The Marvel of Teacher Bonuses

So, like many, I was researching how the Florida Legislature might have come up with it’s “Best and Brightest” plan for rewarding “highly effective” teachers based on their high-school SAT scores. I believe I have uncovered the answer, Zola’s Algorithm.

Hail Hydra!

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Another Few GIFs

Still tinkering with MPEG Streamclip and GIMP to produce GIFs.  I pulled a few scenes from one of my favorite Science Fiction movies from the 70’s, Andromeda Strain.

First was the scene I choose when the wildfire alert was called in. It was the time of rotary phones and it seemed as if the dialing went on forever. So, I made it so.

The Andromeda Strain (1971)





The second was of the one of the many oscilloscope scenes used in the opening sequence. (I remember the excitement when Fr. Bryan Ryan acquired one of these for the electronics lab at my high school. What a bunch of nerds.)

The Andromeda Strain (1971) scope





I thought I might use the oscilloscope GIF in some image, but wasn’t sure at the time I created it. Until ….. I watched the Week Four at CMM video and saw the round lenses on Martha Burtis and said “Hey, why not?” So, I took a frame from the video using Streamclip and brought it into GIMP.

Martha Burtis





I thought this might be a good time to learn/practice the use layer masks and I found a couple of tutorials here and here. In the end, though, I went with what I knew. I measured the diameter of the lenses. Then opened the oscilloscope file and scaled the image down until the scope screen was about the same diameter as the lens. I made duplicate layers of the image of Martha equal to the number of layers in the oscilloscope file. Using the ellipse selecting tool, I selected and copied/pasted the scope frame by frame in the corresponding frame n the Martha file. When finished I saved the file as an animation as shown in the tutorial here. Here is the finished GIF.

Martha Burtis animated



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Annoying Telemarketing Call

Assignment: Create a 30 second annoying telemarketing call.

We’ve all been harangued by telemarketing calls promissing to help us with our credit card debt. What about that eternal debt? Maybe these guys can help you!


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Pulling Back the Curtain

I haven’t been able to participate, as I would like, in the ds106 Summer of Oblivion, but I have been following with rapt attention. I know everyone has moved on to the audio projects ( I’m listening now), but when I posted my entry to assist in the finding of the missing Dr. Oblivion, I had received a few requests to share the process of creating the work. I was interrupted in my reply by some blog redesign setbacks, among other things (both digital and analog), but I wanted to get back to make this post.

It all began while traveling through Kansas one day ….. no, no, that’s another story.

Oh yeah. I was about to ask my middle school students to tell the story of the depression. While I have never assigned a Powerpoint preso, I knew that that was what they were going to want to do and I had only a few lives left. I was ready for something else. So I was thinking about the Graphic Novel.

So where should we start.

First, the story. The most important thing in storytelling, but not really part of this post.

Second, the images. I am not an artist, so I knew, due to limited time and talent, there was no way I was going to produce enough images for an undertaking. After shuffling through the interwebs, I decided to hit the National Archive for photos from that time in U.S. History. There were a number of photos and resources available for use.

Then, came the design process. We found a number of resources using Photoshop to produce the graphic novel look. For example. But being in the school system, we did not have Photoshop nor did I have any hope of purchasing a number of licenses for the class.

I next moved on to GIMP. I had used the software previously and was pleased with its use for my needs in the past. After tinkering with it for a while I still had not been able to get the look I was actually looking for. See below. I started with my black-and-white image from the archive:




and taking it through the following manipulations

Colors > colorize (hue=31, Sat=44, lightness=0)
Layers > duplicate layers
On the duplicate layer
Filters > Artistic > Cartoon
Set Layers Mode – Overlay then adjust Opacity

I was able to produce the following:

It’s not exactly what I was looking for, but I believe GIMP may still be a viable option with a little more work.With the right manipulations and filters, I think I can get closer to what would pass for the graphic novel look. With the images done, the other thing you have to consider is the font design and layout. Again, there are tutorials to assist in this part of the design (though some of the fonts are additional purchases), but now this begins to make this a design project rather than a storytelling project. I know. Design skills are important, but in this project I needed I needed something with a low level of entry for the design aspect.

I had seen my then 11 year old daughter creating some comic book panels on the older mac we had and I remembered that the older macs had Comic Life Lite bundled with the pre-loaded software. So I asked her to show me some of her work. I started playing around it for a while and lo and behold, it produced a pretty good product…..




and a page from the novel looked something like this.











Because I had the Lite version of ComicLife already installed on the Mac, I was offered an upgrade to the Deluxe version for $9.99. What a deal! Additional fonts, layout and export options. Even purchasing outright I believe, now Comic Life 2, is about $19.95. The drawback … it’s pretty much a unitasker.

So, for the Dr.Oblivion poster,  I used the MPEG Streamclip (beta) that we used in the Animated GIF  lesson. I downloaded the three video clips from Youtube and created individual JPEG files of one “frame” from each video. I dragged the clip into ComicLife, edited it using the “70’s Style Rag Newspaper” attribute on the images and added the text. And, there (no wizardry involved) it is..















