Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Does This VoiceThread Make Me Look Fat?

OK, let's be honest: who cringed when they saw themselves on their VoiceTherad video the first time?

Come on, don't be shy - who cringed?

I know I did the other night when I first posted, and this is something that I observed from several of my students when we began working with the built-in web cams for the first time today. "OMG, get me off the screen!" seemed to be the one I heard the most. What I failed to grasp at the time was that there was a much smaller percentage - and I'll start paying closer attention to the specific numbers for research purposes in the future - who seemed pretty comfortable with the whole thing. At the very least they didn't verbalize their discomfort as the others did so clearly. So naturally, it got me thinking about our choice of response for VoiceThread (and other web media modes.)

We use things like VoiceThread because we are encouraged to try all of the different possibilities an application gives us. How many people out there decide to write their posts rather than voice record? Or video record? As a Language Arts instructor, I've taught the idea of revision before you put forth the final draft to your audience, so it seems natural to me to write, revise, revise again and then print - or post as the case may be. I've done it already about a dozen times since I started writing this entry. Revision gives you a lot of chances to get it right before you post or print. With audio and video, you can re-record your post - but it's not quite the same. Unless you go through a thorough editing process, you may delete a potential post because you've rambled on for six minutes -as I did with my initial posting on VoiceThread - but you may forget to include a particularly good nugget of commentary from your initial post as you record the second - or third, or fourth - version of your posting. I'm guessing like anything else, you may learn a few tricks to avoid this the more you use it.

The other end of "video discomfort" is the idea that we sometimes don't like our own skin very much. I will say as a short guy with a weight problem, some days I'm not as comfortable with my physical self. Most other days I am who I am, and that's that. Perhaps that's the deciding factor: Is today a good hair day? I'm posting video. Do I look like hell? I'll writing blog instead. 

There is help out there, though - naturally, on the internet. This blog found on the website is a very helpful and straight forward guide to making good video blogs.

What are some of the other factors that might keep people from using one type of media posting versus another? 

Image: Original photo, Bill Lammers, May 26, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Social Networking Responsibility

One thing that I tend to do when I come across something new to my world is to read up on it, get my head around what has to happen to make it work or useful, and then I delve into whatever it is. (You really don't want to be around me when I try spending more than $100.00 on something.) Because of the requirements of my Emerging Technologies class, I didn't get that sort of time with using Twitter. This forced me to just "get in there and use it;" although it's not hard to use, it's the way it gets used that still has me acting cautiously.

As I have previously blogged, I think Twitter can be dangerous in the wrong hands. "Dangerous" may not be the best word here, but I equate this technology to a bullhorn in a crowded theater. Most people will not use it in a capricious manner, understanding that the bullhorn is there for a specific purpose or situation. A few people, however, will grab it and do something useless - perhaps even irresponsible - with it and cause a ruckus. The bullhorn itself isn't the issue, but the availability of it to everyone is.

Tweeter is something that not everyone needs to use - or even should. Twitter can be a harmless diversion, an effective tool, but it can also lead to situations that aren't necessary or intended. As I was listening to NPR this morning, an item in their newscast mentioned that while labor issues within British Airways were being negotiated, one of the union representatives was Tweeting during the actual negotiations - and they broke down in part because of that. BA Strike News Was it part of labor's strategy to leak Tweet updates so that negotiations wouldn't go anywhere, or was it someone who was unable to handle the responsibility of having information at their fingertips exercising poor judgment and use of their mobile device? Either way, it brings the technology to the forefront of a "proper use" discussion.

Proper use of social networks and mobile devices is something that we as teachers deal with on a daily basis - with students, parents, colleagues, and administrators. It will always be a challenge to try to define what is appropriate and what isn't. Students don't always know how to handle the responsibility that goes along with the freedom of texting, Tweeting, Facebooking and so on - and schools aren't always thrilled to be the ones to define or instruct that responsibility.

Is there a happy medium?

My Latest Ah-Hah Moment

Tonight is one of the final events of the year for the Performing Arts Department - the Frankfurter Festival. Essentially, it's a weenie roast with entertainment - an end of the year celebration of student performing arts and a fundraiser for our parent group. It's a nice evening for the students and parents. My responsibilities as the Technical Director to the Performing Arts is - with the help of my ever-dedicated crew of Performing Arts Technicians - to set up the lights, sound and staging for the event. We get the afternoon of to do this, so while it's a lot of grunt work, we manage to have a good time as well.

We host this outdoors in our courtyard, which went through a renovation a few years back through the generosity of the 50th Anniversary fund raising campaign. With the new lighting and sound that came with the renovation, it makes for a great outdoor venue.

This is the sticking point: it hinges upon the weather. We do have an indoor option - not as nice, but it still works just fine - that requires us to move a lot of equipment in another direction, and sometimes on short notice. On a day like today, where the weather gurus say there's a 50/50 chance of rain, we start watching the weather forecasts and Doppler radar around noon. Given the amount of sound and lighting equipment, we tend not to temp fate with the rain gods.

This means I need to communicate with the student crew on a minute-by-minute basis (well, relatively minute-by-minute). Most have cell phones, some with internet access. Few, if any can have their phones on during classes, but I full well know that some do. Is this a cause for Twitter?

This is where I issue a "Rant Watch" for the readers. I never thought Twitter was anything more than a narcissistic venue. In fact, most of the Tweets I see are in the media from celebrities or sports figures, and most of those are "me me me me me" sort of things. I've been pretty sure there is more to Twitter, but I really hadn't seen anything to suggest otherwise. So, up until this week I had never Tweeted.

Today the light is on. Tweeting could be the answer to communicate up-to-the-minute changes. Is there a better option? This could be my emergence from the 20th century.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not Your Father's Ballgame

(Originally Posted 5/17/2010)
I have an idea for a new sport. It’s like baseball, except for the following:
· 21 players are on the field at the same time
· The field is sixty miles wide by 75 miles long
· All players have both a bat and a glove
· The bat is actually a type of rail gun capable of hurling the ball many miles
· The glove is actually a unimaginably powerful magnetic device
· All players wear an electronic eyepiece that helps them see the ball better and an earpiece that keeps them in constant contact with the coach
· Players and the coach can communicate with hand signals to coordinate the action
Sound exciting yet? Here’s where we make the game a bit more challenging:
· The coach can see and speak with his team, just not necessarily at the same time
· Not everyone’s bat fires the ball at the same speed
· Not everyone’s glove has the same magnetic power
· A player can communicate with other players when they hit the ball, but that information will not get out to everyone at the same time – in fact, some players may not get the information until they see the ball heading straight for them
The rules for this sport are pretty simple:
· Hit the ball as best you can
· Catch the ball when possible, and then hit it as best you can to someone else
· Scoring is dependent upon the accuracy of the hit
Seems like a sport like this would be impossible to play, yet there we were tonight, doing our damnedest to make it work. The critics of distance learning may point to our experience and say “get back to the classroom, all of you,” but I want to play this game more and not just get better at it but actually get good at it.