Mar 04

My pixilation videos

Pixilation is a fun type of frame-by-frame animation where live actors pose repeatedly like individual drawings, stop motion puppets, or clay models in animations I was more familiar with before taking the MOOC Explore Animation, offered on the UK’s FutureLearn by the National Film and Television School. A moving and rather stunning example is the short film Stanley Pickle, created in 2010 by then NFTS student Vicky Mather, now the recipient of many awards.

My first exploration of the technique won’t win any awards, but I learned some valuable lessons doing it. Perhaps the most important one is that my 6-year-old actor had a blast making it, even on a cold day in Toronto, and remained engaged throughout, including the editing. She chose and set up the extraterrestrial colour correction filters! She even has her own ideas about how she’d like to do more of it, and to what end. I think this bodes well for the classroom.

Beyond that, I learned that in general one must either place the camera in a stationary spot from the beginning of the scene to the end, or follow the subject, carefully framing the shot to keep them centred. Otherwise each move of the camera takes on the suggestion of a new scene. I used the first technique in the second video, which features the earlier subject’s mother.

I shot this on an iPhone 5 in landscape orientation, using a cheap tripod and a bracket obtained from Dollarama, which probably explains the odd vertical distortion that accompanies each press of the shutter button. I dumped the photos onto my laptop and dropped them into Magix Vegas Pro 14, and stretched them to 5 frames each (1/6 of a second @ 30fps, so 60 photos for 10 seconds; more, and fewer frames between, for a smoother flow). The soundtracks are royalty-free clips that came with some software or other I bought in the past, but I’ve forgotten which or when. If you want an exceptional editor that’s free, you can easily do all of this with HitFilm Express.

I believe development of multimodal, multimedia literacies is important to personal empowerment in the 21st century. I’ve been continuing my self-education in animation and my focus on applying it to hands-on, student-centred engagement in learning through other FutureLearn courses, most recently Filmmaking and Animation in the Classroom, offered by Into Film, “a UK-wide film and education charity, which puts film at the heart of children and young people’s learning, contributing to their cultural, creative and personal development.”

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Feb 08

Scales of Justice — sprite animation in CrazyTalk Animator 3

I’m taking a lovely MOOC on FutureLearn, called Filmmaking and Animation in the Classroom. I’m going to show you how to animate a Scales of Justice using CrazyTalk Animator 3. Although I’ve chosen to demonstrate making Scales of Justice, this process is very similar to any other stop frame animation, and you can use any set of image sequences you choose.

‘Sprite’-based animation using a sequence of stills

With CrazyTalk 3 open in Stage Mode and your timeline at Frame 1, go to the create menu, and choose create media, props. Navigate to the folder that contains your static images. You can drag your mouse or press control + A to select all the images and then press Open.

Your new prop will appear in a red box, displaying only the last image in your set. These images are the new prop’s “sprites” and to choose between them we’ll use the Sprite Editor. To open the Sprite Editor use the icon on the toolbar, go to the animation menu and choose sprite editor, or press the letter S.

My Scales of Justice prop using sprite animation

“One-shot” video, What is ‘Primacy?’   For best results view Full Screen
The red box turns green to show we are editing the prop, and the editor displays all the prop’s sprites. The highlighted sprite is the one currently displaying, but the first image on the list, the one with a special icon in the lower right corner, is the default image. In my case I want to start my animation from the default image, so I will select that image now. It becomes highlighted and the display changes.

To animate our scales we’ll advance the frame and choose different images. Crazy talk also has an advanced timeline that keeps track of everything we can do to our prop, but we don’t really need it for simple sprite animation. My animation is running at 30 frames per second, so every three frames represents 1/10 of a second.

Now, I’ve numbered all my sprites to make it easier for me to keep track — the numbers beginning with zero tilt to the left, and the numbers counting by 10s tilt to the right. I’ll advance my frames by three and change the sprite image until I get to 04, then I’ll backtrack to 00 and go ahead with images 10 to 40, and finally backtrack once more 00.

Now I’ll rewind my animation and press play. We can open the timeline to see more clearly what we’ve done. The little diamonds represent “keyframes” corresponding to the image changes we’ve made, and you’ll notice they’re always three squares apart, representing three frames or 1/10 of a second. In real life a scale might move more slowly at the top and the bottom of its swing, swing a little less each time, and eventually settle in the middle.

We can drag these keyframes to new positions on the timeline, copy paste, and even delete ones we don’t want. The scale will move faster when the key frames are closer together, and slower when they’re further apart.

I experimented and ended up with this animation which is 180 frames, or 6 seconds of motion, followed by 2 seconds of nothing, so you can see that the scale has stopped. To save your animation go to the file menu and switch to composer mode, and then choose file, save prop. Your new prop will be found in the content Manager under the Custom Props tab.  

CrazyTalk Animator 3 also makes it easy to render your animation as an MP4.

