Blogging on Blogging

by Megan Johnson, intern

The views expressed in this blog are solely my own and do not reflect the views of The Digital Arts Experience in any way. 

As a marketing intern at The DAE, I manage all of our social media channels, which includes this WordPress blog. Before coming to The DAE, however, I’d gotten my feet wet in all different types of blogging sites throughout the years: Xanga (embarrassing), MySpace’s blogging feature (hyperemotional), Blogspot (nothing of relevance to say), Tumblr (also hyperemotional, but with photos and GIFs!), and finally WordPress. Using these blogging mediums for the past eleven years (am I that old?), I’ve clearly found purpose in writing in an online journal of sorts. So, if you’ll bear with me for one of my less emotional posts, here are a few reasons I’ve stuck with blogging my entire Internet life:

1. Community

The people you connect with on blogs are different from those you meet in your everyday life. If you’re anything like me, you’re unlikely to walk into the nearest grocery store, for example, and form a deep connection with the next person you meet. Chances are they’re from the same town, have the same routines as you, and that their life story is not that different from yours. But online, you surround yourself with people with whom you share similar interests. You can connect over things that perhaps your friends don’t have an interest in. You find people who have been down all different walks of life and they expose you to a wider world.

As a Irish-Catholic girl growing up in a very small Irish and Italian-American town, I didn’t know too much about what other people were experiencing beyond the typical Eastchester situations. Having a blog and following others’ blogs helped me to see what was going on beyond the four walls of my room and see things in a different light.

2. Expression

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes my blogs would get a little hyperemotional. But, for the most part, they acted as a healthy outlet for the stressful feelings that come with adolescence and growing up. I identify as a writer: of stories, poems, songs and, well, blogs. So, to have a place I could turn to just by turning on my computer did a world of good for me. I wrote to express everything that I was feeling: stress, sadness, excitement, fear, anxiety, happiness, all of that. It helped to clear my head and keep up my spirits in times of change.

3. Education

I support certain causes very passionately, specifically those involved with mental illness, and while I wasn’t being thoroughly educated about these issues in school or on the news, I was able to stay up to date through blogs. I learned about the different laws, movements, attempts to raise awareness, spokespeople and what was being done overall to reach out to those who struggled with mental illness. It was an education that I couldn’t obtain beyond maybe a day of Health class in school or on the evening news aside from the tragic stories. Following sites like TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms), an anti-suicide nonprofit, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health), and individual bloggers kept me informed and intelligent on the causes I cared about. On a lighter note, I also follow blogs that provide a certain type of education that I can’t get in school: sports! As a huge Mets fan, I need to stay up-to-date on my boys in orange and blue to be as true of a fan as I can be. So, Mets blogs are a huge part of my blogging experience as well.

4. Inspiration

As a writer and as a frequently stressed college student, I often need a pick-me-up. Early on, there were Xanga sites (does anyone even remember these?) that posted song lyrics and cheesy GIFs to try and make the angsty middle schoolers of that day and age feel a little less mopey and a little more glittery, I guess. Then, with Tumblr, we gained the ability to reblog these images and lyrics, but with the added sophistication of the format, GIFs, and the quality of the quotes. As silly as it may sound to those who never used Xanga/Tumblr, that action of reblogging to save that inspiration for later did a lot. I had a little tag going on my Tumblr called “inspiration” so that if I ever needed a pick-me-up, well, there it was:

“Allow yourself to be a beginner; no one starts off excellent.”

Except for me, of course. But that’s an entirely different story.

5. Growth

What have I learned from blogging? How have I grown? I have been exposed to people from all over the world who are eerily similar to me (sometimes making me think, do I have a clone?). I’ve been a resource to others and they’ve helped me in turn. I learn about the causes I care about and ones I didn’t know existed. My eyes are opened to different opinions and I’m supported by those whose opinions I share. Many times, in today’s day and age, we are told that our connections are so fake because we’re friends with people we don’t really know that well on Facebook or we feel more comfortable talking to certain people online, that we’re not engaged in the “real world.”

But I’d like to argue the opposite opinion: I think we are more engaged in the real world than ever. Instead of limiting ourselves, I feel as though we’ve grown by expanding our interests, knowledge, experiences, and, in general, our reality through the Internet. My reality was once the comfortable life in a New York City suburb, and though I won’t say that I know everything about everything (chances are I’m close), I’ve learned a lot more about the world from being immersed in the blogosphere. I’ve encountered people who have really struggled in their lifetime, stories that aren’t mainstream newsworthy enough, movements that connect people across the world, and it has been a beautiful experience.

