Friday, 11 July 2014

2014 NMC Conference Report

The NMC Conference is the annual gathering of members of the New Media Consortium. NMC is the current instantiation of the New Media Centers, started in 1993 and in which UM was one of 10 founding Higher Ed institutions.  UM hosted the very first conference in Ann Arbor in 1994.

A few years ago they abandoned the long tradition of holding it at a member institution and went instead to being hosted by a member institution at a nearby conference hotel, usually with trips to the hosting campus for tours, etc.  

This year it was held June 17-20, 2014 in Portland Oregon at a downtown Hilton, with no tours.  This was because this conference was one day shorter than in the past, meaning fewer sessions of all kinds.

The day before the conference started, I went to the Portland Art Museum with one of the NMC Board members, Liz Neely.  She knew someone there from her work at the Art Institute of Chicago and had been invited to come see their new exhibit.  Turns out her assistant, Justin Meyer, is a PHD candidate in TCAUP and will be back around this Fall and Winter.  Small world.

What the exhibit was is a display they put at the very end of an exhibit on the Tuileries Gardens in Paris:

The idea was to get visitors thinking about the connections between this park in France and the parks around Portland.  They put together an Instagram campaign with the local Instagram community (yes, there is one in Portland)...

...and the Parks Dept. thought it was such a good idea they picked 12 parks and had cards printed for each one that visitors could take away.  That’s Liz on the right.

The large map on one wall showed those 12 locations…

... and a flat panel displayed the moderated web feed of submitted photos, mirroring what was on the web.

This has been a great success for them and they did it all for almost no money by partnering with the community and using open source tools.

Back at the conference, the first keynote speaker was Jason Ohler,  
known as a passionate promoter for “Art the Next R” and for his current book, “Digital Community, Digital Citizen”.  

His keynote considered five major technological trends that are just cresting and making their way into the educational arena: big data, augmented reality, the semantic web (comprised of Web 3 - The Internet of Data - and Web 4 - The Internet of Things), xTreme BYOD, and transmedia storytelling.  I’m hoping for a link to the video soon.

There were 4 Breakout Session opportunities, so I was able to go to 3 sessions other than my own.  Sessions I attended and have comments on were:

Gamify Learning Analytics: Using Color, Music, Shape,
and Movement to Promote Analysis of Data

With a name like this, of course I had to go.  Interesting approach to getting faculty to actually use the analytics that are available to them by turning them into visualizations that they can ‘play’, or that better show whether their strategies are actually mapping to their stated learning outcomes.

Audio Post-Production:
Unveiling the Black Art of Mastering
Raymond Riley ALMA COLLEGE

I had opes for this one to reveal some cool new way of wrangling audio for video that, but found it to be kind of a “how to make audio not sound bad for real beginners”. Nothing we don’t already know.  I was kind of surprised to see it on the program to begin with, and even more surprised after I found out the low level of the content.  I guess if you didn’t know any of this it would be useful, and there were a lot of people taking notes.  I guess I could think differently about what to present in the future, based on this.

Digital Strategy for a Generation

Nik Honeysett has a long career, mostly involving museums, but always involving interesting thinking.  He has spent many years at the Getty Museum in L.A. and has just been appointed Exec. Director of the Balboa Park Collective.
His session synopsis:

“A three-year digital strategy is standard practice, the accepted norm . But every three years brings a disruptive technology: iPhone (2007), iPad (2010), Glass (2013). Institutions will survive for centuries, missions remain relevant for decades, so should a digital strategy. This presenter will argue for a 30-year digital strategy — a generation. Such a strategy would be forced to ignore technologies, focus on trends and identify core philosophies and practices to ensure ongoing institutional relevance and sustainability. What would such a digital strategy look like?”

Some notes from conversations around his talk:

“Interesting to think that today’s learner may actually be much more active than at first perceived. Their active involvement is in their very real world of the Internet: their creations are blobs, posts, texts. Their text is not a physical book but digital. Their minds are open to the world, but perhaps closed to what usually goes on in the classroom.”

I am trying to get a copy of his Prezi file for his presentation, because he raised so many interesting points:

“Digital Strategy - a self-sustaining framework to align staff and institutional decision-making with cultural and social trends.”

“What if we train people and they leave?  What if we don’t and they stay?”

“I’m so excited for my annual performance review today!….said no one, ever.”

My session, “Indiana Jones meets Generation Y”,
was on Thursday July 19th from 10:15 - 11:15 AM.  

Briefly, this session talked about the innovative digital resources used by Yaron Eliav in teaching “The Land of Israel/Palestine through the Ages”.  I got involved when the team needed to find a way to present virtual versions of actual relics from antiquity on the web, but it turns out Yaron had been building transformative resources for his class for many years, culminating in a huge Image Database that went live in Fall 2013 with geotagging and integration with Google Earth.  CRLT had done student surveying with the class in 2012, and I got Steve Lonn involved just in time to get some pre-class surveying done as the class was starting this past January and some post-class survey at the end of the term.

The edited session synopsis: “This session lays out the digital strategies that have brought the ancient world alive in a classroom-based course on the history and archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean. A University of Michigan team created and incorporated a GIS-tagged media database and 3D representations of 2,000 year-old objects into a preexisting online framework of digitized primary-source material and carefully targeted weekly homework questions.”

I had about 15 attendees who were very interested in the work and asked lots of questions.  Unfortunately I could not stick after my presentation as I had to leave for the airport to head to InfoComm.

I was originally to present with Dr. Justin Winger who has been working with Yaron for the last several years and with whom I worked for the virtual versions, but at the last minute he was unable to go. So I had to learn as much as I could about what he knew in very short order.  I think I did OK.
The Idea Lab, where the UM contingent won “People’s Choice” and “Judges Award” for the presentation on Matthew Barritt’s research findings around DL1, had some nice ideas again this year.  I wanted to highlight what I thought was a really innovative use of lots of current technologies:

Turning an electric wheelchair into a game console.

Learning how to operate an electric wheelchair is complicated and frustrating. Therefore, four student teams from Hogeschool Utrecht School of the Arts Utrecht and Eindhoven University of Technology have developed a game so children can learn to operate their electric wheelchair in a fun way.

They set up a “Game Jam” and over 48 hours the teams and kids had to come up with a game to help learn the basics: Forward, reverse, stopping at a certain place, and following a certain path.  Using augmented reality, sensors, and iPads original games were created to help the children improve their wheelchair skills.

Below is the poster Erik Mooij had at NMC, and a shot of how they used AR and an iPad. Students in the wheelchairs had the iPads mounted in front of them, and when they approached a target the iPad would show them the AR ‘prize’.  Having to approach the targets correctly and line up the right way used all of the skills they were trying to learn.


Finally, I talked with Larry Johnson, the CEO of NMC, about UM hosting another conference soon.  We will continue the discussions, but it would not be until 2017 at the earliest, more likely 2018.  Here’s a really bad shot of me, Larry and his wife at the opening reception:

Tom Bray

July, 2014

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