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Montréal (or “my weight in poutine”)

Much like this time last year, I’ve just returned from the EdMedia World Conference, held in Montréal, Québec (providing me an opportunity to use accented characters frequently). Unlike the 2014 conference, though, I was not only an attendee this time but also a presenter since the brief paper Heather Hughes and I submitted was accepted and published in the proceedings. So, my favorite conference, my first published paper and my first trip to Montréal all in one go?

Most excellent.

For 2015, the conference was compressed (rather suddenly) to three days from four which lent a feeling of urgency to the schedule. Though they were intense days, they were also chock full of interesting sessions from presenters representing institutions around the globe.  Some highlights:

  • A different keynote speaker kicked off each morning and my favorite was certainly Tuesday’s: Jennifer Howell from Curtin University in Australia.  Her presentation focused on the sense of self one both creates and interacts with while navigating many different curated “selves” in digital spaces.  She raised the very good point that we become increasingly disconnected from our true selves as we spend all of our time tending to “best possible selves” across social media platforms and beyond. But she also called for recognition of this trend and the overarching reality of total inundation in media – both our own and others’ –  in our teaching and learning.  Her call to action for the attendees was to shift towards transmediated learning which she defined as “the convergence of popular culture, media, cultural studies, socially mediated connections, networks, technology and learning”.
  • An interesting trend across several conference sessions was commentary on working with indigenous populations. In fact, Monday’s keynote from Norman Vaughn (Mount Royal University in Canada) casually mentioned “A lot of you work with indigenous peoples…”. Another session attended was one on respectful research practices when dealing with these communities presented by a Canadian working in Australia with the Maori. There were more on the schedule, as well. While my initial reaction in the morning was “Do we?”, I actually took a lot away from that later session (presented by Michelle Eady from University of Wollongong) on research practices and realized that, yes, in fact we do something fairly similar when interacting with the diverse communities that make up the campuses and their surrounding regions.  I have a feeling the notes taken here will be called upon several times more.
  • I also really enjoyed learning about mobile and augmented reality tools in a session presented by New Zealand-based educational technology lecturer, Thom Cochrane. His was more a demonstration of the tools that have worked in his own teaching experiences – including examples of student work and hands-on opportunities – than a dry reading of a paper and was a great way to get things kicked off on Monday. I have plans to check out Wikitude for place-based projects with the Penn State Center and hope to find the right instructors at some campuses to try similar tools alongside travel abroad opportunities as they develop, especially for repeating campus trips (setting up past students’ AR map overlays would be a great resource for first time student travelers).

Oh, and that presentation. After getting used to presenting in 50-75 minute class periods, the reality of a 20 minute time slot is that it’s now so short. That is to say, the presenting was done before it even really felt like Heather and I had started. Lucking into a post-coffee break afternoon timeslot was a fantastic boon and the room was nicely filled-out and attendees were attentive. My favorite keynote speaker was even in attendance, which was a very nice surprise. Though time for questions was limited with the next brief paper presenters needing to set up while we tore down, a few good ones came our way from those in the audience and we hope to get more emailed to us once people have a chance to unpack what they learned last week (I know I’ve barely had time to do this just yet).

Download the Paper

Download the Presentation


More photos, as usual, on Flickr
 
Of course, I did get to spend some time out and about exploring Montréal, too. I kicked off a week of walking everywhere by strolling 7 miles out to Habitat 67, an amazing residential development leftover from Expo 67 (and still inhabited today).  From there, I made my first visit to Old Port and took in the life in the square in front of Notre-Dame Basilica – as well as taking in caffeine at the totally excellent Tommy café. On other outings, I found myself walking 400 steps up to the top of Mount Royal for the spectacular view, hiking a few miles over to Café Venosa, a new cat adoption center and vegan coffeeshop (that might be my favorite discovery) and eating my way through all of the poutine the city had to offer. (I can definitely say I now know where to find a three poutine “flight”, for instance…) Montréal was far more sophisticated and way more inviting than I ever imagined and I’m happy to have learned of yet another North American city that I wasn’t giving enough credit (the first being México City). Always good to know what’s in your own backyard…
 

Combining two loves

It was with great delight this morning that I discovered the maker’s of one of my favorite art-y games, Monument Valley are developing their own take on digital automobile instrumentation. Ridiculously addictive and visually arresting iPad game + in-car technology + elegant, contextual interface design? *swoon*

There’s a great, detailed write up over at ustwo’s site and you can participate in the conversation as well as downloading the design and code work to contribute to the project.

