Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Global Storytelling, iPad Camp and Publishing Student Authors/Illustrators

Kristin Reiber Harris

I joined Geeta Raj of Global Sleepover on Monday, July 28th at Howard University in Washington, DC for the Digital Storytelling Workshop at the Startup Summer Institute
at Howard University's Middle School of Mathematics and Science. This program provided a group of students with the opportunity to explore app design as well as storytelling and interactivity.  I arrived for the second week of the camp on behalf of Demibooks to help the students produce interactive books on iPads. The first week of the camp, Geeta worked with the students writing stories with a focus on global adventures. Each story that took place in different countries with characters from that country featured in the stories.

I was very impressed with the campus. Undergraduate Library, Howard University, Washington, D.C.
Lessons Learned from Seven iPad Camps

This camp was my 7th iPad Camp of the summer but my first specifically as a trainer for Demibooks. Emboldened with a wealth of experience working with students 8 to 13 (some adults too) I had a grasp on what could be accomplished in this short period of time. Earlier in July, I spent two weeks working with students at Linkhorne Middle School in Lynchburg, Virginia. Our sessions were only 3 hours long for four afternoons a week. The students had been able to write, illustrate and produce stories that incorporated a variety of interactive components and animation. I appreciated that we would have a lot more time with the students at this camp and I saw the benefits of this extra time.

I am working with Mandy on her book about girls visiting Spain. Photo Credit: Lynn Chen
How We Got Started

I started our work together by asking the seven students to introduce themselves and give me a synopsis of their stories. I showed them a demo project I made in Demibooks Composer Pro about the fish and water lilies in my water garden. It included some simple animation and a video clip. I show them this example because I want them to see an interactive document that is realistic for them to create within the time frame of the camp. I don't want them to be overwhelmed with examples that might seem too difficult or present sophisticated programming or animations that were not realistic for them to create under the circumstances.

Middle School at Howard University, location of the Summer Institute
Our App Dream Team

The power of the iPad is that it can be a complete mobile production studio. Demibooks Composer Pro is the app we use to produce interactive books, a fantastic program for both students and professionals. However, most of the assets need to be created in other apps. The app we use for making the illustrations is Procreate. If you have not heard me wax poetic about Procreate, I'll do it again. I love this tool. It is very accessible to students as young as 7 or 8 but robust enough to be a professional tool. I regularly hear "I can't draw" or "I can't draw with my finger". What they soon learn is that I don't give them an option; they must use Procreate. The results have been very gratifying. At this camp some of the most exceptional art was made by a student who insisted he could not draw. Literally every student I have introduced to Procreate has made good illustrations. Another app in our Dream Team is Voice Record Pro for voiced sound effects and narration and of course Dropbox for moving files.

Isaiah's illustration created in Procreate

Step One to Introduce Composer Pro Workflow

A good first step to introduce Demibooks Composer Pro is for students to create a cover image and import it. We open Procreate and set up an image that is 1024 by 768. These are pixel dimensions that exactly match the page size/image resolution for Standard Definition (SD) on an iPad. For those accessing Procreate for the first time we walk through the basics of brush selection and color choices. When they have made their cover art, and I emphasize for this exercise it can be a proof, not the final, we export or share the artwork via the iPad photo gallery. The photo gallery is an important portal in using an iPad as a production tool with Composer Pro.

David's beautiful cover created in Proceate
Importing the cover is great practice for getting any asset into Composer Pro. This is a very easy step that also provides a glimpse at the range of options for media that can be included in Composer Pro interactive projects. As you see in the image below, you can add images, audio, animations, movies, text (internally) and more.

View of the "Work Bench" in Demibooks Composer Pro
Step Two to Introduce Composer Pro Workflow

The second activity I guide the students through is creating a navigation system or setting up page turns. They have all been on websites and other interactive media and understand the concept of moving around an interactive document. When they proof the cover they have just imported, they see that they can not turn the page. This needs to be set up. We go into the Inspector and set up a Behavior so that IF a swipe left gesture is made on the cover page, THEN it goes to the first page. Right away we are talking about programming and getting a preview of the range of options available with behaviors; transforms, functions and waits. After the cover is set up, we add page turn icons to the Master and set up Go to Next Page and Go to Previous Page. There are some students for whom this introduction is enough to run with Behaviors and jump in full force. Of course I work closely with all students as the light bulb goes on and they grasp the ease with which behaviors/programming is accomplished.

As the Week Progressed

Once all of the students had a chance to get text and images imported for their Composer Pro book, the real fun began. I introduced creating simple animation. Jerrie was first on board with this. Here he added a kick animation to his Bruce Lee character.
Still image of part of Jerrie's kick animation with audio. His story was set in China.

Jerrie did a great job of figuring things out on his own and was also one of the first to add audio. We did our voice effects and narration with app Voice Record Pro which were exported to Dropbox and imported into Composer Pro.

That Was Just the Beginning, Much More Followed

We had almost five full days of class that included many different procedures as well as lots of one-on-one time solving individual issues. It is a real thrill for me to see students, some having expressed real hesitation, become full fledged author/illustrators. I am convinced that developing skills in visual communication is an essential component of success in both a student's academic career and well as in the "real world".

Mandy's story takes place in Spain
 Our Final Results

I was so impressed the final results we got from every single student. This process is very accessible, but does require focus and dedication to create a 10 to 20 page book, the average size of the projects completed for this program. The work will be available in the near future on Demibooks Share listed under Start Up Middle School Summer Institute.  I have selected a few students to highlight, but they all are deserving of praise for their work. Here are a few more samples.

Mika's cover image for her adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in India.
 Mika did a spectacular job making not only an interactive books, but incorporated a game into the book. As you can see, she also mastered working with Procreate to make beautiful images.

Mika's story/game is set in India.

Feedback from Parents

Friday afternoon all of the students presented their projects to a lively group of parents and supporters who came to the school. It was the icing on the cake to hear the rave reviews of parents who watched their children embrace this process and got to see not only what their children had done, but what had been done by the other students that week. Not only parents, but teachers approached us and requested we do similar programs at their school. I hope it is easy to see the value of this kind of creative endeavor that brings the right and left sides of the brain together. There is no question in my mind that not only did we encouraged some writers and artist on their careers but everyone who participated in this program has a new sense of confidence and accomplishment.

Aminah's story, Royal Pain features a gymnast who becomes queen.
I Want to Thank

Many people were involved in making this event a reality and a great success; Patrick Gusman,director of the school, Geeta Raj of Global Sleepover, and Demibooks as well as the numerous businesses that sponsored the program. I would like to especially thank Lynn Chen who came down from Baltimore on Thursday to share her work and expertise with the students. She was a tremendous help to me. Also, we had a great group of Jr. Counselors who diligence paid off in the products we saw the students create.

Mika's grand finale

Kristin Reiber Harris is an artist, animator and media producer as well as an educator. Information about her work is available on her website, www.KristinHarrisDesign.com. She has two apps in the app store, Duck Takes A Ride: An Art Story and ABC.DC: An Art Alphabet.

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