Teaching and Learning

Suessing Ethiopia

During class today we began discussing the remix generator and remix cards as part of this week’s assignments. I created the example, “What Is Culture For You?? [Remixed]: Dr Suess It,” and under the original assignment I found Mis-tery’s trip to Ethiopia. I would have loved to read more about the trip, as it looks like it was quite an experience, and the photos she shared in a collage were beautiful.

Applying the Dr Suess It card to the culture assignment seems a natural one as you are able to apply all the trappings of the Suess genre to someone’s cultural expression. The travel experience becomes Suess-ified not unlike a trip to the Magic Kingdom. The different places in Mis-tery’s trip became Suess attractions – pose as the Cat-in-th-Hat, visit a real Truffala tree forest, follow the path of ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go,’ and see original Suess art work in the museum.

All fun stuff that I hope Mis-tery enjoys. Thanks for letting me remix your work!

GIFing a Great Conversation About EPortfolio

I made a presentation today about eportfolio and assessment for York College’s annual day of assessment conference. The problem was I showed up with a conversation about eportfolio and a bunch of animated GIFs (see below) and everyone else showed up with graphs, charts, and numbers.

When my colleague asked me to talk to faculty about eportfolio/assessment I was a bit torn. First, I haven’t been working on eportfolios at York for some time as the piloted platform, built on WP/BP has been under-supported rendering the space unusable (resurrection notice Boone to the rescue). And second I’ve grown a little ambivalent about one of the principal driving forces behind campuses considering adopting eporfolios, which is ASSESSMENT.

With trepidation, I decided that it might be interesting to foster a conversation with my faculty about eportfolio by looking at a rich conversation started by Martha Burtis on her blog. She described her role supporting UMW’s effort to choose an eportfolio platform on her campus. Martha decided to ask her community of peers for feedback. What resulted was a great thread of comments, and I thought they would be good foder for my presentation.

I pulled a number of interesting quotes and used a number of GIFs to support the talk. Here’s a basic summary of what I presented:

At the start I quoted Martha’s mission to find/create an eportfolio platform which would support the following,

  • An interest in a system for tracking institutional assessment learning outcomes (on program-, departmental-, and the University-level) and reporting on these otucomes.
  • A space for meta-cognitive reflection by students on their learning, perhaps as part of a larger look at how we advise students.
  • A desire to provide students with a “leg-up” by giving them a robust platform for showcasing their intellectual and professional work and development.
  • A need (specifically in the College of Education) to track student outcomes BEYOND graduation. New laws are requiring us to demonstrate the effectiveness of our students as teachers after they’ve graduated (for a indeterminate amount of time)

The eportfolio elephant in the room is/was the assessment piece. Literally there’s an administrative mandate that loomed over the decision making process.

Boone Georges followed up, and made a great point about how this top down mandate is problematic.

Systems can only succeed in their “institutional” goals (like assessment and alumni connections) if they succeed in their “curricular” goals (genuine student engagement with the platform).

Then Todd Conaway did a little edu-kungfu by substituting the word “students” with “teachers” in the eportfolio goals statement above. Which was a provocation that Martha summarized well as a need to get faculty to “walk the walk” when it comes to reflection and sharing.

Joe Ugoretz introduced his struggles with using eportfolios for assessment, believing that universalizing a set of criteria to measure the success of each student is problematic, if it misses the value of uniqueness.

I’m suggesting I think an assessment that includes individuality, that celebrates it, and that allows us to understand what students themselves value about their accomplishments and their progress.

Antonio Vantaggiato did a great job of reminding everyone that the assessment process for instructors is quite natural, but there’s a new mandate.

When you *change* your methods, styles, technologies as a result of reflecting on how your students do, you are assessing, but now we are being asked to **document it**… the risk is that the reflective part begins with exploring the “how” to do it (document, track, etc.) , instead of focusing on the process.

And finally Gardner Campbell wrote about the limitations in the vernacular of ‘portfolios.’

I’ve been thinking that part of the problem is the metaphor of “portfolio,” which…is all about an inert and meaningless container…The metaphor gets an “e-” in front of it and begins to do damage to our ability to imagine the nature and potential of the new medium.

