I’ve been making animated gifs since the early days of the world wide web. In fact, I might even have made some before I ever accessed the web, I don’t really remember for sure. I just know this technology has been around for a long, long time and it makes me smile that people are still using them to communicate ideas.
This weekend, I’ve been making a few gifs for fun. I haven’t made any for a while, so I decided to make some just as a refresher. I have to say, it seems much easier now than it did back in the 1990s. I used Photoshop to make mine. I’m sure there are other ways as well, but Photoshop is a tool I have and like to use whenever I get a chance.
If you are just working from a video file, making an animated gif is a cinch in Photoshop. I made this gif of Jim Groom and Martha Burtis from a DS106 class video they recently made together. The video made me laugh, so I decided making a gif was in order.
I downloaded the DS106 video from YouTube using the PwnYouTube bookmarklet. Over the years, this has been the best option I’ve come across for retrieving video content from YouTube. The file saved as a MP4 video that I then opened directly in Photoshop.
When you open a video in a recent version of Photoshop, it will display it with a timeline at the bottom. Editing was a breeze. Just move the playhead slider to the part where you want your clip to begin, then click the scissors tool on the left. Do it again at the end of your clip. Select the pieces of video before and after the clip you want to keep, and click the delete key on the keyboard. After that, you should have just the video you want to be in the gif.
Click the file menu: File -> Export -> Save for Web (Legacy). A window opens that allows you to save the video as a GIF file. Be sure the GIF option is selected. Set Colors to 256. Set Dither to around 87%. Click Save, and give your file a name. That’s it! You made an animated Gif!
Last week we were listening to the audiobook The New Education by Cathy N. Davidson in our digital media class. She was describing the surreal paintings of Tetsuy Ishida, a Japanese artist who depicted the dehumanizing aspects of being a student in Japan’s schools. In his images, people are reduced to the pieces and parts of machines that can easily be replaced, packed up, moved around or discarded as desired.
We decided to explore these images and work on a surrealism media project of our own. Here are some of the pictures we found. I will discuss our own project in another post. For now, take a look at the work of Ishida:
When I began blogging in 2006, I became connected with a number of other teachers who were also using blogs. We would visit each other’s website and read each other’s posts and leave comments. This was an form of social media. We were doing that well before Facebook and Twitter hit the scene.
When I started my blog, I had the mindset that I would write reflections of what I was working on in the classroom and not really worry if anyone would read it or not. I figured the chances of someone being interested in what I had to say were slim. If someone read what I wrote, that was just extra gravy. Mostly I was writing for my own benefit.
I have been re-reading a book called Writing to Learn. William Zinnser, the books author, talks about how the writing process is our ticket to learning in just about any endeavor. He holds that writing is one of the best ways to reflect on whatever the problems are that you’re trying to solve and or whatever it is you’re trying to learn.
When I was working on my doctorate, I fell away from keeping a regular blog or even participating on social media. I realize now that it was a big mistake to do that. I even realized it at the time, wanting to blog about what I was thinking and learning, but the emotions that went along with that kind of work were too raw and too strong for me to make public. That is precisely why I should have overcome my fears and done it anyway.
In the book, “Growth Hacker Marketing” by Ryan Holiday, he talks about how growth hackers are bypassing traditional marketing channels with social media. He says the traditional approach to writing is to go away in isolation (exactly what I did) and return after the work is finished hoping to promote the it to readers, and gambling that the entire endeavor will pay off.
Holiday argues that with the growth hacker approach, the author blogs about the work as it is in progress, and interacts with interested readers along the way, using their feedback to hone and tweak the work into something that has PMF or Product Market Fit. In other words, the writer gets a critique along the way and is able to hone the final product into something that will be well refined into something highly desirable by its intended audience.
I wonder how much the motion picture industry would be improved by taking this approach? Wouldn’t movie fans everywhere love to be able to view the dailies as they come in! A daring film production team should try this, and let people see behind the scenes as the film is being made, every step of the way. After all, that is exactly how Andy Weir wrote The Martian, before it became a finished blockbuster novel and movie. He let his audience follow his progress and provide crowd sourced feedback making The Martian have perfectly optimized PMF. If the original story was crafted this way, why not have the film follow a similar process?
Now that my dissertation is completed, I’ve returned to my old stomping grounds of social media and blogging only to find that things have changed. No one is really reading a lot of small name blogs anymore. Everything has shifted to social media and it’s short bursts of information and visual memes. Social media has almost completely replaced the blog as a communications media. Sure, there are still successful blogs out there, but I’m not feeling the sense of community in the blogosphere that once was there; maybe I’m missing it.
However, I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from going back and reading my old blog posts from a decade ago. I think I will continue to benefit as I return and reflect on things I write. So I think I will return to my original mindset about blogging. I will write for myself, and if someone else benefits that’s even better! Who knows? Maybe something I’m working on and writing about will resonate and people who share my interests will reconnect with me because of this effort.
Saw friend tweeting about WWII battleship Yamato
Asked about his interest in naval history.
Learned his father landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day with the “29th”
Replied that he must be proud of his father
Read some 29th history on Wikipedia.
