Monday, July 31, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 89

Click to listenLately I seem to have been bitten by the DIY bug.
DIY, for the uninitiated, stands for "Do It Yourself" - mostly because DIY enthusiasts would much rather put their own embellishments on everything they touch.

And with the internet it's easy to find plans for hundreds of DIY projects - from using a soda bottle and some kitchen supplies to make an effective mosquito trap to attaching some remote control servos and a digital camera to a kite for some sweet arial photography.

The great thing about DIY is the wide variety of projects. You can pick something to do that's as easy or as difficult as you want, and if you're unhappy with the plans you're given you can always modify them to see what happens.

I've been making my own t-shirts and web sites for over a decade now, but recently I've started branching out by creating handmade business cards, and most recently a wallet out of duct tape. (My next project will be a camera bag.)

Of course the spirit of DIY can be taken to school as well. For example:

After a Language Arts project where you have the students form groups to write their own stories, you can have them type them into PowerPoint to illustrate them and even record themselves narrating the tales. Instant zero-cost publishing!

Have the students use PowerPoint or any one of a number of programs that allows for visual design, and print the finished product on a t-shirt. Admittedly there is a bit of a cost for this, but if you shop around at office supply stores you should be able to get iron-on transfers for around $1 a sheet.

How about an analog example: Want to make a quick and easy seating chart? Use a sheet of posterboard and some post-it notes. Any time you move the desks around you can just move the notes. (And if you leave these babies on your desk you won't have to deal with substitutes saying "Well I couldn't find your seating chart!")

There are also a few online enterprises that are more than happy to make your DIY experience a little easier:
  • Makezine.com - more DIY ideas than you can shake a stick at.
  • Instructables.com - from the makers of Makezine.com, these are user submitted DIY tutorials.
  • Google Pages or WikiSpaces - make your own website for free.
  • Lulu.com - publish your own book, for school or yourself.
  • OriginalWorks.com - Students can have their artworks placed on a variety of products and have them made to order as a school fundraiser.


Hear yourself on my upcoming 100th podcast spectacular! Just click here and your web browser will use your computer's microphone to send me an audio comment.

I'll accept just about anything, including simple greetings or congratulations, shout-outs, reviews of products or services, commentary on recent events, or even plugs for other podcasts.

This is, of course, provided everything is kid-safe.

Think of it as free advertising that will reach an exclusive listener base. And yes, by "exclusive" I mean "small."

Friday, July 28, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 88

Today I'd like to talk about a little thing the art community calls "Form vs. Function," and relate it to education in general.

An item's function, as we all know, is what it does - what it's purpose is. Form, on the other hand, is what it looks like. Both can be equally important, but not always.

Take the chairs in a classroom, for example. Sure, they were designed by someone, but at the end of the day their main purpose is to lift the students high enough off of the floor so they can use their desks. Their color was most likely determined by whatever was cheapest or easiest.

On the other hand, a painting puts much more weight on it's form. In fact, it's form is so important that looking nice is also it's function. (This is, of course, assuming it's not there to cover the spaghetti stain your three year old managed to put on the wall.)

Think that since you're not an artist this doesn't apply to you? Think again. When's the last time you sat through a workshop filled with pertinent information, but was still so dry in it's presentation that you remembered nothing afterwards? Or maybe the PowerPoint slides looked nice but added nothing to what the speaker was saying?

As a traveling art teacher I've seen a lot of classrooms, and I've seen far too many teachers who put the function of teaching so far ahead of the form of teaching that student retention is almost nil.

I could just tell the students what they need to know, give them a test, and move on, but how many of them would really learn?

No, like a well designed car I need to both get the students there and ... well ... look good doing it.

As those of you who are teachers get ready for the new school year, I want you to think about how you can balance form and function in your lessons. Will your desks be arranged in the same boring grid, or will you break it up a bit? What posters will you have on your walls? (If you don't have enough posters, have your students make some that tie in with your curriculum.)

What will your class website look like?

And there's more to it than just how your room appears. When you're presenting your lesson, will you be hiding behind a podium or moving about the room as if it was your own personal stage? More activity shows you have more interest in the subject, and while that doesn't necessarily make sure the students will learn, just try to teach them the same thing if they think that even you aren't interested in long division.

