Learner-Shaped Technology

October 28, 2011

Transparency as the Catalyst to Transformation

I’m excited to host my first guest blog by colleague Diane Boyd, Associate Director for Furman’s Center for Teaching and Learning as she reflects on our trip with StudioLab consultants to ThatCamp Pedagogy.

Diane’s post:

THATCamp Pedagogy, Vassar College October 15-16

This was our first THATCamp, and many of us on the road to Poughkeepsie (including Mike Winiski, and student consultants Lacey Brantley, Shanda Edwards, and Boone Pilkington) from Furman’s Center for Teaching and Learning and StudioLab had some trepidation about creating an agenda for the meeting “on the fly” during the first session on Saturday morning.  Added to that low-level anxiety was wondering how to prepare for any impromptu presentations we might give at the conference or during “Dork Shorts.”

I was delighted at how well Matt Schultz orchestrated the schedule building on Saturday morning.  Participants suggested topics online before the meeting (and during our agenda making session) and those people were to take ownership of the session during the conference.  Logistically this worked well, except when a person suggested two sessions that got scheduled simultaneously (as was Mike’s dilemma with “Distant Reading” and “Interpreting Visualization”).  One suggestion: in some sessions it would be more effective to have a more deliberate matching mechanism.  That is, create the option for suggesting sessions without leading them:  people who suggest a session could request a co-facilitator/expert rather than become the session leader. I understand the non-hierarchical advantage to the current set up (which also promotes transparency!), but I also believe the current system prevented people who were genuinely curious about a topic from suggesting it (for fear that they would become intrepid leaders!)

Transparency, and in turn, transformation, emerged quickly as abiding conference themes. The BootCamps I attended provided ample time for brainstorming with fellow campers, and many transformative ideas for digital humanities projects were the result. In “Integrating Digital Projects into Undergraduate Courses” we focused on using audio recordings in a Latina Feminisms class.  The importance of “voice” for the professor made audio interviews a meaningful DH choice.  In “So Long, Lecture” another camper, also a student, talked about a prof who taught iambic pentameter by having her students walk to the beat.  Incorporating multiple senses as key to enduring cognition was useful to me as I plan a “Yoga in America” class where we engaged in daily physical practice a well as investigate the translation of traditional yoga to a Western, American lifestyle. Always our discussions began with the learning goals and then moved to the appropriate technology, if any, that would support the project.  Lacey, Boone, and Shanda agreed that it was transformative to “see behind the curtain”—watching professors struggle with the constraints of administrative demands while also attempting to build meaningful assignments that assist in the life long learning process.  And it was transformative for each of us to once again consider the transparency and integration of our roles at the Center for Teaching and Learning: we are at once teachers, learners, facilitators, experimenters, collaborators.  When we allow these roles to be fluid—when we take the risk to be transparent in our teaching, learning, and thinking—meaningful personal and professional  transformation are the inevitable result.

February 28, 2011

Focusing and Connecting Presentations with Pecha Kucha and VoiceThread

Filed under: collaborate,data visualization,general,technology — Mike W @ 4:55 pm

Pecha kucha (20 slides / 20 seconds per slide) is a creative way to inspire focused presentations using constraints.  Here are a couple of great examples:

http://www.pecha-kucha.org/presentations/88
http://www.pecha-kucha.org/presentations/200

I’ve used this format for student presentations in class and have been really pleased with outcome; however, the way I designed the assignment (the first time), didn’t help us connect ideas from the various presentations very effectively.  This time, I explored VoiceThread’s potential to help us make these connections, mostly outside of class.  For the most part, I’d consider the experiment a success, but our class has some suggestions to make the interface more useful.

voicethread

A VoiceThread, surrounded by comments.

First some background about the pecha kucha assignment: My goal was for students to gain a better understanding of the major geological processes that are thought to have shaped the Martian landscape, as well as for them to gain an even greater appreciation for the tentative and progressive nature of scientific knowledge.  Mars is definitely a good case study for the latter, as many theories exist for the development various landforms. Ideas have shifted over time, as we sift through and attempt to make sense of mountains of data from various landers (Go Phoenix!), rovers, and orbiters.   In this case, pecha kucha seemed to nudge presenters (myself included) towards a focus on developing concepts with carefully-chosen supporting details, rather than a relentless stream of disconnected facts. After I volunteered to deliver a pecha-kucha at last year’s NITLE summit, I realized just how hard it is to share an idea and advocate for action in six minutes and forty seconds.  I agonized over every word, and spent more time preparing my pecha kucha (the live versions carry much more energy) than I have on 90 minute workshops.

After the live presentations in class, students recorded their pecha kuchas and posted them to a VoiceThread group, visible only to our class.   Here’s the assignment:

Please provide a voice thread comment on 4 posted pecha kuchas (other than your own).  If a presentation has 4 or 5 comments already, find another one to comment on.  Watch the pecha kucha again before commenting.  Please provide insightful comments that extend and deepen the conversation.  Some prompts that might help.

1) I’m still a little unclear about [explanation here].  It would help me to know more about ____________________ or get clarification about ______________________.

2) This seems similar to the features we discussed on _______________________ because ______________________.

3) If I’m understanding _____________ correctly then it means _______________________ (state your interpretation here).  Could it also mean that ________________________?

