Curation Makes the Difference: The Ken Burns App

Burns App
I admire Ken Burns for his storytelling and imagine him in my head a lot when it comes to digital storytelling. He transformed the way we think about still images with voice and music. But sitting through hours and hours worth of DVDs, even on subjects near to my heart like jazz and baseball, is something I just can’t do. (even though one of my neighbors is an editor with Burns and I feel guilt about not watching her work on a regular basis)

So I was intrigued when I saw the new Ken Burns App, and gave it a download. Here is what I was looking for: a curated collection of clips from various Ken Burns documentaries, culled and pulled together along various Big Ideas by Burns himself, with narrated introductions. I got all that, and more. The themes include art, politics, innovation and race, and while you only get one collection free (innovation), I ponied up the $9.99 for the rest because I just had to experience the Art collection (which mixes Billie Holiday with Frank Lloyd Wright with Woody Guthrie and more) and I am not regretting it. The experience is like a video mix tape, but with quality of storytelling and video production. I was hooked with the first segment.

The app is beautifully crafted, too, with a real feel for the way that touchscreens can be used to experience story. I suspect it will take me some time to get through all the collections, which is fine by me. I’m diving into the stories in order to learn more about America, and about filmmaking, and about digital curation. The Ken Burns App gives me plenty to chew on around all of those topics.

Peace (in the app),
Kevin

App Review: Make Beliefs Comix

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In workshops around using comics in the classroom, I often have teachers play around with Bill Zimmerman’s Make Beliefs Comic site. There are a number of reasons: it is relatively easy to use and understand; the site allows you to change to different languages (a great way to connect with English Language Learners); comics can be saved, printed or emailed to you; and there is no need for email to log in. You go and start making comics.

There are some limitations, too: no email means you can’t save comics or work on them later; the artwork — while fun — is rather limited; and the choices around text boxes (and flexibility of text box placement) is also limited. The site is what it is: a great way to get your fingers inky (virtually) with comics. And Bill Zimmerman’s work with ELL students in urban centers is inspiring. Plus, the books he creates around using comics for learning are pretty cool (he advertises his books on his site).

So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there is a new Make Beliefs Comix app for the iPad. It’s free, and I downloaded it last weekend and began playing around with it. It works fine and is a wonderful companion to the website comic builder. Again, there are limitations, so if you are looking for a robust webcomic tool, the Make Beliefs Comix app might not be for you. But I suspect that students in an iPad classroom could easily get making comics in minutes with the app. (Note: there is an advertising banner at the bottom of the comic builder, I noticed.)

Peace (in the comics),
Kevin

Game Review: Type Rider

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So, this is one of those games that made my jaw drop because it is so beautiful, visual, and so interesting, content-wise. The IOS game is called Type:Rider and while it functions like any number of the “runner games” out there (your players move through levels by running, or in this case, rolling, from danger and obstacles), Type:Rider incorporates the idea of design and typography as its platform of play.

I know. I had trouble thinking how they would pull it off, too, but they do it in wonderful fashion. The player rolls two dots — which I believe are called “interpoints” in typography speak — through a series of levels built around different styles of fonts, and along the way, there are places to learn more of the history of the design of writing. The stories told about font development and typography, and therefore writing itself, is fascinating and the game developers give just enough of the juicy historical details to make things interesting before you had back into the game itself.

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Each level consists of HUGE letters that became part of the game play itself, as you roll through rounded letters, jump over spiked points of type and move through an environment that seems perfectly scaled to feeling like a small point of font. The app suggests you use headphones for an immersive musical experience, and I agree. The music seems in sync with the style of font for each level, adding yet another element of design to the game play. And check out the background images behind the game itself. it’s another element of wonder here, with shadows and light giving the game a sense of mood.

I’ve only gotten my way through three levels in Type:Rider but I am impressed. Now, would this game be valuable to students? I don’t know. Yes, for the dynamics of play, but I suspect that interest in the history of typography might be a narrow field. Still, you would learn more than a few things about how the visual design of type impacts what and how we write, and what those choices mean to the books and texts we read.

The Type:Rider game costs $2.99 for the iPad, just so you know.

Peace (in the type),
Kevin

PS — cool “behind the scenes” video of the making of the game:

 

 

App Review: Cool Finger Faces

Fingers

Why would you use Cool Finger Faces? Oh, who knows. But it’s fun. I used the free version, so the tools were limited. Essentially, you take a photo of your finger(s) and then layer in faces. I added text after I uploaded the image to Flickr. But the app upgrade allows you to do that. I just couldn’t justify the $1.99, you know?

Peace (in the finger — not that finger!),
Kevin

Considering Political Perspectives through Newspapers of the World

Perspectives of the News
I’ve written before about the Newspaper App for the iPad that pulls in newspapers from around the world. But there is nothing like a Global Crisis to take a virtual tour of the headlines around the world, not only to see what other countries are thinking but also to analyze how media outlets use rhetoric to pursue a political path forward. With Syria on everyone’s mind, I wanted to see what some countries in the Middle East, as well as Russia, was viewing the developments of the potential of bombing the Assad regime that has been accused of using chemical weapons on its own people.

Perhaps not so surprising, many of the newspapers in the Middle East were in Arabic, but there are a few English-speaking news outlets. And not surprising, the media coverage in places like Lebanon are highly critical of the United States and focus on the US Navy beefing up its presence in the Middle East, and Russia is outright belligerent about America’s power (with headlines about Obama failing to make his case). Interestingly, none of the Chinese newspapers that I took a look at had barely a mention of the Syria crisis. The coverage from the G20 was all positive news about China’s future economic growth. I was curious about Israel, too, and the news there focused more on the use of chemical weapons and less on the United States gathering allies for a bombing campaign.