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Feb 02

Let’s play some Blues

In a repressed society, artists fulfil a sense of harking back to instant gratification, or immediate expression, by doing things that function on the edge of society, or outside of what is conventionally accepted.
―Bat for Lashes
Instant gratification is like instant coffee, only it won’t keep you up all night.
―Jarod Kintz

The importance of instant gratification must never be underestimated, even as we shun the pitfalls. As a guitar student, I know I “both impressed and vexed” my teacher by practicing, and to a fair degree learning material he thought a year or more down the road, instead of what he assigned me (he told me so in so many words). As a guitar teacher in a music store there was also an economically practical reason to get kids “playing something” as quickly as possible, namely to keep them coming back every week, and their parents smiling. This week’s ukulele lesson will apply some of the approaches I came up with way back then, while hitting today’s (Ontario, Canada’s) curriculum expectations for the age group. 

Today they’ll hear some Blues, play some Blues and with any luck begin to feel their own Blues… in 12 bar cycles of 4/4 time! 

Musical content

I’ll use technology—the ‘TuxUkulele’ track introduced last lesson [video]— to walk them through counting and time signature. They’re already good at the counting part and today I’ll teach a 4/4 conducting pattern, showing patterns of other time signatures in the process. 

Image, conducting patternImage, conducting patternImage, conducting pattern

Conducting Patterns
3:4     4:4     6:8

We don’t have computers with our ukes at present, and I won’t subject them to a lecture with a software demo. I’ll always start with a hello and a review and teaser, but then we’ll get the instruments out and begin strumming and playing notes. 

I’m walking back one step from last week. My goal for today is to do a blues “vamp” on the Bb chord, and a “lick” (also “riff” and yes, “motif”) with a triplet feel over top of it.

With ukes in hand…

  1. [TuxGuitar (*.tg) file] Teach vamp… with and without “swing feel”
    image, notation and tab for lessonimage, notation and tab for lesson
  2. Teach lick… Swing feel makes no difference. Why? Bends and slides cool, ambiguous major/minor 3rd
    image, notation and tab for lessonimage, notation and tab for lesson
  3. [TuxGuitar (*.tg) file] Teach scale and fingering…
    Hand position… keep thumb behind, hand cupped; hammer on
    “Blues Major” and “Pentatonic Major” are different… how?

    image, notation and tab for lesson
    Fingering

    image, notation and tab for lesson

  4. [TuxGuitar (*.tg) file] Teach scale and fingering…
    Hand position… keep thumb behind, hand cupped, pinky hovers over frets
    “Blues Minor” and “Pentatonic Minor” are different… how?

    image, notation and tab for lesson
    Fingering

    image, notation and tab for lesson

Those are nearby, convenient Bb major and minor pentatonic scale patterns that form a perfect segue into ‘TuxUkulele.’

On the SMART board

(keep this short, unless everyone has a computer with TuxGuitar on it)

  1. Launch TuxGuitar, then open ukelele template
  2. Add swing; tempo <= 60; key Bb 
    • Opportunity to show conducting pattern  
  3. Show scale; play 1st position pattern (2 notes/string) for and with the learners 
  4. Show notes;
  5. Show chord symbols;
    • Opportunity to use conducting pattern  
  6. Repeat for lick (if time and engagement allow)

Back in the real world

  1. turn off software (or use purely as metronome)
  2. listening time
    • Robert Johnson Crossroad Blues [Show lyrics]
    • Charlie Patton 34 Blues [Show lyrics]
    • Howlin’ Wolf Killing Floor [Show lyrics] Is this still “swing feel?” (“straight 8ths”)
  3. Identify lyric pattern, 2+1 form
  4. play, student conductors, etc.
  5. Easy Tux Blues, (using tritone relationship) [TuxGuitar (*.tg) file]

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Resources

How to read music – Tim Hansen [TEDEd Lesson]

 

Nov 09

Who’s directing whom?

Photo. The cart is placed before the horse, who also looks confused.I’d like to tell you about the first time I taught children how to make webpages, which was in 1993, while a “teacher candidate” in the province of Ontario, Canada. There was an Education Resource Centre with a computer lab, an odd collection of Mac II, Mac Classics, and the last working Commodore 64s I saw for many years, and a few early Windows computers. I caught on quickly and soon landed 10-15 hours of gainful student employment each week. I was then, and remain today, an educator first and a technologist only so far as it supports the learners’ objectives.

Placed in a classroom within the (now defunct) Etobicoke Board, I needed the help of the school’s IT director to make sure each computer in the ambitious early 90s computer lab had access to the software they need during an in between my weekly lessons.

In their 2014 report, People for Education find that fewer than 1% of Ontario schools lack technology but it wasn’t the case in the early 90s.

Pause here to picture such a lab, and remember (as you can read on fact sheet 5 of the Census 2001 Highlights Immigration to Ontario Internet site) the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA) had one of the highest proportions of foreign-born residents of all major urban centers in the world. Ontario’s public schools always reflect the faces of the immigration realities of the moment1.

My host school in 1993 had something else that was very new in those days—it had an IT Director. As it turned out, the relationship we developed revealed a conundrum that persists in organizations of many kinds to this day.

