My GIFest continues with some animated moments with Charlton Heston

My first attempt at an animated gif was laughable. But this was also in part by design as my motto (see tagline at the top of my blog) is “revise and you will learn something new every day.” As an open online student in DS106, a course on Digital Storytelling, my professor and colleague, Jim Groom,  encouraged me with a link to a tutorial to help me master the process and inject some real animation magic into my homework assignment. I used MPEG streamclip and GIMP, both free and freely available on the open web. I am continuing on the same theme of my previous post which features Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in Sudden Impact. Grooms’ Gun Crazy Gifs post really got me thinking and upset about where the US stands in regards to gun reform. In light of the Newtown massacre, it’s time for Americans to say, “enough is enough,” by outlawing AK-47s, Glock 27-pack clip magazines at $27 each, armor-piercing bullets and the like. Charlton Heston, a brilliant actor and orator whom we all know and respect for performances in Ben Hur and many other films that span decades, was also an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement.

Growing up with WTBS and TNT on the tube on most Sunday afternoons, around the holidays I remember catching his awesome performance in the role of Judah BenHur, a Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem in the 1st century. Ben-Hur is one of my all-time favorite films and is right up there with Casablanca. When I lived in London, England in 1987-88, I was fortunate to see him in a play at the Savoy Theatre in the role of Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s, A Man for All Seasons. Fifteen minutes into the first act, a towering figure emerges in darkness from the back of the theater. Voice first, then a ghostly figure glided down the left side aisle of the theater about three feet from where I was sitting. It was Charlton and we had great seats. I instantly recognized his fierce yet gentle voice and was simply amazed at his towering stature. He was in fact 6’3″. Later in life, when he became the spokesman for the NRA, my opinion of Heston plummeted. Back in May of 2000, during a recorded press conference, he exclaimed and brandished a rifle over his head: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands.” Maybe he thought he was on a set? Either way, how could Ben-Hur and George Taylor (Planet of the Apes) disappoint millions of fans in one simple act after such a fabulous career? This was his last well-known public performance and I think it’s safe to say that he went out with a bang. Here are few animated gifs that speak volumes to Charlton Heston acting expertise, both good and not so good, but clearly focused on giving a stellar performance on and off-stage.

PlantOfApes 01

Charlton Heston; From My Cold Dead Hands. Long Version 01

My first animated GIF

After seeing a call by Alan Levine on Twitter about a certain animated GIF festival under way, I began to see more of the familiar DS106 animated gif on different sites I follow. I’ve never made an animated gif before, and to be honest, I’ve never understood the cult-like fascination with them in DS106: “What do those guys do in DS106? Well, they make animated gifs. Word.” And so much more! What this means is I’ll start making many more animated gifs to keep the DS106 energy going over winter break. It wasn’t until I saw one by Andy Forgrave, Zack Dowell, Brian Lamb, and then the great Reverend himself, that I finally decided to give it a shot. I’m not one who’s inclined to follow tutorials in general. I end up learning much more about my own process while stumbling along the way toward the light. Having the community chime in via comments is especially helpful. Still rather new at the blogging scene compared to folks out there who model best practices and who’ve been at this since the beginning, I’ll follow their lead and leave comments enabled on my site. I’ve never understood why some well known and established bloggers disable comments on their sites. So, back to the lecture at hand, I’ve revise and improve thanks to you kind folks out there giving advice. While I know there’s a more acceptable way to do this with all due DIY artistic merit and pride in mind, here’s how I did it. I did a quick web search for animated gif generator and found Image Flip. Jim Groom’s Gun Crazy Gifs post is inspirational and right on the mark about the bigger picture context of American civilization in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. It really got me thinking about the obsession American culture, for good and bad, mostly worse, has for guns, violence and rugged-individualist machissimo. I chose Clint Eastwood in the unforgettable role of Dirty Harryin the most memorable scene from Sudden Impact. Harry soberly mutters early in the morning and before his first cup of coffee: “Go ahead, make my day.”

Using Image Flips’ markers, I isolated the segment and executed its automagical workflow to produce the animation. Only thing is, when it came time to embed it in a post, there wasn’t a share html embed code to use. I poked around a bit trying different code samples but to no avail. How does one get it disappear? Pretty lame. So I ended up downloading a trial copy of Screenflow and recorded about 2:30 minutes of my desktop playing the file. Then I used the cropping tool to isolate the clip alone and exported and uploaded to YouTube as an mp4. Voila! The Demo Copy watermark is there but hey, I’m now giffin’ it… sort of… not. My make-believe creation would be far more subtle and devious had I managed to conceal the video player controls at the bottom, set loop=true, etc. Almost fooled you, eh? Not too shabby for winging it and having a blast.