In other news, I'm thinking about playing some audio clips on my 100th podcast which I should reach sometime in late August, provided I don't get sidetracked somehow. I've decided to accept just about anything, including simple greetings or congratulations, shout-outs, reviews of products or services, commentary on recent events, or even plugs for other podcasts.

This is, of course, provided everything is kid-safe.

Think of it as free advertising that will reach an exclusive listener base. And yes, by "exclusive" I mean "small."

If you want something played during my 100th podcast, record it and send it to me. I'd prefer it to be in MP3 format, but I'll accept other file formats if they're not too large.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 87

In this podcast I talk about my "Don't L.A.F." policy and come up with an idea for my 100th podcast.

Yesterday I was browsing my Furl links when I noticed a blog I had bookmarked but hadn't subscribed to in over a year. Wondering how things had changed, I clicked away ...

And immediately hit the back button and deleted the link.

Apparently some time in the past year a blog about a teacher's experiences in school had been replaced by something a little less kid friendly. I was shocked and appalled, partially because an educational blog had been corrupted like that, but more so because since all of my Furl links are public I had been linking to that garbage for I don't know how long.

Of course there's a moral to this upsetting story - a lot of us tend to L.A.F. (that's short for Link And Forget), thinking that those sites will stay the same forever. They don't. Sites get redesigned, repurposed, redirected, or simply disappear. If you use a social networking service like Furl or del.icio.us it's your responsibility to go through your archive every now and then and separate the good apples from the ones that have long since turned to compost.

It might take a while, but it's worth it and you might just rediscover a site or two that you'd forgotten.

In other news, I'm thinking about playing some audio clips on my 100th podcast which I should reach sometime in late August, provided I don't get sidetracked somehow. I've decided to accept just about anything, including simple greetings or congratulations, shout-outs, reviews of products or services, commentary on recent events, or even plugs for other podcasts.

This is, of course, provided everything is kid-safe.

Think of it as free advertising that will reach an exclusive listener base. And yes, by "exclusive" I mean "small."

If you want something played during my 100th podcast, record it and send it to me. I'd prefer it to be in MP3 format, but I'll accept other file formats if they're not too large.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

DOPA Alert!

Swiped from Will Richardson, who in turn swiped it from David Warlick:

ALAWON: American Library Association Washington Office Newsline

Volume 15, Number 73

July 25, 2006

In This Issue: URGENT ACTION ALERT: Call Representatives TODAY and ask them to oppose DOPA

URGENT Action Needed:

The Washington Office has learned that the House may try to expedite
passage of H.R. 5319, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA),
TOMORROW, July 26th.

PLEASE CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TODAY and ask that they oppose HR 5319. Capitol Switchboard number is: 202-224-3121.

Background:

DOPA is sponsored by Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and supported by the
House Republican Suburban Caucus. It would require that, as a condition
of receiving E-Rate support, all schools and libraries block access to
social networking websites and chat rooms.

The bill raises a number of issues:

1) Local school districts and libraries should determine what
content should flow into schools and libraries. Federal mandate over
content control is very problematic.

2) Districts and libraries already have the power to block access to
social networking sites and chat rooms and a number of them have
already done so.

3) DOPA imposes yet another burden on schools and libraries
participating in the E-rate and may deter many from continuing to
participate.

4) This bill paints an unflattering and distorted view of the Internet
as a whole, serving to scare away parents, students, teachers and
librarians from making use of all its resources.

Last week, YALSA Executive Director Beth Yoke testified on DOPA
before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet on
DOPA. You can read her testimony here:http://www.ala.org/ala/washoff/WOissues/techinttele/DOPA_testimony.pdf.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 86

Steve, this is all your fault.

Back when I was interviewing Steve Dembo he mentioned that they had finally come out with a microphone for the video iPod. I thought I could just file that information away, but no.

Instead, knowledge of the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo nagged at me for over a week. On Friday when I went to the Apple Store to buy a new laptop battery I was greeted by multiple rows of the shiny black marvels, and as I'm easily distracted by shiny things I really had no choice but to get the battery AND the microphone.

Rather than keep this just another story about an expensive impulse purchase, I've decided to turn it into a review of the very same device. You may have noticed a difference in the sound quality for this podcast. That's because while I recorded the introduction with my tried and true USB mic, the rest of this is being done with the TuneTalk. You know how it is when you get a new toy - you use any excuse to try it out!

The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was that there was a USB cord in there. The TuneTalk has a standard sized USB port on the bottom of it, so I can sync and charge my iPod without removing the TuneTalk. That'll come in handy if I ever loose one or both of my iPod cables, but more importantly it lets me charge the iPod while I'm recording. If you've ever watched video on an iPod you know how fast that battery can drain when it's spinning the hard drive at full speed, and recording audio appears to be no different in terms of energy consumption.

It's possible to open the case without lacerating myself, and with my precious TuneTalk in my hand I noticed that it felt ... well ... cheap.

An iPod itself is a marvel of molded plastic and metal, and despite it's size it has a weight to it that lets you know Apple didn't skimp on the components. The $70 TuneTalk (less, with the education discount) is as light as a feather, making me wonder just how thick that plastic really is. Still, I guess if you keep in mind that it has to hold onto the iPod by the very connection that sends all of the data and power you don't want it to be too heavy.

I did a couple test recordings immediately, with and without the gain switch turned on. (The gain switch, by the way, can be adjusted depending on if you're in a noisy or quiet environment so that it can pick up your voice better.) It's possible to go through the menu features of the iPod to turn recording on and off, but this seems like a waste of time since there's a convenient button on the left side of the TuneTalk that takes you to the record screen right away. I love that feature.

I also noticed that it had a line in jack for recording audio from an external microphone or other device, although the manual said that using the line in jack turns the internal mic off. Visions of splicing my laptop's audio output with an external mic to do real time mixing came to mind, but as I'd have to buy more stuff to see if that would work I'll save that experiment for another day.

Test recordings done, I synced up using the included USB cable rather than unplugging the TuneTalk. I was surprised to see that iSync didn't load when I plugged it in, but everything else synchronized just fine. The recordings I made showed up in a playlist labeled "Voice Memos," but they were also grabbed by some of my Smart Playlists. I'll have to adjust them later so the next time I'm playing Civilization I won't have to stop conquering Europe to fast forward past a grocery list when all I wanted was some mood music.

I took a look at the test files and noticed that they were in fact quite large. I've recorded on portable devices before, but they always saved the audio as 4 bit WAV files - not exactly the most space demanding of formats. Belkin wasn't kidding when they said it recorded CD quality audio. A twelve second recording at high quality was over 2 MB! Sure, I can go through my iPod's menu and switch to low quality, but right now I've got 10 GB of free space on that little hard drive so I'm not too worried about it at the moment. I can always compress everything in GarageBand afterwards.

The last thing I'd like to bring up is that the TuneTalk does in fact record stereo. I've heard more than one podcaster get ahold of a stereo microphone and rave about it, but as I usually compress my podcasts into mono to save space I'm ambivalent about it. I suppose it could come in handy if I was trying to record multiple people, as the listeners would be able to tell the speakers apart by their locations. I want to do more interviews this school year, so this might actually come in handy.

Ok, let's wrap this up here. Believe it or not I'm actually happy with the TuneTalk, mostly because in spite of it's aforementioned flaws it's very convenient and makes a very nice quality recording. That said, it's not for everyone.

If you want a portable recording device and you're on a tight budget, just set up a free account through audioblogger.com or one of the other services that allows you to record through a phone conversation.

If you've got $40-$100 to spend but don't have a video iPod, check out Creative's line of MP3 players. I used to use a 1 GB Creative MuVo to record most of my podcasts, and it worked just fine. (You can also get it in other sizes.) I've also heard some very good things about the Creative Nano, which is more or less the same device with a different case design.

But if you DO have a video iPod and you want to turn it into a portable recording device, get your hands on a TuneTalk. The boost in recording quality alone is worth it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 85

In today's podcast I review eyespot, a web based video editor.

Sometimes I plan a podcast topic for days before I record it, other times I throw out that hard work in favor of an idea that strikes me at the last minute. Take yesterday, for example...

