Oct 03

Where learning happens, there shall ye find teachers

It’s hard to imagine anyone arguing that the digital age, social networking, animation, other event timing software (from Adobe Captivate to Mozilla’s Popcorn & Butter) and 24/7 access won’t change—haven’t already changed—the way teaching, learning, and schooling are done in the 21st century. But I’m becoming increasingly vexed by those suggesting technology will replace teachers, that for-profit social networking platforms will replace professional development—or that either of those propositions is a good idea.Wordle including 21st Century Skills and other current terminology

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

I’ll dispense with the obvious semantic argument right away: even in self-guided learning there is a teacher—we say “I taught myself!” If informal learning is truly “a spontaneous process of helping people to learn” and it really “…works through conversation, and the exploration and enlargement of experience…” if its “…purpose is to cultivate communities, associations and relationships that make for human flourishing…” then not only do I hope we all find and fill that role almost every day—I shake my head in bemusement at the eagerness with which many, perhaps even TVO’s perspicacious and typically uber-informed Steve Paikin, seem to be anticipating teaching’s impending doom.

Screenshot of Hypercard from a 1980s era Macintosh Performa

Screen shot of 1980s era Macintosh Performa and Hypercard, technology that “changed the way we learn” over 30 years ago. Source: Stanislav (2011)

Fortunately, I don’t believe the host, nor any of the panel members in this thought provoking series actually believe this rhetoric; in places like Canada where the commitment to public education is for the time being less precarious than many other places, this can still be said with tongue-in-cheek. Overall, throughout the musings of this panel the vital role played by teachers, mentors, coaches, and guides was implicit. The skills, creativity and imagination professional educators bring to the situations they design and create for the purpose of conveying the knowledge they need to share, was celebrated openly. Overall there was full recognition of the approach most strongly suggested by the literature and research—and who can be seen to have been doing the “thickest” (à la Clifford Geertz1) research for decades. [Update: yours truly on Geertz.] I was schooled in the public school system of Bethlehem, PA, USA in the 1960s. My teachers sat us in circles, let students lead reading groups while they circulated giving individualized instruction, we split into groups and did jigsaw investigations, returned and taught our classmates how to put the pieces together. Tropes and talking points, pompous assertions around “industrial” or even “agrarian” paradigms notwithstanding, throughout history educators, including teachers in the trenches, have always led the search for ways to improve and enhance the process of helping people to learn.

The Cognitive Apprenticeship framework of the 80s identified elements of the mentor/apprentice relationship (e.g., “scaffolding“) that have been essential to teaching and learning for centuries, and educators ever since have been mapping these to specific strategies and the software that supports them.

A tool such as Twitter can be a useful tool, even a powerful one in the right hands. But it’s absurd to think a platform limited to messages 140 characters, blocked by governments and firewalls, adopted thus far by a trivial percentage of teachers would be a good pick to “replace professional development,” as one person on the #Learning2030 hashtag asked Wednesday night. Leave alone the fact Twitter’s priority is making money for its shareholders, and that we don’t know what this corporation may do, or not, to protect privacy. About 80% of messaging on Twitter is self-promotion—researchers coined a new term for such Tweople, “Meformers,” in contrast to “informers” (Naaman,Boase,& Lai, 2010). While I agree teachers should try Twitter, I see Twitter being used as a hub, the water cooler in the staff room around which informal learning happens, contacts, connections and preliminary plans to make plans. Just like pencil and paper, Twitter’s the right technology for many jobs. Use it for what it does well.

Several panels have noted how kids “intuitively” adapt to new technology, but I heard none remark that human-computer interface designers have been striving to design “intuitive” interfaces since there have been computers to design interfaces for. A book written on the topic in 1987 was still in use in 2010.

It’s wonderful to be in Ontario having important and fruitful conversations with genuine reformers, so sincerely devoted to student engagement, deep learning and the new possibilities awaiting discovery by all of us. There’s no need to believe we are the first to have these conversations, nor will we be the last.

§

  1. For many decades, forward-thinking, innovative educators have been engrossed with the exploration of applications technology. See, among many examples, posts in my own Cognitive Apprenticeship category and the various works in their reference sections. For evidence of the extensive range technology-enhanced-learning-focused 20th century collaborations across disciplines, look no further than R. G. Segall (1989), Thick descriptions: a tool for designing ethnographic interactive videodiscs, ACM SIGCHI Bulletin, Volume 21 Issue 2, Oct. 1989 pp. 118 – 122. While doing so please remember, there’s nothing new under the sun.

Further reading

Ghefaili, Aziz (2003) Cognitive Apprenticeship, Technology, and the Contextualization of Learning Environments, Journal of Educational Computing, Design & Online learning Volume 4, Fall, 2003.

Harkinson, Josh, (September 24, 2013), Here’s How Twitter Can Track You on All of Your Devices, Mother Jones, retrieved 2013-10-03

Junco, Reynol; Elavsky, C. Michael and Heiberger, Greg (2012), Putting twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success, British Journal of Educational Technology (2012) 1-15. (Wiley Online Library)

Lave, Jean and Wenger, Etienne (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lave, Jean (1996). Teaching, as Learning, in Practice, Mind, Culture, and Activity (3:3) pp149-164.

Lowe, Tony & Lowe, Rachael (2012) Twitter in learning and teaching – literature review (webducate.net)

Stanislav (2011), Why Hypercard Had to Die, blog post, http://www.loper-os.org/?p=568

Naaman, M., Boase, J. & Lai, C. (2010) Is it really about me? Message Content in Social Awareness Streams. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, February 6-10, 2010 in Savannah GA (PDF).

Webducate [‘webducate.net’ website/blog] (2012), Twitter in learning and teaching – literature review http://webducate.net/2012/08/twitter-in-learning-and-teaching-literature-review/, retrieved 2012-12-03

Wenger, E. (2006) Communities of practice, a brief introduction, http://www.ewenger.com/theory/, HTML retrieved 2011-11-03 or http://wenger-trayner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/06-Brief-introduction-to-communities-of-practice.pdf, PDF retrieved 2011-10-03.

Richard studied music as a teenager with Trevor Payne at John Abbott College and attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has performed across Canada with full-time rock bands since the early 80s. He’s been a teacher of rock, jazz & classical guitar, first as a sub for his own private teacher, formally at the now defunct Toronto Percussion Centre, and taught at The Arts Music Store in Newmarket, Ontario, for 6 years. He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts Music (Special Honours), Bachelor of Education, and Master of Education from York University, plays guitar and trombone, and taught grade 6-8 band, math and computers (HTML and yes, Hypercard!) at the Toronto District School Board and North York School Board.

Sep 30

LilyPond with Frescobaldi: open source music engraving

LilyPond is open source music engraving software. LilyPond “…was designed to solve the problems we found in existing software and to create beautiful music that mimics the finest hand-engraved scores.” It produces some of the finest looking scores you can imagine, and almost any style of note or notation you can imagine. But it’s a scripting language—which for many people makes it very difficult to learn, and much too tedious to use. Enter Frescobaldi.

Frescobaldi is an open source editing tool for LilyPond. I won’t pretend there’s no learning curve, but if you want to print absolutely stunning music scores and enjoy learning technology it’s worth it, and I’ll help you get started. And if you’re a music educator I’ll make some suggestions about how I might use this in teaching, albeit at a high school level or higher, with students who have already learned the basics of reading. Thanks to Frescobaldi’s built-in MIDI player I see applications to ear training, as well as more obvious help with general notation problems. I’ve also screen-recorded some of my first explorations, and I intend to edit them down and add audio, and continue with a video tutorial, hopefully in just a few days.

Both programs run on Windows, Mac or Linux, but there’s no Mac or Linux installer for Frescobaldi, so if you’re not running Windows you may need some extra skills there. First, download and install both programs using the links below. You will not need to launch LilyPond. You’ll launch Frescobaldi, tell it where to find LilyPond and Frescobaldi will take it from there.

Software links

LilyPond is a music engraving program, devoted to producing the highest-quality sheet music possible. Download

Frescobaldi is a LilyPond sheet music text editor. It aims to be powerful, yet lightweight and easy to use. Download

  1. On first launch Frescobaldi opens an empty document. You type and insert LilyPond code in the left Editor panel and then press the LilyPond icon ion the toolbar to render a gorgeous PDF in the right, or Music View panel. hide image Screen shot
  2. Choose EditPreferences… show image
  3. Set path to LilyPond show image
    Windows default: C:/Program Files (x86)/LilyPond/usr/bin/lilypond-windows.exe
  4. Choose ToolsPreferencesSetup New Score… (Ctrl+Shift+N) to open the Score Setup Wizard show image
     Other items on this list will be of great interest soon… I used the Quick Insert tool and the MIDI Player early in my very first score.

