto at some point in my documentary binge-watching.

[FILM] RIP! A Remix Manifesto [480p – best available] from JJ Holst on Vimeo.

Mashups were completely new to me and I was fascinated by the way they are produced. I later reflected on this documentary whenever I heard HipHop or dance mixes. The complex legalities of the art escapes me, although I do lean heavily toward openness and sharing when it comes to artistic expression and the internet. Throughout these readings, I felt the authors struggled with the issue while trying to offer a fair and balanced opinion. Shamburg (2010) wrote the following on podcasting and copyright:

Many potential podcasters are stymied by a fear of unintentionally violating copyright law. Copyright and fair use laws are ambiguous, and media industries—especially in the U.S.—have reacted to the relative ease of creating and sharing digital copies of media in often highly restrictive and punitive ways that can have a chilling effect on amateur new media creators. (p. 56)

As a personal example, I recently produced a short audio podcast for another course where I became confused about copyrights. I was careful to select background music that was copyright and royalty free, music where the producer invited its use and distribution with attribution, and yet, since I decided to read some poems, two of which were copyrighted, I was hesitant to use them. I was uneasy reading them for the recording, although, in the end, I included my readings of their poems. Did I infringe? Was it legal? I’m still not sure and the issue did cause me some concern, especially since I respect the poets and don’t wish to infringe upon their rights. Although I might argue, as many seem to, that using their creations was a sign of my respect for their work.

I believe that a culture that is becoming increasingly motivated by money will in the end hinder free speech, artistic expression, and overall creativity. As I understand it copyrights were originally issued for fourteen years and some now span the artist’s lifetime plus ninety-five years.  This ever expanding copyright protection does not appear to be about protecting the intellectual property of artists, but instead protecting the profits of corporations.

In these readings, I learned about the educational benefits of music remix and how becoming skillful with the technology required to produce mashups and podcasts are required 21st-century skills. The chapters were quite informative when it comes to describing the technologies involved in remixing and serve as a good primer on the subject. Jacobson (2010) introduced me to mixing audio clips using Audacity, which I should be using, as it’s is a free open source digital audio editor (p. 34).

It seems appropriate that if one sides with the free and open internet, as I do, they should use “open source” applications whenever possible. And yet, I already sold out to closed source (proprietary) tools last year when I switched back to a Mac from Ubuntu Linux that I had been using for some years. The production of multimedia for the CU Denver Information Learning Technology MA program drove my capitulation. My idealism was surrendered to my need to “conveniently” produce multimedia “without tinkering” with the tools. Convenience drives many into the arms of the internet giants and also to surrender our privacy to these large corporations. Yes, good open source tools are available, but often require a substantial investment of one’s time to research which are best and then to install and configure them on open source platforms.

I have been a longtime consumer of podcasts as they offer such a wide variety of content. My first exposures to podcasts was through iTunes, which hosted ZenCasts. I subscribed to ZenCasts years ago and still listen to them when time permits. The fact that one can subscribe and receive automatic downloads is one of the great features of podcasts and one that I truly value. I appreciated the many resources, including communities and affinity spaces, that were described in these chapters and am certain to use many of them as I begin to produce more content for learning.

Gaylor, B. (2008). RIP : A Remix Manifesto. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from

Jacobson, E. (2010). Music remix in the classroom. In Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (eds.) DIY Media: Creating, Sharing, and Learning with New Technologies (27-49). New York: Peter Lang.

Shamburg, C. (2010). DIY podcasting in education. In Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (eds.) DIY Media: Creating, Sharing, and Learning with New Technologies (51-75). New York: Peter Lang.

