The Power of Visual Communication (my lesson from the DS106 dailycreate)

Peacock Eating Pizza

“Peacock Eating Pizza” cc AttributionSharealke by Flickr user alexchaucer

A fascinating thing happened to me in this assignment. Perhaps it was a coincidence? Perhaps it was and illustration of the power of images in subliminal marketing…

It all started out as a fairly straightforward task for the #dailycreate from April 5, 2014. Link to original assignment here. Here’s the assignment:

We’re all used to seeing pizzas, but generally only in restaurants and our homes. We may even occasionally see them at pizza farms. But it’s not often that we get to view elusive wild pizzas before they are harvested by hunters. Thankfully, Jonpaul Douglass, a photographer in Los Angeles, gives us a glimpse into this mysterious world through his series Pizza in the Wild. (via Neatorama)

Douglass uses real pizzas, but for this Daily Create, you are welcome to photoshop a pepperoni pizza into an unexpected wild place…

I briefly looked through the images that Douglass posted, and then I went on my way to tackle the assignment.

My process was fairly straightforward. Look through my images, and find one that might be interesting. I thought the Peacock was unique. Use Flickr to find a pizza I could use. I took @cogdog‘s advice and did a Attribution/Noncommercial/Sharealike search on Flickr. Found an image with a nice pizza. (Note: when I download this image, I also grabbed the attribution information on it, such as the license, link to image, and link to Flickr user, and put this in a Word document.) I then had to download GIMP, a free, open source, image editing software from here. I used Youtube to figure out how to trace out the pizza from the one image and add it to the other, which was simple enough with a basic Youtube search to use the Lasso Tool. I then had to do another Youtube search on how to resize the pizza (found that this is accomplished with the Scale tool. Finally, I exported my image to a .png and uploaded it to Flickr.

Now, here is where a fascinating thing comes into play. I finished my assignment, and felt great about. It was unique. I felt good about my new image skills. My product met the goals of the dailycreate.

Now, here is where my bubble burst. I was sharing the Pizza in the Wild website with someone to explain the assignment, and I came across this:

Screen Shot of JonPaul Douglass's website featuring "Pizza in the Wild"

Screen Shot of JonPaul Douglass’s website featuring “Pizza in the Wild” These images are copyright protected by the JonPaul Douglass. I have reached out to him for permission to use this screenshot on my blog post.

How could this be? I could not remember seeing this image on JonPaul’s website.  I sat there, confused. What had happened?

Reflecting on what had happened, I began to think about  the power of visuals in idea making, and decision making. Is it possible that I had seen this image and subliminally recalled it when I saw my picture of a peacock and it made it seem like a good idea? Can one image impression have this kind of impact on our thinking, and on our decisionmaking?

Then I remembered this video:

This is why advertising works. This is why companies create logos. This is one of the reasons why visual communication is so important in our society. If you can create a visual, and can put it in front of someone, you can influence their preferences and decisionmaking and familiarity. This is why it is so important for students to build their skills working with images, and to understand their impacts, not only on them, but on society. Call it visual literacy, visual communication, marketing, advertising, etc. This aspect of visual influence is something we all need to be aware of. The advertisers are using this on us EVERY DAY.

And I had just used this on MYSELF, unknowingly.

Another #dailycreate, and another lesson in the power of images. Mind blown.

Daily Create: From DS106 Bumper to Solid Gold

This post is a response to the #dailycreate assignment, posted here. Here’s the assignment:

Create a bumper. A bumper is “a term used in the radio broadcasting industry to refer to short clips of signature or theme music used to buffer transitions between programming elements. Bumper music is commonly employed when a syndicated program takes a break for local station identification or ‘goes to a radio commercial.’”

I had given myself about 50 minutes for today’s create, and I could tell it was going to take a little more time. Here are the things I used:

  • Free Music Archive which was found using the media links at 50+WaysToTellAStory (Thanks @cogdog). This is where I found the media.
  • For audio processing I used the resources at ds106 handbook, that reminded me of Audacity (which I had used about 3 years ago). I had to download Audacity, and try to remember how to use it!
  • For posting the audio online, I had my first soundcloud post, and also added it to a group.
  • Finally, I had to figure out how to embed it into WordPress, which I managed. (But I just found this post, so maybe it’s easier than I thought…hmmmm). It is easier. Wow.

Spending a little more time on the daily create was worth it for me today. Yesterday, I had limited experience with audio. Today, I know how to find media, record, layer tracks, fade in/out, distort, export to mp3, post online, and embed. While it took me a little while today to stumble through the process, it really did give me confidence at the same time. I can do this. The little prompt, to create a bumper (which I had never heard of, by the way) was what I needed to get back my audio groove.

