Meet the World – Information and Graphics

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Grand Reportagem magazine (can’t find a link- it’s from Portugal) has an interesting series of info graphics (you can see them here) that illustrating fairly disturbing facts about countries- using the flags of the countries. Interesting idea- using symbols of pride to criticize/inform.

You could also do something similar with many logos (companies, sports, universities). If you wanted to go fairly abstract there’s also book/video/cd covers or even caricatures.

Here a quick mock up with an old Apple logo-

Apple Share
Stat Source – please excuse gross visual misrepresentation of the stats but I don’t have the time/willingness to actually work it out.

This would make a really interesting co-curricular project between a math and history/sociology type of class (throw in art as well if you’d like). The math required to calculate the proper area to factually represent the statistics would be fairly decent (especially with more complex shapes and area calculations) and figuring out which statistics about the country/company/person to contrast would require quite a bit of research and processing.

I think it’s hook a number of students and in the end you’re teaching them far more than stats or facts. You’re teaching them how to think and how to convey that thinking in a way that’s visually compelling. All the great ideas in the world mean nothing if you can’t get them across in a way that is compelling to your audience.

US Flag Stats- Iraq

Walking the Walk . . .

2Pac in the classroom

It really made my day to see ianvirgil actually print out and use the TuPac poster from this post (which was inspired by Dan’s post ). Funny how distance no longer matters- as they’re both in CA and I’m way to the right in VA.

I’m feeling a mixture of pride (I love when things I’ve done are actually useful and used) and envy.

Not being in the classroom sucks at times. There are certainly benefits but I really miss the kids and those moments when things really click in the classroom. It’s frustrating at times to do all this thinking about teaching and to have such a better understanding (as well as more tools) than I ever had before yet to be without a class of my own.

I’ll have the chance to work closely with Terry Dolson and her Core class next semester. We’ll see if that helps.

Study of gamers at IU School of Education

Media advisory: Study of gamers at IU School of Education: IU News Room: Indiana University

The reason for the research, Appelman said, is that the learning style has changed for today’s students, but the content delivery has not adapted. In the standard method of teaching, teachers deliver content and expect memorization, reading, and other work to translate the learning into performing a task.

“Students today are absolutely bored with that approach,” Appelman said. “What they want to do is to dive in immediately and say, ‘Give me a task that I can learn from.'” The primary learning method gamers employ, he said, is trial and error. “This generation has no problem with failure. They ‘die’ hundreds of times a day, but they learn from that.”

Wouldn’t work for everything but it’s definitely worth thinking about. It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.

Signs of Insanity – Musings on Standards


The building I work in. Conducive to insanity?

So now that I’m in college you’d assume I’d be happy to be away from the irritation and hassle of state standards (like the SOLs). It turns out I actually missed them. Have I lost my mind?

Probably, but I found myself arguing this morning that we should be taking advantage of the accreditation process (think NCLB for colleges only with no tests and the majority of the “proof” being created by the profs./admins- basically prove to us that you deserve to be accredited) in order to get people to change their teaching, integrate more technology etc.

That led me to realize how much I relied on the SOLs (VA’s state standards) as a lever to get into classrooms. Those standards helped me in all kinds of ways. I played good cop/bad cop and gleefully used the SOLs as the bad cop.

“Look,” I’d say “I know that the SOLs are requiring you to do blah blah blah. That’s really hard. You’ve got no time. I know. I think I have something that can help . . .” It was incredibly useful and it gave me a structure when talking to teachers who taught content I didn’t know that well.

I didn’t think I had that in college and, truth be told, it made things much more difficult. As it is college faculty have far more freedom than teachers both in terms of content and teaching styles/methodology.

I can certainly make very passionate arguments regarding the use of certain technologies in teaching but how could I start these conversations? I’m not a cold call salesman. I don’t chat people up and then suddenly say “I know I just met you but have you considered radically changing your teaching style?” I’d much rather create some content that addresses a need I know they have and then show it to them and say “If you’d like to talk about this or use it let me know.”

What I was preparing to do was sit in on a lot of classes to get the feel. I’m still going to do that but now I’ve got a framework of things these professors have to do. I can look at these major markers and then look at what will help them meet then in general and only have to tweak things based on individual classes.

Now I’m saving time and have a “big stick” that I’m not holding to motivate people. Instead, I hold the carrot of ease, engagement and ego. My way will help them meet that need easily, engage their students which improves product and makes teaching more enjoyable and finally, provides them a chance to show off the great work they’re doing in their classes.

Change often needs both a carrot and a stick.

Now my question is- do we risk eternal hatred for technology integration by associating it so closely with a process/idea that so many dislike so strongly?
Is it a disservice to the faculty and the ideas to push these changes on people who clearly don’t want to change? If so, what other options do we have to create change in any real and timely manner?

Photo source me.

Digital Economy and Pro Status

Just randomly thinking here . . . please pass if you’re busy and looking for direct application.