Naturally my lesson was being evaluated, and my course directors and adjunct professor expected the learning design to reflect my ideas and interpretations of such things as the anti-racist philosophy of education the Faculty espoused—and that I’d be the one directing the learning. So it was, in my very first adventures in electronically enhance learning design I quickly discovered that I wasn’t looking for an IT director — what I needed was a “facilitator,” and all the support and deference in executing my ideas the subtle distinction implies.

The third vision is a progressive one. The personal computer is used to amplify human potential. It is an intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression that allows each child to not only learn what we’ve always taught, perhaps with greater efficacy, efficiency or comprehension. The computer makes it possible for students to learn and do in ways unimaginable just a few years ago. This vision of computing democratizes educational opportunity and supports what Papert and Turkle call epistemological pluralism. The learner is at the center of the educational experience and learns in their own way.
—Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.

Among his first questions to me was, why would I want to teach “these children” to write webpages? Maybe he mistook the early 90s fish-eye monitors for crystal balls, because he looked into the third graders’ future and told me they were mostly destined to be “end-users.”

As time passed, under further scrutiny he revealed that he considered his knowledge a territorial matter, requiring security, restricted access, and various other protections. So in my earliest attempt at widening the spread of code literacy I quickly learned that the control of information technology would become a powerful definer of access and privilege.

Quite clearly these attitudes are manifestations of deficit thinking. The relationship that unfolded and the conundrum were as follows: I could not accomplish my goals without him, yet I most emphatically could not let him direct.

More importantly, my grade 3 students could not afford to let him decide their computer science futures, or label them “end-users” with a derogatory connotation.

In the intervening years I’ve seen universities barter and leverage software, educational discounts and lab access in contexts ranging from educational to purely political, from departmental restructuring to instructional design. Technology is not neutral. Technology is political. It is a freedom issue, and an issue of democracy.

…leadership for equity needs to incorporate inclusive procedures such as discussion, transparency, and community involvement as well as an honest treatment of substantive issues that matter (e.g. racism and sexism) […] If we really believe in the ideal of leadership for equity in education, then we need to be aware of the nature of the deficit mentality, its pervasiveness and its dangers. (Portelli , Shields & Vibert, 2007; Portelli & Campbell-Stephens, 2009)

Educators do not need to be programmers to empower programmers. Just as technology support staff must facilitate and help implement the ideas of educational leaders, those leaders must discern and facilitate the educational aspirations of the learners in their charge.

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    Notes:

  1. At 16%, China, including Hong Kong and Macau, was the leading country of birth among people who immigrated to Ontario in the 1990s. It was followed by India with 9%, the Philippines with 6%, Sri Lanka at 5.2% and Pakistan at 4.5%. At the time, European immigrants to Ontario were mostly from Poland, Yugoslavia and Russia. Jamaica was the leading country of birth among the Americas. Somalia was the leading birth country in Africa. (StatsCan)

References

Polgar, Jan Miller (2010), The Myth of Neutral Technology
in M.M.K. Oishi et al. (eds.), Design and Use of Assistive Technology: Social, 17 Technical, Ethical, and Economic Challenges [pdf]

Portelli, John P., Shields, Carolyn M. & Vibert, Ann B. (2007). Toward an Equitable Education: Poverty, Diversity, and Students at Risk. Toronto, ON: Centre for Leadership and Diversity, OISE, University of Toronto.

Portelli, John P. & Campbell-Stephens, R. (2009). Leading for Equity: The Investing in Diversity Approach. Toronto, ON: Edphil Books.

Stager, Gary (2013), Technology is not Neutral – educational computing requires a clear and consistent stance blog post

Jan 23

What is a “thick learning situation?”

In order to approach learning situations as problems to be solved, rather than topics to be discussed, I’d like to start by defining what, in my view, makes a learning situation “thick.” I’m appropriating the word and concept from Clifford Geertz and the discipline of ethnography, and I’ll attempt to apply it as a lens or framing for teaching and learning, which are, as we know, always socially situated.

From Instruction to Learning

For her chapter entitled Reviewing the trajectories of e-learning [which I summarized on this blog, tweeted, shared on social media, and shared again in my workplace] Gráinne Conole chose the word “trajectory” — a clear link to rocket travel! In keeping with her metaphor, by all indications eLearning has achieved escape velocity and settled into orbit. It certainly shows no signs of falling back to earth any time soon.

…when educators consider the people, places, ideas, and things that might empower the learner or enhance delivery and retention of the content. What technology will I make available to my learners? What have others already prepared that can assist me in explaining things better? Where can I take my learners, both physically and via the web? Can we build something together, plan for synchronicity and serendipity—consider the human chemistry that we are about to incubate? Which experts will I invite to participate? How can we draw out the expertise that may already exist amongst participants we’ve yet to meet?

