Inspirations from ISSOTL17

photo of mountain range against cloudy sky with evergreens in foreground

Earlier this month, I was lucky to attend my first ISSOTL conference in one of my favorite places, Calgary, Alberta. The theme was “Reaching New Heights,” and while I learned about new-to-me resources, programs, and projects — captured in this Storify — I wanted to return to 2 sessions that continue to stick with me.

The first was a panel by Jessica Riddell, Lisa Dickson, and Shannon Murray on using metaphors for communication, both with students learning threshold concepts and with faculty and admin who might be averse to education jargon. We talked about discovering or crafting metaphors as groups of learners, as opposed to a top-down approach which might further confuse things with culturally and contextually opaque metaphors. Unsurprisingly, we all had stories where we failed with dated or “old” examples.

What struck me about this session in particularly was the discussion toward the end where we got together in small groups and talked about threshold concepts in our respective disciplines. One of our colleagues teaching accounting at an institution in Thailand and had never considered the threshold concepts of his field. The other 3 of us went first, sharing a couple examples from english, history, and communications and then he shared a point that always proved tricky for students: asset = liability + equity. Working together, we teased out the concepts behind the sticky point (assumption that liability is always negative and asset is simply positive) and thought through some metaphors that would help students understand the concepts. The most compelling metaphor: a dating game. (nb: we did discuss how to keep this metaphor from getting creepy) This was a great example of what an interactive session can accomplish: fostering real conversation across disciplines where people come out at the end having learned something unexpected.

The second panel by Krista Grensavitch, Ariel Beaujot, and Casey O’Brien talked about using feminist and queer theories to inform 3 different courses. Anyone who knows me knows that this was irresistible intellectual catnip. Still, I will admit I partially braced myself for slight disappointment and was happily wrong.

What I found compelling about each was the openness of each presenter to acknowledge failures, struggles, and places of sharing authority and power — which is to say, I appreciated how each paid more than lip service to the theories they invoked. See how Grensavitch talks about the local history and art installation project created by her women’s history students, and how the latter talk about connecting to their families and local communities in the process. (nb: I wish more instructors created these kinds of videos of their teaching practice and student thought and work)

Not only did I leave the session impressed by the courses presented, but I came out refreshed that it isn’t too much to ask instructors to consider and apply feminist/queer/disability/critical race theories of pedagogy to their instruction and what a difference it can make.

 

 

Effective Instructional Videos

Instructional Videos come in all shapes and sizes, but there are some statistics you should pay attention to to maximize student learning. The quick overview is that you should keep your video short (under 6 minutes), friendly, and connect it directly to an assessment. Here’s a link to an article from The American Society for Cell Biology that offers some more good insight on the topic:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5132380/

Above us only digital sky: Augmenting Real Life

Time for my second post. This post is a lot later than expected; I still haven’t got this blogging down yet.

As part of the fun new tech we have been purchasing at Carleton, we managed to get a hold of a Hololens. Unlike the HTC Vive, which is VR, the Hololens is AR (Augmented Reality). The Hololens is an impressive piece of kit and one I am the most excited about. According to Microsoft (its developer), the Hololens is “the first self-contained, holographic computer, enabling you to engage with your digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you.” In normal terms, it is a tiny computer attached to a set of glass lenses, which look like a very futuristic headset.

These lenses are where the magic happens. The Hololens has three layered screens for Red, Green and Blue channels, which are combined to render full-color objects. The onboard computer uses an inertial measurement unit to calculate the location of you and the “holographic” object within your surrounds. This technology work in a similar way to AR on your cell phone with games like Pokemon Go and Ingress.

The Hololens opens up some fascinating teaching possibilities. Unlike the Vive and VR, which is very isolating and a single users experience, the Hololens and AR can be developed to be a multi-user experience. This multi-user experience enables to each Hololens to view the same 3D, providing some exciting possibilities within the class.

One of the first projects we worked on was to develop an AR model of the Piper J3 Cub used to train Carleton students in the 1940-50s. This was a part of a museum display for Sesquicentennial celebrations. The original idea of this project was to utilize the VR and HTC Vive, but I felt the Hololens would be more fun for visitors and would still allow them to be present within the space. Thank you to PEPS for editing one of my favorite videos using the Hololens.

Video from Piper Cub J3 (https://vimeo.com/189338455). Watch this space for more fun videos!

 

On Pointe with Instructional Video

front and side view of woman at ballet barre in second position

Image: Hettie Stern ‘17, performs a ballet move for Jennifer Bader’s “Fundamentals of Ballet” online resource.

Imagine taking your first ballet class and being expected to learn both the French terminology and the specific associated dance moves.  Your textbook provides the vocabulary and some still images, and your instructor can show you what the moves look like, but once you’re back in your dorm room, how can you review what the proper positioning and technique is for any specific move?  Enter Jennifer Bader, Senior Lecturer in Dance at Carleton, Dann Hurlbert, Carleton’s Media and Design Specialist, and Doug Bratland, Web Content Specialist with College Communications.

Jennifer envisioned an online “Fundamentals of Ballet” resource that combines ballet terminology with concise video clips for each move. Her collaborative project resulted in 210 separate fundamentals videos featuring the talented Hettie Stern, a dancer and recent Carleton graduate, who performed dozens and dozens of specific ballet moves on camera.  PEPS and AT student workers Joseph Brommel, Sonja Borgmann, Kira Butz, Zane Grinde, and Adam Throne spent countless hours reviewing, syncing, and editing multi-cam footage and entering the French terminology for each move. Each of these short videos will now be compiled made accessible online to students through the work of Doug Bratland and the Web Services Group.

Providing students video content is nothing new.  Instructional videos around the world “are used by students for tutorial help, they improve initial learning, reduce dropout rates, and they improve course grades.” At the same time, it’s evident that students often skip over large portions of long instructional lectures. That means to engage students effectively, faculty members need to thoughtfully and concisely deliver their essential content while ensuring that students see it as relevant and easily consumable. This is why Jennifer Bader’s project will become a powerful tool.  Each video is only 10-20 seconds long, and each includes only the relevant information. During the upcoming school year, students will now be able to easily search for, watch, and review specific dance moves as they practice.

Jennifer’s project isn’t the only video resource Academic Technology helped develop over the last year. We also collaborated with faculty to create videos with content ranging from “Visualizing Slavery, Migration, and Liberation in Bahrain” to the “Buddhist View of Self” to “Tariffs” to “Objects and Air Resistance” to “Close Readings of Ancient Texts,” and many more. The size, scope, and potential of Jennifer’s project make it noteworthy, though, and we’re certain it will soon become a powerful reference tool for Carleton’s dance students.

 

The Grammarian’s dispute over the word Data

If you’ve been involved with discussions that involve data, you might have noticed the dispute regarding its use. It seems that this dispute boils down to how one copes with foreign words as used in English. In this case, the word data is a plural word in Latin (the singular form is datum.)  

“The data were easy to gather.” “That datum was easy to locate.”

In English, however, data follows the singular rules and therefore may be paired with a singular verb or a plural verb, depending on whether the referenced data may be counted. For instance, just substitute another noun that may be counted or not depending on your use case (e.g. “information” or “facts”):

“The data was easy to gather.“ -> “The information was easy to gather.”

“We put all the data in a single folder.” -> “We put all the facts in a single folder.”

So, on the whole, the English speaking world has voted for the English use of the word data.  For those of us for whom this is irritating, well… we get to suck it up.

Usage:

In Latin, data is the plural of datum and, historically and in specialized scientific fields, it is also treated as a plural in English, taking a plural verb, as in the data were collected and classified. In modern nonscientific use, however, it is generally not treated as a plural. Instead, it is treated as a mass noun, similar to a word like information, which takes a singular verb. Sentences such as data was collected over a number of years are now widely accepted in standard English.

(Simpson, J. A., and E. S. C. Weiner. “Data.” Def. Usage. Oxford Dictionaries. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/data>.)