So I shared these GIFs and these many interesting points about eportfolio and platforms with my assessment crowd. And I got a flatline.


I think I basically sucked it sadly. I was hoping that I might encourage my colleagues to rethink the eportfolio, as an assessment tool born out of Martha’s eportfolio goals 2 & 3 focused on student reflection and  presentation. Talk about it a bit. But I sucked it. Dead room.

I’m disappointed in myself as I imagined I might be effective at fostering a conversation as cool as Martha’s in her blog. But I’ve a long way to go.

Under A Pile of Work, But Still #DS106 #4LIFE

It’s been almost two years since I first discovered DS106, the open-online course created at the University of Mary Washington (UMW). And a year since I took my first York College students through the experience (a crazy humbling one for myself). In the Fall 2011 semester UMW decided not to formally run a ds106 course, but Jim Groom and Martha Burtis were kind enough to support my running my first section of ds106 at York College. And I tried to do some role-playing as a bumbling professor, taking my students on a Journey to the Center of the Internet.

I learned a tremendous amount about teaching out in the open and continue to be inspired by ds106 to keep my art making and teaching chops up. There are times that I get overwhelmed by the work to support the institution as well as teach and make art. But it’s good to have the above reminder hiding under the pile.

We’ll Keep Building At York College

When I started at York College eleven years ago supporting the edtech department (aside –  holy crap this is the longest job I’ve ever held), I was given the opportunity to look at a proposal for a communications technology major that had been dormant since 1991. At first I was, “huh what’s communications technology, it’s new media man,” but new media became not-so-new-media.

Communications technology, commtech,CT, has stuck. And I think for the better.

We’re about to embark on a transformation of the major that will be the largest since its official start in 2003. It’s a crazy, laborious process to update curriculum at a college, but hopefully we’re making a change for the better. I’m excited to finally formalize the ethos of ds106 – digital storytelling into the major (it’s been an unofficial change for three semesters, ack!).

But I’m even more excited to explore the possibilties that might come out of the makerspace Daniel Phelps and I are about to build to support a Hacking and Building course, which will become a foundation course for us. The class is going to replace an introduction to computer science course which taught principally the basics of C++.

The idea of teaching the fundamentals of programming through C++, wasn’t necessarily problematic, but the way the course has been taught was. Semester after semester the CT majors struggled to find any recognizable value for the class, which ultimately is really disappointing. We wanted the students to discover the value of coding as an opportunity to see how digital tools are built. And more importantly how they can be hacked.

Hacked not to do anything malicious of course, that’s such a 1990′s definition of hacking, but to make them your own. And to see that this should be an inherint approach to digital tools, as much as we imagine getting under the hood and modifying cars makes sense.

We’re going to pilot our hacking and building course this spring, and I’m so excited to be a student in the course as much as helping Daniel teach it (ok he wrote the course so I’m fully in a chair, not standing a lecturn). And Tim Owen’s work on the UMW makerspace deserves a huge shout-out for inspiring us as well. See below:


Slinky in Stereo

I created this example Wiggle Stereoscope for class today. Below is a tutorial about how to make a Wiggle Stereoscopic image (ok this isn’t really a stereoscope image just a two frame animated GIF, but the technique is the same) and how to post your first Visual Assignment to DS106.

Recording System Sound with SoundFlower and Quicktime

Here’s a quick tutorial for hijacking the system sound of your Mac, and recording the audio to Quicktime. Soundflower is an application that works with the computer’s audio, acting as a submixer in a sense you can redirect audio to other applications.

1. After launching Soundflower, select the Built-In output so you can monitor sounds redirected to Soundflower.

2. In the  System Preferences > Sound Settings > Output set the output to Soundflower (2ch).

3. Open Quicktime and create a File > New Audio Recording.

4, Set the audio input to Soundflower (2ch)

5. Hit the record button and play a sound from any application, including audio from webpages. When finished hit stop and trim the audio file, using Edit > Trim.


6. After trimming export the file or save as the file. You can use other tools to convert the audio file format. iTunes is actually useful to convert to mp3 if needed.