Conole highlighted what she seems to see as an evolutionary development that’s taking place, from “instructional design” to “learning design.” One concrete way I see this taking shape happens when educators consider the people, places, ideas, and things that might empower the learner or enhance delivery and retention of the content. What technology will I make available to my learners? What have others already prepared that can assist me in explaining things better? Where can I take my learners, both physically and via the web? Can we build something together, plan for synchronicity and serendipity—consider the human chemistry that we are about to incubate? Which experts will I invite to participate? How can we draw out the expertise that may already exist amongst participants we’ve yet to meet?

Storytelling: a catalytic convertor for learning situations

It is becoming increasingly clear that personal and other illustrative stories, dilemmas, scenarios, etc. can act as a “catalyst” that motivates learners to relate to the content. In the language (affectionately?) known as edubabble it might sound like, “foster intrinsic motivation…, enable learner agency…,” or “to construct meaningful knowledge.” I surmise that this might be an added benefit if the educator aspires to create a situation that is memorable and transformational, rather than simply informational.

A situation leading to an inquiry

Supposing you were teaching middle school children civics, and how legislation is created. You might want to talk about “precedent,” and how laws are made or changed—laws we all have to obey. What if you took a piece of case law on a subject you feel your learners may find relevant, and that a legal expert available to your classroom community has told you helped set precedent? What if you engaged those experts and others to present the case to this class as a story, framed in language of fairness and conflict resolution?

Add thickener

So far we’ve not done much out of the ordinary. We could just give a quiz and call it a day. But I believe, and I’ll bet you do too, that that would be a very superficial assessment of some very superficial learning. Instead, what if we ask, “Has anything like this ever happened to you? Do you agree with the outcomes? Who benefits from this law? How?”

I’m interested in hearing from teachers, counselors, and educators of all sorts whether they have tried such an approach, would be willing to try such an approach, or even whether it’s a good idea. Would you care to leave a comment?

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More links

Schwartz, Susan and Bone, Maxine (1995), Retelling, Relating, Reflecting — Beyond the 3 Rs, a book that does critical thinking with kids exceptionally well.
Digital Storytelling Toronto
Stories for Change
Knowledge-building community model

The Good Project
Project Zero

Aug 04

Import 3D models into HitFilm Ultimate

Educators have been intrigued by the potential of 3D worlds to engage young learners almost since the idea of virtual worlds emerged on the internet wish lists of the early WWW. I first learned of “immersive 3d” and several projects based on the Open Cobalt platform in about 2008, and I investigated Sloodle, of which all that now remains is the Git repository. When the SMARTboard-friendly Open Cobalt flavour “EduSIM” announced you could import 3D objects from Google Earth I got very excited. I loved models as a kid, and the Google 3d Warehouse was an instant hit, even in its early days.

I soon found a model of the Kabul Museum, which some of you may know was destroyed by the Taliban but later rebuilt. I created a learning activity that was basically a scavenger hunt for images of other historical objects, which it was possible to retrieve from elsewhere in the virtual world and “hang” in rooms within the museum. Great fun and potentially educational—when it worked—but it flopped due to technical difficulties. Immersive 3D was intriguing, yes, but also time intensive, technologically challenging and, for teachers in the classroom, too much work: “…it is not clear that the investment in time in building and using the Virtual World is worth it” (Conole, 2014). Are there other ways to leverage the intrigue models, even virtual ones, hold for many people?

Film making as digital storytelling

Are aspiring filmmakers nearly as ubiquitous as the cellphone cameras they may be using to get their start? I’ve seen some evidence there are a lot of them, and it’s certainly arguable that multimedia communication is a literacy, maybe an entire set of literacies, important to develop in our digital era.

Are aspiring filmmakers nearly as ubiquitous as the cellphone cameras they may be using to get their start? I’ve seen some evidence there are a lot of them, and it’s certainly arguable that multimedia communication is a literacy, maybe an entire set of literacies, important to develop in our digital era. It may not be necessary or desirable to have everyone in the class “make a video,” but if you have an idea as to how a videographer or three could contribute to an emerging student-driven inquiry, seeking out local experts at the student level might be just the thing—maybe creating an opportunity for student and teacher to reverse roles.

Start with Google Sketchup

For Sketchup users, says Google, “…drawing is thinking. They draw to explore ideas, to figure things out, to show other people what they mean. They draw because they love it, and because nothing great was ever built that didn’t start with a great drawing.” Making thinking visible is what the best instructors do. They call Sketchup “The easiest way to draw in 3D, and from my limited experience that may well be true. The 3d Warehouse is a repository of models in many categories.

Sketchup can export 3D models as AutoCAD, Collada and several other popular 3D file formats, of which HitFilm Ultimate imports 3. I had the most success with 3-D Studio (*.3ds) files.

Step 1. Explode any groups you want to animate. Before I could select the propellor I needed to “explode” the entire model.

Screenshot Sketchup

Model: FRANCE CANDAIR by XALOC-SOLARIS selected… then Right-click → Explode

Step 2. Select the things you want to animate. Ctrl+DblClick to add entire objects (will make sense when you try it.)

Step 3. Export in a useful format. I had best results with 3DS, but I soon learned to create a folder for every model I want to work with. Some of the other formats do this for you, because if your model is in the least bit complex it will generate many image files, and with 3d Studio files they all end up in the folder you save the master .3ds file. Press Options and check Export only current selection.

Step 4. Export other parts of the model.

HitFilm bundled with Sony MovieStudio

To import 3D models you need HitFilm Ultimate, which costs money. Sadly, in many places that creates a barrier. If that’s your situation don’t give up! Install Sketchup anyway, explore the 3D Warehouse and watch the tutorial entitled “Use Scenes to save important views” which is advertised from the splash screen when you start Sketchup. Read this, and turn kids loose, let them teach you how to use Sketchup to make animations and then use whatever editing software you may have access to (iMovie? Windows MovieMaker?) to put them together in meaningful sequences. You can still use green screens place themselves right in the action.

I was introduced first to HitFilm 2 Express, which does not do 3d, and came bundled with Sony MovieStudio Platinum, essentially buy-one-get-one-free. I found the $150 very reasonable considering what the two can do together, and within several months I was offered an upgrade deal too good to pass up — 70% off the full cost of Ultimate. The Sony is far and away the better editor and renders movies on average 3 times faster than HitFilm, but unless you can spring for top-of-the-line Vegas you’ll still need HitFilm’s compositing tools and effects, not to mention text styling and animation. If you use a green screen (and you will) you’ll especially need the masking tool.

You’ll find [3D Model] on the media import dropdown menu. It analyses the model file and then displays what it found in a 3D Model Properties dialogue.

image of 3d import screen showing propeller

Propeller extracted from Model: FRANCE CANDAIR by XALOC-SOLARIS. HitFilm Ultimate offers an opportunity to tweak the “materials” of each piece of the 3d object.

Animating literally dozens of available parameters is straightforward, designating a “parent” layer and attaching “child” layers only slightly more difficult (‘cartoonish’ is just fine with me for now!) Sticking to scale, position, orientation, transparency and zoom are probably more than enough to have some fun creating your own 3d worlds.

I duplicated the propeller composite and tried some other effects

Putting Humpty together again was a challenge at first, and in the end I think a reasonably good way to get started learning HitFilm’s layers, views and tools.

The way compositing works, this project isn’t necessarily a wrap when you render the day’s creativity. I can spend some time on the script, bring in actors and create variations on “the cargo bay scene,” and when I return to render the “fly by” it will have updated.

The airplane engine came from the repository at www.mediacollege.com.

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Further reading

Talking Points: Immersive Education Initiative [PDF] from the Immersive Education Initiative

May 20

Dynamic duo: delineating divergence with SimpleMind! & FreeMind

Image of a mind map created with Freemind.There are literally hundreds of mind mapping programs available. When I wrote about the need for 21st century collaborators to consider the ways divergent and linear thinking interact when planning and executing strategy, and suggested mind mapping software as an apt strategic planning tool, I said you can always place map nodes in a line if you want to be linear. I hadn’t yet discovered that there are mind mapping tools that will attempt to do this for you. It was the purchase of SimpleMind! for my iPhone that alerted me to the uniqueness of FreeMind.

Screenshot SimpleMind! app

SimpleMind! is available on the iTunes and Android stores.

SimpleMind! for iOS has the ability to send the map you create by email in a number of useful formats, including FreeMind (*.mm). I must admit, I had installed FreeMind and opened it only once. All I saw was what looked to me like an immature open-source interface1. But I never bothered to uninstall it, so when I checked off one of everything and clicked the .mm file SimpleMind! sent me, I really didn’t know what to expect. While on the subway, using SimpleMind! on my iPhone I sketched out a map of what “student-centred” might look like in the context of teacher education. The PDF is identical to what SimpleMind! showed on my iPhone. Hover over it, or tap-hold, to see the FreeMind version.

Student centred: student’s at centre of exactly what?

What opened looked like an attempt to take my multi linked mind map and convert it to a more linear display. The places where it failed were, by no coincidence as it turns out, parts of my map where I already questioned my links, or felt unsure of relationships. Seeing the more linear map actually helped me revise and improve upon my original idea.

Unfortunately there are connections I drew between nodes in SimpleMind! that didn’t translate to FreeMind2. I think this supports my idea that maps capture relationships that may challenge simple lists, but also that linear thinking can aid the divergent thinker by supplying order and focus. Linear thinkers can lose sight of the centre; divergents sometimes forget where to begin.

Download Freemind from SourceForge.
SimpleMind! is available for iOS and Android in a limited free version, upgradable at a very reasonable price.

The Visual Thinking Center

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  1. Earlier this month I discovered XMind, a well-developed open source mind-mapper I might describe as ‘Freemind on steroids.’ I’ve already found it very effective for planning and then creating a static list for management. I hope to find time to blog it soon.
  2. XMind handles the worst of these shortcomings by noting the linked nodes “See also:”
Apr 22

What would a 21st Century “Lesson Plan” look like?

