Using MapStack: Water and Parks as Art

Mapping Water and Parks in Northampton
The other day, I wrote a review about The Best American Infographics of 2014, and noted the reference to a free data mapping tool called MapStack. I gave it a try and it was interesting. The image above is a map of where I live, with waterways and parks referenced in a watercolor overlay. It looks very artistic, doesn’t it?

Want to make your own? Here is a quick tutorial video, but I just went in and played around to make mine. I wish there were more data points to use, but I still found the site intriguing as a map representation of a geographic area.

Map Stack Tutorial from Stamen on Vimeo.

Peace (in the map),

Showing the Work of Showing Your Work

Show Yer Work #walkmyworld
The other day, Terry left a comment here about the need for more of us to show our work when creating digital compositions. It not only provides reflection points but creates a path forward for others to also make things and learn from others.

That led me to create the comic there (I guess Terry is the giraffe), using an interesting view tool in Firefox that allows you to access a 3D version of a website, and then twist and turn it.

In the interest of showing your work, here is how to use Firefox (I think it only works with Firefox browser) to explore the architecture of a site and its connections beyond.

First, with Firefox open on a site, right-click mouse on your screen. Select “Inspect Element.”
Explore Web Architecture1

Second, there is a little 3D box in the lower corner of the screen. Click that to access 3D view mode.
Explore Web Architecture2

Now, use your mouse or cursor and drag the screen. The perspective will shift and spin, giving you a view of links and media, and even a true behind-the-scenes views of a website.
Explore Web Architecture3

Have fun!

Peace (in the share),

A Fake Comic Tutorial on Using a Real Comic App

I posted this comic yesterday to the Walk My World twitter stream because a series of tweets had me laughing.

Bring the Dog #walkmyworld

Greg, over at Walk My World, then asked if I might create a tutorial on the comic strip app that I use quite a bit these days – Comics Head. Sure, I thought, and then realized it could be a bit subversive, too. So the tutorial is a comic making fun of making a tutorial of the making of a comic.

Using Comics Head app

Head spinning? Yeah.

Then, in the spirit of the YouShow15 project and its emphasis on the Director’s Cut of making media, I used the audio feature in the app (which is a cool new function) to create a fake “Director’s Cut” of the making of the comic … I won’t do the whole recursive thing again.

Peace (in the share),

Walking Through the World

This is another teaser for the Walk My World project. I just had to use Marc Cohn’s song, and tapped into Mozilla’s Popcorn Video Maker to create a video with animated gifs.

Check out Walk Through the World

And I am adding some “Director’s Notes” as a sort of cross-reference to the YouShow project now underway:

I have long loved Marc Cohn as a songwriter, and this particular song from an early album has resonated with me over the years. It seems like a perfect fit for the theme of Walk My World, although he is writing more about a relationship than about media literacy. Still …. I first wanted to make a Zeega, but then could not find the song in Soundcloud. So, I went with Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker. I found the song in YouTube and layered it down, turning off the video and keeping only the audio. Then, I searched for “walking” in the Popcorn search engine, using the Giffy site as my main focus. I wanted it to be Zeega-like. I listened to the lyrics, adding in non-walking pieces where it seemed to fit (I loved the gif of the girl on her bed, reading, kicking her legs back and forth). I only used a verse and chorus (and wish Popcorn had a fade music button). I like how it came out.

Plus, here is a visual tutorial I made on using Popcorn Maker:
Using Popcorn Maker

Now, go make yer own! Or remix mine!
Peace (in the world you walk),

Are You Ready to Walk My World?

Just walking

Last year, I saw some friends of mine — Ian and Greg — launching a project called Walk My World. They were dipping into ways that new literacies could be used in connected ways, with connections to ongoing exploration and research they are doing on literacy, and so I hopped on board. It was a very low stress, low barrier endeavor, with some classes of university students and other outliers (like me) joining in for media creation activities.

You can see what I did last year via this Storify that I had made.

Well, Ian and Greg around walking the world again, and as it was last year, you are invited. Find out more as they do a “slow launch” this week of Walk My World and see what unfolds in the weeks ahead.

Walk my World

I made these comics to help get the word out. Interested? Check out the Walk My World overview at Ian’s blog. Or go to the main Walk My World page, where prompts will be provided and resources shared.

