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Get in Sync with Web Conferencing: A Guide for Online Instructors

Asynchronous web-based learning environments–those not constrained by location and time–often fail to effectively facilitate the type of social interaction that is essential to the learning process. Web conferencing can provide a means to achieve greater social interaction in largely asynchronous courses.
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Recalling Charles James: Christophe de Menil

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Recalling Charles James: Homer Layne

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Recalling Charles James: R. Couri Hay

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Recalling Charles James: Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas

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Recalling Charles James: Elsa Peretti

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Recalling Charles James: Paul Caranicas

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Recalling Charles James: Mary Ellen Hecht

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A Flair for Sustainability

Adobe Featured Blogs - Fri, 2014-06-27 15:48

Sustainability has always been a top priority for us here at Adobe. You’ll probably first think of our buildings that are recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council for being some of the greenest facilities in the world, but our environmental ethic extends beyond our work environment. By using sustainable packaging, that ethic reaches as far and wide as our products do.

Adobe believes that a creative world is a self-sustaining one; it’s how we live our values. At 30 years, these values still stand strong.

Always Striving to Improve

For more than a decade, Adobe has worked to improve the overall sustainability of our packaging.

Some notable improvements include:

  • Decreased box weight and size
  • Fewer disks supplied
  • Plastic DVD cases replaced by paper cases
  • Shrink wrap eliminated
  • Print supplier in Asia Pacific switched from a PVC-based paper coating process to a water-based UV one

A Balancing Act

Three key considerations guide our packaging philosophy: business objectives, market trends and sustainability. The evolution of our packaging over the years demonstrates the push and pull of those competing interests.

The company must address the needs, priorities and goals of various Adobe stakeholders:

  • Marketing and Sales aim to create a consistent in-store experience and represent our products in a beautiful, inspiring and innovative style;
  • Customers tell us that they want multiple ways to access our products, including physically holding them in their hands;
  • Retailers ask for boxes for their shelves and must approve certain aspects of our packaging; and
  • The Supply Chain Operations (SCO) Print Production team strives for packaging that is sturdy enough to protect our products and deliver them safely.

Additional challenges come from targeting different users. For example, hobbyists respond to different packaging than creative professionals do.

In the Elements product line, there is a heavier emphasis on graphics and copy on the box. In general, this has led to packaging design differences such as a box with a book flap and the use of gloss coating.

Selling across geographies, where cultural preferences can vary, requires further nuances.

“Sometimes these demands come into conflict,” explained Sandra Stoecker, senior manager, Print Production, SCO. “For example, the desire for a substantial retail shelf presence (larger boxes) is antithetical to the sustainability goal of smaller packaging. Likewise, a target of 100-percent recycled paper packaging is challenging when consumers perceive less value in that packaging.

“It’s a balancing act among all these different considerations,” she added. “We constantly evaluate our packaging and design process, analyze alternatives and experiment to meet these diverse needs.”

Beyond Packaging

The very exciting news is that we’re moving beyond packaging wherever possible: Electronic software delivery (ESD) is becoming much more prevalent—particularly as the Adobe Creative Cloud is adopted at an amazing pace.

“A lot of our effort is focused on reducing our footprint and our physical form factor, but we must still provide a physical experience where it’s needed,” said Kathleen Wong, program manager, Supply Chain Social Responsibility.

“Even the small cards we offer in some retail situations (these are credit-card sized and are used for subscriptions, software downloads and gift cards, for example) are coated with a biodegradable laminate, so they look like plastic without the environmental down side,” Kathleen explained.

Transportation, production and printing play a role in sustainability, also. For example, Adobe tries to produce and print packaging near where the product is assembled, and we try to assemble products close to their target geographies. In addition, we try to ship by ground and with full truck loads, when possible. These factors bring cost savings as well as environmental benefits.

Looking toward the Future

Understanding that we can’t eliminate packaging completely at this time, Adobe has developed a strategy that includes increasing digital downloads, reducing the amount of packaging used per unit, using more environmentally friendly materials, and influencing our manufacturing processes and supply chain partners.

“Adobe’s sustainability strategy supports the company’s overall strategic goals,” said Michelle Yates, director of Corporate Social Responsibility.

“It does this by identifying ways to make us more competitive through reduced operating costs, a smaller carbon footprint, high employee engagement levels, building a strong license to operate in the communities where we have offices around the world—and perhaps most important, telling the stories of how our products have a positive influence on the environment,” she continued. “Sustainability contributes to the fiscal and brand health of a company.”

The ImageSeek Mozilla Webmaker Teaching Kit

CogDogBlog - Fri, 2014-06-27 10:46

There is no shortage of online tutorials and guides on how to search for images on the web. To overly generalize, this boils down to “here is a list of sites, go there and type your keywords in a box”, with the added bits about how stealing is bad and a few links or videos from Creative Commons. You might get some power tips about using advanced search features.

To me this is not teaching how to search (as a strategy) but how to use search sites (as a skill). More than semantic word play, this is the difference between knowing how to hit something with a chisel and how to sculpt art with a chisel.

More than that, it’s easy to find images when you need specific subjects- like an image of a computer keyboard, a rhinoceros, a train engine, a knitting needle, a sunflower. Search engines are good at literal searches. You can easily find hundreds, thousands of images, and often the suitable ones right off the first screen of results.

But in writing online, blogging, presenting, media editing, web making, I often find = a need for images that communicate ideas, concepts, ones that communicate via metaphor, not literal depiction. What keywords might produce images that suggest a representation of concepts such as bravery, honesty, struggling to learn, complexity, aggression, trust? If you use these as literal keywords, you might get lucky, but the results are much more diverse. Or not relevant.

