I had a bit of unexpected fun yesterday. One of the things (on my long list of things) to explore this summer is closed captioning (subtitling/transcribing) videos and getting a manageable workflow going. As we begin the Fall semester in about 6 weeks, I want to have a plan for implementing transcriptions as a part of the many videos that we will begin to produce in the new building (you know that ITCC thing I keep talking about?). I’m working on that workflow and hope to have recommendations soon.
Meanwhile, I was playing around with the YouTube Closed Caption tool. It looks to be a great way to start the process of getting automatic transcriptions for video, although, as it is the subject of this post – it’s not perfect.
What was particularly entertaining was the attempt by the transcription service to get term Domain of One’s Own, and LMS, correct. On rare occasions it would get the terms right, spelling out the words “domain of one’s own”, albeit in lower case, and the acronym “LMS”. However, it did struggle. Here’s where it got entertaining. It seems to pick on Martha and Jeff the most. First, Domain of One’s Own . . .
YouTube’s struggles with LMS (as in Learning Management System) were equally funny.
As well as saucier versions . . .
And my favorite . . .
The actual spoken words from the above clip are “closed walls of the LMS”. See YouTube Closed Captions can even teach you about geographic locations you didn’t know about – Almazán, Spain. And I never knew about it’s association with Wellesley. Oh, and don’t forget Alamosa, Colorado.
To finish up the fun, there were a couple more transcription errors – one just basically silly, and another one fun in a teenage boy kind of way. First . . .
You can guess what the real spoken words are in this next one . . .
After it’s all said and done, it is amazing what an accurate job this automatic transcription service does. Anyone who has the task of creating captions for a video might find it to be a quite entertaining task. I hope the student aides that I assign to this task think so as well.
This is a follow-on from my last post. Some of us DTLT folks got another chance to see the progress of the ITCC (if you don’t know what that stands for, read more of my blog). As I mentioned previously, I’ve been concentrating on the DTLT Edit Suite, and the progress of that room is coming along nicely. Here is a just a brief sequence of photos to show you where we are.
It started out with the framing:
Then it got walls:
As of June 11, 2014 it’s got paint and carpet:
Most of the equipment for this room has been ordered and will start to arrive soon. One of my next posts will go into detail of the actual equipment setup. Stay tuned.
Imagine the possibilities. My mind is preoccupied with what the Information and Technology Convergence Center (ITCC) will do. I have to think of the possibilities of individual rooms, as well as how those rooms fit into the overall vision. I’ve got my vision for video and audio production in the ITCC and if I could sum it up in a word, it would be “enable”.
We have a video recording studio in the building unlike anything we could have imagined a few years ago. It’s very exciting, and I hope to write more about that space soon. Right next door is a space for editing digital projects (and even a vocal booth for quiet audio recordings). But to me, the whole building is a production studio. There are lots of great spaces to capture (i.e. video record) conversations, and as I’ve said before, it is about furthering digital scholarship.
The space I’m currently thinking the most about is within the DTLT suite. It is adjacent to the “bullpen”, but in many ways I’m thinking of it as an office – a word derived from two latin words, opus (work), and facere (to make). The idea of this room is to serve as an editing suite – a new Mac Pro, two 32″ 4K monitors, a large 24TB raid array, a microphone and new digital 4K camera for recording, along with video switching and routing equipment to, you guessed it, enable possibilities.
The other part of this space is a “viewing” area. Projects can be visualized at any given point in time on a large 4K home theater style monitor (I’m shooting for 70″). At any point in the production process we can suggest elements to add to a project such as music, sound effects, visual effects. Faculty and students (staff too?) will be able to sit comfortably in a space and help make editorial decisions. That’s something else that we couldn’t have imagined a few years ago.