    The Score Setup Wizard lets you set the following up front—especially recommended your first time, as once you create the file you’ll need to get code snippets from the documentation, the other tools in the Tools menu, another file, or know what to type.
     You might even want to fill in all the fields and save a MasterSnippet.ly file for later reference. Frescobaldi also has its own built-in Snippets manager.

    1. Titles and Headers show
    2. Parts show
    3. Score Settings show
       Be sure to try the Preview button!

To get started I just picked 8 bars of a Stevie Wonder tune I happened to have loaded in iTunes. You can see the first 2 bars of the lick on the right of the screen shot below. The script on the left side, which you’d have to write from scratch without an editor, demonstrates rather aptly I think, why a tool like Frescobaldi can likely make LilyPond more useful to a much larger community. What will be much easier to demonstrate in a video tutorial is how I copy/pasted a snippet of code from the documentation into the editor and then tweaked it until I got what I wanted. The notes you see on the right are formed entirely by this part of the script on the left. 'is' as a sharp is not intuitive (unless you speak Dutch), but now that I’ve told you perhaps you can see the 4, 8 and 16 that sets note values, ‘r’ for rest, and the lower case note names, key of B Major. The tildes (~) create the ties, and I entered staccato and accents using the Quick Insert tool shown in the left panel of the final screen shot below.
 All your music goes immediately after the % Music follows here. and before the closing curly brace (}) that lines up flush left with the instrument name above it and the code \score below it (see both screen shots beneath the following code snippet).

// You can group and nest notes in curly braces for readability.
// Here I've grouped each beat within each measure on its own line.
{
{b4-.} {r16 b16 dis cis->~}  {cis-. cis16 gis' fis->~} {fis8-. fis,16 gis}
}
{
{b8->-. cis16 cisis16} {dis16 fis gis b->~}  {b16 cis16 cisis dis->~} {dis4-.}
}

Screen shot

By the time I’d finished I’d opened the MIDI Player to check my work. You need to press the Engrave button to refresh the output on the right (there are further options under the LilyPond menu). Frescobaldi supplies the bar lines based on the time signature in the score settings, and plays audio—I feel those two facts have pedagogical implications. I slowed down my 8-bar passage using Audacity, played them side by side, and by refreshing the output was able to see and hear what I had right and wrong along the way.
Screen shot
I hope this is enough to pique your interest. There’s another LilyPond editor I plan to try soon too, Denemo, highlighted with even more on the LilyPond site. It looks quite sophisticated, but I can tell I’ve barely scratched the surface of Frescobaldi, which was intuitive enough out of the box to keep me intrigued and progressing—getting this far was fun! Please use the comments section and stay tuned for some video tutorials as I get in further.

§

Richard studied as a teenager with Trevor Payne at John Abbott College and attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has performed across Canada with full-time rock bands since the early 80s. He’s been a teacher of rock, jazz & classical guitar at the now defunct Toronto Percussion Centre, and at The Arts Music Store for many years. He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts Music (Special Honours), Bachelor of Education, and Master of Education from York University, plays guitar and trombone, and taught grade 6-8 band at the Toronto District School Board and North York School Board.

Video explorations on their way

Aside

We will soon return to our regularly scheduled programming:
…Some software and hardware reviews and how-tos (coming soon: Music lessons with iPhone and AmpKit!)
…I’m using CompendiumNG and/or designVUE to make storyboards for my own brand of guitar lessons
…and I’m also working on ways to make html5 video more interactive, making videos to make more interactive, and making videos of making videos to make more interactive.

The teachable moment, is a threshold to a concept.

Jun 18

Bookmarklets for fun and practice

Bookmarklets are JavaScript links that can be stored in your browser’s Bookmarks or Favorites folder, or attached to a bookmarks toolbar, and then used to do something relative to that page. I think bookmarklets have a lot of value for teaching and self-teaching JavaScript.

What can I learn playing with bookmarklets?

You need to create and use a fundamental unit of HTML: a link (also known as “anchor”; <a href="somewhere">Link</a> ). You can start with the most basic javascript:alert('Hello world');. You can learn how to use a closure javascript:(function(){ alert('Hello world'); })();. You’ll be forced from the start to pay close attention to syntax. If you haven’t yet, you’ll quickly figure out how to use Firebug (and/or any modern browser’s “F12 Developer Tools”) to inspect DOM elements to get their id and other properties. Ultimately you’re limited only by your skill, which will improve quickly, and imagination. What would you change about the blog page you’re reading now, if you could?

Where to start?

