Monthly Archives: January 2011

Cool Hand Luke

1 Story – 4 Icons

Assignment: Reduce a movie, story, or event into its basic elements, then take those visuals and reduce them further to simple icons.

That’s my attempt above. I tried to stick to a three color scheme. The first image is supposed to be a parking meter. My wife was unable to ID it. It needs work. Hopefully the other three are at least identifiable.

I don’t use vector drawing tools very often. I clearly need to spend some more time with them to get some skills but that was half the reason I attempted this. My learning is now public, fairly messy, but most of all not really what I want. That is ok. It’s fun. It isn’t a contest. I’m enjoying it. I do not fear Jim Groom’s red pen.

You might also notice that I’m doing assignments in and around the #ds106 course but not necessarily all the ones that are assigned, nor am I necessarily doing them in the order they are given. I’m doing extra “work” with the interest and energy moves me1. I may go back and do some. I may not.

I like the MOOC idea. I find it valuable to have a group of people moving through the roughly same ideas at roughly the same time. I like the freedom I find in the structure. What worries me is how just calling something a course seems to bring a ton of baggage with it. People worry about not completing every assignment, being compared to others/graded and, most depressingly, being found wanting. I’ve seen this in the blog posts of participants and the comments of people I know in “real life” who’ve opted not to participate.

I see this mentality as a direct result of our educational system – adults, scared to try new things, as a learned response. I don’t blame the people. I think I see how this point is reached systemically. It’s just a pretty depressing legacy for a system that claims to produce life-long learners. It’s going to take an enormous amount of time and work to fix something buried this deep.

So, I’m inviting you to take part. If you’ve wanted to play along but haven’t because of lingering fears or doubts, come on in. The water is fine. The people couldn’t be nicer2. Jim couldn’t grade you if he wanted to3. Hey, there’s even a rather bizarre participant-run and -created streaming internet radio station.

Inspired by Colt Rane who ought to be making a huge number of English teachers happy with this image. He’s got one for the Great Gatsby as well but I don’t remember the book well enough to know if it’s good or not.

1 Clearly animated gifs got under my skin for some reason.

2 Even an odd Nazi photoshopping (by a non-class member) incident seems to have been settled fairly amicably.

3 Grades are for paying customers. All you might get is helpful feedback or compliments.


Better Animated GIF Tutorial for PS CS4

I’ve been fairly obsessed with animated gifs lately. My apologies. It was really If We Don’t, Remember Me that had me stuck in this loop. This person churns out such really interesting visuals, I couldn’t rest until I got something fairly close. I feel like the image above, while not perfect, is close enough to let things rest for a while1.

Initially, I just thought IWDRM was just a master of choosing just the right clip. Now, that part can’t be discounted but there’s a lot of other things that go on to improve the final product. While fairly simple, I’ll try to detail what I did and how I eventually learned to make it more economical time wise. I’m not a PS guy, so there may be even better ways. If you know them, let me know.

This is tilted towards CS4 but I imagine the concepts will make sense if you use other versions or other software.

  1. Clip your video down in Quicktime or something like that. You can edit in the PS import tool but it’s awkward.
  2. Import the video files to layers.
  3. The animation window will be at the bottom. Edit it until you’ve got a decent cycle going. The first frame will be the still portion of the image so choose one that is clear. Keep in mind you can change the speed of the frames. Sometimes slowing it down helps.
  4. With the second frame selected in the animation window. You’ll see that there is the eye icon on the corresponding frame in the Layers menu. Click on the first layer in the place where they eye should be. You should now see two eyes, indicating both layers are active. It should look like the image below.

  5. Now on the second layer, erase everything you want to be motionless. You’re going to have to repeat the process above for every frame in the animation and every related layer so it pays to keep the numbers down. It’s also much easier to use the lasso tool and select the portions you’d like to erase. If you hit delete instead of cut or some other option, the selection stays and you can pretty rapidly go through the steps where you activate the “eye” on the layer and then just hit delete again.

    You can see the start of that in the image below. I eventually selected everything except Ricky’s (?) head and his drumming arm.

  6. You can preview the animation by hitting the space bar at any time. This helps me immensely.
  7. Make sure when you go to delete, that you’ve selected the right layer in the layers panel or nothing will happen.

1 The gif is from some beach something something video. I was just randomly watching old movies on Netflix instant watch to make capture quality better and easier.

Bag of Gold – BlackBoard Remix

Michael Chasen sits on edupunk Santa's lap and hopes not to suck so much this Xmas

After reading Martha’s awesome post, I was not happy. Against my better judgement, I went to watch the BlackBoard “Mashup” tool tutorial1. There was something about the voice and the strangely stilted cadence that forced me to do this.

Bag of Gold – BlackBoard Remix

Actually, this would be a pretty interesting assignment. Take the media of two opposing viewpoints, mash them up so that they appear to express one harmonious view.

1 Hilarious by the way


Giving It Away

The Knight Rider gif has nothing to do with this post but it might make you feel better. If you’re here from #ds106, that image is for you, the post is likely to be depressing although it does at least reference Gardner’s digital facelift talk.

What passes for deep thoughts on this blog

Here’s my fairly simple idea. School systems are paying corporations/speakers/consultants millions in the hope of finding short term, instantaneous solutions – essentially elements of the digital facelift1. That money should go toward improving teachers, building internal capacity, and creating teacher evangelists for concepts and tools. Instead we keep trying to buy shortcuts. We end up with tools/programs teachers don’t want and which many teachers don’t use. We end up paying companies to develop the expertise of their employees while our own employees lack funding for professional development.