Saw it had a unit landing with 1st infantry division on d-day
Remembered 1st is based at Fort Riley, KS
Wondered why 1st Infantry Division was not hyperlinked in Wikipedia article I was reading
Decided to create hyperlink
Clicked edit on Wikipedia page
Saw the non-HTML wiki style code.
Googled how to make links on Wikipedia Found tutorial that showed how
Remembered that Wikipedia edits are more likely to stick if I login
Tried logging in to Wikipedia but couldn’t remember password
Requested password reset
Password didn’t arrive in regular email, so I checked special spam email account
Reset Wikipedia password
Made Wikipedia edit
Reflected on what had happened
Many people keep two or more profiles on social media for different purposes, while other folks stick with using one profile for everything. This past week, I posted a Twitter poll to see what our #DIGME406 group had to say. The results of that poll are here:
Six out of ten people said they would use multiple profiles and only four said they would use a single profile for everything.I posed the question because several members of my #DIGME406 team asked if they should make separate profiles for personal use and for school use. I don’t think there is a right and wrong answer to the question. I think it depends on the person and their goals for using social media.
To me, this is a question of establishing a digital identity.
One of my deepest frustrations that I felt as an undergraduate student were the “contrived” assignments that I was given in the courses in my major of computer science. In my introduction to networking class, we did a lot of readings from the textbook and memorized a lot of facts for the exams we took, all while I was working as an IT director redesigning and installing my first network at the school where I was working. In my database class, we did some case studies of fictitious companies from our textbook, and actually created some databases in MS Access. That was happening while I was working for a municipal utilities department responsible for creating databases that tracked and reported data on water usage in the city.
Now I’m on the other side of the equation, a college teacher. I realize that sometimes we have but little choice but to “make up” scenarios for students to explore and experience. However, when it’s possible, I am a big believer in setting up authentic learning experiences. The more realistic a learning experience is, the messier things can get. I think this may be one limiting factor that makes educators favor the contrived over the authentic. We can make things cleaner and go smoother if we pre-plan every detail in advance. But life never works that way. Usually in life when we embark on a new project, we have no idea of how things will ultimately turn out.
One of the greatest things that our digitally-connected world has to offer students is a learning environment in which the classroom can extend out into the world. This can happen in numerous ways. For example, Mystery Skype is an activity where classrooms in different parts of the world can connect and play a guessing game trying to learn where the other class is located. Experts can interact with students through live video conference, or other online platforms like Twitter.
In many writing assignments, the work is assigned by the teacher, then the student completes the writing work knowing full well that the only reader of the work will be the teacher/grader. If you’ve ever read this type of writing, it often consists of the student writer imagining what the teacher expects, and typically the writing is just as artificial as the assignment.
Early in my teaching career, I was frustrated by my students’ writing. I wanted to have writing and communication assignments that were more authentic and real than the teacher-as-audience type of assignment. I read a piece by Connecticut middle school teacher Paul Bogush, describing how his students were motivated by writing for a global audience, rather than the traditional teacher audience, and it spoke to me.
Why not have students write for a wider audience? Why not assign projects and assignments that have potential for having an impact on the outside world? In a world where information is freely available but the quality varies wildly, why not have students share what they are learning with the world? What great practice it is for students to share what they learn and believe, so long as they are asking deep questions, and doing what they can to find evidence-based answers to these questions.
One suggestion I’ve read, and I forget where I found it, is to simply write a letter to a loved one about what is being learned. Explain something complex in terms that a non-expert can understand. I think that is a good place to start. I’m still exploring this idea. How can I create assignments and projects that students will get excited about working on? How can I get them to want to make a difference with the work they are doing in school? I think the more real, the more authentic, the more relevant these assignments and projects are, the better.
A: Twitter is special because it is open. You don’t even have to be a Twitter member to see other people’s tweets. To correspond on many social media platforms, you must be connected. Take Facebook for example. It is possible to send a message to “non-friend” on Facebook, but that message can get buried, and it is hit or miss as to whether or not it will even be seen, let alone responded to. With Twitter, you do not have to “follow” someone or be “followed” by them to communicate if your settings are set to public, which is the default. With Twitter, there is unparalleled access to people of knowledge and influence. While Twitter can be used as a broadcast medium, there is a conversational culture that is present, and that presents exciting possibilities.
Q: How do I know who I should follow?
A: Begin with a search at http://search.twitter.com. Use search terms that reflect your interests in things you would like to learn more about. That is how to find some initial people to follow. Then, when you discover someone who seems knowledgeable or influential in that area, take a look at who they are following and interacting with. Look at their feed and see whose tweets they are retweeting. Viewing someone’s followers can be a peek into their mind. You can see the connections they have made, and what fields of thought they think are important. Then when you find someone else that seems interesting, repeat the process.
Q: How can see only tweets related to #digme406?
A: Everyone should use the #digme406 hashtag on every tweet you want the group to see. That way you can search for #digme406 and see tweets tagged with that. Also, I have set up a list of everyone in our group. You can subscribe to the list at https://twitter.com/billgx/lists/digme406 and see all tweets by group members, not just those with the hashtag.
