Technology

Early Steps into Web3 Publishing

Over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with a set of emerging technologies in the publishing field, collectively called Web3 publishing solutions. Available tools in Web3 include smart-contracts, immutable ledgers, decentralized files, token-mediated licenses, autonomous organizations, artificial intelligence, and more. There’s a lot to learn, but these building blocks can be used to empower authors and reader communities, and to provide teachers with a cross-curricular bridge between STEM and Language Arts.

In their most favorable format, the upcoming generation of ebooks promises to be censorship- and piracy-resistant while providing a more equitable platform for diverse voices and new opportunities for collaborative storytelling.

Or it could all go horribly wrong, magnifying all of publishing’s existing problems while introducing new ones. A subset of these technologies enabled the NFT hype bubble, cryptocurrency speculation, and sketchy practices from some unscrupulous scammers. There are environmental concerns, although the best blockchains are orders of magnitude better than the worst, and are becoming incrementally more sustainable over time. There are many cautionary tales to learn from and reminders that the same tools, in different hands, can be used to build or to demolish.

In an attempt to guide the nascent Web3 publishing industry in a positive direction, I believe authors and readers need to get involved now, in these earliest days of Web3, and demand solutions that will lead to the best possible future.

In that spirit, with publishing partners Cent and Cryptoversal Books, I’ve been blockchain-publishing Wordler Village, named for the primary settlement in a REALM that’s been cursed by a Word Wizard. To stave off total destruction, the villagers must select a Wordler each morning to quest for the five-letter Word of Protection that will give their land one more day of peace.

Wordler Village is not a middle-grade series per se, in that I’m not writing it with middle-grade readers in mind, but as a middle-grade author, I naturally tend toward light-hearted fun amid the exploration of serious issues. And incidentally, the pool of five-letter words I’m using to generate the protagonists of each day’s adventure come from a familiar source that’s widely available.

Representation of a Wordle puzzle being turned into a story token using the author’s doodle artwork.

Story episodes of Wordler Village are available online. They’re always free to read and, for a limited time, in limited quantities, they’re free to collect. The revolutionary Web3-publishing part is that when you add an episode to your collection, you own the story token, just like you might own a physical book.

The story token can be moved from your online account to another storage space like you might move a book from one shelf to another. The story token can be given away. It can be traded. It can be sold. Each move is recorded to a ledger that proves authenticity, links to authorized and unaltered content, and belongs only to you.

Wordler Village has succeeded as a proof-of-concept, putting thousands of story tokens into the hands of thousands of readers. The project has proven that Web3 stories can be put into the world in a sustainable and responsible way, on an energy-efficient blockchain, using carbon offsets, with a focus on readers instead of investors.

Once Web3 makes it possible for digital stories to be owned and verified, the magic can really begin. Story tokens can provide admission to events or communities. Smart-contracts can personalize story content to each reader’s preferences. Tokens can link to licenses allowing collaboration on derivative stories. The ledger of token owners can provide a way for authors to reward their loyal readers with ongoing bonus content.

Today’s tokens have unlimited potential, but only if we speak up now to demand Web3 standards that protect author rights and provide new reader experiences. Up next on my personal to-do list is to incorporate AI artwork, provide character stats to make the story into a game, and link story tokens to licenses to allow readers to become co-authors.

The current storyline of Wordler Village is wrapping up this week. The NIGHTfall storyline deals with the aftermath of a Wordle that I failed to solve—I mean, of a Wordler who failed to locate a Word of Protection by the end of her assigned day.

This week’s episodes will remain available into next month. I’d be honored if they were the first Web3 stories in your collection. They’re free, they’re intended to last forever, and I’m hopeful that they can be the start of something beneficial to everyone. I’m also happy to answer any questions about this format and what we may be able to shape it into.

Using Picture Books to Teach Middle Grade and Beyond

Teaching with Picture Books

by Robyn Gioia, M.Ed.

When most people think of picture books, they think of cute pictures and feel-good stories that thrill children from ages 0-7. But, teachers know better. There is much more to picture books than meets the eye.

Students have grown up with visuals since the day they were born. From elementary to high school, picture books can spark the imagination and open the eyes as an introduction to a subject. Picture books boil down to the main topic and draw the reader in with interesting tidbits. Our public libraries are full of wonderful picture books ready to do the job. Picture books inspire conversations and provide topics for research. They allow insightful tie-ins to curriculum and present opportunities for projects. Their pictures bring the topic to life. They create understanding unlike anything else. They are quick reads that can fit into almost any schedule.

Take the book, The Turtle Ship by Helena Ku Ree.

One of the greatest historical war heroes in the S. Korean culture was Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. He is known for saving Korea from Japan, a conquering country with a formidable naval fleet. Because of his design, the undefeatable Turtle ship had the ability to defeat the Japanese. His larger than life statue looms high over the skyline in Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul.

In the picture book, a young Sun-Sin comes to life as a boy who is afraid to enter a shipbuilding contest sponsored by the King. The King needs an indestructible ship able to withstand ongoing invasions from the sea. Sun-Sin decides to accept the challenge. The author imagines what experiences might have influenced a young Sun-Sin’s turtle ship design, and from there the story is told.

