In the beginning there was search

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by Bramus! We’re playing around with some online content for instructors to access on their own or to use as part of some guided online learning we’ll be doing. We started the building some elements around search because it is a place where most people are comfortable but where there’s often decent room for growth. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before in terms of the goals but I hope we’ll be able to make it more approachable and really target the things that will be attractive to instructors in higher ed. I also want to see it as continuum that will lead people more deeply into the wild world of the web. We opted to focus mainly, although not exclusively, on the Google search realm because that’s what most people use and they have a pretty extensive variety of options that are attractive to higher ed instructors.1 The content isn’t finalized nor is the presentation but I figured writing it up would force me into articulating my choices and maybe one of you would give me better ideas or point out flaws. General Ideas The content is meant to be as succinct as possible and glaringly pragmatic for the average college instructor. There will be a number of real-life scenarios/rationales […]

An Inventory of My Thoughts

I’m no Myron Helfgott, but I’ve made a few minor changes to my life which have been at least semi-interesting. It’s not about productivity. It’s more about eliminating distractions that have wormed their way into my head. These reflexive actions are scary because they eat into the way you think or in some cases if you think at all. Nothing magical here but it’s often worth looking at how things1 are impacting your life. The drive to work is now silent. No radio. No podcasts. I just let my brain wander. It’s fun. The ride home is much noisier. On my phone I turned off all the notifications for email, Twitter, and Flickr. The only one that remains is for texts. It has surprised me how much happier I am not to see that envelope with the red badge letting me know how many emails I’ve yet to read. I can still do whatever I need should something important arise but I’ve cut the visual cue out of the equation. That has cut down on reflexive checking. Flickr and Twitter were never that busy but neither was important enough to require an instant alert. This has been done by many people, many times but I’m leaving my email program closed 95% of the day. It’s been depressing to see how […]

JavaScript Poetry

I set myself the slightly odd challenge of creating a few interactive poems using JavaScript elements. I plan to do this every so often for a while.1 Each creation will have my own poetry,2 an image, and some element of JavaScript driven interactivity that relates to the poem. The theme came about because I was reading Don’t Bump the Glump to my youngest. I like playing with words and have a long list of strange ideas that I’ve never brought any further. I also want to keep learning JavaScript and to mess with a variety of js libraries. On the art/drawing side, I’m working on my vector drawing skills in Illustrator. The two examples I’ve done so far have just been thrown up as bare bones HTML sites3 and have used completely different js libraries. They’re both built off already existing examples that I modified. I don’t consider that cheating but will probably move more towards from scratch construction as I get better at things. The Grabbit The goal: Eyes that will track mouse movement. It’s iframed in above but the full size page is here. The start: A brief search led me to this Code Pen. It uses jQuery as the main library. I’ve got think more about mobile when doing interactive stuff with js. I think I can […]

Learning JavaScript

For some time now I have achieved things in JavaScript through a combination of examples and brute force persistence. My methods are roughly akin to prisoners digging out of jail with a spoon. You can do it but it’s not something I’d recommend. Given my increasingly more sophisticated goals1 I was finding this to be too slow and too irritating. So I sat down on Monday to learn at least the basics of JavaScript. I watched the videos from Code School with the videos at about 1.5x speed which was pretty bearable. They offer the intro JavaScript course for free but everything beyond that is pay. I also did the Code Academy version. Their version is free in its entirety. Both sites have live editors that allow you to do your work right there in the page. The work’s on the left and a console is on the right. It’s a bit like a stripped down version of Code Pen (which I still find to be amazing). I did hit some points of frustration when I would do something that worked fine but was not exactly how they wanted me to do it. This is one of those perils of machine learning that I don’t see any easy way around for a good while. It’s especially difficult when programming allows […]

Kefitzat Haderech

Do you bring a shortening of the way? 1 I’m a bit obsessed with the idea of speed/energy/enzymes/accelerants at the moment and so as my head churned on my silent drive to work I remembered a sentence about shortening the way. It was actually “Kwisatz Haderach” that was in my head from Dune . . . but my vague memory of the spelling led me to the Kefitzat Haderech entry in Wikipedia and it turns out Herbert based his title on a Kabbalistic reference to something akin to teleportation (literally- contracting the path)- “reaching destinations with unnatural speed.” Sometimes the journey is the destination but in most of education we’re only doing X and Y to get to the magical land of (o)Z where the real payoff lives. The faster we can get there the better. That goal often get confused in both education and certainly ed tech. People become overly focused on tough paths that “build character” or forget that they’re going anywhere beyond the next hill. I have to keep asking myself if what I’m doing will get us to the place we want to be faster. That place might be the journey. It might be a place of ambiguity. I’m not advocating for Chinko learning machines.2 Simply put, if hiking is the goal I want to spend […]

Ed tech on speed. Ed tech at speed.

One of the more1 overlooked aspects of working with faculty around technology integration is speed- that is moving quickly from an idea/dream to working functional reality. Joy/playfulness is high on that list as well (and probably plays into speed) but I’ll focus on speed for the moment. It’s essential that working with a faculty development/ed tech group be the antithesis of the many monumentally lethargic interactions that characterize other institutional engagements. It ought to be agile. It has to be energizing. “If we have an idea, 10 minutes later we’re trying it out,” Mika says. “It’s like improv.” From a from an interesting WIRED article h/t to Enoch. I think that’s why WordPress has been so successful- it’s a flexible (but not overwhelming) platform that gets you 90% of the way to most destinations really quickly. It’s been interesting to see the possibilities around speed and flexibility keep moving. Talking to Tim Owens the other day about Sandstorm and the ability to spin up virtual just-about-everythings in the blink of an eye and maybe only for the moment. This is the opposite of the pattern of movement that has typically occurred in institutions. To that end, I’m playing with this NMC session description that focuses on the things we’ve been using to get things done quickly. A campy, meme-ified, high-speed […]

Rookie Javascript Mistakes

I frequently can accomplish things by cobbling together code I find on Stack Overflow and various tutorials/examples found elsewhere. Sometimes I have a decent idea what’s going. Other times . . . my lack of real understanding slows me down much more than I’d like. The following bits of increased knowledge come from playing around with three javascript plugins for jquery. You can see all of them in action at the site1 above. Chart.js – simple HTML 5 carts that are animated on construction countUp.js – does those rolling numbers ToolTipsy – slick customized tooltips “By seeking and blundering we learn.” – quite possibly Goethe2 Here are two easy things I did wrong when playing with way too many javascript libraries on the ECAR demo site. Lesson one – If a library is a jquery plugin then the script you write (initiator?) AND the plugin reference3 have to load after jquery. That order is just a little bit important. I had previously thought far less about the plugin source URL and probably accidentally put it in the right order. In my head it wasn’t a script.4 I thought about more like a reference put into action later and so I never really thought about the order. This is basic competency stuff but I did it wrong and spent a while […]

Photography – Year in Review

It is still January right? Instead of looking through all my images or even culling the weekly summaries I opted to see which ones had lingered in my head. These are the ones I remembered. Some of them were pretty popular on the Internets but others received little attention. This is an unposed image of my grandfather’s girlfriend at his funeral. One of the pictures I missed that lingered. I can’t find or erased another of a woman holding her hand up to the glass of a window at night. I must do a better job with metadata.

Photography – Week 46

At this point I’m taking between 200 and 300 pictures most days. I end up keeping about 1 out of 10. There’s talk about taking fewer pictures making you a better photographer. Maybe. I’m having fun and trying out lots of things so I’m ok with lots of pictures. Some shots I take I know won’t come out well with this lens but I want to create the itch to do it right. Other shots I take blind. Some times that’s to keep things really candid, other times I just want to take a shot from an angle my head can’t make it to (really high, really low). I’m willing to fire a few shots that way and take the penalty on post processing. With a number of the street photography attempts I start shooting early and keep shooting. It’s closer to the way I used to shoot football. My processing workflow starts with a quick run through where I throw away anything I dislike immediately. That’s often quite a few- focus errors, things I knew weren’t going to work etc. Round two is usually throwing away choices between similar photos. After that, I start actually editing. If I feel annoyed about editing to making the picture better then I throw it away. All this is now done in Lightroom […]

Angles on Open

I spoke briefly, and almost certainly disjointedly, at the Open VA meeting yesterday. The focus of the panel was “open pedagogy/curriculum” and the whole day was focused on open education concepts. My topic was simply labeled MOOC. As the day progressed I tried to get a sense of the audience and figure out what would I should say to them. I would not say I succeeded. Here’s an attempt at better articulating what I should have said regardless of the audience. Open Pedigree The ability to imagine and actually build the #thoughtvectors cMOOC1 is a result of a long history of open and connected practice. Part of the MOOC was shaped by educational beliefs, part by relationships, part by technology but it’s mostly the result of an almost seamless blending of those three things. I’ll stick to my own relationships, and those specific to #thoughtvectors for brevity’s sake, but every person involved in #thoughtvectors likely has their own entwined stories. In the beginning there was WordPress I spent a lot of time with WordPress and it provided opportunities that changed how I thought about all kinds of things. My first WordPress blog was on an early incarnation of WPMU that was hosted by James Farmer (later of Edublogs) on This led to a later decision to purchase my own hosting […]