Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the month “July, 2016”

What in the multiverse?

the mighty avengers.The world has gone mad for comic books. I believe it’s because technology has finally reached the point where the super feats the heroes undertake no longer look fake. But we are inundated with Leagues and Avengers and Squads and vigilantes, mutants, inhumans, anti-heroes and all sorts of other costumed characters. We have comics and TV shows and movies and computer games. Even the Simpsons have gotten in on the act.

I have a couple of students at school who are massive fans of comic books. Every week we get new graphic novels, collections and standalone stories from Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Deadpool, Spider-man and the Green Lantern Corp.

It’s given me a good chance to catch up.

If my memory is correct, I read heaps of comics as a child. But I never really got into the collection aspect. And I don’t think I read the “right” type of comic.

Archie ComicsIn my younger days, I read lots of Archie, lots of Duck Tales and Darkwing Duck.

As I got older, my memories are of Moon Knight, Lobo and the Silver Surfer. I read the What If… comics, where the Watcher showed us what would happen if Peter Parker married Mary Jane, or didn’t marry Mary Jane.

turtlesI bought Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – the Eastman and Laird graphic novels to start with, and then the cartoon adaptations once they ran out. I read Cerberus the Aardvark and Groo.

And then I moved onto Heavy Metal and National Lampoon. I read Cracked and Mad, which gave me a good round education on what was going on in movies without having seen a lot of them.

I read the odd Batman. I read quite a few Superman one offs. But I wasn’t around for any of the big things that happened in comics.

deadrobinIt’s weird, looking at it from the outside. I remember seeing the covers when Robin was killed by the Joker. That was huge. I mean HUGE. My comic reading friends were devastated. The issue in mint condition was worth a fortune.
deathofsupermanI remember when the front page of the newspaper told us that Superman had died. I saw the comic covers and I saw the hardcover book adaptation, but I didn’t read either of them.

I remember finding out that Peter Parker had stood up in front of the press and outed himself as Spider-man (or was it Spider-man outing himself as Peter Parker?). But I still haven’t read through that story. That was part of the first Civil War wasn’t it?

I missed Crisis on Infinite Earths, but by the time Flash and Arrow were on TV, I at least knew what that was all about. I didn’t realise it was so long ago.

I have a lot of catching up to do. But it’s worth it. It’s worth doing it now, with all of the stories collected into handy graphic novels, instead of subscribing to ten different comics just to get one story.

knightfallNow I’ve read Knightfall and I wish I’d read it before the movie came out.

I’ve read Dark Knight Returns and Year One and The Killing Joke and they are absolute masterpieces (but I get why there is such a controversy over the Killing Joke).

I read Red Son and I think I missed some of the references due to not having been in touch with comics for so long.

I read the Death of Superman and I have no idea who Lex Luthor is meant to be or why he was speaking in an Australian accent.

And then I started in on the new stuff.

flashpointI read Flashpoint, and loved it. I liked how they rebooted the universe, especially as I didn’t have decades of backstory stuck in my head. Most of what I know of Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman and The Flash comes from TV and movies (I still like the 80s Flash show and I’m glad so many of the cast came back for the new show).

And from Kevin Smith. He’s given me a much better appreciation for the DC universe, both from his podcasts, from references in his movies (which made me look stuff up) and from his Batman comics (write the third one, damn you!).

And I started catching up on the New 52. Most of that comes from the two boys in the library who regularly put forward suggestions for me to read next. So I was just getting into this rebooted universe…

rebirth-0b86eAnd then Rebirth happened.

I’m lost again. There are too many Flashes and too many linked story-lines and I have to buy seven series to make sense of the basic timeline. I have to let it go and wait for the good stuff to float to the top and get collected into omnibuses again.

While that happens, I still keep to my eclectic reading schedule. I might be over the madness of intertwining titles, but I still love comics.

walking deadI’m just behind the TV series in Walking Dead and loving it, although I don’t think they should be out for just anyone to borrow in the school library.

I love the adaptations and new stories in the Dresden Universe.

The comic book adaptation of The Stand is phenomenal and the prequels to the Gunslinger books are absolutely worth it.

I love stories written in comic form more than I like universes written into multiple series. Standalones like The Watchmen and…

samdman

Oh, God help me, I forgot about the Sandman.

I found out about the Sandman at university. My friend Shay was living with some really cool people, interested in things my Kyabram bumpkin self hadn’t even heard of. Sandman was part of that. Sandman was a gateway drug to the rest of Neil Gaiman, along with Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens. Those two things lifted me out of the staples of Stephen King and Tolkien and into a whole new realm of writing. Comics are cool. Anyway, back to the list.

Oh, and the continuation of the Buffyverse. Oh, just anything with Joss Whedon in it.

Speaking of which, I’ve almost completely ignored the Marvel universe.

deadpoolI suppose most of that is that the boys in the library don’t seem to care about Marvel beyond Marvel Zombies (which I hate) and Deadpool (which is great, but so full of multiverse backstory I can’t get right into it).