A Gulf Tower beacon I’ll be able to read

Gulf Tower Project

So, part of the Pittsburgh skyline that I’ve not really learned how to interpret is the Gulf Tower and its weather beacon lights.  I guess I’ve never bothered with learning their language because I just view them as “pretty” – and then check the weather app on my phone.

Anyway, the very same lights are about to get a whole lot more art-y – and a lot more phone-y – as Antoine Catala kicks off his Gulf Tower Project on February 11th. The installation will transform the building’s beacon into an Instagram-based mood analysis tool for the entire city, lighting up with progressively more red or green as software decides whether posts to the photo sharing channel are negative or positive in tone.

The final results will be part of Antoine Catala: Distant Feel at the Carnegie Museum of Art and is another part of the same Hillman Photography Initiative programming that brought the live premiere of the lost Warhol Amiga experiments documentary I attended back in May.  Should be cool stuff!

(via Engadget)

Volvo wants me back

As you know, I recently defected from my Volvo back to an Audi.  Well, the Swedes are displeased and have put together an ad that was clearly engineered by top scientist to be so pretty as to render me both utterly remorseful and desperately ready to return to their be-coat’d arms.

It’s working.

(Co.Create)

The generated book

It’s National Novel Writing Month, but for those of you less interested in human-generated works, the National Novel Generation Month might be of more interest. As The Verge shares, NaNoGenMo, a creation of Darius Kazemi, is about celebrating the best in creative narrative writing code, and there are some really compelling (if not entirely readable) works to be found in the GitHub repository. Below are a few of my favorites.

From Generated Detective #1:

a noir comic with Project Gutenberg text and magna-fied Flickr pics by Greg Borenstein

From Threnody for Abraxas:

Pro-tip from the author: The enjoyment of reading this work may possibly be enhanced if one imagines it narrated in the voice of, say, David Attenborough or James Earl Jones.

Elsewhere nearby, the amusingly European sculpture, whose perfect key is cynically surveying the transparent stick and an incredible junkie and the heart behind the classical image, is approaching the mouse-cheesecake and a homunculus under the taxicab. A partly rare escutcheon is leaping on top of an axiomatically salty disease. The tedious oyster is lauding the clementine, while a brain-flavoured après-ski is an extraneous easel.

The breeze is chasing the meaningless entrepreneur and the florid shin-bone, whose shoe is decaying smoothly on top of the spring and a rainy jug of baubles, while the fire extinguisher is curtly caressing a shaman. An iceberg is the robust servant. The shoe is surveying a gooey statue, which is forgiving an irascible ladle on top of a mannequin, inside the sword-swallower. A supersonically cynical quote is the comic book.

“a phantasmagoric Surrealist word/concept-painting” by Chris Pressey 

From Seraphs:

an automatically generated Voynich Manuscript style text by Liza Daly

From The Last Appetite:

Sun Dried Corn Grit Fettucine

Ingredients:
  • 310 milligrams of corn grit
  • 660 grams of clam
  • 20 grams of mango
  • 270 grams of mustard
  • 20 milligrams of mozzarella cheese
  • 240 grams of french toast
Method:

Stare at the corn grit and clam for 10 minutes. Broil the mango and mustard until a thick layer of mould forms. Marinate the mozzarella cheese and french toast until mushy. Contrive a fettucine. Chill overnight.

modernist cuisine recipes inspired by Nathan Myhrvold, created by Phil Lees

A Dutch road lights the way

These gorgeous glowing lines are actually the roadway edge markers on a stretch of highway in the Netherlands. They are also a proof of concept for Dutch designer, Daan Roosegaarde – and something I desperately want to see appear here in the US. Cutting down on street lighting by employee solar-charged glow-in-the-dark paint is just the beginning of reshaping the urban streetscape. Check out the Wired article to see his bioluminescent tree as street lamp concept and continue through to his portfolio for even more smart concepts like the electricity generating dance floor.

4th country of 2014: Mexico

think my most recent trip outside of the continental United States is my last of the year…and it was a particularly splendid one, made just a bit better by getting to catch up with a good friend from home. Though it was just a four day visit to Mexico City, I still found a way to fall in love with the place, the people, the food and the overall vibe there. Vibrant doesn’t do it justice. Novel barely covers the sights around every corner. And warm is an understatement when talking about the welcoming atmosphere. Yes, D.F., I’ll be back.

You can view an entire album full of travel photos over on my Flickr (and probably a few on ye olde Instagram, for good measure).