A member of last year's Art Club has been planning on starting his own podcast, and over the past couple of weeks we've been trading emails and IMs on the subject. Yesterday he was very interested in video editing, but unfortunately he doesn't own a Mac so my favorite program (iMovie) won't run on his system. I suppose he could use MovieMaker, but I've never been a big fan of the Windows Media format.

Fortunately there are a few editing programs out there that are totally free. One of them is jahshaka, an open source cross platform program that claims to be "Powering the New Holywood." Oddly enough I've never tried it out, but if anyone out there has then please let me know how well it works.

There are also a couple web based solutions. That's right, you can edit video with a web site. Thank you, Flash and Ajax.

Eyespot and Jumpcut are both sites that cater to the video editing community, and I've heard good things about both, although yesterday I only had time to play around with eyespot.

Eyespot has in my opinion only three drawbacks. The first is that they display the most recent videos on their frontpage. For most of us that doesn't matter, but if I want to show it off to my students I'll have to do some explaining if a certain genre of video appears for all to see. This is in fact the only issue that will keep me from using it with my students.

The other two problems are more technical in nature. While there doesn't seem to be a limit to the number of clips you can upload, you can't upload anything larger than 50 MB. That's a huge file if you're talking about .mp3s or .JPGs (both of which can also be uploaded), but I have a 10 minute .AVI I made with my camera that ended up over 140 MB. I actually had to use a free program called MoviesForMyPod to compress it into a more uploadable file format.

The last problem I encountered was a lack of features. There are few transitions to choose from, and while you can create a title screen the default text is small and uninspiring.

Still, one has to remember this is a free service. In spite of all of these issues I had fun using eyespot. It edited my video faster than I could have done on my own computer, I was able to download the finished product to my hard drive, and it was even iPod compatible.

If you want to hear an interview with one of the big wigs at eyespot you can check out this podcast by Amber MacArthur.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mini Lesson 7: Origami Water Bomb

I love origami, so whenever I need an idea for one of my mini lesson videos I tend to lean towards that first. Lucky for me I know a lot of designs that are public domain!

I tried something new with this episode. Instead of using iMovie I tried out eyespot.com. It's not as feature rich as iMovie, but it does a decent job and even allows you to export video for video iPods. Nice.

This is the second of two lessons that I recorded at the DEN North East Regional Institute. It has nothing to do with the DEN other than that.


Download it here.

Mini Lesson 6: Artist Trading Cards

I've had Artist Trading Cards, or ATCs, on the brain for a while now. Is it any wonder that I would do a Mini Lesson on them?

This is one of two lessons that I recorded at the DEN North East Regional Institute. It has nothing to do with the DEN other than that.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Open Source Classroom

A while back I decided that I didn't have enough websites, so I made a blog that's more or less pointless. Chris Craft had the same problem, but unlike me he decided to make a useful site.

Open Source Classroom is a blog and podcast about ... well ... open source software in the classroom. Chris chose the name for his project well.

Me, I just picked long words that were hard to spell. ;)

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 84

In this podcast I talk about being famous for fifteen people.

In addition to silkscreened soup cans and pop culture icons, Andy Warhol gave us the quote "Everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."

This statement has often been rehashed as people earned their own 15 minutes of fame (American Idol rejects, anyone?), but nowadays it's more likely that everyone will be famous for fifteen people (according to people like Steve Dembo).

Don't believe me? Well, you're already famous ... relatively. (I've talked about this before, although this time I'm going in a slightly different direction.)

Look at your students. Have you ever run into them outside of school? Did the older ones call out to you, smile and wave? Did the younger ones eagerly point out to their parents that YOU were their teacher?

I thought so.

To your students you ARE famous, more so than most politicians or heads of state. Granted this can make many of us uncomfortable, but I think that's a good thing. If we're uncomfortable with fame, then we know our ego isn't totally out of control.

I'll admit I'm a bit of a ham when I get up in front of a class, but at the DEN National Leadership Conference I was still genuinely surprised every time someone said "Oh, YOU'RE the Art Guy!" I know my students think I'm famous, but I didn't expect to be so well known by other teachers.

