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Fancy windsurfing? Check Windguru.

Fig. 1. Windguru

I’m always amazed at how much information can be put onto a screen; here, Windguru gives you in a glance the weather and especially the wind forecast in relation to windsurfing and kite boarding – strong winds are vital. It is just an aid to forecasting, though I have found it remarkably accurate, that wind strengths and directions do in reality shift pretty much according to the forecast. This greatly assists with planning a sailing trip – too strong or too weak and I keep away.

Peace in pieces

Fig. 1. Poster commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima for Japan, 1985. Ivan Chermayeff, de la warr pavilion, Bexhill.

Trip FIVE to this exhibition, this time with my brother-in-law, is imminent. What I adore about exhibitions here is that they are ‘bitesize’ and smart; they are a perfect ‘mind burst’. They are the ideal repeat show too as with each visit you see more, and see differently … and are influenced of course by the person you are with.

The right image says what each viewer sees in it.

This idea naturally translates into any and every conflict we see today: MH17, fractured and not yet stuck together, the Middle East utterly smashed into dust – I have this visual in my head of Hanukkah Lamp, the smoke from which forms a fractured map of Israel and Palestine.

From E-Learning IV

From a learning point of view to start with a poster such as this is to follow Robert Gagne theory of learning design; also the natural skill of storytellers and good communications: get their attention.

Pen and ink drawing class at the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

Fig.1 Chair and shade

It was like being back at school: though the ratio of 15 women to 3 men felt like I’d gate-crashed the girl school’s class down the road; I was educated in all male schools from 4 to 19. Of the 15 two were under 20, two were under 30 and the others above 60 and 70. No difference. Just like school. I recognised this swimming with Masters that given any opportunity to be the child that we were we are.

My relationship with art is an odd one: a mother who taught art, had an MA from Durham University in Fine Art, but who discounted at as a career for any of her children. I took it as far as A’levels (under her tutelage).

In 90 minutes we has some history, so thoughts on kit, then we got on with it. I found a secluded spot in the central courtyard (Jerwood Gallery, Hastings). And picked first on the climbing plants on a wall, and then the chair I’d taken out of the class. My challenge was to look at different ways of adding shade. Eventually I found that changing from pen to cotton balls and ink would differentiate between the object and the shadow. This’ll take further work.

Other learning opportunities over the last few days have included:

Power Boat II (Refresher)

It is eight or more years since I did the course and seven years since I’ve been in a power boat. A bit of it came back. And new stuff was added. I need this so that I can operate a ‘rib’ during ‘racing week’ at the local sailing club: laying the course, keeping an eye on the fleet to rescue and assist. The sea can be choppy, the winds strong. Dinghies go over and their mast can pin them to the shallow sand and grit of Seaford Bay.

How to train a pigeon

In her wisdom my daughter has rescued a pigeon with a broken wing. The RSPB and animal sanctuaries aren’t interest. ‘Ralph’ is now accommodated in a garden shed; shits everywhere but is eating from my daughter’s hand. Muggins will be looking after it shortly of course. The volume of pebble-dash shit is impressive as every shit is onto a fresh patch of shed floor – it will be one shit deep, like a carpet by the weekend.

Graphic Design

The exhibition on the designer Ivan Chermeyeff at the De La Warr is so good I’ve been back three times. There is no book on this exhibition, though many of his books are nailed to a table to admire (the page it has been opened at), with a few books you can browse. There is an insightful video too – an interview with the designer talking about how he got into fine art and graphic design from an inspiration father. One of the things he talks about is ‘learning to see’. Had photography not been banned I would not have got out a pad of paper and looked more closely at his collages. Had I not taken such a close look I wouldn’t have seen, with magical surprise, that one was made from ephemera collected at the inauguration of JFKennedy as US President on January 20 1961.

The Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education in images

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I’ve created, screengrabbed, mashed up and photographed my way through four years with the OU – seven modules. I should share more of them or turn it into an eBook or some such – a six hour long SlideShare? There are over 1600 images.

How I assembled a presentation as an exercise for the Open University Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education module H818: The Networked Practitioner

From the start of the Open University postgraduate master’s module H818: The Networked Practitioner I’ve aggregated screen grabs and photos into a dedicated album in Google+ ‘Picasa Web Gallery’. This, as a resource and aid memoir, also received copies of images from other albums, including the another two albums on elearning that contain some 3000 images from the six MAODE modules that I have done over the last four years and from other albums on the First World War and specific museum visits, including: the Museum of London, the Great North Museum, the Design Museum, the ‘In Flanders Fields’ and ‘Talbot House’ in Belgium, as well as inspiration and insights from the Picaso and Miro Museums in Barcelona and Alcatraz in the Bay of St.Francisco.