 

History:

Mid 17th century (as a term in philosophy): from Latin, plural of datum. Originally recorded as a term in philosophy referring to ‘things assumed to be facts’, it is the Latin plural of datum ‘a piece of information’, literally ‘something given’. Although plural, data is often treated in English English as a singular meaning ‘information’, although Americans and Australians use ‘the data are…’. See also dice. In the Middle Ages letters could be headed with the Latin formula data (epistola)…‘(letter) given or delivered…’ at a certain day or place. From this comes date (Middle English) in the time sense. The date you eat is also Middle English but comes from Greekdaktulos ‘finger’, because of the finger-like shape of the plant’s leaves. (Simpson, J. A., and E. S. C. Weiner. “Data.” Def. Origin. Oxford Dictionaries. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/data>.)

The word Data is troubling on another front…

It is ironic that the word data is so vague because it always refers to something very specific.

First of all, the word data is useless without context. When someone suggests that you “get your data together” this can mean very different things to people coming from different perspectives:

To a classic IT support person, “get your data together” typically refers to all of the information related to your account on a local computer. In this case, it includes the more obvious files such as images, Microsoft Office files, PDFs; but it also includes the less visible, account-related files like the template and custom dictionary files in Microsoft Office™, or bookmark files from each browser.  

To a researcher, “get your data together” is likely to indicate only the numeric or experiment-related files related to their work; the collection of information that is the object of their analyses. The rest of the materials they actively created are likely to be referred to as simply their “files.”  The less visible or automatically created files associated with their account do not enter into this version of “get your data together.”

If we change the phrase slightly, to the more obvious but still ambiguous “get your data backed up,” only the context of “backup” gives us a clue that there might be more to the statement than just one’s research files. But my point remains;  be sure to provide context when using the word data!

New in Moodle!

Carly has done her yearly recap of new Moodle features heading into the academic year. There’s lots of great info and new avenues for support. Also, learning strategy consultations with Carly (cborn@carleton.edu) are also available for when you are looking for advice on the best way to achieve your student learning goals. She can be reached via email, telephone or you can sign up for her office hours in Google Calendar.

dh2017 Recap

Sarah and Celeste give thumbs up next to their poster for dh2017

This month, Sarah Calhoun and I attended dh2017 in Montreal to present a prototype augmented reality app co-developed with Andrew Wilson and Adam Kral. Our poster and additional resources are linked here, but here’s the synopsis:

Our goal was to create an augmented reality app that could better visualize complex and multiple temporalities AND be an easy reusable resource for classroom use. We chose a mural painted in a Thai Buddhist temple in the UK as our case study because of its layered iconography: the mural depicts the Buddha’s defeat of Mara, but the painter chose to include anachronistic elements including machine guns, Vincent Van Gogh, and a rocket ship. We wanted a way to highlight both the historical references, which could be plotted along a traditional chronological timeline, and the temporality of Buddha’s history which could not.

We got useful and positive feedback from the poster session at dh, as well as additional ideas for refining and extending the app from attending several sessions. Our next steps are to clean up some of the identified bugs and do several rounds of user testing with faculty, staff, and students to clarify how we proceed.  

Kral, a rising sophomore, did the bulk of the development work over the summer: learning Unity and building it out in AR Toolkit. His account of what he built is posted here, and we plan to continue building on Adam’s work and thank him for his efforts!

 

Student Post: Adam Kral on AR and VR Development

Guest post by Adam Kral (’20) on his summer work for Academic Technology.

So far over the summer I have been working on two projects: an augmented reality app to display images related to Buddhism and a sky diving simulator in virtual reality. Both projects have been built using the Unity game engine. The Buddhism app started with a two-dimensional slider that manipulated an image above it, as shown below.

screenshot of Buddhism app in development

I then converted this app to use augmented reality using AR Toolkit 5. When the camera is shown the background image, the images are now shown in three-dimensional space. The slider has been replaced with a joystick to manipulate the images. The finished product is shown below.

screenshot of Buddhism time app at end of phase 1

In addition to this AR app, I have been building a virtual reality sky diving simulator for the HTC Vive. The player controls their drag, x-y movement, and rotation via the movement of the controllers. This movement is tracked by determining the controllers’ positional relation to the headset. There is still work that needs to be done, such as adding colliders and textures to buildings. Some screenshots from inside the headset are below.