Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Chip Tunes"

Chip tunes are songs composed of sounds from video games.

Chip tune artists' sites:
solipsistic nation
8 bit peoples
8 bit weapon

I found out about chip tunes from the small world podcast.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Knowing Knowledge

George Siemens' book, Knowing Knowledge, is available here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Double Meanings

Through an acquaintance with literature one can learn to appreciate the ironic and often humorous art of double meanings. A recent commercial example of a double meaning in action is VISA's use of the word "take" in its current ad campaign.
A recent and more serious literary example is the title of Brian Vaughan and Niko Henrichon's graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad

Take that, monosemous literalism!

Another Good One

"Thanks for inspiring me to be true to myself in my writing."

- Words written by a student in Advanced Composition reflecting on the lessons of a semester.


"I have learned to be opened minded and not just think that the way I believe . . . is the way everyone should believe."

- Words written on an exit exam by a student in an Advanced Composition course.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Nice Moment

It's always flattering when a student asks, "Are you teaching a writing course next semester?"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Photo Realist

a painter lifts a canvas

I am fascinated by this documentary about Robert Bechtle, a photorealist painter.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Best of Friends

a boy and his lizard

There's nothing like a boy and his lizard.

So What Else Is New

With all these blogs and feeds everywhere, I find myself always wanting "what's new". I think today I'll take a step back. I think today I'll review, reread, relisten to something not new for a change.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pixel Painting Fool!

Pixelgod Raffaele Picca shows what a pro can do with a simple graphics program like MS Paint. My hero!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

On Composing with New Media

In South Dakota Universities, the curriculum cycle is in full swing. This means that even as I type this, faculty members across many disciplines are designing new programs, doing their best to match their teaching to a rapidly changing world.

The faculty members in our college are no exception. The College of Arts and Sciences at Dakota State University has for a long time been known as a place of mixed media, a place where the interests of academic disciplines meet and mingle with the latest in technology and content production techniques.

In the past we of the "writing faculty" thought long and hard about how the questions and awarenesses of English studies, of literary interpretation and English Composition, might embrace desktop publishing software, text analysis programs and web authoring tools. But when we did think these thoughts, it was always with the sense that these tools were somehow specialized and most likely to be employed by undergraduate majors who would use such tools in their professional careers.

Well, that's not the world we live in anymore. Today, twelve year olds are editing music videos. Nine year olds are posting podcasts. The means of producing "new media" is in the hands of anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

Given the ubiquity of digital media, and the ease of its production, we are looking a bit differently at the interplay of these things and the interests of our discipline. If, as the National Council of Teachers of English has proposed, we live in a time when a "broader" definition of Composition that embraces "multimedia" is not an option but a necessity, how, we are wondering, can we effectively integrate video, audio, image, hypertext, text, and whatever comes next (3D modeling, anyone?) into our own projects and the work we do with our students?

My colleague John Nelson is taking his first steps toward this brave new world and has asked his students to create animated slideshows with spoken narrative and music in the mix. To show he students the sort of thing he's looking for, he made one himself. Here it is:

Listening to John's story I was struck by what he said about raising kids in the presence of "electronic babysitters". I found myself wondering if my own son is too "distracted" by the videos he watches on tv. I try to talk to him about what he sees, but sometimes I can't help thinking that he'd be better off without the box. These thoughts moved me to make this video in return:

My movie doesn't have a spoken narration like John's. I told my story with pictures and titles and music. John kept his focus on the essay he wrote and read to go with his pictures and soundtrack. Ironically, I went "non-printcentric" and let other elements do the talking for me.

Both approaches to digital storytelling are valid forms of expression. So is a simple line drawing like this one I just drew myself:

line drawing of a dog

Or, g-d forbid, a novel.
All these forms can coexist. Each one offers itself as a medium for worthy objects of study and a worthy vehicle for the articulation of worldviews. At this point, it seems, the thing to do is to put ourselves and our discipline out there, to hang on to our questions and see what happens next.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

One Laptop Per Child

The One Laptop Per Child project is becoming quite real.

Hare Today . . .

The child and I were singing "Little Bunny Foo Foo" for all we were worth when the child asked, "What does a goon look like?" Immediately, I thought of Freddy Krueger. However, I think the goon I managed to draw is much cuter.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Caramel Macchiato

Here's a story about a deadly addiction, with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe.

Link to audio

Save it for next Halloween!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Integrated RSS

In an effort to upgrade our graphic design and layout skills, eight colleagues and I have undergone two days of InDesign training. One of the last things we learned had to do with a related Adobe application called "Bridge", a file management system that simplifies access to files used by programs belonging to Adobe's Creative Suite. Two days of training had given us more than a snapshot of InDesign's impressive page layout capabilities, but what really struck me was one of Bridge's features: an RSS aggregator built right into its interface (here's a screenshot).