I’m not a photographer, yet I’ve got over 10,000 images scattered among three flickr accounts. I haven’t bought film recently (or ever that I recall) but I’ve got to imagine that the film combined with processing would have cost quite a bit. Then I’d have to figure out how to store all these pictures etc. I’d also have even fewer friends than I do now as I tried to get them to look at all these pictures and give me some feedback.

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flickrvmi.png

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Instead the accounts have around 45,000 views -that includes one that’s pretty much totally private – just stuff for family and friends. Strange to see things stack up like that.

Does this matter or am I just indulging my ego?

I think it does matter. The web combined with digital photography has created the right economy for a lot of non-professionals to really improve at a number of skills. I’m talking about photography but it could just as easily be writing, art, music or film etc. Granted it doesn’t work for all things (math would be far different for instance) but that doesn’t mean we should ignore what it does work for.

I’ve now got a free audience (voluntary and various) with different experiences, skills and points of view. That’s basically what I feel college is a lot of times. A place where you pay for a, hopefully enlightened, audience and feedback. I can do without any more student loans but I still want that feedback, that audience.

I can put up huge amounts of work, get feedback and learn from others all virtually for free. Granted there are some comments that are useless and some that are left by trolls (see virtually all youtube comments) but learning what is and is not constructive criticism is exactly that- learning. I can be selective and I can check out the commentor’s work, which either lends credibility or doesn’t. I’d have liked that option for some of the teachers I had in high school (not sure if I should smile or frown about that).

So it seems the economy is in the publishing/media, storage, and audience/expertise/interaction. Cheap, fast and frequent feedback.

Practice makes perfect right? And feedback guides practice. The more frequent and timely the better.

I’ll pretend I’m not quoting Borat when I say “Thattt’s Niccceee.”

Image source YangPing

Pretty Formatting in Google Maps w/o ANY HTML Knowledge

I don’t like what plain Google Map or Google Earth windows look like when you enter text. They always end up too wide for me and I just want a little bit more style and formatting. It just looks better and that is part of why we use computers- to produce a professional looking product.

So the question is how do you get students/profs/teachers creating better looking information w/o having a bunch of time sucked away by teaching them HTML? (Yes, I realize Google does a form of this here but it’s not set up for Google Maps and involves more hassle for many by introducing the idea of networked kmz links etc.)

My solution is Excel. Excel can do all sorts of neat tricks with text. So I just built what is essentially a form with a few inputs (the ones selected for this project) and then used a bunch of formulas to wrap the HTML around the information that’s entered. This is a fairly simple example but it’s smart enough to cite the picture source and know if certain information has been entered so it doesn’t botch the html if the field is left blank. You can see what it does if you unhide the columns and view the formulas then tweak it to your heart’s content.

Before – ugly

Gmaps Before

After – much prettier

Gmaps After

Excel

Gmaps Excel

The user enters their info on the left and cuts and pastes the cell outlined in green into the HTML view on Google Maps and presto instant html.

I realize I’m enabling students/professors/teachers by helping them avoid having to learn html.

It’s not an issue with me. I can’t write php (which I’m proving over and over again lately) but I can and do use WordPress. I see this as an extension of that concept. Get to the point (in this case learning geography and adding content) forget the technology you don’t need.

Good technology is invisible anyway. Right?

Get the Excel File

Creative Communication: The Persona

Ever trying to follow in the footsteps of Tom, I realized quickly that it helps to add drama and humor into your communication with staff and students. Shortly after taking the Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT) position, I began brainstorming possible personae to catch the attention of my staff. I finally settled on

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I created a wall size poster of the image above, laminated it, and hung it behind my desk. I put reminders on it for students and staff. Whether reminders of training dates or loud calls to back up and archive weekly, this poster has definitely caught the eyes of teachers and learners.

Taking it one step further, I ventured into film with “Ted Coe”–my twin brother. I casted Ted as a bumbling authority who really had little knowledge of technology, and placed myself next to him as the voice of reason. My most recent project was a series of videos that introduce our county’s Technology Integration Progression Chart (or TIP-C) to the staff. Below is one of the videos. Under it is a link to my TIP-C page with all of the videos.

The TIP-Chart Page

The teachers are responding favorably to the videos. I think it keeps communication fresh, and it is always nice to be entertained while you are learning something new. This idea could easily be incorporated into the classroom in much the same way some of our other creative communication posts could be.

One final note: The videos are pretty low quality when it comes to production. I could have spent more time with lighting, sound, and editing to make them seem more realistic (like bleeding sound to make the conversation seem more believable), but I decided not to. I’m hoping to get some teachers and students to play with video editing, and I want to show that a video doesn’t have to be perfect to make a point.

Asterpix – Part Deux – The Review

Through the magic of the Internet I got a comment from Nat Kausik who works for Asterpix. It still amazes me when this happens (and ups my faith that they’ll stick around because they are listening and responding to the user).

Nat requested a little more detail regarding what I’d like to see improved in Asterpix. I’m not really sure why he needs more information. I think “it’s not quite as slick as I’d like” is a pretty detailed and useful feedback. :)

Here is what I’d really like to be able to do with Asterpix in my dream world. Please note- I find Asterpix to be very useful right now and I intend to use it. I encourage others to use it. I really feel they’re providing something that no one else is and I’m very grateful for that. That being said, here’s what they could do that would result in my getting a “I Heart Asterpix” tattoo.

