A Lesson in Affordances, Constraints and The Discovery of What I Didn’t Know

Jazmine and the Taarubl Horubl no good vaary bad dayLast week, my 5-year old daughter was inspired to write her first book. It was a glorious moment in parenting. My husband and I beamed with pride — our daughter a) can write b) thinks of herself as a writer c) drew detailed pictures which she then described with her very best, phonologically reasoned spellings and d) based her own story on a book we have read hundreds of times together — Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” (For anyone who graduated from the Concurrent Education Program at Queen’s University and studied with Bob Hill in the 1990s, you also know the extra special pride I take in my daughter’s first picture book.) When we talked about Alexander as the inspiration for her book, our daughter said, “Well, Mom, I just borrowed some ideas from another artist — that’s what artists do.”  (I figured we could talk about appropriate citation later…maybe next year?)

As an educator specializing in the meaningful integration of educational technologies I decided I needed to preserve my daughter’s first book in a digital format. I took photos of each page of her book and decided I would put it on the web for grandparents to read. I also decided it would be pretty great to include an audio track of her reading the book aloud. Easy, peasy. I figured the project would take me a couple of hours.

At least 15 hours later, I still don’t have a movie to post.

How could this be, I’ve asked myself? Why has it taken me so long to do this?

Well, here’s the list of my workflow so far…

1) Take digital photos of each story page with camera.

2) Upload digital photos to iPhoto.

3) Upload digital photos to Picassa Web.

4) Crop and edit photos with Picnik (bad choice…took too long)

5) Download Picassa to desktop so I can make a movie.

6) Re-edit photos so that they’re brighter and sharper.

7) Create movie with photos.

8) Audio — hmmm…does this mean I can’t time photos to audio tracks? Play around to experiment. Discover that I can’t record audio with Picassa. Hmmm…

9) Download Audacity.

10) Test audacity.

11) Install LAME Installer that allows Audacity to save in .mp3 format.

12) Test it out. Create folder for saving .mp3s.

13) Convince daughter to narrate story.

14) Record daughter’s narration using Audacity.

15) Look for other tools to create a narrated slide show/movie that will permit me to time page turning with daughter’s reading. Explore VoiceThread, Animoto, PhotoPeach and iMovie.

16) Upload photos to VoiceThread. Sign up for Animoto and PhotoPeach. Discover that none of these will work the way I’d like.

17) Pause. Sigh.

18) Rethink project.

19) Open Keynote on computer.

20) Upload photos to Keynote.

21) Learn how to copy and paste segments of the full audio track of daughter’s narration so that I can create individual .mp3 files for each page. Consult at least three online forums/wikis.

22) Create .mp3 of daughter reading title page.

23) Save to folder.

24) Upload to iTunes because Keynote will only import .mp3s from iTunes.

25) Create new playlist for daughter’s book that will keep all .mp3 files together.

26) Embed audio on first slide — the title page.

27) Play to test.

28) Repeat steps 22-26 for next three pages of book.

29) Discover “Record slideshow” function in Keynote. Hmmm…read “Help” on this function.

30) Discover that Keynote allows you to narrate and record a voiceover for each slide that is timed perfectly and permits you to advance to each slide manually.

31) Swear.

32) Stubbornly persist with Audacity because I can’t abandon now. It took me three days to convince my daughter to have her voice recorded while reading her book in the first place and I’ve already spent three hours learning how to do it this way.

33) Finish editing eight audio excerpts and embedding into keynote.

34) 1:00 am…give in to fatigue and go to bed.

35) Reflect on process. Call myself a few names. Stupid comes to mind first.

There was a simpler way to do this, wasn’t there? Why didn’t I use Keynote from the start?

Well, for starters, I wanted to use web-based technologies. I realize now that in my rush to put this on the web for all to read, I was blinded to the affordances and constraints of all of the technologies I had at my disposal. I had been wanting to use Picassa to create a Movie but didn’t realize the timing issues would come into play. I also wanted to create a VoiceThread (which I can still do with the video I’m creating) and I was sort of convinced I could do it all there — but I quickly discovered certain limitations and had to re-tool. I knew about PhotoPeach and Animoto but hadn’t ever used them before — I needed to explore their affordances with the project in mind before I could decide if they would work. I had used Audacity for other purposes, but I had never tried to segment chunks of a clip — so there was a learning curve. I figured there was a way, but it took me some time to figure it out. It was only when I had exhausted this list of web-based options that I had to think of other solutions.

Keynote — a simple presentation with an audio clip embedded would do it. I started down this path and realized that there had been a simpler way to do this the whole time.

Uggh…obviously, the simpler way would have been the best way, but this was a classic case of not knowing what I didn’t know.

Having exercised my frustrations and persisted in perfecting my audio editing skills, I think I’ll ask my daughter to re-narrate her story tonight. Part of the learning curve with technology is knowing when to take a new direction, right. (Cue Kenny Rogers’ “Know when to hold’em…know when to fold ’em).

Easy peasy. I think we’ll be able to finish this in 10 minutes.


Always learning….

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