Category Archives: digital media

Exploring Interactive Text

The writing tool telescopic text came up in one of our team conversations recently, this led to a longer conversation about text and various ways in which text is represented online. This conversation made me flash back to Bret Victor’s idea of “explorable explanations” In his 2011 article he asks the question:

what does it mean to be an active reader?

In his essay Bret Victor  suggests three possible ways to facilitate active reading:

  • reactive documents: these allow the reader to play with the author’s assumptions and analyses, and see the consequences.
  • explorable examples: these make the abstract concrete, and allows the reader to develop an intuition for how a system works.
  • contextual examples: these allow the reader to learn related material just-in-time, and cross-check the author’s claims.parable




Other similar interactive visualizations can be found on

While these examples point to interesting ways to engage learners, the problem is the skills required to create such resources. Tools such as telescopic text are relatively easier to use and don’t require any special skill or knowledge to use. On the other hand creating an interactive like the parable of polygons requires some coding skills. In order for faculty to embrace and adopt  the tools will have to become more user friendly. An example of a user friendly resource is keshif  a data browser which allows users to visualize and explore data. The only step needed is to upload data via a particular format via Google Docs.  Currently I’m interested in exploring user friendly tools that can be used to augment text  to encourage active learning. Crossfilter and dc.js are two tools I’m exploring right now.

Mapping Instagram Posts

Last week I spoke with a faculty member involved in the VCU Bike Race Book project who wanted a way to map her students tweets during the course. After a couple of web searches it seems that a lot of the web services that offer tweet mapping either map just one users tweets or charge a fee for their services. Preferably we’d like to map posts with a particular hashtag/keyword and not just restrict it to one users tweets.   I know Tom Woodward is also exploring as another option.
In any case the students in this class will also be using Instagram to share so I started to look for a way to map geotagged instagram posts. I came across the Karten plugin which finds geotagged posts and images relating to specific hashtags and maps them on a google map. Karten can be used in any post or page with a shortcode and its quite simple to setup. The plugin can be downloaded from Github (zip). once installed you  need to provide the following in Karten’s settings:

Google Maps API key
Instagram API Client ID
Instagram API Client Secret
instagram API Access Token

When all of this is set up you can create a new map, select the keyword/hashtag and then embed it using the shortcode. The resulting map might look like the one above.



Digital Media Course

course page

I will be teaching a course this fall: ADLT 641 Exploration of Digital Media for Adult Learning.
ADLT 641 is the second in a series of 3 courses for students in the Masters of Adult Education:
Technology Track program. This course is intended to be a hands on exploration of a variety of
digital tools as well as considering ways in which these tools can be leveraged for teaching and learning
purposes. Having met a few of the students a couple of weeks ago when they were completing their elearning
theory class,  they are eager to explore ways in which they can start getting more hands on practice with tools
as a way to put theory into practice if you will. I’ll also be tapping into the













One major project in this course is students blogs (learning journals). These blogs will be aggregated to a mother blog. Given my experience with student blogs in another course I co-taught UNIV 391 I also plan to blog along with the students in the class to document my thoughts as the course progresses. I’m hoping that being involved in blogging myself will encourage students to share their thoughts and experiences in the open.

After a discussion with Tom one of the questions that came up was:

How can the students work/assignments have value beyond the life of the course?

I’m still thinking of ways to accomplish this but I think its a great question to have at the back of my mind as I think of different course assignments.

So I’m looking forward to this experience and tweaking the course as  the semester progresses to make the experience as meaningful to the students as possible.

Sharing images with Google+ Events

This week  my colleagues and I went out on a Photo Safari around Monroe Park, it was quite interesting because for once I was actually taking my time to notice things that I usually pass by without thinking twice. The Photo Safari also reminded me of a neat little feature in Google+ which easily gets overlooked but is an easy way of sharing images. In some ways its similar to Apple’s photo sharing through iCloud but has the advantage of being cross platform.  So here is my little how to on using Google+ to share images

The first thing to do is go to your Google+ page,  create an event and invite guests (or you can choose to make it public) and turn on the option that enables guests to add photos to the event.


Next anyone participating in the “event” needs to download the Google+ app  for Android or iOS


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When you’re logged into the app go to “events” and you can check in and then add photos to the event. Now all you have to do is to click on add photos and select the camera icon. Any images you take are automatically added to the Google Event page resulting in a live stream of event photos.

The Event Photos page (below) shows the images in chronological order.

skitch (6)


The highlights page shows the most commented upon images


skitch (9)


So there you have it an easy way to share images with Google+ events..