I started with a pet peeve about a page I visit regularly. My first bookmarklet ever hides the right column in Facebook, so I don’t have to see the ads. Take that, Mark! If you click the link below while on this page nothing will happen. But if you drag the link to your Bookmarks Toolbar (in Firefox, “Bookmarks Bar” in Chrome, etc…) do that while viewing your Facebook page (or any page that coincidentally has a right column div with id="pagelet_side_ads") you will toggle its visibility.

Bookmarklet1: Toggle FB ads Drag the link to your bookmarks bar to try it.

To embed a bookmarklet so it can be dragged to the toolbar you just place a link on your Web page:

<strong>Bookmarklet: <a href="javascript:(function(){var adsDiv=document.getElementById('pagelet_side_ads'),isHidden=adsDiv.style.display==='none';if(isHidden){adsDiv.style.display='inline-block';}else{adsDiv.style.display='none';}})();">Toggle FB ads</a></strong> 

The imagination runs wild

Still milking my own pet peeves, I wanted to collect lyrics of several songs I needed to learn for the weekend warrior band I play in. A recurring pattern is, we find a song by an artist that is a good fit for our sound, and due to that we later add 3 or 4 more by the same artist. Besides, I just like having lyrics handy… why not just get all the lyrics for that artist at once? But that would mean a lot of clicks and copy/paste! With some intermediate JavaScript you can collect all the links and titles, visit each page in a queue, get just the lyrics you want, and display them in one place in a fraction of the time. To engage students and make meaning of any learning situation requires context and relevance. Do you know any young people who like music, and might be engaged by collecting lyrics of their favourite artists?

I may explain this code in another post, but for now it’s about bookmarklets and an example of what one might do with one. If you don’t understand this paragraph you’ll need to do some vocabulary homework. This script only works at www.lyrics.com. That page has a version of jQuery installed so I used it. To write the script I used Firebug to identify IDs and classes of elements on the page that I use as “selectors” to have access. I fiddled in the console until I had a working script. Meticulous syntax is important… your script goes on one line, so semi-colons are in, comments are out.

Bookmarklet: Get Lyrics This works on Artist pages at www.lyrics.com

This script is quite a bit more involved than the first. I did succeed in making it work in the link code like the first one, but there’s an easier way. In order to make more complicated scripts work you should use the bookmarklet to load your script from a file on your server. I created rcf-get_lyrics.js and placed it on this server. You can copy/paste the script below and just change the path to point to your own file.

javascript:(function(){var url="http://www.rcfouchaux.ca/rcf-get_lyrics.js",n=document.createElement("script");n.setAttribute("language","JavaScript");n.setAttribute("src",url+"?rand="+new Date().getTime());document.body.appendChild(n)})();

I’ll discuss the code in more detail in a future post, but quickly, you create a script element and set the source to the file, then append this new element. There’s a unique identifier, which I’m not using for anything right now, created from the time and appended to the url.

Few limits

The most impressive bookmarklet I’ve ever seen, one that immediately became essential to all my JavaScript learning and development, is Alan Jardine’s Visual Event. Visual Event is an open source JavaScript bookmarklet which provides debugging information about events that have been attached to the DOM (Document Object Model; it means the entire web application represented by the “web page” loaded in the browser’s window).

Alan’s script demonstrates how to load a complex script off a server using only a small manageable amount of code in the bookmarklet itself. As you see, I borrowed it but removed his protocol check for simplicity. I think the aforementioned date/time “query string” he adds prevents the browser from caching the script indefinitely, but I didn’t research that—it’s a guess.

Another impressive project that’s available as a bookmarklet is pjscrape. If I wanted to turn my lyrics scraper into a real utility I’d probably start with pjscrape.

Update 2: I’ve placed both the bookmarklets on their own page. I expect I’ll add to the list.

Update 3: I’ve added a variation on the Facebook ad hider, using display:none and targeting only the ads—compare the two and try to figure out what’s different. I’ll add all future updates on the bookmarklets page.

§

  1. This was updated since original publication and now uses id="pagelet_side_ads" and display:none;
May 28

Make Captivate HTML5 Work in Firefox

screen shot of error dialogWith the slow but steady demise of Flash, SWF-based elearning software makers, like Adobe, have been “cramming” (a word from disruptive innovation) HTML5 into their products, like Captivate (I’m using v6.1), to keep up. Because the HTML5 spec itself is still growing in inconsistent and at times uncertain directions there are bound to be holes and gaps in the implementations. For Captivate 6.1 the first one I encountered was the “This browser does not support some of the content…” error I got when I attempted to view my HTML5 output in my browser of choice—Firefox. It was version 20, and I know Firefox has supported HTML5 audio and video tags since version 3.5 so it had to be something silly. In the proprietary software world that may mean license issues, and so it does with Firefox (Free, Open, Libre software) and the MP3 (not so much). Captivate exports only MP3s, Firefox (and Opera) play only OGGs. So until Adobe offers a checkbox on the Publishing page you can do the following, or hope your visitors use only IE, Safari or Chrome—as the majority probably do… but we’re big on inclusion around here so let’s not leave anyone out!