This is the idea behind ImageSeeking for Fantastic Visual Metaphors, a Teaching Kit I developed for Mozilla Webmaker. It should appear soon under the Search section of the Web Literacy Map.

Unlike most blog posts, this one is taking several sessions to compose, and it keeps getting longer! For those not wanting a bunch of background and technical warbling:

  • ImageSeeking for Fantastic Visual Metaphors is a remixable “lesson plan” aimed at helping participants learn the art of searching for images. It includes:
    • How Do You Currently Search For Images? a separate Webmaker Activity for starting a session with having people show/share how they search now. It uses a Thimble itself remixed from one made (A Question From Zoltar) to generate a prompt with random generated varieties, and a hint that slowly materializes as an image.
    • A place to discuss Creative Commons, attribution, etc. This is left open to be remixed, since there are plenty of resources to point to – a few are in the kit. In looking at resources is how most of them focus on a message of “STEALING IS BAD!” rather than what I prefer- giving attribution is just the right thing to do, an act of paying it forward.
    • The ImageSeek “Tool” itself To me this is perhaps more like an interactive web worksheet, without the smell of ditto ink. It guides the process, but also acts as a way (if remixed) to save one’s work and demonstrate more than coming out with a single image at the end, but documenting the process.

One reason I am excited about the Mozilla Webmaker approach is that the lesson plans, the activities, the makes are not an end to a means, like a magic thing you just pull off the web and distribute (like worksheets). Via an architecture and philosophy they are the start, the remix button is an invitation to modify, customize, and share.

Yikes, even my summary is long. I need a tl;dr for my tl;dr

What is ImageSeeking?

It’s a made up word.

The very image I used on the teaching kit is itself an example of what I am trying to explain. I did not find it by using keywords such as “seek” or “search”, but by the kinds of things that you use when engaged in seeking. In fact I searched for “binoculars”, maybe even “child binoculars”. I used compfight, my go to tool for locating creative commons licensed images from flickr, and found this perfect image:

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by bionicteaching

The photo in this case is not literally the subject, but something that suggests the subject. When you see the image, it should convey the act of searching.

And for larger irony, among all the results of the search, this photo is one created by my friend and colleague Tom Woodward (and that is his son, now a photographer too, whom I recently went on a photo walk with in Virginia).

The Back Story

The road to making ImageSeek all started with a tweet

Hey @cogdog, @proctor, @clintlalonde, @sleslie! Bat signal for OERs – got any?

— Brett Gaylor (@remixmanifesto) March 12, 2014

Mozilla was ramping up their collection of Teaching Kits, and what Brett and colleagues were looking for in “Got Curriculum That Teaches Web Literacy?” was tutorials, activities that they could repurpose into the format published on Webmaker.

The Teaching Kits (full lesson plans) and Activities (smaller bite sized things to do) are all created/published/shared in the web editor Thimble which means technically and philosophically are all designed for remix, so anyone can modify / customize to their needs.

I cannot remember the three thing I submitted, but one was from a workshop I first did in March 2012 while visiting the Yokohama International School. The materials are on a Wikispaces site

The idea for this session came from Kim Cofino but was prompted by other colleagues who asked how I find images I use in my blog posts. This has become almost the required part of my blogging- opening (and closing) with a visual metaphor for the post, or just a fun way to draw people in. I usually cannot write the post until I have that first image. The image is not essential to the writing (like a schematic diagram), it sets a tone or hopefully generates some interest via the visual senses to read the text that follows.

I also go about ImageSeeking when I create my presentations, where I keep shifting to fewer words and more full screen images. The title screen in my recent storytelling talks plays with the metaphor of telling stories, which we often associate with campfires

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by pasukaru76

I love talking about this images in a context of talking about how digital storytelling can add a different dimension to the tradition (stories around a campfire) with a twist (these are Lego Storm Troopers around a votive candle).

At this point I cannot remember the search term, it may have been “Campfire” because that is the kind of activity people do when they are storytelling. It was one of many times I noticed that you get fun images if you include “lego” in your search because there are almost a trillion photos people have shared with lego figures doing everything.

The core of the Image Quotient workshop is built out in the new teaching kit are the prompt questions that help you formulate search keywords in a less direct fashion.

For example, you want an image that represents excitement; using that as a keyword you find a few pictures of excited kids, but also daredevils, and a lot of expecting parents (many pregnant bellies).

But if you think of an action that suggests excitement (and knowing something of the kids of photos people tag in flickr), if you search on leap you find a ton of interesting action shots. It’s popular to take mid air jumping shots… like

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by sunface13

“Leap” might not seem like the first choice to represent “Excitement” but I think it works.

Or let’s say you want a photo to represent how boring this blog post is. A search on the keyword “boring” does get a few people who look bored, but you also get beetles (who bore into the ground), and drilling equipment.

But what is the action people are doing when bored? They yawn! Using yawn a keyword, you find many cats, dogs, even a cheetah yawning, but also cute babies:

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by DanielJames

Merrily I Thimble Along

Everything in the ImageSeek Teaching Kit is built in Mozilla’s Thimble tool. It’s tempting to consider this as a web page editor, but the things I assembled for this I think almost make it like a dynamic web app.

The beauty of Thimble is that it can help you understand how the elements of HTML, CSS, and Javascript make things work in a browser; you get side by side views of the code and the web page. Ingredients of Me was one I made in September. Anyone can remix the thimble, By editing content in specific parts of the code, you change the content of what appears on the can:

And once you see how editing stuff between the tags works, you might start experimenting what happens if you change or modify the tags. Many of the Thimble Makes revolve around changing the content, maybe the imagery to do things like Make Memes, Personalize a Book Cover, or even Design Your Own Planet.