My Response to “Using Digital Storytelling to Support EFL Learning in China”

One of my principal concerns with teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Korea is the learner’s “affective filter.” Lightbrown & Spada (2013) write the following description of the affective filter hypothesis: Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis is proposed to account for the fact that […]

Digital Story Response No. 3: “Rites of Passage”

The digital story “Rites of Passage” compares and contrasts the educational experience of the storyteller, Nikiko Masumoto, with the educational experience of her Japanese-American grandmother during WWII. This story made me acutely aware of the fact that for digital stories to truly appeal to me […]

Response to Chapter 4: “Visual networks: Learning and Photosharing”

  I was immediately struck by how openminded Guy Merchant was concerning graffiti in his neighborhood. I, like many, have often viewed graffiti as a form of art, and yet art that is defacing the property of others. Although I strive to be openminded I am quite sure that I would not have approached neighborhood graffiti as Merchant (2010) describes:

As a professional educator with an interest in literacy practices—and particularly in the ways in which some of these practices are formalized and held in high esteem while others are marginalized, or even, as in the case of most graffiti, simply made illegal—I’d been photographing the tags, slogans and wall-art in my neighborhood for a year or so. I used these images in my work, as examples of forms and mark-making processes that normally are overlooked as a literacy practice. (p. 79)

    And yes, my closed-minded judgment of graffiti would have led to a missed opportunity, as I too would have overlooked graffiti as a literacy practice. Merchant (2010) turned neighborhood graffiti photos into a positive learning experience by posting them on his existing Flickr account where they came to the attention of graffiti artists, who also use Flicker to store images of their own work. He was then drawn into an “affinity space” after receiving illuminating comments on some of the graffiti photographs he had posted (p. 80). According to Merchant (2010), he was later invited to a Graffiti Jam where he came to better understand these artists and their need for a canvas that was met by doing “… ‘illegals’ on warehouse buildings and railway bridges …” (p. 80). He, therefore, experienced what I might describe as a very positive social networking experience, starting with an online community that culminated in a face-face meeting with some of the affinity space members. Flicker facilitated this experience since he had originally  “gone public” with the graffiti photographs using their online platform.

    Later in the chapter Merchant (2010) shares with readers “… how social networking around photographs illustrates some of the central features of Web 2.0, the attraction of user-generated content, and how new practices are emerging which present exciting opportunities for learners and teachers” (p. 81). By posting photographs on Flicker and allowing others to add comments and tags one invites the opportunity for the creation of affinity spaces, where the photo, acting as the social object under discussion, is central to the space. The social affiliation is driven by the photograph. Discussing the photograph causes members of the affinity space to reflect more deeply on it, and the opportunity for valuable reflective learning is created. In our busy world I often feel that I fail to adequately reflect on much of the knowledge I am exposed to, and therefore fail to truly understand it, or recall it when it might prove useful. Hence, I value learning practices that aid me in reflection, and those learning devices which surround an object, where one must take the time to reflect on, and discuss an object are invaluable.

    In this piece Merchant (2010) also introduced me to VoiceThread, which he describes as a tool that promotes “learning through reflection and interaction.” VoiceThread permits the importation of Flicker images and once images have been imported a slideshow can be created. A discussion is then encouraged which is centered on the slideshow and participants can comment in writing, or record a spoken comment (p. 97). I have already signed up for a free (limited) VoiceThread account, as I see where this interactive, multimodal tool could be very useful in teaching English as a foreign language (EFL), which is my passion. This reading presented me with many new ideas and concepts focused on learning with images, which I intend to add to my ever-growing bag of teaching tools.


Merchant, G. (2010). Visual networks: Learning and Photosharing. DIY Media: Creating, Sharing, and Learning with New Technologies, 79-102.

Second Language Leaning in MMOs Cycle 6

Interest driven learning in higher education is a new concept to me and it took some time this semester to truly understand what it meant. At some point in the semester, I was actually engaged in it before I fully comprehend how valuable it is […]

Videogames Designed for Acquiring New Languages Cycle 5

My continuing quest to find creative ways to support language learning through the use of technology has lead me to the language learning game Influent, which was previously named SanjigenJiten, as a working title. Influent was developed under the Monbukagakusho Research Scholarship at the University […]

Off-the-Shelf Adventure Videogames and Foreign Language Learning Cycle 4


Screenshot from Bone

I am preparing to teach English in Asia and, therefore, have an interest in digital devices that can support students in their English language acquisition. Because I will be primarily teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) where most students will not be afforded the opportunity to be immersed in an English language environment I have been searching for tools that can offer an immersive setting. English language adventure videogames are one instrument that can offer this type of environment through gameplay. Research conducted by Chen and Yang (2012) at the National Taiwan Normal University analyze the value of such videogames for EFL learners and present their findings in the paper I will critique for this (more…)