So the space illustrated at the top of this post is a general idea of what I’m thinking. Here is what it looks like as of May 1, 2014:
Here’s another shot taken from inside the room:
And here’s the visualization:
With the help of some software, in this case a program called Live Interior 3D, I can quickly drag in some elements (although they’re somewhat generic – note the huge desktop PC element instead of the Mac Pro) to visualize the space. Don’t you think that rug ties the room together?
I’ve also got a QuickTime VR video (download it for better performance) of the space, again courtesy of Live Interior 3D.
Anyway, this is the space my head is in lately. I’m imagining the space and also thinking about hardware and software that will help realize the visions of members of the UMW community.
One of the initiatives that I am currently working on here at UMW is something called the Digital Media Commons Initiative. Part of the purpose of that program is to get people up to speed with some more sophisticated digital video and audio equipment. We are going to have a full-blown studio in the new Information and Technology Convergence Center, so people will use some pretty high-end equipment in that space.
DTLT also has this thing called “The Kit“, which is a portable “studio” that can be set up in a variety of spaces. Mostly we have it set up in our office with a green screen, and we use Wirecast to control the broadcast (live-streaming and recording). Because of the nature of the laptop, it is limited in terms of the number of camera inputs, computer inputs, etc. We need to shift to the next gear.
The episode of DTLT Today (#112) included above, begins to describe what that next gear is. We needed a full-on switcher with true multiple inputs so we can do multiple camera angles, include computer content such as demoing websites, Skype conversations (or Google Hangouts), playing YouTube videos, and so on. The video is pretty rough, but it goes over some of the components that we used. I’ll let the video itself do the rest of the talking, but I did promise that I would list the equipment that we used, so here it is:
Lately it’s been knee-jerk to Tweet an article that we recommend to our followers to read. I do it with articles, videos and funny pictures all the time. A long time ago, in a place not so far away (right here actually), I would blog about articles that I recommended. It would be a quick post with a link and maybe some short commentary. Blogging is not dead for me, even though we joke about it in the DTLT office. We are not as prolific as our fearless leader, our “Big (Blogging) Toe“.
However, now its time to BLOG about an article. One that I feel is extremely important. I guess, so important that I didn’t Tweet it – I need to BLOG it!
Did you read it? If you did, good. No, great! Now go act. Contact the FCC. Save the Internet before it’s too late. I’m not being hyperbolic. The Internet as we know it, or rather, knew it, is being morphed from what will serve the needs of the public, to what will serve the needs of those few companies that provide services and access to it. With no competition and ever rising prices for access.
To begin our story, the state of Virginia, and other southern states have recently had to deal with at least a couple of nasty winter storms. I write this as my university has closed for the second day in a row courtesy of about 10″ of the white stuff. This most recent storm crippled traffic in the Raleigh, NC area, in the same manner that a couple weeks ago traffic was at a standstill in Atlanta, GA.
Just prior to that storm in Atlanta, we here in Fredericksburg had a storm that dumped enough snow to make “snow cream” (I tweeted about it, as shown above).
When the Atlanta storm hit, not only was it unusual for such a storm to be in that area (though not unprecedented), there also arose a conspiracy. Fake snow was manufactured by the government, so the theory goes. It contained nanobots and involved chemtrails, and even includes a specific warning for people NOT to make snow cream out of it and, well, let me let him explain it . . .
OK, say what you will about this explanation and “theory”, it was brought about by some unexpected behavior of snow in a place where it’s not normal to have it. When a lighter is put to that snow, it doesn’t appear to melt, but instead disappears or even burns, leaving behind some black marks. What is the explanation? Well, let me refer you to this guy . . .
So it’s sublimation. That explains the so called conspiracy. There. done. Further experiments show that the snow does indeed melt just like we expect. Now, sublimation is a term, as this gentleman indicates, from “science” – it is when a solid skips the liquid state and goes straight to a gas. When the snow is heated, as with the lighter, it doesn’t melt. It turns directly into a gas and disappears. Or does it? Here’s the real explanation . . .
