5 minutes of fame

Or, a carnival of thought, practice, and community innovation. This session has got to be one of my favorite parts of the NMC summer conference. The mood is festive and expectant, the presentations are delightful and delightfully rushed, and the gong is the great leveler. (A gong sounds when the five minutes are up.)

Given the location this year, I’m tempted to say that watching the 5 minutes of fame is like dipping a net into the sea and coming up with an array of beautifully gleaming fish. Never fear: everyone gets thrown back into the ocean of innovation. No participants were harmed in the making of these presentations. (Though they all looked a bit winded by the end. And don’t get me started on the five-finger exercises these info-and-inspiration-whooshes posed for me and my fellow live-bloggers Leslie and Chris. In fact, I’ve had to wait until now to finish my post–and of the three of us, I had the only relatively clear view of the slides. Kudos to them for getting theirs done in closer to real time! Most About half of what follows was also real-time for me, but my notes were not always clear and the post-production today is, shall we say, a non-trivial task–but also a labor of love. ūüôā )

Bronwyn Stuckey, IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN: Building Community Out of Online Professional Development. (Unfortunately, I was too slow on the shutter button to get a photograph of Bronwyn in action.)

Bronwyn presented on Quest Atlantis, a ¬†3D multi-user virtual world and game environment developed by the Learning Sciences team at Indiana University and offered to classrooms globally for students 8-14 years of age. The environment features a rich narrative with lots of backstory–this part reminds me of “cut scenes” in video games. The idea is to provide a game structure inside a virtual environment for curriculum delivery. From what I saw of the virtual world, it looks like a very pretty Second Life sim (it also looks a bit like World of Warcraft and Croquet. Is there a “virtual world filter” that gives these builds a certain look? Note to self: find research on aesthetics, design, and hardware that analyzes the extent to which a certain look-and-feel is driven by need to standardize on widely available hardware and performance). Bronwyn’s group made this world on the¬†“Active Worlds” platform. The driving idea here was¬†“socially responsible games” build around learning, playing, and helping. Two other important criteria: the program had to be “highly protected … [a world] where children are safe” (important for all sorts of reasons, though I note that considerations of safety also justify locked-down laptops that can’t access safe blogs, etc.) and the program had to incorporate gaming principles into the learning design. (I wonder if any commercial games were models here? Bronwyn may have spoken of these, but the five minutes of fame go by very quickly and your humble reporter had multimedia vertigo more than once.)

Here’s the professional development piece: to get in with their students, teachers needed to be trained. Bronwyn seized this opportunity to introduce teachers “to a variety of social media and tagging to build ties within and beyond the workshop cohort” (quoting from the conference program). Bronwyn noted that the research platform for this project means that teachers must use it “with some level of fidelity”–I’m not sure what “fidelity” means in this context, perhaps “purposefully” or “mindfully,” or even “to match a research protocol”? The overall design uses principles of situated/embodied cognition (James Gee is an obvious touchstone here–I’m looking forward to reading his book on situated cognition, as I found his book on video games very impressive indeed). Bronwyn and her team have also constructed external communities to match the inworld communities: see her blog at questatlantis.edublogs.org (I seem to have gotten that URL wrong–I’m not finding a blog there. There is a small set of posts from 2007 at questatlantis.blogspot.com).

This project sounds like a greatly synergistic opportunity, and very well-framed too: take student enthusiasm, combine it with the affordances of a gaming world for active learning, and blend in plenty of learning for the teachers that goes well beyond “here’s how you move forward and backward in the world.” Fascinating stuff, and a fine example of how to get maximum positive ramifications out of one opportunity or idea. Plenty of deep, detailed resources at the main project page. I’ll be certainly be reading up on it in the weeks ahead. (Turns out there’s also a Wikipedia entry–nice.)

Just under five minutes. And where was the Donovan song? (Ah, generations; ah, copyright.)

Jackie Gerstein, International Society for Technology Education: Creative Web Tools For and By Kids.

