Thursday, April 30, 2009

CMAP - Intro to Emerging Technologies

This is a concept map of how I saw the various elements of the Intro to Emerging Technologies course relating to each other.

I felt that the learning centred around three interrelated core concepts: literacies, identities and networks. These concepts were explored via theoretical consideration of some important associated issues. And they were given physical expression in practical applications.

For me, this describes series of interconnected events occurring simultaneously at different levels, rather than a strict chronology or sequence of elements.

As such, I opted for a concept map that uses space and colours to indicate relationships, rather than lines and arrows. Elements have been organized into levels and juxtaposed in relation to their neighbours to indicate their interconnections across levels.

Getting rid of the lines and arrows allowed me to freely lay my elements on the page and move them around without pre-structuring them into relationships that were either too simple to describe what was going on or too complex, resulting in multiple crisscrossed lines which rendered the map illegible.

I grouped the elements in each level into succeeding "nested nodes" and then formatted each level differently.

I'm happy with my choices. Although it takes careful reading, I think this map can be interpreted in quite a nuanced way. I also got to get a little more creative with the CMAP tool, which in itself was fun.

As always, I had to fight the aesthetic desire for symmetry when laying down and arranging my elements. There's always a danger that making the map pretty could overcome the functional objectives of the exercise, and the further danger that you then start trying to make your reality fit that map.

I have to say, though, it is a pretty map. Feels organic, like pebbles settled at the bottom of a pond. But it's only a map.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

PRESENTATION - Personal Brain

The video above is part of my presentation on the Personal Brain, a mind-mapping tool I discovered, used and gave rave reviews about early in the course (see my March 12, 2009 post below). When I heard that another student was having trouble with the tool, I chose the Brain as the subject of my presentation.

Following up on a Moodle exchange between two participants in the course, I consciously chose to use the tool itself to present the tool -- so that the presentation environment would also serve as an example for the users.

I wanted to keep this presentation as simple as possible while meeting the following learning objectives:
  1. Introduce the tool
  2. Demonstrate its basic functionalities
  3. Provide working samples
  4. Provide sources for further information
I also wanted it to be as intuitive as possible for the user; to be rather than to describe.

I integrated into the tutorial both the company's web site and a video documenting how I produced the presentation of the Brain on the Brain. The idea is to have the final product demonstrate how it itself was produced.

I used SnapzPro X (for Mac) for the video/audio capture and this time (after my harrowing experience with the video essay) I did the entire thing in one take, after some careful storyboarding. I uploaded the exported .mov video to my new account and linked to it there from the presentation.

There's a small glitch in the logic of the video that attentive watchers will catch -- it's revealed at the surreal moment in the presentation when the video begins to play within the presentation video.

The presentation itself was produced using the Personal Brain, exported as SiteBrain HTML, and then uploaded onto a server, from which it can be accessed on the Net.

I'm quite happy with this final product, although I'm not sure if I've accomplished my objective of producing an intuitive interface. On first glance, it's nondescriptness can be confusing and the user experience will be altered depending upon what is clicked first.

Nonetheless, it took a lot of careful planning to come up with something that was simple, in the sense that it provided basic information and a springing-off point for the user to go ahead and try the tool.

That for me was the value of doing this assignment -- understanding the amount of behind-the-scenes work it takes to simplify the final learning experience for the user when it is mediated via (and informs about) a new technology.

The most gratifying part of this experience for me was when my co-student told me that she had used the tutorial and found it helpful; what's more she went on to give the tool another try for her next assignment.

Yee haa! Nothing better for an educator to hear.