I can’t wait to see what else I learn in the years to come. Because even as I finish up my formal education this year, I know I will still have so much more to learn from the wider blogging community.


Learning About Vine and Stop-Motion Animation in Westchester

Image representing Vine as depicted in CrunchBase

Image by None via CrunchBase

by Megan Johnson, intern

Ever since Vine, the app that lets you record looping 6-second videos, debuted in January of this year, it has been a hit amongst stop-motion animators. All a Vine recording requires is that you press your thumb down on the screen to record and lift it to stop. So, for stop-motion aficionados, that easily translates to creating your own stop-motion animations.
For those of you who are interested in exploring the stop-motion world, check out these tips, provided by the pro Viners themselves: 

1. Come up with an idea!

No (successful) stop-motion clip can be spontaneous. Plan out what you’re going to do in your 6 seconds and figure out what your goal is for this Vine. Pro Viner, Frank Danna, recommends asking yourself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” if you have “Viner’s Block.”

2. Plan. Rome wasn’t Vined in a day!

Much like longer-length productions, you’ll need to organize your Vine by breaking down your shots and figuring out what you’ll have to do – for more complex Vines, this may involve storyboarding! This helps you stay on track and constant throughout the filming process. “I typically begin with rough sketches or written walkthroughs that help me keep the story of my Vine intact and insure consistency from start to finish,” says Danna.

From here, you can figure out not only where your Vine will end up, but also what props and camera angles you may need. If you want to ensure steady shots, get a tripod or a makeshift tripod to keep your stop-motion animation looking flawless.

3. Cut frequently!

You’ve got way more time than you think you have. 6 seconds seems long to us, but in the realm of stop-motion animation, it’s a long time. You have so many possibilities!

Just look at Ben Wyatt (on NBC’s Parks and Recreation) as his hard work of three weeks led to 3 seconds of stop-motion:

Don’t worry, yours won’t be as bad.

4. Use the ghost feature!

Some of you may not even realize this exists, but pro Viner and video producer Ian Padgham recommends using Vine’s ghost feature. It allows you to have a ghost layer while you’re filming, so that if you bump the shot at all, you can view the last scene with ease by tapping the ghost in the bottom right corner

5. Take a screenshot for looping!

Padgham also recommends that, if you want to have a great, smoothly looping Vine, you should take a screenshot of your first shot so that you know exactly how to end your video to look just like the beginning.

Maybe you can even aspire to be as great as these guys (but don’t be ashamed if your first attempt isn’t quite as awe-inducing!)

Happy Vining and hope you have as much fun with it as we do! Check out our Vines by following @thedaexperience.

Love Vine? Check out these great Vine articles that have more tips and more awesome animations!

Interested in having your kids learn stop-motion animation?
Our next Stop-Motion with Legos class at The Digital Arts Experience for ages 9-12 will begin December 4th!
Click here for more information.

Simon Cadel: A One of a Kind Comedian from Westchester

Simon Cadel is a one-of-a-kind kid. At the young age of thirteen, he has already begun his standup comedy career and worked hard to support a local nonprofit. Family Services of Westchester (FSW) is a private nonprofit agency in Westchester that offers social and mental health services for children, teens, adults and senior citizens in order to provide as much support for them as possible. Such programs include teen leadership programs, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and HeadStart, just to name a few.

Simon recently organized a comedy show, “Laugh Til It Helps,” at The Digital Arts Experience with his fellow young comedian friends to raise money for FSW and further their cause. The show was a great success and brought in $1,000 for FSW. Furthermore, it had been a dream of Simon’s to hold a comedy show to benefit a charity; to have that sort of ambition and thoughtfulness at 13 years old makes him stand apart from his peers. His knack for comedy is just the extra step that makes him such an outstanding kid.

Simon’s been classified not as a kid comedian, as the Digital Family Summit notes, “he’s a comedian who happens to be a kid.” Basically, he’s young for most comedians, but his delivery, presence and sense of humor show that he’s quick, witty and far more clever than the typical teen. He began studying comedy two years ago, attending camps, the Kids ‘N Comedy classes at the Gotham Comedy Club, and after-school programs.

Simon performed at showcases, videos of which circulated on YouTube and got the attention of comedy clubs like The Comic Strip Live and New York Comedy Club. Both clubs booked him for primetime weekend shows, despite the fact that otherwise, his age would not allow him to go inside! “I’m way too young to be here,” Simon had said when he first walked onstage at The Comic Strip Live. Maybe, but he’s also way too clever to be missed.

The DAE is proud and excited to see our student exhibiting such skill and creativity in his performances. We’ve even had the pleasure of having him do standup at The DAE’s first Open Mic in August, where his confidence and talent allowed him to shine and be completely unfazed by the audience. Simon is currently enrolled in our brand-new class, Game Programming with Java, which excites us to welcome him into The DAE community. Therefore, we’re more than happy to support his efforts in raising money for FSW or calling attention to important causes.

This Saturday, he’ll be participating in another great comedy night, Standup For Peace, which aims to bring comedy and matters of political importance together to open up the conversation. Standup For Peace is a show put on by the well-known political comedians, Scott Blakeman and Dean Obeidallah, to unite all ethnic/religious backgrounds in support of peace in the Middle East and worldwide.

Blakeman and Obeidallah have used their comedic talent to promote tolerance and peace at this critically acclaimed show for the past ten years. Now, Simon will be opening up for these big name comedians in order to show his support for the cause and it promises to be a hilarious night that you won’t want to miss. Standup For Peace is coming to The Purple Crayon in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY this Saturday, October 19th from 8pm-10pm. (Tickets can be purchased for $20 here.) We hope you will go out and support our student comedian and his great causes, see for yourself how great of a show he puts on!


This past weekend, Simon and his blogger mom Betsy spoke at the 2013 Digital Family Summit on Kid Fame: Right for Your Kid? Or You?. In November, Simon will be auditioning for America’s Got Talent and performing at Gotham Comedy Club, so keep an eye out for him!

Simon’s YouTube page can be found at, check it out!

Learn About Arduino: Programming Class Now Offered in Westchester

by Megan Johnson, intern

We’ve talked before about the importance of learning coding in this day and age. But how do we begin to engage young students in such a seemingly complex field?

Open source programs offer a fun way for kids to discover a potential passion in coding. As Regina ten Bruggencate, senior Java developer for iPROFS, says, “Games can be a great way to get interested in programming,” including Minecraft and Arduino. These two programs are ones that we at The DAE teach our students in order to help them learn coding in a fun way!

According to Arduino’s website,

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

Arduino functions as an inexpensive microcontroller module that can be as easy or as advanced as users need it to be.  For those who don’t know, an open-source program, like Arduino, has codes that are openly available to the public for use or modification at no cost. The point of using programs like Arduino and Minecraft is to teach kids how to program games, meanwhile teaching them all about computer programming without any unnecessary computer jargon that goes over their heads.

As we mentioned in a recent post, computer programming jobs are steadily increasing. Oracle OpenWorld argues that it is incredibly relevant and important for kids to learn programming:

Who cares if kids don’t become involved in IT? Well, many people should. Data shows that well-paying careers will be sent overseas if qualified candidates can’t be found on home soil. As technology becomes increasingly integrated in daily life, the number of opportunities is likely to continue to rise.

What a concept. Having kids play games and design their own is a way to give them a secure future, not to mention some pretty awesome new skills.


Interested in having YOUR children learn Arduino or Minecraft?
Check out our upcoming events and class offerings!

Minecraft Tournament (Ages 9-13) Sat, Nov 16th 11AM – 12PM

Intro to Arduino  (Ages 13-17) Tues 4:00PM – 7:00PM starting Dec. 3rd

Physical Computing Project Lab: Arduino (Ages 13-17) Wed 6PM – 8PM starting Dec 4th

Check out our other programs being offered here.

The Cyberbullying Epidemic

by Megan Johnson, intern

We all know far too much about the unfortunate, rampant epidemic of the millennials: cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a very serious issue that plagues the lives of kids and teens who are spending their time online. According to the i-SAFE foundation, over half of teens have been bullied online and more than one in three have received a cyber threat. From the dawn of social media, these bullies have learned how to wield the power that comes with the anonymity of the Internet and use it to hurt their peers. 81% of kids agree that online bullying is easier to get away with than in-person bullying. Hidden behind a keyboard, these cyberbullies harness social media for their own purposes and leave today’s children and teens in tragic, confusing situations.

The always-on power of technology also brings new ways to exacerbate bullying, a problem once confined mostly to school grounds, but now able to reach victims through the Web, text messaging and other digital means.

The Des Moines Register

When both school and the home become a place that kids can’t escape bullying, the intense pressure builds and can leave a child feeling depressed, anxious and hopeless. With these feelings can come thoughts of suicide, which has tragically led to many young suicides in recent years. In a survey of middle schoolers, cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to attempt suicide than non-victims.