Truth in Your Digital Mask

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Mr Atrocity

Oscar Wilde described of his essay, The Truth of Masks – A Note On Illusionthat:

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

We’re going to play with this idea of finding truth about your educational experiences so far by using a digital mask that will allow you to anonymously leave behind a message. Using a text to speech generator, I want you to record a message by hijacking the system sound and drop it in this public drop box (see links at the top of this post).

To inspire our ‘truthful’ discussion, I want you to watch Michael Wesch’s video A Vision of Student’s Today, student’s collaboratively edited a Google document to define their sense of their own education. Quotes were then displayed by students through out the video to provoke a conversation about education.

What is your vision of your education? What do you think about it so far? Are you taking it serious enough? Should you? What does that mean anyway, to be a serious student?

How does your digital identity fit into your education? Does it? How? Should it? Why or why not?

Upload your audio file using the links at the top of this post.

[rad-dropbox button="Upload!"]

Week 3 York DS106 – Your Taste, Your Creativity

Anything creative you make is an effort to showcase your taste. It may not be a perfect expression of your ideas, but you can keep working at it.

I think this is probably one of the most important things to think about while making work this semester and far, far beyond. One of the best features of DS 106 is that it asks you to interrogate what makes good storytelling in a variety of mediums. There’s photography, design, video, audio, writing, and even web stories. Whether you’ve created work in some of these areas, or all, or possibly none, there will be moments of uncomfortableness with either the process or the results of your work.

The video above includes the voice of Ira Glass, the producer of the highly successful NPR radio show This American Life. He’s articulating the advice he wished he’d received when first getting started in a creative field. I think my favorite quote is this one in which he’s describing the stuff people make when they’re first starting out:

We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Make anything, make it often, do it on a deadline. This is what the daily create asks of you every day. Norm Wright did every one of the first 100 daily creates and celebrated this on the one hundredth by making a collage of all of them.

I like a lot of people in the ds106 community were gobsmacked by his commitment to his work. There is so much to be learned by staying in the creative habit. And if you believe we can all be artists, and you’re willing to work at it, then there is so much that’s possible.

DS106 Explodes Chicken

I know it’s a rooster, but the original animated GIF was titled ‘chickenexplode.’ I love the old school animated GIFs which packed a lot of action in very, very little data – often just a few Kilobytes. That was necessary back when the web was delivered to you at 56 kbps.

I thought it would be interesting to play with these older GIFs and give them a Web 2.0 makeover. First you can make them a lot larger now. The rooster above was originally 89 x 79 pixels, and had the the letters ‘TNT.’ With the help of Photoshop, it’s pretty easy to enlarge existing GIFs (now it’s 600 pixels wide) and also make some basic edits. Changing the text was pretty straight forward, but I think it would be fun to enlarge and combine a few of this old GIFs to create a story. Which leads to making this a ds106 visual assignment – Exploding Classic Animated GIFs.

I made this tutorial to show how I made it and shared a few favorite classic GIFs as well.

Week 1 DS106 Continued – White Heat

Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” – Cody Jarrett

In the second half of the first week of ds106 for York students, I broadcast live earlier today to showcase some of the great progress students were making and to let them know I’m still there for them. My class is a ‘hybrid’ class, so there is to be an online half to the class, though it seems silly to layout what that might look like given the nature of the open-online community of ds106.

Here’s the archived talk, which was a bit rough (apologies) as I was playing with some new tools but more importantly a bit flustered by an email exchange with a journalism colleague of mine at York. Given the nature of ds106, which leans heavily on remix culture and mashup as tools for creative endeavors I felt it would be useful to try and describe some of the recent exchange.

I’m still looking to better articulate my feelings about the interaction, so I’m going keep trying to figure this out here. First off I actually can’t say enough about this colleague as he’s a true professional that gave decades of his life pursuing stories about crime in the New York City area and writing in a local newspaper. There’s dogged dedication to hanging around courts, cops, and criminals to construct as much of an objective perspective as possible about events.

We’ve had a few casual exchanges about the newspaper industry and social media – I’d occasionally forward links to articles that surfaced on my Twitter feed via Jay Rosen or Chris Anderson (a CUNY mate). And as someone who’s also read and deeply influenced Clay Shirky’s ‘Thinking the Unthinkable,’ I was always interested in what he thought about the upheaval in the newspaper industry resulting from the rise of the participatory internet.

