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. 


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.

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.


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


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.


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).


Why we shouldn’t fear MOOCs

We are at a significant crossroads in higher education, in the liberal arts especially. A staggering economy for graduates combined with public outcry about high tuition and student loans is all bringing the value of a liberal arts education into question: a perfect storm. What’s most disturbing is a lingering doubtful perception about the return on investment made manifest by many media sources, occasionally influencing elected officials to poke fun at the arts and humanities. While many lament the advent of MOOCs, online learning has been around for nearly two decades. It’s yesterday’s news. But as Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan, has elegantly written, the liberal arts DO matter now more than ever. So the current promulgation and growing abundance of freely available content is a powerful incentive and opportunity to re-visit and re-invigorate traditional entry-level curricula in new fruitful directions. History 101 can shed the first 4 weeks of materials, mostly review content that’s easily flipped, and develop new, higher quality activities in class.

Beyond the hype, at the core of MOOCs, especially connectivist MOOCs, is a genuine community sharing of open resources, an extension of the historical mission of 20th century public libraries with print publications, to connect citizens with electronic access to assets of knowledge.  The real value of open online learning is that it has solved the access issue for knowledge-thirsty netizens around the world. There’s a subtle efficiency at play here. What’s to come? Motivated self-directed learners will find ways to imbibe introductory level course materials that will push faculty to redesign richer learning goals in first year seminars. These future students will be there, and we want to attract them. It’s an exciting time for Ed Ttech folks, especially those of us just getting started in earnest with blended learning efforts, to revisit why we used technology in the first place, namely to assist and augment sound instructional design. Open online courses will not destabilize the foundation of higher education. It’s natural to be fearful at first, and it’s even healthy. The natural instinct of self-preservation brings out the best in everyone. But as we let go of this panic, there is much to reflect and build on. As George Siemens points out in a recent interview:

MOOCs are not replacement models. They don’t replace the existing university systems. They augment it and help those universities become more relevant in the digital space. We’ve known in online and distance learning for 20 years or more that students who are at risk, you can’t just give them access. There have to be support systems in place that help those students to succeed.

Not to fear, the ominous specter of online learning, free or otherwise, will not impact the tremendous value of personalized, meaningful relationships between faculty expert guides and students in our classrooms. The abundance of open materials reveals that content is no longer king; relationships and networked connections between faculty and students matter much, much more. As Harold Jarche shared on Twitter:

Relationships cannot be automated; drones and droids won’t even come close. What’s certain, some schools are going to close; but as history will show, institutions that collaborate around the sharing of knowledge and resources with an eye toward the distribution of course redesign efforts have much to gain.

ETMOOC assignment #1

Hello! My name is Ben Harwood. I’m looking forward to #ETMOOC, the massive open online connectivist course, which begins today. Many thanks to Alec Couros, Cogdog and other stellar and generous colleagues who are making ETMOOC happen auto-magically for me and other open online participants. Please listen to my SoundCloud recording in which I introduce myself to my colleagues and classmates. In the recording, I mention my homework assignment from last week’s MOOCMOOC.2013/365 The Abominable Snowman

All the best in 2013!

MOOCMOOC Homework assignment

I participated to some degree in the week-long MOOCMOOC. Here is a link to my Homework assignment for Day 2 in which participants were asked to either record a video clip or xtranormal animated visual that captures one’s thoughts about connected and networked learning and MOOCs in general. That was certainly how I interpreted the assignment perhaps mashing it up as I went along. So I opted for the xtranormal assignment. What a great tool! You can read more about MOOCMOOC and the Day 2 assignment.

GIF’in out in the New Year

Over the holidays and between trips to visit friends in New York City and Rhode Island, I continued discovering how much fun it is to explore the creative power of generating animated gifs in the little free time I have on my hands. This is my take on the DS106 assignment, “Summarize a movie with Animated GIFs to tell the story of a movie.” I’ve taken a slight deviation from the directions using three movie trailers that feature protagonists finding their way forward in times of great challenges. These examples hail from quasi cult films that take place in the NYC metro area. I was headed to Manhattan the next day so must have been in a New York state of mind.

Working with mainstay DIY tools like YouTube, MPEG streamclip and GIMP, I’ve gotten the process down to the point where it comes naturally without referencing the tutorial. Downloading the video clips can be accomplished in a number of ways. I opened them in MPEG streamclip and extracted the relevant morsels. Exporting as image sequences, I opened the jpeg files as layers in GIMP, scaled and exported as looping animated gifs. Voilà, c’est tout! 2012 has been dubbed the year of the gif. For many, it’s also been a year filled with great odds, great misfortune yet hope and dignity shine through. Man versus man, man versus the machine, humans outsmarting algorithms.

On the Waterfront - Trailer [1954] [27th Oscar Best Picture] 28

So during the height of McCarthy’s witch-hunts, Elia Kazan struggled with a wave and shadow of reproach following a near career-ending and humiliating inquisition. In On the Waterfront, Marlon Brando takes the high road and highlights one who will not sell out, no matter what. Could 2012 be the year of selling out as MOOCx’s spin-off and the steady stream of anti-education venture capital flows out of Silicon Valley?

Escape From New York Original 1981 Trailer 25Next up, in Escape from New York (1981), Kurt Russell, in the slithering role of Snake receives a bone-chilling 24-hour deadline to rescue the US President and a double-secret encrypted recording (on a cassette tape no less!) from the hands of the Duke and his army of thugs. One of my favorite character actors, Ernest Borgine, shepherds Snake to the other side moments before the jugglar time-bomb detonates. Snake lives, the President lives, and the Duke perishes. Only I could spin it this way, but is the battle between Snake and the Duke emblematic of the intensifying conflict between proponents of open educational resources and the digital publishing industry?

Lastly, Tony Manero (John Travolta) steals the floor and busts out some well-honed disco moves in Saturday Night Fever. In the wise words of Casey Kasem, this gif is a reminder to “keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”
StayAlive 067

Happy New Year and keep on dancing in 2013.