Daily Create – The ocean at the end of my backyard…

Legend had it that “someone” actually challenged the bull and broke his leg in a hole as he ran away.  Surely it must have been the end of that “someone”.

But here we were, intrepid adventurers climbing through the fence to the wide open west that was our neighbor’s land.  Cast off were the warnings from our parents not to go into the so called “farmland” next to our house.  We knew better.  We knew that it was actually the dangerous badlands where men (okay, boys) would prove their merit by how close they could get to the bull that was known to inhabit these parts.

Each step seemed to take us further and further from the safety and security that was our yard.  But we moved on with stealth prodded by the constant pressure of our friends saying, “What, are you scared?”.

Suddenly, someone yelled, “There it is!”  A quick glance confirmed that there was indeed some large black shape on the horizon.

Off we bolted!  Panting as we ran, someone asked if it was closing in on us.  But not wanting to slow down to take a look, we all ran as fast as we could towards safety.  Flying through the barbed-wire fence my brother ripped his new shirt.  It was a small price to pay for my brother’s life.  And surely our mom would understand that.

Back in our safe place with a fence between us and the dreaded bull, we looked back to see where the ferocious beast could be.  We all swore that we had felt him breathing down our necks. He must have given up the chase when he saw that he had no chance of catching us.

Victory was ours!  We’d proven once again that we were the bravest of the brave. Alas the poor soul who didn’t make it out.  If only he had been as agile.

Painting by Robin Weiss



Looking back many years later I chuckle with the thought of a bored cow munching on it’s lunch warily watching 4 screaming boys running across the field.


The ocean at the end of my backyard…

Visual Networks – Learning and photosharing

flickr-icon-27Visual Networks – Learning and photosharing by Guy Merchant (DIY Media, Chap. 4, 2009) is a comprehensive  introduction to photosharing as a social network, and in particular, the photosharing service flickr.  Merchant introduces us to the idea of flickr as a “folksonomy…a body of knowledge can be built democratically through participant-users without recourse to the traditional authority of a discipline, a body of experts, or an established tradition of practice.”

Merchant also makes clear that photosharing as a social network is open to all, and that each can participate only as much as they feel comfortable sharing their images with others.  The person sharing doesn’t need to be a professional photographer, or even a serious photographer.  Many people on flickr just share photos of events and/or activities that are important to them.  But the social network aspect of flickr allows the users to see and explore other people’s photos, possibly introducing them to new ideas, innovative techniques, or interesting topics.   And another important aspect of the photosharing network is that other people can view and comment on the photos posted by participants.  This back and forth sharing helps create new friends and strengthen old bonds, or as he says in the text, “Over time you can build up quite a complex web of interactions through photosharing.”

The author also has a great deal of information about how to sign-up for flickr, how to upload photos, how to tag photos, the importance of tagging photos, and a variety of other useful information for a new user.  But perhaps most useful is his discussion about the educational and learning aspects of photosharing.  I particularly liked the perspective he shared about how research is showing that learning can some times be much more effective when there is a visual component, or as he shares, “the inter-relationship between the verbal and the visual helps to create new meanings (Duncum, 2004)”.

Merchant focuses on 5 areas of learning that are pertinent to flickr and photosharing through social networks.

  • Learning through seeing – Through the use of social tagging of photos, the person doing the tagging is participating in, “attentive noticing”.  Their understanding of the world around them is greatly enhanced by the labeling of the parts.
  • Learning through reflection – Thoughtful reflection of photos can often lead to a better understanding of topics related to the photos.  Having students spend time reflecting on the photos will increase the diversity of their thoughts and actions related to learning.
  • Learning about image – Students learn the importance of the different components of the images, including things like lighting, structure, focus, and other components.  By learning to appreciate these components, they become more educated consumers of photos.
  • Learning about multimodality – Photos rarely stand on their own in social networks.  They are often accompanied by text, or music, or video, or a variety of other modes.  The student learns to work in this multimodal environment.
  • Learning about Web 2.0 – Flickr is an excellent example of a Web 2.0 application, and by using flickr, students would learn more about Web 2.0.

As an introduction to the value of social networking, flickr’s place in this environment, and its value in education, this chapter  is a valuable resource that can be used as an introductory text or as detailed information for the experienced educator.



