Flip PD with Versal and Create More Collaboration Time

Deconstructing Currier and Ives Deconstructing Currier and Ives

Last week Marta Turner (NWRESD) and I had the privilege to work with a team of Oregon teachers in a workshop “The Student as Historian.” The session was jointly sponsored by the Library of Congress, the TPS Western RegionNWRESD.

We preceded the onsite workshop with some “flipped” learning using Versal (a free and stylish LMS) and leveraged our on-site workshop time to design lessons using primary sources from the Library of Congress digital resources for teachers.  

Versal provides for easy import of a variety of other web tools with a simple drag and drop. I used it embed a number of Disqus forums, YouTube videos and collaborative Google Docs. Before we even met, participating teachers were able to use Versal to get to know each other, use tutorials from the Library of Congress website, study historical thinking skills, pose and respond to historical sourcing scenarios and post research proposals. During our onsite workshop I continued to use Versal as our LMS to host our live Google Hangout and collaboratively design research projects via an embedded Google Slide show. For more on what Versal can do click here.

Here’s our Versal pre-course below. For a direct link click here
Scroll to bottom of embed – use the 3 bars in lower left to navigate the lessons. Or click “next lesson” in lower right.

How to Tweet Live Video of Your Presentation with Meerkat

Meerkats-Auckland_ZooNo doubt you’ve heard of Meerkat and its coronation as the next big thing at the recent SXSW conference. If not, think of it as a mobile video streaming app that piggybacks on Twitter. Imagine a live video stream of Romney’s “47% moment,” and you’ll see why Meerkat has caused a stir. 

To quickly check it out, search #Meerkat on Twitter and you will be inundated with “LIVE NOW #meerkat” tweets – followed by a url. Click on the link and most likely you’ll find a screen that says “STREAM OVER. Tune in next time @so-and-so is live.” (Plus an invitation to download the app and follow the Tweeter). I’m guessing that most Meerkasts are people testing it out for a few seconds. But you might also get to watch a live screencast of a band rehearsal or a breaking news story. Time will tell if Meerkat is the next Instagram or Ello.

If you have downloaded the app its easy to sign up with your Twitter account. Don’t be afraid to try your own test Meerkast. Most likely no one will tune in so you can check it out in private. If any viewers start watching you they will appear as Twitter icons at the top of the screen. You can decide if you’re having a bad hair day and it’s time to shutdown.

I recently “Meerkasted” (is that now a verb?) a talk I gave to a small gathering of colleagues at the University of Portland. The app was easy and effective enough to demonstrate to me that Meerkat could be useful for reaching an off-site audience at presentations and other events. Meerkat doesn’t provide an FAQ, so here’s what I’ve learned through experience or research. 

In advance:
Meerkat allows you either begin a live stream immediately, or “schedule” one for the future (no sooner than 5 mins). If you choose to schedule, then others who follow you on Meerkat or Twitter will see your promo tweet (with an image you can upload). They can choose to subscribe via the Meerkat app or simply check back on your Twitter stream at the appointed time.

It could be my bad luck, but I tried to “schedule” a Meerkat multiple times and was never able to get it to work. (If someone knows the trick to that or has any other Meerkat tips, please leave a comment below.) So instead of scheduling it, I just tweeted out an advance notice to tune in to the event with date and time. Then I started a live stream just before I began the talk.

Tech tips for set up:

