Light painting – part 2

Posted by on July 20, 2014 in clmooc

In the continuing experiments on light painting (see part 1 here), last night I played with some outside shots, none of which I am particularly enamored with.

Then I tried some of the third type of light painting, where you move the camera. A few of these I really like.

There’s one more round I want to try. Think burning things.

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A new take on the CLMOOC make bank

Posted by on July 18, 2014 in clmooc

Last year, in CLMOOC, we launched the first iteration of the Make Bank. Inspired by DS106, we were very enthusiastic about this way to encourage participants to self-direct their learning and to generate and reuse content.

This first iteration of the bank was built in WordPress using Gravity Forms, an approach which I’ve subsequently used successfully in several other projects as well.

Of course, like all projects, by the end of the first year, there was a wish list of new features we had, and a better way to organize and preview the content was high on the list. So when Alan Levine announced the availability of a new WordPress theme implementation of the DS106 assignment bank, we jumped right on it!

The facts that this theme hadn’t been deployed yet, our own technical resources were limited, and time was short caused us (me, really) some trepidation, but we forged ahead.

Now the new Make Bank has been rolled out, and we love it! The advantages we’d hoped for — better organization, a more graphic display, and the ability to add examples and tutorials — all proved to be very beneficial. Just a few weeks into CLMOOC 2014, the community has already added 40 new makes and over 60 new examples and tutorials. To me, that demonstrates the usability of the bank.


In terms of development, we did some customization to make Alan’s theme do what we wanted. Alan was a great help with this, as the learning curve for us was high and he knows the code intimately since he wrote it. As often happens, our use case wasn’t exactly what was originally envisioned. Some of the things we customized included separating out “difficulty ratings” from general user ratings, adding category sorting, adding tags, adding notifications (we moderate all posts), allowing multiple categories to be selected, displaying the submitter’s name with examples and tutorials, and some bug fixes. Some (most?) of this has been incorporated back into Alan’s build as appropriate.

(Note: For CLMOOC, we did not use the syndication/aggregation features.)

And there are still some additional enhancements we’d like to make, but for now things are sailing smoothly.

For others considering implementing this theme, it is worth considering that as a theme, it requires a separate WordPress installation. This can make it challenging to integrate with other existing WordPress sites. Personally, I think it could be advantageous to implement this functionality as a plug-in rather than a theme, but that’s a project for another day/year….

Much thanks to Alan Levine, Brad Emerson, the National Writing Project, and the CLMOOC community for making this work possible and shareable. I am excited to see what the future brings for our Make Bank.


Light painting – part 1

Posted by on July 17, 2014 in clmooc

I saw something on light painting about 6 months ago and was intrigued. Not sure I could really accomplish it at the time, I submitted it as a Daily Create challenge and hoped I’d try it when it came up again. (I’m not sure it ever did; I’ve been a bit disconnected for a good part of the summer.)

Then last week, as a part of the Making Learning Connected MOOC (CLMOOC) that I’m involved in, a “storytelling with light” make popped up, and naturally, I thought “Light painting!”

So the first thing I did was watch a ton of light painting tutorials and looked at a bunch of examples.

One thing I learned is that there are at least three different kinds of light painting. All involve long exposures. The one I’d always thought of was where you draw a picture or write a word with light; this is apparently called light drawing. The second is where you actually “paint” an object with light creating a spotlight kind of effect. (It wasn’t until I did this that I actually understood the “painting” aspect of this craft. A guy in one video I watched called his flashlight his “brush.”) The third type involves moving the camera to create a motion effect. (In this case, the camera is the “brush.”)

Armed and inspired with all this information, I decided I’d first try to get the basic technique down (and see if this work for me at all) and then would think about storytelling later. (More on that in a subsequent post.)

All you really need to do this is a camera that lets you manually set aperture and exposure time, a tripod, and a light source. The light source could be a flashlight, a laser pen, LED lights, a lighter, or anything burning.


I used my new Nikon 1 J1 camera with manual settings of F16 and an exposure of 30 seconds. (Toward the end of this session, when I was more confident, I shortened the exposure time for a few shots.) I also found it useful to have two people, since there is a lot of switching of lights off and on and shuffling around in the dark.

The first thing I tried was the second kind of light painting where an object is illuminated by painting it with light. (Note: For the purposes of this experiment, none of these photos have been retouched.)

I was pretty amazed by the first results.

Also I have to say that while you can do this with a digital or film camera, having the immediate feedback of digital was incredibly powerful. It allowed for a lot more play, experimentation, and iteration.

Then I moved on to light drawing.

This was done with a lighter; much brighter and more focused light source.

Can you tell what this says? (It took a couple tries to get this.)

Finally, a few other random trials.

This was done by twirling a light around in a circle.

After this, Brad and I talked for a long time about all the different things we want to try with this. We also brainstormed some storytelling ideas, as well as some thoughts about combining this with stop motion. Lots to think about and lots to try. Stay tuned for more adventures in light painting.


Youth Voices – The online course edition?

Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Uncategorized



A group of folks have been talking about the possibility of putting together some online courses (MOOCs?) for students on Youth Voices to participate in together.

(For those unfamiliar, Youth Voices is an amazing site where youth can explore their interests. Here youth of all ages are invited to voice their thoughts about their passions, to explain things they understand well, to wonder about things they have just begun to understand, and to share discussion posts with other young people using as many different genres and media as they can imagine!)

The primary format of Youth Voices is blog posts. For those who are looking to create or use more structured “assignments,” there are also a set of missions, which outline project ideas. Teachers and students can post their own missions, and most most missions take a relatively short period of time to complete.

Last year, Paul Allison constructed a large collection Common Core aligned units that could be structured into a whole year long curriculum in English Language Arts, History Social Studies, Arts and Media or Science.

Sometimes on Youth Voices, groups from different classrooms around the world collaborate on topics of common interest, leading to some pretty amazing conversations. This led us to wonder if it might make sense to set up some medium length (4-6 weeks?) online courses that classrooms or individual students could sign up for. These might include choices of shorter missions to complete or students or teachers might choose their own activities around the common theme.

The main point though would be to give students in different locations a ready way to collaborate with others.

William_ShakespeareOne idea is to try a spring course like this for AP English students. The common theme could be an author like Shakespeare or a genre like dystopian literature. Students (and teachers) would have options for what specific texts they might read or what projects they might do, but they would all be writing on Youth Voices and commenting on each other’s work over a common period of time.

In thinking this through, many questions come to mind:

  • What topics might attract a critical mass of students?
  • Is it feasible to coordinate schedules so that cross-class collaboration is possible?
  • How structured or how loose should this be?
  • Would some kind of “assignment bank” for students to choose from be helpful?
  • What platform might work best for these online courses?

This platform question is one I’ve puzzled over again and again. Being a proponent for openness, I tend toward more openly accessible options, which rules out things like Blackboard, Coursesites and Moodle. Here are a few options I’ve thought about for this situation.

Youth Voices
(could be a wiki on YV or HTML pages)


  • Same location that is being used for other Youth Voices work; single log on [In my mind, this is a pretty huge benefit.]
  • Open


  • Not really a “course system;” no notifications, tracking or other organization except what we do manually
  • Requires page creation in HTML; not easy for all users
  • Would require a fair amount of facilitation/organization



  • Course system with notifications and some user tracking
  • Open
  • Easy to use


  • Separate from Youth Voice; one more place to go

G+ (or even Facebook??)


  • Super easy to use


  • Separate from Youth Voice; one more place to go
  • Proprietary, not really open
  • Subject to the whims of third-party owner
  • Hard to organize content

Another open platform, like a wiki


  • Flexible
  • Open
  • Easy to use


  • Separate from Youth Voice; one more place to go
  • Hard to track
  • (Possibly) Not really a “course system;” no notifications, tracking or other organization except what we do manually

I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Is the idea of a Youth Voices online course appealing? If so, what topics and timing would be of most interest to you? What features would you like to see? How would you like to see this organized so that it work best for you?

And most importantly, would you like to brainstorm this and/or participate in its creation?


K12 Online Conference 2014

Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve written before about how valuable I think the K12 Online Conference is. For those unfamiliar, it’s a FREE, open, online conference open to ANYONE organized by educators for educators around the world interested in integrating emerging technologies into classroom practice.

Well, this year’s strands and keynoters have been announced, and the Call for Proposals is now up. Proposals are due August 15.

I know that most of you reading this have a lot to contribute to a conference like this, so please consider proposing a session. We’ll all benefit!



Collaborative storytelling w/Vines

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

(This post is a bit of a departure from what normally appears here, so bear with me.)

Over lunch today, Brad and I were talking about the potential of Vines (or other similar tools?) to be used in distributed collaborative storytelling.

One idea would be that a group could outline a story and then each person could make a Vine for their portion. (The plot points would have to be quite granular since Vines are only 6 seconds long. :) This could be done via a Google spreadsheet with people signing up and later posting links for their segments.

The resulting story could then be displayed on a web page as a series of embedded Vines (or they could be compiled into one combined movie). If the group was big enough, multiple people could develop out different versions of each segment, and end viewers could choose their own adventure. Perhaps different plot point versions could even be developed.

Brad suggested this be tried with a well known story like something from Shakespeare. I was thinking of it more for original stories (well, as original as any story is).

One question I had was how you’d maintain character continuity with different people contributing. Brad suggested props, e.g. “the guy with the baseball hat is always the doctor.” Or you could go by color, e.g. “the guy in the red shirt is always Joe.” I guess you could also use name tags or some other device.

I’m wondering if anyone’s done anything like this before and if so, whether there are any examples, tools, or suggestions.


OER and open learning…part 2

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking lately about the intersections and interdependency between OER and open learning.

Just after my last post, some unrelated conversations bubbled up in the interwebs, including one in which David Wiley asserted that “‘Open pedagogy’ is the set of pedagogical practices only possible to engage in when course content is openly licensed.”

I don’t really agree with that. Yes, I think open licensing encourages open learning. Yes, I believe that OER is a gateway to open learning. But I don’t think it’s necessary.

I’ve seen perfectly lovely open learning taking place with traditionally copyrighted materials (like most of the Internet). And conversely, I’ve seen some pretty traditional, direct instruction, closed learning happening with open licensed content.

While ideally I’d love to see OER and open learning existing together in perfect harmony, if I had to pick one or other, I think open learning is more important.

After thinking about this throughout the week, at Hewlett’s OER grantee meeting last week, Hewlett’s Barbara Chow made a statement to the effect that OER is not a product; it’s a way of teaching and learning. (I’m still looking for this slide to get the exact quote. They don’t seem to have been posted. Does anyone have this?)

I then saw that the esteemed OpenCourseWare Consortium has been renamed the Open Education Consortium.

Maybe the OER movement is moving on to a new stage.


Genius Hour as MOOC?

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in clmooc

A few of us have been talking about the idea of fostering cross-generational participation in cMOOCs lately, and as I think about this my mind keeps coming back to the idea of Genius Hour as a MOOC.

For those unfamiliar, the idea of Genius Hour (also sometimes called Google 20% time) is to give students some dedicated time to pursue their own passions. Whenever I think about Genius Hour, I think “Why don’t we have this for teachers too?”

So how about a MOOC where people of all ages are encouraged to identify and pursue a topic they are passionate about? It could be an inquiry project, a maker project, or something else of their choosing.

The advantages of doing this as a MOOC are:

  • Taking place over a fixed period of time bounds the project and makes it more approachable. (“course”)
  • Having access to many others, including hopefully some with similar passions, allows collaboration. (“massive”)
  • Being in an open space allows delightfully unexpected synergies to occur. (“open”)
  • Participants could do this from anywhere. (“online”)

As a learner, I would delight in participating in something like this. In fact, my head is buzzing with things I might pursue in this way.

So what do you think? Does this idea have legs? Want to start something like this?


OER and open learning

Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

I’ve been a part of a several online discussions lately about “open learning” and OER. It’s increasingly apparent to me that these are two very different things and that there may not be as much overlap as I once thought. (I have often maintained that OER, even when used in conventional ways, leads to open learning.)

Another realization is that while open learning seems to be picking up steam (e.g. Connected Educator activities, Connected Learning, etc.), OER seems to be of less  interest. I wonder if OER is too cutting edge for mainstream educators who are risk adverse and not innovative enough for those on the leading edge.

Here’s an interesting exchange on this:


When did OER become equated with blackline masters?? I could elaborate on how OER spans many media and can be used for the most innovative learning imaginable, but the perception here that OER is the same old-same old is what is important (and this comment comes from an innovative educator who I greatly respect).

Particularly in K-12, where there is no one “buyer” who might be attracted to the cost savings (the purchasing morass of the educational-industrial complex in K-12 leaves no one feeling the immediate benefits of savings), this leaves OER in a tenuous spot.

And so, as I periodically do, I wonder if OER is a solution looking for a problem in K-12. (Note: The online learning space is a notable exception to this.)

This also reminds me of an activity we did at an OER advocates meeting during which everyone shared a particularly memorable and meaningful learning experience they’d had. As participants shared out, it struck me that not one story involved instructional resources or materials; instead they all revolved around community and relationships.


Thinking about youth in cMOOCs

Posted by on April 14, 2014 in clmooc, DLMOOC

The cross-generational learning experiences that I’ve participated in have been uniquely powerful. This is leading me to think about how we might include more youth in our connectivist learning MOOCs.

My question is – what would incentivize youth to participate?

In many ways, this is the same question I am often asked about getting educators to participate in opt-in, no-pay/no-credit learning experiences.

And just as with educators, I am not looking for extrinsic incentives, such as stipends or course credit. I think those kinds of rewards detract from the rich self-directed learning that happens in opt-in cMOOCs.

With educators, my answer to “why should I participate?” centers on the learning itself. We participate in these connected learning experience because it has value to us and adds to our own personal learning. So perhaps that is the answer for youth as well.

I’m wondering though if there is a way to draw a more direct line to this for youth. Perhaps a connection to something like Genius Hour or some other highly flexible school project. (Is this too close to doing the MOOC for course credit? I’m not sure.) Perhaps a tie to certain passion-based affinity groups (e.g. art, cooking, etc.).

I’m thinking out loud on this. Would love to hear your thoughts.