Cyberbullying Facts from the i-SAFE Survey

Cyberbullying Facts from the 2004 i-SAFE Survey

There’s something to be said about its unfortunate prevalence in the news though, because it seems as though people are starting to step up and treat cyberbullying like the serious situation that it is. Coach Matt Labrum of Union High School in Utah suspended his entire high school football team for cyberbullying. He was disappointed in their lack of respect for the school’s rules and for each other and decided to take action. If they wanted their jerseys back, they had to work on their character and do community service to get back on the team. The tough love seems to have paid off as one student remarked, “I think we deserved every little bit we got.”

What does this mean for cyberbullying? Do we just expect a punishment to fix the problem or should we be concerned that students won’t take these punishments seriously? Cyberbullying is a phenomenon unique to today’s generation and teaching children the importance of digital citizenship is becoming more and more necessary as these stories appear more frequently in the news.

What do you think should be done about cyberbullying? How have you as a parent confronted or thought about how you might confront the issues of cyberbullying? Share your stories and tips with us!

If you’re interested in further exploring these issues with us, join us on November 13th at 7 pm for a special cyberbullying workshop featuring Westchester Mommy.

Coding Class: Learning the Language of the Future in Westchester County

by Megan Johnson, intern

If you don’t know anything about coding, you could be missing out on being fluent in what the New York Times calls “the language du jour”.

Anthony Edwards and Michelle Meyrink in "Revenge of the Nerds" (1984).

Anthony Edwards and Michelle Meyrink in “Revenge of the Nerds” (1984) – “The computer’s your friend.”

For years, computer programming has had an uncool reputation, bringing to mind images of Revenge of the Nerds (see above picture). Depictions like this made programming seem like it was just for “nerds,” and wasn’t worth learning. But Gilbert (Anthony Edwards) in the above scene says to Judy (Michelle Meyrink):

“Some people, they can create with their hands, but when you’re working with a computer, you gotta build something with your mind. If you’re good, you can do something no one’s ever seen before. It’s a definite high.”

According to USA Today, one MIT student acknowledges this “nerdy” computer programmer stereotype such as the one in Revenge of the Nerds is just not true anymore in the MIT student body and “[students] can make all these things that society values. That, right there, is making the typical geek cool.”

Among today’s students, there will be a new Mark Zuckerberg, creating the next hottest social network, or a new Steve Jobs, inventing sleek and unique tech that has 1,417 people lined up early in the morning. More importantly, there will be new names, new faces, new jobs, new opportunities for today’s generation.

A New York Times article published last year explains the recent need and desire to learn the language of coding:

[People’s] jobs now require being able to customize a blog’s design or care for and feed an online database. “Inasmuch as you need to know how to read English, you need to have some understanding of the code that builds the Web”…

“People have a genuine desire to understand the world we now live in,” said Zach Sims, one of the founders of Codecademy. “They don’t just want to use the Web; they want to understand how it works.”

There is an urge now to harness the knowledge that has been so exclusive to computer programmers for years and learn how this technology we use every day works from the very basics of Java, HTML and CSS. It’s a transition from a more passive acceptance that this amazing content is generated every day to an active pursuit of figuring out how that data generation occurs.

Perhaps this explains the popularity of the computer science major these days. The passive-to-active transition is reflected in the Computing Research Association‘s 2011-2012 report through the steadily increasing number of computer science majors over the past five years, particularly the increase of 29.2% between 2011 and 2012. Furthermore, the Department of Labor reports that computer programming jobs are growing at a rate of 12% from 2010-2020 and paying an average annual salary of $71,380. Students who seek to learn computer programming or just how to code will be positioning themselves as more competitive professionally by acquiring these advanced skills.

Computer programming is an industry of growth, so it’s about time we learn to speak its language. The Atlantic Wire explains six different reasons a non-programmer should learn coding, including that it’s fun, it teaches other skills and can be useful to know just as another tool. For our students, we offer Game Programming with Java because we believe that it’s important to expose them to the language of computer code when they’re young so they can get the chance to pursue a new hobby or just acquire a useful skill for their futures.

Whether you learn just enough to say you know it or pursue it as a career, there is value, as the New York Times article states, in learning code.

My Initial Thoughts on Social Media (a.k.a. An Ode to Twitter)

Our marketing intern Megan is up at school in Boston in a social media class and will be posting regularly for her class on any social media-related topic. We wanted to share her first with you! (And if you have anything in mind that you’d like to read about regarding social media, let us know and we’ll pass it on to Megan!)