  • At this point it’s iOS only, but Android is sure to follow.
  • Meerkat is a bit of a battery hog. I suggest having your iPhone on a charger.
  • You’ll need a mount to hold your iPhone. I use a Square Jellyfish “Spring Tripod Mount.” It clamps securely on my iPhone 5s and provides a junction to a standard tripod. It’s adjustable enough to accommodate the larger 6 series and most iPhone cases. With a mini tripod, you could set up your iPhone on your lectern.
  • Be sure to set your iPhone in portrait format. If you try to shoot in landscape, Meerkat will zoom in and convert the image to portrait anyway.
  • The front facing camera works fine and points the iPhone mic in your direction. If you set the camera fairly close to you, it allows you to check your position in the frame. 
  • Stick with a headshot. While you can view a Meerkast on any web-enabled device, it’s really designed for the intimacy of iPhone viewing. I had a Keynote presentation going in the background, but kept it out of the frame. (There’s too much contrast to try shoot video of a person in front of a presentation screen.)
  • If you have the iPhone set up within a few feet of you, its mic should work fine.
  • If you choose to use iPhone’s iSight camera remember that the built in mic will be facing away from you. You’ll be “off-mic” unless you add external microphone. You could use a small directional mic, but you’re making this all it too complicated. Meerkat is useful because its simple. You could use a headphone mic, but do you really want your live audience to think your listening to music? 
  • My experience and some contact with other users suggests that the sound / image sync is more stable when you use your cell network rather than wifi. In my tests, it was always flawless over cell, wifi got out of sync half the time. (Another reason I keep my grandfathered unlimited data plan with AT&T.)  
  • There’s 10 sec delay between you and your Meerkast, so I wouldn’t spend too much time focussed on your iPhone. 
  • Your Meerkast audience can tweet in comments which will appear on your Meerkat app. (That interaction works best when you are doing a intimate Meerkast over your latte). I found them too small to read during my presentation. If you want to follow Meerkast tweets while presenting, you could have another device with you at the podium dialed into Twitter. 
  • You could respond to tweets coming in and do the whole “backchannel” thing, but that can get complicated during a presentation. Unless you have someone else to follow and respond to your Meerkast tweets, keep it simple and focus on your live audience.

After the session:
Since Meerkat only streams in portrait, a YouTube broadcast of your Meerkast will look like it was shot by someone who doesn’t know enough to shoot their video in the desktop-friendly landscape mode. Nonetheless, Meerkat allows you to save your livesteam to your iPhone at the end of the session. You could then upload that to YouTube or use in another context. That save feature seems to work fine for shorter streams. I tried to save a 50 min session and it failed.

Another option for saving your livesteam is to add #katch hashtag in the title of your Meerkast. Katchkats will automatically create a YouTube video and post it back to Twitter with your Twitter handle. (If you forget, you can tweet a #katch hashtag via the Meerkat app anytime during your session and your Meerkast will be saved). #Katch places some limits on lengths of Meerkasts – it failed to save my 50 min session because of it’s length. Note: If you shoot a Meerkast in landscape and save via #katch it still ends up on YouTube in portrait.

Bottomline:
Meerkat is easy to use, but the product is ephemeral. If you really want to share a high quality record of your presentation, you should be using another platform like UStream.

When I Meerkasted my presentation, I stayed focussed on the audience in the room. Meerkat was set up, running and other than staying in the frame, I ignored it. Since I was unable to save the presentation, I have no permanent record of the event. But I had a tech in the room tuned into to my Meerkast checking in on his headphones. From what he told me, it went fine. I had a dozen Meerkast viewers who didn’t tweet much. But that was fine with me since it was a test run. I’m keynoting and running some workshops at Southern Oregon University Ed Tech Summit next month. Tune in on April 17th and see Meerkat in action. 

Image Credit Wikipedia / Vườn thú Auckland

The Bots are Coming! Better Re-think My Lesson Plans

S.H_Horikawa_–_Star_Strider_Robot_Close_Up

Here’s a suggestion for your back-to-school faculty meeting – take 15 minutes to watch Humans Need Not Apply by CGP Grey. Then have a discussion on it’s implications for your students and (your curriculum). Talking about robot invasions is way more fun than updates on new state tests.

The video’s thesis is simple – robots are coming for our jobs. Actually, they have already taken many of them. And it’s not just low-skilled labor they’re taking over.

… white-collar work is no safe haven either. If your job is sitting in front of a screen and typing and clicking — like maybe you’re supposed to be doing right now — the bots are coming for you too, buddy.