This video is a bit longer than the other two videos, so if you’ve got a short attention span, the explanation is that the snow isn’t fake, but it doesn’t sublimate either. What happens is that the snow absorbs the melting water when the flame from the lighter is applied. It is well demonstrated when the snow is put in a heated pan and melts. Water doesn’t appear in the pan right away. What you see is the snowball get more and more slushy (to use a scientific term), until the snowball can no longer hold the water, then water disperses in the pan and eventually we are left with just water.
So be honest with yourself. How many would have been satisfied with the sublimation explanation? Obviously many people were. Imagine my excitement when an explanation was posited that it wasn’t explained by sublimation, but an even more simple explanation of absorption (and also the “soot” is there because of a separate chemical process of burning and hydrocarbons being left on the snow).
The point of this post is to ask “what makes us hold our beliefs?” At what point do we walk away satisfied with our answer? Why do we tend to not go deeper? Is it laziness? Lack of curiosity? The definition of science is, in a word, knowing (or knowledge). But scientists don’t stop. They also know that there is STILL plenty of stuff we DON’T know. They keep going because they know there is MORE knowledge out there.
Thanks to Gardner Campbell’s post about the process of discovery, I was reacquainted with this video . . .
The interviewer asks a question he thinks will garner a simple explanatory answer – What’s going on with two magnets when they either repel, or when turned around the other way, attract each other? Richard Feynman’s answer is far from simple. Gardner goes on to describe the “bad Sunday School technique” where the teacher poses a question that has essentially only one right answer. Why ask the question when it results with a dead end?
He also mentions Jerome Bruner and his approach of not “problem-solving” but “problem-finding”. Now goodness knows that academia is riddled with something known as “problemitizing” or creating a problem out of something that should be straight-forward. It’s the stuff that makes your head hurt after a committee meeting designed to move something forward and someone asks that one additional question, “have you thought about this…?” Thus the ultimate question behind it – “What if we get this wrong?”
One of the money quotes from Gardner’s post:
“For it seems to me that we are tempted to imagine reflection as a process of discovering and affirming lessons learned and problems solved, when anyone who has spent a moment in reflection will realize, I believe, that the depths of that practice awaken conjectures and dilemmas.”
This is the dichotomy. At a certain point we make decisions based on the best information – the information that we believe to be true. But there is perhaps infinitely more depth to the questions we are asked.
I’ll stop here, at least for now, because my head, and probably yours, is beginning to hurt. This all reminds me of this scene from Animal House . . .
I’ll end with two more points. First, go read Gardner’s post. It is one of those posts that I am convinced is leading toward good things. Thinking about thinking.
Second is the question many people asked when Bill Nye debated Ken Ham. Why in 2014 are we still debating Evolution vs. Creationism? Was the question answered in this almost three hour debate? I’d be surprised if there were many people who moved to the evolution side (or to the creation side for that matter). Why is that? Because people believe what they want to. They will live with that satisfaction for as long as they want to. They will either stop seeking, or something will trigger them to continue to go deeper. It shouldn’t be difficult to encourage people to go deeper, but we as teachers sometimes get to the point where we find it impossible not to require it. That’s where a good teacher comes in and is able to encourage it.
Epilogue – So the last of the “rivers” that I mentioned above is a project from Kirby Ferguson that is as he calls it “A serialized documentary about the forces that shape us.” I have no idea what will ultimately come out of it, but it has that hook, for me at least, to want to find out more. If Kirby’s “Everything Is a Remix” is any indication (and why I ponied up 12 bucks), it should be terrific!
I am happy to finally be able to announce that the University of Mary Washington has partnered with MediaCore to run a pilot installation of their media platform. MediaCore will mean many things to many people, but more generally it will give members of the UMW community the ability to control and curate their media collections. It will be more than just a “campus YouTube”.
