Friday, October 26, 2012

Quick Tutorial: ARIS Dialog

ARIS is a user-friendly, open-source platform for creating and playing mobile games, tours and interactive stories. Using GPS and QR Codes, ARIS players experience a hybrid world of virtual interactive characters, items, and media placed in physical space. (ARIS homepage)
Some of my students are making ARIS games, and they wanted to be able to create character interactions within the game. Here's a quick video tut I made... I'll roll out a more polished version later. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Design Matters Part 3: Typography

It's taken me a long time to get to this post for two reasons. Number one, The first half of the school year was insane, and as you know were all busy. I'm also teaching an online class and am the adviser of the yearbook, which makes it doubly insane. Enough of the excuses. The other reason is because this is a tough topic to talk about, and it seems rather picky and somewhat overly particular, maybe excessive on my part... It's just something that I believe in, and I want to share with you. Why? I think that it could really help the overall look of your classroom and how seriously your students take your classroom. So, this design matters is first of all directed at you, the teacher. I'll of course eventually show how it also has applications to your students as well...

Typography is one of those big $.50 words in graphic design. It deals with all aspects of how designers deal with type and text. For the purposes of this post and to simplify it, we'll narrowly focus on the choice of fonts and how you use those fonts and what message that conveys to your audience.

Typography should perform these functions:
  • Invite the reader/audience
  • Reveal tone/meaning
  • Clarify the structure/order of the content
  • Link the writing with other elements
(Rodney Gräbner)
Basically, your font selection, whether you own up to it or not, sends a message about you and your topic before a reader even deciphers your words (see Lifehacker, Smashing Magazine, & I Love Typography). Let's look at three ways to improve the use of typefaces (fonts) in your little piece of Edudom.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Approaching the start of a new year...

Okay peeps and tweeps, it's time for this year's round-up of inspiration and wholesome challenging goodness for the start of the school year. This is when I share who / what is challenging me right now with you... kind of an annotated bibliblography of awesome.

Are your students totally Psyched?

Okay, maybe they're not, but they should be. If you're a teacher, and you're not a Vlog Brothers fan (or a Nerdfighter like me), you may have missed this. I'm posting it here for you to share with your friends, colleagues, administrators, and, most importantly, your students. DFTBA

An Open Letter to Students Returning to School

John Green

Room Readiness

Ahhh... Room readiness. No matter what your district calls it, you probably have to go set up your junk this week or next week. What are you going to do differently? What will you keep the same? What is your core message? ...WHAT? I thought we were talking about room setup, not an essay or lecture. This year, I'm going to have to face the ideas that challenged me in this blog post, "The Secrets of Your Classroom - What Your Set Up Says About You", by

  • Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
  • clichéd
  • What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee - This is the practical application of Mcgonigal's book in education. It is also the required text for the course I'm facilitating this fall. Even if you're not up for the course, the book is a "must-read", not typically the case with required texts...

    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    Design Matters Part 2: You don't have to be an Art teacher...

    This is part 2 of my Design Matters series. If you missed part 1, you can check it out here. In this post, I'll focus on little ways you can encourage better overall visual literacy in your classroom. We'll talk about why you should and how you can. I'll include the first set of three simple tricks to improve design in your classroom. I'll add three more in the next post in this series and so on. On to glory...


    Visual literacy beyond the Art room

    First, I am not an art teacher. For the most part, the fine arts are a bit lost on me. I wish that weren't true, but it is. I may not appreciate a Picasso, nor can I tell it from a Rembrandt. I can, however, appreciate the design around me. I can instantly tell a Mac from any PC. We're surrounded by great design daily. A quick visit to the mall or The Dieline, will quickly cement that idea. Most of us know great design when we see it. We don't have to know fine art to be visually literate.

    Also, it's easy to say that the art teacher can and should cover this. Unfortunately, as many a Science teacher has discovered, you may need to review the math you want to see the students do correctly in today's lab, even though the students have a math class. If we want to see good design, it may help to set up some simple techniques and require the students to use them. We don't need to teach "Art". We sometimes just need to remind students that it's important in this class too. Further, as Garr Reynolds notes, "Can't students become better business leaders tomorrow by learning to become better design thinkers today? Aren't design thinking, design mindfulness, and creative thinking valuable aptitudes for all professionals" (Presentation Zen, p. 31-32). This is a 21'st century skill, and we're all responsible for those. Again, for more arguments in favor of this notion, check out Part 1.


    You can do this

    Three simple tricks and techniques you can use to improve visual literacy in your classroom.
    Okay, for the next few posts in this series I'll shoot out three tips to use in your own classroom design and to share with your students for projects. This week we'll look at three visual tricks that work great in multimedia projects or large visual formats. One is specifically for presentations, like Power Point. The other two are more general and can work in Voicethread, Animoto, paper posters, etc.