I quickly ascertained it’s the MP3-only audio export preventing Firefox from doing Captivate sound. As you probably know, some browsers do MP3, others do OGG. You may even remember why. Fortunately that’s the only reason Firefox won’t play Captivate HTML5. All you have to do are

  1. create OGG versions of each MP3 and
  2. edit two JavaScript files to
    1. detect Firefox
    2. provide the appropriate file extension and
    3. suppress the error message.

Simple enough you say, but I figured I may as well google it and see what others have done. I did, and found all the hints I needed in hermit9911’s answer to this post (scroll down a few). hermit just needs OGG. I want both to work depending on browser, so I had to improvise on hermit9911’s theme. Here are the steps I ended up following.

1. Create OGG versions of each MP3

There are many programs that convert audio formats. I used Audacity’s “Chains” feature (macros). Since I’ve met many more people who know of Audacity than know of its Chains feature, I’ve done a separate screencast of that process:

Made using Camstudio (screen video), iPhone (narration),
Audacity (mix/process audio) & Sony Vegas (mix/render video)
Can you suggest a good open source video editor? Please use the comments with my thanks!

2. Edit two JavaScript files

detect Firefox

Project.js is found in the root export folder. It’s “minified,” which means line breaks and extra spaces are removed and it’s pretty hard to read, but we can add our tiny bit of code right at the beginning. I don’t see any need for feature detection in this case, so I settled for user agent:

var is_firefox = navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase().indexOf('firefox') > -1; 
// converts the string to lowercase then creates Boolean, 
// true if it finds 'firefox' anywhere in the name. Otherwise : false 

provide the appropriate file extension

Once you have a question that can be answered yes or no the best syntax is usually as follows:

myExtension = is_firefox ? '.ogg' : 'mp3'; <br>// Yes? Send '.ogg' No : send '.mp3

Then just search & replace existing .mp3' with '+myExtension Everything between ”s is literal, myExtension is variable depending on the answer to is_firefox?yes:no;

UPDATED: If you have Administrator rights and access to the Adobe Captivate install folder you can add these changes to the template Captivate creates the file from. Otherwise both files are overwritten every time you publish, and you have to repeat all these steps. If you can access and edit
[InstallFolder]\HTML\assets\js\CPHTML5Warnings.js
use that file instead (path to install folder will differ depending on operating system and installation) otherwise follow the instructions as written:
Next, open [PublishFolder]/assets/CPHTML5Warnings.js and make the two additions suggested by hermit9911. (I looked up the earliest version of Firefox that supported the audio tag and replaced hermit9911’s xx with 3.5).

this.BrowserEnum.FIREFOX_MIN_SUPPORTED_VERSION = 3.5; // sets minimum version, used in code below

suppress the error message

Finally at the very bottom of the file you will find a series of IF and IF ELSE statements… add the following after the closing semicolon of the last one:

else if((this.browser == this.BrowserEnum.FIREFOX) <br>  &amp;&amp;<br> (this.browserVersion &gt;= this.BrowserEnum.FIREFOX_MIN_SUPPORTED_VERSION )) <br> lSupported = true;

Browse to index.html in Firefox, press Play and watch your movie. With a bit of practice this will add all of about 5-10 minutes to your publishing routine. Alas, you’ll have to redo Project.js—and convert all your audio files— every time you publish.

As an extension activity, make this work for Opera (yes, you can use find/replace but watch case-sensitivity. Do each separately… firefox/opera and FIREFOX/OPERA). Use flow control instead? (Hint: yes) Look back at the code above and explain why you need to do that. Would you change the variable name? To what?

