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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

Making Collaborative Audio: Soundtrap

soundtrap for collaboration
The other day, I worked collaboratively with my friends Maha, Simon and Susan to create this birthday audio for our friend, Terry. We don’t live anywhere near each other and in fact, we are all over the globe, so the challenge was how to collaborate on an audio file together.

In the past, I might have asked them all to send audio clips to me, and then I would use Audacity or Garageband to pinch them together.

But this time, in true collaboration, I wanted to have us all working on the same file, online. I chose a site called Soundtrap, and it worked almost like a charm. I added some music that I recorded in the Garageband App, with some vocals, and then the others went in and recorded their tracks. It wasn’t perfect. Soundtrap doesn’t play nice with mobile devices, and it might be Chrome-browser-specific right now. We had to do a few workarounds. (Maha had to send me a wav file that I converted into MP3 before uploading).

However, once it was up and running, Soundtrap was relatively easy to use — you can record with your mic right into the space, or upload MP3 files, or use its loop library to create sounds. It is a neat way to build a song, and I am now trying that out with some folks — laying down a bass and drum track, and let others add in loops. Hmmm.

When we were done, we could download our file as an MP3, which we then shared over at Soundcloud. But, you could also share out a public link from Soundtrap itself. Check out Terry’s song.

All in all, a good site, with some limitations. I am wondering if this would work for the classroom … I suppose if students had email (mine don’t), they could create collaborations or maybe do interviews with others (not just in the classroom, either). Some possibilities …

Peace (in the muse),
Kevin

New Yorker: Hollywood and Vine

Clockwise from top: the digital stars KingBach, Tyler Oakley, Brittany Furlan, Joey Graceffa, and Cam and Nash.

(ILLUSTRATION BY ALEX WILLIAMSON via New Yorker)

Did anyone else read the article in New Yorker called Hollywood and Vine, about the emergence of viral video sharing and how frightened Hollywood is becoming of where young people are watching video? I was intrigued, and wondering how folks are using the 6 second Vine app (and the slightly longer Instagram video sharing) to create small movies with vast and young audiences, and then I realized: it’s becoming all about audience and profit.

It’s not about art.

Duh.

But, darn it, it should be. Our media tools have opened up some amazing possibilities, and yet, as writer/reporter Tad Friend follows some famous “Viners” around, he notices that every shot for the Vine flick (all 6 seconds of it) is done with hopes of garnering a larger audience of followers and likers, and that is done in hopes of getting commercial ventures (like Taco Bell and others) to pay the Viners for using products in their flicks. The Viners do voluntary product placements. They reach out to corporations. They aim for the paycheck.

Ack. Gag. Repeat (or loop, maybe).

Is this what we are moving into now? Hybrid media making as hybrid advertising? I am not naive. I know businesses look to trends and then dig their claws in. They entice media makers. They sometimes “remix” (in a bad way) close enough to resemble the original, and hope no one is noticing. And I know people need to make a living.

But I can’t help but be dismayed and worried that the shift into this powerful movie-making culture is really about an “all eyes on me now” mentality, where the art that is made is not made for art, but for commercial sensibilities. This is not a knock of the selfie-generation. Plenty of people are making interesting movies that focus the lens on the self. This is a knock against using the self to sell stuff to those who are watching your self.

I’ll end this bloggy diatribe of a middle-aged, middle-class white male ¬†(ie, probably out of the loop, so to speak, with the culture featured in the article) with this belief:

I want my students, and my own children, to see the possibilities of creating media the way I see it: an ocean of possibilities that allow you to express yourself in new and interesting ways, with (yes) a potential audience that can connect and further your art. Let art be the center of what you do.

Is that too much to ask?

Peace (in the wonder),
Kevin

 

Hour of Code: The Classroom 2.0 Live Archive

In case you are curious, here is the archived recording of a conversation that my colleague, Gail Poulin, and I had about coding and literacy and learning over at Classroom 2.0 Live. It was a lively conversation, with lots of sharing, and connecting into the Hour of Code initiative that takes place this week as part of Computer Science Week.

Along with the media archive, there is a long list of coding resources available at the Livebinder created for the session. While Gail and I had some started links and resources, it was the sharing by everyone in the session from around the world that makes the Livebinder a keeper.

Check out the Hour of Code Livebinder.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin