Jun 13

Missing the Point Much?

From Engadget:

The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan, has condemned social media as a “the worst menace to society” following a weekend of anti-government demonstrations across his country. He singled out the “scourge” of Twitter in particular, since protestors have been using that platform to share information and vent anger at the government.

Well, it’ll be interesting to see how long the menacing scourge needs to topple this out of touch government, won’t it?



May 13

Community Really Does Care at Behrend

CAS 100H Community Caring Fundraiser

Penn State Behrend professor Anne Campbell wanted to find a way to get her students more engaged with the community this Spring as well as boost their public speaking skills for CAS 100H.  So she signed up for the Mobile Media Pilot and received 12 iPod touch devices that her students used to create interviews with both campus and local service organizations, charities and the like.  These interviews were then shown in class as a compliment to persuasive speeches meant to raise awareness about each community group profiled.

And, the results were even better than she’d hoped.  Anne shared her excitement with me by email:

“I think that going into the community and filming the interview made the students more passionate about their organization.  Not only were the speeches more persuasive than previous semesters without the device, but the class collected $200 for the organization of the most persuasive speakers …”

Campbell and her students divided the $200 raised between the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life ($150) and the Therapeutic Riding Equestrian Center ($50), extending the awareness raised by the project through charitable donations.


“I really like[d] it because [the iPod's] super portable and user-friendly. I wasn’t distracted with the technology and the mobility is good for the type of interview we’re looking to achieve.” – Camille M

Anne plans to continue assigning these video interviews and has already begun mapping out a project for the Fall 2013 semester with me.  I can’t wait to see what her students come up with next.  You can see more student videos and learn more about the project by visiting her Mobile Media Pilot profile page.

Apr 13

Dinner & A Movie Event at Greater Allegheny

Dinner & A Movie

Media Commons hosted a new kind of event at the Greater Allegheny campus last night.  Entitled “Dinner & A Movie”, the evening get together was an effort to use a film as the starting point for a conversation with faculty and staff about digital media in the classroom.

Hannah Inzko and I started things off with a brief introduction to the evening’s main feature, PressPausePlay.  Then, participants spent 80 minutes exploring the conundrums of signal vs. noise, craft vs. radical democratization and other implications of the digital media revolution that has steeped our current cohort of students.  When everyone has the tools to make art at their fingertips (through spaces like Media Commons and at home), what does it mean to be an artist?  And how do we engage with these creators in the traditional classroom?

Conversation followed over a tasty dinner spread provided by the campus catering staff and included faculty from History, Art, Criminal Justice as well as the Library on campus and at Penn State Beaver.  Greater Allegheny’s chancellor, Dr. Curtiss Porter also made an appearance and we had a great discussion about upcoming project ideas for his Civic Engagement course.

Dinner & A Movie

Dinner & A Movie was a fun collaboration between Media Commons and head librarian at Greater Allegheny, Courtney Young (to whom we are so grateful).  It’s also an offering that we’d love to try out at other campuses across the Commonwealth this coming Fall semester.  Let us know if you’re interested!

Mar 13

Where the iPad Goes, Students Follow

“Five years from now when young students come into college, the expectation is going to be a lot different than it is now. They’ll be used to using tablets in middle and high school,” Stoltzfus said. “We have to be the ones that are pushing the limits.”

- Wired (Can the iPad Rescue a Struggling American Education System?)

It’s a valid point, this. Anecdotally, when we do Mobile Media Pilot training sessions in the classroom, there are very few hands left down when we ask if students have used an iPad, iPod touch or iPhone before.  Slightly more when asked about producing video or editing on these devices, but the number is dwindling with each passing semester.  From the Media Commons point of view then, it’s really sink or swim: the students have the skills and experience with tablet computing and it’s not long before they see its absence in their classes (as at least an option) as a real limitation.

Feb 13

Media Commons @ Teaching for Engagement Event

A few days ago, Media Commons had the pleasure of joining the traveling IDS staff in hosting an event about classroom engagement strategies at Penn State Fayette.  I traveled with Brian Young and Heather Huhges on a blustery winter morning and was pleased to find a wonderful and thought-provoking space in the Cultural Center on campus.

Cultural Center at Fayette

Settling in among the artifacts and art, Heather started of our presentation with a quick set of introductions and then a simple-seeming question: “What’s your biggest engagement challenge?”  Faculty participants took several moments to come up with their own answers and then a conversation about real-world teaching obstacles commenced.


We then moved into a slide deck presenting some of the engagement strategies and technologies that ETS recommends and, most importantly, how they fit with different classes and teaching styles.  Questions were encouraged and many came our way, especially during the demonstrations of tools that followed immediately after the presentation.


With 17 attendees, the three of us were quite happy with the attendance and the discussions in the room, even through lunch, were enthusiastic and we each started a dialogue with at least two new (future) clients.  Based on our early evaluations, participants were most pleased with the communications about the event, it’s logistics and agenda and the level of relevance and interest to their disciplines.  One comment suggested that the event could have been more Meida Commons-focused, a very flattering remark that will surely result in a follow up session focused on media projects.

Thanks to all who braved the cold weather to join us at Fayette!  And special thanks to Bobby Salitrik and Cheryl Farren Tkacs who helped us get everything schedule, set up and advertised.

