Friday, March 25, 2011

Transferring communication from channels to platforms

When services provide web-based support forms, I often wish I had a copy of what I wrote to them because it has value to me and perhaps beyond. So, I copy it here to preserve the text and share in the future.
I read through the FAQs and couldn't find a description of how to transfer a user's account to membership in a class. Students in our class have spread the word to some of their classmates about using GSM. They have signed up at home using free accounts. We'd like to transfer some of those accounts to our classroom/institutional account. For example, one of them has created a Featured Game.

Can I transfer his existing ID to our classroom, do you have to make that change, or do kids who want to join the class have to start again from scratch to build their GSM cred?

Thanks for your assistance.

SC Spaeth, MSAD75 Mentor

I checked one more FAQ in the Institutional sign up area it it seems as if kids can use the link to associate existing accounts with the class:

Q: How do students (and other teachers) join my class/instituion and start using Gamestar?

A: Once your class or institution is set up, you'll receive an email and confirmation page message. This message will contain a friendly link for your students to follow to join your institution/class. When they follow the link, they'll have the opportunity to create a Gamestar Mechanic account. This account will automatically be joined to your class/institution. (If they already have a Gamestar account, they'll be able to use that account to join your class/institution, too). Once they complete this step, they'll enjoy all the features of your subscription.

Let's hope that this community can develop into passionate affinity spaces that James Paul Gee advocates for learning in the 21st Century.

Fifth-grade student at WES creates a featured game in Gamestar Mechanic

A fifth-grader at Woodside Elementary School created a game that Gamestar Mechanic has featured on its Game Alley:

Use this link to Josh's Dark Realm to see the full-size version.
Gamestar Mechanic provides embed codes to make it possible to share student' s work on websites outside of Gamestar's. But the embed code contains Javascript so I suspect that this attempt to share his work will fall short of the intended. He is well on his way to creating his digital portfolio of evidence of 21st Century learning outcomes. I fully expected this embed to fail because of restrictions on Javascript. But it worked! Unfortunately, the dimensions of the game are greater than the layout for this blog will allow. Clicking on the "Play" button opens the game in half a window. Need some work on this to recognize his achievement. Use this link to his Dark Realm in order to see the full size.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

CellBots Remix

In anticipation of the upcoming US Open Robotic Soccer Tournament to be held at Bowdoin College, I shared the work with members of the MAMS ITeam. Tim H. helped to explore this set of tools. Here, I show that other hand-held devices can also access the page. Avery showed that he could also see it on his iPad. We need to find ways to secure and detect these kinds of services in order to ensure safety and decorum.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin at ARIS

From Drop Box

Illustration by Hammatt Billings [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The original image is in the public domain and shared at Wikimedia Commons. I added a medium resolution (500px jpeg) photo as display media for an ARIS item. The Harriet Beecher Stowe NPC (non-player character) gives the player a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin after engaging in a dialog.

ARIS initially displays the full height of the image but supports touch-screen zoom and panning of the image. Here, I zoomed into Billings' illustration but kept Stowe's name and print run (150,000 copies) in view. Then I took the screen capture of the image which includes the ARIS Controls. The 'Detail' button brings up a brief caption and attribution information.

The iPhone's system (iOS 4.2) supports zooming into the image far enough to see pixellation easily for individual words. I suspect that this does not detract much from the quality of the exhibit as iPhone users experience it but may be more of an issue if players are using iPads. If people want to study the image in more detail, then the attribution information will allow them to easily locate and inspect the image at the highest resolution available (1024 px width).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Child slavery, too?

Abolish child slavery
By Bain News Service photograph, c. 1909 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The banners these New York City children wore read, "Abolish Child Slavery."
Were children in Maine also an important part of the labor force in textile mills along the Androscoggin River?

If Waiting for Superman is an accurate representation of the current situation for some students, then we still need to liberate children from intolerable conditions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin (Title page)

This reproduction of the title page for an early edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin is in the public domain and could be used as a resource for ARIS activities.


Note, that Wikimedia Commons assigns credit in this case to Hammatt Billings, the illustrator:
By Hammatt Billings [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
rather than to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the book.

Stowe House, Brunswick in ARIS

As I spoke with ITeam members yesterday and with Dennis Edmonson this morning, I wanted to have examples to share rather than just speak about them. So, I took the historic image (from the post-card of the Leighton Company, circa 1905) cropped it to meet the size guidelines for ARIS media and put it into ARIS as a plaque (320X320 px). I added the appropriate citation information to the caption text.

Then, I navigated to the page in ARIS and took this screen shot from the phone. It is difficult to read the text and it did not help to enlarge the photo. After seeing the photo in context, I revised the text to read:
Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in this house. Here, between 1850 and 1852, she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Photo credit: Hugh C. Leighton Company, c. 1905 (en wiki) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
For this image in the public domain, it is less critical to include the live links: By Hugh C. Leighton Company (en wiki) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. I wonder how we should handle attribution in other cases.

The Quick Travel option in ARIS helps to support this kind of exploration because users can inspect resources irrespective of their proximity to the location:

ARIS and Local History

Whitmore House, Brunswick, ME
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick, Maine
By Hugh C. Leighton Company (en wiki) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

ARIS is promoting a Global Jam on April 18-20th to create 50 'games' in 50 hours. I took this occasion as an opportunity to share the idea in more detail with Dennis Edmonson. I wanted to learn whether he knows of students who might be interested in helping to create ARIS exhibits for Topsham and Brunswick as Capstone Projects.

Dennis made the connection with the Museum in the StreetsTM initiatives in several communities in Maine (and beyond). They have a well established and protected concept that they have developed and refined over the last twenty years. Communities pay a fee for the assistance to develop walking tours and then provide free tours (brochures and physical plaques with pictures and short texts) to visitors to their communities.

