Occasional Thoughts on Educational Technology and Life by Judy Brophy

Monday, November 28, 2011

MORE Art to Experience

The great art gallery available on the web just keeps growing. While the web imposes some restrictions, it also allows additional features not available to the in-person viewer.

The University of Pittsburgh has published a digital version of its complete elephant portfolio of Audubon's Birds of America.
Prothonotary Warbler
The web version allows you to zoom in so close you cans see brush strokes. You can view metadata like the name of the engraver, and the size of the engraved plate, lest you forget that the birds were all drawn life-size.
You can even order reproductions and note cards.

To see Picasso's Guernica in an entirely new way, watch the YouTube animation Guernica 3D.

You are actually moving through the painting.

Guernica 3D
For more examples of unique ways to view art and architecture see a previous blog entry Seeing Art Better.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Case for Learning Something Entirely Different

Image by Matthew Ragan
I bumped into a listing of 9 new tools for creating music online recently. I am no musician and don’t teach or create music, but the tools tempted me. What fun it would be to try out some of those tools and see what I could create.  

Why don’t we do more exploring into areas that we don’t know?

As a technology facilitator to faculty I have noticed that most people, teachers and student, (and I include myself here) want to go only where they have gone before, perfect something rather than try something entirely new.  When was the last time you tried something entirely new?
I can hear the arguments in my own head
  •        Well, it wouldn’t be any good.
  •        It wouldn’t be professional looking
  •       It would be too difficult
  •      All I would learn is that I can’t do it

But we would be missing something. We would be missing the adventure and the joy of figuring out a puzzle with only our wits, and the combined wisdom of the group to help us.
You might not learn to create a passable piece of music using the new tools, but you might learn:
  •   How you attack a problem you haven’t seen before
  •  How others do it (and could I do that?)
  •  Where the edge of your comfort zone is for not knowing what you’re doing
  •  When confronted with something new, what is your preferred way to learn? Ask a friend, find a book, google it?

Image by Matthew Ragan
When was the last time you and your class had a learning adventure? An activity which you didn’t know how it would turn out? That had not been carefully planned and constructed and all the possible hard spots and bumps removed? When did you learn something together?

I think I’ll try some of those tools... or maybe some Morris Dancing.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Seeing Art Better

The second time we went to Italy we were careful to pack two pair of binoculars—not for the scenic mountain vistas, but for the building interiors and exteriors.

In photos of great art you always see it well-lit and close up. In the real world it is seldom either. The rococo hole in the roof masterpiece in the Toledo Cathedral, called the Transparente, for example, is so high and situated with light streaming through it that you can never get a good view of the statues surrounding the opening and peering down. Even the purchased guide book (another way to get detailed views without breaking your neck) has just one small badly lit picture.

Here’s where technology has given us a gift. Take for example, this bird's eye closeup of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella. It was taken with an Octocoptor, a tiny flying camera. (See here for more on this technology including how to build your own. And a quick shout out to http://www.openculture.com/  where I saw this video, which consistently amazes with its finds.)

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral by albertocvr oktokopter from albertocvr on Vimeo.

One of my favorite cathedral exteriors is in Orvieto Italy. The façade has exquisitely carved panels on the side of either doors, but they extend so high all but the lower panels are difficult to view when standing in front of it.

When I found the website PhotoSynth that allows you to create 360 degree views of objects for free, I immediately searched for the Orvieto façade. Several people had succumbed to its beauty and uploaded detailed renderings of the carvings.

When the guidebook implores you to notice the angels climbing up the ladder beside the door in Bath Abbey you can view them  to the very top without cramping your neck.

You can get a close up view of the Sistine Chapel in all its incredible beauty here with an accompanying Gregorian chant. 

Or take a tour of 18 rooms of the National Gallery in London here.

These visual aids can never replace the sheer awe of standing before a massive artwork like the frescos of St Francis of Assisi. But they give you another view, a different perspective from which to study the works you love, either before or after you view them. I think next trip we will take 2 binoculars and an IPad.

Do you have great tools or sites that help you view your favorite art better?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Trailers

Trailers for books? The idea both intrigues and repels me. But if there ever was a book that was fit to be "trailerized", it's this one: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok.

And if trailers for books isn't weird, how about a trailer for a tapestry? Lovely animation of the Bayeux tapistry.

Via OpenCulture.org

Friday, July 8, 2011

Finding Someone to Follow on Twitter

Watching the #fridayreads list of what people are reading this week, this tweet catches my attention:
Back on the St. Augustine's Confessions wagon. Meanwhile, looking for something I actually want to read as well. 