My entire solution instructions and code snippets
(including my answers to the extension questions)

/* ADD TO TOP OF Project.js */
var wantsOggsOverEasy = ((navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase().indexOf('firefox') > -1) || (navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase().indexOf('opera') > -1)), myEXT=wantsOggsOverEasy?'.ogg':'.mp3'; 
/* nb comma/semi-colon usage - I declared 2 local vars in 1 dec */

/* This is the text to search for
   .mp3' and change it to '+myEXT
  EXAMPLE
  FROM: src:'ar/Mouse.mp3',du:182
       TO: src:'ar/Mouse'+myEXT,du:182

IF you have Admin privileges find the Captivate install folder and edit the warnings file found in
[InstallFolder]\HTML\assets\js\CPHTML5Warnings.js. Otherwise you can save these changes in a safe place and you'll need to replace [PublishFolder]/ar/CPHTML5Warnings.js in the published location every time you publish. (Project.js is generated programmatically by the publishing engine, so to the best of my knowledge it must be fixed after each publish, also protect your OGG files.)  */

/* In CPHTML5Warnings.js 
(somewhere between lines 19 and 20) non-destructively ADD:  */

        this.BrowserEnum.FIREFOX_MIN_SUPPORTED_VERSION = 3.5;
        this.BrowserEnum.OPERA_MIN_SUPPORTED_VERSION = 10;

(approximately line 112) AFTER final 
          lSupported = true; AND BEFORE

          return lSupported; non-destructively ADD 

		else if((this.browser == this.BrowserEnum.FIREFOX) && (this.browserVersion >= this.BrowserEnum.FIREFOX_MIN_SUPPORTED_VERSION))

            lSupported = true;	
		else if((this.browser == this.BrowserEnum.OPERA) && (this.browserVersion >= this.BrowserEnum.OPERA_MIN_SUPPORTED_VERSION))
            lSupported = true;

§

N.B. Post was edited for clarity since first publishing.

May 20

Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) as a presentation tool

VUE, and its design-centric extension, designVUE, are concept-mapping tools with rather extraordinary superpowers. In fact if you think they look like simple tools for making mind-maps I’m here to nudge you to take a closer look. Mind map being created in VUE.

Metadata

Does quickly and invisibly making your content “more accessible, interoperable and valuable” sound good? Have you heard of “…Web 3.0, the Semantic Web or the Giant Global Graph…?” These two well-connected apps support OpenCalais and other meta-data helpers.

While the VUE site is essential for resources and documentation, I recommend installing and using designVUE. Even if you don’t use IBIS argumentation, what they refer to as “bi-directional hyperlinking between files,” known elsewhere in designVUE as “wormholes” (and in Compendium as “transclusion,”) or the ability to place one map within another, is a powerful ability that separates tools like VUE and Compendium from the plethora of mind mapping tools available.

Presentation tool

That’s what I’m learning first—the built-in presentation tool. There’s not much more I can add about it at this point than what’s in this rather comprehensive overview/tutorial (more overview than tutorial, maybe?), so with no further ado…

Next

I seem to be able to screen record these presentations with another open source program, so if that pans out I’ll share it then. I think it’ll definitely take some practice thinking about presenting in a different way, but there’s a great deal of evidence that idea maps, visually connecting the dots, and the activities such as argument mapping that are associated with them a) may have a natural fit with social networks and social learning, and b) organize data in ways consistent with the human brain (see for example Conole & Fill, 2005 and its extensive reference list).

§

More

The Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) is an Open Source project based at Tufts University

designVUE is a branch of VUE. It is an open source project based in the Design Engineering Group of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Imperial College London.

Conole, G. and Fill, K. (2005). A learning design toolkit to create pedagogically effective learning activities Journal of Interactive Media in Education 2005(08). [PDF: jime.open.ac.uk/2005/08]. Gráinne Conole and Karen Fill, University of Southampton. Page 1 Published 26 September 2005 ISSN: 1365-893X

Calais Marmoset is a simple yet powerful tool that makes it easy for you to generate and embed metadata in your content in preparation for Yahoo! Search’s new open developer platform, SearchMonkey, as well as other metacrawlers and semantic applications.

May 17

CompendiumNG, the Next Generation?

CompendiumNG splash screenCompendium is an open source concept mapping tool I discovered when I was exploring design, looking into conflict resolution and complex problem solving in general, and I learned of Horst Rittel’s “Wicked Problems.” Compendium contains an icon set and database support for its “Issue-Based Information System (IBIS)”

IBIS employs argument mapping that is designed to find solutions to wicked problems.

CompendiumNG's updated desktop.

The new Compendium has an attractive background and new icons.

In argument mapping you simply pose a question and list the pros      and cons     , but you also connect dots and from there, in theory, the discussion takes off, aided by the visualization, which evolves in real time to reflect the process. Paul Culmsee has demonstrated how framing “powerful questions” can expedite this.

