Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Right.... I forgot...  This November has five Wednesdays.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

SmartPhone Video Producer [Complete Training]

 I'd been looking for a series or a course for teaching smartphone videography for about a year now.  There is a course over at Udemy that looks promising, and a short article at good old Videography that but for a series of videos that could be remixed and reordered for one of my classes, this looks really good.  The only problem is that the hardware and software keeps changing so quickly, some of the videos will be outdated the moment they're posted.  Well, that's life in digital media.

And I'd like to know if there are any 'course designers' in Higher Ed, or do they all work in K-12?  Because there are some very clever modules, that could work just as well for undergrad courses.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Formalism, Realism & Museums

For the last few times I've facilitated and taught an online class in Art History, I've been thinking a lot about how the display of art in Museums works on us as audiences -- particularly Egyptian art.  I'd spent some time in Cairo about 15 years ago, and noticed that while the museum there is very impressive, so much of the best known works aren't there, but instead have been scattered across museums in Europe.  And they have been for several centuries.  The Egyptian collections in Rome go back way before 19th century colonisation.
Not to say that many of the collections of Mesopotamian and Egyptian art held in Europe weren't straight up demonstrations of imperial power.  (the Egyptians and Persians did the same thing at their heights)
During weeks 3 and 4 of the most recent course I was teaching, I was visiting Berlin with my family and we'd taken an afternoon to visit the "Museum Island" and a very similar collection of Egyptian art to that in Rome.  Once again, that interplay of realism and formalism became very apparent.  I was gobsmacked by this depiction of a man's head:

Which contrasted so much with the more formal elements common to Egyptian Art:

I was struck by how even at it's more formalised, the Neues Museum in Berlin had chosen to show off the more realism-driven side of Egyptian art -- probably because it lined up with something they culturally valued when the museum was originally built in about 1850, and is still a deep part of thier culture as a modern, multi-cultural city.  Without a doubt, the most famous example, that's almost become a icon for Berlin is the bust of Nefertiti.  (photographs weren't allowed, so here's a link)

The artwork resonates so well with the city, that they created a 'Vegas-style' laser-show with 
acrobatic dancers based on it.  (really, not kidding)

Wyld Show Poster

And as silly and cliche as it is, it shows how museums (and art history) can have a profound effect on the broader culture.  This is where we go to learn about form, theme and content, but it's also where we go to learn about our connections to earlier cultures -- and that we take these artworks and continue to make new artforms based on the forms, themes and content that resonate with us.  The museum in Rome is focused on the abstract formalism of beauty (early dynasty art), the museum in London on the writing (Rosetta stone), in Berlin on realism of Beauty (Nefertiti bust), in New York on the architecture (Temple of Dendur).  While each of these museums has a representative collection of artifacts, their place in time and culture highlighted something that resonated with the people there.  That's why travel is such a great way to educate yourself.
A city of architecture and a city of words:
Temple of Dendur           Rosetta Stone

Aside from out global multi-media Internet, we still see the vast majority of the art we experience in galleries, salons and art museums.  This is an incredibly important part of the context of each of the artworks we view.  Museums have been with us for at least 2,500 years, but their position in society has changed; it continues to change in our fast-evolving and hybridising media-driven world.  I believe that they will become increasingly important as we become more of a virtual society.  The ability to visit a place in real-time, and real-space will become more and more important.  In many ways, museums help us return to the real.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Catchin' the Sun

There was a vinyl LP that my father would play on the weekends, it was called Catchin' the Sun – an instrumental jazz-funk-pop-fusion album that seemed to have whole worlds in its catchy sax refrains and synth solos.

I must have been about eleven or so.  The songs rolled one into another, weaving complete complexity.  This was nearly an unfairness that those of us who grew up in the late 20th century have to deal with... ...this hermetic perfection of near-perfect pop music.  Emotional experiences triggered by slick production that could make your own attempts feel so clumsy in comparison. Younger and older generations ran in, where Gen-Xer's feared to tread.

Still, we're all trying to be that compiler, that artist, that writer who is – Catchin' the Sun.

The self-publishing we've got at our fingertips retrieves the essence of those 18th century pamphleteers who caught ideas, re-molded them to fit changing times, used a messy technology, a gossip-network, and changed the world.

All energy comes from that Sun of ours.  Energy from tens of millions of years ago burst from that star, fell on some plants on the surface of our world, those plants soon died, and spent eons below ground turning from funk to slime to gunk to thicker gunk, to gas.  That gas pulled from the ground, burned, and electrified, passes through a near-incomprehensible grid of power, and into the battery of a slim, glowing tablet — on which I write, and you read — and if our ideas line up with each other's, and if our electrons line up from sun to funk to gas to light again.  Maybe we can change the world.

