Monthly Archives: May 2010

Picture 19

Animoto: An Academic Use

I despise Animoto‘s use as evidence of learning in the classroom. It produces a veneer that implies intent but requires none. It allows people to put on the facade that their students are doing intelligent work. They seem to trick even themselves.

That being said, I finally came up with a use that would require some thought. Pretend Animoto is an author with intent and intelligence. Analyze the choices in image juxtaposition, camera angles etc. Really break it down as if the director had some control and thought behind all the choices. You could do this with random videos from the showcase, have students contribute their own images etc. It’d also be fun to make comparisons between two auto generated versions of the same images. Which film was produced later in the artist’s career? What experiences caused the change in filming techniques.

A simple idea but it does require some thought in a process otherwise devoid of intellect.

UMW Faculty Academy 2010 prt.1

cc licensed flickr photo shared by bionicteaching
Here are a few of the things I’m thinking about after a great time at Faculty Academy. Raw notes are below.

The big picture stuff is pretty simple. Work that is student driven, public and has a real audience results in all kinds of good things happening.

We really ought to begin working on defining and publicizing best practice around blogs a lot of this stuff. And by “stuff” I mean things like student driven classes, online conversations, etc.

Simple things like “when/why does it make sense to give people feedback as audio? ” Kevin McCluskey gave his theater students feedback via audio files and saw his language being reflected when students did in class critiques. So there are a variety of times we ought to be recommending this type of feedback for reasons far beyond simple convenience.

Melanie Szulczewski had a really interesting look at how the action words her students used changed over time and focused on the idea that blogging allowed them to reflect as they progressed rather than after. So it’d make sense to make this kind of data visible and encourage people to look at it. Maybe a blog plugin that showed comments by user sequentially with chunks of additional information- maybe word count, links to outside content etc. Graphs of that information? Per user? Averaged? Probably both.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by bionicteaching
John Morello really broke down his commenting stats over a series of classes based on different required comment numbers. I need to compare data more between classes while playing with different requirements. I still fight a lot with the idea of requiring posts/comments. It’s unfortunate but I don’t see many alternatives.

–All notes likely to be flawed in a variety of interesting, but more likely horrific, ways. If you’re concerned about spelling, grammar or anything else annoying don’t bother reading below.


-simplify GIS w Google Earth
-direct link in data via gadgets from google spreadsheets
-using flickr/youtube to concatenate in the media info

-knowledge and inspiration freely distributed – interesting concept to apply more globally
-understanding into action and change
-2 linked first year seminars
-student constructed syllabus, grading etc.
-how difficult was getting students to take this role in their learning?
-pre and post blog commenting after class discussion
-2 students from each class met to discuss how to structure the class and then comments from two classes recombined
-texting was the main way students communicated with each other across sections
-twitter and facebook rejected
-twitter bc no students used it
-facebook bc their parents were on it

-TED works bc of interconnectedness of knowledge
-connects spoken word and new media technology
-textbook liberal education example
-spreads knowledge of human culture and natural world
-inquiry, analysis, critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving etc.
-inchoate personal and professional learning

-student reflection on their final ted talk one of the more powerful components in that they realized how much work was involved in condensing the topic to 18 minutes
-back channel and technology was encouraged, used to broaden conversation

-18 min limit on TED

So Easy a Caveman Could Do It or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog
Jason Davidson

-goal was to bring students more into the class
-theoretical texts
-wanted students as creators of knowledge
-wanted policy relevance
-each student would have a pet alliance
-contemporary alliance they’d report back on
-couldn’t figure out a traditional way to do this so opted for a blog
-wanted following and info back but w/o presenting etc in each class
-allowed currency and analysis that tied back into scholarly reading
-not a tech guy, doesn’t like learning about technology
-believed it required more start up costs bc needs to learn the tech
-took 2 hrs and made the blog, shocked at how easy it was to make and maintain
-became credible when talking to students (only 1 student had a blog prior to this)
-only problem he had was problems with passwords
-student feedback was good
-tied into course more
-found analysis of pet alliance led to more understanding of theory readings
-led to policy understanding which was seen as more concrete and useful knowledge
-keep healthy skepticism but w an ear cocked to potential solutions
-referred to posts a handful of times in class
-skimmed student work

Good Intentions, Unintended Consequences, and Some of the Perils of Web 2.0 Teaching
John Morello

teaches off peak hours – nights and mornings
non-major classes related to gen ed requirements

attempt 1
-set minimum of comments but phrased to encourage more
-engage in points/subject not in speech analysis
-attempt to engage with students as part of current political conversation

attempt 2
-presidential campaign
-involve with what was actually going on

-minimums may drive max participation if you’re not careful
-spring 08 min 6 and avg 6.35 (range 5-8)
-fall 08 min 10 and avg 11.45 (range 5-19)
-spring 10

-deadlines promote in the nick of time blogging
-127 posts 53% at deadline (last 10% of available time or after deadline)
-198 59% at deadline
-98 33% at deadline

-collective intelligence doesn’t happen
-37 initial posts – 65% drew no response
-30 initial posts – 50% drew no response