Teaching Middle Grade with Picture Books

(Artwork from “Fighting Ships of the Far East (2)” by Stephen Turnbull © Osprey Publishing, part of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc)

The Turtle Ship picture book goes step by step through the design engineering process. Young Sun-Sin tries and fails at several design attempts before creating the design known today. This was something I was able to use in my 6th-grade science class. As we talked about the boy Sun-Sin and identified how the process was evolving, it created a bridge to understanding the design process. We had also learned that historically, a lot of designs were inspired by nature. The Wright brothers studied birds before designing the first airplane. In our story, Sun-Sin looks to his turtle for solutions.

When I used The Turtle Ship book in our lesson, my students were fascinated by the Turtle ship design from the 1500s. They learned the ship could rotate in one spot and fire cannons from each of its sides. They discovered soldiers were encased inside the ship so the enemy could not attack. They loved that the top was curved and covered in spikes to keep from being boarded by the enemy. They also learned that the hull was designed to ram into other vessels.

The Korean Turtle Ship

The turtle ship became one of the top engineering designs in warship history. You can read about this incredible ship and its design ingenuity on the U.S. Naval Institute News website. USNI News asked its readers, “What is the greatest warship of all time and why?” The answer can be found on the USNI News website https://news.usni.org/2016/04/06/survey-results-what-is-the-greatest-warship-of-all-time

Teachers in grade levels from primary to high school have used this story to inspire students with a wide range of activities and topics.

Engineering Design Process (EDP)

Research on Korean Inventions

Historical Fiction Comparative Study

Creating a Historical Timeline between Asia and American History

Writing Sijo, a Korean Poetic Form

Analyzing Civic Characteristics of Main Characters

Origin Story with Read-Alouds and Comparisons with Multiple Sources

Teaching Korea through Writing

Teaching Modern Asian Culture through History

Creative Writing

Using the Glossary for Vocabulary Understanding

Study of Honor

Compare and Contrast Other Korean Historical Picture Books

STEAM: Create a Vessel that Holds the Most Weight

STEAM: Design a Boat That is the Fastest

Downloadable Teaching resources:

Lee and Lowe Teaching Guide: TURTLE-SHIP.TG

Historical Information on Admiral Yi Sun-Sin: Admiral Yi Sunsin_KSCPP(1)

 

STEM Tuesday – Shining the Light on Technology, Engineering, and Math — Interview with Author Elizabeth Rusch

STEM TUESDAY from the mixed up files

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Elizabeth Rusch! She’s the author of this month’s featured technology/engineering book, The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the OceanThis fascinating installment in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Scientists in the Field series tackles the engineering challenge of turning ocean waves into useable electricity. As Horn Book‘s glowing review explains, “Rusch fully explores the engineering process, capturing the determined, entrepreneurial spirit of the profiled engineers as well as the need for creative problem-solving and ingenuity, a test-and-retest mentality, a high tolerance for failure, and perseverance through the quest for research funding.” The Next Wave received starred reviews from both Kirkus and School Library Journal.

Mary Kay Carson: Why did you decide to write The Next Wave?

Elizabeth Rusch: I keep a folder of clippings of newspaper and magazine articles that interest me. Once in a while, I read through them to see if there are any topic hiding in there that I might want to cover. About ten years ago I found that I had clipped a bunch of articles on scientists developing these cool devices to harness the movement of ocean waves and turn it into electricity. One Oregon scientist Annette von Jouanne was not only inventing clever devices but also finding ways to support other engineers and inventors in their work. I thought she would be a perfect place to start. I interviewed her and accompanied her as she tested a new device that bobbed up and down in the water and wrote an article about her work for Smithsonian magazine. As I was reporting and writing that piece, a little voice kept saying: Kids would find this fascinating – they love the beach, the ocean, invention, and environment. So I expanded my research to include the stories of other ocean energy inventors, such as “The Mikes” —Mike Morrow and Mike Delos-Reyes—childhood friends who were developing and refining a device that sits on the ocean floor that they first designed in college.

MKC: What was writing about engineering like?

Elizabeth: I loved covering a new, evolving renewable energy field. Engineers have already pretty much figured out great ways to harness solar and wind energy but ocean energy was and is still wide open. We don’t yet know the best way to take the up and down motion of waves and turn it into electricity. That means that all devices being invented and tested are wildly different. So I got to witness history in the making. Mike Morrow invited me to his lab, which was big cluttered shed in his backyard. It was like being in the garage with Steve Jobs as he invented his computer. I also observed tests in these huge wave flumes and basins and out the open ocean. Each test was really suspenseful because no one knew how the devices would perform. So I was crossing my fingers and cheering right along with the engineers.

Download an accompanying Common Core Guide and Discussion and Activity Guide for The Next Wave.

MKC: Are STEM topics especially interesting to you?

Elizabeth: I don’t actively set out to write STEM books. I am drawn to important, compelling stories that have been overlooked – and it just so happens that many of those stories are in STEM fields. I love stories of invention because they are at their core stories of the human spirit and our quest to understand the world and solve problems we face. To me, inventing something is essentially an adventure requiring creativity and heroic effort in the face of daunting obstacles. A fun example is my recent book The Music of Life: Bartolomeo Cristofori and the Invention of the Piano. While it is a picture book biography about music and history, I was delighted to see it was named a Best STEM Trade Book by NSTA-CBC.  So I guess what I’m saying is that to me STEM is just in integral part of the human story – and I love telling human stories.

Win a FREE copy of The Next Wave!

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host this week is Mary Kay Carson, fellow science nerd and author of Mission to Pluto and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson