On the ephemera of web tools

So cool! Here we are in Feb 2024, and here’s a blog post that was never published. A rare find! Here’s the draft from whenever it was! Probably in the vicinity of 2012. 

A few years back, I came across a fabulous do-it-yourself animation tool called xtranormal. I’d totally forgotten I’d made this ages ago for free during the ‘MOOC hysteria,’ the specter of which is probably best captured by Alan Levine in one of his many posts titled just that.
In this animated MOOCup (mockup) interview I whipped up, Computer Science postdoc, Clark Cable, a graduate of MOOC College, discusses his credentials and badges during an inverview with hiring manager, Jane Joplin. He is literally shown the door with the limited gestures the freemium version of the software afforded at the time. 

One of my favorite authoring tools, Xtranormal has put its freemium plan rest. Adieu, fine tool. May some semblance of your original code live on forever in other droids. 


Reflections on the 2/14/24 AI Pedagogy Workshop and Project: metaLAB (at) Harvard

Today at the last minute, I was able to hop on a webinar over the noon hour with folks over at the Harvard metaLAB hosted by Sarah Newman. Maha Bali, who co-led the, “Learn With AI: 10 Ways to Try AI in Your Classroom Right Now,” webinar, helped facilitate and MC the event. I wasn’t familiar with the metaLAB, which describes itself as, “an idea foundry, knowledge-design lab, and production studio experimenting in the networked arts and humanities.” One of my student assistants majoring in Computer Science got to sit in on part of it during his shift so I’ll look forward to catching up with him when he’s back next time.

The purpose of the meeting was two-fold: a) introduce the AI Pedagogy Project website and the story about its development; b) provide breakout rooms for folks from all over the world to network and discuss some questions. Some screenshots will follow in this post.

Built mostly by Harvard students to deliver non-technical materials to explain many things about generative AI, the AI Pedagogy Project is a curated collection of crowdsourced assignments which I highly recommend taking a look at. You can even upload your own!  Sarah did a great job explaining the inclusive values at the heart of the project which, paraphrasing her, aims to break down the sometimes inherent gatekeeping that technical experts have about AI. Sarah and her team want to make AI as accessible and transparent as possible and mitigate the alarmist narrative in the media.

In the breakout room to which I was randomly assigned, I met a librarian from USC and a professor from the University of Winnipeg. We were given these prompts:

It was only 7 minutes but I think we got through this pretty quickly because there were only 3 of us. There were 202 people on the call.

There was a poll from which I’ll share some screenshot highlights. (Pro-tip: Click on the images to make them bigger so you don’t have to squint especially if you are reading this on your mobile device!)

Regarding the AI Pedagogy Project website,

What is a metaphor for AI you would use?

They read some of these out loud as they trickled in. They got progressively wittier (at least those Sarah and Maha read out loud musing). After Sarah read, “Frankenstein” out loud, I simply couldn’t resist and typed in my answer, “Nice Narcissus.” OMG, Sarah read that one out loud as well and I sure was glad it was anonymous! < digital blush >

Here are a few good ones. These crowdsourced polls are awesome! Nice to know I am not ALONE to ponder and make sense of this stuff!

I enjoyed the networking and learning about the AI Pedagogy Project and website. What a cool open educational resource!


Reflections on the 2/12/24 webinar: Learn With AI: 10 Ways to Try AI in Your Classroom Right Now

I attended a fantastic webinar this morning at 8:30 AM, Learn With AI: 10 Ways to Try AI in Your Classroom Right now,  co-hosted by Maha Bali at the American University in Cairo and Jon Ippolito at the University of Maine. Jon has a comprehensive site, Learn with AI, which is pretty impressive and well worth a looksie.

A recording of the webinar will be made available which I’ll try to remember to post if/when I have the link.  Maha is generally excellent at following up on what she promises by making such professional development opportunities available as open education resources. The webinar over Zoom was a 20 minute or so lecture by Jon followed by 20 minutes of a breakout room with educators who got to select an activity from wide-ranging topics. And then, each group submitted their work for further analysis and research by Maha and Jon. Lots of folks on the call so no doubt there were a number of submissions. I selected the Literature breakout room and worked with an education professor (also interested in this topic) from a university in the the Middle East.

After coming up with a plan and following the group activity outlined in the document’s instructions (shared in the above link to the workshop), we worked with prompts to build an assignment for a 10th grade English teacher to introduce Charles Dickens’, A Tale of Two Cities, to students. After the teacher introduces 15-20 minutes of lecture about the novel and its author, students are asked pair up to draft an outline ultimately leading to the creation a 5 slide presentation using two quotes from Dickens’ novel that resonate with them. I won’t paste the lengthy engagement with GPT but here’s the final product we submitted. Jon and Maha will then use the data and share back what they are working on with crowdsourced input from teachers.  It’s the first time I’ve used GPT in a live call in a breakout room with another educator whom I don’t know.