Then maybe, just maybe, you and I are – Catchin' the Sun.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

From the Bottom to the Top

Many of my students use Wikipedia as a source for online discussions and even within their answers for quizzes, tests and exams.  I've given this mini-lecture on "From the Bottom to the Top – or how to read a Wikipedia Article." so many times, that I've decided to copy and paste a written version that I'd recently used as a response to a student who had copied and pasted from Wikipedia.  Fittingly, the article chosen was the article on 'Homage'.  So, I consider this a meta-homage to meta-homage; while at the same time being a light-hearted, pedantic "learning opportunity" for a new kind of digital hyperlinked style of education.  ...or perhaps something else altogether.

Good extrapolations. From your wikipedia quote: "a show or demonstration of respect or dedication to someone or something by simple declaration", but the quote continues: "but often by some more oblique reference, artistic or poetic."  And here's where things get complicated.  But we'll return to this 'problematization' in a while.  
I frequently say that the best way to read a Wikipedia article is from the bottom up.  You'll notice that at the very bottom of this article ( lists the topic-structure that this article is organized withing: 

  • Above that you'll find a collapse-able table around a much more sophisticated study of this by amatuer and professionals in this field — particularly Art Historians:

If you click on that word 'Appropriation', you'll open up an amazing array of ideas that are very applicable to this course, which we will discuss when we begin critiqing your draft art reports.  Above that you'll find the most professional citation in the article, the References

References[edit source]

  1. Jump up^ "Homage"Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages 2
  2. Jump up^ Robin M. Derricourt, An author's guide to scholarly publishing
  3. Jump up^ Umberto Eco, The limits of interpretation
  4. Jump up^ John Shepherd, "Rock Homage"Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World
  5. Jump up^ Richard Grusin, Routledge encyclopedia of narrative theory

 Obviously, each hyperlink will take you to the full text of the referenced citation.  I've actually read a good portion of Umberto Eco'sThe Limits of Interpretation, and while it can get a little overwhelming, it's  a great primary resource for discussing the meaning of what's 'real' and what's 'fake' or 'a mere copy' in art and art history.  If you click on the links for references #1 and #4, you'll find that the majority of the content of the article is taken from the Encylopedia of the Middle Ages and Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World.  This allows us to track back your quote through the Wikipedia page to an earlier source.  The next section up from the bottom is similar to the 'categories' section, but was placed by several of the Wikipedians because there are very strong thematic links to three other articles on Wikipedia. 

See also[edit source]

How are these ideas similar and different from the idea of Homage?  Try clicking through to learn more about this idea.  These particular links are the most 'curated'.  By that, I mean that a series of Wikipedia authors have reached a consensus that these ideas are so interconnected that they deserve to be tied together by the very hyper-textual nature of Wikipedia.  Again, these authors are both professionals as well as amatuers (as well as fanatics and even occasionally vandals or hired P.R. hacks)  But over time, the most-trusted professionals decisions about content and links are the ones that remain.  All of this finally brings us to the least consequential part of the Wikipedia article, the part that sadly gets the most attention: the "content."  
Homage (/ˈhɒmɨ/ or /ˈɒmɨ/) is a show or demonstration of respect or dedication to someone or something, sometimes by simple declaration but often by some more oblique reference, artistic or poetic.
It was originally a declaration of fealty in the feudal system (see Homage (medieval))—swearing that one was the man (French: homme) of the feudal lord.[1] The concept then became used figuratively for an acknowledgement of quality or superiority. For example, a man might give homage to a lady, so honouring her beauty and other graces. In German scholarship, followers of a great scholar developed the custom of honouring their mentor by producing papers for a festschrift dedicated to him.[2]
The concept now often appears in the arts where one author shows respect to a topic by calling it a homage, such as Homage to Catalonia. Alternatively, creative artists may show respect to a veteran of the field or to an admired practitioner by alluding to their work.[3] In rock music this can take the form of a tribute album or of a sample.[4] As of 2010, the digital techniques used to generate many forms of media make it easy to borrow from other works and this remediation may be used in homage to them.[5]

Don't get me wrong, the "content" of this article is actually very good, and covers some of the very different meanings and contexts that both the word and its meanings have had across time.  Obvioulsy George Orwell and The Sugar Hill Gang were working in different media, times and contexts but both use the idea of Homage.  So there may be considerable confusion as to what this word means to begin with.  This brings us up to nearly the top of the page with a funny-sounding word. 