The Newspaper App costs 99 cents now (it used to be free) but it works wonderfully well for giving perspectives on the world. (I do note that there is a 17-old-plus warning on the app now, which is something to consider if you are a teacher. This is likely due to the coverage of war and other violence on the front pages of the world’s newspapers). Even without an app like this, older students can just as easily search for online newspapers and analyze the current events from geo-political viewpoints.  Or teachers can hand-pick headline articles to share with a class. This kind of critical research forces us to break out our often self-contained Patriotic stance and come to better understand other people of the world.

Peace (please),
Kevin

Webcomic: Waiting on the Download

The download for XCode took quite some time for me (DSL, wireless, etc.) And at one point, the download got gummed up, so I had to restart my computer and restart the download again. (This time, I used an Ethernet cord, which was much faster). I need the XCode software to keep working on my App Development Adventure project. So, I created this comic ..

The Tweets App Development2

Peace (in the wait),
Kevin

 

App Review: Visual Poetry

Word cloud poem
I admit it: I am a sucker for word clouds. I have been since that first Wordle created so long ago. This app — Visual Poetry — is a cool twist on word clouds, turning short poems into visual images. Relatively simple to use (type in poem, choose cloud type, and generate), the app makes writing interesting to behold. The image above is a short poem that I wrote.

Lost amidst these words
I scramble for meanings
undiscovered

In this case, I actually think the word cloud is better than than original. Perhaps it is that “scramble” idea.

The app costs $1.99, which seems rather steep for what it does. But I paid, since I like what it does. There might be other ones out there that are free or cheaper.

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

PS – check out this Tumblr blog of visual poetry (not related to the app at all).: http://visual-poetry.tumblr.com/

Panoramic Photography for DS106

Room Panorama for DS106 daily create
Yesterday’s Daily Create at DS106 suggested we take a panoramic photograph of a room in our house.  I am no photographer, so this use of imagery is very different for me. But I was game and I figured, there has to be an app for that, right? Of course there was. I first tried a free app for panoramic image but it was difficult to use, and I got frustrated with it. So, I pumped out 99 cents for an app called Panorama 360 Camera. It’s great, and includes an automatic helper for taking your photos. The app stitches them together for you into a 360 degree view.

I took the iPad and app outside and captured my backyard with it (I wanted to get my dog in every image but he would not work with me!), but used one of the app’s filters to create this different kind of 360 experience. It transforms my yard into a world, doesn’t it?
The Backyard

Isn’t that cool?

Peace (in the image),
Kevin

Adding an Augmented Reality Video to Connected Learning Principles

(NOTE: THIS IS UPDATED WITH LINK TO THE OVERLAY. I HAD TO FIGURE IT OUT!)

I’m following the lead of some new friends on the Making Learning Connected MOOC by trying out Augmented Reality. I toyed with the concept a few weeks ago but then lost the thread. I’m back, now, thanks to some exploration being done by others, and we are using the app called Aurasma. What it does is allows you to layer (they call it an “aura”) media on top of an image. The app comes with some animated “auras” but I wanted to see how I could put a video on top of an image.

So, given our focus on the principles of Connected Learning in the MOOC, I decided to use this image as my launch point:

 

http://connectedlearning.tv/sites/connectedlearning.tv/files/connected-learning-print.jpg

(or go directly to the image for full screen)

If you want to see the video that I created, explaining what Connected Learning means to me, you will need to use a mobile device, download the Aurasma app, and point it at this poster right here in this blog post. I’ve been testing it out by pointing my iPad at my Laptop, which is sort of weird in a way I can’t quite explain. (By the way, it doesn’t matter where you view this poster because as long as the app recognizes the image, it will launch my augmented reality layer). Once this fantastic concept map of Connected Learning is in the view finder of the app, the video should (?) launch. Actually, this is one of my questions: If anyone with the app points at this image, will it always bring up my aura layer?

Or if you are on your mobile device right now, use this direct link: http://auras.ma/s/0a79E to get started.

I took a quick screenshot of what it should look like when the video launches:
Augmented layer connected learning

I’d really like to know if this experiment with the Connected Learning principle map worked for you, and what possibilities you might have for augmented reality. What can we make with this kind of app? How can we connect?

Peace (in the layer),
Kevin

PS — here is a video that was shared in the MOOC about using the App. It gives a good view of what it all looks like.

 

App Review: The World in Figures

Somehow, last year, we got a free subscription to The Economist magazine. It’s not on the top of list for “must reads” each week (New Yorker and Time hold that spot) but it can be interesting at times as it sees the news through a world financial lens. I’ve been noticing a free app that the magazine is touting called The World in Figures, and decided to give it a go to see what it is.

Well, it’s pretty nifty.

The app is built around data from countries around the world, and the results come out as a sort of infographic format. You can search through categories such as education, crime and punishment, and freedom of the press, and see how countries are faring. You can even choose two countries and compare data points. Or you can randomly wander through topics or even use the trivia option to get random information about countries. The app is fairly easy to navigate and provides a glimpse at the world through numbers.

I could see students using this app to gather information around important topics as part of a research query. The visual rendering of information is useful for understanding the world.

Peace (in the app),
Kevin