Exploring Micro Fiction and Visual Stories

Here we are, another NaNoWriMo and I still have not penned the next great American Novel. Every year I think, “This is my year! I will write that book that has been bouncing around in my brain! I’ve got this!” Then December comes around and I realized that I did not have it and the story has again gone untold. Sigh.

Yes, I know that I can write any month of the year. It does not have to be a November thing. But, there is a hashtag. So… #NaNoWriMo

This year however, I have discovered a type of fiction that seem much more my speed. Micro Fiction!

Several years ago I started writing little mini one or two sentence stories. But I didn’t think of them as stories. Just short little musings. I was inspired by one of my favorite artists, Brian Andreas of Story People. I discovered his quirky art twenty five years ago on a business trip to Decorah, IA. (If you have never been to Decorah, go. Go now. I’ll wait.) There was something about his whimsical, child-like drawings and the simple statements that really spoke to me. I loved his messages and was inspired to start writing some of my own. They were silly and sappy but I would post them to social media anyway. It was fun. I mentioned this fun hobby (Is it a hobby? I don’t know.) to a writer friend of mine and she said, “Oh, you write micro fiction!” Micro fiction. What is that? My interest was piqued.

Science tells us that most of our memories, even the ones we hold most dear, are false. They are nothing more than stories constructed by our brains using bits and pieces of fact mixed with ideas from our imagination. But when I remember you I smile so I have decided that I like the way my brain thinks.

K.A. Brynteson

I started doing some research. It is a thing and apparently very popular. From the two sentence horror stories to six word summaries to (let’s be honest here) the social media posts we write with a 144 character limit. We all write micro fiction from time to time.

As I’ve had fun writing more, I’ve been look for ways to connect this type of writing into the classroom. I know that there are many students out there who love to write but find longer works a bit overwhelming. Shorter stories, 100 – 500 words or less, can be an accessible alternative. Accessible, but not easy. The constraint of few words helps you be creative in your word choice. You have to flex your writing muscles. Each word is necessary. They kind of remind me of some of the activities I do in my visual literacy class with images such as my Tell a Story with 5 pictures or my Photo a Week photography prompt. They both focus on constructing a story with either your visual vocabulary or a few well selected images.

Because of this connection, I have started taking the mini stories and turning them into a visual posts, adding a layer of visual literacy into the activity. For the examples I’ve shared in the post, I used Adobe Spark. If you read my blog at all, you know that this is one of my most favorite tools. I use Adobe Spark tools all the time for digital storytelling. I found it was a fast way to take the text and create a visual representation. I experiment with fonts and colors and shapes until I have a composition that I feel compliments the message of the passage. This would be a very simple activity to do in the classroom. Have students write their own micro stories and then us their design skills to turn them into posts or even posters for the classroom.

Here are a few more examples.

Ok, I admit that I am starting to creep into Jack Handy’s deep thought territory, it is still a fun challenge to see if I can take an idea and turn it into a mini story. No, they are not all good. I know that. They are not up to the level of Story People by any means but it is fun. I have also found that I go back and edit them often. Especially when I turn them into a visual post. I play around with the word choice to see if I can say the same thing with fewer words or in different ways. It feels more like playing with words than actually writing a story.

I’m sure that there are students out there that might feel the same way. Micro fiction could be a way to turn even your most reluctant writer into an author, a couple words at a time. Give it a try and see what they create.

If you want to learn more about using Micro-Fiction in the classroom, here are some lessons and blogs to check out.

Happy mini-writing!

Oh, what the first week of 2018 had to offer!

We are only seven days into 2018 and I’m already overwhelmed by ideas, resources, lists of lists, and new people to follow. So exciting!

Here is a quick rundown of my favorite finds from the first week of 2018. 

2018 – Off to a Great Start!

We are only seven days into 2018 and I’m already overwhelmed by ideas, resources, lists of lists, and new people to follow. So exciting!

Here is a quick rundown of my favorite finds from the first week of 2018.

Classroom Ideas

Classroom Resources

List of Lists

New (to me) Folks to Follow

Whew! If that’s what the first week of 2018 had to offer, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

STEM Read Podcast Episode 3: Inquiry with Zack Gilbert and M.T. Anderson

All good things start with a question.

Listen to this episode of the STEM Read podcast and hear Gillian and I talk to social studies teacher and fellow podcaster Zack Gilbert (http://edgamer.net/) and award-winning author M.T. Anderson (http://mt-anderson.com/) about the power of inquiry.

Follow the link to listen to the episode and view the show notes.