For other uses, see Homage (disambiguation).

Yes, it means to make-less-vague.  As we've noted many times during lectures, group discussions and quizzes, if you're so vague that you can't be wrong, you also can't be right.  So right at the top of the page, Wikipedia is giving you the tools you need to make sure that you're being precise with your language and your words.  If you were to click this link you would find a new page: 

Homage may mean:

So, yes, you did find the correct page.  All of the other pages are very specific uses of the word.  Which, of course is at the very top of the page.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

But wait!  There's some more stuff above that.  And this is actually the least-important for you as a consumer or Wikipedia, but very important to you as a professional (whether that's as a professional student, a professional art historian or professional acadmeic) 

You're currently looking at the 'Read' version of this article.  If you click the next link you enter the 'Edit' version of the article.  And yes, you can make changes.  In fact, if there's a minor error (e.g. typo, spacing problem, etc.) you're encouraged to fix it and click "minor edit".  In some upper-level courses in some universities, students are assigned to write articles for Wikipedia.  So you may get to know this function in the future.  Lastly, you can enter the 'History' version of the article and see all of the edits that have been made, and by whom.  This particular page has been edited over 500 times since 2003.  
So we see that Wikipedia is an evolving resource, not bound by the strictures of printing and distribution.  This doesn't make it any more or less valuable in terms of its content.  Like any secondary resource, you must be aware of the people who are writing and quoting to create it.  Where Wikipedia does excell is in linking ideas together, giving readers multiple pathways through ideas.  This is a big deal, and you can take advantage of this ability in a Wikipedia article if you learn to read each page from the bottom up.

Good luck!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Strategies for the Gamification of Education

"Strategies for the Gamification of Education: On Creating a Flexible Constellation of Praxes for Evolving-Yet-Enduring Systems of Public-Private Educational Settings, Accreditations and Digital Networks."

"Now Lyceum you don't"

As a follow-up to my presentation last April to the Broadcast Education Association, and as part of the 'Web-work' that I am doing for an online seminar, this essay will explore ideas for how to evolve systems secondary education (the last two years of high school in the US) and the first two years of higher education (the first two years of college or
Associates Degree in the US)  It's worth noting that this roughly corresponds to the "Abitur" in Germany and the "A Levels" in the United Kingdom, although these names for both are also evolving.
Two precedents have set my theories of self-directed education into motion: the Montessori method and the curriculum design at the Bauhaus of Weimar-era Germany.  There are plenty of resources on both, and I highly suggest the first few chapters of each.  Neil Postman's book "Building a Bridge to the 18th Century" also had a large impact on my thinking about this phase of education. Because it puts education in a longer historical perspective, and removes the 'privilege of the present'.  In other words, the people of the 22nd century may well want to know many of the same things that people wanted to know in the 18th century.  We shouldn't let our present situation (at the twilight of the modern era and the dawn of digital networked culture) blind us to the fact that grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy (the traditional liberal arts) will remain relevant in education regardless of the era.

One area that will not be addressed in this exploration is the education of students between the ages of 10 and 14 years old.  This is a very important and very difficult portion of any education.  It is also too fraught with coming of age, adolescence and redefining family boundaries and relationships.  Even the most advanced Montessori curricula tend to stop at this age.  I would personally urge more research in this area, particularly here in the US, where our systems of education seem weakest at this most critical point in learning. The other area not discussed will be the later two years of higher education and graduate school.  Institutions at these phases tend to do a better job at blending discipline-specific knowledge and general information, as well as fostering a working relationship between the instructors (often tenured faculty) and the students (as research assistants or other valued workers).  In fact, we will explore how this relationship can be ported into other phases of education through the use of school choice, competition, digital technologies and most importantly the Gamification of Learning.

Explaining this "Flexible Constellation"

These "flexible constellations of praxes" from my (ridiculously long) title do not refer to standards, requirements or curricula imposed from above, but instead guidelines for "evolving-yet-enduring systems" that could be used by existing school systems, start-up charter schools, museums and other cultural institutions, software developers, course designers and even semi-legitamate for-profit colleges to interact with each other and with students to create a more flexible environment for learning, both online and in real-space.