From #4 on this most current list we are making together, “Generate Ideas: Brainstorm” and jot down all ideas that come to mind from the activity. Don’t filter yet; the goal is to have a range of ideas to work with, have students find 2 quotes from the text. They prepare 5 slides. last two slides have the quote on each slide. Make a very clear execution plan for students to follow.
GPT REPLY: For the activity where students are generating ideas and incorporating quotes from “A Tale of Two Cities” into their presentation, here’s a step-by-step breakdown for creating the slides:

Slide Creation Instructions for Students:

1. Brainstorming:

    • With your partner, brainstorm and list down as many ideas as you can, drawing inspiration from the activity you have chosen.
    • Look for themes, characters, conflicts, and historical contexts within “A Tale of Two Cities” that resonate with your brainstormed ideas.

2. Selecting Quotes:

    • From your brainstorming session, identify two key themes or elements that stand out.
    • Find two compelling quotes from “A Tale of Two Cities” that best represent these themes or elements.

3. Slide Outline:

    • Slide 1: Introduction slide with the presentation title, your names, and a brief overview or hook to engage the audience.
    • Slide 2: Context slide where you provide background information about “A Tale of Two Cities,” its setting, and the relevance of your chosen themes.
    • Slide 3: Discussion slide where you start delving into the first theme or element, leading up to the first quote.
    • Slide 4: Quote slide that features your first selected quote. Include a relevant image or background to set the tone and visually represent the theme.
    • Slide 5: Quote slide that features your second selected quote. Similarly, add a thematic background and perhaps a short explanation or question that will prompt audience reflection.

4. Designing Slides:

    • Use a consistent and readable font and color scheme that fits the historical context of the presentation.
    • Add relevant images or illustrations that complement the text and enhance understanding.
    • Keep the slides uncluttered and visually appealing to maintain audience engagement.

5. Reviewing and Practicing:

    • Once the slides are created, review them together. Check for typos, alignment, and ensure that the quotes are accurately cited.
    • Practice presenting the slides to each other, ensuring a smooth transition between slides and a clear narrative that connects all the ideas and quotes together.

Example Quotes from “A Tale of Two Cities”:

For the purposes of demonstration, here are two quotes that students might choose:

    1. Quote for Slide 4:
      • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
        • This quote could be used to discuss the duality of the era and the contrasting conditions between London and Paris.
    2. Quote for Slide 5:
      • “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss…”
        • This quote could highlight the theme of resurrection and the transformative power of the human spirit.

By integrating these quotes into their presentations, students can provide a powerful narrative thread that ties their insights to Dickens’ original text and underscores their understanding of the novel’s enduring themes.

Wow, I find that pretty useful!
Then, we asked it to generate some images with DALLE. The Logo Creator app can crank out a visual, a logo of sorts, to brand the assignment. This can help students eventually make one of their own while at it! I pasted the above chat into DALLE and massaged it a few times.
version 1
version 2
version 3
A few interesting things I noticed during the meeting. At one point, a chat came in about an AI assistant self-identifying as being present in the meeting and taking it all in… OtterPilot. I’d heard of it, but didn’t know what it really does. Fascinating how Maha politely ejected it. Check this out:

I wonder if as soon as OtterPilot is connected, it requires disclosing its presence as a condition of hooking up a Zoom meeting. Good question!

A few screenshots of Jon’s excellent presentation.

A tip on structing an effective prompt from a template. You can insert what’s relevant to your inquiry.

This activity below, Improve a portfolio, is a research question I have currently when when working with community members on building professional websites.

I could envision having colleagues using this kind of prompt to update their website’s look and appearance, (like I need to do) or using a similarly-structured templated prompt when first building a website. That’s something I’m really interested in for my work with the Think Tank this semester. We’re already prototyping a GPT design here in LEDS with two student assistants. More on that later. But for now, back to website redesign prompting..  I’ve been collaborating with Ryan Dowling ’24 on his professional website  for nearly two years. Ryan just custom-branded his site and has put the final touches on a major update. He’s just now sharing its link actively with prospective employers. In January, during one of our meetings, we invoked Gen AI to help think over his layout. I think it sparked some creativity for Ryan because, a week later, he majorly overhauled along “with a little help from our AI friends…”

Because I’m having so much fun, it’s time to wrap up this post.

