This past week has been March Break. Trying to work productively while the kids are at home is like reading while running an obstacle course. At one point, I found myself reading a Foucault article in the middle of a trampoline park packed full of children intent on bursting the eardrums of their elders. At every turn this week, someone needed juice or food or a ride or a lost thing found or three friends over or a tissue. So, I did my best to spend as much time as I could with my kids, while getting my work done in spare hours. Media Project 3, however, was perfectly suited to mixing grad school with March Break. Willan, who is nine years old, has been bugging me for weeks to help him set up a Youtube channel and get started making his own Let’s Play videos. What a perfectly efficient use of my time and a chance to have fun learning together! What a way to focus on the shared act of making “as an activity and a site for enhancing and extending conceptual understandings of sociotechnical issues” (Ratto, 2011, p. 254). What could go wrong?
Setting up the channel was easy and Willan knew way more than I expected. He essentially walked me through the process and, where we hit a snag, we turned to online sources for help. It amazes me to see how adept a 9-year-old can be at seeking out information this way. My role was quickly apparent. I was the supporter, the one who told us both to take a deep breath and try a different way when we were stuck. This was Willan’s project and I was there to learn alongside him. The only really hard part at this point was letting him do things his way and, sometimes, letting him do things slowly. The important part is the process, and not the results, right? (Ratto, 2011). Fortunately, I have plenty of experience with this way of thinking and quite a bit of patience. I’m hoping my kids will return the favour one day when I’m old and struggling with the transporter.
Next, Camtasia. I have never used this kind of software before but everything we read said that this was the best so we downloaded the 30 day free trial and managed to get started quite quickly. Filming it – or rather, capturing it – was faIrly intuitive and Willan didn’t struggle at all to find his way around. The hardest part, again, was letting him do things his way and his way alone. He wanted to make a video just like the kind he watches. To me, there is almost nothing more painful to watch, except maybe curling. Or poker. However….
Once we had captured 20 minutes of Willan talking his way through playing a Mineplex game on Minecraft with his friend Weatherman. It was late, so we put off the rest of the work for the next day. Waiting is not Willan’s strong suit right now. He wanted that video up and running so the fame could start pouring in. I think he was already planning how to spend his fortune.
Day 2. It was time to look at editing and adding some title screens. First, we found an online platform called Panzoid where Willan was able to make a really cool opening title screen that we planned on importing into iMovie along with the Camtasia file so we could put the whole thing together. And that’s where the fun really began.
Do you know how to get a Panzoid title screen to work in Camtasia? No? Neither do we. We tried everything we could think of until both of us were nearing meltdown. This was neither fun nor efficient. Ratto (2011) was right about “our lived experiences with technologies never quite mirror[ing] the overly optimistic or pessimistic descriptions of their effects” (p. 253).
We consulted various websites and watched several unhelpful Youtube videos. We watched iMovie crash. We lost the Panzoid file and had to make another one. We watched Camtasia freeze – twice. We had a heated discussion about why you can’t change a file type by simply typing .MOV at the end. When we finally gave up, we had discovered that a) we couldn’t import a Panzoid title screen into Camtasia at all, ever, and b) we couldn’t import a Camtasia file into iMovie because we hadn’t purchased Camtasia, and c) Camtasia was going to cost $299 and that wasn’t going to happen. At this point, it was getting late again, Willan was desperate to get the video uploaded, and we weren’t making any progress.
With a deep breath, I let go of my need to edit this piece into some kind of minor work of art and watched as my younger son uploaded his very first Let’s Play video, eyes alight with the wonder of it all. I suddenly remembered what it’s like to be 9 going on 10. Seeing it from his perspective, I could understand that just the act of putting something of my own out into the world for others to watch could be a source of great pride. This was what Sartori means by meaningful agency. This was Willan’s public entity (a la Papert), his artefact to be shared with others, his act of participating in creating the culture. This was the result of Willan learning while making a tangible object in the real world (Pinto, 2016). His face was a picture of achievement, well worth the hours of frustration. This was Willan, the Maker.
And the next morning, there were 7 whole likes on that video and his face lit up again.
Here it is….
A few thoughts about the theory….
As always, there was so much in the articles we read to think about and process. I actually read the Ratto article twice through and then watched some videos through his website (“We Make Things” featuring Dr. Ratto was particularly helpful) to get a better sense of what he means by Critical Making. To me, Ratto seems to focus on the potential to experience one’s own learning while making, and that these experiences change our understanding of objects made through technologies and change our relationships to the technologies themselves. The first experiment he describes in this paper was very confusing, however. I had a really hard time seeing how it would have made sense to the participants (and apparently they had a hard time with it as well). I’d like to discuss this to get a better understanding. I think I need some more time with the Wark article, but the Pinto article was very interesting. I have experienced several versions of makerspaces so far – and the Maker Faire in Toronto – and I think it’s important to be aware of how this really positive, community-oriented culture can be co-opted for profit and how watered down versions of a makerspace might alter the whole point. I particularly loved the Repair Cafe and spent a good hour day-dreaming about starting one in Burlington. I really miss fix-it shops. Though I love this space and I’m beginning to get a handle on some of it, I also feel like I need to do a whole lot more exploring and reading….