Since Thimble supports JavaScript, this opens the doors to do things like leverage a maps library or as I did before, use existing jQuery to make a photo exploration tool.

But there’s more- when you are editing Thimble, any included jQuery scripting will be generated each time you make an edit, so you can have interactive components on the right side that change as you edit, say the value of a Javascript variable.


If you remix the ImageSeek, you are first directed to lone 269 where you can enter the topic you are seeking inside the div tags:

<div id="quest" class="btn btn-primary">something</div>

This is what shows up in the green shaded box at the top

If I change the text on line 269 to:

re> amazingness

, it not only changes the green shaded box, but all of the orange shaded ones in the prompt questions AND the search box that pops up when you click a keyword.

This is because the content of those lower headings are not hardcoded in the HTML, but are generated dynamically when the page loads using the value of whatever is in the code on line 269.

This means that the right side is not just a visual preview, it is a functioning prototype.

That is pretty amazing to me.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by strangejourney

Okay, About That Teaching Kit...

But yikes, I am getting ahead of myself. I wrote about the ImageSeek tool when I mostly finished it last month. I could have built a WebMaker Activity around it, but I felt that there was more to add, enough to build out as a teaching kit.

The idea (as I saw it) of the Teaching Kits is not to give just a complete lesson that someone can just pull off of the shelf and plugin to their class, workshop, community meeting, etc. They are built in Thimble too, so any Teaching Kit can (and is encouraged) to be remixed so people can tailor them to their needs/interests.

Zoltar For Prompts, the Opening Activity

The first section I made using a WebMaker Activity Template-- it is called How Do You Currently Search For Images?. Part of this is just to find out the baseline search skills of the group. You ask your participants how they might search for an image of a shark or the planet Saturn.

I wrote it in a form that gives flexibility how it is done- from as simple as a group discussion, to using yet another Thimble I devised called How do you Find Images of Things. This has 5 different search subjects, all which should be easy to find-- when the page loads it picks one of the five at random, and slowly (30 seconds) a background image slowly fades in as an example.

I really did this to see if I could figure it out, it's actually a derivative of a more general one I build called A Question From Zoltar. This allows you to create any kind of prompt question with a number of variations, and you can create an answer or hint that slowly fades in.

Under the hood, you edit a series of JavaScript arrays to include the prompt word. in my case it is search for ________ where the blank is "a balloon" or "a shark" or "the planet Saturn", a matching array to hold URLs for the images, and a third array with an attribution string.

When the page loads, it generates a random number between 0 and the number of items in the arrays, and dynamically populates headings, the credits, and the CSS for the background image. The fun trick is using a jQuery command (one line!) to slowly fade in the background. The value of fade_rate is something you can edit for the number of seconds it takes to fade in, it being a div with an id of stage.

// assign the background image for the main stage $('#stage').css('background-image', 'url(' + imglinks[$img_id]  + ')');        // fadeIn rate in milliseconds for the background. $('#stage').fadeIn(fade_rate *1000);

For this activity, the goal is for people to be aware of the way they do searches, but also to reinforce an understanding that you are never really searching image data, but the information that is contextual to an image on the web (e.g. text on the web page where it is embedded, the and tags, categories if it is one a photosharing site).

It is also a place to discuss why these kind of searches are easy to do; because they are literal things.

Creative Commons and Attribution is More than Avoiding "Getting in Trouble"

As mentioned above, the middle part of the Activity Kit agenda is a place for a conversation about media re-use, creative commons, and why giving attribution is a Good Thing to Do.

I embedded this video How to Attribute Images, it's short, sweet, and has a story element

But in reviewing this and other resources, especially ones aimed at kids, I was overwhelmed by how many are laden with language of fear, of avoiding breaking the law, of how "stealing images is bad".

It's not far off the message from the MPAA

So the reason to give attribution is to not get into trouble. I do not find this compelling or encouraging. Why do we not also talk about how it's a respectful thing to acknowledge the use of someone else's media? of how it is a way to thank the person who created it?

I find the way people feel about "just downloading images found on Google" changes when you ask them how they feel when someone uses their photos. It's more than "I don't want someone making money off of my stuff" (this is such a ridiculous fallacy; it's really really REALLY hard to make a even a pittance off your images)-- does not feel good to get credit? to find out someone valued your image enough to put it in their web site, powerpoint, video?

Hence in the teaching kit

However, it is better worth talking about as a respectful thing to do for someone that has shared their photos online. Wouldn't you prefer to get credit for your own images if someone else used them on a web site? Wouldn't you like to know that this has happened? When you share your own photos and also give attribution credit to others, amazing stories can happen.

Voilá! The ImageSeek Thingamabob

I'd written previously on the insides and outsides of the ImageSeek Tool, that post has more detail, but here is a recap.

This is the real meat of the action. On its own, it does nothing. Everything happens when you click the Remix button.

What I really like as a new feature in Thimble this year, is the ability to embed a tutorial (left side)

This is slick. Until now, following the logic of a Thimble code meant reading it linearly and working through the comments. Attaching a tutorial enables more scaffolding and explanation - is it self another Thimble that you connect to yours via a tag (see the documentation).

You break down the instructions into a series of steps the viewer can step through with the blue buttons. And if you click a link that reads line 256, the Thimble code scrolls down to line 256!

What makes my (monstrous) creation different is that the work you do with the ImageSeek is while editing it. You first edit a div to insert your topic, and those changes propagate through the document (thanks jQuery).

Then for each prompt, say I am looking for something to represent "life", the first prompt asks "I looked for these kinds of actions that demonstrate life in action.", so I start editing the tags for the keywords with some guesses, like "birth", "feeding" (maybe momma birds feeding baby birds?)

As I edit the code, the buttons on the right change. And they are functional- click "birth" and you get a dynamically generated search tool, rigged with URLs to search for the words in four different sites of content licensed for re-use (the search patterns lifted from Creative Commons search)

The idea is to work through the prompts to generate possible keywords, run searches, and most importanty, keep track (in a text file, on paper?) of the search results. There is lower part of the document where the ImageSeeker can embed the four best images:

as well as include the information that would be needed to include image attribution:

And once you save an Image Seek remix, you have a document that shows not just that you can find one image by plunking a keyword in the search engine, but that you have tried several searches, and show your process.

I have a completed example for a search to represent the idea of broken web links.

An interesting second tier activity might be to have participants switch their ImageSeeks, remix, and see if they come up with different results for the same search topic.

Would You Like Fries With That Image Seek?

On the right side, are a fee related reference links

Again, I could have spent a gob of time trying to find the Supreme List of Resources, but (ahem call em lazy), the idea here is for YOU, the person that remixes this Teaching Kit, to customize it with the links you find relevant.

Thanks for all the Fish

Now what? Well this is something I have been tinkering with for a while, and maybe I'm too close to the trees. I wondered all along, am I making something to complex? Will people get lost in the long Image Seek tool? Does it do enough to compel people to go through a process, when just chucking keywords into Google is So Easy?

That's what I'd like to know. Feedback is good, even the critical ones. Especially the critical ones.

Heck a bunch of folks went with it before I was done.

But now it's time to push this ship out on the seas, and see where it goes.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by theirhistory

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To Badge [Yourself] or to Be Badged?

CogDogBlog - Wed, 2014-06-25 09:25

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Pedro Vezini

I intend not to discuss the merits/demons of badging systems. My main response on weighing such questions always slide down to “It Depends”.

But to me badging, nanodegreeing, calculating massive course dropouts remains overweighted on one side of the system.

This has been mulling in the cranium for a while (often best where ideas are left to fade away) but came again to mind reading Heather’s post How do We Define Success in an Open Course?

To me, the definition is always for the provider. Success is the success on the entity that offers the course. And of course (to be alliteratively not so clever, Wilbur) if you run courses, you want to know how well you are doing. No argument.

And recognizing that people sign up for free no risk courses for different reasons is a relief. Do we end of metricizinging the collections of Collectors?

All these are things that an institution, organization provides you. You are badged. You are degreed. You are acknowledged as a Top All Rounder with a certificate or a chip or a blue ribbon. Maybe a cup of Starbucks coffee.

All the things we wish to chart, measure– completion, success etc seem largely to serve the provider.

The language here takes me back to perhaps one of the key lessons I learned from my PhD advisor when I was in Geology (and before I DROPPED OUT hah). Sue Kieffer was an eminent researcher, scientist, educator, she dealt with a lot of shit working in an overly male-dominated field.

For me, she really brought home the importance of clear writing. When we co-authored a paper, she really hone on on the differences between passive and active voice in writing.

Academics love passive voice. It sound lofty.

It was discovered in field relationships that the topographic conditions were primary in the disruption of the flow at the constriction. Lab experiments were developed to replicate similar dynamics.

The passive voice is detached, removed, distant. This is a bit of an over simplified rewording, and a rushed example:

In Bandelier, we observed a narrow canyon that disrupted the flow. In the lab we built a scale model.

The thing is, when you move to active voice, first of all, you enter the scenario. I think the smart people call it “Agency”. And it says that you did things.

For the learner, the student, all of the things that organizations hope to measure for themselves and you, are done passively (not the whole process, the credentialing). Done to you. Given to you.

What is missing, to me, is an emphasis on what learners do to assert their own credentials, achievments. Yes, I can collect my badges in my backpack, and have my nanodegrees populate my LinkedIn Profile, but if that is all I plan to show the world for what I can do…. well seems not really much. And its all what other people say about me. Where is my voice?

And this is the reason I’ve long harped on the notion of blogging as narrating my work, and why those of us involved with or at least big fans of UMWs Domain of Ones Own. It’s giving learners an open, portable platform that they can use to actively assert what they can do, how they can think.

Badges and degrees say “This is What XXXXXX xxxxx says I can do”.

Your own digital space says, “And here you can actually see what I can do” (and the way I think) (and what inspires me) (and the way I exist as a human being) (and even if I like cats thats ok).

And hold the phone Batman, the tendency is to go all binary- It’s Online vs Face to face! It’s LMS vs WordPress! It’s Real World vs Virtual World! Truthfully, as humans, we are much more analog, meaning we exist on a spectrum.

So their is room for BOTH systems that give credentials, badges, certificates of something that ought to be complementary with platforms we manage ourselves to assert who we are, what we can do.

Yet the latter is almost never part of the equation, because it is something that does not fit into easily measurable metrics and charts. It’s not easy. Messy. “Oh it’s too complicated” “I don’t have time”. It’s more like the letters Jonathan Rees yearns for.

To be badged or to badge yourself? It’s not a question. It’s an answer.


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by patries71

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PUNK: Chaos to Couture

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Comment on It is easy to fall in love with technology… (by danah boyd) by Jayme Hougen

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A Juicy Associative Trail

CogDogBlog - Mon, 2014-06-23 13:59

The trails of distraction. If I worked for anyone else besides myself, I might get fired for my wanderings.

