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Random Thoughts on Instructional Design


mashupMashups are the integration of several data sources into a single resource. Mashing data is very common on the Internet today, and new authoring tools are being developed that will enable non-technical users to create sophisticated products without programming. As tools like these become more robust, we will see increasing use of data mashups in teaching and learning. Faculty will create custom mashups to illustrate concepts as they teach; students will include them in reports and assignments. Already new forms of visualizing data and relationships are changing the way we think about information.

The power of mashups for education lies in the way they help us reach new conclusions or discern new relationships by uniting large amounts of data in a manageable way. Web-based tools for manipulating data are easy to use, usually free, and widely available. Research can be displayed on interactive graphs, charts, or maps that make the concepts clear.

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Creative mashups have educational applications as well, in teaching and learning as well as in creative expression. Mashups made from pop culture sources can demonstrate mastery of subject matter, understanding of cinematic and literary themes, social awareness, and more. Creative mashups and remixes are themselves an art form- but they can also be an effective presentation tool.

A sampling of applications of data mashups across disciplines includes the following:

  • Criminal Justice. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, a criminal justice course integrates local criminal statistics, population data and census data using GIS mapping software, graphing data and statistical analysis tools to study and attempt to better understand the problem of violence and homicide in the city of Rochester, New York.
  • Education. A research project at the University of Oregon has created a tool that allows users to collect data about objects in the virtual world of Second Life and export it to a website. The tool is designed to be used to catalog educational objects that can be found in the virtual world (see for a video overview).
  • Library Services. Libraries—including those at the University of Calgary, Baylor College, McMaster University, and public systems in Topeka and Chicago, among others—have begun integrating a MeeboMe mashup that lets patrons send instant messages to a live librarian while using the library’s online services (catalog search, reservations, etc).
  • Public Policy. At the University of Oregon, a freshman seminar on investigating natural disasters and the response of governments, nonprofits and individuals to them uses the Havaria Information Services Alerts Map mashup (see below) to monitor current natural events as they develop.

Educational Uses

  • Enhance instructional content
  • Engage with the material on a deeper level
  • Explore and uncover previously unsuspected aspects of the data
  • Provide additional venues to discuss, debate ans share insights and sources of information
  • Develop analytical skills
  • Connect to real-world situations
  • Make connections between instructional content and learning outcomes
  • Encourage self-directed exploration
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Allow students to learn by doing

Integrating Mashups

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Integrating Mashups into the curriculum can:

  • enhance instructional content
  • assist the students in engaging with course materials on a deeper level
  • assist with the exploration and uncovering of previously unsuspected aspects of the data
  • open up new worlds to learners through new ways of seeing familiar things
  • allow for the discussion, debate and sharing of insights and sources of information
  • assist students with the development of analytical skills
  • enhance students computer skills

Some project design considerations are:

  • Results are only as good as the data collected
  • Resources can be outdated, incomplete and/or inaccurate….
  • Develop and explore multiple working hypotheses for project questions

The following cultural considerations should be assessed:

  • Be aware of potential bias in the way that resources are combined
  • Be aware of the underlying assumptions used in selected resources
  • Gender and cultural spin in articles and journals
  • Ways of sharing data and information can vary from culture to culture

Steps for Making a Video Mashup

1. Look at sample mashups for inspiration, and come up with an idea of your own

Many mashup videos are humorous movie trailer parodies. You may also want to consider mashing up a music video, political message, news story, instructional video, or product advertisement. You can even incorporate original footage that you shoot yourself. Look at examples for content as well as for technical ideas. Some examples are listed below:

A Fair(y) Use Tale Martin Scorcese’s Sesame Street Sleepless in Seattle
Who Owns John Henry? Bush Blair Endless Love Vote Different

2. Find the existing content you want to mashup

  • Select the movie(s) or other video content that you want to mashup.
  • Use the Library Video Catalog, YouTube or other video sources to collect your materials. You can look at local video rental stores like Video Library, Blockbuster, and of course online services like Netflix. You can use TV footage taped on a VCR. A Reference Librarian may be able to help you locate hard-to-find films.
  • You can shoot your own footage with a videocamera. The Vitale Digital Media Lab lends videocameras. You can use also use many cell-phones and point-and-shoot cameras to record video and sound.