From E-Learning III

My interest in museums is lifelong and something emanating from them or to support them had been an intended topic for my last MAODE module H809. My interest in the First World War is also lifelong, fed by my late grandfather, a veteran of that conflict who lived into his 97th year – long enough to attend various events to mark the 75th anniversaries of the Battle of Passchendaele where he served as a machine gun corporal and the formation of the Royal Air Force as he had transferred to the Royal Flying Corps at the very end of 1917. Given the approaching centenary of the 1914-18 War I took the decision to enhance and formalise my understanding of the conflict with an MA in British First World War studies at the University of Birmingham. I further justify this by valuing the insight of doing a ‘traditional’ though part-time MA that requires attendance at lectures, and a substantial amount of reading – even from books, some of these a century old and getting a taste for another institution’s online offering. Here are my mashed up notes from a lecture on reviewing a text.

First ideas were around the use of QStream, a platform with its origins in supporting junior doctors in North America to pass tough written tests of their knowledge. Simply shoehorning in an idea rather than seeing what needs exist, or problems there are, say with museum or battlefield visits isn’t to be recommended. It was necessary therefore to try out for myself some of the mobile guides, for example City Walks.

I knew from experience the year before that QR codes had been used in the Digital Crystal exhibition at the Design Museum – efforts failed here as the promised free wi-fi didn’t work. A visit to the Museum of London was more satisfactory though throughout my visit I never saw anyone use them – spoilt for a wealth of activities and options, including touch screen interactive and computer consoles alongside many tactile and engaging ways to enjoy the exhibits perhaps rendered them redundant.

Most treasured visits to museums include the Royal Academy of Arts where my mother took my daughter, then 12/13 under her wing. I was also impressed by the quality of the audio guide at Alcatraz that featured the voices of inmates and prison officers.

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Reading I do always includes some kind of note taking; how I achieve this using digital tools varies. A significant, if not most of my learning is done via an iPad. Experimentation and habit has me use Kindle tools to highlight, tab and add notes that I later review and grab, while with papers I typically do a number of things: cut and paste a Harvard reference into my OU Student Blog which I use as an ePortfolio, as well as saving into RefWorks, while downloading the paper to a dedicated module folder. Rather than take notes, which I may do in front of a computer or very rarely these days onto paper, I will, as here, highlight and grab then later annotate and potentially post with notes and tags into a blog.

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My established habit is to deconstruct a task into its component parts – in this case an early step towards a ‘multi-media artefact’ using SimpleMinds, a favourite App that I have on the iPad and Mac-Mini.

This detailed mindmap was an early step in assembling a ten minute presentation I gave on OULive on Monday on the potential and pitfalls of using Quick Response codes in education. Its next iteration was as a Prezi. It was ultimately delivered as a PowerPoint consisting of eight or nine slides.

Here I took some of my grandfather’s photographs and mashed them up using the apps ‘Studio’ – a graphics/sharing app and ‘Brushes’ – the iPad ‘painting’ app favoured by David Hockney. Together these allowed me to assemble layers of photographs, text and graphics so that I could express an idea visually.

At some stage I had the idea of putting a Quick Response in a Royal British Legion Poppy – as much for the promotional grab of the image as the practicalities of doing so.

In a module titled ‘The Networked Practitioner’ that is part of the Open University’s ‘Masters of Arts in Open and Distance Education’ the prompt to use, indeed the necessity to at least try a variety of sharing platforms is inevitable. Within the ‘walled garden’ there were module, student and tutor forums, OpenStudio, and wikis, while managed exposure beyond these walls included use of Cloudworks and the Open University student blogging platform. My own extensive use of external platforms includes blogging since 1999, and has developed to include: Linkedin, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, YouTube, Stumbleupon, Pinterest and others. Flickr and blogging has brought me to the attention of the BBC and National Trust, as well as individuals able to support my specific interest here on the First World War: a blogger in Belgium, the grandson of a veteran, a local historian in Hastings, a post doctoral researcher at King’s College, London, an author writing on the First World War for the National Trust, the Western Front Association who have published my grandfather’s story and a researcher and subsequently the BBC to feature in a story in their ‘People and Places’ series.

