04

ANTH 101 – A Deeper Dive

It’s been a good while since I had the pleasure of working with Mike Wesch and Ryan Klataske on ANTH 101. I revisited the course recently to write a letter of support for an award submission for online courses. I am posting an extended version of that letter below because I think it paints a path with online courses that is rarely followed but is, nonetheless, replicable and worth considering. Bigger Picture? I see ANTH101 as a path forward that makes me hopeful in an online space that seems increasingly depressing.1 You have two races currently in online learning. There is a race to be the cheapest and easiest place to enroll.2 This article on Liberty “University” paints that picture pretty well. This world will be like the fast food industry in many ways. How uniform can we make things? How automated? What’s the least we can pay the fewest humans? The only path to profit will be through ridiculous scale. There will be very little difference between these providers. They will use LMS products that are very similar while following very similar online course rubrics and probably (poorly) paying many of the same adjunct/itinerant online course faculty. Additional sadness will occur when the same OPM is creating content, marketing etc. for multiple universities for the same courses and programs.3 […]

Digital Histology homescreen screenshot.

Digital Histology & the Long Haul

Normally we finish our projects in anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Digital Histology has been the exception to that rule. I can see a reference to the site going back to Nov. of 2016! That doesn’t mean we’ve worked on this site continuously for years. The gaps have been frequent and long. OER grants have been written and won. Presentations have been made. Work has ebbed and flowed as the massive amount of content has been entered. There are more than 1500 pages1 and over 5GBs of images. It’s a large site. A ton of work has gone into its construction, new goals have developed, and just about all of it is a little strange. 2 I figured I’d better document some of this before I forgot all of it. The History I don’t recall all the details but essentially long ago in a Macromedia Authorware galaxy far, far away a digital histology program was constructed. Time passed. Acorns grew into trees. WINE was now required to launch the digital histology program. The screen was a tiny 752×613. It only ran on desktops. Updating it was nearly impossible. Things were not good. After much wandering we found one another and endeavored to put this work online for the betterment of humankind. Having a previous project did […]

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 […]

04

Real Life Math or Window Ad?

Windows come in many shapes and sizes. Some commonly used shapes for windows are circles, rectangles, squares, triangles, pentagons, and octagons. Source: www.pella.com One of those amazingly horrible attempts at making something “real world” in a textbook. This is a high school math textbook. The source for this staggering information is a website that sells windows. And they double down on their insistence that windows make this content relevant and useful to today’d hip teens by using windows in two examples. Remember aspiring teen window makers, you can use the reflective property of congruence in your future job interview!

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 […]

An old time strongman with a handlebar mustache in front of some trophies.

Interviewing My Domain

I am late in responding to this prompt from Alan but given all Alan does I figured I should give this a shot. What is your domain name and what is the story, meaning behind your choice of that as a name? I started this many moons ago when I was teaching k12. It was a time of hope around edtech and the edu-blog-o-sphere was young. Many people even referred to it as the edu-blog-o-sphere1 and the first edubloggercon had yet to happen. Most of the fully-branded tech teachers you know today were working in actual schools rather than for companies. It was a strange time, like the 1960s maybe, so I blame the domain name on that. I was working with Jim Coe and we had plans become some sort of edtech consultant group. That whole branding thing didn’t seem quite as repulsive to me then as it does now.2 In any case, I had previously had a free blog on a site run by James Farmer (incsub.org/wpmu) which was entitled Bionic Teacher. My concept at that time was that fusing the best of technology with the best of human options resulted in the title. Since we were now two people and a long-term goal of influencing more people bionic teacher became bionic teaching. We then immediately got that […]

Three rows of orange-ish colors with the text 'fake hues' over the top of them in white.

Social Media Jujutsu

Jujutsu1 is a martial art focused on using your opponent’s momentum against them– clever redirection of force rather than trying to meet it directly. This seems like it might be an option for some of today’s social media woes where people are trying to continue to take advantage of the good aspects of these tools/communities while opposing some of their attempts at manipulation. There are major alternatives like Brontosaurus Mastodon but many people aren’t going to make that jump.2 So consider this post more of a way you might mitigate harm while continuing using tools meant to bend your mind and warp your perceptions. Twitter Numbers One way these interfaces play games with your mind is by showing all kinds of numbers. You’ve got a score card for likes, retweets, followers etc. It becomes a shortcut. Is this tweet funny? 453 people fav’d it. Should I fav it too or is this just a bandwagon thing now? How good was my tweet? Did enough people retweet it? That extends even to following people. How many followers do they have? Are they worth following? It can make you skip really looking at the content. One path out of Twitter’s attempt to manipulate you via numbers is Benjamin Grosser’s Twitter Demetricator. It’s a browser plugin3 that removes all those numbers replacing them […]

cartoon face eating cheetos.

Screen Time

Every time I hear something about limiting screen time I cannot help but think about how poorly the concept has been thought out. If we talked about “food time” instead maybe that would help us think that while time matters (eating for hours each day is probably a bad idea), how long you eat probably matters far less than what you’re eating. You have to think about both things. Funneling cheetos for 30 minutes a day is worse than eating carrots for an hour.1 Screen time isn’t a single thing. It’s an insane range of things. There’s lots of screen time that is of Twinkie quality but there are many other options. If I read a book on a device is it screen time or is that reading? If I’m coding for an hour? Editing video? Video chat with my parents? When we reduce things to this extent we end up doing things that ignore the actual problem. So the next time someone on the radio or TV talks about screen time as if it were a single thing please join me in envisioning the giant cartoon heads depicted below. 1 Funneling cheetos may not even qualify as actually eating. It’s a chemical endurance sport that will likely be featured in the next Olympic games

16

Why I’m Teaching Data Viz for Sociology

I’m teaching a course for VCU’s digital sociology Master’s degree program this semester. One of the things I’ve asked the participants to do is explain why they’re taking this course. I’m hoping that will help me customize what we’re going to do in the course. Since I asked the participants to document why they were taking this course, I figured the least I could do is create a similar post explaining why I agreed to shepherd this course and why I made some of these initial choices. I’m approaching the concept of data visualization pretty broadly. The course is broken into two main components. The first portion is looking at their own portfolio and how they might think it through in terms of data visualization1 and then moving on to broader/deeper applications of data visualization (connected to their personal research). Part of the reason I want to start with the portfolio is that the data is personal and it’s easier to get a feel for how real/accurate any visualizations you make are. We’ll also be able to establish a decent foundation of web literacy, design, accessibility, etc. prior to applying them to more sophisticated visualizations. Essentially, it’s about starting out on more familiar ground before venturing out into increasing complexity. The second section will focus on figuring out a set […]

Bret Victor on the right with a black and white cartoon fish on the left. Under the fish is the statement - This is not a fish.

Data Viz and Dead Fish

3:40 – “I believe that behavior and responsiveness is the essence of the computer as an art medium and what that means is that any time we create art that doesn’t have behavior we’re not living up to the potential of the medium. It’s not native art.” 4:34 – “… what sort of art is possible when both the art and the artist are alive? When the art and the artist are responding to each other and working together to create something beautiful.” 15:00 – “So what you’re seeing here is kind of the interplay between two living and behaving beings. There’s the fish behaving through simulation. There’s me behaving through performance and there’s this wonderful kind of symbiosis with the two of us working together to put on a show. The simulation and the performance are really complementary. So when I was making that little scene with the fish there was always this back and forth between the simulation and the performance. So if there was something I wanted the fish to do but I couldn’t perform it with my hand because it was too complicated, I had to move my hand too fast, there’s too many other things going on with the scene, I take that and put it in the simulation.” 16:02 – “There’s this back and […]