- Nick

Jan 13

Wake Up Waggle and Other Oddities


“Multi-Touch Gestures” by Gabriele Meldaikyte

“Artist Gabriele Meldaikyte’s ‘Multi-Touch Gestures‘ series remakes the actions through which we interact with our smartphones. Meldaikyte turned five actions, flicking, pinching, tapping, swiping, and scrolling, into lo-fi, non-digital devices made of paper, plastic, and wood that mimic those gestures.”

This quote is from a Hyperallergic article talking about a research project called “Curious Rituals” which aims to catalogue the odd things we do with our bodies that have become an everyday part of life with technology.  From the “on the phone aimless amble” to the “iPad photographer” two handed point-and-shoot (one I’m now promoting via Mobile Media Pilot), our odd dances while interacting with devices have become ingrained in the daily experience to the point of becoming overlooked.  ”Curious Rituals” and “Multi-Touch Gestures” aim to tease these behaviors out, look at them from all angles and preserve them for the future.

(via my personal blog)

Jan 13

The Mini is a Big Deal

The Media Commons Mobile Media Pilot is now entering into its seventh semester and we have been collecting a lot of great feedback from faculty who have participated and students who have completed their assignments. What has been echoed over and over again is that, while the majority likes working with the iPod touch for its ease of use, light weight and all-in-one shoot-to-publish utility, its small screen and short battery life would be improved upon.

“If only there were some device that cost nearly the same amount of money but offered more visual real estate and juice while still affording the same usability,” we thought. And then Apple’s iPad Mini came along.

While the Mini is a step down in size from the original iPad, it doesn’t lose any of the functionality of the larger device. And, when compared to the iPod touch, it actually becomes quite a step up. So we got a 10-pack and decided to do a pilot within a pilot and roll them out as part of the Mobile Media program this Spring.

iPad Minis

To keep them safe, each iPad has been covered with an i-Blason ArmorBox, which should also prove helpful for video reflections with its built in, landscape-format kickstand. The armored iPads are then packed into a Case Logic netbook shoulder bag which provides room for extra production notes and other odds and ends as well as providing a home for the Lightning cable, power adapter and MC contact card.

Five of these robust little kits will be traveling with one section of Dr. Mary Beth Pinto’s Marketing 344 at Behrend as the students do consumer research in the Erie area. (The other section of the class will be getting iPod touch devices, allowing direct comparison of experiences when we follow up at the end of the semester.) The remaining five will be journeying across the Atlantic as students in the Education Abroad program at New Kensington explore Ireland and complete video assignments that document their trips.

I’m particularly keen on finding out how students like working with the larger form factor – it’s still lightweight, but will it be too big to easily shoot video? And will the expanded iMovie interface on the iPad allow students to create richer videos? It’s going to be an interesting chapter in the Mobile Media Pilot, so stay tuned!

Oct 12

Hue by Philips – One Button Studio’s Soulmate?

Across the state, there are many Media Commons locations that have existing studio spaces that are seeing less and less use as students take increasingly simple video gear – Sony Bloggie Touch or iOS devices – out into the field.  An idea that’s come up for re-energizing these rooms is conversion to One Button Studios.  A brilliant concept, as it maximizes existing campus room allocations and creates more usability in a familiar environment.

But imagining further out, I’m intrigued by the idea of providing graduated levels of functionality in the converted rooms.  One Button Studio could be level one: completely automated, preset and ready to roll.  Level three is also easy: bring in the traditional studio lights, backdrops, etc and use them in the space, even in conjunction with the OBS lighting bar.  But level two is where it gets interesting.  What if we deployed something like Philip’s new Hue lighting system in the space? What is Hue?  WiFi enabled, color shifting, iOS controlled bulbs that can do this:

In my imagining, students could take out an iPod touch or iPad mini, record video and audio in the field, bring it back to the OBS and set up lighting wirelessly for more scenes, interviews, etc and then plunk down in a comfy chair in the Knowledge Commons at their campus to do touchscreen editing before sharing online.  And teaching studio use would be more fun than ever with an iPad mini as my primary tool, wirelessly switching between lighting presets and beaming iMovie training to the projector in the room.

Sep 12

Death by PowerPoint? No more with Haiku Deck.

[F]or anyone who has had to squint at a PowerPoint presentation that was essentially just the unedited text from the reader’s speaking notes, Haiku Deck offers a merciful alternative. In an academic lecture or a business meeting, an overly dense slide show is like a Pavlovian signal to zone out.

For students, colleagues or coworkers who struggle with creating compelling, simple and memorable PowerPoint slides, Haiku Deck from Giant Thinkwell may offer salvation.

The free app for iPads allows users to type in just a few keywords about each slide and then it automatically scours Creative Commons images for bold background photos that tell the story for you.  Even better, it plops in correct attribution information for each slide created, a godsend for some class settings, as I’m sure you know.

While the aesthetic may not be for everyone right of the box, a $2.99 expansion pack will provide another 11 themes and there are plans to offer some font packs in future versions to tweak the basic text layout.

Learn more about Haiku Deck at the Co.Design blog.

Jul 12

DefCon’s Badges: Cooler Than Yours

Part art, part game and entirely cool, the badges put together for DefCon this year also have a purpose:

“Those doing the hardware hacks will have to find someone to do the puzzle side,” Clarke says. “It will drive them to find someone from the other side of the house.”

Learn more at Wired.