Jackie Gerstein

Website: http://weewebwonders.pbwiki.com

And here are the kids (they’re really kids: third grade?) on video now, speaking from a script–a script they wrote together. Highly charming, to say the least–and a great introduction to the student creativity this program emphasizes. Jackie describes her role as a teacher thus: she’s a “tour guide of learning possibilities.” (Nice.) Her students take on “stewardship of their own learning experiences.” Now we’re watching great little videos of the kids speaking through their own animated avatars. They offer us words of welcome–welcome to their worlds, the worlds they’ve made. (In my notes I see these words: “Elvis, Alicia Keys, Madonna, and Billy Ray Cyrus.” For the life of me I can’t remember what these refer to–I think it’s what one of the kids said about her own ambitions as a musician, or her range of musical inspirations? If someone has better notes than I, please chime in. Those of you who know me will recognize why I took note of the words….)

Student get their own wiki pages, one per student. They create their own identities. They choose tools to fit their learning styles and needs. Moblyng, wordle, imagechef, tux paint and doink, newspaper generators, animotos, piclits, tikatok books (big favorite there), dipity timline, etc. (See Leslie and Chris for more tool lists–they were really whizzing by.) The learning goals are established by the students themselves. They do extensive research on the topics they choose, largely (entirely?) on the web. How do the students ensure their sources are good? They go through a web site analysis questionnaire with a set of questions that allow them to rate the websites with care. Students also choose their own tools. They make their own quizzes and send them to each other as assignments. The project website has had over 10,000 visits (I’m not sure of this last figure–notes got sketchy there). Someone from Ethiopia joined their website (it was an international visitor–not sure I got the country right–in any event, as Chris points out, international connections emerged serendipitously).

Jackie’s five minutes ended with a quotation from Rachel Carson. I only got a bit of it, but I believe this is it in full:

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”¬†(As I was hunting for that quotation, I found this bit in a longer excerpt: “A child‚Äôs world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.” I’ve not read Rachel Carson’s A Sense of Wonder. I clearly need to rectify that, pronto.)

Another video with the kids comes on the screen. Together they say, “The End!” And right on cue, the gong sounds. Whoosh!

Virginia Kuhn, University of Southern California: Documentary is the New Black: Filmic Texbooks in the 21st Century Classroom


(Note: for some reason–finger fatigue?–these notes aren’t as cogent or coherent as I wish they were. Blame the scribe, not the presenter!)

This project used film as a central course text. Students in the school of cinematic arts are not all film students. The idea here is to encourage visual literacy across the disciplines. There’s a thesis project in final year–in any of a number of disciplines. The inaugural cohort just completed their theses. Students needed help figuring out how to launch and deploy a multimodal research thesis project. Answer: IML 340–The Praxis of New Media, a course that can help students acquire these multimodal and project management skills. This small project could seed the larger project or at least model the project process.

Example: Iraqi doctors on the front lines of medicine. Exchange between Baghdad and USC medicine. The exchange project included a trip to the White House. One of the doctors was there on the eve of Saddam’s capture–his dad had been hurt (killed?) by Saddam. Very moving experiences.

Hence “The Iraqi Doctors Project: ¬†on the Front Lines of Education.”¬†Project website:¬†http://hurricane.usc.edu/iml340/ (thanks to Leslie for the URL).

Implications here for large scale public literacy. Virginia cites Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander (1978). Mander¬†critiques TV and film and praises books because of their “infinite patience”: one can go back and re-read books, which remain stable instead of rushing by the way film and TV do. Mander’s arguments don’t apply in 2009, obviously: ever since the home video revolution and the subsequent rise of new media we can “go back” and read films and television shows the way we can a book.

Quick mentions here of Eric Faden “the documentary’s new politics”–an alliance with Brave New Films–Gong!

Marie Carianna and Derek Toten, Tulane University: Good! ¬°Bien! ¬°√útz! Maya Language Learning from Guatemala to Tulane


The project started with the Dept. of Education, then brought in the Stone Center and the Innovative Learning Center. The object was to promote the study of less commonly taught languages. The language chosen was the Kaqchikel Maya language, ad the course design stressed cultural immersion. Marie and Derek’s team developed self-paced Flash-based instruction modules to support the course.

The modules are in two formats: CD-ROM and online. We’re seeing the online version. The interface shows four quadrants in a Mayan glyph. One selects a unit by clicking on one of the quadrants. Unit one is objects, unit two is family and social. The other two units are in production. Each unit features dialogues and exercises. The interface can switch on subtitles in Mayan, and can supply English or Spanish audio. Students can listen, record their own voices repeating the words they hear, and compare the two. This is a full-fledged tutorial. The project involves five summer trips to Guatemala, with postproduction and design work done in the spring and fall. The project will be complete by 2011.

