Category Archives: Learning

Stalking Leonardo in America

On the hunt for Leonardo da Vinci ever since starting on the novelization of my time travel novel, but it seems, instead, he’s been stalking me.

The genius is very much alive. A few of the most notable Leo sightings, up-close-and-personal. The Da Vinci Machines exhibit, currently on display in Bradenton, Florida. Artisans from Florence, Italy, have constructed life-sized models of a series of Leonardo’s inventions found in his writings and jottings and sketches found in more than 13,000-known pages of Leonardo’s codices (definition: notebooks; singular, codex. From the Latin. Think Renaissance blog). There are an additional 20,000 or so pages from codices that scholars suspect lay hidden and molding in unsuspecting people’s attics and musty shoe boxes throughout Europe.

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Da Vinci Museums Exhibit

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Da Vinci’s glider

Here is material evidence of Leonardo’s genius in plain sight for the throngs of kids, teachers and adults visiting the exhibition. A creative thinker who could design a modern tank from observing turtles, whose glider emerged from hundreds of hours watching and sketching hawks in flight, the first working robot, and myriad seemingly modern inventions–all from the mind of a 15th-century man.

Of course, there is another, perhaps more famous side to Leonardo: his art. Which took me to Williamsburg, Virginia, recently, to see an exhibition, “Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty,” at the Muscarelle Museum of Art on the campus of William and Mary. While, still today, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper get most of the press, observing the master’s drawing skills at close hand is a thrill.

Leonardo and Beauty

Leonardo and the Idea of Beauty

I felt the hand of the artist on my shoulder as I stepped up to each new piece on display. On display: attributes of left-handedness — shadowing and drawing lines diagonally from up left to down right to avoid smudging and see the trajectory of each line — that make him unique among Renaissance masters. To breathe in the antiquity emanating from these 500-year-old papers and parchments. To feel the aura of the artist in the room, looking out from the shadows and into my eyes even as my eyes took him in.

In the introduction to the exhibition, in a book of the same title, Dr. Aaron H. De Groft, the museum’s director and CEO, writes, “Leonardo’s notebooks are filled with quick short notes on what he saw, how he felt, things to remember to do and many other pronouncements, statements, and fully worked out thoughts…and so much of it was illustrated. We see him living his life literally day by day and week by week documented on the page in many ways like the modern day equivalents of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. […]…he wrote in one of his last recorded lines, ‘I must go now…because the soup is getting cold.'”

How  fitting to see this inveterate doodler through the eyes of twenty-first century technology. And how like Charley, the protagonist of Out of Time, to want to record what she sees, things to remember and the many other pronouncements of her own curious, creative and inventive mind in a blog and on social media.

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Charley’s Notebooks: Tweet Storytelling Out of Time

Next stop on my quest to discover Leonardo in America? The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Salvador Dali draws on the inspiration of Freud’s meanderings on the great Renaissance master to celebrate “Where Minds, Machines and Masterpieces Meet.”

Dali Museum Leo

Where Minds, Machines and Masterpieces Meet.

Seeing yet another side of Leonardo’s genius up-close-and-personal? Can’t wait!

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Mona and me

Asian Gerbils Carry Black Plague to Europe

Smoking gun: Asian gerbils, not European rats, caused the plague.

Uffizzi plague victims

Roman-era Plague Victims Photo: Maurizio Degl’Innocenti/EPA, via Landov

No doubt if such news had appeared in the broadsheets of, say, 14th century Italy (and did the have anything even remotely resembling a newspaper for informing citizens in those largely illiterate days?), trade with Asia would have been banned, and the traders themselves shipped back to their home port.

Today, it’s forensic archeology informing history–and our understanding of the progress of civilization. Medical detectives sniffing into the corners of history and civilization to determine how diseases start, why they spread, and how tree rings offer the smoking gun tracking shifts in climate.

You may have guessed by now that the true purpose of this blog, under the guise of Leonardo’s fabulous and inventive mind (so emulated by the heroine of Out of Time, Charley) is to explore what’s on my own mind. What’s got me thinking right now? Would I might have known–way back in the ancient history of my formative years–that biology + archeology + anthropology + history = a way to figure out how disease spreads through history and affects the story of the world, how different my own history might be!

What triggers this revisionist thinking of career potential from my younger self? I recently ran across a story of archeologists digging up a mass grave containing human remains more than 1,500 years old under the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy–the beautiful museum where some of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpieces are on permanent display–these skeletons now thought to be victims  of an early plague.

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Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Amid growing national concern about the trickle of qualified candidates to fill a growing number of jobs in technical fields requiring strong skills in science, math and engineering, the question is increasingly important: how to entice young people into pursuing STEM careers that may not crop up in the normal course of Middle School Career Day? We live in times where how we define work, and what occupations are available, are in vast flux. The doctor-lawyer-teacher professional triad is still viable, but the world is changing. Doctors are not the only health workers. Law is narrowing for newly-minted JDs. Teachers are not revered, much less adequately compensated.

The careers of the future open up vastly different opportunities for young people today–and exposure to those possibilities can open vistas and ignite curiosity and the imagination.

As usual, Leonardo da Vinci’s example, a passion for learning and seeing in new ways–leads us to new insight. He let his nose–and eyes and chalk–lead in his passion to understand the world around him. His fascination with human anatomy led him to grave robbing and even using the underground morgues in the Vatican itself to gain access to skeletons that would allow him to study human skeletal structures and the undergirding of the face that allowed him to draw and paint such lifelike, living humans in those masterpieces that come down to us today. In fact, had Leo known of the destruction beneath a gallery that displayed his masterpieces, he might have even been tempted to exhume the bodies himself, in his constant search to portray the human form in all its guises.