STEM Read Podcast Episode 3: Inquiry with Zack Gilbert and M.T. Anderson

STEM Read Podcast – Episode 2

In case you missed it, episode 2 of the STEM Read Podcast dropped last week.

In this episode, we ask the question “What if?” with Hugo award-winning editor,  co-producer and editor of Uncanny Magazine, and all around cool person, Lynne M. Thomas and amazing author Aaron Starmer. Gillian and I did our best to not go completely crazy fangirl over Aaron. We are both huge fans of his work so it was cool to peek behind the curtain and see what goes on in his writing brain.

This was a fun episode. Not only did we get to talk to two amazing people, we also got to talk about unicorns. It’s always a good day when you can spend your time talking about unicorns. Am I right?

Unicorn
All About Unicorns

Special shout out to my Independent Study teacher, Dodie Merritt. She was that one teacher who allowed me and so many others, to ask what if and follow my curiosity. For me, her program taught me how to learn. She was doing project-based learning before it was cool. I still have the unicorn book that I created back in 4th grade as well as my book from 1st and 5th grade. You could say her program was life-changing. In my 1st grade book, I wrote about another student in the program who was building a telegraph. That telegraph kid is now my husband of over 20 years. Further proof that curiosity leads to amazing things.

So, take a few minutes and give this episode a listen.  Hopefully, we’ll spark some ideas for how you can inspire your students to embrace their curiosity and ask “What if?” Who knows where the question will take them.

Follow this link to STEM Read Podcast Episode 2. Don’t forget to explore the show notes for resources and fun stuff.

Weekend Wrap up

Happy Weekend!

If you are like me, you are using this long weekend to take a breath, unwind and relax. And maybe get caught up on some To-dos. Midway through my second cup of coffee this morning, I realized that today would be a good day to go back through some of the things I found or shared on social media last week. Between Twitter and Facebook, there is a lot of good stuff floating around the interwebs. So often I retweet or share with the intention of going back and digging deeper…and then life gets in the way and I don’t. But today – I will. Here are my favorite finds from the past week.

  • The Costs of Workplace Rudeness, The Wall Street Journal – We have all done it. Snapped at a colleague because we were stressed out or overwhelmed. This essay from WSJ makes you stop and think about what your rudeness might be doing to your work environment. Rudeness can be contagious but so can kindness. Goo to stop and reflect once in a while to make sure you are following your own “no jerk” policies and modeling good behavior.
  • Cool Cat Teacher, Vicki Davis has a wonderful 10-minute Teacher Podcast. In episode #140 she talks with Aaron Maurer (@coffeechugbooks) about five ways to amp up STEAM learning. Best take away – “Hold on to your crayons.”
  • Jeffery Bradbury from TeacherCast shared a wonderful blog post from January, Should You Hire a Tech Coach…or a Tech Conductor? Loved the idea that a good district tech coach is like a conductor. I do not come from a music education background but as a former band member, I found his thoughts on leadership and teamwork in ed tech inspiring. Not only gets me excited about working with teachers but almost makes me want to pick up my oboe again…almost.
  • As a self-diagnosed selfie addict, I love the idea of using selfies in the classroom and exploring self-portraiture as an art form. Ed tech guru, Shelly Sanchez (@ShellTerrell) has a FREE Epic Selfie Adventure Template that you can download. I need to give this a try. See, my selfies are for education!
  • If you are not following Richard Bryne (@rmbyrne) then you are really missing out. He shares a ridiculous (as in awesome) number of ed tech resources. This week he had several augmented and virtual reality tools to share. Here are a couple This Is Augmented Reality, This Is Virtual Reality and Membit – Augmented Reality Photo Maps. Follow him on Twitter or read his blog. He shares great stuff.
  • Creativity has been on my mind a lot this week. I’ve been feeling a bit uncreative and uninspired so I’ve been looking for ways to regain my creative mojo. Here are a few posts that I found helpful. George Couros (@gcouros) tweeted an article (5 Weird Signs You’re Creative) that reminded me that I’m not weird, I’m creative. And Fast Company is going to help me rediscover my creativity with this 14 Day Creative Bootcamp. Challenge #1 was to take five minutes and write about myself. Sounds easy but I can’t say where I’m from, what I do, or the roles I play. OK, not sure what’s left but I’ll give it a try. Set the timer for 5 min…and go! Wow – that was hard. Give it a try. Here’s a peek at who I am.

I like to think that I am a creative person who tries to have fun. Sometimes I get overly enthusiastic and can be a bit overwhelming to others. Other times I just want to sleep. I want to explore new places and new ideas – even if it is from my couch with a cup of coffee. I’m still trying to figure out who I am and where I want to go but also like to remember where I’ve been. I am energized by the people who surround me but also like to be alone to think and sleep. I still have lots of questions.