Each trip to Guatemla involves a crew of four: two pedagogists and two videographers. The crew works with local folks to do the work. Videographers use two cameras, lights, basically a full production rig. The video is shot on hi-def cameras, and for obvious reasons they are very, very careful with the audio recording.

The video we’re watching closes with an English greeting from a Guatemalan man–then Gong!

Li Zhu and Michael Beahan, Dartmouth College: Jones Media Center, How do I…?


The staff opportunity: a paid one-year internship that changes every year. The challenge: the media center needed a higher profile marketing campaign that would get the word out to potential users as well as help those users do their best work. So they did the logical thing: they put media to work to publicize their media center. These are very short videos, no longer than 90 seconds. The publicity videos show people using the equipment and making things. The idea is to come up with a better imagination stimulus than a mere list of services could ever provide.

One video example: “how do I get started with my multimedia project?” The videos are both encouraging (indeed, motivational) and serve as a kind of FAQ. They strive to keep the videos short. Students reserve the equipment 24 hours in advance. Li used the very programs they had available in the Media Center to construct the materials to instruct patrons on how to use the materials. (Nice recursion.)

Center website:¬†http://www.dartmouth.edu/~library/mediactr. They’ve also published their materials and information on their YouTube channel and on Facebook.

And the happy ending: the intern got a paid trip to the NMC summer conference in California. (And here she is.)

Kate Borowske, Hamline University: Library On A Stick and On the Air.


The stick: not just for food, but also for research. Kate works with the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. It’s a low-residency program: two ten-day visits, and the rest online. She helps with students need and desire for more info on how to use the tools. She does this with “Toolbar,” online workshops, and recordings.

She shows us the MFA “Library on a stick” and the three prongs that make it up. First, Toolbar (a Flash video demo). The Toolbar sits on the browser (like a Yahoo or Google Toolbar) and presents links to many resources, meaning the student doesn’t have to go back-back-back in a browser. (The Toolbar essentially presents a set of easy-to-navigate bookmark buttons–a nifty pre-surfed web that makes the navigation very easy indeed and allows for great self-paced learning.)

The other part: “Conduit.” Conduit is the tool that makes toolbars. (This is a very interesting resource–new to me). Kate demonstrates the authoring tool. The toolbar also permits messages to be sent to users in real time, though this can make the user feel spied-upon.

Second prong: four online workshops. online, synchronous, using Elluminate Live. She designed the content around Toolbar. Kate likes Elluminate very much–intuitive, functional. breakout rooms. She uses the webtour, demonstrates search, etc.

Prong three: record the Elluminate sessions and make them available on the website 24/7. Now there’s a library available to students for asynchronous reference.

Kate begins to talk about going for responses, and then GONG goes the gong….

(Alan says Toolbar is a cool tool–it’s apparently new to him as well. Phew.)

Larry Johnson, The New Media Consortium: The NMC’s Hakone‚ĄĘ¬†Project: New Life for Second Life


First, a minor controversy: is this Larry’s first time as a “5 Minutes of Fame” presenter?¬†No, but it’ s been ten years, and he wasn’t CEO then. Glad we got that cleared up!

The project name comes from the location in Japan where the NMC was born, at a forum hosted by Apple Computer in 1992. Larry recently discovered an article on this forum in the Independent. The story is dated 24 August 1992, and reports on the forum’s discussions “last month,” a lag in coverage Larry notes we’d never accept today. (Such are the changes high-speed telecommunications have wrought.)


The topic of this historic meeting: convergence. Larry reads the article to us. What did the discussion center on? Joining together the telephone and the computer. IBM had just bought a major telephone company. Then a third dimension entered the discussion–delivery. At this meeting Apple also announced the Newton, to appear the next year.

The Hakone‚ĄĘ¬†Project is a Second Life sim built to honor the start of the NMC. Larry fires up Second Life to take us there, but just as we get to the virtual city center, the gong sounds.

So what exactly IS the Hakone‚ĄĘ¬†Project? Stay tuned, dear listeners. ūüôā

Paul Iwancio, Aaron Weidele, William Shewbridge, University of Maryland, Baltimore County: Taking Digital Stories on the Road.