By default, the aggregator in Bridge is loaded with two feeds from Adobe's "Design Center". However, the same aggregator could easily facilitate project management by displaying feeds from team blogs or news from a team's manager or organization. Our able trainer, Steve Gagnon, suggested that such a feed might be used to monitor the inventory of stock photo sites which use RSS feeds to advertise new photos added to their collections.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

OPML Reader Extension for Firefox

There is an OPML Reader extension for Firefox. This extension will detect OPML files linked to a web page and let one quickly display them in the Grazr or the Optimal OPML browser.

OPML / RSS Autodiscovery

Check this out. It is now possible to automatically scan a web page for related OPML and RSS files and browse those feeds through Grazr at the touch of a bookmarklet. This is too much!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Chat Inside Your OPML Outline

Something else to add to your OPML outline: a Meebo chat widget! Here's a screenshot.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

His Pants

Half-marathon man got married this weekend, in another state, to another very talented librarian. Of course he wanted to look his best for the ceremony, so he chose his wardrobe with exquisite care. A jacket, a tie, a nice shirt, a handsome belt, and of course, a most favorite pair of French-cuffed beige pants. And once he had chosen these pants, after he had culled them from the herd of pants in his possession, what did he do? He left them behind.
Two days before the wedding he calls me. "Dan!" he says, "I left my pants in my house, the pants I want to wear for the wedding. Can you go to my house, get my pants, and give them to a family courier who will bring them on a plane to me in time for the ceremony?"
Of course my friend had to say nothing more. With the help of another friend, I sped to his house and searched his closet and bedroom for the aforementioned pants. But where could they be? Beige pants? Anybody see a nice pair of beige pants?
After a prolonged search (and several pieces of taffy), I called half-marathon man from his kitchen and sadly informed him that try as I (and our other friend) might, we simply could not find his pants. I could hear the disappointment in the librarian's voice. My heart sank. I had failed, and now my friend would have to enter married life half naked, bereft of the pants he evidently treasures with a fondness he normally reserves for first editions.
"Don't worry," he told me. He sounded utterly dejected. "I bought some pants, extra pants. They are the most expensive pants I have ever bought in my life. I was hoping to return them. I was hoping never to wear them. But that's okay." He sighed. "I'll live."
Was that a bit of static I heard on the line, or could it have been a sniffly sob? I'll never know for sure. But the new pants went on, the wedding came off, and the two super librarians are now bound at the seams.
And speaking of seams . . . the story of the pants . . . it gets worse.
"You know, Dan," said Half-marathon man, as we sat eating beige egg rolls, he safely back in South Dakota, "my pants, my beige pants, the ones with the French cuffs, they were in my closet, on a green hanger, the whole time. I found them the instant I got home."
My jaw dropped. My eggroll dropped. "You're kidding!"
"Nope. They were there."
"And they're beige? You're sure? You're sure they're beige?"
"Yep," he said, "they're beige."
Now, here is a picture of Half-marathon man's "beige" pants. And here's "beige". I ask you, are those pants olive, or what?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Grazr In Your Sidebar

If you're a Firefox user, a nice way to use the Grazr feed and OPML browser is to stick it in your sidebar. Here's how:

Step 1
Navigate to the Grazr URL of your choice.

Step 2
Bookmark the Grazr URL.

Step 3
Open Firefox's Bookmarks directory and select the Grazr URL bookmark.

Step 4
Right click, select "properties" for that bookmark.

Step 5
Check the "open in sidebar" box for that bookmark.

If your students are blogging, create an OPML reading list of their RSS feeds, put the list online and plunk it in a Grazr. VoilĂ : instant aggregation of your student's writing with links to their blog entries and comments.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Promising Model for a Collaborative Writing Environment

As this screenshot shows, I have cobbled together a browser based environment for research and writing. I've combined Grazr (left side), iJot (right side), and the Performancing blog editing extension (bottom).
In the Grazr window one can read the feeds fed to that space through an OPML reading list maintained by a member of the collaboration team.
In the iJot window one can edit text, wiki-like, inside a shared outline.
In the Performancing blog editing extension one can write blog posts that will appear in the Grazr window (providing one's blog feed is linked to the OPML reading list, of course).
At this time this configuration does not work because a shared iJot outline cannot be edited within a frameset. Replace the iJot outline with a shared Writely file, however, and one is in business.
A third vertical pane, containing a digital chat service such as Meebo, could also be added.

Blogging from Dillo

Just wanted to see if I could post from the Dillo browser that comes with "Damn Small Linux".

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Soup for the Soul


With a nasty cold making the rounds at school, soup seemed the perfect food for lunch. This crock of beefy goodness was cooked by Dr. Moose , who shared it with us. Thanks, Nancy!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Cheers to OPML!

Still doubtful about my enthusiasm for OPML? Let Hail the Ale's "Beer Grazr" put your doubts (and your thirst) to rest.

Launch this Grazr in a new window.

Ad Free Wiki for k-12

K-12 educators may now create a wikispaces wiki that is not just free, but free of advertising as well.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Writing Matters

Good writing doesn't have to be a literary book like Moby Dick. It doesn't even have to be Dave Barry Slept Here. Good writing can be technical. It can be about computers (imagine!). As long as people can read it, understand it, and enjoy it, the writing is good.

Proof of this maxim can be found in a collection of writings collected in Joel Spolsky's book, The Best Software Writing I. Not all the featured writers are professionals. But all the writing featured is good.

Some history behind the making of Spolsky's book can be heard in a podcast recently produced by IT Conversations. Some of the best advice Spolsky has for writers is to tell stories whenever possible, anticipate readers' questions, answer those questions in the order in which readers are likely to ask them, and, if you have a knack for it, dare to be funny.

Some of the peices of writing collected in Spolsky's book include Style is Substance by Ken Arnold, Passion by Ron Jeffries, Great Hackers by Paul Graham, Autistic Social Software by Danah Boyd, A Quick (and Hopefully Painless) Ride Through Ruby (with Cartoon Foxes) by why the lucky stiff, and Excel as a Database by Rory Blyth. The whole table of contents, plus the introduction, is here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Geek-Ed Podcast

On Bob Sprankle's recommendation I am dipping into the Geek-Ed podcast. Verdict: fun, smart, informed, and inspiring!

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Last night I attended a poetry reading at the Orpheum Theater in Sioux Falls. The event was part of the South Dakota Festival of Books and featured five poets, including Ted Kooser, our former national poet laureate.

Anyway, after the assembled poets had read their assembled poems (which I thoroughly enjoyed hearing, by the way), their leader asked the audience if we had any questions. So I stood up. I couldn't resist. I had a question. I wanted to know what general advice do these well known and well respected poets, each of whom teaches or has taught writing at the college or postgraduate level, give their writing students. To a one, the response was the same. If you want to write, you gotta READ!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Web Guru Wanted

My school, Dakota State University, is looking to hire a "Coordinator of Electronic Communications". The full job ad can be found here.

Update: we found one.

The Coded Language of FaceBook

Okay, so I thought I knew my way around Facebook pretty well, but I read something on a profile page today that really stumped me.

As a more Facebook-savvy colleague explained it to me, in the parlance of Facebook, being married is not the same as being married. It's more like "going steady". Hence, one can be married and still be looking. What's more, one can describe oneself as married (but not married) to a friend of the same sex in order to communicate one's sexual liberation, but not necessarily declare for oneself a particular sexual orientation.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

And We're Back!

Yes, the denizens of Beadle Hall have returned to our respective nooks. Now entering the fourth week of the Fall 2006 semester, we begin to sense a rhythm to our classes, office hours, and meetings.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to School Shopping

Something old
Something new
All of it free
Is it useful to you?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Cleaning Day

Yesterday we cleaned up a bit, adding organizing bins to the child's room. Think we may have gone too far?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

9/11 Report as Graphic Novel

Here's a graphic novel adaptation of the 9/11 Report.

New York Times River

Dave Winer has launched New York Times River, a site which presents the content of the New York Times as if the Gray Lady were a blog.

News from the BBC is also available, updated every ten minutes.

The service is intended for users of Blackberries and other mobile devices.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

This evening we are getting in touch with our inner Sesame. My favorite old Sesame Street muppet sketch of the musical variety, by "Chris and the Alphabeats", puts me in mind of Randy Newman. Who told you you could stop at three?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Wheel Well Kitten

Today in Madison, SD, a hitchhiking kitten was extracted from pickup truck's wheel well. Whew!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Podcasting Tutorial

Podcasting tutorial by Franklin McMahon who produces his own podcasts called and Media Artist Secrets.

Here are the segments of the tutorial (Flash screencast) which cover techniques for recording, tagging, syndicating, and publicizing a podcast.

Monday, July 17, 2006

A Conversation with Mark Peters

This morning I had a chance to chat with my grad school friend, Mark Peters. Mark is an educator and freelance writer who lives in Chicago. He spoke with me, primarily, about "Wordlustitude", his weblog about words.

Link to audio (20mb mp3)

Fascinated by new words, Mark shared a search technique he uses to discover what he calls "stunt" or "nonce" words (ephemeral words used to stun, amuse, and/or impress). He explained how he uses Google to search for instances of noncy prefixes and suffixes. What fun! Here are two examples to try:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Petrified Knothole

Petrified knothole, Petrified Wood Park, Lemmon SD.

Close Encounter with Prehistory

Staring down a dinosaur in Lemmon, SD.

Best Historical Marker Ever!

Update: I have just unearthed an "authentic" wax cylinder recording of the angry old man, a witness to history, whose words are preserved on the above historical marker.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Full Screen Editing

If you enjoy the simple things in life, you might enjoy this concept of a simple text editor.

The idea is to help you focus on your text by making the editing field full screen and eliminating all the visual distractions with which your computer normally bombards you.

I find these editors quite effective and plan to use "Darkroom" (the one for Windows) frequently!

Darkroom (Windows)

Write Room (Mac)


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Laptops in the Classroom

Jim Heynderickx has some ideas about laptops in the classroom.

Here, here, and here.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Flash Audio Player in Bloglines

I noticed today that my Bloglines aggregator now offers a built-in Flash audio player, making it easier to listen to enclosed mp3 files in the browser.
Bloglines Flash audio player (screenchot)

Friday, June 30, 2006

Digital Storytelling, 4 Year Old Style

Here's a digital story written, directed, and narrated by a four year old.

More digital stories may be found here, here, and here!

Now It's Gnomedex!

Now I'm listening to John Edwards adress the Gnomodex conference.
Like BloggerCon, this conference, too, has a live audio feed and backchannel chat. In addition, this one offers a video feed as well!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Treat Yourself to Free Classical Music


  1. Get Firefox

  2. Install FoxyTunes

  3. Go to

  4. Right click.

  5. Select Web Media > Play All Media

  6. Enjoy!

Podcast Platform II

Okay. Here's a revised version of my dead-simple podcast platform. This one incorporates's playTagger javascript.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Asynchronous Audio Discussions

Taking a look at Vaestro today, it occurred to me that my students can attach audio files to discussion posts in WebCT for a similar effect.

Of course, what a discussion in WebCT doesn't give you that Vaestro does is potentially global participation in the same discussion.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Performancing (blogging) Extension for Firefox

Pick me up off the floor, I'm so impressed! Or just check out the Performancing extension for Firefox.

Performancing is a blogging extension for Firefox that allows one to blog from inside the browser.

The Performancing extension brings Firefox another step closer to Flock, one of whose claims to fame is an on-board blog editor.

With this extension you can post to multiple blogs, add and technorati tags to blog entries, keep a database of notes to blog or not blog as you choose, and more . . .

I have added this extension to my Flockish Firefox extension list.

Monday, June 26, 2006

FoxyTunes 1.9

The new (1.9) verison of the FoxyTunes extension for the Firefox browser will automatically stream any media linked to a web page (bye, bye, Webjay!) and will search for information related to any media currently playing on your computer.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The BloggerCon 2006 "Technography" Outline

This outline is changing as conference note takers add information to its nodes.

Update: And here are all the mp3s.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Reading List: Education Weblogs

I have posted another reading list; this one consists of links to the RSS feeds of educational weblogs.

If you think I've missed any good ones, you can add them here.

Unconference in Progress!

If you want to hear a genuine unconference as it unfolds, you can listen live to Bloggercon, 2006!

Listening to it now, I'm learning a lot, not just about blogs and podcasting, but about the execution of the unconference format.

Seeing it also helps one understand it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Son Flower

We are growing this with the child. It is his first real plant. It will grow up to be a sunflower.

Working for Wisdom

In her talk on the subject of "continuous partial attention," Lisa Stone nails the qualities that should define our future relationship to networked technologies.


Blogs of the EPC

I've made an OPML reading list of the EPC blogroll.

Listen . . . the poets are blogging.

Here's a link to the OPML file (for aggregator importation).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Art of the Web

A student who built a website about art reflects on the art of her website.

Hear her in the moment of synthesis. mp3

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Immersed in My Personal Learning Environment

My very own "PLE"

I'm doing research with my Flockish Firefox browser.

I'm working on an answer to Dean's question about 1:1 laptop initiatives in schools.

It's great. There's no question: my browser has become a true personal learning evironment (screenshot).

I'm reading scholarly articles (from my university's list of subsription databases), saving selections (with citation info, of course), writing notes on what I'm reading, and organizing all of it inside the ScrapBook extension's file tree to be synthezised into my answer to Dean.

For the first time, all of it makes sense. The email, the chat, the blogging, the photosharing, the personal knowledge management tools, the aggregation, the Writely and the wikis -- all of it comes together in the personal learning environment.

This is so sweet!

I wonder if I can put it on a USB Flash drive by using something like this. If so, we might be talking about, instead of one laptop per student, one Flash drive per student.

Update: Yes, I was able to do that. And while I was at it, I discovered that PortableApps now offers a portable GIMP image editor.

This means I can now give my personal learning environment to others, already set up!

I'll even throw in the OPML Editor for good measure!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Saving Elmo

A digital story with a happy ending.

All credit to Esther Simpson.

Speak Wisely

Self-improvement project: skillful speeech.

A Flockish Firefox

Inspired by Flock (beta 1), I have tried to customize the Firefox web browser to approximate Flock's functionality. Although I could not duplicate all of Flock's features (live search, Flickr integration, weblog editor integration), in some cases (the addition of the ScrapBook extension for knowledge management, the addition of chat as a standard bookmark) some aspects of the functionality of this Firefox configuration may make this configuration of Firefox a bit better than Flock (beta 1).

Link to OPML:

Friday, June 16, 2006

Pop Goes the Coffee

Well I'll be! Coffee can be roasted in a popcorn popper!

