Category Archives: Possibilities

Chi Alignment Workflow Dump

And by chi, obviously I mean chi. Consider this an attempt to clear my head a bit.

Bouncing off Jim’s post . . . I decided to look at smoothing off the rough edges of some new elements of my viewing/reading/sharing workflows.

Flickr Addition

One chunk I hadn’t been happy with but had never fixed was the images from people I follow on Flickr. I glanced at them when I logged in but that was it. I’ve been following more people lately including Alexander Pini1 so I wanted to set that up better. Given I had the full feed of the Flickr Commons in Feedly I figured I’d add this as well. When I didn’t see any obvious RSS icons I flipped into the source code and saw the image below which made me pretty happy- a nice Flickr Easter egg.
Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 10.37.19 PM

In any case, the URL is in there as well and it’d probably get picked up automatically but . . . hey maybe that wouldn’t happen sometime and it’s worth remembering you can flip over to source and do a find (ctrl+F or command+F)2 for RSS.
Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 10.37.43 PM

Tumblr Dashboard Irritation

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Tom Woodward
I’m looking at ways to pull in my Tumblr dashboard but haven’t been thrilled with my options. RSS access doesn’t come built in and I’m not quite trusting enough of the third party options I’ve found. GitHub has some solutions but I’ll have to do some additional work to get them rolling. I’m not sure it’s worth it. Tumblr makes it easy to buy into subscribing via their own methods but I probably just need to transfer those subscriptions to my aggregator. I also think I’d like to push my content to Tumblr rather than authoring anything in there or feeding Tumblr back to the blog.


The way I use Reddit combined with the way I read RSS means it doesn’t make much sense to subscribe via RSS. I tend to read RSS at night rather than throughout the day. The Reddits I inhabit tend to be fast moving- very close to IM speed (that’s faster than Twitter). If you aren’t on it in the moment then it passes you by. I’d like to plot out long and short examples of back and forth conversation from the various places I write. What’s the fastest I was replied to on the blog vs the longest time between post and comment? How does that compare to Twitter? etc. etc. I don’t know if it’d mean anything but I am curious. I think it’d be easy to get that from WordPress and maybe the Twitter archive would make that possible . . .

Foundational Questions

I end up with a combination of a few tools that make all this happen. My input is handled by Feedly from which I can tweet out or save in Diigo. Diigo does a combination of long term memory storage and publishing. It pushes out to Twitter if I tag it “tweet” or aggregates to a weekly summary post on my blog if I tag it “weekly”. At the same time IFTTT does some hand offs between some other systems. I think I illustrate that below.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Tom Woodward
There’s a second workflow that is disconnected that needs connecting that involves Flickr and Tumblr. It’s shown below in its lonely loneliness.

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

As usual I wonder about dependencies and points of failure. The whole thing looks pretty complicated and has a variety of redundancies which mess things up at times. When I try to talk to people thinking this sort of thing through I worry it’s overwhelming.

Other Stuff

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

This Twitter conversation eventually led to making this site. Just the everyday wonderful stuff that happens on the Internet.

For some reason (maybe restricted to the Twenty Twelve theme) some external javascript elements (one that I was trying to make and one that did work) now seem to auto refresh. I am on the edge of rebuilding my portfolio site rather than spending any more time trying to figure out the issue. I have found an amazing array of ways to fail on the attempt to integrate MixItUp into the theme. It is so close to working . . . click on a category and watch it sort . . . and then unsort.

I also have at least three DS106 assignment ideas I need to get up and create examples for.

1 Really impressive black and white work.

2 A strangely underused option in my experience and, sadly, one that’s likely to die with the increasing prevalence of “endless” scroll.

Calendar as Unifier

I touched on this with a previous zombie pictures post. Essentially, metadata is awesome because it lets people find your stuff and it helps your stuff find its audience. Metadata is also absent more often than not because people don’t like to type in lots of tags and they especially don’t like to do it on phones.