I explored a few GPT in the “app store.” Riffing with line from a popular Beatles song, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Bing images gave me this image.

I downloaded and uploaded to “GPT4 Logo Creator,” Ro the GPT invokes “DALLE.”

Logo creator rejects it stating it’s copyright material. It suggested I describe this prompt without the image. I did. And it returns this:

But I was perplexed by the copyright question, so I tried out a different GPT, Super Describe, which was fine with it. It took the image and generated this one. Wow. It produces impressive figures but totally gets text wrong! It would take more corrective prompting to fix this. But I had to Let It Be for now.

When Generative AI met Vision Pro

With generative AI sense-making happily consuming more of my time along with the almost overnight arrival of Apple’s VR headset after years of anticipation… anticipation be like

I’m ready to hit this Blog project again for a bit. I’ve had a nice extended break. I’m back for a spell. Thanks for that silent nod of encouragement.

I normally don’t get excited about new devices but after trying out the Apple Vision Pro, I can see even in its first iteration, it’s a game-changer on many levels. Yep, it’s $. But it’s neither a gadget nor fad. I’ll hold off on any predictions for now except only to point out the timing of its release is not coincidental with generative AI making giant leaps and bounds at the same time. The world just needed Apple to give us a device and platform where it’s really going to take off. Ahem. Surely, I’m not alone to have noticed a perfect storm in the making.

My first interview

A few weeks ago, I got to speak with my colleague and friend Joe Antonelli at Middleburry College about his work in Educational Technology. Like me, Joe gets to wear many hats as an instructional designer, and most recently, as a new adjunct faculty member teaching his first class at Middleburry about Design Thinking. We talked a lot about where instructional design meshes and fits into the mission libraries and IT departments, which often offer similar and different services that are ripe for collaboration. One noteworthy observation we stumbled across, which got me thinking about the History of Ed Tech part of the ITAP module, is that instructional designers are the most recent addition to both organizations compared to our librarians and programmer colleagues; that is, librarians and coders were what created libraries and computing centers in the first place! This led me to ponder how, at least in the instructional design’s case, it can be somewhat of a mixed blessing hierarchy and reporting-wise for academic computing to fall under the broader purview of information technology, when in fact they are quite distinct. In some cases academic computing falls under the academic affairs division (and that’s nice because that group has the most clout on campus leadership wise), yet at other times, academic computing and all other IT aligns with administrative computing, not just the nuts-n-bots of classrooms and podiums, but more importantly a critical foundation block of the business and finance family which encompasses vital functions and operations across campus. A good question came up about the role of a CTO/CIO whose primary responsibility is the business and information technology operations and who often reports to a CFO or CEO, first and foremost, but also has the important supervision of the creativity and innovation in teaching and learning. In a word, IT largely is understood by its more classic name administrative computing, computational systems on behalf the administration. Later to the game, once email became mainstream, audio visual resources and later multimedia and the World Wide Web permeated campus culture, so too came along the need to organize learning content digitally in a dashboard portal of sorts… this led to the creation of academic computing which rolled out today’s LMS and remains a flagship service on our campuses. Finally, we talked about the integration of ERPs and SIS’s with LMS, and challenges to make standards more interoperable.  What’s an ERP, SIS? Go look ’em up!

ja1Joe has been paired with a faculty member in a mentor-mentee type relationship to review his syllabus. It’s become a great way to collaborate on instructional design with his mentor, a two way street of mutual feedback that plays to each other’s strengths. They seem to be learning a lot from each other. Students are also taking a look in their digital work in Joe’s class at the MiddCreate initiative, Middleburry’s Domain of One’s Own exploration. Each student makes a proposal on what it takes for MIddCreate to be a better service. Stay tuned.. that’s an initiative for us all to follow in the liberal arts.. The final project also includes a self-evaluation and invites students to reflect on the technology tools they have available on campus. Using backwards design (or pre-requisites learning),  it’s helping Joe organize the delivery sequence of instruction. The hope is for each student to walk away with a strategy framework to evaluate how a new technology will work in their lives. One guiding question is how to humanize on an individual level the selection process of a given tech that brings more value to you. So a new gadget comes along… this will or will not help me in my learning, my job, etc. A roadmap to help guide one’s self awareness, fine-tune a critical lens about decisions with tech integration in work-life-fit balance.Do you use social media only because every one else does? Or do you go with something else that’s a better fit? Just because the herd does one thing, well, maybe like Thoreau thought, popular opinion as common sense is far from sensical without close examination.There’s a big focus on stakeholder analysis and relationship building with campus tech initiative leaders…  Ultimately, Joe’s course is helping students better understand where they are at present with different tech tools as students and consumers. Sounds like a great course, right? Later on, students will hopefully be seasoned, reflective in making informed decisions as tomorrow’s liberal arts world citizenry.

Module #1 Debrief

Here are some reflections from our first meeting. What are your thoughts on the instructional design regarding the video clip of Ben Stein as Ferris’ teacher at the end of my videopodcast? Now that you have conducted your interview, read the readings, blogged it, etc. no doubt you can comment on Mr. Stein… Please feel free to leave a comment.

Western breakdown

Over lunch, I caught a glimpse of #western106 via a @cogdog tweet. So just had to riff on a car breakdown I saw en route from Strawberry to Tucson on Highway 77 under a high noon sun a few years ago. Using an old, old version of Adobe Fireworks (still can’t get over it’s not Macromedia), I whipped together a hopeful me back in the saddle looking to catch a ride. In 5 minutes. On a day like today!

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.15.00 PM



A True Digital Story about Openness and Sharing with Creative Commons Licensing

Yesterday, on my commute home from work, I noticed a dark, bilious plume of smoke on the horizon some three miles south of Glens Falls, NY while driving north from Saratoga Springs on Interstate 87, the Northway. This is the main artery between New York City and Montréal, Québec, Canada. As I approached my apartment, I observed a huge structure fire burning wildly out of control a few blocks away on Sherman Avenue. Thankfully, no one perished in the fire which burned until 5 AM the next morning. There was a miraculous rescue and there were injuries though nothing life threatening… I’d never been so moved in a painfully public moment that was about to get many people’s attention in Glens Falls and beyond. In a crisis moment, courageous responders risk their lives to extinguish a fire while bystanders look on, some very upset, others angry, children and adults holding hands and crying… It’s a moment of chaos like I’d never experienced before. And here I was with an iPhone taking a few pictures and hoping for the best. Twenty-five people lost everything last night in Glens Falls, mostly folks on the lower end of the socio economic scale. I currently do not have renter’s insurance so I’m going to set that up next week.

Fire at Sherman Ave, Glens Falls, NY

I took a few images with my iPhone 5s and uploaded them to my Flickr account (update: since Yahoo was hacked and not as transparent as it should be, I’ve temporarily diasbled all but one image, until a migration to another site) and shared on various social media platforms. What ensued after I shared the pics was something very real. One of my images found its way onto a few local and regional news websites. Within fifteen minutes, I was contacted by numerous media sources in the Albany area like CBS, ABC etc (10/19/16 update: CBS link decay.. page is now gone. ABC page still active as of today, see screenshot below in case it goes away) who issued BREAKING NEWS alerts on Twitter and on their websites, all asking for permission to use my images – which I happily granted as a courtesy, at no cost to the publisher, as long as I was given credit. What this really means is: thank you for asking my permission first and above all for sharing my work with others both correctly and within the parameters of Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Huge fire in my street in Glens Falls, NY

Someone from the Associated Press, a photo editor in New York City, asked me to call him which I did. He sent me a disclaimer form via personal email stating that I granted AP full rights to use my work for syndication for their subscribers. You can see one of my images, retweeted many times over, and that is now archived in the AP repository. (update 10/19/16 AP page is gone, see screenshot below) But interestingly enough, if someone would like to purchase my image, they have to contact me first per AP. To be honest, it’s not for sale, it’s a gift to the WWW. I believe in creative commons licensing on my personal work though I’m not a huge stickler about it until now perhaps. Alan Levine, Alec Couros, Bryan Alexander, Jim Groom, Audrey Watters, Larry Lessig and countless others have made CC rise to the top my absolute need-to-understand-and-share-with-others awareness list.

Fire at Sherman Ave, Glens Falls, NY

As you can see here, North Country Public Radio in Canton, NY has used my image in a story, now syndicated by the Associated Press, without needing to ask me for permission.  All I ask for regarding my personal work and creativity, is that in a sharing economy where we approach the creation and distribution of materials online, I receive credit and attribution for my work. NCPR left a comment on my Flickr page: “Thanks for making this Creative Commons. I have used it to illustrate an AP story about the fire.” They did not even need to ask me first. That’s the power and simplicity of sharing this way from anywhere, but especially from a mobile device.


The wrong way to do it: News 10 Albany appropriation of my intellectual property without attribution. If their page is no longer available, see pic above.


The right way to do it: Screenshot of my waived copyright with correct attribution by the AP as per my CC license and as signed in agreement with them emailed to me while still on site at the fire. Basically, the agreement states I will not sue them and I’m giving my IP away at no cost in exchange for mandatory credit (AP webpage pic above no longer live).