While the cost is low (relative to, say Photoshop), it’s still not free. If anyone has more success using GIMP, I would love for you to post about it.

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My Personal Cyberinfrastructure

So this ds106 thing has gotten a hold on me.
I am inspired.
In fact, I am like Dr. Emilio Lizardo in the animated GIF I did in preparation for this adventure.

Though I am an outlaw member of the course (a lot of my time is being spent on a Bioinformatics course I am taking this summer for re-certification), I am taking time to rethink my personal cyberinfrastructure and how I am:

narrating, thinking aloud the process of learning. investigating
curating, taking care of my stuff arranging for myself and others to see it
sharing, putting it out there, create meaning/value in the context of other learners, synergy

I’ve completely redone my blog. I’ve updated to WordPress 3 which turned out to be no small feat.
I had originally migrated my blog from blogger to my own hosted WordPress install in 2009 (?) and had unremembered  a lot about how I had done that. Digging back through some online resources, I read it was better to install the new WordPress myself rather that use the automatic update. So, I backed-up my database removed my blog from the server. I downloaded the newest  version of WordPress edited the config file and a few other files (for security) and reinstalled it on my server. Nothing worked. No database connection, no images arghhh…. Working off and on over a day I was able to get everything (I think) back in place and working again.
I could of used the stock TwentyTen theme, but I wanted a little more customized look. So, in an effort to protect the changes I made, I learned how to create a child theme. One of the first things I changed was the header image. Using MPEG Streamclip, I downloaded a clip from one of my favorite Hitchcok movies and pulled a JPEG image into GIMP.

Roger Thornhill being chased by cropduster.

from Hitchcock's North by Northwest

Because the image wasn’t the correct dimensions required for the header, I had to edit it. I converted it to Black-and-White, moved the airplane to the left and down closer to the horizon. Then, I cut Mr Thornhill and moved him to the right and down. This way the plane and Thornhill are in the space of the 198 px image height.this left a gap in the landscape, so I copied and pasted a piece of the horizon in opening. A few touches with the rubbing tool and the picture became the “finished” product which appears above.

Since then I have added a feed for my DailyShoot and my Twitter stream.

This is a start. A work in progress.
I am still  contracting/editing my cyberinfrastructure “essay” .
I will also continue to contribute to ds106 where/when I can and always: “Make some art,dammit!”

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Dr. Oblivion Missing

My contribution to the search for Dr. Oblivion.


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Summer of Oblivion

Lord Whorfin

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Personal Learning Network.

So, is it the learning that’s personal or is it the network that’s personal?

Why, yes!  Does it matter?

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Creating Learning Spaces

After viewing the stream of David Thornburg’s presentation at NECC 2009, Constructionism, Duct Tape, and Preparing Children for Their Future, one of the many ideas he presented filtered to the top of my consciousness. He alluded to previous work in which he describes how learning takes place in one of four spaces. I believe its simplicity and familiarity will make it a useful model for identifying the pedagogy of the ever-developing crop of internet applications. By familiar I mean the names of the learning spaces come from a universal view of our “primordial” beginnings; the campfire, the watering hole, the cave and life.

the campfireThe campfire (instructivism). Where the wisdom of the tribe or an authority, is passed on  through storytelling. In this analog, it is in the careful crafting of the “story” that knowledge, that exists external to the learner, may be imparted.

the watering hole
The watering hole (social constructivism). Where individuals gather around in a universal act necessary for their survival. While gathered, people shared information. An informal type of learning space in which individuals are at times teacher and learner in turn.

the caveThe cave (cognitive constructivism). Representative of a place of isolation. A retreat from distraction.  A space where the individual may take time, retreat, to reflect and assimilate their experiences.

lifeLife (constructionism). Where learning takes place in the context of creating the social and physical artifacts of daily life.

Schools are very good at supporting only a few of the spaces. More and more teachers have recognized the importance of the need to exploit all of these spaces in their own learning. The rise of EdCamps and spaces like the ISTE Blogger’s Cafe serve as important examples of this fact. Shouldn’t we be actively seeking out and utilizing technologies that can create these spaces for our students? It appears Dr. Thornburg presented these ideas as early as 2001, long before many of the current Web 2.0 applications were widespread in the educational community.

Which tool(s) are you using and which space (pedagogy) does it support?

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Should Students Be Required to Blog?

A short time after I began blogging, I decided to bring my students in on the action. I was thinking something along the line of the class scribe model that I had read about on Darren Karopatwa’s class blogs. I thought long and hard about how and where the students would blog. Also, about how I might teach them blogging and then assess them on their work. I don’t think I ever stopped and asked myself the question in the title. I just assumed it would be like any other assignment. I would give it and they would comply by doing it. However, if I’m looking for reflective writing, wouldn’t a standard journal writing be sufficient? If I’m assessing a student’s ability to carry on a coherent, empathetic discussion couldn’t that be done in the classroom? Why should students be required to blog? Is blogging a new type of writing skill that needs to be practiced by all students? Writing for the purpose of making connections; i.e. “Connective writing” as discussed by Will Richardson and Bud Hunt.
Do you require your students to blog?

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