Again, this requires keeping "choice" as free as possible for both the student/parent team (free to use their education capital where they imagine it will give the best returns) and for the schools (free to select students who fit into the various curricula of their institutions) and for the educators (free to move between institutions for the best fit, and the ability to earn more capital themselves)  [a side note: as a society, we should allow that educators want to make a lot of money and shape the hearts and minds of the next generation — teachers need not be postmodern monks]

These "public-private educational settings, accreditations and networks" should provide learning pathways and options for the study of the 'hard' sciences, policy/law/rhetoric, artisanal trades, design/engineering and service/hospitality/human resources. But these disciplines should not be seen as exclusive of each other.  A student tracked to become an attorney is rarely taught woodworking, or calculus or customer service.  This has become a problem because our educational systems do not meet the challenge of career flexibility and job switching.  Instead, most educational systems reinforce a coercive system of mass production that is less and less relevant in a digitally interconnected free-market of ideas.  On the supply side, the semi-cartel of teachers unions needs to adapt and evolve away from an industrial model and toward a more flexible guild system which intersects with the training of educators and the constant churn of the marketplace of ideas.

Using the existing systems, and those coming in the near future, we could create ubiquitous and personalized digital curriculum where every student had an "I.E.P", an individualized education plan that, like Creative Commons copyright licenses, is human-readable, lawyer-readable and computer readable.  Examples abound of providers such as Khan Academy, Duolingo, Open Courseware, Coursera, MOOCs and many, many more.  [another aside—please feel free to leave your favorite examples in the comments sections below e.g. FoldIt]

Gamification of Learning and Education

In my own personal experience, I have begun to write a curriculum for teaching the history of cinema in general, and the Hollywood Studio System in particular, while using Activision's 'The Movies' as a didactic (yet still fun) game.  Students learn both the æsthetics of camera angles and editing in the sandbox mode; then students learn the financing of a studio and a (tounge-in-cheek) day-to-day operations of a fictional Hollywood studio.  Many 'bleeding edge adopters' were disappointed by the shortcomings of Second Life, but pleasantly surprised by the long-term success of Sim City and Spore.  The relationship between console games and PC games will be important to the long-term success of the gamification of learning. Some real-life examples point to a history of using collborative practices within traditional schooling: debate clubs, collaborative sports teams, theatre productions, student art shows and many others.  [again—please feel free to leave favorite examples]

But the revolutionary idea here is to create a system where once a student has a basic mastery of a subject, their continued practice in the area would actually pay them money for their usable work on computer networks.  For example, Duolingo provides a translation service for outside clients.  The computer algorithm takes chunks of text that need to be translated (Spanish-English, English-German and a few others right now) and crowd-sources them through thousands, or even tens-of-thousands of students using their software who are practicing their translation skills while learning Spanish, English or German.  Students could be paid in actual currency (USD, EUR, GBP) or in-game currency, school-specific currency or other forms of currency (Bitcoin, Whuffie, etc)  Student skills that are likely in demand as a crowd-sourced commodity are: text editing/conformation, calculation/auditing, technical writing, graphic design, language translation and even physical crafts and artworks.

Again, these are not institution-specific initiatives, but instead run by competing, accredited groups of curriculum suppliers who would also act as 'solutions contractors' who provide crowd-sourced services.  As such, these double-providers would have an incentive to create both good digital curriculum modules and an incentive to have good students in their talent pool.

[there's an irony here: "from each according to his ability, to each according to their I.E.P."]

There are two specifics, however that should probably be required of every overlapping institution involved in this project.  First, that there should be some form of discipline program.  At its core should be the idea that the most hurtful thing a student (or teacher, or administrator) could do is to diminish or take away the choices of others.  Again, this idea is important to have as a foundation of these "evolving-yet-enduring" systems, but the precise measure of 'choice-theft' and its consequences should be left to the multiple, competing institutions providing the education services.
The second idea is encapsulated nicely in Samuel Becket's play "Westward Ho"(1983).  The full quote also reinforces the idea that education today shares much with education 200 years ago and 200 years from now:

"All of old.  Nothing else ever.
Ever tried.  Ever failed.
No Matter.  Try again.
Fail again. Fail better."

The Praxes
Whether this "flexible constellation" is being used by an existing school, or start-up, or software developer or museum it should have an "evolving-yet-enduring" structure that resembles the theoretical design of a utopian design for a campus — something between Jefferson's 'Academical Village' [sic] and Hakim Bey's 'Periodic Autonomous Zone'.  It's important to remember that this is not a description of an actual building, but could be.  "Form follows Function."

0) The beginning point in this system are the games and simulations that teach, reinforce and re-enframe the basics or "necessary-but-non-sufficient" conditions of knowledge.  Examples have been mentioned previously, but would also include the MOOCs and the systems for assessing and delivering the content in a game-theory-centered manner.

