Google+ and group assignments

We experimented using Google+, results were a mixed bag. For classes it worked very well, however as an informal meeting space for grouping researchers it did not work well.

As a tool in class I was very impressed by Google+. It was implemented in Creative Practice and provided a great digital meeting spot. Both teams used it extensively with very little encouragement needed. Both teams seemed to enjoy Google+  as it afforded them a simple way to keep in touch. A great example of this  is one student was not present for a month of classes. He was able to keep in touch with his team in the class and ensure that his team was on track and contribute. For the other students they used this ability to delegate tasks and both ask for and give feedback throughout the week, rather than having to wait for class to roll round. Also as a lecturer this was a handy tool for distributing knowledge quickly.

Where I encountered issues with Google+ was when I tried to establish a group for students currently doing research within honors, masters, or PhD studies. As there are no classes and I am not the supervisor for these students it is very difficult to encourage people to not only join but sign up for what some students perceive as “another Facebook”. I had encountered some resistance from students in the past signing up for such services based on these perceptions.

Overcoming these perceptions is difficult if you are not in contact with the students, and makes me wonder if Facebook would actually be better as there is, in my experience, higher student by in. Another consideration is buy in from practitioners. Inviting people from industry to be involved with groups suffers the same problem. It seems what makes Google+ strong as a tool for education  the fact no-one uses it, also seems to be one of its greatest limitations.  It warrants further investigation.






Using WordPress to capture student progress worked very well. In the group context it provided a forum where the students could collect their ideas, thoughts, and progress. It was interesting see how the two teams responded to the opportunity to use word press. One team did not see any value in the exercise and chose to avoid keeping a word press, while the other team appointed one person to keep the WordPress blog current and produced an interesting artifact.

The team that did not keep a WordPress site felt that the maintaining of a Google plus community served well enough for documenting their progress. This line of thinking did have some advantages. In terms of use of social media the team preformed better than the other as everything was forced through Google plus. This however did not lead to as much reflection on decisions as the other team, and did not clearly document research. Also worth mentioning, as an observer the team that did not use WordPress made their information much harder to access. In order to understand the decisions made required digging through various posts made within a social media site. I also felt that as there was no clear space specifically assigned to record progress, decisions, and research, a number of decisions happening outside of Google plus were never documented.

The team that did keep a WordPress benefited from having an edited diary of all decisions that transpired. The ability word press has to generate clean presentation of a groups thoughts is also a great plus. I think the success of the teams WordPress can be attributed to appointing one person to maintaining the site, or that the appointed person came up with the idea therefore having higher buy in.

In future we I will be rolling this out in a number of classes. I can see the creation and maintenance of a word press site by students could easily replace activities like class presentations and provide a space for not only practicing critique but receiving it too.

AR and Geo Location…

AR layers (and Geo-location)


Trialing Geo-location was a bust in the web apps class. I had a feeling that this would be the case as a device with a keyboard is needed to code and a mouse or other such accurate pointing device is needed to create the graphics needed. As this was most likely going to fail given the subject matter it has been pushed to another section of the paper. Geo-location will be used in the next assignment which involves shooting in various locations, rather than sitting static in a lab or home PC.

While exploring geo-location, we stumbled across the idea of using augmented reality markers. This idea does side track from the idea of geo-location but is often packaged with the tools. The basic idea of augmented reality markers is they allow for the overlapping or converging of digital and physical space. Some ideas were kicked around as to how this could be used with both the students and other lecturers. One idea with potential was using physical notes to generate digital ones.

Students will often begin all ideas with pencil and paper. As most designers know this is because they are tools we have been raised to use from a young age, and are very efficient with. Most attempts I have seen as a lecturer to replace pencil and paper in the class often leads to double-ups in effort from students. As students start on paper then repeat there thinking within another context (as asked for by assessment criteria often) while adding affordances of blogs and social media, ect. There is good in this, in that the translation exercise often forces reflection, but I am curious as to if this step is needed and how students would perform if it was not needed. The ability AR markers give do allow students to skip this step which in theory seems more efficient.

The idea of using AR markers is that they allow for a student to pencil all their ideas down within a note book or on sheets of paper. Then they can go back to that doodle, scan and upload the page to a service such as layar and then add digital content on top. For example a student could draw a mockup for an interface with written notes, then augment that drawing using layar to include links to examples of similar interfaces, related imagery, blogs on the theory used, ect. See it in action.

Reflections on PG class

So I just finished a 6 week (@ 6hours a week contact time) class teaching web app development. Why web apps you ask? Sure they are becoming less popular but with phone gap they can be ported to all the popular mobile platforms with ease, which is a nice feature. Also  HTML, CSS, & JavaScript are more common languages than the C variants that android and apple use. We have run  the assignment the year previous with a positive response from the class, with students even finding immediate real world application and employment opportunities – not bad for 6 weeks. With a solid background set, we decided to advance the class further this year. Thanks to a teaching grant we got a bunch of cool toys and tech and tried them out. The following is my reflection on these


The moas are a simple idea – a big flat screen tv hooked to some speakers and an apple airplay TV. The construction of these devices is impressive; they can be moved around with ease and only require one power plug to be connected and a couple of on switches flicked to bring the whole system online. It allows students to share there iPhone or iPad screen with the TV anywhere there is a power socket. The idea of such a device that can share mobile devices sounded fantastic given the class was all about building web apps. In the first couple of classes the MOA saw good use as different apps were demonstrated for the students consumption by the lecturer. The lecturer also invited students to share via their own devices but a lack of appropriate student equipment limited the amount of students who could participate. The labs contain a Mac Pros with dual monitors, so sharing was often facilitated through these. The computer labs the classes were held in (and all the Digital Media labs) severely limited the ability of the MOA to be moved around, meaning it essentially became a fixed screen in the room. As there was already a projector in the room which was larger than the MOA and in a better viewing position, the MOA was rendered almost redundant. This was a sad realization for the device, though not a wasted exercise.

The MOAs I believe still to be valid, just in the right context. Rather than pout about the defeat we decided to think through the intended affordances of such devices and consider how to apply them in the context of the labs. Technology such Lanschool allows sharing of students computers and may allow us to share in much the way the MOA intended to. This could allow for students to use mobile devices connected to web based services outside the labs, then connect to these same services using a lab computer during class, as to share over the labs data shows. This software does run the risk of becoming “nanny ware”, used to monitor students. Careful consideration of its implementation would be needed to ensure it is used in the spirit of collaborative learning.

more thoughts to come, including google+, wordpress, and layar.

JSON – Building a custom YouTube app

I was playing with JSON on youtube the other day and built a web app that just pulls down videos and presents them however you like. The idea was to show a class that JSON is not to scary and that making a app is not to hard if you have jQuery mobile or a boilerplate kicking around. The app can be seen running here (dubbed youTube awsome-er app), though be warned, it had no love put into it and was for teaching purposes.

It did get me thinking that this would make a great platform for teaching. Armed with a smart phone with youTube capture you could quickly make content and students could very quickly see that content. Might be good for capturing FAQ in papers.

The basic JSON request looks like:

function showSkrillexVideos(data) {
  var feed = data.feed;
  var entries = feed.entry;
  var html = '
    '; for (var i = 0; i < entries.length; i++) { var entry = entries[i]; var title = entry.title.$t.substr(0, 60); var thumbnailUrl = entries[i].media$$thumbnail[0].url; var playerUrl = entries[i].media$$content[0].url; html += 'html goes here' + title + 'html goes here' + playerUrl + 'html goes here' + thumbnailUrl + 'html goes here'; } html += '
'; document.getElementById('videos').innerHTML = html; }