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Picking a Creative Commons copyright attribution only came after slides had been submitted to the presentation coordinator. Even once having reduced the number of slides proposed and having greatly simplified the images to be shown the need would then ideally to have added the CC as yet another layer onto these images – all the more reason to leave this task to the end once I had reduced some 32 images down to 8. Further simplification would be to restrict my use of images to my own photographs, charts and drawings. An attribution I may have circumvented is to acknowledge or link to Apps such as ‘Studio’ and ‘Brushes’ while I find it all too easy to lose track of where an image was sourced given how many screen grabs I do and photographs I take every day.

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Future plans would be to expand the thinking expressed in the OULive presentation to include a platform such as QStream that feeds by email spaced repetitions on a subject. I imagine a teacher, rather than the secondary school student, assembling a ‘cheat sheet’ of key facts as a revision sheet that is then offered back to them on their phone until, literally, they ‘have it in their heads’. This I base not only on the idea that managing our inclination to forget is a necessary part of formal learning but that only once you have aggregated enough ‘stuff’ on a topic in the brain can it be expected to make its contribution by enabling you to answer exam questions, but also by offering and allowing you to formulate your own ideas.

Towards an assessment of my teaching

I often share a post I am writing as I do so. In this case having identified the story to tell : running a workshop to solve a ‘messy’ business problem I am pulling together or creating supporting images, in the above case a grab and mashup from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ – my goal is to be recognised as one. In a forum post as an Open University ‘Master of arts in Open and Distance Education’ (I graduated in early 2013) I suggested this could be achieved in four years – John Seely Brown thinks that eLearning speeds things up, while Weller reckons on ten years.

Positive and negative feedback, especially if constructive, sends a shiver through my bones.

Just ten minutes. A live online presentation. Why for me should it be such a big deal?

I said to my wife that I have not problems delivering other people’s words (acting) and I have no trouble writing words for others to speak (speech writer, script writer), but what I loathe and struggle with is delivering my own words on any kind of platform.

Big fails on this count, emotionally at least would include:

  • My grandfather’s funeral
  • My groom’s wedding speech (I was pants at proposing too)
  • My father’s funeral
  • My mother’s funeral

Because it matters to me far too much when, and only when, the words that I give seem to emanate from my soul.

Let me blog, let me write letters, let me smoulder from my ears into the atmosphere with no expectation of feedback.

Both positive and negative feedback, especially if constructive, sends a shiver through my bones. Why is it that I crave confrontation, that I want to be mentally smacked around the head, then kicked up the arse and sent back into the fray to deliver some amazing show of ability?

We are all so, so, so very different, yet how we are taught, or expected to learn seems so very contrived, so set by context and numerous parameters.

I would prefer to be stuck in a cabin for a couple of weeks with an educator who hasn’t a clue about the subject, but is a natural educator, than someone who has ticked a collection of boxes in order to obtain their position. The natural educator can teach anything. The subject matter expert thinks they know everything.

eLearning can be the subject matter expect – ‘IT’ (literally) thinks it knows it all.

So, connect me, and for me connect students and educators – worry only about the desire and ability to teach or transmit and mange those hungry to gain knowledge, and for students concentrate almost entirely on motivation. If they want to learn pores will open up in their skull so that you can pour in the information and they’ll never be satiated.

How to remember the combatants of the First World War (1914-1918)

Web Networks – from the micro to the macro

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We are each unique – our brains make us so. At the microlevel the network in our heads is then tickled out into the the Web in, at first. the simplest of ways. Our first post, our first comment is that first baby-step. Unlike our firsf steps though, online everything we do is saved, is monitored, is shared. It takes on a life of its own. Multiplied billions of times now many millions of us have learnt to crawl, then walk, then run online. As we are virtual we can split into many versions or parts of ourselves too – the professional and private the immediate split, but then into hobby groups and as here, a study group. The network of networks is a living thing that mathematics can help to weight and categorize, even to visualise, but crucially – the point made here, humanising the maths requires the insight of someone asking questions, seeking to interpret what it taking place. I see currents in a digital ocean that transpires into a cloud that then precipitates digital artefacts in a myriad of other places. Others, like Yrjo Engegstrom, see the growing tendrils of a funghi. Either way it is fascinating to condense, simplify and sharing the thinking.

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