This all started at lunch time, I noticed I had about six oranges in my fridge, and that also I was out of orange juice. I thought I would take a few moments to squeeze them using this little plastic gizmo I had in my cabinet… except I could not find it.

Instead, I came across this antique one I had found and liberated from my Mom’s kitchen when we emptied out her house.

The Juice-O-Mat

Wow, it worked much better than the hand powered plastic gizmo! The pressure applied to the handle, the clever grooved insert– it is so elegant.

Yes, I spent 20 minutes squeezing 6 oranges into one cup of juice. But the feel of that metal appliance, and the design of it– am I turning into some kind of raving retronaut?

I got curious about the fancy engraved name in the top the Juice-O-Mat, and beneath “REG US PAT OFF” — Registered US Patent Office.

I found a version (many in fant) for sale on Ebay. No great rare item, with the condition on mine, I’d be lucky to get $20.

Someone there is selling print versions of the Patent Application ($12.99). Tricky, they truncated the patent number.

Then, I tipped the device over and found the full patent number!

From there, with the full number, searching in the US Patent Office site was easy– Design Patent 105,335 for a Fruit Juicer filed July 20, 1937 by Joseph Majewski, Jr

The Juice-O-Mat appears in a fascinating exhibit on American Streamlined Design: The World of Tomorrow

American Streamlined Design: The World of Tomorrow, focuses on a design era that emerged during the 1930s and 1940s, characterized by curving forms, and smooth, clean silhouettes. The style, which suggested speed and glamor, entered American design in the post-Depression years. It was widely applied in new forms of architecture, interior decoration and everyday household goods for the home and office.

But who was this Joseph Majewski Jr? Two years later (July 1939) he has a patent filed for an Ice Crusher and in April 1941 for a Drink Dispenser. From the Ice Crusher patent:

My invention relates to ice crushers, and more particularly to a device for crushing ice into small fragments for use in icing drinks, juleps, and ice bags.

One object of my invention is to provide a novel ice crusher adapted rapidly crush ice into small fragments.

Another object of my invention is to provide a device for crushing ice in which the fragment size may be controlled.

It’s pretty clear the intent. This whole world of patents was nicely summarized in education technology recently by Audrey Watters following a tweet by Mike Caulfield

Coursera, circa 1966.

— Mike Caulfield (@holden) June 22, 2014

One can easily lose days tracking out these trails.

I am still curious of the person, Joseph Majewski Jr- further searches ended up in LinkedIn profiles of people with the same name, and ancestry tree links which just want you to pay or signup for more info.

But I did end up in Wikipedia on the company that made the Juice-o-Mat- The Rival Company:

Rival was founded in 1932 by Henry J. Talge as the Rival Manufacturing Co., which specialized in die casting. They soon began producing food preparation products under the “O-Mat” line, such as the Juice-O-Mat juicer, Can-O-Mat can opener, and Broil-O-Mat broiler. After shutting down to produce ammunition during World War II, Rival expanded their product lines in the post-war era. They acquired Waverly Products, Inc., expanding their products into the home appliances market with Waverly’s popular Steam-O-Mat iron.

In 1963, the company was sold to Stern Brother Investment Bank, and went public in 1964. Soon after, they acquired Titan Manufacturing Company and their line of portable electric heaters. In 1970, they acquired Naxon Utilities Corp., makers of a little-known product called the “Bean Pot” slow cooker. Rival re-introduced the Bean Pot as the Crock-Pot in 1971, and it quickly became one of their top products.

From the Juice-O-Mat directly to the denizen of the 1970s, something I use now, the Crock Pot. Look, my own is a Rival Brand!

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

A company history suggests that Rival’s rise to a $300 Million+ sales enterprise (1996) started with that humble juicer.

The Rival Company is a leading manufacturer and marketer of small household and personal care appliances, as well as commercial and industrial fans and ventilation equipment. The company also manufactures a line of sump, well, and utility pumps. Rival became a household word in the early 1970s with the introduction of the Rival Crock Pot, a slow cooker that literally changed the way dinners were made for many people. Other items manufactured include can openers, meat slicers, grinders, toasters, ice cream makers, space heaters, ceiling fans, shower head massagers, humidifiers, air purifiers, and more. Rival products are sold under many brand names, including Rival, Rival Select, Simer, Pollenex, Patton, Fasco, Bionaire, and White Mountain.

Rival was founded by Henry J. Talge in 1932. Talge was born in Russia in 1892 and moved to the Kansas City area in 1925, following sales jobs in Chicago, Detroit, New York, and St. Joseph, Missouri. Then called Rival Manufacturing Co. (a name carried through the early 1990s), the firm started as a specialty die cast operation. With eight employees, Talge set up his first factory at the former Hempey-Cooper building at the corner of Archibald and Pennsylvania in the Westport district of Kansas City.

Rival’s first product was a manual citrus juicer, called the Juice-O-Mat. The “O-Mat” tag later become a trademark on many new product names, including the Can-O-Mat (can opener), Broil-O-Mat (broiler), and Ice-O-Mat (ice crusher). Talge saw a need for many products to make cooking and other food preparation procedures faster and easier.

There’s quite a bit more of crock history there

It would look like the Talge family went a long way on the design ideas of Joseph Majewski Jr (and maybe others). I am still left wanting on the inventor’s story, and I might dig more but it’s already 3:00pm and I have wandered far down the trail.

But there is a lesson there- we have to products, the patents, the juice-o-mats– but where are thr stories of the inventors?

History does not always yield much, yet once again, for the 10,000,000,000,000,00th time I find myself in awe of the simple, unrealized idea of Jon Udell- the idea of narrating our work.