There was also the fascination with life, death, age, youth and nature–so present in Leonardo’s age and, paradoxically, so remote and isolated in our own. The contrast between beauty and death is one that captured Leonardo’s attention throughout his prolific career and revealed itself in his painting, sketching and sculpture.

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Of course, in 1492 and beyond, Europeans were not the only victims of disease-carrying ships. Historians have documented the link between Europeans arriving in the New World and the subsequent spreading of disease among Native American populations, peoples who had no immunity to diseases carried by their conquerors, and the germs they carried with them. But until fairly recently, understanding how conquest went viral–and often deadly–was not a meme of history.

Could modern medicine, with its vaccines, antibiotics and advanced treatments for infectious disease–if known back in the days when barbers were surgeons–have eradicated the Black Death and changed history? Do we even know what the picture might have looked like if millions of lives that were erased due to plague, cholera, and other epidemics, had been controlled by better sanitation, isolation against the spread of disease and contemporary public health practices had been available back in the day?

Not to say we don’t have uncontrollable scourges today taking lives, Ebola being only the latest example. But today a new form of virus, proving just as infectious, is carried through ether of the World Wide Web and delivered electronically into our homes. As yet, the consequences of computer viruses are still being tested–ranging from terrorists recruiting members with their chilling videos extolling killing in the name of God, to warnings about spying from supposedly preventive and benevolent sources such as the US National Security Agency. Will the spread of such viruses will impact our future story for good or ill? History–and future digital forensic anthropologists–may someday uncover evidence that these have alternatively helped or hurt our world.

Had such an example of sleuthing research and discovery been available to me in my own formative years, I might have honed my love of writing, my aptitude for explaining science through story to then dive into biology, anatomy, environmental science, medical history and tracking the global trail of infectious disease to pursue a much different, but highly satisfying career path.

Growing up, my daughter had a pet gerbil. Scribbles seemed innocent enough–and certainly no great threat to the health of our family, except when it came to cleaning his cage, a task which would have been neglected completely were it not for the smell, and a good bit of nagging on the part of the parents. [So much for children promising to take responsibility!] A gerbil in the wild, stealing on a sailing ship for a three week journey in less-than-optimal conditions is undoubtedly a different beast than his domestic ancestors in the neighborhood pet store.

Who knew? And what young person today, cleaning her gerbil’s cage and wondering about her pet’s family history, might awaken a new interest in how such things work that takes her out of the classroom, into the lab, and onto the road of discovery in other yet-to-be-imagined ways?

Smoking guns may define the history of our past. But, for now, my bet is on the gerbil to sniff out the future history of health.

Et tu, Scribbles?

Quiet…Teens Writing

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Cueva de las Manos (Spanish for Cave of the Hands) in the Santa Cruz province in Argentina

Telling stories is timeless, though the ways we do it have changed. I imagine the original storytellers speaking to tribe, family, friends under a million stars twinkling in the night sky. These ancient stories were as evanescent as the flames of the fire that warmed the gathered listeners, except for the tradition of oral transmission: parent to child to grandchild across generations.

The oral tradition survives today, but heiroglyphics, the alphabet, and writing gave those who had the power to create words and pictures a way to have their stories preserved forever–or at least until the next technological advance removed the storyteller’s advantage. Coal and chalk giving way to chisel, quill and ink giving way Gutenberg’s press, reel-to-reel tape recorders, television and, finally, our digital age giving way to an ever-evolving array of apps, platforms and tools.

Teens Write

But the constant, despite ever-evolving recording technologies, is the storytellers voice. So it was nice, in our soundbite and social media-dominated era, to engage with a group of teens learning and practicing the writer’s craft.

YA author Carolee Noury facilitated the group, offering a creative way to invite the group to think about perspective, setting and scene as key elements in constructing narratives. Setting out a diorama of seemingly random objects on a table that everyone could examine at length, the writers then picked out “mood rings” – small scraps of paper with the names of an emotion or mood on them cut out and formed into a link on which she had pre-prepared. The moods ranged from joyous to cranky. The challenge: to create a story that integrated this setting according to your mood.

After seven minutes of time in which everyone got down to the business of writing, teens were invited to read their stories. Some read aloud. Others, maybe too shy to share, passed. But all seemed intent on recording their stories.

As these teen writers grow in craft and confidence, I will be curious to see where their writing leads them. In another teen writing group, led by writer Mark Willen, one young writer has already published her first book, surely an amazing accomplishment.

Can We Hear You Now?

I came away inspired: we need to hear these voices.

I am now thinking about leading a writing group myself. Wondering if there are any young and aspiring writers out there who might offer their advice: What are the best ways to encourage, engage teens to share their stories with us?

What’s Worth More — the Story or the Merchandise?

Pen and inkAs I toil away on the second draft of my novel, Out of Time, thinking of the time, care, creative energy and effort I have put forth on this epic adventure, beginning with the seed of a story in 1997 through the prodigious output resulting in today’s (2014) screenplay-novel-tweet storytelling, Web-based learning platform, I wonder what it’s all worth. Not in the sense of the value in my life to serve this purpose of Creator-in-Chief of Charley’s adventures in Leonardo’s World, but in the marketplace.

