Author Archive

 

The Credit She Never Gets

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Earlier today I posted a quick video about using the ds106 assignments repository to create engagement in an online learning experience. To be clear there are many things that go into such an experience, but I’ve found the ds106 assignment repository has allowed me to re-think ds106 over the last year and a half. The ability to syndicate filtered assignment posts, rate the difficulty level,  relate tutorials, and create new assignments puts the course in the unique position to allow students to shape the experience. The simple act that has proven powerful, fun, and created a sense of community.

The current state of the assignment repository came out of an experimental model Martha Burtis has been iterating on since December 2010. It’s pretty amazing because that was the beginning of the idea of ds106 as open architecture, a space that others can build sites onto, like Alan Levine’s Remix site, Tim Owens’ Daily Create, and Linda McKenna and Rachel McGuirk’s Inspire site.

What’s more, when you think about MOOCs, and ds106 more specifically—which isn’t all that MOOCy—Martha is rarely mentioned. Credit is a tricky thing, and I think Martha would be the last person to really care about all that. That said, she was in Spring 2011 building and teaching an open online course that would be massive in its conception :)

Soon after I became director of DTLT I’ve depended on Martha for advice, guidance, and direction—and she regularly abides. She shares her vast experience freely despite the fact she doesn’t get credit for her work as director of DTLT from 2006 to 2008, her seminal role in ds106 (she made the Summer of Oblivion; I failed the Magic MacGuffin), her deft WordPress coding skills, and her strategic acumen that has kept DTLT relevant and on the edge for years she refuses to be phased. She’s been the organizational and strategic mind running DTLT , and her leadership has been all too often overlooked. So here is a little know secret about the truth on the ground here at DTLT: Martha Burtis is the brains of the organization.

Just the other day while we were figuring out how to help UMW’s current Quality Enhancement Plan (a.k.a. QEP) figure out why they were going to pay a contractor way too much money to transform pre-packaged content in to three online modules (not sure how this idea emerged) covering speaking, writing, and library search skills respectively. The pre-fabricated modules would have a definitive lifespan, there would be no space for iteration, and it would ultimately be resources wasted. Within 10 minutes Martha adeptly refocused the conversation to experimenting with a publishing platform. And rather than rushing to get everything done as soon as possible, we test out one or two individual “lessons” online to see what works. Once we learn how faculty use this in their curriculum, and what would be most useful going forward we’ll make recommendations for developing a platform over the Summer. Hopefully that will be something we can build out from WordPress or MediaWiki or some other similar application, adding to the open ecosystem of options. That’s exactly how you want to run a meeting like this. This is the best possible outcome: experimentation, iteration, and open. Thanks to Martha (and Jerry after her) DTLT has been doing that for years, but this is only just a little of the credit she never gets. I guess we have to start somewhere.

ds106 Assignments: Designing for Engagement in Online Learning

Monday, July 30th, 2012

ds106 Assignments: Effective Engagement in Online Classes from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

Alexandra Pickett, who’s having students create an engaging online course space, asked if I would share some quick advice for thinking about how one might approach designing engagement into an online course experience. I can only steal from the best, and Martha Burtis‘ design of the ds106 assignments is probably the coolest thing I’ve seen in this regard. What’s more, it changed the very notion of engagement for the high school ds106ers I taught two weeks ago. As a technical framework it fundamentally changed the way I teach the class. It allows me to personalize instruction, abstract the tools, and let the students choose and create what they want. That’s amazing in my mind. I would write more, but I have a post I am writing hailing Martha Burtis for the genius she is when it comes to ds106.

Integrating FeedWordPress with BuddyPress

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

I am writing a larger post about open architectures and the implications of what appears to be a more general move away from a focus on open as in sharing, collaboratively building, and collectively designing a space for teaching and learning others can use freely and build upon liberally. No where in the raging discussion around MOOCs is there anyone talking about sharing the infrastructural/architectural work they’ve done freely with others.  CUNY’s Commons-In-a-Box project makes the innovative development work they have been doing for years freely available for others to experiment with. That is the spirit of sharing that seems to me should characterize the groundswell for open, online education—localizing the means of production for as many people as possible rather than turning to more taylorized broadcasting methods that deliver content—we’ve been there and done that. When did scaling the LMS become the next frontier of innovation?

