Building your digital story, one digital block at a time…..

By Paul Wasko

Image of DS106 Assignment Bank pageMany educators are beginning to explore digital storytelling as an assessment methodology within their courses or programs.   The ideas behind “digital storytelling” are not new and began to emerge in the later part of the

20th century. (If you are interested, the Center for Digital Storytelling has a brief history at  http://storycenter.org/history ).

As the former director of eFolioMinnesota, I am very interested in the use of digital portfolios to support digital storytelling efforts.

What is new in digital storytelling are the tools students and educators can use to author their digital content.  

Historically, digital authoring tools often involved some knowledge of HTML commands.  However, with today’s online tools, creating a simple photoshow is straightforward using tools like http://Flickr.com.

So, if digital storytelling tools have become accessible to the average digitally literate student/educator then why are we not seeing digital storytelling emerge in classes throughout our education community?  The reason: the tools might be simple but we still have to figure out how to apply and use them. This takes practice and knowledge. (I know how to use a hammer but I still couldn’t build a house on my own.).

Helping you and your student’s proficiency using several different story-telling tools is a goal of the University of Mary Washington’s DS106 open class (http://ds106.us/ ).

For educators, an especially useful component of the course is the Assignment Bank.  The course author’s have done a wonderful job pulling together assignments that build proficiency with a variety of web-based authoring tools and services.

For example, check out “Your Favorite Teams Mashup” assignment in the “Mashup” section. The instructions for the assignment are as follows::

“Combine the logos of two or more of your favorite sports teams. Don’t just create an image with the two logos next to each other! Make the final logo look natural and cohesive.”

For educators, consider using some of these assignments as a way to build student proficiency.  It is a fun, straightforward way to help us return to the art of storytelling in the 21st century.

Note that not every assignment is appropropriate for all age groups so K-12 teachers may want to modify the assignment based on their grade level.

Special thanks to my friend and colleague John Ittelson, author of Documenting Learning with ePortfolios, for introducing me to DS106.

Peg Legg and Sal A. Mander

Many of them are very inappropriate for a lab situation, but I was able to cull about 25 very safe ones from the list.

Often you may find the need to populate a course with sample users so your students can log onto a course and experiment around.

Having sample users is also a great solution for demo courses when you want to allow students to experience hands-on a specific technique.

I discovered a fun list of names at http://www.ethanwiner.com/funnames.html. Many of them are very inappropriate for a lab situation, but I was able to cull about 25 very safe ones from the list.

Here are a few examples: Missy Sippy, Peg Legg, Marshall Law, Mary Christmas, and Sal A. Mander.

Google Website Optimizer

Here is a video showing how Google Website Optimizer allows you to set up “experiments” by comparing two or more versions of a web page to see which one is most effective. This is a free service.

I’m reading an interesting (and very useful) book, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. The book shows how to use the Web to build influence, improve reputation, and earn trust and it filled with action items. One of the tidbits I found this morning is Google Website Optimizer.

 

Google Website Optimizer allows you to set up "experiments" by comparing two or more versions of a web page to see which one is most effective. This is a free service.

This video gives a great 2 minute overview right up to the last 10 seconds: "My credibility within the organization has risen and people think I know what I’m doing. (laffin)"

This is a great tool for you (and your web developer) to use to increase the effectiveness of your web sites.

Have you used this tool? Add a comment and let me know how you changed your web pages. What were your results?

 

Check Your Writing Before You Send It (PaperRater.com)

PaperRater.com in actionIn today’s online world you are very often judged on how well you write. In the pre-Web days of the 80’s we would always pass a letter or report around the office to at least three people, checking for typos, grammar, and spelling errors. (We also helped each other check for "attitude" in our writing.)

With PaperRater.com you can do this quickly yourself. This free service checks for spelling, grammar, word choice, style, and vocabulary words. It will even give you a letter grade based on all these factors.

Unlike Word and other grammar/spelling checkers, PaperRater.com seems to catch those subtle mistakes such as when to use "past" and when to use "passed".

(The only thing PaperRater.com doesn’t do is check for ‘attitude’. You’ll have to do that on your own.)

The site also includes a Vocabulary Builder. This is a great tool to use in the morning to get a "word for the day" and then see how many times you can use it throughout the day. At the end of the day you can review the word and write it down in a journal to show yourself how many new words you are adding to your vocabulary.

The creators at the site plan to offer premium services in the near future and are always open to donations. (They should include a PayPal account on their home page!) They say in the FAQ that they will always offer the basic service for free.

I’m going to run this article through the PaperRater to see how I’ve done. I’ll take a screen shot so you can see the before "picture". (Click on the image for a larger view.)