3. Collect and digitize the segments you want to work with

  • Preview the movies first and note the time stamps of the clips you want to use. Don’t import an entire film. You will save yourself a lot of editing time (and hard drive space!) if you import only the clips you plan to use in your final video.
  • Digitize your clips from DVD or VHS.
  • Download YouTube content and add it to your video. Please note that YouTube video is low resolution. Some of the websites listed below will offer higher resolution material.

4. Edit your mashup video

  • Popular video-editing tools are iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Final Cut Pro, and Vegas
  • iMovie (Mac only) and Windows Movie Maker (Windows only) are significantly easier to learn and use than the other two examples, and chances are that one of them is already installed on your personal computer.
  • Once you have digitized your content, you can edit the video on your personal laptop or on a lab computer.
  • The Faculty Technology Center offers workshops on video topics. You can also find self-guided tutorials on Windows Movie Maker in the Tools area of this site and on Youtube.
  • Choose and arrange your clips, and remove sections that you don’t need .

5. Add music, effects and titles

  • Digitize and convert music from various formats.
  • iTunes and MP3 clips can be added to your video and edited using Audacity or GarageBand.
  • Editing and adding audio can also be done on your personal laptop or on a lab computer. In the Faculty Technology Center lab, all PCs and Macs have Audacity and all Macs have GarageBand.
  • Don’t forget the credits! Opening and closing credits, not to mention captions in the middle of a film, can greatly add to your video’s impact. List in the credits music and video you used that is not your own, just as you would in the bibliography of a term paper.

6. Tips and Advice

  • Editing video is not a quick process. It can require a lot of time and planning, and it will probably require more than one sitting to complete. Be sure to leave yourself as much time as possible for the task, and don’t wait until the last minute. (don’t say we didn’t warn you!)
  • Your video won’t fit on a USB flash drive. Buy a portable hard drive. They’ve become cheaper than many text books, and they’ll last you for a number of years.
  • Websites with examples, raw material and ideas:
Creative Commons Internet Video Archive Cuts – Rifftrax
Recutting Room Floor Total Recut Political Remix
NPR article with content links Trailers from Apple Movie Database

The following provides an overview of a series of search engines that can be used to harvest the deep net. Some offer functionality that is slowly making its way into traditional search engines. Others further the attempt to traverse the invisible web and index other previously unsearchable research sources.

Many of the new search engines use the modular functionality of Web 2.0 — mashing together several services and adding new features.

  • Ajaxwhois.- Doing a little domain name research? Ajaxwhois takes an existing protocol, WHOIS, and wraps it with a more responsive one. It’s not a traditional search engine per se, but does make finding domain registration information faster. Start typing, and if you stop, it sends out a query. Add a few more characters to the domain name, and the query starts fresh. Results include links to hosting plans, the site (if it’s registered), and Alexaholic, which is a mashup of Alexa, a Web traffic rankings service.
  • FlickrStorm. – FlickrStorm provides a nice mashup for flickr images. Enter a tag and it comes back with square thumbnails. Scroll through the array, click on images, and they’ll be displayed larger. Add the ones you like to your own “tray”, for later download. It’s a simple but effective interface for consuming photos. An “advanced” feature filters images by license types, including Creative Commons.
  • FundooWeb. – FundooWeb is a multi-mashup, incorporating results from Yahoo!, Flickr, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Answers, Amazon, and Yahoo! Maps images. If you search all sources, the results are presented in a couple of formats, including collapsible headlines and a Flickr photo strip, partitioned by source. There’s obviously a heavy leaning to Yahoo, but it’s not a bad way to conveniently compartmentalize several search result sets.
  • Keotag. – Keotag‘s initial face looks quite simple, with font sizes large enough to read very comfortably on the screen. Type in a keyword or phrase and a line of favicons appear for Google, Technorati, and Bloglines, as well as over a dozen social bookmarking and community news sites. At far left is a Technorati chart showing the number of blog posts containing the key phrase over the past 30 days. Clicking on a particular favicon reveals result headlines for that source, which can be subscribed to through the resulting RSS feed.
  • Whonu. – Whonu is arguably one of the very first semantic Web search engines available. It offers over 300 search sources and a smart interface that contextualizes what you enter. For example, enter a US ZIP code and whonu presents a set of links to geocode tools including maps, weather maps, and even public events in Google Calendar. There are so many features that the demo screencast video is 26 minutes long. Information is double partitioned by file type and source. The variety of options might be a bit intimidating, but for power research, whonu looks like one of the most promising search tools available, with an effort made to present structured meaning. Killer feature — saved query history using a row of dots.