A cartoon-like self portrait Richard did in Corel Draw 3 while in teacher educationIn teachers’ college, I was the Lesson Plans guy. I had blue-rimmed glasses, hair down to my shoulders, I wore sweater vests, and one of the first things I ever did on the Internet was to share lesson plans. One of the first collaborative projects I was ever part of—using what began as a Scarborough (Ontario) Board of Education software initiative and remains with us today as OpenText’s FirstClass—to create lessons to be tried, honed and re-shared by other teacher candidates. I quite enjoyed that activity, and I think it’s time to do it again, with the rest of the Internet.

There was collaboration on line long before words like “blog,” “wiki,” “social network were coined…”

But Intranets were closed, connections were slow, hardware was expensive and there weren’t a lot of people who owned technology—even fewer who used it well in classrooms.

We had a template, we discussed it together, tried them in our host classrooms adapted and applied it iteratively, worked lessons into integrated units, collaboratively, in practice. Master teachers contributed advice—or innovative projects to extend lessons into —but it was all entirely student-instigated, student-designed, and/or student “moderated.”

Our activities were facilitated by technology, but they were pedagogical activities.

We knew the Web had power, we wanted to be literate—we wanted to read and write the web.

A button I made from a GIF created in Corel Draw 3.0Technology was there to support an idea or activity, and when an expert was needed to make the technology work it was “facilitating a situation” and “enhancing the learning environment”, not “directing technology.” In every situation it was student-centered. But we were also teachers: of the students in our host classrooms, often of our host teachers—always of ourselves, always of each other. We call reading and writing, “literacies,” and we generally expect to acquire them in great part by a process sometimes called “schooling,” but we see that it doesn’t always work, and in fact can often be gained by “learning” in other ways, generally not called “schooling.”

Fast Forward to the 21st Century

The Internet is open, connections are fast, hardware is less expensive and there are many more people who own technology—and still, we hear, too few who use it well in classrooms. This kind of learning is messy.

Video is ubiquitous… but not very interactive… they said

Teaching the Web in the 20-teens looks different in some ways, others not so much. Popcorn.js is an exciting set of modular scripts that add interactivity and creativity to web video.

Games and Gaming

Storytelling is a primeval human activity that is quite fundamental to pedagogy. All games tell stories. Learners persevere with games; learning happens. Gamification is an immensely important trend “as a means of motivation and learner engagement” and Conole quotes Gee, 2008: “The potential of gamification, however, goes beyond promoting healthy lifestyles and marketing strategies. Gamers voluntarily invest countless hours in developing their problem-solving skills within the context of games” and says 21st century learning will reflect Gee’s ‘situated and embodied learning,’ “…meaning a student is not just being taught inert knowledge, rather using facts and information as tools for problem solving in a specific context and solving the problem (Gee 2011).”

“There’s an app for that”

Educational apps and the platforms they run on have changed. Mobile is ubiquitous and it’s not as hard as you may think to make a web-based app, even take it to the next level, make it native. The Open Educational Resource (OER) movement is founded on “The belief that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, improve and redistribute educational resources without constraint, […] However, open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues.” Read the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.

Learning design looks beyond instructional design

Learning design is defined as an application of a pedagogical model for a specific learning objective, target group and a specifc context or knowledge domain. The learning design specifies the teaching and learning process, along with the conditions under which it occurs and the activites performed by the teachers and learners in order to achieve the required learning objectives. LD is based on the metaphor of learning as a play instatiated through a series of acts with associated roles and resources. The core concept of LD is that a person is assigned a role in the teaching-learning process and works towards certain outcomes by performing learning activities within a given environment
—G. Conole, K. Fill (2005, pg. 5)

Learning design is an holistic praxis (Conole, 2014), the planning and executing of serendipitous situations within authentic contexts, that are controlled to enable the sought outcomes (Silver, 2011). Increasingly, the learner seeks the outcome. A learning design that includes multiple participants is increasingly expected to cater to individual learners (blogosphere, incessantly).

The Learning Design Toolkit has explored and created collaborative tools for designing active, situated learning. The short clip, (originally part of my contribution to a group presentation on cyberethics and Ursula Franklin) is meant to imply that the hard work of building shared understanding is generally worth the inevitable extra effort. Communication is a 21st century competency—why would the hard work to reform schooling be any different?

21st-century lesson plan learning design

I believe Aaron Silver, in his 2011 blog post The Fundamental design of learning activities, plotted a straight course from instructional design practices that seem overly prescriptive in the age of social networking and on-demand learning objects, to a more appropriate framework and in doing so reminded us, “learning is not a noun.” In a 21st-century learning design the activity must be at the center of everything. It appears you should start with a clear idea of what is to be achieved, and then create the situation in which that can happen, choosing participants and experiences that support the intended outcomes, and strategically placing them in order.

Graphic. Activity at the center of boundaries (conditions), content, context, and participation.

Source—Aaron Silvers (2011)

Even documenting such activity can be much different in the 21st Century. How do video, blogs, and photo sites affect the recipe? 21st century activities might look like Heidi Siwak’s blog—like this. But if the ‘this’ is a “messy” learning activity, do a on an ‘app’ metaphor, or the bubbles of mind maps offer some helpful closets to stash our ‘mess?’