(from Mezzoblue)

It's a Family Act

Paul Provenza, the man behind "The Aristocrats" documentary, appears on the latest episode of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me."

During his appearance download mp3, he tells a funny story about his mother, a fan of his work.

He also frightens everyone by confirming that he has bought the movie rights to the children's book, "Everybody Poops."

I hear it's a family act. ";->"

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Get Flock. You'll Thank Me.

The Flock browser, based on Firefox, foregrounds integrated social bookmarks, shared photos, news aggregation, and blogging. Using Flock is an "immersive, bilateral experience." I call it "cool."

To really learn about the vision behind Flock, listen to Mike Arrington's podcast with the Flock team.

In combination with iJot and Writely, Flock would make a great Personal Learning Environment.

flock logo

Blogged with Flock

Update: here's a review.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Atom & RSS

It appears this blog now has atom and rss feeds. So now you can take your pick.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

OPML Editor as Writing Tool

It occurs to me that the OPML Editor is a good tool for "open ended writing". The process consists of rounds of spontaneous writing followed by the writing of summaries which then get promoted to contain the loose writing. The loose writing can be collapsed into the summaries and expanded if you want to see more of what's summarized. Summaries can suggest concepts which can be used for further indexing. This process seems to me a good way to get an overview of one's thinking and a manageable archive of ones thinking.

Breaking in to a Plastic Package

I just bought myself a new Zen Nano. Even thought the built in microphone is crappy, it's good for playing mp3s, is very compact, and I was eager to get it out of its plastic packaging. You know the kind. Hard to open. The Nano was sealed inside as if inside a time capsule. Well, I learned something. Looking for the packaging's weakest point, I used a pair of scissors to cut right around the edge of the packaging. Bingo! Open sesame!

So the next time you have to open what seems like impenetrable plastic packaging, the kind that is commonly found around diminutive electronic equipment, try cutting around the edge.

I am here to say it worked for me.

Monday, June 05, 2006

An Invitation to OPML

Dear Colleagues,

Recently I have been studying Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML), "an XML-based format that allows exchange of outline-structured information between applications running on different operating systems and environments" (source), and thinking about the potential of OPML files and OPML tools for instructional delivery.

About two weeks ago, shortly before I attended "OPML Camp", a conference of computer programmers engaged in building tools based on OPML, I Skyped with a friend about one tool, the OPML Editor, which allows one to edit OPML files. During our conversation, my friend and I experimented with the OPML Editor, each of us sharing our "instant outline" (a web-based OPML file) with the other. OPML files can also be edited online.

In thinking about the educational potential of OPML files and tools, I've come to favor the idea of placing browsable OPML files within web pages, so that all one needs to see them is a web browser. I wanted to share this experiment with you. It's here. In addition, a direct link to the OPML browser I've used (Grazr) is here.

The OPML browser (Grazr) affords portable access to a readable trasformation of an OPML file. Other OPML browsers include Optimal and OPML Browser. Those enabled with php (you know who you are) may even host your own copy Optimal. The wiki is useful, I think, for organizing a number of browsable OPML outlines.

OPML files can "include" other OPML files. They can also "include" RSS feeds and links to other web-based documents. Thus, in many cases, it might be possible to replace a web site (and its maintenance headaches) with a single OPML document.

I invite you to take a look at OPML and join me in conversation about how OPML files might be used in education.

Links included in this message:

OPML Editor

OPML Workstation


Optimal OPML Browser

OPML Browser

My Instant Outline


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Race Day

Tomorrow is race day for the halfmarathon man. Good luck, halfmarathon man. Our wholehearted support is behind you.

OPML Editor Makes A Surpisingly Fun Writing Tool

As a writing tool, the OPML editor can actually be quite liberating. You don't have to use it to make traditional outlines. You can use it to produce playful and unexpected writing.

Start out writing anything at all in one node, then use bits and pieces of that node to seed other nodes. Then, add randomly to these seed nodes. Further, you can even rearrange the nodes and bits and pieces of language in them.

Do it all at light speed. See what develops.

View movie. (Flash: 1.7MB)

Firefox, Updated

I just updated my Firefox browser to the latest version ( ). It seems faster to me.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Infographic: Informal Learning

Like the title says, here's an infographic that depicts modes of informal learning.

The Next Big Thing

Personal Learning Environments will be the next big thing in education.

Here is a link to a blog about personal learning environments.

A good example of a PLE tool is PLEX.

But where's the OPML?

I can see iJot performing many of the same functions when it matures.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I'm A Person!

For about a week the "Blogger Team" has required me to verify, by word verification, that I am indeed human, each time I post an entry to this blog. They did this because, for some reason, this blog displays characteristics that aroused suspicion. The Team thought DanToday was a spam blog.

Then, today, after I sent the Team an email requesting a review, I received this kind email:
Your blog has been reviewed, verified, and cleared for regular use so that it will no longer appear as potential spam. If you sign out of Blogger and sign back in again, you should be able to post as normal. Thanks for your patience, and we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.
The Blogger Team

I bear no ill will toward the Team. They were doing their jobs, trying to keep the web safe for blogging. The fight against blog and comment spam has closed more than one blog. Many more. I thank the Team for its efforts on blogging's behalf.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Want to Change Offices?