Digital Story Critique – Data Hacking for a Date

This week I decided to critique a story from a Moth Radio Hour segment (Episode:1618, Sept. 6, 2016, starting at 33:52) titled LA Confidential:Data Hacking for a Date which is a story by Chris McKinley. At the time of his story, Chris was a doctoral student working on a PhD in Applied Mathematics at UCLA.  While at UCLA in 2012 he had access to a super-computer known as Yellowstone, and McKinley came up with the novel idea of using the super-computer to “reverse engineer the match algorithm” of the online dating site OKCupid to see if he could come up with the perfect match for himself.

McKinely does an excellent job of building the story by relating the tale of his change from a lonely doctoral student who slept in his cubicle and spent most of his time working on programs for his thesis to a guy who managed to use the super-computer to analyze the match data from the site and determine the most popular characteristics with women on the site.  He soon became the top match for over 30,000 women and he was so popular that he actually got to a point where he was going on a new date every hour with each date lasting only around 3 minutes or so. He got to the point where he was purposely sabotaging the dates because he didn’t want to make the effort to reject the second date offers (of which there were many).  And it was when he started getting dates with women outside of his match preferences that he finally met a woman whom he was really interested in, and ended up marrying her a few years later.

McKinely does a good job of building his story with the following traits –

  • Economy: McKinely has a good flow to his story by starting with the image of his humble beginnings (alone, poor, totally engrossed in his work) and builds slowly but effectively with his narrative.  He is efficient in his explanations of a difficult topic – data mining.  He also keeps the audience interested in his travails and accomplishments by using humor at key points. Most of the asides from the main story-line are humorous points that keep the story interesting. In the end, we have an image of a nerdy guy who is now something of a dating king-pin, with more dates than he knows what to do with.
  • Sense of Audience: McKinley has a good grasp of his audience, knowing that many of the people in the audience have probably used online dating services.  And that even those who haven’t used dating sites can relate to his story of wanting to be so successful at dating that he is turning away good candidates on a regular basis.  But at the same time, he is able to relate to his audience that even though he thought it would be great to have so many dates, in the end it turned out that there was no quick or easy path to finding the person that was special to him.  Fortunately for him he had a happy ending by finding his future wife. But the moral of the story could well be that even using the latest technologies and techniques of the information age will not necessarily bring the relationships we all seek.
  • Research:  I picked this trait because in essence this story is about research.  A guy who spends his entire life working on research suddenly has the all too human desire to find more in life.  And he uses the research that he knows so well to help him find the perfect person, which initially seems to work, but in the end creates a not so ideal situation.  So although there probably wasn’t much research involved in writing this story, the theme of research is very prevalent in the story.

Assignment Bank (visual) – Defamiliarize

From the DS106 Assignment Bank (visual) –

Make a set of ten photos which take something familiar to you–a town, building, object, etc.–and defamiliarize it, make it seem foreign. Use a mix of extreme closeups, weird lighting, foreground/background focusing and odd angles and other effects to make something that you know very well seem like something you’ve never seen before, something spooky and/or luminous and/or magical.

More information at DS106

line_art__porsche_911_by_lhrspiridon-d3l49fs19cc7e54-b136-4f12-a3e8-1fc20bc5cf5b_6     mansory-porsche_911_carerra_mp603_pic_113505

2009-mansory-porsche-911-carrera-facelift-gauge-1920x1440     0898477101-jantes-porsche-911-996-turbo


techart-porsche-911-carrera-s-7          images



The Beautiful Game – Grandma’s Obsession

What is it in life that makes many of us define our lives by associating ourselves with external forces, whether it’s products, or political parties, or sports teams?  This question seems to be at the heart of the story by Marina Burana titled “Soccer Sunday” (http://munyori.org/fiction/marina-buranas-soccer-sunday-a-short-story/ ).  She finds in her Grandma’s obsession with the sport of soccer the love and connection that had been missing for so many years.

New York City FC v Orlando City SC
(Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)

In this story we find out that her Grandma was not the kind of Grandma that she envisioned she should be.  Her expectations were that, “Most people have fascinating grandmothers, or at least, in general, when we mention grandmas, the image of a sweet, tender, loving woman comes to mind.”  But that was not her Grandma.

Her Grandma (who was in her 80s and 90s during the story) was perceived as rude, didn’t seem to care about the rest of the family, and had a single obsession in life – soccer.  But it was when Marina decided to share her Grandma’s obsession as a last resort to get close to her that she discovered, “She was this whole other person in there….And that’s when I met my grandmother. In the soccer field.”