Can organizational change happen quickly enough to allow teachers such as Heidi, and students such as hers to flourish, or will she have to wait 15 years as others have?

In my post, “CompendiumLD for Learning Design,” I showed a “mind mapper” that has collaboration tools built in. In “Can (messy) mind maps enable tidy linear strategies within messy situations?” I show the danger of getting too thickly into context (top right image) and what I believe Aaron Silvers’s simple graphic becomes when you start adding real activities and participants (see images 1-6, created with another mind mapper, designVUE).

Image. mind map

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Inspiration

Michael Faustino Deineka

The Faculty of Education at York University

Reference

Collins, Allan; Brown, John Seely; and Holum, Ann (1989a), Cognitive Apprenticeship: Making Thinking Visible, American Educator [PDF].

Conole, G.; Fill, K. (2005), A learning design toolkit to create pedagogically effective learning activities, Journal of Interactive Media in Education 2005(08). [PDF]

Conole, Gráinne (2014) Reviewing the trajectories of e-learning, blogged chapter from forthcoming publication. Or start with my shorter overview [HTML]

Silvers, A. (2011) The fundamental design of learning activities. [HTML]

Siwak, H. (2014) Creative solutions are no accident [HTML]

Mar 09

Movie Studio Platinum 13 with HitFilm gets an A

Of all the UI updates we’ve endured this year, I figured SONY Movie Studio Platinum 13 was …another one. But it was long overdue and they did a great job. You need the HitFilm 2 Express bundle to get the mask tools you’ll need for chroma key and green screen work, filters and some snazzy effects you probably didn’t expect to be this easy to achieve in this price range. Together they make a great starter package for young people and people who work with them.

Other than Jahshaka, a project I’ve seen at various times and places on the Internet promising to make a comeback since 2006, I haven’t seen any great open source video editing software. Skills are in high demand, and they should be. I recorded the screen video with CamStudio, and I did some stills with The Gimp.

Classroom technology and access to it aren’t anywhere near consistent, and there are reasons to be found on several levels. Economic ones are high on the list …even cellphones and webcams, software and lights and green screen set-ups in the $500 and slightly under range will still be out of reach for some. In some areas schools must use specific tools prescribed by others, and everywhere there’s inconsistent buy-in. YouTube viewership attests to the power and popularity of the medium, the ease with which one can now produce video with impact, and the pure fun make it an irresistible medium for educators.

By 2010, 19% of Americans had tried video calls, video chat or teleconferencing online and on cell phones. There are definitely equity issues apparent in video calling patterns, making calls on line is appealing to “upscale” users. “A third of internet users (34%) living in households earning $75,000 or above have participated in such calls or chats, compared with 18% of those earning less than $75,000. […] Urban internet users (27%) and suburban users (23%) are significantly more likely than rural users (12%) to have participated in video calls, chats, or teleconferences […] Cell-owning blacks are more likely than whites to participate in video calls, chats, or teleconferences (10% vs. 5%).” (Pew, 2010). But this says nothing about aspirations to tell stories using video.

The corporate take is that video storytelling is not quite ready for prime time. But it was the $10 transistor radio in the hands of teens in the 50s, who didn’t need audiophile fidelity as long as they could take their music with them, that disrupted the vacuum tube.

What’s been missing from video is interactivity. But now there are free mashup tools like Popcorn.js and Webmaker, HTML5 timeline tools that let you pause, mix, overlay your own ideas in text and imagery, or branch off in another direction based on a user input. And video is not something that’s easy to do alone. Can a project incorporating video in a classroom setting meet all the 4Cs, the so-called 21st Century Competencies—Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity?

With tools like MSP and HitFilm, or any of the products on this list young people aren’t likely to wait to hear the marketers at SXSW are finally catching up.

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Jan 15

Overview of Gráinne Conole’s “trajectories of e-learning”

Reviewing the trajectories of e-learning – Gráinne Conole

Gráinne Conole is Professor of Learning Innovation and Director of the Institute of Learning Innovation at the University of Leicester. Her work into applications of technology in learning is trailblazing and prolific (e.g., Conole & Fill, 2005; Conole, and Alevizou, 2010; ISC report JISC 2011; Conole, 2011; Conole, 2013). In this chapter from a forthcoming book that she posted to her blog today she summarizes the state of the art very well, however you may find as blogs go, it’s still a long read. Here’s an overview. I hope it’s of interest and you’ll visit her site to read the entire thing.

Professor Conole stresses The growing importance of ICT in education and quotes from a UNESCO 2005 report that saw 7 applications of technology in learning:

  1. to improve administrative efficiency and provide a pan-institutional infrastructure for managing learning, teaching and research.
  2. to disseminate teaching and learning materials to teachers and students, usually through an LMS and resource repositories.
  3. to improve the ICT skills of teachers and students and their digital literacies and competences
  4. to allow teachers and students access to sources of information from around the world.
  5. as examples of good practice and mechanisms for sharing ideas on education and learning.
  6. provide spaces for academics and students to collaborate on joint projects. These can also be used to support collaboration for research projects.
  7. to conduct lessons from remote locations and support distance learning. This can include both synchronous and asynchronous communication.

