Monthly Archives: February 2012

Digital Comics: Age of Bronze

This week at TwTT, Thomas Beasley, a graduate student in Classics and the annotator of the digital edition of the graphic novel, Age of Bronze, joinedTom Beasley presenting us to talk about the iPad edition of the comic, called Age of Bronze: Seen. Distributed by Throwaway Horse, the electronic version features not only a story line informed by a comparative literary analysis and drawings based on the best available history, but also a reader's guide built into the app that brings historical context and archaeological foundations into the narrative. Although some people are still skeptical of the graphic novel's role in education, Thomas points out that comics are dynamic and have been embraced by Yale as a valid form of literature, and that the addition of the reader's guide opens the path to exploring graphic novels as teaching tools in other disciplines as well.

Although the electronic format may seem natural, before Age of Bronze was on the iPad it was a meticulously researched print comic on the history of the Trojan War. The author, Eric Shanower, sought to go beyond the well-known end to the war, recounted in Homer's Iliad, to create a graphic retelling of the whole ten year conflict. With such a vast undertaking, no single source was sufficient. Instead, Shanower drew upon centuries of literature to create the story line. The comic is informed as much by purported first person historical accounts as by 20th century opera, resulting in a narrative that is historically grounded, but fresh and relevant to contemporary audiences.

While the story line draws on many sources across time, the actual art of the comic is based on archaeology and material culture. Buildings and sites depicted in the work will mirror the best archaeological reconstructions available, and a close examination of any frame reveals details that are based on extensive research. Figurines, jewelry, instruments, weapons, frescoes, and altars depicted in the graphic novel are all based on historical finds. Where data was not available from Troy, Shanower drew on relics from the nearby Hittite culture - trying to keep speculative drawing to a minimum.
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ELI 2012 - Living and Learning in Cyberspace Blogging at VA Tech

Panelists: W. Gardner Campbell, Dir., Professional Development and Innovative Initiatives, Shelli Fowler, Exec. Dir. of Graduate Development Programs and New Pedagogies, Jennifer Sparrow, Dir. of Emerging Technologies and New Ventures and Robert Stephens, Assoc. Prof. of History, Principal, Honors Residential College. http://blogs.is.vt.edu/hrcblogs/ Other examples of student blogging at VA Tech, http://www.univhonors.vt.edu/html/blogs.html - this is not the same as the residential blogging initiative, these blogs are running off Google's blogspot.com. The take away here is that blogging is an easily accessible tool for students to create connections between real world experience and their academics.

A  blogging initiative was started to provide students with a platform for making learning connections across disciplines. VA Tech is running WordPress blogs for about 300 students in the Honors residential college. Students are given a blog as incoming freshmen. It's introduced into the residential college because it provides longevity. Students will live and study together (across disciplines) for 4 years. There is a faculty adviser who provides guidance but for the most part there are no specific requirements. No specific requirements proved to be the biggest hurdle for the students who wanted to know what the topic of the posts should be, how much they should blog, how often and what's the grading requirements? The faculty member finally gave into the desperate pleas for structure and said they had to post at least 12 times, and he was reluctant to give that requirement. The 300 students posted between 3000 and 5000 posts. Students had a conceptual problem at first. Blogging was not a word processing, term paper grading arena, but a multimedia platform for ideas, civic discourse and connection with a larger community. This was an arena to aggregate the individual's learning experience.
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ELI 2012 Conference - Featured Speakers

The annual ELI conference in Austin opened with a keynote address by Adrian Sannier from Pearson Publishing. It included this cheery quote from H.G. Wells, "Human history is more and more a desperate race between education and catastrophe."  Wells died in 1946 and as our speaker pointed out, we've been on the verge of a technological revolution for 50 years. So it would seem that while we've been preaching revolution we've been practicing status quo. The art of teaching in the classroom hasn't change for quite some time but there are signs of the disruption of the status quo from the bottom up as we see more and more access to expert information for free. There is a democratization of information that decentralizes and leverages expertise at the scale of the individual rather than in a classroom setting. The revolution is taking place all around us but it still hasn't taken place in the classroom. Faculty use LMS (learning management systems) but mainly for administrative purposes. This talk was a call (once again) for those of us in the technology field to drive innovation. Creative destruction has to happen at every level of the enterprise (ITS re-org anyone?). Are we still stuck because of the resistance to not challenging the status quo? As the discussion becomes more and more about the science of education and less about the art of education, it means that things are about to change. Some suggestions from our speaker include: community based research activity, new models of progress based collaboration and the discovery, and the creation and distribution of digital materials. Pearson Publishing has introduced Open Class (http://www.pearsonlearningsolutions.com/openclass/). What is OpenClass? Here's the info from the web page: "OpenClass is a dynamic, scalable, fully cloud-based solution that stimulates social learning and the exchange of content, coursework, and ideas — all from one integrated platform. Of course it has all the LMS functionality needed to manage courses, but that’s just the beginning. OpenClass actually advances education by using social technology to encourage collaboration and communication for students, faculty, institutions, and administrators around the world. OpenClass also features an idea exchange that will make it easy to find and share the latest teaching approaches, educational content, and curriculum."
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Collaborative Services & Spaces: The CSSSI

More than half of the acquisitions budget of the Yale University Library System last year went to digital acquisitions - journals and books that exist only in cyberspace.  While this statistic may be shocking, especially since many people still think of libraries as repositories for dusty volumes sitting on dark shelves, it is only part of the modernization of Yale's libraries.  In addition to expanding access to electronic resources, Yale has realized that students, staff, and faculty work differently than they did over 70 years ago, when Sterling Memorial Library was erected.  Today's patrons are more likely to need access to advanced computational tools, help with quantitative methods and database searching, and to work in groups on presentations and joint projects.  With these new needs in mind,  Yale's librarians worked in conjunction with the university's IT services to conceive of a space where patrons could not only access advanced reference and technology resources, but also have a single point of service for support.  The product was the Center for Science and Social Science Information - the CSSSI.

As the CSSSI was planned, the needs of contemporary patrons were constantly in mind.  ITS and the Library had to work together to ensure that the research needs typically associated with a library could be balanced with the information processing capabilities found in facilities like Yale's Statistical Laboratory (StatLab).  In order to reach this goal, the committee working on the CSSSI not only evaluated the present services offered at Yale by both ITS and the  Library, but also traveled to other institutions to observe how they were approaching the issue and to evaluate services not yet offered here in New Haven.  From this research, several key points emerged.  Among them, it became clear that students and faculty were in need of a facility that provided interdisciplinary information, collaborative space and services, and help with different resources from a single point of service. Thus, the foremost goal of the CSSSI would be to serve as an intellectual and social hub for both students and faculty.  The challenge then became to develop a space and collection that could fill this need.
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ELI 2012, Day 3 (Final Day)

(Cross-posted and edited from my own site.)

On the third and final day of ELI, I managed to get my barbecue-stuffed self to three sessions, only two of which were worth the effort. The first one of the day was S. Craig Watkins from Texas speaking on "Beyond the Digital Divide: Reimagining Learning in a World of Social and Technological Change". While the presentation had flaws, it was ultimately an engrossing examination of a new sense of the notion of a digital divide. Where a decade ago the term was used to discuss issues of access, primarily along economic lines, Watkins reframed the argument to look at issues of participation and mastery. I do wish he had included data on racial/ethnic groups other than white, African-American, and Latino in the presentation.

Session #2 for the day was another chance to see Gardner Campbell in action, this time in talking with a team from Virginia Tech on "Living, Learning, Cyberspace: A Program-Wide Blogging Initiative for Virginia Tech's Honors Residential College". In fact, one of the key strengths and weaknesses of the session was that the team included — gasp — a student. While the student was a self-described introvert and struggled having the majority of the session on her shoulders, it was also a rare opportunity to see a fledgling learn and to watch communities of practices replicating themselves before our eyes. As Lave and Wenger noted in their original work, "legitimate peripherality can be at the articulation of related communities," and a conference such as ELI is a clear example of an that interstitial space.

