Category Archives: Design

Movie Monster Pet Guide

After my dad sent me a link to this dinosaur pet guide, I thought it’d be nice to have one for movie monsters. I’m using it as an opportunity to practice drawing more in Illustrator and once I get it finished up it’ll make for a decent #ds106 assignment. I was thinking horror movie characters, cartoons, famous people1 Anyway, round one is below as sleep is needed.

I think most of them are pretty self explanatory. The triskaphobia2 Jaws one was a reach. It’s mocking Jaws 3-D which was a total flop and the shark should fear that number being brought up.


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Tom Woodward

Minor Workflow Tip for Apple’s Preview

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I have a beautiful new laptop but I have yet to transfer over my actual drawing programs (Omnigraffle, Photoshop, Illustrator).

I had the need for a few icons for a website I’m working on and Keynote 6 is on this machine so I gave it a shot. I was very pleasantly surprised by the vector drawing tool. It’s different in a way that’s hard to articulate but I think people who are not familiar with vector drawing will really like it (and it probably won’t make the others too angry either).

One minor trick worth knowing is that if you copy items, vector items in this case, in Keynote (and other programs) and flip over to Preview, you can create a new image with just that selection by choosing File>New From Clipboard. That saves you a few steps and in this case gives you a nice PNG file with alpha transparencies with no effort.
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The results look something like this. No muss, no fuss. The icons are on Flickr if there of any interest and if you choose the original size you’ll get the PNG files with transparency.
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A Non-Definition of OER

THe following two photographs of slides are from David Wiley’s presentation on open education (which was awesome). I am playing against his definition for a variety of reasons which may become clear as I progress.

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(1) Any kind of teaching materials- textbooks, syllabi, lesson plans, videos, readings, exams

“Teaching materials” are in the eye of the beholder but leading with this phrase puts people in a certain mindset around content and one that is actually harmful. People make fun of “educational” resources for good reason. A large part of what needs to be opened is our ideas around what content might be educational and how we might use that content.

IMG_9374

(2) Free and unfettered access, and
(3) Free permission to engage in the “4R activities

I won’t argue much with #2, although I do realize I “pay” for access to some of this content when a 3rd party tracks me.

While I recognize the importance and goodness of #3, I hate to exclude all the content that falls outside that definition. I’d rather have a larger “house” of content and a few rooms that help people decide what they can do with it. I think it’s actually good that content might be ephemeral and might eventually go away. I am ok that I can’t remix certain things. I still find the content worth using. My goal is to first get people to open their eyes to the wealth of really engaging content around us and then the idea of remixing and making that content becomes both more likely and more interesting.

See Food!
I tend to see this as representative of most “teaching materials” only less exciting. The content is pre-chewed and equally unappetizing.

I’ll start with fairly normal media sources and drift outward towards stranger places and tools.

[Invitation to attend the execution of Tiburcio Vasquez]
The Flickr Commons has many good things (and a decent search interface), including this invitation to an execution that I found randomly as a result of subscribing to this RSS feed of the Commons’ photos. Since I knew Jim Groom was teaching a course on crime I passed it on and Jim did the rest. It’s also a decent example of the value of working in the open. If people know what you’re doing they may come bearing gifts. My favorites in Flickr are full of items waiting for uses.

This disturbing film records the successful experiments in the resuscitation of life to dead animals (dogs), as conducted by Dr. S.S. Bryukhonenko at the Institute of Experimental Physiology and Therapy, Voronezh, U.S.S.R. Director: D.I. Yashin.

I found this very disturbing video on Archive.org- specifically wandering around the Prelinger archives which are full of all sorts of odd things. All this content is remixable and the potential is limited only by time and imagination.

XKCD's What if?
There is a cartoonist who specializes in romance, sarcasm, math, language and happens to answer hypothetical physics questions on a weekly basis. I find this interesting in a variety of ways- not the least of which is that there is an audience for this. There is even a Twitter account that documents all the interesting numbers found in the pursuit of these answers.

Backstory
There are so many beautiful podcasts out there. This one is amazingly well done and a model for how we might teach history- 18th, 19th, and 20th century lenses on the same topic. They interview experts and provide resources that allow people to delve even deeper. This kind of thing starts to get at the idea of transmedia- different media paths with different depths driven, to some degree, by a narrative. The timely nature of the content is also quite useful- this Columbus episode for instance which would go nicely with this Oatmeal comic.1

There are so many things out there, it helps to have other people tell you about them. Eric Hoefler let me know about this one.