As I learn more about the publishing industry today, and how much of the take on book sales flows back to authors–and compare that to the perceived benefits of self-publishing where, once the initial investment in the print process is recouped, 100 percent of the returns go to the author, the results even for bestselling authors look discouraging. For a $14.95 paperback, the author receives–wait for it–95 cents a book. Not much of an ROI, is it? How does anyone with less of a runaway success than Harry Potter ever hope to earn a respectable living.

Then there’s this: today’s Washington Post runs a story on this season’s Christmas must-haves for all little girls: the Princesses Elsa and Anna dolls from the Disney movie “Frozen.” These mass-produced molded dolls retail for $75.99 and $49.99, respectively, outfits sold separately.

By my reckoning, that’s $125.00 for dolls that will be left in the dust as soon as the NEXT BIG THING hits the shelves. Granted, the doll merch grows out of storytelling–and there’s nothing to say that a Charley superhero action figure couldn’t hit the shelves in a big way. But the marketplace again rewards the stuff and not the value that a book, a movie, a story can confer to nurture a child’s lifelong growth.

Barbie dollsBecause, honestly, I remember getting my first Barbie doll at my fifth birthday party at The Pee Wee Valley amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio. After riding the rides, and having cake and milk at the picnic tables, it was that Barbie, with her frozen expression and her stiffly moving limbs and neck, that captured my attention for the rest of the party. This doll, and the Ken doll I later got (along with a Barbie wedding dress–in those days, my mom wanted to ensure Barbie would be married before she could play with Ken!) were the phenom du jour.  A certain amount of role-playing and rehearsal for growing up went along with these teenaged dolls of ridiculous proportions. But in the end, Barbie lost her hair in a swimming accident in the bathroom sink, her wardrobe in a garage sale, and her Dream House to the little girl down the street.

The Secret Garden, Fances Hodgson Burnett's classic

The Secret Garden, Fances Hodgson Burnett’s classic

But it is within the pages of kid and teen lit that I remember finding myself. A Wrinkle in Time, The Secret Garden, Little House on the Prairie…and later, Gone with the Wind, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, To Kill a Mockingbird–these were stories where I could identify aspects of myself, engage in pretend, and take on the problems of the world within a safe context as rehearsal for who I wanted to become.

But maybe I wasn’t the ordinary kid. I was more interested in creating worlds than living through someone else’s version.

I think every child has the creative capacity to become who they are meant to be, if only we know how to nurture, provoke, engage and further that superpower. Which is the genesis for all things Out of Time.

As an author, this is my 95 cents worth. Though I am hoping it is actually worth more to the children with the power to become. Impossible dream?

I like to think not. Let me know what you think.

Out of Time to be showcased on TV talk show “Think About It”

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Taping for “Think About It” to air Dec. 9 at 10 pm, Ch. 16 Montgomery Cable TV and online http://mmctv.org/video.html

Had a blast doing a half-hour interview with Sylvia Henderson, host of “Talk About It’, a biweekly community affairs program on MMCTV, here in Montgomery County, Maryland. We talked about the STEM to STEAM to MASTERY link that is becoming fundamental to student learning in K-12 education. MASTERY, here, includes learning across multiple disciplines, but with purpose: math, arts, science, technology, engineering, reflection (think social and emotional learning!)–for me, this happens through the “yarns of storytelling.”

In the interview, Sylvia asked me how to make that accessible to young people who might not otherwise be drawn to science, technology, engineering or math–the four pillars of STEM learning. The theory behind “Out of Time” in its many incarnations–novel, screenplay, Tweet storytelling adventure and flipped learning platform–is that young people can explore through whatever their own personal passions are and be drawn into the world of the Renaissance learner to explore further.Davinci_formula

In an “Aha!” moment, Sylvia revealed that, while she is not necessarily a “math person” (not sure there is such a thing, by the way!), she loves building dollhouses–scale models of life-sized homes. To create them, she uses architectural design principles based on mathematics: fractions, geometry, perspective and more.

Artists, musicians and craftspeople all employ STEM skills in their play–thus STEM becomes STEAM as arts integrates nicely into the equation.

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Sylvia is now an experienced time traveler. Shown here wearing Out of Time cap.

What’s your passion? Share with us in comments below how you get from STEM to STEAM to MASTERY and beyond.

And watch “Out of Time” interview here, or on Channel 16 on Montgomery Cable TV on Monday, December 8 at 10 p.m.: http://mmctv.org/video.html – scroll down to “Talk About It” and click on the link with my name, Robin Stevens Payes.

Is Reading the Goal, or a Means to an End?

How can story get their attention?

How to hold their attention?

As the creator of Out of Time, I work across media. My novel is in its second draft now, drawn from the original screenplay. I started tweeting the story–line-by-line as is the most conventional practice in #TwitterFiction–until our heroine, Charley, took over the narrative. Her solution to tweet storytelling was to ask questions of the experts, to invite others to help advance the story, and to ask a lot of questions. In fact, it is her curiosity is one of her most  ingratiating character traits.

As a transmedia storyteller, I recognize that reading is not every teen’s cup-of-tea. Interestingly, there is a hot debate going on about this right now. it seems that boys are reading less-and-less. There is some argument to be made over what stories boys are most likely attracted to, and how those different from girls’ interests. Some would say that boys a more likely to engage in action-oriented narrative nonfiction, while girls are attracted to stories about relationships–whether in fiction or nonfiction. And if more YA fiction features female protagonists, does that automatically deter close to 50 percent of the teen universe from reading?

