Category Archives: Application Design

Making applications look usable and pleasing

Past, Present, and Future

The following is in response to a task I received asking for two experiences I had with educational technology in the past, one in the present, and one possible future scenario:

Fourth Grade Presentation
Technology: Tape recorder, stock photo slides, and carousel slide projector
Topic: Africa
Method: Describe stock photo slides on tape using my script. Say, “please advance to the next slide” as opposed to using a tone for some reason I can’t explain.

This was an imitation of other presentation tools that were common at the time and I wanted to make one myself. I look back on it with a little embarrassment, not that it wasn’t that good or bad, but a (female) friend who I admired made fun of me about it and I associate that with this project.

I learned how to put together media to inform and likely learned things about Africa I didn’t know before.

High School Sophomore
Year: 1975
Technology: DEC Model 33 ASR Teletype Computer
Topic: Basic BASIC
Method: Free exploration with text and tutor.

I lived in a wealthy town outside of Boston. We had all the toys. DEC may have donated the machine. It was my first opportunity to play with a computer and I liked it. As I look back I think it was one of the few times in high school that I felt pretty smart about something. If my personal/family life at that point hadn’t been so chaotic I may well have explored this further and been more comfortable using computers in college. I remember there being a key marked “X” with an up arrow next to it. Somehow I impressed my teacher that I figured out what it did (created an exponent) and he told me so. Later, in 1986, I used the first computer that really interested me and became a self-taught user.

I learned to use a computer in a non-threatening constructive way. Perhaps that carried over into my educational future. As an aside, both of these stories, boiled to their essence, reiterate the importance of people being nice to each other in school. It makes a difference.

Graduate Student
Year: 2016
Technology: WordPress 4.6
Topic: Personal Professional Development
Method: Reflection of learning, curating of resources, sharing information, and promotion of self as technology educator.

Throughout 2016 I have been working on learning how to use WordPress well. I first used it solely as a place to hold some of my assignments and blog posts and then I started finding ways to use it more fully. In the past weeks I have brought together two separate WP sites and am hosting one on my own domain. It has been a remarkable experience for a few reasons. I now can create a website without using an HTML editor, but can still use some of my html and css skills and can easily recreate what I have done for someone else in a style of their own choosing. I’m also pleased with the inherent review of all the work I’ve done this year. Categorizing the work, uploading videos and graphics, and documenting my processes has acted as a personal summative assessment of the work I’ve done. The site that I created is quite representative and I feel good about sharing it to further my professional standing and keep track of my resources.

Father of Graduate Student
Year: 2028
Technology: VR v.6 & HaloClass v.2.1
Topic: Dairy Herd Management – Dairy Genetics and Economic Analysis
Method: Biweekly class meets online using wholly representative avatars in a simulated classroom environment.

My daughter is attending a graduate program in which she collaborates with all of her classmates, all from agricultural schools around the world chosen for their specific ability and interest. They meet on a regular basis, twice a week, in a simulated classroom. All of the tools needed are at hand virtually and are available in both old school VR v.6 and in holographic 3D using HaloClass v.2.2. The term blended classroom has become antiquated. My daughter occasionally asks questions of what it was like to go to a graduate school in which one traveled, met face to face, and used something, embarrassingly enough, called Moodle and then laughs.

Makerspace – Gender and “Ability”

Coincidentally, I was given two different assignments in two different classes and they merged:

Caleb was showing a friend’s makerspace and Will asked us to take on a theoretical instructional design project incorporating makerspace using the Dick and Carey model.

Jaymes Dec at the Marymount School for Girls in New York City:

This was the theoretical:

“For this case, small school (K-12 or higher ed – you decide). 25 teachers (1 of which is an Ed Tech Specialist), 8 admin, 250 students. Admin wants to use a tech grant to jump on adopting this VR technology into the school’s makerspace. The problem is, the makerspace has not been well defined and is lightly used. There is no real ownership. Additionally, admin wants to make sure this device is not just a novelty. They believe that if it was used properly, students would be able to effective use the device to improve their writing, math and science skills. Your charge is to develop an implementation plan for your school that captures your administration’s excitement about VR and its relevance in education.”