When North Korea met Austin Powers… on Twitter

Last night, I once again was reminded in a very positive way just how connected I am with others on social media and Twitter in particular. Such powerful connections give rise to a sense of immediacy and proximity to real events as they occur. This also provide the basis for experimentation and creativity in ways that align with DS106, my favorite online community for digital storytelling. For example, as I came online after dinner, I started seeing news tweets flash by that North Korea had launched a missile. Indeed, it raced southwards and was spotted by the Japanese on the island of Okinawa.

Other news sources began to light up as well. I got a bit nervous thinking that perhaps something big was going down… yikes – just what is the payload in that rocket?? But shortly afterward, it was confirmed that North Korea had fired a rocket into orbit to launch its first satellite. In the end, all was fine… at least so it seemed. But this got me thinking about this country’s insane leadership and the nefarious ways of dictatorships in general. Something about a missile and evil of course took me back to Mike Myers as Dr. Evil et al. in Austin Powers II, right at the point when Dr. Evil and Mini-Me are launched into space.

This prompted me to send the following tweet to my followers: “Did North Korea just launch Dr. Evil into space? Someone call Austin Powers.” And wouldn’t you know, shortly after publishing it, Austin Powers responded to my tweet, through his own dynamic search of the Twitterverse, by making it one his favorites.

Austin Powers favorites my tweet

This could be a cool assignment for DS106 students: based on a real life event, engage historical figures (real or fictional) on Twitter.  What’s ironic is I didn’t tweet this message at Austin Powers; in fact, I had no idea there was some character out there pretending to be Austin Powers! Could it be Mike Meyers, as in, could the real Mike Meyers stand up, please? This is also what makes Twitter so great- a place to create and co-create meaning with others while also keeping a watchful eye on authenticity, purpose, and one’s very own crap filter.

ISD and Learning Theories revisited: re-discovering my Master’s work from ’04

Back in 2004, I graduated from Penn State with a Master degree in Instructional Systems Design. With the steady increase of educational technology and technology tools in F2F and online learning, the College of Education has re-branded the department as Learning and Performance Systems. I’m really glad they kept the “Systems” piece in the title as this is such a key part of systems thinking and the classic “systematic approach” to design (i.e., the ADDIE model and others). On Friday, I’ll be teaching an “introduction to instructional design” online module. It’s a primer for the instructional technology student apprentices and program (ITAP), an initiative of the NY6 Consortium. Here is the reading list I put together for this short-class: RequiredReadingsTheoryandPractice Below are two video clips I created last week with yours truly starring in a one-man show, a cheerful talking head. You can also check out one of our student technology assistants and apprentice’s site here. Please make this budding blogger’s day by posting a comment!

It was a real treat for me was see that my design prototype is still “live” on an quiet test server at Penn State… Very cool and kudos to my IT pals in the College of Agricultural Sciences for maintaining it over the years. You can check out the Invasive Species website and the ISD primer videos below.

While classic instructional design approaches provide an important and critical lens through which to view any design or re-design of instruction (I think of Carol Twigg’s work in particular when it comes to redesign) constructivist theories continue to influence and energize my thinking and work in academic technology as it did back in 2004 as a graduate student and webmaster at Penn State. What a fun refresher to revisit this old stuff… gets me thinking in new ways that hopefully benefits others, not to me mention me. I guess it’s not that old after all! It might also be time to think about how I could be using this for work to further my research and even studies… à la MOOC or more formally back in grad school?

Overview of Operation Invasive Species (Master’s thesis based on this prototype I designed and built)

An instructional design primer



Learning about openness, the “cloud” and other topics

Back in June, I co-taught a WordPress for Teaching and Learning workshop at the annual SUNY Instructional Technology Conference held in Stony Brook, NY. I attended this conference in Plattsburgh, NY a few years ago. It IS an exceptionally good conference — my colleagues at SUNY put on a great program, the facilities at Stony Brook were great. I had the opportunity to speak with Patrick Masson from UMassOnline. We’d been in touch back in the Spring when he found himself SIGMaster of a SIG on openness. A speaker was needed at the last minute… He sent out an email to the EDUCAUSE Openness Constituent Group listserv. I offered to present on my casual and informal experiences as a MOOCster, having participated on-and-off in various MOOCs last year. While the SIG was cancelled due to low enrollment, here’s a brief description of the presentation: “Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) seek to establish open and cost-free learning environments and may push online learning and professional development to the next frontier. What is it like to experience distance learning for the first-time as an open online student? What are the opportunities and challenges of being an open lifelong learner in MOOCs? I will share my observations as a casual observer and ³MOOCster² in 3 different MOOCs taken simultaneously in Spring 2012.”