In my world Out of Time, I encounter a paradoxical problem: girls are far less likely than boys to pursue the studies in science, math, engineering and technology–the so-called STEM fields–that will prepare and qualify them for the best, highest paying and most in-demand careers. Whether the STEM application is for engineering bridges in repairing our infrastructure or building apps that run the next Uber, or design the first successful SpaceX rockets, girls are less likely to pursue studies that will launch them into career orbit.

Naturally, my protagonist Charley is a girl. Her interest in building Leonardo’s time machine–and acquiring the skills and knowledge to make it happen–is, apparently, a rarity in girls but, through the story, perhaps she will inspire the next generation of girls to pursue their own passions to create, discover, design, build and make work…in whatever their passion might be.

So I hope to test if story, and a smart, sassy girl as a role model, can’t inspire some girls to follow Charley’s lead. BUT, since this is a story, I am also hoping that boys will be interested enough to read and follow her adventures–in whatever medium most engages their interest.

If this passion is ignited through reading a novel, so be it. If film is the more engaging medium, I say, let’s go for it. For today’s young people, if you’re not on social media, you practically don’t exist. Video games? Plans for a video game and an app are in the cards. Underlying the whole narrative is a personalized learning platform, where young people can engage, through the story, in following their own interests to learn more across disciplines.

If Leonardo da Vinci could dream it, kids engaging with learning on Out of Time Media can pursue it.

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Snapshots of Life, FASEB Exhibit, National Institutes of Health; Credit: Bo Wang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

For an artist, this transdisciplinary learning might mean combining art and anatomy. A kid inspired to be a doctor could, likewise, come to appreciate art through the study of biology. For a musician, hearing the music of the cosmos. When it comes to a politics buff…well, one could glean a lot about present-day governing and politics from Machiavelli or Lorenzo di Medici.

Did you know they burned books in Leonardo’s day? The original bonfires of the vanities were supposed to “purge” society of the evils of worshiping material possessions. They were really intended to keep people ignorant of wide advances in art, culture and science. While the printed page was still a newfangled invention in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (and railed against as leading to the downfall of civilization!), knowledge and human advancement could not be stopped. The world could not go back into darkness. Similarly, today’s plethora of new media can be expected to lead to a Renaissance of learning to open new worlds of discovery that we can only imagine.

Whether boys–and girls–read from books would seem to be besides the point. They will–we will–always engage with stories, in any medium, because they allow us to connect to each other, to explore new worlds, and to reach for the stars.

 

The Story, the Competition, and Bringing It All to Life

This is cross-posted from the EdTechWomen Blog — http://edtechwomen.com/blog/2014/6/12/outoftime

Out of Time – The Story, The Competition, And Bringing It All To Life

 

 

 

By Margaret Roth

There are many roads that can be taken on the the journey to inspiration and creation. For Robin Stevens Payes, her journey began literally on road. As a mother of three children and science interpreter, she spent a lot of time on the road, listening to stories and tales of drama unfold from the driver’s seat as her children explored their school-age years. This experience was not only treasured time with her children, but for a writer immersed in contemporary science, this was a complete study in teenage psychology.

With this inspiration, and not to mention set of first-hand observations, Robin began crafting Out of Time, the story of Charley Morton, a teenage girl whisked back in time, by a science fair project gone-all-too-well, to the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci on the journey of a lifetime. As Charley explores the world of Florence with Leonardo, her idol and mentor, she must find a way home, all while finding herself.

Over the last 15 years, this story has transformed itself. First written as a screenplay, Charley’s story is now a transmedia science fiction, time travel, adventure novel, and is a finalist in the When Words Count Retreat Pitch Week, a juried competition for authors of promise. As a finalist, Robin is competing for a book deal, national publicity campaign, and all the support necessary to make Out of Time the next breakout book for teens.

As Robin is eagerly preparing for her journey to Vermont next week for the competition, EdTechWomen checked in via e-mail to see how things were shaping up for the next stage of her adventure.

MR: Out of Time, both the novel and your journey, is absolutely fascinating. Tell us about your plans and where you see this all going.

RSP: From the scientific, technological, and historical scope needed to tell the story, and the breadth of Leonardo’s genius, emerged the idea to create Out of Time Media, an online learning platform, to turn the process of reading Out of Time into an immersive, multimedia, multimodal, learning experience.

Using the story as the foundation, coupled with Leonardo’s curious and wide-ranging intellect and Charley’s inventiveness, brains and grit, educators will be able to create a dynamic transdisciplinary and blended learning program through the Out of Time Media experience. There are so many possible points of student engagement on a vast array of topics, from the physics of time to geo-history to military engineering to Renaissance cuisine.

While the online learning platform is still in the works, pending funding, and the right STEAM-Ed visionaries, partners, and investors, the plans for this transdisciplinary learning through story project continue!

MR: As a former middle school teacher myself, there are so many ways I can see this being used in the classroom. Tell us some more about the kind of learning experiences you see Out of Time allowing educators to create for their students?