What if we stopped paying for cheap, easy fixes?

Take Discovery Learning’s 150,000 “learning objects” for instance. Most teachers only use a tiny, tiny fraction of those videos.

What if we just paid people to find videos on the web and tag them in a way that makes them accessible? If that fails, what if we paid teachers to make the videos that were needed?

I know the quality might not be as good, but we really have to think about what aspects of quality really matter to students and teachers. Would homemade videos take care of lots of what we really need? I think they would. More importantly, you’d have a cadre of teachers experimenting with and learning about video- both how to make them and how to use them instructionally. Those are real people in your schools who would talk to other teachers and be able to do so with credibility. They could take real feedback from users, they could get other people involved. You’d be investing the time and money in your own people. Even if the products were bad at first, they would improve and, more importantly, your teachers would improve. The process helps people.

The very idea of teachers prioritizing the production of various kinds of media and really thinking about why they’d want certain kinds of media and what that media would need to be- is all gravy in my opinion. It’s the kind of thing that would work beautifully on a system like Google Moderator. Imagine teachers submitting media needs here and the school/county teachers voting up the needs. You have your creators building content based on what teachers really want and need. It makes for some interesting possibilities.

At the very least, a few places doing this at scale would produce a lot of content that would help create some tension in the current marketplace. Right now, big companies run things. They sell you product in bulk and there are few, if any, options to purchase things on the iTunes song-by-song model. Right now you don’t just buy the album, you are stuck buying the box set even if you only want the single.

It’s also worth looking at larger frameworks like the CMS/LMS etc. Are we creating environments that provide pathways for expansion as skills and interests grow? Too often it seems we look to the lower/est common denominator user and ask “Could that guy use this?” if not we move on, if yes, then it’s a viable solution. I think that’s short sited and doesn’t really think about what these frameworks can behave like. You can have ease of use for one level of user while still providing the opportunity for expansion and complexity in the same system as interest and skills develop. A low entrance barrier is often necessary but that does not need to eliminate the possibility for increased complexity and sophistication down the road. The two things are not mutually exclusive. Frustrating your high end users with software designed for low end users is a self-defeating action. One size does not need to fit all. There are other ways to create consistency for parents that don’t negatively impact the very teachers who are interested in doing interesting things with technology.

1 Although this includes reading programs, magical consultants and all kinds of non-digital “solutions.”


IOGraphica: It had to be done

I blame D’Arcy for this.

I kept thinking that it’d be interesting to take the results of IOGraphica and make it into stop motion animation. I looked for ways to download the image every X minutes but failed to find any way to do that in the program. I then thought, I could just remember to do this every hour or so. Then I realized I’d never do that even with a calendar reminder and besides, computers are supposed to do this stuff for me.

My next attempt was to search for AppleScripts that might have been written to do this for me. I wandered around quite a bit and found nothing. I then looked to see if IOGraphica had anything in the AppleScript Dictionary (While running Script Editor>File>Open Dictionary> choose the App you want). Nothing there.

Now I was stuck. I had invested nearly an hour last night searching for the answer. I saw a few other people interested in a solution. So, I dusted off a few of my old AppleScripting bookmarks in delicious1. The hassle with Applescripting applications without dictionaries is that you are pretty much shooting blind . . . unless you use the amazingly useful UI Browser. If AppleScripting were a class the teacher would ban the UI Browser. It not only helps you find the right interface elements, it also generates a chunk (or all) of the code for you. It basically did all the work for me.

If I wasn’t sticking to my goal of spending no more than an hour on #ds106 related nuttiness I’d do the following:

  • I’d figure out how to make the “Save” action happen in a way that didn’t change window focus. I remember doing this a long time ago but can’t seem to recall it now2.
  • I’d make a dialogue that lets you choose the folder for saving these images. As it is, just make a folder and save a first image to it in IOGraphica. It’ll remember that folder and save the rest to the same place.
  • I’d add some code to make it loop every X minutes. As it is, I just saved the script and activate it via iCal. If you look at the image below, you’ll see iCall lets you open files and call scripts as alarms3

The Script

You can also download this zip file and get the AppleScript in raw and application format.

activate application "IOGraph"
tell application "System Events"
get system attribute "sysv"
if result is greater than or equal to 4144 then -- Mac OS X 10.3.0
if UI elements enabled then
tell application process "IOGraph"
click checkbox 1 of window "IOGraph"
end tell
delay 1
keystroke return

display dialog "GUI Scripting is not enabled" & return & return & "Open System Preferences and check Enable Access for Assistive Devices in the Universal Access preference pane, then run this script again." with icon stop
if button returned of result is "OK" then
tell application "System Preferences"
set current pane to pane ""
end tell
end if
end if
display dialog "This computer cannot run this script" & return & return & "The script uses GUI Scripting technology, which requires an upgrade to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther or newer." with icon caution buttons {"Quit"} default button "Quit"
end if
end tell

1 Currently for sale by owner yet it still works.

2 The script just activated, changed my focus from Chrome to IOgraphica and I started typing in the wrong window and then it saved before I could do anything. I will refund all licensing fees to anyone else who has this happen

3 I use this when I’m traveling as a backup alarm and have it open an mp3 with the computer set to full volume.