I’ll bet that accurately filling out a worksheet won’t be a valued bot-competitive skill.

Are the professions safe from bots? Not exactly. The video makes the case for bots replacing significant aspects of legal, medical and even creative work. (And I’d add teachers to that list.)

It begs the question – what skills should we be teaching to students who will have to compete against the bots for employment? I don’t think there are any easy answers to that question. But I’ll bet that accurately filling out a worksheet won’t be a valued bot-competitive skill.

As the video concludes:

We have been through economic revolutions before, but the robot revolution is different.

Horses aren’t unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There’s little work a horse can do that do that pays for its housing and hay.

And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own. …

This video isn’t about how automation is bad — rather that automation is inevitable. It’s a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable — through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.

For full text of the video click here.

Image credit: S.H Horikawa – Star Strider Robot
By D J Shin (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

See You At integratED Conference #iPDX14

I’m looking forward to presenting at integratED Portland 2014 February 26–28, 2014
Sheraton Hotel Portland Airport Portland, Ore. It’s a premier edtech conference features active hands-on sessions with an impressive team of presenters. I’m honored to be doing two workshops.

integratED Portland

Getting Started with iBooks Author
You’ll leave with workflow secrets for using iBooks Author, confident in your ability to create and share your own iBook. Here’s your chance to see how easy it is for students and teachers to create multi-touch iBooks using iBA. We’ll demonstrate the key steps in designing an iBook that can be published to iTunes or shared within your school. BYO Mac loaded with iBooks Author and some content you’d like to work with (text files, images jpg or png, Keynote decks, video m4v, audio m4a). You’ll learn efficient workflow strategies for creating and sharing your own multi-touch iBook. You’ll leave with a demonstration iBook and the confidence to keep going.

Right From the Start: Infusing Tech and PBL in Teacher Prep
Many are critical with the quality of teacher prep in the US. Here’s my attempt to get it right by infusing his University of Portland social studies methods class with practical tech applications and community-based PBL projects. Students utilized tech tools to support instruction and collaboration – LearningCatalytics, WordPress, Evernote, Learnist.

They served as consultants to the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center – a Japanese American History Museum in a variety of projects – designing curriculum for traveling exhibits, building an online museum, and a iPhone app walking tour of Japantown PDX. (In collaboration with PDX mobile app developer – GammaPoint) Student also collaborated on developing an iBook showcase of their work. Some of the grad and undergrad students will be on hand to discuss their reactions to the course and lead participants in a LearningCatalytics – powered reflection on their own teaching prep experience.

PBL: I Come to Understanding by Making

Matthew ShlianWatch this short video as Matthew Shlian talks about himself, how he learns and the role that curiosity plays in his work. Then think about the kind of classroom that would foster Matt and learners like him. Matt states: 

I failed at math. I failed at Algebra. But I can understand things if I can see them. And I can actually understand them better if I can hold them in my hand. … A lot of my work is about curiosity. I come to understanding by making. If I can see what something’s going to look like when it’s finished, then I don’t want to make it. That would be like filling out a form.

Ghostly International presents Matthew Shlian from Ghostly International on Vimeo.

If I can see what something’s going to look like when it’s finished, then I don’t want to make it. That would be like filling out a form.

As the video description notes:
Matthew Shlian works within the increasingly nebulous space between art and engineering. As a paper engineer, Shlian’s work is rooted in print media, book arts, and commercial design, though he frequently finds himself collaborating with a cadre of scientists and researchers who are just now recognizing the practical connections between paper folding and folding at microscopic and nanoscopic scales.

An MFA graduate of Cranbrook Academy, Shlian divides his time between teaching at the University of Michigan, mocking up new-fangled packaging options for billion dollar blue-chips, and creating some of the most inspiring paper art around.

Ghostly teamed up with the Ann Arbor-based photographer and videographer Jakob Skogheim, to produce this feature short, which combines interview and time-lapse footage of Shlian creating several stunning new pieces. 

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