A Bag of Gold

I really liked Gardner Campbell’s “No More Digital Facelifts” talk that was recommended watching for #ds106 (embedded below).

I like it enough that I decided to remix it. I don’t claim to have captured all, or perhaps any, of the spirit/content of Gardner’s talk but it was an interesting experiment and hopefully one that entertains a few people. If anything it should encourage you to listen to the actual talk. It really is good and I don’t like talks.

bag of gold

Limitations

I limited myself to the length of the instrumental (Nas – If I Ruled the World)
I limited myself to under an hour of editing.

Some Notes on Process

I chose the Nas song after browsing around looking for instrumentals that were titled something to do with gold and being unhappy with what I found. One easy way I use to get a feel for a good song is to set the audio of the speech playing and then browse for music. That way, when I preview various songs, I’m hearing the voice over the music like I would in the final product.

I did all the editing in GarageBand. I tend to cut up the speech as I listen and pull clips that I especially like into a different track. Once I’ve got them there I drag them over the music and start to shuffle things around. It’d be nice if I could separately label the diced up pieces but if you can do that in GB, I don’t know how.

Yes, that is Jim Groom laughing hysterically in the audience.

So it begins #ds106

Jim’s doing a class on digital storytelling. The course is open and free. That means we can all play and assume multiple roles. This is going to be fun.

Iconic Clash

Take your two favorite movies. Make one iconic poster. For bonus points use only black and white.

Closet Art

Find the center of disorder in your house. Make it interesting. Make it beautiful. Make it art, if only for a moment1. Take a picture.

Tweet, Tweet, Bang!


Take an already existing tweet2 mash it up with an Audubon painting. Challenge yourself. It doesn’t have to be bird related.

Say It Like the Peanut Butter



Make an animated gif from your favorite/least favorite movie capturing the essence of a key scene. Make sure the movement is minimal but essential. 3.

—All images are from ffffound.com which is pretty much the best place ever.


1 Try not to make it as pretentious as I sound describing it.

2 I will never forgive whoever made that the correct term.

3 Here are some directions on how to do it with free software. Don’t the let the command line scare you.

Playing with Vocabulary

I did this a while back but don’t think I ever posted about it 1.

So vocabulary work often is one the most boring things an English teacher (or anyone else) ever does. The beauty of an English class is that you have a fair degree more flexibility when dealing with vocabulary than a lot of subjects.

Here are two ways I wanted to attack words in a way that’d make them stick.

the album

Students pick a word/root/suffix/prefix and then build an album around it complete with cover art and song choices that reflect that theme. You see my Puffy Ego album above with songs like “Your You’re2 So Vain” and “I Love Me.”

It’s simple and pretty engaging for students. The association with music (and likely with music they like) should really help internalize the information.

the t-shirt

Once again, a pretty simple idea. Students take a word/root/prefix/suffix and make a t-shirt3 with it. This could be fun and you could also make posters, hats etc and get the best ones made 4

The point is just to have students think more about the words, to do something real with them and to have a little fun. Were it me, I’d have a variety of options like these and allow students to pick various options each week.


1 It’s possible I did and am bad at searching and worse at remembering

2 I’d thank the commenter for catching the typo if he/she hadn’t been such a jerk about it

3 Here’s a blank template for the t-shirt if you’re interested.

4 or maybe just put on cafepress

Stepping Up: Non-Programistan/Non-HTML Exhibit Page

Ben called me on the fact that Exhibit really was too much for most teachers/humans. It seems no one wants to know HTML these days has ever wanted to know html. So my “no programming” claim was weak and as a true patriot of Non-Programistan I had to step up.

Here is a spreadsheet where you can put in some basic fields. It builds you the Google Spreadsheet headers (you have to cut and paste them in) and with a little simple work on your part in the spreadsheet the HTML is made for you. You have to cut and paste it into a text editor and save it as html.

I made this page with it.

Now, this version if fairly rough but it works. The whole thing is limited and will only do the sortable table view but it’s a decent start. There’s a lot you could do to expand this to allow mapping, time lines etc. as Exhibit is built to be modular. I might have to learn enough programming to make this work in a web interface some day.

Step 1


You put in the data types, headers etc. you want.

Step 2


After pasting in the URL headers into a Google spreadsheet you publish it and copy the XML feed and paste it into the spreadsheet.

Step 3


Give the page a title.

Step 4


You cut and paste the html from this cell.

Step 5


Once you paste the code into an html editor and upload it you should be golden.

Teaching a Table New Tricks

I’m doing a presentation tomorrow with Jim Groom on how to create mashups without knowing anything about programming. The fun thing is it’s presented using a mashup of communist propaganda posters and that sort of rhetoric. Good clean American fun! It may, or may not, be presented entirely in a fake Russian accent. It will entirely depend on my mood (and Jim‘s).

You can also check out the full site here if you’re interested.

My example takes a table of information from Wikipedia on Industrial Warfare and steps you through the ways you can change it using SIMILE’s Exhibit. If you bother to look at the actual Exhibit pages you’ll see they link back to the Google spreadsheets to show you what data had to be added to create the changes on the pages.

So, you’ll start with this-

Industrial Warfare

Step 1

Making this data interactive- so I cut and paste the table into Excel and clean up the data a little bit. I make the html portion of Exhibit. Then I get what’s below- an interesting level of interactivity has been added. You can select/omit/sort the data now. So seeing relationships is a lot easier.

Step 2

Adding the visual component- now I felt that we needed something more visual so I added some image URLs and URLs to the Wikipedia articles. Now we’ve got the same level of interaction but with added visual content and the ability to follow information outward.

Step 3

Adding the map- if I were fancier I’d saying “adding the geo-spatial element.” I kept the visual interface underneath the map for this one but it probably could be removed.

Step 4

This is the final step and it’s adding the data and presentation of the timeline element.

So, the whole point in this is that Exhibit is freeing the information so that you can tweak and bend and add to the information until it does exactly what you need. You don’t have to accept information the way it is. You can change it and ultimately make it far more valuable to you and your students.

On the fly video mashups

I may have to add Omnision to the tools Jim Groom and I will be talking about this Thursday. We’ll be discussing ways to mashup data without having to sink to the odious business of programming (I’m just jealous because I can’t code). Session title is “Welcome to Non-Programistan” and it’ll be part of the NMC online spring symposium.

So Omnision is a nice way to mash up various Youtube videos at varying points/lengths into one continuous movie. The service also gives you the ability to add comments or allow others to do so (warning: that gets ugly quickly but you can turn them off/on).

The nice thing here is you suddenly have the power to make subtitled videos (like we did with the Baliwood video thing) but now you’ve got a huge catalog of much more varied material. You could really do some creative and interesting work with this.

I’m pretty excited about the possibilities, not Steve Ballmer excited, but pretty excited.
Sweaty Ballmer

Cute Cats, Dissidents & Your School’s Filter?

Cute Cats

I found this great post via O’Reilly Radar.

It’s basically the notes from a presentation at eTech. I found the ideas and applications really interesting. If you want to see examples of Web 2.0 being used in amazing ways to change the world, this is the post for you. It ought to lead to some deeper thinking about the technologies and their possible applications both in schools and elsewhere.

I thought this quote could apply to schools who are filtering in the typical “block all student communication” manner.

(referring to getting a site blocked) This is a good thing if you’re an activist. Most Tunisians don’t identify as activists and might not be engaged with politics. But, like Americans and Europeans, they’re interested in seeing cute cats being adorable online. When the government blocks DailyMotion, it impacts a much wider swath of Tunisians than those who are politically active. Cute cats are collateral damage when governments block sites. And even those who could care less about presidential shenanigans are made aware that their government fears online speech so much that they’re willing to censor the millions of banal videos on DailyMotion to block a few political ones.

Blocking banal content on the internet is a self-defeating proposition. It teaches people how to become dissidents – they learn to find and use anonymous proxies, which happens to be a key first step in learning how to blog anonymously. Every time you force a government to block a web 2.0 site – cutting off people’s access to cute cats – you spend political capital. Our job as online advocates is to raise that cost of censorship as high as possible.

Google Forms to Exhibit Example (POC)

Log

So, I’ve managed to create two quick websites for work that are driven by Google’s new form option for getting data into spreadsheets. I’ve put a quick example of a log here. Feel free to enter data etc. It’s up there to play around with and hopefully is simple enough to help people figure out how to do it.

One thing I don’t like about the form option. I don’t like that changes I make to the submission form alter my spreadsheet. I might want the form to read “Your name here” while my spreadsheet says {name:text}. I don’t believe there’s any way to do that and it would be much nicer when using this with Exhibit.

Formula

Instead I have to add another sheet and I use a formula to reference the data in. It’s just =sheet1!A2 in case anyone needs it. Then if I get my mouse in just the right place it turns into cross hairs and I can drag that formula dynamically so that it pastes as =sheet1!A3 and A4 etc. then I can drag it across to create =sheet1B2 etc. That is much better than typing all that in.

In a perfect world I’d also be able to apply some css to it but that’s getting a little picky.

So the key steps.

  1. create spreadsheet and form- remember you’ll need two pages and the second one will really just reference the first but with ugly Exhibit headers that are basically {fieldname:text} for this simple version
  2. publish spreadsheet publish.png
  3. go to the published site and click on the ugly Exhibit page and get the URL with the word “basic” in it
  4. replace the feed in the Exhibit source code with the one you just got
  5. change the categories in the Exhibit code to match those in your spreadsheet- if you have more categories then you’ll need to add list definitions for each additional one or they’ll show up blank
  6. After all of that. I think I need to do a video. It’s really easier than this makes it appear.

Just in time tech . . .

Google spreadsheets now lets you share editing by sending out a custom form. This is a huge deal. No, really. Huge.

It solves so many problems I see happening all the time in schools. This is such a great way to get large amounts of information from all sorts of people of varying technical skill levels so you have it one place to manipulate. No need for the hassle of Adobe PDF and the complications of those forms or the need to create custom web forms of various types. It’s free and dead simple.

I’m going to use it to collect testing information on programs for our upcoming Vista move. Previously, I was going to use cforms ii (awesome WordPress plug in by the way- especially if you need to fully customize the CSS- see an example I did for the NSDC here- it is real so don’t fill out fake info please). But there’s no real easy way to share that information. You could give people the password to the blog but that’s no always a good thing and the information that’s there is really just for looking at or exporting. I wanted something more dynamic. I think you could write some custom php pages and pull the info out but that’s a hassle and it takes time.

I was going to download the data, upload it into a Google spreadsheet and possibly push it out to an Exhibit front end (yes, I’m still in love with them). Major hassle for me in terms of keeping things updated as I’d have to add to the spreadsheet with each new entry to keep things up to date. Blah. I considered trying to write an Applescript to do it for me based on folder update changes but that’s more time and, if you’ve ever messed with Applescript, it’s likely to be a hassle.

Instead, I set up the spreadsheet to feed my data into Exhibit and send out a form. As you can see below it’s got the option to change the field names in the form, add help text etc. I never have to update. Anyone can use it. So very nice. I’ll post my example when I get it finished.

gform.jpg

The bridge between these two platforms has never seemed more interesting to me.

  1. Easy to use, free and friendly data entry.
  2. An easy to set up “database” backend – yes I know it’s not relational blah blah but it’ll do for 99% of things normal human need (and I wonder if you linked a series of spreadsheets in the right ways . . . )
  3. A visual and friendly web front end for user interaction with the data using Exhibit.
  4. You need to know NO programming to do any of this. Some html, css will help but no php, mySQL, no real languages. That’s amazing.

Now start thinking of the cool things you can do with students, how you could save your school and district hours of useless work.