Monthly Archives: March 2008

Timeline Progress

After spending a few weeks working on a way to streamline and simplify the data entry and delivery methods for Similie Timeline, I’ve discovered that someone else has already tackled this issue. So, long story short, we now have a fully operational javascript event xml generator that can be integrated into a variety of contexts (I’ve also been modifying the code slightly for my own purposes). So far, I haven’t found an easy solution to produce multiple, overlapping threads within a single timeline. This may ultimately require some complex ajax programming that’s out of my league. But, I’ll continue looking into it.

P.S. – I’ve also learned that the mac application Tinderbox allows you to export directly into Timeline xml files from its GUI (you have to scroll down the page a bit for the relevant post). It’s worth a look.

QuickTime Media Skins and Wired Sprites

After spending some time wrestling with DVD players, I devoted the rest of this afternoon to figuring out the media skins feature in QuickTime Pro. It allows the user to create an environment for video playback, with the possibility of customized controls and interactivity. What I did is to capture a short time-lapse clip from an episode of “Planet Earth.” Using QuickTime’s color correction filters, I adjusted the color in 4 different ways. Then, with the aid of an Apple tutorial, I created a media skin. It’s theoretically possible to make the movie look like it’s playing on the hood of a Ferrari, but I opted for a simpler route, and made the skin transparent. I combined all 4 clips into one movie and made their edges rounded (just to see if I could). There’s no way of effectively posting the video online, so I made a desktop recording of it using Snapz Pro. (There look to be some playback issues, but those are mostly due to the fact that I was playing a fancy video while recording at the same time.)  Astute observers will notice that this movie has no controls for playback or editing. It even lacks a volume slider. This is because I don’t know how to program wired sprites. The only conceivable use I can see for the kind of movie I just made (other than its being really cool), is if we don’t want someone to be able to edit the movies we give them. Wired sprites allow the user to create things like buttons and chapter markers, and also account for the controls in QTVR. I can do more research on them if people think it’s worthwhile.Â

Found this FLV converter on the web, there are two versions. There is a web based version and an application client which I just downloaded for my Mac, there is one for Windows as well. It has a text box to put in the url of the video and then a file conversion format drop down menu. The output formats are as follows:

AVI for Windows (DivX + MP3)
MOV for Mac (Mpeg4 + MP3)
MP4 for iPod/PSP (Mpeg4 + AAC)
3GP for Mobile (Mpeg4 + AAC)
MP3 (audio only)
FLV (not converted)

Really easy to use, has helped me get things for faculty from youtube without having to jump through hoops to convert to a presentation ready format. Useful when folks don’t have internet access to youtube.

Here’s clip I converted, Happy Easter[local /files/2008/03/ nolink]

NERCOMP Library as Web 2.0 Portal

Libraries as Web 2.0 Portals to Learning by folks from College of New Jersey and the State University of New Jersey.

Creating library subject guides incorporating Web 2.0 resources. They showed an example of Florida St. Early Childhood Ed creating their subject guide as a wiki. Using RSS feeds for new books. Using a account for links. Showed George Mason example where they’re using WordPress with a featured title and search boxes.

They made an interesting point that, at their institutions, subject librarians haven’t done a lot with subject guides online because they had to jump through hoops to update the webpages. This makes me wonder if the Yale subject librarians are doing this and if it’s easy. We could easily investigate making a WordPress site for each subject that they could have access to.

NERCOMP Tablet session

Assessing Student Learning Outcomes with Tablet PCs by folks from Vassar.

Used HP field-ready tablets with USB GPS devices as a mobile mapping lab. I was glad to hear that they were fairly low specced at 512mb of RAM, but were still ArchGIS just fine.

For one example they had an historic aerial photo of the path of a stream. Students then walked the current path of the stream, geo-referencing with the GPS enabled tablet as they went. This mapped the current path which they could then compare to the historic photo to see how the stream’s path had changed. The tablet allowed them to add ArchGIS data and make notes on aerial views of the stream as they were there.

Also used by an Ecology class. Prof gave the students a field guide that they put on the tablets. Used software called Photogrid. Students took photos of 1m x 1m plots. The software randomly scatter-plots points on the photo. Students identify what is pointed out on the tablet.