And here’s a description of the actual meeting:

A culture of openness has begun taking root in the core of academia.
Universities around the world are embracing values of transparency,
collaboration, and open innovation as they move to adopt open source
software, make use of open educational resources and scholarly content and begin to explore open models of governance. Is a comprehensive shift towards openness in higher education a positive trend? What does this shift portend for institutional and educational transformation? How can universities in this area best leverage the opportunities this movement presents and mitigate some of the inherent challenges it poses?

This SIG will present a panel of individuals representing different open
initiatives underway throughout higher education, discuss their evolution
and potential impact, identify common challenges or issues posed, and
introduce consortia focused on promoting awareness, assessment and adoption in this area and opportunities to participate.

Participants should expect to come away with a broader understanding of the following questions:

– What is openness – (e.g. What are the essential values or components).
– How have open communities (open source as well as OCW, OER consortia)
organized themselves differently to deliver quality products and/or
– How can institutions orient themselves to both participate in and partake
of open source communities, products and processes?

Michael Feldstein and others planned to present as well. It would have been a great SIG. Next time.

So back to the SUNY conference, Patrick and I had some good conversations before and after the Chancellor’s keynote. I asked him for book/article recommendations to learn more about openness as it applies to software design and management. Of course, I’m interested in “the Cloud” and “the Crowd” as in crowdsourcing, too. So, I’d like to share that list here as a reminder to me what I plan to read and blog about in the future.

Rosalyn Metz’s Educause Quarterly article, “Cloud Computing Explained”
The Cathedral and the Bazaar
The Success of Open Source
The Wisdom of Crowds
Agile Project Management

Have you read any of these works? Do you have other recommendations?

Stellar views of Wäscälly Wäbbits’ Bunk 2 at Camp Magic MacGuffin

Yes, these are the Wäscälly Wäbbits you’re looking for! Check out Bunk 2 where there is plenty of room to dig and explore. As we get settled into camp, I’m looking forward to exploring the petroglyphs up on the cliffs.

Breaking Camp



Hatchet Jack told us the other day that the hills and lake in the Camp MacGuffin vicinity are inhabited by Big Wäscäl Wäbbit, a huge seldom-seen critter that leaves a gigantic paw print similar to Sasquatch. If you see a paw print please take a picture and tweet about it.

Breaking out the camping gear for Camp Magic MacGuffin

Dear Family: Well, blame it on ds106, but it’s about time I get my act in gear if I’m going to Camp MacGuffin this summer. Hey Bunk House #2: please save me a spot by the fire, my gear and my bones are on their way! So here is my camping gear I picked up back in 1990. Good quality materials and of course I take care of my stuff. It has served me well all over the world. And still shines on. My Lowe Specialist Cloudwalker II has carried many different objects all over North America, Europe, North Africa, South Pacific, the Caribbean, Central and South America… The Marmot sleeping bag has kept me cuddly snug and protected in the high backcountry of the Sierras, Rockies, Pyrenees, Alps, and still has decent loft on standby in my dry basement. I’m ready to go camping! Do not worry, dear family and friends, I’m in very good company at Camp Magic MacGuffin. I promise to keep in touch this summer. I’ll be creating and sharing art with you over the Internets!

Camp gear from 1990 still kicking


Left to my own devices

I’ve owned several record players over the years. I remember thinking from way back that I should probably squirrel one away in storage just in case. I’m pretty sure the last player I owned was accidentally thrown away while I was living overseas in the 1990s. It was stored in my folks’ basement. I did manage to take my Yamaha amplifer and a 5 disc Sony CD player with me to France. And all my CDs! But I left the record player at home. Why would you take a record player to France in 1994 anyway? A few years ago, a family friend retired and downsized her house in the Bryn Mawr area outside Philadelphia. She kindly gave my parents a number of vintage LPs, some of which are now in my possession. I would love to listen to them but am now tasked with finding a record player. My friend Dr Garcia kindly recommended one. Here’s another: the Crosley CR40 Mini-Turntable from Sears. But I’m keeping my eye out at garage sales for a real bargain. In the 70s, we had one of those all-in-one humongous furniture type devices. I think it had a built-in radio. It looked very similar to this one for sale now on Craigslist. It was a great hand-me-down from someone! I wonder where it is now? Is it still spinning vinyl in somebody’s living room or perhaps it’s stored in a basement or storage locker? I’ve got some albums I’m eager to listen to and share with others. Here is a future ds106radio show in the works… Oh, be sure to hold onto a VCR. I’ve got two. In another post, I’ll share how a friend and I rigged up a transformer to convert the 220V to 110V so I could hear my tunes in France. This setup worked great for a few years until it failed one day and gave both devices too much juice. Its last song ended with a bang and a puff of smoke.