RSP: There are a number of classroom activities and projects that I can see emerging from a reading of the novel, and a myriad of ways Out of Time Media can support teaching and learning in the classroom. Out of Time creates a world, Renaissance Italy. Instead of memorizing straight facts for a just another novel unit, the story allows students to reconstruct the way people lived, the conditions that encouraged the flowering of a rich intellectual, social, and artistic ferment that allowed for the emergence of so many great geniuses, whose work still impact our lives today. They can study the role of the Roman Catholic Church in that period and how the Pope and the di Medici rulers of Florence were often in a struggle—not just for power, but for a way of life.

MR: You are obviously extremely passionate about story. How has that impacted Charley and how do you see her story impacting classrooms?

RSP: Learning is made more resonant through story when lived and imagined by readers through the eyes of strong and compelling characters. Out of Time Media brings them together in one online place, where flipped learning, social learning and storytelling invites learning beyond STEM, and STEAM to a new level of broad MASTERY.

Davinci_formula

My commitment to the importance of MASTERY is the reason why as part of the online learning platform, I plan to break out experiences and resources into Learning Departments.

These Learning Departments will include transdisciplinary learning opportunities, that combine areas of inquiry that Leonardo himself pursued in his large and compelling body of work, and that might engage someone interested in mathematics to pursue musical theory and composition, or an artist to study anatomy. This will allow students to explore their interests using the narrative of the novel as a roadmap.

MR: Out of Time is a huge project, with so many different aspects, and so many amazing ideas. What was the greatest challenge you faced over the last two years as an entrepreneur and what did you do to overcome this challenge?

RSP: As a writer, creative, and solopreneur, it has sometimes been lonely to hold onto the vision for Out of Time and bootstrap it into being. I have been fortunate to get feedback, support and encouragement along the way from groups like EdTechWomen. ETW’s invitation to participate on the “At the Helm :: Women’s Impact in EdTech” series at SXSWedu in Austin this year was an honor and an amazing experience!

I value these interactions, and the connections that have enabled me to keep Out of Time moving—and suggest improvements along the way.

MR: What is the number one piece of advice would give to others to aid their journey to success in our field?

RSP: Persistence, patience and unwavering belief in your idea, product or project are important as the educational technology field matures. Technology offers the potential to revolutionize teaching—and provoke resistance and lagging adoption based on lack of training, cost, and waiting for “the next big thing” to emerge. This has been true since the days of the mimeograph and the overhead projector (here I date myself!), and promises to get more challenging as new players, some with deeper pockets, enter the field.

MR: As I know that the competition is coming up fast, what can others do to get involved with Out of Time and to show their support?

RSP: I need your support to show the judges the power and potential of Out of Time and Out of Time Media as learning tools. The more I can show that others support my work and this story, the better chance I will have during the competition!

Show—and spread—the love:

  • Follow the Out of Time Blog
  • Tweet your support to @OutofTimeMovie
  • Use the hashtag #FriendsofOOT
  • “Like” Out of Time Media on Facebook
  • Share the Out of Time website and videos
  • Spread the word to friends and family
  • If you are an educator, or know one, who might like to get their class engaged in “making history” in a Twitter chat with Charley M and Friends @OutofTimeMovie, let me know that in comments as well!

I’m also inviting all readers of the EdTechWomen community to vote in the comments for which of two cover designs (pictured above) we’ve created they’d prefer for the book. And by the way, major kudos to my designer Melissa Brandstatter for her artistic vision and grace in accepting multiple challenges along the way to make Out of Time compelling visually, as well as wordily (Can I say that? I think I just made that up!)!

Please help me share the power this experience will be for students and help get Charley and her friends out into the world! They can not wait to share their story!

MR: This competition is coming up so fast! How are you feeling?

RSP: I am excited and nervous! I will be competing against five other very talented authors—none of whom I have met yet. It feels a little like I imagine competitors in American Idol or any of those talent competitions feel when they’ve gotten into the finals—the stakes are high and the eyes of the world are on them.

But I am keeping my eyes on winning as a way to get Charley’s story out to readers and dreamers everywhere who fancy themselves mastering worlds—real or imaginary—and making a difference in the lives of their family, their community and their world.

And then the real work begins—helping create an environment for learning that is consistent with the way things work in the real world. Because in life, one doesn’t do Biology for an hour, then Spanish, then History, then PE — all those things cross over, informing not just our brains but our lives. And we’re learning all the time! So why not make it relevant?

And because I believe every young person has their own form of genius to grow into, having the right inspiration to do it can make all the difference between learning to live and living to learn.


RobinScreen Shot 2014-03-08 at 11.30.41 AM Stevens Payes, author and creator of the young adult time travel adventure Out of Time, writes often about health, research, science and psychology for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award-winning Sara Bellum Blog and other NIDA and NIH publications on the neuroscience of addiction. She was founding editor-in-chief of LearnNow, the Web portal introducing parents and educators to the science of learning. She most recently wrote about empathy for the neuroscience research Dana Foundation Web site and for the Dana blog about teen learning about drug abuse via social media based on a case study about the Sara Bellum Blog published in February, 2013, in The Journal of Social Marketing. Payes is founder and principal of WordsWork Communications, a social marketing firm applying cutting-edge communications to bring research to life.


EdTechWomen has previously recognized Robin Steven Payes for her excellent work in edtech through our SXSWedu Session “At the Helm :: Women’s Role in Edtech” and we are proud to continue to support her. Please show your support for this amazing woman by actively sharing her story and helping her novel Out of Time become the engaging, STEM-infused, multimedia, and cross-disciplinary teaching resource that it is destined to be for our students!