    As we approach the start of a new school year, consider using these tricks in your own presentations, handouts, and posters. I bet you'll be pleased with the results!


    Trick 1: Pecha Kucha

    Okay, this isn't so much a trick as it is a policy you can use to avoid bad Power Point. As explained on the official website, "PechaKucha 20x20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images." That's it! What makes this techniques awesome is what it lacks.
    • No bullets
    • No text
    • No collages (1 pic per slide)
    • No crazy sound effects or animated transitions
    The student giving this presentation must:
    • Know his or her material
    • Be concise
    • keep moving
    Don't have 6:40 for each presentation? I tend to modify the model in my classroom based on the age of my students, the time I have, and the depth of the material. Instead of 20x20, I've done10x10, 10x20, and even 5x10. I've never gone over the 20x20=6:40. If an architectural engineer can explain his or her work in 6:40, my students can explain what they need to.

    Trick 2: Supersize it!

    For this trick, we'll visit John McWade at "Before & After"

    This trick seems so simple, yet it alludes so many of us. This is a trick you may have already been tricked into using if you use Pecha Kucha (see above) correctly. Notice, it says "PechaKucha 20x20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds". It does not say you show 20 slides with images on. The assumption is that your image fills the whole slide... Thus, you've supersized it!


    Trick 3: Rule of Thirds

    Designing on a grid sounds really counter-intuitive if you consider visual literacy to be entirely subjective and creative, totally the realm of dominantly right-brain thinkers. Never fear, my logical-mathematical and scientific friends. Most great design is actually the product of years of mathematical research. Go figure! Let's visit Brent Spore over at "Stuff Designers Do" to learn about the Rule of Thirds and (Bonus) the Phi grid.



    Well that about wraps it up. Look out for Design Matters: Part 3. Until then, here are the resources used in today's post:
    Good teaching and great designing!

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Games Based Learning Course (online)

    Hey peeps & tweeps! I'll be facilitating a course in games, games based learning, and gamification this Fall, called, "Simulations and Gaming Technologies for the Classroom™ Online". Head on over to PLS to sign up!

    We'll talk about current beliefs & assumptions about using video and computer games in the classroom. We'll look at some serious games. We'll even look at the mysterious art of game design. I hope to see some of you there!

    Saturday, July 28, 2012

    Mobile & BYOD in the Computer Lab

    First, Design Matters Part 2 is on the way in one week! For now, some other stuff I've been thinking about: Mobile and BYOD... To remain consistent, I'll focus on the visual design unit I do with my students to show how it can apply on the mobile environment.

    I’ve been devoting serious thought this summer to the ways in which I will include mobile in my classroom this coming school year. We have a new BYOD policy, a few sets of iTouch Devices and a set of iPads (with more ordered). I started by asking myself why I would want to integrate mobile in my class. After all, I teach in a computer lab and have a wealth of technology. The thing is, I can’t ignore this quote from Michael Soskil

    If we are preparing our students for life after school, we should allow them to use the tools they will be using when they get there.  How many jobs can you think of right now where a smart phone is not beneficial?  Mechanics order parts on their phone, engineers view blueprints, doctors calculate dosages, and grocers check inventory.  The list is endless.

    Clearly, the data is in favor of more mobile integration. So far, I’ve found ways to brilliantly introduce mobile into game design and video production, but I’m struggling in other areas, particularly visual design. There’s nothing as robust as Adobe’s Creative Suite for mobile, and Avairy’s online tools (that are disappearing in September by the way) don’t work in mobile browsers. If you want to create anything beautiful on a mobile device, you’re going to pay for it. Even moodboarding apps cost a lot of money.  

    Sunday, July 22, 2012

    Design Matters 1: Visual Literacy & the 21st Century

    It's the big day. Your students have been working on these projects for weeks. Some groups, going the traditional route have prepared a Power Point presentation. Some have made a VoiceThread or Animoto. A few brave groups have used Weebly, Blogger, or Wix to create a whole web site. Rubrics in hand, the day begins. Your hard work has paid off... mostly. Your students are proud of their work. The content has unusual depth. The students have met the expectations outlined on your rubric.

    Still... something is wrong. The projects are... well... they're ugly. You have this sick feeling knowing that they're out there on the web, pointing back at your class. This feeling makes you feel a little guilty. After all, "ugly" is very subjective, and they're only kids, kids who have worked very hard. What a shallow and superficial person you must be! Maybe you're just out of touch. Maybe cobalt blue text (in Jokerman font) on a black background with red and neon green highlights is all the rage right now. Maybe it is no longer considered distracting to put 12 flaming and exploding animated GIFs on a single Power Point slide.