So what does this all mean, and why is my dabbling in audio useful?

  • I learned how to play the guitar this year and some ukelele.
  • I believe the storymaps that I have been playing with at work now support audio.
  • Other audio adventures on the horizon? DS106 radio?

Thanks #ds106. Today I found some audio skilz in my box o’ gold.

Content in my audio from Apache Tomcat‘s song “Rockin’ in the Jungle” cc Attribution Sharealike

Daily Create: “How would you describe your life in 7 words?”

Well, I was excited to encounter this #dailycreate this morning. (Here’s the link to the assignment.) I thought, “Hmm…7 words…this is going to be easy.” I immediately started typing possibilities. They just seemed to flow. Each captured something about me, but none really put it all together. Quickly, I realized this was going to be harder than it seemed.

I was saved by a phone call from a friend, who told me to walk away.

Later that afternoon I returned. It was time to narrow the field. I was able to get down to my five favorites. Yet, it was clear, there was only one that stood out. I liked it for a couple reasons. For one, it represents a message to my son, who is very much the main purpose of my life since he was born. I also felt that learning, loving, growing, and living were all things that help to describe me and my perspective on life, and things that I hope to pass on as a father.

Again, another phone call from a friend. Again, inspired.

I haven’t painted in at least a year. I probably could count on one hand the number of paintings that I have done since I turned 15. I was inspired to put my 7 words into another medium. I took a canvas that my son had painted a couple years ago, and I added my statement to it. Now it became a co-created piece, and something that I am very happy with. Thanks #dailycreate, and to @mdvfunes for putting it in the hopper.

I recommend this exercise to everyone. So how would YOU describe YOUR life in 7 words?

Daily Create: The Color of Black and White, Lego Edition

So the assignment here was: “Transform your most colorful recent photo into on that is black and white, yet manages to not lose any of its intensity. Link to the original so we can compare.” Legos have become a big part of my life (considering I have a 7 year old and we made a recent pilgrimage to Legoland Westchester), so I looked back at some colorful Lego photography. I was inspired by seeing the Lego photo in Alan Levine’s talk at Profcamp (you can see his entire talk here).

Also, with the recent release of The Lego Movie I was struck by how they made the figures look so real, similar to how you might photograph them.

In this particular photograph, a distinctly human element was captured. The center figure seems to be looking forward at the camera, with that uncomfortable gaze; perhaps not wanting to be photographed. His buddies carry on, as if not realizing they are being photographed. I see this all too often in real photographs that are aiming to be candid. One person will see that they are being photographed and give a confused expression, ruining the attempt to capture the moment.

I guess that must have happened here, too.

Bestest Storie Evre Mispelled – DS106 Daily Create – The Surpriz in the Wudz

It wuz a kold graay day, but the son wuz tryin to peek threw the kloudz, and I could feil that today wuz going 2 be a dai to remembir. We stepped out of the kar onto the icey and wet drivewaay. A woman sat in a kar nearby, smoking a cigaret. We were ready 4 an adventur. It wuz spring, but the plantz had not yet awoken. The snoe packed grounds allowed aksess to areaz of thiz sacred ground that wi had never seen before.

We ventureed into the woodz, our feet giving way under the snow. The hgihway wuz noisy nearby. Along we walked. We found the remnants of n old barbed wire fence. We decided to folow it. It brought uz to a stream. We crossed it. We came 2 a big water recieving tank…and from here I kould see sumthing special.

My eyes were drawn 2 a vizual corridor lined by treez. The area betwen the tress wuz raised. I new thiz must hav ben an old roaad, but where did this road go? This road, on this sacred land, in the middle of the woodz, on this grey dai with the son trying to peek threw.

Wi followed da road.

It went on an on. And wi continued. Wi didnt kno whuse land wi wer on, but our curiouzity en thiz formir road maad uz continu on.

And suun, we wer rewardid. It wuz the largist one wi had evir seen, and it spoke 2 us. This old road led directlee 2 thes tree. The most magestic tree I had evir seen. The grandfathir of all the othirs. And ther wuz sumthing magical about it.

And then I said “I bettir bak up befor a branch fals on me…” At that momint, a large branch kame tumblin down from da monstir tree in teh woods on that grey dai with the son trying to peek threw.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 1.51.15 PM

Quite possibly the most amazing nature video ever made.

Folks, this is breathtaking. It reminds me the times I interacted with an octopus, almost swam into a man-o-war while night snorkeling, saw the spawning of the glow worms in Bermuda and witnessed the phosphorescent comb jellies in Long Island Sound. Nature has some real magic to offer, as this video artistically captures. Enjoy. You will be back.