Touring the Energy Innovation Center

View from the Penn State Center

view from the soon-to-be Penn State Center offices

I had the pleasure and good fortune to be invited along today on a tour of the Energy Innovation Center led by the incredibly informative Thomas Bartnik. My invite was proffered by Deno De Ciantis, director of the Penn State Center, a partner in the project that has been transforming the former Connelly School into a new hub for all things sustainable, forward thinking and transformative in the region. The Penn State Center will be moving offices to a wholly renovated, 11,000 square foot space in what had been teaching work shops for trade students – giving them ample room for their growing menu of programming and community outreach. As you can see above, the views are pretty great, too.

Penn State Center offices

long view of the Penn State Center offices

I was joined on my tour by two instructors from Greater Allegheny’s campus and a dozen STEM program summer students as well as representatives from another local organization interested in sustainable practices. Hard hats were required, as were reflective vests and protective eyewear, so we definitely looked the part as we made our way through a very active construction site. The entire project got started just 18 months ago and, considering the Connelly School covers 180,000 square feet, is moving at a staggering clip. So fast, in fact, that the Penn State Center expects to take control of its space in just a few more weeks.

My own interest in the Penn State Center is two-fold. Many Media Commons projects across the Commonwealth see students taking on service learning-type projects with local community groups. Having a strong ally in the Center would allow for Media Commons to connect faculty assigning these projects with non-profits and other organizations in and around Pittsburgh to create great educational opportunities. Additionally, the Center itself would be a spectacular spot to bring together the campus and wider communities for training, research and traditional teaching – while, at the same time, putting our media production resources in front of a much larger audience.

And this is just from my sphere. Other spaces and amenities coming online will include a 750+ seat auditorium, shared 100+ person conference center, workshare spaces in the PGH Green Innovators offices, sustainable systems teaching opportunities (with exposed, color coded infrastructure) and flexible events spaces throughout. The potential impact of the Penn State Center in Pittsburgh on all areas of Penn State’s mission of bringing education to the Commonwealth is absolutely thrilling.

Check out the rest of the tour photos here and stay tuned for more developments:

Funded: a frame from the future

With just under a month still to go in its campaign, I’m happy to say that I’ve become one of the backers that have pushed the EO1 from Electric Objects well (read: 811% as of this morning) past its funding target.  It’s going to be a long wait until May 2015 when I can get my very own infinite-art-collection-in-a-frame.

Suomi and back

Well, it cost me an entire suitcase full of my belongings*, but I’ve now experienced the absolutely beautiful country of Finland over an eight day stay around the 2014 edition of the EdMedia conference.

To business first:  the conference itself was pretty informative, despite having a K-12 focus that, I’ve been told, was much more prominent than in other years. “Chalk that up to the enviable Finnish education system” seemed to be the consensus:  everyone wants to learn what they’re doing so right. Sessions covered everything from collaborative flow research in educational games (probably my favorite, to be honest) to the viability of traditional assessment models in increasingly un-traditional classrooms and beyond. Other notable discussions centered on self-publishing tools and resources, 3D printing in Canadian schools and a MOOC platform that protects user data and makes all content openly retrievable and accessible. Another perk of the conference setting: seeing learning space design at the University of Tampere (the spaceport building in my travelogue is Pinni B on campus, where we had our proceedings).

 
There are, of course, a bunch more photos on Flickr, if that’s your thing.

And to pleasure: it was one being in Tampere. The city itself is smaller than Pittsburgh and infinitely walkable, a fact I exploited extensively to quickly make a mental map which served for much exploration. An interesting – and only-in-Europe – mix of old factory town architecture and modern/futuristic construction made turning each corner an unexpected but aesthetically stimulating experience. And the proximity to water gave the entire thing a coastal vibe that, when coupled with the 30ºF lower temperatures than home, added to the sense of retreat. My PSU colleagues and I even braved driving in “big animal” (as they refer to moose, elk and reindeer) country to head up to Rauma, a living, breathing medieval village full of adorably painted wooden houses.

Having visited during Midsummer – the longest days of the year – made sleeping a challenge an exercise in futility but was ideal for being a tourist with conference obligations during the days. Really, day and night are pretty artificial concepts when the sun’s just getting around to setting at about 1:00. Going in with the idea that I’d likely never see Finland again, I can definitely say I was wholly wrong: I want to go back as soon as I can and travel around even more of Scandinavia, too.

* About that suitcase: the only downside to the entire trip was having my bag “removed” from the Tampere – Helsinki train the day before flying out.  Could have done without that turn of events and the hours of phone calls, forms and fretting that followed.  I take solace in the dumbfounded looks on Finnish faces as I told my tale – a very uncommon one in a country so safe that their largest city’s police station closes up shop at 18:00 on a Friday night.