1) The first phase would be a group meeting space, a quiet space in a library or a board room with either a large table or several reconfigurable tables.  Here small to medium sized groups come together to plan for a project, study for an accreditation exam, follow-up on an event or production — diagram, design, paste-up ideas and assign duties and responsibilities according to the needs of the task at hand.  Instructors/Professors/Teachers would likely be present and overseeing multiple projects and tasks.  Like the scriptwriting software Celtx, this phase overlaps with both phase 0  (learning the basics through simulation) and other application phases

2) The core importance of physical books and online libraries in this system is reinforced by phase 2 which includes library research using a real-life library (regardless of physical size) and digital collections for quiet research and contemplative thinking.  These physical and virtual libraries should provide a space where students can "geek out" and deeply learn the subject they are currently exploring.

3) Radiating out from the libraries would be a series of Labs and Workshops where students could work on the creation and experimentation of the projects that they have been researching.  Here again Instructors/Professors/Teachers would be present to guide the application of ideas.  Also student teams could work together and integrate the work of single groups together.

4) Farther out in the system would be display spaces/shops, theater spaces, common areas, auditoriums – all spaces for doing or displaying work that is ready for public feedback, consumption, marketing or critique.  This gives a place to put student work that has reached a level of completeness.

5) Lastly, this system should be 'porous' with society or 'the city' in general, where the public has some access to both the works in progress and the best work on display.  The institution should be interesting enough to attract visitors – in the form of museums, shopping arcades, hotel, movie theatre, etc. (an interesting potential might be to retro-fit a dead suburban shopping mall)

Most importantly, these phases are not linear.  They bend back around on each other pivoting on the simulations (gamification of learning) and the labs/workshops (practical experiments).  Students engage in learning while spending time at each of these different phases.

Over time, the less self-directed students will likely be more comfortable in phases 4 and 5 and will hone their skills in artisan crafts, management, technical trades and and service skills.  The more self-directed students will likely be more comfortable in phases 1 and 2 and will learn integrative thinking, discipline-specific skills, management and research skills.
The overlap is the management and integration that all students learn through the simulations and labs.

The administration of each of these educational settings/digital networks should be sleek, evolving-yet-enduring, open to competition but allowed to freely choose its students and its curricula.  Done correctly, the market forces should help keep these systems in balance. The administration that administers best administers least.  Or put another way,
"The wise man's tools are analogies and puzzles."

Students, Faculty and Administrators would all share in phases 0 and 3 to learn and teach evolving standard skills and create a shared cultural literacy that they'll be guided toward — but ultimately create anew in each new cohort.  This should incentivize a focus on portable digital skills and allow for career changes and institutionalize the practice of multiple job opportunities during a career.  This also encourages latent customer-service skills in all professions and removes barriers to time away from careers like sabbaticals, family leave, spiritual retreats, etc. These educational settings/digital networks could be used to guide and support mid-career changes with experienced professionals returning to teach their discipline-specific skills, both online and in an "Education Setting" (e.g. school, museum, etc) as a standard cultural practice.

Marketplace of Ideas
The gamification of learning is both really cool and potentially disruptive.  This essay has been trying to look past the novelty and explore some of the possible practices that could evolve along with it.  The hardware and software that are used will have an impact on the long-term social institutions that rise to meet the need.  It is important to keep both the technology and the institutions as free as possible.  The best way to accomplish this is though choice and competition – a marketplace of ideas and a marketplace of institutions.  In this evolving system, phases 0 though 5 will have to interface with the needs of other institutions, perhaps through crowd-sourced and competing accreditation standards.  These standards and oversight could be provided by other similar programs in higher education or businesses.

Some "evolving-yet-enduring" standards to maintain include:

—Keeping multiple, relevant, meaningful and competing accreditation organizations would be key. These institutions would also need to connect toward the elementary (and middle) schools and up toward graduate schools.
—Keeping portable credentials and portable student funding would allow for easy movement between institutions, while allowing relevant, meaningful and competing curricula to grow and evolve along with the needs of the students.
—Keeping strong-yet-flexible framework for porting these education settings into varied cultures and social situations and produce measurable results and allow for local ideas to be incorporated without alienating other or degrading academic exploration and performance.

The long term success of a society usually turns on how well it can absorb new ideas and new ways of doing things.  The free marketplace of ideas, where individuals are free to make choices, especially silly or bad choices, will create a robust, evolving system of education based on the gamification of learning.  Forms of school choice likely provide the best system for creating evolving-yet-enduring systems of educational settings, accreditations and digital networks.  And like games themselves, this process is going to be both educational and fun.