Report on this article by PaperRater

 Wow, look at that! I spelled "grammar" two different ways! Oops. (Also my vocabulary was low.)

Make a good impression. Let the world know how professional you are. (And improve your writing skills at the same time!)

Use PaperRater.com for all your business writing.

 

Secrets of a Web Developer

These tutorials were written for anyone interested in learning
how to build web sites with no prior knowledge of programming or HTML.

Secrets of a Web Developer book cover
Secrets of a Web Developer
Over the years students have asked/suggested/cajoled that I write a book with the information I present in my classes. For starters I decided to pull together all of the tutorials I have written for my Web Development course.

The Secrets of a Web Developer is now available for $39.00. You can view some excerpts from the book as well as the complete table of contents out on the site.

There are over 300 pages covering all the major aspects of web page development with lots of screen shots and graphics and step-by-step instructions.

  • The
    Web and the Internet
  • XHTML markup
  • Page styling with CSS
  • Page layout
    using CSS
  • SEO – Search Engine Optimization
  • Design Principles and the Design Process
  • Web Marketing
  • An introduction to JavaScript

These tutorials were written for anyone interested in learning
how to build web sites with no prior knowledge of programming or HTML.

This is an entry-level book and all you need is an understanding file
management and basic typing skills.

The tools are all free. You will need a color-coded text editor (such as NotePad++)
and a browser. FireFox is recommended because of the many add-on tools that are available.

If you are interested in taking the complete Web Developer course online there is more information at http://southcentral.edu/cc/course/webDev.html.

Browser Shots

BrowserShots.org allows you to specify the URL of a target website and then proceeds to take “pictures” of how the page will look in each of the browsers you selected. This is a great way to do the final testing on how well your pages work without having multiple browsers loaded on your machine.

BrowserShots.org allows you to specify the URL of a target website and then proceeds to take “pictures” of how the page will look in each of the browsers you selected. This is a great way to do the final testing on how well your pages work without having multiple browsers loaded on your machine.

Here’s what the home page looks like:

Click for a larger view
Click for a larger view

There is also a link that will validate your CSS code as well as your XHTML code.

The top graphic a look at my home page which is a valid (strict) XTHML page. Notice how text and images don’t show up on all the browsers including the new IE 8.0

Special thank to Tim for telling me about this valuable web site.

Why not use GoDaddy?

I just received this email question from one of my students:

Peter,
I am currently working on a website for one of my clients. She said that she took your web design class and mentioned that you use QualityHostOnline.com for your hosting and domain needs instead of GoDaddy. My question is why? Why meaning is there a reason or just a preference that you choose Quality Hosting. Please let me know.

Here is my response:
Tim,
Originally GoDaddy limited what you could install on the server. When I first hosted with them I quickly found out I couldn’t install Drupal. I still remember how arrogant the help person was telling me that the agreement did not allow a refund but that he was going to refund some of my money anyway…

The Drupal limitation has since been fixed although recently there was a snafu with a GoDaddy client using Drupal and being charged over $6,000 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-fendelman/why-i-dont-owe-godaddy-65_b_129276.html) The only thing that helped resolve the problem was his article on Huntington and the furor it caused. All the bad press caught GoDaddy’s president’s attention and he stepped in to resolve the things and stop the bad press.

Their advertising is extremely sexist. Something I might enjoy looking at but not something I can recommend to students in class. Especially when one of my students started doing a web site for his church…

And, just recently, I tried to transfer my domain being held by GoDaddy to QualityHostOnline. It took me over two months to accomplish due to an unknown userid/password that was automatically setup without my input when I purchased a privacy option. Because my email on GoDaddy was no longer valid I had to fax, mail, and send scanned copies of my driver’s license and a specific numbered form to a branch of GoDaddy. They would also have accepted copies of my passport which makes me even more nervous. They made it EXTREMELY difficult to do the transfer. I had to send the request three different times and made numerous phone calls all to the answer of “I’m sorry, that is out of our control.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been with QualityHostOnline for almost five years now and have had excellent support, low cost, and overall good results on a consistent basis. They were very helpful and responsive during my domain name transfer. I’ve also recommended this hosting service to other instructors and many many clients and everyone is having the same positive experience.

So, there you have it.

Guess I’ll make this into a blog entry.

Peter

PS – You might want to do a web search for “GoDaddy ethics” It makes for some interesting reading.

Addendum: 09-15-09 I’ve been having a lot of downtime with QualityHostOnline.com and am migrating my servers over to BlueHost.com based on recommendations from several of my students. I can no longer recommend QualityHost as I have in the past.