—-me- less about collective intel and more about community/conversation

-beware over contributing
-146 total 19 his most by student 8

-hurry up and contribute
-6 posts 27 mins
-6 in 34 mins
-6 in 41
-6 in 50
-4 in 21
-total interaction w blog in total

where to next?
-guidance for blog discussion (essentially best practice for using blogs for X)
-communication issue not a tech issue
-what’s the equivalent of room arrangement w blog discussion
-equiv of ice breakers for blog
-roles for blog facilitation
-feedback management
-blog equiv to nonverbal dynamics

The Googlization of Higher Education
Siva Vaidhyanathan (University of Virginia Law School)


Neil Postman – critic of media and tech (had an asst read his email to him, never looked at computer screen (possibly))

“are students all want to work in media. we are critics of media. how would you negotiate that?”
response: job is not unlike clergy – feel just guilty enough about damage they are about to do

clergy as large illicit copiers and distributors of knowledge – making judgment about worth of knowledge

arguing against DIY U and What Would Google Do? books

google as mimic of academy
-google founders are faculty kids
-met as phd students
-google depends implicitly on higher ed produced talent
-surplus of $ allows for long term “waste” research/work – so do you need $ to do this? k12?

google offers pervasive life long email account
-perm connection to University (lots of marketing attractiveness)
-trapped into affiliation with a specific company

google scholar
-increased importance
-ever study compared to library searches shows scholar as far inferior
-students use them first anyway

if google is predominant search then we need to train faculty and students regarding source analysis (basic info fluency needed for faculty? where does k12 fit then?)

non-semantic search is kind of like memorization of process vs understanding

We Are All The Pretender Now: Learning In an Age of Just-in-Time Instruction
Mike Caulfield (Keene State College)

banking model of ed – store info, use somewhere down the road (maybe)
-inefficient- maybe need it, maybe not
-theor. unsound- no retention if not relevant

just in time instruction back then
-small learning modules
-kind of like choose your own adventure leading to direct instruction

if we live in a world of just in time ed, what is our purpose?
can learn whatever on the internet based on need
front of the room is gone
information is everywhere

nice activity to compare going veg vs cutting % of electricity for reducing carbon footprint
-why is this so hard?
-trust, info fluency etc.
-what is truth? how do we know? how do structures of power influence this information?

liberal arts ought to have more relevance bc it’s about all these things . . .

the place of ed in a world of just in time- ed is focused on information fluency


I think about where we spend our money. We’re constantly trying to find easy ways out of holes, easy ways to scale metaphorical mountains. We look for processes to remove the chores of thought and decision. Education is floundering.

We lost our faith in teachers. It is every politician’s easy drum to beat- after all. “Our schools are failing! The enemies are at the gate!”1 Who would argue that our kids don’t deserve better? Both parties agree. Education is failing.

Our solution is not to work, to spend money and time on our teachers, to help them become better, instead we send our money away, spending precious time testing products of a system we insist is broken.

We buy software. We buy content. We buy external experts.2 We buy reputation. We buy “trust” and “quality” because we don’t believe either really exists in our schools.

Invest that money in our teachers, on smaller classes, on things that have been proven to matter.

Make teaching a career that isn’t based on martyrdom. Martyrs die flaming deaths. Systems based on them don’t last. There are no easy answers. You can’t buy, process, software, magic your way out of this.

There is no microwave dinner version of educational reform.

1 Don’t actually go to this site. I just liked that it was a warning site given the url.

2 Guilty of being bought and sold.


cc licensed flickr photo shared by bionicteaching

My son decided to make a slingshot the other day. He disappeared for a while and showed up with this. He’s six. It’s not rocket science and it’s not perfect. That’s not the point. I love the spirit that drove him. He believes he can make things. He thought about the parts he’d need, what they should do and then he just did it1. I’d love for our classrooms to foster that kind of thinking and independence, that ability to make things you’re interested in.

Now we’re going to use it and I’m going to see what changes when he makes on his next slingshot.

1 This can be a little annoying if you care about things that happen to become components but we’ve got those lines fairly well defined now.

Picture 9

A few things . . .

Currency Redesign

This would be a fun way to look at our government (and other countries for that matter). It’s simple but complex. How do you redesign our currency so that it reflects our history and current values? There’s a lot of interesting analysis potential there. Partnering with an art class would give you some added advantage and would allow for more focus on art as problem solving.


Inspired by this Boing Boing post, I thought it’d be fun to have students draw a monster of their choosing (maybe give it some particular talents) and then randomly assign them to other students who then write a story with the monster as a main character. The artist then works with the writer as a peer editor. I’d do this online and then mix in other monsters and story lines. Then the larger group has to look at the stories and figure out how they’ll merge.


This list of the top 25 psychiatric prescriptions and a comparison to their numbers in 2005 would open the door for a number of conversations about our society and medicine in the U.S. I’d love to see overall prescriptions and a comparison of those numbers between countries.

Random Thoughts

This card trading game concept for medical students is worth thinking about more.

I’m in mid-stride creating the housing the lesson plans and media that were submitted for our 21st century awards ceremony so this series on information architecture for news sites has given me some things to think about more seriously.

Apparently, I’ve also decided I’m going to write down all the random ideas I have all the time that I never get to do even if they are half-finished and somewhat fanciful. I think this is in part due to the realization that my audience is mainly Jim Groom and myself (evidence).