Peace (in the walk),


Gathering Resources on PARCC (via Diigo Outliner)

Parcc Outline in Diigo
I am working with a team as consultants to an urban STEM middle school, where PARCC is on the horizon and administrators and teachers are starting to get nervous.  They work in a large school district, where data and test numbers matter in what one could only say is out of proportion to the work being done by these teachers. I don’t blame them for getting nervous about PARCC. There are shifts coming and the sense in the school is that students are not quite ready for the expectations of the writing. Maybe not the teachers, either.

So, as much to help them as to help me and my colleagues (PARCC is coming for us, too, but not this year) think about this testing, I tinkered around with a new tool in Diigo called Outliner, which allows you to outline bookmarks with notes. It seemed to work pretty well for me.

See what you think, and feel free to use any of the resources. Notice my first two resources and also my last category .. keeping teaching and learning in perspective as best as we can, you know?

Check out my PARCC Outliner Resource

Peace (yep, PARCC),

Slice of Life: Oh, That Snowy/Icy Day

(This is a Slice of Life post, where we zoom in on the little moments of life. Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. You should write a slice today. Use the hashtag on Twitter #sol15 if you do)

I just knew it. Sunday’s night’s forecast for Monday morning looked iffy, with rain and snow and ice and the temperature hovering just around freezing. Sure enough, the morning began with a series of phone calls: my school district, my wife’s school district, my sons’ school district, and then my wife’s cell phone — where she also has the cancellation texts sent — started to pipe up with an early morning soundtrack of alarm.

No school. (Well, no school for the boys and I — my wife, an administrator, still went in and worked in a quiet building all day).

So, what did I do?

  • Walked the dog and made the coffee
  • Blogged and tweeted in the morning, checked RSS feeds, added a few pieces to my Flipboard magazines
  • Tinkered around with annotations via Hypothesis (for the forthcoming Walk My World adventure)
  • Tinkered around with shared annotation feature on Diigo with Terry
  • Played and then assessed some student video games (see Peter’s game)
  • Finished reading aloud The Greenglass House to my son (good book! Second half had us hooked completely)
  • Finished reading How We Got to Here by Steven Johnson (good book! How one innovation impacts others is fascinating.)
  • Boys and I watched The Princess Bride, even though younger boy was one reluctant (he remembers watching pieces as a littler one and didn’t like it but his older brothers said ‘you have to see this movie’) and then he was glued to the flick. It’s a classic.
  • Watched Terry remix my poem (on his own snowy day). Kicked up the volume when the bass kicked in. Dang. That’s some good bass.
  • Strummed some chords on a guitar and then started to write a song. I had no lyrics on my mind so I dug around in my guitar case and found some lyrics of a friend. Worked them into a song called Running. Recorded on Garageband app. Sent it to him as a surprise gift.
  • Read more to my son (started The Boundless)
  • Finished the day on the couch with my wife, watching the first episode of Netflix’s Marco Polo (just ‘eh’ so far) before the Internet went down.
  • Read a few pages from A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane, and then drifted off to sleep

I guess the snow day had a lot going on … I just didn’t realize it until I wrote about it.

Peace (in the daze),


When a Shared Link Becomes a Kinetic Poem

Yesterday morning, Terry Elliott shared out a link to a site/app called Patatap, which allows you to make music of a sort by using the keyboard of your computer (or the screen of your mobile device, I guess … I didn’t try that yet). Playing around with the keyboard had me thinking: what if the keys I pressed were not random at all, but were words? What if I made music to say something?

That led to this, as I type in Dogtrax three times. (I used Snagit to do a video capture).

Later, as Terry gave it a try, too, and then Susan and others, I thought: what if we could take a small poem (Susan suggested a haiku) and superimpose the words with the keyboard-music, and maybe add some text? What would that look like as a video?

This is what it looked like, and sounded like …

It was a nifty bit of playing with poetry. How did I do it?

  • Wrote the poem (duh) and purposely made it short. I decided that it needed some sort of music theme or tie-in, thus the “meshing of melody” ending.
  • Opened up Patatap, and Snagit.
  • Began recording, and as I spoke the words of the poem, I typed the words of the poem in Patatap. I think the narration is a bit stilted, as I was trying to find some rhythm to the words and still keep the rhythm of the tapping.
  • Saved the video file. Uploaded video to Youtube.
  • I then used YouTube video editor to add in “annotations” and that allowed me to layer in the text. I tried not to use every word in the poem. Instead, I was going for ideas, letting the narration move the poem along.
  • Finally, I shared it out.
  • You try it?

Peace (in the poem),