All of my Marvel knowledge comes from the TV shows and movies, post about 1984.

I want to know what’s going on, but even reading collections like Age of Ultron still has me at a major disadvantage. I need to go back. I need some new library monitors with a Marvel fixation.

What series keep you up until late at night?

All the extra reality

pokehatePokemon Go has polarised my Facebook feed. Half of my friends are right into it. The other half are groaning over the next Bulbasoar picture. I downloaded the app four days after it was released in Australia, got my wife and daughter hooked and haven’t looked back. I justify this because as the Head of IT at my school I need to know what’s popular in technology. I justify this because as a father, I am looking after my daughter’s health by increasing our exercise while hunting for new species of Pokemon.

I justify this because it’s a very engaging game with a strong community of followers. And it’s fun.

But it has brought to the forefront a conversation that I have been having for years about the value of AR and VR. That’s Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality for the uninitiated.

VR booth from the early 90s

Dactyl Nightmare VR game from 1991

Virtual Reality is the replacement of our reality with another, complete, world. You wear a headset or a helmet and when you move your head, your virtual head moves as well so that you can look around. In the early nineties, this was going to be the next big thing. I spent hours in bulky armour carrying a pistol and shooting pterodactyls on the VR system at a games arcade. I did my major project for my Bachelor of Computing in VRML, replicating the (then) new Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre so that people could go on a virtual tour of the space.

VR and VRML were going to replace the Internet and television and movies would never be the same.

Fast forward twenty years. VRML is nowhere to be seen – a victim of optional plugins and varying standards. VR went into hibernation until the Occulus Rift dragged it kicking and growling from its den.

And now, twenty years after I foolishly specialised in online 3D navigation, we are finally ready to have the VR and AR conversation again.

At this year’s DLTV DigiCon, my favourite keynote speaker was Josh Caratelli, a game designer from Big Ant Studios. The point I took from his keynote was this: VR and AR are not the future of technology. Getting involved in this now isn’t early adoption. We should already be on top of this.

Oh, and holograms aren’t that far off either.

So, racing to catch up to where I was twenty years ago with my MSAC model and my exploding pterodactyls, how can I introduce/use AR and VR into our curriculum?

Here’s a couple of ideas:

Scavenger hunts

We have school tours come through on a pretty regular basis. We have Grade 5 Come and See programs where primary students spend the morning doing Year 7 subjects to get an idea of how the school works. We have orientation days and art exhibitions and parent information nights. If we could enhance the school using AR we’d save on paper and showcase the brilliance of our student modellers and programmers.

My plan:

I’ve made a list of things around the school that could easily be modelled. I’ll hand one of these to each of the students in my Year 8 Engineering and Design class. They’ll create these models. We export them into Aurasma – an excellent AR tool for IOS. We match them to their real life counterparts and as parents move through the school with the app open, 3D models will pop up, with the name of the student next to them. Instant exhibition space.

Exhibition Spaces

Speaking of which…

We have regular art exhibitions at the school. If a parent held their phone up to the picture, an information sheet with an explanation of the work, their photo and maybe some sketches could pop up on the screen to add information to the picture.

qr_code_without_logoOr we could go old school and instead of having the student’s name and homeroom, we simply have a QR code, which links to an online space with their production journal and concept art scanned in.

The boys would set up their own pages, demonstrating competency across a number of DigiTech areas.

Value added Literacy

Book-e-mon. Gotta read ‘em all.

When you use Aurasma on Small Gods, it will pop up a review.

AR book reviews

This is the slogan I want for Book Week this year. I’m going to have my class all create an image with a book review for their favourite book. Add in pictures and their names. And then put each of these into Aurasma. The teachers can do the same. As students return and review books, the librarian can check to see if the book is one of the enhanced versions and if it is, the student wins a prize.

In the near future:

Other possibilities would be having a Microsoft Hololens when they finally come out. The Arts department could run virtual sculpturing sessions. We could add AR instructions to woodwork classes. Minecraft club would suddenly be a LOT more interesting.

I’d also take a look at the new HP Sprout.

And that’s just Augmented Reality. What about replacing reality altogether?

VR

Mecha-PTBIn Year 10 we run VET Creative Industries in partnership with the Academy of Interactive Entertainment. We also run Game Design, using Game Maker and Unreal Engine. My plan is to get hold of a HTC Vive system and start building models that we can import into that virtual world. I’d get the boys to recreate the school and run virtual paintball sessions created by the more active Game Design classes. We could run virtual tours of the school.

Enhancement and Acceleration

All this extra reality is a great way to enhance our educational possibilities. AR and VR give the students opportunities to excel beyond the regular curriculum restrictions. Posters could become multimedia extravaganzas. Teachers could walk through a real life recreation of an Egyptian pyramid. We could split the atom in Science without blowing up half of the school.

I think the other big point I took away from this year’s DigiCon is that we need to stop limiting our students and instead let them learn in the best way for them. The other thing I learned is that I have a LOT still left to learn.

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