Speaking of Youtube, we all know it and (mostly) love it. However, when it comes to student media projects, especially when they are incorporating copyrighted material and using it every bit within the fair use clause, they can still get dinged with the takedown algorithmhassle. Students having their own media space is crucial for their experimentation and expression (kind of like Domain of One’s Own). What better way to do it within an educational context and on a platform that is specifically geared toward educational media hosting. MediaCore will serve that function and allow students to share their media work locally behind a login, or make their work public when they want/need to.
The other idea behind using MediaCore is the idea of curating “collections”. Youtube, Vimeo, and even content from TED Talks and Archive.org can be curated by a user to share unique combinations of media elements. It allows the viewer to go to one place to view media from disparate places. “Playlists” can then be easily incorporated into a WordPress site or in Instructure Canvas – what UMW uses as its university LMS.
MediaCore is also “mobile ready”, and from both a viewing aspect as well as an “ingestion” aspect. MediaCore’s Capture app for mobile devices allows a user to capture video and upload directly into their MediaCore space. However, it’s not limited to video that you might have just shot. It includes any media that you have saved to your “camera roll” (I can’t speak to how it works on Android devices, but I imagine it’s similar). So this might include images, screenshots, screencasts, or other video produced in any app that saves to your smartphone.
Finally, what will make MediaCore special to the UMW community is the integration with WordPress (both UMW Blogs and the Domain of One’s Own initiative) and with Canvas. MediaCore makes available a WordPress plugin and Canvas LTI integration that will allow users to post video to a WordPress post or page, and any Canvas area (pages, modules, etc.) that uses the visual text editor. You can also upload video to MediaCore through WordPress or Canvas plugin interfaces.
So we will try to push MediaCore to its limits and see what’s possible. MediaCore support have been very responsive to questions as well as suggestions for new features. So let the pilot begin!
Today is the start of the Spring 2014 Semester at the University of Mary Washington. From the window of our office in DTLT we can see the students beginning yet another chapter in their academic career. From the same window we can also see the Information Technology Convergence Center (ITCC) quickly moving along to completion. The frame of the building has been completed for a while, and now we are seeing some of the details like brickwork, and even the cornices being placed. We’ll soon see the columns going up (I hope) and then the attention will turn to the insides of the structure.
To celebrate the new school year and to update you on what the ITCC looks like at this point in time, I present the time-lapse construction video of the building so far . . .
Video captured by TrueLook, Inc. and courtesy of W.M. Jordan Company
Thanks to the TrueLook company – for providing the constantly updated view of the building as it takes shape. They’ll be providing the video when everything is completed somewhere around mid-year. For us in DTLT, the excitement is “building”. Ooh, sorry about that.
Happy New Year one and all! I don’t know what it is, but 2014 is one of those years that sounds special for some reason. I can’t put my finger on it. I was finally able to slow down a bit during the Christmas break. The way things have gone for me in recent years, I have not been able to get into the spirit until after the actual holiday. Musing about surviving the holiday is not new. The turn-off for me begins on “Black Friday” and goes downhill until everyone stops literally trampling each other for holiday deals. Online shopping, for me is a savior – forgive the “reason-for-the-season” pun. Speaking of Online, it certainly was an oft-spoken word in the EdTech community. Certain segments of online course offerings went from boom to bust in 2013 (you know, the “M” word?).
So what got me thinking the most about online education and its efficacy? Christmas lights. Um, yeah, an explanation is needed.
Just after Christmas, my brother came down to visit. One of his suggested activities was to go see the “Tacky Lights Tour” in Richmond, Va. There’s a long list of houses to visit, so in an effort not to drive “all over Richmond”, I used the top 10 list to plot a course of a few of the “best” destinations. I couldn’t have done it without Google Maps and turn-by-turn directions on my iPhone.
The first house was in the Tuckahoe neighborhood, near the University of Richmond. Ahead of us was a limo. That was the first indication of how seriously people take these light shows. It was a narrow street and this particular display didn’t compel me to park and get out. I hoped that the next set would be more impressive to my and my brother’s family. I then plotted the course to the house (actually houses) that the list said was the “must see” – on Asbury Ct.