Search engines in this category offer a little something extra in terms of the interface.

  • KwMap. – KwMap touts itself as “a keyword map for the whole Internet”. Type in a keyword or phrase, and an unusual interface appears. At right is an alphabetical list of related key phrases. At left is a visual component showing two axes that resemble an insect’s antennae, dotted with nodes representing related terms. Clicking on a term’s node takes you to another layer of loosely-related terms. This is a new search paradigm, but it offers the opportunity to explore related concepts in small leaps. Thus, a search for the word “tree” could lead you to “tea tree oil” or to a study of ancestor worship (via “family tree”). Hyperlinking mimics hyper-thought.
  • Mnemomap. – Mnemomap uses multiple components to display search results. Topmost is a hierarchical graph with nodes branching off the search term. Non-clickable secondary nodes are “Token”, “Tags”, “Translations” and “Synonyms”. Tertiary nodes are search results and can have either a tight relationship to the original search term or a tenuous relationship. Clicking on a tertiary node either adds it to a bar below for a refined search, or produces a new graph, depending on where you click. Below is a section displaying relevant results from Mnemo, Yahoo, flickr, and YouTube. Mnemomap, currently in Alpha 0.2, is a fascinating paradigm for searching, but more suited to power researchers than to the average search engine user.
  • Quintura. – Quintura, who recently received funding, presents text or image search results in a minimalist but graphic form resembling a free form tag cloud. Holding your mouse cursor long enough over a term in the cloud causes new, related terms to appear in the vicinity of the cursor. While the no click interface is a bit disconcerting at first, you can start over by holding the cursor over the original search term, displayed in red text. Any term in focus (hovered over) generates search results in a scrollable panel below.
  • Tagnautica. – Tagnautica starts off with a minimalist interface: a black background and a “CLICK HERE” message. Click and enter your search term, then wait for the strange revolving circle containing numerous spheres on the circumference, which undulate up and down in size. Talk about organic search results. Each result represents a relate term, which can be drilled down into. Or you can click whatever term is in the center (initially the original search term) to get a page of flickr images. Tagnautica is a fascinating photo search paradigm that’s lots of fun and definitely visually inspiring.
  • Topix. – Ever want to search for topical Web pages and wish you could easily narrow the search to a certain time period? Topix offers just that ability with a neat little interactive timeline map. Clicking on a particular day produces results ordered reverse chronologically from that day backwards. Definitely a handy tool for research, and would be killer mashed up with other functionality.

Engines in this category allow you to search the web using images and similarity algorithms.

  • Like. – Like is a “visual shopping” engine that starts off with images of products. Click on an image to get an array of related product images. Use the interface to select a focus area of one image to find similar products by shape or color – say similar sunglasses. Like also lets you filter brands and price ranges. It’s one of the more sophisticated ways to do affiliate marketing. Of course, while you don’t have to enter any text at all to surf’n’shop, the option is there as well.
  • PixsyPixsy is a visual search engine for pictures or videos selected from several sources including Buzznet, flickr, iStockphoto, Fotolia, YouTube, and others. Clicking on an image takes you to the source page. For stock photo sites, this might provide copyright and license details. A handy tool for online publishers looking for suitable images to reprint.
  • RetrievrRetrievr is a visual search engine in the truest sense of the term, offering the choice of starting with an image (via URL or uploaded) or a sketch from the user, which can be customized by line thickness and color. Images are then retrieved from flickr. Brilliant concept. The honest truth is that very few of the images in the matrix of results have much resemblance to drawn sketches, but those that do are uncanny. An engine like this is only as good as its algorithms (though it uses brainiac wavelet transforms rather than the traditional neural network algorithms). Still, retrievr is an exciting early- generation advanced search engine offering.
  • TiltomoTiltomo is yet another flickr mashup that offers a few search options. Enter a single flickr tag or ask for random images. Once you have an array of images, you can find similar images either by theme or by color/ texture. Tiltomo seems to produce slightly more relevant secondary results than some of the other visual search engines.
  • XcavatorXcavator is another flickr-based engine in its early stages. Currently, it seems a bit limited, as there are only five tags from flickr that can be searched. Selecting one brings up an array of images. Dragging and dropping one of these to the xcavator search box and then selecting a point of interest produces a second, more refined image result set.

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