  1. I’d like much more control over my notes. I want to be able to control their shape, fill opacity/color, line thickness/color/opacity. In a really perfect world I’d be able to use a tool something like the polygon creator in Google Maps to plot points to make irregular objects.
  2. I’d like to know what html elements are supported in the notes. It may be on the site but I couldn’t find it.
  3. Not to get too crazy too soon but wouldn’t it be awesome if I could add images w/ png transparencies to the videos as notes. So when I came to a portion of the video talking about pineapples vs pears I could have an image of both pop up and become links to a web site or just contain information in note form based on user selection.
  4. Does a mouse over on a note have to pause the video? I can think of times when I’d like things to continue flowing and the text to remain up as long as the user keeps the mouse over the note. Could this be an option?
  5. I’d also like to be able to manually control the note’s time on screen if I choose to. Maybe I’d like to have a multiple choice option at a certain portion of a video but there’s no visible elements that work for a selection. Right now I’m stuck. My notes will only show up for a fraction of a second. Naturally, I could think of that when making the video and include the necessary visible elements but there are issues with that if the video is already made or is made by someone else (both of which will be likely be the case for most users). This might be done by expanding the rectangle on the time line or just typing in X seconds in the note box.
  6. If I make a note invisible, I don’t want it to show in the time line either. That’s more an educational and possible ARG type of need. If I’m making the note invisible I probably want people to have to search for it by carefully paying attention to information/clues. It’d be nice to be able to have no visible clue it’s there even on mouse over (if that option is selected).
  7. The way notes expand is semi-intuitive but my first instinct is to click on the note rather than on the expand square (maybe b/c I’m a Mac guy). It makes more sense to me to make clicking on the note expand it because if a link is included it’s designated in the text and you could click out that way. I understand that doing the opposite probably gets more people to Google (revenue?) but in the end I think a better user experience will result in more users over a longer period of time.
  8. That brings up the fact that if I don’t put in a URL link one is auto generated for me by Asterpix. I’m fine with that but I’d like it to be more clearly denoted. Right now, I can’t tell any difference in the normal view between links I’ve added and those created by Asterpix. I want it clear that while this link to Google may be useful it is not made by me. That’s key for a variety of reasons, user trust being the most important.

So that’s what I’d really like from Asterpix. I figure it should only keep a cadre of programmers busy for the next several years. And since it’s all free right now they’ll have no trouble paying them to indulge my desires. On the plus side, I really see some strong educational uses for this option. My wants might make things a little too sophisticated but maybe having two views is an option.

Can any of y’all think of anything you’d like to add/change/improve?

Asterpix- have I made any monumental blunders? It’s quite possible and I will gladly retract/modify/apologize. Let me know.

Next Level Video – Asterpix

I love the way in some videos you can click on images or text on the screen and they are interactive- taking you to URLs or different portions of the video. I really feel that in education, and elsewhere, this has amazing potential. Making text interactive through hyperlinks changed the world so doing the same thing with video is likely to have some real power as well.

I’m not a big fan of Flash so I had explored a few of the Quicktime options (mainly Livestage Pro. The software creating these movies is fairly expensive and has a pretty steep learning curve. Not ideal for education or for encouraging student/teacher use (or me for that matter and I like this stuff).

Enter Asterpix (I know, with a 12-3-07 launch I’m late to the ball). This online service (registration required) allows you to add clickable links to movies. It plays nicely with Youtube and gives you and embed code. See example above.

While it’s not quite as slick as I’d like- it makes up for it in terms of ease of use and pure getting things done. I’m very happy. There’s something to be said for just increasing the amount, as well as adding different formats, of data in videos and then there are a lot of creative options you could add. I’d like to create a video test/scavenger hunt that is designed to push you towards different resources and tasks based on your answers in the video. Kind of a choose-your-own-adventure video test.

Creative Communication – VA Educational Technology Leadership Conference

Welcome! Hope some of these resource prove useful to you while pursuing different ways to communicate.

Update——-Download the creative communication presentation in Keynote 3, Powerpoint or PDF format.

Bullets Words of Wisdom

Useful presentation links

  • Presentation Zen- a blog dedicated to better presentations
  • Beyond Bullets- another blog dedicated to better presentations
  • Dy/Dan- a blog about teaching that often covers great design as it applies to all things educational
  • Flickr Storm- find great Creative Commons licensed images
  • Stock Exchange- free stock photos (does require a registration)

Mashup Sites (their odd delivery, your content – use sparingly)

  • Bombay TV- your own subtitles on Baliwood movie clips
  • Hairy Mail- shave your email message on a hair back
  • Monkey Mail- a monkey in various costumes and with various voices speaks your words
  • Txt2Pic- just about anything you might want to put your words on (billboards, church signs, ransom notes, badges etc.)
  • Jib Jab- a number of ways to add your face to bizarre videos
  • TeacherTube- why reinvent the wheel?
  • Vixy.net- download YouTube videos to use at school (where you know they’re blocked)