#vcu #day1

You see elements of this metadata addition becoming automatic- simple things like Instagram (or maybe IFTT) auto-tagging my images with instagram and (in my case) iPhone (like the image above). I’ve also seen auto-tagging of image filters and with exif data you get all sorts of interesting automated metadata details but they tend to be mechanical rather than social. IFTT, FeedWordPress, and others allow you to do some low level of automatic metadata association.

What keeps coming back to me is that it would be relatively simple to enable people to associate calendars and specific calendar events with online media publishing workflows. This would add the socially relevant automated metadata so the audience could find the media. The end goal being audience rather than metadata.). This would work particularly well at institutions which have centralized calendars or in the case of Udell’s Elm City aggregated calendars. Take VCU’s calendar of events as an example. It has time, location, and categorical elements already. You could add elements to the event template or just leave it as is.

Sequentially, you’d pre-associate your calendar(s) with your media account of choice. You’d upload a piece of media. The system would look at the time stamp and/or GPS data from the media and attempt to connect that information to your calendar(s). Those calendar events would have associated metadata elements which you could opt to associate with your media.

It seems like you then use calendars as indices to media elements which would be an interesting reverse exploration. While it wouldn’t be as automated it would also seem relatively simple to add a WordPress plugin that ties into your calendar and allows you to associate blog posts with calendar events for much the same purpose. It’s a little more manual given blog posts aren’t as synchronous in most cases but it still seems valuable.

RVA Zombie Walk and Internet Karma

I brought my two older boys to the RVA Zombie Walk. It was our first time and it was pretty amazing just how many people participated and how professional many of the costumes were. I wanted to take pictures but I also wanted to be able to give those pictures to the participants if they wanted them. As a result I put a little more effort into metadata than I usually do and I made sure I got the pictures online quickly.

Flickr stats post zombie walk
My daily Flickr views usually hover around 2,000. You can see just a bit of a spike as a result of the zombie pictures. That’s amusing in certain ways but if lots of views was my aim I’d play a very different game. I do like that the people looking for these particular images were able to find them.

What’s more I got some comments on a few of the images from people who knew some additional details. I love those interactions. It’s something that Alan talks about with his True Stories of Openess.

zombie doctor
Here Bryan talks a bit about the screech he made that impressed me so much. I was also able to point him to another picture I took of him that I liked. It’s not a world changing interaction but I find it fascinating and more of motivator to post images like this than the views.

green zombie hospital crew
Here’s another interaction in the comments where I found out the crew of zombies with the hospital bed were members of the Richmond Volunteer Rescue Squad.

I really do love how the little pieces like this add up.

I need to think more about ways to make that metadata1 happen more naturally. I wonder how intelligently you might blend data from publically available event calendars to the exif data from photographs, especially those that include GPS data. Maybe there’s a way to auto-provision that kind of metadata from the host of the event.2 All things that others may have already thought through. I’ll have to wander around the Internet and see.

A few other shots I liked . . .
badminton zombie
bloody zombie

1 one of the main keys to discovery

2 A QR code might be a decent way of passing this data on. I don’t know of a decent way to then associate that metadata with all of those images. It’d be slick if cameras would do it for you based on photographing a QR code.

Getting it together

This is an interesting time to attempt interesting things.

There is a lot being documented at the moment1 that ought to be shaping how we think and what we do in K12.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg but I think it’s representative of an interesting mixture of elements- creating/shaping content/media, creating context around that media, and workflows around sharing/authoring that contextualized media in a way that encourages communities that both reinforce and challenge ideas around how to teach.

I don’t know if that makes any sense but I’ll try to show how it’s shaping what we’re trying to do in Henrico in the coming year.


  • More and better examples of just about everything – Currently our Henrico 21 site is meant to help show people interesting things to do that fit within our definition of blended/technology-enhanced learning. I think it serves a certain purpose and there are 900 or so lesson plans there but in the end, I don’t think it’s used in a way that justifies the amount of energy that goes into it. This a combination of figuring out what to show people, how to get it there, and how to encourage face-to-face and online conversations around it.
  • Bridges – We have many useful resources that are not connected to other useful resources. Our TechTips blog focuses on tutorials and other tips but doesn’t connect in any meaningful way with the H21 lessons or the online tools list4 None of those things merge with our orphaned online courses5 around topics that should bridge some of these gaps. That doesn’t even get into the idea that we ought to be looking at how to map different resources across content areas and between grades.
  • Workflows/Efficiencies – This is comprised of two elements. One is about making the energy in matter to the people who do the work. If this fails, it all fails rather quickly. You might get compliance if you force it but the works will be sub-standard in the same way that most school work is. Secondly, technology should be your friend. This is partially about creating workflows that aggregate bits of continuous work (as opposed to widely spaced herculean efforts) and partially about building systems that make your input spread efficiently to the other places you’d like it to go.
  • Tiered Curation – This is to a large degree a philosophical aspect to the workflow above. Part of what makes all this make sense is the fact that there is a huge amount of interesting content on the web and a huge number of interesting people interaction with it- both with and without deliberate educational intent. One essential element in making this sustainable is taking advantage of all that content and the work of all those people.

So far . . .

I’m pretty sure I have most of our content specialists on board with some brand of social bookmarking. The majority are on Diigo.6 We have some of the ITRTs on board but I’m not sure how many. It’s always interesting to see who sees a need for something like this. Symbaloo seems like a path some people are taking. I can’t quite figure that one out. Feels like a slightly more attractive version of Porta-portal but I could be missing something. It doesn’t seem to address any of the reasons I use social bookmarking (other than getting the links online).

I see this as a little bit backwards based on my own experience. I ended up needing to change how I bookmarked because I’d created a reading pattern that demanded a different organizational structure to keep track of all the interesting things I’d found (that also included a mindset about the kinds of things I thought would be useful later on). That may be me over-mapping my own patterns on to others. My concern is that if this is a herculean (and episodic) task, rather than a change in process, it won’t change anything longterm. This is easier, however, than getting people to start reading RSS feeds. Although that is a long term goal.

What exists now . . .

We (sometimes just me) expend a lot of energy right now but it doesn’t flow well and there are no decent connections or workflows.

  • H21 – A lesson plan repository populated through episodic herculean effort. It seems to have enough detail to frustrate authors but not enough detail, or perhaps the right kind of detail, to make it really useful for teachers.
  • Student 21 – is driven by student submissions via a form. It’s another disconnected effort which allows students to enter a contest but has no real purpose and the energy there doesn’t help the student.
  • eLearning – is just a list of district wide resources.
  • Tech Tips – is a repository of tutorials and other training materials.
  • Content specialist sites – there are a variety of these in a variety of formats. They tend to be isolated and radically different in intent and design. They range from simple network file shares to more elaborate sites like our secondary math site.
  • Word Games – is a site I was messing around with for English. It’s an attempt to capture fairly ephemeral examples of all kinds of English related material. There’s everything from interesting quotes and unique words to graffiti and comedy pieces. This is something I’d like to have work better.
  • The Well – was meant to be a site where anyone could take an inspiring chunk of media and sketch out some rough ideas for how to use it.
  • Online Tools – is a somewhat wayward list of technology related tools. It lives a lonely life of isolation and probably confusion.
  • Might be of interest – is my version of a curated list of things that might be of interest to ITRTs.
  • The HCPS ITRT Diigo group – there are about 10 ITRT members. A smaller portion are participating. Integrating with the specialists and their various groups will need consideration.
  • Online courses – our orphaned online courses are hanging out here in a state of suspended animation.

Next steps . . .

I’m trying to figure out how to build a smarter system- a system built around finding and sharing inspiring and interesting things. It should help make doing these things easier. It ought to be based mainly on small actions aggregating to larger results. I’d like to see this system interweave the pieces of media, lessons, tools, pd, curricular maps etc. There should be pieces where the barrier to entry is virtually nothing and places where final curation indicates acceptance into the HCPS canon. Workflows, presentation, searching/sorting will all be key elements and it’ll be driven by some pretty serious needs. Finances are tight. Testing is growing to be more an issue. Morale is pretty low in a lot of cases. Clearly, tools won’t solve any of these problems. I can’t change a lot of those variables but I think I can help lower workloads to some degree, change aspirations, and provide connections/community across our large district.

I’ll be building out the connections in the image below as things start to come together.

1 And built, like everything, on a lot of older hard work.

2 Haircut, surfer term, or dessert, you decide.

3 Read the comments.

4 Which has all kinds of additional issues beyond being isolated.

5 Done in Dreamweaver and iWeb for the most part.

6 It make me sad but I cannot recommend Delicious these days.

What Transitionary Personalized Learning Might Look Like

media/project mixtures

In most English classes the teacher chooses all of the content in addition to all of the assignments. In some classes you’ll get to choose between a few books, assignments, or essay topics that the teacher has provided. The projects tend to tier upward in terms of sophistication and/or length.1 There is essentially one broad common experience for everyone and virtually every structural element originates with the teacher. The student ability to alter the class is limited to asking questions. That leads to a fairly predictable experience built to produce similar products which are easier to compare to one another.

English, in particular, seems to beg for a different paradigm for course participation/creation. I talked some about the mechanism for infusing student selected media into a course in the previous post, so I’m doing this backwards to some degree. The lower portion of the image above is a rough conceptualization of what the course itself might come to look like as compared to a traditional course (the upper portion of the image).

A chunk of this is colored by how I’ve seen elements of #ds106 play out. I have always loved the idea that participants can submit project ideas. Linking those ideas to the student work created based on them makes it far more powerful and interesting for everyone. It also substantially changes the locus of control for the course. Cory Doctrow recently had something similar happening in an English class using his novel Little Brother as basis for songs, fan fiction extension chapters, and alternate chapter extensions. Doctrow goes out of his way to make this possible with his CC licensing and general enthusiasm for fans interacting with his work.

Will you have to think through quality control? Sure but it’s worth considering how you can integrate that into the course by infusing an understanding of standards based grading and guiding the alignment of projects to that concept. I’d look at quality control here as a problem I’d want to have as it opens a number conversations that should be valuable and should further the goals of the class.

The other portion of DS106 that I found particularly interesting was the progressive extension and remixing of participant created projects. The idea that other students would look at something you did and find it inspiring enough to make them take action (create a similar work, remix it, create something new). An example of that chain that mattered to me in ds106 was when I watched No More Digital Facelifts. I believe the assignment was to reflect on the talk in a blog post. I was interested enough in the language and poetic elements of Gardner’s talk that I opted remix it over Nas’s If I Ruled the World. You can see all kinds of responses to that post. That was empowering to me in a variety of ways and it made me reconsider exactly what role I might play in this course and how my actions might create ripples or waves greater in size than the originating force. There is an audience and what I do can have power.

Clearly, none of this is rocket science and none of it is a promise of instant engagement and success. In many ways it creates different problems than the traditional class but the problems are more interesting to me. Breaking students out of the consumption mindset will be a fairly difficult task by itself.

In the end, I see little choice in our current landscape. Either teachers start actively harnessing and successfully promoting the interesting human elements of differentiation and relationships or they’ll be replaced by the mechanical versions. I know “A computer never hugged anyone.” but a human shaped pillow could and a low-paid child supervisor endorsed in hugs probably already is. Teachers seem to be making the wrong arguments and thinking of the past as a far more solid foundation for the future than it seems to be, especially given the PR arrayed against the institution.

1 These two things are often conflated.