I wasn't alone in that. Josh Wolff, the Discovery Educator Abroad, is a teacher from New York that had the opportunity to tour the Pacific Rim while taking photographs and creating video webisodes. He knew they were going to be used for educational purposes, but nevertheless he seemed quite shocked when I told him my Kindergarten kids loved his webisode on visiting a tropical zoo.

He was reaching a wider audience than he had expected, and seemed visibly taken aback by that.

Naturally, I then did what any self respecting educator would do at that point - I got my picture taken with Josh, so this year I could show off to my students just how famous I am.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 83

In this episode I touch on the highlights of the DEN National Leadership Conference.

Work and PlayIt's been over 72 hours since the National Leadership Conference ended, but I've still brought a lot of the event home with me. Most noticeable are the aches and pains from being more active than I'm used to, but also a perpetually running nose that forces me to sniffle at odd times. I guess my body's trying to prove to my mind that it's not young anymore, but don't worry - my mind is still thoroughly unconvinced.

We all had so much fun last week that I doubt I could fit all the details into one of the short podcasts I enjoy doing, so let's see if I can just touch on the highlights. I'll go into more depth in future podcasts if the mood strikes me.

Hangin' at the reception.On Monday night we had a reception where we met old friends and made new ones.

On Tuesday we were reminded that (Dem)Bo knows podcasting, barbecue on the roof is fun, and moonlight tours of DC are awesome.

(Dem)bo knows... First Time Podcaster Rooftop Bar-B-Q Reflection pool and reflection

Crazy Mind Meets Great MindOn Wednesday we hung out with Josh Wolff (the Discovery Educator Abroad) and got to see the first episode of Discovery Atlas before anyone else, not including the producers.

InterviewOn Thursday Alan November gave us a presentation, then we ran around DC to work on our projects and then returned to learn about Discovery's Global Education Partnership. At the end of the day we went bowling, and one of us wore the rental shoes back to the hotel.

On Friday we showed off our group projects, bid each other fond farewells, and headed home.

Look out, world!Overall the conference was awesome, and while I wasn't sure if I myself would learn anything new, I'm pleased to say that I did.

If you want to learn more about what happened at the National Leadership Conference I'd check out Flickr.com and the many DEN staff blogs.

Oh yeah - I also did a guest blogging spot on the Maryland DEN blog, so if you have the time you might want to read that as well. Trust me, it's not redundant.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

America Revealed: A Foreign Perspective

At the DEN National Leadership Conference my team made an awesome video with the help of Josh Wolff from Discovery Educator Abroad.

Don't forget to watch the outtakes at the end. They were too funny to not add. (It's not that I'm self-centered, it's just that I screwed up more than anyone else so I'm in most of the outtakes.)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why Podcast?

Click to listenWhile at the DEN National Leadership Conference I was interviewed by some first time podcasters. They did a great job, so I thought I'd share the show with you.

Want to hear more DEN members getting their feet wet with podcasting? Check out the conference's Gcast page.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 81b

Mark this date on your calendars - Steve Dembo has now appeared in an Academic Aesthetic podcast!

Links of interest:
Teach42.com (Steve's awesome website.)
DEN website (What Steve does for a living, besides other things.)
DEN National Leadership Conference Wiki

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 81a

Today's first 'cast is a "Dinnercast" I guess, as you can hear in the low audio quality. I didn't want to interrupt any conversations or come up to someone with their mouth full, so this one's kind of short.

Recorded on location at the DEN National Leadership Conference.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

NLC 06 Day 1 AM

Hangin' at the reception.Wow.

I'm at the 2006 Discovery Educator Network National Leadership Conference, and it's already awesome.

I got here last night, and within 5 minutes of my arrival at the hotel I had shaken hands with 6 people I knew from other conferences, three of them telling me that they were going to show my last video at this conference.

The strangest thing is when people I've never met recognize me. I'm used to students calling out "Hey, it's the Art Guy," but there's still something odd about having one of my peers see my hat and exclaim "Oh, you're the Art Guy!

Oh well. I'll post more as it happens, along with any and all photographs.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 80

Click to listenIn today's podcast I try out Google SketchUp, a cool program available for Windows and, yes, now for Macs as well.

A while back another DEN member (whose name I forget - sorry!) blogged about Google SketchUp, a free program that makes it very easy to design in 3D and export your creations into different formats including Google Earth. My initial response was that it looked like a cool program, but I was disappointed that they didn't have a version that would run on a Mac.