Anyway, more on that in another post. What this post brings together is the thinking Martha Burtis, Alan Levine, Tim Owens, and I have done about integrating BuddyPress with FeedWordPress to allow the signup process to seamlessly load feeds, filter tags, and bring posts in without any manual intervention—of which there is all too much currently.

We actually virtually met with the designer of FeedWordPress, Charles Johnson, and ran all these ideas by him and he was up to the task. He’ll hopefully begin work on these elements for integration shortly, and we are hoping he can lean on Boone Gorges if he has any BuddyPress questions :) (Poor Boone, I am always bothering him—HE’S A FAMILY MAN NOW, BACK OFF GROOM!) So, for anyone interested in the specifics of what we are trying to accomplish with this integration, the details (some of which are a bit technical) are listed below. Recommendations, feedback, and praise are all welcome ;)

  • Automatic registering of ds106 feeds from BuddyPress profiles
    • Someone enters a URL for the blog they want to use (Note, pre-explanation need; e.g if the entire blog is for ds1o6, enter that; if they have a blog used for other purpose, they need to add URL for a ds106 tag or category (e.g. http://somewordpressblog.com/category/ds106 or http://somewordpressblog.com/tag/ds106
    • Internal function looks for possible feed from site (prob an internal function in FWP as used for admin interface), also some test code at http://lab.cogdogblog.com/feedfinder.php this should pop an ajax window with options to set blog, and it should populate a new buddypress ds106 feed field
    • If no feed is found, it goes into moderation and an email is sent to admin
  • Widget to generate list of blogs associated with a particular FWP applied  tag (or all) – I [Alan Levine] just hacked one for magic macguffin http://magicmacguffin.info/subscribed/ documented at http://cogdogblog.com/2012/06/03/dynamic-opml-feedwordpress/
    • widget to generate list of blogs syndicated on a site (might have to have option for scrolling list in case it is long)
    • Function to generat OPML file based in tag
  • Automatic tagging of feeds based on buddypress profile options  (e.g. default tag for all, others based on affiliation)
  • Way to get data we can display or use from feed activity- e.g. frequency of posts, time of posts, etc. or at least some hooks into the database so we can more easily roll our own. e.g. API or functions to call on FWP for information
    • return array of blogs subscribed for whole site (and meta info), or by tag
    • function to test if blog is subscribed
  • Advice about cron jobs for feed updating, perhaps a means to spread into batches for large numbers of crons. Two uses cases:
    • Site like ds106, where we just have a lot feeds syndicating into a single site.
    • Site like UMW Blogs, where a bunch of sites have smaller numbers of feeds syndicating
  • Better  admin interface for managing tags/categories associated with syndicated posts; search to find feeds by url, title, tag?
  • Interface for grouping syndicated feeds and working with them. (sort of related to the previous idea)- mass tagging or unsubscribing
  • cron for all ds106 sites is now running as update mode (6/1/2011)
    The warning when feeds are set to cron is confusing  since feeds do update.Note: Automatic updates are currently turned off. New posts from your feeds will not be syndicated until you manually check for them here. You can turn on automatic updates under Feed & Update Settings.There should be separate settings for cron versus manual?
  • Another point is making sure that users who sign-up in BuddyPress have the FWP settings using the BP username and associated it with the Feed. As of now associating feeds with usernames is manual, and a major PITA

Metal Mushrooms in Stereo

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

I have been dying to do the Wiggly Stereoscopy assignment by Bill Genereux—it basically uses the animated GIF method to create a 3D effect with just two images. It sounds easier than it really is—nailing it is all in the images you choose—though I must say Norm makes it look easy. Once I had two images I believed would work I wanted to see if I could find some useful tips from folks in ds106 who already did the assignment. Turns out I could, Katie Girard wrote this helpful post that introduced me to the animation filter in GIMP, something I knew nothing about.