It’s not even done much in the realm where Jon saw it first, the tech developers. It’s left vacant in my rarely updated rss reader.

Most everyone is too busy to be bothered by narrating, having left their blogs dry for Facebook, twitter, wherever sles, hanging out the Busy Backson sign

Well summarized in my go to book of Philosophy

Oh well, at least I have my Juice-O-Matic, and a love of its old metal design.

And a glass of juice.


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Updated Flash Player 14 betas available on Adobe Labs

Adobe Labs - Mon, 2014-06-23 13:14

Updated Flash Player 14, code named Lombard, are now available on Adobe Labs. This beta release includes new features as well as enhancements and bug fixes related to security, stability, performance, and device compatibility for Flash Player 14.

Learn more about Flash Player 14
Download Flash Player 14 beta

As always, we appreciate all feedback. We encourage you to post in our beta forums or create bug reports or feature requests on our public bug database.

Flash Player Beta forum
Bug database

Celebrating the Adobe Youth Voices Awards Winners

Adobe Featured Blogs - Mon, 2014-06-23 12:00

We’re proud to announce the winners of the third annual Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) Awards, a global, online competition inviting students ages 13-19 to use digital media to express their vision for driving positive change in their communities. This year, a record 2,400 students from 50 countries around the world submitted 1,315 projects. Individuals and student teams worked with AYV educators to produce media projects that address a variety of complex social issues, from bullying to body image to climate change.

We’re amazed by all of the powerful work we saw from this extraordinary group of young creatives and are thrilled to share the winners with you. We had a chance to sit down with a few of this year’s winners to find out what this award means to them.

Kennedy Houston, Victim, New York

“There have been many documentaries about bullying. Winning this award will help us get our message across to more people about how damaging bullying can be and how to can overcome it. We want more people to have the strength to push through; that doing so will give you the strength to do whatever you want in life.”

Brandon Charlton and Kennedy Houston filming their documentary, Victim, which shows the damaging effects bullying can have.

Sayoko Ariga, Love the Diversity, Ohio

“AYV has already created a safe place for me to share my voice with an international audience. Winning an award will help more people see my entry work and hopefully take LGBTQ rights more seriously. I believe that we should all support human rights and love people the way they are.”

Sayoko Ariga working on a poster she designed for her school’s Gay Straight Alliance club’s assembly.

AYV Award winners are chosen in seven categories:  animation, documentary, photo essay, music video, narrative, poetry and campaign poster. First and second place winners are named in each of the seven categories by diverse panel of judges, educators, student alumni, and Adobe representatives. The public also cast over 200,000 votes to determine the audience winner for each category. AYV Award winners and their affiliated schools and organizations will receive a range of prizes, including donations of Samsung Galaxy Tablets, copies of Adobe CS Production Premium Suite, a 1-year Adobe Creative Cloud membership and a monetary donation to a charity of their choice.

We believe creativity is a critical skill that can positively shape our future leaders. After going through the AYV program, our research shows that 88% of students feel confident about their ability to ideate, collaborate, adapt and express their point of view, and persist through challenges, while 95% believe that creativity is important to their future success. We’re proud to be able to be able to support these students as they work to create positive change in the world.

The 2014 winners are:


  • First Place: Hunger’s Core, Christine Chung, Salwa Majoka, Northview Heights Secondary School, Canada
  • Second Place: Train of Life, Tess Denham, San Marino High School, USA
  • Audience Award: TechJunk, Sesh Sadasivam, Abhishek Krishna, Inavamsi B. Enaganti, Sri Kumaran Children’s Home – CBSE, India


  • First Place: Victim, Brandon Charlton, Kennedy Houston, Maysles Documentary Center, USA
  • Second Place: International Boulevard, Zoe Yi, Rebecca Dharmapalan, Oakland School for the Arts, USA
  • Audience Award: Support, Ziyang Ding, Tianyao Xu, The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, China

Music Video

  • First Place: Patience, Yvan Gonzalez, Seven Trees Community Center, USA
  • Second Place: Let Me Dream, Sebastian Tuma, Tsote Valashiya, Shriyansi Khanal, Immanuel Yeboah, Daniel Mandache, Spotlight, United Kingdom
  • Audience Award: Love Mission, Tautvydas Marcinkevicius, Petar Karapenev, Krzysztof Wlodarek, Abdalla Ali, Sude Simsek, Luke Wallace-Esnard, Dikembe Cabey-Lee, Amina Azong, Anya O’Mahony, Sandra Mikosinska, The Lammas School, United Kingdom


  • First Place: Vanished, Vanessa Fuentes, Alicia Garchitorena, MACLA, USA
  • Second Place: Aspaunity, Josh Gutierrez, Lizbeth Cisneros, Denise Panuco, Jesus Gonzalez, Jonathan Carrasco, Mt. Pleasant High School, USA
  • Audience Award: Get a Life, Bianca Toderean, Paul Turean, “Alexandru Papiu Ilarian” High School Dej, Romania

Photo Essay


  • First Place: Life, Mihai Tiu, Colegiul National “Ecaterina Teodoroiu”, Romania
  • Second Place: Destination: Earth!, Joseph Steve Jiménez, Randall Quesada, Casa de la Juventud Mora, Costa Rica
  • Audience Award: We are…, Gyanna Adino, Joanah Diala, Randolph Massachusetts, USA

Poster Campaign

About Adobe Youth Voices
Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) is the Adobe Foundation’s global initiative to ignite Creative Confidence in youth by using digital media to express their views on social issues. Through programs like AYV, and by increasing creativity in education, Adobe believes we will better equip young people to be the problem solvers, critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. To learn more about AYV, its point of view on creativity in education and how you can be involved, please visit

Patricia Cogley is Senior Program Manager, Adobe Youth Voices.