Robin Stevens Payes, author and creator of the young adult time travel adventure Out of Time, writes often about health, research, science and psychology for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award-winning Sara Bellum Blog and other NIDA and NIH publications on the neuroscience of addiction. She was founding editor-in-chief of LearnNow, the Web portal introducing parents and educators to the science of learning. She most recently wrote about empathy for the neuroscience research Dana Foundation Web site and for the Dana blog about teen learning about drug abuse via social media based on a case study about the Sara Bellum Blog published in February, 2013, in The Journal of Social Marketing.Payes is founder and principal of WordsWork Communications, a social marketing firm applying cutting-edge communications to bring research to life.

Time Travel: Not for the Faint of Heart

Florence. Just like I pictured it.

Ponte Vecchio Florence

Florence, Italy

It’s a timeless scene. Or so we imagine. What if you were traveling there from Washington, D.C. in 2014 — but your vacation destination was 1492?

Anyone serious about travel knows there’s preparation involved. Google Maps, Trip Advisor recommendations, knowing where there are ATMs compatible with your bank’s….maybe even a finding a good Groupon.

But what if the travel you were about to embark on had none of the conveniences of modern life. In fact, what if it was not modern at all?

time travelers guide to survival

Credit: Topatoco

For the time traveler, this poses added challenges. After all, one can hardly Google Leonardo da Vinci’s atelier in Florence–when no one in this century knows where it was. It’s difficult to plan how much money to carry with you when you couldn’t even find that currency anymore — florins? ducats? Try getting that out of the ATM before you go! And then the question: what not to wear? Think of the scandal of showing up in the court of the Duke of Florence wearing short-shorts, flip-flops, and a tube top!

Charley Morton, the protagonist in Out of Time and time-traveler to-be, has been doing her homework. After exhaustive research on the life and the times of Leonardo da Vinci, pouring over his notebooks, and studying everything she can get her hands  on about Renaissance Italy, she feels prepared.

Still, reading about 15th century Florence and the early Renaissance is not quite the same as experiencing it. Charley’s ideas about society are rooted in modern society’s notions of equal opportunity, gender equality, formal education, and careers. In our world, literacy is a given. For the people of the late 1400s–not so much.

Ideas about the world can change radically in 500 years. So the smart time traveler — if she is able to choose the exact time and destination — needs to be resilient and conscious of her surroundings. And grapple with some serious questions to determine how — or whether — to try to fit into the norms of the society she aims to experience. Or suffer the consequences.

Imagine then, a young woman who shows up with the entire history of the future digitally recorded in a tablet. And who can read, write, and produce her own video games. Who sees photographic evidence in the news about undiscovered oceans in the moons of Saturn. Where drones wage war, not people.

In a world where the printing press has barely been invented and Columbus hasn’t set foot in the New World, what kind of reception might she expect? And what does she need to know to survive?

These are questions I’ve been grappling with as Charley begins to navigate a time and place far distant from her own. Manners, mores, even what and how (and when!) to eat become challenges.

To explore them, we’re launching two new sections of the Web site: What’s Cookin’  for the Renaissance foodie, where it’s not a question of which fork to use at a Florentine banquet, but why aren’t there forks?  Morton’s Manners offers timeless teen-to-teen advice about the trials and tribulations of growing up sane, smart, and successful in this world.

As always, we want to hear from you. What’s on the “must-know/must-have” list for your time travel adventure? Tell us in comments below.

#TwitterFiction 2014: the Festival

The Twitter Fiction Festival has begun. Charley is tweeting daily, although not with much enthusiasm for the form. I am following the hashtag #TwitterFiction on TweetDeck, but #TwFictionFestivalhonestly, for all its vaunted potential, I find the content disappointing. Although Twitter, Andrew Fitzgerald (@MagicAndrew) and other organizers have held out for pushing the envelope on its uses, including making the most of the social aspect of the medium, the majority of authors seem to be marking the celebration by simply tweeting out their novels/screenplays/short stories line-by-line. What could be less fascinating than dribbling out a 10,000 word tome 140 characters at a time?

For @OutofTimeMedia, the challenge has been to attract a sizable enough regular following to encourage regular conversations between my characters and an appropriate audience. Since Out of Time is time travel fiction aimed at young adults, that means attracting the eyeballs of teens–who don’t regularly pay attention to anything they don’t have to…unless it’s something they personally feel passionate about. To legions of Harry Potter fans, if J.K. Rowling started tweeting as Harry, she’d undoubtedly start a Twitter landslide. If Katniss Everdeen jumped in online, fans would go ga-ga.

But pre-publication, this is a tougher sell. I am mid-creation, somewhere between half- and two-thirds through writing the novel. That means my story, despite its unveiling on multiple platforms (an example of an emerging trend in #transmedia storytelling, with an emphasis currently on kid-vid as an anchor), still lingers in the pre-naissance twilight. But more on this trend to come.

Charley and I soldier on nonetheless, and are slowly, but surely, attracting eyeballs and activity to the open-ended tweet-story–where you direct the action and the outcome. Check out a recent slice of the convo.

@braddo @OutofTimeMovie convoWhat’ll it take before the story gains online traction? First priority: publication. Get the actual story out there. Second up: take it to school. High hopes that bringing the opportunity into classrooms, around discussion of how stories are universal…how creating a story leads to strengthening writing skills through research, planning and organization (good old pre-frontal cortex action!)…how they build empathy and compassion in readers who come to care about the characters and identify with their journey…how, for teens in particular, building identity is Job #1…and, in particular, providing strong female role models around STEM learning and careers…all these benefits may accrue from participating in an online tweet storytelling adventure.