Not only can you use the Animation filter to view the image moving through the layers, but you can also change the speed using this helpful tidbit from Katie:

….under Filters >  Animation, I chose Playback….you can see your .gif in action as it rotates between layers. To change the delay between the two frames, select the layer and add a time written in milliseconds using this format: [imagename (nms)] where n = the number of milliseconds. I chose to use 750ms.

The default speed worked well for my stereoscopy, but here is a more specific tutorial for changing the speed at which layers switch in GIMP for anyone interested.

One thing this reinforces for me is how amazing the ds106 assignments repository is. It not only has a ton of great assignments but lists everyone who has done that assignment. Sure some links to example posts will break in time, but the bottom line is it gives other people thinking about what to do ideas, inspiration and even helps them learn some technical details they might not have known otherwise. As time goes on I’m convinced we’ll see more and more tutorials in the assignment repository as well, and to that end this post is the change I want to see ;)

ds106 Breakfast Club Edition Post-Mortem

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Teacup Pigs

And now for something totally tiny, as opposed to massive.

Yesterday I finished up a two-week whirlwind class of ds106 (which I fondly refer to as the Breakfast Club edition) with five local high schoolers. To be more specific they consisted of two rising freshman, two rising sophomores and one rising senior. What I found after this most enjoyable two weeks (it was really only 8 days cause we had Fridays off, which made me sad) was that ds106 travels well from college to high school age kids, and I bet even elementary age kids as well. I wrote about this already to some degree here, so I won’t rehash it, but suffice it to say I think this model is brilliant for K12, and we may soon get to see something like it unleashed on a nearby middle school—put more on that anon.

Anyway, over the last two weeks I did an abbreviated, slightly pared down version of ds106 and had students in week 1 do 10 visual stars and 10 design stars. In week two they did 10 audio stars, 10 video stars, and 1 mashup trailer. It’s very quick, and I thought it might be too intense for them, and what I found out is that it really wasn’t too bad. They rose to the challenge beautifully, and seemed to have a blast doing it all the while. And once again, I really didn’t have to get bogged down in teaching a particular tool. I usually modeled one assignment for them that I thought would introduce them to a larger concept like working with audio (I—well actually Andy Rush—used the sound effects story assignment for that intro) that we all work on together for the first part of class, and then they’re pushed to complete as many different assignments as they can in the remaining 2 hours.

As we moved into video, however, I just let them do whatever they wanted and would show them tips in a one-off fashion as they needed to do them—it seemed to work well. Learning something you need to do is very different than learning something you may eventually need to do. In my mind this is where the assignment bank has proved revolutionary– it’s a fun way for them to pick and choose what they want to do and for me to help them accomplish it in the time we had together. This was by far the most enjoyable class I have taught to date: awesome students; no grades to worry about; very intense and very quick—all an amazing combination of factors. But add into that mix the now robust ds106 site framework and assignments and my job becomes a million times easier, and the experience a million times better for everyone involved.

As for the students, well they were all awesome to a person—and I’m still marvelling about the work they did. But rather than writing extensively here about it, I’m gonna just showcase some of their best stuff over this past week.

Tristan did some amazing video work this last week, but her mashup of Clueless and HBO’s Game Change was brilliant. Check it out:

What is interesting to me is that the Breakfast Club edition of ds106 was far more political than any of my college classes have been. The Pallin video above is one example, and I mentioned the Obama art in my previous post, but this 1 Second Video story about 9/11 is one I can never get comfortable with:

What struck me about this story was the horrific image moment it captures—one I personally saw unfold in real time from Long Island—but when I think about it these students don’t even remember 9/11. They were 2 or 3 years old when it happened. But it has shaped them, they’ve grown up in the wake of this historical event. In many ways they have been shaped by something they can’t even remember, and for me this 1 second video had that much more power coming from them. It was a testament to what it must be like to become cognizant of the world in a post-9/11 reality. A horrific reality on many levels. What’s interesting is that this student had also recently saw the film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (based on the 2005 novel by Jonathan Saffron Foer) which seemed to have made an indelible mark on her given she based several of her assignments on it, like this 4 icon challenge:

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We had another awesome mashup wherein Anna took Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) and remixed it to be a horror film:

Or her trailer of Prehistoric Women which focuses on the truly stronger sex—yet another politicized video in all its b-movie glory!