And it was when she eventually helped her Grandma stay in touch with the thing that was so important to her that her Grandma started sharing the love that Marina so much wanted from her Grandma.  And so that external force became the common bond that joined the two women, even though one of them had never shown an interest in soccer before.

Looking at this story using Jason Ohler’s Assessment Traits, I decided to focus on the following three traits:

  • Story –I chose this trait because it is the strength of this story. It is a story that most people can relate to because it has familiar characters (grandmothers, uncles, etc.), and taps into a common sentiment of feeling that people who you want to love you may not always love you.The story has an effective structure that works as a discovery tale.  It starts as a description of an expectation that the author has about her Grandma, and it becomes a a story of how she discovers what her Grandma is really about.
  • Flow, organization and pacing – Again, I chose this because I felt it was a strength of this story.  I felt that this was a very readable story that met my expectations for how it should develop, and that it flowed well from one part to the next.  But the flow did not seem rushed or in a hurry.  It seemed to have an appropriate pace that I want from a story about a Grandmother.  “Take your time”, I could almost hear Eliza saying.
  • Sense of audience – I chose this trait because there are a number of audiences that this story addresses, and they intertwine around a subject that is near and dear to me.  The most prominent audience is the grand-daughter / grandmother relationship, although, this story could easily be about grandsons and grandfathers.  We all have some connection with this audience, although some may feel it stronger than others.  And the author gives us a good sense of how she fits in that group. There is also the soccer fan audience, which is what initially drew me to the story.  Although the soccer can easily be seen as a secondary theme in the story, it also has a prominent role in the ability of Marina and Eliza to connect.  Sports fans in general, including soccer fans, can fully relate to the sense of being a different person when present at a sports event among other fans.

I enjoyed this story because of the compassion, humor, and feeling that was displayed by the author.  Although I was drawn to it by my love of soccer, I stayed with it because of the author’s ability to share the universal feeling of being connected with someone you want to love.


Reading Response – Learning to Listen

On Friday, 12 August 2016, Sean Michael Morris gave one of two closing keynotes at the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute held at the University of Mary Washington. The title of the talk was Not Enough Voices and can be found at – http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/hybridped/not-enough-voices/ .

There are a number of thoughts that Mr. Morris shared that intrigued me, including his insistence that we need to get away from the idea that learning is about one person standing at a podium telling the students what they need to learn.  It is instead much more about each person in the class, including the instructor, learning to listen to the many voices and how by listening, we can start to create real knowledge.

As he said, “I do my best to stay quiet because when I’m quiet, I can hear you. And it’s you I’m interested in. Your stories. Your efforts. Your insights.”

And this learning to listen also pertains to online instructors, instructional designers, and educators as a whole.  He laments the emphasis that is placed on quantifying, measuring, and structuring learning.  As he says, “…quantifying learning — that thing that administrations want us to do and for which so many functions of the LMS exist — depends on right answers. And right answers are based on recall of content.”

It is recall of content from the instructor, or material the instructor provides, that earns the approval of administrators.  Students regurgitating the facts and numbers and ideas.  Not creating ideas on their own.

According to Morris, it is the listening to multiple voices where true learning occurs.

“The answer doesn’t lie in turn-taking, but in changing what it means to speak. Make speaking a collaborative event. Join your voice with the voice of students. Join your voice with the voice of other teachers. Join your voice — and this one is really essential if we’re to make any headway — join your voice with the voices of educational technology”.

As an Instructional Designer and an Educational Technologist, it is incumbent upon me to find ways to share the voices in the class.  Measuring is appropriate in it’s place, but I must not make measurements the goal of the class.  Instead, I need to identify when and where real education occurs, and make those learning moments my goal.

Daily Create

Describe in writing for someone who cannot hear, the feeling of silence

Silence is the thing I cannot find.  Unlike you, there are times when I try to imagine a world without sound.  But I never find it.  Everywhere I go there is sound.  Always, relentless.  Even when I cover my ears as best I can, I still hear the sound of my own heart beating.  Do you hear your heart beating?


New Literacies – Evolution in Progress

I’ve been reading chapter one (Sampling “The New” in New Literacies by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel) of the collection  A New Literacies Sampler ( edited by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel, Vol 29. 2007) which looks at the definition and description of New Literacies.  Literacies is a term they use to describe the literacies of everyday life that are part of our social construct.  Or as they describe it, “Sociocultural definitions of literacy, then, have to make sense of reading, writing and meaning-making as integral elements of social practices”.  Literacy is not divorced from life and our everyday social interactions, but it is an integral part of what we do and how we live our lives. New Literacies are the literacies needed to interact with the new sociocultural environment of cyberspace.

Of particular interest to me in this writing is the discussion of new mindsets that come with these new literacies.  The new literacy requires participation in new “Ethos Stuff” where there is an evolution away from the old mindset of physical space and the literacy expected in those spaces (people are considered individual producers, production is typically based on physical space, products are material artifacts, etc.) into a new mindset of cyberspace as a physical space with it’s own rules, definitions, and concepts of literacy (focused on collectives as the primary producers, expertise is considered a collection of contributors, space is fluid, etc.)

Just one example is their discussion (pg. 21) of what creates value of any given product.  In the old mindset, scarcity creates value.  The more scarce any given product is to the market, the more costly it is to obtain this product. The example they use is scholarly credentials.  The more difficult it is to obtain a degree, the more value there is in that degree.  Where in the new mindset, it’s the relationship with information that is of value.  Networks of people working together on a product have much more value than individuals working on their own.  Or as Schrage argues (2001), “Anyone trying to get a handle on the dazzling technologies of today and the impact they’ll have tomorrow, would be well advised to re-orient their worldview around relationships.”

This blog post covers just one of the many interesting insights in this text.  There are many more insights, including an interesting discussion about how Web 2.0 is an evolution of the mindset about web applications and how they are often not “owned” by any particular company or person.  It is through the strength of a network of interacting individuals that the products on the web become more reliable, useful, and productive.  There is also an examination of how “tagging” (or what they call folksonomic orginazation) by many, many individuals of pictures, documents, and other items has made the information about those items much more useful.

And an evolution of literacy is part of this new world.

CARP (or is that CRAP) Design principles

Back to blogging after a short break.  Today I’m taking a look at the CARP design principles, which is just as often referred to as the CRAP design principles.  Probably because it’s easier to remember, and not a reflection of the opinions of some designers.

CARP-InfographicThe CARP principles (Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, and Proximity) help me determine good design practices that will make my work seem both professional and well thought out.  Ignoring the principles is an indication that the designer doesn’t really care about the quality of their work enough to investigate and use the most basic design principles.

As a designer, I want the people viewing my work to be thinking about the product or message that I am promoting, and not about the quality of my design work.  If they are thinking about the design quality, it makes it much more difficult to engage them in the message that I am presenting.  There is a lot of competition for people’s attention, and most people won’t spend much time on a presentation that they find annoying, boring, or difficult to view.  It is so easy to leave a bad presentation that if the design principles are not being used properly, then the message will not be seen.

I believe that Repetition is the most important principle when designing for webinars.  Each webinar should be focused on a specific topic, and by using repetition in the webinar it will emphasis and strengthen the message that is being delivered.  Repeating the main theme of the message will make it more likely that the person attending the webinar will remember the content for a longer period of time after the webinar is over.

So keep a look out for those quality web pages, presentations, webinars, etc.  Most likely, you’ll also be seeing a good example of the CARP principles in practice.


Privacy by encoding

I was fascinated by the girl mentioned in Dana Boyd’s talk who used the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” as an encoded message to her friends that she was having a bad day, whereas her mom thought she must be having a great day because she didn’t understand the true nature of the song.  It was a very clever way to obfuscate the information so that it was only understood by a few select people, and it could never be used against her for something like a job interview or by a teacher because someone looking into her social media presence most likely wouldn’t understand the deeper meaning either.  So even though the girl was sharing her personal feelings in a very public forum that was accessible to all, it was only a select few who really understood the message.

This use of encoded language is nothing new.  It’s been used by generations of youth on playgrounds, in classrooms, and many other places, but with the very public nature of social media, it becomes a much more important tool for keeping things private.  With the much larger potential audience, and the permanent nature of comments made on social media, it’s much less worrying about sharing of information if there is a knowledge that parents, teachers, potential employers, and others probably won’t understand the true nature of the comments, and if they do discover the encoded language years later, it can be explained away in a variety of ways that hide the true meaning.  So for example, if someone was to say, “I’m depressed, and I’m thinking of hurting myself” on social media, this statement could potentially be used against them for the rest of their lives.  But by referencing something like the song “Happy Song” by Bring Me the Horizon which is a song about depression, it’s difficult to clearly state that what is meant by the reference, so it’s also difficult to use it against that person years later.

So the encoding becomes a privacy protection that not only protects the privacy at the time of posting, it can also protect that privacy many years later.  A very powerful tool if used wisely.