Sometime in the Not Too Distant Future

Out of the Box January / January 17, 2019

-by Thomas Mennella-


Behind the Video

It started, as many of my ideas do, in the shower (oops, TMI? Sorry about that). When life is as hectic as mine is – with work, kids, FLGI, etc. – often times the shower is the only time when a mind settles and drifts. I had just finished writing my pieces for this month’s issue of FLR and sent them off to my two wonderful co-editors, Dan Jones and Terra Graves, for feedback. Reflecting on the GEEFL elements, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be something if ten years from now, the GEEFL elements are so embedded into education that even kids frame their school experience in the context of the elements…?” That was the seed of the idea. Then I thought, maybe I should write a third piece about that. Then I thought, maybe I should write it in the form of a script; a playful little script meant to be silly and fun. And then, my remaining time in the shower was spent writing that script in my head.

I envisioned it just like the movie It’s a Wonderful Life–hokey and corny to a fault. A fire burning, a father and his son talking. A time, ten years in the future, set in the past. I wrote the piece and sent it to my colleagues for editing (being pretty sure it was far too out-there to ever see the light of day in FLR). Terra Graves responded to it first. Let me say this about Terra: if you ever have something that’s kinda good, and you’d like it to be extraordinarily great, give it to Terra Graves. Her edits, her ideas and her suggestions border on alchemy. She can literally spin lead into gold; the most talented editor I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. Terra said, ‘Looks good – maybe make it in PowToon’ (I’m paraphrasing).

I don’t have much experience with PowToon, so I gave up on that suggestion soon after reading it. But the larger idea – maybe make it – gnawed at me. Then I remembered Plotagon; an incredible iOS app that can take any dialogue (typed or recorded) and animate it with pre-selected characters in pre-selected settings. I moved the script into Plotagon, recorded the lines of ‘Mr. Jensen,’ changed the child character to a girl, and recruited my ten-year-old daughter (yes, Maddy is her name) to voice her. Maddy has an awesome gift for anything theatric, and with her lines recorded and added to the skit, my dialogue sounded… well… awful. So there I was rerecording my lines, doing my best to act, and re-recording them some more with Maddy saying, “It’s OK, Dad. Just say it like you’re really talking to me. One more try. I’m sure it’ll sound great next time.” Acting coaching from my ten-year-old; a good dose of humility for me and some awesome QT with my daughter. But eventually (with my wife as the narrator) we got it all done, and after a bit of some post-production magic in iMovie and Screencast-o-Matic, I was able to create the video you just watched. I do hope you liked it, but far more importantly, never forget: It’s a Wonderful Table. – TM

Thomas Mennella
Dr. Thomas Mennella Mennella
I have been an instructor in higher education for over ten years. Starting as a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, and then moving on to an Assistant Professorship at Delaware State University (DSU), a small public university, I experimented with Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and was an early-adopter of the iClicker student response system. Now an Associate Professor at Bay Path University, a private liberal arts institution in western Massachusetts, I primarily teach Genetics, Cell and Molecular Biology. I am Flipped Learning 3.0 Level -II Certified and a founding member of the FLGI International Faculty.

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