4) It seems that knowing more about _____________________ would really help us understand ___________________ better because ________________________.

5) A good analogy to help me remember _____________________ process is _____________________.

If you’re familiar with the book They Say, I Say, you’ll notice I borrowed the idea of using templates to help guide student responses.  Okay, so this is the second constraint in the assignment.  I’m all about student freedom.  Really!  I just like the creativity and focus that these particular limits inspired. I was really, really impressed with the depth and quality of student conversation, as they asked questions and identified links between presentations.   I think the combination of student creativity, the VoiceThread interface, and the template above facilitated the discussion.

As the screenshot above shows, VoiceThread comments surround the main presentation, which can be an image, text, or  movie.  Comments can take several forms:

  1. Text comments;
  2. Voice – recorded through the computer, or students can even use their phone.  Students enter their phone numbers on the site (see below), and VoiceThread calls the student and records their comments, automatically posting them to the site;
  3. Video – If students have a web cam (which is more common these days), they can provide a video comment.

call

Call-in comment feature

The advantages:

  1. The phone option is great.  If a student is having trouble with their computer microphone, they can just dial in.
  2. Students can embed their comment at a particular point in the original presentation.  So if there’s a question about slide 11, you can add your question at the appropriate point in that slide.
  3. Every commenter can annotate the original presentation (called Doodling).  This is great for visual media—much better than a threaded discussion forum in this regards.  Check out the fun Wile E. Coyote example.
  4. In many cases, hearing the student inflection as they posed questions really helped me discern where we needed to spend some additional time in class.  Picking that out in a text-based discussion would have been more difficult.
  5. I was able to easily import a csv version of my roster, which made setting up the class simple.

The disadvantages:

  1. The cost is $99 for a single-instructor, higher ed license.  It’s pretty reasonable, but each student only gets 3 minutes of phone time; then you have to add more virtual coins; then you have to allocate those extra minutes to each student.  Can’t I just get a pool of minutes for all students, VoiceThread?  Better yet, at $99, maybe we should get more minutes included in the package deal?
  2. We ran into problems in which the main presentation got out of sync with a student comment.  For example, Fred (a hypothetical student) was highlighting a crater on the 4th slide of the main presentation to ask a question. But the comment showed slide two when I viewed his comment.  I could refresh the browser to solve the problem, but that was kind of a pain.
  3. You can’t nest comments.  Threaded comments are a must!  When students replied to a question, their comment had to include information to hook their response to a particular question—very inefficient. This will be a much better interface when threaded commenting is added.
  4. I wasn’t able to delete student posts.  They had to do that themselves.  The admin needs that capability.

All-in-all, we thought the interface helped to extend a complex conversation beyond the walls of the classroom.  With a more appropriate pricing model, threaded discussions, and a few bug fixes, this tool can really enhance discussion around rich media when discussion boards tend to fall flat.

Are you using VoiceThread? Pecha Kuchas?  Response templates?  How’s it going?

June 15, 2009

Visualizing the World – Wow!

Filed under: data visualization,education,general,gis,mapping,technology — Mike W @ 12:36 pm

This is a really powerful tool for viewing global statistics that might be useful for class.  The visualizations in Hans Rosling’s presentation  are pretty amazing.

Motion Map

The tool Rosling uses in the presentation is available online (along with his blog).  It took me a little while to figure it out how to use it, but experimentation with the maps and charts, along with the video tutorial, really helped me realize how much is here.

Indicators include health, economic, education, environmental, and more data from the UN.

The site also provides information about how you can use Google Spreadsheets to make your own motion charts.  I experimented, and the process is fairly straight-forward for charts but doesn’t include the mapping piece, which is available for the UN data on Rosling’s site.

oil_consumption.jpg

Total Oil Consumption – Let’s get on those bikes or carpool America :-)

August 2, 2008

Campus Technology Award

Filed under: data visualization,gis,google earth,history,mapping — Mike W @ 8:21 am

Our project using Google Earth to connect Boston, NY, and Greenville in Lloyd Benson’s Urban History class won an Annual Campus Technology Award. Check it out!

Here’s a little bit more info on the project that I put together for a NITLE conference this spring.

 google_earth_tour.gif

Project FAQs

It’s amazing how quickly things change. Picasa and Flickr now automatically put geocoded images on the map. For Flickr you have to make sure this is set to ‘yes’ in the privacy and permissions section of your profile.

flickr

Here’s an example of an image in Picasa that is automatically placed on the map. I took it with an iPAQ with built-in GPS. I almost walked right through the web when getting out of my car. That would have been interesting! It reminds me of the time I put my kayak on my head to carry it, and a big spider that had set up camp started falling towards my face. I closed my mouth just in time!

spider

June 19, 2008

Keeping Score

Filed under: baseball,data visualization,general — Mike W @ 11:40 pm

I remember my uncle Paul and dad teaching me to keep score as a kid. Somewhere I still have a score card from a Reds game I attended with my dad. Pete Rose was deep into his pursuit of Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak and kept that streak alive that night. Tonight I passed along the tradition to my daughters who seemed to enjoy it, as long as we switched each inning. As you can see, the Greenville Drive turned up the heat late in the game for a great comeback. This seems like a classic example of information visualization in action.  You can see the offensive flow of the game (for the home team, anyway) pretty quickly.  Yes, Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies. Same with Bull Durham.

score

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