Jan 11

Traveling into the Void

At least that’s how it feels when you are driving into a complete white out.  It seems like nearly all of my travel this 2011 semester has been timed to perfectly match a recent or approaching winter weather event.  I’ve had flurries, unplowed roads, thundersnow, snowy fog, etc.  Today’s trip to Brandywine:  calling for ice and sleet.  Add a thick crust of road salt to all of this and you have a perfect summation of life on the road as a traveling consultant in winter.

This is a good day on route 22, I’m afraid.
Now let’s put some of that Spring into this semester’s designation, shall we?

Jan 11

Stack of iPods

I have, sitting on my desk right now, a stack of iPod touch devices that I have slipped into Belkin Ergo cases with straps.  I have loaded onto each a copy of iMovie, a custom Media Commons background and an organized set of icons.  These devices are intended to travel to the upcoming TLT Symposium where they will be used as video capture devices that can allow attendees to record their community engagement experiences, edit them quickly and upload directly to our YouTube channel.

But these iPods represent a bit more than just a trinket to be used at a conference.  We are actually exploring how we can replace our fleet of Flip cameras as primary video production devices for each of the Penn State campuses here at the Media Commons.  The benefit is, of course, the flexibility of the iPod touch.  Instead of just shooting video, students could use the same sub-$300 device to edit, upload, research content online, record audio, take still photos, type up notes, etc.  And that’s just with the default apps.  One can imagine field guides, lesson manuals and more preloaded on iPods for specific classes.

Of course, all of this experimentation is leading us towards an even grander goal: iPad (2) as primary device for producing, editing and sharing content for students.  The promise of such a solution is too great to not begin exploring it now.  Being able to grow at the cost (in up front purchases and tech support complexity) of the iOS is so much more appealing than trying to add more Macs to each campus, don’t you think?

(From my iPad blog.)

Jan 11

DML Conference Schedule (Madness)

The Digital Media & Learning Conference has published its schedule for the 2011 “Designing Learning Futures” event and it’s a bigger collection of workshops and panel discussions than I imagined!  17 workshops and 42 panels are spread across several tracks on four days, providing ample opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in the field.  I’m most interested in the “Novel Content Sourcing: Reframing Curriculum for the 21st Century”, “Designing for designers: Exploring ways in which online community settings support young people’s participation as digital media creators” and “New Participatory Models of Professional Development” sessions – and that’s just from day one!  This conference should be a lot of fun – and Long Beach at the beginning of March is never a bad departure from the snow that keeps falling on University Park.

Jan 11

Media Commons at the AutoWeek Design Forum

Well, not really the Media Commons so much as me, but I did have a badge on with “Nick Smerker – Penn State University” while there this past Thursday.  

The AutoWeek Design Forum is an annual event held in Detroit each January that brings together creative folks from within and around the automotive industry.  This year was no different, welcoming the head of exterior design from Audi, chief executive of Johnson Controls, art director and director of Cars 2 at Pixar and more into the halls of the College for Creative Studies.  
Aside from the obvious benefit to a car geek like myself, was the Design Forum worth the blustery drive across three states for those interested in media?  Absolutely.  The industry is chock-full of media from digital renderings in product brochures, magazines and websites to delightful animations in Pixar’s creations to the truly futuristic ideas of holographic sales consultations in showrooms and fully modeled concepts in the design rooms.  
More than that, being in a room full of – quite literally: you should have seen the breakfast/lunch crowd – creative people at the top of their fields was a breath of fresh air.  Even if you took out the car-focus, the Design Forum was a chance to listen to amazingly artistic people talk about nothing but the inspiration behind creativity.  

Jan 11

Forum on Media + Gaming


Join the Media Commons and Educational Gaming Commons for the first in our series of regional events, the Forum on Media + Gaming.  This half-day gathering is intended to be a true forum, encouraging conversation between Commons staff, faculty, instructional designers, educational technologists, library staff and other interested individuals.  Starting with an overview of the Media Commons and progressing through a faculty panel, introduction to the EGC and technology demonstrations with consultants on hand for questions throughout, the event aims to be informal and informative for attendees and organizers.  We invite you to stay for our complimentary lunch as well, where participants can chat with colleagues from other campuses and Media Commons support staff can talk with University Park counterparts about their specific locations face to face.


  • Friday, February 25, 2011
  • 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
  • Lunch 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
  • Morrison Gallery
  • Penn State Harrisburg

9:00 am – Welcome + Introduction
9:10 am – State of the Media Commons Address
9:30 am – Faculty Panel
10:20 am – EGC Presentation + Demonstration
11:00 am – Hands On with New Technologies
12:30 pm – Wrap Up Lunch


Please register for the event here. It’s free and takes just a few minutes.


Penn State Harrisburg is located at 777 West Harrisburg Pike, Middletown, PA 17057. You may also want to download a campus map.

View Forum on Media + Gaming in a larger map

Jan 11

Accelerating the Crowd with Video

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Wired published an essay by Chris Anderson (of TED, not Wired editorship) on the phenomenon of Crowd Accelerated Innovation.  This concept is basically the idea that by giving individuals an audience, the pace of development and improvement for any idea can be quickened through feedback, appropriation and implied accountability.  Anderson started seeing it in his own realm:

When we decided to post TED talks free on the web four years ago, something unexpected happened: Speaker behavior changed. Specifically, they started spending more time preparing for the talks.

After the TED talks became viewable, new presenters could use past examples as a starting place for their own talks, making it possible for individuals to stand on the shoulders of those that came before them.

Extending this idea further, Anderson looks at the burgeoning world of online video, where a global audience for any skills, art form, concept, etc. is readily available.  Not only are eyeballs suddenly on posted clips but a host of like-minded commenters can offer criticism and a vast library of related content can offer tips and techniques for future endeavors.  
To quote Anderson (again):

Perhaps the most miraculous element of online video is that, for the first time in history, it’s possible to assemble a crowd of people numbering in the millions and give every single member a chance to be seen and heard.

Equally miraculously, you can log onto the web day or night and take a look at the output of countless community members formerly known as strangers. [...] It’s surprisingly easy to sift through the chaff for the wheat.

It’s a well and truly fascinating read full of examples and acrobatic connections – all of which makes me excited to be in the field of multimedia training in 2011!