    It's okay... You are not being superficial. The projects probably aren't as visually appealing (professional looking) as they could be, and it's not because they're just kids. Kids are creative and they take pride in what they do. It's also not superficial and merely subjective. What it is, is a lack of Visual Literacy.

    Design matters... It really does. Here's why I believe it's an important 21st century skill and why we need to teach it and expect it.

    Literacy in the Digital Age 

    This is a topic I've been thinking about for some time, but my disparate musings coalesced recently, when I saw Kathy Schrock at, a local education and technology conference. There, she talked about Literacy in the Digital Age being comprised of 13 distinct categories. One of those was Visual Literacy. According to ACRL,
    The importance of images and visual media in contemporary culture is changing what it means to be literate in the 21st century. Today's society is highly visual, and visual imagery is no longer supplemental to other forms of information. New digital technologies have made it possible for almost anyone to create and share visual media.  (ACRL's standards for visual literacy)
    Kathy gave those of us in the room a brief survey on the literacies covered in her address. Only 4.35% of the teachers felt they covered Visual Literacy well in the classroom. In my experience, this is about right. Further, Those that do, typically deal with the consumption of visuals, like reading pictures as text. After all, much of the the skills related to producing visually appealing (well designed) work seems to be a matter of taste or totally subjective. Still, if "Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media" (ACRL's standards for visual literacy), then it can be learned.

    It can and should be learned. It is important, and it goes way beyond the idea of "taste". Design matters... It's a skill that is in demand for everyone.

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    Comic Sans & Papyrus: Finally an intelligent and succinct explanation

    Thank you Karen Kavett! Finally I have a generally non-abrasive and intelligent way to share this with colleagues and students! I've had to re-post these vids from Youtube to Schooltube so they can be viewed in my building. I'll leave the rest up to Karen...

    Comic Sans


    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Projects, Paradigms, Preconceptions & Survival??

    A brief survey of the stuff that is coloring my decisions this 9 weeks in class & another plea for online community for my students...

    Paradigms, Context, & Survival...
    Now it's video clip time. I just want to share with you a bit of the context in which my thinking has been framed lately, before I talk about why I'm blowing up my curriculum and pursuing things that are driving me crazy. Many of you have seen this stuff before. If you haven't, watch these. They're good for you, like fiber & anti-oxidants all rolled into one delicious sweet roll:

    Sir Ken Robinson.

    Diane Ravitch - This video reminded me of  this article, which came across my Flipboard the other day, thanks to my awesome PLN... (supplemental reading)

    Jane McGonigal

    Projects, PBL, and Online Community
    One of the awesome things about being Middle School BCIT instructor is the freedom I have to teach a skills based curriculum in whatever context I choose. I've been providing a projects-based curriculum for some time, as a result of my constant diet of Edutopia, ISTE, & the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Until recently, this consisted of a Sustainable Design project for Seventh graders and a Visual Design project for Eighth Graders.

    As a result of my current pondering, reading, & media viewing, I've decided to open up both projects (plus three more, including Game Design) to both grade levels.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    New Videos on Tracing Floorplans in Sketchup

    One of the projects students may choose in my CIT 7 & 8 classes is Sustainable Design. The Goal: Design and advertise a home for a 4-person family living in the US using (around 3,000 sq. feet max) at least one Sustainable Architecture principle or Green Energy Source.

    As a part of the project, students will demonstrate a variety of technology fluency skills in the context of completing the following components:
    1. Research (tagged to your student Diigo account and our class Diigo group).
    2. Scale Floor Plan drawings (rendered in Google Sketchup or MS Visio)
    3. Student Choice 1:
      • Promotional Materials
      • Interior design Moodboards
      • Landscape Design Plan
      • Elevation Renderings in Sketchup
    4. Pecha-Kucha presentation of project as endcap (last week of class).
    In addition, students will regularly participate on an online community on Edmodo that includes multiple schools across & outside of the country.

    One of the challenges of providing a choice of complex projects in which students may demonstrate skills is managing the instruction of myriad specialized applications. I've been accomplishing this through Schooltube & Screencastomatic. Here are three of my most recent tutorials on drawing in Google Sketchup.

    Step 1: Importing a Sample Floorplan into Sketchup

    Step 2: Drawing interior & exterior walls

    Step 3: Push / Pull & 3d awesomeness...

    These are part of the larger series listed here:
    1. Step 1 - Import & Prep your Floorplan
    2. Step 2 - Finish Interior and Exterior Walls
    3. Step 3 - Push / Pull Walls etc.