Images Tell Stories

I've long been fascinated with the power of images and the stories they tell. But now, the images can actually "talk." Who knows if they are telling the truth?

I've just read Google's Image Recognition Software Can Now Describe EntireScenes. This is interesting from several perspectives, but currently, it sparks a conceptual idea for the creation of digital stories as a result searching images and allowing the data to create a story. This random collection of descriptions about what is happening in an image seems bizarre and remote from true storytelling. But wait, don’t we tell ourselves stories… make up some plausible narrative about what we see around us every day? Isn't it human nature to make meaning out of what we see? Perhaps the image-generated story might just be the starting point to explore and learn what has really been captured in a particular image. Perhaps this could be the catalyst for real learning. How different is this from vetting a story from social media, particularly by those in professional journalism. How different is this from detective work, archaeology or other forms of research? Let’s experiment and see what we can learn as we seek to discover the truth.

Program Design in 21st Century Higher Education

I feel the need to reiterate my disclaimer: I write this blog post to share my own generalized thoughts about educational program design and do not represent any institution as I ponder design for the future.

Architecture of the Future Yesterday, my colleagues discussed their foray into the topic of designing a new program within the university. Obviously, program design has always been complex business and I do not claim to have any real knowledge of that complexity. But, I wonder if the current state of debate about higher education, the roles of 21st century technologies, demands for access and the current climate of innovation might make it both increasingly more complex and ripe for opportunities. As I understand it, program design must be able to prove that it will lead to jobs. But what jobs? Do these jobs even exist? It seems to me that requiring a program to prove that it will create (specific) jobs runs the risk of looking into the rear-view mirror to design for what might be coming down the road. I'm confident that programs can be designed for existing jobs and that we can collect data to prove some success in having graduates move into existing roles. But, what about the future? What about innovation? What about preparing students to live in a world of constant change and to be employed in jobs and professions that don't presently exist? I would hope that any new program would provide embrace open and connected learning opportunities and lead to learning that in turn would enable graduates to think critically, creatively, gain 21st century computing skills, develop digital literacy and be able to act independently and collaboratively, to solve problems, invent new things, explore and to enhance the quality of life.

Image: Architecture of the Future, courtesy of Daniel Foster,

The Rhythm of the Web

Keep your own beat Yesterday I had a brief conversation with Gardner Campbell regarding a statement that he had made in a Google Hangout (see: time 49:30) within connected courses #ccourses. He talked about participation on the web as something that moves at different speeds. This idea really resonated with me and has had my head buzzing throughout the week. Having spent a lot of time in online courses, online discussion, collaborative writing, etc. I recognize easily what he's talking about. The web does move at different speeds. Sometimes it's synchronous and other times it's asynchronous, with varying rhythms of interaction. Through experience with the interaction with others on the web, patterns begin to form. People began to recognize each other by the quantity and quality of their interactions. We each gain credibility for contributions and our interactions as we seek to enhance our own learning in an open environment. Through this process we create communities of trust in people whom we can rely upon to share their ideas and to critically critique our work for the advancement of all.

For me, the next steps are doing what Jon Udell refers to as “awaking grains of sand” on the web and creating what @gardnercampell referred to as “network effect” (see: ). In conjunction with these actions, developing my own rhythm is a critical step in my participation on the web.

So, here’s my nugget or “grain of sand”. I’m eager to see if it irritates the oyster and develops any pearls of wisdom.

Exploring image bit depth, Adobe Premiere CC & problem solving from a different perspective

What is image bit depth and how might it affect my use of images?

How can sharing my questions with others lead to simple solutions?

What changes, when we look at problems from a different perspective? A question introduced to me earlier this week in a lecture by Professor Jack Horner, the 2014 keynote speaker for the Ruth Harris Lecture in Dyslexia Studies.

I’ve been editing a project in Adobe Premiere CC and at the end of the video, I want to place a VCU branding image that includes a tag line. Branding, as we all know is important and institutions often have specific requirements as to what and how files may be used. Following the rules, I went to the university’s branding site (which, has restricted access) and downloaded the appropriate folder of images as a .zip file and then extracted the individual .jpg images. Having used .jpg images throughout my work without any issues, I proceeded to drag the file into the Premiere project. But wait! A statement appeared informing me that the bit depth of the .jpg file is not supported in Adobe Premiere. This puts my following actions into the category of insanity as defined by Einstein, Franklin or someone: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I dragged the file into the editor again (repeatedly) and still got he same message. I then “imported” the file to see if “import” worked differently than “drag” in the editor. Again, I got the same message. Hummm… does this mean that I inadvertently selected bit depth settings in my Premiere project that are smaller than my .jpg file? Pondering this, I asked Alana Robinson to confirm my actions for file access and to try importing a .jpg file. Once more - the same result. But Alana immediately searched the problem online and found that Premiere does not support 16 bit or 32 bit images. Viola! She brilliantly came up with another solution: “try a different file type.” And there it was, in a matter of seconds, she changed the file to a file.eps and dropped it into the editor like it had been coated with grease. Thanks, Alana for looking at the problem from another perspective and for teaching me not only how to get an image into Premier, but to think critically and experiment in the process.

A few questions (or resources) you might like to investigate:

What is image bit depth in an image?

What is an Encapsulated PostScript file?

How can I find out the bit depth of an image? One way is to look at Extensible Image File Format information (EXIF)

Please reply with any links you feel will help us all gain a better understanding.

Feedback: Here’s your score!

English: Measurement unit
English: Measurement unit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently joined a MOOC on digital storytelling. I was up-front and honest about my experience and my reason for joining. I run a digital storytelling program and I wanted to see how another program might parallel, differ and/or otherwise inform me. There’s always room to learn.

As I engaged in the course, I felt good about participation and offering some thoughts and resources that others might find beneficial. I was excited and comfortable doing the first assignment and in retrospect, probably too excited and included information that more appropriately would fit into week 2: script development. Then…I waited. Part 2 of the assignment was to provide peer review of 3 other participants and then get feedback from 3 others. I was charged, ready to see the work of others, give feedback and to get feedback on my own work. But the design made me wait and the waiting began to disturb my flow. Finally, the day came to review others and I did that as thoughtfully as I could. I tried to provide positive support and make suggestions to help the development of their stories. One by one, I moved forward in a system that would not allow me to get feedback until all others had completed their work and the multi-day deadline had passed. Finally, the long awaited feedback came. Anticipating some thoughtful comments and advice, I was disappointed to get “grades”; numbers. Numbers that were a bit lower than I expected, but that’s OK. The disturbing part is that there was very little feedback and that it was anonymous. This made me rethink the value of peer-review, flow, anonymity and the inability to have a conversation about my work. This nameless, faceless, unconnected grading system left me clueless about how to improve my work. What’s worse, it killed my interest in the course. It became a bit of a canned process that ran on a schedule. However, all is not lost. It made me realize the value of open sharing and the possibility of instant or at least, very quick feedback. It made me realize the value of a personal connection to someone who actually cared about what they might say and how that might help me learn. It made me realize that through our open sharing, we might actually teach or learn from others and make new connections that might just change our way of thinking and in some cases, our lives.

Connected Learning

Leighblackall-64955397 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I just read The Problem ofLearning in Higher Education by Randy Bass.

As I move toward increased participation in in an open and connected world, I do so with both excitement and measured steps. The openness and connection I want is for sharing my thinking, my understanding and most importantly, to have those challenged in order to learn.

Randy concludes his writing with a reference to Steven Johnson’s (author of “Where Good Ideas Come From”) TED Talk tagline: “Chance favors the connected mind.” I like this notion. In many ways, I see too many connections and get deep into the weeds in a heartbeat. I jokingly compare myself to the image of John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), as I could easily see myself in a room full of images, information and strings to connect the ideas. Maybe I should be scared of that vision.

Randy breaks down connections into two parts: first, making connections between things and secondly, the sense of being socially networked. The first part is easy for me, but the social aspect requires some work on my part. I need to think about the word social. I think this word is not clearly defined and understood by many, particularly as our use of words like “friends” or “circles” are transformed by the use of technology and media. However, in the context of connecting ideas across realms of experiences in various settings and with various groups or individuals, I have long seen the connection of sharing ideas to the enhancement of learning. In this light, I see and welcome thoughtful inclusion of individual and collective experiences in learning design. Engagement with others, commenting and discussion, collaborative creations, the use of ePortfolios and community-based service projects are only a few things that come to mind. Just as engaging in and observing the world about us informs our learning from different perspectives, it is our learning that should impact the world, sometimes in small but meaningful ways. As Mary PeaceMcRay said at the end of her story The Process of Science "in science, observation of small and insignificant things, often leads to greatness."

Why I Teach: I teach to enjoy your success

Yesterday, I started to write about why I teach. I came up with some ideas shared at the bottom of this post, but today, I read an email from a faculty member who participated in my Digital Storytelling Program. This short email and the video shared in the link is why I teach.

Hi Bud!
I hope you're doing well. I worked on a project this week that reminded me of our digital storytelling seminar. I thought I'd send you a link and say thanks for the learning! Apologies for the long rambly blog post.

Kristin (Reed)

Watch this video to see learning unfold in real time:

My guiding questions:
Why do I teach?
Why do I care if you learn?
Why should you come to me?
Why should I (or any teacher) ask these questions (most importantly to ourselves)?

I have a passion (some say I have a gift). My passion is for good stories and to explore my own understanding through the creation of stories. Good stories are compelling. They cause me to listen deeply. But, more importantly, they cause me to reflect and ask questions. 

You come to me to learn about digital storytelling and I am inspired to share what I know and the resources that have developed my thinking. I immerse myself in listening deeply, so I can help you hear your own story. I love to help you identify your true passion and help you learn to tell your story through the power of digital media. I love to help you learn about the power of image, sound, voice, timing of delivery and the use of technology to create and share your own work of art.

I come to digital storytelling with experience and ways of working, but filled with questions and challenging my own thinking. I’m often teaching on the fly, not with lack of experience, but questioning what I say, even as I share my experience and thoughts. 

I come with passion,
Passion for story
Passion for media 
and a way to articulate feelings.

I  come to help you tell a story that will make my hair stand on end. 

Why do I teach?

I teach to enjoy your success.
PS: Kristen's video is very different from the work we explored in my digital storytelling program, but the experience there has grounded this creative exploration and I want to celebrate her work and the work of her students.