This project got started with an effort to collect stories from Meyerhoff SScholars at the program’s 20th anniversary celebration. (The UMBC Meyerhoff Scholars program encourages underrepresented groups in the sciences to pursue degrees.) How to do maximum story collection during a two day event? Answer” capture sixty stories (!) ¬†in “the story booth” (great idea). Nice video here of Paul and Aaron setting up a story booth, transforming an ordinary classroom into a recording studio. Now we see the students and hear their voices–the movie climaxes with impressive matrix of all the storytellers. W00t! 60 interviews over two days, with all sorts of other things being shot at the same time. They set up their story booth in many different locations, even in a coat closet.


For gear, they went out and bought a black cloth backdrop from theatrical supply company (this is a great idea). They warn us: be aware that it might break on you! (The scale and diversity we see here really make this impressive.)

Who did the interviews? Many alumni were interviewed by current undergraduate Meyerhoff Scholars. (An amazingly good idea.) Some of the undergrads were so devoted to class that it was hard to get them to cut class and do the interviews–so sometime the interviewees would interview each other. This worked too.

What about distribution? They rebuilt the Meyerhoff website. The videos are scattered throughout and located in a central gallery (EDIT: the central gallery is here). They made a DVD and distributed thousands of copies. Plenty were uploaded to YouTube as well.


Future projects–see picture above–GONG!

Morgan Reid, University of British Columbia: Talking to Our Computers? Transcribing Interviews at 2:1!


Morgan notes that “even Jared Bendis called me crazy” for attempting what follows. ¬†He warms up, and lets fly. Question: how to transcribe recordings? Transcription service? (Very expensive.) Voice “wreckognition”?–cf. the famous Microsoft crash and burn demo.

Start with good quality recordings. The assumption is that voice recognition won’t work as well with a live feed. Morgan tries¬†simultaneous translation (essentially, revoicing live what one hears–my thanks to Chris and Leslie who were obviously more tuned in than I was at this point) compared with working from a recording. The idea is for the person who’s trained the computer to recognize his or her own speech to “revoice” what’s on the audio recording as it plays back. The result is a much faster and more accurate transcription than can be achieved even by a skilled transcriber who types as the audio plays back. (I had to study Chris’s and Leslie’s blogs and try to recover my own memories to piece this account together–my apologies, since I’m not doing ¬†justice to Morgan’s efforts by a long shot.)

Morgan uses Mac Speech Dictate. Asks for a volunteer from the audience. Chris (NMC staffer) “volunteers.” Using Mac Dictate 1.2.1 and a text editor (in this case, Express Scribe), Morgan competes with Chris’s recording-to-text transcription.


Morgan’s quite the performer. The race is on. Just when it’s heating up–GONG!

Jared Bendis, Case Western Reserve University: Teaching the Elephant to Walk Itself: Self-Generating Pachyderm


Alan notes that Jared is always going last–he’s a clever veteran of the Five Minutes.

Jared aims to present a self-generating pachyderm interface, using a database to feed a set of design rules. (The presentation seems to be self-destructing at this point–I think it’s a part of the act.)

Digital Case: an initiative of the Kelvin Smith Library.

They seek to disseminate digital assets but the archives have almost no user interface–a common problem with digital archives (too true) and one that the archivists typically neglect. Jared consulted the wheel of new media solutions, and up came Pachyderm!


Pachyderm offers four steps to a great user interface, but Jared wanted something even more advanced. The quest: to integrate an existing database into pachyderm without authoring an interface in Pachyderm at all. The solution: use Pachyderm as a data standard, an output standard. Query the database, results are jpg xlm and pachyderm flash files. Get the interface by using design rules instead of authoring. Thus the authoring will be inherent in the curation of the collection.

Several disclaimers here, among them that Jared is using a beta of Pachyderm 2.1. We see another example of a digital asset here: Great ¬†works of art and the back of someone’s head (ATBOSH). (Now that’s curation. Or something close.)


What’s next? Design new rules systems. “Thanks everyone,” Jared says in closing, “and please join my mobwars mob on Facebook.”

Alan wraps it all up:


And the famous gather for one more minute in the (collective) limelight:



One thought on “5 minutes of fame

  1. I am a bit bummed Gardner that not only do I not have a photo in this post but in the group photo taken from the side, when we were posed for the front shot, I am obscured behind Derek (next to Jackie). I kinda feel diminished – well at least visually and by comparison ūüôĀ I do greatly appreciate take on the Quest Atlantis program! Thanks

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