But more about all the benefits of learning through story to come.

Meanwhile, tweet some fiction with Charley M & Friends at www.outoftimemedia.com. Are you up for the journey? Pack your bags…we’re taking a ride back in time. Where will Charley and her friends go? Who, among the superheroes of history might they meet? What will they see, hear, smell, taste or touch? What do you want to learn?

The adventure is in your hands @OutofTimeMovie.Tweet on!

 

At SXSWEdu: INTERACTIVE ENGAGEMENT with EdTech Women

http://edtechwomen.com/blog/2014/2/23/announcing-the-edtechwomen-sxswedu-lightning-talk-series-at-the-helm-womens-impact-in-edtech

ANNOUNCING THE EDTECHWOMEN SXSWEDU LIGHTNING TALK SERIES – AT THE HELM :: WOMEN’S IMPACT IN EDTECH


by Margaret Roth

The experiences of women working in EdTech are stories of community, inclusivity, visibility and impact. They are stories that are transforming the industry as we know it.

This year at SXSWedu, EdTechWomen has the honor of showcasing the stories of twelve exemplary women who are making the EdTech Ecosystem grow, change, and accelerate its impact on learners everywhere.

Each speaker will give a five minute Lightning Talk to share their story. Speakers are listed below with the title of their Lightning Talk and a brief biography. The session will be moderated by Margaret Roth, Chief Operating Officer of An Estuary and EdTechWomen Co-Founder. Please join us Monday, March 3 at 3:30PM – 5:30PM in the Hilton Austin Downtown Salon E.

For immediate release.


Heather Hiles :: What a Long Strange Trip It Has Been – My Unique Path to Pathbrite

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Heather is the founder and CEO of Pathbrite, the world’s first Portfolio Learning Platform. Launched in 2012, Pathbrite’s portfolio platform is poised to reshape learning, teaching and assessment across the globe.

Prior to founding Pathbrite, Heather built a career in education, workforce development, and finance spanning nearly 25 years. Her leadership experience include: COO, Break-the-Cyle, Commissioner for the San Francisco Unified School District; ED of Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2); Co-Founder of EARN Asset Building Initiative; and CEO of SFWorks, a nonprofit that transitioned women from welfare into careers.  Heather received her B.A. from University of California at Berkeley in Economic Development and Ethnic Studies and MBA from Yale University.


Erica Gruen :: Is That The Sound of Glass Shattering?

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Erica is a former teacher and educational psychologist, working today on brand, content and business development strategies for the world’s largest media and entertainment companies and for the emerging start-ups that seek the same. She is a Technical Advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a mentor in Socratic Labs, and an advisor to and investor in leading ed tech ventures.

An Emmy Award-winning TV producer and executive, as well as digital pioneer, Erica is known for masterminding one of television’s biggest brands as President/CEO of The Food Network/foodnetwork.com, staging a complete business and brand turnaround. Erica was digital when digital wasn’t cool: way back in 1994, she started one of Madison Avenue’s first digital advertising agencies, Saatchi Interactive.


Alina Vandenberghe :: The Future of Technology for the Pinch and Swipe Generation

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Alina Vandenberghe is the Head of Mobile at Pearson where she is working on the digital classroom of the future. Before joining Pearson Alina worked at Bloomberg & Thomson Reuters where she launched award winning digital products, some keynoted by Steve Jobs at Apple events.

Alina loves the challenge of building products that can impact the lives of millions of users and leading teams made of diverse talents and personalities – designers, engineers, product managers, marketers, sales, architects – and never shy away from challenging deadlines. She spent the last eight years building web and mobile applications on a broad range of platform and technologies, from custom Java to Joomla and from Android to iPad both for enterprise and award winning consumer applications.


Luz Rivas :: A Holistic Approach to Developing Women and Girls’ Interest and Experience with Technology

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Luz is the Founder and Executive Director of DIY Girls. DIY Girls inspires girls and women to explore engineering and technology. For the last 10 years, she has worked in STEM education. She has developed outreach programs focused on increasing underrepresented minorities in STEM fields at Caltech and most recently was a director at Iridescent where she worked on training programs for engineers interested in teaching kids.

She has presented at conferences such as American Society of Engineering Education and Engineers without Borders. Luz started her career at Motorola where she was an Electrical Design Engineer working on position and navigation systems for the automotive industry. She has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from MIT and a Master’s in Technology in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Gina Sipley :: Teachers Who Code: Igniting a New Era of Product Development

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Gina Sipley has been recognized as a Teacher of the Future by the National Association of Independent Schools and an Emerging Leader by the National Council of Teachers of English Conference on English Leadership for her commitments to technology, social justice, and sustainability.

Merging her expertise in writing instruction and her growing Ruby-On-Rails skill set, she is the co-creator with Mercer Hall of Blazer, a writing app developed by teachers. Blazer recreates the intimacy of a writing conference and assists students with writing clear, logical, and dynamic prose. With a decade of experience in K-12 and Higher Education, she is a certified English, Social Studies, Math, and Science teacher who has developed and taught curriculum for a variety of public and private institutions.


Amy Burvall :: #DaretoShare

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A Humanities teacher for 20 years in several of Oahu’s private schools, Amy is a leader in educational technology professional development programs. She is currently teaching Theory of Knowledge at Le Jardin Academy International Baccalaureate World School.

Her work in the History for Music Lovers project YouTube channel, which features history-based parody music videos with almost 10 million views, has appeared in Wired magazine, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Honolulu Magazine, CBC, NPR, and international blogs and media. She was privileged to present at TEDxHonolulu 2011 and serve as co-curator for TEDxHonoluluED 2013. She has presented at Ignite Honolulu, The Association for Advanced Computing in Education, EdTechTeacher iPad Summit, and in Vancouver at the British Columbia Social Studies Teachers Association Conference. Amy has been an active participant-learner in several MOOCS (#etmooc, #edcmooc, and #teachtheweb), named a Webmaker Fellow by Mozilla, and is a firm believer in radical transparency, open ed, and remix culture.


Joan E. Hughes, Ph.D. :: How Mentorship Puts the ‘Ed’ in EdTech

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Dr. Hughes is an Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at the University of Texas, Austin. Dr. Hughes’ research and teaching examines technology integration in teacher preparation programs and K-12 schools.

She studies how teachers and K-12 students use technologies in-and-outside the classroom for learning and how school leaders support classroom technology integration. Her current work examines content-based approaches to educational technology instruction and inquiry approaches to professional learning. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at Michigan State University in 2000 and was an elementary and middle school computer teacher in Silicon Valley in the early 1990s.


Robin Stevens Payes :: Transmedia Storytelling: Learning through Narrative Engagement

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Robin Stevens Payes, author and creator of the young adult time travel adventure Out of Time, writes often about health, research, science, and psychology for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award-winning Sara Bellum Blog and other NIDA and NIH publications on the neuroscience of addiction. She was founding editor-in-chief of LearnNow, the Web portal introducing parents and educators to the science of learning. She most recently wrote about empathy for the neuroscience research Dana Foundation Web site and for the Dana blog about teen learning about drug abuse via social media based on a case study about the Sara Bellum Blog published in February, 2013, in The Journal of Social Marketing.

Payes is founder and principal of WordsWork Communications, a social marketing firm applying cutting-edge communications to bring research to life.


Aoife Dempsey :: Customer Centric Product Development – An Approach for Building Successful Product in a Changing Market

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Aoife has spent her whole career at the intersection of technology and education, having worked in Professional, Higher Education and K-12.

As the Chief Operating Officer of Triumph Learning, she is responsible for determining the digital strategy and developing new product. Her specialty has been identifying new opportunities using a customer co-development approach. Her team were recent recipients of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Literacy grant for their “Get Waggle” product, a practice program launching in July focusing on Smart Practice for ELA and Math.  A native of Cork Ireland, Aoife is based in New York City.


Jodi Lis :: To Reinvent Yourself, You Have to Trust Yourself

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Jodi works in the international development sector integrating, supporting and developing ways technology can transform and enhance in teaching and learning in places that are not always connected, don’t have electricity 24/7 and are at varying stages of accessing technology.  She is currently ICT for Development (ICT4D) Advisor at Jhpiego.  She has provided technical leadership to educational technology interventions in Africa including Kenya, Liberia and Zambia. Living in West Africa for 13 years, she managed a USAID-funded private sector development project, owned a tourist shop specializing in supporting locally created products and taught at an international school.  In The Gambia she directed an organization to promote the use of technology in education and worked with primary schools country-wide to develop technology programs.  She has a M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.


Jennifer Argüello :: Let the Flappy Bird Actually Fly

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Jennifer is a Senior Special Projects Advisor who devises strategies with the Kapor Center to diversify Silicon Valley. She is a speaker and thought leader on women in technology and Latino(a)s in STEM with a mind for the geeky and a heart for social change.

For almost two decades she has been a leader in organizations focused on the advancement of women and minorities in STEM. She leads Latino2, the LATISM branch that focuses on empowering Latino(a) founders to build successful ventures to scale. Her work has resulted in much industry recognition, recently being named a 2013 Silicon Valley Latino 40 under 40 Latinos2Watch in Science and Technology, 2011 Femmeonomics Top 50 Women to Watch in Tech2010; and 2010 National Association of Professional Women: Professional Woman of the Year.


Beth Rabbitt :: Mobilizing Next Gen Support for Next Gen Teachers

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Beth Rabbitt is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator. Beth has a decade of experience in education entrepreneurship, human capital, consulting, and finance. Her work at TLA focuses on human capital and helping districts build staff effectiveness to ensure blended learning transformation efforts are successful.

Beth was most recently the Director of Human Capital and Innovation at Touchstone Education, a blended learning charter management organization.  Prior to that, she worked for several years as an Associate Partner at the NewSchools Venture Fund, where she identified, supported, and helped to launch and scale innovative education ventures.


Margaret Roth :: Moderator and Ever “At The Helm” of EdTechWomen 

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Margaret Roth is the Chief Operating Officer of An Estuary, a Baltimore based company that leverages mobile tech, data, and social collaboration in designing sustainable technologies built to support and enrich PD in the education field.

She is the former Director of Operations for the Office of Experiential Education at the Johns Hopkins University. She also acted as Director of Whitewater Kayaking and as the Leadership Development Coordinator where she designed and taught a variety of leadership courses on inter and intra-personal communication, facilitation, team building, and group management. Additionally, Margaret was on the launch team of the Digital Harbor Foundation. There she led the EdTechLink teacher professional development program and acted as coordinator of elementary and secondary student programming.