Notes from the Diaspora

You know about the 10,000 hours thing right?  It takes about 10,000 hours before you can get good anything according to Malcolm Gladwell. He coined the 10,000-hour rule in his 2008 book Outliers.  The rule has been pulled apart nine ways from Sunday since then, but the general gist of the concept remains worth considering. You wanna be good at something, put some time into getting the mechanism of doing it down. It might take 10,000 hours, but it gonna take some time if you want to be good.  What does this mean for you reading this blog?  I'm sure no read the blog. You don't blog for money. Yes, some people blog for money, but how many of those people do you actually know? If you know someone who does BLOG for money, ask them if they survive on that money.  Brace yourself for a long list of activities that may or may not include teaching, bartender, ditch digger, babysitter and/or assassin that come together to create a living wage until the blog starts to make money.  Ok, perhaps that is unfair, but no one is reading this so no one is injured.  This matters because I keep this time on task rule in the front of my mind while thinking about digital history and the power of narrative.  I'm a historian that works on narrative across platforms. What does it mean to engage the audience with an idea across different mediums?  This question matters to me personally and it matters in the dynamic of the digital classroom I create. If I'm having students work on digital projects, I do so with a concern that they can achieve outcomes that accomplish the same goals associated with written communication. This does not mean that written communication will be replaced. It means that ideas communicating information to the audience in the written form can be supplemented by digital forms.  We still need to write essays to create clarity, but the clarity we achieve through research and analysis must be formed into objects that the vast audience must understand. The upside of this process is that many people will use the skills developed in my classes in whatever profession they pursue. From marketing to law, they will research, analyze and present information.  It will be helpful for them to have a sense of how visual and audio elements can serve to support the argument they are making.  I've done audio documentaries in my classes before and will do so again.  Film based assignment is the natural additional classroom experience type I need to add. The documentary has a strong link to historical study thanks to Ken Burns and PBS. The Ken Burns effect describe the featured created by Apple for the iMovie function that allows you to emulate the slow motion panning over a still image he perfected for his documentary work.   The substance of what can be made into a documentary short film is simple. There are thousands of stories in our community that would be perfect for that process that students could tackle. However, creating an assignment blueprint means thinking about failure as much as success. What I mean is that I need to do it, see the troubles in the process and describe a process to students that help them move through the process with some clarity. I cannot eliminate all stress. This would be true if all I asked was for them to write a paper. However, the challenge when they are working in the digital environment is that those same concerns are made harder by the frustration they feel when working with technology as creators versus users.  What I need to do is build my own ability to work with video.   So, this means I need to put some time into creating video narratives. I emphasize using the simplest tool available and concentrating on managing content. Last summer I was lucky enough to go on the trip to Cuba.  I created my Cuba Dispatch videos on my iPhone 6 using iMovie.  I wanted to get a feel for using the tool.  I made plenty of mistakes while learning the tool (curse you auto correct). I've used iMovie on the phone and on the laptop. I actually find the confined space of the iPhone easier to navigate. I'm not an expert in film editing, but the process of becoming familiar requires taking the time.  On my trip to South Africa, I made "Notes from the Diaspora" videos.  When I get back from my sabbatical, I will be working on digital intervention on number of assignments, this is part of the process of getting ready.