That’s a quick snapshot of a few of my favorite finds from the week of August 28th. Want to see more? Follow me on Twitter (@kbrynteson)or Facebook. What were your favorite finds last week? Share them in the comments.

Hot Pink Tech Talk – Flipgrid!

I’ve been wanting to try Flipgrid ever since I found them at ISTE back in June.  (You can read more about my favorite ISTE finds in this past post.) I teach a lot of professional development workshops about several different tech and STEAM topics. It has always bothered me that I do not have an engaging way to stay connected to all of the teachers I meet at these workshops. I also wanted to find a way to connect them to each other. After seeing the Flipgrid demo at ISTE and doing some further exploration, it seemed like this just might be the tool I was looking for. To test my hypothesis, I figured why not try it out with all of you and start a conversation.

So, (drum roll please) welcome to the very first Hot Pink Tech Talk! Whoo hoo! Give it a try and respond to the question below.

https://flipgrid.com/embed/topic/bb6ebe

This was SUPER easy to set up. I signed up for a free account and it took no time at all to create a grid that is ready to share. The hardest part was recording the video. Not because the process was complicated but because I really don’t like watching videos of myself. I know, super surprising, right? Once I got past my personal issues, the tool itself was a cinch. I had my first topic ready to go in no time.

As I mentioned, I am using the free account. With the free account, I can have one grid with unlimited topics. For right now, I’m good with that. You have the option to upgrade to the classroom version for $65 a year. This gives you the ability to manage multiple grids and allows participants to respond to each other. There are some additional features of the Classroom version that would be very useful if I was using this with students as part of a class. However, for an informal online discussion tool, the free version should be sufficient.

For more ideas on how to use Flipgrid in the classroom, check out CoolCatTeacher’s podcast – Flipgrid: 6 Fun Ideas to Engage Learners.  Or check out Ditch that Texbook’s post on Catching Flipgrid Fever!

Time to start a conversation. Follow the link above and leave a response. Tweet about this or share it and let’s see if we can get a good conversation going. If this works well, Hot Pink Tech Talk might just become a regular feature.

Are you using Flipgrid in your classroom? Share in the comments – or better yet – share on the grid!

Going Social without Going Crazy – Part 1

The real name of this post should be Confessions of an eHoarder. Why? Well, because I am an ehoarder. I spend a good deal of my free time combing through the internet exploring, discovering, and collecting information. There is a lot of great stuff out there. So much, that it can be very overwhelming. So how does one manage it without going crazy? Well, read on my friend and I’ll tell you my secret.

I’ve presented on this topic several times. To teachers, school administrators, soon to be teachers, and small business owners. (See the Prezi below.)

Share it, Pin it, Like it, Tweet it:. Prezi on managing your social media.
Share it, Pin it, Like it, Tweet it:. Prezi on managing your social media.

Every time I do this talk, I hear some of the same things from social media newbies –

“There is so much. Where do I start?”

“What if I do something wrong?”

“How do I filter out all of the garbage and find the good stuff?”

All very good questions. I find that many of the folks I talk to are hesitant to start using social media because they just don’t know where to start. Some don’t even want to start because it seems like such a time consuming endeavor. We all know that in today’s world time is a precious commodity. And let’s face it, social media can be a time sink. Who wants to use their limited free time sorting through cat videos and internet memes just to find a classroom activity on dividing fractions? Not me. (Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cat video or internet meme as much as the next person and if I could find a cat video on dividing fractions, life would be awesome!)

In all seriousness, social media can be a great form of free professional development. More and more educators are growing their personal learning network or PLN through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social media tools.  I encourage the teachers I work with to ease into the crazy world of social networking by using a simple three step approach. Find it, Organize it, and Share it.

  • Find it: Use a small set of tools and strategies to sift through the virtual clutter and find the information you need. Let the tools do the work for you.
  • Organize it: Make sure that once you find it, you can find it again. Organize your digital content by using a couple powerful tools. Don’t use too many. Find a few favorites that meet your needs and stick to them.
  • Share it: In my opinion this step is optional but very powerful. There is no law that says you have to tweet just because you are on twitter. You can survive just fine by finding and organizing. However, sharing is how you begin to engage with the greater community and grow your PLN. But don’t worry, you don’t have to jump right into sharing. Take some time to get comfortable in the social space. Sharing can come later.

Over the next few posts, I’ll share with you how I find, organize, and share all of the information I hoard. Hopefully you’ll find a nugget or two of wisdom to help you make the most of your social network.