The ARIS Dow Day and BikeBox approaches reduce the need for physical signage and increase the types of media that can be shared (e. g. video clips of re-enactors). But they increase the need for technology infrastructure (devices and support). Next, I need to visit with Chris Nulle to get his perspective on the degree to which the re-enactors (local and beyond) would be willing to share clips.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Exploring inverted pendulum control

In December, I wrote about finding a Mathemetica notebook that helped me start to understand the classic Inverted Pendulum problem as it relates to the Woodside-One-Wheelers learning to turn themselves into stable inverted pendulums.

With the release of Mathematic 8, Andrew Moylan, a Mathematica employee, has created blog presentations highlighting its new features. He has written Stabilized Inverted Pendulum and Stabilized n-link Pendulum. In the first article, he describes Mathematica's capacity in terms that make sense to me and perhaps to some of our ITeam members:
Using the new control systems features (one of several new application areas integrated into Mathematica 8), I’ve been experimenting with models of stabilized inverted pendulums. I’m no expert in control theory, but you’ll see that one doesn’t need to be.
I'm no expert in unicycling, physics, control theory, or any other arcane elements of this story but I don't need to be to appreciate and explore the connections. And, I suspect that our ITeam students don't need to be experts either to find some age-appropriate insight into something that catches their interest.

The Bowdoin Robotics Team came to Mt. Ararat Middle School last week and inspired several middle school students to think more about balancing on one foot (inverted pendulum with fixed base) to kick a soccer ball. Matt worked in ITeam meetings, CET, at home in the evening to install and start to learn Python because the Bowdoin Team uses it to control their robots!

Moylan include several video clips (generated with Mathematica) in order to illustrate the ideas he discusses. He also includes a link to the notebook that he created. Inside the notebook, he hints at even greater support for explorations by experts-in-training.
In the next article in this series, we'll derive pendulum-and-cart equations programmatically to make it easy to explore more general cases.
Samuel Chen commented on Moylan's post with this observation:
Simply amazing! One single post from Moylan covers the entire mechanics course from college!
The material on Sophia is organized by "learning packets," which are small, bite-sized tutorials focused around a specific learning objective, including thousands of standards-aligned objectives. Each packet includes a question and answer conversation, giving learners the benefit of learning from both the content itself as well as the supplementary discussion.
I'm finishing this post now so that I can go and explore Moylan's notebooks with the new Mathematica CDF player.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 and Creative Commons Licenses

A group of former leaders has created They have a community-based learning and teaching model with checks built in for academic quality. Compare it with with its roots in the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation. encourages authors to use Creative Commons Licenses to encourage reuse and remixing. I don't understand their business model and can't find much about it on their site or in reviews. Here, I test the OpenAttribute tool to see how their licenses are represented:

Work found at /

It captures institutional information but not authors. Will that provide the necessary incentive to participate?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Harriet Beecher Stowe House- Photo

Wikipedia requests the help of local Wikipedians to help improve the quality of the article about the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick by providing a photo. Pablo Sanchez, a visitor to Brunswick, took this photo and shared it with the appropriate license but obscured part of the image with an inset of the cover of Uncle Tom's Cabin. I suspect that in this form it is not appropriate for Wikimedia Commons.

Harriet Beecher Stowe's house where Uncle Tom's Cabin was written (1852), Brunswick, Maine

While Wikipedia rates this article's importance as low, I suspect that the interest in the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War will increase interest in it. Where can we get or develop the person power to create work like this? ITeam, Capstone Projects, ... ?

Allie: Ambassador Actors and Bullying

Allie is using her work on the Ambassador Actors Project as the basis for her Capstone Project. For several years, the Ambassador Actors have used playback theater support anti-bullying and restorative justice work in our schools and communities. Seems like the Ambassador Actors have established some important precedents. MSNBC responded to President Obama's recent initiative to control bullying by producing a Dateline NBC show about Bullying:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Seems to me as if we have a reciprocal learning opportunity!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

OpenAttribute - Not at PicassaWeb

From SCSpaeth PicasaWeb

ITeam has been exploring ways to help ourselves, peers, teachers and others to understand issues of digital citizenship associated with Creative Commons and related licences and attribution. We have looked at site-specific tools at Wikimedia Commons and found them to work inconsistently. Flickr has a similar tool. Unfortunately, site-specific tools, add a burden for learning how to use multiple tools.

So, I was excited to learn recently that Mozillians have taken on the challenge of attribution and begun a Drumbeat project, OpenAttribute to improve attribution. The OpenAttribute Project is creating Firefox and Chrome extensions that intend to simplify and unify attribution. This approach might make it easier for ITeam members to encourage and support best practices for this aspect of digital citizenship.

Molly Kleinman writes about the development of the idea in her post Announcing Open Attribute:
Workshops and how-to guides and step by step flowcharts haven’t reduced the confusion, so we thought, “What if we can just create attributions automatically? Like the citation generators in academic databases? Click a button and you can have a properly formatted citation in MLA style, APA style, Chicago style. Technically, there is no reason why we couldn’t do a similar thing for attribution.”
So, I installed both the Firefox and Chrome OpenAttribute extensions and tested in a couple likely sites. I got mixed results from this software that is still under development. As I worked, I thought about Ari's post on the blog about using screencasts to help developers improve their software. He cites Dennis Daniel's substantial effort to give YouTube feedback to the project. Dave Humphrey at Seneca College in Toronto encourages his students to make real contributions to real projects. Could this be our contribution to Open Educational Resources?

It works for this Seamless Services? blog but the generated html can't be put in comments.
The comments tool rejects too much of the html.