If you're hankering to check out the new Microsoft Office, here's a link to the beta version.

A word of warning from Dr. B: before you install it, back up your macros!

How Are You?

However you may be feeling today, chances are, you are not alone.

The Myth of Multitasking

According to 43 Folders, multitasking's a myth.

powered by ODEO

Monday, May 29, 2006

OPML Audio

Tom Morris has made it insanely easy to embed a Flash mp3 player in an OPML outline with the OPML editor.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Aim Tastes Great!

Back in the '70s there was a commercial for AIM toothpaste. The ad said, "AIM tastes great!" The idea was that if the toothpaste tasted like heaven in your mouth, kids would "brush longer," which was supposed to be a good thing.

Well, I don't know if it worked for AIM, but I have found that sometimes the introduction of a fresh new writing tool (like FreeMind or Remlap Knowledgebase) is enough to motivate my students to write longer.

I love that!

Friday, May 26, 2006

RSS By Hand

Stephen Downes has a tutorial that teaches you how to edit an RSS feed manually. All you need, he says, is Notepad, a web server, and a beer . . .

You can get an RSS 2.0 template here.

Grazr Plays Audio

Grazr plays audio. Check out the sidebar, down by the archives.

Back from Camp

No doubt about it: OPML is the most exciting thing to happen to the web since the hyperlink. OPML Camp, an unconference about outline processor markup language, has me walking the OPML walk and talking the OPML talk. I might even by the shirt.

My mind is reeling with thrilling OPML tools and applications, such as (tools) the OPML Editor, iJot, Grazr, Optimal, BlogBridge, and (applications) reading lists, outlined documents, and podcast directories. Oh, man. What a weekend!

Thanks, Adam!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Meat for English Majors

In the last week of the semester we managed to squeeze in one more English majors' dinner at Dr. M's place. This time, meat was on the menu (unlike last time, when I cooked) and attendance was high.

Thanks, majors. And good luck to all you new graduates!

Coffee . . . to go!

On a sunny spring day, not much action in the old coffee house.

Up to New Tricks

The school's literary magazine, New Tricks, is out. Don't know how these got in there!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Firefox Supports SVG

It seems that, very quietly while I wasn't looking, Firefox has introduced support for SVG files. Before this, if one wanted to view SVG files in a web browser, one had to use Internet Explorer and the Adobe SVG Viewer plugin. At least that was the most popular way, as far as I know. (Today I found out the Opera browser also supports SVG. Who knew?)

This FAQ explains the nature and extent of Firefox's support of SVG.

And this is a guide for implementing SVG images in web pages.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Search for the Ultimate Writing Machine

I've been dreaming of the perfect writing platform, one that combines the spidery mind maps of FreeMind, the flexible outlining of the OPML Editor, the textual editing flexibility of Word (which also includes outlining functions, by the way) and another soon-to-be-indispensable research related feature: a contextual search tool that automatically finds information related to what one is writing about and drops it at one's feet.

My dreams are not far from reality. Contextual search is already a known quantity.

Contextual search is "a search for records or documents based upon the text contained in any part of the file as opposed to searching on a predefined key field" (source). The contextual search tool I've been playing with is called Watson. This movie shows how it works.

Perhaps contextual searching could be brought to webOutliner and the capacity for collaboration added to the mix.

Update: Pico is another contextual search tool that integrates with applications.

An Introduction to OPML

Here are a blog entry and a screencast to introduct you to OPML and its possibilities.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Web 2.0 > Guided Tour

Want a guided tour of the Web 2.0 landscape? Try this slideshow.


On a brilliant spring day the child (and a babysitting friend) ply an old fashioned kind of micropublishing.

sidewalk chalk drawing

Friday, May 05, 2006

All - School Singalong

Here's what we'll be singing at our commencement ceremony next Saturday.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hungry Baby

A baby visited Beadle Hall today. She was hungry !


My favorite place to sit on a sunny day is just inside the entryway of Beadle Hall. There I can look out over the south lawn and watch as students and colleagues walk up the path to the building.


Sunday, April 30, 2006

Poster Presentations

JN has already posted about a recent reception at our university to recognize students who had presented their independent projects at a poster session at our state capitol, and how our own PB was one of them.

Despite the high seriousness of the occasion, however, the event did have its lighter moments, as when Dr. B feigned bewilderment at PB's explanation of father figures in novels by Ray Bradbury and Stephen King.

In addition, there was music! As reception attendees milled in the lobby of our Science Center, JL and BH tickled the ivories in the auditorium, executing a four-handed rendition of Edelweiss.

Performance audio: mp3
Performance video: mov

Monday, April 24, 2006

OPML Camp - Get on the Bus!