Q: How do you keep up with everything? I don’t want to follow too many people, because then I won’t be able to read everything.
A: One popular analogy is to think of your Twitter feed as a stream or river. If you are thirsty, you don’t try to drink every drop that comes by. Dip your cup into the stream and take a sip or a gulp, whatever suits you. Don’t feel guilty that you haven’t kept up with everything, because that’s not the point. The point is that you are on there and getting benefit from being there.
Q: What is the best way to use Twitter?
A: The best way is the way that works for you. If you are always on the go, the Twitter mobile app might be best. If you have a tablet or computer, you might want to consider using Tweetdeck, which provides added functionality to Twitter. With Tweetdeck, you can get several views of Twitter at once. http://tweetdeck.twitter.com Tweetdeck lets you view the tweets of individuals, lists, or that include specific terms or hashtags. It is very powerful.
Q: What is a “tweet” exactly?
A: Originally, a tweet was 140 characters long. A short bit of information. Just a tweet.
Q: What is a “retweet”?
A: A retweet is reposting a tweet shared by someone else. It is a way of sharing what was said. You can do that with or without comment.
Q: Who sees what I tweet?
A: Normally, people who follow you see your tweets, although if your tweets are public (the default) anyone can find them by viewing your profile and clicking on tweets, or they can see them by using a search that matches something you’ve posted. One way to make sure someone sees a tweet is to @ “at” them with their username. If you “at” someone, they get an alert telling them about it.
Q: What else happens when I “at” someone?
A: When you begin a tweet with the @ symbol, the tweet is directed to that user alone, and the tweet doesn’t show up in your other followers’ Twitter feed. One common work-around for tweets that you’d like others to see is to put a “period” in front of the “at” as in .@billgx. That simply makes the tweet begin with something other than @ so the system doesn’t hide it from other users. That being said, an @beginning message is not private. It can still be viewed by others. It is just not pushed out into follower feeds. There is a direct message feature that can be used for messages that are not meant to be publicly viewable.
Q: What should I tweet on Twitter?
A: Share anything you like. Tweets related to our Social Media studies should be tagged with #digme406
Q: How often should I tweet?
A: It’s difficult to have a great conversation or discussion if you only check in with us once a week. Every day would be ideal, but a few times a week would be sufficient.
Q: What are “powerups” on Twitter?
A: Powerups are a way to “gamify” the course so we can keep score each week as a comparison with one another. I will post more information on powerups very shortly.
Q: What is the best way to use Twitter?
A: The best way is the way that works for you. If you are always on the go, the Twitter mobile app might be best. If you have a tablet or computer, you might want to consider using Tweetdeck, which provides added functionality to Twitter. With Tweetdeck, you can get several views of Twitter at once. http://tweetdeck.twitter.com
My daughter Emily attended the funeral of a classmate’s dad this week. It was a sad day for everyone in our community. I came home early that day. I think making art is cathartic, so when she asked me if we could paint something, I agreed. I’ve had a bag of watercolor supplies tucked under my desk for more than a year, so we got them out.
What should we paint? She asked. After discussing some options, we settled on using a weird and silly photo we found on my iPad. It was a portrait of us both, digitally manipulated by some app to give us a surreal expression. Perfect! I thought. It’s distorted already, so it won’t matter if our proportions are incorrect.
The above video is a basic overview about how to find the right people to follow on Twitter. You start with a Twitter search on a given topic that interests you. It can be a keyword related to your industry, a topic that interests you, anything at all really, but you start with a search. That will show you who shares your interests because those people are tweeting about what you have searched for.
When you find someone who looks promising, there are some things you can check to see if they are a good fit with what you are after. Are they verified (have a blue checkmark by their profile name)? If so, they have a larger following and Twitter has verified that they are who they say they are. This isn’t a must, and you can find excellent people to follow who don’t have the verified blue checkmark, but it is always a plus if it is present.
Another thing to look for is to examine what the person has been tweeting about. If you look through some of their recent tweets, you can get a good idea of what you will be getting if you follow them.
Once you have decided they are “follow worthy” and you’ve clicked the follow button, you aren’t necessarily finished. It is a good idea to click into their “following” list to see other folks that this person follows, is learning from and is influenced by. You can use this process over and over again.
It is really helpful to find someone who is a known expert in the area of interest, and if that person has a high follower to following ratio. If they have thousands of followers, and only a handful of people they follow, chances are good that you can find a lot of fascinating people that they themselves are following.
To me, it isn’t all that helpful to see an account with many thousands of followers when they are also following many thousands as well. It is especially a concern to see someone who follows far more people than they are followed by. While it is quite normal to start out by following more people than you are followed by, this shouldn’t always be the case once you’ve been on Twitter a while. Eventually, you should have a ratio that is roughly the same number of followers to following. If you are very picky about who you follow and you are sharing great stuff that many people want to see, you could wind up with a relatively small list that you follow, and many people following you.
It is customary for many people to return a follow with a follow, so some people game the system by following thousands and gaining thousands of followers as well. I would prefer to follow someone who has gained a large following simply by the quality of what they share on Twitter that provides great value to those who are following them.