We turned into the neighborhood and saw a huge display, but we hadn’t reached our destination yet. It was a house that backed up to Westbury Lake, just off Patterson Ave.
This one got us primed. I parked, got out and snapped the shot above. Back in the car to the real destination. As we got close enough to see it, my brother let out an audible gasp.
It’s actually two houses with an unimaginable amount of lights, as well as a window display of animated Christmas dolls. We got there at a good time because as we left there was a small traffic jam forming with more limos and buses (I kid you not). Mind you this was December 30. I can’t fathom what crowds would have been like BEFORE Christmas. Off to our next house – The Christmas House.
A quieter street and a (relative to the last site) more humble set-up, but with a friendly man who greeted us and gave us the story of HIS lights. He said it takes four days just to plug everything in. I thanked him for what he does and wished him a Happy New Year.
Our last house was a visit to what I’m guessing is the most famous couple who put on a display and that’s the house of Al and Esther Thompson’s at 9726 Wendhurst Drive in Glen Allen, Va. You can read and see more about their display at http://www.christmasonwendhurst.com/.
In visiting just these few houses, we were filled with Christmas Spirit and a great sense of joy and care for the holiday.
So I’m doing my best to use words and pictures to convey what I saw that night. I took tons of pictures. Close up, and wide angles. I was trying to capture details that give you a “picture” of the whole. I even took a little bit of video. Lots of news organizations and TV networks have covered the displays. It can’t, however, match being there, in the moment. I couldn’t adequately capture the look of wonder on my son’s face. He did say that it was one of the most amazing things he’s ever seen (at least in his short, 11-year-old life).
And that’s where we are with online education. We’ve made leaps and bounds with technology to help us convey content and disseminate information. However, we are inching forward with technology to give that full experience. Maybe, one day, we’ll have technology that everyone can use and has access to that allows a 3D immersive experience that can closely approximate “being there”. What’s important is that we take advantage of everyone who can write about, and photograph, and create video of these experiences, so as to amplify the experience. That amplified (social) experience is taking place online. It will enable a rich online educational experience. How rich is to be determined, but there are some talented individuals thinking in this space right now, and I have little doubt they will maximize the experience.
Epilogue – Here’s one video segment from CBS to give you a flavor for the Richmond Tacky Lights Tour:
I just finished watching the documentary Room 237. This is not a review of the film, but I found it interesting enough to watch. It probably is something you should see if you’re a fan of the film it references – Stanley Kubrick’s, The Shining.
The basic content of the film is interviews with several people who analyze the film for hidden meanings and conspiracy theories. Some are interesting, and some are just plain wacky.
The one piece of information that has stuck with me has to do with numbers. Specifically repeating numbers. Mirrors play a big role in The Shining, and mirrored numbers play a large part as well. Specifically the numbers 12 and 21 and their doubles 24 and 42. What fascinates me the most is how big a role the number 42 plays (I don’t know why it fascinates me, but so be it). Here are the occurrences of 42 in the film:
When Danny is talking to Tony in the mirror, he has a shirt on with the number 42.
Danny and Wendy are watching the film “Summer of ‘42” while Jack is upstairs (supposedly) sleeping.
Room 237, when multiplied together equals 42.
The number of letters and spaces in “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy” – 42
When Jack visits the Gold Room and walks up to the bar, the stools are arranged four on the left and two on the right.
Mr. Halloran’s license plate of his rental car has an obvious 42 on it.
There are 42 vehicles in front of the Overlook at the beginning of Jack’s interview (not including the Sno-Cat).
42 is the number of times Danny says Redrum near the end of the film.
Most of the above information comes from this post about the numbers, though I did think of the 42 letters and spaces of “All work…” before I saw this site
Time to watch The Shining again and find some more number 42’s.