I am very excited to be participating in OPML Camp, a free unconference to be held in May at which participants "will discuss the current tools and applications for OPML, and construct wish lists for future features with the authors of many of the popular OPML products."

I've already started writing my OPML wish list and outlining my presentation in (what else?) OPML!

A Test Post to Two Blogs at Once

This post should post to DanToday and danblasts at the same time!

w.bloggar : a freeware blogging client

It turns out that there are quite a few blogging clients out there. BlogJet is just one of them. And whereas BlogJet expects payment, others, such as w.bloggar, are free (although w.bloggar will accept donations).

Why use a blogging client instead of a web interface when you blog? The client offers some convenient features, such as multiple posting. The main advantage, however, is that the posts one composes in a blogging client may be saved locally, on one's computer. Thus, one can compose one's blog entries offline, to post later, or just keep an archive of blog posts as a backup.

Some may think Thingamablog is even better. If one has a web host that supports FTP, one can use Thingamablog to set up a self-contained weblog, complete with RSS feed (feeds, actually, since it can create a separate feeds for separate categories of entry). I know I've mentioned Thingamablog before, but it's one free, cross platform blogging tool news of which bears repeating!

Testing BlogJet

I have installed an interesting application - BlogJet. It's a Windows client for Blogger (as well as for other blogging tools). Get your copy here:

"Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination." -- Albert Einstein

Saturday, April 22, 2006

fluffy cloud

The snowstorm that raked the midwest this week, dumping seventy inches of snow in some places, was barely felt where I live. The storm made itself known to us only through two days of drizzle and three days of wind. It also netted us some pretty neat clouds.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Categorized Blog Post

I have heard that blog posts composed in Writely may be tagged with categorical labels. Let's see if it works. I'll tag this entry with the label, "software."

Hmm. Evidently this feature is not supported by Blogger.

MS Word Comments: A Two Way Street

When my students turn in papers to be graded, I use Microsoft Word's comment feature to enter comments in the margins as I read them. However, today it occurred to me that comments can be a two way street. Students can make comments on their own papers just as easily as I can. We can turn comments into a space for dialog about their writing.

So today I will ask my students to enter their own comments in their own papers before they turn them in. I will ask them to place a comment next to each paragraph and in that comment tell what they believe that paragraph does in their paper (how they think supports the thesis, how they intend it to focus and direct a reader's attention, etc.).

Many instructors ask their writing students to communicate the same sort of information (metacognitive comments about the student's rhetorical choices) in a "cover letter" in advance of their paper. I think having students report on their rhetoric may work better if they do it in marginal comments, right next to the writing they're writing about.

The next step, then, is for me to use their comments on their as springboards for my own.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

OPML Archives for DanToday

Inspired by the OPML Camp website (see the agenda box in its sidebar), I've decided to create an OPML archive for this weblog. So far, I've converted the entries of two months -- June & July, 2005 -- to OPML format, and have used Grazr, an embedable OPML browser, to display them in the sidebar of this blog.
I like that the OPML file is light, portable, and easy to edit (I'm using the OPML editor). OPML is growing on me. This morning I created a schedule for student class presentations in OPML.
If you would like to play around with OPML, there's also the OPML Workstation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

SDCTE Web Site Has A New Look

For several years I've served as webmaster for the South Dakota Council of Teachers of English (SDCTE), an organization of South Dakota k12 teachers dedicated to furthering the cause of reading and writing in our state.

Teachers who work as hard as these do deserve a snappy web site, and theirs was in need of a facelift. It had been a while since I had designed and hand coded a web page, but when, four hours later, the dust cleared, I was satisfied with the general look of the place saver page I'd turned out.

Monday, April 17, 2006

CMAP Tools

Thinking again of my fall course, "Computer Supported Collaborative Writing". Thinking that Cmap Tools might be useful in combination with blogs, wikis, Flickr for making knowledge bases.

Still working on creating a shared map that could be worked on synchronously. Need a host or a server for that.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

One Thing at a Time

The really nice thing about this little break I'm on is the chance it gives me to do one thing at a time, rather than four or six things at a time like I usually have to do.

As it happens, such simplification is a key recommendation in a course in "Positive Psychology" taught at Harvard. The course is an investigation into what makes people happy. Hear about it here.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Good Read

Looking for something read, I remembered the Project Gutenberg. Tonight, a bedtime story. I'm having my computer read Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad out loud.

P2P Content Distribution with Bittorrent

BitTorrent is a file distribution system used for transferring files across a network of people. As you download a file, BitTorrent places what you download on upload for other users; when multiple people are downloading the same file at the same time they upload pieces of the file to each other. BitTorrent pieces together the file you are downloading . . .

Get the bittorrent P2P software.

Visit legal bittorent sites to try out your new toy.

Get in on the act: distribute your own Creative Commons licensed content via bittorrent.

Wink Is New!

From the makers of Wink, a screen capture program:
DebugMode Wink 2.0 (for Windows) has been released. This version improves on the previous version with numerous bug fixes and enhancements,including unlimited textboxes & buttons, new button/object types, audio in tutorials and much more.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Tips for Tableteers

Tips for getting the most out of your Tablet PC (assuming you have one).