What’s amazing about all of this is they finished all their stars during class. The lab approach was fun, and I got to see and comment on their work in person right away. Check out Emma’s Easy A in stereo assignment:

The 30-Second documentary as well as the 5 Archetypes in 5 Seconds were picked up y KC, and they were fun. below is 5 animal archetype in five seconds followed by a 30 second documentary of killer pit bulls:

What’s more I didn’t even get to all the audio assignments. These were extremely impressive projects done in very little time. The Breakfast Club edition of ds106 showed me just how much more is possible with this class, and how useful the assignment framework can be for freeing up time to work with each of the 5 students one-on-one to hone skills. Say what you will about massive, small and intimate groups for getting stuff done and honing skills does not suck.

Note: I used the plugin WordTube to upload and link all the students videos. I did’;t feel like I could ask any of them to start YouTube accounts (no one had one, and given my recent issues with YouTUbe I wasn’t about to push it). I had 4 of 5 on UWM Blogs, so I had everything set to go there, we just activated WordTube and they were off. One other student already had her own Blogger blog, so she uploaded it to YouTUbe as a private video, and embedded it on her site. All-in-all the posting and technology concerns for the students to tag, embed, etc where seamless, next to no issues and I think this course will become more and more fundamental as the shift in the familiarity with media production itself becomes another assumed literacy.

Well, that’s all for now, but let it be know I was miss the Breakfast Club version of #ds106, you all were very much 4life.

Greetings from the Overlook Hotel

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Inspired by the work of the Breakfast Club edition of ds106 on their design assignments today (more on that anon), I took a shot at the Postcards from Magical Places assignment—3 stars! I spent the afternoon showing them how to do one of these in Photoshop, and while I was showing them a few things I got the idea of a postcard from the Overlook Hotel, and while I didn’t have the time to do it during class, I promised myself I would write a postcard from Danny Torrance to Mr. Halloran. This was very fun!

Jaws Alternative Book Cover

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

I have a ton of awesome design work to show off from the Breakfast Club edition of ds106 (a.k.a the K12 edition :) ), but I want to take a quick moment and feature two alternative book cover assignments done by Anna. She had an idea for an alternative book cover for Peter Benchley’s Jaws, and frankly I think it is brilliant!

And as any gambler knows, keep going when you are on a roll, her next creation was a literal cover fro R.L Stine’s Goosebumps.

Brilliant! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What is immediately apparent to me is that they’re having fun doing it, and that’s a vision Tom Woodward has both articulated and embodied for years. What’s exciting to me is that ds106 has become a manifestation of that fun in my own teaching and learning like no other experience I’ve been part of before.  I’ll do a more comprehensive post about the awesome design work they churned out today, but for know enjoy the genius!

Not so 80s

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The Noun Project credits:
Community by Mike Endale
Beach Ball by Tim Piper
Cap by Oliver Guin
Bicycle by Ugur Akdemir

Name that 80s movie #5

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The Noun Project Credits:
Football designed by Saman Bemel-Benrud
Rocket designed by John O’Shea
Tree designed by Saman Bemel-Benrud
Palace designed by Okan Benn

Name that 80s movie #4

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Experimenting a bit with The Noun Project and Illustrator before today’s Breakfast Club edition of ds106, and figured I would throw out another 80s movie 4 icon challenge because I can!

The Noun Project Credits:
Television by The Noun Project
VHS Tape by Ted Mitchner
Lips by Davide Eucalipto
Gun by Simon Child