Survive and Thrive with EdTech: Less stress and more success when learning new software and hardware

For teachers, learning to use new education technology can have its challenges, but the rewards are great. Below is a wonderful set of tips from guest blogger, Derrall Garrison, a master teacher who is spending 8 weeks at HP as a Teacher in Residence...



Categories: Member RSS Feeds

Adobe Presenter 10 Empowers Educators to Create HD Video Lectures

Adobe Featured Blogs - Mon, 2014-06-23 06:22

Today, Adobe announced the newest version of Adobe Presenter, a key tool in the company’s market-leading eLearning authoring software arsenal. With the increase in trends such as distance learning, flipped learning and MOOC’s, educators today need to reach out to students by delivering their lectures virtually – as video or on-demand sessions, without compromising on the quality of the content. Time and resource constraints are the primary challenges an educator faces while creating professional quality video lectures.

Adobe Presenter 10 enables educators to address these challenges and help them create studio quality HD video lectures, right from their desktop, with no specialized equipment or training required. With Presenter 10 they can simultaneously capture any content on their screen along with webcam video to create sharp and vivid video lectures and online courses for their virtual learners. Additionally, Presenter 10 allows educators to track content consumption and learner performance with the built-in Learner Analytics dashboard.

With Presenter 10, educators can transform their existing PowerPoint slides into on-demand eLearning content with out-of-the-box assets and eye-catching quizzes. They can also leverage HTML5 publishing to deliver courses to a variety of devices, including tablets, and track performance through integration with leading LMSs.

Adobe Presenter is a two-time back to back winner of the famed CODiE Award for the “Best Video Tool” in 2013 and 2014. Now Adobe Presenter is available on both the WIN and MAC platforms as Adobe Presenter 10 (WIN) and Adobe Presenter Video Express 10 (MAC).

Special Education Pricing Information:

Adobe Presenter 10 (WIN) Student & Teacher Pricing (North America) – $149

Adobe Presenter Video Express 10 (MAC) Student & Teacher Pricing (North America) – $99

NEWS & UPDATES: CCNMTL’s Lucy Appert Elected to Apereo Foundation Board

Lucy Appert, Associate Director of Projects at CCNMTL, was elected to the Apereo Foundation Board of Directors at their annual members meeting on June 2. The Apereo Foundation is a global network of educational institutions who partner to create and...
Categories: Member RSS Feeds

A Thought Vectors Comment Aggregator

CogDogBlog - Thu, 2014-06-19 23:59

Just in case you have not had your fill of the previous two code dumps for the workings of the VCU Thought Vectors site… heres more. I can’t stop tinkering.

Last weekend Jon Becker emailed and asked if there was “an easy way” to mix together all of the RSS feeds from his students blog into one feed that he could use as a sidebar widget. He had done it before with Yahoo Pipes.

Now for some inexplicable web service that generates no revenue, Pipes still works. I keep a list of Feed Mixer services at Feed2JS. But why rely on a third party when we have the means right here– yep, to every nail it’s WordPress.

In the last Google Hangout with Martin Hawksey we lamented the challenge of syndication comments in an open course– only WordPress provides a feed for comment activity.

But for VCU, almost all of the students are using either the Rampages (VCU hosted_) WordPress or In theory, I told the crew, we could make a site that syndicates in all the student blog comment feeds, and we could put them in categories by section. These in turn can provide an outward bound RSS feed for an entire section– which is really what Jon wanted.

In fact, Gardner Campbell had done that on his own for his section- for all students in his Clubhouse site he put their comment feeds into a second site that in turn generated an RSS feed for comments back on his site.

I suggested doing the same thing, but for all sections– if we did it right, we could not only provide the feeds to each section site, we would have all of the comment activity in one place.

Hence the Thought Vectors Comment Reader:

The AVH Extended Categories Widgets plugin provides on the sidebar a count of comments per section, and also an RSS Feed (these are just categories):

One of my own stumbles was my own misunderstanding of authors for feed items. When you subscribe to a single blog for its posts, each item in the RSS feed (a post) has the same author (the dc:author item). Feed WordPress will generate a WordPress user account for that author, and associate all syndicated content to it.

But in a comment feed, the author of an item is the author of the comment, so what Feed WordPress sees for an author is whatever name the commenter put in the form. Now for the students, they are mostly logged into the Rampages site, so the comment form automatically associates a comment anywhere to the same “user”. We might have a way then to track student comment activity across blogs (or anyone else if they are consistent in filling out the comment form with the same name).

Thus adding the Authors Widget plugin makes for another widget that shows the most active commenters:

Pretty neat.

I’ve been stumped some on getting some code to generate a list of random posts, I bet any plugin is going to be hampered by WP Engines clamp down on the MySQL ORDER BY RAND() query.

One thing not in there is a quick association to match all of the comments to the feed it came from. I got in my head that there might be a way to generate a list of which posts generated the most comments. This would call for perhaps a gnarly custom query.

I was determined to figure this out.

So here’s the thing, all syndicated comments come in with a specific URL that points to an anchor in the page (where the #xx is a database ID for the comment), e.g. comments might come in with permalinks like

what I needed was a way to do a query that would count the occurrences of post permalinks up to the #comment-XX. StackExchange to the rescue! There is a text selector to select based on a substring:

select substring_index(columnname,'_',1)

to select all rows from where columnname matched UP to the first occurrence of “_”.