Adding to the coincidence is that I’ve been thinking about gender issues in the tech ed arena again, and wonder if we, as a group working on the case study, should have added anything to explicitly address issues related to inequality in tech. In the video above Caleb’s friend, Jaymes Dec, made a point about the students in one winning project saying, “They’re great kids, but academically…” which is also a type of bias that teachers in the tech ed need to stay aware of. It’s unclear what his thinking was completely, but essentially I believe his point is that makerspaces should be open and welcoming in every way possible.

Beyond creating a level playing for all genders in technology education and business is also the issue of neurodiversity and what people with talent and challenge bring to the digital and maker world and how to do that in equitable and encouraging fashion. There seems to be so much room for so many different types of people in this space and as an educator its becoming increasingly clear how important it is for me to explore these issues more deeply and not wonder whether I should be inclusive after the fact.

Custom CSS in WordPress

I changed the look of this site using custom css in the appearance section of the dashboard:


It’s really satisfying for me to know how to this little bit and know that I’m off to a good start to learn more. Maybe it’s the control freak in me, or just the immediate satisfaction of seeing the design change, or perhaps because I think I may have improved the look of the site – or at least have the ability to do so if I wish.

A link to a website that has a color scheme/palette that I like.

As the second part of my assignment for my web design class I’ve been asked to provide a link to a website that has a color scheme/palette that I like. I’ve been spending some time on the DIA Foundation’s website as my son works for them and I’ve been looking at some of the exhibits he looks after. One of them is De Maria’s “The Broken Kilometer.” The color scheme is different shades of black. This seems to make a lot sense to me as the continuity of the site demands that it show many different works of art within the same matrix. I would not necessarily want to see “The Broken Kilometer” against a particular pallet that looked fine with another piece of art. Using shade allows for all the exhibits to fit in a balanced format.

The Daily Kos uses color wisely. I like the way the designer counters orange and a shade of orange by the use of mouse-over. Text-links mouse-over to a darker shade, while community users’ links are given as the shaded orange and turn to the lighter orange used on text-links, with a grey background on mouse-over. It provides a smart and tight feel – quick and usable while limiting any chance of overuse of color. The orange is repeated throughout the sight without seeming overbearing.

FOL Self-Assessment

Nagasaki Elementary School Student Cleaning the School Hallway

Nagasaki Elementary School Student Cleaning the School Hallway

Self-Assesment for Moodle Course
Japan: an Integrated Study

The topmost thought in my mind is that I am very proud of the work that I’ve done in creating my course. So much of it fell together the way I wanted it to: the look and feel of it; the micro/macro of the integrative process; the general idea of the course as a whole: and the amount of learning that I obtained while creating in the VLE Moodle.

Having said that, there is so much missing from it and so much more to build on if I wished. As I said in my presentation, I have no natural constituency for this course. It was built for a phantom audience beyond my classmates. I will export the course to my server and I hope to continue to build on it, but without outside accountability there is a strong realty that some other project will push this one aside.

With the positive notion that I will move the course forward, without question I would reiterate and strengthen my course alignment worksheet/rubric. I would use the document to inform my course by going back to the worksheet to rethink and add to the objectives, the activities, and the corresponding assessments. It was just in the past few weeks when I was able to tie in all of what I learned to bring the course up to a higher level and more again as I focussed on course alignment.

This section:

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.51.21 AM

is the most important to me and also the weakest. This is where I would begin to enhance the course. There are many more examples of the use of creative thinking asked for within the course activities, but I didn’t put in enough time or effort to draw those out and reinforce them.

I would also find ways to emphasize personal meaning and theme creation – finding ways to ask students to think of what they do well already and adding it to an ITI matrix.

Random thoughts:

  • Some of the modules were just outlined and need complete development.
  • I relied too heavily on discussion as assignment and would rethink how to mix up the activities more.
  • I really wish I had a place to use this.
  • I like the idea of incorporating food and using it as a practical function in assignment but would really have to rethink the approach and the way of sharing the creation. I would also emphasize the cross-cultural nature of food within themes.
  • It seems to me from my experience and from the other students that a good course belies the time that went into its creation. At first glance, just as I open it, even I have a difficult time recognizing the amount of work that went into it – this feeling was magnified even more so when I reduced the file for back-up and export and it weighed in at a measly 6.6 MBs.

Nagasaki Elementary School Student Writing the Word River

both images: