More Than a Bunch of Stuff – Argumentative & Experiential History Sites

In working with students in the Digital History course, we’ve repeatedly bumped up against the idea that it’s harder to make a cohesive argument on the Internet (vs a traditional paper) or that constructing a web-based exhibition abdicates controls you have in physical space. There are frequent examples of archives referenced in the texts (Valley of the Shadow for instance) but for various reasons (age, limited time/space/knowledge) there aren’t many decent examples of constructing a multimedia argument or experiential/immersive examples. So here’s an attempt to show some sites that are far more than a-bunch-of-stuff-on-the-Internet and some elements that help them do that. Kennedy/Oswald It’s a bit heavy on the parallax for my taste but it’s a pretty direct parallel to a museum exhibit. It sets out to parallel the lives of Kennedy and Oswald reinforcing that parallel with visual metaphors (split screen transitions, similar images etc.) to reinforce that concept. There is a main text-based storyline, music to reinforce a certain mood,1 and the ability to see supporting elements by clicking on various items. The movement through the site is very guided. The links are kept within the site and remain contextualized rather than leading to other sites. The ancillary materials are a mixed bag of audio, images, video, and mixed media. Digital primary source materials are used throughout to […]

WordPress/Google Spreadsheet Chimera Community

flickr photo shared by NASA on The Commons with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons) Many professors don’t want students having to go into the backend of WordPress. Imagine also that you’re dealing with many hundreds of students and don’t want the hassle of people asking you about password resets or any other attendant drama. You’re willing to give up some things in return for as much simplicity as possible. You’ve got a few options for front-end editors. Gravity Forms is one I use all the time but it doesn’t give you the full WP editor which is pretty handy if you’re asking students to write posts of any complexity. AccessPress Anonymous Post Pro Forms is another option that I used on this project. It’s worth checking out and I think there’s a free version as well. Alan and Brian’s SPLOT tools are also worth checking out if your actions fit into those patterns consistently. That helps address one problem but it opens up a few other issues. We’ve got lots of students and lots of individual sections. How do we group them into courses or teams? How do we aggregate individual student’s work to their own page if they aren’t authors (in the WordPress sense)? Can we do that without drama? After a few false starts, I think this works […]

Portfolio Work – Interweaving the Personal API

I know. The title is pure click-bait. That’s part of why this blog is so wildly popular.1 I’ve been building a new portfolio site2 and I think some of this is kind of interesting even if it sounds boring. There are a few different goals in play. One challenge is to create a site that stays up to date with minimal work on my end. It’s a parallel of the small-pieces-loosely-joined mentality. I want tiny-actions-over-time (from the aforementioned small pieces) rather than widely-spaced-herculean efforts. I’m also trying to make sure that it fits in well with my current workflow and that I’m capturing the work I do elsewhere in ways that make sense. Another focus is to keep any work highly portable. I’ve had to re-enter data a number of times as I’ve migrated and I don’t want to do that any more. That’s going to be made possible mainly through some new API options and by working on my API/JSON, JavaScript skills. I’ll probably have to do chunks of it over anyway but I like to pretend I wont. I’ve got a ways to go but I’ve made some decent progress. The basic template/visuals are handled by Bootstrap. I’ve also got some simple Angular views, Timeline JS, JSON from Google sheets, WordPress WP Rest API v2, and Pinboard’s API. […]

Thinking About Digital Literacy

I was asked to speak at the VCU School of Education’s Teaching Literacy in a Digital World Conference this past Saturday. I’ve haven’t spent much time thinking about “digital literacy” in the past few years. It’s been somewhat mashed together with other terms that overlap like- digital fluency, computational thinking, etc. – and like those terms there’s not much agreement on what it is. I glanced at a few definitions prior to making this but didn’t really stick with one. When Dr. Leila Christenbury started the conference she referenced the “find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet” definition of digital literacy so I added that while I waited and it makes as good a framework as anything else. A chunk of the presentation is on GitHub here or you can fork it here. I opted to do the presentation with reveal.js and on GitHub mainly because I need to be expanding my own competencies (digital and otherwise). I struck the “differently” portion because I wanted to orient things more towards the idea of doing things and didn’t want people getting caught up in the nuances of whether it was really “different.” This was an attempt to connect with the audience. I believed they were mainly k12 teachers or faculty in the School of Ed (who […]

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Field Botany Changed the World

Two pretty telling student quotes from the video1 above. “I was real excited that our blog is now an example for anyone. If you want to look up high bush clover you can look on one of our blogs and find our pictures.” “I think that knowing that the blog and the material would be accessible to anyone made the idea of putting it out there made the idea more exciting in some way but also I put more thought into it for that reason.” The Field Botany blog ended up with 3,675 posts from 27 students. That’s some pretty serious output. That content will remain accessible and the site can evolve2 with each iteration of the course. Two rather simple questions stay in my head lately. How can we have students do more than stairmaster work? – I’ve never cared for burning calories just to burn calories. I’d rather go somewhere. Even running in a circle is better than running in place. I can’t stop thinking about how much time and energy go into things that neither the student nor the teacher want. Since we can aggregate and archive student work, how does that change what we ask students to do? Student work can be valuable. It can add value in the context of other student work. It can […]

A Hub for The Circle

VCU is reading The Circle by Dave Eggers. All of the first year students will read the book in addition to a number of different faculty members and it’ll play various roles in various classes. So all that means lots of potential for interesting connections but very, very little consistency or hope for consistency.1 The usual things that help you structure a site an experience like this aren’t going to happen but I would really like to allow people to engage with the larger community around this book. That’s the whole point of everyone reading the same book! So I’m relying on the basic blog-based aggregation hub option. The plan is for it to be a lot like the #thoughtvectors site which Alan has explained at length. People can enroll via a Gravity Form that’ll get them tied to their teacher/class and/or we can cherry pick anything with the #VCUcircle2 tag from the Rampages community feed. That is pretty standard these days. 🙂 But a major uniting factor in these sites is usually common assignments or common frameworks. Lacking that, I looked for other options. The interesting option here is the ability to unite the conversations using the page numbers of the physical book which seems counterintuitive but has the potential to be pretty neat. I see it as an […]

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As We May Think – Annotated

Below is my attempt to use Bush’s essay “As We May Think” as an associative trail. While the hyperlinks are good to go, I don’t think the comments will work all that well in the HTML published format so you can always join in on the actual Google Doc. It’s a mixture of the questions that came to mind as I read, hyperlinks out to additional information, and some other connections that occurred simply because of the way my mind is structured. It made for an interesting experiment and decent preparation for the upcoming #thoughtvectors course. A Google Doc is certainly an easy way to do a version of an associative trail. It allows for hyperlinking and commenting but leaves a bit to be desired in terms of embedding in the blog. I’d like to be able to trigger something like digress.it on the post level in blogs. I’ve tried a number of annotation tools but have yet to find one that really does quite what I want. I certainly use diigo’s highlight/notes function on a regular basis but I worry about the non-html elements on the long term side of things. It also falls short in that I can’t respond or extend note elements in the way I’d like.

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. 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. 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 […]

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. 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 […]

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. 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. 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 […]