Initially they weren’t doing assessment, but found that it needed to be there to get articles on the project published and to obtain continuation funds. They modified a Penn St. survey with permission. The survey at the start of the class focused on confidence and skills questions regarding technology and maps. Also asked some qualitative questions on role of technology in the discipline area and anticipated support needs. The post-test was similar adding a couple of end-of-semester satisfaction questions.

More on their blog at

The Future of the Library

At this Nercomp pre-conference session, a group from Brandeis is describing how their merged library/IT organization is adapting to meet upcoming challenges. See also the official blog for this session.

“The world churns out new digital information equivalent to the entire collection of the US Library of Congress every 15 minutes. <NIST Workshop, March 2006>

Libraries confront a variety of disruptive technologies and these technologies will disrupt libraries. <David W. Lewis, A strategy for Academic Libraries in the firts Quarter of the 21st Century; 2007>

What are the 3 most disruptive changes you see in your landscape?

  • users have increasingly high expectations
  • “new” media literacy becomes increasingly important
  • Library space in demand as shelves clear out – access to digital resources
  • uneven cultural expectations between IT and Libraries
  • Need more flexibility and nimbleness in the face of a rapidly changing landscape
  • Librarians have had to gace major change sin their traditional roles; more familiarity with technology
  • Library is changing from an information repository to a collaborative teaching/learning/research commons
  • Users demand ease of use, seamlessnes; patrons ->customers
  • Culture is changing in: COmmunication and INformation; huge increase in both, and blurring of distinction between the two; more individual ownership of both;
  • technology is not a discruptive force, but may be a catalyst or enabler of change.
  • Teaching, learning and scholarship are about communication and information ( and a few more things….)
  • odl c’s: control, credentials, conduits, classes, curricula, collection-building
  • new c’s: creation, curation, collective, collaboration, community, constructivist, constant, chaotic

The changing paradigm for libraries:

  • access, not ownership
  • content, not containers
  • collaboration, not independence
  • focus on uniquemess, not on everything
  • learning spaces, not warehouses
  • proactive partners with faculty, not sometime support

What’s a Library to do (in the sea of information)

  • select information  (NO!!)
  • preserve information  (NO!!)
  • facilitate discovery
  • facilitate access
  • facilitate creation
  • facilitate evaluation

note that libraries are concerned about losing control – to Google, MS, etc.

What should a library be doing?

  • cyberinfrastructure
  • critical literacies

Digital Ink in the Classroom

We started with an interesting request from a faculty member who, in teaching a large lecture course, projects PowerPoint onto two lateral displays, and uses the large central (vertically stackable) blackboards to draw equations. Important aspects of the teaching style include (a) using PowerPoint to present central ideas, and (b) drawing on the blackboard to linearize the presentation of complex equations, derivations, etc. The blackboard method is important, since he can cover up to 6 separate boards with information, and refer back to previous boards and relate this “live” information to that currently displayed in PowerPoint.

The Problem

The instructor suffered a shoulder injury that made writing on the blackboard increasingly painful and impractical. He asked us to investigate some solutions that would let him retain the “blackboard experience” while letting him write in a more comfortable posture. We explored several technologies…. Continue reading

NERCOMP SIG on Cyberinfrastructure

Cyberinfrastructure and the Liberal Arts: Institutions and the Future of Discipline-Based Research

Comcept in Cyberinfrastructure – like the fiber (and I have a bamboo
bathrobe!!) it emphasizes the concepts of configurability, flexibility,
sustainability, and reliability. See the proposal to the Mellon foundation for some great concepts…

Some ideas for SSIC – A visit to CUNY might be interesting..

“…everyone is a digital media developer.”

“…every $ spent on technology needs to be matched by $ on professional development/staff resources…”

Bamboo – configurable, flexible, sustainable, reliable
MELLON Foundation

relevance of NSF funding for Liberal ARts – Liberal ARts faculty should learn from Scientists…

NEH digital Initiatives…

visualization facility


everyone is a digital media developer.

every $ spent on technology needs to be matched by $ on professional development/staff resources

The Computing Humanist — Digitizing the Human Record; archives, repositories;e.g. The Blake Archive

The Blogging Humanist – ports text of monographs to he webspace; e.g. The Crooked Timber

The Multimodal Humanist – embrace relational thinking, relationship
of form t content, expression to idea, explore new forms of literacy,
visual communication; See the Vectors Journal