He’s of course a much better writer than I, and he would always find a way to answer any recent development with a proverbial, ‘pe shaw!’ I was for the most part fine with this until recently when things got a little more heated. He recently sent me a series of links that touted the value of the newspaper vs. social media via polls and an increase in the number paywalls being constructed around news. Newspapers will live on!

One poll described ‘newspaper sites coverage more popular than Twitter’ which I found completely unsurprising as in conflates information sources with conversations about information. Not that there isn’t overlap, but people obviously still prefer to go to a news website first to get their news (particularly for heavily covered mainstream subjects). Now if one were to ask the question, where is there more conversation about news stories, in the comments section of a newspaper website or on social media sites, that’s apples to apples in my mind.

The other tidbit shared by this colleague was about the aforementioned paywalls which were rising again in the newspaper industry. I again as a non-journalist, described my experience with the NYTimes and how one might circumvent their ten story per month limit if I stop loading a story’s webpage before the “Wait this is just getting interesting,” pop-up appears. I went on to describe large media companies’ unwillingness to create a ‘satisfying product at a reasonable price’ which lead people to ‘steal’ media. I meant stealing as discovering alternative outlets to consume media, which is not necessarily torrents and the like, one searches and finds all kinds of media – often even on Youtube which has full length movies oddly. Also I was thinking about the bundling of channels in cable, crappy incomplete libraries in streaming video services, and even newspapers that force you to buy a whole package, but didn’t describe either of these (again I’m not the most organized writer). This was apparently a comment that went too far.

The reply started with ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. Listen Mikey Boy Rockets Genius…’ And from there went on to describe my notions as ‘troubling, highly subjective and morally corrupt.’ Finally there was the playful suggestion of a duel via the CUNY Academic Commons or pistols. So again he’s willing to add some humor in an effort to diffuse.

I was getting sick of what I ultimately saw as snark. An attitude, that said, ‘don’t tell me about journalism’ and what I felt was worse, that I have nothing to offer regarding my perspective on technology and online interactions. Many a time he’d tell me the digital tools are just ‘add-ons’ or ‘window dressing.’ I should have walked away as I’ve been trying my best to steer clear of this kind of attitude that arises in the egomaniacal world of academia. I’d rather focus on collaborating with people that are willing to learn from one another, rather than cleverly tell me how much smarter they are.

But I went a little blind, White Heat blind actually. I animated GIF bombed him with the James Cagney two framer above. I also told him that I was corrupt and going to hell (just like Cody Jarrett) and that I’m taking my students with me. Over the top? Yes. Outrageous. I don’t think so.

If you thought the few lines above were a little rough. Well here comes the real stuff:

I get the whole idea of telling students, “Get out there, do something create something,” and then maybe it will be rewarding, but ripping off everyone who laid the tracks for you? What message does that convey down the line? Doesn’t matter what you do, steal from anybody and everybody, and guess what? When you’re stolen from, shut the fuck up and stay broke-assed and poor, you have no rights under the US Constitution because you broke the laws first… I prefer to encourage students to be original. Seek out colleagues who are making art, sounds and visions, and collaberate. Not ripping off the geezers who came before them.

And it actually got worse. I was called to task for depriving the offspring of Cagney of the reward of his enriching work. And signed off on the email asking that I never contact him again. Two frames of Cagney as a metaphor for going to hell and taking my students with me for teaching them to ride the remix train. Bad, bad junk I guess to an old school journalist.

Two things I’m coming to terms with, one I have to work harder at explaining why I do what I do. Why I believe the GIF above is an homage to Cagney’s work, and fair use at that. Not only was it a seriously limited use, but it was used for satirical purposes. I’m also realizing that this kind of stuff doesn’t matter to some, it’s stealing and unoriginal and uninspired. Copyright is copyright is copyright. As if these laws we’re divinely inspired (and term limits forever extended with his blessing).

So I will get better at articulating how and why I work and, I will figure out how to lay spare track while moving at full speed.

But it’s going to be a life long effort.