(Remember, I'm one of those crazy people who don't do Windows.)

Well, they finally developed their Mac version, so I decided to see what the fuss was about.

GoogleSketchUpGoogle SketchUp required me to log in as an administrator in order to install it, which was annoying but not too much so. Still, that does mean that if you want to put this on the computers in your classroom you'll either need administrative privileges or a method of asking your Technology Coordinator nicely.

With that unpleasantness aside, I opened the program and was greeted with a window offering to teach me all the basics using three self-paced tutorials. I won't go through all the steps here, but let's just say it was very intuitive and user-friendly.

The only problem I really encountered once I got SketchUp running was the absence of hot keys. Many programs have key combinations that act as shortcuts for certain repetitive steps. The different tools in Photoshop, for example, each have a key assigned to them so that you can switch between, oh, say, the pencil tool and the eraser tool without having to move the mouse around too much.

When you get used to hot keys, you really get used to hot keys. However if you're the type that always goes to the top of the screen to pull down a menu, you won't even notice that problem and my whole rant's been for nothing.

There is something I noticed that I think is infinitely cool, though: SketchUp uses three point perspective. For those of you who haven't had an art class in a while, artists figured out that if you take parallel lines (like the sides of a road) and stretch them off into the distance they appear to get closer together the further back they went. This illusion, when copied in their paintings, helped create a feeling of depth that hadn't existed before. Simple examples would have all of their parallel lines meant to move back in space meeting at a single point, or vanishing point. The lines didn't have to go all the way to those points, mind you - they just needed to be angled so that if they were longer they'd touch the vanishing point.

More complex artworks can include two vanishing points, and the photorealistic ones include three points. Three vanishing points, three dimensions, that's not a coincidence, by the way.

Now where was I? Oh, yes. SketchUp uses three vanishing points, so if you draw a large box you'll notice that none of the lines are in fact parallel - but it'll still look realistic. I think that makes SketchUp a great program for art lessons on perspective. It takes an abstract concept like three dimensions on a two dimensional surface and does the difficult stuff for the student, so they can get a better idea of what drawing with a vanishing point should look like.

I don't think SketchUp should replace handing the students paper, pencils, and rulers for a perspective unit, but I do think it would be a nice way to warm them up before they start the hard work.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 79

Click to listenIn today's podcast I show just how easy it is to create a new blog.

Yesterday I decided to make a new website.

Don't fret, I'm not getting rid of AcademicAesthetic.com any time soon, but I enjoy making Artist Trading Cards so much that I decided to make a site for sharing my favorite ones.

Of course I could just post them on my Flickr account, but their pesky 200 picture limit, along with their "Focus on photos, not anything else!" policy left me thinking I should pick another resource.

So once again I turned to Blogger.com. One of the neat things about Blogger is that you can have more than one blog on the same account, so after I logged in I just clicked on the little button that said "Create A Blog."

Then came the hardest part - figuring out a name for the new blog. I felt "Artist Trading Cards" was self explanatory enough, but wouldn't you know it, someone had already registered a blogger blog as artisttradingcards.blogspot.com. After playing around with a few other names I registered artistcards.blogspot.com and I was ready to go!

Sorta.

You see, there's nothing wrong with the default templates for Blogger - I recommend them, in fact, but I wanted something a little different. I also didn't want to spend as much time customizing this new blog as I did my Academic Aesthetic one. For the solution, I turned to Google.

A quick search using the words "Blogger templates" found a site conveniently titled Blogger templates. They didn't have millions of looks to choose from, but they had one I liked and that was enough. I copied the code and went to my new blog's settings page. A quick click on the "Template" tab later I was pasting the new code in, and after clicking on the big button that said "Republish," my blog had a brand new look.

Now granted, I did a little more after that: I tweaked the RSS feed using Feedburner, added a web counter to see how many visitors I get, and slapped a Creative Commons license on the whole thing. I also changed the default links listed in the sidebar to ones in which I was more interested, but that's content for another podcast.