Ah! a fellow after my own heart. I think I'll look at his profile. Opening his twitter profile I see his tagline/bio:

Live twee or die.

Nice. And I'm from New Hampshire. Is it a sign? I read on:

They will have to pry the Oxford Comma from my cold, rigid, and dead hands.

A language lover. My kind of person.
The 4th of July brings this tweet:

Tonight's film: Crimes and Misdemeanors (because there's nothing more all American than Woody Allen!):

Someone who shares movies and snarky opinions.  One more point.
Twitter also tells me anyone we both follow:
The Dalai Llama

He passes every test with flying colors. I click the Follow button.
Hello new friend @PaulMathers

(10 minutes later I get an email that he is following me, too. He recognizes a "kindred soul.")

Friday, May 20, 2011

Writers' Houses

Sometimes two good ideas add up to more than their sum. Authors and Homes are two such.

Writers’ Houses (with the apostrophe in the correct spot, of course), a website/blog that explores authors’ homes and writing places is a place for stories and pictures.  It is interested in preservation and has an attic feel to it.

The site’s beauty draws you in and its writing keeps you there. This month the featured home is Steepletop, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s home near Austerlitz, NY.

You can browse by author, state, city or international, but the archives are the best place to look for the substantial writing. Some entries are little more than a picture with a web address. The Press page is a bibliography of writings in books and journals on the writers’ homes.

Their twitter feed printed on antique mailgrams is amusing. You can follow them on twitter @writershouses. Delve in to read here or search it before a trip to see if there is an author’s home you might visit.

Thanks to @Paul_Lisicky for tweeting this site.

Google Lit Trips are virtual trips to places that authors wrote about or where they lived. A special project on author's homes includes maps in Google earth and homes you can move around in.   http://www.googlelittrips.com/GoogleLit/Special_Projects/Entries/2009/9/10_Author_Homes_by_Beryl_Reid.html
Seeing Willa Cather's home in Red Cloud Nebraska gives you a feeling for author's frame of reference. (Google Earth needed to view) 

PS. If you love books and architecture, check out this slideshow article on The World's Most Inspiring Book Stores.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Finally Getting Facebook

 Even though my job is in educational  technology, I have been slow to adopt Facebook.  Last year I finally set up a page because I was doing a workshop on social media and felt I needed to have a page to be mildly competent. I limited my “friends” to my nieces, nephews and son. I checked it once every couple weeks. I just didn’t “get it”.   My thoughts about Facebook mirror what people often say about Twitter: I don’t want to know what you had for lunch or what your “status” is. (An erroneous characterization of Twitter, by the way.  I'm an enthusiastic Twitter user and stay up to date with my work colleagues and network through Twitter all the time.)

Gradually, though, I have seen that for a lot of folks Facebook is their “home on the net”.  It’s their personal web page and it allows them not only to communicate with friends and family, but to be creative—post  pictures and videos, for example.  It is a place to share something of themselves.  I have a blog if I want to write something to the world. Others use their Facebook page for that.  I am in favor of anything that increases people’s ability to be creative, so I started seeing the value of Facebook.

I didn’t get the real power of Facebook until recently, though. My eighty-something mother-in-law asked my husband to set up a Facebook page for her so that she could communicate with her grand children and children.  In helping with the process I “friended” my mother-in-law.  Within a day or so… in some cases within minutes… I had invitations to be friends with that whole side of my family.  I made the leap and said yes, to broadening my friend-base.  Within hours of becoming friends with them, my son had reconnected, through me, to his cousins on the other side of the family.  That I count as a real benefit.  

I’m still negotiating how much I want to get into the Facebook culture. I’ll probably never run to update my status with every little life occurrence but I can check every few days for family news and stay in touch, add the odd thought or question. I find it’s not so much about faces as it is about hearts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Assistive Technology

We are all users of Assistive Technology

As a newly appointed member of the Keene State College Accessibility Committee, I admit I have been more aware on accessibility issues around campus and around town.

I am also learning the “jargon” associated with accessibility and one phrase that leapt to my attention and made me think is “assistive technology”.  Assistive technology is used to refer to devices that allow students with disabilities to compensate in some way.

What makes assistive technology even better, as far as I can see, is that it no longer stigmatizes users. We all use “assistive technology,”  smart phones, ipads, phones that take pictures and video, phones that read foreign languages, software that creates Braille and printers that print it.

"It’s a great time to be disabled," a disabled friend said to me recently.  There are so many ways to speak, hear, act using technology that were not available even five years ago. It is truly an amazing time and I love the way it both levels the playing field and makes us all into users of Assistive Technology.

My hope and expectation is that a generation that is accustomed to relying on electronics will develop more understanding and be more accepting of people with disabilities.