Here is the winning query:

$custom_query = " SELECT count(*) as cnt, substring_index(wp_posts.guid,'#',1) as purl, substring_index(wp_posts.post_title,'by',1) as title FROM wp_posts WHERE wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND wp_posts.post_status = 'publish' GROUP BY purl order by cnt DESC LIMIT 0,30

count(*) gives me the number of times the same match occurs, where the thing being counted is the guid column (that contains the post permalink( UP to the first # in the url. I was even able to deploy the same trick to get the post title since all of the syndicated comments are titled something like “Comment on I Love Piggly Wiggly Vectors By Captain Kangaroo” to get the title out by removing everything including and after “by”.

(yikes, I just figured out I would chop the title that contained “By” in it).

So the page of top 30 commented posts is now up at

Now while excited about this, I do notice some discrepancies when I go back to the blogs where these come from. One is easy to account for since the counter listed on a WordPress site includes pingbacks, which are not syndicated.

But that does not make up for all the differences.

Another issue is how many comments we can syndicated at a time- an RSS feed for comments doe snot return every comment, but up to the last 10, that is the default setting for how many items appear in an RSS feed

We have a good situation where many student blogs are generating more than 10 comments an hour. But the feeds then are not capturing everything.

One route might be to ask all students to adjust their WordPress Reading settings to a higher number. I am hoping there is a programmatic way we might be able to bump the feed items for just the comment RSS feeds (there has to be a hook/action for that, right??). Ideally I could roll that into a plugin we might network activate on rampages, which would make it happen on all blogs.

Ahh I skipped an important step- getting all of the 100+ blog comment feeds into this site. My last gory code post included a script I made to generated a blog OPML file for each course section. With just some minor tweaking, i was able to make a second script that generates an RSS Feed for the comments from all those blogs– for WordPress, it is super easy; get the home URL of the blog (That comes right from the Links data), like and just to it to make

But I got even fancier- within the Notes that Feedwordpress writes in the links data as it syndicates, it pulls in a string that identifies the syndicating platform– all WordPress blogs provide feed/generator:, Blogger gives feed/generator: Blogger, tumblr does something like feed/generator: Tumblr (3.0; @cogdog).

So I was able to include in my query that pulls data from the Links info, to skip any blogs not identified as coming from WordPress.

Here is the code for the PHP script I can call to generate a Comment Feed OPML file

<?php /* ---------------------------------- Feedwordpress Comments Feed OPML Generator a hack and a half method to generate opml feeds for comments frmo blogs that are powered by wordpress Alan Levine ------------------------------------- */ //-------- a little config goes a long way $default_cat = 23; // id for default category $pretty_title = 'Thought Vectors Comment OMPL Feed'; // base for title // load wordpress functionality so we can do stuff require( 'wp-load.php' ); // get the parameters from url parameters // these should be set up in functions.php $catid = ( isset( $_GET['group'] )) ? $_GET['group'] : $default_cat; // keep a reference for the current category for an archive page $mycat = get_category($catid); $pretty_title .= ' for ' . $mycat->name; //--------- set up db query global $wpdb; // custom query to get subscribed blogs from the links table $custom_query = " SELECT DISTINCT wpl.link_name, wpl.link_url, wpl.link_rss FROM $wpdb->links wpl, $wpdb->postmeta wpm WHERE wpm.meta_key='syndication_feed_id' AND wpm.meta_value = wpl.link_id AND wpl.link_notes LIKE '%%{category#" . $catid . "}%%' AND wpl.link_notes LIKE '%%feed/generator:' ORDER BY wpl.link_name ASC "; // run run run that query $feedblogs = $wpdb->get_results( $custom_query ); // bail if we got nothing if ( count( $feedblogs ) == 0 ) die ( "No blogs found for '" . $mycat->name . "'" ); // headers to generate downloaded XML file header ('Content-disposition: attachment; filename=thoughtvectors-comments-' . $mycat->slug . '.opml'); header ("Content-Type:text/xml"); // start output echo '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>'; ?> <opml version="1.0"> <head> <title><?php echo $pretty_title ?></title> </head> <body> <outline title="<?php echo $pretty_title ?>" text="<?php echo $pretty_title ?>"> <?php // output each item, foreach ( $feedblogs as $item ) { echo "\t\t" . '<outline text="' . htmlspecialchars($item->link_name) . ' Comments" title="' . htmlspecialchars($item->link_name) . ' Comments" type="rss" xmlUrl="' . htmlspecialchars($item->link_url) . '/comments/feed" htmlUrl="' . htmlspecialchars($item->link_url) . '"/>' . "\n"; } ?> </outline> </body> </opml>

Having an OPML for each section made it easy to import into Feed WordPress via the batch option (adding categories became a manual process, so be it).

A small thing I did just tonight was to modify the sidebar.php template so rather than display the site description, it provides a real time status for how many comments are fed in:

This was easy! A Matter of editing

<h2 class="site-description"><?php echo esc_html( $description ); ?></h2>

to read

<?php // get the info for all links associates with "Contributors" category, ID=2 $syndicated_feeds = get_term( 2, 'link_category'); ?> <h2 class="site-description">As of <?php echo date("M d, Y")?> there are <?php echo wp_count_posts()->publish;?> comments syndicated from <?php echo $syndicated_feeds->count?> UNIV 200 blogs</h2>

Can’t stop this dog from digging in the code bin! But there has to be some data value in trying to gather as much of the comment flow as we can.

By the way, the image I created to put on the site is a hopefully obvious not to Vannevar Bush, its a screen grab from a screen recorded animation of something created in Director (go old skool multimediaO to demonstrate how the thing worked, modified with screens from the Thoughtvectors site and a student blog

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