A lonely tree in front of the ICA museum construction site.

ePortfolios: Competing Concepts

I talked to some VCU people about ePortofolios1. It’s a conversation I’ve had any number of times over the years. I think that experience is leading to a better understanding of what’s going on structurally and the space we have to navigate competing interests. I’m also in a better position to show how certain technologies might help people find a middle way. However, I’m still trying to be honest about the complexities involved in an environment with shrinking resources and expanding expectations. That’s a rough line to sell when vendors have no compunction about pitching simple answers that aren’t exposed until after contracts are signed. For the record, I didn’t start with this peppy intro when I spoke. Portfolio Strategy There seem to be two major philosophies when thinking through portfolio content. Trophy Case The “trophy case” is showing the best of what the student has done. This is the pattern in many traditional portfolios. The student puts up assignment A. It’s as good as it’s going to get and it represents learning outcomes 1, 3, and 7. The alignment between the assignment and the evidence it presents of skills/knowledge is preordained and there’s little evidence of how or what led to that result. There is little or no consideration whether the display of this evidence plays to the strengths […]

Editable content example where the div display is changed from block to none to make a div disappear.

Live Action CSS Editting

Jeff did a nice intro to HTML/CSS course today and made a chunk of solid CodePen resources. I did one small example but I got to the scoped contenteditable something that I’ve been waiting to use since I saw it come up a few weeks1 Anyway, new to me. What it lets you do is edit the css in your page live without using the inspector or anything else. It’s harder to explain than it is to see in the gif2 below. The reason this gets my interest is that it is in the realm of an explorable explanation where you get the chance to play alongside the direct instruction. Here’s a quick demo in CodePen. See the Pen ID HTML: Display by Tom (@twwoodward) on CodePen. 1 Months? Who knows? Time . . . and turns out it’s ancient history (2011! at least). 2 You thought I’d be guiding your pronunciation of this word here didn’t you? Wrong. I do not care.

A lonely tree in front of the ICA museum construction site.

Intro to OER: A Wider Spectrum

I’ve done a number of introduction to OER conversations over the last few years. I did another recently. Here is my revised attempt at getting at a very broad overview and maybe going a bit farther afield than is typically the case. This particular presentation emphasized OER as addition and that you could use all sorts of pieces as augmentation rather than replacement. The intro was focused on a quick overview of broad concepts and getting some terms for future independent google work. I try to emphasize that with the people in attendance. We aren’t diving down every rabbit hole offered here but we are tossing out some key words and concepts that you might wish to pursue later. Despite the fact that creative commons and MOOCs feel old and played out to me they remain new terms to a number of the faculty attending. While it muddies the waters a bit, I do emphasize that VCU has a chunk of free-to-our-students resources that faculty should be aware of. Standard With that intro out of the way, I try to work from the typical conception of OER towards what I feel like are less considered elements. That leads to starting with courses/textbooks. They’re high structure and made with educational intent. I hit a few common places for this content and […]

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Javascript Highlighter to Form (or whatever)

John Stewart asked if I had any easy ways to allow users to highlight some text and push that highlighted text to a form. I didn’t but that sounded like something useful in a variety of scenarios so I sketched out a working demo in Codepen which you can see below. It can push the content directly to a form field on the page but I also built a link that would populate to include the highlighted text as a URL parameter and grab the page URL as well. Like most things I make, it’s the result of some Stack Overflow responses being hit several times with a hammer. It’s decently commented up but is not the most optimized of code. This type of construction usually results in new ideas being incorporated on the fly and that makes for ugly code. I am ok with that as this prototype took about 15 minutes to create. We can polish things up if/when we have a more direct audience/intent. Until then, it’s a functional prototype which can be used to get faculty seeing possibilities. See the Pen highlight to field by Tom (@twwoodward) on CodePen.

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Follow the Cursor Arrows in Javascript

Matt came up with a really interesting visual idea where arrows follow the cursor. He found this codepen example which was pretty close to what he envisioned (only with pill shapes). The problem was that this version used Babel, jQuery, and Underscore. That’s good if you know all those pieces but less good if you don’t. I don’t. Could I do this with just plain javascript? Make the Boxes First, I didn’t want to cut and paste a whole bunch of divs (or use pug) so I figured javascript should make them. Since I think I’m funny my arrow boxes are in the arrow class and the div they’re inserted before has the id quiver. I’m making 300 boxes in this example and the CSS sets the arrows as background images. Watch the Cursor This bit watches the body element for the mouse move. The cursorFinder piece gets the X and Y coordinates of the mouse. In this case, we’re also spitting it out at the bottom of the page so we can see what’s going on. It’s pretty much from the W3 example. Now that we can see where the mouse is we need to tilt the divs based on where they are and where the mouse is. Tilting the Divs First, we have to get all the arrow […]

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WordPress Timeline JS Plugin

Background I like Timeline JS. It’s a nice way to create multimedia timelines. I’d previously done some work that would take WordPress JSON API data and insert it into the Timeline JS view.1 It was nice for creating alternate and standardized views of blogs that might be useful for different reasons. It didn’t serve some other needs and while doing it through a generic URL was handy for many reasons it was odd in other scenarios. As a result I decided to make a new version as a plugin. If you don’t like reading stuff there’s a quick video of how it works below. Plugin Goals First, I wanted this to be a plugin rather than a theme. That adds a bit of complexity because you don’t have control of the whole scenario but it makes it much more portable and more likely to be used as it doesn’t require people to change themes or spin up an additional site. I wanted people to be able to use WordPress rather than a spreadsheet to create the content for Timeline JS. Doing that has a few advantages- the WYSIWYG editor, the ability to upload images directly in WordPress, the ability to use posts you’ve already written, etc. etc. I also wanted people to be able to choose what posts ended up […]

A drawing of a small terrier dog jumping through a hoop held by a monkey.

Code as Poetry, Time as a Variable – Options in the Ether

Backstory Driving into work I was listening to NPR and they were interviewing Nikki Giovani a poet from Virginia Tech. In high school I was one of those people who really suffered reading the The Red Wheelbarrow and other non-rhyming poems. They irritated me in the same way people seem to be annoyed by White Paintings or 4’33”. In any case, in college I took lots of English classes. One of those classes was on poetry with Donna Hickey. The class selection was driven more by fitting my schedule and a vague notion that I might minor in English rather than any real interest in poetry. The first day of class she had everyone list their favorite poets. I don’t recall what people chose but I remember feeling like my choices of Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess was not of the same category. In any case, I had a great deal of fun with the course and using poems as games and puzzles to think around and through. I later took a graduate course with Dr. Hickey1 in poetry and made my first digital liberal arts website around 2001 or 2002. It focused on breaking down various Richard Hugo poems and creating attempts at multimedia experiences.2 That stuff is all long gone from the UR website. I might have backup […]

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RVArts.org Version II

Lots of remakes going on lately. That’s good in that it means people still want to work with me (now our group) after doing it once and secondly they’re seeing things to change and improve which is how things get better. The harder part to figure out is that in you never really finish anything so you have to keep that partial snowball effect in mind as you figure out how much work you can take on. Or I suggest you do. I at least pretend I do but really if it’s cool and interesting enough I just say yes.1 So anyway, the old RVArts site was decent but it was an early work in terms of my capacity as someone who makes websites.2 This remake is a mix of technical and visual changes. Technically . . . This remake is about harvesting the content students create in a Facebook group and then using it with different material students create in WordPress. Right now the data is pulled from the Facebook group events into WordPress through the Event Aggregator which ties into Event Calendar Pro. Later in the game we opted to jump events right back to Facebook so we could have skipped all that and just used the FB API but sometimes you find that stuff out too late. […]

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ANTH101 v 3.ish

“You cannot think your way into a new way of living. You have to live your way into a new way of thinking.” – Mike Wesch You can’t beat that quote as a way to frame a course and it’s nice to consider how digital content supports that kind of perspective on learning/living. It’s also a key consideration in how I think about building courses like this. You have to do it. You shouldn’t expect to be perfect the first time, or the second, or ever really but if you’re doing it right improving it should be worth the investment. You should get some joy out of the process and it should alleviate things that cause you pain. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Mike Wesch and Ryan Klataske at Kansas State over the last few years1 on the ANTH101 site. It’s been an interesting progression over time as the course has continued to evolve. We’ve gone done a variety of paths and dealt with human and technical issues. It has been interesting to participate in the ongoing co-evolution of aesthetics, mechanics, and content. It’s also a scenario where I wish I’d have done a much better job with screenshots so I could more accurately show you how the site has evolved.2 After an initial meeting at Kansas State […]

Small plastic toy shovel.

The Toy Shovel

The Eyes of A Child flickr photo by -Jeffrey- shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license Once upon a time there was a young human who loved the beach. She had a toy shovel that she used at the beach all the time. She used that shovel to dig holes and make sand castles. Many fond days at the beach were spent with that shovel. This young human also had a dog. The dog did what dogs do. Her responsibility was to clean up the dog doo when the dog was done. She disliked this task intensely and would often complain about it. “Eureka!”1 exclaimed her parental unit one day. “Our daughter loves her beach shovel! Let’s have her use that shovel to clean up the dog mess instead of using the big metal shovel.” After a few sessions where she was required to use her beach shovel to clean up after the dog her parental unit asked “Isn’t cleaning up after the dog so much fun now? You get to do it with that shovel you love so much.” As you might guess, the daughter did not enjoy the shift. The beach shovel did not make cleaning up dog poo more pleasant. It actually made things worse. It was a poor fit for the unpleasant task compared to the […]