I do think it’s worth noting that I’m ok with degrees of “truth” from these sources. I want all information to be suspect.

There’s an endless additional supply of media but from here I’ll start to branch out into the idea that tools have as much or more value. A few of my favorites are below. I like them because they start with plenty of content and plenty of options but they also offer you the ability to fill them with your own data.

GapMinder
(Not sure why Gapminder doesn’t generate a screenshot via the WordPress Snap feature. . . it is a real place. You can click on the 404 image and go there.)

Google Earth/Google Maps- Short version – It’s full of stars.


Many Eyes

Under the tools category also falls all sorts of javascript libraries – Timeline JS, Simile Widgets, Dojo etc. etc.

And then there are people, so many people focused on finding interesting things in various areas of focus. A few content focused examples include2 -

Shorpy Fresh Photons It's OK to be Smart Literary Tattoos Literally Unbelievable

And what’s better than people? Communities. Legions of people working towards your goals is handy.

Like this reddit focused on colorizing historical photos.
Colorized History


1 and some fava beans

2 I would note that content focused blogs should be rounded out. It’s important to look outside education.

There are four photoshopped images from various ads.

Is it a lie?

So I actually taught a 55 minute class Monday. I’d give myself a C- but I think the underlying concept and the examples are decent and worth sharing.

Here’s the idea. Essentially it’s easier and easier to tell convincing lies in a digital environment.

I’m stealing from Dan Meyer here. I asked the kids to tell me one thing they knew was true and then one thing they knew was false.  The next request was for a statement that was sort of true or sort of false.

Augmenting Reality

There are four photoshopped images from various ads.

 

So I start with the question “Are these pictures lies?” and then try to drill down to the various pieces and apply the idea of context, intent, and manipulation.

Essentially, maybe it doesn’t matter so much if Dana Carvey is airbrushed up.  He’s a comedian.  I don’t think anyone cares too much what he looks like.  He’s not selling anything to do with looks.

Does it matter more that they’re changing Beyonce’s skin color dramatically?  Why would they do that? Does it matter? Interestingly, the students seemed to feel that this was done with lighting and wasn’t a big deal.

With Demi Moore, I tried to add complication.  Would this be a lie if this picture was used to sell a beauty product?  That seemed to trigger something for the students and they stated that manipulation of the audience was what made these “augmentations” of reality acceptable or unacceptable.

A worker at Foxconn died after working a 34 hour shift image of Daisey speaking

 

Now I brought in Mike Daisey and his comments about Foxconn.  What was interesting to me was that most of his lies were simply adding himself into the story.  Matthew Baldwin illustrated that really well in this post. I tried to illustrate that by starting with the entry statement above (which is true) and then adding the lie portion in red (below). “It’s a lie but the important part is true. Does it matter?” The students seemed to feel that if he’d add himself to manipulate you that stripped him of any credibility.

It’s important to emphasize that he’s an entertainer.  That’s his excuse. It’s entertainment but the important parts are true.

Contrasting OJ Simpson covers on Newsweek and TimeSo now we have “real” news and they’re certainly altering things to make a more compelling story.  I didn’t seem to convince them that this mattered. The observation that the Newsweek title ought to have been on the Time magazine. The feeling was that the Time magazine looked like a movie poster.  I should have drilled down more on why the image was darkened. What is the purpose?

NYT's graph of the housing crash

 

Only the bottom $100,000 measure is showing initially.  I then ask them to guess how much the house would cost at the peak.  The red money markers appear sequentially and then we talk about how you might manipulate the axises to make graphs more dramatic and why you might want to do so.  I’ll stress again that this is accurate.  The question is then “Is this a lie?”

masterpiece quote

 

 

Now we get into quote mining or decontextualizing phrases. This was a quote used to promote the movie Se7en.1  The more complete quote is below and it turns out Owen was not very impressed by the movie.

So we got most2 of that done semi-decently in about 25 minutes.

I wrapped up with the idea that we were going to impugn the reputation of a historical or fictional hero.  The goal was to come up with two images- one that uses a partial quote from the character/person and then one that uses actual data in some way to discredit them.  My examples were from Star Wars.

Hero?

I originally had Hitler stats in the chart. I replaced them with the Khmer Rouge. It is strange that one mass murderer feels more acceptable than another but it seems that’s the case.

Place I got media or information

Dana Carvey
Beyonce
Demi Moore
Ralph Lauren
Daisey quote
Daisey image
Foxconn death
OJ Simpson covers
NY Times graph
Comparison for the NYT graph
Se7en quote excerpt
Yoda image
Deathstar population
Civil War
Khmer Rouge
Cultural Revolution and Mao
Democide
Skywalker image


1 That’s for you Alan!

2 I skipped a few slides that I used but I’ll put all of the links to stuff below.

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Random Thoughts and Examples of Student Dashboards

This collection of dashboards1 was brought on by a tweet2 from Dan Meyer but precipitated by the fact that I am struggling to figure out what matters in terms of a future LMS and how the data we present (or don’t present) to students and teachers impacts education as a whole.3

While we4 often say we5 want a balance between multiple choice assessment and other types of assessment, if the only data that teachers see and talk about is related to multiple choice we probably shouldn’t bother talking about other types of assessment. There’s also the idea that assessment data may just be the tip of the iceberg. I’m not sure what exactly would make a difference but there are lots of other things that ought to be looked at.

In the end I see the data displayed to students and teachers as being pretty important but it means nothing if it’s not set within the right context and used in the right way by both parties.

All that aside, let’s see what’s going on right now.

Delaware Insight Dashboards

Fairly traditional, I’m not sure these dashboards are even meant for student view but many of the systems I’ve seen lately just give students access to their own data with the same views they give teachers and call it a student dashboard. One of the things that concerns me here is the green/red binary system. There is no room for even a yellow in this world view? Even if your focus is purely on test scores, this kind of thought disregards the importance of scores that fall immediately below and above the cut score. Those scores can easily go either way so seeing green may lead to unfortunate degrees of over confidence.

EquipSchools

Despite having one of the worst icons I have ever seen, EquipSchools has some interesting pieces to this dashboard.


Note the motivation/stress/energy/engagement/homework chart on the right. I’ve seen some people6 encouraging students to input those kind of data that through Twitter like status updates that use emoticons to indicate the emotional state but this is the first I’ve seen of something more sophisticated. It would be interesting to have those kind of data as a student and as a teacher but it seems like they have an awful lot of categories. I can’t think of a way to gather those data without it being either burdensome (and thus not done) or ineffective. Their method, multiple strand Likert scale ratings, seems to be presented in a way that ties it too loosely with time and too tightly with projects for it to be as useful as it could be.

I like the idea this seems to support. Students ought to set goals and the software ought to facilitate that as well as the tracking of progress towards those goals. While that’s a relatively obvious idea, it’s not often done. Most student data dashboards are purely passive visualizations of test data.7 If you’re lucky you might get a mouse over for more information or a dynamic chart.

Ten Marks


This is one of those dashboards that seems to creep up too often in education. It tries to make the data fun by letting you fill up these wacky body shapes with blood.8 It’s pretty much useless for student reflection and really only shows progression along a predetermined path.

You can also see some attempts at “gamification” going on in the sidebar. Apparently you can earn presents. This type of thing would prepare your children well to succeed in College Apprentice where they can accomplish feats and win awards by generating points by attending “events hosted and supported by College Apprentice.”

Read 180


Read 180 pulls out all the stops on the “gamification” bandwagon. I almost expect to get some virtual chickens for my virtual farm if I read enough. Personally, I don’t like this mentality. I fear it’s going to catch on and I imagine it motivates certain kids. I don’t think it does anything to help them learn or reflect on what they’re doing that might impact their learning. I don’t think it’s aiming too high to expect that.


1 A pretty imprecise word that appears to mean quite a few different things to different people.

2 I will never like that word.

3 Someplace I have an interesting way that someone was visualizing learning along five thematic branches (content, critical thinking, etc.) and displaying it as a star/pentagram in order to help reflect the idea of balance. For some reason I thought it was an NSF grant but I’m not finding it currently.

4 I have a frog in my pocket.

5 Yep, frog is still there.

6 I think it was eSparks but their website tells you nothing. I’m also pretty sure Dell’s new personalized learning environment does this as well but I can’t recall if they aggregate the results for student reflection.

7 CosmicMath seems to be a good example of that.

8 It’s bright red, apparently liquid, and in a body. What else could it be?