Please visit the new InqScribe News
We’ve transitioned to a new blogging platform, and InqScribe News has moved.
Visit the new InqBlot
After several years of faithful, if creaky, service, we are retiring the underlying weblog engine and moving on to InqBlot 2.0.
Please visit us at our new URL: http://blogs.inquirium.net/blot/.
If you’re following us in an RSS reader, please update your RSS feed: here’s the new InqBlot RSS.
Inquirium's Matt Brown publishes book chapter on Teacher's Use of Curriculum Materials
Inquirium’s Matt Brown wrote a chapter for a just released book on teachers’ use of classroom curriculum materials. The chapter is titled “The Teacher-Tool Relationship: Theorizing the Design and Use of Curriculum Materials.” Based on Matt’s dissertation, it examines the different ways teachers use curriculum materials in the course of their everyday practice (some rely on them as-is, some adapt them to suit their needs, and some use them as jumping off points for their own improvisations), and how designers can create materials that foster creative, dynamic teaching.
The chapter frames teaching as a process of design, in which teachers use tools in various creative ways to realize their goals. Borrowing the metaphor of jazz, where musicians rely on sheet music but no two performances are alike, the chapter highlights both the common and unique processes by which teachers translate inert curriculum materials into dynamic practice. The chapter’s key contribution is the concept of pedagogical design capacity, which calls attention to the skills by which teachers work with available resources as they craft instruction to suit their local needs.
Handbrake 0.9.3 released
A new version of Handbrake is out. One of the more significant aspects of this release is that you can now use Handbrake to convert video in a variety of formats, not just DVDs. We recommend Handbrake for our users who need to transcribe DVDs. Since InqScribe does not control DVDs directly, you can use Handbrake to “rip” the DVD to an MPEG-4 file. As a bonus, the digital file is much more responsive to playback control.
Handbrake is compatible with OS X and Windows (and Linux, but InqScribe isn’t there yet).
Make a feature suggestion on UserVoice
We’re always happy to take feature requests for InqScribe, but one of the limits of our current form-based approach is that it doesn’t let you see who else might be interested in the same features that you are.
A site called UserVoice lets users suggest and vote for new features, and we’ve created an InqScribe UserVoice page. If you have new feature suggestions, please use this page to add them and vote for what’s important to you.
We’re excited about this approach for several reasons:
- It makes it easy for you to see what other features users are requesting.
- You can vote for what’s important to you, which helps us to prioritize development.
- We can provide feedback about new ideas so you know where we stand.
Head on over to the InqScribe UserVoice page to make your opinions known!
Presidential education policy: Where's the beef?
With everything else going on in the presidential campaign, education policy hasn’t received much attention. EdWeek has been doing a good job of tracking the candidates’ positions on education on their Campaign 08 site.
Also of note: EdWeek plans to webcast a live debate next week between Linda Darling-Hammond, education adviser to Barack Obama, and Lisa Graham Keegan, education adviser to John McCain. The event is scheduled for 7pm Eastern on Tuesday, October 21. If you want to watch the debate, go here to register.
Update: the debate is over, but a recording is available for your online viewing pleasure.
A learning sciences calendar
Periodically I’ll mention an interesting conference or event that comes across my virtual desk. It makes nice blog fodder, but I find it’s easier to keep track of these kinds of things on a calendar. So we’ve started Inq Learning Sciences: a Google calendar dedicated to events and dates of interest to the learning sciences community. We’re posting events as we find out about them, and we’re happy to add things on request.
Upcoming events from this calendar are shown over in the sidebar. If this is useful to you, you can add the calendar to your Google calendars pretty easily. iCal users can subscribe using this link.
National Survey on Teens and Video Games
The MacArthur Foundation reports on the results of a new national survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project on kids video gaming habits. The main finding is in Pew’s headline: “Teens’ gaming experiences are diverse and include significant social interaction and civic engagement.”
My favorite finding:
Game playing can incorporate many aspects of civic and political life.
- 76% of youth report helping others while gaming.
- 44% report playing games where they learn about a problem in society.
We’ve been banking on this in some recent work we’re doing for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center to develop a physically and socially immersive video game experience that teaches young visitors about the impact they can have on society and the differences their actions can make.
Cool new physics game
It’s interesting to see what folks are doing with Flash these days. This one touches on video game nostalgia as well as the whole educational game genre, so I thought it was appropriate to mention it:
FantasticContraption is a physics-based game where you create very simple physics devices in order to accomplish a goal ala the old “The Incredible Machine”. But it’s Flash-based, so you don’t have to download anything. And there are some interesting twists with water rods and wooden rods as construction pieces. Check it out, it’s very addictive!
Way back when we were developing the Progress Portfolio in the mid-90s, The Incredible Machine was a candidate investigation environment. We were looking for software environments where students were conducting extended investigations and would need to create annotated records of the work they were doing. The Incredible Machine almost fit the bill, but while it was based on Newtonian physics, it was difficult to get students to connect what they were trying to physics principles. Instead it just encouraged endless tweaking until something worked. While it may have been interesting to see how visual annotations (e.g. being able to point to something while talking/writing about it) would make it easier to create a record of your work in The Incredible Machine, we ended up working with investigations in Interactive Physics, which was much more connected to physics principals and less game-like. Interestingly, students had the same tendency to endlessly tweak.
A rare glimpse into design rationale: Our GIS for History Project
Josh Radinsky just published a paper describing some of the design rationale for the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) for History project that we worked on together. He does a really nice job of explaining why the tool is the way it is. If you’re a hard-core GIS person, you might look at the web site and wonder why it seems so simple. But given our goal of designing a web-based tool that could be used by high school students in a one-week course, there was a strong need to cut back on many of the more advanced features that GIS provides and focus instead on a few key features that guide students to think about particular historical concepts.
The paper is published in the August 2008 issue of the Journal of the Association for History and Computing, and is available online.
If you’d like to check out the GIS for History web site and mapping tool that we created, it’s live at: http://www.gisforhistory.org
Disclosure: I’m listed as a co-author.
OS X 10.5.3 fixes what 10.5.2 broke
Just a quick note to OS X users. If you’re using 10.5.2, please upgrade to 10.5.3, which fixes the issue in InqScribe where floating windows could block mouse clicks in a sheet dialog.
New InqScribe Resources web page
We’ve just added a new InqScribe resources page with useful links to a number of products and services to improve your InqScribe experience. You’ll find recommendations for digitizing services for converting your videotapes or media files, USB footpedals that provide convenient control of your media, and digital media recorders that record directly to InqScribe-friendly formats. (And if you use our referral links, you’ll be supporting future InqScribe feature development.)
Via ArsTechnica, a Business Week report on a session at SXSW on why great design is hard. In particular, the report highlights some really interesting design practices at Apple. Generating ten pixel-perfect alternative designs on the way to one final product sounds exhausting. The discussion of holding separate brainstorming and implementation design meetings, even late in the game, fits pretty well with our own take on iterative design. If you’re not willing to consider radical ideas, you’re producing an incremental design and you may end up boxed in a corner. (We just took a major UI zig on a project very late in the process, so I can report that this approach is not without pain, but we’re pretty happy with the result.)
OS X 10.5.2 breaks a few dialogs
We’ve discovered that the OS X 10.5.2 update has caused a couple problems for InqScribe users.
Here’s the issue. If one or more floating windows are open (e.g. the Shortcuts window), then when a sheet dialog opens, the floating window gets sent all the mouse clicks that should be going to the sheet dialog.
(Sheet dialogs are dialog boxes that zoom out of the main document window. Other kinds of modal dialogs, like the Find dialog, are not affected.)
This is most noticeably a problem with the “Missing Media” dialog, where InqScribe asks you to click one of three buttons. But clicking doesn’t do anything. Argh!
The workaround is to close the floating windows. Once you do that, you’ll be able to click things in the sheet dialog again.
This bug seems to be OS X 10.5.2-specific. We’re quite curious whether 10.5.3 will fix what 10.5.2 broke, but we don’t intend to wait that long. We’ll get a new release out soon that resolves the problem.
Update: 10.5.3 does indeed fix the problem.
MacArthur Announces Winners of Digital Media & Learning Competition
The MacArthur Foundation, which for a few years now has been supporting a $50 million digital media and learning initiative, just announced the winners of its innaugural Digital Media & Learning Competition. Seventeen winners in two categories shared $2 million in funding. According to the press release the “projects are expected to produce promising innovations and share new ideas within the emerging field of digital media and learning.”