Of the third session, the less I say the more charitable I will be. To be brief, I'll just say that Catherine Casserly's talk on "Sharing and Protecting Ideas and Knowledge in the 21st Century" misjudged her audience substantially. Put another way, if her introduction to Creative Commons and their licensing offerings, as well as OERs, was new to the majority of the people there, I don't think it's a conference I'll benefit from attending any further.

(There's an archive of the tweets at The Archivist, in which I am ambivalently proud of featuring prominently. The links above and in previous posts to the sessions will take you to pages containing video if there is any.)

Lights, Camera, Action! Student digital media resources at Yale

Erin Scott, head of the Bass Media Equipment Checkout Service (BMEC) started off this spring's Teaching with Technology Tuesdays (TwTT) series with a talk on digital media resources at Yale. Although art and filmstudents have access to the Digital Media Center for the Arts, and instructors can get help with media in teaching from the instructional technology group (ITG), the expanding media services of Bass Library offer all students access to both the equipment and training they need to complete basic digital projects.

What's Digital Media and Why Use it?

While initially the BMEC lent some film based equipment, those items have been phased out. Why? Erin points out that it is the versatility and durability of digital media equipment that makes it desirable. With few or no moving parts and card or hard disk based storage systems, digital equipment can store massive amounts of data reliably. A student can then use one multi-function device or multiple specialized devices to combine photos, graphics, audio, and video, to engage in "digital storytelling," the term for the use of digital media to convey ideas and messages in organized story form.
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ELI 2012, Day 2

(Cross-posted from my own site.)

My second days in new environments are always radically different from my firsts. I don't believe I'm alone in this. And in using 'radically', I mean very much that they are rooted differently than the first days. The first day is always a little giddy, usually from greater or lesser sleep deficits, and often contains overconsumption of something. The second day is when the tired catches up with me, particularly if the new environment has involved communicating in a second or other language or negotiating a second or other culture.

So it has been also with ELI 2012 in Austin, Texas. Yesterday kept me up for 21 hours and included a barbecue dinner that couldn't be beat. Today started with a business videoconference and found me settling in to more nearly routine tweeting. Yesterday featured a provocative and energetic keynote as well as a lively panel debate and the chance to meet one of the icons of reflective blogging and learning, of reflective instructional technology. Today's roster of sessions was much less exciting and much more get-down-to-business. Barbecue was the primary connector thread, it seemed, with another visit and another feast that couldn't be beat.

What most drew my attention today were two sessions in fairly different veins. The first was a trio of short presentations in a nontraditionally configured session space. As a way of promoting their wares, a prominent furniture provider donated (I will speculate that it was donated, but that may be insufficiently cynical of me) various sorts of chairs and tables to allow setting up a space with both adequate presenter-fronted room and adequate breakout areas. The design was nothing terribly counter-intuitive or unusual, but I would vote for it being the norm rather than a pure presenter-fronted design.
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ELI 2012, Day 1

(Cross-posted from my own site.)

It's been a whirlwind day, and I've been more or less up since 3.30a EST this morning, so I won't guarantee lucidity or accuracy. But that just means that I am being unafraid about getting into the messy business of learning, to paraphrase Gardner Campbell.

Speaking of Gardner, I finally had a chance to see the man live and direct in a panel debate on learning analytics. I should rather say Learning Analytics, since part of what came out of the panel was a proper problematization of the notion of analytics. Whose analytics? What analytics? What is being measured? What is being ignored, hidden, obscured? The other members of the panel were Randall Bass of Georgetown's Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, John Campbell of Purdue, and John Fritz of the University of Maryland - Baltimore County.

At times, the fissures between those we could broadbrush as pro-analytics (J. Campbell, Fritz) and anti-analytics (Bass, G. Campbell) loomed large. Campbell (G.) and Bass spoke of long timeframes and patience, Fritz and Campbell (J.) spoke of what we can do now and of timeframes less than 5 years. Bass used a coinage of "slow analytics", explicitly connecting with the Slow Food movement. Campbell (G.) began with comments about his background with Milton, Bass discussed his 20 years of engagement with educational research and noted his PhD; Campbell (J.) and Fritz didn't refer to their backgrounds at all and spoke of the need to address issues of scale.
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