She provides a timeline of technology’s application “…from being a peripheral innovation to being part of the core services we offer learners. Each item on the timeline is discussed in turn.

Graphic, Figure 1: The e-learning timeline, source: Conole, 2014, blog

Figure 1 shows the e-learning timeline the chapter is based on. Professor Conole discusses each of the key technological developments that have arisen over the past thirty years

Professor Conole talks about the evolution of Multimedia Authoring Tools (like Adobe Captivate and others), The Web, “Learning Objects” (which are not the equivalent of “eLearning modules,” but “precursors to the Open Educational Resource (OER) movement”), and Learning Management Systems:

Graphic, Figure 2: Components of an institutional LMS, source: Conole, 2014, blog

Figure 2: Components of an institutional LMS
LMSs provide a hub for learning materials and course delivery and often also cover the management of course registration, course scheduling, discussion forums, blog sites, student scores, and student transcripts. LMSs contain a number of tools for presenting learning materials, for communication and collaboration and for managing assignments.

Professor Conole says Mobile Devices are gaining traction because they can be “used across different learning spaces, beyond the formal classroom setting, into the home and within informal learning contexts, such as museums.” And they are.

This very important distinction is highlighted in Professor Conole’s overview:

Learning Design emerged “as a counter measure to Instructional Design. Driven primarily by researchers in Europe and Australia, Learning Design aimed to provide practitioners with guidance and support to inform their design process which is pedagogically effective and makes appropriate use of technologies. It is seen as a more encompassing term than Instructional Design, which operates primarily at the level of multimedia; in contrast Learning Design provides a holistic approach to the design process.

Gamification is an immensely important trend “as a means of motivation and learner engagement” and Conole quotes Gee, 2008: “The potential of gamification, however, goes beyond promoting healthy lifestyles and marketing strategies. Gamers voluntarily invest countless hours in developing their problem-solving skills within the context of games” and says 21st century learning will reflect Gee’s ‘situated and embodied learning,’ “…meaning a student is not just being taught inert knowledge, rather using facts and information as tools for problem solving in a specific context and solving the problem (Gee 2011).”

[The Open Educational Resources (OER) is] …promoted by organisations such as UNSESCO and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. UNESCO argues that Education is a fundamental human right and therefore educational resources should be freely available.” She concludes this section “The OER movement has been successful in promoting the idea that knowledge is a public good, expanding the aspirations of organisations and individuals to publish OER. However as yet the potential of OER to transform practice has not being realised, there is a need for innovative forms of support on the creation and evaluation of OER” noting strongly that Hewlett Foundation, Atkins et al. (2007) said “adopt programs and policies to promote Open Educational Resources” is one of the five higher-level recommendations in the conclusion to the report.

Learning occurs wherever Social and participatory media appears (quality and scope of learning varies greatly). Conole draws from her prior work (Conole and Alevizou, 2010) “a review of the use of social and participatory media in Higher Education. [the authors] adapted a taxonomy of types of Web 2.0 tools (O’Reilly 2005) developed by Crook et al. (2008) based on the functionality of different tools.” She then lists 10 tool types, 3 trends and 5 characteristics—Peer critiquing, User-generated content, Collective aggregation, Community formation, Digital personas —that we can expect to continue into the 21st century.

She discusses the initial excitement around Virtual worlds, something I was also once very excited about, about which I came to the same conclusion: “Part of the problem is in the fact that the current Virtual Worlds are still difficult to use and part of the problem is that there are not many learning interventions where other technologies can be just as appropriate, i.e. it is not clear that the investment in time in building and using the Virtual World is worth it.”

The remainder of the article is devoted to the growing role and importance of E-books and smart devices, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), arguing effectively for an alternative classification system based on 12 dimensions, and the emergence of Learning Analytics—data collection and its uses.

Professor Gráinne Conole wraps up her review of the key technological developments of the last 30 years with advice on what to look out for in the months and years ahead, where to look, and the following ideas and assertions:

To conclude, the nature of learning, teaching and research is changing as a result of the increasing impact of technologies in education. We are seeing changing roles and evolving organisation structures. In addition, disruptive technologies, like MOOCs, are challenging traditional educational business models and new models are emerging. We need to think beyond the distinction of campus-based and online learning, to focus more on the notion of Technology-Enhanced learning spaces.[41] We cannot as individuals or institutions afford to ignore technologies, we need to harness the characteristics of new media and adopt more open practices in our learning, teaching and research.
– Gráinne Conole

I first learned of professor Conole’s work in graduate school while doing a major research project, when charting a path from cognitive apprenticeship to design research took me through the realm of Compendium.

If you’re interested in these things, I highly recommend the entire piece. Reviewing the trajectories of e-learning

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Professor Gráinne Conole, Professor of Learning Innovation
Director, Institute of Learning Innovation, School of Education, University of Leicester