The moral of this story is that if you're holding back on blogging because you think it's too hard, don't. I may do a little more modifications to my site than the average person, but the majority of my work yesterday was nothing more than copying and pasting. If you can use Microsoft Word, you have more than enough skill to fool around with Blogger.

Oh, and if you're interested in that new blog I made, I intend to post a new Artist Trading Card every weekday. I've already got a month's worth ready for posting, so I don't need to worry about running out of content any time soon.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 78

Click to listenIn today's podcast, I discuss the next best thing to attending NECC - having others attend NECC.

Earlier this year there was a contest where the winners would get to attend the National Educational Computing Conference for free. As the conference is being held in San Diego this year, I was very interested.

I didn't win.

But no matter, for through the power of RSS and tags I'm getting write-ups, interviews, photos, and more delivered to me as they happen.

This is one of the great things about the edu-blogosphere. If at least one of us attends a conference and blogs about it, podcasts about it, or simply takes some pictures and posts them on Flickr, the rest of us can attend that conference THROUGH that person.

Lucky for me, there's more than one blogger hanging out at NECC this year.

David Warlick, Steve Dembo, and Will Richardson are all there, along with others. The first full day of the conference isn't even over yet, and already I had to pull myself away from my Bloglines account just so I could do today's podcast.

Of particular note is David Warlick's latest creation, HitchHikr. Like most websites that have vowels conspicuously absent from their names, this thing is really cool. It makes use of tags to collect postings related to the conference of your choice, and feeds them to you in a quick, easy to scan through summary. It even includes a column of the most recent Flickr photos from that conference, so this morning when I checked it I was greeted with a boatload of fireworks photos courtesy of Steve Dembo.

(To all of my readers in the US: hope you had a great 4th of July.)

Now it's worth noting that without tags Hitchhikr is useless, so the more bloggers who start tagging their postings and podcasts, the more robust Hitchhikr will be. This is something that can only get better.

...I just have to get up off of my butt and figure out how to add tags to my own posts.

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Today's podcast

Good news: Today's podcast is ready to go.

Bad News: Both Big in Japan and Ourmedia won't let me upload the .mp3. Is anyone else who uses these services having problems?

This is what I get for using sites that are still in alpha testing.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 77

Click to listenIn today's podcast I discuss the pros and cons of BubbleShare.com.

Yes, I'm still wrapping up my experiences from last week's conference, but don't worry - today I'm only going to mention it a little.

It seems that every time I go to an event sponsored by the Discovery Educator Network they teach me how to use PhotoStory. Now PhotoStory IS a nifty program that lets you combine photos and audio to create slideshows, but since it's distributed freely by Microsoft, it's Windows only.

If you know anything about me, you know I'm a Mac guy. Rants on security and reliability aside, I can't run PhotoStory on my pre-Intel PowerBook. So you can understand that I would get a little annoyed when PhotoStory is shoved down my throat on a regular basis.

What's a MacAddict to do? Why, find a free alternative, of course!

BubbleShare.com has made a name for itself by allowing anyone to share photos and add tags to them. Sounds a lot like Flickr, doesn't it?

Well, the similarities end there. BubbleShare only stores smaller versions of your pictures, and even then only for a year - although you can renew at the end of that year for free. That being said, I couldn't find anything about hitting a size quota - something that definitely gives BubbleShare a one up on Flickr.

BubbleShare's key feature is the slide show. It uses a flash based system to run through the photos in a particular album, as you might expect, but there's more to it than just that.

It lets you record audio. That's right, just like PhotoStory, but through a web based interface. Office 2.0, eat your heart out. The down side to this is that since it's over the internet you might get that stutter commonly attributed to VOIP (Voice over IP, or internet phone calls) conversations. When I was working on my sample album for this podcast I had to rerecord more t han one segment because of that.

Once your album's set up the way you like it, you have a variety of ways to share it. You can email it to people, embed it in your blog or other website of choice, or change your album setting to "public" (the default is private, making it kid safe) and allow it to be added to their searchable database.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

DEN NorthEast Regional Institute 2006 Video


With much ado, here is the (50.1 MB) video summary for the Discovery Educator Network's Northeast Regional Institute - complete with never before seen footage! (I guess you could say this is the director's cut?)

I hope you have as much fun watching this video as I've had making it.

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