Sunday, June 12, 2011

Presenting . . . Presentations!

Donald Norman explains:

Technology is not neutral. Technology has properties--affordances--that make it easier to do some activities, harder to do others: The easier ones get done, the harder ones neglected. Each has its constraints, preconditions, and side effects that impose requirements and changes on the things with which it interacts, be they other technology, people, or human society at large. Finally, each technology poses a mind-set, a way of thinking about it and the activities to which it is relevant, a mind-set that soon pervades those touched by it, often unwittingly, often unwillingly. The more successful and widespread the technology, the greater its impact upon the thought patterns of those who use it, and consequently, the greater its impact upon all of society. Technology is not neutral, it dominates.

Donald A. Norman, Things that Make Us Smart, Perseus Books, 1993, p. 243.

One of the things we can do with learning objects, with digital media, is to use them in class. We can have individual pieces of digital media on flash drives or other removable media, or stash them on the web someplace, and click on them when we want them. Or we can bundle our learning objects in containers. PowerPoint can be such a container. So can the web. We'll explore a range of different options, and think through what they're good for. As always, we'll ask what we want to do with the digital media, and then find the right tool to do it.

Now I know we've all been in the darkened room, and felt like we were held presentation-hostage while someone read slowly and painfully from the screen what we had already read in our own heads. At best we are a passive viewer and at worst we are daydreaming or doing something else productive with our time. And we've read Edward Tufte's argument that PowerPoint's cognitive style results in a hierarchical, dumbing-down grunting that obscures nuanced and detailed information. His use of Peter Norvig's clever PowerPoint "version" of the Gettysburg address really drives the point home--what happens to rhetoric, to language, to metaphor if the bullet point is considered the mark of the "professional?"

So there are some questions to consider as we think about how to present digital media well in our teaching:

How do you want to teach?

How does teaching with presentation software change how you teach? Teaching with digital media? What does it enable? Is there anything it obfuscates or hinders?

Is there a cognitive style to PowerPoint, as Edward Tufte argues? What do bullets limit? What happens when information is organized hierarchically? What are the other options? See: Howard Rheingold's prezi for one example.

Does every software program, every interface come with a cognitive style?

What technology is good for in-class and what is good for the outside of class? If some things are available outside of class, does that change what you do in-class?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Workshop 2: Digital Video

Today's workshop focuses on digital video. We'll do a quick intro to formats and storage, and then plunge into editing, with a quick iMovie to iDVD project, and also an overview of the history and aesthetics of moving image editing.

The thing about iMovie is this: you can do a lot with it, but chances are you'll start editing, get excited and, metaphorically speaking, try to stand up and bump your head on the ceiling of the program's limitations. You can either sit back down and try to figure out how to work within the confines of the program you have on your laptop, or you can move on to an editing program like Final Cut Express, Final Cut Pro, or another program. Rumor has it the new, less expensive, rejiggered Final Cut is coming out in a couple of days . . . .

What do you do with digital video? Video can be of anything: screen captures of software demos made into tutorials, a musician playing, a talking head, a video tour-- and "filmed" with a growing range of camera devices including your laptop.

Like any digital media, you can store it locally, on a server, or both (using different formats, codecs, sizes for different purposes). You can shoot a piece of video on many smartphones, trim it, and upload it directly to youtube. You can make a DVD. If video is on youtube or vimeo, then it can embedded easily on a website or blog, by you or anyone else. A DVD or video on a flash drive means no internet connection is necessary; a DVD can play on a television with DVD player, without any computer necessary. As always, the key is to think through how and why you will use the piece of digital media for teaching, and then decide what forms you need. It's better to create multiple versions for multiple purposes as you make learning objects, so you have your digital media accessible in the form you need for whatever purpose or container you want to use at any given time. Then you can improvise around the learning objects you've created and collected.