Mind mapping seems to tap our brain’s need for visual cues. Compendium makes it quick and easy to create maps, link and rearrange the bubbles, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg—you can add your own icons and icon (“stencil”) sets. It has tags, categories, a powerful database and metadata abilities behind it that could be accessed by other programs. It supports a high level of collaboration. You can attach files and external links to the bubbles, even create an interactive Web page that retains those links and attachments so you can share them on the Web. One version of Compendium, “CompendiumLD,” has been adapted to Learning Design. In my readings I’ve seen Compendium and other mind mapping tools used to design units, deliver lessons, as the focus, outcome or product of a lesson, and as a record of program implementation or student achievement used to assess the program or give the learner a grade. Compendium is also free and open source.

CompendiumNG appears to be more than just a facelift. But in a world where increasingly we expect to open a Web browser and go straight to engaging content, is a modernized interface and potential limited only by the imagination enough to motivate busy educators to adopt and learn, deeply, a complex new program? I have my doubts, and I believe a browser-based HTML5 mind mapping tool is not too far down the road. But when it comes to making thinking visible, I for one can’t wait. CompendiumNG is a “show and tell” tool, and that was always one of my favorite things to do at school.

§

Further reading, information

Culmsee, Paul (2013) A video about “powerful questions”, live mapping with Compendium.

Kirschner, Paul A. , Buckingham Shum, Simon J., and Carr, Chad S. (Eds.) (2003), Visualizing Argumentation: Software Tools for Collaborative and Educational Sense-Making, London: Springer-Verlag.

Ortiz, Claudia María Álvarez (2007) Does Philosophy Improve Critical Thinking Skills?, Master’s thesis, Department of Philosophy—Faculty of Arts
The University of Melbourne, images.austhink.com/pdf/Claudia-Alvarez-thesis.pdf retrieved 2013-04-30.

— Critical thinking on the web, Argument Mapping

May 10

Are you “informer,” or “meformer?”

Twitter infographicMor Naaman, Jeffrey Boase, and Chih-Hui Lai of Rutgers are on the list of researchers who’ve published early about Twitter. Naaman, Boase and Lai (2010) bring interesting new terminology to the table, casting Twitter as a member of a class of software described as “social awareness streams” Three things distinguish a social awareness stream from other communication: “…a) the public (or personal-public) nature of the communication and conversation; b) the brevity of posted content; and, c) a highly connected social space, where most of the information consumption is enabled and driven by articulated online contact networks.” (pg. 189). Does property “c” include “Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)?”

Research questions

…we use Ward’s linkage cluster analysis to categorize users based on the types of messages that they typically post. … The analysis resulted in two clusters, which we labeled “Informers” (20% of users) and – to suggest a new term – “Meformers” (80%).
Naaman, Boase and Lai (2010, pgs. 191-2), emph. mine

The researchers asked, 1) What types of messages are commonly posted and how does message type relate to other variables? 2) What are the differences between users in terms of the types and diversity of messages that they usually post? 3) How are these differences between users’ content practices related to other user characteristics? The entire study is worth a look (link below), but a summary here might be a good influence on the types of Personal Learning Networks we create.

Messages fit into 4 categories: “information sharing (IS; 22% of messages were coded in that category), opinions/complaints (OC), statements (RT) and “me now” (ME), with the latter dominating the dataset (showing that, indeed, “it’s all about me” for much of the time). Overall messaging divided into 2 types, “Informers” (20% of users) and then Naaman, Boase and Lai suggest a new term: “Meformers,” into which fall the Tweets of 80% of the users in the study. [The Figure] shows the mean of the average proportion of messages in the top four categories for each user” (pg. 191).

graph, informers vs meformers

Mean user message proportions for the four main categories, breakdown by cluster.
Source: Naaman, Boase and Lai (2010, pg. 191)

What else do we know?

Tony & Rachael Lowe have done a Twitter in learning and teaching – literature review collecting what we’re learning about Twitter in one place. They highlight in particular one by Reynol Junco, C. Michael Elavsky, and Greg Heiberger (2012), Putting twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success in which they show that faculty participation on the platform, integration of Twitter into the course based on good theory-driven pedagogy, and requiring students to use Twitter are key to improving outcomes that I intend to review on its own soon.

Further questions

Here are some of mine:

Are these numbers still true in 2013?
Are we informers sometimes and meformers the rest of the time?
Are there other “clusters” to be discovered?

Please use the comments and ask some of your own questions here!