Closet Podcast

While attending the GPACW Conference at NDSU, I attended a workshop on podcasting run by Nem, host of the geek (I mean techie) podcast, Geek Muse. Nem gave the participants in the workshop some unorthodox advice for making a voice recording with minimal background noise. He advised us to make the recording while sitting in a closet. That way, he said, the clothes hanging around us would act as acoustical buffers.

Of course, I couldn't wait to try it out .

While recording myself talking in a closet, I also mentioned Dr. B's grading macros (also known as active rubrics), so I thought I should post a link to those again. LINK!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Thinking with the Thesaurus

I like to use Roget's Thesaurus as an aid to cogitation. To do so, however, I need access to its index of categories. With it I can ruminate up and down the old ladder of abstraction.

Unfortunately, it has become harder and harder to find an online thesaurus that includes a convenient index of categories. But today I did find one, here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

MoonEdit Collaborative Editor

I need a simple collaborative editor for my fall Collaborative Writing course. I have one that works on my campus network, but I'd like one that works on the internet.

MoonEdit claims to be such an editor, but so far I have not been able to "host" a file that other people can edit with me in real time.

If anyone has better luck with MoonEdit, please let me know!

Update: I figured it out. I was using it with a virtual IP address. That's why it wouldn't work. That was at home. At school, where I have a dedicated, static IP address, it works fine.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"Video" Tutorial On The Cheap

It occurred to me that one could make an animated software tutorial using nothing more than Print Screen, Paint, and Flickr's slideshow feature.

And if for some reason you or your intended audience cannot access Flickr, simpleviewer is an option. This standalone slideshow does what Flickr does. You make the images, it does the rest.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Cat Who Thought . . .

Dr. B. suggested I create a photostory with Bubblr. I tried to make one like he made, but when I did, Bubblr crashed half way through my experiment. Was I too ambitious? I don't know. But instead of trying to revive Bubblr, I made my photostory in Draw, using the "found image" technique Dr. B. demonstrated. (The images are from Flickr.)

Sorry it's so small. If you can't read it, try the pdf.

Frame Your World

Reading interviews of Marjane Satrapi , I happened upon a drawing assignment by Satrapi herself.

It's a way of practicing the kind of visual perception and autobiographical attention needed to produce a work such as Persepolis, Satrapi's graphic memoir which my Contemporary Rhetoric class is currently reading.

To do this assignment, think of an event in your life. Write a sentence or two about it, and, at the same time, think of an image that goes with it. Stretch this into a string of key moments, each with its own associated image. Once you have a string of significant images in mind, draw those images in a series of 6" x 6" boxes. The result: a visual story of your remembered event. Add speech balloons to taste, et voila!

Monday, April 03, 2006

ID That Tune

This podcast asks a question: can you ID the author of this tune?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Web 2.0 List

A list of Web 2.0 applications.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Foobar Rocks . . . Literally

My favorite audio player has been updated. Check out the new features of Foobar 2000 version .09.

I like it because it has a footprint smaller than Thumbelina's and plays a bunch of audio formats. Here's a list: MP1, MP2, MP3, MP4, MPC, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC / Ogg FLAC, WavPack, WAV, AIFF, AU, SND, CDDA.

Download Foobar 2000 v.09 (requires Windows 2000 / XP)

Xtreme Writing

extreme dirt bike photo from
At the moment I am wondering if the practices of programmers may benefit the processes of writers. Here's the idea: use xtreme programming protocols to manage collaborative writing projects. Replace "user stories" with critical thinking criteria and you'll likely see the big picture.

Real Time Collaboration with "Ace"

Thursday's Critical Thinking workshop also gave some colleagues and me an opportunity to field test the Ace Collaborative Editor.

According to its developers Ace is

a platform-independent, collaborative text editor. It is a real-time cooperative editing system that allows multiple geographically dispersed users to view and edit a shared text document at the same time.

What makes this plain text editor a truly amazing tool for collaborative writing is its use of bonjour technology. Bonjour is "a general method to discover services on a local area network. This technology is widely used throughout Mac OS X and allows users to set up a network without any configuration" (Wikipedia). We used the Windows version.

Thus, using Ace and logged in to our usual campus wireless computer network, my colleagues and I were able to perform a seamless, real time collaboration on a sample assignment we developed in response to Bill Condon's presentation. No single person had to take notes on our brainstorming session. Instead, everyone at our table, each one using a different computer, was able to type directly into the same text document at the same time.

I plan to use Ace in my fall course in "Collaborative Writing in Elecronic Environments" in tandem with some Xtreme programming protocols adapted for writing assignments.

This should be fun!

Big Time Babysitter

My former babysitter, Rich Topol, is now a star of stage and screen.

That's Rich on the left. Alvin Epstein's on the right. They're acting a scene from "Tuesdays with Morrie."


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