Exploring Dystopia in Literature and Popular Culture

In this lesson, students learn the definition of dystopia and explore the ways dystopia has been represented not only in the classics of literature but also in forms of popular culture such as film, advertising, comic books, and young adult literature.

Dear Me: Writing a Letter to the Future You

In this lesson, students put a new spin on letters that celebrities like Seth Green, Jenna Elfman, Hugh Jackman and William Shatner contributed to the book Dear Me, A Letter to My 16 Year Old Self and write letters to their future selves.

Storytelling in the Twitter Age

Recently, Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter wrote that the microblogging site is considering getting rid of its 140 character limit.

The limit was not part of the initial plan for Twitter and was only included so that tweets could fit in to a single sms message. These days people are getting more and more adept at using 140 characters to communicate; according to the statistics, there are 9,100 tweets going out every second!

This 140 character limit has been referred to as “a beautiful constraint.” Many writers and artists are getting intrigued and inspired by the challenges and opportunities that the Twitter format has inspired.

R.L.Stine, known for the Goosebumps series, has already started using twitter to tell stories, and true to form they are creepy!

Artists, Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman’s went even further with the technology, using the GPS information embedded in Twitter updates to locate where users were tweeting from and photographing the real world locations to create a visual story.

Even the Library of Congress acknowledges that 140 characters can be used to tell a story. In fact it is creating an archive of all tweets from 2006 to April 2010 to help them in their mission to “collect the story of America”. With Twitter accounts belonging to the likes of God and Bigfoot who can blame them!

There are many stories to be told and Twitter has succeeded so far – what do you think of Storytelling in the Twitter Age?

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The Reboot Era : Comparing and Contrasting Remakes to Originals

Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition…Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe

You may have noticed that there are a lot of reboots these days – remakes or updates of an older media property for a new audience. Lately, 80’s toy and cartoon properties like My Little Pony, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and most recently Jem, have all been updated decades later. Some are hip cartoons for kids and parents to watch together, like My Little Pony. Some are major blockbuster action movies like Transformers, G.I. Joe and TMNT. Some updates have a modern twist, like how the new movie Jem and the Holograms makes its protagonist an online viral media star.

What you may not know is why there are so many reboots. There are a lot of reasons for it. In another cool NuSkool lesson, we explore some of the social reasons for reboots. Sometimes as society changes and we share new values, old morals from stories like fairy tales no longer seem to fit the stories we tell. (It’s a big leap from Hansel and Gretel as naughty, meddling children to the wisecracking superheroes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters!)

There are economical reasons for reboots. Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition for media producers who spend upwards of hundred of millions of dollars on popular media like Hollywood films, television programs, and video games. Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe that producers can plug into and even change afterward, like when comic books that are adapted into movies or shows change based on its popularity.

There are also legal reasons for reboots. Popular media properties like superheroes, cartoons, toys, and other well-known characters are protected under copyright laws, which grant rights to the owners of these properties to control, to some degree, how the properties are used. If you wanted to make a Hollywood movie with a Marvel superhero like Iron Man, you would need to get permission from the person who owns the copyright. When you follow the chain of ownership, you end up at Disney, a major media institution that owns the rights to the Marvel universe, the Star Wars universe, and (of course) the Disney and Pixar animated franchises. (Remember, USERS like you also have certain rights to use copyrighted characters in a wide variety of ways, such as the critical analysis of this lesson or fan-made art projects, under US copyright law’s definition of fair use, which you can learn more about here.)

Comparing and contrasting original media properties to their rebooted versions tell us a lot about how different authors and producers tailor their media for different audiences. In this lesson, you will figure out how reboots are similar to or different from their originals and make some observations about what those differences tell us about the media property itself (including who owns it and how much it cost to make), different target audiences, and different techniques that rebooters use to tell the same story in a new way.


The Theories Behind Time Travel

Great Scott! How many gigawatts does it take to write a story with time travel and parallel universes? It doesn’t take that much electricity, but it does take a lot of planning, researching and creativity.

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asminov, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut — they’ve all written famous science fiction books that focus on time travel. Wells’ Time Machine dates back to 1895, before Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and before the ideas behind black holes and wormholes existed.

Traveling in time to alter our destinies has been a pop culture fascination for a long time. Many superheroes have experienced time travel in different ways. Superman could go back in time by flying around the world quickly enough to reverse Earth’s rotation. Similarly, The Flash could travel fast enough to go back in time. Even the mutant, Wolverine, traveled back in time in X-Men: Days of Future Past to change the fate the world.

The plot lines involved in time travel and jumping through alternate realities are not easy to follow and are even more difficult to write. This lesson takes a look back in time at how some science-fiction stories have rules and a structure to the way time and alternate universes function within their fictional world and how you can create your own narrative structure to write your own tight story involving parallel universes and time travel.

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The RLL Podcast: Ep. 2 – Deadpool, Star Wars, VR and The Art of Storytelling


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Abe and Tharaha are joined by special guests, New York Times notable Author Daniel Jose Older and Teacher extraordinaire Maeve Gavagan to discuss storytelling in the 21st century. We explore the advances in storytelling through different mediums such as print, television, film, video games, virtual reality, social media and even live theatrical experiences. Tharaha lets us know about the newly featured content on NuSkool.com including the teachable moments found in the Deadpool and Star Wars films.

Ep. 2 – Show Notes:

Check out all of the great work mentioned in this episode:

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Mama Day by Gloria Naylor

Junot Diaz

Hamilton on Broadway

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Nueromancer by William Gibson

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Sleep No More

Ernest Hemingway’s Six Word Novel

The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


The Art of Storytelling

The objective of this lesson plan is to engage students in the art of storytelling and improve their public speaking skills.