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Reference

Junco, Reynol; Elavsky, C. Michael and Heiberger, Greg (2012), Putting twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success, British Journal of Educational Technology (2012) 1-15. (Wiley Online Library)

Lowe, Tony & Lowe, Rachael (2012) Twitter in learning and teaching – literature review (webducate.net)

Naaman, M., Boase, J. & Lai, C. (2010) Is it really about me? Message Content in Social Awareness Streams. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, February 6-10, 2010 in Savannah GA (PDF).

May 06

Multimedia in eLearning? Bring Popcorn and Butter!

Popcorn WebMaker is a Mozilla project. The video you see in the frame below is actually 3 YouTube videos, linked and enhanced using Popcorn (popcorn.js) and Butter (butter.js). Popcorn uses JavaScript to synchronize events you plan and implement with the audio or video that’s playing. Butter is an HTML5 timeline interface that lets you set it all up, it works much as Adobe Captivate, although not nearly as advanced—yet. Open source technologies tend to be less refined until they find a niche market, and eventually interest and a community attach a commitment to their further development. A classic example is the transistor radio. While audiophiles built ever more expensive high-fidelity vacuum tube amplifiers and receivers, with special speakers and advanced crossovers, a cheap, portable unit, sometimes with a 1.5 inch paper speaker sounding like a telephone, caught on with teenagers, with the eventual result that transistors and miniature speakers created a new market, marginalizing the status quo in the process; vacuum tubes now inhabit niche markets (rock guitarists in particular have helped keep the industry from disappearing altogether). JavaScript supplies interaction that was impossible within the video file itself.

Very Basic Web App 101

I’ve already noted an irony… I was unable to watch these videos on my iPhone, and yet I uploaded HTML5-friendly .webm files. That seems to be about YouTube, though, not Popcorn.

Will Popcorn and Butter disrupt Adobe? You won’t see it on corporate training sites any time soon, but you can rest assured the number of people who know what it is and try to use it will surpass Captivate’s in a short time — and they’ll have lots of fun at https://popcorn.webmaker.org/ exploring ideas and re-mixing the ideas of others. I’ve only just begun exploring this exciting new resource. I hope you will join me.

Try Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker for yourself. https://popcorn.webmaker.org/

I’ve already encountered some PopcornMaker gotchas, including an inability to reliably hold HTML code in Text or Popup events, making it difficult to do some of the lessons I had in mind. I expect to write a few more blog entries on Popcorn, and though I got a late start I’m taking part in Teach the Web: a Mozilla Open Online Collaboration for Webmaker mentors. I’ll have much more to say, and I’ll tackle the gotchas, when I see and hear how others have approached this fledgling resource in the 21st-Century-Educator’s repertoire.

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Apr 07

Learner Privacy

Heidi Siwak has what strikes me as a very important post on student privacy, that really extends to participants of any kind in all kinds of online learning situations. She’s shared the slides from a presentation she did for the Association for Media Literacy that raises some important issues, and makes some important arguments. I highly recommend her post and presentation, linked above with a direct link to Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario’s Operationalizing Privacy by Design: A Guide to Implementing Strong Privacy Practices.

A lot of research is still required here, but it will become easier when those in the know have compiled some practical lists of things we may want to do, and best practices for addressing learning participants’ privacy. I have this contribution to the list.

Quite recently I was responsible for posting a set of learning videos that are streaming from YouTube onto my own organization’s Web site as “embedded iframes.” I instinctively chose the high-privacy URL pattern from the choices. Heidi’s post vindicates my gut feeling, which falls under Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario’s Foundational Principle #2, Privacy as the Default Setting. This should be considered a “best practice” for educators.

The pattern is (irrelevant pieces faded)…
https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/EOicdh2C8A0?rel=0
Two parts of that are for the end-user’s protection: https sends information in an encrypted format, and youtube-nocookie.com is a domain YouTube—to their credit—has set up for privacy by not using cookies to read and write to your hard drive, exposing information about your surfing habits.

A third part worth noting is the ?rel=0 at the end. That protects my organization and the end-user from random “Related Videos” after the video, that may or may not be appropriate. If your YouTube link for any reason already has a ?anything=anything you should leave that intact and add &rel=0 to the end, e.g., ?x=y&rel=0.

The other part of the URL is the video ID. If you follow that link it takes you to the first video in a series of 5, on YouTube. We “embedded” them on our own site because there’s much more to it than that, so if you’re interested in that content, the entire series (Working Together: The Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) is here.

Please feel free to comment, and leave any tips you may have for preserving Privacy By Default.

 

 

Further Reading

Association for Media Literacy
HTTP Secure (Wikipedia)
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

 

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