The Vancouver Sun asks: Can Technology Improve Literacy Skills?

Last week The Vancouver Sun‘s digital life writer Gillian Shaw approached Erica Hargreave to discuss the effect technology is having on literacy skills.  An issue often discussed in the Ahimsa Media office and, it would seem, many other offices too. Gillian’s article went to press on Saturday, and it was fascinating to read the full analysis, and hear other opinions.

Gillian discusses the use of technology in our schools and the changing face of learning at home.  Many, myself included, were initially fearful, of social media’s growth, particularly amongst children and teens.  Spelling seemed to go out the window, closely followed by sentence structure and even sentences themselves.  But Erica makes a great point about twitter’s 140 character rule: “with young people having to tighten up what they say, they are learning to write very precisely, to focus on what they want to say.”

Another educational tool which I had not previously considered is the ipad, Gillian writes:  “Today’s preschoolers can read books on an iPad that brings the touch features of a traditional print book: they can flip pages and read it sitting on their laps in the back seat of the car, not only at a desktop or laptop computer. The digital version also brings enhancements, from Alice literally tumbling down the rabbit hole on the screen in Alice in Wonderland to books that read aloud and let children take part in the story creation and other features.”

Photo by Tim Bishop for Weber Shandwick Worldwide

One of the reasons we, at Ahimsa Media, love technology is the ease with which it allows us to interact with ease, and The Vancouver Sun piece reflected this.  Less than a day after publication, an email popped into our inbox, from retired news reporter Alexander Young.  He had just read the article and found us through it.  It was timely as he has recently taken his first step into personal publication by beginning a blog, and he too has been pondering the issue of literacy.

He said: “As far as faulty spelling and grammar may be concerned, the point is whether the viewers of the writer can be understood. Take a look at usage in e-mail and facebook and twitter. It’s a fright if you insist on perfect spelling and grammar. But that, as I see it, is mainly because the people, especially the younger generations, who use those avenues of expression are in a hurry, they have little time for worrying about  typos and grammatical niceties, and they comfortably use multitudes of abbreviations and graphic symbols. So cut them a little slack.”

So, as Gillian concludes that if technology is used correctly it can improve literacy.  Please enjoy the full article here: Can technology improve literacy skills? Yes, if done right.

And in true interactive style we want to hear from you, do you agree or disagree?

The NSI speaks to Ahimsa Media (part 2)

As promised, please enjoy installment two of Liz Hover’s NSI interview with Erica Hargreave and Susan Brinton. Here, the conversation turns to the unknown elements of applying to a brand new funding stream and our project’s future should the application be successful. Erica also takes the time to briefly discuss the funding changes within the convergent branch of the CMF. Since the podcast went live the CMF have announced an overwhelming number of applications, pushing back decision dates to October 2010.

Emme Rogers sets her sights on the CMF Experimental Stream

That means that Emme will have to wait a little longer to begin development on her travel adventures. We will keep you updated on the project’s progress as we learn more and if we forget, I’m sure Emme will shout about it all on her site.

The NSI speaks to Ahimsa Media (part 1)

The Ahimsa Media office began this summer abuzz with application preparations for The Canada Media Fund’s (CMF) first ever Experimental Funding Stream. As the printer fell silent, the regular working day returned and the waiting game began, our phone rang. Liz Hover, Digital Media Manager for the National Screen Institute (NSI), was calling to set up an interview with Erica Hargreave and Susan Brinton to discuss the application process as it related to our pitch. Already familiar with our character Emme Rogers, Liz was interested to hear how the development pitch for Emme’s Travel Adventures had gone.

Unsurprisingly, when the questions began to flow, the topics of industry changes and application insights became so engrossing that the conversation generated too much content for one interview. Therefore, two podcasts were created with the first focusing on Emme, the growing collaboration between the broadcast and digital world. As well as logistical tips alongside an insight into the lessons that we learned throughout the application process. Please enjoy the first instalment…the second half will not be far behind.

Bluepoint Wins the SCN Licence!

Saskatchewan Communcations Network (SCN) has always been close to our heart’s here at Ahimsa.  They (and Joanne McDonald) were the first to spot Erica Hargreave’s talents as a creative producer and aired our first educational series, The Magic Backpack.  Therefore, we have kept a keen eye on the bidding process of the network’s license and were pleased to hear today’s announcement by Saskatchewan Government that Bluepoint Investment Corporation won the contract.

© Liz Kearsley 2010 Richard Gustin (left) and Marcus Guske (right) of Bluepoint Investment Corp pictured at this year’s Yorkton Film Festival with Minister Dustin Duncan and Valerie Creighton.

“Bluepoint offered the best bid,” Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Dustin Duncan said.  “Along with buying the assets there is also a commitment to buy new Saskatchewan programming content that will support the film industry and to develop digital content.”

© Liz Kearsley 2010 Dustin Duncan, Minister of tourism, parks, culture and sport, Saskatchewan speaking at this year’s Yorkton Film Festival lunch in his honour.

Bluepoint are planning to ensure a community focus is alongside growing as a broadcaster, and the government felt they were the best fit to ensure a continuation of a Saskatchewan educational broadcaster.

CEO and founder of Bluepoint Investment Corporation Bruce Claassen reiterated that by saying: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to operate SCN in the spirit of its original vision, yet with a real chance to grow its audience base with additional programming.”

Photo Editing for the Interactive Audience

Alyzee Lakhani on Spanish Banks beach, shot for Ahimsa Media.

Caption accuracy and editing used to be the main tasks us photographers had to focus on following a shoot.  Today that has all changed.  With a multitude of platforms to display our photographs, most freelancers now have to get to grips with internet distribution too, on sites like photoshelter, flickr and stock agencies.  As a result intelligent and extensive keywording has become a vital tool.

My newspaper background means that I have always been most at home with the new agencies for any sales beyond a newspaper or magazine.  I, like many British press photographers, have many photographs listed with Alamy, yet as my client list widens so do the places I display my work, and with that I have found my workflow techniques evolving.

Everyone has their own process of editing using different software, be it the camera’s e.g. Nikon Browser, professional e.g. Adobe Lightroom or computer based e.g. iphoto.  I use Adobe Lightroom and have found it is a great time saver for multi-use captioning and keywording, as well as embedding photographer information into your images prior to editing.

However it was not until I uploaded our coverage of the 2010 Yorkton Film Festival to flickr that I discovered just how much time can be saved by properly preparing your images.  I’ll use Lightroom processes here as an example, but different software has similar options.

When I open up Lightroom 2 and attach a memory card an option box pops up (see below).  It includes a variety of things you can input for the entire photo batch.  In the local newspaper game each download usually involved several jobs so I wouldn’t fill much of this in, bar my copyright information, (which I have pre-programmed) so I would put in minimal keywording or captioning then download the pictures.

A lightroom screen grab of opening page information

This has recently changed when I realised just how much time can be saved by keywording each image prior to upload and to batch keyword jobs initially. One reason for this is that on flickr you must place quotation marks around each phrase longer than one word to tag or keyword and then a simple space between single words.  Whereas, most other systems use the simple comma to separate phrases.  As a result most of us need to continually remind ourselves to use this method, and it can become awkward when cutting and pasting repeating words.

Whereas, in Lightroom you can place your group keywords in that initial download and then easily add individual words whilst editing.  Take for example the image below:

Screen shot of Adobe Lightroom 2, with keywording options open

On the right hand side of the page the panel gives a variety of keywording options.  You have a list of the keywords already attached to the image (from initial download), then a section to add more, and options for the programme to remember past keywords in groups for you.  It allows you to easily click and add without re-typing.  I tend to keep that option on recent keywords, due to my varying shoots.   Below the keywording panel, is also a keyword list, with ALL your past keywords, which can be handy if you forget spellings. Below this is a section detailing your metadata.  The metadata is crucial picture information: copyright information, caption and shooting data.  This can be edited at either the download section, or within Lightroom. You can also input it in Adobe Photoshop.  (I will explain in a further post the importance of metadata in relation to copyright theft and in particular facebook)

I have found that inputting all of this information into Lightroom significantly speeds up my uploads and keeps my files up to date should I wish to use the photos on a different outlet.  It also means that my contact information stays with my image (bar placing on facebook) so if you wish to upload to various sites you do not need to keep typing the same information.

Embedded information is also very useful should you later wish to put the pictures onto a blog, for example using WordPress.  It can help bring further traffic to the site, because the photos keywords are also added to the SEO of the post.

Bringing Together Ahimsa’s Education and Broadcast Worlds

Here at Ahimsa we relish our diverse skillset and now our very own Erica Hargreave has helped us add a new string to our busy bow with the airing of her educational kids science TV show: The Magic Backpack episode The Greenhouse Effect.

Whilst Ahimsa Media were co-producers, multi-tasker Erica had a starring role, was the show’s creator and writer joining forces with Kevin Fraser who took on the show’s story editing aspects.  I’m sure you’ll all enjoy the clip below to see Erica in action.

Exciting Times for Media

Times are a changing in the Media World and we are highly excited by some of the most recent evolutions.   Particularly here in Canada where the new Canadian Media Fund (CMF) has been announced bringing in an experimental element. This is a perfect opportunity for members of the digital media community to get funding and branch out, trying new projects that funds would not have previously been available for.

This is the first year such funding options have existed here in Canada and although the fund’s guidelines are still evolving, it is this open invite for submissions that we feel can allow the creative juices to follow.  The CMF are also widening their view towards the advantages of transmedia storytelling for their more traditional television fund with the convergent program.  This provides exciting opportunities for traditional media to discover new avenues with their storytelling and really have fun with the new challenges and opportunities that the changing landscape of media offers.

In keeping with the times, the Yorkton Film Festival has really embraced the idea of Interactive Storytelling, and has contracted us to help them to tell their online story.  They are rebranding their image, doing a bit of marketing for the festival and the Golden Sheaf Nominees, and acting as a case study example to festival delegates of how interactive tools can be incorporated into their stories.  Way to go Yorkton!  And thank you for inviting us along for the ride!

To follow along on the Yorkton Film Festival’s online story, check them out on:

In keeping with this model of forward thinking and moving towards the future of media, the Yorkton Film Festival is hosting some great workshops on Friday May 28th, 2010 aimed at thinking convergently, including a few with our own Erica Hargreave.  Here is what you can look forward to:

Friday May 28

  • 8.30 am – 9:00 am:  Blast Off – Social Media at the Festival, Ramada Yorkton

A look at telling the Festival’s story using social media and how filmmakers can use this to build the buzz around their productions, with Erica Hargreave.

  • 9:15 am – 10:15 am: Panasonic Workshop and Presentation, Ramada Yorkton

Panasonic Canada presents and discusses the latest Panasonic video cameras and technology, including notes and news on 3D.

  • 10:30 am – 12:00pm:  Let’s Play CanCon Convergence Roulette, Ramada Yorkton

A fun filled game show where panelists compete by trying to adapt new convergent technologies and applications to classic Canadian TV shows. Hosted by Robert Hardy. Panelists Cam Bennett, Trent Haus, Rob Bryanton, Brenton Sawatzky and Erica Hargreave.

  • 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm: Which Way To The Future? Ramada Yorkton

Spend an afternoon with some of the biggest names in the industry, as they try to make sense of and figure out where the rapidly changing screen based media industry is headed. Hosted by Richard Gustin. Panelists Cindy Witten, Daniel Cross, Norm Bolen, Valerie Creighton and Rudy Buttignol.

Saturday May 29th, 2010 at the Yorkton Film Festival hosts some always needed industry staples, putting you face-to-face with the broadcasters, talking finance and actual production, and discovering how to get your proverbial foot in the door.

Saturday May 29

  • 8:30 am – 9:00 am: Blast Off – Social Media at the Festival Part 2, Ramada Yorkton

Explore ways to use social media as a storytelling device on your projects, with Erica Hargreave.

  • 9:15 am – 10:15 am:  Now’s Your Chance, Ramada Yorkton.

Table-hopping group discussions with industry leaders, broadcasters and distributors.  Ask the questions you’ve always wanted answered.  Join industry leaders for straight talking, small group discussions.  A rare honesty that Yorkton offers, unlikely to be found at larger festivals.

  • 10:30 am – 12:00 pm: Oh, Oh! They Said Yes – Now What? Ramada Yorkton

You’ve finally pitched a project that a broadcaster/investor likes enough to make an offer. Join the panel of experts as they share insights and ideas of what has to happen in order to get the proposal into a finished project. Hosted by Joanne McDonald. Panelists Stephen Onda and Peter Raymont.

  • 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm:  My Big Break, Ramada Yorkton.

Five successful Saskatchewan film and television producers discuss their first big “success” and how they found it (or how it found them).  Hosted by Bruce Steele.  Panelists Michael Snook, Jeff Beesley, Dennis Jackson, Melanie Jackson and Anand Ramayya.

Click here to register for this year’s festival.

We hope to see you in Yorkton!