Credit to AJ Schneller who posted this on Facebook.

Everything I need to know in life I learned at Games in Education 2013


With some serendipity and luck earlier this week, forces aligned for me to attend Games In Education 2013, a multi-day conference focusing on the intersection of games and learning. What helped was that it was being held in my backyard, Malta, NY, at the beautiful HVCC TEC-SMART campus. Additionally, a great slew of sponsors helped make it happen, including Tech Valley High School, Capital Region BOCES, 1st Playable, WMHT, Pastime Legends, and Microsoft. And yes, there was a free lunch in this game.

I was impressed by the well thought out conference program and the amazing volunteers. Whenever I had a question there was someone there to help. Shout out to 1st Playable who had a slew of summer interns helping out, many of which are attending the RIT games and media program. I interacted with a couple of them and they were great.

Here are my Top 6 Life Learning Lessons from Games in Education 2013

1. Walk a mile in anothers’ shoes to understand them. To truly understand someone, you need to experience what they experience. So, to understand our kids, we need to go where kids are to relate to their world. This was stated in Lucas Gillespie’s keynote, and it really struck home for me. This is great advice for teachers, but also for parents. If you are along side your child experiencing it with them, when they get stuck they will turn to you for help. If you aren’t there, you miss out on this opportunity. This leads in perfectly to my next point.

2. Jump in, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no shame in admitting that you are new in a space, and by acknowledging this, you open yourself up to the opportunity of mentorship (even if that mentor is a fifth grader.) As teachers and parents, it’s ok to be vulnerable and let others see that you may not always have the answers. Thanks to Seann Dikkers for helping to make this point. So, the natural next question is where to start. Some suggestions from the Day 1 keynote were MinecraftKerbal Space Program, WoW, GuildWars, Portal2, Civilization V, and SimCity4.

3. Learning is about the journey, not the destination. This directly relates to a theme in education that I have been hearing more and more about, BADGES. I’ve heard people talk about “badifying education” and “gamification.” We must not lose sight of the most important thing, the actual learning experience and the opportunities for connecting with others as we learn. Badges are not a golden ticket that will make everything better. If you think badges can make poor educational content palatable to students, think again. Badges on a poorly designed learning experience may make it even worse. Focus on great content and learning activities, and only add badges to make this great content even more fun. Badges will only motivate if used properly, and we can learn a lot about motivation from what has been done in video game research. It’s clear that Kevin Miklasz has done some great thinking about badges and education and is inspiring great science activities at the curiousity machine.

4. Failure is your friend. The idea of failure came up multiple times in the conference. In the first context, it had to do with jumping in to new games. Failing is OK for learning a new environment, in fact, it is healthy and can be a motivator to do better the next time.

We need safe environments for failure for today’s students, where they can have the ability to learn from their mistakes and try again. Customizing learning environments and challenging students in a safe space can allow for new kinds of growth opportunities.

“Fail early, fail often” may be a mantra for rapid learning. So jump in, and don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from it and improve the next time.

Thinking outside the block. CC by Andrew Beeston

5. We live in the most extraordinary time for learning. Be a leader. Lead kids by showing them how to use computers to learn, create, make and play. Not all screentime is bad. When you use a computer to learn how to fix something, program a robot to dance, or create a new video game, you are learning real skills. Teachers can even learn from other teachers! Even social skills can be developed in team-based video games and in using technology for collaboration. It’s not about the screen, but how you use the screen. Teachers and parents need to become aware of amazing resources for inspiring creativity, imagination, and programming. Erynn Petersen shared some of her wisdom as she finds just the right formula for introducing coding to kids in rural America through her project, Station082.

6. Find meaning in what you are doing. While this takeaway stirred some folks at the day 2 keynote, and it resonated with me. If you find personal meaning in what you doing, then you should continue doing it. If you don’t, you might want to consider something else. How much time each day are you spending on things that are meaningful to you? Can you up that percentage tomorrow? Business coach Marshall Goldsmith challenges everyone to help define their own definitions of personal meaning.

Finally, I just wanted to list a few more of the resources that were shared.
Ingress (Android only)
SimCity for FutureCity Competition
Mission US – History Through Interactive Gaming
Vital NY Resources
Ready Player One, Cline
Brain Based Learning, Jensen
Brain Rules, Medina
Ender’s Game
Ender’s Game (Nov. 2013)
Minority Report
Leap Motion
XBox One
NAO Robot
Game Development/Introductory Programming:
Code Maven and Code Monster

What did I miss at Games in Education 2013? Let me know in the comments.